July 29, 2019

Quick Takes (v40): If True, Dems, Shame on You

I've long complained about the hypocrisy of this president calling for unity and love, and claiming he wants to be the president for all of us.

I find those comments ridiculous, given his daily rhetoric and attacks on anyone who so much as whispers anything less than fabulous about him, and also given that some of those comments come when he's in his 'good people on both sides' mindset, which I also find ridiculous.

In fact, just this morning I called him out for an apparent lack of comity with Democrats, which I discovered on one of my meandering trips through the propaganda pages on the White House website.

What set me off? The president's comments at the swearing-in ceremony for new Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was approved by the Senate in a 90-8 vote. Take a look, particularly at the parts I italicized:
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much everybody. We have a very important moment in our country’s history, actually. And we had a lot of our great Republican senators in the White House, and I invited them over and many of them wanted to be here. And as you probably heard, the vote just took place, and it was 90 to 8. That’s a vote that we’re not accustomed to, Mark, I have to say that. So congratulations, that’s great.
So, Esper was approved on a 90-8 vote? That is great (and it's about time Trump put up a reasonable nominee). Now, there are 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats in the Senate this year. If he was the unity president, as he pretends he is, Trump should have invited every single one of them and 90 of them should have showed up, right?  But he doesn't say he invited all of the Yes votes to the ceremony - just the "great Republicans," which is his standard practice.

But then I read about a Rose Garden ceremony today where Trump signed the bill that extends until 2092 the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. The bill passed the House by a vote of 402-12 and the Senate, 97-2.

Of course, during his remarks he had to make sure we knew that he, too, played a role in the aftermath of the attack.  In case you were unaware, he was very engaged. Listen - he'll tell you.
I was down there also. But I'm not considering myself a first responder. But I was down there, I spent a lot of time down there with you.
I suspect many will find that to be just another in a long line of appalling "look at me!" statements, another blatantly self-promoting lie. And you'd be right; after all, Trump lies like the rest of us breathe - but his absurd comment isn't the real shocker from today's gathering.

Nope -- this is the real shocker (emphasis added):
No Democrats attended Monday's event, according to a guest list distributed by the White House, but an official said that every member of Congress was invited
If that's true - that they all were invited and none of them attended - shame on them.

Shame on every single one of them.

I get that half of them are running for president and there's a debate on Wednesday and all that, and I get that there is literally no love lost between Democrats in Congress and the president, but "come on, man!" as one House member recently said.

Choke back your bile and show up for something that matters. Show up and respect the first responders and families of those who have passed, who were at the ceremony. If they can do it, certainly a bunch of politicians can do it to.

Be the better person, Democrats - the better person, not the bigger jerk.

July 28, 2019

Sunday School 7/28/19

I almost hated to do it - I mean, what are the chances anyone was talking about anything other than either racism, immigration, or the Russia investigation, topics about which we've all probably had our fill - but I did make a couple of classroom stops this morning. You all owe me one.

First up. on the Chuck Todd Show, aka Meet the Press, let's hear from California's Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, on whether we're talking about impeachment:
Well, I think that, you know, for the purposes of the law and Constitution, where we are now is most accurately described as preliminary to a judicial proceeding, and that judicial proceeding is a potential impeachment. 
Um, so that's a no, then?
And I say that because, you know, what we ask of the Constitution is, you know, what's the function of how we describe something? 
Um, so that's a no, then?
And right now, the most important thing is to obtain the grand jury material, to see the evidence. And the standard the court has set, that we have really set for the court, is are we preliminary to a potential impeachment?  And I believe that we are.
Um, so that's a yes, then?
You know, where we'll get to an impeachment, at least in my view, where we should get to, the decision, "Okay, let's indict the President, let's impeach the President," is if we're convinced that we can make the case.  
Um, so that's a yes, then?
And here, okay, there's no making the case to the cult of the president's personality, that is - the Senate GOP, but we should at least be able to make the case to the American people. And I'd like to see the evidence so I'm confident that we can do that before we say we're ready to charge the President of the United States.
So, that's a no. Period. Glad we cleared that up.

There was some talk about whether not impeaching the president because the Senate is not going to go along with it is setting a bad precedent. Schiff expressed concern about future generations and the message that not going through with this would have on them; he also worried about going through the process only to have the president be acquitted, which would be a statement that obstruction of justice was OK. And finally, he noted,
But the jury I'm most worried about, not the Senate because I think that's a preordained conclusion, is the American people. Can we make the case to the American people? And I want to make sure that that's true before we go down this path because it's going to occupy a year of the nation's time, And I want to make sure that's the right decision.
Forewarned is forearmed.

July 26, 2019

TGIF 7/26/19

Time for our look at good weeks and bad weeks.

Robert Mueller had a mixed week. On the one hand, he testified for six or seven hours before two House Committees and managed to make both Democrats and Republicans look silly. Mueller said his report was his testimony, and he generally stuck to his guns on that. And in doing so, he made a mess of the ulterior motives of both parties.

The Rs wanted to talk about the inception of the investigation, and of course Mueller was not allowed to talk about that, even if he had been so inclined. The Ds attempted to get him to read his report to them;for some reason, many still haven't read the darn thing. That approach failed beautifully, as he had them read key sections out loud instead of the other way around.  I don't know what the Dems were hoping to accomplish with the hearings, but all they got was confirmation of what was already documented in the report, and in the statement Mueller made back in May.

On the other hand, Mueller came off as bit befuddled, they say, asking for questions to be repeated, or being unable to quote chapter and verse about footnotes that were in the 400+page report, or for sounding less than clear in his responses. Next steps are also not clear, now that they made him do what he didn't want to do.

While the House fiddles, the 2020 campaign burns, or something.

July 24, 2019

Wondering on Wednesday (v178)

Didja watch the Mueller testimony before the House Judiciary and/or Intelligence Committees?

I confess, I did not. I was in the garden, listening to my favorite NPR shows, so I only caught soundbites that people thought were important. Things like the part where Mueller said he did not exonerate Trump, that he didn't charge him because of the DOJ ruling that you can't charge a sitting president, and that Trump could be indicted for obstruction after he leaves office. You know, the kind of stuff we already knew.

So, in a nutshell, it was just what we thought it would be: a bunch of people trying to score points, some of whom did and some of whom really only swung and missed. And yes, if you're wondering, I appreciate that I'm covering multiple sports there, so no need to point that out.

But here's the part that I think is truly worthy of wonder. In his opening statement to both committees, Mueller reminded us that Russia did try and interfere in our 2016 election. Here's what he said to the Judiciary gang:
And let me say one more thing. Over the course of my career, I've seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government's effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American.
Similarly, he told the House Select Committee on Intelligence this:
Finally, as I said this morning, over the course of my career, I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government's effort to intervene in our election is among the most serious. I am sure this Committee agrees. 
So, is anyone listening to that, or are they only listening to themselves ask questions (including a number of them that Mueller flat out said he couldn't or wouldn't answer, but they wasted everyone's time on them anyway)? What are our elected representatives doing about this type of threat, that is happening right now, which Mueller told them could come from other countries too?

In other wondering, there is concern that the budget deal worked out by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin that raises the debt ceiling, and more, will have plenty of detractors on both sides - but it has to be passed this week, we're told, before the House leaves for the rest of the summer, because we could be put in a position of not being able to pay our bills before they get back.

So we have to wonder, will the detractors make a mess of things and not let the bill pass in the Senate? Here's the most colorful answer to that question, and it comes from Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), who wasn't sure what he was going to do, but suggested it would be appropriate to "color (him) doubtful."
It may taste like pumpkin pie, but I've got a lot of questions. Cutting spending around here is like going to heaven. Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody's quite ready to take the trip... 
Now that today's shenanigans are out of the way, maybe we'll quickly see where everyone lands on the spending plan.

And finally, turning back to Mueller's testimony, the only other thing I have to wonder is, what will the Dems do next?

Quick Takes (v39): Help for Student Loans

Quick Takes
We're a few days away from the next Democratic debate, where (I hope) we'll learn more about what the candidates want to do, and how they want to do it.

At least a few of them have come out with plans for free college and/or to wipe out existing student debt; both of those ideas have strong support from some quarters, and equally strong disapproval from others.

On the plus side? Moves such as free college 'level the playing field' for people who cannot afford to go to college, or who cannot get a well-paying job that will allow them any kind of  chance to pay off the loans they took out to go to college. And that's an American Dream killer, right?

On the other side of the equation is the thinking that the government is not responsible for this, these are handouts not hands up, and for every story the candidates tell of someone who comes out of college with six-figure debt, there are an equal number of stories of people who had the debt, worked hard, and paid it off.  Such is the conundrum we face, on this policy and on pretty much everything else.

But are there things we can do to help that are less drastic than "free college" and "no more student loan debt" that might be amenable to folks on both sides?  A bipartisan handful of Representatives - Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Paul Mitchell (R-MI) Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) - think there is. They've come together to submit the Streamlining Income-driven, Manageable Payments on Loans for Education (SIMPLE) Act, which is designed to keep loan holders from default. Take a look at the bill's summary:
The SIMPLE Act protects some of the most vulnerable student loan borrowers—those who can’t afford full loan payments, those who are in immediate danger of default, those who have previously defaulted on their debt, and those who are totally and permanently disabled—from the severe consequences of default. The bill uses information already on file at the U.S. Treasury to connect borrowers automatically with existing protections, including affordable monthly loan payments. The legislation also automates the annual process for updating income information while enrolled in these plans, ensuring that borrowers continue to make affordable payments.
The data are stark. The bill notes that more then 8 million are in default, and the number continues to grow; more than a million people default on student loans each year, including a subset that has defaulted more than once. And, small balance loan holders are more likely to default than those holding six-figure balances - but the ones with six-figure balances are the ones we hear about all the time.

The consequences are also stark: the obvious hits on credit reports, which have all kinds of ramifications for people that can have a huge impact on their daily lives, as well as on their ability to pay back their loans; wage garnishment, withholding of tax refunds, and more.

So, what does the bill propose?

July 22, 2019

Monday Musings (v1)

My most recent post was published six days ago. (In case you missed it, you can read it here.) Since then, I've sat down at least once a day, every day, and tried to write another one. I've put fingers to keyboard so many times in the past six days, I can't even count them all. And I've come up empty.

I've done my research, bookmarked articles, pulled quotes, and looked for confirmation of what I've found. I've crawled into left-leaning rabbit holes, right-leaning rabbit holes, and I've even tried to find an actual rabbit hole in the garden, just in case that was more appealing than the alternative: trying to put thoughts on paper in follow up to my last post.

Because I think it needs a followup, I really do. Here's what I said, in part:
The president continues to try and convince us he's not a racist. "Not a racist bone in his body" we're told, even though his comments over recent years could inspire a person like me to think otherwise.

What's a person like me? Someone who was born here, someone who votes in every election, someone who tries to pay attention to what's going on locally, at the state level, and in Washington DC. Someone who understands that she has a right to complain about the state of things in this country - a guaranteed right to do exactly that, in fact. Someone who is proud of her country, even as it frustrates her.
And later in the post,
I think it would be hard for someone to spew this stuff day after day, week after week, month after month, without actually believing it. I don't believe he is an actor of any skill, any more than (at least so far) he's proven himself to be a great deal-maker, or that he's shown he can "act presidential."
He believes what he says, I'm sure - and he believes in what he says, I'm equally sure. And in that regard, his transition is complete. Trump is the president of the deplorables.
He may still be the president of some (or all) of the other 50% that Clinton mentioned, but we will only know them by their condemnation of his blatantly racist tweets. 
And, of course, that condemnation did not come.

It did not come from elected officials, it did not come from regular folks on social media, it didn't come from my friends and family. What came, for the most part, was silence. And those who were not silent? They 'clarified' what the president said. They 'interpreted' what the president said. They 'reinforced' what the president said about our fellow Americans. They obfuscated and denied and ran away from reporters, friends, and family. Hands were wrung. Hearts were clutched. Milquetoast comments were delivered, along the lines of "Gee, I wish he would tweet less." Strong stuff right there.

In preparing yesterday's unwritten Sunday School post, I watched with disgust folks like Trump immigration guru Steven Miller push back against Chris Wallace yesterday on Fox News Sunday. Similarly, Mercedes Schlapp, who's with the Trump campaign, used almost exactly the same language in her conversation with George Stephanopoulos on This Week.

Texas Senator Lyin' Ted Cruz took it one step further on Firing Line with Margaret Hoover. While he refused to respond to Hoover's repeated attempts to get him to agree that when a Republican acts badly, it's the responsibility of conservatives to call them out for it, he simultaneously stuck out his chest and patted himself on the back for speaking out against a war hero (and the slave-trading First Grand Wizard of the KKK) being celebrated in Tennessee - as required by state law. 

That took some real courage right there, I'm thinking. But don't even ask him to say something bad about the president who called him an Anchor Baby, no siree.

I watched all of that, and more, and scoured my conscience, and  still couldn't get the words out.

July 16, 2019

Trump in Transition (v41): Transition Complete

The president continues to try and convince us he's not a racist. "Not a racist bone in his body" we're told, even though his comments over recent years could inspire a person like me to think otherwise.

What's a person like me? Someone who was born here, someone who votes in every election, someone who tries to pay attention to what's going on locally, at the state level, and in Washington DC. Someone who understands that she has a right to complain about the state of things in this country - a guaranteed right to do exactly that, in fact. Someone who is proud of her country, even as it frustrates her.

Three of the president's four most recent targets were born here - they originally were from America, just like I am. The fourth came here as a child refugee, and has been a citizen longer than the First Lady.  All four of them are duly elected representatives of the districts they live in, whether the rest of us like it or not. They are entitled to their policies, their opinions, and they have the absolute right to express them, just like I do. And just like the president does. (I said the women are his most recent targets; the of them is long, I can assure you; here's one example if you need refreshing.)

But let us, for a moment, take a stroll down memory lane, to a time in the not-so-distant past, when the words you see below were considered to be beyond the pale, so far beyond the pale that they helped cost Clinton the election.
We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables, right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic - you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to have only 11,000 people - now have 11,000,000. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks - they are irredeemable but thankfully they are not America.
Almost three years after Hillary Clinton's comments were leaked, where do things stand?
  • Trump continues to act deplorably, to the delight of his deplorable supporters. I will repeat, "just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters"  - not all of them - into that bucket. They are the vocal segment of his people, the ones who repeat and expand upon and embellish his hateful comments like the ones he made the other day. 
  • Not only do his deplorable supporters expand upon those remarks, Trump himself expands upon them. For example, when asked if it concerns him "that many people saw that tweet at racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point" Trump answered "It doesn't concern me because many people agree with me." There was more expansion and escalation, but that one comment pretty much sums things up.
In an opinion piece in The Week last October,  in the aftermath of the bombing at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the pipe bomb mailings, Damon Linker addressed some of this, saying in part
Every president is elected by a distinct electoral coalition, and the coalition that elected Trump included an unusually large number of people with virulently illiberal, extreme right-wing views - the kind of people who normally find both major-party nominees far too blandly centrist to inspire much enthusiasm. 
Trump's messages - birtherism and his denigrating comments against Mexicans and Muslims included - spoke to the deplorables, and he's still talking to them today. Linker also pointed out that Trump speaks to his voters with "what one might call his habits of mind" including hostility to the media, his embrace of conspiracy theories, and his "refusal to distance himself from far-right people and ideas." They love him for that, and he loves them for loving him.

The problem with his habits is the impact they have on the rest of us. Going back to Linker's piece,
We can never know what's truly in another person's heart - and that's especially true when the person lies with the unrestrained abandon of our current president. The question of Trump's "true views" is utterly irrelevant. What matters is what he says, and its effect on the country. And on that there can be little doubt. Trump spews his hateful poison into the civic culture of the country day in and day out.
I think it would be hard for someone to spew this stuff day after day, week after week, month after month, without actually believing it. I don't believe he is an actor of any skill, any more than (at least so far) he's proven himself to be a great deal-maker, or that he's shown he can "act presidential."

He believes what he says, I'm sure - and he believes in what he says, I'm equally sure. And in that regard, his transition is complete. Trump is the president of the deplorables.

He may still be the president of some (or all) of the other 50% that Clinton mentioned, but we will only know them by their condemnation of his blatantly racist tweets.

July 14, 2019

Sunday School 7/14/19

I didn't visit any of the classrooms today, because I saw all I needed to see on the president's Twitter feed.

Three of his tweets this morning collectively garnered at least 348,524 'likes' which, I guess, is better than the tweets themselves. I mean, with almost 62 million followers, most of which are actual people, not bots, that count could be a whole lot worse.

The tweets in question? Here they are.

I have never had a doubt that Trump is a racist. And the "Progressive" women he's talking about? Yeah, they're all people of color: AOC, and Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley. Of the four, only Omar was born outside of the United States; she's a naturalized citizen.

And we know he is a sexist bastard, whether it's holding Theresa May's hand or grabbing someone by the pussy, or his strange affinity for his daughter, and of course he's told us that he has a 'type' when it comes to sexual assault.

We know that he does not like being challenged by anyone, but especially not by women in general, specifically women of color, and even more dreaded? Women who have ideals and principles, two things which this president sorely lacks.

His tweets today should have cleared up any misunderstandings regarding any of this.

See you around campus.

July 10, 2019

Wondering on Wednesday (V177)

Let's get some wondering underway, shall we?

Is anyone wondering how long Labor Secretary Alex Acosta will get to stick around, now that the Epstein stuff is hitting the fan, and taking attention away from the president? 

Acosta was the US Attorney involved in the plea deal that let Jeffrey Epstein spend 13 months in a  private wing of the country jail, and be picked up by his valet six days a week to go to work and earn money (and do who knows what in his office because no one, including the police, was paying attention). And yes, he had to register as a sex offender, but as someone pointed out, the 13-month sentence is what's recommended for someone possessing less than a teaspoon of crack cocaine, and that seems pretty light for someone who sexually abused over 100 young girls.

And how it is that Epstein, named co-conspirators and unnamed co-conspirators all got immunity from federal prosecution?  I can see maybe Epstein, if that's what it took to get him to take a plea deal on the state charges, but everyone else too?  This is part of why Acosta is in hot water.  And, of course, there's taking attention away from his boss, as noted above.

What else is going on? The president won a round in a court case, which doesn't seem to happen all that often these days. This time, it was the emoluments case that was filed by the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, who asserted that the president's hotel was getting business from foreign governments and taking business away from other hotels in their areas.

In addition to not having standing, and to having been spanked for wasting the court's time, there was also a question of what the remedy would have been, had the decision gone the other way.  Here, in part is what the three-judge panel said.
Even if government officials were patronizing the hotel to curry the president's favor, there is no reason to conclude that they would cease doing so were the president enjoined from receiving income from the hotel. The hotel would still be publicly associated with the president, would still bear his name and would still financially benefit members of his family. 
So, we're left wondering whether there is a way to enforce any ethics rules against this president or members of his administration? The Hatch Act is ignored, emoluments cases can't go forward because there's no way to keep him from making money off being president...what's an ethical person to do? Grin and bear it, knowing that this president would be fired from most companies in this day and age?

Staying with the courts, the president did lose one this week, too: he cannot block people on Twitter simply because they disagree with him. In a nutshell, three judges of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said that
The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees... In resolving this appeal, we remind the litigants and the public that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavored speech on matters of public opinion concern is more speech, not less.
Of course, if you read the comments on social media articles, you won't need to wonder how many people actually read the articles before commenting (in my experience, less than 10%) and not only that, won't have to wonder how many of them follow the president. Again, based on the complete lack of understanding on how the president uses his personal Twitter account (hint - it's not just for insulting detractors, antagonizing our allies, and lying to the public).

And about the court's decision? Hear, hear. Chirp, chirp. Tweet, tweet. And if you disagree with the president or any other government official, let 'em know in the comments. It's the right thing to do, and it's your right to do it.  Nothing to wonder about there.

July 7, 2019

Sunday School 7/7/19

I visited two classrooms today, Face the Nation on CBS and Fox News Sunday on the Trump News Network. In both cases, the guest I was interested in hearing was Ken Cuccinelli. He's the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services - they're the folks who decide who can legally come into the country.

Cuccinelli has not been officially nominated to his role, and so has not had any Senate committee confirmation hearings; he's been on the job only since June, but he has a record as an immigration hard-liner and of defending the president on television, so I would presume he's one of those 'only the best people' people. Hopefully, we might be able to find out if that's the case.

On Fox News Sunday, Dana Perino was sitting in for the "anti-Conservative" Chris Wallace (that according to a social media comment I saw earlier today), and asked about the citizenship question on the census. Cuccinelli said he thinks the question will be on the census, adding
I think the president has expressed determination. He's noticed the Supreme Court didn't say this can't be asked, They said they didn't appreciate the process by which it came forward the first time. So the president is determined to fix that, and to have it roll forward in the 2020 census. 
Perino had played the tape of the president stating his new favorite reason for adding the question, since the Supremes shot down the fake "protect the Voting Rights Act" nonsense the administration tried the first time. Here's what Trump said the other day.
You need it for Congress for redistricting. You need it for appropriations. Where are the funds going? How many people are there? Are they citizens? Are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons.
When asked if there was any kind of legal concern the president's statement given that the big question is why they wanted to ask it in the first place, Cuccinelli said
Well, and I think the answer is there are many reasons. He listed a few there, starting with the one you mentioned. But it isn't -- it isn't the only one. There are lots of reasons. For my agency, distribution of work can be considered. I mean, there's all sorts of other things. Right now, we are redistricting our workload among our district offices and our regional offices to level that workload and as it shifts around the country we shift, and knowing where that work is coming from is helpful.
Perino stated, without offering any evidence, "I know that there are some groups that have been trying to help people who are here illegally to be able to not be found by our government," which Cuccinelli referred to as 'harboring.' Perino wondered if the raids could be successful it people knew the feds were coming for them. Cuccinelli said that was a potential threat to officer safety. And, he said,
And the president commented, I don't call these raids, I would agree with him. This is just what ICE is supposed to do. The fact that we've fallen to the point where we're talking about it like it's news tells you how far we have fallen in the enforcement side. I mean, it's the most violated federal court order in America. 

July 6, 2019

My Middle-aged White Lady Perspective: American Pride

A new Gallup Poll has the folks scratching their heads at the level of pride Americans have in being Americans. Take a look:
As Americans prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, their pride in the U.S. has hit its lowest point since Gallup's first measurement in 2001.
While 70% of U.S. adults overall say they are proud to be Americans, this includes fewer than half (45%) who are "extremely" proud, marking the second consecutive year that this reading is below the majority level.
Democrats continue to lag far behind Republicans in expressing extreme pride in the U.S.
This is not new. In fact, we're told, fewer than 60% of us have said we're extremely proud to be Americans since the second George W. Bush term.

Against this data, the Fox and Friends crew asked what we think is causing the decline in the percentage of people who are 'extremely proud' to be an American. Others, too, are asking the question, or are pinning blame on Democrats, because only 22% of Dems express the desired extreme pride.

I'm proud to be an American, but am I extremely proud? Honestly, I don't even know how to  differentiate 'extremely proud' from 'proud' on a question like this, do you? And, how does one exhibit extreme pride, compared to exhibiting plain old ordinary pride?
  • Would I have to wear different clothes, maybe wrapping myself in the stars and stripes, to meet the extreme definition? Maybe always wearing a flag lapel pin, even when I don't have lapels to pin it on?
  • How about having a flag hanging on my porch? Is that ordinary pride, only to become extreme pride if I light it at night, or take it down, as I'm supposed to and as probably 95% of the people who have a flag don't?
  • Is it ordinary pride to support every decision America and her leaders make, and extreme pride if I speak out against decisions I think are contrary to what America stands for? Or do I have that backwards?
To the extent that it matters, I can say from my middle-aged white lady perspective there are a number of reasons why 'extreme pride' is on the decline. Below are some examples that come to mind.
  • A sense that we are losing our ideals, those self-evident truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence: equality for all, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the government deriving its powers from the consent of the governed, among other things.
  • A sense that there is no 'we' anymore, just 'us' and 'them' - even though 'them' are other folks who are proud, or even extremely proud, of being Americans just like 'us' are. I honestly don't remember it being this bad back in the Bush days, but certainly over the past decade, the 'tribal' aspects of everything have become more prominent, and the partisan divide is only growing.
  • A sense that we are losing our standing on the world stage. Rightly or wrongly, we have been  looked up to and trusted, for decades. And while some of our day-to-day policies may change with each election, what 'America' stands for should not change with the political winds.
  • A sense that there is no longer any respect for our governmental and societal institutions, particularly when our leaders regularly question the integrity of government agencies and all of their employees, and calling their patriotism into question. Don't our leaders have pride in America? 
  • A pervasive sense that the ends justify the means, in all cases. no matter what. Time was when how we'd do something, as well as why we would, mattered when it came to deciding if we were going to do something. And it mattered a lot. It seems to matter less now. A lot less. 
Many of us hanker for a different time, when there was more respect for people and ideas and discourse, where thoughts and ideas weren't weaponized by one side or the other.

When we all worried less about what others think - whether it's athletes or celebrities or talking heads - and paid more attention to our own actions and whether we were living up to the American ideals.

When we weren't trying to out-patriot and out-American our fellow Americans, and when patriotism wasn't defined by party registration.

Maybe if we were in that place again, more people would be extremely proud to be an American. Or, maybe they wouldn't. But what if instead of focusing on the difference between the proud and the extremely proud, we focused on listening to the 30% who aren't proud to be American, and see if we can change their minds? 

July 4, 2019

OrangeVerse XLV: Cities and Their State

The president chatted with his Number Two, Tucker Carlson, the other night - Sean Hannity must have been off working on policy papers with Jared, or something.

Carlson got things going,talking about cities they'd seen on the trip to the G-20, with no graffiti, no one going to the bathroom on the street, no junkies. And how that was "very different" from our cities. The president corrected him, saying "some of our cities." Carlson and Trump agreed it was "sad" about cities like New York, San Francisco,  and Los Angeles.

And it is - there's no question about that. We do have issues with homelessness, and drugs, in many cities large and small, in the suburbs, and perhaps even more critically, in rural areas where there are even fewer services available than in our cities.

Where it got poetic, though, was when the president ruminated on why it is that American cities have this kind of issue.

It's On Me
It's a phenomena 
that started two yeas ago.
It's disgraceful.

Seriously Maybe Important
I'm gonna maybe
and I'm looking at it
very seriously,
we're doing some
other things
as you've probably noticed
like some of the
Very Important Things
we're doing now.

Can't Have That
But we're looking at it
Very Seriously
because you can't do that. 
You can't have what's happening
where Police Officers are
getting sick by
just walking the beat.
I mean
they're actually
Getting. Very. Sick.

In Sickness and Mental Health
Where people are getting sick
where the people are
living in hell, too.
Although some of them
have mental problems
where they don't even know
they're living that way.
In fact, perhaps,
they like living that way.

Oh Wait - Maybe It's Not On Me?
They can't do that.
We cannot ruin our cities.
And you have people
that work in those cities.
They work in office buildings
and to get into the building
they have to walk through a scene
that nobody would have believed
possible three years ago.
And this is the liberal establishment.

Fight. Fight. Fight
This is what I'm fighting.
They - I don't know
if they're afraid of votes? 
I don't know 
if they really believe
this should be taking place.
But it's a terrible thing
that's taking place. 

The Situation Room
And we maybe
you know - I had a situation
when I first became president.
We had certain areas of
Washington DC where
that was stating to happen
and I ended it
Very Quickly. 
I said "you can't do that"
when we have leaders of the world
coming in to see the president
and they're riding down a highway
they can't be looking at that. 
I really believe
it hurts our country.

The West Coast Has The Sunshine
San Francisco, I own
property in San Francisco
so I don't care except
that it was
so beautiful.
And now areas
that you used to think of being,
so, you know, being really
Something Very Special,
you take a look
at what's going on
with San Francisco it's terrible. 

Checking Our Equipment
So we're looking at it
Very Seriously
We may intercede.
We may do something
to get that whole thing
cleared up. 
It's inappropriate.
We have to take the people
and do something.
We have to do something.
And you know
we're not really very equipped
as a government
to be doing that kind of work.
That's not really
the kind of work
the government should be doing.
We've never had this
in our lives before
in our country. 

Nope, Definitely Not On Me!
At the same time
most of our cities
are doing great.
But if you look at
some of these,
they are usually sanctuary cities
run by Very Liberal People
and the states are
run by Very Liberal People.

July 2, 2019

Poll Watch: Political Discourse

The Pew Research Center recently announced the results of their survey on attitudes about political speech and discourse and there are some pretty interesting findings.

First, the small print: the survey was conducted April 29 - May 13, and 10,170 respondents out of 13,476 members of the Pew American Trends Panel responded. The survey is conducted online, either via a panelist's own Internet hookup, or via tablet and wireless internet device provided to those who don't have Internet access of their own.

Among the highlights:
  • while 55% say president Trump has made the tone and nature of political debate worse, almost inconceivably, 24% say he's made it better. Another 20% think he's not had much of an impact.
The latter group must have been the ones who complained about Barack Obama's tan suit, his Nobel Prize, or Michelle's bare arms, all of which predate Trump's arrival on the political stage.
  • On an emotional, gut-reaction level, the president's comments generate strong reactions. 76% say he makes them feel concerned, 70% say confused, 69% are embarrassed, and 67% are exhausted. 
I'm alternately in any of those groups, mostly the embarrassed cohort, but I also sometimes find his comments entertaining, as do 54% of the respondents.
    The feelings about how Trump has changed things is pretty consistent across various demographics, except party affiliation, of course. People in all age brackets and levels of education are united in the belief that he has made things worse.

    And even on the right side of the equation, only those identifying as 'conservative' disagree.

    Thinking about the state of political debate overall, things are not all that great. For example,
    • 85% think it's more negative;
    • 85% think it's less respectful;
    • 76% think it's less fact-based;
    • 60% think it's less issues-focused, but 20% think it's gotten more focused on issues, which is kind of a headscratcher.
    What's interesting on that last data set is that there's a great deal of consistency between Dems and Republicans; the widest margin between the two major parties on all of those opinions was only 3%.

    Party differences are wider, though, when it comes to who people think can speak freely. Republicans generally think that educational institutions (at every level) are less open to multiple viewpoints, while Dems are more likely to say that religious institutions are less open to multiple viewpoints, as indicated in the graphic below.

    We also have strong opinions on how elected officials should behave, particularly when it comes to hot-button issues like who's more 'American', as noted below:

    But here again, there's a partisan divide. On the one hand, 42% of Dems and Dem leaners say it's never acceptable for an elected official to say their opponent's policy positions are evil, but only 26% of Republicans and Republican leaners say the same. Dig a little deeper, though and we find that
    • only 33% of Republicans think it's never acceptable for a Republican to say this about their Democratic opponent, but
    • if it's a Democrat saying a Republican's positions are evil, 68% of the Rs say this is never acceptable.
    And finally, when it comes to talking to people we don't know well, we'd be more comfortable talking about religion than politics, more comfortable talking about sports than religion, more comfortable talking about the economy than sports, but by far we'd be most comfortable talking about the weather.

    Going on a first date? Now you know what's safe.