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Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Things are getting very bad very fast.  Reactionary Republicans are rushing to undo not merely the last eight years social progress but the last fifty years and more of social progress.  We are in for the fight of our lives, and demonstrations by themselves, however  invigorating, will not do.  We need to plan now to take back the House, and if possible, the Senate.


Chris said...

Justice democrats and ellison as dnc chair, no?

Chris said...

Everyone that reads this blog, please contact the DNC and request that Keith Ellison be made DNC chair. Give money to Ellison too if you can:

Not only do we need progressive democrats in power, but we need a black muslim as party chair to both practically and symbolically show real resistance to Trump's muslim ban.

Will said...

We do need a plan. I recently moved to Alabama. The Democratic Party is in shambles here. Many of the Republicans in my various districts ran unopposed. Republican Robert Aderholt ran unopposed in the 4th congressional district. Republican Alan Harper ran unopposed in the 61st state house district. Republican Gerald Allen had Democratic opposition in the 21st state senate district, but won with 62 percent of the vote. Senator Shelby's reelection was contested by a Democratic marijuana legalization activist; Shelby won with nearly 64 percent of the vote. We are also home to the egregious Jeff Sessions.

There is some effort to make the Democratic Party more competitive here. I went to a Tuscaloosa County Democratic Party meeting yesterday. Some fifty people showed up--a good enthusiastic crowd. They are already registering voters--in part for the upcoming municipal and school board elections, but also for the 2018 midterms, when the entire state legislature will be up. They are building voter databases and working to recruit and train women to run as Democratic candidates. They obviously need to find some good people to run. Now they are either failing to field anyone, or fielding someone laughable.

I would love to see a Sanders-style democratic socialist run. Most of the progressive groups here are focused on matters of economic justice--raising the minimum wage, ending predatory lending practices, providing money for organizations to build affordable housing, etc. These groups know people, they are active in the community, they are relatively organized. These groups attract both black and white members--crucial for any person wanting to be elected as a Democrat in Alabama. A democratic socialist would appeal to these groups, and their knowledge and experience would be invaluable. A democratic socialist might also be able to appeal to many of the poorer white people here who are tired of the establishment. (Although many people here are pleased with Trump's actions, including his awful ban.)

All that must wait--for now we need a plan.

Guy Tennenbaum said...

My crystal ball is cloudy at the moment. The Muslim ban has proved to be more popular than not according to polls. And surely it's especially popular in those regions of the country that tilted the election toward the minority-president. These kinds of strong-man tactics, tied to white-identity politics, may just prove to be a winning issue for the Republicans. You're right, professor. Protests can be effective up to a point, but they don't necessarily reflect the sentiments of the crypto-fascist silent "majority" (not really a majority). Who the hell knows?

We do need to keep up the fight, but can some of us occasionally have a moment to get our bearings? It's all happening so fast. Steve Bannon, a man who seems to me to be pure evil, is now effectively running the government. How can this be real?

Perhaps, there's some comfort to be had in the fact that Bannon and T***p are both over 60 and look like death. Is it too much to ask for some merciful force in the universe to seize their hearts and cause them to stop beating?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

From your mouth to God's ear.

Chris said...

Bannon does look like he's hungover in every photo I've seen of him...

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Yeah, well Goebbels didn't look too good either. If I weren't an atheist, and if I believed in a vengeful God, I would be praying for their deaths. But short of another Nuernberg Trial, we may be out of luck.

DML said...

A few stray comments

1. There is majority support for the Muslim ban, but it varies by the poll, and its wording. I've seen polls that have the support in the 30s, if the wording is slightly harsher.

2. Another way to look at it is, in the first week, Trump rolled out a policy that almost half the country opposes. This is not something a competent politician does in the first week.

3. The passion and intensity is all on the anti-ban side. This is very important. Most people support abortion rights and want gun control, but the pro life people and the gun nuts are more passionate, so they keep winning on these issues.

4. Prof. Wolff is right, taking back Congress is all that matters, and the landscape is still bleak. Democrats have as many as 10 vulnerable incumbents, with Republicans only 3. Trump is at 50% disapproval, but he is at 85% approval among Republicans in districts that elected a republican representative (numbers from Brendan Nyhan, don't have the link handy). The House has big gerrymandering problems that we all know about.

5. That said, reasons for optimism:
-some things have already changed quickly. The Ban was rolled out as incompetently as possible. This was a gift to Democrats causing the left and Democrats more generally to unify and rally, and even drawing some Republican dissenters. Just a month ago, Chuck Schumer was having meetings with Trump and talking about how he might work with him here and there. All of that is done now I think. It is significant that 5 Senators have come out against the ban. We're only a week in, and you can see a visible crack in the GOP coalition.

-This crack will only get worse as Republicans take on the ACA. He's an Obama apologist, but Jonathan Chait has some good articles in NYMag about the pickle Republicans are in on this. We've gone from Trump suggesting to rolling back the ACA on "Inauguration Day", to it happening in the first 100 days, now they're saying "August sometime". This is a loser for the GOP, but they're stuck because the base wants it badly.

-The Democratic party is in a shambles, and not just in Alabama as Will points out. Its doing great in Nevada though, where there were gains across the board for Dems in 2016. I don't know what they're doing there, but whoever runs the DNC needs to replicate it.

7. Should I sound overly optimistic, I realize many more terrible things are coming down the pike that the Dems won't be able to stop. But there are other terrible things that they will stop. They still have the filibuster, which can stop all non-spending bills. McConnell has recently rebuffed Trump on his suggestion that they get rid of it entirely. I personally think Republicans in the Senate want it so they don't have to sign on to every crazy thing that will come out of the House.

8. The key I think is to keep an eye on the things that we can change - and for the most part, that means winning elections the next time around.

David said...

Thank you, DML and Will. We need to be having these discussions.

Howard Dean, way back when, advocated a 50-state strategy. We need to resurrect it. We shouldn't just be focusing on "swing" states. We should be fighting everywhere. That's because, as I've said elsewhere, the struggle is partly territorial: precinct-by-precinct, district-by-district.

JML, you ask a good question about Nevada. My impression is that unions have been getting stronger in Nevada and made a difference in turning out voters. The Latino turnout was also apparently very good, but it's interesting to me how the Culinary Union, joined by groups like Mi Familia, helped to turn out Latino voters.

levinebar said...

five Acts of God befell Dick Cheney's heart
His will made manifest to those with eyes
the punctuality of each crash-cart
made all the difference who lives or dies
our sons and brothers die on foreign sands
or rehabilitate at the VA
mere pawns in Vice's bloodless undead hands
enlisted men just serve without a say
the resources expended on Dick's life
have consequences year by bloody year
sustaining one who profits from world strife
has sundered millions from all they held dear
no Benthamite would sign a deal so odd
impious cardiologists play God

Guy Tennenbaum said...

Thank you, DML. The ACA presents an interesting situation. I wonder if Republicans will just go ahead and keep the act or even strengthen it, providing people with more generous subsidies. We've already seen hints that Republican orthodoxy is being rewritten in the aftermath of T***p's third-partyish victory. This would amount to an enormous hypocrisy, of course, but will Republican voters even care?

As for Bannon looking hungover all the time, I'd go a good deal further. He looks like a corpse just pulled from a river. I heard an apt (non-PC) nickname for him: Fatsputin. And if anything T***p looks worse. He's so jaundiced he's orange. It is said he woofs down fast-food while getting only six hours of sleep each night. Seriously, how are these people alive? Spite and malice must be powerful nutrients to keep these hideous ghouls animated.

s. wallerstein said...

Ed Barreras,

What if Trump looked healthy? Would that make any difference?

I, like so many people of my age, 70, the same as Trump, suffer from insomnia and I generally get less than 6 hours of sleep (with the help of pills). I doubt if I look very healthy and yet I'm a nice person.

Since political correctness frowns on mocking people with conditions that they are not responsible for (and that's a good idea), including health conditions, why not extend that to not mocking older people who sleep badly and look like shit and why not concentrate on Trump's real failings?

When I was younger, a lot younger, I used to mock old people myself, but then I got old. It happens to everyone if they live long enough and most of us old people are ugly: let's face facts.

Enam el Brux said...

Following the argument of Brian Leiter "The Circumstances of Civility," a person like Bannon has no epistemic standing--he openly mocks and disparages the epistemic virtues of knowledge, learning and understanding for political ends, has made a career of precipitating the political dystopia in which we now find ourselves. Now that he has access to the levers of power, he is busy installing former employees of his Alt-right disinformation machine in the White House. The man has no claim on civility. Perhaps one could lay off mentioning apparent signs of dypsomania--not to mention paralipsis.

levinebar said...

like Riefenstahl, Steve Bannon feeds the mob
a fabulous faux-past when they were great
a fourth estate that didn't do its job
gave up the field to merchants peddling hate
as sovereigns, it's on our heads to choose
a course for our republic and allies
but all depends on getting honest news
and knowing what part's satire, what part's lies
no Walter Cronkite tells it to us straight
each channel slants the news to make it mean
whatever sponsors' polls would indicate
when Breitbart's the official noise machine
that sunny future's darker than it seems
when we buy into propagandists' dreams

Will said...

Chris (or anyone else), do you know why Ellison is raising money? I receive regular emails from his campaign asking for contributions, but these emails never explain what the money is being used for. From what I understand, the DNC, which elects the chair, comprises fewer than 500 members. Ellison could personally call each member in less than a week. Moreover, he already has the endorsements of several key Democrats. So it seems unlikely the money would be used for typical campaign purposes. My best guess is that he asks for money to demonstrate to the DNC that he has dedicated popular support--that he can best build on the energy of the base. But that's only a guess, and I would like to know before I donate.

Charles Pigden said...

It is true that Trump’s skin colour is decidedly peculiar but I assume that this not due to jaundice but is a cosmetic choice just like the colour and cut of his hair. So the question is, why does he WANT to look like that? How can he possibly think that it looks cool? Long before he became a threat to civilization and was merely a figure of fun in The Apprentice, I used to wonder about his hair. It was perhaps the most ridiculous comb-over I have ever seen on a human head (and the competition in this area is decidedly stiff). Surely he must have been at least dimly aware of the titters it induced? I used to imagine the scenes in Trump Tower.

Trump :‘Hey you , flunkey. I have read on Twitter that people have been laughing at my hair! There nothing wrong with it is there? It looks really cool, right? That ‘s what my a hair-dressers say and I am paying them a fortune!’

Flunkey: ‘Oh No Mr Trump! Don’t listen to the losers and the haters. They are just envious. That hair-do is so totally you! Don't change a thing (unless of course you want to).’

On the optimistic scenario that flunkey would be struggling desperately to keep a straight face and would have to run form the room shortly thereafter to give vent to his suppressed giggles. On the pessimistic scenario, sycophancy has so subverted his soul that the actually believes his own bullshit and butters Trump up in all sincerity. It's the second scenario that suspect is true. His flunkies are so subservient that they actually believe Trump is the great man he takes himself to be.

Hitherto I have thought that Trump looked relatively young for his age but just lately it seems to me me the pressure is beginning to tell and he is beginning to look old. Let’s hope that his system buckles under the strain and that he dies. Meanwhile being now, officially an old person myself (I just got my first Senior Discount a couple of weeks ago, having recently turned sixty) , I would advise my contemporaries and seniors not to let this ridiculous scoundrel get under your skin. Maintain you opposition and your indignation, do what you can, but don’t maintain your rage as it may induce a heart attack or a stroke. His downfall is worth working for (it is indeed imperative) but we need to take care of ourselves if we are to live to see it.

Guy Tennenbaum said...

S. Wallerstein,

First, you are still a fit and attractive man from what we can see in your picture. If you were a malignant proto-dictator I'd have to find something besides looks to mock you over.

Second, your plea for non-hurtful rhetoric is duly noted. However, I have to point out that I did not mock Bannon and the minority-president for being old per se. I had said that their deaths by natural causes would not be an unwelcome development, and noting that both men are over 60 was merely meant to underscore the fact that, actuarially speaking, that possiblity is not hugely unlikely.

Now if we're saying that ugly + ill-health = old, then OK, maybe that was implicit in my little outburst. But that wasn't my intention. And yeah, I did mock them for being overweight and alcoholics. Those things used to be considered sins, but now we've decided that they belong to the category of traits-for-which-we-should-show-compassion. I get that.

However, I'm not entirely convinced that cruel mockery doesn't have its uses. I.M. Flaud references an argument from Brain Leiter (a Nietzsche scholar) on civility, and I'm sure tomes have been written on the same subject. We could probably easily cite countless examples of Great Men and Women of Letters being low and undignified with respect to their enemies. I'm no expert in this area so I won't venture any further comments. (Maybe RPW can give us his thoughts on the matter as we await the apocalypse). I'll just note that effective satire often gets its bite from peurility, a delicious mix of the clever and the profane. Political cartoons, for example, usually exaggerate the physical peculiarities of their subjects -- and therein lies a good deal of their pleasure and often, on a perhaps subliminal level, their potency.

Finally, I'll note what has often been noted: that Donald T***p is just a bizarre looking person. You'd be a liar to claim not to notice that, and you'd be a saint not to occasionally laugh at it. And I don't care how old Bannon is; I find him absolutely repulsive to look at. Somehow his sociopathy is inscribed on his hideous face.

Anyway, from now on I'll try (no guarntees) to keep the discourse here elevated, and to save my juvenile outbursts for the bar at 2 am. Who knows? Maybe Steve Bannon will be there.

Guy Tennenbaum said...

Charles Pigden,

T***p's failure to realize how ridiculous he looks does seem to betoken some remove from conventionally agreed-upon reality. What compounds the strangeness is that he once participated in A Comedy Central roast (!) wherein he was mercilessly lampooned by a group of comedians over that very thing.

I remember thinking that his looks alone would forestall his ascension. Silly me.

Anonymous said...

Amazing how quickly the commentary here degenerates to the level of high school cafeteria table. Not very productive, is it?

s. wallerstein said...

Ed Barreras,

I just asked a woman friend, Chilean and anti-Trump, whether she thought Trump looked good and she answered, yes, for his age....

I didn't press her as to whether I look good for my age for fear of hearing something I don't want to hear or for fear of forcing her to extreme her diplomacy.

As to Bannon, unlike Trump, he looks fairly normal to me. I've never had the least reaction, either positive or negative, to his looks. Maybe I'm out of touch with 2017 America (I haven't been there for 8 years), but if I saw Bannon on the street without knowing he was a Bannon, I'd have no idea that he is an especially repulsive character. He doesn't look like a person I'd particularly like, but there are very few politicians who I like. I prefer people who are sensitive misfits, not necessarily losers, because you can be a sensitive misfit and still not be a loser if you realize you're a misfit and play your misfit cards right, but sensitive misfits do not get elected or get appointed to cabinet jobs.

Anonymous said...

Funny, tried to post here via Tor but your blog is not accessible via Tor. Other blogspot sites are such as

I use Tor via Tails. If someone else can install the software from here and verify the same it would be much appreciated. It's odd it happens just to this blog...

As to my post...
I called my congressional rep's local offices and basically turned the argument around.
Why should I be punished for going to school, college, and managing my career for someone
that wants a factory job to pay them 100k per year and live in Mayberry? I move around
the country for economic reasons. I move around for better paying jobs and Obamacare
has helped me achieve that independence. Why should I be punished for being a rational
economic agent engaging in a free market?

That line of reasoning usually stings at any Republican district office. To accommodate Trump, they will abandon their advocacy of free markets and capitalism in favor of some nationalist syndicalist policy for their own exclusive base. They will impose tariffs and protectionist policies to pander to such a base at the exclusion of minorities, Muslims, and liberals.

This line of reasoning can usually provide a nice reference point to their falangist notions. Please engage this type of argument when dealing with Republicans.

As for mocking Trump for physical reasons, that really does not play well. It might be sufficient for a cheap laugh but the most interesting way to reject Trump is to demonstrate how his policies are in effect a throwback to Falangist ideals and show the contrast... At least Franco served in an army... our leader just achieved a tan and expensive hairdo.

A propaganda effort against Trump can be achieved as a two prong approach. It can appeal to free market conservatives and the new Left. Scissoring his policies against each other would suffice to show his contradictions.

Tariffs and taxes to subsidize the factory workers!
Change divorce laws to give men more rights!
Abandon alimony!
Contraceptives for men!

The traditional wedge issues will not work like abortion/gun rights.
Rage issues will work and he will get absorbed by them. Such as the push for men's rights in divorce cases. Fertility tests at airports to prevent overseas abortions. Prescription monitoring of elderly to prevent euthanasia. Paternity fraud... Even absurd things like marriage/divorce laws at a federal level for any reason can open up a can worms that will bog him down.

He would be absorbed by these issues and their burden on citizens will divide him from his extreme/moderate base of supporters. they are absurd issues but he is an absurdity as well. Once these absurd policies overreach in civic life there will be a complete rejection of his presidency.

Guy Tennenbaum said...

S. Wallerstein,

Do a google search for "Trump bald no makeup" and check out the first image that comes up. Somebody did an excellent photoshop job showing the minority-president appearing, to my eyes, like a normally-aged 70-year-old.

Perhaps the full head of hair he currently sports (however ridiculous) along with his tan skin (however ridiculous) conjures up a cognitive illusion for some of us, making him look "good [i.e., young] for his age." Or in other words, tan skin and and full hair "read" as youthful to our reptilian brains. And come to think of it, maybe that's why T***p thinks he looks good -- he can't get past the reptilian stage. That would explain his fixation on womens' looks.

I'm sure you're right that if Bannon were, say, a quiet bookshop keeper his face would appear normal, if not warm and inviting. But surely it's the case that, phenomenologically, a person's character and personality become "reflected" in their face after we get to know them. Something parallel happens with names. Shakespeare was wrong about the name of the rose, as demonstrated by the fact that for someone in the grip of an infatuation, the name of the loved one takes on a special significance. It seems to "shine" and "fit" somehow.

Unknown said...

"When [a] person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely."

Roald Dahl

Unknown said...

That is why Trump's and Bannon's looks are absolutely fair game.
Older people who are good and decent often look particularly beautiful, but there is a certain type of ugliness and physical decay that reflects the ugliness inside people, and the same can be said about trump looking not just repulsive but ridiculous, except in this case there is a direct link: because he is a ridiculous man inside, he does not understand that he LOOKS ridiculous as well.

s. wallerstein said...

Outside of Hollywood movies looks and moral goodness don't always coincide.

I imagine that most of us have been intimately involved with a woman (or man) with angelical looks who lies, cheats and manipulates their way through our lives.

Enam el Brux said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

My guess is he's trying to show that he can raise money without relying on wall street.
But you're right, I'm not totally clear on the point of his e-mails, but still, I want him as DNC chair.

Chris said...

My wife always says Trump looks like a greasy gas station hot dog with a too large suit on.