Friday, November 25, 2016

Some Friday Fun

Amazon sells a Make America Great Again (MAGA) Christmas ornament.  The comments reviewers have left on the site are a fun read.  So are the questions and answers section.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Most Worrisome Headline in the 2016 US Politics

Is this:

Clinton's popular vote lead surpasses 2 million

Trump's administration will be a minority government, with no mandate.  Yet his picks show an extremist taint, a desire to pull the country even further to the wobbly right edge of political thinking.  That's fascinating.  And worrisome.




The Demolition Derby Administration

It's fun, on this Thanksgiving Day, to think about the kind of administration Donald Trump plans to give us as a present for at least the next four years.

A few examples:

1.  The administration's Chief Strategist is the Breitbart News Chief Executive Stephen Bannon, who once called the Breitbart site "the platform of the Alt Right":

We're the platform for the alt-right," Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July. Though disavowed by every other major conservative news outlet, the alt-right has been Bannon's target audience ever since he took over Breitbart News from its late founder, Andrew Breitbart, four years ago. Under Bannon's leadership, the site has plunged into the fever swamps of conservatism, cheering white nationalist groups as an "eclectic mix of renegades," accusing President Barack Obama of importing "more hating Muslims," and waging an incessant war against the purveyors of "political correctness."
 The Alt Right is polite-speak for racists, misogynists and white supremacists.
Their representative is now the chief strategist of this country.  And sure, perhaps Bannon doesn't really believe in white supremacy, but he certainly exploited its dog whistles in designing Trump's presidential campaign.

2.  The man Trump picked to oversee the transition at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is Myron Ebell.  He doesn't believe that climate change is real.  He has no qualifications relevant for that job, and:

In an interview with Business Insider in August, Ebell repeatedly referred to climate scientists as "global warming alarmists" and suggested that climate research is in fact an arm of a coordinated political movement.
"I think that the global warming movement has three parts," he said. "One is to exaggerate the rate of warming, one is to exaggerate the potential impacts of warming and how soon they may occur, and the third is to underestimate wildly the costs of reducing our emissions by the magical amount that they have picked."

3.  Trump's choice for the head of the Department of Education is a billionaire who wants to gut public education:

Betsy DeVos is hardly a household name, but the Michigan billionaire and conservative activist has quietly helped change the education landscape in many states, spending millions of dollars in a successful push to expand voucher programs that give families taxpayer dollars to pay for private and religious schools.

What fun we will have if DeVos succeeds in that and taxpayer-funded madrasas sprout up all over the United States!  I very much doubt deVos thinks of any other religion than Christianity when she promotes religious education.

Anyway, public education is at risk.  There are good theoretical reasons why markets don't do very well in education, and there are extremely important reasons for worrying about the rise of sectarian religious education.

4.  Trump's Attorney General will be Jeff Sessions.  He is going to lead the agency in charge of protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans:

This is not the first time Sessions has earned a presidential nomination as an administrator of justice. In 1986, President Reagan tapped him to serve as a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, but at the time the Senate found him too racist for the post, and he became the second nominee in 50 years to be denied an appointment.
During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions was pressed on accusations that he had called a black prosecutor “boy” and a white civil rights attorney “a disgrace to his race.” He was called out on his comment that he thought the Ku Klux Klan “was OK until I found out they smoked pot” and that the NAACP and ACLU were “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.”

Sessions has also been opposed to

the Violence Against Women Act, the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and the expansion of anti-hate legislation to include sexual orientation.
He fought the removal of the Confederate flag from public buildings, immigration reform, and criminal justice reform.

The White Supremacists love Sessions as the Attorney General!  They love him.

The rumor mill has also listed the fracking mogul Harold Hamm as one of the forerunners for the Secretary of Energy, which would be terrible news for alternative energy.  Though Hamm is not the only possible pick, all the picks look like energy insiders to me.  You know, the side which wants oil to remain the only feasible alternative.

And so it goes.  The basic principle Trump uses is demolition derby for the departments he hates*, which would be those departments not catering for the interests of the one percenters or the religionists.  The departments he loves get something different, of course, and that would be those departments which are needed to protect the one percenters:  the department of War (or whatever euphemism you wish to give it) and those arms of the law which must embrace nothing but the property rights of the one percent.


* Or picking a wolf to mind the sheep, if you wish.  All Americans are invited to the feasts of the Trump administration, but some of us will be the main course, the appetizer or the dessert, while others should dress appropriately (white hoods?) to sit down and enjoy the meal.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Today's Our Dear Leader-Elect News

1.  Greetings from the Alternative Reality (Alt Right) where white supremacist-misogynists regard Trump's victory as theirs.  The Washington Post tells us about the thoughts of one Richard Spencer, a wannabe Nazi, who gave a speech to his white supremacist followers:

For years, Spencer and his followers worked in obscure corners of the Internet to promote pride in white identity and the creation of an “ethno-state” that would banish minorities. Then came the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, whose attacks on undocumented immigrants, Muslims and political correctness deeply resonated with them. They crusaded for him on Twitter and celebrated his improbable victory as a seminal moment for their cause.

They exulted again when Trump announced that his chief White House strategist would be former Breitbart News chairman Stephen K. Bannon, who once called his site “the platform for the alt-right.”

You can imagine what Spencer's utopia would look like, because you may have read about one attempt at it in your history books:  The forced removal of all other races from the White Homeland, the means of that removal not spelled out clearly.  But Spencer is also very clear on what the role of white women would be in that utopia:

Spencer, of course, would expel Muslims from his ethno-state. And most women, he said as he was being driven from the hotel to his next appointment, would return to their traditional role of bearing children.
As I've written before, the White Bigots' dreams are very similar to the dreams of ISIS, with the proper adjustments to who it is who is allowed to exist in their dystopias.  Women, always, are to be viewed as breeding stock.

I haven't heard our Dear Leader-Elect say much anything about these wonderful people and their proposals about the rest of us.  Until he disowns them I'm assuming that he agrees with their platform.

2.  Our Dear Leader-Elect has now met some representatives of the media.  In that he has shown a mature and statesman-like attitude:

Donald Trump scolded media big shots during an off-the-record Trump Tower sitdown on Monday, sources told The Post.
“It was like a f−−−ing firing squad,” one source said of the encounter.
“Trump started with [CNN chief] Jeff Zucker and said, ‘I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed,’ ” the source said.
“The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing-down,” the source added.
A second source confirmed the fireworks.
“The meeting took place in a big boardroom and there were about 30 or 40 people, including the big news anchors from all the networks,” the other source said.
“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room, calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars. He called out Jeff Zucker by name and said everyone at CNN was a liar, and CNN was [a] network of liars,” the source said.

So.  The freedom of the press is the cornerstone of democracy, right?  If the US media can be bullied into reporting only adulatory snippets about our Dear Leader-Elect, we are going to be in deep s**t. 

But at least Mr. Trump is following in the footsteps of another Great Leader, Idi Amin:

3.  Our Dear Leader-Elect wants Britain to appoint the British version of a white supremacist leader as Britain's ambassador to Washington, DC.  That would be Nigel Farage who also believes that working mothers are worth less than working men because they have children, the same Nigel Farage who interpreted Trump's pussy-grabbing stories as something all guys do and also as alpha-male boasting.

But those are extremely minor aspects of Mr. Farage's platform.

As to this whole little debacle:

It is unprecedented for an incoming US president to ask a world leader to appoint an opposing party leader as ambassador, and the statement puts May in a difficult position.


Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British ambassador to Washington, said he was baffled by the tweet. “UK ambassador in DC exists to defend UK interests in US, not US interests in UK,” he tweeted. “Can’t have foreign presidents deciding who our [ambassador] should be.”

Political rules and customs as well as laws are for Little People, not for our Dear Leader.

The new Alternative Reality is shaping up quite nicely.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The End of Identity Liberalism. Or The Re-Branding the Democratic Party

As is common in the aftermath of a loss (1), various voices are proposing a new and improved Democratic Party or a new and improved liberalism, the kind which can attract the white working class guys in the Rust Belt.

So you'd guess that those voices would mention that we need to fight income inequality, that we need to fight for saner labor markets, living wages, better parental and sick leave arrangements and so on, right?

You'd guess only partially right.  Some do advocate those things, as have I many times in the past.  But others advocate something different, and Mark Lilla is one of those.

Mr. Lilla wants to see the end of identity liberalism, because it divides us and doesn't unite us:

But it is at the level of electoral politics that identity liberalism has failed most spectacularly (1), as we have just seen. National politics in healthy periods is not about “difference,” it is about commonality. And it will be dominated by whoever best captures Americans’ imaginations about our shared destiny. Ronald Reagan did that very skillfully, whatever one may think of his vision. So did Bill Clinton, who took a page from Reagan’s playbook. He seized the Democratic Party away from its identity-conscious wing, concentrated his energies on domestic programs that would benefit everyone (like national health insurance) and defined America’s role in the post-1989 world. By remaining in office for two terms, he was then able to accomplish much for different groups in the Democratic coalition. Identity politics, by contrast, is largely expressive, not persuasive. Which is why it never wins elections — but can lose them.
 It's ironic that Bill Clinton's national health insurance proposal failed miserably.  It's even more ironic that Bill Clinton's support for various globalization initiatives is where the seeds of the Rust Belt devastation were scattered.  But never mind, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were unifiers, says Mark Lilla.

Lilla's piece is cleverly written, because most of the important achievements of what he calls identity liberalism are picked from the past, while the more recent examples he mentions are largely about the "celebration" of diversity and about the doings of privileged (hah!) college students inside the gentle world of academics.

Stacking the deck that way is unfair.  Many might agree with his message if the forms  identity liberalism take consist of nothing but, say,  a focus on trigger warnings and linguistic purity policing on the left.  But Lilla's examples are carefully picked to give that impression.

In reality the concept of "identity" is much more important than that:  Consider that "identity" is something others can impose on us (you n***er, you c**t), consider that it can determine what we may do with our economic careers and working lives, consider that it can determine what kinds of crimes might victimize us, consider that people like Mark Lilla don't really see their own stances determined by "identity," because the face he sees in the mirror while shaving is the default face of this country.

Thus, I have several points to make about his argument that the Democratic Party must now focus on issues which unify us, not on issues which divide us.