Friday Talking Points [462] -- Speaking Out Causes A Sea-Change In Attitudes

[ Posted Friday, November 17th, 2017 – 18:24 UTC ]

America is in the midst of a gigantic sea-change on how accusations of sexual misconduct are viewed. That much seems certain. You could say it began with the Access Hollywood tape during Donald Trump's campaign, or you could argue it began with the end of Harvey Weinstein's Hollywood career. Notably, the "Me Too" movement has actually been around for a decade, but it really caught fire this year in a big way. But no matter the origins of the shift, America now views accusations of sexual misconduct in a much different light than before.

Politically, there have always been such scandals. Last week, in fact, Anthony Weiner started a prison term for "sexting" an underage girl -- which was the third such sex scandal he had been embroiled in (the other two ended his congressional career and torpedoed his "comeback" run for New York City mayor, but did not result in criminal charges). But the Weiner story is now old news, so it was barely reported -- a reminder that these scandals didn't just start happening now.

Republicans now have some false equivalence to point to, after a brutal few weeks of being forced to comment on Roy Moore's sexual history with underage girls. The new Al Franken scandal gave them a Democrat to point to in defense of the indefensible. One commenter to a Washington Post article mocked this new Republican strategy: "So, a person going 70 down a 60 mile an hour freeway is just as bad as the guy doing 70 through a school zone? Don't be ridiculous." Nice use of "school zone" in that imagery, we have to say.

Franken is accused of creating a fratboy-style photo-op (as a sight gag), in which he appears to be groping a sleeping woman's chest. Franken's defenders point out that his hands are merely hovering over her breasts, not actually touching them, and that she was wearing a Kevlar vest anyway. He was also accused of being overly aggressive in practicing a kiss with the woman backstage at a U.S.O. show, but again his defenders point out that she had agreed to the practice kiss, so even this wasn't technically "non-consensual."

Meanwhile, more accusers of Roy Moore went public this week, including this charming story from Gena Richardson, a high-school senior who worked at Sears at the local mall. Moore introduced himself to her while she was at work and pressed her to give him her phone number. She refused. Here's what she said happened next (note: this was LONG before cell phones existed, so not having someone's phone number severely limited the ways you could contact them):

A few days later, she says, she was in trigonometry class at Gadsden High when she was summoned to the principal's office over the intercom in her classroom. She had a phone call.

"I said 'Hello?'" Richardson recalls. "And the male on the other line said, 'Gena, this is Roy Moore.' I was like, 'What?!' He said, 'What are you doing?' I said, 'I’m in trig class.'"

Richardson says Moore asked her out again on the call. A few days later, after he asked her out at Sears, she relented and agreed, feeling both nervous and flattered. They met that night at a movie theater in the mall after she got off work, a date that ended with Moore driving her to her car in a dark parking lot behind Sears and giving her what she called an unwanted, "forceful" kiss that left her scared.

This was either the eighth or ninth woman (we've lost count) making very similar accusations against Moore. Reports also surfaced that it was pretty much an open secret in Gadsden that Moore at one point got himself banned from the mall for his creepy behavior around underage girls. This prompted Lindsey Graham to respond: "I've got a general rule. If you can't be in a mall, you shouldn't be in the Senate."

Now, virtually all Democrats immediately called for Franken to face the Senate's Ethics Committee to fully investigate the charge against him. Many Republicans have, like Graham, denounced Moore -- although there are a significant number still clinging to the "if true" dodge ("if true, he should quit the race"). Attorney General Jeff Sessions said this week, while under oath: "I have no reason to doubt these young women." Ivanka Trump told the Associated Press: "There's a special place in hell for people who prey on children. I've yet to see a valid explanation and I have no reason to doubt the victims' accounts." Her father, on the other hand, has been silent during the escalation of the Moore scandal (with the exception of ripping into Franken on Twitter).

Democrats, even before the Franken news broke, were already doing some serious soul-searching over their reaction to the sex scandals of Bill Clinton. While the Monica Lewinsky scandal was the most prominent, Clinton was also accused of serious sexual aggression during his 1992 campaign -- when his defenders did all they could to discredit the women accusing him. That doesn't really fit in with the new "always believe the women" standard of today, to put it mildly. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand -- who took over a Senate seat from Hillary Clinton, and has long been supported by the Clintons -- said this week that Bill should have resigned during the Lewinsky scandal. Few other Democrats have gone that far, and fewer still have addressed the campaign scandals (instead of just the Lewinsky scandal). But the subject is at least under discussion in Democratic circles.

But so far, Republicans have avoided doing their own soul-searching -- not over a president first elected 25 years ago, but over last year's presidential campaign. An article making the case that Democrats' reactions are in no way the same as those of Republicans points this out, in detail:

Were there any prominent Republicans who demanded an investigation into how often [Donald] Trump had committed sexual assaults, as he bragged he could do with impunity? I don't think there were. And then what happened when one woman after another went public -- at great personal risk and without anything to gain -- to say that yes, he had done to them just what he said he could do? About those allegations, we heard almost nothing from important Republicans. They essentially pretended those women didn't exist.

But they did exist. And there were not one or two or five, but over a dozen of them. Here are the names of women who say that Trump kissed or groped them against their will: Kristin Anderson, Rachel Crooks, Jessica Drake, Jill Harth, Cathy Heller, Ninni Laaksonen, Jessica Leeds, Mindy McGillivray, Jennifer Murphy, Cassandra Searles, Natasha Stoynoff, Temple Taggart, Karena Virginia, and Summer Zervos. That doesn't include the contestants at pageants -- including teenage girls at the Miss Teen USA pageant -- who related how Trump burst into their dressing rooms to watch them change clothes, behavior he also bragged about. The official White House position is that every one of those women is a liar. How many Republicans have stood up for them?

Democrats have a long way to go in figuring out how they should understand their own history and how to handle these allegations in the future, not to mention how to change a culture where sexual harassment and abuse has been taken for granted for so long. But at least they're starting to try -- which is a lot more than you can say for Republicans.

This is an excellent point, and one the news-reporting side of the media has been all but ignoring. Bill Clinton's situation has been hashed over multiple times this week, but how many reporters have taken the time to go back and re-interview Trump's accusers? Because with the sea-change in public attitudes, they're going to be seen in a very different light now. But so far, this hasn't noticeably happened -- even after Trump played the "holier than thou" card against Al Franken. Many repeat Trump's infamous "grab 'em by the pussy" line from the leaked Access Hollywood tape, but few have bothered to give voice to those asserting that Trump actually grabbed them or worse. This should really be the next act in the growing political/sexual scandal, but so far Trump seems to have avoided any close examination of his own accusers.

Trump is, by all accounts, scared of inserting himself into the Roy Moore situation, for a number of reasons. First, he knows that the minute he does, questions over his own behavior will become unavoidable. Second, he has already attempted to intervene in this race (during the primaries) and he backed the losing candidate. If he backs yet another loser, how's that going to look? At his 300th day in office, Trump's own job approval rating is far more dismal (Gallup: 37 percent approve, 57 percent disapprove) than any president at a similar juncture since public opinion polling began.

Speaking of polls, they certainly aren't getting any better for Roy Moore. The once-unthinkable is now a very distinct possibility: Alabama voters might just send Democrat Doug Jones to the Senate rather than a Republican. As the National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled all its funding out of Moore's race (following similar action from the Republican National Committee), they leaked an internal poll showing Moore was trailing Jones by a whopping 12 points. Independent pollsters didn't show that big a gap, but the trendline is clear. Of two recent polls, one put Jones up by five points, and one put him up by eight. That last one was from Fox News, which really makes accusations of partisan skewing impossible. The most interesting number from the Fox News poll breakdown was that Jones leads Moore among Alabama's women by an astounding 26 points -- 58 to 32 percent. Could Alabama women be the key to electing Jones? It certainly seems like it, at this point.

Let's see... what else has been going on? Richard Cordray abruptly resigned from leading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and there is speculation he is positioning himself to run for the governor of Ohio.

A Department of Homeland Security official appointed by Trump was forced to resign this week, when comments were uncovered about what he truly thinks about African-Americans: "it's an indictment of America's black community that has turned America's major cities into slums because of laziness, drug use and sexual promiscuity." We're actually surprised that Trump didn't give him a medal, or something.

The House passed their version of their tax bill. Thirteen Republicans crossed the aisle and voted against it. Zero Democrats voted for it.

Days before the Keystone XL pipeline company was to hear whether Nebraska had approved a construction permit, the sister Keystone pipeline spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota. Instant karma's gonna getcha, we suppose.

Iraq has now officially eradicated the Islamic State from all territory it once held, with the capture of the final towns and villages close to the Syrian border. At one point, the Islamic State controlled roughly one-third of all Iraq, so this is a real milestone. The Islamic State is also almost out of territory in Syria, as well.

And finally, we have to end with some humor. The first funny line came from Marco Rubio, responding to a video of Donald Trump awkwardly drinking from a water bottle when he was supposed to be speaking at a podium. It's a cringeworthy piece of video, and Rubio couldn't resist comparing unfavorably to his own water bottle gaffe, by offering Trump some advice on Twitter: "Similar, but needs work on his form. Has to be done in one single motion & eyes should never leave the camera. But not bad for his 1st time."

But the funniest thing we saw all week was a snarky list of what the future Senate might look like, with everything that is going on right now. This is the ultimate quiz of in-jokes, really. Some of the items on the list are pretty easy to decipher, such as: "Enormous Pile of Coal Formed Into a Crude Facsimile of a Man (R-W.Va.)", "Unrepentant Groping Hand Protruding From a Big Stack of Bibles (R-Ala.)", and (speaking of Rubio): "Little Boy in A Sailor Suit Holding An Oversized Lollipop (R-Fla.)". Some are a lot snarkier: "Scorpion Asking for a Ride Across a River (R-S.C.)", and: "What Remains of Mitt Romney's Soul After That Dinner With Trump (R-Utah)." Some, though, were just plain odd: "Alien Bursting out of a Human Stomach With a Hideous Shriek (R-N.M.)", and "Thing That Appears in Your Mirror If You Light a Candle and Speak Unholy Words (R-Tenn.)". We have to admit we only got something like half of the jokes, but the entire thing is downright hilarious to read!


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

While the sexual accusations got most of the attention, Congress was actually holding hearings on the same subject -- in particular, how Congress itself has a serious problem.

Testimony about sexual harassment (and worse) was heard this week, which might have merely led to mandatory sexual harassment training for everyone, but two Democratic women pointed out that this isn't nearly a good enough solution.

Representative Jackie Speier and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand unveiled the Member and Employee Training and Oversight On Congress Act (or the "ME TOO Congress Act") this week. This bill would radically change how sexual harassment charges are dealt with on Capitol Hill.

The current system is shockingly inadequate. Victims are required to attend mandatory counseling (although the accused person is not), they are forced to sign non-disclosure agreements so their charges will never become public, and even if they are awarded settlements, the money -- over $15 million total for the past decade or so -- comes from American taxpayers.

That is, in a word, pathetic. The ME TOO Congress Act would change all of that, and institute some modern policies instead. No longer would complaints be treated so cavalierly. No longer would accusers be prohibited from telling their stories in public. Everyone who works on Capitol Hill (including interns and pages) would be covered, rather than just paid officeworkers. And, most importantly, no longer would settlements be secret -- the names would be publicly shown, and the guilty party would have to pay the money out of his or her own pockets, rather than sticking the taxpayers with the bill for their misconduct.

These are entirely reasonable changes to demand, at this point in time. This is a proactive effort to improve working conditions in Congress, and it really should be impossible for any politician from either party to oppose such modernization of their own workplace's rules.

For taking the lead on the issue, and for introducing legislation to change things for the better, our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to Representative Jackie Speier and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Every Democrat should immediately sign on as co-sponsors to the ME TOO Congress Act, in fact.

[Congratulate Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on her Senate contact page and Representative Jackie Speier on her House contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Before we get to this week, we have some old business to address. It kind of got lost in all the other political scandal news, but this week New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez beat the rap against him. His corruption trial ended in a hung jury, with 10 jurors convinced of his innocence and 2 finding him guilty. While this is not a full exoneration (he could be tried again), we have to make good on a promise we made back when he was indicted. In FTP [338], we awarded Menendez the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week with a caveat: "If the case falls apart and Menendez is vindicated, we will issue a formal apology and retraction." Now, he wasn't completely vindicated, but the case obviously fell apart, so we are going to rescind the MDDOTW awards we had previously given Menendez back then, as well as the two we gave him (for the same court case) in FTP [340] and FTP [452]. We won't go so far as to apologize (since he could still be tried and convicted), but we are wiping these MDDOTW awards off his record, as promised.

But back to the present. It wasn't exactly a tough choice this time around. This week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award goes to Senator Al Franken. Franken disappointed millions of Democrats this week, not so much for his actions as for the incredibly bad timing of the accusation. Democrats had worked themselves into high dudgeon over Roy Moore, and were piously taking the moral high road right up to the point when Franken's accusation threw a serious curveball into the mix.

Sure, you can argue about the false equivalency between the accusations against Franken and those made against Roy Moore (because they simply aren't the same, no matter how Republicans try to frame it that way), but without Franken to take shots at they would have been restricted to complaining about Democrats and Bill Clinton -- a valid issue, perhaps, but one long in the past.

Franken's situation blunts the charges Democrats have been making, at the very least. In fact, the only way for Franken to totally defuse the situation would be to step down immediately -- a punishment that many feel does not fit the crime. But if Franken does so, his state's Democratic governor would appoint another Democrat, meaning the balance of power in the Senate would remain the same. If Moore loses his race, however, Democrats will pick up a seat -- one they never thought they'd actually win.

We are stopping short of calling on Franken to step down, personally. It might be the best thing politically for the Democratic Party for Franken to fall on his own sword, but it still seems to us to be too drastic a measure to demand.

Still, Al Franken has disappointed us, and we are certainly not alone in such feelings. So, rather obviously, this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week is none other than Senator Al Franken.

[Contact Senator Al Franken on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 462 (11/17/17)

No matter what else is going on in Washington to distract everyone, there is still a full-court press by Republicans to shower enormous tax breaks on Wall Street and millionaires going on in the background. The House passed its version of this "take from Main Street to lavish tax breaks on Wall Street" plan this week, and the public barely noticed. So we're once again devoting almost all the talking points to Democratic reasons why this is such an enormously bad idea.

So far, the GOP tax plan is unpopular with the public. Not as unpopular as their "repeal and replace Obamacare" bills were, but almost. There is no public pressure to pass this tax bill, except for the mounting pressure from Republican donors who control the puppet strings of GOP congresscritters.

The more people hear about this plan, the worse they like it. This means that it should be job one for Democrats right now to put all these details in front of the public.

Our first talking point is a Republican warning the Trump administration on the Russia probe, and our last one is just a bit of humor (again, from a Republican), but all the others deal with the tax bill, because in the midst of all the swirling ongoing scandals, this is truly what is important in Washington right now.


   Lies! All lies!

Michael Gerson, who used to work in George W. Bush's White House, is not mincing words over the state of the Russia investigation. While subpoenas were quietly announced for a dozen people from the Trump campaign this week, Gerson was responding to all the rest of it, before the subpoena news even broke. And his overview is pretty damning. Remember, this is a Republican saying this:

In all of this, there is a spectacular accumulation of lies. Lies on disclosure forms. Lies at confirmation hearings. Lies on Twitter. Lies in the White House briefing room. Lies to the F.B.I. Self-protective lies by the attorney general. Blocking and tackling lies by Vice President Pence. This is, with a few exceptions, a group of people for whom truth, political honor, ethics and integrity mean nothing. What are the implications? President Trump and others in his administration are about to be hit by a legal tidal wave. We look at the Russia scandal and see lies. A skilled prosecutor sees leverage.


   The truth hurts, Orrin

Senator Sherrod Brown won the award for getting under Republicans' skin this week on the tax bill, as he and Orrin Hatch almost got in a shouting match over the reality of what the bill will (and will not) do. Brown had the truth on his side, leaving Hatch to sputter about his (direct quote) "whole stinkin' career" trying to help little people (pause for laughter) while Democrats hurl (direct quote) "bullcrap" at him. Here's what Brown had to say that got Hatch so visibly annoyed:

I think it would be nice, just tonight, before we go home, to just acknowledge, well this tax cut really is not for the middle class, it's for the rich. And that whole thing about higher wages, well it's a good selling point. But we know that companies don't just give away higher wages. They don't give away higher wages because they have more money. Corporations are sitting on a lot of money. Corporations are sitting on a lot of money right now. They're sitting on a lot of profits now. I don't see wages going up. So spare us the bank shots. Spare us the sarcasm and the satire.



Hatch wasn't the only Republican astonished at the reactions their tax giveaway to Wall Street is provoking.

"Gary Cohn, a White House economic policy advisor, spoke this week to a bunch of corporate CEOs which was hosted by none other than the Wall Street Journal. Cohn decided it would be a good idea to informally poll the room on the question of how many of the CEOs would be taking the windfall of money the GOP tax bill will shower upon their companies to increase investment. The thing is, though, almost no hands went up. The CEOs know full well they'll be taking the extra money and essentially handing it to the shareholders rather than investing in expansion or -- heaven forbid! -- raising workers' wages. Cohn wins the clueless quote of the week for his response to the dearth of hands in the air, plaintively asking: 'Why aren't the other hands up?' Well, Gary, allow me to explain it to you: the other hands weren't up because you have been trying to sell the American people on a big fat lie. The CEOs were just being honest -- it is you who are truly clueless about how big business works."


   Reverse Robin Hood

An oldie but a goodie, and never more appropriate than right now.

"According to Congress' own nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the GOP tax bill would raise taxes on millions of families earning from $10,000 to $75,000. It would even hike taxes on people making between $10,000 and $30,000 -- those least able to afford it. This will affect tens of millions of taxpayers. So the heart of the Republican plan is to raise taxes on the little guys in order to shower benefits on those at the absolute top of the income scale. If anyone has any doubts how financial inequality happens in America, they need look no farther than this odious bill. It is Robin Hood in reverse, taking from the poor to give to the rich. Republicans ought to be ashamed, but of course they aren't."


   Middle class pain

Point out exactly what the middle class is going to lose.

"Republicans think it is somehow wrong for middle-class households to get deductions for things like medical expenses, state and local taxes, mortgage interest, student loan interest, and graduate school scholarships. The Joint Committee on Taxation reports that this bill will make college a whopping $71 billion more expensive for American students over the next decade. No wonder the public hates this bill so much. Even with all the misdirection and lies Republicans have been deploying, most people have figured out what a giant con job the bill is. Republicans only raise the tax rate on one tax bracket in their plans -- the lowest tax bracket, for those who make the least. They lower the tax rate for those at the top end of the scale, though. This bill is a massive scam intended to transfer money from the middle class to the ultra-wealthy, which is why Democrats oppose it."


   Permanent versus temporary

The Senate bill had to perform some smoke and mirrors to get the price down, but how they did so is pretty notable.

"Republicans will tell you that they are 'closing loopholes' that 'special interests' have been abusing. But you know what? I haven't yet heard one single business loophole they will be closing. Businesses will be paying almost half the rate they are now, so they're going to get all the goodies. To pay for it, deductions on individuals will be eliminated. These are not 'special interest loopholes,' they are deductions for enormous medical bills and student loans. But the worst part is that all the business tax breaks will be permanent, while the crumbs the GOP has tossed to everyone else will be temporary and expire. That means eventually everyone will pay higher taxes, while the businesses pay lower taxes for eternity. And Republicans think that's a fair tradeoff."


   Cruella De Ville strikes again

Finally, an amusing note to end on. Steve Mnuchin and his tone-deaf wife were photographed holding up a sheet of dollar bills at the U.S. Mint this week. The wife was sporting leather gloves which cost $600, and both look like poster children for the entitled class. This led to much ribald derision online, of course. None other than conservative Bill Kristol commented on the timing of the photo, where he also issued a challenge to all Democrats to come up with an appropriate photo caption. (The best we've heard yet: "After this photo was taken, she went back to torturing 101 Dalmatians.") But we're sure you've got your own ideas, which we'd love to hear in the comments. Here's the original text of Kristol's challenge:

Maybe not the best photo on the eve of vote on a tax bill that's being attacked for favoring the wealthy? If the Democrats were a competent political party, this photo would be in ads in every GOP swing district tomorrow, with a competition for best caption to get voters engaged.

-- Chris Weigant


All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground
Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post


66 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [462] -- Speaking Out Causes A Sea-Change In Attitudes”

  1. [1] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Re: the Mnuchin Photo

    Here's my (personally) photoshopped version. Decided to use Mrs. Mnuchin's look of entitlement as a jump-off point.

  2. [2] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Using this site as a personal advertising platform is beyond the pale.

    CW- Enough is enought...please ban this MOFO for moral turpitude.

  3. [3] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    When will someone set up a website where people could sign up for something like that?

    I hope someone does soon...

    There is some scammy site that asks for my money that is filled with shitty stock photo's that evoke the emotions of a prozac advert, not maintained, is out of date and tells me to substitute years until an update is done, has no news about others talking about the "movement", has only had 10 people sign up and give money (supposedly), and fails to make clear if they are a 501c of some sort. Damn, almost forgot, it doesn't even pop when you google it.

    Did you know that one demand is a Korean soap opera, an interactive movie, a song on, something from Occupy Wall Street,something having to do with supply chain, has something to do with the Will and Grace reunion...and that is just from the first three search pages.

    And when someone finally does set up something like that how long will it take for people like Ralph Nader or CW to address it?

    Probably not long, provided they set things up like a big kids movement and have good SEO and somesort of real world presence. The current scammy thing out there merits no attention in it's current form.

  4. [4] 
    Balthasar wrote:
  5. [5] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    And here's my Last entry. Had to do one with Mrs. M as a Bond villain, of sorts.

  6. [6] 
    John M wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    "The decline of America is a notion that I was in denial about for a very long time. But, it has become far too clear today that America is in a state of deep and possibly irreversible decline by any number of standards of which sexual misconduct is but one small part."

    "The problem with "this issue", as with any other challenge facing America and her very tenuous grip on a global leadership role, is the decreasing capacity of a large proportion of the American people for any semblance of understanding of the world in which they live."

    I disagree, for any number of reasons. For one thing, people have been bemoaning about the decline of America since at least the 1980's, when the big concern was that Japan was going to overtake us as the number one power in the world.

    For another, power is always both relative and changing. It can never hope to stay the same. After WWII, all the major power were devastated, except for America, which reigned supreme. But this could never hope to last, as other powers recovered. Their ranked positions changed relative to one another, and in that sense America declined, but never in real, absolute terms. The same thing happened again at the end of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union did indeed collapse and ceased to exist. America found itself as the sole superpower. But again, that did not and could not last for long, as other power centers developed and recovered, such as Russia and a newly all but in name capitalist China.

    In fact, despite the ebb and flow of history, China was the number two power in the world at the time of the Roman Empire, and today, China once again finds itself back as the number two power in the world, a mantle in which it is, unless something drastic happens, ever likely to relinquish again, or to ever exceed, for that matter. There are too many other power centers in the world for that to happen. One being that India is also on the rise. Another being, a unifying, if not politically so, North America that enhances American power. Having both Canada and Mexico as developed integrated First World partners and allies, is no small mean feat.

    The real challenge is to manage and accommodate China's rise. Yes this will mean a lessening of American power, so it could be seen as a decline. But again, if managed carefully and correctly, only in relative and not absolute terms.

    I too am concerned about the basic understanding among a large slice of the American public, and the Trump Presidency and its effects. But again, it doesn't have to be as severe or as long or as permanently detrimental as what other nations have experienced.

    Look at Germany. It was the major power in Europe at the start of WWI. It definitely went through a decline and decadence during the Great Depression, Nazi, and Cold War years. Yet today it is once again united, in the strongest and most secure position it has ever been and dominating all of Europe that lies between Britain and Russia.

    It would probably take another American Civil War and a permanent division for America to ever lose its number one position in the world, or a huge natural disaster that would not only affect America but the world globally as well. America just has too many other things going for it, including so far a very healthy self correcting mechanism. It may be cumbersome, clunky and slow, because it was designed that way, but it does work. You don't generally turn the Titanic on a dime, which is probably a good thing at times.

  7. [7] 
    John M wrote:

    Balthasar wrote:

    "The problem is, when the standard insists that everything said by the accuser is automatically assumed to be true, the door is left wide open for political mischief."

    I agree that is a possible danger, but I don't think that that is or either will be the standard. Up until now, in fact, I think the standard has been one too often of not taking any accusations seriously enough, or just completely dismissing them with the accompanying ridicule of the victim, the way one does with UFO sightings. Now that things are finally swinging the other way, it has left a lot of people, like the Roy Moore supporters, bewildered and racing to catch up.

  8. [8] 
    John M wrote:

    Don Harris wrote:

    "Zero Democrats voted for it."

    "They voted against it because their votes were not needed to pass it."

    So are you saying that they would not have voted against it, even if they had had enough Republicans to cross the aisle to defeat it?

    "It's a pretty safe bet that if the 13 Republicans that voted against it and some Democrats were needed to pass the bill that the Democratic donors that control the puppet strings of the Democratic legislators would make sure there were enough Democrats crossing the aisle to pass the bill."

    But since none were needed, doesn't that imply that the Republicans have the bigger problem with an overall larger number of Republicans being under the control of the big donors relative to a smaller number of the Democrats being under their control?

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    You sound like a did not too terribly long ago.

    It would probably take another American Civil War and a permanent division for America to ever lose its number one position in the world ...

    Some people would say that America is currently in the process of tearing itself apart. I would concur.

    This is not like any other time or era we have experienced. Things can go south very quickly if course corrections aren't soon underway.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Let's try that comment again ...

    You sound like I did and not too terribly long ago.

    It would probably take another American Civil War and a permanent division for America to ever lose its number one position in the world ...

    Some people would say that America is currently in the process of tearing itself apart. I would concur.

    This is not like any other time or era we have experienced. Things can go south very quickly if course corrections aren't soon underway.

  11. [11] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    One of my favorites this week was Jimmy Kimmel’s response to Donald Trump Jr.’s instagram posting showing junior deadlifting 375lbs.

    “Looks like somebody’s getting ready for prison!”


  12. [12] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    The basis of any society or any nation is the family, and as the family goes, so goes the nation. When Daniel Patrick Moynihan told us decades ago that we were a nation at risk over the degradation of the family, fewer than one quarter of American babies were being raised by single parents. Today it's about three quarters, if I remember correctly.

    Perhaps it does "take a village to raise a child" as Hillary says, but whatever it does take, it's not getting done, and the price we're paying as a society is terrible, and getting much worse very fast.

    That price is to be seen in educational attainment, welfare statistics, unemployment figures, workforce participation rates, drug abuse, incarceration rates, etc. etc.

    If we ever do "lose our No.1 position in the world", that will be the reason.

  13. [13] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:
  14. [14] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    C.R. Stucki

    Yes, there are more single family homes now than years ago, but is that truly a “bad thing”, in and of itself? We have to ask ourselves not only “why”, but also “how” there are more today than in past decades.

    In the past, women did not have a choice as to whether they could leave a marriage; that was up to the husband. Women could simply be sent to a sanatorium and left to die if they became too resistant to the husband’s expectations. Rarely could a wife have her husband committed without having other men in the community’s backing.

    Women, while still not paid as much as their male counterparts in similar jobs, are able to acquire jobs that pay enough for them to raise a family on their own. This is a huge factor and is one that will hopefully only get better!

    Women are no longer required to live in abusive relationships. Are two family homes where domestic violence occur better for a child’s development? I have never heard of a single study supporting that hypothesis.

    Crap, I have more but have to run for now. Will continue on this when I return tonight!

  15. [15] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    I doubt that the magnitude of the single-parent family problem is nearly as much a case of "women fleeing abusive relationships", as it is of babies being conceived out of wedlock, or in other words, of no family ever having been formed in the first place.

    And before you jump to any unjustified conclusions, let me say that I couldn't care less (or as most liberals would say I "could care less") about whether the union has been formalized statutorily or ceremoniously, I just care about whether there are two parents in the home.

    Is the single-parent phenomenon "A bad thing in and of itself?" You look at the stats and tell me.

  16. [16] 
    John M wrote:

    [16] Elizabeth Miller

    "Some people would say that America is currently in the process of tearing itself apart. I would concur."

    But is it really as bad or worse than?:

    1.) The Civil Rights Era with political assassinations and race riots... OR

    2.) The Vietnam Era and Anti-war protests... OR

    3.) Watergate when we faced a real constitutional crisis

    ETC. ?

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    You are not seeing the big picture despite having set out three of the major points along the path of America's decline.

    What is happening today is merely the culmination of many more such points since the Nixon presidency.

    It's not a matter of being 'as bad or worse than' but rather of a cumulative effect on a country that has been unable or unwilling to prevent its slide into a devolutionary and dysfunctional political and media culture aided and abetted by an educational system that has failed to produce an adequately informed citizenry.

    When I first began commenting here, during the very long 2008 primaries and presidential election campaign, there was no bigger fan of America than me and, truth be known, I still believe in the promise of America and always will, no matter what.

    But, America is in big trouble today, on any number of fronts. I truly believe that united you stand, divided you fall. I think you are at an inflection point today with America's future hanging in the balance.

    What's most important now for blogs like this one is to promote discussion and debate as to how the country moves forward, stronger together. (Yes, that was for all of the Hillary fans out there!)

  18. [18] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    C.R. Stucki

    What “stats” are you referring to? Stats that show that individuals that commit horrible crimes are more likely products of single parent homes? I would love to see those studies if they exist. The presence of “traditional families” doesn’t really factor into a communities’ unemployment rates as far as I can tell. It isn’t the quantity of parents that matters in determining how a child will turn out as much as it is the quality of parents they are blessed with.

    The “traditional family” argument that gay couples can’t raise a family because the children won’t follow proper gender roles (they will end up being homosexuals like their moms or dads) without having a mom and dad fails to recognize that having a mom and dad is what caused us to be homosexual. Having two moms or two dads did cause us to be gay, we came from homes where there was one mom and one dad.

    Why are there more people in prison today than in the 1930’s? We didn’t have as many laws in place for people to be able to break, for one thing. I know that sounds overly simple, but it is the truth. We have created the problems that we were terrified would occur unless we had laws in place to prevent them! The war on drugs is a perfect example of society’s hysteria creating the very things it was supposed to prevent from happening. Drug addiction was viewed and treated as a medical problem back then, not a societal issue for the justice system to try to cure!

    Here’s something that has increased at a rate even higher than single-family homes have...the level of income inequality between management and the working class. When only those in the highest positions truly reap the rewards of a company’s success, it is bound to cause problems.

    Face it: “traditional family” is code for “upper/upper-middle class white heterosexuals”. You want someone to blame for the problems facing our communities today, which is fine and dandy; but rarely do we choose to look at ourselves as possibly being part of the problem we want to solve. Let me guess, it just so happens that you are part of a “traditional family” home, right? Can I getta’ ChurchLady’s “How CONVENIENT?!?!?!?!”

    These are complex problems that have complex causes. To vilify single parent homes as being less nurturing as two parent homes is almost as overly simplistic in its ignorance as it is its arrogance.

  19. [19] 
    goode trickle wrote:


    I will try to make it simple.

    If you want to receive money from people and be taken seriously you need to have a serious website. Not one that screams scam. I would be happy with a basic Geosites website...

    Fortunately, I am too busy to want to spend time "helping" your "movement", nor is it my job...last time I checked it is yours.

    The funny thing about your assertions is that they are totally off base... put on your big boy panties and GTFU. I have never attacked you or told you to STFU over the very repetitive posts you deem as advocating for something, you however, have completely failed to justify why people should invest their hard earned reputations into your dated website that belongs to a private person.

    If you want to be taken seriously it takes work and lots of it. the biggest thing you can do for your movement is set it up as a 501c-pick your flavor company, being a 501-c indicates seriousness. I suggest looking to EMILY's list as a way forward.

    Next, try generating some buzz and investing time in getting some brand recognition and making your website a living creature that grows like this one. When the last "meaningful" news update was from 2015 it is hard for me to take your "movement" as something that has momentum.

    At the end of the day if you want people who have built good reputations to lend some of it to you you need to invest in making them COMFORTABLE doing so, don't just sit on your ass and act like one, this is not a "build it and they will come" deal, this is a "I built this, it is awesome, come check it out, I need some help to get to the next level" deal.

    Keep advocating for what you want, all you want, I will be last person to condemn you for position advocating. If you want to sit there and continuously act like a cranky 3 year old up past bed time, then guess what, I will call you on it when it crosses lines.

    Once you get your act together and it meets certain standards of basic professionalism, you can whine all you want and who knows, I might even support your whining.

  20. [20] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    Now as to the US being number one...

    According to some of the polls out there is it already too late...and single parent families have nothing to do with it.

    If what I see in foreign papers is any indicator, the US has not been number one for the past few years. the trend however seems to be accelerating. It used to be whatever we did was page one, now not even the tweets make the papers in other countries. If you look through page one through three of many other countries papers you see China, Germany, the EU, and Russia dominating the space.

    While arguably the problem is complex, I would have to say that the problem is in fact complex, and perhaps one part of the problem is that we as a nation are in a generational transition phase where the old established ways of power have been rode to the end of the proverbial road and new ways are being developed. Unfortunately for the US, the current guard of power is more interested in preserving their way of life and power for the few remaining days they have and for those that will inherit what is left, hence we find ourselves with fun things like MAGA, only problem is that we were already AG.... Again Single Parent families not the problem...

  21. [21] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    I think, Elizabeth, that I can push back against the charge that America is in decline.

    Sure, to be fair, we look like shit right now, like a guy coming off a bender on a Monday. We've got a billionaire dilettante with delusions of grandeur playing at being President, a congress locked by gerrymandering into extreme political positions, a major news network that has traded veracity for ratings, and a populace that thinks that the winner of any given debate is the one who manages to get the most 'zingers' in.

    It looks bleak.

    "But we are inclined to believe that the Union will last a little longer, and that we shall have some good times yet, in time to come. It has been said that a “special Providence watches over children, drunkards, and the United States.” They make so many blunders, and yet live through them, it must be that they are cared for, for they take very little care of themselves. So we are disposed to trust Providence, and not to worry."

    - . “Editor’s Drawer” column in the December 1856 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine Volume 14.

    It must have seemed like such a foolhardy thing to write when, just four years later, the country exploded into one of history's bloodiest civil wars.

    But we got through that, and, as Harper's predicted, there were good times again. Yet to come were some of America's best days, in fact.

    It can become so distressing to be bogged down in the minutae of the minute - sometimes it seems we've been set down in the middle of a game of six-way contract bridge. It feels overwhelming.

    And we argue about every little f**king detail. We argued our way through the New Deal, the Cold war, and the Civil Rights era. We dumped a corrupt president only to get an inept one, then a pious one, then a zealot.

    But progress just keeps happening. We got computers and remade the world again. Now brain-mapping projects in the US, Asia and Europe are like the Cook and Magellan expeditions of old, promising mysterious and novel new paths of discovery.

    We might have created a temporary idiocracy here at home, but hey, Canada and France have exciting young leaders with new ideas, and Britain and Germany have tumultuous politics, but mostly steady reliable leadership, and nearly everyone now is onto Putin's game (except Trump), and nationalists have been mostly turned away at the polls since Brexit and Trump's election. Virginia signaled that the tide may be turning in the US as well, as the sizes and types of wins that night suggests an electorate clearly saying: enough.

    Too soon to slap the mat for this fighter. We'll be done with Trump soon enough, and the system - which has already found ways to ignore and go around him - will survive, and even thrive, having learned a dear but valuable lesson about civics.

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Too soon to slap the mat for this fighter. We'll be done with Trump soon enough, and the system - which has already found ways to ignore and go around him - will survive, and even thrive, having learned a dear but valuable lesson about civics.

    America was in decline long before Trump. The key here is how well managed the decline will be and whether the US can recapture and maintain its global leadership role. Because, in case you haven't noticed, France is stepping up to that plate. Ahem.

    What you are talking about, Balthasar, has to do with a nation's capacity and resiliency. I will be the last to slap the mat on this score but it is foolish to be decline denier. I know, I've been there!

  23. [23] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    [27] goode trickle:

    If you want to receive money from people and be taken seriously you need to have a serious website. Not one that screams scam. I would be happy with a basic Geosites website...

    I tried to tell him this months ago, but it wasn’t what he wanted to hear. I ran a non-profit for almost ten years and tried to share a few things that I learned from working in a field that relies on you being able to convince other people to share your vision if you want to eat, but he already knew all he needed to know to be successful I guess.

    Don Harris,

    I don’t want Chris to ban you, but you should know that your self-promotion posts are viewed by most people the same way as those Facebook posts you see in comment sections talking about how the person now earns thousands of dollars a month while working at home after clicking the link they want to share with us: it feels like a scam!

    Seriously, your comments on here focus only on slamming every politician that dares accept a donation larger than $50 regardless of the topic! The fact that you cannot convince a group of like-minded, liberal-leaning folks who all agree that we need to get Big Money out of politics to jump on your bandwagon should be a giant red flag for you! “One Demand”, the name announces that you are pushing ONE and ONLY ONE requirement that MUST be met to garner your support. The problem is that you expect people to throw away their vote in protest if that ONE requirement isn’t met. Still confused as to why this hasn’t taken off yet?

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    The point is that regardless of topic if they
    take Big Money they are influenced by Big Money on that topic.

    Don, I don't think that point has any validity to it. Mostly because it doesn't make any sense to me.

    I hope you take Russ's advice to heart because it is wise advice.

    Did someone threaten to ban you from this site? That's crazy.

    Here's the thing about blogs and comment sections. We are all free to read or comment or both and we are all equally free to ignore and move on. Participating in a blog is always most enjoyable when participants resist the urge to respond to everything they don't like and instead contribute something new.

    Speaking of which, it might be nice for a change if, every now and again, we talk about the positive things that are happening instead of dwelling incessantly on the negative.

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Are there any efforts underway in the US to push for campaign finance reform?

    A big topic, I know, but that may be the way to go ...

  26. [26] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    I enumerated the "stats" that illustrate the decline in the American societal structure in my post [20] that first got you going, and you respond by asking me "which stats". Then you proceed to erroneously presume that one must be 'percentage of horrible crimes committed by people raised in single-parent families', and to baselessly presume that I must be excluding families with two same-sex parents from the category of two-parent families.

    Your responses are universally non sequitor, ad hominem, and not to mention, ridiculous.

  27. [27] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    We've gotten far afield from CW's original topic here, probably time to get back.

    On the subject of "A Sea-Change in (sexual) Attitudes", it would seem appropriate to point out that whoever/whatever originally established the human species and the system for the perpetuation thereof, pretty much assured that the problem now dominating the news, would always be with us. (And in fact it HAS always been with us, we've heretofore just chosen to endure it and not discuss it.)

    Whoever is responsible (God, Mother Nature, the infamous Fickle Finger of Fate, or whomever you choose to blame), created the human male to be sexually aggressive (think 'horny'), and polygamous, whereas he/she/it created the human female as (relatively, at least) sexually passive and monogamous.

    As long as those conditions obtain, the problem we're now facing up to will be with us. We can 'tone it down' 'soft-pedal' it, declare it politically incorrect, etc., etc., but it ain't never goin' away!

  28. [28] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Why not take your questions to CW to private email?

  29. [29] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Your responses are universally non sequitur(sic), ad hominem, and not to mention, ridiculous.

    Great, just what we need ... another whining girl. :)

  30. [30] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    According to Ralph Nader and others I should keep asking until I get an answer.

    There was a time, in late 2000, when Ralph had his answer, and still refused to sit down and shut up. The result of that was Bush, Iraq, Afghanistan and folks in secret prisons having unspeakable things done to them in the name of America.

    Some liberals are so enamored of their principles that they forget that process is 50-75% of politics. A good idea presented through the wrong process can die an untimely death, before it can morph into something workable.

    But sometimes the parent of that little idea can't stand the idea that it could grow up, and shudder at the very thought that it might change and develop as it matures. So it dies in its nascent stage. Too bad; it might have made a great seedling for a bigger, better idea.

    Your idea has the seed of a good premise - that reliance on large donors is bad for the system, as their influence can warp our ability to properly prioritize problems.

    We need only to see what's happening on the GOP side of the aisle, where much of the impetus for their current tax-cutting orgy is coming from their donor class, and not from their base, who have identified other priorities in just about every poll. They're actually going to shoot themselves in the foot politically just to appease their asshole donors.

    And of course everyone else will lose as well.

    But instead of seizing on that, and using it as a cautionary tale, and a shoehorn into a frank discussion of donor influence overall, you've kept with the narrow focus of your original idea, and seem to insist on only talking about Democrats in this regard.

    How about this: instead of promising to withhold support from Big Money candidates, you were to use your website to attract attention to struggling candidates in small races? Like a Go Fund Me site for aspiring politicians. Interested folks could be linked directly to these politicians' own websites, where they could shower them with small donations. Eventually, you might cover a majority of small races nationwide this way, reduce the influence of Big Donors nationwide, and perhaps convince all of those new politicians to rely on this type of funding for all their future endeavors.

  31. [31] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    From Amanda Marcotte at Salon:

    Claire Cain Miller at the New York Times has some bad news for those who enjoy blaming unwed mothers for everything from gun violence to poverty: The birth rate for unmarried women has actually gone down 14 percent since its peak in 2008. “The recent declines were sharpest among teenagers; black and Hispanic women; and those without a college degree — all of whom have typically had the highest rates of single motherhood — according to data from the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics,” Miller writes.

    But just because the unwed birth rate is going down doesn't mean that the panic over single motherhood is likely to recede. The majority of Americans believe crime is getting worse, but crime is actually way down since the ’90s. Most Americans also believe teen pregnancy is on the rise, when in fact it's in a sharp decline. So we'll probably continue to hear about how single mothers are responsible for every social ill imaginable.

    You attack single parent homes for creating society’s problems. Do you let the widow’s of our fallen war heroes know that their singleness is a big part of the problem? Oh wait, you don’t mean the ”good ones”, right? At least folks like you stopped referring to them as “welfare queens” and switched to “single parent homes”. That’s a move in the right direction, at least!

  32. [32] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    I've read that the child of a single mother often develops a more diverse and extensive vocabulary, because the mother tends to talk in a more 'adult' manner (and more often) with her child than mothers with a spouse often do.

  33. [33] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    Glad to hear that the unwed birthrate is finally declining. Thank God (or more likely the pharmaceutical companies, and the abortion clinics, more power to 'em).

    I find it interesting that you blame [26] 'income inequality' for causing unwed births. I recall a study several months ago (happened to be about black families if my recollection is correct), which revealed that the average income of two-parent black families was something like 3.6 times the average income of single-parent black families, from which the author came to the exact opposite conclusion which you came to.

    However, if it turns out that your interpretation is correct, meaning income-inequality causes single-parenthood, and single-parenthood actually is declining as the statistics indicate, then the inescapable conclusion can only be that income-inequality is declining. Hows that for a liberal conundrum?

  34. [34] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    I heard that too (about the more diverse and extensive vocabulary). I also heard that unfortunately, those same children also suffer from a poorly developed profanity vocabulary, because the mothers without husbands don't have nearly as much occasion to cuss and swear.

    Guess you just gotta take the good with the bad, right?

  35. [35] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Here's the least-well-kept-secret-in-the-world-except-for-Barry-Manilow's-sexual-preference:

    Crain's New York reports that the Trump Organization is worth of fraction of what it's been claimed to be.

    His political chops aren't worth that much either.

  36. [36] 
    John M wrote:

    [25] Elizabeth Miller

    "You are not seeing the big picture despite having set out three of the major points along the path of America's decline."

    Actually I think I am seeing more of the big picture than you are. To use another metaphor, I think you are concentrating on the trees at the expense of the forest. You are talking about internal politics and I have been talking about external projections of American power as a whole. While the internal signs are indeed troubling, they have nowhere near reached enough of a critical mass as to yet pose a real danger to the state as a whole.

    I would argue, for instance, that Watergate being resolved in the way that it was, made American stronger and not weaker. After all three things I listed, America was still the one to broker the Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt, win the Cold War in 1989, and through sheer persuasion of diplomacy, assemble the largest and most diverse coalition in history to defeat Iraq in the First Gulf War. Just to name three. No other nation could have accomplished that, and certainly not one that was in any sort of decline.

    And despite any pretensions to world or Western leadership on the part of France or anyone else, the fate of the world regarding global warming, nuclear war in Korea, peace or conflict in Ukraine, etc. still almost exclusively depends on decisions made in Washington D.C., and not in Paris or Buenos Aires, or New Delhi, and the rest of the world knows this.

  37. [37] 
    John M wrote:

    Take even more recent examples of American military adventures in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I am not arguing the merits of whether they were good or bad, just the power they represent. What other nations in the world, be it France, Russia or China, can carry out massive and sustained military operations half a world away, in the face of opposition from both allies and foes alike, and still get away with it with impunity?

    The almost worldwide global agnst when Trump announced his intention to withdraw America from the Paris climate accords, is a sign of the critical importance still attached to America and American influence. After all, who cares if Swaziland is a party to the treaty or not. But America? That's still another matter entirely. Germany, the EU, Russia, China may get anecdotal press coverage, but people still run to Washington D.C. whenever an international crisis hits. New York still has more financial influence than Frankfurt, Hollywood more global cultural influence than Bollywood, China still ranks the top 10 universities in the world as all being in the USA, ETC.

  38. [38] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    We're like two ships, John, passing in the night.

  39. [39] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    You are talking about internal politics and I have been talking about external projections of American power as a whole.

    Of course, I am talking about America's global leadership role not its military might.

  40. [40] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    You haven't been around here as long as I have and so you don't realize just how much of a fan I am of America and of the promise of America. Remember, I'm also a Joe Biden fan so that should tell you all you need to know about me and my inclinations toward the idea of America.

    Having said that, there can be no denying that America and her global leadership role have been in decline for some decades now. The Trump administration is on course - domestically and internationally - to accelerate that decline.

    Did you follow Trump's Asia trip? Quite obviously, he is ill-equipped to manage this inevitable decline which has arguably been underway since the end of the Second World War.

  41. [41] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The almost worldwide global agnst when Trump announced his intention to withdraw America from the Paris climate accords, is a sign of the critical importance still attached to America and American influence.

    What do you think of the Bonn climate talks this past week in terms of America's importance and influence?

  42. [42] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Perhaps I should add that when I talk about the inevitable decline of America I am most decidedly NOT talking about its demise.

  43. [43] 
    John M wrote:

    [53] Elizabeth Miller

    "Of course, I am talking about America's global leadership role not its military might."

    The two go hand in hand, but I am not talking exclusively about military might either. Military power and ability is only one indicator of greatness among many.

    My point is that it is still the case that there is virtually nothing that can get successfully done internationally if it lacks at least indirect American support in some way, and certainly not in the face of American opposition. Whether it is : trade negotiations, cultural, scientific, environmental or humanitarian operations like global polio vaccinations, etc.

    That is not true of any other nation, including France. The other nations at the Bonn climate talks can come to any kind of agreement and plan of action that they want. But unless the American government is ultimately involved and throws its full support behind it, any agreement is doomed to failure in the long run.

    There are also many that argue that the height of American power happened not at the end of World War II, but at the end of the Cold War, and that we have only been in decline since then. I still disagree.

    Trump is ill-equipped. But many have said the same thing about Carter and Bush II also. But for every one of those we have had, we also get the likes of FDR and Kennedy, and Obama, as Democrats would say, or Reagan and Bush I as Republicans might argue.

  44. [44] 
    John M wrote:

    On the other major topic, the one strong correlation that I have seen, is the one regarding educational success and wealth or income level. The more wealthy a district is, the higher an educational level it has, and vice versa. Now as to the underlying reasons for that, that is entirely open to debate. But across school districts nationwide, it holds true.

  45. [45] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The other nations at the Bonn climate talks can come to any kind of agreement and plan of action that they want. But unless the American government is ultimately involved and throws its full support behind it, any agreement is doomed to failure in the long run.

    That is simply not true and anyone who has followed the events at the climate talks in Bonn this past week understands what can be accomplished without the US federal government and, indeed, despite the federal government!

  46. [46] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    On the other major topic, the one strong correlation that I have seen, is the one regarding educational success and wealth or income level. The more wealthy a district is, the higher an educational level it has, and vice versa. Now as to the underlying reasons for that, that is entirely open to debate. But across school districts nationwide, it holds true.

    Shocking ... positively shocking.

  47. [47] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    There are also many that argue that the height of American power happened not at the end of World War II, but at the end of the Cold War, and that we have only been in decline since then. I still disagree.

    Are you conflating American military power with American influence and global leadership?

    America can be in relative decline (as other nations rise) and still possess the most powerful military in the world, right?

  48. [48] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Liz [59] Going around Trump has gone from a national to a World sport.

  49. [49] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    That's the very best thing about Trump - his presidency has opened up vast spaces for up-wing American leaders to assume the controls.

    Just like Governor Brown has done on the climate change file.

  50. [50] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    This could be a very good trend, you know.

    All politics is local (and personal) and it's about time that states, cities and businesses get involved in formulating solutions to the great global challenges that face us all.

  51. [51] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Face it Chris, it appears nobody around here gives a damn about the "Sea Change".

  52. [52] 
    John M wrote:

    [59] Elizabeth Miller

    "That is simply not true and anyone who has followed the events at the climate talks in Bonn this past week understands what can be accomplished without the US federal government and, indeed, despite the federal government!"

    I am not at all denying that great progress can be made without the national U.S. government, like California and others are doing. It can even be used to persuade and goad the Federal government into action.

    But what I am saying is that it simply won't be enough without the full support of the Federal government and the enforcement of the EPA on a nationwide basis.

    All you have to do is look at the history and the ultimate failure of the Kyoto protocols to see what U.S. national opposition to an agreement has in terms of global consequences.

  53. [53] 
    John M wrote:

    [61] Elizabeth Miller

    "Are you conflating American military power with American influence and global leadership?

    America can be in relative decline (as other nations rise) and still possess the most powerful military in the world, right?"

    Not at all, and of course. But that totally ignores what I have been saying about other aspects of American influence regarding entertainment, culture, educational, scientific and economic influence worldwide. America may have temporarily lost some of its appeal as a democratic and human rights example do to our current domestic political situation. But then, no nation is always perfect, nor is it a condition that is likely to last, and certainly isn't yet any sort of indicator of any kind of steep decline in American leadership and influence in the world.

    On the contrary, I would argue that many nations are still hungry for and look to America to re-establish its global leadership role. While other nations can certainly step in to try to fill some of that position, none can do as effectively or as completely as America still can. And indeed, may nations are either not yet comfortable doing so, because it calls too much attention to them, like China or Germany, or would be opposed in such a role by too many other nations, like Russia or even France would be.

  54. [54] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    On the contrary, I would argue that many nations are still hungry for and look to America to re-establish its global leadership role.

    Absolutely, positively, unequivocally!

    Which is what I have been preaching since I began participating in this blog.

  55. [55] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Denying that America is in decline is not a good first step in the effective management of that decline.

  56. [56] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Did you click on the Email Chris button?

  57. [57] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    cw gets his e-mails, web-form or otherwise. he's very busy and doesn't always have the time or energy to respond, but in my experience he's quite good about reading anything he's sent.


    education is a common scapegoat for our decline in influence, but the "production" of poorly-informed citizens is a complex cultural phenomenon. the rich have always had better educational opportunities than the poor; that's one moving part in a socioeconomic system that exacerbates inequalities, and has done so even more as the public narrative has turned toward standardized testing and privatization to "solve" it. if you want to truly understand the connection, diane ravitch's "the death and life of the great american school system" is a great place to start.


  58. [58] 
    John M wrote:

    [69] Elizabeth Miller

    Accepting America's decline as a given, what would be your prescription for a cure?

    A better education population? A simple change in leadership at the Presidential level? Some combination of the two?

    What qualities should would look for in the next President? Especially given that so many Americans like what they saw in Trump, saw themselves in Trump, and applauded his supposedly tell it like it is style, and truly despised Hillary and her supposed remote elitism?

  59. [59] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    For starters, John, I think every eligible American voter, before they are able to vote, should have to pass the test that new immigrants take before they become citizens.

    Would that pass constitutional muster?

    Also, I think high school should include a few mandatory civics classes before qualifying for college or university.

    The qualities that I would look for in a politician or presidential candidate would be honesty, common decency, curiosity, knowledgeable and willing to learn, adaptable, just to name a few.

    In terms of leadership prowess, I'd be drawn to an up-wing leader who places a special emphasis on big think/think big future-oriented and enlightened policies in an effort to position a society on the global cutting edge, even in the midst of great challenges and crises that would paralyze a more down-wing political leader. (Notice I do not make any distinctions between the old and tired left/right, liberal/conservative spectrums.)

    I'd love to elaborate but I am out of time and energy for today.

  60. [60] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    I see no reason to lay blame for any loss of U.S. international influence on our rapidly decaying public education system, There is little or no connection between the two.

    The decay is primarily centered at the lower end of the social spectrum, which never did have any meaningful effect on 'international influence'. The top ranks of the U.S. education system still lead the world. Fortunately, there seem to be enough J.D. Vance's to carry the burden for those of his hillbilly classmates and relatives that are still wandering lost in the fog of opiate abuse.

    And regardless of how much liberals refuse to admit it, the decay of U.S. public education is the direct result of the decay of the U.S. family. Children of single-parent homes arrive at school far behind their intact-family peers, and NEVER catch up. We have tried to impose the burden of early childhood development, which traditionally happened at home but no longer does, on the public school system, and the system simply isn't up to the task.

    We are paying a terrible price for permitting the demise of the traditional two-parent family, but I doubt that it is in the loss of "international influence" that we are paying.

  61. [61] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    civic literacy tests would probably not pass constitutional muster, vis-a-vis the 24th amendment and the 1965 voting rights act.


    i think you're right about deterioration of families being a major factor. it's not just the nuclear family though, extended families are also not contributing to child-rearing as they once did.


  62. [62] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Stucki [78] The decay is primarily centered at the lower end of the social spectrum.... The top ranks of the U.S. education system still lead the world.

    And, if this tax bill passes, it strips the ability of the Middle Class to deduct College tuition, and there goes the middle, and that will in turn hurt the top, as schools scramble to make up for lost income. So enjoy your tax cut, suckers.

    The biggest obstacle to reforming American education is that Republicans are openly hostile to the educational establishment. One need not look any further for proof of that than the fact that the current Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, never set foot in a public school until she was put in charge of one.

    So the short-term future of education boils down to one of chronic under-funding for public institutions, coupled with continued commercial and religious meddling with federal sanction.

    To really reform American Education, and restore the value of an American High School degree, we need to establish a national curriculum, and at least the same quality national standards for schools that McDonalds has for its restaurants. The last time that the US undertook any upgrade of its education system was back in the 1960's, and it's over-overdue again.

  63. [63] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    I was never aware that there ever WAS a deduction for college tuition? And isn't most public education (K-12) funded at the state and local level?

  64. [64] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    democrats are every bit as culpable as republicans for gutting public education. arne duncan? michelle rhee? rahm emanuel? democrats.


  65. [65] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    CR - [81] isn't most public education (K-12) funded at the state and local level?

    Mostly, but that's just a part of America's education needs. Dept. of Education spending in the US is just a measly three percent or so of the federal budget, but it covers a lot that local spending doesn't. In the 2018 budget, outlays include Student tuition loans, Pell Grants, Perkins Grants, school development grants, teacher development grants, and block grants to develop magnet schools and charter schools. DOE also provides funds for special education, education for the Deaf, rural education, Indian education, vocational training and rehabilitation, adult education, and preschool development. And that's before we get to such things as teacher training, school lunch programs and programs targeted at veterans.

    I was never aware that there ever WAS a deduction for college tuition

    Probably that's because the DOE's advertising budget is less than that of your local car dealership. The program was called the American Opportunity Tax Credit and allowed a deduction of up to $1,000 per year. Not much, but valuable to the middle and lower classes.

    JL [82] democrats are every bit as culpable as republicans for gutting public education

    Not when you compare their actual legislative efforts. Democrats are mostly accused of not funding education enough while Republicans mostly try to eviscerate and defund DOE programs entirely.

  66. [66] 
    MHorton wrote:

    Hey Don, did you ever come up with that evidence I asked for?

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