WHAT A REAL PRESIDENT WAS LIKE – By Bill Moyers – Washington Post -1988

This amazing piece by Bill Moyers in 1988, was a hypertext link in the comment by Socrates regarding the Charles Blow piece on racism posted just before this post. This is the great nugget of them all.

WHILE Lyndon Baines Johnson was a man of time and place, he felt the bitter paradox of both. I was a young man on his staff in 1960 when he gave me a vivid account of that southern schizophrenia he understood and feared. We were in Tennessee. During the…
washingtonpost.com
Advertisements

As Shutdown Talk Rises- Trump’s Immigration Words Pose Risks for Both Parties – The New York Times

David Lindsay Jr. Hamden, CT Pending Approval
“Ten Democratic senators are on the ballot this November in states that are heavily white, have little sympathy for undocumented immigrants and that Mr. Trump won. Many of these lawmakers have no desire to force a government shutdown over an immigration issue. Some of the party’s most at-risk seats are in Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia and North Dakota.

If they side with Senate Republicans, Congress could pass yet another short-term spending bill by Friday that would end the shutdown threat for now as negotiations continue.

But some Democrats considering presidential runs, such as Senators Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, are pressing Democrats to oppose any government-funding bill — no matter how short-term — that does not also protect the approximately 800,000 young immigrants brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers. Mr. Trump rescinded the program in September and gave Congress six months to enshrine its protections into law.”
These presidential hopefuls are short-sighted to let their ambition endanger the Democrats taking over the Senate and their strategy is improper. I will work against any presidential hopeful who wants to use shutting down the government as a tool of partisanship. A Government shutdown would cost the public a fortune.
If the Republicans shouldn’t use that irresponsible tool, Hello! nor should the Democrats.

Robots Can’t Vote- but They Helped Elect Trump – by Thomas Edsall – NYT

My god, this is imortant imformation. Thank you Thomas Edsall et al.

“When you look across America to see where jobs and wages have been lost to robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation, it is the middle of the country that stands apart from the rest.The accompanying map, which was produced by Daron Acemoglu of M.I.T. and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University, shows the size and scope of the region that has borne the brunt of postindustrial modernization.”

Trump’s Threat to Democracy – by Nicholas Kristof- NYT

“Two political scientists specializing in how democracies decay and die have compiled four warning signs to determine if a political leader is a dangerous authoritarian:1. The leader shows only a weak commitment to democratic rules. 2. He or she denies the legitimacy of opponents. 3. He or she tolerates violence. 4. He or she shows some willingness to curb civil liberties or the media.“A politician who meets even one of these criteria is cause for concern,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, both professors at Harvard, write in their important new book, “How Democracies Die,” which will be released next week.

“With the exception of Richard Nixon, no major-party presidential candidate met even one of these four criteria over the last century,” they say, which sounds reassuring. Unfortunately, they have one update: “Donald Trump met them all.” ”

Yes. Here is the top comment I endorse:
Mike Roddy is a trusted commenter Alameda, Ca 2 hours ago
I spent a couple of years in Venezuela early in Chavez, reign, and saw the country’s decline up close. Included was utter corruption, even by South American standards, and a President who reflexively lied to the public during eight hour speeches on TV every Sunday.

The Venezuelans laughed at him and shrugged their shoulders, knowing that the elections were rigged and they were helpless. American left wingers didn’t do their homework, and somehow believed his schtick.

The lesson here is that we cannot underestimate the president, for many reasons.

1. Trump won’t decide to follow democratic norms, since he comes from a real estate background that included bribery, partnerships with criminals, and refusals to honor contracts.
2. Strengthening democratic norms is wise, but our attacks on the President must be blunt and relentless. This is not just another blowhard, but rather a dangerous, and murderous, potential dictator.
3. How can someone be expected to obey democratic norms when he doesn’t even know the words to the national anthem?
4. This is the most important: The oligarchs who back Trump- Mercer, Adelson, Koch, and the entire fossil fuel industry- also don’t care about democracy. They are waist deep in global bribery and environmental carnage. The press has been negligent in rarely making those connections. Many of Trump’s staffing decisions were dictated by them.

Your turn, New York Times. You’ve been OK so far (apart from ignoring #4), but without you we lose.

215 Recommended

Everyone in Trumpworld Knows He’s an Idiot – by Michelle Goldberg – NYT

DL: Michelle Goldberg is the newest young voice to join the NYT op-ed page as a regular. What a well written piece. I couldn’t recommend any of the top comments to this essay, since they refused to even acknowledge the gifted writer which provided the platform for their add ons, mostly a pile on.

I finally got to reading my new subscription to the Wall Street Journal the other day, and was disappointed at how hateful, scornful and arrogant the lead editorial was against the Democrats, using fake news to attack the Trump administration. The polarization between the parties is the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime, and over the Vietnam war, it was ferocious.

“Trumpworld” might be misleading. It refers to his White house senior staff, cabinet and senior advisors.

“One of the more alarming anecdotes in “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s incendiary new book about Donald Trump’s White House, involves the firing of James Comey, former director of the F.B.I. It’s not Trump’s motives that are scary; Wolff reports that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were “increasingly panicked” and “frenzied” about what Comey would find if he looked into the family finances, which is incriminating but unsurprising. The terrifying part is how, in Wolff’s telling, Trump sneaked around his aides, some of whom thought they’d contained him.

“For most of the day, almost no one would know that he had decided to take matters into his own hands,” Wolff writes. “In presidential annals, the firing of F.B.I. director James Comey may be the most consequential move ever made by a modern president acting entirely on his own.” Now imagine Trump taking the same approach toward ordering the bombing of North Korea.

Wolff’s scabrous book comes out on Friday — the publication date was moved up amid a media furor — but I was able to get an advance copy. It’s already a consequential work, having precipitated a furious rift between the president and his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who told Wolff that the meeting Donald Trump Jr. brokered with Russians in the hope of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” On Thursday the president’s lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to Wolff’s publisher, Henry Holt, demanding that it stop publication, claiming, among other things, defamation and invasion of privacy. This move would be fascistic if it weren’t so farcical. (While some have raised questions about Wolff’s methods, Axios reports that he has many hours of interviews recorded.)”

The Meaning of Bannon vs. Trump – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“Two quick thoughts on the Steve Bannon-President Trump feud:One, it’s a sign of the apparent seriousness of the Russia investigation for Trump’s family and inner circle. The insults got the attention, but the more significant part of Bannon’s remarks may be the “logical, cold-eyed recognition” that prosecutors are building a powerful case, notes Errol Louis at CNN.

Two, the feud is a reminder that Bannon has failed to accomplish his biggest ambition: Expanding the Republican coalition to include many more middle-class and working-class voters. “Steve Bannon had a chance to be a genuinely significant figure in American politics and he blew it,” my colleague Ross Douthat wrote on Twitter.

Democracy. Later this month, an alarmingly titled book, “How Democracies Die,” written by two political scientists, will be published. It is, as the book’s promotional material states, “a bracing, revelatory look at the demise of liberal democracies around the world — and a road map for rescuing our own.”

That last part seems the most important. I remain optimistic that the Trump presidency will turn out to be a phase rather than a turning point in American history. But it would be foolish to dismiss the threats to our system of government. They’re greater than I ever expected to see.

Trump’s Attention Economy – by Charles Blow – NYT

“On Tuesday, Donald Trump unleashed yet another tweet storm from within his unceasing drought of competence.

In a series of 16 tweets, Trump lied, boasted, lashed out, bemoaned, provoked, belittled and prodded.In other words, Trump began this year the way he ended the last one: eroding and reducing the office of the presidency on a daily basis.His most consequential tweet was a boast about destructive power:“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Sir, this is not a missile-measuring contest. No one wants to think about the size of your button. You seem to think that the effects of a nuclear strike would be the verification of your virility rather than the loss of innumerable lives.”

Good column and comments. Here is my favorite comment, of the 10 or 15 I read.

Cathy Hopewell junction ny 6 hours ago
We are watching Trump jettison the people who coached him into power, and to try to contain an investigation into the lives of the people he has not yet fired. He exposed his family to harm, by giving them roles they don’t understand in a game they don’t know how to play. And it looks like the Russians, who do know how to play the game, are winning.

And the rest of us suffer. I now understand how it feels to be the hero in a Greek tragedy, who suffers at the hands of capricious gods, for no real reason at all, except that they felt the hero got too uppity. Government is something inflicted upon us, and we can take the consequences, or turn ourselves into laurel trees.

And it is important to understand, if Greek tragedy is our model, not to depend on Mueller to be our Deus Ex Machina, Gods never descend to save the day until it is too late.

217 Recommended

States Pay the Price When You Buy Online – The New York Times

“Can online retailers be compelled by law to collect a sales tax? According to the Supreme Court, no — but that could change if, in the next few weeks, it decides to take up a case challenging the current rule.The court should reconsider the prohibition, because the law takes a hammer to the fiscal health of states, which lose out on millions, if not billions, of dollars in sales tax revenue. Staggering amounts of digital transactions occurred this year: an estimated $6.59 billion in digital transactions on Cyber Monday (which would be a record), and an estimated $100 billion for the holiday season.Customers may be confused: Some online retailers do collect sales taxes, at least sometimes. Amazon, for example, collects them on Amazon transactions, but not on third-party-vendor transactions sold through Amazon.”

DL: Yes, yes, yes. It is crazy not to make all on line retailers pay sales tax, since they are gutting our retail stores where we work and live.

Here is a good comment I endorsed:
Joe Sparks Rockville, MD 14 hours ago
I agree that online retailers should be required to collect sales taxes.

I also think sales taxes should be abolished because they are regressive. Instead of having a bunch of taxes, sales, income, tolls, etc., I would only have progressive income taxes. (Loopholes would need to be eliminated.) These taxes would be based only on amount of income, not source of income. That means dividends, wages, capital gains, etc. would all be taxed the same. Unfair differences, such as carried interest would be eliminated. This would make the tax code simpler, better, and fairer.

FlagReply 160 Recommended

The Retreat to Tribalism – by David Brooks – NYT

“Imagine three kids running around a maypole, forming a chain with their arms. The innermost kid is holding the pole with one hand. The faster they run, the more centrifugal force there is tearing the chain apart. The tighter they grip, the more centripetal force there is holding the chain together. Eventually centrifugal force exceeds centripetal force and the chain breaks.

That’s essentially what is happening in this country, N.Y.U.’s Jonathan Haidt argued in a lecture delivered to the Manhattan Institute in November. He listed some of the reasons centrifugal forces may now exceed centripetal: the loss of the common enemies we had in World War II and the Cold War, an increasingly fragmented media, the radicalization of the Republican Party, and a new form of identity politics, especially on campus.

Haidt made the interesting point that identity politics per se is not the problem. Identity politics is just political mobilization around group characteristics. The problem is that identity politics has dropped its centripetal elements and become entirely centrifugal.Martin Luther King described segregation and injustice as forces tearing us apart. He appealed to universal principles and our common humanity as ways to heal prejudice and unite the nation. He appealed to common religious principles, the creed of our founding fathers and a common language of love to drive out prejudice. King “framed our greatest moral failing as an opportunity for centripetal redemption,” Haidt observed.”

DL: David Brooks has written a challenging piece, and it is full of great points, but it is so abstract as to be almost meaningless. Does he really mean that college professors and their students are as responsible as Donald Trump and the GOP for centrifugal forces tearing apart America? A second, careful reading suggests that Brooks is in fact aiming most of his barbs at Trump and the GOP, but so abstactly, that he maintains a distance, even deniability. Many of the commenters point out that it is mostly the GOP that is doing many things to undermine our democracy and its principles, as they cater to the desires of the billionaire donors.

Here is a comment, that though it fails to recognize that a few Republicans are not pleased with GOP radicalism, I endorse:
B. USA 3 hours ago
The right spends a significant amount of its time and effort to make it harder for individuals to participate politically, while making it easier for corporations and organizations with vast sums of untraceable money to be included in the political process.

The right has been driving wedges and creating an us-vs-them atmosphere since Reagan declared “government is the problem” and demonized freedom of association by attacking unions which work for the common good.

The right has abandoned the notion of truth, has abandoned education for all, and has abandoned traditional moral values in favor of dogmatism, science denial, exclusivity, and power-grabbing at any cost. The current leader of the right now sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania is the embodiment of GOP beliefs and practices brought to life.

After 30 years of attacks on American values and decency, the left has finally said “Enough!” and have started to speak out. Suddenly Brooks et.al. think the nation has become divided as never before.

The nation has been divided for a long time; it’s only recently that the left has decided things have gone too far in the wrong direction and it’s time to fight back, to fight for American values of honesty, decency, and inclusion. There is a big blue wave just over the horizon, and it’s going to sweep away anyone who is not willing to stand up for traditional American values of honesty, decency, inclusion, and a fair deal for all.

FlagReply 305 Recommended

Tom Brokaw: You Can Find the Entire World Inside Your Hospital – The New York Times

“President Trump is vowing to return to two of his favorite goals in 2018: a crackdown on immigration and the dissolution of the Affordable Care Act.

When congressional Republicans passed the sweeping tax bill in December, they eliminated the A.C.A.’s health care mandate. But President Trump wants to knock out the entire program.As I have learned in the past four years, immigration and health care in America have an organic relationship that may escape the president and his supporters if they experience health care only from the outside looking in.”