Congressional Dereliction of Duty


I have read several comments in the past few days stating that Donald Trump, as President of the United States, has a duty to defend the United States from invasion, and that his refusal to take any action regarding Russia’s past and ongoing cyber invasion of the nation is a failure to do his duty.

He is a failure in every way, but under our Constitution repelling invasions is not his duty.

In Article I of the United States Constitution, in Section 8, which specifies responsibilities of Congress, the 15th paragraph reads as follows:

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

This is the only reference in the Constitution to enforcing the laws by force of arms, to suppressing insurrections, and to repelling invasions.

Repelling invasions is a clear Congressional responsibility.

The Congress, if they were to honor their Oath of Office and obey their Constitutional direction, would be passing legislation to deal with the Russian invasion.

  • They would address Russian hacking
  • They would address the public dissemination of hacked materials
  • They would address the security of voting which, although a State task, is done under the auspices of the Constitution.

These are bare minimum actions which Congress would take. There are undoubtedly more which, if Congress were faithful, they would feel necessary.

Every intelligence organization in the United States has specifically told Congress that we have been invaded.

Virtually every intelligence organization among our allies in the Western world agrees. Many have said to publicly.

The 115th Congress is acting in complete, total, and unceasing disregard for their Oath of Office. The United States Constitution is not, as of this date, in operation by any measure.

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His Call for Hillary’s Assassination


This essay was originally published on 20 September 2016, in a previous incarnation of No Package Deals. I am republishing it on the current incarnation as of June 29th, 2017. I hope it helps people remember how we got where we are.

On September 16th, 2016, Donald J. Trump made a clear specific call for his followers to attack and disarm Hillary Clinton’s Secret Service detail. He warned them that it would be very dangerous. This is the plain meaning of the words he said in the order he said them. He did not literally call on them to kill Secretary Clinton, he just said that after they disarmed her guards we would see what would happen. He did literally say to them twice, in separate pronouncements, “Take their guns.”

Donald J. Trump said, in public in front of recording devices and a human audience, in part:

“Take their guns away, she doesn’t want guns. Take their, let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, okay? It’ll be very dangerous.”

Although this speech was widely reported on television and in newspapers, few if any reported his exact words. Such reporting as there was mostly focused on his first paragraph, where he said he thought her guard detail should disarm.  I have not seen any acknowledgement that in his second paragraph the clear meaning of his words was that listeners, presumably his followers, should disarm her Secret Service detail.  But that is exactly what he said, in no uncertain terms.

Following is the text of his speech, as transcribed by me from a video available on YouTube. There is a break in the video, a jump as typically occurs when something is cut out of a video clip during editing. I have not been able to find a copy of the video which appears to continue in unbroken stream without an editing break. This is the full text of the video clip.

“While my opponent slanders you (pause) as deplorable and irredeemable (shakes head while audience boos) boy that second word is tough, you don’t hear that as much, but that means you’re never gonna come back, folks (arms out, pitying) and I know you’re gonna come back, we’re gonna come back so strong (points out into audience) we’re gonna be so strong…

“Now you know she’s very much against the Second Amendment, she wants to destroy your Second Amendment; guns, guns, guns, right. I think what we should do is she goes around with armed bodyguards like you have never seen before. I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons, they should disarm, right, right? I think they should disarm. Immediately, what do you think? (points toward audience) Yes, yeah.

“Take their guns away, she doesn’t want guns. Take their, let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, okay? It’ll be very dangerous.”

I invite you to observe exactly what Trump has done here. In two paragraphs he has given two different messages. That’s why we have paragraphs. So we can continue in the same topic but change concept.

In the first paragraph he says he thinks “they” (presumably her guards) should disarm. But that’s not all he says, even in that paragraph. He says, “…she wants to destroy your Second Amendment…” Hillary has never said or implied she wanted to “destroy” the Second Amendment, and no President has that power anyway.  It’s all in the Constitution, how amendments are made. Hillary calls for universal background checks; she calls for keeping people on terrorist watch lists from buying guns. Most people pass backgound checks already, why not everybody else? People who can’t pass background checks are the ones we don’t want running around with guns.  A “good guy with a gun” can pass a background check. Many gun owners agree with her. Trump, though, has a standard lie he tells about Hillary and the Second Amendment. So he tells that lie.  His crowd knows it like when a band plays their hit, and they boo. Then just sort of out of the clear blue sky he says, “Guns! Guns. Guns.” Or maybe he doesn’t punch it quite this hard, maybe he just says, “Guns, guns, guns.” As he says it he waves his right arm, starting with it upright at mid body, then dropping it to the horizontal, no not like drawing a gun, not exactly, a time or two.   He leans pretty hard on those words in his speech; their inclusion in the sentence right there is very strange. Their meaning is for the emotions, not for the mind. Get the boys thinking, “guns, guns, guns,” and after that comes, “…what we should do…” Not, what they should do, although he goes on to say exactly what “they” (her guard detail) should do. So in that paragraph it is fuzzy whether he is talking about what “we” (his followers) should do, or what “they” (her guard detail) should do. Whomever he thinks should do it, the recommended action is that her guards should disarm immediately. “…her bodyguards should drop all weapons, they should disarm, right? Right?”

OK, say I’m carrying a gun in my pocket. I’ve been taking a few million bucks to the bank, or maybe guarding a presidential candidate.  When I get home from work, do I “drop all weapons?” Doesn’t that strike you as a bit extreme?  When I disarmed before coming home from Vietnam I handed somebody my rifle.  Heck, I don’t even remember who.  That is to disarm.  “Drop all weapons”?

Then he delivers this instruction:

“Take their guns away, she doesn’t want guns. Take their, let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, okay? It’ll be very dangerous.”

Public speaking is performance art, and few dispute that Donald Trump is a master.  He has accomplished a great deal through his skill as a public speaker and performer. People like myself tend to sneer and jeer at his mangled sentences and his blithe disregard for internal contradictions, but I’m an obscure hick in the sticks and he is the presidential nominee of what was and still might be one of the world’s most powerful political parties. I’ve got a few bucks in the bank and he is, if not a billionaire, at least broke at the very highest level. So he is doing something right. And that thing he is doing right is talking, in arenas and on television. Donald Trump is the Rolling Stones of public speaking: 70 years old and still at the top of his game. He has a large number of heavily armed people who are proud to proclaim their loyalty to and belief in him, and he just told them to take away the guns from Hillary’s Secret Service detail.

I read the text of his words for two or three days before I ever watched the video. I was horrified by reading it.  As far as I could tell the electronic media weren’t too concerned.  Donald “joked”, they told us. Donald “hinted”.  Donald, we were told, said her guards should disarm.  The usual authoritative voices told us he said her Secret Service guards should lay their guns down. That is not what he said.  

He didn’t “joke” and he didn’t “hint.” And he emphatically did not say the Secret Service should “lay their weapons down.” He said, “Drop all weapons.” He spoke simple sentences, simple words in the imperative voice.  If I was in combat and my commanding officer pointed at somebody and said to me, “Take their guns away,” I would either take their guns away or die trying.

Yes, he did say they should disarm, but not in an orderly, lay aside your guns way. They should drop all guns. He mixed “we” with “they” in his listeners’ ears. After he said that part he did not stop talking or change the subject.  “Drop all weapons” was near the beginning, not at the end. He started there, and then he said, “Take their guns away.  It will be very dangerous.”  Of course it’s dangerous. Taking guns away from people is inherently dangerous. That is why I said “…or die trying.”  I meant that literally. In war you do something or die trying. Donald said, Do this. He didn’t quite say, Or die trying. But he warned them it will be very dangerous.

I don’t routinely watch videos of things; I don’t own a television.  In this case it appeared to me that I had drawn significantly different conclusions from reading a transcript than people who watched the speech had, so I watched the video to see if I could understand the difference. It is widely accepted that people speaking can communicate more powerfully than the written word, and that television is more powerful than radio. Maybe he had somehow hidden his meaning in his delivery.

Watching it was worse. The performance was more horrifying than the transcribed text.  He didn’t disguise his meaning at all. This speech was given, during a presidential campaign, in my home country. Nobody went to jail. I invite you to watch it again above. The part I highlight above starts at about 55 seconds.

Notice his delivery. Watch his head, how he turns it to the side, lowers his voice, then points at them… speaks another few words… looks at them… raises his voice, projects into the microphone as he says, “Take their guns away.” Then he fades, “she doesn’t want guns.” Then he looks Right At Them, he turns on that Donald Trump Magic Thing, and he raises his voice higher. “Take their guns away, okay.” Long blink, eyes closed, turns his head. More softly now. “It’ll be very dangerous.” And that’s the end of the speech.

Could any other person make this speech in public right now in the United States of America without immediate legal repercussions?

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Democratic Campaigning 2

As I said in Democratic Campaigning 1, Republicans have managed to convince most Americans that if the Federal Government tries to do anything for the people’s benefit, individual voters will wind up getting screwed. How have they been able to accomplish this?

As is often the case, they were able to take a molehill of truth and advertise it into a mountain of belief. Marketing and advertising are beyond the scope of this essay save to note that merchants will spend 5 million dollars without batting an eye to put 30 seconds of their message before all the Americans who watch the Super Bowl. I take this as proof that advertising works.

I address elsewhere what I think our message should be. In this essay I will address instead that molehill of truth that laid us open to the belief, utterly devastating to Democratic Party electoral success, that the government is more likely to screw everyday Americans than to help them.

Humans often think the way to solve a problem is by prohibiting people from doing this or that thing, and by forcing them to do this or that other thing. Two sure ways to annoy people is to tell them what they must do and what they must not do. “Eat your spinach” has never been that popular. In fact, it rates right up there with “Don’t eat that doughnut.”

Have you ever heard the phrase “Nanny state”? Did it sound like a good thing to you?

Take for example the Affordable Care Act, ACA. Obamacare.

Just for starters, it’s not even a Democratic idea. We stole it from Republicans. It shouldn’t be called Obamacare; it should be called Romneycare. Or HeritageCare. Governor Mitt started with a “market based” system from a Republican think tank and got it enacted in Massachusetts before Barack Obama ever became President. Poor innocent President Obama thought if he got a Republican health care solution enacted by a fractious Democratic Congress the Republicans would have the honor and decency to accept their own idea as the law of the land. Unfortunately he was President in a dishonorable age so it didn’t work out that way.

The basis of the Heritage Foundation’s health care plan was textbook Corporate Nanny State: all Americans would be forced to purchase health insurance from for-profit corporations. Since said corporations would have a steady income stream from healthy young people they would be able to operate at a profit while simultaneously paying their executives multi-million dollar annual salaries and providing care for the ill and aging portions of the population.

This forced private market transaction would be enforced by tax penalties for anyone who didn’t knuckle under.

In return for the having the government force all Americans to buy their product whether they wanted to or not, the insurance companies would agree to actually provide a decent level of care for the sick, even the already sick.

Leaving aside the various tricks, traps, and implementation failures, how could the Democratic Party be surprised when this made a huge number of Americans angry?

If you don’t buy something expensive that you don’t think you need and don’t particularly want, the government is going to tax you extra. But if or when you get sick or hurt you’ll be glad you’ve got it.

Marketing brilliance, this. Eat. Your. Spinach.

I propose that, instead, the Democratic Congress and Democratic President should have gotten together and passed a bill providing free health care for all who wanted it, and left the for-profit health industry entirely alone to sink or swim on its own.

Millions of Americans believe that they can get better care by paying for it than the government could give them for free. Let them.

Millions of Americans can’t get any care at all by paying for it because they don’t have enough money. Care for them.

No spinach unless you want it. You want that doughnut, eat the doughnut.

We are, after all, not Europe. We don’t have to do it Europe’s way. We brag about our freedom: let Americans choose.

I lay this idea out in more detail here, in an essay I call O’Jeffy Care.

Or look at global warming. If you didn’t know better you’d think that absolutely the only way to fix global warming is by taxing carbon emissions at a high enough rate to be painful, under the theory that to avoid the pain people will figure out ways to quit emitting so much carbon.

Pardon me, but this is stupid beyond words. No wonder so many Americans “don’t believe in” global warming. They’re not entirely stupid. You have already told them that admitting that global warming exists is going to cost them money.

Then you wonder why they won’t vote for you.

I have some ideas for dealing with global warming, None of them include taxes on people trying to get to work in the morning. I lay them out in broad terms here and here.

In broad terms, as Democrats we need to look to our roots with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Make people’s lives easier through government. Make it voluntary. FDR didn’t tell people that absolutely had to go to the WPA or the CCC. He offered the services to them in terms they could see were to their benefit. He did require them to participate in Social Security, but that tax was not used as a punitive device.

The two major recent Democratic tax ideas have been punitive. Buy insurance or we’ll punish you with taxes. Emit carbon and we’ll punish you with taxes.

And we wonder why Republicans can convince people that taxes are punitive.

There is, as we say out here in the sticks, more than one way to skin a cat. (No, don’t ask me. I have no idea why anybody would ever want to skin a cat.)

We have to do one major thing for Americans: use government to solve their problems. We have to do it in one particular way: so it doesn’t hurt them.

My ideas aren’t the only ideas, but any idea which can be summed up as “Eat your spinach,” needs to be put on the back burner. We can do this better.

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Addressing Global Warming

Tackling global warming is a war level, survival level event. Our military knows this. Everyone with a lick of sense knows it. A Democratic administration and Congress could address the problem at a level appropriate to the existential threat we face.

I am ashamed that the United States is, temporarily at least, not part of the Paris Agreement. However, I think we could realistically exceed the Paris goals, and I think we must. I think global energy accumulation, the process normally known as global warming or climate change, is already worse than you have been told, not because somebody is lying to you but because most serious researchers have careful, prove-that-twice, intellectually conservative mindsets. I have an untested theory that climate researchers have overlooked a growing reservoir of added energy which can’t be measured with a thermometer. If I’m right we have less time than the worst estimate you have seen. And if it’s not as bad as I think, but we do all we can anyway, we lose nothing except some money. We will have a vastly less destructive society than before. It’s OK.

The gases which capture increasing measures of solar energy in the earth’s systems come primarily from generating electricity and from transporting people and objects from place to place. Power and transportation. There are lesser causes which I will not address here.

Power generation

Power generation is the number one source of energy-capturing gases. Step 1 for addressing this would be to cover every roof, and roof every parking lot, in the United States with solar panels. The spaces are already dead. Nothing additional has to die or get destroyed. There are approximately a zillion acres of roofs and parking lots.  We could turn waste space into productive space. Parking lots would come to be shady in the summer and dry in the rain. What’s not to like?

I mean this literally. Every roof, or at least every roof with an east, west, or south facing exposure. Pretty much every roof. Private homes. Commercial buildings. Schools and governments. I would exempt churches as long as they’d promise not to use any electricity. Every parking lot. Individual parking places where possible. Yes, at taxpayer expense, if need be. This is war. You just can’t see the bullets.

I don’t care how far from the equator these roofs and parking lots are, or how cloudy. I’d do it in the Pacific Northwest. For crying out loud, I’m talking rooftops and parking lots. Solar panels run for free, for a long time. After amortizing the energy required to produce and install them, any output greater than zero would be a net gain. And I bet before we got them all up somebody would have figured out how to capture more power under clouds than we are now. Geeze, you can get a sunburn under clouds. People are clever. They’ll figure out a way to catch that energy.

There would be a curve while production ramped up on solar panels, but this is war. Think of the production of tanks and aircraft during World War II. We need to get cracking: the world is about to put us in our place. We are running a hundred miles an hour; the bridge is out.

I don’t know if solar panels everywhere we could possibly put them plus other renewable processes would generate enough electricity to meet our needs, but I know this for absolute sure: It would get us a lot closer than we are now. If we chased it from both sides, renewable generation and energy efficiency / waste reduction, I bet we could break even before it was all over.

Just one example: Parking lot lights. I can see Kansas City, Excelsior Springs, and Richmond, MO from here at night. 50 miles away, 15 miles away, and 5 miles away respectively. The light I see is wasted energy produced by wasting other energy. It is provably, emprirically wasted energy: there is no human being alive who obtains any benefit from sending that light out where I can see it. Waste. All that energy contributes to warming the planet we live on. It’s time to get smart.

The Solarization Project will require skillful, physically capable workers everywhere in the country where there are roofs or parking lots. In other words, everywhere people live. There will be more work for blue-collar workers than all the unemployed or underemployed blue collar people in the country. Miners, just to take one currently popular example, are almost all physically strong and have high mechanical aptitude, appreciably higher than the general population according to recent research I saw, A nationwide solar installation project could easily put every unemployed miner in the country to work mining sunshine and still go on advertising for help.  Finding enough workers will be a limiting factor in how fast we can accomplish this.

We’ve had worse problems.

Needless to say, a distributed renewable generation system will require a distributed smart grid to handle it. That’s OK too. Our existing grid is a mishmash of new, old, and drooping down gravel roads on locust poles. There are probably as many underemployed geeks in the country as there are underemployed ladder jockeys. They can design the new grid and build the physical plant for it. If we’re halfway smart we’ll design it inside a virtual capsule which makes it more robust and hack resistant.

It seems inevitable that a nationwide project at the outer limits of established technology would attract inventive people and spur invention and manufacturing of peripheral improvements to the technology. I would expect widespread economic growth and activity to accompany any serious attempt to halt or drastically reduce global climate change.

Although I have only spoken so far of solar, we already have wind generation at work, and room to increase it. I have mixed feelings about wind; I dislike covering wild lands with windmills. Windmills require vastly more maintenance than solar systems. However, humans build things. Seeing windmills dotted across the prairies and mountain ridges would beat dying because the overheated ecosystem could no longer feed us. The same reasoning applies to tide generation.

I don’t even know what or how many other power production systems are in development or running in somebody’s garage right now today. I suspect there are some. The government should aid and evaluate such research. Remember, we are at war with our own past ignorance here; it is reasonable to spend some money.

Obviously, power storage technology would evolve. It already is. We can almost surely store power better than we do now, but we’ve got means available to us today that will work for a long time. We should encourage and assist with invention but don’t have to wait for it. This isn’t some Clean Coal Chimera. We can do this with off the shelf technology.

There is a sizable amount of energy storage research and development going on. If inventors were pretty sure that somebody was going to get rich thinking up the better battery or pump-back system, I bet they’d be right. Somebody would. The need is there.


Second to energy generation, transportation is a major source of the energy-capturing gases we are adding to our atmosphere. In addition to pollution and global warming gases, our current transportation system is an amazing combination of wasteful of space, energy, and time; deadly and injurious to users; and a source of war and conflict worldwide.

Heat engines – internal combustion engines, whether they burn gasoline, diesel, natural gas, hydrogen, whatever – are inherently inefficient. Typical engine efficiencies in modern cars are in the 25% range. Finely tuned racing engines approach 50%. The largest and most efficient diesel engine in the world peaks at 51.7% thermal efficiency.

Electric motors routinely run at above 80% efficiency. Well designed applications often exceed 95% efficient.

Any sensible transportation system would rely on electric rail for long distance transportation and electric local vehicles for short hop and local transportation.

I lay out such a system, and some thoughts about getting there from where we are, in my essay Rational Transportation.

Global climate change / stored energy increase is the biggest problem in human history. Humankind literally must figure out a way to reduce the net increase of energy-storing molecules in the atmosphere to zero. Zero net increase. Can we do that? I’m not sure. The closer we get, though, the longer we can hope to keep civilization. We need to put absolutely all we can think of toward solving this problem.

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Plutocracy – Oligarchy

The United States of America has been taken over by the same people who run Russia.

I used to think that meant: Russians.

The longer I watch the clearer it becomes: Not exactly Russians, although there are a lot of Russians in the bunch.  Worldwide Plutarchs and Oligarchs. Putin may be First Among Equals, but there are a lot of Americans in there too. They have no nation. Look at the news. Rex Tillerson was some kind of Hero of The Russian Federation already years ago. The Trump and Kuchner families are all over central Eurasia. Vladimir Putin chose our President. I can’t even remember which American Oligarch ran the bank on Cyprus where Russia and Exxon and all those folks trade money, but he’s in Trump’s cabinet.

They are all one international cooperative. They have taken over the United States.

It was already grim before Citizen’s United, but that was the beginning of the end.

They have taken over and they don’t care who knows it. Who are “They?” Well, I just named a couple of them, but overall, they are the top one percent of the top one percent, the ultra-billionaires of the entire world and their necessary agents, bagmen, organizers, and spies. They are Russians, Arabs, Israelis, Americans, Europeans – especially but not exclusively Eastern Europeans – and they do business with each other.

Their primary tool of conquest has been propaganda distributed by the various communications media, focused and directed through the use of data mining.

Is it organized crime? Yes. No. They are so rich the term hardly applies. If they need somebody dead somebody dies. The laws of the various nations where they live and travel are minor inconveniences to be ignored or gotten around. But they don’t think of themselves as mobsters. They’re just businessmen. They dislike the idea of government because by its very nature government puts limits on what they can take and what they can do. And they don’t tolerate limits.

Since a quick glance at human history shows government to be inevitable, the best solution for them is to take it over and cripple all its otherwise normal functions.

There is no question but what the Koch Brothers are involved, even though they haven’t been very loud lately. They’re Kansas boys; they don’t strut around like some blowhard New Yorker trying to escape Queens. They like to be left alone in the background.

One assumes Sheldon Adelson. He’s a small, quiet, international gambling magnate. Whether gambling is legal or not it attracts the same folks. The same individuals, even.

You know at least some of the agents and bagmen too. Manafort. Prince. Stone. Page. Cohen.

Mitch McConnell manages the local branch. He is Governor of the United States of America under the authority of the Plutocracy. The Trump family works for him, except they’re batshit crazy so nobody knows for sure what they might do when.

There is no pretense whatsoever that the United States government is the republic of old, meaning 1980. I mean, look at Congress. Listen to what they say, watch what they do. Then read a newspaper from 1976. Or from the middle of Watergate, say 1973. Or from the brutal early Vietnam War years, 1968, 1969, 1970. Both parties of Congress made a serious attempt to convince the voters they cared about the country. I suspect that many of them did.

There is no such pretense today. Oh, they tell a few lies, but they’re sneering at us. Refusing entirely, in advance, to seat anyone a President might nominate to the  Supreme Court for a quarter of his term? Not ever. Senators writing a bill in secret? No. Not in the United States. They are not pretending.

The Contempt the 115th Congress shows for the American People and our Constitution is mind boggling. The nation has been conquered.

Follow political reporting. Campaign reporting, It’s all about who has the most money, who collected the most money last week, last month, Everybody knows that these offices are bought and sold. Marketing experts can tell you what a vote costs and then go buy it for you. Every campaign is The Most Expensive Campaign for [this office] Ever!

Nobody ever says, How come a job that pays $174,000 a year turns some obscure high school wrestling coach into a multi-millionaire? It didn’t come out of his paycheck. And how come a multi-millionaire Congressman still has to suck up to billionaires to keep that cushy job?


  1.  government by the wealthy

  2.  a controlling class of the wealthy


  1.  government by the few The corporation is ruled by oligarchy.

  2.  a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes a military oligarchy was established in the country; also :  a group exercising such control An oligarchy ruled the nation.

  3.  an organization under oligarchic control That country is an oligarchy.

(Definitions courtesy of the good folks at

Can we force, and win, elections against the Plutocracy / Oligarchy? I don’t know.

If we do win elections, can we throw the grip of the Plutocracy / Oligarchy off our party, off the Democratic Party? I don’t know. They like Democrats less but they still keep a short leash on most of them in case they might win an election somewhere.

It’s an uphill battle, my friends. It will require plans at the “You do this, she does that,” level. Specifics. It will require, more than any one other thing, a clear, focused message put everywhere every day.  Even then it will be a hell of a battle.

You up for it?

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Democratic Campaigning 1

If political campaigning were building a house, the Democratic Party today would be at the stage where we paint the exterior and put up the drapes.

Unfortunately, we haven’t built a foundation. The house isn’t there. Too many of us haven’t noticed. It appears, in particular, that our leadership and various factions have not noticed.

My number one personal project right now is an attempt to get the Democratic Party, the whole United States Democratic Party, to shift mental gears and approach the public differently than we have been. We have to build a foundation. We have to campaign on that foundation.

We are getting beat. Most of the time. Almost everywhere. I have tried to express this in ways that will get the Party’s attention, but I have so far failed.

Rick Wilson, @therickwilson, Certified American Republican v 2.0 (post Reagan, pre Trump) has given me another tool. His words:

“Democrats are not good at campaigns. They’re good at some things in campaigns, but not holistically. In the last decade, we took over 1,000 offices from the Democrats, not because of voter suppression or redistricting, or other excuses.”

The Big Secret of 2018, Daily Beast, 06/01/2017

He also says,

The Democrats can’t beat something with nothing, and almost any plan beats no plan every time.”

But in that one he’s wrong. We’ve got plans. We’re drowning in our plans.

In the last decade they took over 1,000 offices from us. That doesn’t mean they won a thousand more elections than we did. It’s much worse than that. In the last decade Republicans won elections for 1,000 governing positions that we used to win but can’t win any more. And after they won those positions they kept them through subsequent elections.

It might appear from this that the Republicans ran over a thousand campaigns better than we did, but that’s not it, not at all. Republicans ran one big campaign better than we ran a thousand little ones.

Republicans campaign on one set of foundation concepts. We try to match and defeat that with ten thousand plans. We talk about the drapes and paint. Their foundation trumps our drapes and paint most of the time, most places.

Of course the house needs drapes and paint. I’m not arguing with anybody about civil rights, racial equality, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, urban rights, rural rights, working class rights, handicapped rights… I’m certainly not arguing about keeping the air breathable and the water drinkable. I entirely agree that people who work for a living ought to have a decent life, to be able to buy a modest house and a reliable car. I agree that people who are not able to work for a living ought also to have a decent life. All those messages are not working. They do not define our foundation. What is our foundation as a party?

All those things we want to do, what do they have in common? What ties them together into a common thread?

They are government actions. We want our government to address problems that bother everyday Americans. We want a government that works.

The message we are competing with is, “Government can’t do anything right and if it tries it will screw you.”

Right now today a majority of voters over a majority of America believe that government can’t do anything, shouldn’t be allowed to try, and will screw them if it does. It is a bald faced lie. Our Federal government has worked every time we’ve tried it. We can prove it. But we’ve got to talk about it. Until we make voters believe that government can help them we won’t get the chance to prove it.

Good government has made Americans’ lives better since the beginning. Lousy government fails to do that. The reason so many Americans’ lives suck today is because Republicans are lousy at government. Period. That’s it.

Government is the referee in the game of life. No American would want to see a Super Bowl without a ref even though they’ll yell at him. It’s ok to yell at the government, too, but they’re necessary to make the game fair. Right now it’s not.

Among other immediately obvious things that government brought us and still operates today: Interstate Highways. The GPS in your smartphone. The water Americans in the Desert Southwest drink and shower in. The water that made the farms in California’s Central Valley possible. The industrial waterways that haul America’s biggest most valuable freight for the least money. Space flight. Radar and Air Traffic Control for absolutely every commercial flight in the country every day. The Internet. Don’t try to tell me that the government can’t do anything.

We must hammer on the fact that the only reason the government can’t do anything right anymore is because the people running it don’t want it to. And Republicans are running it. Government can make your personal life better, no matter where you are in America. Let us show you how.

To do that we have to remind Americans about every fifteen minutes that Congress runs the country. Because Republican Congresses have been hiding behind Democratic Presidents since Newt Gingrich declared war on civilization. They’ve done an incredible amount of damage.

Whatever your personal pet issue is, if you are a Democrat or any American who is tired of being governed by Republicans, that issue can best be solved or addressed by government. So hold the thought of your issue, and focus on taking back the government. And the way to do that is to talk about governing in the broadest, why-what-how sense. Because, yes, that is what the Republicans talk about. They tell people that if Democrats get elected America will have a functioning government and it will ruin everybody’s life.

We have to sell one idea: having a functioning government will make your life better. Having a crippled government makes your life worse. Then we let the Republicans convince people that we’ll create a functioning government.

This topic continues here

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I spend much of my time thinking about communication. When I think about politics I mostly think about communication, and all its pieces.

What do we, as people who call ourselves Democrats (or who perhaps won’t quite go that far but who share our goals) communicate? What is our, for want of a better term, narrative? What is our story?

How do we communicate our story? How do we tell it? What will be our medium of communication? From the many possible media, which will we choose?

Where do we put our message to communicate it to the public?

Why does it matter?

Will we communicate by words? By pictures? By moving pictures? By some combination, maybe pictures with words printed on them? Moving pictures that speak? Words spoken by your telephone or the doors on your car?

How will we distribute our story? Who will carry our words, pictures, and video? Will our words be read or will they be heard?

Will our words be seen and heard by many, or by few?

Who will compose our story? Who will tell it? I ask again: what is our story?

I have not heard what I consider to be a coherent Democratic story in so long I can’t remember when. Fragments. Policy sound bites. But no coherent, what’s a Democrat, story at all.

The reason that these questions are in my mind is because Democrats have failed utterly to formulate and deliver a message that will cause people across the country to want to get out on election day and vote for us. We lose elections over almost all the country, almost all the time.

Republicans govern almost all states. No, not the biggest ones, but almost all of them.

Republicans govern the United States. They control both houses of Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court.

I acknowledge the coup, the Russian attack, and the election fraud. I know everything you could possibly tell me about gerrymandering. It is my opinion that those things are result, not cause. We lost first; Republicans joined up with Russia in hopes of making it last forever. It wouldn’t have happened without a prior Democratic failure to communicate and our resultant electoral and societal drift into irrelevance. Cool Hand Luke was right.

To me this is absolute proof that we have failed to formulate and communicate a message which makes people across this vast country want to vote for us. The Republicans are Walmart; we are J.C. Penney. So I worry about communication.

What to say. How to say it. Where to say it.

And at the same time,

What not to say. How to not say it. Who not to trust with our message.

Or as Bob Seger put it in Against the Wind, “What to leave in, what to leave out.”

Cause I’m older now, but I”m still runnin’ against the wind.

I’m going to put those questions in order:

What to say

I am going to plagiarize here, but it’s from myself. This is from another essay; I can’t say it better so far. But like any good plagiarist I change a few words.

We Democrats campaign, in the modern buzzphrase, with too granular a message. That is to say, we talk about detailed policies. For nationwide campaigning we need to stick with statements of principle. Republicans have a statement of principle. Ask any RepubIican what it means to be Conservative and they can give it to you like the Scout Law. Democrats can’t do that. We must learn to in order to compete. The Scout Law is there for a reason.

Here is the Democratic Scout Motto:

A good, functioning government can solve social and economic problems that cannot be solved by any other entity. The Framers wrote that very principle in the Preamble to the Constitution for the United States.

Here is the rest of our Scout Law.

Although scientists don’t know everything there is, science is the way to bet. Betting against science is a sure fire recipe for disaster.

The very richest among us, the people who have benefited the very most from life in America, can help out the people who haven’t done as well, and can fund some other public needs like a sensible, non-carbon-based nationwide transportation system. The better America has treated you the better you should treat America in return.

Jobs are created in response to demand. Demand is the inevitable result of lots of working people with spare money in their pockets. Rich people only create jobs when they see an unmet demand they can make a buck by meeting. It has very little to do with their tax rate. For more information see: Kansas. Economic growth comes from broad based prosperity.

Everybody has the right to a fair shake. We don’t care where you go to church, who you love, what your personal plumbing looks like, what color you are, or what your IQ is, you have a right to be warm and well fed in America. Democrats believe that everyone should have a realistic chance to do such work as s/he is capable of, and should be able to make a decent living doing it. And otherwise be left alone to live in peace.

If your church says you should not do something or marry somebody then by all means do not do that thing or marry that person. However, nobody else is obligated to what your church believes. At all. We actually don’t care. It’s not relevant to governing.

When Americans get sick they have the right to go to a doctor and get the best treatment realistically available. Everybody dies sooner or later and we should help make that transformation as easy as we can for people.

Democrats believe that by ratifying and agreeing to our Constitution Americans agreed to join together for our common defense and to promote our general welfare. Because that’s what it says, after which it spells out some details. Republicans stopped reading after they saw the word defense.

We don’t think government is everything, but we believe that a good functioning government is necessary for a healthy and free society. Democrats understand that everybody everywhere lives under some government. so we think we ought to make ours the very best that we can for our people.

This is all very different from the Republican view. Republicans believe that America should be every man for himself and the government’s only legitimate functions are to keep the poor on the right side of the Interstate and to facilitate transferring almost everyone’s money to the plutarch / oligarch ruling class. They tell their story much better than I do; if you’re curious as to the details you can hear them on any television or radio station in the United States of America.

How to say it

In order to compete with the Republican message, the Democratic message must be carried on television and on radio by nationally powerful and significant networks. These networks do not currently exist. We must build them.

Our current media share and presence is part of our problem. I have another essay talking about that at length. If you’re interested it’s here.

Where to say it

Our message has to be available everywhere that there is a TV, a radio, or an internet connected device, all the time, all day every day and all night every night. There should be no place and no time where the legitimate, honest, Democratic message as above should not be available.

Just like the Republicans do, we reword our message, rework it, and get it into every conversation taking place on some glossy, professional television network. We get funny, entertaining gals and guys delivering it all day on talk radio.

Viewers should see Democratic assumptions in TV drama. The bad guys don’t need to be brown and the working guys don’t need to be stupid. Heroes don’t have to be young and beautiful. Honest they don’t.

Everywhere. Right now today the Republican message is everywhere all day. We need to match that and beat it.

Why bother? What’s the big deal?

For the same reason that companies and organizations will spend 5 million dollars of their own money to put their message on the air for 30 seconds during a Super Bowl: because advertising works.

But we can’t just buy ads. We have to get as good as communicating a simple, understandable, positive message as the Republicans are at spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt. And they’re really good at it. So good that they are running the entire country.

Our message has to have a potential to attract absolutely any American regardless of color, economic class, or locale. Our message has to give any American, urban or rural, upper middle class on down, a reason to vote for us. Yes, there is such a message.

Why bother?

To win elections. To preserve the America we believe in. To make it better. There’s plenty of room for improvement.


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A Call for a Liberal Media

The Democratic Party, and I believe America as well, needs one scrupulously honest, unabashedly Democratic Liberal television network.

I state the following to be empirical, provable fact: Every major media outlet in the United States delivers the Republican campaign message to their readers, listeners, or viewers at least once every day. There is no major media outlet which delivers an equivalent Democratic message on a daily basis. For the Republican worldview in operation observe the photograph below.

Three guys in suits and ties and a pretty woman with bare arms

The Republicans have a system to deliver their message, their entire message, to virtually every American all the time. Not absolutely all choose to receive it, but every American who absorbs, watches, reads, or listens to mainstream TV, radio, or news internet hears the Republican message every day. I don’t care what channel you watch.

Print media isn’t that good, either, but there are some exceptions among print. There are no exceptions to my statement among major national broadcast outlets. I specifically include the National Public Broadcasting ecosystem.

The Democrats do not have an equivalent system. If an American wants to participate in nationwide media, it’s Republicanism or nothing.

Rush the Fat Guy
The Fat Guy

Americans have a choice between an unabashedly hard right media narrative, or a namby-pamby, unassertive, make believe Centrist media narrative. Under either system, Republicans are allowed to state their position on any issue every day, at length, specifically including if that position is known in advance to be empirically, provably, a lie.

So their lie gets broadcast. Again. Then Democrats are invited to talk about… their lie. And we do. Then comes the next story. And that is called “objective journalism.”

That is blatant hooey. There is no possible definition of journalism in which factual reality is not of paramount importance. Everything else is fiction. Fiction is a legitimate art form, but it must not be sold as journalism.

The Democratic Party, and I believe America as well, needs one scrupulously honest, unabashedly Democratic Liberal television network.

There is no one-party state in the world that is socially and economically healthy. We live, today, in a one party state because we have one party media.It began while we still had a Democrat in the White House. More on that here.

We need a Democratic nationwide broadcast full spectrum network, television and radio, that is better than anything they’ve got. More entertaining. Funnier. More persuasive. I’m not talking about some fusty C-Span clone where we drone on about policies. I’m talking about complete television and radio ecosystems where the news is scrupulously honest, but where our take on it is rooted and expressed in Democratic values. For example, our network does not broadcast the viewpoint that taxes are bad and plutocrats are better or more important than other people. At all. Everybody else does that; we don’t need to. Plutocrats can be ok; they’re rich; they can afford to help out.

And we’ve got to be more fun to watch than any other network.

We ought to gather up all our stars off late night comedy, which is usually the most accurate news programming ever seen outside Rachel Maddow, and put them on one network from morning to night. John Oliver. Seth Meyers, Sam Bee, Larry Wilmore, Steven Colbert, Geeze y’all, I don’t even watch TV and I know that many names. I don’t know who else, but we’ve got 24 X 7 to fill. Radio too.

Rachel Maddow, of course, and Lawrence O’Donnel. Joy Ann Reid. Gather up all our stars on one network. Get Al Franken to do a weekly radio program. I’m serious.

Everybody crawl on their bellies to Jon Stewart and beg him to come out of retirement for a serious gig being who he is. Radio or TV, his choice.

I’m going to take the liberty here to define Democratic values. I don’t speak for every Democrat, but this is a good faith effort.

Democrats believe that a good, functioning government can solve social and economic problems that cannot be solved by any other entity.

Democrats believe that, although scientists don’t know everything there is, science is the way to bet, and that betting against science is a sure fire recipe for disaster.

Democrats believe that the very richest among us, the people who have benefited the very most from life in America, can help out the people who haven’t done as well, and can fund some other public needs like a sensible, non-carbon-based nationwide transportation system.

Democrats believe that everybody has the right to a fair shake. We don’t care where you go to church, who you love, what color you are, or what your IQ is, we believe you have a right to be warm and well fed in America and should have a realistic chance to do such work as you are capable of, and make a decent living doing it. And be left alone to live in peace.

Democrats believe that if your church says you should not do something or marry somebody then you yourself should not do that. However, nobody else is obligated to what your church believes. At all. We actually don’t care. It’s not relevant to governing.

Democrats believe that when Americans get sick they have the right to go to a doctor and get the best treatment realistically available. We also understand that everybody dies sooner or later and we should help make that transformation as easy as we can for people.

We believe that, by ratifying and agreeing to our Constitution, Americans agreed join together for our common defense and to promote our general welfare. Because that’s what it says, after which it spells out some details. Republicans stopped reading after they saw the word defense.

We don’t think government is everything, but we believe that a good functioning government is necessary for a healthy and free society. We understand that everybody everywhere lives under some government. so we think we ought to make ours the very best that we can for our people.

This latter statement is our fundamental disagreement with Republicans. We acknowledge, out loud, that government is necessary and can be good. Our viewpoint cannot be seen or heard on television or radio. And it must be if the nation is to survive. Therefore we need to own our own TV and radio network, nationwide, full time, glossy, slick, funny entertaining, and telling the news from that perspective.

On our TV network we don’t argue with Republicans. We mostly ignore Republicans. When we can’t help but notice them we make fun of them. Republicans sell their story all day every day on every TV network. We don’t help them. This country needs to hear the Democratic perspective. It is not.

Right now we Democrats discuss among ourselves whether we should maximize or minimize “identity politics”, whether we should talk to voters in red states and what we should say to them, whether we should reach out to the or a working class and which one by what color…

It makes little difference. Nobody outside the club hears a word we say. We don’t own a TV network. We don’t have a talk radio network. We are only present in the public conversation to respond to Republicans. We have no other media visibility.

We hear each other on social media. And late-night TV. We have a handful of poverty stricken, unprofessional “community” radio stations staggering awkwardly from topic to topic. They’re on our side but they’re hard to listen to.  We’ve got some obscure, nearly anonymous bloggers and essayists like me. We’ve got podcasts and YouTube channels. We reach the people who are so sure they want to hear us talk they search us out. That’s not good enough.

In America “media” means, “Television and radio.” Americans spend untold hours in their cars; radio owns that audience. The workplace environment varies widely, but there are many Americans at work at any given moment listening to radio, with a smaller number watching television. TV is king, though. The average American watches over 5 hours of television a day. Newspapers are dying like dinosaurs after the meteor.

The American mainstream media ecosystem extends from the far, hard right, to the “right of center” right. There is a fiction of objectivity which underlies this. For every Rachel Maddow there is at least one Joe Scarborough + Mika Brzeznski, and that is as good as it gets.

This essay is about the entire ecosystem known by the name Mainstream Media in America. I am emphatically not talking just about FOX. Fox is a somewhat different issue.

Regular readers know that I do not voluntarily watch, or even sit in front of while running, television. I will leave a room to get away from a television. I will sit in the hall outside the waiting room at the hospital. But I read lots of news online, which means I can’t entirely avoid TV clips. I almost never see a clip of mainstream news or near-news (the distinction is too blurry to be sure) that does not explicitly express the Republican viewpoint. If I’m seeing that much of it, the rest of you are seeing more.

Some billionaire is passing up a chance to make a ton of money here. We outnumber all the other stations’ viewers put together. Look what Maddow and O’Donnel have done, and they don’t even have strong parent company support. We desperately need one smart, liberal billionaire who’d like to earn a lot of money by saving America. Warren Buffet, got a minute?

We need a media voice that does not even pretend to treat a lie with respect. Global Warming Denier? Go away. You are too full of shit to honor with refutation. That’s been done already.

We can have panel discussions about economy, tax policy, trade policy – but no Voodoo Economists. Put Paul Krugman on a panel with two or three other economists who generally share share his worldview and discuss how to actually solve some problems. Blow off these shouting matches. Don’t you think there is a liberal audience for thoughtful discussion without shouting? Or is it Pro Wrestling as News Forever and Ever Amen?

When we report on Flynn we don’t say, “Lt. Gen. Flynn,” we say, “Registered foreign agent Flynn.” It’s equally true. In 2017 it is significantly more relevant.

Under-reported facts abound. CNN doesn’t introduce Sessions with “Perjurer.” Why not?

“Jared Kuchner, the President’s son in law…” How about “Jared Kuchner, who has twice falsified security application documents…”

Facts are facts. Somebody needs to report a few.

We need a network that airs nobody from the Republican side. Not to argue with, not to refute, not to laugh at: not. Everybody else is doing that. People want to see Republicans on TV they’ve got their whole remote to choose from. I believe it is time for a station where everybody on the air lives in reality on planet earth. I think a good marketer could sell one.

After that all we have to do is replace Google with a facts prioritized search engine.

Because it’s true: fact do have a known liberal bias. So running a no-bullshit alternative media ecosystem would be the most large-D Democratic thing we could do.

And if we don’t we’re dead.

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