Comment of the day: Dismantling our protections

… from ljtmalden:

The reason is they want to dismantle the government. Period. 

Agreed. As far as I can tell, the reason is that many republicans in congress see their victory as permission to dismantle not only the New Deal, but also much of the executive branch and long-standing institutions such as public schooling.

Right on the nose. As we’ve been told, take the autocrat at his word. Or in this case, at his chief advisor’s word. Here’s Steve Bannon:

I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.

Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Bannon was employing Lenin’s strategy for Tea Party populist goals. He included in that group the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the traditional conservative press.

He’s got more than that, now. He’s got the government itself, which is supposed to work for the people. The list of cabinet appointees who are flamboyantly unqualified and/or openly hostile to the agency’s mission, proves the point.

  • DeVos is there to kill public education.
  • Pruitt is there to kill the EPA.
  • Price is there to kill the Affordable Care Act (and privatize Medicare/Medicaid).
  • Perry … Perry doesn’t even know what he thinks he’s going to be doing. Managing the nuclear stockpiles is a big part of the job. (I’d joke and say “Oops” but that kind of gallows humor just turns my stomach these days.)
  • etc.

It’s a “government” run by corporate custodians, billionaires, on behalf of their interests. It is indeed a hollowing out of the institutions that were brought about to serve and protect the public. God knows how long it will take to rebuild them.

No More "Middle Class"

Interesting hypothesis. - promoted by david

If you are a child of the 50′s or 60′s  or very early 70′s …..or very late 40′s….you can recall, with emotional exuberance, the “Middle Class”.   Today, in 2017, the Middle Class is a fond memory and one that is fading away. Elizabeth Warren spoke on this subject back in 2007, ten years ago, years before she entered politics (and my first encounter with her, an encounter that changed my view of the world) .

In simple terms, the “middle class” is just a class of laborers who can support themselves and their family in a manner that is socially, fashionably equivalent with the majority of others.  In contrast, the  class of laborers who cannot support themselves and their family in a manner that is socially, fashionably equivalent with the majority of others are called the poor.  The middle class goes to Disney World.  The poor do not.  The middle class retires at 65, moved to Florida and plays golf until they die at a local hospital paid for by their insurance policy.  The poor hang on in Central Falls until they die of pneumonia, on Medicaid.  In BOTH case, the citizens involved all worked, a minimum of 40 hour a week, 50 weeks a year.  The only difference was in their wages.

Our middle class is dying. We’re not even keeping up with the Canadians.

My hypothesis is this:  our middle class is dying because it has allowed itself to separated from the working class and reduce its numbers in the same way that the poor have been suffering because they have been jettisoned by the middle class and become a minority.  It is time, hell, it is past time to join these two classes back into one, as the “Working Class”.

In short, if you accept the paradigm of “Middle Class”, you embrace the notion of lower class or poor.  You can’t have a middle without two ends.  We know we have a wealthy class, the 1%, more accurately the .1%.  do we really increase our political power if we fragment the remaining 99.9% in two, fighting each other?

As we look at Donald Trump and his cabinet, it ought to be clear to all of us, from cardiologists to car sales reps to custodians, that it is ALL of us against ALL of them,  We cannot win if we divide our ranks by occupation, earnings, (or sex or religion or skin color or language).

Working Class has to be our focus.  Middle Class is accepting their paradigm, and one that divides us, isolates us, weakens us.

I challenge all Democratic office holders and those running for office in the years to come to drop the term “middle class” and embrace “Working Class” as our shield.

Pruitt: WTF-level hits 11

I missed this exchange today. This is the person being asked to run the Environmental Protection Agency, which doesn’t just protect the “environment” — it protects us — and our kids.

WASHINGTON ― President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency said at his confirmation hearing Wednesday that he didn’t know one of the most basic things about drinking water safety.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) asked Scott Pruitt if “there is any safe level of lead that can be taken into the human body.”

The answer is a simple “no,” but somehow Pruitt didn’t say that.

“Senator, that is something I have not reviewed nor know about,” said Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma.

“I would be very concerned about any level of lead going into the drinking water or obviously human consumption,” he continued, “but I’ve not looked at a scientific research on that.”

Pruitt shouldn’t need to look at the scientific research ― someone could just tell him. It’s not remotely controversial that lead, a deadly neurotoxin, can cause a host of health problems even in low doses. It can stunt children’s growth and permanently damage their young brains. Lead exposure has emerged as a plausible explanation for the rise and fall of violent crime in the 20th century.

This shocks the conscience. I would think that everyone knows about lead — anyone who’s ever rented or bought a house, or taken kids to the pediatrician. If you don’t know it in a position like Pruitt’s, it’s because you were looking really hard in the other direction.

If ignoring climate change weren’t bad enough (it is); and if copying a letter from an oil company and campaign contributor to send on to the EPA weren’t enough (it is); this exchange is just the capper on a nomination dripping with contempt for the public health and safety. It’s an absolute scandal straight out of the box.

The mask is off, and no Republican or Democrat who would like to claim environmental credentials at all (Collins, Graham, McCain, Murkowski, etc) can be shielded from moral responsibility.

Yes, I do have a litmus test: If you don’t know that lead mentally cripples kids, permanently — you have no business running a hardware store, much less the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s a simple, obvious, and startling cutoff point between mere incompetence and outright villainy.

There is no “safe level” of Scott Pruitt in the US government.

PS: Another thing — Pruitt rejects the idea that mercury pollution is a health hazard. (Remember what used to happen when someone broke a thermometer in middle school science class? Pandemonium.)

The Manchurian Candidate

  - promoted by david


I’m breaking my self-imposed “radio silence” to encourage us to be careful about what we think we know — to paraphrase Mark Twain, “it isn’t what we don’t know that hurts us, it’s what we know that just ain’t so”.

Case in point is “The Manchurian Candidate”. This fabulous novel is, in fact, political satire aimed at McCarthyism. The brainwashed mole is an assassin, not a candidate. The novel is still available. I bought and read it — it’s a fabulous read. I am amazed at how accurately it reflects current politics.

The Women's March

The name of the march has generated some controversy. But it's quite clear that everyone is invited. From the event's website: "Q: I’m not a woman, am I invited? A: Yes, the Women’s March on Washington (WMW) is for any person, regardless of gender or gender identity, who believes women’s rights are human rights." - promoted by david

Okay, here we go…..get ready to down vote in  3….2…..1..

The Women’s March is all we have?  I’ve had friends ask me if I was going.  Aside from the fact that I’ll be working that day, I replied “Well, you see, I am not a woman.  When’s the Men’s March?  I’ll see if I can take the day off!”

Yeah, I get it.  This is all to get Tiny Hands Trump to shake in his boots and think twice about what he plans to do next (as if he actually thought once or had an actual plan).

It’s this “Women” thing that tells me we STILL don’t get it.

Paging Representative Tsongas

Big rush last week in Congress, starting in the Senate, to pave the way for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

And some votes on that — here’s one. When the Senate resolution paving the way to repeal came over to the House, a House Democratic amendment proposed not only to reject the Senate resolution, but also to substitute in its place federal funding for the nation’s infrastructure needs.

Of the House Democrats, 149 voted in favor and 37 were opposed. Within our own House Congressional delegation, eight of the nine voted in favor. The ninth of those members, Rep. Niki Tsongas, voted in opposition. Here’s the roll call.

Do we not need more funding for our bridges and highways? Any reason otherwise not to support the Democratic amendment? Anybody got a theory as to why Rep. Tsongas voted no?

(H/T esteemed BMG’er jcohn88 for the tip.)

Breaking the bubble

promoted by david

 

Sometimes politics can trick us into seeing our neighbors as enemies. While I am prepared to stand up for progressive values and fight against the normalization of hatred in the Trump era, I think we can all do a better job of listening to our fellow citizens. A few hours before President Obama’s farewell address last week, I brought some strangers together to try out a new approach. I wrote about it yesterday on MassLive:

A couple of weeks after Election Day last November, I received an email from a fellow veteran and self-described “deplorable” supporter of President-elect Trump. Some days later we sat down to talk, not debate or argue or yell, just talk. It was an eye opening experience and I wanted more.

Along with that Trump-backer, I decided to do a little experiment. I invited three folks who voted for Trump, and three who supported Hilary Clinton to dinner at a popular local restaurant. Every one of them was a little apprehensive, and I’ll admit that I was a little worried about how things would go. But once we started talking and listening to each other, the evening exceeded my highest expectations.

 

You can read the rest here.

President Trump and the Unwritten Constitution

promoted by david

Cross-posted from Letters Blogatory

Thomas Paine

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.

If there’s one thing the election of Donald Trump has shown, it’s the strength of our formal political institutions. Do you disagree? Consider that in many states at many times in history, a democratically elected person so manifestly unfit for office would not have been allowed to take office. Yet there is no real risk of the American “deep state” carrying out a coup d’état or otherwise preventing Mr. Trump’s inauguration later this week. Once our formal constitutional process for election of the President concluded on January 6 (when Congress certified the electoral vote tally), that was that. We should be enormously proud of the strength of our formal institutions.

So if, when Representative John Lewis said, a few days ago, “I don’t see this President-elect as a legitimate president,” he meant that Mr. Trump was not validly elected, then he was clearly and dangerously in the wrong. His comment would be dangerous in the same way that birtherism, the view that President Obama was constitutionally ineligible to be President because he was not a natural-born citizen of the United States, was dangerous: both views undermine confidence in the formal constitutional mechanisms that have allowed us to prosper for more than two centuries.

But maybe Representative Lewis had something else in mind. Maybe he didn’t mean that Mr. Trump’s election somehow violated the written constitution, but that his actions before and after election have violated the unwritten constitution. Maybe the phrase is a little misleading. The unwritten constitution is not the law. It’s the norms, expectations, and traditions that let the government work. Every country has an unwritten constitution in this sense.

How could we make sense of Rep. Lewis’s comment if this second reading is right? Here are some thoughts.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

This is worth reading every year. And maybe more often than that. Thanks for posting. - promoted by david

Worth another read.  You will note, among other things, that it is not entitled, “Letter from a the Birmingham Holiday Inn.”

 

WHILE confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all of the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of “outsiders
coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every Southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliate organizations all across the South, one being the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Whenever necessary and possible, we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago our local affiliate here in Birmingham invited us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promises. So I am here, along with several members of my staff, because we were invited here. I am here because I have basic organizational ties here

Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Why the Russian election-hacking scandal of 2016 is at least as bad as, if not worse, than Watergate

promoted by david

(Cross-posted from DailyKos)

During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump charged that Hillary Clinton’s alleged email scandal was worse than Watergate.

But, as we’ve seen many times, Trump tends to project his own guilt onto others, and this may be no exception. What may really be as bad as, if not potentially worse, than Watergate is the alleged collusion of the Trump campaign with the Russian government in efforts to affect the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Politics is about People

promoted by david

“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

I like to remember the radical King and not just the cliche on this sacred holiday. Politics is about people, and putting real power and agency in their hands. Trump does this by pitting people against one another to compete over the scraps left over in our post industrial economy. Liberals cannot respond to this with technocratic solutions that neglect the reality that humans are cultural and social creatures who crave the dignity of work and the stability of community. Politics are about people in all their wonderful complexity and we should embrace this fully and remember the warnings as well as the ideals of Dr. king.

Mustering the "reality-based community"

Martin Luther King spoke to today’s predicament, if anything even more acute now than when he said the words:

Who doubts that this toughness of mind is one of man’s greatest needs?  Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking.  There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions.  Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

We are now at the apex of a propaganda attack on the country, for the benefit of militarism, oligarchy … and the highly idiosyncratic ambitions of the President-elect.

This blog was started in 2004, and the tag line “Reality-based commentary” was inspired by the Ron Suskind article on the Bush administration, in which Karl Rove (probably) is quoted:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Even since the Nixon administration, we’ve seen attacks on the “liberal media”, which really meant that the media reports things that are unflattering to conservative prejudices. Ex-Nixon aide Roger Ailes started Fox News in 1996, fairly explicitly as a right-wing propaganda outlet but with the blackwhite trademark “Fair and Balanced”. Climate scientists are well-acquainted with the use of propaganda to muddy and distort the clearest of facts, crippling the public’s understanding of what is necessary for human civilization to continue to flourish on Earth. Reality — or rather, “reality” — is created, not observed, by those who are wealthy and well-connected enough to attempt it. We know about the Koch brothers; Sheldon Adelson; now the DeVos family; and so forth. Their money is like the gravity of a black hole — it distorts the very nature of reality around it.

So the press has been under fairly successful attack for years. Media is business, and the propaganda offensive by Fox and assorted right-wing media empires have created an expectation in a part of the population, that information unflattering to its prejudices is “biased.” Instead of maintaining a “just the facts” integrity against such attacks, media companies like CNN chase right-wing media market share, adjusting their coverage accordingly. (They thereby lose market share from people who look for something more incisive and substantive than relativistic ideological food-fights … but apparently those viewers don’t exist in adequate numbers.)

Parts of the federal government also provide the public with facts, independent of the demands of those in power, or political oligarchy. And those parts are under explicit threat:

… And on and on. Every day brings a new example. The common theme is that factual claims must be run by the authorities first. They must be made to accommodate the ideologies and predilections of those in power. The authorities will decide.

The incoming administration and Congress want to cut off the supply of credible, factual information to the public. Implicit is the admission that they can’t win if the public possesses it.

There are signs of flailing struggle in the media — even at generally-supine and inessential CNN. We may not yet have passed the Event Horizon for a new age of propaganda, though it’s apparent that a considerable chunk of the public will believe whatever they’re served. Social media bubbles, fake-news and low-quality clickbait-news don’t help. They are the crystal meth of information — providing irresistible jolts of satisfaction while providing no new understanding.

There’s no doubt that we on the left get played as well: Lefty clickbait is apparently a real business, based on my Facebook feed — and some is clearly meant to exacerbate internal conflicts on the left. (That was, after all, the very intent of the Wikileaks hack of DNC and Clinton campaign emails.) If we think we’re immune, we’re kidding ourselves. And we need each other — to stick together even while grappling with internal tensions.

So it’s up to us to re-dedicate ourselves to the “reality-based” community — to each other, and to habits of mind that accommodate new information, and discern from propaganda. We’ll have to search out and support credible, professional sources with integrity. We’ll have to know when we’re getting played. It will be harder than ever, given a stream of disinformation from the very top.