Writer’s Lounge 12.28.19
Editor’s Note: Our contributor, Paul Szydlowski, checked out an important film, “Dark Waters” and provided us with a synopsis of the societal import of the film, directed by Todd Haynes which is based on a true story and deals with material in the same wheelhouse as “Erin Brockovitch” and “Silkwood”.
Dark Waters has been well received by critics generally. It boasts a “Rotten Tomatoes”score of 91, which is higher than all but two of the top-grossing box office movies this week. A trailer for Dark Waters follows this essay.
Saw the movie “Dark Waters” last night. It was fascinating to see so many local connections – the woman played by Anne Hathaway graduated from law school with my wife Chris. I’ve been to a number of events at the Taft law offices and we have friends who work there.
But the real story is the story itself. There’s a line that states “corporations are people.” So very true, and our very human nature is to pursue our own short-term self-interests. Sadly, greed is one of self-interest’s most powerful motivators.
We see the price others often pay when such self-interest goes unchecked, whether when stock market bubbles burst, the mortgage industry collapses and nearly takes the entire economy down with it or when companies bend the law to their favor in dealing with the toxic products they may profit from. Such was the story in “Dark Waters.”
Many applaud the deregulation taking place today, saying it unshackles business to pursue its self-interest. But even the grandfather of free market capitalism, F. A. Hayek, argued that regulation is necessary to capture the true cost of production in the price of the product, rather than passing it on unwittingly to their workers, neighbors and society in the form of injury, illness, death and the destruction of the natural environment.
If that price is too high to make the product economically viable, then so be it. This movie clearly proves how correct Hayek was.
Yes, business has a strong distaste for regulation – and regulation should be scientifically, economically and morally reasonable. But there needs to be a healthy tension between industry and the regulators, lest crony capitalism put the public at risk for the benefit of the well-connected.
At a time when a coal lobbyist heads the EPA, an oil industry lobbyist is Secretary of the Interior, a pharmaceutical lobbyist is Secretary of Health and Human Services, a former Raytheon executive is Secretary of Defense and the founder of Perdue Farms is Secretary of Agriculture, it would appear that we have the fox guarding the hen house.
We may enjoy that our 401ks are appreciating nicely today, but the price we are likely to pay for those financial gains today (our short-term self-interest) is likely to be the health and well-being of our children, our environment and our society tomorrow.
The time to protect them from that future is now.
Trump’s fake Merry Christmas rescue … you don’t know the half of it.
In the “Trump will tell you anything you want to hear if you are a MAGA cult member” file folder, are his phony claims that he brought back “Merry Christmas”.
That he didn’t, is something you don’t even need to fact check – and we’re not really bringing anything up here that has not already been on your radar screen. Whether incorporating the phrase as a formality of clerk / customer encounters at retail and other establishments should be imposed on businesses by collective coercion, is another subject for discussion.
The real question is – does Trump actually believe anything he tells his voting base? After covering Trump for over 3 years, National Compass has arrived at the conclusion based on the fact pattern, that no he doesn’t believe any of it, except when he’s bragging about himself.
The question then follows, is “does he realize he’s lying or does he just think the things he asserts are ‘truthful hyperbole’ minus the truth part?”
Since the dust is settling somewhat, from the irrational exuberance of unbridled consumerism and self indulgence that marks Christmas more than anything else, we can quickly dispel the notion that Trump gives a skinny rat’s ass about the birth of Jesus Christ. “That much I can tell you.”
Betraying it as the culture clash theater it is – this tweet from as recent as 2010:
But Trump devotees might chide me, saying that, the tweet is from 2010 and that Trump has, in the intervening years, gotten ‘religion’ on Christmas, just as they claim he has become, in some fashion, a Christian (consider yourself fortunate you can’t hear me laughing maniacally).
Here, facts are inconvenient things, just as they are with most everything Trump ever claims. But alas, Trump is kiting two different messages – one to his core voting constituency and another to his more cosmopolitan clientele.
Trump’s online merchandise outlet, “The Trump Store” doesn’t feature a Christmas gift guide, but on the contrary, the catalog is dubbed, the “Holiday Gift Guide”. Holiday, not ‘Christmas’.
“Shop our Holiday Gift Guide and find the perfect present for the enthusiast on your list,”says the website, adding, “Carefully curated to celebrate the most wonderful time of year with truly unique gifts found only at Trump Store. Add a bow on top with our custom gift wrapping. Happy Holidays!”
And if you were to stop in at the Trump Tower in Manhattan, you would discover that the word Christmas is nowhere to be seen. Instead, for example, at the restaurant, the menu is a “Holiday Menu”, not a Christmas menu.
And Trump Tower’s promotional twitter account told viewers, “Happy holidays from Trump Tower!” a month after he won the 2016 election. It did so again in 2017 and in 2018 and again twice this year, as in this tweet:
The thing that crossed my mind on this, is that here is evidence of Trump having, you might say, ‘broken’ Merry Christmas. So Trump had a hand in breaking it, yet he wants to pawn off the damage assignment on Barack Obama. The only problem is this video montage:
by Richard Cameron
The publication that evangelist Billy Graham founded in 1956, was essentially off the radar screen of Trump’s prominent boosters in the evangelical community – until it published the editorial that was heard around the world, the call for Congress to both impeach and remove from office, Donald Trump for intolerable conduct; in their words, “grossly immoral conduct”.
When that happened, the likes of Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress, Mike Huckabee and Michele Bachmann – (200 in all), circled the wagons and dispatched a barrage of belligerence in response. Following their lead, many Trumpvangelicals canceled their subscriptions in protest. But that wasn’t the last word. Christians that recognize Trump, not as a saint, but as a satanist, rallied to the defense of Christianity Today.
Christianity Today editor-in-chief Mark Galli told MSNBC that the controversy has actually led to an increase in subscriptions, “We have lost subscribers, but we’ve had 3 times as many people start to subscribe.”
Describing the reactions he’s seen from the bulk of existing subscribers as well as the new ones, Galli said, “A stereotypical response is ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ with a string of a hundred exclamation points — ‘you’ve said what I’ve been thinking but haven’t been able to articulate, I’m not crazy.'”
Does this development signal a turning of the tide? The effect will be minuscule, given that Trump is now an object of admiration and blind faith for somewhere near 80 percent of self identified evangelicals.
Galli himself, cautions against reading too much into the new positive interest in CT, given the predominant political orientations involved.
“oh, no. I don’t have any imaginations that my editorial is going to shift their views on this matter,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that Christianity Today is not read by Christians on the far right — by evangelicals on the far right, so they’re going to be as dismissive of the magazine as President Trump has shown to be.”
And given the last word on how corrosive the infringement of politics upon the Christian witness to society is – is the late Reverend Billy Graham:
by Richard Cameron
National Compass has acquired a couple of terrific late year contributors. One, I have previously introduced to you – Keith Mines, who has served in global trouble-spots not only as a member of American special forces in deployments in Central America and the Caribbean but in diplomatic posts, globally. Here’s his most recent:
But more recently, we have writer Teresa Hall embarking on a new journey – entertaining and inspiring National Compass readers. And what an incredible initial impact she has had!
Her content is distinct in its own regard, but also sets itself apart from the material the rest of our contributors produce. By that, I mean that it is not news analysis, instead leaning much more in the direction of social commentary in a manner I might describe and “unobtrusive insurgence”. Brass knuckles with a velvet glove.
The reaction has been sensational and that is an understatement. If you haven’t sampled it yet, here is an appetizer and there will be more to come in the New Year. That is a resolution I will keep.
And finally, saying goodbye to the Christmas portion of the Holiday Season, with the exception of you folks who are either returning stuff or frantically and militantly scooping up the ‘holiday themed’ items for 50% off – not that I personally know anyone who does that – here is something that the Counterfeit in Chief might want to return, but for reasons that will be clear, won’t be able to.
It’s not certain what Kim Jong-un had dropped down Trump’s chimney, although plain ol’ plain ‘ol, commercial satellite imagery as interpreted by the trained eyes of seasoned North Korea watchers have a hunch that it is a good, cold slap in the face as reward for Trump’s bush league naivete.
Images reveal that North Korea, far from contracting its missile development activities, is in fact, expanding it. The expansion includes a production facility that has been identified by U.S. intelligence agencies as employed for the manufacture of long range, nuclear capable missiles.
Kim’s government had intimated earlier in Spring, that absent “more flexibility” in negotiations on the denuclearization issue, that they might well walk away from future talks. And in December, a cryptic comment from one of their senior officials, North Korean diplomat Ri Thae Song via state media outlet Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“What is left to be done now is the US option and it is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get.”
An analysis of the satellite images collected by Planet Labs demonstrate that a structure which appears to be a temporary enclosure, was constructed adjacent to the facility housing the Hwasong-15 ICBM, a class of missile of which was test launched in November of 2017, having the range capability that would enable hitting targets on the East coast of the United States, like Washington D.C. or New York City.
“We believe North Korea erects this structure when the facility is involved in producing or modifying ICBM launchers,” Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told NBC.
And it is not as if Kim or the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) have been hush hush about their intentions, even if Trump has pretended he hasn’t heard anything.
Kim Jong un has held high level planning sessions in the fall of this year, the subject of which is “the sustained and accelerated development of military capability,” according to North Korean state media. Additionally, within the last month a public statement was issued through the same propaganda arm, in which a senior official commented that,
“The priceless data, experience and new technologies gained in the recent tests of defense science research will be fully applied to the development of another strategic weapon of the DPRK for definitely and reliably restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the US.”
Experts on the power dynamics of the region, generally agree that national leader Kim has assessed that Trump is, if not fatally wounded politically, he is at least, damaged goods going into the coming year’s election and that it is strategically advantageous to run out the clock rather than aiding Trump with any sort of agreement, even a meaningless one.
The alternatively desired outcome from the North Korean point of view, is that Trump, desperate for some sort of deal, might give Kim substantial concessions in addition to the legitimacy he’s already received from the American president.
by Richard Cameron
Recent polls are not painting a favorable portrait of the mood of voters toward the president, despite Trump projecting confidence otherwise. On December 17, Trump tweeted that support for his removal from office via a trial in the Senate, was plummeting.
Trump’s prediction, wasn’t true in mid-December and it is even more preposterous in the final few days of the month. An ominous number of Americans polled, are moving towards removal.
These are not the holiday tidings Trump was hoping for. More like the proverbial lump of coal in the MAGA stocking. They do demonstrate that Americans now prefer Trump begin boxing up his belongings and prepare to vacate 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Also revealed is that 51% of those polled “disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as President.”
Then there is the “right direction vs. wrong direction” equation. 58% of respondents think the country is on the road to Hades. Only 33% think the country is headed down Primrose Lane.
The companion piece to the MSN poll is the Morning Consult / Politico poll, which not only tracks approval / disapproval, but also impeach / remove. The most recent edition of their survey a week ago, determined a 47 % (favor removal) / 46% (oppose removal) split.
Those poll results, as the MSN poll indicate, are now obsolete.
The newest Microsoft News poll (above) indicates a trend moving toward a more sizable plurality in favor of removal of Trump. The question asked on Christmas eve day, was “do you support or oppose the Senate voting to remove President from office?” 55% of respondents supported only 40% opposed. The same poll from just a week earlier, showed 48 percent support for conviction – a seven percent surge in the newest poll.
Glad tidings for the New Year and when indications of new information about Trump’s involvement in the scheme to disrupt the 2020 election are factored in, there is considerably more downside potential.
by Richard Cameron