Wednesday, June 13, 2018

I Rise To The Bait And Respond To A Trump Tweet

I get it. The 45th President of the United States likes creating kerfuffles by tweeting things that outrage his opponents who then provide responses that give him fodder to use at his rallies. It's a tried and true propaganda technique. That said, this tweet goes too far even for the low standards the nation has set for Trump.

Let's leave aside for the moment that this deal is more vague and less enforceable than the one struck by the Clinton administration and that Trump himself began the war rhetoric with "fire and fury" tweets.

"Our Country’s biggest enemy is the Fake News so easily promulgated by fools!" is a direct assault on the First Amendment. Pointing out that something the President considers an accomplishment may indeed be flawed makes one the nation's "biggest enemy"? Bigger than Russia? China? Iran? By the way even if North Korea does give up its nuclear program, that doesn't mean it won't have offensive cyber warfare program and there are plenty of vulnerabilities.

We were given a republic and told it was our duty to keep it. Pointing out a leader's flaws is part of that duty and doesn't make one an "enemy."



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Minor Musing On Civility In The Public Square: Trump Opponents Have To Do Better

Larry Kudlow, one of Trump's economic advisers, suffered a mild heart attack last night. Many people took to Twitter to express sentiments like "Karma is a Bitch."  Kudlow is in public life, so people slamming him for saying that Justin Trudeau stabbed Trump in the back is part of the game. Wishing him continued ill health or celebrating his heart attack is not.

I gave up any minuscule hope that Trump sycophants would develop a sense of decency after reading about the "joke" that people were using a Bible verse to hope former President Obama's days would be short. However, I expect people with the wit to see through Trump's populist bull to have the decency to understand that becoming an ass just because one's political opponent is already an ass does nothing except double the population of asses in a world that's overpopulated with that species.

Part of defeating Trump and his populist cult is showing that there's a better alternative. Relishing the fact that a Trump adviser had a heart attack doesn't illustrate that alternative.

Herein endth the rant

Monday, June 11, 2018

What $130 Fountain Pens Reveals About The Trump Administration And Its Critics

Scott Pruitt took a lot of heat earlier this month when it was revealed he spent $3,230 on fountain pens and journals. The twelve pens cost $1560,  $130 each. The journals cost $1670. There are several reasons, however, that the cost of the fountain pens is not the problem.

First, no one seems to mention the journals. A YouTube prepper channel can sell customized journals made with Leuchtturm paper, an excellent paper by the way, for $19. Similar non-customized journals retail for $13. Pruitt likely wanted a larger journal to present to foreign dignitaries, but he should have been able to get them much cheaper.

Second, nearly every fountain pen geek will contend that a Pilot Metropolitan is one of the best starter pens for those first getting into fountain pens. That Japanese made pen retails for $18.50. Had Pruitt wanted to go with a luxury option, he could have purchased a German made Pelikan M805 that retails for $520.

Instead, Pruitt went with Cross, an American company that has made the pens used by Presidents since Gerald Ford. Therein lies the problem. Cross is nothing if not corporate. Granted there are not that many American fountain pen manufacturers, but two spring to mind that would have been far better choices than Cross.

One is the Edison Pen Company in Ohio. Brian Gray creates pens with unique filling mechanisms, but I'm sure he would have made one if his standard pens like the Edison Collier in a basic black for Pruitt. If Pruitt needs to go with a metal pen, he could have used Karas Pen Company. Their Ink fountain pen is an excellent example of American craftsmanship and engineering. That pen retails for $100.

Fountain pens are a luxury item. Governments use luxury items during every ceremonial occasion. One problem with Pruitt and the rest of the Trump administration is the hypocrisy. This is an administration that came to power because a lot of working people erroneously believed Trump would speak for them. Yet when given the choice his administration defends and empowers the corporation instead of the small business. As with their tariff policy, the Trump adminstration's purchases indicate that they don't care about the people who put them in power.

The fact that critics focus on the cost instead of the underlying hypocrisy is also alarming because ineffective criticism will lead to Trump's second term. Finally, because I can, here's Woody Gutherie's reminder that some will rob you with a fountain pen.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

If I Had A Sunday Morning Talk Show: Questions For South Dakota's Gubernatorial Candidates

Given the fact that I have a face best designed for radio and voice best suited for silent film, I am unlikely to get a Sunday morning talk show. My curiosity, however, does prompt the following questions that I hope the candidates will be asked.

First question: The Trump administration has asked a federal court to remove current protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Do you support the administration's effort? If so why? Please explain what protections you believe people should have.

Second question: The Trump administration has held office for 72 weeks. It has tried to roll out several "infrastructure weeks." Given the federal government may not be able to create an infrastructure plan and South Dakota's infrastructure earned a D+ in 2017, what can the South Dakota do to improve it's infrastructure without federal support?

Third question: Recent celebrity suicides have brought the issue to the forefront of the national discussion. "Suicide numbers in South Dakota have increased substantially in recent years. According to a recent report from the Centers For Disease Control, the state's suicide rates have increased 44.5 percent between 1999 and 2016. " What is your plan to help South Dakotans dealing with mental illness?

Fourth question: James Poulos, one of the nation's best young public intellectuals, has opined that the digital age accelerates public passions while predigital institutions have become too weak to react. What would you do to help South Dakota's public institutions be more responsive to the public demands created by the digital age?

Finally, former Indiana governor and current president of Purdue University, Mitch Daniels has said
Pollsters have even begun to use the term “hatred” to describe the degree of estrangement. They tell us that members of both tribes [those with a university education and the hopes of a good paying job and those without those advantages] tend to belong mostly because of their animosity to the other side. In almost reciprocal numbers, they describe the other side as “closed-minded,” “dishonest,” “unintelligent,” even “immoral.” As we trust each other less, trust in the institutions of our society has eroded in parallel. Almost no sector—government, business, the media, higher education —has escaped a steep drop in public confidence. Some constant vigilance and skepticism about centers of authority is a healthy, all-American instinct. 
But ultimately, to function effectively as a free and self-governing people, we must maintain some degree of faith that our institutions and those leading them have our best interests at heart, and are performing their duties with sincerity and integrity. And today, we plainly lack such faith.

South Dakotans are not immune the erosion of faith in our fellow citizens, leaders and institutions. What will you do as governor to begin the process of restoring that faith?

Scripture And Song For The Week: Matthew 14 Edition

22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

When Blog Comments Meet Hollywood

Over at Dakota Free Press, one Cory's one of his frequent interlocutors has taken to making numerous comments that follow the same theme.
It doesn’t matter. So long as the democrats align themselves with change the constitution, baby killing, open borders, islamist worshiping, MS-13 honoring, drug riddled, spies in the presidential election, raise the taxes, forced health insurance, IRS prosecuting conservatives and russian colluding left they do not have a chance.Listen to what I am telling you: . . . You are being ANTI-CULTURE against your neighbors who will not vote to destroy their way of life. . . .  . .” 
In another comment, he expresses the idea that women need protection because they are "venerable."
. . . They are animals and you know he was speaking specifically about the members of MS-13. . . . You don’t care . . .  any . . . woman nor do you care if they had any rights at all. It’s an act. I’ve seen it a thousand times. A male claims to support women’s rights. Acts as if he is in support of the feminist movement. Attends the rally, events and protests and then when the unsuspecting woman is venerable they strike. It’s been all over the news lately and in almost every case it is an ugly male, in poor physical condition, normally a loner. . . . 
It's probably just me, but these sorts of pronouncements always remind me of this speech from the Coen brother's classic O Brother Where Art Thou?. (If this doesn't post properly, the speech begins about 50 seconds in and ends at about 1:54)


Friday, June 8, 2018

A Musing About State Representative Michael Clark's Statements

State Representative Michael Clark brought some unwanted national attention to South Dakota this week when he opined on Facebook that businesses should be able to discriminate based on race.  To the best of my knowledge, I have never met Clark, so I have no basis to judge whether he is a racist or merely a person who refuses to think before he speaks. I know this is late, but a part of Clark's comment that got little attention stuck in my craw and I needed to think it through a bit.

Clark's racially charged comments overshadow a statement that revealed some deep cognitive dissonance inside the populist/Trumpist movement, a movement which mislabels itself as conservative.

Clark asserts, "The vote of the dollar is very strong." 

No one should dispute the dollar's power, but the statement contains many implications. In the context with the rest of his statements, one could take it to mean that businesses should discriminate against anyone they chose so long as the business makes a profit. In short, the public can legitimize racism, sexism or any form of otherization it chooses. This reading re-enforces the idea that Clark's comments reflect a deep racism.

The statement may also imply that good, hard-working decent folk will boycott businesses that unjustly discriminate based on race, creed, gender or sexual orientation. This reading implies that the United States has permanently rejected the hateful ideas that produced Jim Crow laws in a wide swath of the nation. This reading implies that human nature has somehow been altered since George Wallace said, "In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny . . . and I say . . . segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever." [ellipsis in original]

While the latter reading may be more generous, the belief that human nature has changed and people will suddenly cease supporting with their dollars and voices those who practice injustice is flawed.

The self-proclaimed social conservatives who make up the backbone of the current populist moment used to hold as an article of faith that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" It's unlikely that the "wicked" will use their dollars to fight injustice. If one wants a secular source, all one has to do is compare the statements made by characters in the Iliad and the entitled pronouncements from professional athletes or other celebrities. If one wants a bit of science, humanity makes up .01% of life on Earth but have destroyed 83% of mammalian life. No amount of dollars seem to change behavior.

In short, trusting the dollar to change human behavior is as foolish and dangerous as advocating legalized discrimination.