defrog: (Default)
Well, maybe not the only post. It depends if anything else worthy of comment develops, since there’s a lot we don’t know yet, but I may just go ahead and update this post rather than create a new one.

1. Obviously this changes nothing about the gun control debate, with the exception that the NRA has actually said, “Okay, maybe bump stocks are a little over the line for us, we’re not sure, but we’re open to discussion, maybe.”

Does it mean anything? Not really. Mass shootings will continue. And I guess if you follow Tomi Lahren’s logic, criminals and psychos won’t care if bump stocks are illegal anyway, so it won’t matter if you ban them. You can even go a step further and take the Tucker Carlson line that bump stocks actually save lives because if Stephen Paddock hadn’t used one, he might have killed a lot more people.

Anyway, it’s hard to take anything the NRA seriously when their current marketing campaign involves Dana Loesch shaking her Clenched Fist Of Truth™ at America’s two greatest enemies (i.e. liberals and the mainstream media).

2. That said, I think it’s worth passing on these two articles that add some good context to the gun debate: this one at FiveThirtyEight and this one from WaPo.

Both make points that have been made before but don’t get a lot of attention, especially in the wake of the latest record-setting mass shooting. In essence: America’s gun problem isn’t just a gun problem, it’s a series of problems (mental health, suicide, domestic violence, etc) requiring separate solutions for each.

3. One point of contention: many people I know are furious that the police and the media aren't describing it as a terrorist attack and are criticizing it as a double standard, evidence of white privilege, etc.

I disagree for a simple reason: to qualify as terrorism, an attack must have a political motivation and must be intended to create a state of fear in either the general population or the group being targeted. As far as we know, Paddock doesn’t fit that description. At least not yet.

I understand why these people are demanding it be classified as such – it’s mainly an extension of their frustration that past attacks by white American guys that actually do fit the description of terrorism weren’t initially treated as such precisely because the perps were white American guys and therefore couldn’t possibly be terrorists because as we all know terrorists are brown foreigners in turbans with funny names. Etc.

The problem is that we’ve reached a point where basically any attack even remotely like this is considered a terrorist attack. Granted, that’s in part because actual terrorists have lowered the bar to the point where you can't have a multiple-car collision without people wondering if it was terrorism-related.

I guess I’m experiencing cognitive dissonance because I grew up at a time when mass shootings were almost never motivated by political ideology – more often than not it was a guy with mental problems or a disgruntled ex-employee.

Then again, that was also a time when terrorism was still considered a crime to be prosecuted under the standard judicial system. The GW Bush admin changed that when it reclassified terrorism as a literal act of war (and therefore no different from Japan attacking Pearl Harbor) rather than a crime – which for their purposes meant you could torture them, kill them with drones or jail them without charge basically forever.

So I’m not comfortable with people redefining terrorism to fit their particular political viewpoint.

It is what it is,

This is dF 

defrog: (Default)
So we all know by now about Colin Kaepernick, what he’s been doing and why, and what happened on Sunday after the President of the United States publicly called him a son of a bitch for doing it.

Much is being said about it, most of it off-point and dumb enough to inspire me to post something on it.

1. I’m pretty sure this is the first time in my lifetime – and possibly ever – I’ve ever heard the President of The United States use what Decent Society would call foul language in a public speech (as opposed to doing it on a secret surveillance tape or a mike he didn’t know was hot). It doesn’t bother me – it’s just another example of how Trump just keeps managing to break every single rule of decorum that politicians have generally been expected to follow.

2. #TakeAKnee does not offend me in the least. Kaepernick (and indeed anyone else) has a right to do so. Granted, I also support the point he’s trying to make. Even if I didn’t, I’d support his right to take a knee, or even burn the flag of if came to that.

3. Speaking of which, most of the conservative commentary about Kaepernick is exactly the same kind of thing such people used to make about flag burners – my country right or wrong, love it or leave it, respect the flag or else, yada yada yada. It’s the usual patriotic chest-beating, and it bores me.

4. It’s also irrelevant. Kaepernick isn’t protesting the flag or the national anthem – he’s protesting institutional racism and white police brutality against unarmed black people that the country represented by that flag and anthem seems unable or unwilling to address. The fact that conservative critics (many of whom hate #BlackLivesMatters) are trying to change the topic of conversation to the flag and patriotism proves his point.

5. Trump has said his comments are not about racism. That might be true, in the sense that lots of people who fancy themselves Real American Patriots™ tend to have kneejerk reactions to people who are not sufficiently and superficially patriotic to their taste – which is often just as much about showing off how patriotic they are by shaking their fists and screaming at the non-patriotic. People like that tend not to care too much about the racial background of the commie scumbag (which is another way of saying that, as a white dude AND an Army veteran, I’ve had my patriotism questioned plenty of times, like whenever I said that war was not a good thing).

Having said that, I have my doubts that Trump really cares all that much about the flag or the anthem, if only because there’s no meaningful evidence of it. Some reports suggest he’s intentionally milking it to throw easy red jingoist meat to his support base, which is likely true.

However, we’re also talking about the same base that has no problem with white cops shooting unarmed black people because Law & Order, Blue Lives Matter, and the only racism racism problem in America is all the minorities claiming there is one. Which is, you know, divisive.

Or, as Trump once called them, “very fine people”.

So … while Trump may not have had any specific racist intent in calling Kaepernick an SOB, the fact that he couldn’t bring himself to say the same thing about Nazis and the KKK give a good indication where his priorities lie – the best possible interpretation is that taking a knee during the national anthem is far more offensive to him than actual Nazis marching under a Nazi flag on US soil and killing a woman by running her over with a car.

6. A few conservatives I know have criticized #TakeAKnee for being a pointless form of protest because it has the inherent flaw of getting people to talk about The Wrong Thing (see Point 3).

Normally I would agree with this. On the other hand: (1) as I said, many critics know full well what the real issue is and are deliberately avoiding it by playing the patriot card, and (2) the same people have said similar things about #BlackLivesMatters protests on the streets, peaceful or otherwise. So … what, they’d perhaps prefer that #BLM, Kaepernick et al just stay home and post inaccurate Facebook memes like everyone else?

There’s a good quote from Barbara Jean Orton making the rounds that sums it up better than anything I could say:

"I know there are people who don't like the idea of protesting during the national anthem. But if you're going to protest, it seems to me that kneeling is literally THE most respectful, dignified, non-disruptive, and humble gesture you could choose. Historically, people knelt to beseech a favor from the crown. They still kneel, sometimes, to ask for someone's hand. But mostly they kneel to pray. To pray for some kind of change. Like, for instance, a change in the way our nation values black bodies and black lives.

I've heard people complain about boycotts, about public disruptions, about peaceful protesters blocking traffic. But I think if you're going to complain about kneeling silently, you need to admit that there is literally no form of protest you will accept."

Drop the mike,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Here we go again.

The GOP is giving the Big Repeal another go with the Graham-Cassidy bill, and by most reliable accounts it’s even worse than the last few.

Which is saying something.

As usual, most people are only interested in the hyperpartisan batshit rhetoric that supports their side. For the rest of you, here’s a couple of possibly useful links:

A good summation of what the bill is trying to accomplish (as opposed to what will actually happen if it passes).

Another good summation of why the GOP is desperate to repeal Obamacare.

A fine collection of GOP senators trying to explain why the Graham-Cassidy bill is great, and generally failing.

All I can add is:

1. It’s stunning just how bad the GOP is at this, not least because they don’t seem to have learned anything from their previous experience. It’s as if they think the problem with badly written healthcare bills and rushing them through by any chicanery necessary before anyone has a chance to evaluate or debate them is that they weren’t fast enough.

Little wonder their bills are so unpopular. You’d think the message to Congress was blindingly obvious: “Look, if you really think Obamacare is so awful (and there’s no convincing evidence that it is, but let’s say there is) that you need to get rid of it, okay, but replace it with something as good or better. It’s complicated, so take all the time you need, vet it, debate it, and come up with something solid and workable.”

The fact that they’re doing the OPPOSITE of that suggests strongly to me that they don’t have a better idea for doing what Obamacare does, apart from “leave it to the states and the free market and it’ll be fine”. Which by all accounts it won’t be – not under this bill, anyway.

Not that it matters, since I’m reasonably sure many Republicans want to ditch Obamacare for the same reason Trump does – it’s a product of the Obama admin. They’re made it clear they are far more interested in repealing than replacing.

2. It’s kind of amusing that most of the debate about Graham-Cassidy is being led by late-night talk-show hosts.

Naturally conservatives are trotting out the old “celebrities shouldn’t express political opinions, they should stick to entertainment” meme. Which is disingenuous, considering how many of them voted for the current POTUS. See also: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ted Nugent, Chuck Norris, James Woods, Kid Rock, etc. So I can’t take people who pull the “stay in your lane” argument seriously – let’s admit, they only object to celebrity political opinions when they disagree with them.

Anyway, I don’t have a problem with Jimmy Kimmel making an issue of it. Given his family situation, I don’t blame him.

3. Bernie Sanders is using this as an opportunity to revive his single-payer universal healthcare idea – which of course has zero chance of passing now, but I assume he’s warming it up now in case the Democrats take back Congress in 2018, in which case it still won’t pass because Trump will veto it. Unless Bernie is also banking on Trump getting impeached by then, but I don’t see President Pence being any more willing to sign something I’m sure he feels is probably the only thing worse than Obamacare.

Anyway, you can read the details here, but if you felt the Bern last year, odds are you already know what he has in mind. For me, the chief problem with Berniecare – then and now – is that it’s really difficult and expensive to implement, and Bernie tends to get really vague on the details on just how we would go about funding Berniecare apart from “we’ll tax the rich enough until it’s paid for”. Which personally I don’t find particularly convincing.

Incurable,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
A few bits and bobs in the aftermath of the Charlottesville Massacree:

1. I enjoyed Tina Fey’s sheetcaking bit. I especially enjoyed it because it offended conservatives (because you know, Teh Liberal Hollywoods) and liberals who thought she was giving bad advice by telling people to respond to Evil Conservative Fascism by staying home and binge-eating cake.

My own thought is: it wasn’t advice, it was a comedy sketch.

Yes, racism is terrible and Nazis suck, but it’s not Tina Fey’s job to tell us that or to mobilize us all into action to fight Nazis. It’s her job to use comedy as a satirical commentary of current events, ideally to provoke discussion of the topic in question. You could easily interpret the bit as a satire of people who respond to the spectacle of Charlottesville by eating cake – there’s so much metaphor to work with there. Or you can interpret it the way I did – a humorous way of expressing the frustration we all feel that the NaziS and KKK etc feel empowered by the current POTUS and most of us hate to be put in position where we have to scream and yell at such people. And I think that’s a valid a thing to say because believe it or not, some of are just sick of people screaming and yelling at each other in lieu of rational discussion with no end in sight.

You can argue that her message is an example of white-girl privilege, being able to opt out of a debate that non-whites can’t because they have more at stake, etc. That’s a valid point, and look – it’s now a discussion point thanks to Tina Fey and her comedy sheetcake!

Which is fine by me, because political comedy has always been better at provoking discussion and getting people to question things than it is at providing answers to the questions it raises.

2. That said, sometimes comedy can be a solution in itself, or at least a tool. As this article points out, if you are going to show up at the Alt.Right™ Nazi KKKoalition rally, yr best weapon is humor and satire – it's arguably way more effective than punching Nazis or getting into a pointless atavistic screaming match. A lot of the Nazi KKK guys welcome violence and screaming – they’d be more than pleased for you to start something (though yes, many of them apparently welcome it more when they outnumber you and Open Carry is legal). Make fun of them and refuse to take them seriously, and they will go ballistic. And they’ll come away looking far worse than you.

3. On the bright side, the Boston protests were a lot more peaceful than Charlottesville, and evidently more effective – not only were the Alt.Right™ embarrassingly outnumbered, the same organizers decided to cancel 67 planned rallies in 36 states and take them online instead.

Result! Chalk one for the “you gotta show up” camp.

4. Naturally, the Alt.Right™ and people who defend them are complaining that their free speech rights were violated by all the counterprotesters raining on their parade. I don’t see how. No one prevented them from having their rally or saying whatever they wanted to say. I suppose you can argue an intimidation factor, but that seems to be more the product of the Alt.Right™ apparently buying the meme that all counterprotesters are literally violent ISIS terrorists out to beat them up. Which is of course not true (mostly).

5. Regarding all the dithering over Confederate statues, I think it’s mostly a debate recycled from the same dithering over flying Confederate flags.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, most of these statues were only erected in the 20th Century, and it wasn’t just about celebrating Southern heritage. Unless by “heritage” you mean “slavery” and “racism”.

Which, to be fair, many Confederate flag/statue defenders don’t mean, because they don’t know their own history that they claim to celebrate. A lot of people still roll out the old chestnut that the Civil War was about economics and states’ rights. Sorry, but it wasn’t. It was about preserving slavery and – in the event that more states joined the CFA – forcing new member states to drop abolition laws. The CFA constitution was pretty explicit about that.

So many of today’s Confederate flag/statue defenders may not be pro-slavery racists in the strictest sense, but they’re arguably ignorant about their own “heritage”. The problem, as I’ve said before, is that their current reality bubble allows them to dismiss any facts contrary to their beliefs as Fake News.

Some people argue the statues should stay up as a reminder that a bunch of states committed treason against the US over slavery. Maybe. I like the idea from one person that we take down the statues but leave the pedestals.

Otherwise there’s no real reason to keep them up. And the argument that taking them down is revising or erasing history is nonsense – as if we would have no idea there was ever such a thing as slavery in America or a Civil War fought over it unless there was a statue of Robert E Lee in the local city park.

Then again, some people still believe the Earth is flat, so what do I know?

And so on,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)

Welp.

A lot of what I want to say about this, I’ve said before in some form or other, notably regarding free speech and Nazi-punching. But let me give this a shot so I can get this off my chest.

[Sorry it’s tl;dr, but you should have seen it before I whittled it down.]

1. To get the obvious out of the way, the whole thing – the protest, the violence and the terrorist attack – was terrible and awful and probably inevitable, if not predictable.

2. Trump’s trainwreck reaction to Charlottesville (lengthy silence, vague tweet, the “on many sides” speech, more silence, another statement that sounded like his advisers threatened to take away his golf clubs if he didn't read the goddamn thing out loud, the inevitable fake news tweet, the “Alt.Left” improv press conference) has undoubtedly made the situation worse in terms of neo-Nazis, the KKK and other white supremacist/nationalist groups feeling empowered by the notion that the White House has their back.

3. Does that prove Trump is a true-blue Nazi or a white supremacist? Not in the strictest sense – it’s been pointed out that Trump said what he said (vis a vis Charlottesville and previous statements) in no small part because he thinks saying what he should have said would be a victory for the PC SJWs that he loathes so much. He hates the idea of being told by liberals and the media what he should say about issues like this, and he’d rather say what he really thinks and screw ya if you don’t like it, snowflake.

That said, the other issue is that based on everything we’ve heard Trump say over the last few years, it’s fair to assume that he’s sympathetic with the part of the Alt-Right™ that is more focused on white-identity politics and their irrational fear of being erased in the name of political correctness or whatever, and that it’s the black people (especially #BLM and ESPECIALLY Barack Hussein Obama) who are to blame for whatever racism problems might still exist.

4. Here’s where it gets tricky (and controversial) because the Alt-Right™ is – or has been up to now – distinct from the Nazis, KKK et al. I recommend reading these two articles – one about the different groups that comprise the Charlottesville protest, and the other about the White Identity ideology driving it. Yes, it’s all basically racist, but there’s a distinct difference – the Nazis, KKK et al acknowledge they’re racists. The Alt-Right™ people generally don’t. It doesn’t mean they’re not racist – it means they genuinely don’t see why they should be labeled as such simply because they identify themselves as white. “Blacks get to be proud of their racial heritage, why can’t we?” It's the same argument that affirmative action is reverse racism, or it’s so unfair that black people can use the n-word but white people can’t, etc.

It’s certainly not a defense for racism, and I fully understand that the distinction is of little importance to the racial and religious minorities who are the targets of their ire. I’m just saying it’s important to understand the difference if you’re going to label Trump a full-blown Nazi, which is a very serious charge (albeit one that’s been watered down by applying it indiscriminately over the years).

5. However, the plot twist is that, thanks to Charlottesville, the lines separating Nazis and KKKers from the rest of the Alt.Right™ – which were already getting blurry – have been almost completely erased. And the Alt.Right™ only has themselves to blame for that. When actual Nazis and the KKK got involved in the rally, that would have been the time for the Alt.Right™ to walk away and say, “Oh no, we’re not with these guys.” Which they didn’t. That speaks volumes about their priorities and values, even if it was only for the same reason that Trump tried to shift the blame around. Whatever the Alt.Right™ may have thought it was before, they’re honorary Nazis and KKKers now.

6. And arguably the same goes for Trump.

It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t go around repeating Nazi/KKK talking points on TV. Any fool knows what the Nazis and the KKK stand for, both historically and now, and both were large and in charge in Charlottesville. And one of them killed Heather Heyer (an American citizen) on American soil for daring to disagree with them. Literally any other previous post-WW2 POTUS would have understood the sheer gravity of that and the implications therein, and would have gone on national TV denouncing that specific act AND the Nazis and the KKK to show the American People™ that these things are immoral and wrong and contrary to the values of this society, etc. It’s entry level POTUS 101.

Yet Trump couldn’t bring himself to do that. All he could do was try to make it about his (and the Nazi/KKK’s) political enemies instead.

Sure, he may have had reasons unrelated to Nazi/KKK ideology, but he effectively aided and abetted their cause, which encourages them to carry on Nazi-ing. (Just ask David Duke and The Daily Stormer.)

Whether it’s due to his PC/fake news obsessions, his delusional perception of reality, or whatever – and whether he intended it or not – Trump basically positioned himself as a de facto Nazi/KKK sympathizer.

7. Some people will say “Oh, but what about antifa? They’re so violent, they’re just as bad, why don’t you complain about THEM?”

Well, I do complain about the antifa too – I don’t support their tactics. But there’s really no way you can compare the two groups in terms of where they sit on a moral compass. It’s also one of the dumbest and worst arguments in politics – “Hey if you think we’re bad, you should see the Other Guys!” It says a lot when yr response to an issue like this is to make sure yr political opponents get at least half the blame.

8. The big question, of course, is: is this going to be the final straw for Republicans who have backed Trump up to now?

Sadly, I don’t think so.

Leaving aside the fact that GOP policies over the last 25 years enabled Trump’s rise to power (even if they’d rather have had an insider), the problem is that Trump has provided them with sufficient political cover to downplay both Charlotteville and Trump’s response to it – Alt.Left! It’s Obama’s fault! Those Charlottesville Nazis were actually Jewish actors! It’s just another liberal Fake News lie to be countered with Dana Loesch’s Clenched Fist Of Truth In Yr Fucking Libtard Face!

You see the problem.

I think that’s the biggest challenge we face – not just the fact that white supremacy is on the rise and the POTUS supports it (wittingly or otherwise), but that it’s doing so because too many people buy into the alternate reality peddled by Trump and Fox News and the NRA in which they are right and YOU are wrong and anything that doesn’t conform to that worldview is a lie manufactured by the Deep State Liberal Media Axis to take over the country.

Put another way, the big problem isn't that American racism is on the rise (although it is on the rise, yes) but that a decent chunk of the country doesn’t know/believe that it is, and doesn’t know they’re part of the problem – and are inoculated against any attempt to persuade them otherwise.

I honestly don’t know how we get out of this. I take comfort in the fact that these people are a fraction of the population. But it seems that fraction is getting bigger – and one of them controls the White House.

Which is another thing – impeaching Trump won’t fix that. Not overnight, anyway. It's not everyone will suddenly snap out of it and say, “Man, I had the craziest dream …” That batshit reality voter base will remain, and the GOP – who helped to create them and have entertained and exploited them for years in order to attain power – will continue to pander to them.

That’s not an argument against impeaching Trump, mind. It’s just worth remembering the problem is so much bigger than that.

Nazi punks fuck off,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)

So Trump has declared war on North Korea. Sort of. Turns out he was improvising. Which is exactly the quality you want in a man who has possession of the nuclear launch codes.

So now there’s lots of a-dithering over the possibility of nuclear war. And as a child of the Cold War I feel in my element – we went through this in the 80s with Reagan, who had convinced the Left that not only was a nuclear war with Russia was inevitable during his admin, but that he was sort of looking forward to it because it meant he would personally get to greet Jesus on His return. (Which isn’t how it works, according to most Revelations scholars, but whatever.)

So here we are again. Maybe.

I admit it’s hard for me to take the threat too seriously, if only because I’ve heard it all before and we still haven’t seen so much as a single nuke go off since Nagasaki.

On the other hand, we are talking about Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un – two demented egotistical man-children who care a lot more about looking weak than they do about the consequences of a nuclear exchange, and both of whom are dumb enough to assume that nuking a country is no big deal – it’s like a bomb, only bigger, right?

It's also possible that when Trump says “fire and fury”, he’s not thinking of nukes – he’s thinking maybe of the conventional Shock And Awe™ that GW Bush rained all over Iraq or something. Sort of like how when he says America’s nuke arsenal has been renovated and modernized since he took office seven months ago (which isn’t true), maybe he means “we gave them a good wash and polish and now they're so shiny”.

But who knows what the hell Trump is thinking, really?

That’s the big unknown that’s making people nervous – we KNOW that Trump and Kim are inhabiting their own personal alt-realities and think that being the toughest, loudest kid on the block is the way to solve all yr problems. What we DON’T know is (1) whether Kim really has the capability to nuke Guam and (2) whether he and Trump have the will to actually pull the trigger.

One of the complications here is, of course, that North Korea is decidedly a problem, and we need to think of a way to deal with them. It’s been argued that nuanced diplomacy hasn’t really worked, and we need another strategy. I don’t have any bright ideas as to what that might be. I’d prefer it to be something other than a military option, partly because I’m a pacifist and partly because I’m reasonably sure it will make a bad situation even worse – not just for the Korean peninsula but the whole Asian region (which is also where I happen tolive, so yes, I’m a little biased here).

Unfortunately, Trump seems to be interested in only two strategies: (1) pretend it’s China’s problem to fix because hey, yr closer and you know this guy, talk to him for Crissakes, and (2) “fire and fury”. And plenty of experts have said that while Kim Jong-un isn’t suicidal, he is the kind of guy who will do something stupid if he thinks he’s cornered and has no choice. Which is why you want to be careful about how you respond publicly to his exploits.

Unfortunately (again), Trump doesn’t know how to do “careful”. And he can’t delegate to America’s diplomats who know how to handle these things because, well, there aren't any.

Even so, I still can’t find the energy to get worked up over this, if only because (1) I’m used to it and (2) then as now, there’s really not a blessed thing I can do about it. I truly hope these two nincompoops are just waving their dicks around. But if not … welp, it’s been nice knowing you all.

Party at ground zero,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
I’d meant to post something about that NRA ad where Dana Loesch shakes her Clenched Fist Of Truth™ at America’s most dangerous adversary ever (libtards!). But I was in the midst moving house at the time, and by the time the dust settled it was old news.

But now Loesch is back in the headlines thanks to a new NRA ad in which she shakes her Clenched Fist Fisk Of Truth™ specifically at The New York Times.

Good gravy. Where to begin?

1. Vox has a good explanation as any as to what’s going on here – the NRA needs a bogeyman to sell moar gunz. Obama and his Big Fat Liberal Agenda To Pry Your Guns From Your Cold Dead Fingers served that purpose, but with Obama gone and the GOP controlling every major branch of govt (and many states), there’s zero chance of anyone passing gun-control laws for the foreseeable future. So the NRA is (evidently) going with the next best thing: carefully worded paranoid conspiracy theories about the Obama Deep State in cahoots with Fake News Media (formerly known as Liberal Media, LameStream Media™, etc and so on) and professional liberal anarchist protesters to destroy democracy somehow, and the only people who can stop them are Real Americans (i.e. conservatives and only conservatives) armed to the f***ing teeth with superior firepower.

2. Not that the NRA endorses violence. It never does, explicitly, if only because it’s illegal to do so even under the 1A. But the language and the tone are unmistakably (and intentionally) angry, militant and confrontational, and designed to portray anyone to the left of the NRA as dangerous anarchist creeps spoiling for a fight and out to smear Decent Honest Conservative Americans as evil racist homophobic Nazis.

3. The irony –and believe me I take no pleasure in typing this – is that Loesch isn't 100% wrong on that. There are plenty of far-left mouthpieces (some official, some just trolls) who routinely label everyone to the right of them as literal Nazis out to exterminate all non-white poor people and make The Handmaid’s Tale a reality, and who say the most effective way to counter conservative arguments is to punch them in the face and never allow them to speak in public ever. I don’t think that such people represent the majority of left-wingers (just as I don't think that Loesch represents most Republicans) – but they have the loudest megaphones, and they like to use them. And they’re essentially fueling Loesch and the NRA’s paranoid fantasy that The Left is out to silence them permanently.

4. That said, Loesch and the NRA are clearly either living in the same alternate reality as Trump, or exploiting it for personal gain. Or maybe both. It’s possible Loesch actually thinks what she’s saying is true. It’s also possible that she’s serious when she says the ads aren’t intended to be violent or threatening and she sees no possible way anyone could conclude that they are (unless they’re Fake News reporters, and see what she did there?). Sure – it’s like the Open Carry characters who can’t for the life of them understand why a group of guys walking into a Chipotles with AR-15s slung on their shoulders would make the customers nervous.

5. Regardless of sincerity, the Loesch ads are essentially dumb angry propaganda out to warn you of a reality that doesn’t really exist – and get you to do something about it (even if it's just buy lots more guns and give the NRA your money).

Will the ads encourage gun violence against “they”? Sooner or later, yes, although I think such incidents will be rare. We’re lucky that most conservatives who talk angry and loud tend not to escalate to physical violence (I assume this is because it's a lot easier to talk trash on radio or on Twitter than to someone’s face). 

That said, I’m less concerned about the prospect of violence as I am about the fact that (1) these ads are based on fundamentally false premises, (2) the choir they’re preaching to already believes those premises are true, and (3) there’s literally no way to convince them otherwise because one of those premises is that if the media (or anyone) says something that contradicts your sociopolitical worldview, you can rest assured they are deliberately lying as part of a conspiracy to advance their agenda against Decent Patriotic Americans like yourself.

I just don't see an upside to any of this. Maybe because I’m part of the conspiracy, I guess? I don’t know. But I’ve been watching the Professionally Angry Conservative Outrage Circus Train peddle its schtick for the better part of 25 years, and, well, look who’s POTUS now.

Unclenched,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
The latest GOP attempt to repeal and (maybe) replace Obamacare has flopped yet again, for pretty much the same reason as every other attempt since the Trump Era – the GOP seems absolutely positively incapable of writing a replacement bill that won’t make things even worse, and their only solution to this dilemma seems to be drafting secret bills and rushing them out at the last minute.

I guess a few comments are in order:

1. Like a lot of people, I think this latest round confirms beyond all doubt that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan do not care about creating a “better” healthcare policy for America as much as they care about getting rid of the current one. They want to scrap the ACA so badly that they literally do not care what the replacement bill is. And the only reason they want to scrap the ACA is because (1) Obama gets credit for it, and (2) it’s an affront to their narrow ideology (as is everything to do with Obama in general).

2. That may or may not explain the constant procedural clusterfucks that every bill and subsequent vote went through. You have to wonder just what was going on in McConnell’s head – dead of night votes, closed-door sessions, asking Congresspeople to vote on something they haven’t even read, etc. Maybe we’ll never know. FiveThirtyEight’s take sheds a little light. But you know something’s gone horribly haywire when you have GOP senators on TV trying to get assurances from the House that the law they're voting for won’t actually become law. (Put another way: “We want to be on record as repealing Obamacare, but we want to do it without actually repealing it.”)

3. We have the GOP to thank that there is now such a term as “skinny repeal”.

4. As for good ol’ John McCain, it’s kind of funny to me that no one on the left wants to give him credit for killing the latest bill. I understand why – he’s not the only senator to vote against it, and sure, GOP senators Susan Collins and Linda Murkowski were more consistent in their opposition to it. And it has to be grating that McCain is getting the headlines for what was arguably a group effort.

On the other hand, we already knew how Collins, Murkowski and all of the Demos were going to vote – McCain was the wild card, which made him the one to ultimately determine its fate.

It doesn’t matter to me that Collins and Murkowski were consistently against Trumpcare. I’m fine with giving them recognition for it – not least because of all the bullying and crap they took from their own side. But keep in mind too that both of them (like McCain) would also very much like to dump Obamacare – just not to the point that they’ll vote for any crappy old useless bill that McConnell slaps on the table. So I wouldn’t get too carried away with celebrating them as heroes of Obamacare or anything.

5. Which is another thing to keep in mind – I seriously doubt that we’ve seen the last of Trumpcare. I don't see McConnell giving up on this (or Ryan, or Trump, for that matter). With any luck, the next attempt will see them taking their sweet time, doing it properly and crafting a bipartisan bill that actually makes some kind of sense. That seems unlikely, though – the GOP has major problems right now, and they can’t all be blamed on Trump. And thanks to the Ryan/McConnell Clusterfuck, Obamacare is more popular now than when the GOP first tried to repeal it.

So, yeah, good luck with that.

Back to the drawing board (again),

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Yes, yes, I know.

Some quick comments:

1. It says a lot that the arguments now circulating on social media to support this ban are pretty much the exact same arguments we went through with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and women serving in combat units, with a bit of keyword substitution.

2. One key difference between then and now is that attitudes have shifted considerably in the last 25 years. Back in 1993, the majority of people probably agreed that having LGBTs in the military (as if they weren’t already in it, which they totally were, but never mind) was bad for the morale, esprit de corps and mission focus of the straight guys trying to defend the country. This is a minority opinion in 2017, not least because – thanks to Iraq and Afghanistan – it’s generally been demonstrated that LGBT soldiers can fight wars as good as anyone else, and that most straight soldiers value that more than they care about their sex lives. Which is why the people still circulating the old 1993 arguments sound dumber now than they did back then.

3. The other key difference – and the more important one – is that those arguments were about giving LGBTs a right they didn’t have. Trump is proposing to take away a right that the “T”s in that equation already have. That’s a lot harder to justify – and it’s an eyebrow raiser when the POTUS wakes up one morning and decides that this group of people shouldn’t have the same rights as the rest of us anymore for reasons known only to him.

4. In fact, Trump being Trump, it’s hard to know how serious he is about it, or whether he truly believes it’s a problem that needs solving. The going theory is he intentionally picked a wedge topic out of nowhere to enrage liberals and get them raging about something else besides Russia and the GOP’s increasingly worse Obamacare replacement bills, and also to make the conservative evangelical base happy, because he could use some more support right about now. This is possible, but it also suggests Trump is clever, which seems far less possible.

5. In a way, that makes his push for a ban even worse than if he legitimately hated trans people – which he might, but there’s not much evidence to support that conclusion. Most everything he’s ever said and done regarding LGBTs since his inauguration have been directly connected to Obama policies that he rescinded – which, again, I believe he’s doing simply because they’re Obama policies. Whatever the case, it shows that at best he sees them as a faceless group he can sacrifice for political purposes – which is frankly sociopathic.

6. Luckily, he doesn't have the power to actually to institute such a ban, let alone enforce it. And military leaders have made that abundantly clear to the troops – which suggests that Trump didn’t really consult anyone in the military about this. Or anyone else, really. Maybe the GOP Congress will be happy to follow up, but something tells me they’re not really in the mood for more of Trump’s nonsense about now.

7. While Trump may not actually hate trans people, and may not be able to enforce the ban – and may not be able to convince either the brass or enough of Congress that the ban is necessary – the bigger problem is the people who do hate trans people and will be encouraged by this to be even meaner to any trans people they happen to come across than they already were. Which means it’s not a good time to be trans in America right now. That may not be exclusively Trump’s fault – but he just made himself a major part of the problem.

8. As someone who served in the US Army in a combat unit (peacetime) at a time when it was still illegal for LGBTs to serve openly in the armed forces, I can say with all certainty and conviction that I have no problem with them openly serving. Any proposed ban on military service is as pointless and dumb as the bans on trans people using gender-specific washrooms – which is to say, very pointless and dumb.

9. For those who will argue about the costs or reassignment surgery, sorry, no

Let ‘em in,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
By now you know the GOP House finally came up with a bill to replace Obamacare, and everyone freaked out over it. Then the Senate came up with its own version, and now everyone is freaking out about that.

I’m hesitant to even post anything about it because Holy Cats, no one wants to have a rational conversation about healthcare in America. No one is interested in facts. I know this because even the fact-checkers are taking a beating from people on both sides for trying to put the AHCA and the BRCA in perspective. No one wants perspective – if yr not describing either bill as either the biggest most evil disaster ever or the end to the national nightmare known as Obamacare, FAKE NEWS!

Also, I’m not an expert on healthcare, and I generally don’t like to comment on things I don’t know that much about. But I do know a little about Congress and bills (thank you, Schoolhouse Rock), and I know a bit more about political grandstanding. So I do have a few thoughts on those.

1. Both the AHCA and BCRA are pretty clear evidence that the GOP has basically lost its collective shit over Obamacare to the point that they don’t really care what they replace it with, so long as it’s replaced. Secret drafts, fast votes, no CBO vetting – “There’s yr stupid bill, now vote! Don’t read it, YR WASTING TIME!”

I’m exaggerating, of course. But not by much. And it speaks volumes when yr party leadership is so eager to pass a bill that they don’t even care that they literally have no idea if it will work as promised or even improve the healthcare situation.

2. However, the more I think about it, the more this approach makes sense – especially now that we know the details of the BCRA/AHCA bills and their projected impact. It doesn’t matter if they’ll improve the healthcare system because they’re not designed to improve the healthcare system or make it affordable – they're designed to dump Obamacare, slash Medicaid, cut taxes on the wealthy and leave as much as possible to the free market. Any possible benefit to healthcare costs is incidental.

That’s not too surprising to me, because the GOP never really wanted federal healthcare reform in the first place, unless by “reform” you meant “dumping Medicaid altogether”. It wasn’t until Obama made healthcare a major issue in his 2008 campaign that they sort of felt compelled to come up with a serious alternative plan. Meanwhile, the GOP has always wanted to ditch Medicaid and other federal entitlement programs for strictly ideological reasons (welfare state, givers and takers, austerity, etc). The only reason they haven’t gutted it already – not even in the 90s when they took control of Congress and in the early 2000s when they controlled all of Congress AND the White House – is because entitlement programs are so entrenched that voters get very angry when you try to take them away. Repubs always talked a big game but in the end, no one had the political nerve to touch Medicaid.

3. The fact that they’re doing it now suggests that either the political tide has turned in their favor, or Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan think it has, whether because of Trump or gerrymandering or they spend too much time watching Fox News or whatever. There’s the small matter that the BCRA/AHCA bills are massively unpopular in the polls – and the CBO score won’t fix that – but, you know, fake news? Or it’s not Obamacare and that’s really the important thing, right?

Or maybe McConnell knows full well that he’s taking a major political risk with BCRA but has decided, the hell with it, this is the best chance we’re going to get and it will not get this good again. It might also be that he intentionally put the worst, most extreme bill possible out there to make the subsequent compromise look like a good deal.

Or maybe it really is mass psychosis fuelled by insane visceral and irrational hatred of all things Obama, encouraged by Trump’s apparent mission to literally undo and erase every single thing that Obama ever did in office – especially his signature accomplishment.

Honestly, I don’t know what McConnell and Ryan are thinking. But I can say with certainty that the GOP would not be writing these cockamamie bills if they believed there was any serious risk of losing power.

4. One thing I’m pretty sure they are NOT thinking is, “Ha ha ha, this bill will kill millions of poor people!” Many critics on the Left would have me believe otherwise. Sorry, no. I’m sure that’s easy to believe when you’ve already bought the meme that the GOP are literally one-dimensional evil Nazis. But I don’t think it’s true.

That doesn’t mean the bills won’t result in people losing insurance they currently have and potentially dying as a result of being unable to afford either healthcare or insurance. But it doesn’t mean the GOP intentionally wrote the bills to specifically ensure that poor people will die – which is clearly what those memes are meant to imply. Like I said, the bills aren’t really about healthcare at all. GOP legislators have their eyes on the prize of ditching Obamacare and implementing ideological austerity measures (tax and entitlement cuts) in its place. That’s it.

The worst you can say is they don’t care about negative impacts like people losing healthcare and dying. And even then, they’ll just trot out the old “personal responsibility” meme (which sounds more noble than “every crumb for himself”). Or, if yr a Fox News contributor, you can deploy the old “c’mon, we all die someday” line (in which case let's just close all the hospitals, because why bother getting well when yr just gonna die eventually?).

That said, it’s kind of funny to see Repubs complain about liberals talking up that angle when the GOP and the Tea Party ran so hard with the “death panels” meme back when Obamacare was being crafted.

5. Anyway, we’ll see where this goes. The Senate vote has been delayed – undoubtedly to give McConnell some breathing room to put his vote-whipping skills to good use. And we may see some amendments to the current draft, although it’s possible they could make the bills even worse (like Mitch’s recent addition that if you don't buy the insurance you can no longer afford thanks to this bill, we get to penalize you for that).

But as far as I can tell, the BCRA and the AHCA are two sides of a terrible and stupid coin that create more problems than they solve.

6. But again, I don’t know much about healthcare, so I could be wrong.

7. In the interest of fairness (which no one cares about, but hey, whose blog is this?), here’s an interesting interview with conservative health care expert Avik Roy who is very much in love with the BCRA and explains why it’s a good idea. Basically, it comes down to whether the healthcare markets work the way pro-ACA people think or the pro-BCRA people think.

I’m not saying he’s right or wrong (and I do think he’s wrong on things like dismissing the polls) – and many of his fellow conservative wonks don't agree with him (mostly because they think it's just another version of Obamacare and not the full-on repeal they wanted) – but it’s a far better-worded defense of BCRA than any of the Senators or Fox News creatures actively pushing it.

It’s certainly better than the one I usually hear, which is usually “Obamacare is a disaster!”, followed by the explanation that the “disaster” is that it personally inconveniences them in some way – which is kind of the same as saying, “I don’t care how many people it helps – it’s not helping me, so I say we dump it entirely!”, which kind of makes them sound dickish.

I’m just saying.

Call the doctor,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Lots of high-profile shootings in the news recently. Or as we call it, another day in America. It says a lot when CNN has to break away from its coverage of a mass shooting to cover another mass shooting.

So let’s get the obvious out of the way:

1. I don’t have a lot to say about the Philandro Castle verdict that I haven’t already said about similar verdicts for similar cases. Executive summary: If you support the verdict (and yr not an immediate member of the officer’s family), you basically support the legal right of the police to shoot people dead on live video not for what they did, but what the officer thought they were going to do. You may not think that’s what you support. You may think yr sticking up for law enforcement or respecting court decisions, etc. And that’s fine. But the outcome of the verdict is justification for what Jeronimo Yanez did. So own it. Call it what it is. And if that’s the law enforcement you want, that’s the law enforcement yr going to get.

2. As for the UPS shooting and the GOP baseball shooting, I don’t expect either to change anyone’s attitudes about gun control. As the saying goes, if 20 dead schoolkids didn’t convince you, neither of these really raise the stakes.

3. For my money what’s more important about the GOP shooting is that thanks to James Hodgkinson, suddenly we’re having a discussion about the consequences of taking hateful political rhetoric too far. And it’s a discussion we need to have – although not necessarily for the reasons that conservatives now want to have it all of a sudden.

For them, of course, it’s a chance to play the victim about how liberals say all kinds of mean horrible awful things about conservatives, and between Kathy Griffin and Shakespeare In The Park, it was only a matter of time before people started getting hurt. Which is jaw-droppingly disingenuous, given the state of the GOP today and who they elected POTUS. Also, the dithering over Shakespeare In The Park’s current version of Julius Caesar is just stupid, not least because it shows they have no idea what the play is actually about.

On the bright side, it’s convinced Ted “I’d Totally Rape Hillary with an M-16” Nugent to tone it down. So there’s that.

4. While I would agree that now is as good a time as any to take a long hard look at the state of angry batshit political rhetoric and where that particular road leads, unfortunately the current “discussion” seems mired in the “But THEY started it” stage. 

(Or, if yr Erick Erickson, the “I want to tone down my rhetoric but the Left is so evil I have no choice but to double down SECESSION!” stage.)

That needs to change, because insane violent rhetoric isn’t exclusive to one side of the aisle. My FB and Twitter feeds illustrate this every day. We can’t address the problem until both sides admit it’s a problem in their own camp too. It doesn’t matter at this stage who started it or who does it more. This isn’t a 1st Grade playground.

Look, I get that people get passionate about politics and when they get angry, they say stuff they don’t really mean, etc. And most of the time that doesn’t result in a mass shooting. On the other hand, when you reduce the Other Side to demonic subhuman stereotypes who are evil and dangerous and must be defeated permanently at all costs, and on top of that you actively advocate punching people for simply expressing opinions you don’t like, you can't be too surprised when people who have psychological problems go extreme with that sentiment and decide, why stop at a sucker punch?

5. Does that mean the average Bernie Bro is directly responsible for Hodgkinson? Of course not. But I don’t think the proper response should be to shrug and say, “Well, he’s just a kook, nothing to do with us,” and carry on the angry hate rhetoric as though there’s no connection.

What I’m saying is that everyone on both sides needs to stop, take a breath, take a long hard look at themselves and how they talk about The Other Side, and give some serious thought as to how far they’re willing to take it and the consequences of letting it get out of control. Because once you demonize an entire group of people as being evil and subhuman, it gets easier to justify just about anything you decide to do to them.

6. Also, the violence is really just one of several consequences of the angry batshit rhetoric that dominates sociopolitical discourse. It doesn’t just result in the occasional crackpot shooting up a baseball field – it also fuels a winner-take-all attitude to the democratic process that replaces intellectual thought with raw dumb emotion, makes compromise impossible and rips apart families and communities. Put simply, there’s no real upside to it that I can see. And I don’t see how it leads to a better place from where we are now.

The downward spiral,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
I considered writing something about the UK elections, but what is there to say that hasn’t already been said here?


That article was written before the election, but it’s great explanation as to where it all went wrong for Theresa May. Or, if it’s tl;dr for you, there’s always this tweet:




Speaking of tweets, there’s the James Comey mini-series that everyone’s been talking about, which can also be summed up in a tweet:


I didn’t watch, of course. The highlights are good enough for me.

The big question for everyone is, of course, what will the outcome be? A lot of people are hoping the answer will be “IMPEACH THE F***ER!”

Ha ha. No. Not with Paul “Hey, go easy on the new guy” Ryan leading the House. And not with all those GOP senators apparently more interested in Loretta Lynch and the Hillary Clinton email case than what Trump may or may not have said about Russia and obstruction of justice blah blah blah.

As I’ve said, impeachment is about politics, not law and order, and the GOP is simply not going to impeach one of its own. Sure, it won’t cost them the White House – Mike Pence will get the job – but that’s not the point. No party wants it on record that one of their guys was a bad enough POTUS that impeachment was the only option. And Trump has been proving over and over the old political axiom that when YOUR guy does it, it’s at worst an honest mistake that’s being overblown in the press, and when the OTHER guy does it, it’s basically treason. “Obstruction of justice? C’mon, he didn’t order Comey to do anything, he made a simple request and he didn’t know it might be taken as inappropriate, I mean he’s only been President for a few months, you can’t expect him to know everything …”

Put bluntly, the GOP ain't impeaching Trump until he's hurting their reelection chances. And we're not there yet. 

So was Comey’s testimony a complete waste of time?

It depends. If your sole desired outcome was locking Trump and his entire family away in Gitmo forever (or deported to Siberia), then yes, probably.

For me, I think it’s good to have on the official Congressional record that Trump actively tried to convince Comey to back off on the Russia investigation – whether he has something to hide or he simply can’t stand people thinking that the only reason he won is because Russia gamed the election on his behalf (or quite likely both). It may also spell trouble for General Jeff Sessions, who has his own Russia problems, and who at this stage seems far more likely to leave the stage than Trump.

Result!

Of course, all this assumes that (1) Comey told the truth and (2) you believe what he says. And if yr a Trump apologist, you probably don’t. But that’s where we are now – completely separate politically defined alternate realities. Everyone I know – liberals and conservatives – is convinced that Comey’s testimony absolutely vindicated their side and decimated the opposition.

Which may not make Comey’s testimony pointless, but it probably makes this whole post pointless. But the same could be said for this entire blog, so I’ve learned not to worry too much about that.

Testify,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
As you know, D.Trump is pulling the US out of the Paris Accord.

Official reason: he wants to renegotiate a better deal that suits America’s interests and protects Americans.

Unofficial reason: climate change is a Chinese hoax and admitting anything else would be tantamount to admitting that Al Gore was right about something, and frankly most of the GOP would rather let the world roast than do that.

(Okay, I may have made some of that up. Except for the part about the Chinese hoax, although Nikki Haley claims Trump doesn’t really believe that, like that’s supposed to make me feel better about him.)

So I have thoughts, sure. And I have links for most of them.

1. The best starting place, for my money, is the basic fact that almost everything Trump said to justify his decision is inaccurate, misleading (intentionally or otherwise) and just plain wrong.

2. The renegotiation angle is typical of Trump, who basically views the world in terms of business deals – not the kinds of deals where both sides get what they want, but where the other side gets what they think they want while your side gets the far better end of the deal and basically just screwed the other guy and he’s too stupid to know it, ha ha loser. Which is also why Trump and some of his staffers – like the head of the EPA, for example – are convinced the only reason the rest of the world applauded when the US joined the Paris Accord was because it gives them an economic advantage over us.

3. That said, I suspect Trump cares a lot more about the political act of withdrawing from the accord than he does about renegotiating better terms. In his own words: “We will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. If we can’t, that’s fine.”

Which suggests to me that Trump doesn’t really care one way or the other what happens because he figures the US is better off out of the accord anyway, so if he can’t have it his way, who cares? It’s not like we need those other losers. The US – as leader of the free world – is the center of the universe and the rest of the world can accomplish nothing without our participation.

4. He’s wrong about that, too. Trump and the GOP may think climate change is bogus. The rest of the world doesn’t see it that way, and is determined to get together and do something about climate change, and if they have to do it without the US, so be it. Many have already resigned themselves to the fact that the Trump admin is going to treat them at best like business rivals in a zero-sum game rather than allies and partners, and more are deciding that it’s better to keep working together without the US than play the game Trump’s way – not least because his policy decisions are based on how he thinks the world works as opposed to how it actually works.

5. Some people are responding with the usual hyperbole: OMG THE PLANET IS FUCKED NOW! Well, no, not really. By many accounts, the US dropping out of the Paris Accord won’t make a huge difference in terms of the overall effort to reduce greenhouse gases and keep the Earth’s temperature from rising, etc. It won’t help, but it won’t make the accord completely pointless, either.

What it could do is put the US at a tremendous disadvantage as the rest of the world invests in clean, renewable green energy technologies that are going to be the future of the global energy industry. Europe and Asia – and in particular China – are going to be leading that growth wave, while the US under Trump will still be futzing around with coal mines and Arctic drilling.

6. On the other hand, it seems we unexpectedly have a Plan B – namely, all these US states and cities stepping up to say, “We’ll back the Paris Accord ourselves” – to include, amusingly, the mayor of Pittsburgh.

That’s an interesting aspect in itself – the idea that states and cities will uphold an accord that the federal govt has rejected. It’s not unanimous, of course, but maybe that’s the antidote to all of Trump’s antics. I love the idea of state and municipal governments deciding that if the federal govt is going to reject progress in favor of some alt-reality, there’s no reason why they have to go along with it. States Rights, indeed!

7. Another bright side is that, legally, the US can’t actually start the withdrawal process officially until 2019, and it will take until 2020 to complete the withdrawal. So it’s reversible – at least for now.

But yes, overall, it’s the latest in a distressingly long list of terrible and badly informed decisions by this admin.

8. One other point worth mentioning – one of the long-standing criticisms of the Paris Accord from Trump and the GOP is that it won’t work anyway. All it does is punish the US economically and we won’t even get cleaner air or climate stability in return.

I smirk at such statements, not least because they’re basically criticizing the accord for failing to fix a problem that they firmly deny exists in the first place. And it’s hard to take that criticism seriously when conservatives not only have no alternative plan to tackle climate change, but have shown zero interest in proposing one (again, because that would contradict the talking point that there is no problem to fix).

Is it hot in here or is it just me,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
ITEM: Ron Charles, editor of WaPo’s Book World, has written an interesting column that argues that if you’re going to go with a literary analogy to describe the Trump era, forget 1984 – it’s really a lot more like King Lear.

It’s a good argument, and one we perhaps need, if only because it’s kind of lazy – not to mention inaccurate – to compare the Trump Dynasty to 1984, or The Handmaid’s Tale, or The Man In The High Castle, which are the usual analogies I see.

(And I suspect the latter two are more because of the recent TV adaptations than the books on which they’re based – I can’t prove this but I’d bet five bucks that at least half the people who watch those shows and apply them to current events haven’t read the books.)

I realize many of these people are not saying that America has been literally transformed into the worlds described in those books – it’s a metaphor, a literary term which here means “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them”. When people point to books like 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, or The Man In The High Castle, they’re usually referring more to the mentality they perceive within the Trump admin and the GOP in general than any literal establishment of actual functioning totalitarianism (although some will argue that too, and they’re wrong, of course).

And sure, the books themselves are metaphors for the same mentalities that the authors were encountering at the time. But that doesn’t mean the metaphors translate seamlessly from one era to another. The Handmaid’s Tale and The Man In The High Castle take those metaphors to extremes as a way of saying, “Beware – this is how far these attitudes will take us if we let them.” And frankly, as bad as the Trump admin is, and as awful as some of his biggest fans are, we’re just not anywhere close to those worlds.

As for 1984, that’s been the go-to comparison for fascism probably since the book was first published. Yes, sure, as Ron Charles writes, we have Kellyanne Conway’s alternative facts and Sean Spicer’s Ministry of Truth, perpetual war with an invisible overseas enemy that we are required to hate, etc. The key difference is that Oceania made it work through strict and absolute order. Look at the shambling chaos of Trump’s first few months in office – and the fact that at least half the country is perfectly aware of this – and the analogy falls apart.

King Lear, on the other hand, seems a much better fit:

The most prominent characteristic of our era is not the monolithic power of one party, but the erratic personality of one man. Every morning, all sides of the political establishment — his family and friends, along with “the haters and losers” — must contend with Trump’s zigzagging proclamations, his grandiose promises, his spasmodic attachments.

It's a good argument – so good you wonder why more people didn’t think of it.

The most likely answer, I would guess, is that far more people in the US have read 1984 than King Lear, or indeed anything by Shakespeare.

(DISCLAIMER: I’m not pointing fingers here – I’m guilty of that too. I have read Shakespeare and liked him, but I'm not a huge fan, and I generally preferred his comedies to his tragedies. And Lear is a tragedy. Much like the Trump admin. Forsooth!)

While we're at it, if you want a better non-Shakespearian literary metaphor for the Trump era, I would recommend It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, which also gets mentioned from time to time, though not nearly as much as the others, possibly because there’s no TV series or Hollywood film version of it. There, you’ve got Buzz Windrip, an authoritarian candidate and con man who wins the presidency on a campaign of fearmongering, xenophobia and a return to traditional American values and prosperity, and proceeds to turn the country into a fascist dictatorship – not in the name of ideological purity but simply to secure the power he desires to run the country the way he wants.

Obviously Trump hasn’t done that, and two reasons It Can’t Happen Here couldn’t happen today – not the way Lewis wrote it, anyway – is that (1) Trump has no paramilitary force to suppress dissent (sorry, white supremacist groups don’t count – they’re not paramilitary, they’re a bunch of yokels with guns, which is not the same thing by a long shot, no matter how much they may fantasize otherwise), and (2) the prevalence of mass media (to include social media) makes it impossible for Trump to fool the majority of people the majority of the time. Both of these were key ingredients to Windrip’s initial success – Trump has neither. All he has is the people who share his particular reality bubble, and reportedly that number is shrinking.

But anyway, I think It Can’t Happen Here is a better literary metaphor for current events than 1984 and the others listed above.

That said, an even better alt-metaphor to 1984 would be Aldoux Huxley’s Brave New World, which – as Neil Postman argued in Amusing Ourselves To Death – argues that the dystopian future won’t be Big Brother cracking down on dissent but pervasive mass media entertainment and trivia dumbing us down into passive egotists who care a lot more about celebrity gossip than, say, how the healthcare system works.

I’d say we’re a lot closer to Huxley than Orwell right about now. But that’s not Trump-specific, of course – we’ve been on that road for decades.

Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Well I was going to post something about the revelation that Your POTUS apparently decided on the fly to declassify some intelligence to Russian officials and whether it would increase his impeachment chances, but it seems like we’re getting news bombshells about Trump practically every 12 hours now, and that’s a bloggery pace I can’t keep up, because I’m busy and I’m not as young as I used to be.

John Scalzi knows how I feel.

Anyway, since gambling sites are now taking bets on if and when Trump will be impeached, here’s a few things to keep in mind whenever talk of impeachment comes up:

1. Only Congress can impeach Trump, which means it’s an act of political will. And historically, no POTUS has ever faced impeachment while his own party controlled Congress.

Certainly Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have made it fairly clear they’ll put up with Trump for as long as it takes for them to repeal Obamacare, cut taxes for rich people and whatever other GOP wet dreams they weren’t able to get past Obama. My guess is that once Obama’s legacy has been erased to their satisfaction, then – and only then – they might consider dealing with Trump. But not before then – unless Trump finally does something so unbelievably stupid and/or dangerous that it endangers their ability to retain control of Congress. If they DO lose control of Congress in 2018, then yr more likely to see some action. Maybe.

2. Most Trump supporters – like Trump himself, and much of the GOP at this stage – will reject the idea of impeachment because they don’t think he’s done anything wrong. And that’s because their perception of the sociopolitical universe is completely different from the rest of us. They’re getting their information almost exclusively from the likes of Fox News, Breitbart, Infowars and conservative Facebook memes, all of which are spinning the basic narrative that Trump is doing a great job and anyone who says otherwise is fake news.

I’ve talked about this elsewhere – the idea that the Left and Right are so caught up in their own hyperpartisan media echo chambers that their perceptions of political reality are literally alternate worlds. This is why Trump gets away with so much among his fan base – they all occupy the same reality in which Obama was the Worst President Ever, America is in the absolute worst shape it’s ever been exclusively because of him, Hillary Clinton is a criminal mastermind, Trump is doing a great job and the Mainstream Liberal Fake News Media is actively lying about it because they’re all out to get him because he called them on their fake news and they don't like it.

Most if not all of that isn’t true in the universe I happen to occupy. But they don’t know that.

Donald Trump and his supporters are essentially a more paranoid and demented version of Cliff Clavin from Cheers – someone who considers himself knowledgeable about everything and is keen to share his knowledge with anyone who will listen, even though most of his knowledge is apocryphal (which he is blissfully unaware of), and if he doesn't know anything about a particular topic, he’ll bluff his way through it by applying his worldview and/or folk logic (“Why do squirrels eat nuts? At a guess I’d say it keeps their teeth from getting too sharp so they don’t bite their own tongues off in their sleep when they hibernate – seems reasonable”) because he figures if his audience doesn’t know the answer either, he won’t get called on it.

That’s fine if yr an otherwise genial postal worker in a bar. It’s less than fine if yr the leader of the biggest superpower in the world and have access to nuclear launch codes.

Anyway, between these two factors, I think a Trump impeachment is a long shot – it only seems like a slam dunk to people who already hate him.

Of course, I’m not saying it’s impossible, either. And based on the current trajectory, it seems every day is just bringing something new to add to the Trump Dumpster Fire, and it’s fair to speculate that eventually, somehow, someone’s going to produce a memo or tape or video or SOMETHING that is finally going to break through that reality schism so even his supporters will say, “Okay, fine, let’s try Pence.”

And then of course there’s the appointment of Robert Mueller as special prosecutor, which is fun. Personally I predict a repeat of the Starr/Clinton investigation – it’ll go on for a few years and if they come up with anything before he leaves office, it will be for something completely unrelated to the Russia thing.

But even if he’s impeached by the House, he could be acquitted in the Senate, which has also been the result of every successful impeachment (both of them).

So yeah. I think the only way Trump doesn’t finish his term will be if he resigns, or if his health fails, or if something horrible happens.

That said, I guess the one comfort to be had is that he’s likely going to be a one-term president. I doubt he’d want to run again, and I doubt the GOP wants him to.

Common ground!

As for a Pence presidency … well, have you noticed how absolutely invisible he’s managed to make himself? I’m sure he’s doing his best to make sure he doesn’t get any Trump on him in case he does have to step up.

Will it help? No idea. Will he be better than Trump? I think so, in the sense that he won’t be a completely unqualified egotistical man-child who seems to see the White House as a ticket to enrich his business, employ his family and punish his enemies. Other than that, I don’t have high hopes for the guy, but I’m reasonably sure that he could get us to 2020 without a tactical nuclear conflict.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We got a long way to go here.

Impeachy keen,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)

Or, “Comey Don’t Play That”

Poor old James Comey.

I know it’s not socially acceptable to say this in any given political circle, but I’ve always felt a little sorry for Comey. I get that people are upset with him because he essentially contributed to Hillary losing the election and now look who we’re stuck with, etc.

On the other hand, I can appreciate the basic political dilemma he was in. If he tells everyone he’s investigating Hillary’s emails in the middle of the election – and that new potential evidence has arisen just a few days before the election – he’ll be accused of trying to influence the election in favor of Trump. If he doesn’t go public – and if Hillary wins, and then it turns out the FBI finds she did break the law – he’ll be accused of covering up for Crooked Hillary to help her win. No matter what he did, he was going to get pilloried as the villain in this election.

So on that score, I’ve never really blamed him for going public with it. Even if the outcome of a close and crucial POTUS election hangs in the balance, if the choice is transparency vs cover-up, I think transparency is the better option.

Now, if yr talking about how Comey handled that transparency, that’s another matter. It’s fair to say he didn’t handle it properly, and it’s also fair to say that – wittingly or not – he contributed to Hillary’s loss (although as Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight points out, he had help from the way the media chose to cover the story – and to be clear, it’s not the only reason she lost).

But then all of this is academic, because that’s not why he was fired, was it?

Sure, it’s the official reason. Unless you ask Trump, who now says it was because of Comey’s investigation into ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign – not that there’s anything to investigate because it’s a totally made up fake news story, so why not fire the guy in charge of the investigation that would actually prove it was made up if that is in fact the case? I mean, who in their right mind would mistake that for a cover-up?

Of everything Trump has done so far, this is by far the most serious and the most politically stupid, although some have pointed out that it’s not necessarily a major political miscalculation if yr factoring in the likelihood that the current GOP-led Congress will back Trump on this like they have almost everything else he’s done after the usual modicum of protest, plus the likelihood that the Demos won’t bother doing anything because they don’t have the votes anyway so why bother?

Put another way, for all the comparisons to Nixon and Watergate – and for once, they’re pretty decent comparisons – I would be very surprised if anyone made a move to impeach Trump over this.

I’d be equally surprised if Congress appointed a special prosecutor. Even if they do, I’m a bit wary of that because of what we went through with Ken Starr. I don’t really want an independent counsel with an open-ended mandate to keep digging until they find something to hang the guy with.

On the other hand, when you have a situation where the POTUS fires the guy who happens to be in charge of an investigation into his campaign over ties to a foreign power, what else can you do? Especially when the POTUS’ Attorney General not only has similar ties bit lied about them under oath? What are we to think? And what if, as Matthew Yglesias has suggested, the real motive was that Trump was afraid Comey might uncover something completely unrelated? 

We don't know, of course. But that's really the point.

As much as I hate to resort to alternate timelines as an argument, think of it this way – if Obama had fired Comey when Hillary’s emails were first under investigation last year, the GOP would have gone absolutely ballistic – and understandably so.

Then again, the Demos (and probably a lot of Obama’s fans) would have made excuses for it. It all really comes down to the same tired old line – it’s only a felony when the opposition does it. Or, as Hunter Thompson put it, “He may be a swine, but he’s OUR swine!”

We’ll see what happens. But the bottom line is that it’s ultimately up to the GOP-led Congress to investigate Trump or begin impeachment proceedings. I don’t see this Congress doing that – not even if the payoff is President Pence – until they have absolutely no choice. Because it is ultimately a political decision, not a law-and-order decision, and at this rate it’s going to take a smoking gun (perhaps literally) to convince them that Trump is a bigger political liability to them than doing something that would please Democrats (which is arguably the only reason they continue to back Trump).

Developing …

You can’t fire me I quit,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)

As some of you know, I don’t really buy into the meme that Donald Trump is a fascist dictator. However, I’ll admit he – or at least the people he surrounds himself with – has a tendency to hand a lot of free ammo to people trying to make the case that he is.

Two recent examples:

1. The DOJ – headed by General Jeff Sessions – prosecuted Code Pink activist Desiree Fairooz for laughing at Jeff Sessions (or, more accurately, laughing at an introductory description about Sessions during his confirmation hearing while he was in the room).


2. The FCC is pondering an obscenity charge against CBS after Stephen Colbert said “cock holster” on air in reference to President Trump and Vladimir Putin.

FCC obscenity law is one of my pet hobbies, and I find this one the least worrying of the two – pending a result, at least – for a couple of reasons.

One: I don’t think there’s any direct evidence the FCC opened the investigation because of who Colbert was talking about. The FCC generally will investigate obscenity if enough people file complaints – and between conservatives who are furious that Colbert said that about the President (an office for which they demand everyone respect as long as there’s a conservative holding the office) and liberals who are furious that Colbert said something they consider homophobic, I’m sure the FCC got enough of an earful over it that it decided to check it out. I seriously doubt Ajit Pai got a phone call from Trump telling him, “Get Colbert.”

Two: I also seriously doubt the FCC will be able to put together a case. The FCC’s own rules make obscenity very hard to prove. They might have a stronger case for indecency, except that the broadcast in question happened during safe harbor hours (under which indecency is allowed), and CBS bleeped out the offending word.

So under normal FCC procedures, I would be very surprised if the FCC found a case for obscenity. Granted, these are not normal times, and this particular FCC could potentially come up with an off-the-cuff interpretation of what counts as obscenity that suits the purpose of penalizing Colbert via CBS. But again, I think it's more likely that the FCC will decide there’s no case.

The Sessions/Fairooz case is more troublesome.

It’s worth stating a few facts about the case up front:
  • Fairooz was officially charged with disorderly conduct and “parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds”
  • That included the laughing bit, as well as her allegedly shouting a few slogans and holding up a sign while she was being escorted out by the police
  • Fairooz was convicted, but not for laughing – a couple of jurors have said anonymously that they did not accept the argument that her laughing constituted disorderly conduct. But as she was charged with the other actions as well, they had little choice but to convict her.
So technically, if Fairooz goes to jail (and she hasn’t been sentenced yet), it won’t be for laughing at Sessions.

However, the fact remains that it was her laughing that got her arrested in the first place – and the prosecutor argued that the laugh counted as disorderly conduct, even though by most accounts (including actual video of the hearing) her laugh didn’t interrupt or disrupt the hearing in any meaningful way. So she may not have been convicted for laughing, but she was certainly arrested for it. And rather than just settling for escorting her out of the room – which essentially solved the alleged disruption problem – the DOJ opted to spend taxpayer money charging and prosecuting her to the fullest extent of the law.

Just think of it.

Of course, we don’t know for a fact to what extent Sessions personally had to do with any of this. We know he didn’t have her arrested because he wasn’t AG at the time. We don’t know whose idea it was to prosecute her, but clearly by then Sessions was AG, and surely he at least was aware of the case. If so, he could have ordered the case dropped, if only because any idiot could see that prosecuting a case like this wouldn’t look good. Maybe he figured the law is the law and we can’t let politics or appearances influence how we carry out law and order. And he’d technically be right. Or maybe he knew who Fairooz was – and her political activities – and decided to make an example of pinko protesters who hate America, and if it takes the equivalent of jailing Al Capone for spitting on the sidewalk, then so be it.

I don’t know.

Still, the fact remains that Fairooz is facing a jail sentence because she LOLed at a speech praising the guy who was about to become AG.

Which is perhaps a significant development in the context of a POTUS administration that is reportedly looking at ways to alter libel laws as a way to deal with “fake news”and holding media accountable for reporting fake news. Let’s remember that libel laws already protect public figures from false statements about them – the problem is that you have to prove they’re false, which presents a problem for Trump since his operational definition of “fake news” is “anything that questions anything Trump says or makes Trump, his cabinet, his family and friends look bad in any way whatsoever”.  Also, Trump tends to make all kinds of accusations without offering a shred of evidence to back it up. That's not going to cut it in a libel suit. 

Some people will tell you that all this is evidence that the fascist crackdown on dissent has begun. But most of the same people have been saying that since Trump won – heck, some have been saying that since Reagan won – so I don’t take them too seriously. I don’t think the Colbert case is that serious (yet), and the Fairooz case may be a one-off. It’s not like we’re seeing liberals rounded up and stuck in re-education camps or anything. As Reason points out, whatever designs Team Trump may have on the 1A, there’s a huge (YUGE) gap between WANTING to alter/abolish the 1A and actually doing it. It’s not a unilateral action, and the courts have already demonstrated in no uncertain terms that they will not stand for the POTUS telling them what they can and cannot decide.

And, as Reason also points out, the desire to unilaterally decide what counts as free speech and enforcing it with laws, constitutional amendments, overturning court decisions or – in extreme cases – a sucker punch to the face isn't exclusive to right-wing fascists (see: Citizens United, hate speech, whistleblowers, speaking gigs at UC Berkeley, Richard Spencer, etc).

In fact, coming back to Colbert, the cock-holster joke is an interesting example of both conservatives and liberals getting bent out of shape over the same speech for entirely different self-serving reasons: liberals think Colbert should lose his job because he said something homophobic (which is debatable, but I’m running out of space here), and conservatives think he should lose it because he disrespected the President (also debatable, not to mention disingenuous given the respect many of the same conservatives afforded Obama).

Of course, criticism is not censorship, no matter how often Fox News commentators claim it is. But when the criticism includes the proposition that you should not be legally allowed to say what you just said, then yr basically endorsing the same principle that Team Trump is pushing with the whole fake news/libel laws meme – you just have different criteria.

So while I don't think Trump ordered the FCC to punish Colbert, there are an awful lot of people who would fully support such a notion. That’s important. One of the biggest dangers to the legal concept of free speech isn't chumps like Trump who want to change the law so they can suppress speech they don’t like, but ordinary schmoes who cheerfully support such efforts under the delusion that it will only be used against their enemies and not themselves.

One other point – it’s interesting that both the Colbert/Fairooz cases have one key element in common: humor.

So maybe Patton Oswalt was right.

Don’t make me laugh,

This is dF
defrog: (mooseburgers)
Undoubtedly you know by now that Presidente Trump has proposed his first budget – and the NEA, the NEH and CPB ain’t on it.

The usual freakout has ensued, which I will now pointlessly attempt to calm with numbered comments.

1. Nothing has been defunded yet. It’s just a budget proposal (and a “skinny” one at that, which means it’s vague on details), and Congress still has to approve it.

2. The GOP has issues with this budget. The actual budget is expected to look much different by the time Congress gets through with it, and Trump won’t have the option of vetoing the budget they do pass. So even with the current balance of power, I wouldn’t say it’s a fait accompli just yet.

3. One key thing missing from all the ZOMG meme rhetoric is actual consideration and evaluation of the argument in favor of defunding the NEA, NEH and CPB that conservatives have usually advanced over the last 20+ years.

This piece in the NYT runs through them, and interestingly, it’s not ALL about Alleged Liberal Bias. There are also questions about why the federal govt should be funding arts, humanities and public broadcasting in the first place; the potential politicization of art funded with govt money; the quality of the art produced (political biases notwithstanding); and whether or not Middle America is getting as much bang for their buck as the art hubs in New York and California, say.

4. That said, let's not pretend that liberal bias isn’t the main motivation for conservatives. The NEA, NEH and CPB are easy low-hanging fruit for conservatives who whine about how unfair it is that artists use tax dollars to pick on them exclusively. If PBS and NPR were churning out stuff that Fox News churns out now, I seriously doubt funding them would be an issue for conservatives (though it almost certainly would be for liberals). Sure, they also claim it’s about wasteful govt spending, Small Govt® and budget deficits, but come on, even conservatives know that as a percentage of the budget, it’s chump change. 

5. The big question, of course, is what would happen to art and public broadcasting if Trump gets his wish? Can the free market preserve the status quo as effectively?

My own take: it’s probably worse news for public broadcasting than art.

Art is something artists are generally compelled to do, regardless of whether they can quit their day job or not. And there will always be people willing to fund art, whether it’s via Bill Gates or a Kickstarter-type model. Not everyone could find a patron, but that’s true now.

Public broadcasting could also turn to a Kickstarter model, perhaps – the problem is that running a TV station is a lot more expensive than the average art project. Without the CPB, a lot of smaller PBS affiliates will likely have to shut down. Or join The CW or something.

I suppose an argument could be made that in an age where the internet makes both funding and distribution easier than ever, YouTube and Vimeo are just as likely to create the next Sesame Street as PBS – so maybe CPB mattered more when there were just three TV networks on the air. Then again, most of the good programming is behind a paywall.

6. All of this raises the even bigger question framing the issue: is there a compelling government interest in subsidizing art and non-commercial broadcasting?

It’s an old debate, but I tend to side with the argument that culture, society and even the economy benefits from a thriving art community that isn’t purely driven solely by popular taste, the mass market, and what sells. I think that’s even more true for public broadcasting. It’s worth having television and radio programming that doesn’t have to concern itself with ratings or offending potential sponsors. When you listen to the homogenized formatted commercial radio landscape in America these days, the need for a non-commercial option seems pretty obvious to me.

And I don’t have a problem with tax money contributing to that effort, even if it results in art or TV shows I may not care for (or may never even see). It’s silly to defund the NEA just because artists are producing stuff you don't like or can’t use, just like it’s silly for me to demand that the government defund the entire military because I think Iraq War 2 was stupid, useless and counterproductive.

7. Which brings me to this article from FiveThirtyEight about the Trump budget, which points out that the proposal isn’t a solid blueprint of what the government will spend money on in the coming years – it’s more like a wish-list at this stage. Consequently, it’s a useful indicator of Trump’s priorities as POTUS.

Put simply, his priorities are hard power, a big-ass military and The Wall.

So if the budget is a reflection of what a given govt considers to be important foundational elements and values for the country, then in Trump’s America, the values that truly matter are bigoted xenophobic immigration policies and the ability to kick the ass of every single other country in the world combined with minimum conversation or negotiation. And not much else.

Artful dodger,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)

And of course right after I post about Trump’s War On Media, he goes and escalates by having Sean Spicer cancel a scheduled press briefing and replace it with an informal off-camera briefing – for select media only. Among the not-invited: CNN, the New York Times, Politico, Buzzfeed and the BBC.

And of course everyone’s freaking out about the 1A and free press and democracy, and as usual the reaction – while understandable – seems overblown to me.

This Vox article has a good explanation of what’s going on here – namely, there’s a definite strategy in play here, but it may not be the one you think.

To sum up:

1. Informal off-camera press briefings with select media is nothing new.

2. Furthermore, while access is important, what those media outlets are mainly missing out on is an hour of Spiceworld spinning answers and saying something ridiculous. It’s not exactly the same thing as putting journalists in jail for reporting bad things about you (which is what actual dictators do).

3. That said, you don’t usually change from an official briefing to an informal one at the last minute – unless perhaps yr trying to make a point. Which is what Trump seems to be doing.

4. Trump’s war on the media is motivated by a number of things, starting with the vast number of leaks in his own admin. NO POTUS likes things leaking – President Obama didn’t like it either, and he was pretty harsh on whistleblowers – but Trump is taking it personally, and instead of blaming the leakers, he’s blaming the media – partly to discredit negative stories (or as Spicer calls them, “false narratives”), but also because he thrives on fighting with the media anyway. His fans eat it up and he enjoys giving them what they want. He needs a punching bag, red meat for the base, a distraction from his admin’s problems and someone to blame for them.

5. As Vox points out, the real problem with this strategy is that while it might help Trump please the fans, it won’t help him get anything done:

Picking random fights with the media won’t help the White House get anything through Congress. It won’t make FBI investigations go away. And it won’t help the administration’s arguments in the courts.

Another problem is that if the administration destroys its own credibility by waging a war on the press, it could have a hard time getting its message out later when it truly needs to — say, during a major crisis of some kind.

6. One thing I’d add is this: if the strategy of barring certain media outlets is intended to stop the “false narratives” and “fake news” that upset Trump, it’s kind of a stupid strategy. Those stories are already being written outside of the official-briefing context. Put another way, if these stories literally were “fake news”, then banning media outlets wouldn’t matter because they could just stay home and make up whatever crap they want – which he has already accused them of doing.

7. For all the dithering of this being the beginnings of dictatorship, I think that’s going to depend on what happens next. As I’ve said before, lack of govt transparency with the media has been a problem for a long, long time, and access to a spin-doctoring govt official isn't the same thing as access to the truth. And there’s no actual legal requirement for the POTUS to talk to the press. The real problems will begin if the Trump Dynasty starts actively pressuring media outlets not to run stories, or puts them in jail for doing so. The latter is a grey area when it comes to publishing classified material, but the former is a direct violation of the 1A. 

And sure, we don't want to wait until it comes to that, so it’s good to put pressure on the White House and warn people of where this could lead. I just think it’s important to explain the situation factually rather than resort to OMG hysterics. That’s just me.

I hear you knockin’ but you can’t come in,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
I can safely say that I have never seen a POTUS call up a press conference for the sole apparent purpose of telling the press that they suck.

Until now.

Anyway, between that, Sean Spicer’s debut briefing, the hilariously deranged online poll and Trump’s opening rally for his re-election campaign in Florida, it’s pretty clear to me what's going on here:

1. Trump’s criteria for “fake news”, apparently, is “any media report that criticizes him or anyone who works for him, or asks any question that he doesn’t want to be asked, or corrects him when he or someone in his admin says something that turns out to be not true”. In other words, any news story that doesn’t stick to the script or alternate reality in his head.

2. Trump is basically throwing red meat to the base that got him elected, because he knows they have the same criteria as he does for “fake news”, and that they hate the Biased LameStream Media as much as he does. I’m sure Trump fans absolutely love the spectacle of gathering all the media in one place just to have a go at them because they would totally do the same thing if they had that kind of power.

3. Trump has decided that if the media is just going to “lie” about him (even if that means reporting what he actually says and does, and correcting him when he says things that are false), then he’s going to do a workaround and talk to the American People™ directly without relying on the media as a go-between.

This one is actually kind of understandable in the sense that he’s not the first POTUS to prefer direct communication to get his ideas out to them, especially in the age of mass media. Sometimes Presidents want to get in front of the people and talk unedited, especially for major policy announcements, whether it’s a live TV broadcast, fireside chats, or town-hall meetings. Trump’s preferred communications media just happens to be 3am batshit tweetstorms and ego-fueled campaign rallies.

4. But it’s pretty clear there’s more to this than Trump wanting people to hear what he has to say without reading/seeing it second hand in the news. Trump’s real beef with the media is that he has no control over them and what they write about him, and it’s clearly driving him crazy – partly because his ego can’t stand it, and (I suspect) partly because – like his supporters (and, to be fair, a lot of his detractors) – he is convinced that his worldview is well-informed and correct and therefore only he knows The Truth About Everything, and therefore anything that deviates from that viewpoint is not only “fake”, but maliciously so.

Which might be less of a problem if Trump didn’t consider Fox & Friends, Hannity, Breitbart and Infowars to be good examples of objective and factual reporting –because of course they support his worldview rather than question it. Which is what he wants.

5. In a way, on a subconscious macro level, this is a public debate on the role of media in a democracy. Is it supposed to be the Fourth Estate – an unofficial extra set of checks and balances that curbs government power and corruption by exposing, questioning and criticizing government policies? Or is it meant to be a glorified steno pool that reports whatever politicians say without question?

Personally, I think it’s the former. There are people (like Trump, at the moment) who will argue the latter – that “objective” media should report the facts in front of you and nothing else. But I’ve noticed the people who support this view only tend to do so when it’s their party in control of the govt.

It doesn’t mean the media isn't above criticism when it does a bad job, and Trump fans may argue that Trump is doing exactly that. I could take that argument seriously if Trump was up there pointing out specific examples of where a news report outright made up a story or quote and then pointed out exactly why they’re false. But so far, all he’s really done is whine about how everyone is obsessed with unimportant off-message distractions – like Michael Flynn, other alleged Russia connections, the presence of Steve Bannon and his relations with white nationalist/supremacist/anti-Semitic groups, Trump’s tax returns, possible conflicts of interest involving his business dealings, Kellyanne Conway pimping Ivanka products, etc.

If Trump et al want to make the case that media is fake news, they need a better argument than “If they were doing their job, they wouldn’t report negative things about us, they would just report what we say” – especially when “what we say” tends to include things that literally did not happen (see: Bowling Green, Sweden).

6. But again, I don't think Trump is trying to make a case. He’s just saying what he thinks and playing to the base that already buys into both his “alternative facts” worldview and the Mainstream (i.e. Liberal) Media Lies About Everything meme in general – the same base that got him elected.

7. As for that rally in Florida, I’m sure Trump thought the purpose was to bypass the media and go direct to the people. But I’m also sure another purpose is so Trump can finally be in a room full of tens of thousands of people who love him and agree with everything he says. It’s pretty obvious he enjoys running for POTUS more than actually being POTUS – not least since part of the POTUS gig involves putting up with the media.

8. Speaking of which, it’s noteworthy that the major media outlets – NYT, WaPo, CNN, etc – have noticeably gone out of their way to call Trump on false statements in their ledes and even their headlines. Which is arguably what they should be doing as part of that role as the Fourth Estate.

That said, I think one reason it’s noticeable is because they haven’t done it for a very long time. I’m convinced that one of the reasons Jon Stewart became a more trustworthy source of news than actual news media was because part of his act was pointing out when politicians and “expert” media pundits were lying, passing on false information or contradicting their own statements. He did that primarily for comedy purposes, but the point was clear: the news media should be doing this (and was certainly capable of it – if a team of comedy writers had the resources to fact-check statements and dig out video clips to back up the jokes, surely CNN does), but isn’t.

Well, they’re doing it now. Here’s hoping they keep doing it long after Trump leaves office in just 47 more months.

Found my spine,

This is dF

Profile

defrog: (Default)
defrog

October 2017

S M T W T F S
1234567
89 1011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 17th, 2017 02:58 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios