This New American Life
I write this in a booth waiting for my current delivery order to be prepared in an empty restaurant that ten years ago would have been crowded. The music is a soft bossa nova and the kitchen while busy is careful to avoid clangs. The decor is standard a medium brown stain colors the wood and the carpet is green and clean. A mother and her retired son are the only other customers. She is dancing while waiting for the spring rolls to arrive. The owner hands me a thai tea on the house while I wait. I can’t help but worry for the fate of America. I can’t help but wonder where do we go from here.
The internet has redefined what and why we eat. It’s less about what we like and having haunts we return to but posting from the current trends to be considered a cool kid. Even those who do not post on social media still Google and Yelp their choices based on the impression that the best rated by those apps have more value experience wise for their dollars. The hive mind that is social media causes attention inequality and narrows culture especially food culture.
Speaking of the Hive Mind. What do we talk about when we say we shouldn’t give someone a platform. As in the current uproar over Megyn Kelly interviewing Alex Jones, a man who has been paid to spew filth since my childhood. He long ago built his alternative media platform and give a place for wayward views. He helped Trump win without a doubt and his org Infowars will have white house press credentials. He doesn’t need an interview on NBC but NBC and those who oppose his views do need these kinds of interviews. Darkness cannot be allowed to fester. Pre-internet denying mainstream outlets was a good way to slow repulsive thought but now mainstream media is one if the last shared spaces in American life and is more effective as a means of exposing.
The tendency of the internet to drive conformity from food and fashion trends to preventing public discourse is disconcerting to say the least. Humanity’s story is one driven by innovation through diversity not just the kind on a college application check box. How much have we lost? What will it take next?
Chaffetz is stepping down.
The Trump team knew of the Flynn investigation before hiring him.
Comey kept a paper trail.
I don’t want to leap off a cliff of fancy but it isn’t hyperbole to say something is very wrong.
Chaffetz fleeing the spotlight is like canary dying. He showboated his way to the top of the DC attention heap. Backstabbing his mentors at each opening. His claim that he never planned to spent a lifetime as rep. doesn’t explain why he won’t finish his current term. His position as chairman on the House oversight committee does. Trump is too beloved by Chaffetz’s base to investigate but too hated by the general voter to ignore. Will voters remember his yellow streak in 2028? His url thinks not.
In the White House, more light is being shed. Trump’s team knew Flynn was being investigated for undisclosed payments from a foreign government when they chose him to head the National Security Council. Trump did fire Comey due to the Russian collusion investigation and told the Russians as much. Sessions who lied in his nomination hearing about meeting with the Russians is still AG, the one who ensures the President stays within the law. We do know Trump has business with Russian entities. Any Russian deals done through a shell are still unknown.
We still don’t know a great deal. We can’t say anything criminal has happened but there is enough evidence for cause to investigate. I think a rush to impeach or remove Trump would backfire. He has been the most damning witness in his own scandal. But we also can never take him at his word. You could at least trust Nixon to look out for Nixon but Trump seems to be unaware of the lines he crosses. Its like how the wall was going to be like the one from Game of Thrones magic and all but really is a chain link fence, congress won’t fund.
I think Trump is unfit and mentally inept for the standards of the presidency. He doesn’t need to be a criminal to be removed but the country would need to be united in chorus for it to happen. Rush Limbaugh changed the title from Advanced Conservative Studies to Advanced Anti-Left Studies. Our democracy has become a sport and religion. We no longer debate policy but preach to hostile converts. We don’t fight in an agreed arena and at some metaphysical level lost our American social contract. This is not a first or a last. The Civil War was the first re-negotiation. The second took place over 25 years beginning with Theodore Roosevelt’s Fair Deal finalized with FDR’s New Deal. Republicans and neo liberals since the Reagan revolution dismantled that agreement. They bring no replacement to the table.
We need to have a society. No one desires the freedom of Somaliland. Community on a large scale is a tremendous gift of humanities. It doesn’t function without effort. It may be imperfect but the cruelties can be softened. If we believe modern is defined as higher quality of life, it should go beyond. Trump is not the Emperor, he is the child. He has shown the empty state of the government and no impeachment can reverse that. People trust a government when they trust their neighbor no matter where they lie on the political spectrum.
We cannot allow foreign influence in our process of rebirth. That’s why all the current investigations not just the search for criminal evidence matter. We cannot let others define us. Trump is the lesser consequence of the Russian interference.
We’ve been getting emails from loyal audience members asking why Radical Centrists has been so quiet over the past week. Surely the waterfall of Trump related news and fiascos of historic proportions is decent fodder for articles, no? Well intelligent reader, you’re right, but we here at Radical Centrists like to offer something of a unique perspective from the partisan back and forth. And frankly, there have been many fine think pieces about The Comey Affair, the Russia disclosure, the WannaCry pandemic, and Jeff Sessions single handedly refusing bi-partisan support for sentencing reform in the criminal justice system.
At long last though, I think there is an argument that should be much more out in the open among democrats- mostly, how to react during and after the fallout of The Comey Affair. The idea of impeachment isn’t over the horizon, but in plain view as Trump continues to stumble through interview and conflicting statements over his apparent obstruction of justice. So what now?
One camp believes that Democrats should be as obstructionist as possible, throwing sand in the gears of legislature until, for example, a special prosecutor is appointed- basically give Republicans a taste of what they did for the past 7 years with Obama. Hey, two can play at that game, and the stakes are a lot higher now. Obamacare didn’t lead to death panels, the great depression was averted, we got out of Iraq… it’s almost hard to remember now why Republicans hated Obama so much.
The other camp feels that we should rise above, and that impeachment is impossible without the cooperation of Republicans in the House and Senate. Remember- impeachment is a political decision, not a legal one (which is exactly what Nixon meant when he said “when the president does it, it’s not illegal”).
If you had asked me two weeks ago when we were talking about Republican legislative policy, I was firmly in the former camp. Healthcare and their insane “tax reforms” would throw millions even further into feudal serfdom, hoping our corporate castles will provide protection when the storm comes. Resistance means more than just bearing witness.
Now though, more and more republicans are starting to feel that Trump’s very existence is anathema to their agenda (which, of course, he is). What has changed is that business as usual in government now could very well lead to Trump’s removal. Before, business as usual hurts our countrymen. Now, it could bring down the American Caligula. We Centrists shouldn’t make the mistake of hindering that.
There is a very American fear I used to have. It’s embarrassingly selfish and naive to admit, but I always had the creeping suspicion that I would miss my generational moment. Decade by decade, there seem to be cultural hubs in America, where the groundswell of the next cultural wave begins, to roll out across the country, until another starts to build somewhere else.
I never really knew how famous authors, directors, and public intellectuals seemed to be present in these moments. What happened to those who spent the late fifties in Portland instead of New York? Or the sixties in St. Louis instead of San Francisco?
Perhaps it’s a symptom of getting older, but I don’t really have that fear anymore. I was re-reading “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy last night (written off by a lot of fans as “movie fodder”, which I think is a shame because it is actually very experimental compared to his work both before and after).
In it the protagonist, Sheriff Bell, has small first person passages scattered throughout the book, reflecting on the state of the world he lives in. One quote in particular has stuck with me, and I’ve started to believe it’s connected to that old fear:
“Young people anymore they seem to have a hard time growin up. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just that you don’t grow up any faster than you have to.” (pg. 159)
I think this is especially applicable with my generation, “the millennials.” It’s hard to interact with any of them and not feel like we live in a nation of Peter Pans. As if a stubborn refusal to grow up will somehow keep looming, ice-age sized economic problems at bay. Part of the difficulty in any kind of massive movement based on these problems is that the young of the falling middle class are still able to leech off of those who have profited from it in the past. Young men and women can still lean on ever weakening family bonds for financial support.
And it’s okay right now. It seems like there is a lot of individual freedom- people can make money streaming video games, or blogging from vans, or go to grad school. But a decade from now, the national anxiety will really reach a fever pitch.
There will be a large movement, and I think it will spring from the millennial generation, when it finally sets in that things will not get better. When opportunities for job security turn out not to exist. When healthcare becomes an issue as we age. When the generation after us comes into the workforce, and we realize that there is no upward mobility anymore. The little projects and Netflix shows and cultural wars we busy ourselves will, with harsh suddenty, not matter.
I’ve started to believe that our reaction to that fact will be our lasting legacy- our cultural movement. It isn’t that we don’t have a place at the table: it’s that we are lead into a room where others are wildly hacking at the table so they can get a piece, and even as we get our hands on an axe or hammer, the top is gone, the legs are long pulled away, and all thats left are screws and dust and the echoes of labored breathing, cursing us for fools for being late to the party.
Louis Hyman wrote an op-ed against saving America’s Main Street. Walmart is more efficient. Their low prices just by virtue of bulk buying power. He not only ignores their lower wages and reliance on part time to avoid benefits. His future is either as a remote receptionist probably part time working at minimum wage for a metropolitan office or hustling crafts online. A job is a job but neither is a secure future. The advantage of a remote receptionist is the business can avoid the salary requirements of a city resident while maintainig an office in the right address. The second is the digital hustle. I think more people digital hustle the digital hustle than any other good. Either way, they still serve the same urban elite masters.
The notion of replacing modern manufacturing with the virtual bazaar has become a new Horatio Algers myth. That everyone’s merit will shine a beacon of success if they spend enough time on the internet. Society has long assumed talent is cream but skill or even being skilled at promoting one’s skill is no guarantee. A lottery at best, putting all your eggs into the whims of the internet is dangerous. Hyman’s woods craftsmen would better talking to the shop owners of main street Echo Park and Bushwick who could showcase his wares to the well off audience, he would be stalking online. We’ve all been hawked snake oil from those on the other side of the rainbow. Does that mean that one shouldn’t try or internet infrastructure expanded? No, it means there are no small fixes for the end of an economic age.
Hyman’s solution flaw like most progressive solutions is based on people other than the author making changes as the author has achieved cultural nirvana. I don’t think he understands main street as the average citizen does only has it is seen in liberal straw man scenarios. “It’s locally owned shops selling products to hardworking townspeople. It’s neighbors with dependable blue-collar jobs in auto plants and coal mines. It’s a feeling of community and of having control over your life.” The last sentence is true but the rest is disconnected. Would you rather enrich a spoiled heir or help your underwater neighbor? That’s the real choice between chain and local. Would you rather wealth stay in the region or go to tax breaks for out of state and increasingly country movie stars? How many years can you be told it will trickle down before you don’t believe?
Main street isn’t just about shops. It is about having safe public spaces to congregate. A place a child can meet with friends without fear of being offered drugs or harmed into silence over witnessing crime. It is a place children want to return to after college and a way to stem brain drain. It isn’t trying to make Celebration, USA in every town or bringing back the 50’s.
My great grandmother had to drown her cat as a child because of the depression. Her son had a dog that died of old age and his daughter paid 10k to save her dog from cancer. I’m pet free to avoid the fate of door #1. The contract of the New Deal is broken and Americans want to re-negotiate. 80 years ago, we were given economic freedom. Defending the system that stole it will only further our slide back to serfdom. We need futures not dependent on the fads of the wealthy. Coal might be dead but America isn’t.
Shame on Republicans especially Rubio, McCain, and Graham on supporting DeVos to become Sec. of Education. Even if you agree with her ideologies, she proved herself to be completely ignorant of her duties in her hearing. Not to mention the confirmation of Tillerson. The story of the Justice Department is equally shameful. Sessions confirmation vote has been delayed to allow him to push through other nominations as a sitting senator leaving the Justice department leaderless as serious court battles befall the executive branch.
America is without a doubt broken. Congress should be a body to itself and long before Trump gave up their own integrity rubber stamping presidential agendas. Each senator receives a mandate in their election to uphold the constitution and represent their constituents interests. By allowing harmful and incompetent cabinet choices, Congress has seceded their right to advise. With the Wall coming through executive order, they have seceded border control. Each refusal to govern whether by obstruction or blind agreement bleeds our republic and aids the birth of the coming Monarchy.
This morning has proven to me the easy of the autocracy. Reading about Eric Trump’s recent 2 day business trip cost us $100,000 in secret service and state department costs. Including possible charges for staying and eating in Trump hotels. That’s right the Trump family might be charging us to put their security detail up and making money off it again. This happened during the campaign. For a man who says he is too rich to be bought, his company seems desperate to steal any dime possible from the taxpayer. Granted without his tax returns, we’ll never know anything about his money. The entire Trump cover for the business separation relies on one believing that Trump and his sons don’t talk and Trump is okay losing it all in order to put America first. An impossible position.
Meanwhile Trump has delayed the ACA replacement until after 2018 midterms. Will he undo his executive order against it? Or will GOP congressman reverse their budget vote? No of course not, so the holes in ACA just got larger. I bet it is an attempt to keep the spectre of the law in play for the midterms. Will it work? They sure weren’t punished for the gov. shutdown. Going back to why elections only work with an informed voter base.
Trump’s defense of Russia keeps getting stranger. I don’t think Putin denies that he is a killer himself, he was KGB. Trump’s belief in the kindness of Putin must stem from the election interference because Putin doesn’t care about non Russians maybe no one other than himself. Trump’s reliance on Putin’s friendship is at least rightfully making waves among the GOP leadership.
In Rome, the shadow president is attempting another halfass coup against Francis. It is foolish because Francis isn’t some global elite pushing an agenda but a humble servant of the Lord simply caring for the poor and other sufferers. It is hard not to see the hand of God in the rise of Francis. His needed shift from the bedroom of believers to the whole of their life. The people have responded I do not believe that Bannon can stop the wave.
In Yemen, Trump’s first authorized raid was so bungled that US ground forces no longer have Yemen’s permission to operate. Iran has used Trump’s provocations to strengthen their totalitarian state.
Back home Melania is suing over the concept of paid First Lady endorsements in a slander suit. Those are her words “had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model and brand spokesperson, and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multimillion-dollar business relationships for a multiyear term during which plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world.” She shouldn’t worry all press is good press for the Trumps no?
All this begs the question is anyone running America? Trump’s hiring freeze to further shrink a diminishing federal work force. A task the GOP congress would love to finish.
Not that it matters because the grand new scheme of the left is a Rosie O’Donnell Bannon on SNL as Trump would hate it so much he would get rid of Bannon. This assumes that Trump is manipulated by television and not that television is manipulated by Trump. An argument I don’t believe. The man knows his medium of choice probably better than the Ivied offices of SNL. It never faced Nixon. Go ask the Smother Brothers.
In the 19 days in office, Trump has been busy raising a lot of dirt. Will it amount to anything great? That’s still anyone’s guess.