In Conclusion: On Corruption

From “The Golden Age of White Collar Crime by Michael Hobbes:

Over the last two years, nearly every institution of American life has taken on the unmistakable stench of moral rot. Corporate behemoths like Boeing and Wells Fargo have traded blue-chip credibility for white-collar callousness. Elite universities are selling admission spots to the highest Hollywood bidder. Silicon Valley unicorns have revealed themselves as long cons (Theranos), venture-capital cremation devices (Uber, WeWork) or straightforward comic book supervillains (Facebook). Every week unearths a cabinet-level political scandal that would have defined any other presidency. From the blackouts in California to the bloated bonuses on Wall Street to the entire biography of Jeffrey Epstein, it is impossible to look around the country and not get the feeling that elites are slowly looting it.

And why wouldn’t they? The criminal justice system has given up all pretense that the crimes of the wealthy are worth taking seriously. In January 2019, white-collar prosecutions fell to their lowest level since researchers started tracking them in 1998. Even within the dwindling number of prosecutions, most are cases against low-level con artists and small-fry financial schemes. Since 2015, criminal penalties levied by the Justice Department have fallen from $3.6 billion to roughly $110 million. Illicit profits seized by the Securities and Exchange Commission have reportedly dropped by more than half. In 2018, a year when nearly 19,000 people were sentenced in federal court for drug crimes alone, prosecutors convicted just 37 corporate criminals who worked at firms with more than 50 employees.

Unquote.

But we had a presidential candidate focused on corruption.

From “Elizabeth Warren Was More of a Threat to the Money Power Than Bernie Sanders” by Charles Pierce:

… I’m not going to dwell on the sexism that so regularly cropped up during Elizabeth Warren’s now-suspended presidential campaign. Proud, accomplished women, writing about what happened to this proud and accomplished woman, already have done so thoroughly enough that what little I could add would have to walk a tightrope between repetition and presumption that I am not able to navigate. This one hurts them in ways I can’t even imagine….

Instead, and accepting that sexism and misogyny were marbled throughout everything about the campaign, I think what did her in was her ideas. She committed herself to a campaign specifically to fight political corruption, both the legal and illegal kind. As an adjunct to that, she marshaled her long fight against the power of money in our politics and monopoly in our economy. And, opposed to Bernie Sanders, whose answer to how to wage the fight is always the power of his “movement,” which so far hasn’t been able to break through against Joe Biden, she put out detailed plans on how to do it. That made her much more of a threat to the money power than Sanders, who is easily dismissed as a fringe socialist by the people who buy elections and own the country.

If I were Jeff Bezos, and I heard Elizabeth Warren talk about how monopoly can distort an economy, I’d have been worried. If I were Mark Zuckerberg, and I heard Elizabeth Warren talk about how the concentration of social media perverts our public ideals, I’d have been worried. If I were the folks at Comcast, and I heard Elizabeth Warren talk about how media concentration damages the national dialogue, I’d have been worried. I’d have been worried not simply because a presidential candidate was saying this, but because she was able to make people understand it, and because she was able to show people how she would do it. That would keep me up nights.

There always has been a touch of Cassandra to her career. As she said on Thursday, “Ten years ago, I was teaching a few blocks from here, and talking about what was broken in America and how to fix it, and pretty much nobody wanted to hear it.” Along with several other proud and accomplished women, whose advice was ignored by the likes of Larry Summers and Robert Rubin, Warren sounded the alarm on the mortgage crisis years before it crashed the economy. She was then brought in to help clean up the damage. There’s an obvious life lesson in there that I hope I need not explain. However, if she says something is breaking in the economy, listen to her next time, OK? This was most obvious in the campaign’s most curious episode—how she was “disappeared” from news coverage after finishing third in Iowa. This was the period in which an NBC poll refused to even include her because, basically, the pollster didn’t want to. Amy Klobuchar was included, but Amy Klobuchar wasn’t going around explaining how media monopolies gouge their consumers and marginalize certain issues and the people fighting for them.

However, this is not a country that is ready for what she called … “big, structural change”. This is a country fearful of any kind of change at all, a country longing for a simpler time—which, these days, does not mean the flush 1950s or the pastoral 1850s, but 2015. The election of D— T—- has lodged in so many minds a longing for the status quo ante that there’s no room for intelligent experimentation….

The problem is that the damage done by this administration* is so deep and lasting that the last thing we need to follow this president* is a humble president with a humble agenda. For example, Joe Biden has no desire to break the monopoly power, and Bernie Sanders doesn’t have the first idea how to do it. But it’s still going to be there, distorting the economy and perverting the public discourse, no matter who gets elected in the fall. You might be frightened by the idea of Big, Structural Change but, without it, the deterioration of the republic will continue apace. We have been rendered such a timorous people that even someone as open and lively and welcoming as Elizabeth Warren was considered too much of a risk.

Oh, and she wasn’t “likable” either. Remember? God, what a load of bollocks that is.

As if to prove that Fate is the ultimate troll, this story broke in The New York Times on the morning that Elizabeth Warren suspended her campaign.

House Democrats say the bank found an ally in Eric Blankenstein, a political appointee high up in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency created to guard against the abuse of mom-and-pop customers. Mr. Blankenstein, an enforcement official at the agency, privately offered reassurances to Wells Fargo’s chief executive at the time that there would be “political oversight” of its enforcement actions, according to a report issued Wednesday by the House Financial Services Committee. The report said the agency had promised that the unresolved regulatory matters, such as an inquiry into the bank’s aggressive practice of closing customers’ accounts, would be settled in private, without further fines.

For those of you who may be joining politics late, the CFPB is the agency created by Elizabeth Warren and Wells Fargo is her personal bete noire. (Here she is, telling its CEO that he ought to be clapped in irons.) My guess? She already knows about this bit of news and she’s gearing up—one might even say “planning”—to chew someone out over it. Stay buckled up, America. Senator Professor Warren is not through with you yet.

Unquote.

So Long Twitter and Senator Warren

I’ve closed my Twitter account, because I no longer require up-to-the-minute news and commentary on these subjects (and others): 

  1. Joe Biden
  2. Bernie Sanders
  3. House Democrats
  4. Senate Republicans
  5. The Supreme Court
  6. The Department of Justice
  7. COVID-19
  8. Voter Suppression
  9. Climate Change
  10. D—- Fucking T—- and His Crime Family

Here’s the invaluable Paul Waldman of The Washington Post to sum up:

Is it enough, as a presidential candidate, to have smarts and charisma, to have a clear and concise message, to even be the best debater, and most of all to be the best prepared to do the job effectively?

No, it is not. Which is why so often during this primary campaign, we’ve heard supporters of Elizabeth Warren ask plaintively, “Hey, what if we got behind the person who’d actually be the best president? Why not do that?”

They asked because the number of voters willing to do that was not what it might have been, which is why Warren has announced that she’s ending her bid for the White House.

There is a temptation to say the presidential primary process is brutal and unsparing but ultimately fair. It tests you in the way no other campaign can. If you don’t win, it’s because you didn’t have what it takes. Lots of it may be out of your control, but if you were a once-in-a-generation talent like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, you could have overcome any obstacle cast before you. Nobody deserves the nomination; either you win it or you don’t.

Which is true as far as it goes. But we can’t consider Warren’s candidacy without seeing sexism, both in fact and in perception, for the hindrance it was for her.

To be clear, sexism isn’t the only reason Warren will not be the Democratic nominee. There are many reasons. She had a few stumbles along the way, as every campaign does. There were some decisions she could have made differently.

But her campaign and the particular way it failed tell us a lot about how gender operates in presidential politics.

Let’s consider that Joe Biden is the likeliest candidate to be the Democratic nominee, despite the fact that he has run an absolutely abysmal campaign and is so erratic that sympathetic Democrats regularly tell one another, “I saw Biden give an interview, and he was completely coherent!” as though they were praising a toddler. Biden won a sweeping victory on Super Tuesday even in states where he did not campaign for a single day or have an organization. There has never in my lifetime been a winning presidential campaign that was so weak on so many dimensions.

And yet Biden is cruising toward the nomination. Why?

Because of a collective decision among a significant portion of the Democratic electorate that he is “electable,” i.e., that other people will find him inoffensive enough to vote for. As Michelle Cottle noted, one poll last year asked Democrats who they were supporting, and Biden was in the lead; when they asked who they’d rather see as president if they could wave a magic wand, Warren was in front.

You’ve probably heard that again and again: Voters saying Warren is the one they liked the best, but because they didn’t think she was electable, they were supporting someone else, most often Biden.

That perception didn’t just come of nowhere. Yes, people might be thinking of their sexist uncle or their “traditional” parents, but they also heard it again and again from the media, creating a self-reinforcing loop. Sure, Warren can put policy issues into terms people can understand like no other candidate; sure, she has thought more seriously about the powers of the government than anyone else; sure, her anti-corruption message resonates with all kinds of voters. But she just can’t win.

Then there are all the people who said they didn’t like Warren but couldn’t quite put their finger on why. Maybe it was her voice, or that she seemed too aggressive, or that she wasn’t “authentic” enough. Not because she’s a woman, though! I’d support a woman, I would! Just not her.

Throughout the campaign, Warren tried to find subtle ways to deal with a problem she couldn’t have been more aware of (just as Obama carefully crafted a strategy to deal with voters’ reaction to a black candidate). But nothing seemed to work in the face of the relentless obsession with electability.

Late in the campaign, she reacted to the question of whether sexism was hampering her by noting that just answering the question put her in an inescapable double bind:

“And, you know, there are only two answers and they’re both bad. The first one is, ‘Uh, yeah,’ in which case everybody says, ‘Oh, whiner.’”

“The second is to say, ‘Oh, no,’ in which case, at least every other woman looks at you and thinks, ‘What planet is she living on?’”

Yes, female candidates have been more and more successful at running for all levels of government; this was particularly true in the 2018 midterm elections. But the presidency is different. It’s about authority, and power, and command. And still, in 2020, millions of Americans simply cannot wrap their heads around the idea of a woman in that job.

So unlike Biden or any other male candidate, being better wasn’t good enough. Warren had to be perfect, and of course she wasn’t. As writer Jill Filipovic asked:

How many times, in how many contexts, have we seen a smart, competent, dynamic woman who is so head & shoulders above everyone else in the room get ignored or pushed out? How many times have we wondered – was I that woman?

Think back to Hillary Clinton, who after a lifetime of being bludgeoned and battered by every sexist preconception, trope and backlash, finally got within reach of the ultimate reward and opportunity only to have to face her exact opposite, an utterly unprepared buffoon and raging misogynist who was literally on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women with impunity. And even after getting 3 million more votes than him, she still lost.

Four years later, we had a presidential field full of talented and accomplished women, and surely, so many of us thought, one of them might prevail. Yet they fell, one after another, until only the most talented and accomplished among them was left. And in the end she too was judged inadequate….

Unquote.

The title of Waldman’s column is “Warren’s Wrenching Downfall Says Something Terrible About 2020”.

It’s many of us who were inadequate. Not her.

This Is Bad. Let’s Fix It.

The president had a senior Iranian official killed on the basis of a non-existent “imminent” threat. He tried to have at least one other official killed but the guy survived. This charade led to almost 200 people being accidentally killed (“collateral damage”). Now he’s made up a story about four of our embassies being attacked (the Secretary of Defense said it wasn’t true but since the president may have believed it, everything’s fine). Individual-1 also announced that Saudi Arabia deposited a billion dollars in a bank account to pay for American troops (aka “mercenaries”), although nobody seems to know which bank account (one of his?). House Democrats have asked the Secretary of State to come over and explain the situation. He says he doesn’t plan to appear.

Nancy Pelosi seems to be ready to send at least one article of impeachment to the Senate, even though there’s no evidence the Republicans will allow a fair trial. They say the trial shouldn’t allow new evidence, because Clinton’s impeachment trial didn’t, even though (1) there was no need to allow new evidence in Clinton’s trial, since everybody involved gave evidence before the House impeached President Clinton and (2) this president (the bastard being impeached) told everyone with direct knowledge of his behavior not to give evidence to the House! “I didn’t allow my senior advisers to testify before the House, so it’s too late for them to testify before the Senate.” That’s some “catch”, that Catch-23.

How about some good news?

There was an online seminar (yes, a “webinar”) run by a progressive religious group this weekend. The topic was volunteering in the next election. Usually,  200, maybe 300, people sign in. There were 500 this time. Perhaps we should be more optimistic about November.

On that subject, there are reasons to think that Elizabeth Warren may be the best candidate to unify the Democrats. That’s what former presidential candidate Julian Castro said when he endorsed Warren this week. A new poll in Iowa says she has the highest favorability rating of anyone in the race:

Warren’s improved standing overall in the Iowa poll comes on the heels of a stronger showing in recent national polls and is bolstered by an increasing positive favorability rating (75% have a favorable view, the best in the field, and she is one of only four candidates who have improved their net favorability since the June CNN/DMR poll), as well as a growing percentage of likely caucusgoers who say she is either their first choice, second choice or someone they are actively considering. All told, 71% are at least considering Warren’s candidacy, ahead of the next best candidate on that score by 11 points (Biden at 60%).

Finally, a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Will Bunch, who voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Pennsylvania primary, is now supporting Warren:

If the stakes were high in 2016 — when I naively and foolishly believed that [Individual-1’s] campaign was the last throes of a doomed white supremacy, and that America was ready then for a political revolution — then they are off the charts in 2020….Saving the American Experiment requires a new president who will stop the downward spiral of authoritarianism….

I plan to vote for Warren [in the primary] for two reasons. One is simple, the other a bit more abstract. For starters, the two-term Massachusetts senator has run the best campaign, pure and simple. Her accidental rallying cry was handed to her by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who blocked Warren’s principled stand against the nomination of unqualified attorney general Jeff Sessions on the Senate floor and added, “Nevertheless, she persisted”.

Since announcing her candidacy last year, persistence has been the hallmark of Warren’s campaign. She’s stuck to her plan and remained true to herself even as the Beltway crowd wrote her off again and again, and in doing so she’s remained a top contender in spite of those naysayers. Her decision to shun big donors for small contributions and play up personal voter contact …was ridiculed even as her money and support grew. Rather than ignore her biggest stumble — the Native American heritage missteps — she’s owned it through unprecedented outreach to indigenous voters.

Yes, Sanders’ half-century-plus of consistency as a democratic socialist is remarkable, but the story of Warren’s political conversion from somewhat conservative Republican to fiery progressive after she saw firsthand the unfairness of America’s bankruptcy laws is just as compelling and relatable, arguably even more so. Yet Warren and her team know that — with the nation in crisis — personal fortitude, an appealing campaign style and a good personal story aren’t enough.

Warren’s diagnosis of what ails the United States — massive political corruption and a rigged economic playing field against the middle and more struggling classes — is right on the money, pun intended. It’s why she was the first Democratic candidate to see the need for impeaching Trump, and why she’s had a forceful reaction to the president’s reckless actions toward Iran. But it’s also why her detailed plans — for a wealth tax on America’s kleptocracy to help fund universal health care and higher education and eliminate crippling college debt — are her centerpiece and biggest selling point.

The TV talking heads seem to take special pleasure in nitpicking the details of Warren’s plans, in a manner that’s not applied to any of the other candidates. But here’s the thing: her supporters know … to take her plans seriously but not literally. Whatever is typed in a report in 2019-20 won’t be what emerges from the sausage grinder of Capitol Hill. What matters is that President Elizabeth Warren will fight for those sweeping goals with persistence … and passion.

In addition, … I think a Warren nomination would ensure the most passion from the activists — primarily women — who led the Women’s March and the airport resistance to [the Muslim] travel ban in 2017 and knocked on millions of doors to get us a Democratic House in 2018. Although Warren isn’t yet winning among young voters or nonwhites, I believe she has a potential for growth that simply is not there for youth with Joe Biden or for both groups with Pete Buttigieg. Her stance as an ultra-liberal, reform-minded capitalist is arguably a better place to be in November 2020 than Bernie’s lifetime socialism.

So why isn’t Warren the clear front-runner? I blame two things that are deeply intertwined: fear and misogyny. In politics, the second most dismaying thing so far about 2020 — after [the president’s] growing instability — has been the fear bordering on a paralyzing panic that has overcome the Democratic electorate that I’ve just joined. This weekend, that much anticipated Des Moines Register/CNN poll, while showing Sanders and Warren at the top, also showed that — at what should be a time for choosing — “not sure” more than doubled from 5 to 11 percent.

Democrats seem to be focused not on the strength of their field but on making long mental lists of each candidate’s supposed weaknesses against Trump in the fall. No one has suffered from this exercise more than Elizabeth Warren. Her experience is written off as old age (despite boundless energy and mental acuity), her policy chops downgraded as schoolmarm-ish wonkery, and her enthusiasm for the campaign sometimes described as dorky. A lot of this can be boiled down to one word, or maybe two. Sexism. Or, misogyny.

Just because Gandhi didn’t actually say, “Be the change you want to see in the world” doesn’t mean that it’s not great advice. When I said earlier that I and my perceptions of America’s problems have changed since 2016, nothing has changed more than my awareness of the pervasive and highly toxic effect of the prejudice and often thinly disguised hatred of women that permeates far too much of society.

You see it at [the Toddler’s] Nuremberg-style hate rallies, which are animated by angry chants of “Lock her up!” toward Hillary Clinton long after any political threat from Clinton had dissipated. Or in the current trial of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, the poster child for a litany of men in media, politics, entertainment and high tech who got away with unhindered sexism and sexual abuse for decades. And you see it in the way that Warren’s chances of winning in 2020 are dismissed, by voters who agree with her ideas but are certain she’ll be “Hillary-ed” if she gets the nomination.

This infuriates me, and if you care about women’s place in American society it should infuriate you as well. In the current wave of fear gripping Democrats, too many voters are throwing up their hands and saying, in essence, misogynists will tip this election … so how can we get a few more white dudes onboard. I find that morally appalling….

America will not be saved by fear. It will be saved by courage. We’ve seen courage from scores of women who’ve come forward to accuse … powerful men. Now, given the nattering nabobs of negativism who’ve weighed in on a Warren presidency, it will also take a type of courage just to vote for her.

In 2020, electing the best and most qualified candidate would also mean electing the first woman president in American history — 100 years after women’s suffrage and, morally, ridiculously overdue. What a powerful statement! Instead of cowering in fear, Democrats should be counting their blessings in having two revolutionary candidates for president, and a dozen others who’d be 100 times better than the current occupant. But among that strong field, it’s Warren — and what she stands for — that offers the fierce urgency of now. Simply put, voting for her on April 28 is the change I want to see in the world.

Her Dream Candidate Exists

Quote:

If I was going to invent a dream candidate, she would be grounded in small-town, rural or heartland America but able to hold her own in the citadels of power on the coasts. She would comfort the afflicted with the same passion with which she afflicts the comfortable, and she would understand the causes of those afflictions and have good ideas about how to remedy them. She would be moved by compassion but wouldn’t ask us to rely on compassion; she would have tangible strategies for widening our distribution of income, healthcare, education and opportunity, and she would be smart about the intersections of race, gender, class and the rest.

She would have been around long enough to remember that since the 1980s the government has dismantled a lot of systems that made us more safe and more equal, and she’d be fresh enough to imagine new ways out of the consequences of that catastrophic dismantling. Also she would have to be funny and have big plans to address climate change. OK, she already exists, and I’m talking about Elizabeth Warren. She is, to me, a better candidate for president than I ever expected we’d have.

My … dreamiest dream candidate would be a woman of color with Medusa hair who could turn the entire Republican Senate to stone with a glance, but Warren is who’s left in the race, and she is magnificent, and superheroes from Megan Rapinoe to Roxane Gay agree. Also, she pretty much turned Wells Fargo’s CEO into stone in a 2016 Senate banking committee hearing, more than a decade after she became one of the most outspoken experts telling Wall Street why it’s vicious and half a decade after she endorsed Occupy Wall Street. The strength of her candidacy is shown by how she’s made it to the front of the race despite misogyny from across the political spectrum, the wrath of the billionaires pouring money – and themselves – into the race, and the smears and distortions of the mainstream media.

Really I see her as a combination of three superpowers: wonkiness, radicalness and what for lack of a better term I would call Big Structural Mom Energy. The wonkiness is how she set new standards in primary campaigns with those famous plans – far more detailed, with the costs accounted for, than was usual before she arrived. The depth with which she understands the economic system – taxes, banks, bankruptcies, credit cards, home and student loans, redlining – is the depth with which she can change it.

That wonkiness is how she got here, how she looked long and hard at the data around how things work and found her own path forward from where she started out. It’s true that she didn’t start out as a progressive, and she was registered as a Republican during some (not all) of her formative years, but she never voted for Reagan, and she did vote for McGovern in 1972 and Carter in 1980 and other Democrats while she was supposed to be a Republican.

I’m from the urban coastal immigrant-Jewish left myself, which does not actually make me virtuous, but lucky in that I didn’t have to travel far to land in progressive positions (and gives me a front-row seat on how much misogyny and meanness the left can include). The word radical comes from a word for roots; Warren has certainly been radical in her analysis of root causes since 1975, when her first law-review article savaged an anti-busing court ruling. Way back then, she was delving deep into how the law blocked equal educational opportunity, and she weighed in on the side of Detroit’s black families and the urban poor generally.

Her radicalness now includes, first of all, a willingness to make big changes, whether it means breaking up big tech or taxing billionaires or bringing healthcare coverage to everyone. Our first and most urgent priority must be addressing climate chaos, and the great obstacle to doing anything about it is corporations and the elites who profit from them. Warren has shown no fear of going after them and no fear of the kind of massive structural change we need to address the climate crisis. (In addition to supporting the Green New Deal and promising to ban fracking and stop fossil fuel extraction on public land and coastal waters, she just released a Blue New Deal for the oceans.)

At the heart of her campaign is kindness as an emotion, as a value – and as a basis for policy

What I call Big Structural Mom Energy could also be called radical compassion. It lies in the homey delivery and quality of attention she brings to, for example, the young queer woman in Iowa she encouraged and hugged earlier this month. Warren, who has said more about trans rights than any other candidate, has made her credo clear, over and over: that everyone matters, and matters equally, and that the systems that shape our lives should value, defend and give everyone opportunity equally. She got a lot of attention for her comic answer to the question about what she’d say to someone opposed to marriage equality, but after the laughter was over, she said something she’s said in many forms in her campaign: “To me, that is the heart of it. That was the basis of the faith that I grew up in, and it truly is about the preciousness of each and every life.”

It’s about equality, but not just economic equality: as understood from a deep engagement with where the dangers lie, where the suffering is, whether it’s black maternal mortality or the plight of refugees or the burden of student loan debt. At the heart of her campaign is kindness as an emotion, as a value – and as a basis for policy. As she put it in her call with Megan Rapinoe: “We really believe in equity. We believe in racial equity, we believe in gender equity, we believe in everybody gets a chance in this country.”

All this makes her, in my eyes, not just the best candidate to undo the damage of the Trump era but the best candidate to make this country live up to its promises, potential and ideals in ways it never has before.

Unquote.

That is Rebecca Solnit writing in The Guardian.

The bad news is that many of us don’t want this country to “live up to its promises, potential and ideals in ways it never has before”. Others don’t think a woman could or should do the job Warren is seeking.

As a result, we may get the candidate we deserve, not the one we need.

A Bright Spot on the Distant Horizon?

Things are not getting better in Washington. To put it mildly. The T@@@p administration continues to resist any congressional oversight. Democrats direct witnesses to appear, sometimes issue subpoenas, the administration refuses to cooperate and the disputes vanish into the glacially-slow bowels of the federal courts.

The Treasury Department has refused to give the president’s tax returns to Congress, as required by law. The Director of National Intelligence is refusing to transmit a whistle blower’s complaint to Congress, even though it pertains to national security and the law says Congress shall receive it. The Judiciary Committee finally got a T@@@p associate to appear yesterday and it got very little coverage, even though the witness confirmed that the president obstructed justice. There is now more evidence that the administration’s last appointment to the Supreme Court lied to Congress and the FBI’s vetting investigation was a sham. The leading Democrat in the Senate doesn’t want to talk about it.

Congressional committees can hold people in contempt and fine them thousands of dollars a day or put them in jail. They have gone to court instead. The Speaker of the House could create a special committee devoted to impeaching the president, but she resists even saying the word “impeachment”. Meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry is just one item on their agenda. They may have another hearing next week.

Meanwhile, the president is using money Congress appropriated for the Defense Department to build his wall. It’s going to damage environmentally-sensitive areas along the border. The Justice Department is investigating automakers because they agreed with the state of California to protect air quality. Now the president wants to remove California’s ability to set its own air quality standards, as California has been permitted to do for decades. T@@@p is also threatening to round up homeless people in Los Angeles and put them who knows where, even though he has no authority to do so. His Immigration and Customs Enforcement police force is training for urban warfare. And there may be war around the Persian Gulf.

There are too many scandals and other offenses for most mortals to keep track of. Unlike Hillary’s emails, which were beaten to death, journalists and pundits jump from one topic to the next. Los Angeles writer Amy Siskind continues to document as much as she can at The Weekly List, but there is too much to digest (if you’re interested, she accepts small donations to support her work).

So is there a bright spot on the horizon? Here’s a hint.

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She gave a speech in New York this week. Up to 20,000 people attended. She called for big, structural change to address the corruption in our politics (she called our president “corruption in the flesh”). She believes that corruption is the fundamental reason Washington doesn’t work for average people. She spent four hours after the speech having her picture taken with a very long line of people. When complimented on her stamina, she said she stayed for four hours but so did the last guy in line. Polls now show her in second place for the Democratic nomination. The latest poll in Iowa, where the first votes will be cast, has her in the lead. Her campaign slogan is “Dream Big, Fight Hard”. She’ll make a great president if we make it that far.

Destroyed By Madness?

Tom Sullivan of the Hullabaloo blog summarizes. Quote:

… The trend lines were there — from the Birchers and Goldwater to Nixon and the Southern Strategy, from the parallel rise of the Christian right and movement conservatism, to Reagan, to “Rush Rooms” and the Gingrich revolution, and from birtherism to climate denialism to Trumpish authoritarianism.

It is quaint to think George W. Bush’s tax cuts, malapropisms, and war cabinet once seemed the apotheosis of the conservative project. The momentum of that project would carry the right’s explosive-laden artillery shell beyond its intended liberal targets. Plutocrats would get their tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks, but at risk of bringing the shining city on the hill’s walls down around them and us…

The movement conservative leaders thought they had built upon a philosophy of lower taxes and small government was simply a facade. Their own internal polling told them their voters had no interest in it. The culture wars the party fueled as a useful tool in advancing their donors’ objectives was their base voters’ true philosophy:

This would seem to confirm the conclusions that liberals have long harbored. The Republican Party’s political elite is obsessed with cutting taxes for the wealthy, but it recognizes the lack of popular support for its objectives and is forced to divert attention away from its main agenda by emphasizing cultural-war themes. The disconnect between the Republican Party’s plutocratic agenda and the desires of the electorate is a tension it has never been able to resolve, and as it has moved steadily rightward, it has been evolving into an authoritarian party.

The party’s embrace of Trump is a natural, if not inevitable, step in this evolution. This is why the conservatives who presented Trump as an enemy of conservative-movement ideals have so badly misdiagnosed the party’s response to Trump. The most fervently ideological conservatives in the party have also been the most sycophantic: Ryan, Mike Pence, Ted Cruz, Mick Mulvaney, the entire House Freedom Caucus. They embraced Trump because Trumpism is their avenue to carry out their unpopular agenda.

… As dead as irony is in the Age of Trump, the irony remaining is how a movement in reaction to the social transformations of the 1960s now mirrors, and in many ways exceeds, the worst excesses of which it accused civil rights “communists” and long-haired hippies with their drugs and godless “moral relativism.”

Now it is the Republican base addicted to drugs, looking for an angry fix, and making obeisance to a false prophet as the party’s elite grovel for a seat at his right hand. What conservatives need now is not pundits or preachers, but poets.

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness …”

End quote. 

Or psychiatrists. Anyway, he’s being poetic. He knows they weren’t the best minds to begin with.