The Strange Impotence of the Republican Party – by Brett Stevens – NYT

“We are living in an era of party failure, especially on the right. The Trumpkins sacked the G.O.P. The Brexiters humiliated the Tories over Europe. Marine Le Pen’s fascists have supplanted the Gaullists as the face of the French right. Germany’s own nasty alt-right, the Alternative für Deutschland, humiliated Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats in last weekend’s election.

The high-toned explanation for these serial rebukes of the establishment by the base is that the former has failed to address the anxieties and disgruntlements of the latter: immigration and culture shocks; wage stagnation and the stresses of a globalized world.

But globalization, immigration and changing social mores have been with us for a long time without producing awful political outcomes. What’s new is the existence — and metastasis — of the fury factories of the right, from Fox News to Breitbart to Frontpage Mag.

Opinion journalism is meant to influence and inflame, and it does. Especially in an age in which civics is taught poorly (and, increasingly, rarely), people are politically suggestible. Bill O’Reilly is now the right’s historian, Mark Levin its go-to legal expert, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham its moral conscience. These are not ideas guys. They’re anger guys. Their specialty is the communication of rage to an audience prone to histrionics. It can feel awfully good to be awfully mad.”

“Should it be any wonder that a Republican Party with almost complete control of government has turned so fiercely on itself? Dominant parties often do that when they have little to fear politically from the nominal opposition party.Should it be any wonder, either, that in the intramural fights the Donald Trumps and Roy Moores of the party are winning? As in economics, so too in G.O.P. politics: Gresham’s law applies. Bad money drives out good. Bad Republicans drive out good ones. When nastiness sells, the worst rise. Political gerrymandering doesn’t help, but that’s a separate column.

The political paradox of 2017 is that a Republican Party that cannot seem to lose also cannot seem to govern. Anger is an excellent emotion for pushing ratings and winning elections and a terrible one for agreeing to compromises and crafting legislation. This won’t end as long as Trump is in the White House. Whether it won’t also be the end of the Republican Party as a functional institution is another question.”

From Investopedia.com:

What is the ‘Gresham’s Law’

Gresham’s law is a monetary principle stating that “bad money drives out good.” In currency valuation, Gresham’s Law states that if a new coin (“bad money”) is assigned the same face value as an older coin containing a higher amount of precious metal (“good money”), then the new coin will be used in circulation while the old coin will be hoarded and will disappear from circulation.

BREAKING DOWN ‘Gresham’s Law’

Coins were first made with gold, silver and other precious metals, which gave them their value. Over time, the amount of precious metals used to make the coin decreased because the metals were worth more on their own than when minted into the coin itself. If the value of the metal in the old coins was higher than the coin’s face value, people would melt the coins down and sell the metal. Similarly, if a low quality good is passed off as a high quality good, then the market will drive down prices because consumers won’t be able to determine the good’s real value.

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Hurricanes- Climate and the Capitalist Offset – by Brett Stevens – NYT

“Harvey will also inflict billions in economic damage, most crushingly on uninsured homeowners. The numbers are likely to be staggering in absolute terms, but what’s more remarkable is how easily the American economy can absorb the blow. The storm will be a “speed bump” to Houston’s $503 billion economy, according to Moody’s Analytics’ Adam Kamins, who told The Wall Street Journal that he expects the storm to derail growth for about two months.

On a global level, the University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke Jr. notes that disaster losses as a percentage of the world’s G.D.P., at just 0.3 percent, have remained constant since 1990. That’s despite the dollar cost of disasters having nearly doubled over the same time — at just about the same rate as the growth in the global economy. (Pielke is yet another victim of the climate lobby’s hyperactive smear machine, but that doesn’t make his data any less valid.)”

Ouch. Here is the the top comment, and my endorsement:

Bruce Rozenblit is a trusted commenter Kansas City, MO 4 hours ago

What a pile of doo doo. Texas caused this flood by paving over the wetlands to the point that they turned their city into a big bathtub. They built in floodplains without regard to the consequences.

As far as brick houses are concerned, those are the ones that collapse during earthquakes. Masonry construction falls apart when the ground shakes, while stick built homes can resist the stress much better. The loss of life is catastrophic. Check out the loss of life in southern central Asia where homes are built out of rocks.

Houston will recover financially in two months? Are you kidding? 30% of the area is under water. That’s like 500 square miles and that’s just Houston.
People don’t have homes to live in. Thousands of businesses have been shuttered and destroyed. If the Houston economy is so powerful, then why do they need any federal aid?

Regulations and building codes save lives. Infrastructure saves lives. Technology saves lives. Public safety programs save lives. If these factors were not in place, then the loss of life form natural disasters would be much higher.

Texas just had three 500 year floods in three years. What does your expert meteorologist have to say about that? What does he have to say about the severe droughts and fires that occurred between those floods? Only a weak and poorly skilled journalist would ignore the obvious and cherry pick statistics to prove a point. This is the New York Times, not the New York Post.

Reply 221 Recommended

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David Lindsay Hamden, CT Pending Approval

I second all said here by Bruce Rosenblit.
I wish to add, that there is something pathetic in cheery picking data, and mixing it with fake news. Contrast the rubbish here with the extraordinary reporting today of Nicholas Kristof. I commented on Kristof’s piece:
David Lindsay Hamden, CT Pending Approval

Thank you Nicholas Kristof (and the New York Times).
You wrote: ”

Jan Egeland, a former senior U.N. official who now leads the Norwegian Refugee Council, urges an immediate cease-fire, a lifting of the embargo on Yemen, and peace talks led by the U.N., the U.S. and the U.K., forcing both sides to compromise.

A glimpse of moral leadership has come from the U.S. Senate. A remarkable 47 senators in June voted to block a major arms sale to Saudi Arabia, largely because of qualms about Saudi conduct in Yemen. Those senators are right, and we should halt all arms transfers to Saudi Arabia until it ends the blockade and bombings.”

It is time for the American Press, television, radio, and print, to bring this horrible story to the American people, and the fact that there are intelligent solutions being offered. I have shared this on social media, and my blog, InconvenientNews.wordpress.com, but we need this story at NPR, Public TV, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and every outlet I’ve left out.”

Is the News Media an ‘Existential’ Threat? – by Brett Stevens – NYT

“To err is human. To tweet is to regret. When I decided last month to leave Twitter, it was in part because I knew that, while I couldn’t avoid the former, I could at least escape the latter. Not everything that pops into the heads of smart people is smart. Still less of it needs to be shared.

“Silence is better for the wise, and how much more so for fools.” I’m sure you know the proverb.

So it was with a grain of salt that I read your Bastille Day tweet:

The news media in the West pose a far greater danger to Western civilization than Russia does.

It sounded, frankly, like the kind of involuntary mental wet burp many of us have at moments of peak ideological irritation — for conservatives, often while reading the editorial pages of this newspaper.”

Bravo. Brilliant column. Maybe conservatism isn’t dead afterall.

Thank you for writing: “For us, on the other hand, “the West” is the liberal-democratic tradition; the one most succinctly expressed in the Declaration of Independence. “All men are created equal.” “The consent of the governed.” “The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” All the rest, from Exodus to Gettysburg, is commentary.

That’s why the intelligent conservative has no time either for illiberalism, often of the right, or relativism, typically of the left.

And that’s why wise conservatives take the threat from Vladimir Putin seriously. He is the champion and most insidious exponent of both. Through the development of a crypto-fascist ideology that combines ferocious ethnic chauvinism and revanchism, economic corporatism, a dash of religious traditionalism, and a personality cult, he is the model for aspiring autocrats everywhere, from Hungary to Turkey to the Philippines.”

Here is a comment I support fully:

Christine McM is a trusted commenter Massachusetts 6 hours ago

“To be indifferent to every claim of truth or fact is the ultimate assertion of power. It is to say: Nothing restrains me, not what I promised yesterday, not what I am saying to you now, not what I might do tomorrow.”

Thank you Brett Stephens for capturing precisely how Putin and Trump warp the difference between truth and lies. To proclaim that the press is the problem when it’s anything but these days is not only irresponsible, but cowardly–it’s giving a certain strain of Trump conservatives exactly what they want to hear.

This paper did a good piece on how the far right is suddenly in love with all things Russian. Yesterday, I challenged a poster who wrote disgustedly about “all the focus on Russia.” I told him his view of history was off, and that he needed to do some research, which is easy enough to find.

Dictators aren’t our friends. Dictators aren’t looking out for the people—they are focused solely on their own hold over power.

If you look at the desperate moves of the increasingly cornered and unhinged Donald Trump, you’ll easily see he’s running out of bright shiny object with which to distract.

The most dangerous of which, is pushing the lie about “fake news.” How ironic that the man who hates a free press, takes advantage of it to give a rambling, self-destructive ranting interview to this same free press.

What a desperate move.”

Reply 107 Recommended

The Warp-Speed Presidency – by Gail Collins and Brett Stevens – NYT

“Gail Collins: Bret, it’s been a while since I had a chance to converse with a fellow Times columnist. Welcome! And in honor of your arrival, you get to choose our first subject.

Bret Stephens: Thanks, Gail. It’s flattering to step into David Brooks’s shoes. Kinda daunting, too.Here’s my topic: Acceleration. The pace of news, of scandal, of Trump. It’s like a hot dog-eating contest. We’re shoveling in the Trump news with little time to chew it over and even less time to digest it.

I know this is a little dated but the other week I noticed someone on Twitter trying to summarize five days’ worth of Trump news. I can’t find the tweet but here is how I remember it. On Monday it was 18 Days of Flynn. On Tuesday we had the Comey Firing. Wednesday brought the full flowering of the Rosenstein Defense. With Thursday came the Holt Admission. Friday featured the Comey Threatening.”

Nice column. Good comments. This one inspired my to post the op-ed.

Historian Aggieland, TX 13 hours ago

“Conservatives always point out that U.S. corporate tax rates are among the highest in the world, but they don’t tell the rest of the story. There are so many loopholes that 26 firms, among the Citigroup and AT&T, paid more to their CEO alone than they paid in corporate taxes in 2011. In fact, our corporate tax revenue, 1.8 percent of GNP, is tied with Turkey for the lowest in the developed world. If libertarian models are correct, our current corporate tax structure manages to achieve the worst of all possible worlds: the least revenue and the most economic distortion from attempts to dodge it. We need to lower the nominal rate, but also to devise policies that assure it is actually paid. For starters, restore the old rule on offshoring that requires any corporation with less than 50 percent foreign ownership to be taxed as American.”

Reply 156 Recommended

‘The Flight 93 Election’ Crashes Again – by Brett Stevens – NYT

“Then there’s Ann Coulter. In an interview with The Daily Caller, the author of “In Trump We Trust” said of the presidency that “it has been such a disaster so far,” and that it was possible that “the Trump-haters were right.” She even dropped the f-bomb — “fascist” — to describe Trump’s hiring of his relatives to senior White House posts.

“If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America,” Lyndon Johnson is reputed to have said (perhaps it’s apocryphal) after the CBS anchorman said in 1968 that the Vietnam War was unwinnable.

Just so for Trump: If he’s lost Coulter, he’s lost angry America. That’s not his entire base, but — let’s face it — it’s a critical fraction of it.”

David Lindsay

Hamden, CT Pending Approval

Atta boy Mr. Stevens. Great piece. It is challenging to find in you a right wing conservative who is very intelligent. What makes you great, is that you separate yourself from those in your group who are traitors to their country for the sake of power and profit.

Here are two comments I endorse:

Alex Dersh

Palo Alto, California 13 hours ago

Mr. Stephens, I know you were one of the establishment conservatives who came out early and forcefully against Trump. But you must admit that your party needs to do some serious soul searching if it ever hopes to be taken seriously again. Democrats are certainly nowhere near perfect, but at least they don’t nominate crazy people to lead their party and then ‘enable’ him when he says and does the most outrageous, un-presidential things. The Republican Party lost me for good when their president invaded Iraq, and Trump proved me right.

Bruce Rozenblit

is a trusted commenter Kansas City, MO 13 hours ago

We already lived through flight 93. It was called Watergate. I was a teenage boy during that catastrophe. Let me tell you, I was scared. Everyone was scared. We were glued to our TV’s and radios. We poured over the newspapers. We all felt that the nation truly was at the precipice. But the cavalry came to the rescue. Horses charging, trumpets blaring and swords swinging. The cavalry was the rule of law.

After the great battle and the dictator was taken down, we all exclaimed, “The system worked!” See, our system protects us against those who would undermine it for their own gain. Even if that someone was the President!

Fastforward to today. I am once again afraid. Where is the cavalry? Do we even have a cavalry anymore?

I’m not sure for this reason. We are a nation of laws and laws are nothing but words. If words can mean anything, then our laws mean nothing. That’s why I’m scared.

The Republicans are in charge. Time and time again, they have demonstrated that words mean whatever you want them to mean, which means they mean nothing. Those words are the foundation of the rule of law.

Will enough people in Congress saddle up and ride to the rescue? Or will they go along and passively participate in our demise, solely for political power?

Those few are like the brave souls who tried to save flight 93. Will they assume the personal risk to save all? That remains to be seen, which is the source of my fear.

How Trump May Save the Republic – by Brett Stevens – NYT

“What was meant to quash an investigation into the obscure tangle of Trump’s possible Russia connections is now certain to revive it. The Senate will be hard-pressed to confirm an F.B.I. director who is an obvious political lackey. And anyone who takes the job will feel honor bound to pursue the investigation with maximum legal and bureaucratic muscle.”

The Easy Tells of Comey’s Canning – by Brett Stevens – NYT

“Still, Jim Comey’s firing now brings two points into high relief. First, the administration is not being truthful when it claims the director was dismissed for what he did last summer. Second, Donald Trump is afraid. A president who seeks to hide a scandal may be willing to risk an uproar.”

Introducing Brett Stevens, the new right wing voice at the NYT op-ed dept, formerly from the WSJ.