Tag Archives: Donald Trump

The Inmates Running The Asylum

There really is no end to this. Every day, we are reminded that everyone in or around the White House is either a White Supremicist (like creepy Steven Miller) or a nutcase invested in conspiracy theories. Of course, the two categories are not mutually exclusive.

Case in point.

The wife of White House communications director Bill Shine went on an anti-vaccine tirade while spreading conspiracy theories about an outbreak of measles in the Pacific north-west.

In a series of tweets, Darla Shine lashed out against a CNN segment detailing the outbreak, which has seen more than 50 unvaccinated people contract measles in Washington state and Oregon.

“Here we go LOL #measlesoutbreak on #CNN #Fake #Hysteria,” Darla Shine tweeted. “The entire Baby Boom population alive today had the #Measles as kids. Bring back our #ChildhoodDiseases they keep you healthy & fight cancer.”

“I had the #Measles #Mumps #ChickenPox as a child and so did every kid I knew,” she went on to claim, adding: “Sadly my kids had #MMR so they will never have the life long natural immunity I have. Come breathe on me!”

Shine is a former TV producer. She’s married to Bill Shine, the former executive at–where else?– Fox News who is now Donald Trump’s deputy chief of staff for communications.

When she was criticized for her comments, Shine not only accused “the Left” of attempting to smear her, but suggested that measles can cure cancer (mischaracterizing a complex case from 2014 that did not reach that conclusion.)

This isn’t her first visit to whack-a-doodle land. She has “debunked” use of sunscreens and spread several conspiracy theories warning of the “dangers” of vaccines.

Other unearthed tweets found Darla Shine making profane remarks about race, questioning why white people were considered racist for using “the n’word” given its use by black people and defending the Confederate flag.

She has repeatedly struck a dismissive tone when discussing allegations of sexual assault, be it in the military or at Fox News.

Granted, this woman is the spouse of a White House staffer–not the staffer herself. (Her husband departed Fox News after he was found to have suppressed allegations of sexual impropriety against Roger Ailes and Bill O”Reilly.) Nevertheless, her looney-tunes tweets reflect upon the administration and are highly inappropriate.

Of course, so are Trump’s.

In fact, I can’t think of anyone who is still in the White House, from the President on down, who isn’t an embarrassment to humanity.

 

Foxconn For Dummies

Remember all the hoopla about Scott Walker’s deal with Foxconn? As the New Yorker summarized it,

When it was signed, less than two years ago, the deal that Wisconsin struck with the electronics giant Foxconn contained all kinds of headline-grabbing numbers: the company promised a ten-billion-dollar investment in the state, a new 21.5-million-square-foot campus for manufacturing L.C.D. screens, and as many as thirteen thousand new jobs, paying an average wage of fifty-four thousand dollars a year. The manufacturing facility would be the Taiwan-based company’s first U.S. factory, and the prospect stirred the hopes of a region that still dreams of clawing back the middle-class factory jobs that were its pride in the middle of the twentieth century and that it lost to foreign competition long ago. As Dan Kaufman wrote for The New Yorker last year, the deal also appeared poised to give a boost to the reëlection prospects of Scott Walker, the conservative Republican who was then Wisconsin’s governor, who transformed the state into a bastion of conservative, free-market politics.

Scott Walker’s version of free markets differs rather considerably from mine; giving huge subsidies via tax abatements and other government goodies to large enterprises hardly equates to a competitive marketplace where manufacturers and sellers contend on equal terms with others.

Trump, of course, applauded the announcement as evidence that he–the self-described great dealmaker– was bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. (although from what I read, he had nothing to do with making the deal originally).

As the details of Walker’s great coup leaked out, and Wisconsin citizens found out what the state had promised, the coverage became considerably less rosy.

But since then Wisconsinites have found out a lot more about the $4.5 billion in taxpayer subsidies that Foxconn was promised—money the company was being given despite the dramatic cuts that the state has made, in recent years, to education, infrastructure, and other public spending—along with the pollution waivers and special legal privileges that it was granted and the bulldozing of neighborhoods that it needed to acquire the land it wanted.

Those details helped defeat Walker in the gubernatorial election. But the state was still on the hook for the promised subsidies.

To add insult to injury, the company recently–and significantly– backpedaled on its commitments, telling Reuters it isn’t even going to manufacture in Wisconsin, and will employ mainly research and development workers. As a result, some of the incentives the state originally promised will be left on the table, but others are irreversible. Millions of dollars of highway money have already been redirected to support Foxconn’s project, and a number of homeowners have been “cleared” from the area designated for the factory.

Time Magazine reported that, following a telephone call from Trump in the wake of the no-manufacturing announcement, the company said it would build a smaller factory after all.

I wonder what Trump promised them.

The Foxcomm scandal is just a particularly egregious example of corporate welfare; bribery ( subsidies and an absence of regulation) has become a commonplace element of what is delicately called “economic development.”

This clusterf**k is simply added evidence that America’s economic system is corporatism, not market capitalism. The dictionary defines corporatism as the control of a state or organization by large interest groups, and adds that “fascism was the high point of corporatism.”

Real capitalists are screwed.

 

George Will On Our “Shabbiest” President

When one self-regarding man undertakes to analyze another, it can get interesting.

I typically find George Will to be just this side of insufferable. If we are talking about people who clearly take themselves way too seriously, he may well set the bar for the category. That said, he is clearly very intelligent, and occasionally he’s even insightful. (I’m told by baseball fans that his observations about the game are excellent.)

At any rate, his recent description of Donald Trump in “The Shabbiest U.S. President Ever” strikes me as “on the money.”

The current iteration of the Republican Party doesn’t escape Will’s wrath, and he’s properly scornful of the Senate’s unwillingness to act as part of an independent branch of government. But he saves most of his considerable vocabulary of insults for Trump.

The president’s most consequential exercise of power has been the abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, opening the way for China to fill the void of U.S. involvement. His protectionism — government telling Americans what they can consume, in what quantities and at what prices — completes his extinguishing of the limited-government pretenses of the GOP, which needs an entirely new vocabulary. Pending that, the party is resorting to crybaby conservatism: We are being victimized by “elites,” markets, Wall Street, foreigners, etc.

After 30 years of U.S. diplomatic futility regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, the artist of the deal spent a few hours in Singapore with Kim Jong Un, then tweeted: “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.” What price will the president pay — easing sanctions? ending joint military exercises with South Korea? — in attempts to make his tweet seem less dotty?

Will spends a few sentences berating the media for its “lazy” fixation on “Trump as shiny object.” Then he gets serious.

Dislike of him should be tempered by this consideration: He is an almost inexpressibly sad specimen. It must be misery to awaken to another day of being Donald Trump. He seems to have as many friends as his pluperfect self-centeredness allows, and as he has earned in an entirely transactional life. His historical ignorance deprives him of the satisfaction of working in a house where much magnificent history has been made. His childlike ignorance — preserved by a lifetime of single-minded self-promotion — concerning governance and economics guarantees that whenever he must interact with experienced and accomplished people, he is as bewildered as a kindergartener at a seminar on string theory.

Which is why this fountain of self-refuting boasts (“I have a very good brain”) lies so much. He does so less to deceive anyone than to reassure himself. And as balm for his base, which remains oblivious to his likely contempt for them as sheep who can be effortlessly gulled by preposterous fictions. The tungsten strength of his supporters’ loyalty is as impressive as his indifference to expanding their numbers.

This strikes me as an accurate–indeed, a perceptive– description.

I just can’t help wondering what a similarly penetrating examination of George Will would look like.

 

This Is Our Challenge

Charles Blow is one of the very few columnists who almost always cuts to the very heart of an issue.  His clarity was particularly pronounced in his January 11th column, “The Lowest White Man.”

He began with a description of Donald Trump that mirrored what most sentient Americans already know:

I guess Donald Trump was eager to counter the impression in Michael Wolff’s book that he is irascible, mentally small and possibly insane. On Tuesday, he allowed a bipartisan session in the White House about immigration to be televised for nearly an hour.

Surely, he thought that he would be able to demonstrate to the world his lucidity and acumen, his grasp of the issues and his relish for rapprochement with his political adversaries.

But instead what came through was the image of a man who had absolutely no idea what he was talking about; a man who says things that are 180 degrees from the things he has said before; a man who has no clear line of reasoning; a man who is clearly out of his depth and willing to do and say anything to please the people in front of him.

Blow acknowleged Trump’s antipathy  to people who are not white, but refused to attribute his intransigence about the wall to anything as coherent as bigotry, reminding readers that the original idea of building a wall and making Mexico pay for it was just a cheap campaign stunt. (Trump doesn’t have actual policy positions; that would require reading more than the chyron running on the screen beneath Fox and Friends.)

The column then asks and answers the real question, the one I’ve heard a million times–from family, from friends, from colleagues: why can’t his base see what we all see? How can anyone still support this pathetic buffoon?

That is because Trump is man-as-message, man-as-messiah. Trump support isn’t philosophical but theological.

Trumpism is a religion founded on patriarchy and white supremacy.

It is the belief that even the least qualified man is a better choice than the most qualified woman and a belief that the most vile, anti-intellectual, scandal-plagued simpleton of a white man is sufficient to follow in the presidential footsteps of the best educated, most eloquent, most affable black man.

As President Lyndon B. Johnson saidin the 1960s to a young Bill Moyers: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

Trump’s supporters are saying to us, screaming to us, that although he may be the “lowest white man,” he is still better than Barack Obama, the “best colored man.”

There is, of course, a copious history that prompted Johnson’s observation. Poor whites in the post Civil War South were kept compliant by reassurances that–no matter how wretched they were–they were better than those black people, and entitled to their superior status.

There are too many white guys, north and south, who still cling to the comforting belief that their skin color and male genitals make them better than those “others”–women, Jews, gays, immigrants, and even (as we have recently seen) Native Americans. But consistently and especially, black people.

They found Obama’s Presidency intolerable, and they are Trump’s committed base.

No matter how much of an embarrassment and a failure Trump proves to be, his exploits must be judged a success. He must be deemed a correction to Barack Obama and a superior choice to Hillary Clinton. White supremacy demands it. Patriarchy demands it. Trump’s supporters demand it.

That belief, ultimately, is what the resistance is about. That is the worldview that absolutely must be left in the dustbin of history.

If We Have To Keep The Electoral College…

Discussions of Constitutional originalism tend to illuminate the very different meanings that different people ascribe to that term.

I’m currently reading “We the People” by Erwin Chemerinsky, the Dean of Berkeley’s law school, and I will return to the subject of “original intent” and his (and my) take on it once I’ve finished the book. But today, I want to propose an “originalism” experiment for those of us who are critical of the current, undemocratic operation of the Electoral College.

Democracy, of course, wasn’t the point of the College. But then, neither was its use as a partisan tool advantaging a reactionary political party, which is what it has become.

There’s a pretty robust consensus that a constitutional amendment simply getting rid of the Electoral College is unlikely to succeed, at least for the foreseeable future. And since some of the College’s most ardent defenders are also proponents of “originalism a la Scalia” (a legal approach so flawed that even Scalia couldn’t consistently apply it), I think we should begin a movement to make the College operate as originally intended.

Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 of the Constitution provided the original plan by which the electors voted for president. (Electors did not originally vote for vice president. The President would be the person who received a majority of votes from the electors, and the person receiving the second most votes would become vice president. That changed with the emergence of political parties, a phenomenon necessitating the 12th Amendment.)

Individual electors were supposed to be selected by a vote of citizens on a district-by-district basis, and were supposed to exercise their independent judgment when casting their votes for President. Wikipedia shares the following quote from Alexander Hamilton, describing the Founding Fathers’ “original intent” with respect to the electors:

A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated [tasks].

Over the years, the “original intent” of the Electoral College has been ignored.

Rather than electors who have been chosen by their neighbors to exercise their informed judgment on behalf of the citizens who chose them (and presumably knew who they were, either personally or by reputation), we now have slates of faceless elector candidates pledged to vote for their parties’ respective candidates. Most states also have passed laws prohibiting so-called “faithless electors”–that is, electors who exercise independent judgment and opt to vote for a candidate who did not win that state’s popular vote.

Does anyone believe that a majority of electors possessing “information and discernment” and exercising “independent judgment” would have cast their votes for Donald Trump? (Or for that matter, that such electors would have confirmed Florida’s “hanging chad” results?)

So here’s my proposal: If we must keep the Electoral College, by all means let’s start a movement to assure that it operates in a manner that is consistent with the Founders’ “original intent.”