Skip to content

Compare and contrast

As I’ve said more than once, we subscribe to three daily newspapers. It’s often instructive to compare and contrast how an event is covered.

Today the main story was Trump’s tax “plan”, if you can call it that.

Let’s see how the three papers covered it. I’m referring here to the print editions. I haven’t checked to see if anything is different on-line.

The New York Times headline reads: Tax Overhaul Would Aid Wealthiest. A sub headline (is that the term?) reads: Radical Revision of Code, on a Single Page.

The Globe has two articles, the main one bearing a headline: Trump plan takes ax to tax rates. The sub headline reads: GOP says it’s a good start; Democrats call it a giveaway to the rich. The second article is headlined: Breaking down potential winners, losers of cuts. There’s a sidebar note (again, I’m not sure that’s the correct nomenclature), in which Gary Cohn, director of the White House National Economic Council, is quoted as saying that Trump “cares about making the economy work better for all American people”.

The Day reports: Trump proposes major tax cuts. The subheadline reads: New plan with few specifics would also mean huge deficits.

I’m not going to get into the weeds of the substance of the articles, for I think we can stipulate that most people might read a paragraph or two rather than the whole thing. My premise here is that the initial presentation matters a lot, because most people will form their impressions based on what I’ve related above.

So, lets rate them, first to last.

The Times wins running away. Given that it’s a one page document, there aren’t many weeds to get into, but what there is, is clear: the “plan” is a massive giveaway to the rich. One thing it is going to allow the rich to do, in addition to paying almost no taxes, is corporatize themselves, avoid personal liability for their sins, and pay the new low corporate tax rate on their personal income. The rest of us will be paying personal tax rates.

Surprisingly enough, the Day comes in second, if only by a hair. The caveat in the subheadline is probably the least of the problems the plan would cause, but at least it’s not covering for the Donald.

The Globe, for once, loses. The blaring headline about Trump taking an “ax” to tax rates sets the table, since who in this benighted land, where we expect infinite government services without paying for them, isn’t for lower taxes. The subheadline is a perfect example of both sideism. The fact is that one of those statements is true in essence, rather than simply from a propaganda standpoint. But the most egregious sin on the Globe’s part is giving prominence to Cohn’s bullshit about Trump caring about the American people. As numerous people have pointed out, if you wanted to design a tax code to maximize Trump’s wealth, this would be that code. The manner in which that quote was presented amounts to an endorsement of Cohn’s quote. The Globe would disagree with me, and I’m sure they’d be making that claim in good faith, but the fact is that the effect on the casual reader is just that. After all, if Cohn was bullshitting (which, of course, he was) why, muses our casual observer, would the Globe promote that quote? Actually, the musing would never take place, except on a subconscious level. That same observer might discover, if he or she read the entire piece, that Cohn was, in fact, bullshitting, but again, we must stipulate that if one in a hundred does so, that would be surprising.

The Times got it right, and it’s refreshing to see it covered honestly, without, at least in the headlines, any attempt to give Trump the undeserved benefit of the doubt. More of this, please.

UPDATE: Just noticed that the Globe added to it’s sins in the caption to the picture accompanying the piece, in which it quotes the Treasury Secretary as saying “We will unlock economic growth”, an implicit endorsement of that statement as well. 

Corruption of the first order

It’s really not hard to see why Ivanka is Trump’s favorite. She’s just like him.

When I read this a few things came to mind. The gist of it:

Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe. Both countries and companies will contribute to create a pool of capital to economically empower women.

First, even the commenter at Kos failed to connect the dots from Ivanka’s new foundation to a certain foundation about which Daddy railed during the campaign, and about which he made certain baseless charges that will no doubt be well founded when leveled against Ivanka. After all, Ivanka has a family tradition to uphold, and it’s a near certainty that when all is said and done she’ll be putting the arm on countries and corporation in order to empower one certain woman, rather than women as a whole.

But, what is truly amazing is the sheer openness of the corruption. They really don’t even bother to hide it anymore, and since the commit an impeachable or indictable offense every day, no one even notices any longer. Even if this were well intentioned, and it’s not, it would be a dubious endeavor. The Trumps have hit on a winning formula. If you do something outrageous every day, after a while people will just stop noticing, particularly when you have a substantial portion of the press that is eager to justify your corruption.

Duly noted

Impeachable offense #I’ve stopped counting.

Actually, he commits one every morning when he wakes up, but this one is particularly blatant. Emoluments, anyone?

For 12 weekends in a row, Donald Trump has spent time at a Donald Trump-owned or managed property in what has to be a financial boon for the Trump family. Of course, everywhere Donald Trump goes, gaggles of Secret Service agents, staff and pool reporters follow—many or most of them staying at a Trump property, using taxpayer dollars, directly benefiting Donald Trump and his family. Paying members of these clubs regularly take to social media bragging about access to Trump and his offspring. And now, the official website of the U.S. Embassy & Consultants in the United Kingdom is featuring a glowing article on the “winter White House” that is a barely disguised advertisement:

via Daily Kos

The ad avoids pointing out that the Donald owns it, and makes a dishonest gesture toward implying that it’s owned by the federal government (it once was, but that was a long time ago).

The Grant administration was alleged to be corrupt, but no one ever really claimed that Grant was in on it. He was more or less a dupe. Trump is at the center of the most corrupt administration in US history. Once again, imagine if Obama had done just this one thing. This sort of stuff is a daily occurrence with the Donald.

Goldwater rule going down

Apparently a number of people in the mental health field are convinced that the “Goldwater rule” has got to go. After the 1964 election, the psychological and psychiatric professional organizations adopted a rule discouraging their members from indulging in diagnosing the mental illnesses of politicians. Some of their number had diagnosed Goldwater, and apparently someone got sued and lost. I was 14 in 1964, so I don’t pretend to have had fixed views on the subject then, but over the years I concluded that while Goldwater was extreme by the standards of the day (he would quite likely be uncomfortably to the left of many present day Republicans), if he was clinically ill, he was only, to use Social Security Disability terminology, mildly impaired. He posed a threat to the nation, but that was solely due to his views, and not a mental illness. Quite likely some of the diagnoses were the product of the fact that, for the most part, there was a broad national consensus on most issues, and Goldwater was outside that consensus. That consensus has been destroyed by the intellectual (and in some case, biological) descendants of Goldwater’s base.

Trump, on the other hand, is “markedly” to “extremely” impaired in multiple categories. Most of my mentally ill clients are far more capable of stringing together an articulate sentence than is he. Most of them are far more rational (Read his recent interview for a sample of his mental incoherence) and have far more insight into their own condition. Many of them play a bit fast and loose with the truth, but I’ve never had a client who was convinced that he could create facts simply by asserting them. On the other hand, there is a distinction between what you might call high functioning mentally ill people, such as some sociopaths and psychopaths, and low functioning types, such as people suffering from bi-polar. Trump has always been a narcissist, but he’s turned it to his advantage and he has, by at least some measures, succeeded. It makes him more dangerous than the run of the mill mentally ill person.

Anyway, some psychologists and psychiatrists are advocating abandoning the Goldwater rule in Trump’s case, proferring diagnoses such as the following:

Dr. James F. Gilligan, a senior clinical professor of psychiatry at NYU Medical School, was on next and offered that Trump’s mental unfitness had multiple causes. And before the meeting was over, the following diagnoses had been brought up: narcissism combined with a sociopathic personality, pathological lying, and paranoia, which makes him vulnerable to conspiracy theories. Anyone who doesn’t flatter him extravagantly is meant to be destroyed. He engages in exploitation and violation of the rights of others, and sometimes goes as far as sadism, with no evidence of remorse. “When you add all these elements,” Gilligan observed, “this is a class of people of whom Hitler is a member.”

via Crooks and Liars quoting Gail Sheehy at New York Magazine.

Yep, he went there, re Hitler, but you can’t argue with him on the facts.

If Trump is removed from office, and I’m not as confident about that as are many others, it will likely be through the 25th Amendment. Beyond his obvious mental illness, Trump is showing signs of dementia, and the likelihood is that if he’s removed they will sugar coat his insanity by calling it dementia.

The fact that Trump is mentally ill, and that his diagnosis is what it is, makes dealing with him difficult for his opponents and imposes a special obligation on the media. The Democrats have to oppose him without provoking him. The media has to be careful not only in its criticism, but in its praise. Given the fact that he craves adulation, it is particularly dangerous to give him positive reinforcement when he drops bombs on people. If that’s what it takes to get Fareed and his friends to like him, that’s what he’s likely to do, particularly because it’s not likely to lose him any of the nutjob friends he already has.

Charter School madness

When I first heard about the charter school movement, I knew it boded no good. Having escaped Catholic School for what I consider to have been a great school (HPHS, say it louder we’re the best!), I have always been grateful for, and felt protective of, public education. The fact that the people pushing for Charter schools are the same people that are destroying the middle class in many and sundry ways just reinforces my suspicions. I’ve come around to the point of view that the objective is not to improve education, but to produce workers who have been trained to believe that they can expect nothing better out of life than a minimum wage job, supplemented (if they’re lucky) by food stamps. Sort of like the life of a Wal-Mart employee, and isn’t it a massive coincidence that the Wal-Mart family has spent a billion dollars to promote charter schools.

A commenter on Diane Ravitch’s blog put it nicely, and I’m passing it along:

There is also a social engineering aspect of charter schools, especially prevalent among the “no excuses” chains (KIPP, Success Academies, Uncommon Schools, et. al.), which are obsessed with herding and controlling children in punitive, Skinner Box- type environments. It’s about training children, not educating them, to be docile and obedient, no matter the oppressiveness of the environment, prepping them for the lack of autonomy they’ll face in the adult workforce, and preventing them from having even an inkling that another world is possible.

via Diane Ravitch’s blog

If you can convince them when they’re young that the best they can hope for is life as a drone, then you don’t have to deal with uppity union organizers and you can count on them acquiescing to a political order with a facade of democracy and a reality of autocracy.

As the commenter points out, it’s also about disempowering teachers, thereby reducing them to drones too. Only in America could anyone give credence to the argument that disempowering teachers and paying them less is bound to improve education, but that’s the essence of the claim. Why pay teachers well, when that taxpayer money should go into the pockets of the heads of for-profit charter school companies, for once they’ve destroyed the public system, you can kiss the non-profits goodbye.

Unfortunately, the push for charter schools still has a bipartisan flavor to it. Obama’s education secretary of education was terrible on the issue, though he’s a rabid public school fan compared to DeVos. Here at home, the Malloy administration has been horrible, shoveling money toward the charters while starving the public schools, all well documented by Jonathan Pelto on his blog. (Yes, I know Jonathan can sometimes be a bit over the top-who among us is not, but the facts support him in the main.) I’m ready to support the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 2018, but in the primary I’ll be looking to see who has the best position on public education.

Local Republicans doing what Republicans do

Our newly elected state representative, Chris Conley, had a bit of bad luck recently. Well, she had two pieces of bad luck, but lets start with the latest.

A few weeks ago Chris broke her leg in two places. It was a nasty break, and as a result, Chris missed some committee meetings in Hartford, though she’s now attending, albeit in a wheelchair.

This is where her second piece of bad luck comes to the fore. It seems someone has it in for Chris, a political foe, of whose identity one can only speculate. Far be it from me to point the finger at any self interested former state legislator who Chris may have beaten in the last election.

The local Republicans have mounted a Facebook campaign as well as a letter writing campaign against Chris for, of all things, missing meetings in Hartford. The Facebook post was straight out of the national Republican playbook, complete with an unflattering picture of half of Chris’s face, ala Trump’s treatment of Cruz’s wife. Their original Facebook posting failed to mention the exigent circumstances. When commenters pointed this out, the Republicans (again, I won’t point any fingers as to the person responsible, although I’m Just Saying that his initials might be discerned from a couple of words appearing in sequence tween these parentheses) claimed that she had missed a lot of meetings before the accident, which, not to put too fine a point on it, was a lie.

Even the New London Day, no friend to Democrats, felt compelled to put an editorial disclaimer after a letter attributed to a person named Christopher Bowen, who claimed that she had been removed from two committees due to poor attendance, which the actual author of the letter claimed took place prior to the accident. The Day corrected that, and noted that she’d been removed from the committees temporarily due to the injury. I should add here that there’s no crime involved in getting people to sign Letters to the Editor; we do it too. I’m Just Saying that this particular letter appears to be of that ilk, and though I’m not pointing any fingers, I’m Just Saying that there’s a former legislator who is what we used to call a sore loser when I was a kid.

My wife put a comment on the Facebook post. She was Just Saying that it was fake news, and in response someone (can’t imagine who) Just Said, on behalf of the Republicans, that she and her husband were the actual purveyors of fake news. Needless to say I was a bit surprised, inasmuch as I had not yet entered the fray. Heck, at the time, I was only dimly aware of the fray. Anyway, on reflection, I’m Just Saying that whoever (not pointing fingers, mind you) accused me of spreading fake news might be upset about a few blog posts of mine in which I Just Said that a former state legislator had a conflict of interest in proposing legislation primarily designed to benefit himself. I’ve no proof mind you, I’m Just Saying.

Afterword: Just Saying, but if the mystery person (I truly can’t imagine who) who accused me of spreading fake news would like to get specific I’d love to hear from him. (A little birdy told me it’s not a her) I don’t know whether to feel insulted or complimented. We Democrats haven’t exactly been adept in the fake news department, as we don’t seem to spread it and we have trouble combatting it, so coming from a Republican, it may be intended as a compliment.

Kabuki show

I realize that this is at least slightly tongue in cheek:

As we wait to see whether Donald Trump’s unpopularity will allow a Democrat to squeak through and win a thoroughly Republican district in suburban Atlanta, let’s look at an eye-popping new poll. President Trump’s popularity has collapsed among a key base constituency: Russians.

Yes, really.

According to a new poll from state-run polling and research service VTSIOM, President Trump’s support levels among Russians have collapsed (really not an exaggeration) since his missile strike in Syria. Only 7% of Russians disapproved of Trump in March. Now that number has spiked to 39%.

Meanwhile Trump’s approval has dipped from 38% to 13%.

via Talking Points Memo

I’m not sure if the folks at TPM took this seriously, but either way there’s something seriou to be drawn from it. It’s entirely predictable that state run Russian media would make such a report, since it is in the interest of both Russia and Trump to foster the impression, illusory as it might be, that Trump and the Russians are at loggerheads. There’s an insightful article at Vanity Fair about the way in which Trump’s attempts to manipulate the media here are something like what Putin can more easily do in Russia. Read the whole thing, but this is a fair summary:

What if all the Trumpian chaos that the “mainstream media” have come to take for granted as pugilism and vanity was part of a more cunning plan? What if Trump and chief strategist Steve Bannon were actually drawing from a sophisticated postmodern propaganda model developed by none other than Vladimir Putin, Vladislav Surkov, and their political technologists at the Kremlin? While Trump may not have state-controlled media at his disposal, as Putin does, to serve as 24-7 propaganda organs both domestically and abroad, his team is finding ways to shrewdly approximate Putin’s capacity to shape narratives and create alternative realities.

via Vanity Fair

It is definitely in both Putin’s and Trump’s interest to appear to be antagonistic to one another. So long as Trump can plausibly maintain that fiction, he can hope to survive the various investigations, keep the support of his base, and prevent Putin from revealing the kompromat he has on Trump.. And, so long as they can successfully employ the tactics set forth at length at the article I’ve linked to above, they can hope to achieve their real ends sufficiently under the radar to, if not escape all notice, to at least escape prolonged attention. How much attention, for instance, will Exxon’s attempt to skirt U.S. sanctions get?

At this point it’s not clear how much of this is deliberate strategy on Trump’s part, or how much is just a by product of Trump’s style, but either way, it’s working, if not to his advantage, than certainly to Putin’s.

Sidenote: I’ve linked to several Vanity Fair articles in this post. Its editor is a long time Trump antagonist (he’s the guy who gave us “small handed vulgarian”) and it looks like it will be a go to place for anti-Trump journalism.

A word of caution re: Heather Somers

One of the good things that has happened (remember, always look on the bright side of life) since Trump lost the popular vote is the rise of the resistance movement, in its various and sundry groupings. We have several in this area. One downside of the movement is that it has attracted a lot of political amateurs, who have not necessarily acquired the appropriate amount of cynicism about the Republican Party.

Heather Somers, our airhead State Senator, has a way of telling people what they want to hear. During the last election one of our local environmental groups actually supported her over Tim Bowles, a former president of the Connecticut chapter of the Sierra club. Heather will, undoubtedly, toe the party line on the environment, and we know that ain’t good. Similarly, she’s been making accomodating noises to members of the resistance, many of whom have not yet learned that you can’t trust a Republican, particularly Heather.

During the last campaign Heather was finally brought to ground and had to confront the presidential election. Here’s what she had to say:

Now, her word salad is nowhere near as mixed and jumbled as, say, Sean Spicer’s response to any given question, but she at least matches Spicer in her lack of logic. Unfortunately, there were no follow up questions, and given that the questioner was from the Day, he would undoubtedly not have asked the obvious: what has Clinton done that is worse than what Trump says he will do.

In any event, I’d submit to any member of the resistance that hears pleasant noises coming out of Somers mouth that he or she should consider Somers’s argument that the composition of the Connecticut legislature is really more important than the identity of the President of the United States, particularly when one of the two possibilities is Donald Trump. If she believes it, she’s an idiot. The alternative is more probable: that her priority is Heather Somers, and beside that, the country’s fate is unimportant. Come to think of it, that makes her a lot like the Donald, doesn’t it?

Still looking on the bright side

I have posted this video ever Good Friday since this blog began, but it has, perhaps, never been more salient. My original purpose was to mock religion, particularly the religion I learned at Our Lady of Sorrows, but there’s another, albeit equivocal, message here.

There isn’t much of a bright side for poor Brian and his compatriots, but they all manage to look on it-evenBrian, in the end. Poltically speaking, since this blog began, the bright side has never been dimmer. There is a bright side, nonetheless. Our institutions may have let us down, but there’s still a chance that the people may respond and save this battered republic. If we don’t, our fate can be no worse than Brian’s, and if he can look on the bright side, than so can we.

Trump’s Foreign Policy

I’m a big Randy Newman fan, but inasmuch as Trump tends to go with the last thing he’s heard, it might not be a good idea for him to listen to this one. On the other hand, given the thumbs up so many of pundits (looking at you, Fareed) gave him for bombing Syria, maybe he’s arrived at this position independently, since it sure seems like Randy is channeling Donnie in this video

Update: A few hours after I posted this, I discovered Randy has a new, fairly timely song. Here’s the official video:

It is much to be hoped that musicians of today will take a page from their forebears of the sixties and give voice to the resistance. The times are a’ changing in not such a good way, and we need things to rally round. This isn’t the song that will do it, but it’s still fun to watch.