The Widdershins

Archive for June 2017

Warning:  Be prepared to hate this post. How do I know? Because I hate myself for writing it.

Let’s back up a bit. Even before DYB’s brilliant post this week, I planned on writing about messaging. Here’s where the hate peeks in – for science respecting, policy loving “libruls”, digging deep for understanding is the mother’s milk of informed, dispassionate inquiry. I’m about to advocate something striking at the soul of that mantra – overly generalized statements aimed at evoking an emotional response.

Democrats are horrible at messaging. We are great at policy. We suck at capturing the voter’s imagination and allowing it to soar. Rethuglicans, courtesy of Frank Luntz’s rich fertilizer, are quite good at it. Think death panels, but with some truth behind it.

What blasphemy causes this change in my love of policy nuance? Simple. Democrats are whistling past the graveyard while Rethuglicans continue to foist the unmanageable brokenness of the health care and pharmaceutical industries back at Obama. Attitudes have no chameleon characteristics, they don’t change themselves.

Through adept Rethuglican messaging, Obamacare is now shorthand for every conceivable health care problem. Democrats did nothing to combat it. Now Democrats have an opportunity to change the debate. Without wading into the psychology of it, why aren’t Democrats messaging like this:

  • The ACA was nicknamed Obamacare because President Obama and Democrats cared about people. This President and Congress don’t care about people. It isn’t Trumpcare, its TrumpDontCare.
  • Since laws are supposed to fix inequities, in Republican-world it must be equitable to take away health care from 22 million people so a million rich people can get a tax break.
  • When you turn a Trillion Dollars worth of health care into tax cuts someone is going to have to come up with the difference or do without a Trillion Dollars in health care.
  • If you haven’t heard about a ban on a Dow pesticide linked to harming babies’ brains, don’t worry, there is no ban. Likewise, there’s no proven link between Dow contributing a million dollars to the Trump inaugural and Scott Pruitt meeting with the Dow CEO prior to nixing the ban.
  • Forget Kim Jong Un, the most dangerous man in the world is Mitch McConnell with $200 Billion to buy votes to hurt 22 million poor Americans.
  • If the Rethuglicans have their way, by 2036 if you need a nursing home bed, you better not out live your savings.

Essentially six statements with none of the juicy wonkiness we love around here, but lots of emotional punch to energize and anger. Why someone isn’t messaging this emotion is beyond me. Perhaps if the opportunistic wannabes so focused on climbing over Nancy Pelosi spent more time thinking about the Party instead of themselves, such messaging might have a chance.

Politically a wedge must be driven between der Trumpenfuhrer and the pitchfork/torch wielding Rethug base. Otherwise, chances for taking the House in 2018 and impeachment are severely diminished to the point of impossibility. The most potent antidote for this mad Trumpkin affection is convincing these hordes the clamorous Yam doesn’t care about them and their plight. The beauty of it is simple: He doesn’t.

This health care debate could reinvigorate the Democratic New Deal covenant. What is apparent is that the liberal caricature of conservatism isn’t a caricature at all. It is reality. This admission against interest is courtesy of Marc Thiessen, a Dubya speechwriter now writing for the Washington Post’s op-ed page:

Paying for a massive tax cut for the wealthy with cuts to health care for the most vulnerable Americans is morally reprehensible.

If Republicans want to confirm every liberal caricature of conservatism in a single piece of legislation, they could do no better than vote on the GOP bill in its current form.

But at what point do we admit that this isn’t the liberal caricature of conservatism? It’s just … conservatism.

 

What is so aggravating is forfeiting stimulating intellectual discourse for bumper-stickerisms. While offensive to the very core of my being, if it will rid us of the orange pariah eroding the dignity of the United States, I can live with it. What we have going for us is the truth, TrumpDontCare.

What’s on your mind today?

h/t Quixote for TrumpDontCare.

No Shame

Posted on: June 28, 2017

Fall of the Berlin Wall - 20th anniversary - Reception at Bellevue Palace
The most common accusation made against Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential campaign – as well as the entire Democratic party today – is that they have no message. This absence of a message is, they argue, what forced the “working class” (they frequently forget to say “white”) into the arms of Trump. This is blatantly preposterous. There is a difference between “message” and “messaging.” To say Hillary Clinton had no message beyond “Trump is bad,” when she provided detailed policy papers for virtually every subject likely to face an American President, is insane. To say that Trump, who offered no solutions to any problem, had some sort of message beyond “crooked Hillary” is equally insane. Trump’s campaign may have been good at messaging: Make America Great Again. But that is not a message. It’s a slogan devoid of any actual meaning. Clinton and the Democrats had detailed messages. But details are boring. And so CNN aired Trump rallies live, without commentary, and in their entirety because “Make America Great Again” requires no effort to process. It’s goes through your body like rotten fish. Discussing Clinton’s detailed policy, however, was boring. And so they didn’t discuss it. They discussed her e-mails. The Nightly News shows – ABC/CBS/NBC – dedicated x 3 time to “her e-mails” than to all policy combined. But they continue to accuse Clinton and Democrats of not having a message beyond “Trump is bad.”

In fact: “Trump is bad” is actually a pretty good message. If anyone still doesn’t understand why, then they are beyond all hope. But “they have no message” has reverberated still. Bashing Jon Ossoff’s GA campaign pundits and Bernie Bros have been screaming that Democrats still have no message beyond “Trump is bad” 7 months after the election. As Nate Silver and WaPo’s Dave Weigel have pointed out, however, Ossoff never actually discussed Trump. This laziness of the pundits – and obvious intellectual dishonesty of Bernie Bros – is in large part why we have ended up with 45.

The other reason is Democrats’ frequently lack of courage to stand by their candidates and causes. How many times we have seen someone say something nice about Clinton by first saying: “I know she’s very problematic but…” There have been a million variations on this theme, very recently Ezra Klein’s column “In (Partial) Defense of Hillary Clinton.” He starts the column with the following words:

I’m going to do something unpopular now. I’m going to defend Hillary Clinton.

You know what Ezra: go fuck yourself with the horse you rode in on. Even at the height of the election countless Democrats – the ones who were going to vote for Clinton – began their praise of her by saying “I know she’s problematic…” Stop. This. Bullshit. If you don’t have the courage to stand by your candidate, then you are not helping. You are part of the “messaging” problem. It was the same with Ossoff in GA. We are seeing it with Democrats in general. Democrat voters just can’t help flagellating themselves. “I mean, I know D’s aren’t perfect but…” No. Stop. This won’t inspire confidence in anyone to embrace Democrats and our values. Republicans never do this. This is where the “message” vs. “messaging” becomes to clear. Democrats have a great message. But messaging could be improved by just saying: “You know what. We’re pretty fucking awesome because A, B and C.” I tell people I voted for Hillary Clinton not because she was the lesser of two evils (how’s that for an endorsement?). I voted for Hillary Clinton because she was a fantastic candidate. And I’m a Democrat because Democrats have the superior platform. Look at all these policy papers that aim to protect women, children, immigrants, LGBTQ, all minorities. Democratic party is the superior party. I don’t qualify that statement with anything. I am not ashamed to say it loud and clear. That is the message and that should be our messaging: clear, unequivocal and without shame.

 

Good Monday, all. After the unveiling of the horrible Republican “Wealth Transfer Disguised as Health Care” bill, the Democrats had a prime opportunity to boldly, proudly declare what they stood for instead. In California, the state that went so overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016, the State Senate and House were on the verge of passing a single-payer health care bill. What a strong statement this would have been…except that one key Democrat is not on board.

Advocates of the single-payer healthcare proposal which has been steadily advancing through the California legislature were voicing outrage and disappointment on Saturday after Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat, announced he was pulling the bill from further consideration this year.

Known as the Healthy California Act, or SB 562, the measure had already passed the state Senate and was making its way through the lower chamber when Rendon said Friday it was being shelved by the Assembly Rules Committee, which he chairs, “until further notice.”

This is a huge disappointment, not just to perpetual loser Bernie Sanders (he has yet to back a candidate or a cause that succeeds), but to me personally. I was extremely upset by Barack Obama’s failure to embrace single payer at a time when his approval rating was 80%, and he had a Democratic Congress ready to say “how high?” when he said “jump.” But then, I never had much hope that he was actually the progressive others expected he was. That’s why I never wanted him in the first place.

Now, after 8 years of Obama’s weak and feckless attempts at post-partisanship, including his fatally indecisive handling of the Russian attacks on our democratic institutions, Democrats have watered themselves down so much that they have no more message or credibility with the middle class. As we know, income inequality continued to increase on Obama’s watch. The only prominent national Democrat left who has a good record on these matters is Hillary, which is why, despite all of the monumental obstacles put in her way, she won 3 million more votes than Drumpf.

The Democrats have a dilemma now. They embraced Obama as their Messiah, and he has led them down a winding and ultimately ruinous political pathway, where his desire to be loved by everyone eclipsed his duties to represent the Democratic platform and principles. Strong and wrong is always better than weak and, somewhat partially, right. The Republicans know this truth, and they’ve made hay out of it for decades. Why, why, WHY won’t the Democrats counter the Republicans with a strong message and branding?

Is it because they know that in order to get their ideas implemented, they will have to start regulating businesses again, and step back to the days of the New Deal? Is it because they will have to turn away from Obama’s love of Reagan, and back towards their true mentor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and this would make some of their corporate donors rather uncomfortable?

The choice is not easy. If Democrats step away from Obama’s blurry vision of himself as President and “transformative” leader of the Party, they step away from the last Democratic two-term President since Bill Clinton. If they try to stay on his path, which Jon Ossoff did in Georgia, over-performing in a Republican district but not winning, I fear that Democrats will not ever get past the rather effective blockers the Republican Party have put in place: gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the aid of a hostile foreign power. And then, of course, there’s the endless, exhausting distraction of Bernie Sanders and his non-ideological brogressives, the flip side of the Drumpf cultists, who want the Party to be remade in the Image Of Bernie. No thanks, folks – worshiping mediocre men is so 2008. Not. Gonna. Do. It.

So I hope people call and write Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and tell him to get with the program. I hope people start seeing that strong and right is much, much more effective than strong and wrong. And I hope that the Democrats will be infused with new blood in 2018, candidates who are effective communicators and understand what they are supposed to stand for. Like Randy Brice, perhaps.

Let’s all make our representatives hear our voices, loudly and often. Because every day the Republican vision is allowed to permeate and obsess the media without an alternate vision from Democrats, that’s another day the Republicans win. And we can’t afford to let them do it any more.

This is an open thread.

Good Sunday and weekend Widdershins!

With all of the drama that seems to be the new norm in Washington and politics in general, we forgot that we had the summer solstice this week.

The summer solstice (or estival solstice), also known as midsummer, occurs when a planet’s rotational axis, or geographic pole on either its northern or its southern hemisphere, is most inclined toward the star that it orbits. On the summer solstice, Earth’s maximum axial tilt toward the Sun is 23.44°. (Likewise, the Sun’s declination from the celestial equator is +23.44° in the Northern Sky and −23.44° in the Southern Sky.) This happens twice each year (once in each hemisphere), when the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the north or south pole.

Being that we were experiencing the outer bands of Tropical Storm Cindy, we didn’t have a lot of sun to experience the solstice.  And while we’ve had lots and lots of humidity, the temps haven’t been that bad.

However, that’s not the case everywhere.  Earlier this week it got really hot in Phoenix AZ.  How hot did it get you ask?  Well it got so hot that planes couldn’t fly there.  Or actually just some types of planes.

Regional flights on American Eagle were the most affected, because they use Bombardier CRJ planes that can only operate at temperatures of 118 degrees or below, Feinstein said. Flights on larger Airbus and Boeing planes were not canceled because they are able to operate at higher maximum temperatures: 127 degrees for Airbus and 126 degrees for Boeing.

I’m so glad I never had to experience, uh endure, flying on one of those regional planes.  I have flown on DC-9/MD80/90 planes with Delta and those were bad enough.  I called them buses with wings.

So with the summer solstice and heat in mind, let’s take a look at some songs that deal with those things.  My choices are below and your selections and contributions are welcomed in the comments.

 

(1) The Roots~The Fire (w/John Legend)

(2) Don Henley~The Boys of Summer (Acoustic)

(3) Eddie Cochran~Summertime Blues

(4) Martha Reeves & The Vandellas~Heat Wave

(5) Bryan Adams~Summer of 69

(6) Ella Fitzgerald~Summertime

 

So there you go Widdershins.  Please share your contributions below.  Open thread, of course.

 

 

 

Filmishmish is an Arabic term meaning “in the time of the apricots” or “when the apricots bloom”, which is something akin to the English phrase “when pigs fly.” It seems as if we Progressive Democrats live in the time of apricots. We are filmishmish flotsam.

Let’s review where we are. With the Republican Party skulking behind closed doors cooking up the greatest transfer of wealth in human history from the poorest, oldest, and sickest to the richest Americans, what are Democrats doing?

Like zombies in the express lane of the lobotomy clinic drive-thru, one set of Democrats are shuffling around mumbling about a special election in a Republican +20 district in Georgia. While another set of self-serving insurrectionists are trying to depose Nancy Pelosi. Yet another set is second-guessing and flirting with Trumpian populism masquerading as BernieBroism. And not to be forgotten, we have the Alt-Left cross-pollinating with the Alt-Right, thereby erasing any semblance of a difference.

Here’s the deal – the loss in Georgia wasn’t the end of the world. Losing sucks. I hate losing, but a win in Georgia would have been the equivalent of a sugar high to a diabetic – dangerous and injurious to our long-term health.

Let’s break it down. First and foremost, Democrats, while losing, are over-performing in these special elections. There is a good piece by Dave Wasserman, no Democratic fluffer, in the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. The report centers on the Partisan Voter Index which measures each district by the spreads in the last two presidential races relative to the nation as a whole.

The Voter Index for the five special elections this year equates to over-performance by the Democrats of 8 points. If Democrats were to over-perform in the 2018 mid-terms at that rate, the Democrats would pick up 80 seats.

Eighty seats!

Realistically, that isn’t going to happen since incumbents are going to be more firmly entrenched than special election nominees, but Democrats are in a strong position in 2018. In fact, we are in a much stronger position than Republicans were in 2010 or 2014.

Democrats allowed the Georgia “expectations game” to froth up into a bad case of hydrophobia. The political consultants sold a bill of goods. There was plenty of money to support the wrong conclusions. The truth no one wanted to believe was this: Hillary was the high water mark for Democrats in the district. Surprise! Hillary was a good candidate. Hillary lost the district by 1½% and a presidential race is always of higher concern than a congressional contest.

That is not to say Ossoff was a bad candidate, but he looked like he just asked his daddy to borrow the car for an after school math club meeting. He didn’t live in the district allowing him to be “otherized” as “not one of us”. Catnip to the tribal instincts of the district.

This brings us to the next major point – tribalism. The base of the Republican Party is full-blown tribalistic and ethnocentric. As such they are enthralled by authoritarianism. Dolt 45 scratches that itch.

Here is a piece of long journalism on tribal epistemology. The frightening aspect of tribalism is that truth is no longer operative. There is no fact outside what is good for the tribe. Hypocrisy is suspended. It is no longer offensive if it furthers the tribal cause. The world exists in terms of “us” versus “them”. The “others” threaten the tribe. It is not enough to defeat the “others,” they must be annihilated.

When you overlay the Republican tribal mentality against the failures of Dolt 45 and his merry band of henchmen, a monumental case of counter-intuitive logic appears like Stonehenge out of the mist.

The tangelo wearing a kangaroo stretch scrotum continues to hold his base because he hasn’t done anything yet. He’s signed some fancy press statements about thinking about doing things, but he has not yet done anything. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

Not until the dissonance occurs between promises and actions will the tribe fall out of like with his Orangeness. For instance, let’s say twenty million people lose health care so that one million rich people can get a tax cut. That is liable to cause more than a little economic angst to creep into the tribal zeitgeist. So much for economic populism.

This is why the Georgia loss is a positive development. Anything that builds confidence for an agenda that has no constituency is blowing smoke up the all too receptive sphincter of the orange biopsy. Likewise, Custer didn’t lose sleep over worrying about overconfidence.

Folks, Dolt 45 hasn’t yet been presidenting for six months. He’s supremely talented at turning everything he touches to crap, but even he needs the time to do it in world-class fashion. Perhaps the season of Filmishmish is upon us, but no pigs fly before their time.

What’s on your mind today?

 

 

 

fight-club-3

You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone, and we are all part of the same compost pile.

So wrote Chuck Palahniuk in his 1996 novel “Fight Club,” later adapted into a popular film by David Fincher starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham-Carter. Palahniuk proudly claimed that he coined the phrase “snowflake” to describe libtards, but – alas – Palahniuk is not a beautiful and unique snowflake, and his claims that he invented the insult are alternative facts. It’s a little hard to figure out Palahniuk’s politics. He has a  bit of a Milo Snuffleupagus vibe going. He likes to yell, shock and act like a jerk.  Palahniuk, who is gay, also approved the use of “snowflake” to describe liberals. And yet, the characters of “Fight Club” who resemble what one day would become the alt-right (angry, violent white men who wreak havoc upon the world and commit acts of terrorism) aren’t heroes. And it’s main character is literally a schizophrenic with multiple personalities.

In any case, whatever Palahniuk’s personal feelings on liberals and snowflakes, the term is very old. It has been traced as far back as 1860s to describe white people who opposed abolition of slavery. The alt-right’s embrace of it – and liberals’ attempts to claim it as ironic – has been an interesting fight over words. Who thought that the age of Trump would usher in a war over language.

And who would have thought that Shakespeare would be reestablished as politically relevant 400 years after his death. “Julius Caesar,” written in 1599, humanizes a despot, showing that assassinations of leaders – even the bad ones – is a terrible idea. Portraying Caesar as a contemporary is hardly a new tradition. They did it in 1930s’s Germany, and more recently on our own shores Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all been portrayed as Caesar. But it’s the Trump version in NYC’s Central Park that has incensed Trumpkins. Multiple performances have now been interrupted by the alt-right and I suspect this will continue for the duration of the production’s run.

How triggered Trumpkins are by a 400 year old play. They accuse the liberal elitists who read Shakespeare of inciting violence by showing Caesar being assassinated. And then they accuse the same liberal elitists of being snowflakes. It’s a little difficult to square the two off. I don’t know what to wear to be a snowflake terrorist!

“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”

Leon Trotsky

(This quote is frequently attributed to Bertolt Brecht, but actually appears to be by Trotsky!)

Art has been making people angry for as long as people have been creating art. The Pussy Riotpower of art to heighten emotions – every emotion imaginable – is unparalleled. And its ability to inspire social change is undisputed. Pierre Beaumarchais‘ Figaro trilogy was banned in France and Austria in the decade before the French Revolution. Dmitri Shostakovich‘s opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District” nearly got him executed, and he was on the brink of arrest by Stalin almost his entire life. The Nazis murdered more artists than one can count and created entire categories of degenerate art, which included everything from the film “Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” to the music of Kurt Weill. We have seen the Fearless Girl on Wall Street – bravely facing off the charging bull – attacked and disfigured. What are they afraid of? (One line of attack on the Fearless Girl, created by Kristen Virbal, is that it was commissioned by an investment management firm, which makes it not art. These people are ironically unaware of quite literally the entire history of art…) In our own times perhaps no act of political art has been more feared than the Russian female punk band Pussy Riot. Arrested, imprisoned, beaten by Putin and his followers: yet they persist. Perhaps in America political artists are fortunate to not be targets of government-led violence. It is imperative that we never allow it to happen.

Warning: this video by Pussy Riot is graphic.

Good Monday, all! For those who are dads, I hope you had a really nice day yesterday.

Throughout his entire life, Donald Trump has had the ability to get whatever he wants by ordering people around. He was born rich, managed to stay rich through corruption and the kind of reptilian charisma that plays well on teevee, and ran his own company with a small, mostly familial and familial-adjacent staff. He has never, ever had to work for anyone else.

And now he does. And we, the people, his employers, are not happy with his job performance.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight has Drumpf’s approval rating at 38.7%. In his first few, horrifying months as Resident, Der Drumpfenfuhrer has spawned a surprisingly durable and peaceful resistance movement. The Women’s March was so overwhelmingly huge and widespread throughout America, that people realized they do have power in this country. And they’ve started voting in a way that doesn’t bode well for Republicans.

Since Jan. 20, Democrats have won 12 special legislative elections, and Republicans have won 11.3 But because so many special elections take place in safe districts, win-loss records can only tell you so much. Instead, you’re better off comparing their final results to the district’s baseline partisanship, which FiveThirtyEight measures using a weighted average of the last two presidential election results4 as calculated by Daily Kos.5 And in the 15 special legislative elections to pit at least one Democrat against at least one Republican,6 12 have seen a net swing toward the Democrats.

I’m writing this before Georgia’s special election, and I don’t know if Jon Ossoff will win or not. I will say this, though, for him to even come close would be a great result in that district. And the fact that the Republicans are spending soooooooo much money to keep the seat means that even seats they used to think were safe, aren’t any more.

But it’s not just voting that’s showing that the governed aren’t consenting. It’s the state governors and federal judges, resisting against the Muslim ban (no, it’s not a travel ban, folks, it’s a religious ban targeted at travelers) and the cruel “sanctuary city” defunding, and the monumental stupidity of trying to “re-negotiate” the Paris Accords and not acknowledging climate change. It’s Joe and Jane America, coming to town halls they never cared about before this year, and speaking out against the Republican agenda, which has never been more unpopular. And according to Rebecca Solnit of The Guardian, the power lies with us. I urge you to read the whole thing; here is an inspiring excerpt.

…This activism needs to be sustained, and it needs to be strategic. It needs to address voting rights, and midterm elections, and it needs to remember all the powers and possibilities that lie in activism beyond electoral politics as well. So far so good.

Greenpeace USA executive director Annie Leonard told me that they don’t have to try to recruit or inform people anymore, that they can’t “answer the phones fast enough”; that people are showing up ready to try to change the world. She said everything groups like hers have been doing for decades “was all practice for this moment”.

People like to predict the future, often a dismal future, but the future is not written. It is ours to write. In this moment of utter turmoil, civil society must be the counter to a rogue administration, one whose victory is a surprise equaled by its myriad defeats ever since.

A crisis, says one dictionary, is “the point in the progress of a disease when a change takes place which is decisive of recovery or death; also, any marked or sudden change of symptoms, etc.” This crisis could be the death or the recovery of a more democratic, more inclusive, more generous America. Where we go from here is up to us.

I choose Option B.

This is an open thread.

 

 


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Atrocities Documented:

What the F*ck Just Happened?!

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Your Victories Against Drumpf!

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Our 2016 Ticket!

Our girl is gonna shine

Busted: Glass ceiling

HRC bumper sticker

She’s thinking “Less than 2 weeks I have to keep seeing that face”

Yeah I can make it

The team we’re on

Women’s March on Washington!

Right-click the pic for more info

Kellyanne Conway’s new job

So similar

Take the kids to work? NO!

3 turds control fate of healthcare for millions

That moment when *your* pussy gets grabbed