Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Month: January 2019

Willliam Shockley – The Father of Rock and Roll

 

In the weeks leading up to the midterms, there was a lot of noise. One comment from Michael Cohen got lost in that din. Cohen said that our soon-to-be ex-president said that, “Blacks won’t vote for me because they are too stupid.”

Trump’s comment would make headlines in any other administration. But between the Blue Wave, Honduran Caravan and the Mueller Probe, and encouraged by a new-found tolerance for official idiocy, it was apparently not “fake-news” worthy for the 24 hour cable news cycle.  So, here it is now, sandwiched between MLK and Black History, with time to ponder this latest utterance in the spirit of William Shockley.

William Shockley was a physicist, and a very good one. Good enough to invent the transistor, making him one of the true pioneers  of Silicon Valley.  Good enough to win himself a Nobel prize.

As a brilliant  physicist, Shockley was a lousy social scientist. The newly minted Nobel laureate opined that African Americans were genetically challenged in the IQ department. Not only had he gone outside his intellectual lane, but he crossed over into the dubious path of genetic determination based on race.   Shockley even suggested that people with IQs of less than 100 undergo voluntary sterilization.   In other words, Eugenics, a preoccupation of the Nazis. The premise is that when the future of humanity is at stake, this bozo wanted to cull the herd for survival.

It’s not only dumb; it’s  ironic. Here’s why. The transistor made portable radios possible. In the 50s and 60s, teens listened to these  proto-IPhones held to their ears.  They even listened under the covers once their parents told them to go to sleep. And they listened to Rock and Roll. Parents worried about this Devil’s Music sexualizing their kids.  Horrors!

Now, Rock and Roll had an enormous effect on bridging the racial divide. White teenagers listened, to this new kind of music; first, on race records made by black musicians and then by white musicians who copied them. The fact is there really is no black or white Rock and Roll; only a sensuous beat that could not be stopped. Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino and Little Richard were part of the same community. Pretty soon, the music was popular all over America, facilitating blacks and whites to cast aside some of their stereotypes and truly appreciate the music regardless of race. Long live Rock!

Over time, the music fundamentally changed the cultural landscape. Fans thought that if black people can write, arrange, perform and market music that reached into people’s souls, maybe blacks weren’t stupid after all. Jazz and classical  musicians of unquestioned sophistication underscored this message.

Shockley tried to make the case for racial bifurcation. In fact, the transistor did so more to bring black and white Americans together than any of his nutty ideas kept them apart.  This is what scientists call the Law of Unintended Consequences.

No Takers on Trump Nothingburger

The White House proposal Saturday to end the shutdown was a feint, an illusion  of compromise.  Actually, it was a Nothingberder. 

The administration proposed three years of temporary protection for the Dreamers, which was DOA.  The White House thought to act because the Supreme Court is unlikely to hear its  appeal of the lower court’s rejection of Trump’s DACA termination. The odds are about 20  to 1 against the High Court taking the case (the final posting for this year’s cases will occur Tuesday). In effect, Trump was offering ice in the winter. Pelosi and other Democrats would not consider it. 

Even worse for the White House, Trump’s pitched looked like amnesty to his supporters, which will piss off Rush, Ann and the 2016 base. Trump’s proposal should never have seen the light of day.

Mike Pence said that the proposal showed the administration is reaching out. It doesn’t seem likely. The Trump base hated it. The Democrats didn’t give it a thought. Media on the left and right ridiculed it. The proposal was just another misconceived publicity stunt.

Game, Set and Match?

If Trump specifically directed Cohen to conceal the true status of Trump Moscow in his Congressional testimony, that is subornation of perjury, a crime.  It’s the kind of crime Congress can’t ignore. 

It would have to be that precise and there’s got to be corroborating evidence. Cohen vs Trump won’t do it.

Wait! There’s More!

Prior to his testimony, Cohen filed a written statement with Congress, reviewer in advance by the White House, which falsely represents Ed that the Moscow project ended in January 2016  in fact, it didn’t end until the following November.

Cohen: “I assume we will discuss the rejected proposal to build a Trump property in Moscow that was terminated in January of 2016; which occurred before the Iowa caucus and months before the very first primary.”

No one st the White House interceded to correct the record.

It’s 2016 All Over Again

Future Ex-President Trump got soundly thumped for his speech from the Oval Office. He said nothing new, looked as if he were embalmed and couldn’t wait to get off the air. Yet, when it was over, I had this disquieting feeling, like I had not really heard him at all; as if it passed right through me.

The Democratic leadership followed him up, chiding him for his lies. I knew that I had heard this before; not just the other day from the White House lawn, but three years ago on the campaign trail. They still haven’t learned that this approach fails with an audience that is willing to forgive him his trespasses because it thinks that he stands for a greater truth. The Democrats would do well to take this seriously. They must meet the substance, not the form, of the argument. The Democrats are missing the forest for the trees – again. This myopia guarantees another four years out of power.

FEPOTUS wants to build a Border Wall, but nevertheless admits that it is not an answer for Border Security. The Democrats do not want a Border Wall but they recognize the need for border security. They dismiss the Wall as a medieval answer to a 21st Century problem. They claim that Trump is lying about a crisis at the border, and they argue that if there is a humanitarian crisis, Trump has caused it. They reached a stalemate, and our government has decided to put itself out of business.

The government shutdown is entering its third week, with federal employees going without a paycheck. FEPOTUS said two weeks ago that he was proud to own the shutdown. Although he has retreated from those words, he might just as well double-down on them. He will live or die by them. Republicans have begun to retreat publicly. At least four Senators would vote to reopen the government but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t put the measure up for a vote. Each side vows that it will let this stalemate drag on until the other side caves. In the meantime, 800,000 federal employees and their dependents are in existential peril.

The Democrats and the media see this as all on Trump.  They are preaching to their choir, just as they did in 2016. They are not addressing the anger and frustration of an active and discontented part of the electorate; which put is faith in Trump, notwithstanding his lies, insensitivity, corruption and sheer incompetence.  Although Trump has scaled back his thirty-foot concrete monument to a steel fence, the true believers have not shrunken from their belief in the need for a barrier and a belief in him.

The Democrats should have called for hearings on the first day of the new Congress. They should have a parade of witnesses on the situation along the border and other witnesses as to what is needed. If there is a crisis, then the adults, our adults, should be fashioning a solution. At least, it would show that they are taking the concern seriously enough to investigate and move toward a solution. That, more than any words, would show that they care about the truth of the situation and the solutions needed for greater border security.

If the Democrats do nothing, FEPOTUS can call off the shutdown with impunity. He’ll say he, not Democrats, “cares” about the federal workers. He will take credit for offering a solution, however ridiculous it may be. The Democrats, having done nothing, will be made to appear closed in heart and mind, and they’ll have way to fight back. Hillary Redux.

Democrats may not agree that there is a  need but they will do themselves a disservice by trivializing the concerns of those who do. Deplorables Redux. To Democrats, Schumer and Pelosi’s rebuttal to Trump looks earnest and responsible. To non-Democrats,  it sounds like a hectoring scolding, and they appear to be smug and petulant – much the way Hillary did. They’re misreading the situation again, again, again.

The Rainbow Congress: Two Narratives

The composition of the 116th Congress has garnered a lot of attention. The singular event for the House Democrats was the swearing-in of its diverse caucus, a happy moment amid the gloom of the ongoing government shutdown. Among the new faces was Representative Rashida Tlaib, one of two Muslim women first to hold a seat in Congress. Two Native American women gained House seats for the first time. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the rock star of the Rainbow Congress, at 29 is the youngest woman ever to win a seat. Only 38% of the Democratic members are white men.  When Democrats saw the class photo, their hearts soared proudly at the picture of diversity.

Meanwhile on the other side of town, Donald Trump cringed as he examined the picture of the Rainbow Congress. . The scene looked like a shuk, an outdoor market in the square of a Middle Eastern town. He double-checked the photo for goats and donkeys before tossing it on the Resolute Desk. Trump thought, this is a picture of the end of America.

Two Trains Running

Two competing concepts propel American historical study.  One is the narrative of American triumphalism. It extols the founders’ prescience, the virtues of industry and capitalism and the “great man” theory of history.  The other narrative is that of American progressivism, the story of the disenfranchised, persistently struggling against monied, reactionary interests.

In the Progressivist narrative, American history becomes as a story of enlightened people, forever seeking to overcome the Constitution’s slavery-driven imperfections.   Under the conservative and incremental legal system inherited from England, it chronicles the inexorable journey toward a more perfect union.

Both narratives are needed for a coherent, non-pixelated view of American history. Trimuphalists consider the Rainbow Congress to be the democratic experiment gone horribly wrong. People are taking office who weren’t meant to hold power or even to have a voice in government. They will ruin our institutions.

Progressives hold that the Rainbow Congress proves the striving narrative. If Progressives remain strong, their efforts will win them a seat at the table. The Blue Wave Midterm success fulfills the Progressive aspiration for universal equality contained in the Declaration of Independence.

The Morning After

On the second day of the Rainbow Congress, Representative Tlaib publicly referred to Donald Trump as an M.F., as in “impeach the M.F.”  The putative MF-in-Chief, scolded the freshman representative, saying that she disrespected the nation and disgraced her family.

Representative Ocasio-Cortez defended her colleague, tweeting:

Republican hypocrisy at its finest: saying that Trump admitting to sexual assault on tape is just “locker room talk,” but scandalizing themselves into faux-outrage when my sis says a curse word in a bar.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi had tried to avoid the I-word.”  Now, she had to address it, as well as deal with Tlaib’s coupling of it to the Oedipal sobriquet. Pelosi said that while she doesn’t monitor her caucus’s language, she thought it wasn’t much different from Trump’s remarks, such as referring to certain black pro football players as SOBs.

For at least one day in a suddenly different Washington, political correctness, along with the federal government, stood in recess.

 

Trench Warfare over a Border Wall

Democrats Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer will face off against Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the next two years in a divided government. These three-dimensional grandmasters are now in control of the Congressional chessboard.

Democrats made their opening move on the first day of the 116th Congress. The House passed several bills: a continuing resolution, funding the Department of Homeland Security for one month (there’s no funding for the Wall); the other bills, reopening the rest of the government. The bills would end the two week-old government shutdown, and the Wall would get kicked down the road.

The scene now shifts to the GOP-controlled Senate under McConnell’s control. McConnell has 53 Senators in the caucus and a joker in MIke Pence’s tie-breaker. He can afford to lose only three votes. Two of them, Susan Collins (ME) and Corey Gardner (CO), have said that they would break ranks over the shutdown. If another defects, the measure would pass the Senate and go over to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. McConnell won’t put the measure up for a vote because Trump would either veto it, thwarting the will of a bipartisan Congress; or refuse to veto it, infuriating his base. Ordinarily, McConnell would be happy to see the bill lying on the floor of Senate, the life draining out of it. Because Trump has agreed to take responsibility for the shutdown, each time a government employee misses a paycheck, it will be held against an insensitive, out-of-touch Chief Executive and a tyrannical party leader who has placed party before national interests. McConnell may be boxed in this time.

Naturally, Trump is trying to lower expectations. He has reduced his redoubtable border wall to the national security equivalent of aluminum siding. The negotiation went off the rails when he welched on his 2017 promise to the Democrats to take action on the Dreamers (DACA). They don’t consider him a trustworthy negotiating partner. As a result, they won’t make any concessions until Trump commits himself unconditionally.

Trump does have a way out of this double-bind. He could negotiate a strong border security package without a wall but with much heavier commitments otherwise. Democrats would be obliged to commit more than $5 billion to the package, and they would lose some of their leverage on DACA. Trump could crow that he got more money than the Democrats were  willing to pay, and he got better border security. He might have to make a firm commitment on DACA. Then he’d have to sell that package to his base. In essence, he would need superior negotiating and political skills to get there. He hasn’t demonstrated that he possesses them. Unless he’s willing to deputize someone to be the dealmaker, he will continue to get outmaneuvered.

That leaves the Congressional leaders. Eventually, McConnell will need to sit down with Pelosi and Schumer. They’ll put together a deal, and then they will have to back Trump into accepting it.

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