Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Racism, Sexism, and Class Prejudice Make Us Fools

Or, mediocre white men.

The excellent Digby writes about Paul Ryan:
Poor Paul Ryan. The golden boy of the Ayn Rand crowd was once assumed to be a future president, or at least one of the great statesmen of the Republican Party. He was considered a rarity among Republican pols --- a policy wonk with the polish and personality of Ronald Reagan. (I know that sounds crazy, but people really did think that.)
In his years as Presidential hopeful and Speaker of the House he was revealed to be an incompetent fool. The man is not remotely credible, never was. How did he get so far?
Objections on the left to conservative officials often center on their intellectual failings: their literal disbelief in facts and their repetitions of errors. Conservative economics makes no sense, the conservative understanding of science makes no sense. Their foreign policy is brutal and criminal. They fail even at remembering what they said a few days ago, even with technical aids. Liberal blogger and podcaster Driftglass is fond of saying, “Memory is the liberal superpower” and this is true: conservatives do not remember, even from a few days ago, what was said. Rudolf Giuliani, Michael Cohen, Brett Kavanaugh, Republican lawyers all, seem not to know the law, or even how to negotiate. These mediocre white men come apart when stressed. They are incompetent.
Why then are they in charge of anything?
As a society, we have a bias towards mediocre white men. As a society, we make the mistake of raising skin color, sex, and appearance over other characteristics, downgrading intelligence, honesty, and competence. It is not hard to know that Donald Trump is a dangerous fool and a poor executive, or that Giuliani is a poor lawyer, or Cohen was a corrupt lawyer who made his way by making corrupt deals, or that Kavanaugh started cheating in high school and never stopped. These mediocre white men have competence in some areas but, without the bias that supported them in their careers, they would be powerless mean non-entities.
Racism, sexism, and class prejudice make us poor judges of character and vulnerable.
Racism, sexism, and class prejudice make us fools.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

What I Want From The New Democratic House Majority

Establish a Democratic policy consensus so that the party can unite to defeat the Republicans. Establish a policy presence in the public mind, and lay the ground for retaking the Senate and the Presidency in 2020. These I think are the most important things.
I think Indivisible, in Indivisible on Offense, offers some of the best ideas on how: messaging bills, must-pass bills, investigations, and defense. Investigations, I think, are the strongest of these, because the House can conduct them without a need for Senate Republicans. Investigate Kavanaugh. Investigate the Trump/Republican Russia connections. Investigate medical price-gouging. The House Democrats cannot unilaterally pass legislation, but they can embarrass the Republicans, and that can be powerful. If we make them look like weak fools, their popular support will shrink.
The House can propose budgets. It could also reinstate the Gephardt rule, saying that when a budget was passed, the debt ceiling would be raised, thereby avoiding debt ceilings.
House Committees can hold hearings and explore ideas. When it again becomes possible for Democratic bills to become law, these could become the outlines of bills. Topics I would like to see explored are:
1.     Climate change!
2.     New economic policies. The economic policies we have been relying on since Reagan have proven to be abysmal failures, leading to a boom and bust economy, poverty for many, and poor employment conditions. We are in dire need of reforms and I would like to see the possibilities explored.
3.     New foreign policy. The US is now supporting Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. The House cannot stop this, but it can at least hold hearings. Beyond that there is an enormous need to deescalate conflicts worldwide and resolve the emerging conflicts that environmental destruction will bring. Even with the full power of the US government this would be difficult but, again, we can at least explore possibilities.
4.     Bankruptcy reform. I would like to see the House explore the possibility of returning to bankruptcy law that allows for dignified fresh starts. The Republican bankruptcy reforms of 2005 made bankruptcy much harder on individuals, and this arrived just in time to make the crash of 2008 even harder. Likewise, dignified bankruptcy ought to be allowed for people who will never be able to pay their student loans. Let’s have Senator Warren testify on this.
5.     New immigration policy. What we have now is cruel and expensive. Let’s explore possible reforms!
6.     New firearms policy. Our far-too-lenient firearms policies are literally terrorizing our children. Let’s discuss changing this.
7.     New domestic terrorism policies. On the one hand, we put our people at risk with useless surveillance. On the other hand, our biggest terror threat – domestic far right terror – is also our least policed threat. Easy access to firearms may also make it easy for foreign terrorists to act on US soil.
8.     Policing reform. Our police forces are shot through with racism. Let’s discuss what to do about this.
9.     And on, and on.
Finally, I have a personal hobby-horse: I would like to see the House unilaterally reestablish the Office of Technology Assessment, destroyed by Newt Gingrich and the Republicans in 1995.
During its 23-year history, OTA provided Congressional members and committees with objective and authoritative analysis of the complex scientific and technical issues of the late 20th century. It was a leader in practicing and encouraging delivery of public services in innovative and inexpensive ways, including distribution of government documents through electronic publishing.
Right now, I would like to see the OTA look into the genetic engineering of children, the impact of social media, and, yes, climate change. I’m sure there are many more topics that would bear investigation.
Even if the House doesn’t take these up immediately, we can push them to do so.
So let’s get started!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

On George H W Bush and the Patriarchy

Singer-songwriter Tom Smith, writing on Facebook, links The Rude Pundit on G H W Bush.

Oh, yeah. He was a really awful President, though he did a few good things. Possibly the worst two things he did was covering for the treason of Iran-Contra and paving the way for, first his son to go to war for no good reason, destabilizing western Asia, and then for the election of Donald Trump.

But, hey, say the pundits, he was a a vaguely paternalistic white guy and we should respect him for that. They are so easy to con, these white men and women. Show them someone they think might be their grandfather or their father, who was nice to their family, and they must be an OK President. That's why Trump is unpopular. It's not that he's destroying so much of what the USA has worked so hard to build. It's that he's vulgar. He's like the creepy uncle that everyone loves to hate. But a well-mannered grandfather who hates women and gays, that's OK.

Saturday, December 1, 2018


"Doesn't this reflect a swing between competing factions? The Republican minority wins control, then the Democratic majority responds. But with each swing, the country tips further to the right. Has it fallen over?" – link

"But [Comey's] emails." – link

"I think most of the authoritarianism we are now experiencing can be summarized as 'same s*** different century.' It's not new, it's not brilliant, it's not anything except brutal and terrifying." – link

A Unit of Climate Impact Measurement

"We have ice shelves breaking off of Antarctica that are the size of Rhode Island. We have wildfires in California the size of Rhode Island. Maybe we should start measure climate change impacts in units of #RhodeIslands" – Climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann on Twitter, link.