Distraction

Note: Apologies for the extra and misleading email yesterday. The blog referenced (to which the link would not work) will post on the 16th. (I sometimes work ahead–and in those cases, obviously don’t know what I’m doing…)

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I know that many of you who read this blog also subscribe to Heather Cox Richardson’s  Letters from an American. That almost-daily letter is particularly valuable for those who are trying to just keep up with the daily outrages and indignities coming from the White House, since she tends to focus on updating readers to the fire hose of improprieties that exhaust so many of us.

The other day provided an example: from continued fallout over Trump’s “suckers and losers” insult to America’s soldiers, to documentation of his continuing buildup and corruption of the Military-Industrial Complex, to not-so-surprising revelations in Michael Cohen’s new book, to the absolutely unprecedented, legally-appalling effort of Bill Barr’s version of a Justice Department to assume Trump’s defense against Jean Carroll’s defamation suit, it was just another day in TrumpLand.

On the off-chance that you missed that last offense, here’s a brief background: Carroll is one of the many women who have accused Trump of sexual assault. She alleged that he raped her some 20 years ago, and when he responded in true Trumpian fashion that he’d never even met her (as usual, there are contemporaneous photographs to the contrary) and she “wasn’t his type,” she sued him for defamation.The courts have thus far refused to dismiss or halt that lawsuit.

Now, lawyers with the Department of Justice (presumably with straight faces) are arguing that Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he denied knowing her and thus should be defended by the DOJ, which is funded by taxpayer dollars. As Richardson reported,

CNN legal analyst Elie Honig called this “a wild stretch by DOJ…. I can’t remotely conceive how DOJ can argue with a straight face that it is somehow within the official duties of the President to deny a claim that he committed sexual assault years before he took office.” He continued: “This is very much consistent with Barr’s well-established pattern of distorting fact and law to protect Trump and his allies.”

(I am at a loss to understand Barr, who–unlike Trump– is not stupid. My operating theories since he began acting like the President’s consiglieri vacillate between mental illness and blackmail, since he clearly knows that history will not be kind…)

All this is, in a fashion, beside the point. 

Much has been made of Trump’s ability to distract—to point to the “shiny object” (squirrel!!), to create a new outrage in order to distract attention and media from his most recent crimes and misdemeanors. It’s true that the media turns its attention to the most recent example of norm-and-rule breaking, but what makes this constant misbehavior a really effective distraction is simply the “fire hose” rate of discoveries of the administration’s corruption and incompetence.

It becomes impossible to keep up–and it exhausts those of us who continue to try.

The sheer volume of the misbehavior prevents the sort of continued, in-depth reporting of  a single incident of unethical or criminal behavior–the sort of ongoing media attention that would be paid to such incidents occurring in past administrations. Think of the amount and duration of reporting on Clinton’s dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, or the Watergate break-in. Substantial research has shown that it takes numerous repetitions of news items before they “sink in” and become common knowledge.

Historians will undoubtedly have a field day with the literally hundreds of examples of this administration’s criminal, unethical and deeply disturbing behaviors, but the rapidity with which these incidents come to our attention and then vanish means that they barely have time to make an impression on the significant number of citizens who do not follow political issues closely.

There’s an analogy here to that old joke to the effect that, if you have run over someone with your car and maimed them, you’d do well to back up and finish them off.  A few corrupt transactions will attract sustained attention, but the daily trashing of laws and norms will simply wear us out. 

34 thoughts on “Distraction

  1. So now he goes for the big thrill, RAPING his own country. Just listen to what his pal, Roger Stone said yesterday. And we’re dumb enough and SCARED enough to wait around till election time to stand-up against him.

    Who’s the problem? Take a good look in the mirror and see at least 50% of the problem.

  2. Heather’s letter of last night illustrates why I read both hers and your blogs, among a very few others. Keep up the great work and we’ll keep reading and preaching!

    “ I write a lot about the philosophy of living in a fact-based reality, explaining the Enlightenment idea that we can move society forward only by evaluating fact-based arguments. Replacing facts with fiction means that as a society we cannot accurately evaluate new information, and then shape policy according to solid evidence. But the Trump administration’s attempt to hide reality under their own narrative reveals a more immediate injury. You cannot make good decisions about your life or your future if someone keeps you in the dark about what is really going on, any more than you can make good business decisions if your partner is secretly cooking the books”.

  3. So all we get is BLACK LIVES MATTER, instead of DEMOCRACY MATTERS.

    I’m not speaking for John, but I’ll bet one good reason he isn’t participating in this blog is because of his DISAPPOINTMENT with it.

  4. Prof K points out that ” Substantial research has shown that it takes numerous repetitions of news items before they “sink in” and become common knowledge.”
    This week, when there have been countless new revelations about the evil doings of Trump and his minions, our local McPaper , the Indy Star, had one mention of his anti military rantings on page 11 and NO coverage of all the rest. THAT is how to keep a state solid red.

  5. Food for thought.:

    The US and Key Countries in the Democracy Index 2019.

    Posted on February 4, 2020 by Dennis SILVERMAN:

    “We examine the new Democracy Index 2019 rating of the US and world countries performed by the Economist Intelligence Unit. I was very interested in this since it would contain the third year of the Trump Presidency and his House Impeachment. It didn’t yet include the Senate Impeachment trial and tomorrow’s acquittal. However, the US has stayed about the same.

    The ratings are on a scale of 0 to 10. They cover the answers to 60 questions in five categories. The ratings are then presented in four ranges of outcomes:

    8.0-10.0. Full Democracy

    6.0-8.0. Flawed Democracy

    4.0-6.0. Hybrid Regime

    0-4.0 Authoritarian Regime

    The rating ranges have a slight inherent flaw: the United States has a rating of 7.96, making it a Flawed Democracy by 4 parts in a thousand. The idea that anybody could rate anything to parts per thousand is of course a fallacy of Bentham’s rating philosophy. However, the general ratings are a good way to categorize the 167 countries.

    22/167 countries are rated as full democracies. This is 13.2% of countries, but only has 5.7% of the world’s population. In 2015, when the US was still a full democracy, the range included 8.9% of the world’s population. Lots of room for improvement in the US and the world.

    Oddly, we are sitting here watching Trump’s State of the Union Speech, which will actually just be Trump’s Election Year key Campaign Speech. That itself is a significant Democracy downrating action. The world map of ratings is colored by single unit ranges, going from least democratic at brown and red, to most democratic in light and dark green. (I applaud the “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” colors, rather than the hard to distinguish shades of red or blue or green alone.). Below that is a labeled map of the world to help identify countries.”

  6. The scariest thing I’ve ever heard Barr say, with a smirk: “History is written by the winners.” It made the hair on my neck stand up.

  7. THIS NATION, DEMOCRACY, RULE OF LAW AND OUR CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT MATTERS!

    Everything else in the media is a distraction from that fact which is what we should be voting for on November 3rd. Not age of candidates, religion, personalities, races, partisanship or even specific issues such as education and health care matters when our entire country is failing and now dying in the Covid–19 Pandemic due to Trump’s distractional lies.

    “The sheer volume of the misbehavior prevents the sort of continued, in-depth reporting of a single incident of unethical or criminal behavior–the sort of ongoing media attention that would be paid to such incidents occurring in past administrations.”

    Past administrations are also a distraction used by Trump and his lies upheld by his entire administration, the Republican Representatives and Senators and SCOTUS’ “sheer volume of misbehavior” when added up, totals TREASON! The continuing petty degrading of the Democratic nominee and lack of attention on local and state elections are major distractions from the fact that we are NOT voting for a person or even a party; we are voting for the salvation of the remains of our government and the soul of the United States of America.

    The key word is UNITED which sums up what was once this nation’s motto “Out of many, One!” President Barack Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope” said it; the hope that both parties could once again sit at the bargaining table and work out solutions to our problems. The Republican party is tightly united and highly organized into the “main distraction” from the primary issue before us; that of saving the entire nation from home-grown terrorists and an American Holocaust.

  8. Because of our FLAWED DEMOCRACY, I would suggest that we turn more of our attention to the FLAWED FASCISM of Trump, Pence, Bannon. It isn’t working either.

    The Fascist Trio’s plans were flawed from the beginning with MISPERCEPTIONS and MISCALCULATIONS causing MAJOR TRANSFORMATION and TRANSITION PROBLEMS leaving us ALL [and I mean ALL]presently, with nothing but “FUTURCIDE” to hope for.

  9. One interesting fact about the fire hose analogy of all the outrages occurring in DC today is it normalizes the corruption and outrageousness of our political class. Because we are getting multiple immoral acts daily, all we can do is “gloss over them.” They remain at a superficial level, not allowing for more in-depth analysis or realization.

    While we knew DC was a corrupt swamp before Trump, his hourly conveyance of swamp-like acts is desensitizing the world to corruption.

    For instance, the revelations from Woodward have not sunk in properly. One of my favorite reads came from Andre Damon, who put together a timeline of our COVID reaction to determine who knew what, when. The depth of reporting when dealing with one scenario adds perspective, like how top-level officials dumping stocks while the rest of the world was kept in the dark, etc.:

    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/09/11/pers-s11.html?

    Then there is the obvious question and clarification regarding why Woodward waited four months to tell the world Trump lied to us — besides the apparent profit motive.

    The IndyStar and their six other sister newspapers throughout Indiana are trash. They could quickly flip this state to at least a battleground state, but they are being bribed not too. When you ask, “How can these people vote against their best interests?” It’s because they are fed propaganda. The IndyStar is propaganda of the most blatant kind. Very little difference between their newspaper and Fox News. When you have two to four sources, all saying the same thing or worse, guess what?

    People will conclude it’s their reality, and those who believe otherwise must be “drinking the kool-aid.” This ties into their confirmation bias.

    The Trumpians are deluged with propaganda, saying all news outside their preference is fake news. The oppressors have easily conquered this target market by demonizing the “other.” They are the easiest market to manipulate. They believe Trump’s tweets no matter what!

  10. Let me caution everyone about outrage fatigue. It seems we are all suffering from it. Save your outrage for November 3rd. The only way to stop this is to vote.

  11. Barr’s motivation is pretty simple. I think he believes, possibly as does Pence, that the short-fingered vulgarian is the best hope he has at achieving his theocratic ends. Not that the vulgarian shares them, but because he’s too interested in feeding his corruption to stop Barr. I also think Barr sees the vulgarian as a path to his dream of a unified executive, an aim the roue-gone-to-seed would share if he knew what that meant or were interested in anything other than his own brand and bank accounts, and figures the corruption will go away when 45 can be replaced with a more intelligent, ideologically pure president.

  12. were back at sept 2016, almost every media outlet is again, focusing on trump,trump,trump. mecconnell is back at work, doing what? and Biden gets few moments to discuss his campaign again,,trump,attacks,in any genre and he devistates the election by drivel..we are all in agreement that Biden must win,then produce a win..im finding people who discussed Biden as a better altrnative in NoDak now, say they wouldnt vote for Biden for any reason..again we have allowed the media,any form of it,bury Bidens voice for cheap drivel..planned executed and delivered by the monied factions who look to lose the most in this election.when the latest flack from trumps Woodward interview about trumps ho hum covid response no one followed up with what was happening,and what procedure was in step,by the white house,and kushner going to wall street before any movement to save Americans over his stock portfolio..anyone time line this?. it takes a few stories,over the past few months,but its all there. again we watch the dog and pony show and dont speak out about the medias attempty to thwart Bidens attempt,,,,to be president…im glad i do not use social media for my outlets, maybe i assume the stand up journalists today would take into their hands this overspeak of media and finally slam dunk media and their intentions..
    ill be frank here in NoDak, its becoming a authoritarian state via the people.. the talk is getting deep,and civil war is spoken freely,openly.. the people i once seen as the working class have all demanded now, to be the ones who will see that trump,is elected,whether he is or not..this isnt cheap talk, im seeing more sidearms and discintent with anyone who sides otherwise,myself included.. i know alot of these peole in passing,and they know my stand..im now a target,and im open game in what has become a fierce soon to be take over on nov 4.. look around.. the rnc conv has given credence to this movement,and there will be no going back.the local cops here seem content that if marshall law is evoked,it will be treated like a joke..and some natl guard memebers are part of this movement..all ya gotta do’is look like a trumper,(myself) and the words are freely expressed openly..

  13. Patrick nailed it with Barr’s ambition to achieve theocratic rule in this country. He is a radicalized ‘Christian’ in the style of radical Islamists – he believes Trump is God-sent to save our America and keep the true believers on top. God save us all.

  14. Todd
    thanks for the sites timeline,ill add to my file on this continuing event. all seems to jive with other stories ive run across and filed…
    Woodward may have clintoned the time line,to keep,this mindset fresh in november..

  15. Trump is so good at distracting us from what really needs to be addressed ie racism, global warming, catastrophic fires and hurricanes due to global warming, wealth inequity, a broken health care system. I hope he gets defeated so we can have a president who cares about these issues.

  16. Todd, likewise thanks for the article link. I always suspected going back to January our Intelligence Community knew the real threat posed by Corona. I feel certain the lower level and probably middle level analysts understood exactly what was and would likely happen.

    Unfortunately, at a certain level the Intelligence is massaged to produce the desired political result or outcome. Like Bush the Younger and Cheney massaging to the point of deception concerning Iraq’s WMDs, the story on Corona had to be presented to the American public, in such way no hide the fact there was no plan or infrastructure in place to defeat or minimize Corona.

    The Primary driving force as alluded to in the WSW article was to protect Capitalism. The monster of Corona was coming, however the insiders were given time to “bail out” of the market.

  17. Marv – What I heard from Stone yesterday amounts to advocating the overthrow of the United States government, but I think he is only the tip of the iceberg, a position shared even by Trump. I am beginning to think that (hello Vern) Trump’s Republicans enablers must by their silence also be in favor of overthrowing the U.S. government in what can only be described as seditious/treasonable conduct. To be fair, perhaps some of Trump’s Republican minions who are caught up in the politics as usual crowdgatherings don’t even recognize that they are helping destroy the country that Stone proposes destroying, only to find later that if he succeeds they won’t have a job, either, since dictators have no legislative or judicial constraints in the order of things dictatorial (or if they do, it’s for toothless show only).

    Trump cannot be so near to becoming a dictator alone. He must have enablers, and I’m beginning to think that McConnell and Barr (on balance) are more dangerous to our fleeting democracy than Trump himself (who is only the ignorant mouthpiece, as was the Bohemian corporal who came north to Berlin). Trump’s job is to create chaos by following Bannon’s admittedly Leninist plan to “destroy the administrative state,” aka destruction of our democracy, and the record to date and the reaction of those in this blog today suggest that he may doing a good job of it.

    Our task is not to panic but to stand our ground and resolutely go about defending our democracy at the polls from those who would destroy it. George Washington had his Valley Forge before his Yorktown, and I think we are in the Valley Forge stage today, but with hard work, courage and perseverence in the face of adversity our Yorktown will arrive November 3, 2021, and seventy eight days later we will begin to deal with advocates of sedition and treason.

  18. Dennis, the letter that you posted was interesting and reflected eruditely the thinking that I’ve heard expressed by some of my more Christian friends and that is that they need political power to continue to impose what they think is best on the rest of us. Of course what they think is best is merely a reflection of the old days when more people thought it was best. All of that is courtesy of the nation’s freedom to worship as we individually believe. I can’t think of how my friends miss that glaring dichotomy. They are free to worship however they want. The Constitution grants them that inalienable right. How can they justify taking it away from others?

  19. No one in the Trump administration is more dangerous than Attorney General Bill Barr. And that includes Donald Trump. Trump is stupid and corrupt. Barr is smart and corrupt.

  20. Dennis: I read the letter, and my first thought was “here’s someone who drank the Kool-Aid.” He defends his support by citing his conservative policy preferences–but virtually all of the “Never Trump” Republicans are genuinely conservative (as is George Will, who verges on reactionary). Trump has done absolutely nothing for conservatism–he’s actually set it back.

    My guess is that these pretextual arguments are cover for support of Trump’s assault on the social and demographic changes that are eroding the dominant role played by white men like the letter writer.

  21. Gerald,

    Total agreement except on the timing. We have to take EFFECTIVE countermeasures against Trump now, especially after hearing from Stone, who would never have made his statement without Trump’s knowledge.

    We’re in a WAR, not a POLITICAL DEBATE. I’m afraid we won’t digest that fact until enough of us are already in chains or forced to emigrate to Israel.

    This a probably an appropriate time for the Jewish establishment to start looking into some type of TRANSFER AGREEMENT with the Trump administration. Trump is an obvious Jew-hater much like Hitler and is using a similar playbook. Better late than never.

    See “The Transfer Agreement: The Dramatic Story of the Pact between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine” by Edwin Black (Carroll & Graf Publishers, New York, 1984).

  22. Marv – I thought about the timing issue and from past experience expected your retort but thought to ignore a discussion of it with time so short in the hope that we could survive until the election. I hope I’m right and you’re wrong, as I think you would agree. Parenthetically, one of the problems in “doing something” right now is that we have a theocratic AG at the helm who is trying to tell us that Article II of the Constitution with its grant of “unitary power” to the executive allows Trump to be dictator. It doesn’t, of course, but the ignorant cult would probably agree, as they probably agree with Barr’s defense of Trump in a 20 year old rape case.

    So, criticism noted, and now let’s hunker down in the trenches and defend our democracy with all might and mien twenty five hours a day.

  23. the “sheer volume of the misbehavior prevents the sort of continued, in-depth reporting . . .”

    Nonsense. The media chooses not to pursue these stories in depth. Editors are no longer journalists, they’re webmasters who run clickfarms, and I include WaPo and NYT in that. “No one will read it” is no excuse, really: thousands of people will read in-depth reporting, but that doesn’t meet the threshold the ‘editors’ have set.

    Reporters need to pick their battles, of course, but those that deserve the name reporter will resist the smaller squirrels.

  24. Alphons, “The scariest thing I’ve ever heard Barr say, with a smirk: “History is written by the winners.” It made the hair on my neck stand up.”

    Another way to say that comes from a character in my next novel. I posted the exact quote on this blog last week. Now, I will post an explanation of that character’s quote, since it appears that metaphors or analogies or parables get little audience or understanding.

    Richard LeKorf, the antagonist in my upcoming novel said that New Republican thinking (Trumpism) dismisses the power and usefullness of facts and truth. He says that values are far more usefull in real life and thus more powerful than fact or truth.

    He says that values are made up, created, and crafted into myth by man, myth which contains power that can literally destroy God’s truth and supplant God’s will with Man’s wishes.

    LeKorf claims that leaders are foolish to make decisions according to fact or truth when at any moment some myth of man can come along and crush all that truth and fact.

    He says that the New Republican is the established boss, and that that boss imposes its values and myths, which for the rest of us, is a reality more powerful than fact or truth. Our job, LeKorf says, is only to respond to those New Republican values and the myth they define.

    LeKorf says that he and his New Republican master lords have completed their coup not of American government and democracy but of God and Truth. And all the rest of us can do about it is go along with it or leave in a pine box.

    If Trump and his ignoramouses had the capacity to explain the philosophy behind their clumsy behavior and dangerous policies, they would tell you, “What LeKorf said.” Now, that should raise the hackles!

  25. Gerald,

    We’ve always been “on the same wavelength” and we still are. However, you’re thinking about BI-PARTISAN POLITICS and I’m thinking about STRUCTURES and SYSTEMS. Trump has misperceived and miscalculated with respect to the latter and is RIPE for an attack right now. We can’t afford to lose this opportunity. There might not be another one. It’s the PATRIOTIC thing to do.

    I know from your past service in W.W.II that you can understand my mindset. I might be ten years younger, but I saw W.W.II from a rare close-up.

    I was living with my maternal grandparents when W.W.II started, near the ocean at Jacksonville Beach. My grandfather was on duty with the Coast Guard when the German saboteurs landed at Ponte Vedra Beach, after being transported by submarine a few months after the war started. All the saboteurs were eventually captured.

    At about the same time, I witnessed the sinking of the SS Gulfamerica oil tanker by German submarine 123 in the spring of 1942. I saw it all from the second-story window of the duplex I was living in, at the time. The SS Gulfamerica was an oil tanker and it was an easy target for the submarine as its silhouette was highlighted against the lights from the boardwalk.

    I was an extremely bright 5 years old. The war and the PATRIOTISM displayed at the time was an integral part of my growing up. And I believe that’s why we’ve been on the same page from the beginning. It’s the LAWYER and PATRIOTISM combined.

  26. @ Larry Kaiser – I usually, but not always, read Sheila’s column and commentaries. I missed you quoting Barr last week. (And I seldom comment as by the time I read it, most of my thoughts and reactions have already been expressed by others.)
    Barr expressing his real opinion, probably unintentionally, shook me to my core. It was really a threat. It reminded me of the stories my father told me of the Nazis’ mindset as they clawed themselves to power.
    Your antagonist expresses that in a very clear way; LeKorf is one scary dude! I’m looking forward to reading your novel, but only after we have rid ourselves of this nightmare.

  27. A play on Barr’s words:

    These statements were recorded in Gustave Gilbert’s transcriptions of conversations with many of the Nazi leaders during the War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg, and later published in Gilbert’s Nuremberg Diary(1947).

    “The victor will always be the judge, and the vanquished the accused.”

    H. Goering:
    “My measures will not be crippled by any bureaucracy. Here I don’t have to worry about Justice; my mission is only to destroy and to exterminate, nothing more.”

    Speech in Frankfurt (3 March 1933), as quoted in Gestapo : Instrument of Tyranny (1956) by Edward Crankshaw.

  28. Dennis, thanks for the letter. Jack, thanks for the on the ground view.

    I will have to say that the thing that worries most about the true Trump supporters that I have brushed with, is once they get into the Republican echo chamber they get stuck and can’t escape. A big part of the message in the echo chamber is that “All Main Stream Media” is “Fake News”. The letter Dennis shared hit on that theme too. Once you buy into that, there is no place to find a source of real information. Social Media platforms make it too easy to keep reinforcing all of the biased information you have already seen, and that biased information also contains the strong message of “don’t trust anybody else”.

    I got a Trump supporter calling me names when I questioned his source and gave him a little story: If your big brother tells you a whopping lie, that is easy to check with mom and dad, isn’t he likely to tell you “don’t trust mom and dad, they won’t tell you the truth”? Who has the most to gain by telling you that? Now if a politician tells you a lie, and then he says don’t trust Main Stream Media, ask yourself the same question. Who has the most to gain by telling not to trust sources that have been pretty reliable for decades?

    In addition to the name calling, I also got links to 20 other YouTube videos that confirmed his version of the truth, so while I greatly upset him, I did not actually get through.

    Once you get sucked into the Trumpverse, you may never have a way to get out with out half the country going into complete breakdown, or maybe as Jack hinted, civil war.

  29. Dan Mullendore – “I will have to say that the thing that worries most about the true Trump supporters that I have brushed with, is once they get into the Republican echo chamber they get stuck and can’t escape. A big part of the message in the echo chamber is that “All Main Stream Media” is “Fake News”.

    I totally agree. It is more than scary. I mean, how do you fight it??

  30. LInda,

    “I totally agree. It is more than scary. I mean, how do you fight it??”

    From the OUTSIDE, not the INSIDE.

    See Andrei Codrescu’s “The Disappearance of the Outside” published in 1990.

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