As immature and distorted as a tweet is likely to be, the tweets of a master can nonetheless be highly informative.
Donald Trump tweeted, “The Democrats only want to increase taxes and obstruct.” If I tweeted back, I might ask, “Which is worse – lying or deceiving by omission?” Well, the answer depends on the thoughtfulness of the reader.
Trump is absolutely correct that Democrats want to increase some taxes:
Democrats (at least the progressive ones) want to increase taxes on Wall St. moguls who gamble with other people’s money. When you get rich off the money of others, you should behave responsibly with it. Derivatives and all the even more risky financial instruments derived from derivatives are not exactly rational ways of investing or developing the economy.
Democrats want to increase taxes on socially harmful behavior: taxes are a much more effective and humane way of encouraging good behavior than jail.
Democrats want to increase taxes on the super-rich, who don’t even begin to compensate society for their extravagant privileges.
Democrats want to increase taxes on corporations that cheat on their taxes.
And we could easily propose some additional tax increases – raising taxes on war profiteers, for example.
Trump is also correct that the Democrats want to obstruct some forms of behavior:
Democrats want to obstruct financial corruption.
Democrats want to obstruct neo-Nazi, white supremacist, racist violence.
Democrats want to obstruct political repression of the media and attacks on responsible free speech. [Urging a mob to burn down your neighbor’s house, for example, would not be “responsible free speech.”]
Democrats want to obstruct divisive behavior.
Democrats want to obstruct efforts to undermine the independence of the judiciary.
Democrats want to obstruct attacks on Constitutionally mandated civil liberties.
Democrats want to obstruct tax policies that further enrich the super-rich at the expense of everyone else.
Democrats want to obstruct the twisting of the health care system into a system to coddle the rich and leave the poor behind.
Democrats want to obstruct war for profit.
Yes, Democrats want to increase some taxes and obstruct some nefarious plots. Democrats should thank Donald Trump for shining the spotlight on the fundamental divide separating progressive Democrats from regressive Republicans…and persist.
Reality is of course not quite that simple. Not only are there one or two cases of Democrats still grossly beholden to Big Finance and Big Pharma and Big Oil, but shocking evidence of progressive attitudes among certain Republicans has recently come to light. Progressive Democrats would be well advised to extend their hands in friendship…
Words matter, e.g., crying fire in a crowded theater. If public personalities with particular influence over society–e.g., a CEO, a newspaperman, a politician, a government official–were knowingly to tell a lie with serious implications for justice, national security, or social stability, surely we can all agree that the guilty person should be held accountable. In the current case of alleged White House desires to enormously enhance the size of the U.S. nuclear bomb force, the danger of misinformation is equally enormous.
Congress should immediately launch a bipartisan House and Senate ethnics, intelligence, or foreign policy committee investigation to review the evidence and hold responsible anyone who lied. Be it lies about nuclear policy or efforts to censor the media, inflammatory speech by public personalities constitutes a metaphorical dropping of matches that can light real fires.
The term in office of Presidents who lie should be “challenged and, if appropriate, revoked.”
Words matter. The word of the President matters the most of all. Pay heed.
Dear White House:
Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, addressing cadets, speaking to us all, especially you…
If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you can’t treat someone from another gender, whether that’s a man or a woman, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race or a different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.
Imagine two leaders, each with the power to start a war, each grasping desperately for some way to gain domestic legitimacy despite obvious lack of leadership skills, and each terminally immature. Now, imagine that one of these bullies happens to be old and leading a status-quo superpower while the other is young and leading a tiny, poverty-stricken state focused on altering the status quo. So, the two bullies do what bullies do: they snarl at each other, dare each other, scornfully reject “talk” even though talking is exactly what they do. Neither (in this idiotic and obviously imaginary scenario) has a clue of how to implement a rational national security strategy, but each is highly skilled at winning personal battles by very loud, public talking backed up by life-long determination never, ever to let facts get in the way and never, ever backing down.
The paragraph above can be viewed as a model, highly simplified for the purpose of permitting easy analysis of the core issue. Do not read into this psychological model any implied reference to any real-life situation. Read the first paragraph again. Forget reality; just think about the facts in this little “model,” i.e., “simplification.” It is not reality. It is not meant to be reality. It is a toy, if you like that word, a scenario designed to facilitate thinking about the following question:
The aged leader of a status quo superpower clinging to global supremacy puts his personal prestige on the line against the little, backwater, isolated, marginalized tough guy. Suppose they draw? Who emerges from a draw in a better position?
A “draw” in this scenario is nothing subtle. It simply means that after all the mutual mouthing-off, nothing happens…except that they each get hoarse and move on to other activities. Sound levels decline, and the world sighs in relief. So…who has won?
Phrased differently, which one can walk away smirking? The most powerful man on earth has just achieved a “draw” against some “punk.” The result is that the two bullies sneered, yelled, refused to “talk” or bow down yet neither threw a punch, and then they both stalked off.
Does the “king” now have greater international prestige? Are the citizens of the king’s country now proud of how “tough” their king is? Do they feel more secure? However they feel, in fact are they more secure?
Does the “punk” feel less personally secure in his position of leadership? Will he still be marginalized and ignored by the rest of the world after facing down the vastly more powerful “king”?
In sum, given a draw, “Who wins?”
Now, return to the model, but this time assume that war breaks out, with the predictable outcome that the weak state is crushed and surrenders. Now, who wins?
Has the “king” enhanced his reputation by provoking and winning a one-sided war that “he cannot lose?” If the “punk” lives and his state continues to exist, albeit soundly defeated, does he feel humiliated by have challenged Goliath and lost…or will he now brag that he faced down a bully, consolidate domestic power, and plan for a new confrontation?
In sum, given victory by the stronger, “Who wins?”
It hardly seems necessary to continue this analysis by considering who wins if, following a war, the weak leader manages to extract some concession despite losing.
The decisions to pave over the wetlands were political. The decisions to locate refineries in floodplains were political. The pretense that we are not responsible for global climate disruption is political. Politicians and corporate CEO’s arbitrarily rejected scientific understanding for personal gain. Harvey was political.
The Houston flood is political, not an act of God: it is the result of a long series of political decisions, some mistakes, many intentional efforts to place corporations ahead of people. Cities should not exist on floodplains; invaluable wetlands should not be paved over; city officials should not base flood control decisions on the incomes of the residents; chemical factories and oil refineries that flood pollutants if themselves flooded should not be built on floodplains: political decisions by politicians and corporate CEOs in smoke-filled rooms.
And for the future, politicians denying the security consequences for American society of denying global warming should be cast aside like the enemies of society that they are. And there’s more. Houston is nothing. If you really want to see the future of the world, look at Bangladesh: a country of 100 million with a third of the country under water the same week as Houston. Am I saying that the U.S. will look like Bangladesh in the near future? No, I am saying that when hundreds of millions of people around the globe face natural disasters such as Houston or Bangladesh or India or Pakistan are facing this week, then a very noticeable percentage of them will attempt by any means possible to move somewhere better. We are talking about sustained refugee floods far greater than anything out of Syria, year after year…until politicians face up to the security implications of denying global warming.
The corporate executives who made the decisions–in the face of solid scientific analysis shouted from the rooftops by experts for years—have caused incalculable harm to American society and should be held criminally responsible. Katrina provided the lesson, which was ignored for personal profit, Sandy provided a second lesson, and now Harvey: three one-in-a-thousand pieces of “bad luck” resulting from “nothing” and having “no meaning at all.” The first two lessons were immediately and completely and carefully forgotten, for the convenience of a few CEO’s and their political lackeys. Harvey too will be swept under the rug by politicians who knuckle under to corporate pressure unless we insist—right now—on holding them responsible.
With Port Arthur, Texas completely under water, a resident observed:
anybody who don’t [sic] believe that climate change is real must be living in another universe, because what we’re seeing here on the ground is land erosion. There is a beach that we used to frequent when I was a kid here, and the surf sat back maybe about a good 50 yards from where it is now. Right now, that surf sits within feet, five or six feet, of the road, and you can no longer take portions of that road into Galveston from the Sabine Pass area, because the land has completely been eroded. Our wetlands and canals are breaking apart because the water is coming in from the Gulf into the marshy areas, and it’s also having a heavy impact on the natural wildlife that is there, such as the gators and other animals that need the wetlands and not necessarily salt water. [Democracy Now.]
All you have to do is open your eyes.
Harvey would, fifty years ago, have been a “once-in-1000-years” event. That was before man-caused global climate disruption; that was before 5,000,000 people decided to live and build half the nation’s refinery capacity on floodplains that constituted the prime defensive shield against disastrous flooding. The Houston disaster is man-made, and it has been made despite well-established scientific and technical understanding for several decades of the critical importance of floodplains as nature’s flood-control system and of man-made intensification of climate disruption (i.e., the argument over the portion man-made and the portion due to some possible but as yet undiscovered natural process is a red herring).