Category: Politics and Government


Whole lotta white guys. Just sayin’

quick take away:

Comey established that the president tried to obstruct justice.

Trump only cares about the impact of the investigation on him; Trump doesn’t care if there was interference by Russia, only how it reflects on him.

A few of the Republicans are not complete dicks.

Comey did a fairly nice job addressing the actual responsibilities of the Director of the FBI, to the public and to the WH. It doesn’t involve “loyalty” oaths to the person of the President.

John McCain is losing it.

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Youtube video – Comey Hearings

Wonkette’s liveblog: HAPPY COMEY DAY! Let’s Liveblog Story Time With Uncle Jim!

 

fight-truth-decay-man-with-signBetween the alt-fact efforts of new White House communications director Sean Spicer, and the shutdown of public communication from many federal agencies — EPA in particular; science-oriented offices in general — an obvious pattern is developing. The new WH is shutting off dialog, and keeping public eyes off of government agency work.  In some ways this doesn’t surprise me; Republican administrations seem to be less open than Democratic ones. Though the Obama administration was not as transparent as many hoped, it certainly did open the cyber doors to lots of input, as well as real life efforts to communicate with the public.  I expected it to swing back to a more closed system with the incoming administration, but it’s been much more severe than I anticipated.

The key to how this goes from here will hinge on how the press and the social-media-using public decides to get information out.

Social media is strong, and a major part of how the average citizen shares information about what is happening in the public sphere, but it’s still sort of figuring itself out. Thankfully I’m seeing my friends catch fake news more often, challenge poorly researched assertions in articles, and using the strengths of the medium to share what we are all observing.  But it’s not perfect, and we’ll need to up our vigilance in weeding out the bad info from the good if it’s to be effective in a time when gaslighting seems to be the norm coming out of the Trump administration.

And the press has to be vigilant as well, and in this area, huge swaths of the American press have been pretty damn lazy over the last few years.  Fortunately for those of us reading their work, Trump and his minions have both pissed the press off and committed themselves to such such stupid, obvious falsehoods, that many journalists are ready to start digging in, and the ones who already were taking all of this seriously are getting support for doing so.

Trump is engaged in a misinformation campaign. This is partly a strategy to allow the GOP to make sweeping partisan changes, and partly in service to Trump’s massive ego (juxtaposed next to a constantly crumbling sense of self worth). And it wears us out, public and press alike.  Whether its intent is to numb us through a ever-renewing cascade of laughably stupid and/or outrageously offensive statements, or that’s just the convenient natural consequence of all of the tweets and press statements and odd moments at the podium, the effect is the same: silencing us by making us weary of absorbing the blistering stupidity of it all.

But we can’t allow that.  As consumers of journalism, or as the creators of it, we can’t let ourselves be worn down.  And we can’t forget that while the press and us, its audience, is the target of this effort, the war is on objective truth.

It will be tempting for a lot of journalists to buy into the idea that they are the ones who are under assault. But they will do their jobs if/when they recognize that it is the truth that is under attack and the goal is to create the kind of chaos where anything is possible.

LeTourneau asks her fellow journalists to help us all avoid a world where, given that the truth is impossible to ascertain, there no longer remains any avenue, or point to trying to find it.

So, the press has to find footing in a very unsteady stream.  I suspect this will only work if the press divorces itself from, for instance, relying on WH press office statements to determine fact, which have become talking points without basis in subtance. The press will need to look elsewhere. This will be hard, this will be expensive, and it relies on public support, in paying the bills the media incurs just to get the job done, and in demanding careful journalism.

The key is to keep our vigilance going. We cannot allow ourselves to be silenced, nor can we afford to let the press be silenced.

 

jesse-duquette-sean-spicer-sketch-orwell-quote

This painful moment, and powerful concession speech…

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and this awful, awful sham of a man taking an oath of office…

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sparking this amazing outpouring of resistance and empowerment…

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even in my town, Eugene …

and in tiny towns like Newport, Oregon (I intended to go to this one, but had to take care of my respiratory health instead, dammit)

womens-march-newport-wide-reader-2-768x576

…. maybe I’m ready to start writing again.

I have been writing, in a way.  I comment on facebook and at Wonkette; I spit out thoughts in a sentence or two, an exchange of written sentiments pinging back and forth among people online.  But I haven’t been “writing,” and I should have been.  After the election, I was sucked dry and overwhelmed by rage and grief. Just getting through the day without stewing over the great losses to social justice, to health, to the security of our future, coming down the raging rapids that Trump’s election unleashed… it’s been too much, over and over again.

Taking refuge in the hubbub around the holidays has been a relief; the PNW ice storms likewise, strangely enough. Something concrete to focus on; something to deal with right now, with tangible and visible effect. Play in the snow with the granddaughter. Clean up the branches in the yard. Seal the crack under the door. Make hot soup.

And all the while, reading reading reading, trying to wrap my brain around the social changes that this administration advocates.

What sparked this post was someone else taking the time to write something she felt important enough to focus on in more than a sentence or two tossed out on social media.  She said, among other things: “A bit of perspective: as things change about how our system works in the upcoming days, months and years: write it down. Keep a journal of this period. This will help us keep perspective and prevent the normalization of possible upcoming events”

That is what my journals and blogs have generally been about: what am I noticing, how am I reacting, what thoughts are being sparked by what I’m seeing/ hearing/ reading.

And sadly it occurs to me that I better make hard copy of pretty much everything that I put down.  But more importantly, I need to make my own record of what is happening.

Yesterday many things happened.  But I’ll note one:  The Gag Rule is back in place, and stronger than ever, affecting not only family-planning facilities across the world, but HIV- and ZIKA-prevention programs as well.  And as has been memed constantly since it was made public:

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I have no wacky uncles. Leading up to Thanksgiving, the interwebs were full of advice on how to deal with your crazy tea partier uncle and the theories he was sure to bring to the dinner table.

This year, as usual, I was blessed with a distinct lack of crazy uncles, and a table-full of mostly intelligent, liberal to lefty people who backed Obama, believe in universal health care, science and history, think the Republicans have been irresponsible troublemakers for the better part of 4 (or 12, or 30) years, and have no patience for the tea party, in the form of Uncle Jim or anyone else.

For this, I am truly thankful.

To be sure, in my family there are wacky uncles, and aunts, and cousins galore I’m sure, who are holed up in their tight little worlds, still trying to figure out how to get that Kenyan Muslin Usurper out of the White “It’s called that for a reason, ya know” House. There is a whole arm of the family in Eastern Washington and elsewhere who, I’m sure, are planted firmly in front of Fox News on a pretty regular basis, and who take their talk radio from the likes of Rush and Hannity.

But they’re not sitting at my dinner table. And I’m not really sorry about that. There was a time in the 1980s when my brother was a big fan of Rush Limbaugh and the right wing nut jobs of that day. Even though he railed wildly on extreme themes, was dangerously lacking in fact checking, and was downright rude to my girlfriend (he didn’t speak directly to her for 2 years), you could, sort of, have a conversation with the guy. Because he was a thinking man, after a while he shifted his views to more of a progressive Libertarian stance, and eventually  worked hard to get Obama elected in 2008.

Even back then, conversation was at least possible.

But the New Millennium version of the family right-wing nut job is a lot harder to deal with, and I’m very happy not to have the arguments of this era over the holiday meal. My larger extended family of right-wingers does their holiday on their own these last few decades (probably with Fox News tuned in somewhere in the background). At my own Thanksgiving table, we sit much in accord with each other, and it improves both the conversation and the digestion.

There are differences, to be sure, along our Democratic-to-Libertarian spectrum, but it’s founded in basic common ground: government, though prone to the failings of any large bureaucracy, can do good, and is how we pool our common interests and resources. All people are valuable. Religious freedom is serious stuff, and has nothing to do with protecting extreme Christians from having to acknowledge the very existence of other faiths or no faith. Women (and men) should be able to determine their own medical needs. A family is a family, straight, gay or otherwise. Education is valuable. Science is based on careful research and analysis. The world is not 6000 years old.

And I’d like to think that if a whacky uncle or three sat down at the table, we’d all be strong minded enough to actually have a great conversation together, to agree to disagree, to keep it sane out of sheer numbers, so many of “us” speaking truth as we see it to “them.” And I’d like to think we’d change some minds, open some doors, sweep the blight of right wing media lies from Uncle So-and-So’s thinking.

But I must admit, I’m glad I don’t have to.

I voted this last Friday, dropping my ballot into the box at the county Elections office down the street. I’ve followed the campaign pretty avidly, and I’m keyed up, waffling between optimism and terror that some statistical oddity, some stealing of the the vote, some awful twist will hand Romney the White House. Not just a GOP a White House, but a soulless White House.

I was incredibly on edge about the 2008 election, but in some ways this seems tighter, more determinative. The stakes do seem higher. While in retrospect I think McCain could have been an awful president, at the time I didn’t so much fear him as the Republicans already in the executive branch. I sincerely wanted Obama as president, but was feeling more grim than alarmed at the idea of McCain winning. And I was pretty sure he wouldn’t, for all the Sarah Palin related reasons you can supply.

This time it really is alarming to think of a Romney presidency. The man has no moral core when it comes to governance; he swings where the winds of opportunism guide him. He can be bought.

Compare that to an administration that, despite the heaviest partisan opposition I can remember, got quite a number of things done, changes that expanded civil rights, job opportunities, the manufacturing industry, put constraints on the health insurance industry and opened paths to getting health care coverage, and, oh yeah, some military stuff and dragging the economy away from the brink of complete collapse.

Oh yes. I enthusiastically, proudly, confidently cast my vote for Obama.

Ta-Nehisi Coates comments on a New York state assemblyman’s sexual harassment of his staff, after the accused grudgingly admitted he made a “mistake” – really? You think? Prompting this from my new favorite blogger:

Sexual harassment laws were basically invented for people who think “I’d like it better if you didn’t have a bra on” qualifies as management-speak.

via Why We Have Sexual Harassment Laws – Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic.

And part of what I love is that the writer is a man.  20 years ago, I would have been truly amazed to read this coming from most male writers, certainly the ones writing for magazines like The Atlantic. Now, I am pleasantly surprised to find a succinct line of criticism, which could have just as easily come from a female perspective.

Things do change!

When Todd Akin first scoffed at the notion that rape victims can get pregnant, he defended himself by pointing to the medical judgment of someone named Dr. John Willke, former president of the National Right to Life Committee, who has been pushing this argument for many years.

Indeed, just this week, Willke told the New York Times rapists don’t impregnate their victims because, “This is a traumatic thing — she’s, shall we say, she’s uptight. She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.”

via Romney and Mr. ‘Spastic Tubes’ – The Maddow Blog.

[Insert BIG HEAD-SLAP here]

Ohhhh…kaaaaay….. so does Mr Spastic Tubes (love it!) think human women pop out an egg when we have “legitimate” sex? And how big does he think a little sperm is, that our “tight tubes” could keep them out? Or does he have that Fallopian tube and vagina thing mixed up? Is it possible he has never actually investigated the arrangement of the female pelvis?

This is why we can’t have nice things. Or even shabby functional things.

Ta-Nehisi Coates put out a short and thoughtful post on Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments on how women magically destroy sperm during “legitimate rape” (vs. ???) – and TNC nails the attitude that makes trying to have logical discussions with these folks nigh to impossible:

At any rate, I think what’s interesting here is the assumed power. I have the right to objectively define pregnancy from rape as rare. I have the right to determine separate legitimate rape from all those instances when you were in need of encouragement, wearing a red dress or otherwise asking for it. I have the right to manufacture scientific theories about your body — theories which reinforce my power. If the body doesn’t “shut that whole thing down” then clearly you weren’t raped, and there’s no need to talk about an abortion. And even if I am wrong on every count, I still have the right to dictate the terms of your body and the remaining days of your life.

via Rape, Abortion, and the Privilege of Magical Thinking – Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic.

TNC writes about his own response to this redefining of rape, and how it relates to the use of abortion:

Whatever qualms I have about abortion (and increasingly I think it isn’t even my right to have qualms) the idea of putting medicine in the hands of people who think that, in the instance of rape, the female body can “shut that whole thing down” or “secrete a certain secretion” to prevent pregnancy is utterly terrifying. [emphasis mine]

Couldn’t agree more, even while possessing a difference experience than TNC.
And about what I bolded in that quote: Mr. Coates, you ABSOLUTELY have every right to feel qualms. You probably can’t even stop those feelings if they crop up – you can counter them, test them, explore them, but you can’t very well stop that kind of thing.

But you can refrain from imposing rule, regulation and condemnation based on those qualms. And that’s a major difference.

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish blog, an angle on Social Security and Medicare which I hadn’t considered for a long, long time:

A reader writes:

Many analysts assume there will be a war between the generations regarding who benefits and who pays for social programs like medicare and social security, both programs open to the vast majority of elderly, retired, or disabled Americans.

This misses a key point of both programs.

My own case as an example. I get both medicare and social security now that I’m 67 years old. But my first benefit from the programs came when I was 19. My parents sent me off to college, and sent my sister the next year. This would not have been possible without social security and medicare, which were available to my grandparents – the first generation to come of age under these programs. Without these programs, my family’s money would not have stretched to cover my college costs. It would have gone, as it did in countless generations before, to taking care of elderly parents and grandparents.

via The Coming Generation Wars, Ctd – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.

The future years for my mother – and for me, as a potential caregiver, or at minimum, a sort of family overseer – have been weighing on my mind. She’s 77, still working about 30 hours or more a week. Thank goodness for Medicare, for Social Security, for all the things that got her to a relatively healthy, and definitely active seventh decade.

But if all of that wasn’t there, could I take care of her? Certainly not in the style to which she as managed to accustom herself. The modern manifestation of the New Deal and the Great Society have affected me, not so much as a direct recipient, but as the child of those who did, and who are now reaping the benefits of the bargain they made:  Work hard, let us take some out of your earnings toward your future, and you will be taken care of, and not be a burden to the next generation.

Also, for some reason, I keep thinking of The Grandfather and The Grandmother in the sickly sweet but fascinating children’s novel, Heidi. There’s more to that story than would appear, below its surface. Family is almost always willing to sacrifice. The question is, how much do they actually have to give? And for some, it’s precious little, though they’d willingly give it all.

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