Scrooge’s 2016 Christmas gift to Donald Trump: His platform reduced to three words

December 30, 2016

Oh, why bother with this BEFORE Christmas? It’s more salient now, looking at the new year, and wondering what is the fate of man and men, in the new year.

Roberto Innocenti, Scrooge on a dark staircase

Ebenezer Scrooge, up a dark staircase; “Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it.” Illustration by Roberto Innocenti, via Pinterest.

It’s a Quote of the Moment (an encore post for the season, with a bit of context thrown in later), Trump’s platform, and life, edited down to just three words, in green:

Darkness is cheap,
and Scrooge liked it.

– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Stave 1

Isn’t that the entire GOP platform in three words? “Darkness is cheap.”

I think of that line of Dickens’s often when  I read of the celebrations of calumny that pass as discourse in Republican politics these days. Although, with the 2008 renewing of Limbaugh’s contract, it may no longer be true that his particular brand of darkness is cheap. With the advent of Donald Trump’s insult politics, offending America’s allies and all American ethnic groups possible, with un-ironic calls to drop nuclear weapons, GOP politics is even darker than ever.

Cheap or not, darkness remains dark.

John Leach, Scrooge meets Ignorance and Want

Scrooge meets Ignorance and Want, the products of his stinginess (drawing by John Leech, 1809-1870)

 

Here is the sentence Dickens put before the quote, to add a little context; Scrooge was climbing a very large, very dark staircase.

Half-a-dozen gas-lamps out of the street wouldn’t have lighted the entry too well, so you may suppose that it was pretty dark with Scrooge’s dip.

Up Scrooge went, not caring a button for that. Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.

Speaking of darkness, a longer excerpt from a bit later in Dickens’s story, when the Ghost of Christmas Present ushers Scrooge to glimpse what is in the present, but what will be the future if Scrooge does not repent:

‘Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,’ said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, ‘but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?’

‘It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,’ was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. ‘Look here.’

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

‘Oh, Man! look here. Look, look, down here!’ exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

‘Spirit! are they yours?’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!’

‘Have they no refuge or resource?’ cried Scrooge.

‘Are there no prisons?’ said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses?’ The bell struck twelve.

Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

A Christmas Carol, Stave 3

Think of 2014, 2015, and 2016, children abused in Central America and in the Middle East, fleeing as best they can, only to die, off the shores of Greece, on the southern deserts of the U.S., or be cast into incarceration after having achieved a nation whose very name promised them refuge, the United States. “Two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable,” Dickens described. Whose children? “Man’s.” Yours, and mine.

Christmas is a festival to celebrate light, what many Christians call “the light of the world?” If so, let us work to stamp out the darkness which the unrepentant Scrooge so dearly loved.

Darkness may be cheap, but it is not good.  Light a candle, and run into the darkness, spreading light. We need more light.

Hope you had a merry Christmas in 2016. Let us remember, as Tom and the late Ray Magliozzi always reminded us, the cheapskate pays more in the end, and usually along the way. Is Darkness cheap? Let us then eschew it as too costly for a moral nation, too costly for a moral people.

Is Donald Trump as smart as Ebenezer Scrooge? Is his heart as good as Scrooge’s heart?

More:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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When in doubt, read the instructions, Donald Trump version

November 16, 2016

How is the transition coming?

https://www.pinterest.com/offsite/?token=407-837&url=https%3A%2F%2Fs-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com%2Foriginals%2F70%2Fd9%2F81%2F70d981e5a3fb2f5e56d6376609902ac2.jpg&pin=355432595576201161

Cartoon by . . . um, can you read that name? Trump and the User’s Manual

Sure, in comments, tell us the instruction manual is the Constitution.

Trump hasn’t read that, either, I wager. In any case, he’s unprepared to put together an administration. Our republic really is in danger. It’s going to take all of us to hold it together, to have any chance of success in the next four years.

In the interim, I don’t recognize the style, and I don’t recognize the signature; can you help discover who is the cartoonist?

Cartoon by Matt Davies, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for Newsday.

https://twitter.com/MatttDavies/status/797860046017282048

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Election Day 2016: Fly your flag, and VOTE!

November 8, 2016

Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811–1879). The County Election, 1852. Oil on canvas. 38 x 52 in. (96.5 x 132.1 cm). Gift of Bank of America.

The County Election, 1852. Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811–1879).  Oil on canvas. 38 x 52 in. (96.5 x 132.1 cm). Gift of Bank of America.

Every polling place should be flying the U.S. flag today.  You may fly yours, too.  In any case, if you have not voted already, go vote today as if our future depends upon it, as if our nation expects every voter to do her or his duty.

Today the nation and world listen to the most humble of citizens.  Speak up, at the ballot box.

Did you notice?  In George Caleb Bingham’s picture, there are no U.S. flags.  You should fly yours anyway.

The whole world is watching.

More:

Yes, this is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. I really like Bingham’s painting.


Issues you haven’t heard discussed in the campaign, 3: Clinton on national service

November 5, 2016

Part 3 of a series, listing policy issues we’ve heard too little about during this presidential campaign.

This is borrowed wholesale from the campaign website for Hillary Clinton (unless otherwise noted), just to try to get a little discussion going on the real issues of the campaign.

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub is working on a series of issues not yet discussed, less than a week before the vote. Consider it public service, in the spirit of Fillmore, who remained ever conversant in public affairs and anxious to take a role to push for policies to improve America, as he saw it — and who, supported by his wives, founded the White House Library, the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, and the University of Buffalo (now SUNY-Buffalo) to further knowledge.

Beyond a military draft, which few people want in an era of a very successful all-volunteer military, should we ask more of our young people, ask them to serve the nation? How would such a scheme work?

Clinton’s policy paper introduction on national service:

There aren’t many places where people of all ages, all races, all backgrounds, all beliefs come together in common cause. But service is one of them, and that’s one of the reasons I think it’s so valuable, because in addition to the good work it does, it helps us reconnect with each other to feel more a part of our shared American life. I believe that one of the jobs of president is to encourage more service … .

Hillary, September 30, 2016

The generation of Americans coming of age today has changed our politics and our country. From racial justice and marriage equality to economic opportunity and climate change, they have put key issues at the top of the national agenda. Hillary Clinton believes we must do more to support activism and create pathways for Americans to serve and to lead.

As president, Hillary will:

  • Expand national service. Hillary will create more opportunities for Americans to participate in national service, creating economic and educational opportunities while improving communities. She will significantly expand AmeriCorps to allow hundreds of thousands of more Americans to serve their communities through organizations such as City Year, YouthBuild, American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and other community organizations. To achieve this, Hillary will grow AmeriCorps to 250,000 members annually, fulfilling the goals of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. And she will create a National Service Reserve to enable millions of Americans across the country to engage in part-time volunteer service to their communities, taking on the most pressing challenges identified by state and local leaders and earning recognition for their contributions. Read more here.
  • Increase access to higher education. Hillary believes that if you serve your country through national and community service, you should be able to earn meaningful educational benefits. Her New College Compact will build on the current AmeriCorps Segal Education Award, on top of her plans to make debt-free college available to all by doubling the Segal Award and making it tax-free so that AmeriCorps members can earn more than $10,000 for college for every year of full-time service.
  • Strengthen international service. As secretary of state, Hillary saw firsthand the impact that Peace Corps Volunteers have around the world. That’s why, as president, she will continue to be a strong advocate for the Peace Corps. She will strengthen the program to provide more opportunities to send Americans abroad to work side by side with local leaders and address our most pressing global challenges.
  • Bring Americans together. Hillary strongly believes in the power of service to break down barriers by bringing together Americans from all backgrounds and uniting them in common purpose. She will ensure that national service remains at the top of her agenda as a broad-based solution to expand opportunity for people across America and strengthen our communities and our country.

Hillary has a strong record of supporting national service:

  • As first lady, Hillary advocated for Congress to reauthorize AmeriCorps so that tens of thousands more Americans would have opportunities to learn “how much more we get when we give.”
  • As senator, Hillary fought to protect AmeriCorps from budget cuts, and in 2003 stood alongside 150 mayors and governors in requesting funding to secure and grow the program. She also co-sponsored a bill to base AmeriCorps Education Award on the average public college tuition as a way to reduce student debt and allow more Americans to attend college in a time of rising costs.
  • As secretary of state, Hillary re-established the Peace Corps’s relationship with Indonesia after a 45-year hiatus. The first program in 2010 sent 19 volunteers, and now that number has grown to more than 100. Also under her leadership, the State Department provided $1 million to the Peace Corps to advance renewable energy efforts.

Read the fact sheet

Related:

I must confess a bias. In my time in Washington I met many former Peace Corps volunteers, and others who volunteered for VISTA and other programs. I found them without exception to be great leaders of people, and committed workers (in and out of government) who put service to the nation before their own welfare, often — and almost always to the great benefit of American people.

I liked them. Service to America had made them better people, and easier to befriend and respect.

Programs that train such leaders are priceless, in my estimation.

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Global Warming is on the ballot; Bill Nye urges voting wisely

November 2, 2016

Bill Nye told Business Insider voters in 2016 can make a huge change, just voting for a president who will work on climate change.

Bill Nye told Business Insider voters in 2016 can make a huge change, just voting for a president who will work on climate change.

No secret that Bill Nye wants governments to act to slow and stop global warming.

Nothing if not hopeful, Nye explained to Mother Jones earlier that electing a president dedicated to making change could push Congress off the dime:

Electing a climate-friendly president is key, Nye says, because it could inject new life into Congress’ long-stagnant climate debate. “There are…many very reasonable people in Congress who are playing the hand they are dealt with these gerrymandered congressional districts,” he adds. “They have to please an extraordinary minority.” With the right leadership and timing, he says, the politicians just might take action.

A candidate rational about science and climate change is likely to be rational on other issues, too.

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George H. W. Bush’s letter to Bill Clinton reminds us what we have lost

October 28, 2016

Do they make Republicans so patriotic and thoughtful any more?

1992’s election was unnecessarily nasty, I thought. Incumbent George H. W. Bush had fallen from record approval ratings after Gulf War I, due to economic problems. GOP campaigning targeted Bill Clinton’s failings in personal life, and imaginary policies — much of what were real issues were ignored, I thought.

Transition was relatively smooth. GOP continued the tactic’s they’d adopted in 1977 against Jimmy Carter, constant harping on small issues, some refusal to cooperate.

George H. W. Bush is always gracious. In his last hours in office, he penned a personal letter to the man who had defeated him, Bill Clinton. He left the letter on the President’s Desk in the Oval Office, one of the first things Clinton would see after the ceremonies, and as the weight of his new job began dragging him into reality.

Bush’s grace, then, shines now as an example of a lost time, when despite deep divisions, Washington politicians understood the nation needed to run, and were willing to compromise to make the laws and appointments necessary to help America.

Bush wrote:

Letter from President George H. W. Bush to President Bill Clinton, January 20, 1993. Image via NBC News.

Letter from President George H. W. Bush to President Bill Clinton, January 20, 1993. Image via NBC News.

Bush wrote to Clinton:

You will be our president when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.

Your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting for you. Good Luck.

Are there any such Republicans left in the party? Does anyone make Republicans like that now?

We need that grace, and resolve to make America a better and happier place, back again. Send a thank-you letter to someone you know today.

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History in cartoons: Joseph Keppler on the need for the 17th Amendment

September 26, 2016

From the Historian of the U.S. Senate, a Joseph Keppler cartoon from Puck Magazine,

From the Historian of the U.S. Senate, a Joseph Keppler cartoon from Puck Magazine, “The Making of a Senator.” Print by J. Ottmann Lith. Co. after Joseph Keppler, Jr., Puck. Lithograph, colored, 1905-11-15. Image with text measurement Height: 18.50 inches (46.99 cm) Width: 11.50 inches (29.21 cm) Cat. no. 38.00624.001

This is a lithograph after a cartoon by Joseph Keppler in Puck Magazine, November 15, 1905. Keppler’s cartoons kept on the heat for some legislative solution to continuing corruption in state legislatures and the U.S. Senate, driven by the ability of large corporations and trusts to essentially purchase entire states’ legislatures, and tell legislators who to pick for the U.S. Senate.

Described by the Historian of the U.S. Senate:

The “people” were at the bottom of the pile when it came to electing U.S. senators, when Joseph Keppler, Jr.’s cartoon, “The Making of a Senator, ” appeared in Puck on November 15, 1905. Voters elected the state legislatures, which in turn elected senators. Keppler depicted two more tiers between state legislatures and senators: political bosses and corporate interests. Most notably, he drew John D. Rockefeller, Sr., head of the Standard Oil Corporation, perched on moneybags, on the left side of the “big interests. ”

This cartoon appeared while muckraking magazine writers such as Ida Tarbell and David Graham Phillips were accusing business of having corrupted American politics. The muckrakers charged senators with being financially beholden to the special interests. Reformers wanted the people to throw off the tiers between them and directly elect their senators–which was finally achieved with ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913.

Recent scuttlebutt about repealing the 17th Amendment seems to me wholly unconnected from the history. The 17th Amendment targeted corruption in the Senate and states. It largely worked, breaking the course of money falling from rich people and large corporations into the hands of everyone but the people, and breaking the practice of corporate minions getting Senate seats, to do the bidding of corporations and trusts.

Anti-corruption work was part of the larger Progressive Agenda, which included making laws that benefited people, such as clean milk and food, pure drugs, and banking and railroad regulation so small farmers and businessmen could make a good living. Probably the single best symbol of the Progressive movement was “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, Congressman, Governor and U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. LaFollette was a great supporter of the 17th Amendment

Again from the Senate Historian:

Nicknamed “Fighting Bob,” La Follette continued to champion Progressive causes during a Senate career extending from 1906 until his death in 1925. He strongly supported the 17th Amendment, which provided for the direct election of senators, as well as domestic measures advocated by President Woodrow Wilson’s administration, including federal railroad regulation and laws protecting workers rights. La Follette worked to generate wider public accountability for the Senate. He advocated more frequent and better publicized roll call votes and the publication of information about campaign expenditures.

Criticism of the 17th Amendment runs aground when it analyzes the amendment by itself, without reference to the democracy- and transparency-increasing components from the rest of the Progressive movements’ legislative actions from 1890 to 1930.

No one favors corruption and damaging secrecy in politics. By pulling the 17th out of context, critics hope to persuade Americans to turn back the clock to more corrupt times.

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