Louis C.K. is not the first of my comedy heroes to disappoint me. Bill Cosby’s early comedy was so a part of my life and way of thinking that I still catch myself launching into a sketch of his by way of conversation every once in a while. It was and remains a painful revelation to find that, off stage, Bill Cosby’s darker habits made him a monster.
Since the dozens of charges levied against Cosby became the stuff of Internet justice legend, there has been an avalanche of revelations about powerful men with horrific, predatory habits. So many are the stories – and so drearily repetitive – that I feel like any discussion I’ve had about sexual assault in the past was about some completely different, more innocent topic.
And perhaps I’m still in the thrall of that naive concept when I say I just don’t see any reason to get that upset by Louis C.K.’s transgressions. Right and wrong is not a spectrum and we don’t give out points for good intentions. But even the least upsetting story from Harvey Weinstein’s trove of horrors makes Louis jerking off in a hotel room look like a scene from Home Alone.
Home Alone child’s face, “It’s a wiener!”
Let’s stipulate that what Louis C.K. did was wrong by way of his being a professional and a mentor to fellow comedians. More importantly, making sexual advances on people who work ostensibly for you, like the women on the set of his TV show, is dead wrong. It’s a reckless risk that anyone in a position of authority has to do their best to resist.
But absent that professional prohibition, the dude took his dick out. He took it out.
You or I might choose a different opening move. A woman could be forgiven for never wanting to hang out with the dude again. Then again, maybe another woman would find it fascinating. That’s not for us to judge. But even kissing someone presupposes violating their personal space; you’re not really expected or even encouraged to ask for permission first. If masturbating is your thing, that’s even tougher ice to break.
Louis’s got a kink, in other words. That’s not a crime. It’s not disgusting or morally reprehensible or unhealthy, nor attestation of some deeper insufficiency. It’s a kink.
Let’s hope none of us ever has to live in a world where our kink is on display. Where we’re judged to be in the same bad company as rapists and woman dopers because of a few awkward or cringe-worthy attempts at satisfaction. Let’s hope our world is kinder and more forgiving than that one.
The Republicans are proposing massive tax cuts, including a 15-point decrease in the Corporate tax rate from 35 down to 20, in their new tax code “reform” bill. But to do so, they need to at least have the veneer of those tax cuts being paid for.
There have been a few proposals to do this, but one that has gained steam in the Senate is what is euphemistically being called “Rothization.” In short order, this means capping the amount of pre-tax money you’re allowed to invest in your 401k. You can invest more, but that money will be taxable.
Trump, in his predictably self-harming way, has thrown cold water on this idea. But Trump being Trump, that’s far from saying the idea is dead. So what is Rothization? Like everything else about taxes and tax policy, it’s goddamned confusing. Here’s the basics as I see them:
What is Rothization?
What this really means is a cap on the amount of pre-tax deduction a private individual can invest in their 401k. The cap has been proposed at $2,400. After you’ve invested that $2,400, the rest of your 401k money would move into an investment that is called a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs are investments of post-tax money, meaning you’ll be paying taxes on anything above $2,400. The advantage of Roth IRAs, such as they are, is that when it comes time to withdraw your money, you won’t be required to pay taxes on it.
That doesn’t sound bad to me?
It’s not. Roth IRAs are an excellent investment tool if you have the money to contribute to your retirement above and beyond what your 401k will produce. But they’re not a substitute for 401k investments.
So… what’s the problem?
401k was created specifically to incentivize investment in our futures. By making contributions tax-exempt, 401k investments can reduce your taxable income quite a bit, making them an excellent way to both save for the future and also provide a short-term gain for your family’s pocketbook. Taking this tax incentive away deincentivizes investment and raises your taxes. It’s a double hit on your economic health.
This is a very-specifically targeted Middle Class tax hike
Actually, if your employer matches at 5% and you make 30k a year, you’ll only invest about $1,500 a year. You’re fine.
But if you’re in the middle of our tax brackets, this is going to hit you hard. Anyone making over $48k and contributing at 5% is going to see a tax increase. If you’ve been aggressive until now about saving for retirement, investing more than your employer’s match, you’ll see an even bigger tax increase.
Also, it’s unclear if this $2,400 cap holds for dual-income families. If so, even lower-income families could see a tax hike.
This disincentivizes retirement investment
I guess I thought Republicans were always scolding me about not investing my income. I guess I always thought I heard them justify tax cuts because they “could be invested.” But now, Republicans are telling us that, in order to pay for a corporate tax rate cut, we’re going to need to either invest less or pay more taxes. We have those two choices, under their tax plan. That doesn’t seem like a very good deal to me.
What’s weird to me is this: after almost a week of discussion on Twitter, on television and at water coolers everywhere, I have yet to hear anyone state the obvious: in pissing to a reporter about “leaks,” The Mooch, Anthony Scaramucci gave a master class in how leaks work. And without the benefit of speaking on background.
Think about it: regardless of what he’s bent out of shape about, he’s bent. And rather than just vent his frustrations to a friend, he goes after a reporter to find the source of the leaks. In doing so, he unloads a gusher of insider gossip, dinging Reince Preibus and even the Dark Lord, himself: Steve Bannon. That he didn’t ask to speak on the condition of anonymity is just icing on the cake for us spectators; his dick-tripping buffoonery is on display for all to see. But absent that one fact, everything else proceeds exactly as it does every time people leak internal dramas to the media.
The upshot here for us spectators is as follows: leaks are caused by internal frustrations. Whether those frustrations come in the form of one Secretary or one page who feels jilted by the overall Administration, or in the form of a deluge of freaked-out functionaries, the result is the same. And the results are probably not quantifiable in any exact sense, but it’s safe to assume the more and greater the leaks, the worse the situation in the White House.
All of which is to say: this White House easily the least-functional White House in recent memory. That supposition is bearing itself out in the dismay of Congressional Republicans whose own dysfunctions could easily have been overcome with proper leadership.
Those of us who value the health and well-being of our fellow Americans – to say nothing of our own aging relations – can be glad of the dysfunction for now. But as things heat up in the Korean Peninsula, the time to enjoy the opposition’s collective fatuity seems to be fast closing.
I’m sure I’ve been slow-on-the-stick on this score, but it’s only just been made clear to me that James Sheppard, the former Rochester City Police Chief and current candidate for the Democratic nomination to Mayor of Rochester, didn’t vote for 32 consecutive years. Thirty-two years, between 1982 and 2013. Now, he’s asking for your vote. That strikes me as a profoundly cynical political move. He’s asking Rochester residents to exercise their franchise in favour of a man that, for all intents and purposes, has never demonstrated much regard for his own.
To be clear: it’s ok if you vote. It’s ok if you don’t. It’s even ok if, like I suspect a lot of Americans, you vote some years and not others. All of these decisions are yours to make as citizens of these United States. Entering public life however means making a commitment to work on behalf of voters. Having spent three decades of your life not voting for yourself doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. In fact, it seems openly galling.
But how long is 30 years, anyway? Just how much time did he spend not exercising his sovereignty, leaving it for others to decide the issues of the day? Here, then, is an exploration of that span of time, set against other benchmarks. 5 things that won’t last as long as James Sheppard’s non-voting record:
Sorry, Fido. But if you were waiting for James Sheppard to vote for stronger protections for your stray brethren, it won’t happen in your lifetime. In fact, not you, nor that asshole cat, nor the weirdo lizard in the cage nor even the damned bird will last long enough to see James Sheppard exercise his right to vote. The average lifespan of a household cat is around 20 years. For a dog, it’s more like 15. So, James might have owned two very healthy dogs that never saw him wear his I Voted sticker.
Maybe an particularly sagacious African Grey Parrot could have seen James Sheppard vote in their wizened latter years. But rumors of the longevity of pet birds is largely overblown, too. Most are dead in plenty of time to miss James’ suffrage.
Our Solar System’s sixth planet lies 9.5 AU (Astronomical Units) from the Sun. That’s nine and a half times the distance between the Sun and Earth, or about 883 million miles (1420km) from the Sun. That’s a long way, and as you might expect, it takes quite a long time for the Kronian giant to make a single trip around the Sun. Twenty nine and a half Earth years, to be exact.
But as long as a year on Saturn is, it’s merely a large fraction of the time since James Sheppard engaged in our national plebiscite. Nor any other election. For a representative. For a County Executive. For County Dog Catcher or even – wait for it – Rochester City Mayor.
I don’t know about you, but I very clearly remember the cold, dread fear that overcame me when I realized I was signing up for 30 years of payments for a home. “My god,” I thought, “What an insane risk I’m taking here. Am I ready,” I wondered?
Had I known there would be a candidate for the Mayorship of Rochester that spent more than thirty years not voting, perhaps I might have rested easier. Surely, if a man can spend that much time ignoring the call to the ballot box and still ask his neighbors for their vote, then thirty years can’t possibly be that big of a deal.
Ecologically speaking, a “generation” is the time it takes for an individual of a given species to reach sexual maturity and reproduce. The length of a human generation has increased as the needs of our societies dictate. Currently, a human generation stands at 25 years.
But plenty of women have pumped out a rugrat or two in the time it’s taken James Sheppard to decide to give birth to an act of citizenship. Women born in 1982 have grown old enough to have had their own children. And then some. In fact, a woman born in 1982 and conforming to the generational gap would have a ten year old kid. And perhaps more.
Kinda makes you wonder at what point James decided that the futures of those 1982 babies or the futures of his prospective constituents mattered enough to him to pull a lever for any candidate, anywhere?
We see superstar athletes in the NFL with long careers and think that of course, players last a long time in the game. But it’s simply not true at all. In fact, according to Sports Illustrated, the average span of a career across all positions in the NFL is a paltry 2.66 years. Given the sheer time, effort and parental income it takes to rise to the level of an NFL star, it makes you wonder why anybody anywhere even bothers. You’d be better off finding an indoor football league to play on and stay the hell out of what is obviously an incredibly hot, halcyon spotlight.
Regardless, James Sheppard’s non-voting record actually exceeds the careers of an entire NFL offensive team, consecutively. Twelve professional football players entered the NFL, played a few games and had their hopes and dreams crushed under the grinding boot of corporate indifference. Their jerseys are not available at any NFL outlet. Their names are barely remembered by any but those who know them.
But then, it’s no shame to not be famous. So go we all, but for a few exceptions. Will voters add James Sheppard’s name to the list of Rochester Mayors?
Before Obamacare, before the Tea Party, before the election of Barack Obama, we had a healthcare crisis. Premiums were skyrocketing. Insurance companies were cutting off access to expensive procedures. The bottom line was: health insurance as we’d enjoyed it for decades was going away with nothing left in it’s wake. Nobody disagreed with this assessment.
Ross Perot once famously quipped of Social Security, “Social Security made sense when the age to collect ws 65 and the average person lived to be 60.” Whatever you think of his or anyone else’s policy prescriptions for SS, the truth of this statement was pretty undeniable. As our lifespans lengthen, it gets more and more expensive to take care of each other.
And as people lost insurance, they didn’t lose their diseases. Which meant people ended up in the most expensive part of the hospital – the Emergency Room – instead of taking care of issues early with a primary care physician. Because hospitals have an ethical responsibility to fix broken people, the cost of those emergency visits was necessarily passed on to the rest of us.
Neither are cost and advanced age the only issues. In the last few decades, we’ve seen a shocking rise in the rate of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease and heart disease. It isn’t just that we’re getting older: we’re getting sicker when we’re young. All of this adds up to a pretty incredible burden on a health insurance system. Especially one that is market- and profit-driven.
Obamacare sought to address the fundamental issues of the health insurance industry by bringing more people into the system. Similar to Social Security, the more participants are paying into the system, the more money there is to pay for the more expensive needs of other members. Better still, by bringing people into the health insurance system and giving them access to preventative care, Obamacare sought to lower the overall cost of taking care of sick people.
In exchange for new business and more profit, Obamacare required insurers to adhere to a list of demands like insuring people regardless of their “pre-existing conditions,” which is just a way of saying you know they have potentially expensive issues, but you’re going to cover them anyway. In fact, Obamacare eliminated “insurance underwriting,” which means insurance companies are not allowed to demand a complete medical history to cover you.
Much of what Obamacare was meant to address did work. We got 24m more Americans covered by health care. Insurance companies honored the commitment to cover all comers. But the largest concern of most Middle Americans, the cost, didn’t stop rising. It rose at a much slower pace, but that’s cold comfort to someone already feeling the pinch of rising costs.
I would argue that, given that a big component of Obamacare was wrestling with pre-existing conditions and lack of preventative care, there probably was never a chance that the cost curve could be reversed overnight. Or even in seven years. Sick people don’t stop being sick. A lifetime lack of care doesn’t get that much better right away. Nevertheless, Obamacare promised lower healthcare costs and didn’t deliver fast enough for America’s patience, it seems.
Because if President Obama ran on the promise of Obamacare, to the extent that President Trump’s campaign was “about” anything, it was once again the promise of way better healthcare.
So Republicans are tasked with reversing Obamacare. And they’re tasked with creating a new system that allows health insurance to be a profitable business at a lower cost, because the one thing Obamacare didn’t deliver on was lowered premiums.
Go back and reread the first few paras of this article. Our healthcare crisis is a logical conclusion of living longer and getting sicker as a species. It wasn’t an institutional crisis – it wasn’t that insurance companies were changing policy without reason. We have a genuine crisis of a demand for coverage that drives costs through the roof. Lowering costs, then, can only mean one thing: lowering demand by cutting off access.
If we’re not going to stick it out with Obamacare, then as harsh and cruel as the AHCA is, it is exactly what is necessary. If we’re not going to do our best to increase participation, our only other alternative is to make what insurance companies previously tried to do quietly a matter of national health care policy. We need to decrease demand.
Cruelty isn’t a bug: it’s a feature.
The cruelty of the AHCA is hard to take in. The expansive ways in which Republicans chose – completely on their own – to take a sledgehammer to the very idea of health insurance is breathtaking. As the ACLU points out, the AHCA basically makes being a woman a pre-existing condition. VoteVets points out that it bumps millions of veterans out of the health insurance markets by denying them the tax credits “granted” to the rest of us and shunts them into an already overwhelmed VA system.
Cruel though these things may be, supply and demand economics requires that either there is way more supply or way less demand. No other thing will reduce costs. Democrats essentially tried to buoy supply by increasing participation and in so doing, raise the capital required to expand the supply side. Republicans have now fully bought into the idea that slashing demand will work.
And the worst part of all this is, again, that sick people don’t stop being sick because they don’t have health care. They’re going right back to the emergency rooms. And they’re going to jack up the price of health care. And – brace yourselves – there will be no cost savings. There will be no lowered premiums. And we know this, because we already lived through this once.
But Republicans have spent eight years decrying Obamacare. They can’t just walk away now. And there is absolutely no way of “improving” this bill. The Senate will not be our saviors. Because to alter this bill is self-defeating. The only thing to do is let it die. Do we believe Republicans have the strength to do that alone? Or should we help them come to the logical conclusion?
The fake news got to us. And I suppose the result was obvious.
A wellspring has bubbled up through the blogosphere and is now producing blog articles sounding the alarm: other blogs might be “fake news.” Some of those articles are focused on the left, some on the right. All of them, I’m sure, propose to improve blogging. But as the reality of the Russian hack on our democracy sinks in across the internet, these posts are a symptom of our suspicions, grown louder. Loud enough that bloggers are telling other bloggers not to link to bloggers because credibility.
Wasn’t the great leap forward back in the Web2.0 days the democratization of media? Didn’t RSS, and blogging, and social media, and “sharing,” mean that the analysis, emphasis and direction of news would no longer be dominated by corporate profit motives? Far more importantly, the democratization of media always meant that as bloggers and as news consumers, we asserted credibility in the democratic fashion: collective assent.
That collective assent has been plundered. We as a nation have been had. And as that reality looms larger and larger – as jeers and jabs turn to stunned silence – we’re falling back on the instincts that allow authoritarians to rise to power. Our confidence shrinks and doubt prompts us to “follow the leader.”
So this is how freedom of the press dies: the moment when we decide that certain press is more free than other press. Because it’s safer. Because we have been attacked once. Because the news seems to hit independent media particularly harshly. Because we relent.
Let’s not go quite so gently into that good night. Democracy survives when the good and the wise steel themselves against fear. To that end, I present for you five good ways to protect your democratic franchise in the modern online world and avoid fake news:
5. Understand what happened
The full scope of the Russia’s interference in our elections is still being tallied, at least publicly. But one thing it is important to understand is that much of the hack was on search engines. A user – perhaps you, perhaps someone else – searches Google or Bing for a topic and scans the results. What he finds are links to sources that are intentionally conning him. They arrived in those top few spaces in the search engine’s results because Russian hackers coaxed search engines into paying them undue attention.
All of which is to say that your favourite independent news source didn’t change. Daily Kos didn’t get any more or less credible. Instead, the search engines you use got changed, and as alleged by the Intelligence Community, perhaps your vote as well.
More importantly, the change to search results was targeted. Services like Google use your location to determine the best sources of content. On average, a Rochesterian would probably prefer to read the D&C’s article on Russian hacking than one from the NBC 7 in San Diego. But the hack also took advantage of this fact and, based on the below comments of Senator Mark Warner, may have concentrated their activities on the “firewall states” of Michigan and Pennsylvania. (emphasis mine):
“What really concerns me [are reports] there were upwards of 1,000 paid internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia, … that can generate news down to specific areas,”
In other words: you may never have seen so much as a scrap of fake news, depending on where you live.
4. Verify Your “Fake News”
There is no “exclusive news” anymore and things break quickly. They ricochet across the Internet, getting picked up by a wide variety of sources. Even those of us who spend a significant amount of our time monitoring news and social sometimes find that we’re way behind on a developing story, from time to time.
If the source you’re reading from claims to have content no one else has, chances are better than good that it’s crap. Move on.
There are exceptions to this rule all the time. Momentarily being “exclusive” doesn’t make news “fake news.” But until others verify what your source says it has, there’s no reason to jump to any conclusions. Most of us are not in a position, from moment to moment, to verify someone else’s work as it arrives on the Internet. Rely on the “collective assent” in your network.
Fake news tends to do it’s own ricochet, of course. But it doesn’t last long in reputable sources. See tip #2 for more on that.
3. Ask Yourself: “Are Facts or Opinions In Dispute?”
The great New York State Senator Patrick Moynihan once famously intoned, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” The same holds true for the Internet, and dovetails with tip #4: lots of different news sources and opinion makers differ on the interpretation of facts, but very few legitimate news sources will hold forth “facts” of which they are the exclusive source.
Liberal news sources will interpret news one way, Conservatives the next. Industry insiders or people on the ground will interpret news based on informed, practical knowledge that differs from political takes altogether. And those may still differ from policy makers for whom other priorities are higher. But they all agree on what’s happening.
When a source introduces “facts” for which you can find no other corroborating stories, it might be fake news. If they continue to press ideas for which there is no other evidence, chances are pretty good they’re full of shit. Move on.
2. Be Clear on Your Sources
As wonderful as Google and Bing and other search engines can be, you are always at the mercy of someone else’s algorithms to get your news. Search engines have learned a harsh lesson and will doubtless change as a result of the hack. But they won’t change what they fundamentally are, and what they are is always subject to manipulation.
Learn to recognize your sources. Your favourite websites, Twitter accounts, and journalists. Judge them based on their successes as defined in the last few tips. Do they confirm stories that end up being true? Do they propose ideas you can’t confirm anywhere else? Do they confirm stories with any other sources? And are those sources credible? Are your sources “insiders,” giving you insight you couldn’t have expected anywhere else, or just imaginative frauds, filling your time with “fake news?”
It’s worth having sources you fundamentally disagree with as well. Again: left and right may disagree on the interpretation of facts, but not on the facts. If there’s a difference between your opposing viewpoint sources, is it factual or interpretive?
If you’re not letting the news just fly at you randomly, from the search results on Bing or the most recent tweets in your feed, you’re starting to curate a useful information stream. It won’t be 100%, but it’ll be better than leaving yourself prone before an endless barrage of media.
1. Support What’s Right
This part is really important. Remember that the modern social media news landscape requires our collective, informed assent for its authority and credibility. We need each other for any of us to have either of those two things. The unwritten compact of those early days needs to be restored: that bloggers and the audiences they serve can filter and vet information just as well as people with communications degrees.
We need to be referees. We need to call balls and strikes. We need to allow ourselves to be checked by our audiences and by our peers. Most of all, we need to reform the networks we once had. More and more, social media networks feel less like networks and more like point-to-point noise protocols. They feel like unassociated beams of information, no unifying direction and no point of reference, no particular trust and no special loyalty. We need to rebuild that trust and loyalty by being the worthy readers and bloggers we’ve always been.
Senator Al Franken was just on This Week with Martha Radditz, talking about the Russian hack into our elections and the Trump Campaign’s strange relationship with said. In discussing the hack itself, Franken pointed out that one means of hacking the system was to “mess with Google’s algorithms” to make reports from Russian state-controlled RT or Sputnik show up higher in the rankings.
What he’s referring to, if I understand him correctly, isn’t “messing with” Google’s search ranking algorithms directly. Instead, he’s referring to what most of us call “black hat search engine optimization“: the intentional manipulation of the way setearch engines work to get an illegitimate source to the top of the search results.
Regardless, it seems like our discussion of Russian hacking, collusion with US interests and the rest is greatly confused by not knowing what the “hack” actually was. Right now, we have an idea of Russian hacking, allegations of Trump Camp collusion, discoveries of conversations between principals in this story, potential perjury of our nation’s Attorney General… anything but hard fact on which to base a reasonable decision.
With any other type of crime, there’s a dead body, a missing item, a victim. There is physical proof that something happened, if not what happened or who did it. And for better or worse, our sense of the importance and severity of the crime reflects the physical proof of the act. Here, we have nothing.
It’s hard to imagine the American public continuing to be interested in this story long-term without a lot firmer proof of what went wrong in the first place. What exactly did the Russian hack of our elections look like?
The rolling window of “Trump could have done this better” excuses for the Trump White House’s dick-tripping incompetence is getting tiresome. Three weeks in, and I think everybody could use a vacation, but let’s please not entertain these “simple answers” as the logical choice when describing what we’ve seen so far. Most recently, we now have this Politico puff piece on the putative “gold standard” of White House Chiefs of Staff, James Baker, in which Baker firmly chides Trump on how to be more Republican.
It is a fact that Trump’s Muslim Ban could easily have been implemented with more care and consequently less resistance. The president has pretty wide latitude in deciding who comes in or out of this country. This has been the case since the 70’s. Yes, he can cut off immigration from one, a group or all nations for whatever time he chooses, at least in theory.
Doing so would cause quite a bit of panic no matter the timing, leading to inevitable law suits. Liberals like myself would absolutely argue the constitutionality of ban like Trump’s. It wouldn’t be smooth sailing however they did it. But it could have been done.
It’s also true that, as a rule, Republicans aren’t that into Russia. That certainly describes the attitude of the Reagan White House in which Baker served. American foreign policy has, since early in the Cold War, been built largely on the lead Republicans set. And that lead was very anti-Russia. Even after Glasnost, very few Republicans I’ve ever known have thought highly of or trusted Russia.
A different relationship with Russia, even in present context, doesn’t sound like a terrible idea. A more trusting relationship with Russia is not objectively worse than a less trusting one.
But for chrissakes, come on! Let’s please stop listening to people patiently tell us that what we’re seeing isn’t real.
Trump’s Muslim ban was not badly-planned. It was meant to cause chaos and panic. It was meant to trap the foreign-born at airports. It was meant to put the “enemies” of Trump’s agenda “on notice.” And those enemies were the foreign-born. That was the point. That’s why Trump said the ban was “going very well. You can see it at the airports.” The “news junkie” president did not fail to notice the chaos roiling the airports.
Trump’s ties to Russia aren’t accidental and neither are those shared by an incredible number of his lieutenants. Calls between his National Security Advisor Flynn and the Russian Ambassador before, during and after the election were not innocent even if they contained no relevant information. Throwing him under the bus will change nothing fundamental about the situation in the White House. It is a persistent fact of this administration that they have openly and not-so-openly had ties to the very same nation that our intelligence agencies confirm were responsible for the hacking of our nation’s democratic institutions.
Baker presumably expects these ties to be disappeared by a simple, grandfatherly “tut-tut.” He gravely intones about the need for sanctions against Russia in a way that clearly says “that’s the Republican Way.”
“Come along now, son,” he seems to say, “Let’s get you a flag pin and some photo time at West Point.”
Don’t let Republicans weave this narrative. Everybody in the party wants their Conservative Christmas, and they’ll wait till the tanks roll on Bowling Green to get it. They’ll say anything to stall, to cover, to explain away. Some of them might even believe it. But you can see what is happening. There is nothing subtle about Trump, there is nothing accidental about the chaos he’s created and there is absolutely nothing sincere in Republican pleas for patience.
This, after all, might be the very last election Republicans ever win. Jim Baker’s just trying to get the most out of it.
The thing about being a billionaire real estate mogul (real or perceptual) is that there really aren’t any consequences to pissing people off. There are no consequences when you antagonize the media; there are no consequences when you join the WWE and shear someone’s hair off; there are no consequences to a walk-on role in porn. In the end, it’s just one guy signing a deal with another guy. Over and over again. The media and the public play absolutely no role.
Presidents don’t have such luxuries. Presidents make decisions every day, all of which have consequences. Sometimes for the entire world. Presidents need to communicate with their constituents and they need a robust media – even one that thinks of them as an asshole – to do it. Perhaps most critically, presidents have already entered a contract with a population that turns on their perception of you. That perception can turn on a dime, and it’ll never come back.
I’m not foolish enough to believe a 70 year old man who hasn’t figured these things out yet, ever will. In fact, I fully expect this presidency will be an exercise in head-bashing stupidity. More lawsuits, more insults and more sneering on Twitter. More affronts to our civil liberties, our culture and our values. More cogs in the Federal machine on lock-down while they await the coming Tangerine Rapture.
But I hope the rest of us know what we’re heading into, for the next four years. No more excuses about “pivots” or aides who will reign him in. What we have seen for the last week is what we can expect from here on out. You ready?
I have a good friend whose name you surely know if you live in the Rochester area: Evan Dawson. I met him when he worked for 13WHAM as a reporter on their nightly news, and he’s now moved on to host his radio show, Connections with Evan Dawson all week on WXXI radio. I mention him because, as you may also know, he wrote a book called Summer in a Glass about Upstate New York’s wine region and the men and women who shape that industry’s fate.
It is a book rich with poetic turns of phrase; it is a book filled with impressions of the country, the people, the history. Very clearly, Evan has a deep and abiding respect for the industry and the products of its labour. It’s a great book and you should definitely read it.
Flash back to a grown-ass adult trying to buy a goddamned bag of weed in the same state: sitting in the cigarette-reeking back of some asshole 20-something’s mini Toyota pickup truck – not the “back seat,” just a subwoofer he never bothered to plug in – waiting patiently among the food wrappers, old clothing and personal hygiene implements for an overpriced bag of agricultural product no more harmful than the stuff Evan waxes poetic about in his book.
With apologies to Evan, we live in a state that doesn’t just allow you to make wine, beer and now hard alcohol: it fetishizes those things as though they were some noble thing. “Uncork New York,” as they say. Every festival in Rochester has a wine tent. There are stores throughout the Finger Lakes that don’t even sell wine, just all the wine accessories you could possibly want including tee shirts, bottle openers, earrings. Evan’s is, as you might suspect, hardly the only written document on the subject.
Matter of fact, there is a comfort care home down the road from me that can’t house more than five people; they’re having a wine tasting in a couple weeks. A home for five people, all of whom must certainly have been told to stop drinking alcohol thirty years ago, and they’re having a wine tasting.
I don’t begrudge the alcohol industry’s success in New York State. Hell, I even used to write a column for (585) Magazine called Over Drinks, dedicated to the topic. But as silly as it’s ever been for weed to be illegal when alcohol is legal, that goes doubly and trebly for a state that makes such a farcically big deal out of hootch. There are those who want or need marijuana for medical use, recreational use and research, but even attempts to make medical weed available have stalled.
If any state in the union ought to have promotions all summer long for it’s Marijuana Region, it is a state as hilly and sunny as New York. We have conditions to make beautiful, award-winning ganja to suit every palate and preference. Setivas. Indikas. Candy bars and sodas. And sure! Why not a weed-themed New York State tee shirt?
“New York State of Mind,” or “We Came, We Saw, We Smoked,” or “My Parents Went to Weed Country, and I Had to Buy This Shirt Online Because They Forgot.” Just as suggestions. Perhaps there could be a “Toke New York” campaign with billboards on the 90?
Either way, while half a dozen other states have a referendum on the ballot this November to legalize weed, our silly-ass pols sit in Albany trying to figure out which universities are going to get weed in pill form. And then get a drink of wine with dinner. Because thank you, New York.
It’s clear that, however they’ve come up with it, the Trump campaign has opted to completely overwhelm the media with bat-shit stories of every variety. TwoTrumpkins interrupted soft-ball interviews for bullshit reasons. Little Donny burst out into holocaust song. Donald Trump and his campaign “can’t seem to get on message” about Trump’s birtherism or his redemption therefrom. But he’s making a major announcement about it, anyway.. no, he’s not. He’s just promoting his new hotel.
Journalists literally cannot keep up. The media does not know what question to ask or whether they really want to ask it. Trump puts out so much bullshit that Matt Lauer didn’t even have to do his job to get him to say more crazy shit.. and no one seems to care.
The Trump media DDoS is real and it’s a strategy. For once, the media is probably advised not to follow every story too closely. It’s as if Joseph Goebbels has decided to try his hand at Dadaism.
Like I’m sure most of my audience, I spent last night watching the Town Hall style debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The so-called “Commander-in-Chief Town Hall” onboard the Intrepid in front of a gaggle of military men and women, along with their commanders. I’ll take this opportunity to share my thoughts on the night.
Frankly, the event was such a complete shit-show, especially where Trump was concerned, that it would be neigh-on impossible to mention all of it. At least, not without help from other news sources. So I guess you might say this is my list of Most Awful Moments, if you have to call it anything.
I honestly cannot tell what NBC is covering, anymore. They’re so pleased with themselves with the Williamsian theme music and lush lighting effects, it could be a Macy’s Day Parade, a sporting event or a critical portion of the democratic process. They all come out looking more-or-less the same. Speaking of which,…
Matt Lauer has his perfect job: getting up early in the morning to discuss lizards at the San Diego Zoo, “recipes” featuring pre-made cake mix, and laser hair removal. Why NBC insists on putting him in serious situations that he’s grossly unprepared for is beyond me. But please, NBC: you have a bullpen of fine reporters both male and female. You needn’t settle for the fluff.
* Side note: you could be doing much better with the Macy’s Day Parade, too. Keep that morning show shit in it’s place.
A lot has been made of Lauer’s lack of follow-up. But I think looking at the way the night went overall is more instructive. Trump was asked open-ended questions about his fitness to serve, about ISIS, about our military generals. He was pressed to explain his position on “taking the oil” (more on that in a sec). He was pressed to explain why he wants to keep his strategy vis vis ISIS a “secret.” No one subject dominated the night for Trump. In fact, Lauer was happy to move on even when as people have said, he should have pressed for details. Hillary was asked about..
Lauer’s first question to Hillary Clinton was about the email server. In fact, the first third of Hillary’s part was spent on the email including at least one question from the audience. You could perhaps make the argument that information security is national security. And you would be right. But when focused, ostensibly, on foreign affairs in 2016 with only a half hour per candidate.. is that really the first question you ask?
Again, it is instructive to notice the layout of Lauer’s questions: after grilling Clinton on what is truthfully a trivial matter of security for almost half the time he had with her, Lauer breezes from topic to topic with Trump. Clearly, Matt Lauer set his agenda from the very first question.
It is clear now that the email server is an issue for which Clinton needs to answer in real time in front of a national audience. It’s an issue with which she clearly has a problem doing just that. But then…
She did a shit job answering for her email debacle. And even if the “debacle” part was manufactured by her opposition, by now, we can officially call it a debacle. Because she had no real answers that weren’t focused on exonerating herself legally. That’s fine in a court of law – it may even be fine with a reasonable military person, all of whom have a lot of experience with security in their own jobs – but it’s not a persuasive argument for good judgement.
I think she came back pretty strong on veterans affairs and foreign policy. But the best moment was when she shut down that flake Lauer when she was trying to answer a complex question about the Middle East. If you’re going to sacrifice ten minutes on email, don’t expect to just gloss over Middle East foreign policy, dummy. And I think she came off well for the thinking person who wants to be treated like an adult and given the facts. Hillary has them in spades.
To the extent that Mrs. Clinton was allowed to discuss anything other than being Emailer-in-Chief, I think she did the best with what she had to work with. And then there’s..
Seriously, ignoring the avowed racists like the Klan who support him, how can any thinking person consider this guy qualified to be President of the United States?
Matt Lauer managed to not press Trump on any but the most preposterous of his claims – including when Trump offered to list things that make President Obama equivalent to Vladimir Putin. He just sorta let that slide by.
No, accusing the sitting Commander-in-Chief of being a dictator doesn’t require any follow up. A person on the Today Show, demonstrating the wonders of her new skin cream? That needs follow up. Not this. Not a line of argument that would get a military man shoved in the brig.
But the most amazing, telling part of that exchange is when Matt Lauer asks if Putin would “change his mind.” You tell me, but I get the sense Trump thinks Lauer is asking about Putin’s mind where Donald Trump is concerned, not the litany of aforementioned crimes in Crimea and elsewhere. Check about 1:19 in this video:
“Possibly! It’s possible. I don’t know, Matt. And it’s not going to have any impact. If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him.”
Stand by your man, Donald. But the question was not about you.
Perhaps the problem for Lauer is the same one that has vexed so many other reporters: Trump is so completely full of shit that it’s hard to know where to begin. Because literally not a single answer of Trump’s was substantive. They were the same angry tone poems he’s been reciting all election season long. Word painting in blood. But not a single policy declaration.
There was one decent Lauer moment when even he couldn’t buy into the Trump Horseshit Roadshow. Trump has insisted for months that describing his broad-strokes strategy will be versus ISIS is somehow equivalent to giving an enemy general his battle plans. That’s just farce and even Lauer had enough backbone to question it. I think we all remember the little asshole in elementary school who would insist, “I know, but I’m not going to tell you!” Right up there with “my dad’s a lawyer” and “my girlfriend is from Canada.”
Wow. Did Trump just shit in the mouth of every general in the US Military?
I know that Trump’s brand of “negotiating” is to employ bully tactics. I know that he stakes outrageous claims specifically so he can walk back to a place where he wins. But just as often these days, I get the distinct impression that what’s really going on is that Trump fucks up, and then begins his strongman routine to cover for it.
Standing in the middle of a room full of servicemen and talking shit about their commanders is a mistake. Forget whatever they might say among themselves, it’s just something you don’t do. But returning to Trump’s tone poems if revanchism, it’s simply not a part of his campaign or his brand that he can live without. And insisting that we’re losing in the world necessarily means saying nasty things about the leadership of the military. You can’t get around it.
He says he’ll listen to “his” generals, but insists that “Obama’s generals” are decimated and in ruins. What does that mean? Is he aware that military brass are not political positions that he can just fill at a whim?
Take the Oil. Please!
Out of all the weird shit that Trump has said for lo, this many months, one of the weirdest was the idea that we could “take the oil” from Iraq. I really want to believe that even Trump supporters can see this nonsensical claptrap for what it is. But alas! I have no such hopes.
Take the oil. How, exactly? Even Matt Lauer wanted to know, and it was pretty obvious from the beginning: Matt Lauer didn’t really want to know shit. If you could just pull all the oil out of the ground at once, don’t you think someone would have thought about that before now? We’d have barrels of crude stacked up behind every Hess station in town. But you can’t because…
Jesus. I might as well be talking to my four year old. You just can’t, OK?