Apropos Of Not Much

So I read the latest over at Talking Points Memo on the slow-rolling Republican “moderate” cave on the tax bill to Trump and the GOP’s I Got Mine/Tongue-Bath-A-Billionaire Caucus.  That led me to a Twitter rant born of despair and rage.

The TL:DR is that dominant-power decline has happened before, will happen to whoever comes next, and is well underway now.  None of this is new; none original.  It just bubbled up, and as misery loves company, I give you a slightly edited version of the rant below.

As the GOP prepares to transfer wealth up and gut national finances in the process, it’s worth reflecting a little on national power. US predominance is no law of nature. It emerged in specific historical circumstances, & it will erode (is eroding) within its historical moment.

Trump and GOP actions are powering that decline, from gutting US diplomacy to abandoning soft power/trade alliances to an over reliance on the trappings of military power on the international security side to an attack on the US’s domestic capacity to solve problems, propel economic growth, and secure good lives for the great mass of its people.

The attack on universities that is both part of GOP rhetoric and built into the tax bill, for example is an attack both on civic life (in the form of engaged and critical-thinking citizens) and on the dollars and sense of economic life. Universities are where research happens, ideas turn into companies and all that. Whack them and we become not just dumber, but poorer too.

More decline follows as the basic sequence of life gets made harder for more people. CHIP follies are making pregnancy and childhood more wretched and even deadly. Ongoing assaults on the ACA, Medicaid and Medicare do the same for all of us and if/when the GOP passes its tax bill, most Americans will see taxes and deficits go up, threatening Social Security and everyone’s old age.

This kneecapping of American well-being and power extends across the policy spectrum.  Crapping on the environment isn’t just a matter of not hugging trees.  Just ask the citizens of Flint, MI if bad water is just an aesthetic loss. Recall the LA of my childhood and consider whether air pollution is just a matter of obscured views and great sunsets, etc.

All of these (and many more) domestic policy choices actually make us poorer, as individuals and as a nation. One more example: we already have crappier infrastructure than many of our national competitors. Among much else, that means it can take us longer to get to work — which is both an individual cost and and a net weakening of the US economy as a whole.

These are hidden taxes, charges we pay not in cash, but in our ability to choose how to spend our lives. That cuts US productivity as a matter of GDP, and our contentment as a matter of GHQ (Gross Happiness Quotient) (I made that up. I think.)

None of this means American will (necessarily) collapse entirely. It just means we will be less well off and, in the context of national power, less able to act in the world as a whole. We won’t be able to afford as much (see Britain, post 1918), and…we will — we already — find ourselves with less moral capital, less ability to persuade and encourage fidelity and emulation abroad. (Again, see Britain, post 1918).

There’s real danger ins such decline.  See Putin’s post Soviet Russia for one approach to the loss of economic, military and ideological/moral power.

In that context, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Trump, backed by the GOP, launch into a second war of choice in an as many decades, with similarly awful consequences.

But, that said, even though nations find it hard enough just to muddle through a relative decline in international stature, the world goes on, in somewhat different order. That’s happening now. We can’t really stop it.

We do have a choice though — we can accept a relative decline that still has the US eagerly pursuing a rich and just future…

Or we can dive further the implications of the current GOP program, and watch as our politics become yet more of a zero sum game in which those with the most grab all the crumbs they can, leaving the rest of us to our own devices, while US power dwindles.

And that, by way of the long road home, leads me here: Trump’s GOP* is a fundamentally anti-American party. It is working as hard as it can to deliver wealth and power to a small constituency to the detriment of our national interest. That’s how an organized crime ring acts, not a party of government.

And with that….this thread.  It is open.

*And it is his party, or, if you prefer, he’s the predictable face of what that party has long been becoming.

Images: J. W. M. Turner, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up1839.

after Hieronymous Bosch, The Hay Wain (central panel of a tryptich), between 1510-1520.



He Has Reached Rock Bottom, And Has Started To Dig*

In case you had any question as to just how skeevy — more, how fundamentally grotesque — was and is Roy Moore, here’s his reasoning on why sodomizing a child does not constitute “forcible rape”:

The Alabama Supreme Court had the opportunity to hear the case of one Eric Lemont Higdon, a man accused and convicted of two sodomy charges due to sexual assault against a four-year-old at Mama’s Place Christian Academy in Clay, Alabama.

 

Higdon had been convicted of both sex with a child under twelve years old, statutory rape, and of “first-degree sodomy by forcible compulsion” which requires that the victim face a threat, overt or implied, of  “serious physical injury.” That second forcible rape charge was overturned on appeal, and the question that Moore and his fellow state supreme court justices faced was whether that appellate decision was correct.  Almost all of the court had no problem working that one out:

Eight of the nine justices on the panel found that the appeals court had erred. Their legal logic was such that a 17-year-old’s sexual assault of a four-year-old was enough to produce in the mind of the four-year-old, an “implied threat of serious physical injury.”  The decision was reversed and remanded and Higdon’s conviction was reinstated.

Who dissented? That godly man Moore, of course:

“Because there was no evidence in this case of an implied threat of serious physical injury…or of an implied threat of death, Higdon cannot be convicted of sodomy in the first degree “by forcible compulsion.”

Four Years Old.

No implication of serious physical injury when a seventeen year old assaults a pre-schooler.  I wanted to put that last more bluntly, but I can’t. My stomach turns itself into a Klein bottle when I try.

What kind of man do you have to be to conceive of the scene between that youth and that little child and see no threat?

Roy Moore is not who we thought he was.  He’s much, much worse — and anyone who rises to his defense shares in his stain.

*From this time-honored list of British military fitness reports.  My favorite has always been “I would not breed from this Officer” — which, according to my uncle, a career man in the Royal Artillery, was known to refer to a fellow from a Guards regiment.  Posh don’t mean smart.

Image:  Diego Velasquez, Las Meninas1656-7.

This picture is not, perhaps, precisely on point with this post, but it knows the chords and is, in any case, a simply magnificent painting.



Thor’s Day Evening Open Thread & L.A. Meetup Info

Our Los Angeles jackals have picked a time and place:

The Balloon Brunch will begin at 11 AM on Sunday November 12 at Lucky Baldwin’s Trappists in Pasadena, on Colorado near Pasadena City College. (Not the one in Pasadena Old Town nor the one in Sierra Madre.) Be there or be square.

Anyone watching Maddow? Very disturbing segment on the destruction of the US State Department. Just when I was wrapping my head around the utter depravity of the Republican Party, which is making excuses for pedophile Roy Moore…

Anyhoo. Open thread.



It Gets Worse

These Weinstein revelations are shocking.



With Friends Like These

Great piece in Buzzfeed about how Milo and Bannon and company mainstreamed Nazis and their beliefs, but this is the most shocking aspect:

More telling, however, is that Yiannopoulos was let in by a few in the liberal media world. Some, including a senior staff writer at Vice’s women’s channel Broadly, Mitchell Sunderland, would send him pitches that only outlets like Breitbart could run. Others would spill background information about some of Yiannopoulos’s targets:

– Sunderland asked Yiannopoulos to mock New York Times columnist Lindy West, whom he called a “fat feminist.”

– Dan Lyons, a tech reporter and editor, suggested story ideas and speculated, BuzzFeed wrote, about “the birth sex of Zoë Quinn, another GamerGate target, and Amber Discko, the founder of the feminist website Femsplain.”

– David Auerbach, a former tech reporter for Slate, “passed along on background information about the love life of Anita Sarkeesian, the GamerGate target; ‘the goods’ about an allegedly racist friend of Arthur Chu, the Jeopardy champion and frequent advocate of social justice causes; and a ‘hot tip’ about harsh anti-harassment tactics implemented by Wikipedia.”

Yiannopoulos’s courting of the mainstream got results: At least two of those tips — Sunderland passing along a Broadly video about the Satanic Temple and abortion rights, and Auerbach’s tip about Wikipedia — turned into Breitbart articles.

But yeah, tell me how misogyny played no role in the 2016 election.








Damn I Love The Jag and the Jet and the Mansion

The Graham/Cassidy bill is bad policy. It will devastate many GOP states and hurt tens of millions of Americans. It will gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions, something Trump claims he is against. It’s bad politics. It betrays every alleged GOP “principle” (we all know they have none, but they claim they do) in that it will add to the debt, has not been debated properly, no one has read the bill, etc. It’s wildly unpopular. The members of the Senate don’t even like the bill and don’t even really know what it does. But yet, they are desperate to pass it.

Here’s why:

As more than 40 subdued Republican senators lunched on Chick-fil-A at a closed-door session last week, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado painted a dire picture for his colleagues. Campaign fund-raising was drying up, he said, because of widespread disappointment among donors over the inability of the Republican Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act or do much of anything else.

Mr. Gardner is in charge of his party’s midterm re-election push, and he warned that donors of all stripes were refusing to contribute another penny until the struggling majority produced some concrete results.

“Donors are furious,” one person knowledgeable about the private meeting quoted Mr. Gardner as saying. “We haven’t kept our promise.”

The backlash from big donors as well as the grass roots panicked Senate Republicans and was part of the motivation behind the sudden zeal to take one last crack at repealing the health care law before the end of the month. That effort faltered Friday with new opposition from Senator John McCain of Arizona, the perennial maverick who had scuttled the Senate’s first repeal effort. Now Republicans must confront the possibility that they will once again let down their backers with no big win in sight.

It’s all about the Benjamins and catering to the donor base. Literally nothing else matters to these guys. Fucking the poors and pissing off teh left would just be a bonus.



So I Elected an Axe Murderer

Well attempted. And with a hammer:

The Broward County Republicans are in turmoil today after revelations that a freshly elected member of their executive board is a man who once was charged with attempted murder in the savage claw-hammer beating of a then-classmate at a Los Angeles prep school for multi-millionaires’ children.

Four months after 28-year-old Rupert Tarsey was elected secretary, party officials have found out the young philanthropist and supporter of President Donald Trump is really Rupert Ditsworth.

And a decade ago, the then-Beverly Hills teenager was charged with attempted murder in Los Angeles after hitting Harvard-Westlake School classmate Elizabeth Barcay over the head at least 40 times, splitting her skull open.

I audibly snorted and woke the pets when I got to this part of the story:

For years, he quietly volunteered on Republican campaigns, including Trump’s. Then in May, Tarsey presented himself at the election for the party’s executive board. He won a three-candidate race for secretary with 75 votes.

Tarsey’s real identity was discovered by a member who alerted local GOP Chairman Bob Sutton over the Labor Day weekend.

“We were blindsided,” said Sutton, a schoolteacher. “He’s a member of the Knights of Columbus, for Christ’s sake…

I’m laughing again.