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Back from the shadows again

No posting here for quite some time, due to the fact that I’ve been vacationing in Vermont. The main purpose of this post is to make it clear that I’m still alive.

One of the advantages of having no television is that I am spared watching conventions, so I have followed each second hand, so to speak. This week we’ve been getting feedback from blogs and Twitter. So, based on what we’ve seen I conclude that the Republican convention was a poorly managed travesty, pitched directly and only to the Foxaholics who thrive on fear and hate, while ours was inspiring, until Hillary spoke.

I did think I’d share this. One of our houseguests gave me a gift yesterday.

Unfortunately, I’m in a bit of a quandary. Being a chocolate lover, I am tempted to eat it. But then I won’t have it anymore. I guess you can’t have your chocolate bar and eat it too.

Anyway, as we’ve known for many moons, Bernie will not be our candidate, but we can say this about the candidate we have: We know how bad she will be, but there’s absolutely no way to know how bad their’s will be, except that we know that he will absolutely be worse than her. It’s not much, but it’s the best we can do. And just for the record, my opinion of Hillary is in no way tainted by either the email “scandal” or Benghazi, both of which are typical trumped up (should I use that phrase?) Clinton bashing.

This, by the way, will be the last negative thing I have to say about Hillary until after the election. We’re stuck with her, so we have to make the best of it. My last negative observation is this: looking ahead to 2020, we are in deep trouble.

Our Free Press at Work

Sorry to return to this subject, but…

If there were a God, I would be thanking him or her right now for the fact that I don’t have a television nor am I forced to watch television news.

Put Fox aside. Are there no televison “journalists” with the guts to call bullshit on Republican spinmeisters?

Check this out. Wolf Blitzer sits meekly and practically concedes RNC Spokesperson Sean Spicer has a point in arguing that there was no plagiarism in Melania Trump’s speech. He just sits there and let’s the guy roll right over him. The best he can do is, at one point, feebly protest that there were some pretty stark similarities. Watch the video at the link. How did this guy get his job? He either has no brains or no spine.

Beyond Plagiarism

In all the fuss and fury over Melania Trump’s plagiarism, something has been overlooked. The point of her speech was to introduce her husband to the somewhat dubious side of the country-you know, the folks that are not stark raving mad. So, consider this particular piece of plagiarism:

Trump told GOP delegates on Monday: “From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise.

“That you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son, and we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow, because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

via The Guardian

Plagiarism, no doubt. But consider that the implication here is that these are values that the Donald exemplifies. Yet, has anyone hitherto ever accused the Donald of working hard for what he wants, believing that his word is his bond, keeping his promises, or treating people with respect? Ask Chris Christie about that last one. Or even ask Mike Pence, who surely must have wondered why the Donald played “You can’t always get what you want” over and over before introducing his VP pick. Melania is catching a bit of flack about the plagiarism, but let’s be fair, her claims to the contrary, she didn’t write the speech, but she probably had at least read it before she delivered it. She probably didn’t know she had plagiarized, but she surely knew she was lying. What was that again about your word being your bond?

But, let’s face it. It has been the case for years that IOKIYAR, but it’s even more Okay if you’re Donald Trump. No doubt that immunity will extend to his wife.

God in the classroom 

A few days ago I learned that among all the horrible things in the Republican platform, there is a demand that the Bible be taught “as literature” in public schools. Of course, it’s a transparently bogus demand for the establishment of the Christian religion, but transparently bogus arguments have won in the past. Remember, the Supreme Court has ruled that a Christmas crèche is a secular holiday display.

Anyway, it happens that this is a subject about which I know something, or at least have some experience.

When I arrived at Hartford Public High School in the fall of ’64, with my freshly minted theology degree from Our Lady of Sorrows Grammar School, I was placed into the honors English class. It was, by the way, the only honors course I was placed in, something that mystified me, because in my own quite accurate self estimation, I was much more suited for honors history or math.

Anyway, the teacher was a Miss Crawford, who was herself freshly minted as a teacher. It was her one and only year at the school. How she got the honors class (the sophomore through senior honors classes were firmly in the hands of the entrenched English teachers with seniority, all of whom were horrible), I don’t know. I’m quite sure she didn’t choose the books we read. To the best of my recollection, the first book we read was the Odyssey, which, on reflection, is somewhat odd, given that it was originally written in Greek, and the quality of any English translation depends on the translator.

But I digress. At some point, I believe it was after the Odyssey, we actually were assigned readings from the Bible (King James, I believe) to be read, as literature. Any discussion of the truth of the bullshit therein was off limits.

As all of us HPHS grads know, Hartford Public High School is the second oldest secondary institution of learning in the country. Only Boston Latin is older. Connecticut only ditched its established religion sometime in the 1820s, so I would be willing to bet that reading the Bible as something other than literature was a tradition for the first 300 or so years of the school’s existence. Our class’s experience may have been the last gasp of Bible reading at the school.

At best as I can recall, Miss (there were no “Ms”’s in those days) Crawford tried to steer clear of theology while we discussed the myths we were reading. I have no idea how she felt about teaching religion as literature. As for myself, I found it almost impossible to stop myself from trying to engage with the religious content. There I was with my wealth of learning and my burgeoning skepticism, struggling mightily to confine myself to the Bible “as literature”, which I now realize, was an impossible task. If you put the religious aspects of the Bible aside, there’s nothing left to talk about. But, already being a devout adherent to the gospel as taught by Tom Paine, I also firmly believed that religion had no place in public school, so restrain myself I did, mostly. The long and the short of all this is that I can assure one and all that reading the Bible as literature, while avoiding any discussion of the religious content thereof, is a total and complete waste of time. It’s like reading Shakespeare and confining yourself to discussions about iambic pentameter. None of us were sorry to see the end of the Bible readings, and I’m sure the Jewish kids in the class were especially glad to see the back of King James.

So, if there are any Republican delegates who actually, sincerely believe (ha, ha, ha)that they are merely suggesting a totally secular exposure to the Bible, I can assure them it can’t be done. As for the rest of us, I suppose we can claim some sort of minor victory in the fact that Republicans feel compelled to claim some sort of secular purpose, rather than out and out demanding that their religion be taught in our schools.

Perhaps I can help

So today I got several emails from the DCCC pushing similar themes. Here’s the first few paragraphs of one:

We’re confused…

After Bernie Sanders’ inspiring call to unity, we thought at long last Democrats would…well…unify.

But sadly that’s not what’s happened. Grassroots Democrats just haven’t stepped up.

The entire world is watching to see if the Democratic Party can unify today. And frankly, we’re questioning whether that will happen.

We’re sorry to plead, John, but is there any chance you can help? We will lose out on our chance to win the White House and Congress otherwise.

Will you answer Bernie’s call and chip in $1?

I think maybe I can help them understand why not everyone is stepping up. Of course, I can’t speak for other Grassroots Democrats, but this Grassroot Democrat is tired of giving money to the Democratic Party so that it can fund corporate Democrats against Grassroots Democrats. Consider this, just a bit of what the folks at Down with Tyranny have documented:

“When the PA-07 progressive Mary Ellen Balchunis– endorsed by every Democratic party organ and institutional ally in southeast Pennsylvania– smashed the DCCC recruit who they had helped raise money and run a campaign, even adding him to their Red to Blue program, the DCCC responded by abandoning the district to GOP incumbent Pat Meehan and taking the district off the map. Pelosi’s bullshit about “when women win…” was shown up to be just more of the hypocrisy her sorry later career has turned into. No Red to Blue help for Mary Ellen Balchunis. That’s Pelosi/DCCC “party unity”… it’s only for progressives to rally around establishment hacks, never for the establishment to rally around progressives.

The DCCC had added their pack of unimpressive hacks– Bryan Caforio (CA), Randall Perkins (FL), Salud Carbajal (CA), Val Demings (FL), Monica Vernon (IA), Brad Schneider (IL), Bill Golderer (PA), and Colleen Deacon (NY)– while all were engaged in active, competitive primaries against more progressive candidates, to the Red to Blue program. When Mary Ellen beat Golderer 52,792 (74%) to 18,509 (26%)– despite the DCCC guaranteeing that Golderer could spend $239,391 (and raise $375,402) in the race while they prevented Mary Ellen from being able to spend anything but $45,541– Lujan, Israel and Pelosi didn’t add Mary Ellen to Red to Blue. They just continued telling Democratic activists to starve her campaign of contributions– even after the AFL-CIO unanimously decided to not re-endorse Meehan and give the nod to Balchunis instead. Balchunis, who identifies as “a Warren wing Democrat” didn’t endorse Bernie, although she shares his values and issues, because she has a long, friendly relationship with Hillary and endorsed her. But Hillary and her establishment wing of the party did absolutely nothing for Balchunis– and still haven’t.

Tuesday morning Zephyr Teachout, who Bernie had helped raise a great deal money through grassroots contributions, tweeted, “I am running for Congress to break down the doors of power in Washington.” That isn’t a phrase likely to make party hacks like Pelosi, Hoyer, Lujan, etc feel all warm and comfy.

Early Monday morning DWT got a press release from NRCC chairman Greg Walden: “Congratulations to John Faso on his hard-fought victory this evening. John has spent his career serving his community, and will do a great job representing the Hudson Valley in Congress. John understands the importance of keeping taxes low and getting government out of the way so that the private sector can create jobs. I look forward to working with him after he is elected this November.”

Still no word from Lujan and the DCCC. I’m sure some kind of grudging statement of support will arrive eventually. For now, though, Teachout’s wonderful volunteers will have to make due with congratulations from the grassroots groups like DFA, Blue America and PCCC who have endorsed her from day one. ”

 

via Down with Tyranny

Why should I give my money to an organization (the DNC and the DSCC do the same thing) that actively works against the interests of the very Grassroots Democrats they claim to support? The DNC is even worse that the DCCC, what with Wasserman Schultz, the head of the DNC, brazenly supporting Republicans. It gives me great joy to see the grifters making fools of Republicans. I prefer to avoid having the Democratic grifters make a fool out of me.

The party of crazy

Long before Trump even announced his candidacy, I was saying that 2016 would be the year the Republicans went all in on the crazy. I was right. Had it not been Trump, it would have been Cruz, who is perhaps even crazier than the Donald. In previous years insane candidates might win Iowa, but the so called “moderates” like Romney and McCain prevailed in the end. I think I probably said this on this blog, but if not, I can get witnesses that I was constantly saying it at Drinking Liberally pretty much since 2012.

Here’s proof that my prediction has come to pass. The Republicans are busy writing their platform. Trump, of course, doesn’t really care what’s in the platform, as he’ll ignore it in any event (as will Hillary the Democratic platform), but the discussions do prove beyond doubt that this was always going to be the year of the crazy:

“Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas, proposed an amendment to oppose the federal government including the prairie chicken and sage grouse as a part of its endangered animals list.

“We’re not the party of the anti-prairie chickens,” said one delegate, who opposed the amendment for getting too in the weeds on a local issue.

Yes. Yes, you are. Kobach’s anti-chicken plank passed. As did another that said animals “such as the grey wolf” should not be included in the Endangered Species Act.

Other critical issues covered? Do regular Oreos count as junk food, or are only chocolate-covered Oreos junk food? Does ginger ale count as soda? All of this discussed as part of the broader discussion on whether poor people should be forced to buy only food that Republicans approve. Though that discussion came after Republicans had already decided that the SNAP program was “unconstitutional.”

Oh, and of course Republicans found room in their platform to keep transgender people from using the bathroom.”

via Daily Kos

First, let us have a moment of silence for the prairie chicken and sage grouse, inoffensive creatures now doomed to extinction.

Of course, the platform committee, again at Kobach’s urging, also adopted a plank against statutory limits on magazine limits in assault weapons. Who knows, that guy it Orlando might have exercised his constitutional right to kill 100 people if his weapon only had more capacity. The criminal lobby has a lot of influence with the crazies.

This craziness is entirely independent of Trump, and will draw not a word of rebuke from the Jeff Flake’s of the world, who has announced that he’ll be skipping the convention because he has to mow his lawn. It is really a mystery why so many Republicans profess to be offended at Trump. Perhaps their problem is that previously they controlled, or thought they controlled, the crazies, and now the crazies are controlling them.

Those Brits, behind the times

Simon Wren-Lewis is a British economist who has a blog called Mainly Macro. Recently he blamed the British tabloids for the Brexit vote, among other things:

My post ‘The triumph of the tabloids’ is now easily my most read post in the four and a half years I have been writing a blog. I suspect that partly reflects readers from overseas trying to understand how on earth British voters could have chosen to do something so obviously harmful to the economy. I have subsequently been pleased to see others picking up the same idea: Maria Kyriakidou here and Charles Grant here. As Grant says, the tabloids “became propaganda sheets” for Leave. He goes on : “as I discovered while knocking on doors during the campaign, many Britons believe all sort of bizarre things about the EU that have no basis in fact, and the source of which is ultimately newspapers”. Of course the media cannot alone win a referendum like this, and Charles Grant also focuses on other factors, but in many of the accounts of how Brexit happened that I have read the media often does not figure at all. The idea that the media does not matter, or just reflects public opinion, is simply wrong.

It is not just the Brexit vote that the tabloids are partly responsible for. It is the racism and intolerance that they have helped legitimise. Of course politicians must take most responsibility for this, but the tabloids play an important role. This will only become worse as those who voted Leave become disillusioned that nothing has improved, and of course no tabloid will ever apologise for getting it wrong. They are the epitome of power without responsibility. And because of the power these newspapers have, politicians dare not criticise them for it. One did, and he paid a heavy price.

 

via Mainly Macro

Here in the USA, the newspapers don’t have enough influence to sway a local election. Here, we’re far more techologically advanced. Our disinformation is spewed out by television “news” networks and Internet sites. We all know that Fox viewers believe all sorts of demonstrably false things, and that it’s from Fox they are getting their information. If you substituted the word “television” for “newspapers” and “tabloids” in the above quote, it would apply perfectly to this country. If Marshall McLuhas was right, it’s worse here, because television as a form of media discourages intellectual engagement and skepticism. You just tend to soak it in.

One thing the Brits have on us, perhaps to make up for their lack of technological progress, is the fact that in order to get their disinformation, they actually have to do some reading.

The Greatest Country on Earth

This sort of says it all:

Over the last 30 years, local and state governments increased how much they spend on putting people in jail three times more than how much they spend on educating students, according to a new analysis by the Department of Education.

The department examined corrections spending and education spending data from 1979-1980 to 2012-2013 and found that over that time, governments increased spending on incarceration by 324 percent (from $17 to $71 billion). This is more than three times the spending increase on education, which only grew 107 percent (from $258 to $534 billion) over the same time period.

All of the 50 states had lower expenditure growth rates for PK-12 education than for corrections. Seven states increased corrections budgets more than five times as quickly than they did K-12 education budgets: ?Idaho, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia?. Texas had the largest percentage increase over 30 years, hiking incarceration spending by 850 percent.

The Department goes on to point out that there is an inverse relationship between levels of education and rates of incarceration. So, next time you here a legislator or governor telling you we have to cut education spending (ahem…Dan Malloy) ask him or her what’s happening with the prison budget.

Getting easier to pass the Trump test

We folks here in Southeastern Connecticut have had to watch the slow decline of the New London Day, which used to be a good newspaper with a reasonable editorial policy. It has now become, essentially, an automatic supporter of all but the most insane Republicans, and even they get a second look. One of the worst offenders is columnist David Collins, who has this thing about state employees. He can’t understand why they should get the pensions to which their contracts entitle them. Apparently it is there fault that the State of Connecticut has not properly funded those pensions, and it is only fair that they should be screwed out of them. Who knows, maybe the Day screwed Collins out of his pension. Misery loves company, after all.

Anyway, recently Collins let it be known that though he can usually be reliably expected to heap praise on all Republican candidates, he was going to institute a new policy. No Republican would get his support who didn’t follow Chris Shays and unequivocally renounce Donald Trump:

“I would suggest calling this the Trump test, one I intend to try on every state Republican candidate I encounter this election season.

It’s pretty simple: A pledge to renounce, like Shays has, is a pass.

Everything else — like still thinking about it — is a fail.”

Three days after he wrote that column he did a puff piece about a Republican named Nicholas Mullane, who, according to Dave could pretty much do no wrong. I took keyboard in hand (I know that makes no sense) and penned this letter to the Editor:

On June 17th Dave Collins wrote one more in a series of endless columns shilling for yet another Republican candidate, this time Nicholas Mullane. We can, of course, expect more columns of this sort, one for each Republican running for office in the immediate vicinity. 

But I was a bit surprised. Just three days ago Collins announced that he would challenge each Republican candidate to denounce Donald Trump. This would be his pre-sycophancy acid test. He said: “I would suggest calling this the Trump test, one I intend to try on every state Republican candidate I encounter this election season.” Did Mullane pass the Trump test? We are not told. Perhaps Collins has decided that, after all, busting unions is more important than avoiding fascism.

After a decent waiting period, imposed on all letters written by we of the left (they once waited a month to publish one of my letters, by which time almost no one could remember the article I was writing about) the Day published the letter.

I’m not saying it was in response to that letter, but today’s Day contains a column by Collins in which he tells us he has administered the test to a number of Connecticut politicians, including Mullane. We’re not told when he tested Mullane. In any event, here’s what Collins wrote:

One of the first Connecticut Republicans I put to the Trump test was Nicholas Mullane, the former first selectman of North Stonington who is challenging state Rep. Diana Urban for her 43rd District House seat.

Mullane gets penciled in, with a crafty answer in which he said he would like Republicans to find a new candidate at a brokered convention.

He gets to stay on the list, I suppose, at least until Trump officially wins the nomination at the Ohio convention.

Well it sure has gotten easier to pass the test, hasn’t it. A few weeks ago there was this:

Everything else — like still thinking about it — is a fail.

Now, a crafty answer will do. Methinks the standard for passing the test will get even more relaxed as time goes on. Apparently it is also alright to be still thinking about it, as Collins says State Senator Paul Formica is still doing. And you don’t fail the test if you fail to return phone calls posing the Trump test from a guy who has been writing paeans to you in the past:

These include Rep. Aundre Bumgardner, Rep. John Scott and Senate candidate Heather Somers, all of Groton.

So, it turns out that contrary to what we were told, it’s really quite hard to fail the Trump test. You have to really work at it. Here at ctblue we’ll be keeping our faithful reader(s) posted. The time, we assume, must surely come when final grades must be passed out. How, we wonder, will Collins justify his upcoming sycophancy, particularly the praise he will surely lavish on Heather Somers, a long time politician who can proudly say she has never accomplished anything of note other than winning the hearts of the folks at the Day, if she doesn’t come through on the Trump test? If I were Heather I wouldn’t worry. She will surely avoid ever answering the question, and Dave will find a way to argue that while she may not have passed the test, she hasn’t quite failed it either.

My liberal heart is bleeding

I feel so bad for Gretchen Carlson:

Former “Fox & Friends” co-host Gretchen Carlson alleged in an explosive lawsuit filed Wednesday that Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes fired her for rebuffing his sexual advances and challenging a sexist newsroom culture.

Carlson, who spent 11 years at the network, described being ostracized and marginalized by Fox News for pushing back against condescending treatment. After seven and a half years as a co-host on “Fox & Friends,” the top-rated cable morning news show, Carlson was reassigned in 2013 to an early afternoon time slot. Fox News terminated her employment on June 23.

via The Huffington Post

She spent eleven years peddling the right wing line, including casting aspersions on anyone even vaguely left wing as well as deftly encouraging the racism and religious hatred that has led us to Donald Trump. She knew when she was hired that they weren’t hiring her for her brains, though I don’t doubt she has one. I wouldn’t doubt that if you went through the archives, you’d find footage of her disparaging women who made the same sort of claims she is making now.

Still, I hope she wins. Sure she’s loathsome, but no one is as loathsome as Roger Ailes.