Why Pollyanna Really Liked the Mt. Rushmore Speech

Pollyanna Mountain

N.Y. Times, Trump Uses Mount Rushmore Speech to Deliver Divisive Culture War Message:

Standing in a packed amphitheater in front of Mount Rushmore for an Independence Day celebration, President Trump delivered a dark and divisive speech on Friday that cast his struggling effort to win a second term as a battle against a “new far-left fascism” seeking to wipe out the nation’s values and history.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging and his campaign faltering in the polls, his appearance amounted to a fiery reboot of his re-election effort, using the holiday and an official presidential address to mount a full-on culture war against a straw-man version of the left that he portrayed as inciting mayhem and moving the country toward totalitarianism.

Dana Milbank, A massive repudiation of Trump’s racist politics is building

Yes, friends and neighbors, I know, I know. The wish is father to the thought. But Milbank supplies us with actual data and with actual reason for considerable optimism. Read it for yourself. Some highlights:

Four years ago, Christopher Parker, an African American political scientist at the University of Washington, made the provocative argument that Donald Trump’s candidacy could “do more to advance racial understanding than the election of Barack Obama.” …

The reckoning Parker foresaw is now upon us. White women, disgusted by Trump’s cruelty, are abandoning him in large number. White liberals, stunned by the brazen racism, have taken to the streets. And signs point to African American turnout in November that will rival the record level of 2012, when Obama was on the ballot. This, by itself, would flip Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to Democrats, an analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress shows. …

Trump has accelerated a decades-old trend toward parties redefining themselves by race and racial attitudes. Racial resentment is now the single most important factor driving Republicans and Republican-leaning movers, according to extensive research, most recently by Nicholas Valentino and Kirill Zhirkov at the University of Michigan — more than religion, culture, class or ideology. An ongoing study by University of North Carolina researchers finds that racial resentment even drives hostility toward mask-wearing and social distancing. Conversely, racial liberalism now drives Democrats of all colors more than any other factor. …

“For many white Americans, the things Trump is saying and getting away with, they just didn’t think they lived in a world where that could happen,” says Vincent Hutchings, a political scientist specializing in public opinion at the University of Michigan. Racist appeals in particular alienate white, college-educated women, and even some women without college degrees, he has found: “One of the best ways to exacerbate the gender gap isn’t to talk about gender but to talk about race.”

Trump’s racism has also emboldened white Democrats, who have often been on the losing end of racial politics since George H.W. Bush deployed Willie Horton against Michael Dukakis in 1988. “They’re embracing the racial issues they used to cower on in decades past,” Hetherington says.

This is what Parker had in mind when he wrote in 2016 that Trump could be “good for the United States.” The backlash Trump provoked among whites and nonwhites alike “could kick off a second Reconstruction,” Parker now thinks. “I know it sounds crazy, especially coming from a black man,” he says, but “I think Trump actually is one of the best things that’s happened in this country.”

On Rediscovering What Our Grandparents Knew about Unrestrained Capitalism

man controlling trade

Let me draw your attention to Dana Milbank’s post last evening, Democratic moderates are owning their mistakes.

These, mind you, are not just any old randomly selected mistakes. No, these mistakes relate specifically to an intellectual failure to understand that unrestrained capitalism is bad for a lot of working people.

A couple of days ago I heard a talking head—can’t remember who it was—who made a very good point: Trump articulated people’s grievances. And in 2020 the Democrats need to find someone who can articulate their grievances any better.

Well, yes they do.

But the first step is to wrap your mind around the fact that there are some real grievances that need articulatin’. That’s what Milbank’s piece is all about. He thinks it’s happening, and I hope he’s right.

As a next step, it would be nice if you not only articulate the grievances—“I feel your pain”—but also have some plans that would actually address the grievances.

You need a woman with a plan.


The photo above depicts a statue that was commissioned in 1937, completed in 1942, and sits outside the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, DC. In case you lack skill in interpreting allegorical art, the name of the statue gives a clue about its intended message. It’s called “Man Controlling Trade.”

Just Wild Ass Guessing

Wild Guess Day

Dana Milbank, Trump’s mental gymnastics are incomprehensible

David A. Graham, Why Trump Offers Every Possible Answer

Dana Milbank cannot begin to understand Trump’s mentality. Clearly, Milbank is overthinking. David Graham understands it just fine: Trump is responding to hard questions by giving random responses, to see what sticks.

For almost two decades, my wife and I volunteered with elementary school kids in the inner city. We were privileged to meet many gifted children. Others, unfortunately, lacked good techniques for thinking through problems.

Let’s say you’re taking a multiple choice test. A question requires you to pick one of four choices, (a), (b), (c), or (d). You read the question and cannot immediately tell which is the right answer. A good student will think along these lines, “Well, (c) is obviously wrong. And, when I think about it some more, I can tell that (d) is wrong too. So it must be either (a) or (b). So let me think further, and if I really can’t tell which it is, I’ll just choose either (a) or (b) and go on to the next question.”

A poor student, by contrast, will eschew any thinking at all, but will instead randomly pick among the four choices, look at the tutor’s face, and if he detects a frown, leap immediately, also at random, to one of the remaining three options to see whether that second choice produces a better result.

In other words, a poor student’s problem solving strategy is simply wild ass guessing.

Trump is behaving exactly like a third-grader whose thinking pattern already dooms him to a life of mindless, badly paid labor, if he can get a job at all.

Random guessing is a really piss-poor strategy for getting through life. Regrettably, this is the to-to strategy for many. But this is the first time such a person has been elected president.

Betcha Thought This Headline Was about Someone Else

Trump Kaiser

What Happens When a Bad-Tempered, Distractible Doofus Runs an Empire?

When Wilhelm became emperor, in 1888, at twenty-nine years old, he was determined to be seen as tough and powerful. He fetishized the Army, surrounded himself with generals (though, like Trump, he didn’t like listening to them), owned a hundred and twenty military uniforms, and wore little else. He cultivated a special severe facial expression for public occasions and photographs …

The general staff of the German Army agreed that the Kaiser couldn’t “lead three soldiers over a gutter.” He had neither the attention span nor the ability. “Distractions, whether they are little games with his army or navy, travelling or hunting—are everything to him,” a disillusioned former mentor wrote. “He reads very little apart from newspaper cuttings, hardly writes anything himself apart from marginalia on reports and considers those talks best which are quickly over and done with.” The Kaiser’s entourage compiled press cuttings for him, mostly about himself, which he read as obsessively as Trump watches television. A critical story would send him into paroxysms of fury. …

The Kaiser’s darkest secret was that every few years—after his meddling and blunders had exposed his incompetence or resulted in a crisis—he would suffer a full-blown collapse. His entourage would scrape him off the floor, and he would retire to one of his palaces, where, prostrate, he would weep and complain that he’d been victimized. After the moaning came the pacing, in uncharacteristic silence. Occasionally he would give way to tears. Gradually he would recalibrate his sense of reality—or unreality—and after a few weeks would bounce up again, as boisterous and obstreperous as ever.

Meanwhile, Dana Milbank has a solution: Let’s give Trump cash reparations — in exchange for his retirement:

Consider the litany of wrongs done to him in the past few days alone, as chronicled in his Twitter output: He is being targeted “by the deep state” and he is suffering from congressional “bullying.” He is the victim of “a complete setup,” and he lamented with Vladimir Putin a “Russian hoax” perpetrated against them both. The “FBI sent undercover agents to spy on” his campaign. His enemies went after him with “18 Trump Hating Angry Democrats & 49 FBI Agents” — and now Democrats want a “redo”!

Additionally, his fellow conservatives are being “treated so horribly” by Facebook, and “it’s getting worse and worse.” His opponents are playing “very dirty . . . like never before.” Andrew Napolitano, once an ally, is now talking about Trump’s guilt on Fox News (“Take him off the air!”).

In a video clip Trump shared, a Muslim cleric vows to “conquer America” and “this tyrant” — Trump presumably — then “kill them and take their women and smash their churches” if Americans don’t convert to Islam. Trump is further vexed by “drug cartels & violent criminals” at the border and stubborn Chinese trade negotiators (hence his threat to raise tariffs again). Even the officials at the Kentucky Derby let him down — by disqualifying the winner because of “political correctness.” And Hillary Clinton’s emails!

During this extraordinary recitation of wrongs inflicted on him, Trump retweeted a question posed on CNN: “Is Trump not getting enough credit for the economy?”

Of course he isn’t! And somebody must pay.

Falwell’s proposed remedy, that Trump have “2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup,” has a practical flaw: At the rate Trump’s would-be Democratic challengers are joining the field, there would be more than 250 of them on the debate stage in 2022. (Also, the idea is unconstitutional, though the Supreme Court has recently granted Trump considerable leeway with that document.)

A less messy solution: cash reparations — a victim’s fund for our beleaguered billionaire. This would be relatively simple to implement, because we already have considerable experience shifting funds into Trump’s pocket.

Cold War Winners and Losers


Dana Milbank, It’s Official. We Lost the Cold War.

David Atkins begs to differ: The United States Didn’t Lose the Cold War. Racist Plutocrats Won It. He writes,

This is extremely misguided, and ironically plays right into Trump’s Westphalian nationalist worldview. It ignores historical and ideological context. And it convenient forgets how Putin rose to power, what his interests are, why they align perfectly with Trump’s, and how bipartisan American policy toward Russia led us to this pass. …

It was unsurprising … that a Russian government aligned with racist, sexist and plutocratic principles would find an easy friend in Donald Trump and the American Republican Party. They are natural allies. It is less that America became Russia’s client state, than that the conservative movements in both America and Russia made a semi-secret criminal global compact that neither could acknowledge publicly. Since Trump’s election, their wealthy patriarchal white supremacist movement has sought and encouraged allies in Britain, Europe, Brazil and elsewhere, seeking to align the world against socially inclusive economic progressivism in favor of plutocratic ethnonationalism. …

It didn’t happen because a nation-state called America allowed itself to be controlled by a nation-state called Russia. It happened because American insistence on corrupted privatization policy destabilized an entire country and threw it into the arms of an ethnonationlist right-wing dictator. Then that dictator used his influence to put a would-be right-wing ethnonationlist dictator in charge of America itself–an eventuality that the Republican Party of right-wing ethnonationalism accepted with scarcely a whimper, and now seeks aggressively to defend.

America does not need a renewal of jingoistic Cold War sentiment against Russia. It needs to reject both the economic and social agenda that brought both countries to their knees in an unholy alliance.

Aardvark’s Animadversion

I think what Atkins has to say is thought-provoking. (That would be why I quoted him, right?) But I think that our plutocracy is not as monolithic as he depicts it. I believe there are sensible elements of our plutocracy. By “sensible” I do not mean morally admirable; I mean, instead, able and willing to act in their own amoral self-interest. It is they who will save the day, if it is to be saved, and who will consign Donald J. Trump to the dustbin of history. William P. Barr, Esquire, anyone?

But of course I could be wrong. In which case we are well and truly fucked.

Scare Tactics, Real and Phony; Ridicule as the Antidote for the Ridiculous


Scaring the Bejessus Out of Them

Health care is the top issue for American voters, and more people like the Affordable Care Act than dislike it. Immigration is an important issue, but health care significantly outranks immigration as a source of concern.

Meanwhile, David Brooks, cluelessly, thinks progressives should be preaching about the evils of Trumpism, not what voters actually care about: health care.

Bad idea. With each new outrage, Trump seems to solidify his support among his peeps. You aren’t going to talk themselves out of their lunacy with logic and facts.

Instead, you have to scare the bejeesus out of them. With actual facts, not stuff you just pulled out of your rear end. Like the fact that the Republicans want to rob them with their tax code and then kill them by taking their health away.

Ridiculing the Ridiculous

And when we’ve finished scaring them, let’s add some humor. The antidote to ridiculous claims is, I submit, ridicule.

Thus Dana Milbank helpfully explains All the reasons the migrant caravan is totally a national emergency. Inter alia,

The migrants in the caravan:

Have his tax returns and are planning to release them.

Are members of Nikki Haley’s presidential exploratory committee.

Have the Russian kompromat on Trump.

Are Russian colluders coming to turn themselves in to Robert Mueller.

Are climate-change scientists.

Have the n-word tape Omarosa claims to have heard.

Are Simon & Schuster employees carrying a reprinting of Bob Woodward’s “Fear.”

Are deported mothers coming to reclaim the detained children Trump lost.

Are accountants coming to put Trump’s businesses into a blind trust.

Are Saudi bankers coming to demand Trump repay their loans.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Tweets


Continuing to explore an issue I have addressed with morbid fascination these past months, Dana Milbank writes, Trump’s not a liar. He’s a madman.

I find Milbank’s conclusion curious. It seems to me that evidence is mounting that Trump’s lies are often conscious and strategic. Recent examples: the claim that the Democrats are responsible for separating children from parents at the border, and the assertion that there was an FBI “spy” in his campaign.

People who are actually successful have a number of techniques at their disposal, but Trump has only four: smarmy flattery, insults, threats, and lies. If you are the type of person whose behavior can be influenced by these techniques, then Trump has your number. If you are not affected by obviously insincere flattery, by verbal abuse, or by intimidation, and if you do not believe his lies, then Trump is flat out of luck, because that’s all he knows how to do.

Milbank cites evidence that the velocity of Trump’s lies is increasing at a dizzying rate. But the mere fact of lying is not in itself evidence of madness. It is instead evidence of desperation.

In addition, it seems that the lies are becoming so ludicrous that it’s like he’s just phoning it in.

As the dying cobra makes a last effort to defend itself from the mongoose by injecting more venom, it’s not crazy. It’s just ineffectual. ‘Cause the cobra has become immune to the venom.

Something like Shep Smith reacting to Trump’s venomous lies.

Roy Moore, Saint Joseph, Vasari, and Dana Milbank

I revert to the remarks of Jim Ziegler, Alabama state auditor:

He’s clean as a hound’s tooth. Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist. Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.

Based on his years attending Southern Baptist Sunday school and on his expertise as an art historian, Vasari explains that Mr. Ziegler is incorrect, and that, as Vasari puts it,

Joseph was not the father of Jesus, at least according to western church dogma. I do not have a song but I do have this little ditty:

As a ray of the sun
Through a window can pass,
And yet no hurt is done
The translucent glass,
So, but more subtly,
Of a mother untried,
God, the son of God,Comes forth from his bride.

It seems that several versions of this verse, likely sung, made the rounds in medieval Flanders.

In short, pace Mr. Ziegler, Mary conceived by the Word, not intercourse.

A telling illustration of the idea can be seen in alternatively, Robert Campin/Workshop of Robert Campin under the title alternatively The Merode Altarpiece/The Annunciation Triptych.


Forgetting the fascinating side panels, let’s look at a detail of the central panel. The angel announces. Simultaneously the complex baby slides down a light beam toward Mary,  and if you want to use a straightedge you will see that the path is to Mary’s head, even, I think, her ear. Notice that the light beams and the baby have passed through the glass of the window without breaking it. And by the way the path takes them past a pot of water, water=clean.

Should there be any doubt about the conception, Joseph, on the right panel, is busy making mouse traps while his wife conceives.

Now, in the discussions since the Washington Post revelations, we have heard from thumpers that there was nothing unusual in Moore taking a fourteen-year old–that was a long time ago and they did things differently then and Moore is just being biblical.

Might the thumpers arrange for a demonstration of Moore sticking his beam through a window without breaking the glass?

All this needs to be laid before McConnell. A sticky wicket. Can McConnell grasp the distinction between oral sex and aural sex?

And may we assume that the thumpers will miss the detail of the morning report that Moore spoke to the mother and suddenly had possession of the child?

Here endeth the lesson from Vasari.

Dana Milbank also contributes greatly to the discussion, identifying a number of biblican practices highly approved in Alabama Republican circles:

Sacrificing as a burnt offering your young son (Genesis 22:2) or your daughter, if she comes out of the doors of your house to meet you (Judges 11:30-1, 34-5).

Having rebellious children stoned to death by all the men of the city (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

Purchasing slaves (Leviticus 25:44-46), selling your daughter as a slave (Exodus 21:7-8) and making sure they submit to their masters, even cruel ones (1 Peter 2:18).

Executing pagan priests on their own altars and burning their bones (2 Kings 23:20-25).

Cutting off the hand of a woman if she grabs the penis of a man who is fighting with her husband (Deuteronomy 25:11-12).

Committing incest (Genesis 19:31-36) and cannibalism (2 Kings 6:28-29).

And having the military do all sorts of things to the enemy that would violate the Geneva accords:

Kill all boys and women but spare the girls who have not known man intimately for yourself (Numbers 31:17-18).

Destroy all that they have, killing man, woman, child, infant, ox, sheep, camel and donkey (1 Samuel 15:3).

Yes, It’s Time to Panic


Dana Milbank quotes Trump’s ghostwriter thusly:

“More than anyone else I have ever met,” Tony Schwartz, Trump’s ghostwriter for “The Art of the Deal,” told the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer at the time, “Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”

Focusing on Trump’s false claim that God did make the sun to shine on his inaugural speech, which it actually rained throughout the American carnage oration.

I rehash this weather history because it’s not subject to debate. This is tantamount to Trump declaring black is white or day is night. It was overcast, and he declared that it was “really sunny.”

This disconnect from reality is my biggest fear about Trump, more than any one policy he has proposed. My worry is the president of the United States is barking mad.

Well, Mr. Milbank, please don’t worry any more, because it’s not a worry, it’s becoming a proven fact.

But if you would like to worry, here is something that should really keep you up at night. What happens when his promises are shown to be unfulfillable, when his non-existent magical Obamacare replacement never materializes and the wall never gets built? What will he do when, around the third inning, his cheering section begins, in ever increasing dribs and drabs, to leave the stadium? What will he do when, by the middle of the fourth inning, they have pretty much all left the ballpark?

You wanna see barking mad, Dana?

I think you will see barking mad.