Incompetent Through and Through

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Betsy DeVos’ first hire at the Department of Education. This is one of many great such pictures found at http://activerain.com/blogsview/1949327/get-a-brain–morans-

The Republican Party apparatus is having a really difficult day today. First, someone in charge of the Twitter account for the Republican National Committee tweeted out a spurious quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Not long after that, someone else (probably?) at the US Department of Education misspelled the name of W.E.B. Du Bois in a tweet quoting the man about education. In a subsequent tweet apologizing for the misspelling, the tweeter wrote “apologizes” when he or she meant “apologies” and that was then corrected in yet another tweet.

This may seem nitpicky, but it’s symptomatic of a group of people who pay little or no attention to the importance of getting things right. The concepts of fact-checking and context seem utterly foreign to the people staffing our current government. I suppose that’s what happens when few people with a 5th grade education or better seem willing to work for the official Republican Party organization or its president.

It is just inexcusable in 2017 to produce work like that. Do these people not understand that in about ten minutes you can do a fairly thorough source check of a quote, or in literally 0.59 seconds you can get search results about W.E.B. Du Bois and quickly figure out the correct spelling of his name? Do these people not understand that if they are on Twitter, they also have access to fine internet search engines, free of charge, from companies like Google?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, that’s G-O-O-G-L-E Google.

That the US Department of Education is misspelling names and words as if that were its job, and the “Party of Lincoln” is attributing an asinine AND spurious quote to Lincoln – perhaps our greatest political orator – on the man’s birthday are ironies so delicious they almost distract from the real stakes here.

For any conservatives out there, “irony” is the word you use when you actually mean “coincidence” and that’s your free SAT word lesson of the day.

Mistakes like these are actually not mistakes. They are the deliberate work products of people who have no respect whatsoever for the hard work that goes into understanding a topic or a policy. This is how Republicans in Congress spent the last eight years railing against a health care policy that they never understood even at its most basic level. This is how Betsy DeVos becomes Secretary of Education despite her manifest ignorance of public education policy.

Anyway, please find the offending tweets below. And below that, find a Lincoln quote I like that is real.

Du Bois misspelling:

Misspelling in apology for misspelling Du Bois:

Spurious Lincoln quote:

I know why Republicans don’t like this quote, but let me propose a real Lincoln quote in the false one’s stead:

“This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.”

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Tuesday Links

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Are you ready for more email scandals? No? Good, you’re in luck because emails are only scandalous when Hillary Clinton or one of her aides sends and receives them. By Loteriademedellin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Hard to believe the election was already a week ago. Life goes on, but it has been disorienting. A loved one turned off Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” in favor of Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open” the other day. I don’t know anything anymore.

  1. Steve Bannon becoming chief strategist for President-elect Donald Trump’s White House should be the story of the week, the month, the transition period – really, for whatever amount of time he holds power. Ignoring Bannon’s run as head of Breitbart and the white nationalists, racists, misogynists, and anti-Semites who correctly note that Bannon’s elevation also empowers them is whistling past the graveyard.
  2. Paul Ryan wants to destroy Medicare. Many Trump and third party voters don’t understand that’s what they just voted for, because Trump ran on preserving Medicare (as well as Social Security and Medicaid, also likely to be on the chopping block in Ryan and Mitch McConnell’s congress.) Josh Marshall, whose Talking Points Memo helped illuminate George W. Bush’s efforts to destroy Social Security back in 2005, is on the case again. Call your representative, your senators, and even Ryan’s offices in order to find out where they stand and start putting pressure on them to defend Medicare. I would not bet on Trump vetoing legislation. This fight is going to have to be won in the House and/or the Senate.
  3. Vice President-elect Mike Pence is involved in his own email scandal (warning: auto-play video at link). Pence’s situation, unlike the pseudo-scandal of Hillary Clinton’s email, actually has a clear motive. Pence wants to hide communications he’s had around using public money to fight President Obama’s actions on immigration. I look forward to the nation’s new and sincere email management and transparency voters taking Pence to task for his efforts to shield his emails from the public.
  4. Protests against Trump’s election are potentially useful for a few reasons: they can remind the country that neither a plurality nor a majority of the 2016 electorate voted for Trump, they can encourage passion and help build community among protesters, and they demonstrate strength to resist some of the malignant forces Trump’s presidency threatens to unleash. However… violence and/or destruction of property should be condemned. They are not necessary and will only distract from the genuine issues at stake. Also, reports like this one out of Portland, Oregon that find many non-voters among the protesters probably get Trump voters and Clinton voters to agree on one thing, at least: grow up and get your ass to the polls next time. To be clear, I’m not saying you don’t have a right to peaceful protest if you didn’t vote. I’m saying nobody is going to listen to you because in a democracy, you don’t matter unless you vote.
  5. Not sure what to make of the turmoil in the Trump transition team. While bad news for Chris Christie warms the hearts of humans everywhere, the lack of experienced, competent and decent people willing to work for Trump’s government is concerning.

Whomever you voted for, stay informed and hold Trump and his unified Republican government accountable. I plan to provide a links roundup once or twice a week, in addition to writing one or two of my own essays a week. Feel free to share other articles and essays we should read in comments or in an email. Have a great day!

Is Moderate John Kasich a Moderate if His Proposals are Indistinguishable from Those of Trump and Cruz? An Investigation

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If you rearrange the letters in “moderate” you can get “moat deer” and “dream toe.” By Michael Vadon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s hear from the man himself. Speaking last month at my alma mater, the University of Virginia, and as noted by The New Yorker‘s Benjamin Wallace-Wells, Ohio Governor John Kasich and candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination for president had this to say: “…of course I’m not a moderate, I’ve been a conservative all my life…”

Surely a man who has fewer delegates at the moment than Marco Rubio has got is not worth writing about, one could argue. This is a fair point. Rubio’s campaign perished in the Florida swamps last week, yet he still has the same mathematical chance of achieving a majority of delegates as does Kasich: zero percent, goose egg, nada, the ol’ donut. Hell, you and I have the same chance as Kasich, unless you happen to be Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

Kasich is the last establishment man standing, and as such, his “plan” is to go to the Republican Party’s convention in Cleveland this July and hope that the party decides to self-immolate and hand its nomination to a guy who finished a distant third in delegates. This “plan” can only work if Cruz and Kasich succeed in denying Trump a majority, and it’s far from clear they can do any such thing. If they somehow manage it, AND one of them proceeds to capture the nomination, what are the chances of Trumpolini telling his blackshirts to stand down? The man has already passively aggressively threatened riots if this happens. Since he would need Trump’s voters to win the general election, Kasich almost certainly has no path to the presidency if he acquires the nomination through a brokered convention.

Kasich is worth thinking about, though, because he appeals to voters in a way that would make him a formidable candidate in a general election – again, if he were able to get there without precipitating a Republican civil war. He talks about civility and pragmatism, and claims to be running a campaign on behalf of all Americans. This works in American politics, and it’s scary because it masks an agenda that is indistinguishable from those of his rivals. If we blindfolded a voter, and Trump, Cruz, and Kasich’s platforms were soft drinks poured into three different cups, the voter would be unlikely to tell the difference after tasting each one.

In fairness, Kasich doesn’t want to round up and deport undocumented immigrants, so a Trump voter might spit his soft drink out. And to be fairer still, Kasich seems to support some kind of limited amnesty program for undocumented immigrants, though I cannot find a detailed proposal anywhere. On the candidate’s own website, for example, immigration is not even one of his issues. That seems like a strange oversight for a man seeking the nomination of a party that represents voters incensed over undocumented immigrants. Certainly a man of high character wouldn’t be hiding his views on the very issue his party’s base is most passionate about, would he?

Kasich is at best not terrible on immigration. The same can’t be said of his other policies. In Ohio, he has made life miserable for thousands of women seeking reproductive healthcare services. He wants to do the same for women on a national level if he becomes president.

His federal tax plan, like the one he’s enacted in Ohio, severely cuts taxes for top earners. In Ohio, he shifted the tax burden to the working class through higher sales taxes. He wants to eliminate the estate tax, just like Trump and Cruz.

On climate change, Kasich displays all the courage of his immigration convictions where he acknowledges a human component in climate change but refuses to do anything about it. In fact, he suspended a renewable energy program in Ohio that had saved Ohio consumers $230 million in six years.

On education, Kasich favors giving money to unaccountable, underperforming charter schools at public schools’ expense.

Finally, Kasich’s budget proposal would pay for his tax cuts for the rich and higher defense spending by drastically cutting just about every federal program in existence and devolving their responsibilities to the states through unaccountable block grants that effectively reduce funding available for welfare programs.

As always, it doesn’t matter what’s in a candidate’s heart. Look at his or her policies and his or her record. Due diligence on Kasich proves we should take his word for one thing, at least: he’s no moderate. Let the man wear his religion on his sleeve if he wants to, but make no mistake, he’s another radical conservative whose policies are designed to prove government doesn’t work by destroying it.

Proving Government Doesn’t Work By Destroying It

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George W. Bush wandering aimlessly through a field on his Texas ranch, one of the few things the guy could do without screwing up. By White House photo by Eric Draper (whitehiouse.gov) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The blog’s newest tag – bush is what you get when you vote for a republican damn it – needs an explanation. It debuted in the most recent “Weekend Links” post. That George W. Bush’s presidency was a disaster goes without saying for those that were both alive and awake from 2001 until 2009. In case anyone needs a refresher, read this top ten list of the Bush Administration’s worst moments, with a few dozen honorable mentions included for good measure.

As uniquely bad as Bush’s presidency seems, however, it was not at all uniquely bad when compared to other Republican administrations. This is what I mean with the new tag; a vote for a Republican is a vote for someone usually incompetent at best and sometimes outright hostile to a functional government at worst.

Grover Norquist, perhaps the most powerful Republican lobbyist in the country, let the mask slip back in 2001 when he said: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” Every remaining Republican candidate for president but one has signed Norquist’s pledge promising to never raise taxes for any reason. Donald Trump hasn’t signed, but Norquist is happy with Trump’s tax plan since like every other Republicans’ plan it slashes taxes, and therefore revenues. To make the point explicit, there is an obvious and direct link between reducing government revenue and eliminating effective government services.

What about the aforementioned other Republican administrations that rival Bush’s in ineptitude and/or malfeasance? Let’s start in Kansas, where a unified Republican government has managed to mismanage the state so badly that the school system may have to shut down next academic year. Governor Sam Brownback (R) and the Republican legislature have implemented the national Republican agenda practically in its entirety – slashed income taxes, raised taxes on goods that disproportionately impact the middle and working classes (in an attempt to make up for the lost income tax revenue), restrictions on abortion services, laws encouraging Kansans to walk around in public armed to the teeth, mean-spirited rules for welfare recipients, and so on. And the results of all these Republican supply-side economic and conservative social policies? Chronic state budget deficits, panicked cuts to essential services, and poor economic performance. This last link to a slideshow of all 50 states’ economic performances reveals a striking pattern among the bottom states: most are run by Republicans!

While Kansas is an ongoing case of Republicans destroying government in order to prove that it doesn’t work, the new Democratic governor of Louisiana is dealing with the fallout of the Norquist-inspired catastrophic policies of his Republican predecessor, Bobby Jindal. From The Washington Post:

Louisiana stands at the brink of economic disaster. Without sharp and painful tax increases in the coming weeks, the government will cease to offer many of its vital services, including education opportunities and certain programs for the needy. A few universities will shut down and declare bankruptcy. Graduations will be canceled. Students will lose scholarships. Select hospitals will close. Patients will lose funding for treatment of disabilities. Some reports of child abuse will go uninvestigated.

Good job Bobby! Too bad your campaign for president went down in flames!

Okay, so Republicans may be bad at budgeting and maintaining useless public services like schools and hospitals, but at least they’re not poisoning anybody and withholding emergency funds from the victims that they have poisoned. Ha ha, just kidding! Of course they’re poisoning people and withholding emergency funds from the people that they have poisoned.

Let’s stop the childish nonsense – and I’m looking at you, Marco Rubio – of claiming that what happened to the people in Flint, Michigan was just some isolated random incident for which no one is to blame because the Republican governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, didn’t wake up one morning and decide to poison their water. We can all agree he didn’t do that, but Snyder did wake up on a series of mornings during which he decided to set in motion the blatantly undemocratic practices that resulted in high levels of lead in Flint’s drinking water. Was it predictable that a Republican governor slashing support for poor cities and appointing unaccountable emergency managers to squeeze savings from those poor cities’ government services would lead to such a horrific tragedy? Hard to say!

This is what the Republican Party has become. What happened under Bush, what happened in Kansas, and Louisiana, and Michigan – these are not unfortunate coincidences. They are the deliberate results of a party that does not believe in a common good served by a government of the people, by the people, for the people. When are we going to learn that people who have sworn fealty to a man who wants to reduce government to a size where he can drag it into a bathroom and drown it in a bathtub want to do just that?

Weekend Links

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The blog’s author asks a Chinese kid what he thinks about Donald Trump. (Ha ha no, actually it’s an action shot of me during a promotional lesson we held at our school yesterday for prospective students.) 

Congratulations to the staff of Ivy Language Academy here in Dali, Yunnan. This month we celebrate our second anniversary. We opened in March 2014 with 18 total students. We’re going to start this semester with at least 65 and probably more! The marketing team really humped it these past few weeks with clear, excellent results to show for it during our promotional classes this weekend. Thanks for all your hard work!

There were some contests of consequence yesterday for both parties. On the Republican side, Ted Cruz gained some ground. Marco Rubio had another dismal showing and Donald Trump called on him to drop out of the race. That’s an interesting move for Trump. While a two-man race would open up a clearer path to an outright majority of delegates for one of the two candidates, Trump would also run the risk of the Republican establishment rallying around Cruz. But, the Republican establishment hates Cruz. Sad!

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders had nice showings yet netted fewer delegates than Hillary Clinton. The math still shows Clinton to be the overwhelming favorite. However, Sanders has raised a ton of money, continues to win contests, and for now has no particularly compelling reason to drop out.

Links for the weekend:

  • If you want to understand the support for Trump, you could do much worse than this series of posts by political scientists over at The Washington Post: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
  • Here’s the question for the Republican establishment coming out of Saturday’s contests.
  • In the category of blog titles I wish I had written: “Let Us Dispel With the Idea that the Rubiobot Knows What He’s Doing. He Has No Idea What He’s Doing.”
  • Alex Pareene had Rubio and his campaign’s ineptitude pegged in late December.
  • Authors over at Lawyers, Guns & Money deal with the stench of Clinton’s speaking fees. The fact that she remains incalculably more preferable to any Republican candidate shows just how lousy American politics and the elite that take advantage of it can be.
  • To drive the point home about why voting for the Democratic Party’s candidate is the right move: anyone remember George W. Bush? Don’t just take it from me and some other liberal, go read a conservative! The current Republican Party is a mess while the Democratic Party generally has its act together. Bush was what happened the last time we threw out a generally competent party in power just for the hell of it. And this time, the Republican Party is even more bereft of people who know what they’re doing than it was in 2000.
  • Speaking of W, Matt Taibbi draws a straight line from Bush to Trump. But don’t be fooled that any other Republican candidate is better than Trump.

Enjoy your Sunday!