Friday, March 22, 2019

Forever Strong And Wrong

Host Nicole Wallace posed an excellent question (at approximately 5:52 of the video here) on Wednesday's Deadline: White House,. Discussing President Trump's recent tweets about the late John McCain, she asked "why isn't there a political price to pay for being a wuss?"

The President pays no political price for being a "wuss" because he doesn't seem to be a wuss. Looked at objectively, of course, he is weak; but rationality and objectivity often are thwarted by subjective impression.  Among the reasons that Donald Trump has been able to convey the image of strength rather than being recognized as a "wuss" are:

1) Trump's praise frequently emphasizes strength. The President described Putin as "very, very strong" after the two spoke together and and Trump has said admiringly that Putin "has very strong control" over Russia. Kim JongUn "is the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head."  In regard to Egyptian strongman el-Sisi, "the United States has, believe me, backing, and we have strong backing." It's part of the reason that Trump recently warned "I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.'

2) Trump's criticism often pertains to weakness, as when Senator Graham in January 2016 endorsed John Edward Bush ("JEB") and Trump responded in part "His thinking. He says, ‘I know so much.’ He knows about the military? I could push him over with a little thimble.”  More famous was Trump remarking, while campaigning the previous summer for the Iowa primary "He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” The implicit message: "John McCain is a loser. I like winners like myself."

3) Trump is big. He is 6'3" and not skinny, and is an imposing figure physically. (Supporters of Pete Buttigieg, take notice.)  Reagan, Clinton, Bush 41, and Obama all have been tall. George W. Bush was short- but with his swagger knew how to wear a flak suit far more effectively than, say, Michael Dukakis knew how to sit in a tank.

Having died, John McCain has (in the common phrasing) "lost his life." He cannot defend himself just as none of us will be able to once we have lost our lives. For a weak man whose popularity is founded on an appearance of strength, there can be no more inviting target than an individual who cannot defend himself.

Donald Trump realizes his best strategy is to punch down, and in so doing he not only demeans the late Arizona senator, but reinforces a facade of strength. For America's finest actor- perhaps ever- it his his greatest role.

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Obnoxious Mrs. Conway And Pathetic Ms. Bash

After all these years, I don't know what to make of the James Carville-Mary Matalin marriage, let alone of the George Conway-Kellyanne Fitzpatrick Conway marriage. Is it real- or is it Memorex?

But Dana Bash knows- or thinks she does.

In a puff piece to end all puff pieces, the CNN reporter begins her profile "Kellyanne Conway is a consistent figure in the otherwise revolving-door world of the Trump White House. She is a survivor."

Remarkably, it went downhill from there. It's bad enough that she gushed "But to really understand Conway's survival skills, we went to where the Jersey Girl honed them -- Atco, New Jersey, to be exact."

A trivial point: MIss Fitzgerald, as he was then, does not hail from Atco, which is merely a place name in a state in which every place is incorporated. She actually grew up in Waterford Township, a relatively rural municipality in a highly urbanized state.

Less trivial: the young Miss Fitzgerald was not a "Jersey girl." A slang term, it connotes someone from the northern, rather than the southern (where she grew up), part of the state, at a time when there was a large and distinct difference. It is not synonymous with "obnoxious."

This clarification is crucial because Bash's caricature is of a tough and genuine gal who wouldn't let circumstances keep her down. Bash writes

After law school Conway entered the man's world of Republican polling where she said she often missed out on getting clients because she wasn't on the golf course or in the bar where one would normally learn about a chance to bid on a project.

"I didn't know when I was being excluded, because I had no idea that they were doing big projects, or that five firms got to bid on something, and I never did," she said.
"But it happened."

She's making sure that she's not being excluded now. An insider with Trump both during the campaign and since his election, Conway now has made it clear what she thinks of the man's world, and she likes it just fine. Politico reported Wednesday

George Conway, often referred to as Mr. Kellyanne Conway by those who know him, is VERY jealous of his wife’s success & angry that I, with her help, didn’t give him the job he so desperately wanted,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “I barely know him but just take a look, a stone cold LOSER & husband from hell!”

Trump later on Wednesday took the Twitter feud offline, telling reporters that George Conway is a “whack job” and doing a “tremendous disservice to a wonderful wife.”

George Conway responded in kind to the latest attacks, sending more than two dozen tweets on Wednesday in which he called Trump “nuts” and re-upped his claim that the president suffers from narcissistic personality disorder.

Mrs. Conway told Bash "I think my gender helps me with the President in that he has never been afraid, and in fact, always been willing to treat men and women in his employment the same." So when the man who treats male and female employees the same called her husband "whack job." she told Politico

The president is obviously defending me. He could privately say to me, ‘Honey you’re a distraction. We love you. You'll always be a part of the family but go be with your kids. They need you. Go make a million dollars an hour. Go do that honey.’ It’s the opposite.

"I don't feel like he listens to me any less or any differently, or any less seriously," says the woman who evidently enjoys being called "honey" and wants to be thought of as "part of the family." 

This may all be choreographed by the Conways. Otherwise, it's a woman who either wants to smack her husband around in public or one who likes her man, Donald Trump, to smack her around, figuratively.   It's one of the oldest games in the book: man or woman sells out to power, media figure portrays her as heroic.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Very Definition Of An Insignificant Presidency

In an op-ed The Washington Post should have had more sense than to print, the Joe of Morning Joe displays impressive imagination. He concedes "the rise in bigotry shown to Muslims, Jews, Hispanics, blacks and 'others' has been so discouraging in the age of Trump" that "any policy differences I had with Obama now seem so insignificant."

But he claims also "100 years from now, Obama's presidency will be hailed as the most transformative of our lifetimes" and concludes

If changing the Constitution and reelecting Obama two more times would break the fever that now ravages Trump’s Washington, I would cheerfully champion the passage of that constitutional amendment, slap a “Hope and Change” sticker on my shirt, and race to the nearest voting booth to support the man historians will remember as the most significant president since Abraham Lincoln.

Presidents busted up trusts, successfully prosecuted one world war or another, ended the Great Depression, unleashed the nuclear age, integrated the armed forces, built the interstate highway system, established health and income insurance for the elderly, put the full force of the federal government behind the civil rights movement, helped end the Cold War while ushering in a still-continuing period of income inequality by trashing unions and deregulating the economy..

But President Obama ended a recession with the most sluggish economic recovery in the post-war era, so there is that.

Matt Stoller, who is far less generous toward President Obama than I ever have been, found the ex-President's acceptance of 400,000 "from a Wall Street investment bank for the first paid speech of his post-presidential career" in April of 2017 to be emblematic of Obama's policy toward financial institutions.  He notes

The policy path of the Obama administration, like the Bush and Clinton administrations before it, and in some ways like Hamilton’s Treasury Department, was largely construed around aiding the big, and hurting the small. Local banks lost out during the crisis, as did community-oriented banks. Black-owned banks, for example, were ten times less likely to receive bailout money than non-black-owned banks. This hit at the individual level as well. People in foreclosure were treated with one set of rules, while large Wall Street firms with significant debt were treated with another.

Noting "these policies were an assertion of a Hamiltonian moral vision," Stoller explains

This Hamiltonian process of concentrating power was most obvious in the banking sector, but it is also part of an overall trend towards the monopolization of our commercial society and increasing control over our lives, our liberties, and our democracy by private financiers. Some within the Obama administration noticed problems towards the end of the administration. His administration challenged the Comcast-Time Warner merger and issued an executive order on monopoly. Antitrust chief Renata Hesse made a speech explicitly rejecting the modern pro-concentration treatment of antitrust. But this was far too little, loo late.

On foreign policy, there were- still is- ISIL,. Korea, Syria, statelessness of Palestinians. Limited progress was made on the first, and little if any on the last three, each of which defies an easy solution. That does not confirm a failed presidency, and President Obama's failure to transform the earned benefits of Medicare and Social Security through a Grand Bargain was a great victory for future generations of elderly people.

Whether with Wall Street, foreign policy, or domestic policy, President Obama's presidency can be viewed favorably, unfavorably, or somewhere in between. However, to label it "transformative" is as accurate as to label Harrison, Nebraska a "seaside resort."

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Hopeful Step

Well, this prediction, in the short-term, didn't hold up well (fortunately).

On March 9 I remarked that with Nancy Pelosi's actions and rhetoric suggest she believes Ilhan Omar

is not anti-Semitic, leading one to wonder how obvious a colleague must be before the Speaker recognizes anti-Semitism. Hopefully, Omar will learn to curb her tongue and Twitter finger- or we will find out how far the leader of the Party will go in condoning the hate she purports to be offended by.

In light of the failure of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives to condemn Representative Ilhan Omar or her comments specifically, nor to dismiss her from the Foreign Relations Committee, I did not expect the Minnesotan to tone down her criticism of Jews or Israel.

It took a mere eight days for me to be proven wrong, at least somewhat and at least temporarily because on Sunday morning there appeared in The Washington Post an op-ed in which Rep. Omar wrote

U.S. support for Israel has a long history. The founding of Israel 70 years ago was built on the Jewish people’s connection to their historical homeland, as well as the urgency of establishing a nation in the wake of the horror of the Holocaust and the centuries of anti-Semitic oppression leading up to it. Many of the founders of Israel were themselves refugees who survived indescribable horrors.

We must acknowledge that this is also the historical homeland of Palestinians. And without a state, the Palestinian people live in a state of permanent refugeehood and displacement. This, too, is a refugee crisis, and they, too, deserve freedom and dignity.

A balanced, inclusive approach to the conflict recognizes the shared desire for security and freedom of both peoples. I support a two-state solution, with internationally recognized borders, which allows for both Israelis and Palestinians to have their own sanctuaries and self-determination. This has been official bipartisan U.S. policy across two decades and has been supported by each of the most recent Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as the consensus of the Israeli security establishment. As Jim Mattis, who later was President Trump’s defense secretary, said in 2011 , “The current situation between those two peoples is unsustainable.”

Working toward peace in the region also means holding everyone involved accountable for actions that undermine the path to peace — because without justice, there can never be a lasting peace. When I criticize certain Israeli government actions in Gaza or settlements in the West Bank, it is because I believe these actions not only threaten the possibility of peace in the region — they also threaten the United States’ own national security interests.

My goal in speaking out at all times has been to encourage both sides to move toward a peaceful two-state solution.

This does not seem heart-felt and, with boilerplate Mideast remarks, appears to have been written for her.  "A two-state solution, with internationally recognized borders, which allows for both Israelis and Palestinians to have their own sanctuaries and self-determination" and some Israeli actions "threaten the United States' own national security interests" sound like what mildly pro-Israel politicians have been saying for many years. Her arm may have been figuratively twisted to help keep peace in the Party.

Yet, she wrote it- or at least signed on to the op-ed, thereby taking responsibility. Although it does not confirm that she has had a change of heart pertaining to Israel or even Jews, it seems that as a member of the Foreign Affairs committee, she is more balanced on Mideast policy than her earlier remarks suggested she was.

She may change her mind. Or she might put a little meat on the bones of a relatively general statement of principles, and that might renew concern about her support of a two-state solution in the Middle East. (She might, for instance, favor a Jewish state on only a small fraction of the land on which it now sits.) But as for now, my fear that Ilhan Omar would be only encouraged in her hateful speech appears unfounded now that she has taken one fairly significant step forward.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Back It Up, Congresswoman

A few days before being sworn in as a US Representative from Michigan, Rashida Tlaib promised of President Trump "we're gonna impeach the mother****er." Promptly after being sworn in, Tlaib stated she "will never apologize for being me and for being passionate and upset."

It didn't help when her freshman buddy, Representative Ilhan Omar of Michigan, accused a pro-Israel lobby ( and only a pro-Israel lobby) of being "only about the Benjamins baby," then warned American Jews of "allegiance to a foreign country" (albeit without saying "Jews"), and avoided being specifically criticized by Democratic congressional leadership. So we shouldn't be much surprised that Representative Tlaib, the first Muslim Palestinian-American in Congress

said Sunday that she believes Islamophobia "is still very present on both sides of the aisle" in Congress.

The remark from Tlaib, who represents Michigan, came as she was discussing criticism aimed at Rep. Ilhan Omar, who, along with Tlaib, serves as one of two Muslim women in Congress. Omar faced scrutiny in February and March for controversial comments she made about Israel. In the wake of her comments, the Minnesota Democrat also became the subject of death threats.

"I pause and think to myself 'is it because she's a black American and she's Muslim?' And so that's where I pause and say to myself, 'Is there an issue here?' And I guess our mere presence there. The fact that now there's not only one but now three Muslim Americans serving in Congress," Tlaib said to CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union"...

"That our mere presence is going to able to possibly break down any of these kinds of racialized, you know, opinions, this kind of Islamophobia that I do feel like is still very present on both sides of the aisle. And I think my colleagues are not seeing that as an attack. It's just saying that we just have a lot of work to do," she said.

It's not because Omar is black or Muslim. More likely, inasmuch as the House is controlled by the Democratic Party, the Minnesotan was given nary a slap on the wrist precisely because she is Muslim. She is tolerated because she is not Christian. Jewish. or openly agnostic/atheistic. And now, with congressional Republicans marching in lockstep with Donald Trump and 90% of GOP voters backing him, to her it's "both sides."

Inarguably, the decision by Pelosi & Company not to condemn Representative Omar's comment(s), instead opting to criticize speech directed toward a myriad of groups, meat loaf, bad quarterbacks, and loud police sirens (other things, additionally) was motivated in part by a fear of being labeled "Islamaphobic."

When a Democratic member of Congress has publicly reinforced the media's bothsiderism narrative (as she did previously, below), it is only a matter of time that Republicans boast that "Democrats" agree that racism and "Islamaphobia" is a problem in both parties. In the long run, directly or indirectly, this will prove to be a major problem for the only party which resists President Trump.

Richard W. (not house) Painter has it right:

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Legacy Admissions, And More

On Wednesday's The View. Joy Behar stated 

Legacy admissions, which means if your parents went to Brown, or to Howard, or UP (sic), you can go. But it's interesting because the idea of legacy admissions is racist in nature and I'll tell you why. It started in the 20's to keep out upwardly mobile immigrants who had started pushing for admission to elite schools. And I think that is a very, very bad system, legacy. Why should your kid get in because you got in?

Meghan McCain, the daughter of Captain John McCain and granddaughter of Admiral John McCain, both of the United States Naval Academy, struck back, confusedly. In response, Cenk Uygur, the top Turk of The Young Turks, remarked

But back to the legacy admissions. It does go to the point that we're all making here, which is legacy admissions don't make sense. I want my kids to go to all the same schools but that's unfair, an unfair advantage for them to have when if you're poor in West Virginia or Kentucky or the Bronx or wherever you are and you worked up and you didn't have the advantages my kids had, well, then, you earned it even more, not less.

Starting out strongly, Brooke Thomas added "we don't talk about  it enough, legacy admissions are the original affirmative action, which should make liberals/progressives question the concept of affirmative action itself." However, it was not to be, because fully recognizing the role of class is unacceptable when we can lay the entire blame upon race. So Thomas, unfortunately, continued

when you think about the college application process, you gotta get those letters of recommendation, you got to do, you know, your extracurriculars, you gotta list all this stuff, the personal essay, your score, all of that. Legacy admissions- they skip all of that and still account for almost 30% at some of these Ivy League programs and only the original people who could to go the universities were like wealthy white men and so these are their descendants.

As a form of affirmative action, granting preference where it is not earned, legacy admissions discriminate against blacks (and Latinos and Asian-Americans). But it is discriminating also against whites from backgrounds which aren't privileged, especially whites who attended high schools in lower-ranked high schools, generally in economically distressed (majority-white or majority-minority) communities.  And white- and especially Asian- applicants are additionally handicapped by more conventional affirmative action programs. The sins of the fathers, failure to attend the most elite schools, should not be visited upon their sons or daughters.

As Uygur emphasized, legacy admissions are unfair. They disadvantage students based on a factor- where their descendants attended college, if at all- which they cannot possibly control. The criterion of race does the same, rendering advantages and disadvantages based upon one's descendants, the color of their skin and/or the continent inhabited by their descendants.

The current scandal alleging massive bribery schemes to secure admission of individuals to several elite colleges may strike a blow against the practice of favoring applicants based upon the academic history of their descendants.  But we shouldn't stop there. Applicants should be accepted at colleges based on who they are and what they've done rather than who their parents are

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Another Gun Fiction

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

That might be what Meghan McCain was thinking about when on Friday's "The View" she stated (in remarks beginning at 11:02 of the video below)

I agree that bigotry has to be called out wherever you see it, however you see it, agreed. New Zealand in particular- um, you know, guns are banned in New Zealand. So this obviously. There's obviously conversations regarding that to be had and it was obviously smuggled in or bought on the black market.

She might have gotten this from the NRA, or from a GOP politician, or from her husband, conservative Republican speechwriter/blogger/columnist Ben Domenech.

It's not surprising, then, that the allegation is fallacious.(She corrected herself after a couple of commercial breaks, but still....) As The New York Times reports, in New Zealand

an extraordinary number of people own weapons, with few restrictions. The authorities say the suspect in the assault used five guns he had acquired legally, including two semiautomatic assault weapons....

There is no dispute that acquiring a military-style semiautomatic weapon is relatively easy in New Zealand, where guns are plentiful. According to a 2017 small arms survey, there are more than 1.2 million firearms among the population of 4.6 million, or more than one gun for every three people.

Under New Zealand law, anyone 16 or older may seek a firearms license, and anyone 18 or older who has applied for a firearms license can seek a permit to possess a military-style semiautomatic weapon.

Perhaps McCain confused New Zealand with Australia, in which gun laws

were tightened following a 1996 mass shooting in which 35 people were killed by a lone gunman in Port Arthur, Tasmania. Within two weeks, Australian lawmakers banned rapid-fire rifles and shotguns and introduced tighter laws governing ownership of other weapons. New applicants must undergo thorough background checks and present a "justifiable reason" for ownership -- with self defense not applicable.

The laws have had a dramatic effect on the frequency of mass shootings, as well as homicides. In the years after the Port Arthur massacre, the risk of dying by gunshot in Australia fell by more than 50% -- and stayed there.

This is the core of the mythmaking conservatives practice. Something inaccurate gets passed off as fact to an unwitting audience and then is repeated a hundred times over.  It's what they do.  Meghan McCain should stick to her habit of honoring her father.

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Forever Strong And Wrong

Host Nicole Wallace posed an excellent question (at approximately 5:52 of the video here ) on Wednesday's Deadline: White House,. D...