Times change. And us with them.
Voice and Accountability
Political Stability and Absence of Violence/Terrorism
Rule of Law
Control of Corruption
Data from the World Bank
Times change. And us with them.
Data from the World Bank
“The most dangerous ‘enemy of the people’ is presidential lying–always. Attacks on press by @realDonaldTrump more treacherous than Nixon’s”
— Carl Bernstein, journalist who broke the Watergate scandal
“These systematic attacks on the media accomplish two things. First, they fire up the base, which believe that traditional media do not represent their interests or concerns. Second, they provoke the media itself, which feeling threatened, adopts a more oppositional posture. This in turn further fuels the polarization on which the leaders depend and paves the way for the government to introduce legal restrictions.
The most dramatic example was in Venezuela, where elements in the media embarked on a campaign of open warfare, engaging in overtly partisan coverage intended to undermine Chávez’s rule. Some media owners were alleged to have conspired in a 2002 coup that briefly ousted the president. Once Chavez returned to power, he rallied his supporters behind a new law imposing broad restrictions on what the media could and could not cover under the guise of “ensuring the right to truthful information.” Across the hemisphere, other restrictive legal measures were adopted, including Ecuador’s notorious 2013 Communications Law, which criminalizes the failure to cover events of public interest, as defined by the government. In the first year, approximately 100 lawsuits were filed under the law, stifling critical reporting.”
— Columbia Journalism Review
“Brian Stelter, in his Reliable Sources newsletter, rounds up elite-media Twitter reaction:
At the same time, understand that this is partly a game to Trump. His confidants tell us he intentionally exploits the media’s inclination to take the bait and chase our tails.”
“… slammed President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media this week by noting dictators “get started by suppressing free press.”
It was a startling observation from a sitting member of Congress against the President of the United States, especially considering McCain is a member of Trump’s party.
“I hate the press,” the Arizona Republican sarcastically told NBC News’ Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.” “I hate you especially. But the fact is we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital.”
But he continued, “If you want to preserve — I’m very serious now — if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press,” McCain said in the interview. “And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”
“Authoritarians routinely attack checks on their power and sources… Donald Trump does exactly that.”
“The freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.”
— The Virginia Declaration of Rights
It’s heartening to see many new faces and hear many new voices who may in the past have not explicitly considered themselves “activists,” or who have felt a greater call to stand up against a political administration whose ideologies show every indication of running counter to a constitutional democratic framework.
If that describes you: THANK YOU! You are awesome. And if you’re an Old Hat at this sort of thing, this post is for you too — by way of initiating a civil dialogue with some of the fresh faces you see in your timeline or in your local community who may be exhibiting the following behavior:
Making claims that issue X, Y, or Z is “not important” or “not as important” as issue A, B, or C — which is what we should really be discussing right now.
Here’s why this behavior tends to do more harm than good:
There’s something those of us in marginalized groups know instinctively, having lived lives long in opposition to a dizzying continuum of Absurd Moral Authority: from outright violence, to secretive “technical” manipulations of statutes designed to erode or remove rights, to vague and carefully unstated “wink wink nudge nudge” moments from individuals of authority who had some power to constrain us — whether it’s a boss (or potential boss), a teacher, a community figure, and/or perhaps most guttingly a family member.
We know the sting of being scolded for even daring an attempt at upsetting the Tautological Supremacist Meritocracy: “If you weren’t worthless, you’d already be here by now!”
But we should remember one of the primary reasons that we as a nation even won our independence in the first place:
Lord North offered tax relief to the colonies that would help “defend the motherland” in February, 1775 — none took him up on it. And in fact, the Conciliatory Resolution only deepened the growing sense of unity emerging against what increasingly became perceived as a Common Enemy. The attempt to divide and conquer not only failed, but backfired.
The British Parliament thought the colonists full of hot air — that a few shows of military force would quickly crumble the upstart radicals in their quest for representation and rights. But battles at Lexington and Concord only fueled further the sentiment that the colonies were inhabited by an occupying force that must be resisted.
It was widely thought to be insane to stand against the world-renowned military force of the British Empire — but the Continental Army under George Washington doggedly turned the fact of underestimation to their advantage via innovative battlefield strategy. The motherland, finding it difficult to raise sufficient troops to fight against their own former countrymen, hired German mercenaries to fight against the colonists — further deepening the resolve of the Americans to throw off an oppressor willing to bring foreign assassins to bear in a dispute formerly perceived as a conciliatory process of achieving the basic rights of citizenship that colonists’ forbears once enjoyed in England. The British overestimation of Loyalist support — combined with the general mistreatment of those who did cross the “revolutionary picket line” — only added to the troubles faced by a predominantly naval power slogging through a lengthy land war over vast territory.
In so many ways we’ve become more fragmented; more balkanized; more atomized in modern society. We’ve self-selected into our communities of shared values and our social media bubbles. In many ways this is the paradox of prosperity, and the Catch-22 of progress.
We may feel stronger in our own foxholes, but there comes a time when the whole choir must sing together. Now is that time.
And perhaps it is dangerous to use the language of war, and of conflict — or perhaps it may help us to better identify where our Common Enemy lies. Our Common Enemy is not the down at heel rural Trump supporter who lashes out at us in fear, and in retaliation — though their words are often hateful, these people have been misled.
It’s a very old story — older than Trump; older than George W. Bush; older than Reagan or Nixon or Coolidge or Jackson or Johnson. The wealthy white elite has a centuries’ old playbook of dangling so-called Christian morality in front of those whites left most destitute by the former’s economic policies — and winning.
We are watching reruns.
This time, fascism and foreign influence have been added to up the ante — keeping even the most blasé among us glued to our seats.
The framers of our Constitution deliberated, debated, and agonized over the most ideal structure to support a broad pluralist power, in concerted opposition to the monarchies and aristocracies of the past. Many were shocked by — and fought bitterly against — the unprecedented act of beginning such a governing document with the words, “We the people.”
But 85 Federalist Papers later, our sovereign power was enshrined in the document that still governs our ambitions today — and acts as a backstop against those who would wield tyrannical power in our name.
Our Common Enemy is tyranny, and we must learn to recognize where it lives, and how it acts. Even — perhaps especially — when that domicile is the White House, and that act an act of Congress.
Our Common Enemy is those who would deny the power of the people to govern themselves: through the silencing of debate in a once great forum; through casual disregard of the judiciary branch; through an endless parade of troglodyte efforts at voter suppression.
Our Common Enemy is the long litany of elected officials who act in their own best interests at the expense of We the People. It is the slew of slick sycophants currying political favor with the powerful, who continually rewrite the rules of the game the Winners have already Won many times over, to accelerate the gaping gulf of inequality that threatens democracy, liberty, justice, and most certainly peace.
Without Justice there can be no Peace.
And those who wield injustice have vastly underestimated the swaths of citizenry who can see through the ruse; who have heard the old story and seen its outcomes; who are tired of having to wage the same struggles for rights and respect over, and over, and over again.
But the tired gain strength through camaraderie in adversity; through simple acts of kindness; through humor, and through love.
These are tools the tyrannical cannot access.
Stand, and wield them, in the name of We the People.
But we will grow from it, and they will not — over the long run, at least.
Things we need to improve upon and/or rebuild:
Republicans do not like to elect women.
Women need more representation across the board! Let’s do this, America.
P.S. If you have any need for a Slack bot that returns data on sitting Congresspeople, look no further! You can install this bot in Slack easily; you’ll just need to set up a Fieldbook account.
(As of 1/6/2015)
|Seniority||Member||Party & State||Start of Service|
|(in desc order)||Marcy Kaptur||(D), OH||01-03-1983|
|Louise Slaughter||(D), NY||01-03-1987|
|Nancy Pelosi||(D), CA||06-02-1987|
|Nita Lowey||(D), NY||01-03-1989|
|Ileana Ros-Lehtinen||(R), FL||08-29-1989|
|Rosa DeLauro||(D), CT||01-03-1991|
|Eleanor Holmes-Norton (delegate)||(D), DC||01-03-1991|
|Maxine Waters||(D), CA||01-03-1991|
|Corrine Brown||(D), FL||01-03-1993|
|Anna Eshoo||(D), CA||01-03-1993|
|Eddie Bernice-Johnson||(D), TX||01-03-1993|
|Carolyn Maloney||(D), NY||01-03-1993|
|Lucille Roybal-Allard||(D), CA||01-03-1993|
|Nydia Velazquez||(D), NY||01-03-1993|
|Sheila Jackson Lee||(D), TX||01-03-1995|
|Zoe Lofgren||(D), CA||01-03-1995|
|Diana DeGette||(D), CO||01-03-1997|
|Kay Granger||(R), TX||01-03-1997|
|Loretta Sanchez||(D), CA||01-03-1997|
|Lois Capps||(D), CA||03-10-1998|
|Barbara Lee||(D), CA||04-07-1998|
|Grace Napolitano||(D), CA||01-03-1999|
|Jan Schakowsky||(D), IL||01-03-1999|
|Susan Davis||(D), CA||01-03-2001|
|Betty McCollum||(D), MN||01-03-2001|
|Marsha Blackburn||(R), TN||01-03-2003|
|Madeleine Bordallo (delegate)||(D), GU||01-03-2003|
|Candice Miller||(R), MI||01-03-2003|
|Linda Sanchez||(D), CA||01-03-2003|
|Virginia Foxx||(R), NC||01-03-2005|
|Cathy McMorris-Rodgers||(R), WA||01-03-2005|
|Gwen Moore||(D), WI||01-03-2005|
|Debbie Wasserman-Schultz||(D), FL||01-03-2005|
|Doris Matsui||(D), CA||03-08-2005|
|Kathy Castor||(D), FL||01-04-2007|
|Yvette Clarke||(D), NY||01-04-2007|
|Niki Tsongas||(D), MA||10-18-2007|
|Jackie Speier||(D), CA||04-10-2008|
|Donna Edwards||(D), MD||06-19-2008|
|Marcia Fudge||(D), OH||11-19-2008|
|Lynn Jenkins||(R), KS||01-06-2009|
|Cynthia Lummis||(R), WY||01-06-2009|
|Chellie Pingree||(D), ME||01-06-2009|
|Judy Chu||(D), CA||07-16-2009|
|Karen Bass||(D), CA||01-05-2011|
|Diane Black||(R), TN||01-05-2011|
|Renee Ellmers||(R), NC||01-05-2011|
|Vicky Hartzler||(R), MO||01-05-2011|
|Jaime Herrera-Beutler||(R), WA||01-05-2011|
|Kristi Noem||(R), SD||01-05-2011|
|Martha Roby||(R), AL||01-05-2011|
|Terri Sewell||(D), AL||01-05-2011|
|Frederica Wilson||(D), FL||01-05-2011|
|Janice Hahn||(D), CA||07-19-2011|
|Suzanne Bonamici||(D), OR||02-07-2012|
|Suzan DelBene||(D), WA||11-13-2012|
|Joyce Beatty||(D), OH||01-03-2013|
|Susan Brooks||(R), IN||01-03-2013|
|Julia Brownley||(D), CA||01-03-2013|
|Cheri Bustos||(D), IL||01-03-2013|
|Tammy Duckworth||(D), IL||01-03-2013|
|Elizabeth Esty||(D), CT||01-03-2013|
|Lois Frankel||(D), FL||01-03-2013|
|Tulsi Gabbard||(D), HI||01-03-2013|
|Michelle Lujan Grisham||(D), NM||01-03-2013|
|Ann Kirkpatrick||(D), AZ||01-03-2013|
|Ann McLane Kuster||(D), NH||01-03-2013|
|Grace Meng||(D), NY||01-03-2013|
|Kyrsten Sinema||(D), AZ||01-03-2013|
|Dina Titus||(D), NV||01-03-2013|
|Ann Wagner||(R), MO||01-03-2013|
|Jackie Walorski||(R), IN||01-03-2013|
|Robin Kelly||(D), IL||04-11-2013|
|Katherine Clark||(D), MA||12-12-2013|
|Alma Adams||(D), NC||11-12-2014|
|Bonnie Watson Coleman||(D), NJ||01-06-2015|
|Barbara Comstock||(R), VA||01-06-2015|
|Debbie Dingell||(D), MI||01-06-2015|
|Gwen Graham||(D), FL||01-06-2015|
|Brenda Lawrence||(D), MI||01-06-2015|
|Mia Love||(R), UT||01-06-2015|
|Martha McSally||(R), AZ||01-06-2015|
|Stacey Plaskett (delegate)||(D), VI||01-06-2015|
|Aumua Amata Radewagen (delegate)||(R), AS||01-06-2015|
|Kathleen Rice||(D), NY||01-06-2015|
|Elise Stefanik||(R), NY||01-06-2015|
|Norma Torres||(D), CA||01-06-2015|
|Mimi Walters||(R), CA||01-06-2015|
|Total Women: 88 Democrats: 65 |
Much has been said regarding the so-called laziness of the poor. Hands have been wrung, glasses have been drained, Davos hotel rooms have been trashed year after year in elite consternation over The Perennially Perplexing Plight of the Poor.
Meanwhile in the American political landscape, the answer is already clear:
But perhaps there’s some confusion over what is meant by the term “hard work” — certainly it’s ambiguous, and no one takes a pause in the middle of a vigorous, breathy debate to define their terms, curiously. So, for the barely literate cretins out there who can barely manage to hold down a job much less participate in the ever-prosperous U.S. economy — a visual guide:
Working hard vs. hardly working: An Illustrated Guide to Hard Work
(direct link: https://tpc.quip.com/00POAlXJ6I8Y)
are not merely empowered to separate us from discerning fact and fiction.
They separate us from debate; civic discourse; meaningful conflict;
From coalition-building; compromise; concession.
They separate us from each other.
Communities seem quaint
Common ground, a shifting place
Quicksand beneath one’s feet
We are all swamp things now
The eyes ogle, waiting for us to falter — for sport
Our shelf lives grow ever shorter
While billionaires transfuse the blood of the young
The youth don’t want my mid-life crisis
It bores them so
My tone grates on America’s next greats
Ideologies wage the fifth world war out on the vast placeless social media savannah
Faux fantastical beasts feast upon felled paper tigers
One can only hope the most outsized egos
Are the biggest dinosaurs
When the meteor comes
Without the doing of some thing brand inappropriate Something unmonetizable Unclickable Untraceable Untradeable | If i don't rend the cloth of this Culture Fit soon i will die Like the coral Like two-thirds of the wild Like the humans on the edge of a rising shoreline In a ceaseless world With iceless poles And icy proles | As the planet heats, Civilization chills; Swallowing our red or our blue pills; Interned into camps of grievers and shills | Grieve i do and for the West Our president the Bigly Best! We'll come and go at his behest Put down your Freedom of Info Requests Baby, you just ain't seen nothin' yet | Joe Walsh got his balls out, and his musket too The Lefties dream of Saskatoon We're all gonna get that Change real soon You'll see when fascism hits High Noon | We'll finish tearing ourselves apart In the streets and in the dark Can no longer recreate in this park Leslie Knope didn't fit the part | She had the mighty audacity To take purview over Benghazi Once Bush and Blair left Qaddafi Those GOP goons would never get off me | My God, all the emails The Chaffetz' anemic security details At least we're swaddled by all this retail Black Friday's never been so beyond the pale | Pale as a ghost White as a sheet Our New Balance host Circle jerks its meat | Of all the PUAs and all the Teas Even the most mundane of these See the female as a tease Hang the browns up in the trees We're all strange fruit upon our knees | Ain't no more reason to appease Already done killed off all them bees Turnt up the thermostat a few degrees TVs blaring back our postmodern sleaze | Found ourselves a favorite scapegoat And a good long length of real strong rope The corruption will be all excised By the 'tubes chock full of Russian spies This revolution will be televised As America just dies and dies
The creator of the also excellent Century of the Self film series released his latest film in October, 2016. Dubbed HyperNormalisation, it offers both a history lesson of the complicated relationship between the West, the Middle East, and Russia, as well as an unflinching look at the roles played by technology, surveillance, and the media on our modern condition of general confusion, destabilization, and surrealism.
Russian aggression is mercurial — it’s getting harder to tell anymore who is being paid to push pro-Russian messages, and who has just been sadly taken in by them. For all this braggadocio (braggadocious, even!) about “building a wall” to keep supposed Mexican rapists out (although net migration has been falling with our southern neighbor for some time and is now net negative), no matter what the outcome of next Tuesday’s election, the “borders” around the internet will remain difficult — if not impossible — to police for the foreseeable future.
This all makes our breathless, behind-closed-doors hand-wringing over Soviet Communist influence over the population in the 1960s seem like child’s play. No need to train up a double agent over a lifetime and infiltrate the corridors of state power anymore — just fire up Twitter (or Medium).
It thus probably shouldn’t be as shocking as it has been to find the pro-Russian lovefest coming just as hard from the far-left as it has from the far-right. It stems from a good place (for the most part): a heartfelt desire for peace and the youthful misunderstanding of how difficult (read: impossible) that has been to achieve throughout history. Still, we always want to believe we’ve cracked the nut — that Mutually Assured Destruction now keeps us safe from all the power-hungry demons of the world.
Unfortunately, the Cold War is thawing. With the Russian economy reportedly in dire straits thanks to fragile over-reliance on oil and gas production combined with the precipitous drop in oil prices over the past 18 months, Putin is in a state. A state of keeping the angry ailing Russian classes distracted by the drums of war, while aiming to keep the pampered, self-absorbed American classes distracted from the drums of war. So far to great success — at least on the latter front. It’s hard to speak to the former, although all the paid trolls do seem mighty angry.
Since we can barely pull our heads out of our navels in the U.S. to remember there’s a whole other world outside of our Big Orange Terror Bubble (which is by turns understandable and deeply concerning), I wanted to record here a timeline of Russian aggression events in the lead-up to where we are today (re-purposed from this post with some additional backstory on the Green Party candidate’s Jill Stein involvement with Putin):
This doesn’t include any of the Russian aggression “soft” lobs like the cheeky offers to monitor our elections, or the material connections to the alt-right movement here as well as the swell of right-wing political insurgencies around the world.
Perhaps history will one day show that the deepest destruction wrought by globalization was not the disintegration of America’s manufacturing sector, nor its incentivization of capital flight, but its damage to the last pillars of an aging democratic architecture slowly corroded by neoliberal economic policies in fashion since the Reagan years.
If any history still remains.
Regardless of whether or not you agree that slashing spending, fiscal austerity, balanced budgets, and a low federal deficit are good ideas, the fact remains that the Republican Party does not generally live up to its aims of expense reduction and small government.
As hard as it is to believe, there are still some people who think that Reagan cut the size of government, although Reagan was a big spender and laid the groundwork for the immense national debt we live with today.
(even the Austrian School agrees)
Then there was Ol’ Dubya with his two disgraceful wars, TARP bailout, auto bailouts, fiscal stimulus, and tax cuts. Not to mention yanking the election out from under Al Gore’s popular win via a leg up from Florida governor brother Jeb.
Turns out, not even gridlock is a decent strategy for preventing escalating expenditures, under the theory that not getting anything done would prevent the government from growing. Apparently not:
“Gridlock” in DC Does Little to Stymie Government Spending
Total gridlock is the worst outcome, where impact to the budget is concerned. Total Democratic control of the White House and Congress is the most fiscally responsible since the presidency of Richard Nixon.
So the idea of Republican leanness is a fallacy whether you believe that’s a worthy goal or not — and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest the tide is turning toward a wider appreciation of John Maynard Keynes’ approach to sensible fiscal spending when there is unemployment (puts idle resources to work and reduces government welfare expense; gives people a sense of purpose; builds community), if it is accomplished by debt financing (i.e., issuing Treasury Bonds — allowing individuals, pension funds, and so on to invest in the United States as sort of national asset class) and is used to build goods and structures that benefit the public at large: infrastructure, research and development, public resources, public health services, job training, paid volunteer work, parks and public spaces, etc.
Keynesian and Classical theory have oft been at odds, but are better understood now as complements: in a healthy, roaring economy, government should take its boots off the throttle and avoid tipping over into the kind of speculatory gamesmanship that got us into hot water in 2007-8. But in a depression or recession, or when the economy is recovering sluggishly, it should be a goto solution to start thinking about where to apply government funds (i.e. our money!) to things that need doing anyway; services that invest in our economy’s greatest resource: its citizens; programs that position us for the future by having the luxury to think ahead boldly.
NYTimes: Real income gains are brief and hard to find
Although the economy has recovered nicely for some — especially those in higher tax brackets — it has clearly left a number of Americans behind. It’s only added to a trend that had already started in the 70s, when inequality began widening in the U.S. The populist white, nationalist ire unleashed in the 2016 presidential election was something perhaps few saw coming, even though in hindsight the far right has been whipping their base into a frenzy for years — arguably since Reagan, if not with Nixon. That means there’s still a healthy place for government spending, especially in areas we already know we’re in sore need of a boost: roads and bridges, a public health care option, basic research, advanced manufacturing, the pivot to a renewable energy economy, to name a few.
Luckily, that’s what Hillary Clinton wants to do:
by the way: Her plan plans to finance itself by making wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share in taxes, and would not appreciably add to the deficit beyond any existing projections from the OMB;but here’s the best explainer I have found about whywe should seriously loosen our collars over the national debt.There is no reason to pay it down; and indeed, it would be dangerous and deleterious to even try to, because we’d be starving the economy of the circulation it needs to keep operating and growing:💰money💰.
I still see a lot of denialism on this point about the DNC email hacks from the far-left (or the alt-left, depending on your favored terminology), which is a bit devastating to see as it essentially parrots the pro-Russian ideology of the far-right (both the alt-right and the neo-libertarian flavors). Green Party candidate Jill Stein is an especially pernicious promoter of this myth that Vladimir Putin is a poor, innocent, peaceful world leader who is being bullied by NATO (when in fact, Russia has been the aggressor since its annexation of Crimea in 2014).
Two separate Russian-affiliated adversaries were behind the attacks, according to a post-mortem by cyber-security firm CrowdStrike when the news of the intrusion first broke in early June, 2016. This has since been confirmed by other independent security firms including Fidelis, Mandiant, SecureWorks, and ThreatConnect as well as corroborated by analysis from Ars Technica and Edward Snowden.
At this point the US intelligence community is confident enough to formally accuse Russia of involvement in the hacks, and are currently investigating other breaches of voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois as well as in Florida — the key battleground state from the 2000 election that handed GWB an unfortunate victory. Elsewhere, there is ample evidence of Putin’s extensive disinformation campaign being waged online (including several experiences I have myself witnessed), which is the continuation of a long through line of wielding propaganda as a tool from the former head of the KGB.