Author: Adam

American Politics in Two Quotes: Or, why Congress is Broken

supremecourt

 

Two quotes. That’s all it takes to effectively summarize the state of American politics. Two quotes. No more is needed to convey the partisan nature of Congress. Two quotes to express how partisanship places politics first and governing second.

Two quotes.

First,

It is a president’s constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and it is the Senate’s constitutional right to act as a check on a president and withhold its consent.

Second,

Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week. How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends. How many of them are willing to oppose cloture on a partisan basis to kill a Supreme Court nominee.

In the first instance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is justifying his refusal to allow a straight up or down vote on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

In the second instance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is addressing a potential Democratic filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Two quotes. Two sentiments. One politician.

The difference? A newly-elected Republican president versus a lame duck Democratic president.

American politics in two quotes.

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Theodor Seuss Geisel’s Dump on Trump: Or, How Dr. Seuss Forecasted TrumpCare

Dr-Seuss-bday

From a great political satirist, Dr. Seuss. In 1942. Best thing all day.

drseusswartime13

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Donald Trump is Making Coal Great Again! Except…

coal

President Donald Trump signed a long-promised executive order on Tuesday, nullifying President Obama’s efforts to curb climate change. In doing so, President Trump continues his deregulation of American businesses and furthers his quest to revive the coal industry.

In response to the executive order a White House official said, “the previous administration devalued workers by their policies. We are saying we can do both. We can protect the environment and provide people with work”. And at the signing of this executive order the President remarked,

The action I’m taking today will eliminate federal overreach, restore economic freedom, and allow our companies and our workers to thrive, compete, and succeed on a level playing field for the first time in a long time, fellas…

That is what this is all about:  bringing back our jobs, bringing back our dreams — and making America wealthy again.

My administration is putting an end to the war on coal.  We’re going to have clean coal — really clean coal.  With today’s executive action, I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations.  (Applause.)  And, by the way, regulations not only in this industry, but in every industry.  We’re doing them by the thousands, every industry.  And we’re going to have safety, we’re going to have clean water, we’re going to have clear air.  But so many are unnecessary, and so many are job killing.  We’re getting rid of the bad ones.

Wealth, jobs, decreased government overreach, sounds great.

Then there’s this:

Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center, which specializes in climate change research: “The executive order issued today puts the United States in the disgraceful and disadvantageous position of being alone among 195 nations in not recognizing the pervasive threat of global climate change.”

California Governor Jerry Brown: “Gutting the Clean Power Plan is a colossal mistake and defies science itself. Erasing climate change may take place in Donald Trump’s mind, but nowhere else.”

Last year the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that environmental regulations “have played a secondary role” in coal’s falling market share.

Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: “Trying to make fossil fuels remain competitive in the face of a booming clean renewable power sector, with the clean air and plentiful jobs it continues to generate, is going against the flow of economics.”

Greg Gershuny, of the Aspen Institute’s Energy and Environment Program: “The decrease in coal by the electricity sector is because of economic reasons, as it has been outcompeted by low-cost natural gas.”

David Doniger, director of climate and clean air at the Natural Resource Defense Council: “The saddest part of this whole thing is Trump is raising false hopes in coal country for a revival that will never happen.”

Robert Stinson, who operates a small coal mine in West Virginia: “The market’s going to be what the market is, and that’s what’s going to set the demand.”

MSNBC’s Cal Perry: “We don’t rely on coal anymore. And in fact, a week ago — I want to read you a quote. In Ohio, they’re shutting down two coal plants and the quote from the company is, ‘“It has become clear that without significant changes in market conditions, the plants will not be economically viable.”’

Patrick Hickey, a political science professor at West Virginia University: “It becomes a powerful political rhetorical appeal to hearken back because even if you’re not directly connected to the industry, you may know family members or relatives or ancestors who were. It’s political suicide to tell citizens the truth about coal.”

And via FiveThirtyEight.com:

casselman-coal-2

In other words, no to everything said by the White House and President Donald Trump.

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Politics is Not Governing: Storytelling in Trump’s America

ryan

Politics is not governing. A simple and fairly obvious statement. One which has been made ad nauseam in the days following the catastrophic failure of the American Health Care Act. A statement which is increasingly apparent to the Republican Party.

Factions, making outlandish statements for the sole purpose of media attention, and obstructionist actions are fine when you are the opposition party.  These actions made the Republican Party extremely successful under President Obama.

The Republican Party is not the opposition party. They are the majority party. They govern a unified government.

Well, “govern”.

This inability to effectively govern has highlighted an important issue for the Trump administration and the GOP. Seemingly lost in the stories about the failure of the American Health Care Act and how that legislation came to its demise is attention to the stories themselves.

The problem is not simply the articles about the GOP’s failure to pass President Trump’s first piece of major legislation. The problem is not journalists writing that Republicans have no idea how to govern and that as a consequence Paul Ryan needs to resign.

Taken in the moment these are articles about a single failure. A single failure is easily forgotten given it is followed by success. Or had been proceeded by success. A single failure can be the anomaly. When failure becomes, or is, the narrative, however, that is when a single failure is the beacon of a much larger problem.

President Trump and the Republican Party have a big problem.

Being the minority party means obstructionism and attention-seeking via whatever means necessary. Campaigning is rhetoric, promises and exploitative bushwhacking. In a word, politics. In two words, not governing.

In fact, this is essentially the opposite of governing. Consider Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and subsequent victory.

Make ridiculous statements which are readily proved demonstrably false. Draw attention to yourself by whatever means necessary. Establish strength when in public. Find your specific audience and speak to that audience at every opportunity in order to invigorate those supporters and strengthen their opinion of you.

This strategy won Donald Trump the election. But he did so without the popular vote. Without winning over new votersWithout winning over his own party.

A popular loss. A narrow Electoral College victory. Bipartisan apprehension regarding his legislative agenda. This strategy did not win Donald Trump a political mandate.

And the news following November 9th has not been any better.

Failed nomineesPotential ties to foreign governmentsProven ties to foreign governments. Alienating foreign leadersBipartisan condemnation of the President. Historically low approval ratings. A monumental defeat on President Trump’s first piece of major legislation. Doubt regarding the ability of the President to pass his next piece of major legislation. Or really any major legislation.

This succession of stories weaves a tale about President Trump and about the Republican Party. It’s a narrative. It’s a narrative of failure.

Not a single failure. Not successive failures. Simply failure.

When the narrative is failure, the narrative supposes future failure. And when future failure is supposed there is no hope for governing. Because governing requires support. Support requires the prospect of success. The prospect of success is nullified by the expectation of failure.

To illustrate this point a bit here is selection of recent media regarding the Trump administration, and the Republican Party. Apropos to President Trump, the selection is composed of tweets.

In summary, conservative news outlets/commentators/politicians criticizing the Republican Party generally, Paul Ryan specifically, and the legislation promoted by President Trump and GOP leadership. And also the President calling out his own party.

It’s a narrative. Politics instead of governing. Politics over governing.

Politics is not governing.

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We’re All Going to Die: Making America Great Again!

trumpamerica

The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America promised the end of America as we knew it. He brought the hope of a new America. America for the American people. President Trump is going to Make America Great Again.

So he says. Although many may doubt him, he means it. And the President has a plan.

Scores of Americans are apprehensive about this plan and retain stern skepticism about the greatness of America under the administration of Donald Trump. Especially as the President has had tremendous difficulties in shepherding his vision of America into reality.

Yet the President will not be deterred. President Donald Trump will Make America Great Again. The old vestiges of the American oligarchy will be destroyed. Before the new America the old must end. Existentially.

While the President’s method seemingly lacks method, it’s a process. It’s a fairly simple process.

Drastically cut spending on domestic programs so as to take away the safety net of many Americans. Ruin the environment via significant cuts to the EPA and massive steps towards deregulation. Abolish the healthcare of millionsRoll back financial regulations intended to protect people from predatory practices and stabilize the economy. Disadvantage many Americans in the job market. Further widen the chasm of partisanship which engulfs the United States. Alienate even the United States’ most staunch allies and isolate America from the world.

Only the strong survive.

Then, finally, the United States of America is no more. Only those with the demonstrated ability to endure perpetual waves of malady, survive the miasma of the heavens forcefully opened by carbon emissions, remain gainfully employed despite chronic job wars, and to stave off the intolerance of those of dissimilar political mind will abide.

These lucky few get to go to Mars. This is where the new America, the great America, will be established.

Donald Trump will Make America Great Again, he just needs to first eliminate the weak.

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Donald Trump truth-telling in 5 steps: Or, Donald Trump is Unfalsifiable

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump poses on the cover of Time Magazine after being named its person of the year

TIME Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer has an exclusive interview, published Thursday, with President Donald Trump. The peg for the interview is the President’s claims regarding wiretapping, but the purpose is to explore his seemingly tenuous relationship with the truth.

It has been previously noted that this relationship is generally fraught with difficulties. In fact, as has been pointed out by PolitiFact and the Washington Post during an interview about falsehoods the President repeats falsehoods in order to support his truth-telling.

But it’s unclear from the interview if President Trump simply doesn’t understand what a falsehood is, or if years of practice have finely honed his ability to perpetuate things he knows to be false but he can spin as true.

In either case, the truth according to Donald Trump appears to be what can be true rather than what is evidently true. One particular segment of the interview highlights this notion:

One of my ideas here is that throughout the campaign and now as president, you have used disputed statements, this is one of them that is disputed, the claim that three million undocumented people voted in the election…

Well I think I will be proved right about that too.

The claim that Muslims celebrated on 9-11 in New Jersey…

Well if you look at the reporter, he wrote the story in the Washington Post.

But my idea is that whatever the reality of what you are describing, the fact that they are disputed makes them a more effective message, that you are able to spread the message further, that more people get excited about it, that it gets on TV.

Well now if you take a look at the votes, when I say that, I mean mostly they register wrong, in other words, for the votes, they register incorrectly, and/or illegally. And they then vote. You have tremendous numbers of people. In fact I’m forming a committee on it.

But there’s no evidence that 3 million people voted with…

We’ll see after the committee. I have people say it was more than that. We will see after we have. But there will be, we are forming a committee. And we are going to do a study on it, a very serious problem.

Is there anything different about making these kinds of predictions without having the factual evidence as President?

I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right…

In other words, the President is telling the truth because either 1) He will be proved right, 2) He’s just repeating something he read, 3) You misunderstood what he meant, 4) Only he can find the truth, or 5) He doesn’t need evidence to know he’s right.

No one can tell the President he is wrong. What he said was either misunderstood, it was not his falsehood, or will be proven right. He has made the truth unfalsifiable.

That is to say, in effect President Trump has created a reality wherein there is no difference between the truth and falsehoods. If this distinction disappears then truth is no longer a matter of evidence and context and perspective, the truth is simply whatever you want it to be.

And the truth, according to Donald Trump, is that “I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not”.

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No rest for the weary: The NBA becomes an illogical idiom

nbarest

Sometimes NBA teams want to rest their players. The NBA does not like it.

Following high-profile instances of an NBA team resting it star player(s), NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sent a memo to the league’s board of governors. The memo describes the ways in which this practice of resting players is bad for the league:

Decisions of this kind … can affect fans and business partners, impact our reputation and damage the perception of our game. With so much at stake, it is simply not acceptable for governors to be uninvolved or to defer decision-making authority on these matters to others in their organizations.

In other words, the decision to rest players is bad for business and unfair to fans. Furthermore, the players don’t need the time off. Resting players in the absence of injury merely contributes to the perception that the quality of the NBA product has wavered and lends credence to the notion that current players do not measure up to players of the past.

While most, Adam Silver included, seemingly do not dispute the right of teams to rest players when deemed necessary, it is the timing of the rest which becomes problematic.

When the Cleveland Cavaliers sit LeBron James during a Sunday night game or when both the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs rest their star players for a Saturday night game broadcast on national television, it’s a problem. Ratings for the game are bound to be lower than expected, resulting in decreased advertising revenue. Fans are robbed of perhaps their sole opportunity to see Steph Curry play in person.

 

A few different solutions have been offered to this issue. Build more off-days into the NBA schedule. Make healthy, resting players go through every other aspect of NBA game day. Give refunds to fans and business partners if players are rested. Cut minutes-per-game instead of sitting the player for a full game. Or, if you’re going to sit a player, sit them at home.

In essence, the argument is to take the game out of the hands of those actually controlling the outcome, the coaches and players.

But there is no need for these “solutions” because the underlying arguments are illogical. They make no sense.

First, NBA players do not miss more games now than in the past. According to data from Man-Games Lost, the total number of games missed has been relatively steady over the past decade. NBA players are healthier than ever and better than ever.

Second, the NBA needs healthy players. Increased availability and access to biometric data mean teams now have a better understanding of what players need rest and when. Rest comes prior to injury, not following. And numerous medical studies show that cutting activity is not the same as taking a day off. Physiologically, a days rest is healthy and sometimes necessary.

Third, it may be unfair to fans if they are forced to miss LeBron James or Steph Curry. But nobody is making them go to games. They get no guarantee. What if James plays and is hurt in the first minute of the game, missing the remaining 47 minutes? Is that really different? Plus, on Seat Geek you can get a ticket for Warriors vs. Cavs on March 29th for $74. Not a pittance, but reasonable.

Finally, the NBA is understandably concerned with the business side of this practice. Resting stars means lower television ratings. Lower television ratings means fewer advertising dollars. Fewer advertising dollars means less money for the network to purchase NBA rights. Which means less money for the NBA. Except teams have been resting players for yearsratings are up, and the league just signed a record TV deal a year ago.

The NBA can worry about its business partners, the fans, and perception of the league, but these troubles ring hollow. The league is healthier than it has ever been because the product is as good as it has ever been. The “solution” to this rest problem is apparently to change the product?

Coaches and players want to win. Fans want them to win. Winning creates revenue. Rest helps them win.

“Problem” solved.

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