Day 39: Unbelievably Complex Subjects

The President of the United States of America had a moment of relatively clarity today, admitting that overhauling the ACA was “an unbelievably complex subject,” then adding that “Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.” No. Nobody knew that, Donald. No one at all.

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Day 38: Malevolence, Incompetence or Malevolent Incompetence

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Like an apocalyptic version of the Reddit ask-me-anything in which we have to decide between fighting 100 duck-sized horses or a single horse-sized duck, liberals are busy trying to decide whether we prefer the destruction of our democracy to be a result of malevolence or incompetence. On the malevolence side, His Royal Lieness has continued his attack on the press as an ‘enemy of the people’ (a phrase that was too Stalinist for Khrushchev), doubling down on use of that brilliant zinger at CPAC just two days ago. And yet, the image of this administration as a dumpster fire of a train wreck persists. Though it may be part of Bannon’s grand anarchic plan, cabinet secretaries are dashing around fixing whatever Trump breaks with his latest 4am policy tweet, the WH continues to encourage conflicting ACA replacements, and Sean Spicer tries to stem insider leaks by confiscating staffers’ phones–a tactic which is promptly leaked. Though it’s tempting to take comfort in Hanlon’s razor, which suggests not attributing to malice what can be explained by stupidity, we know that Trump’s shit show can do a lot of damage, even if it eventually collapses under its own preposterousness.

Today we bought a comforter and sheets for a local refugee family, as part of a drive organized by RefugeeOne. I think I’ve mentioned them before, but you should check them out for ways to aide refugees in your own area.

Day 37: Nerd Prom

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In the not-all-that-surprising news department, Pouty-McPoutface’s account tweeted out the President’s intention not to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year:

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The lack of ALL CAPS, the magnanimity of the sign off, and the correct apostrophe use in the plural possessive all suggest a ghost writer, but #45’s attendance at the event had already been a question. Not only because it’s been another week of villainizing the press, but also because DJT has a bit of a history with this particular event. His sourpuss reaction to being teased by President Obama and Seth Meyers at the 2011 gala have even led to a theory making that event the psychological tipping point that turned a birther wackaloon into a presidential candidate birther wackaloon.

Still, perhaps it would be better if no one attended. The chummy hobnobbing between the press and the people they are supposed to cover has been criticized in the past, and that argument seems even more relevant today with an actively hostile White House blocking access and spewing BS with a fire hose.

On #theResistance beat today, the Indivisible project has grown from a list of tips for contacting representatives to a more comprehensive resource for organizing against the administration. Check it out.

Day 36:Soggy Waffles

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Props for the donation to Planned Parenthood, but I have to say the waffles were a little soggy and over-sweet.

Many of us have been wondering “why now” about the administration’s roll back of Obama’s protections for transgender children in schools, especially after 45 claimed he would be a better friend to LGBT Americans than Clinton. It just seems like such a gratuitous attack on reasonable rights for kids who have it hard enough. Is there really such an up side appealing to the bigoted base? It seems there is. It also seems, at least according to Emily Bazelon of Slate and the New York Times Magazine, that the movement of related cases through the courts put the administration in a position of having to decide on the case. So the decision is still hateful, terrible and wrong-headed, but at least its not as gratuitous as we thought.

 

 

Day 35: Micropayments for Politics?

Here’s an idea. What if, instead of just clicking like or retweet you could donate a small amount of money to a related organization. Infuriating travel ban news? 25 cents to the ACLU. Bigotry embodied in anti-trans policy? 50 cents for Lambda Legal. Of course, this kind of funding model would need to be secure, quick and seamless, but previous attempts to develop this sort of infrastructure have not gone well. Micropayments were once proposed to fund content on the internet, and yet here we are still inundated with autoplay videos, popup ads, and other obstacles to our desire to consume content for free. Could bitcoin-like technology work for this application? Possibly, but one recent attempt seems to have lasted less than a year. Still there has been some adoption of cell-phone payments like Venmo, and it does seem like a mircopayment system would be the perfect complement to the way we engage with political causes on social media.

Day 34: Library Science

 

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I ran into this curious display on the street today. It’s for a campaign by the Human Rights Foundation (chaired by Garry Kasparov) where they are collecting old USB drives to be reformatted, loaded with books and movies, and smuggled to North Korea.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t have any random drives with me, so I have to mail some in. It’s such an interesting approach to getting media into North Korea, and such a compelling curation project. I guess the North Korean partners will be guiding the content decisions, but I’m enjoying the thought experiment wondering what I would put on a drive to undermine an insular autocratic state. What viral memes would you implant in the North Korean psyche?

 

Day 33: Stockholm Syndrome

It turns out that the reason that no one had heard of the mysterious Sweden incident was that it hadn’t happened yet. Yesterday, residents in a Stockholm suburb with a large immigrant population responded to a drug arrest with several hours of rock throwing and car burning, as if fulfilling the oracular signs of Fox News as told by the Orange Prophet. The American alt-right apparently considers Sweden a prime example of a country where increased immigration has led to a crime wave, so I’m guess we are in for some dueling statistics in the next few days.

Fulfillment of another dismal prophecy also came today as the Trumpenator detailed his new immigration enforcement policies. No word yet on how this massive enforcement surge will be financed (no doubt Sweden will pay for it), and court challenges are sure to follow, but since immigration enforcement hinges on a good deal of prosecutorial discretion many of these changes will be well within the power of the executive branch.

Had a lovely chat with a staffer at Bobby Rush’s DC office today while relaying my opposition to HR 985. She called me ‘sweetie,’ and assured me that she would relay my message.

Day 32: The Dress

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This was a week of reflection on the motives and feelings of Trump supporters. Sabrina Tavernise argued in the New York Times that the mocking intolerance of the liberal resistance may not only be preventing Trump voters from getting dates (Tinder profiles that read, “Trump supporters, swipe left”), but may also be driving some otherwise moderate conservatives to support Trump even more. After enduring the months of “Trump that Bitch” misogyny, race baiting and xenophobic fear-mongering, many liberals were not amused, as typified by this response to a reference I made to the NYT piece:

I can see that, but we won’t be able to reverse the electoral losses without drawing some votes from the Trump bloc. Sad to say, but increasing margins among our urban base in already blue states just will not reverse the GOP hold on Congress, nor will it undo the GOP occupation of state legislatures and governor’s mansions.

The tactical question aside, liberals remain simply dumbfounded that Trump supporters cannot appreciate what is to us so completely obvious. How can they not see it? A look into those enigmatic workings of the Trumpster mind appeared in WaPo, where attendees of the Florida rally were asked about the first month of the administration. Recognizing that these were the most loyal of the loyal followers, the disconnect between their perceptions and the kind of viewpoint I’ve been sharing here is astounding. They see a successful first month of a president who promised to shake things up and piss people off. To them the dress is blue and black; to us it’s white and gold, and no amount of careful explanation or photographic color rebalancing seems to bridge the divide.

One theory is that all the gas-lighting and alternative facts from the administration and its supporters is a kind of expert misdirection that pulls our attention away from the hand in the till or the jackboot on the throat. It is true that while we’ve been laughing at Sweden memes, the house GOP leadership has been quietly advancing a deeply conservative agenda. One particularly appalling example is HR 985, which will throw a wrench into the gears of class action procedures that are the basis of many civil rights law suits. I’ll be calling my District 1 representative tomorrow.

Day 31: We Will Rebuild

It turns out that Donald-the-Unhinged was not referring to another event in the the wave of terrorist incidents being ignored by the mainstream media, but to a fair and balanced Fox News report about Swedes having trouble with immigrant-connected crime. As is usual with the nitwits driving the White House communications effort, the story only gets less coherent the more they try to explain.

Greasing the slide of a security-related escape for GOP reps ducking out of town hall meetings,  Fox News was quick to alert those definitely-not-precious-snowflakes of the dangers presented by constituents with opinions. We all remember how concerned Fox was for security during the Tea Party protests. Still, some republicans are responding to town hall attendees with patience and wit. That should be encouraged.

Day 30: Alternative Facts/Alternative Reality

In the much more dangerous parallel universe in which the Bowling Green Massacre took place, there has apparently been another attack, in Sweden this time. Seemingly missing the adulatory crowds of the campaign, DJT had himself a nice little narcissist pep rally in Florida, where he casually referred to an attack ‘last night in Sweden’ as justification for his Muslim ban. Of course, back in our universe, such an attack never happened.

Meanwhile, returning to more general questions of whether we should be punching Nazis or allowing them a platform in the marketplace of ideas, On The Media has been doing some excellent work exploring the role of journalists, and by extension the rest of us, in addressing an aggressively intolerant administration. Of course, the tension between the civil libertarian left and the social justice left has a long history. I remember reading Herbert Marcuse’s 1965 essay Repressive Tolerance in college (long after it was published of course), but that was certainly not the first time it had come up. To completely oversimplify, Marcuse took more of a punching-Nazis approach: that intolerance of intolerant speech is justified. Still, personally I’ve generally been more idealistic about the ability of people to sort the good ideas from the bad, an idealism that is being critically tested recently.

If you need more evidence that taking the resistance to the statehouse is an important strategy, North Dakota lawmakers are proposing to indemnify motorists who run over protesters–as long as, you know, they don’t mean to do it. Speaking of North Dakota,  US GOP Rep Kevin Cramer will defy recent trends and make himself available at a town hall forum on February 23rd in Fargo. I know this because the Town Hall Project has graduated from a crowd sourced Google doc to a full website with a zip code search and clickable map. Check it out.