I gave up trying to fall back asleep at 3 and padded downstairs to read the third chapter of Dark Money. The first two chapters gave me the background of the 800 pound gorillas of the big money movement to turn us back to the Middle Ages. They covered the Kochs and Richard Mellon Scaife. The third covered both the Olin Foundation and Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation. This book is reminding me of forty years worth of sporadic reports and tying them into a comprehensible bow. I certainly believed there was something behind Hillary Clinton’s “vast right wing conspiracy” and this book lifts the veil. The “conspiracy” is all perfectly legal or at least legalish and court rulings like Citizens’s United have vastly if I dare use that adverb, enhanced the power of the big spenders.
I dimly recalled a news story about about some rich guy, (it was Richard Mellon Scaife) putting up a sign in his neighborhood announcing the loss of his dog and wife and offering a reward for the dog. But now I know more about this bonvivant. His rich and conservative Grandfather, Andrew Mellon, was the Secretary of the Treasury for all three Republican Presidents of the 1920’s. He also was a prolific tax cheat and his grandson took up his motto, “Give tax breaks to large corporations, so that money can trickle down to the general public, in the form of extra jobs.”
This philosophy makes for an interesting contrast to last night’s fundraiser for Life House which takes care of discarded young people. Scaife and his silky ilk generally decry coddling the weak putting a much higher premium on protecting the assets of America’s aristocrats. The hundred’s of million Scaife donated to “charity” largely went to maintain his and other rich folks wealth not to the needy.
Claudia and I sat down with some of the people she has been working with at the CHUM homeless Center. Spending the last few months checking people in has been eye opening for her. Seeing someone released from a hospital near death’s door looking for a place to sleep on the floor has a way of impressing itself on the imagination. A young couple sitting next to us volunteer at Life House as I did three years ago. We were a jolly crowd. Our speaker Famous Dave of Rib fame gave a rousing talk and I learned he was half Choctaw, a much larger percentage of that tribe’s heritage than my grandson has but enough for me to some kinship with the Rib Master.
I suspect the billionaires club would consider the Rib magnate an exception to their rule. Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation financed the infamous 1994 book the “Bell Curve” which posited that blacks were intellectually inferior to white folk. Indians probably didn’t fare much better in the analysis.
There is no end to the unpleasantness emanating from Milwaukee. Its not just my old nemesis Johnson Controls, its Governor Tommy Thompson’s call to make poor people work for their welfare while Republicans happily outsourced decent factory jobs overseas. (Bill “Triangulation” Clinton latched onto both of these planks for his Presidency.) Its also the Milwaukee County Executive, Scott Walker, union buster extraordinaire and Koch Brother favorite. Its also a dreamscape for Secretary of Education Besty DeVos’s world of public education vouchers. I wonder where Billionaires fit on the Bell curve?
Famous Dave, who is a generous contributor to the needy, showed us pictures of his vast and messy library. He told us he reads for hours every day and gives his faithful reading credit for the half-billion-a-year enterprise he built off of a $10,000 business loan. That’s quite a contrast with our current President who can barely squeak through a teleprompter but then again, Trump inherited his start in life. I’m afraid Trump gives billionaires a bad name but the Koch’s are stoked. It was reported today that they are following up their $800 million investment in the 2016 election with a $300 million push to pass Trump’s tax decreases on the wealthy and ending the estate tax before Trump’s impeachment after which the GOP might be hard pressed to help the filthy rich.
Yesterday I spent a couple hours writing and editing my thoughts on Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. It added little to the debate so I never uploaded it and just deleted it. I suspect Trump only upped the ante and shook more of his supporters confidence. I also suspect that the most likely effect will be to force the FBI to double down on its investigation.
The President keeps handing out more ammunition to critics like me and, worse for him, late night comics. Its like like getting candy bars at Halloween and Comey’s firing was like five pound box of Russel Stover’s chocolates.
I woke up early this morning and couldn’t sleep so I got up and read the prologue to Jane Mayer’s highly praised book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. What came as a surprise to me was the about face of the Koch Brothers (the sixth and seventh riches billionaires in the World) who heaped abuse on Trump a year ago when he was swatting traditional GOP candidates aside like flies. These days they have supplied half of their allies, subalterns and lobbyists to the Trump Administration. Trump called these brothers part of the “swamp” back when he was going to clean it up. Its one rich swamp.
Like The Tammany political hack, George Washington Plunkitt, He didn’t. Worse, he doesn’t realize its meant to prime a depression not full employment economy. I doubt that the John Birch spawned Koch’s care much about anything other than dismantling the government with Trump’s eager help. God knows they hated Obamacare. Its not a good time to be Trump voting coal miner with black lung.
Evan Osnos the Author of the book Age of Ambition, about the new China, wrote an excellent and somewhat skeptical appraisal of the chances for Trump’s impeachment for the New Yorker. That was four days ago before the Comey decision.
The Duluth News Tribune devoted almost an entire page to a dozen letters critical of a Steve Lindstrom cartoon that I thought was clever if a bit too easy. It showed the Dwarf “Doc” looking out of his mine at Dwarf “Dopey” who was drinking from mine waste dribbling out of the mine’s entrance. The caption explained that this is how Dopey got that way.
Many of the writers would have had the Tribune pull the cartoon like the disinvite of Coulter from UC Berkeley.
That the cartoon generated such a heated response was both a testament to Steve Lindstrom’s simple idea and perhaps to today’s Blue collar resentments.
I have not yet taken the time to read up on whether the mineral investors can be counted on to protect those of us who live downstream from their mine’s sulfides. Having a Donald Trump as our President only aggravates my concern. In the meantime, I welcome the skepticism cartoonist Lindstrom has aimed at the project just as I welcome the eruption late night humor directed at the Oval Office.
I just polished off my seventh book of the year and entered it on my reading list online. I set Destiny of the Republic aside a couple times to read books on China to Claudia and fuss with school board and family but whenever I picked it up it read fast and furious.
I seem likely to set a new second place – ten books in a year – since I began recording my serious reading. That first year 1979, was in the aftermath of losing a teaching job, losing my second race for the legislature and my discovery that I didn’t have it in me to sell life insurance. Instead, I decided to try once again to teach history and intended to do so by reading it. I began substitute teaching and the Assistant Superintendent made it a point to tell me that those subs who brought books to read to our substitute jobs weren’t serious about our work. It was one more example of someone failing to read my mind.
Vanity compels me to explain what I treat as a “serious book” and how such books get on my list. I’ve read a lot of children’s books but I don’t include them on my list. For instance, I’ve read all seven of the Harry Potter Books to Claudia and, with the exception of the final book, read them to her twice. They are perfectly serious books but they don’t count. I will count adult novels but I haven’t read a lot of them. Non fiction is my thing and I only include books that I’ve read cover to cover. I will leave an unread book like “Mr. Speaker” unfinished for years before adding them to the list. That one finally made this year.
I have two other partially completed histories I suspect I will finish this year. American Lion is about Andrew Jackson and I have another book on Presidents Monroe and Madison before they achieved the nation’s highest office. As with the Old Testament, which I finished a few months ago, much of this reading preceded this year. I also have two other political books waiting in the wing and one on World War I, but I may wait to dig into them until I get back from China on August 3rd. I’ve got to start a campaign for reelection and I’ve got half a dozen books on China that I’m reading to Claudia. Some of them may never make my list of completed books because I’m not that attached to the thought of reading them cover to cover. I’m 80 pages into a fat little general history of China but I suspect I’ll abandon it long before the Cultural Revolution because I’m already pretty familiar with that period. Ditto, the book Idiot’s Guide to Chinese. Sampling that will be sufficient and I hate reminding myself that I’m a school board member. Which reminds me…….
One of my recently retired idiot colleagues has recently been telling folks that our current school board is behaving badly and I have little doubt that she’s talking about me. With advertising like that I’ll have to hustle to win re-election.
I do aspire to more, which leaves me with one indelible memory from the book I just finished tonight. James Garfield was one of the most decent human beings ever to sit in the White House. He was so virtuous that his lingering two-month long death drove the most corrupt Vice President we ever elected, Chester A. Arthur, to reform himself and institute the far reaching reform of Civil Service which put an end to a crass system of political spoils in the national government.
The only similar example I can think of was LBJ’s passage of Civil Right’s legislation in the wake of John Kennedy’s assassination. Lucky for Chester there was no war being waged simultaneously. As one of his corrupt old political cronies explained it: “He ain’t ‘Chet Arthur’ any more. He’s the President.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say the same of Donald Trump?
I took an hour to listen to this story about a Wisconsin researcher who got to know the folks in rural Wisconsin and what motivated them. I’d recommend that Democrats listen to it. They will have four years to let its significance sink in before the next presidential election.
Or they might make use of this new Facebook page to begin bridging the gulf that social media seems to have created between the two political parties that in my youth were not much further apart than the opposite sides of a coin.
I’m just shy of half way through Destiny of the Republic. Garfield has had one bit of luck before derangement wins the day. His self-appointed tormentor Senator Conkling, a preening bully of a man, has just overplayed his hand right out of the United States Senate. What should be the path to well deserved reform and fame for the President will soon give way to what I found when I moved to North Mankato in 1963. Oblivion.
That fall I began three ignominious years at Garfield Junior High. No one called it that. It was always “North Mankato Junior High” the martyred President having been all but forgotten in the intervening 84 years. Within three months of my enrollment a fourth President would be assassinated.
Destiny has done a wonderful job of describing Garfield’s addled assassin Charles Guiteau. The Congress had made Garfield all the new President all the more vulnerable by cutting the Secret Service’s budget by half shortly before Garfield took office. Their job wasn’t to protect the President anyway back then. They were set up to go after counterfeiters.
Lincoln had been murdered fifteen years before. William McKinley would be murdered twenty years later and Teddy Roosevelt would be saved the same fate when a fat little speech in his breast pocket stopped a bullet not long afterwards. It was a bad run of luck for Republican Presidents.
I mentioned the importance of perspective in the last post. I am annoyed by the vast unexpected sums that are being required to protect our new President and his globe hopping family. There has been a whole raft of news stories on that subject. I have little choice but to support what it takes to keep our President safe. I’m pinning my hopes on impeachment but until then I am relying on Seth Meyers.
There is one other possibility regarding Trump’s ultimatum to House Republicans that I ruled out a little too quickly. I thought that the Tea Partier’s testosterone wouldn’t let the ersatz Republican President, Donald Trump, steam roll them. As I washed dishes some suds cleared from my head. The tea partiers may cave. Thumbing their nose at Trump may do them more damage than going along with him…..with their voters.
Of course, crippling health care would distress a lot of voters and drive them to the Democrats in 2018. I just hope Ruth Bader Ginsburg can hang in there until 2020.
Just a quick post before I head down and wash dishes.
I was driving home from Denfeld and the “speech concert” ten minutes ago when I heard that Donald Trump issued an ultimatum to Republicans. Either they pass the health care plan that he was sure he had gotten the Freedom Caucus to go along with or he was done messing with health care and would let Obamacare live on.
I guffawed for thirty seconds. It was so brilliant that if any President who spoke out of one side of his/her mouth had said it I probably wouldn’t have been surprised. For eight years the Republicans made this their number one cause and then proceeded to sit on their skanky thumbs rather than come up with an alternative.
Coming up with an alternative was never in the program and not possible. One faction never progressed beyond the 1960’s distaste for “socialized medicine” and would have been happy to board a time machine heading back in time. Another faction simply wanted to strip poor people of health care that cost rich taxpayers too much money. The third faction was the cowering moderates who have given up challenging the new Republican orthodoxies lest they be primaried out of their seats for being RINO’s. The first two groups were essentially living in a magical world. Donald Trump was the fourth faction. Fox News had convinced his voters that Obamacare was making their lives miserable and they elected Trump to make it better. The last couple of months have convinced his voters that the Republicans were only going to make life worse for them. Donald Trump’s big “nevermind” only serves to assure his voters that he’s not going to let the Republicans screw them over.
What Trump has done is point an accusing finger at Congressional Republicans for being dunces. Democrats can breath a sigh of relief and turn to the other reprehensible plans that Trump has pushed like his wall, immigration and Putin-gate.
Trump is the winner on this but so is Obama and so is the Democratic Party – unless the GOP gets its act together and hammers out a sensible alternative. I’d place my bets against that. I don’t think the crazies in the GOP from the Koch Brothers to the Tea Partiers can find common ground. I have to give Presidential Donald Trump a big thumb’s up for this. Don’t worry. The memory of this is sure to fade pretty quickly.
I had every intention of watching President Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress last evening. Instead, I got Trumped by the School Board. We altered our February schedule so we could meet on the last Tuesday of February rather than the third Tuesday. And, as I’ve explained, our new more amicable Board pulled a Trump on me without warning. They rehired our oily, Machiavellian attorney, Kevin Rupp, whose practice has pioneered the removal of school board members who ask too many questions and bother their Superintendents.
So, I’m only catching up on Trump’s speech that today’s commentators are explaining was a traditional stick-to-the-teleprompter affair. (I gave a couple of those myself last night sans teleprompter.) But I haven’t changed my mind about our new President or the staff he has surrounded himself with – a staff that I think Attorney Rupp would find very agreeable.
An an old highschool acquaintance of mine and I recently “friended” each other on Facebook. Sue sent me a post this morning from the Guardian Newspaper that helps cement my contempt for our new “Common letcher and Chief.” Coincidentally, it involves an author whose book I plan to read at Lakewood Elementary next week. Its author is Australian, Mem Fox.
Last year when I read at Lakewood they asked me to read a book on forestry and suggested Dr. Seuss’s the Lorax. This year they are talking about recipes and asked if I had anything that might fit that topic for which I could bring a recipe for the students. I thought of Pavlova.
I love visiting book stores in other nations to see what local authors are writing for children. In England decades ago I discovered the charming book Five Minutes Peace. Four years ago in Australia I discovered Mem Fox among others.
… I was fixing old posts. One of them was this short post from JANUARY 23, 2012. Richard Nixon’s simple explanation for why America should have two political parties reaching for the center instead of the periphery demonstrates the wisdom he had and that he ignored in order to become President in 1968.
Today the Bernie Sander’s diehards are hoping to do to the Democratic Party what the Tea Party did to the Republican Party. Break it.
From that post:
In 1959, Vice-President Nixon, speaking to members of California’s Commonwealth Club, was asked if he’d like to see the parties undergo an ideological realignment, the sort that has since taken place, and he replied, “I think it would be a great tragedy . . . if we had our two major political parties divide on what we would call a conservative-liberal line.” He continued, “I think one of the attributes of our political system has been that we have avoided generally violent swings in Administrations from one extreme to the other. And the reason we have avoided that is that in both parties there has been room for a broad spectrum of opinion.” Therefore, “when your Administrations come to power, they will represent the whole people rather than just one segment of the people.”
Just what I need. Another FOX News with its “Fair and Balanced” reporting. “Fair” as in the condition of a book or a collector’s coin = Excellent, Good or Fair and balanced in the sense of journalists trumpeting “conservative Republican” values balanced against journalists attempting to show some objectivity.
My Buddy sent me this thoughtful appraisal of how the stock market in the US is taking Donald Trump in stride. The Atlantic column takes no stand on Trump. It just lays out the possibilities for Trump either cratering our economy or being irrelevant. Its not very long.
My guess is that he will hurt significantly especially in the huge swath of Red States that depend on Agriculture. Foreign travel is down too. Foreigners have always been hyper sensitive to the idea that the US is the wild west with gunfights breaking out everywhere. The news from my old Homestate, Kansas, today won’t help that perception. That story is already running on Indian media.
I’ve read enough stories that suggest doom and gloom in various economic quarters that I find the idea of a “little Trump” imprint on the economy wishful thinking. Maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part.
“The Little Trump hypothesis regards these fears and declares: “meh.” Instead, it posits that the president will be a loud yet minor figure, sound and fury signifying nothing; a wannabe superhero hemmed in by the limited powers of the executive branch. Rather than rule like a populist demagogue, he will mostly sign bills written by his pro-business staffers and approved by a pro-business Congress. There are extremely smart people who believe in each hypothesis. But the theories are mutually exclusive. They cannot both be true. No matter what happens in the next few years, a lot of people are already wrong about Donald Trump.”
I know because Facebook reminded me by putting this image on a “year-ago-today” memory function.
And why do I say that he is the most famous person in World History? Well first a prologue.
I woke up today not thinking about Trump, a rarity, but perhaps he was in my thoughts way behind the scenes in my subconscious. You see, I woke this morning imagining going back to a day when I was in college 45 years ago with the memories of me today, at age 66, stuck in my head.
What I thought about was compelling enough, for me, to imagine writing it down as the beginning of a novel. So taken was I by this writing exercise that I decided not to listen to NPR this morning so I could continue thinking about this novelized time travel story. (Actually, last night before going to bed I thought I should stop listening to the morning news because I had been so wrapped up in it that I have been neglecting various projects I wanted to work on. This has become so standard that I find myself going to bed wishing I had done something useful instead of obsess about Donald Trump.)
I got out of bed before the crack of dawn and kept the radio off while I fed my cats and gathered my gym bag to swim some laps at the fitness center. I drove sans radio and swam. On the way home I bought some coffee, orange Juice and a banana nut muffin but made the mistake of looking at my cell. I noticed a New York Times Story (I subscribed to the Times a couple weeks ago to have unlimited Trump News coverage and avoid being limited to ten-a-month) about someone who had attempted to do what I was failing to do with my morning. Block Trump out of my thoughts so I could do something else for a change.
Mr. Manjoo is the columnist who tried unsuccessfully to blot out Donald Trump not just for a morning but for a week. He couldn’t do it either. Then he did a little research and concluded that Trump is the most famous person in world history that has ever been. As I extrapolate Manjoo’s conclusions it appears that Donald Trump has gotten something like a trillion dollars worth of free publicity over the course of the last twelve months. He has me convinced. Its astonishing to think that the most famous person ever is the world’s biggest twit. Or is that twitterer?
I only had to type six characters and a space: It can’ – and the full title of the movie I woke up dreaming about popped up in my Google Search: It Can’t Happen Here. I suspect Donald Trump’s series of unfortunate events has prompted a lot of other people in their sixties to Google that title.
It Can’t Happen Here was a book written by, Sinclair Lewis, the Minnesotan who wrote one of his books half a mile from my house. But I was wrong. The movie I had in mind was Red Nightmare, which you can see on Youtube. This was a Warner Brother’s Film, about what America would be like if Russian Communists took over whereas Sinclair’s book was published a quarter century earlier. Lewis, long suspected be a Commie by Right Wingers had a differenty bogeyman in his 1935 novel. It was a Fascist demagogue, Buzz Windrip, modeled after Louisiana Governor Huey Long. Like Saturday Night Live the book was considered satire although Lewis probably thought it was more of a wake up call.
Ten years after Lewis, Robert Penn Warren would win a Pulitzer for another treatment of Huey Long called “All the King’s Men.” I’ve only seen the Broderick Crawford movie. Claudia, the novel reader in my household, loved Warren’s book.
The line that Democracy calls for constant vigilance is appreciated on both left and right. Eight years ago “conservative writers” were warning that President Obama was going to instigate a communist take over. Count me among the Obama lovers who fret that the opposite could occur. This post was originally going to be titled: “Trump Supporters are Not Brown Shirts – Yet.” That was meant to be a hopeful title.
I have no trouble seeing Donald Trump put his own ego over the “American Democratic Experiment.” He’s like one of the Tigers in that embarrassing old relic Little Black Sambo. I can only hope he chases the other tigers around the tree turns and to butter. I’m losing hope that he will grow into the Presidency. He looks more and more like the tinytrump pictures in that Reddit Thread.
When I hear him call legitimate news “fake” I can imagine him being gently led to a psyche ward mumbling to all who will listen that he is Jesus Christ. Is this madness, illiteracy, dementia, a lifetime of unpunished bullying or vainglory? I don’t know.
Thankfully, for every Bannon, Pudzer, DeVos and Miller Trump has been coaxed into appointing sensible people. I’ve got no problem with General Mattis or Judge Gorsuch. I read a glowing review of the jurist in the Denver Post when I was visiting my Uncle last month. As long as Trump keeps appointing one Gorsuch for every Sessions I’ll sleep at night. As long as Republican Senator’s McCain and Lindsey Graham birddog Trump, I’ll sleep at night.
The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."