Wednesday, December 18, 2019


I have a simple theory about Trump and his followers. It's all about reading. Trump doesn't read, and his followers don't read.

That's all. You can divide America into two halves, the half that reads and the half that doesn't read.

Do you think any Trump voter at all read the Mueller report? No, of course, he didn't read it either, but announced that it exonerates him and they believe him, though it explicitly does not. How about the six pages of dotardic whining he sent to Nancy Pelosi yesterday? His followers will think it says whatever he tells them it says.

Trump is not very smart but he knows how to manipulate people. When he doesn't want his people to know what is in a document, he tells them what he wants them to believe the document says.

The greatest example is the incriminating transcript of his phone call with the Ukrainian president, which by the way isn't even a transcript, it's some notes. But still, Trump released them and said, see, it proves I'm innocent. And so his followers believe the so-called transcript proves his innocence. Trump has made it a kind of mantra: "Read the transcript, read the transcript." The more he says it, the more people who can't read think it must say something that is good for him. It doesn't.

The transcript is an admission of guilt. He is quoted breaking the law, violating the Constitution and the people's trust. But you'd have to, actually, read it to know that. The Daily Show went to a Trump rally and talked to people about this. (Warning, they use the word "bullshit" sometimes.) The relevant part starts at about 4:05 into it.

To me, the question is not whether there is quid pro quo or pressure applied, none of that. As far as impeachment goes, I know this is hard to quantify but if you read this transcript or quotes of any Trump speech or comments, you come to the certain conclusion that the guy doesn't know anything, he cannot think logically, he can barely manage to form a sentence. He watches TV and ... that's it. I do not mean he is handicapped with an inferior brain or a low IQ, I mean that he nurtures his own ignorance by avoiding exposure to facts and reason and diverse perspectives.

I think this was the part of the phone call that got me: "I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike ... I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation ..." Listen, who talks like that? The "whole situation with Ukraine," That is a country and he is talking to the President of it; the "whole situation" is Zelensky's job and it includes everything from pedestrian casualties and food safety to extortion in the oil industry. "Your wealthy people?" What? Which ones? What about them? "The server--" how could Zelensky possibly know what he is talking about? "The whole situation..." again, he is assuming this Ukrainian politician knows what he means and this is just the way a stupid person talks. This is definitive. It is incoherent. Never mind quid pro quo, a person whose thoughts are this loosely connected should not be running any country.

Unfortunately, it seems that Republicans think this is normal conversation between two presidents, Archie Bunker and his Ukrainian counterpart grunting in monosyllables.

Yesterday's letter to Pelosi will go into the history books. It demonstrates over and over that Trump has no idea what impeachment is, how it works, what is in the Constitution, what his duties and responsibilities are as President, and he has no idea what he has done wrong. He just thinks Democrats are picking on him for political gain. He watches Fox and accepts whatever they say as fact, instead of consulting his experts or reading for himself what others have written. The letter proves that he is simply mentally unqualified to preside.

Reading is a direct way to learn about points of view that might not follow from your own personal experience. An author may live very differently from you and have insights you would not have discovered on your own. The facts, for instance, the facts of electoral interference by foreign countries, are well documented from many perspectives, and if you read thoroughly you can see when someone is trying to fool you, and you can read other points of view and put the pieces together yourself. You can form your own conclusions based on facts and consideration of many sources of information. It is not actually hard to "know who to believe," as we hear people complaining now. Read a lot, learn a lot, the facts will be clear to you.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Elitism and Education

It was a cool move for the House Judiciary Committee to invite a panel of law professors to their first hearing. It seems obvious on the face of it, we are talking about impeaching a President, we should understand the legal standards and precedents as we consider our decision.

With this gesture the Democratic majority gave the Republicans an opportunity to state, clearly and on the record, their hypocritical support for ignorance and disrespect for education. Remember that fifteen of the seventeen Republicans on the committee are lawyers, they have been to law school themselves. But, for instance Rep. Matt Gaetz -- who holds a JD from William and Mary -- told Stanford Law School Professor Pamela Karlan that she was unable to see from “the ivory towers of your law school,” and how condescending she was being to “actual people in this country.”

Paul Taylor, the chief counsel for Republicans on the committee (Harvard Law '94), suggested that liberals control the legal profession as a whole -- which to me is an amazing accusation. He claimed, and we don't know if this is true, that 97 percent of 2016 presidential campaign campaign contributions from lawyers went to Hillary Clinton while Trump received only 3 percent. To them, this means that lawyers are biased against them. To me it means that if you understand how the country works you will tend to hold so-called "liberal" beliefs. A good education teaches you to seek out facts and reject old wives' tales, and the result is a liberal belief system. It is just weird to suggest that some group called "liberals" is controlling them.

This is why Betsy DeVos is so important. If the Republicans want to win future elections, it is in their interest to keep the public uninformed and uneducated. They need to make education as expensive and as ineffective as they can, because education is the enemy of conservatism as it is known today.

Their line in the sand is "us" versus "elites." Def: "A select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society." Think for a minute about what it means to oppose superior abilities and qualities.

Even the mainstream press plays along with this, tossing the concept of "elites" around as if it meant snobs or some kind of lace-cuffed, powder-wigged aristocrats. There's nothing wrong with working with your hands for a living, but there is also nothing wrong with being smart, with speaking clearly, with keeping yourself informed of objective facts. These two things are not opposed.

Kellyanne Conway said this on Fox yesterday:
If you went to work today to manicure nails, to manicure a lawn, if you went to work with a jackhammer or a welding machine or mechanic's tools or a carpentry belt and not three degrees from Yale, that woman yesterday looks her nose down on you. She thinks that you are less than her. And I've had it. Do you know why that man ran for President in the first place, for the forgotten man, the forgotten woman? You know why I'm still here at the White House? For you. For people who are looked down upon by people with three Yale law degrees had the audacity, the audacity to say that liberals like to cluster together and live together while conservatives can't even stand to be together, that's why they're scattered. Who the hell are you, lady? Look down at half of the country."
To which the Fox & Friends guy said, "That's a good point."

And ... I know hypocrisy is not something that conservatives worry much about but Kellyanne Conway herself earned a Juris Doctor with honors from the George Washington University Law School. She is counting on Fox watchers to be too dumb to look that up.

Our country has a Constitution and a couple hundred years of history to test it and toughen it up, and the ordinary doofus like you and me doesn't know the details. We don't have time to know everything about everything; we need some elite professors to come in and tell us how the vague wording of the founders came to be, what they intended, how it has been interpreted in the centuries since the words were first composed. You don't have to make fun of them. It is not "boring" or irrelevant. The actual problem is that our President is himself an ordinary doofus when it comes to these things, but does not respect the elites, the academics, people who are knowledgeable, well enough to ask their opinion before he shoots his mouth off. He doesn't know and he doesn't care. Doofusism is not better than actual knowledge.

Last summer, Trump said “I have an Article Two where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” In a country of uneducated people who resent expertise and knowledge, that is, to Republicans, this might hold water. But in fact Article Two is written where anybody can read it, and we are lucky to have educational institutions full of elite professors who can explain the nuances to us. Article Two defines an executive who is not a king, who cannot do whatever he or she wants. You can count on Fox viewers to be too dumb to look that up.