Three Columns You Need to Read

Sometimes, blogs come to me and I just sit down and crank them out. Sometimes I read what someone else writes and that gets me fired up either in a positive or negative way. And sometimes good writers just write good stuff and nothing more is needed to be said. That is what this blog is about today, three good writers, Paul Krugman, Roxane Gay, and Timothy Egan. They all wrote things I have been trying to express here, but with a much wider audience, maybe because they are much better writers than I. So without further blah, blah, blah, here is the short summary

Paul Krugman analyzed what the press has been oblivious to and keeps trying to find some strategy in President DFF’s presidency. He is running a reality TV show, not a presidency:

The other day the Trump administration announced a new trade deal with South Korea. It also announced that President Trump was nominating the White House physician to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. What do these announcements have in common?

The answer is that both are indicators of how Trump views his job. He doesn’t seem to see actual policymaking as important; instead, he treats it all as an exercise in reality TV.

That Korea deal supports the huffing-and-puffing view. Although hyped as a major victory, it’s basically a nothingburger in terms of its actual content. Korea will increase quotas that U.S. companies aren’t filling anyway and will divert a few percent of its steel exports to other destinations. It’s hard to escape the sense that the goal was to announce something, never mind the content, and call it a victory.

He goes on to point out that Ronny L.Jackson, his nominee for the VA, looks good on TV (while probably prevaricating on President DFF weight and health), but knows nothing about running the VA. Larry Kudlow, who he nominated to be his economic advisor, again, a good talking head, has got most of his economics wrong, and he is supposed to give the President multiple points of view. What is the common thread is that it is all for show, smoke and mirrors for the weak-minded (I will get to that in a minute). Oh, and they will all be toadies to his whims. There is no policy from President DFF, and those setting policy are right wing nuts destroying the progress we have made. He manages the show, and they manage actual policy like gutting healthcare, and ruining the environment. And if a real crisis every hits, most good people, the real experts, won’t work for this administration.

Yesterday I wrote about Roseanne, the TV show and why, even if it is funny, I could not stomach it. Well so did Roxane Gay in a more pointed critique of why this is bad for America and why many of us just can’t watch it. She points out that Roseanne Barr, the real person is a unrepented Trump supporter and lives in her own fantasy land:

During a Television Critics Association panel promoting the show, Ms. Barr said, “it was working-class people who elected Trump.”

This myth persists, but it is only a myth. Forty-one percent of voters earning less than $50,000 voted for Mr. Trump while 53 percent voted for Hillary Clinton. Forty-nine percent of voters earning between $50,000 and $100,000 voted for Mr. Trump while 47 percent voted for Mrs. Clinton. The median income of these voters was $72,000, while the median income of Hillary Clinton voters was $61,000. A significant number of middle-class and wealthy white people contributed to Trump’s election.

Then she makes a point about the plot and reality that is a lesson we should all learn:

…In the show, during an exchange about their political disagreement, Roseanne tells Jackie one of the reasons she voted for Mr. Trump is because he “talked about jobs.” And that was all the political ideology we got. If we are to believe the circumstances of this character’s life, a few vague words about “jobs” was more than enough to compel Roseanne, with inadequate health care, with vulnerable grandchildren, and struggling to make ends meet, to vote for Mr. Trump.

How do you reach people who make dangerous political choices grounded in self-interest? When Roseanne and Jackie finally reconcile, Roseanne never apologizes or concedes. She merely tells Jackie, “I forgive you,” and Jackie acknowledges how hard that was for Roseanne. Clearly, we cannot reach people who make dangerous, myopic political choices. We concede, as Jackie does, or we resist, as hopefully the rest of us will.

…This fictional family, and the show’s very real creator, are further normalizing Trump and his warped, harmful political ideologies. There are times when we can consume problematic pop culture, but this is not one of those times. I saw the first two episodes of the “Roseanne” reboot, but that’s all I am going to watch. It’s a small line to draw, but it’s a start.

This is an ABC show and apparently they are trying to reach out to Middle America to gain audience share, but I think it is badly misguided and as the Parkland kids are showing us, the mentality that elected this nitwit and the Republicans is now under assault and may be waning. One thing is for sure, we should not pander to it.

Finally, we have Timothy Egan on what I consider my favorite topic, critical thinking. He starts off with the criticizing by the Right of the kids of Parkland and how they need to “learn civics lessons”, which of course is a straw man because they are all teaching us civics. Then he laments the lack of civics education of Americans in general, “Nearly a third of Americans cannot name a single branch of government, and almost 40 percent are unable to cite a right guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

He notes that Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice is on a tour of the states to promote civics leaning with this great quote from her:

“No one is born a citizen,” she said during a stopover in Seattle. “You have to be taught what that means.”

Timothy points out that these kids are not afraid to engage as Laura Ingraham is finding out after her snark about one of the kids not getting into one of his college choices, and as Timothy described:

Critical thinking has arrived at a critical time. They’re not afraid of trolls; they grew up with snark from a screen. So after Laura Ingraham at Fox taunted a Parkland shooting survivor for not getting into his college of choice, the student immediately tweeted out a list of her advertisers. When they threatened to bail, she apologized.

I might point out here that her apology was a non-apology as she invoked religion to give her the magnanimity to apologize for something she should not really have to apologize for (in her little mind). Also I don’t think it will fly. Right wing nut jobs may just be on the run. Timothy ends with this and so will I:

Let’s teach people how to tell fake news from real news. They do this in Italy, and many universities in the United States have taken it up as well. It should be, like learning road signs before you can get a driver’s license, one of the courses that everyone takes before getting out of high school.

Democracies die when citizens feel powerless. The biggest stress test will come if Trump fires the special counsel Robert Mueller. Then, all the people new to the process will see what a constitutional crisis looks like. But thanks to recent, real-life lessons, they’ll recognize it for what it is. And they won’t feel powerless to do something about it.

Have a nice Easter whether you believe or not. I do not take for granted the right the Founder’s gave me that is at risk with this Administration, the right to not believe. It is called critical thinking. Maybe that is why Republicans are so adverse to it.

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