Spice Cookies

October 14, 2017

Happy Saturday!  We seem to have gotten through Friday the 13th, although the cats did seem a bit weird (although maybe that was the catnip…).

Today I’m posting the recipe for the most popular cookies I’ve ever made.  Don’t be put off by the length you’ll see — I try to put tips, tricks, and hints in my recipes to make them clearer and explain a bit of what I do.  I’m churning these out now for the church’s Fall Fair next weekend.  I’ll be bringing the apple chutney, these spice cookies, and chicken liver pate (recipe to follow in a few days).  There’s a member of our choir who is absolutely mad for these things — every time we have a fair or any other kind of celebration at church I have to be prepared to have some extra for David, or he pouts!  I hope you enjoy these as much as I have for the past 60 years or so.

Spice Cookies

The recipe is from Audrey Bishop, who worked with Marion Paquin’s mother in the early 1950s in NYC.  Please feel free to share it — the world is a better place with more spice cookies in it!

¾ cup butter (Use butter, and not margarine or shortening.  They won’t give the same results.)

1 cup sugar

1 egg

¼ cup dark molasses (I use Grandma’s Original, with the yellow label)

2 tsp baking soda  (do NOT add to dry ingredients)

2 cups flour

¼ tsp salt

heaping tsp cinnamon

¾ tsp cloves

¾ tsp ginger

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and mix.  Mix soda and molasses (this will foam up a bit, if it doesn’t your soda isn’t fresh and the recipe won’t work) and add to the butter mixture.  Stir in dry ingredients and blend.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight.  (I always chill it overnight.)

Keeping the dough cold, pick off small pieces (about the size of a hazelnut for smaller cookies, and up to a walnut for larger) and roll in the palms of your hands, forming balls (or you can use a small scoop).  I put the dough back into the fridge after each pan or two.  Roll the balls in granulated sugar.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 325° – 350° F oven.  Cookies will look darker, crackled, and flattened when done.

With my oven and a “medium size” cookie it takes about 10 or 12 minutes, but flattened, crackled and darker is what to look for.  Remove cookies from pan onto paper towels or a cooling rack.  I’ve discovered those silicone baking mats and the cookies bake perfectly on them.

I use non-latex (some folks are allergic) examining gloves when I roll the dough into balls because it doesn’t stick to the gloves too much and it WILL stick to the palms of your hands.  Or you can use a small scoop, which also works well.  I used to use regular granulated sugar to roll them in because that’s what I have in the house, but “sparkling” sugar (larger granules, sometimes sold colored or as “coffee sugar”) works very well, and gives a bit of a “sparkly, holiday” look to the cookies.  Don’t bother with colored sugar, though, because the cookies are dark enough it won’t really show.

I get my sparkling sugar from Amazon, at 6½ pounds a shot.  Most people don’t need that much!  However, if you do a search for “sparkling sugar” at Amazon there are many options for smaller sizes if you can’t find it in the grocery store.  As a last note, make sure your soda and spices are fresh — I started one batch with some old cinnamon and had to toss it, since the “spice” taste just wasn’t there.

Enjoy!    From Marion

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Okay. It’s time for some good stuff.

October 9, 2017

A number of you sent lovely replies to me regarding my hiatus.  One suggestion I will probably take up, in a bit, is just posting Krugman’s columns and blog.  But in a bit…

I thought we could all use some time to focus on some nice things.  One of the things that makes me happy is being in the kitchen.  I just finished making a double batch of Sweet and Spicy Apple Chutney for our church’s Fall Fair.  It’s delicious, and here’s the recipe if you want to try it yourself:

Sweet and spicy apple chutney

2 cups cider vinegar (475 ml)

2 cups light brown sugar (475 ml)

5 garlic cloves

2 oz fresh ginger, peeled and sliced or coarsely chopped (about 55 – 60 grams)

1½ tsp salt (8.5 grams)

1 tsp chile flakes (7 grams) — or to taste, and this can be omitted

2 lbs Granny Smith apples (1 kg)

1½ cups golden raisins (350 ml), or half golden raisins and half dried cranberries

2 sticks cinnamon (about 3” or 7.5 cm each)

2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds (30 ml)

Place vinegar, sugar, garlic, ginger, salt and chile flakes in blender.  Puree on medium-high until smooth, about 1 minute.

Peel and core apples.  Dice apples into about ¼ inch cubes (no need to be precise).  I usually dice mine finer, but this too is to taste and preference.

Combine apples, raisins, cinnamon, and mustard seeds in a large saucepan.  Pour in the vinegar blend.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until almost all the liquid is reduced, about 25 minutes.  Remove the cinnamon sticks, turn off the heat, and allow to cool.

Makes about 3 cups (700 ml), which can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  Serve cold, warm, or at room temperature.  Good with pork chops, on a cheese board, or on a grilled cheese sandwich.

I’ve doubled this recipe (people keep asking for it!) and it worked fine.

It actually lasts longer than 2 weeks in the fridge — if you can resist eating it.  We’ve also enjoyed it with grilled chicken, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it weren’t great on vanilla ice cream.

I cook a lot, and I’m more than willing to share recipes if you’re interested.  Ask in the comments if you want a recipe for something that I might be good at.  (One caveat — I don’t do fish.  My poor mother was from Maine and loved all kinds of fresh and saltwater seafood.  To her horror I emerged from the womb loathing it all…)

Also, on particularly bad days I’ll supply Emergency Kittens:

Try the chutney — I’ll bet you’ll enjoy it.  Or come to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Savannah in 2 weeks and buy some!  Next I think I’ll share my most popular cookie recipe.

Have a happy day.

I. Just. Can’t. any more

October 5, 2017

I think it was the title of The Moustache of Wisdom’s column yesterday that finally did me in.  It was titled “If Only Stephen Paddock Were a Muslim.”  And of course there’s Bobo, who babbles on about how a rapper is sincere but some pop star (I’ve got no idea who either of them are) isn’t.  I’ve had it.  Up. To. Here.

If you want to read anything in the NYT and don’t want to buy into their paywall just right-click on the article and select “open link in private window.”  Presto, you’re reading.

If and when the carnage and insanity ever get better (fingers crossed) I’ll be back, but for now I’m on hiatus.  As a last offering I’ll give you this, on the members of Congress receiving the most NRA funding.  It’s by David Leonhardt, Ian Prasad Philbrick, and Stuart A. Thompson and is titled “Thoughts and Prayers and N.R.A. Funding:”

Most Americans support stronger gun laws — laws that would reduce deaths. But Republicans in Congress stand in the way. They fear alienating their primary voters and the National Rifle Association.

Below are the top 10 career recipients of N.R.A. funding – through donations or spending to benefit the candidate – among both current House and Senate members, along with their statements about the Las Vegas massacre. These representatives have a lot to say about it. All the while, they refuse to do anything to avoid the next massacre.

 Senate
1. John McCain
Ariz.
“Cindy & I are praying for the victims of the terrible #LasVegasShooting & their families.”
$7,740,521
FROM THE N.R.A.
2. Richard Burr
N.C.
“My heart is with the people of Las Vegas and their first responders today. This morning’s tragic violence has absolutely no place here in America.”
$6,986,620
FROM THE N.R.A.
3. Roy Blunt
Mo.
“Saddened by the tragic loss of life in #LasVegas. My thoughts are with all of the families affected by this horrific attack.”
$4,551,146
FROM THE N.R.A.
4. Thom Tillis
N.C.
“Susan and I send our deepest condolences and prayers to the families of the victims of this horrific and senseless tragedy in Las Vegas.”
$4,418,012
FROM THE N.R.A.
5. Cory Gardner
Co.
“My family and I are praying for the families of those injured and killed in Las Vegas last night.”
$3,879,064
FROM THE N.R.A.
6. Marco Rubio
Fla.
“I’m praying for all the victims, their families, and our first responders in the #LasVegas #MandalayBay shooting.”
$3,303,355
FROM THE N.R.A.
7. Joni Ernst
Iowa
“My prayers are with all of the victims in Las Vegas, and their loved ones affected by this senseless act of violence.”
$3,124,273
FROM THE N.R.A.
8. Rob Portman
Ohio
“Jane & I mourn the loss of innocent lives in this horrific attack in Las Vegas last night. We are praying for those taken from us, their families & all those injured in this attack.”
$3,061,941
FROM THE N.R.A.
9. Todd Young
Ind.
“We must offer our full support to the victims and their families as our nation mourns.”
$2,896,732
FROM THE N.R.A.
10. Bill Cassidy
La.
“Following closely the horrendous act of violence in Las Vegas. Our prayers are with those who were injured, killed and their families.”
$2,861,047
FROM THE N.R.A.
House
1. French Hill
Ark.
“Martha and I are praying for the families and victims of this senseless act of evil. […] We must continue to work together to stop this kind of terror.”
$1,089,477
FROM THE N.R.A.
2. Ken Buck
Co.
“I’m praying for all of those impacted by the evil events in Las Vegas last night. Our country must stand together in support of the families of the victims and the community.”
$800,544
FROM THE N.R.A.
3. David Young
Iowa
“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and friends of the horrific and evil tragedy in Las Vegas.”
$707,662
FROM THE N.R.A.
4. Mike Simpson
Idaho
“Though no words can heal our hurt, and no explanation will ever feel sufficient, I pray that all involved may find comfort as we process this devastating tragedy.”
$385,731
FROM THE N.R.A.
5. Greg Gianforte
Mont.
No statement released.
$344,630
FROM THE N.R.A.
6. Don Young
Alaska
“Anne and I are praying for all those involved or impacted by this heinous act of violence.”
$245,720
FROM THE N.R.A.
7. Lloyd Smucker
Pa.
“Horrific act of violence in Las Vegas. Cindy and I pray for the victims, their families, and the first responders.”
$221,736
FROM THE N.R.A.
8. Bruce Poliquin
Maine
“My thoughts are with all those effected in the horrifying attacks in Las Vegas. The nation is with you.”
$201,398
FROM THE N.R.A.
9. Pete Sessions
Tex.
“My deepest sympathies are with all who were harmed by this horrific tragedy.”
$158,111
FROM THE N.R.A.
10. Barbara Comstock
Va.
“I am heartbroken by the mass murder that took place last night in Las Vegas and I am praying for the victims, families, and first responders.”
$137,232
FROM THE N.R.A.

 

All of these representatives are Republican. The highest ranked Democrat in the House is Sanford Bishop, who ranks 41st in career donations from the N.R.A. Among the top 100 House recipients, 95 are Republican. In the Senate, the top two Democrats are Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who rank 52nd and 53rd — behind every Republican but Dan Sullivan of Alaska.

Blow, solo

October 2, 2017

In “Divert, Divide, Destroy” Mr. Blow says Trump shields his ignoble attacks by talking about veterans and first responders.  Here he is:

In one week’s time, President Trump has again demonstrated that his sympathies stretch no further than his personal fortunes and personal favors.

He is using the power of the presidency and the might of the federal government in his own petty game of sticks and carrots. His responses depend solely on whether he, as a person, and his family empire, are being complimented or criticized.

Last week, Trump diverted attention from his dying health reform plan and failing Republican senatorial choice in Alabama by denigrating N.F.L. players protesting for racial justice and equality. That got people talking, and arguing. It was all over TV, Trump’s gauge of all things good.

Furthermore, Trump saw the issue as a winning one for him. Indeed, a CNN/SSRS poll released Friday found that about half of respondents overall and nearly nine in 10 Republicans believed that “protesting players are doing the wrong thing to express their political opinion when they kneel during the National Anthem.”

But I would argue that first, if a majority agreed with a protest it would partially negate the need to protest, and second, majorities are not the measure of what is moral.

Using the majority-equals-morality argument, Bull Connor was on the right side of the civil rights protests. According to Gallup polls conducted in the early 1960s, a majority of Americans disapproved of the “freedom riders,” and thought “sit-ins” at lunch counters, “freedom buses” and other demonstrations were more likely to hurt than help integration in the South.

So Trump ran with his crusade against the players, even as he paid little attention to the suffering of millions of American citizens on the hurricane-ravaged island of Puerto Rico. (They are not Trump’s base. They can only vote in primaries, and in the Republican primary there last year, Marco Rubio trounced Trump.)

When the television coverage shifted to the suffering of the Puerto Rican people — a week after the most recent hurricane hit, by the way — the lag in aid and support and the relatively ineffective and inefficient government response, Trump finally focused more attention on it.

But when Carmen Yulín Cruz, the female mayor of San Juan, dared to advocate for the lives of the people in her city by pushing back on the Trump administration’s “good news story” narrative, Trump released a bullet spray of injurious tweets — some from the bucolic grounds of his Bedminster golf club — not only about the mayor but also about the people of Puerto Rico.

He said that the mayor was being “nasty,” a coded appellation he seems to favor when his target is female. These he wrote in two successive tweets:

The subtext here — or perhaps the actual text — was to blame the victim and berate them as a group: These brown people want/need help, but won’t/can’t help themselves because their community/culture is inferior/ineffective.

It was a revolting, racialized attack, but one delivered in much the same way that his racialized attack on the N.F.L. players was delivered: by using hijacked glory.

He used the nobility of veterans and active service member to shield his ignoble attack on the N.F.L. players, and he used the nobility of first responders to shield his ignoble attack on Puerto Ricans.

The mayor was right, of course. No one wants their plaintive wails drowned out by a cacophony of premature, self-congratulatory pats on the back. Also, what kind of man demands praise from the mourning?

Just as in the racial case against the players, Trump again raised the idea of the ingratitude of minorities, tweeting:

As Jelani Cobb brilliantly observed last week in The New Yorker, “Ungrateful is the new uppity.”

I would argue that it isn’t even all that new. In the wake of the March on Washington in 1963, the segregationist Strom Thurmond (who in the irony of all ironies fathered a secret child with a black woman) used the same you-should-be-happy-and-grateful line of attack on black protesters.

As MSNBC reported in 2013, Thurmond argued after the march that black people in America were not “deprived of freedom” because, “The Negroes in this country own more refrigerators, and more automobiles, than they do in any other country.”

The argument that material things divests minorities of moral grievance is a fallacious one.

But this is Trump’s America, a conjuring of a darker American past. It’s as if Donald Trump has strolled into the political equivalent of a hospice for racist ideologies with a miracle elixir. Ideas we had hoped were near death have a new verve and vigor.

Trump is dividing this country with the delicacy of a meat cleaver.

Blow and Collins

September 28, 2017

In “‘The Flag Is Drenched With Our Blood'” Mr. Blow says that for black Americans, patriotism is a paradox.  Ms. Collins, in “Trump’s Worst: An Update,” says his cabinet’s behavior has us wondering again who should be the first to go.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Yes, Donald Trump has once again used racial hostility to rouse his base and is reveling in the achievement.

According to The New York Times, when Trump’s advisers appeared lukewarm about the uproar he created by chastising, in the coarsest of terms, N.F.L. players who chose to quietly kneel to protest racial inequality and police violence, “Mr. Trump responded by telling people that it was a huge hit with his base, making it clear that he did not mind alienating his critics if it meant solidifying his core support.”

Every way he is manipulating his majority-white base to oppose a majority-black group of private citizens is disgusting. Trump is disgusting.

But I am also infuriated by his framing: that this has nothing to do with race (whenever you hear that, know that the subject at hand must have everything to do with race) and that this is just about patriotism, honoring national ritual, celebrating soldiers, particularly the fallen, and venerating “our flag.”

What this misses is that patriotism is particularly fraught for black people in this country because the history of the country’s treatment of them is fraught. It’s not that black people aren’t patriotic; it’s just that patriotism can be a paradox.

Many black people see themselves simultaneously as part of America and separate from it, under attack by it, and it has always been thus.

W.E.B. Du Bois wrote over a century ago about this sensation:

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

It is through that haze of hurt that black people see the flag, because the blood memory of the black man is long in this country.

Let’s start this story from its ghastly beginning.

Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr., citing the Trans-Atlantic Slave Database, writes that an estimated 10.7 million people survived the voyage — called the Middle Passage — from their homelands to North America, the Caribbean and South America, between 1525 and 1866. Of those, about 390,000 made it to North American soil. This was about 3 percent of the total who survived.

PolitiFact wrote: “Historian Herbert Klein of Columbia and Stanford Universities, who worked on the database, said that the data suggest about 85,000 people destined for North America did not survive the trip across the Atlantic.”

The overall slave trade in North and South America caused about 1.8 million deaths. There was so much human flesh being tossed over the sides of those boats — or jumping— that sharks learned to trail the boats to feast on it.

As Haaretz wrote in 2014 in an interview with Marcus Rediker, the author of “The Slave Ship: A Human History”:

“There are descriptions of coerced cannibalism, the hanging of innocent individuals by their toes, the amputation of limbs, feeding by means of the ‘speculum oris, the long, thin mechanical contraption used to force open unwilling throats to receive gruel and hence sustenance,’ branding with white-hot metal rods, starvation to death, shackling with handcuffs or by chains to other captives, and rape.” And this was just onboard the ships.

And while the percentage of slaves brought to the United States was relatively small, American owners bred slaves like cattle.

As the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History put it, “Well over 90 percent of enslaved Africans were imported into the Caribbean and South America.” Only a small fraction of African captives were sent directly to British North America, and “yet by 1825, the U.S. had a quarter of blacks in the New World.”

Furthermore, “While the death rate of U.S. slaves was about the same as that of Jamaican slaves, the fertility rate was more than 80 percent higher in the United States.”

Those children faced a harsh and uncertain future, including a strikingly high mortality rate. As Rebecca Tannenbaum’s book “Health and Wellness in Colonial America” points out:

“While good data is hard to come by, estimations of infant mortality (deaths among infants up to a year old) among African-Americans during the 18 century ranges from 28 to 50 percent. Child mortality (children from one year to 10 years old) was also high — 40 to 50 percent.”

This says nothing of the untold number of older children and adults who died during captivity in America due to cruelty, starvation, exposure, assault, and lynching and other forms of murder.

We often hear about the 620,000 people who died during America’s Civil War (in recent years, scholars have estimated the number was actually higher), trying either to eradicate slavery or save it, but what we hear less often is that black people were included in that number.

According to the National Archives:

“By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10 percent of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of the war — 30,000 of infection or disease.”

After the war and the Emancipation Proclamation, the terror continued. According to the N.A.A.C.P.:

“From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people that were lynched, 3,446 were black. The blacks lynched accounted for 72.7 percent of the people lynched.”

Then, there are America’s heinous and racially biased state-sponsored executions. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there have been 1,460 executions since 1976, when the Supreme Court effectively lifted a moratorium on the death penalty. Almost 35 percent of those executed were black, although the proportion of black people in the country hovers around 13 percent.

In fact, the the youngest person executed in America in the 20th century was a 14-year-old black boy named George Stinney. He was convicted in a rushed miscarriage of justice in which the jury was selected (all white), the trial was conducted (it lasted only a few hours, and his appointed lawyer didn’t ask a single question) and the verdict was rendered (after only 10 minutes of deliberation) all in the span of single day.

The 5-foot-1, 95-pound Stinney was so small in the electric chair that they had to use a book as a booster seat. Some say it was a phone book; others say it was the Bible.

This is to say nothing of the disastrous effects of mass incarceration and the chaos unleashed by sucking so many young people, particularly young men, out of communities.

As the Pew Research Center put it in 2013, “The incarceration rate of black men is more than six times higher than that of white men, slightly larger than the gap in 1960.”

Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” has put it more starkly: “More African-American adults are under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.”

And then come police shootings. According to a database maintained by The Washington Post, there have been 730 police shootings so far this year, putting 2017 on track to match or surpass the number of shootings in 2015 and 2016. But here again there is a racial imbalance: black people represent nearly a quarter of those shot but only about an eighth of the general population. When you look at unarmed victims, blacks make up nearly a third of that cohort.

Throughout most of this pain and bloodshed, some version of the flag has waved.

So how dare anyone suggest that people simply rise and conform to custom when they feel the urgent need to protest. How dare America say so cavalierly, “Forgive us our sins and grant us our laurels,” when forgiveness has never been sufficiently requested — nor the sins sufficiently acknowledged — and the laurels are tainted and stained by the stubbornness of historical fact. How dare we even pretend that the offenses have been isolated and anomalous and not orchestrated and executed by the nation?

So those football players should take a knee if they so choose. If America demands your respect it must grant you respect and the first order of that respect is equality and eradicating the ominous threat of state violence.

People upset with those who kneel seem to be more angry about black “disrespect” than black death. (Here, I need to applaud the non-black players who demonstrated their solidarity in the cause of free speech and equality.)

We have to accept that different Americans see pride and principle differently, but that makes none of them less American.

Indeed, we Americans see the flag itself differently. As the civil rights legend Fannie Lou Hamer once said, “The flag is drenched with our blood.”

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Donald Trump has just voted in the Worst Cabinet Member contest.

“We’ll see,” he said when asked by reporters if he was going to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. I believe I speak for us all when I say this does not sound like a vote of confidence.

Price recently became famous as the guy who enjoys traveling by private charter plane at the taxpayers’ expense. You would think that Trump, who loves his private planes like a family member, would be a little sympathetic to someone’s distaste for commercial travel. But no.

“I am not happy about it. I’m going to look at it. I am not happy about it, and I let him know it,” Trump told reporters Wednesday.

Now Price is also the guy who is waging a war against birth control that’s cratering teen pregnancy prevention programs. But in this administration you can ruin federal initiatives aimed at avoiding unwanted pregnancy and Donald Trump — no fan of unwanted pregnancy — will completely ignore it. If Price goes down, it will be over his travel bills, which is sort of like Al Capone going to jail for tax evasion.

Price claimed that a majority of the private charters he’d taken “were for the opioid crisis or the hurricanes.” No indication of whether it was a weather disaster or drug emergency that took him to the Aspen Ideas Festival in June. Still not quite as bad as attempting to cut $6 billion from next year’s National Institutes of Health research. But I say, go with what you can get. Tom Price is terrible and whatever sends him out of government is fine.

Do you think he’s the Worst Cabinet Member? There’s so much competition. Consider Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who attempted to get rebellious House members to support Trump’s budget deal with the Democrats by asking them to do it “for me.” Apparently Mnuchin had no idea that Republican lawmakers’ affection for him was about on par with their feelings for special work sessions over holiday weekends.

Policy-wise, Mnuchin is an awful Treasury secretary, unless you’d been hoping the post would go to someone whose strong point is a keen understanding of all the hopes and needs of the hedge fund industry.

Plus, there’s a plane thing! At one point Mnuchin tried to get a government jet to take him on his honeymoon. More recently, he used one to fly him and his wife to Fort Knox.

Mnuchin argued that Fort Knox was an important stop for a Treasury secretary because, you know, there’s all that gold. When cynics speculated that the couple just wanted to be somewhere where they could get a good view of the eclipse, Mnuchin told Politico, winningly, that was silly: “You know, people in Kentucky took this stuff very serious. Being a New Yorker … I was like, the eclipse? Really? I don’t have any interest in watching the eclipse.”

It’s true. We New Yorkers do not care a bit about planetary phenomenon. We are only interested in jaywalking and hedge funds.

The Trump cabinet is worth trashing on so many important levels that it does seem unfair to judge the members simply on the basis of stupid moves of self-gratification. You would like to see the country denouncing Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, for having stripped his agency of scientists. (“Science is not something that should be just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington D.C.”)

However, that seems to be working well for Pruitt in Trump Washington. So as a fallback, let’s encourage discussion of the $25,000 he’s spending to put a soundproof phone booth in his office.

Is there anybody in this cabinet who you can like? A Morning Consult/Politico poll of registered voters found Defense Secretary James Mattis had the most support — although to be honest, none of Trump’s appointees exactly elicited enthusiasm. Mattis is frequently mentioned as a man standing between our president and Armageddon, so you could understand him being popular even if he got caught flying in the wrong plane.

The Trump administration has clearly gotten American people very interested in the presidential cabinet. For instance, 24 percent of the respondents in that poll said they liked Sonny Perdue, and the idea that many people even know Perdue is secretary of agriculture is sort of a wow. Although of course it’s possible that some of them thought he had something to do with chicken.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was at the bottom, presumably because a whole lot of people believe that she is trying to reorganize public education into a private venture.

DeVos — who also came in last in a readers poll I did a few months back — has been a particular foe of government attempts to crack down on for-profit colleges that cheat their students. Recently, she picked a former official in a for-profit college to lead a department anti-fraud unit.

And on this one, we know that it’s the policies people don’t like. DeVos is so godawful rich, she rides in private planes she pays for herself.

Friedman and Bruni

September 27, 2017

In “Folks, We’re Home Alone” The Moustache of Wisdom says we need to adapt to succeed, and this president isn’t helping.  Mr. Bruni thinks he knows “The Lecture That Donald Trump Needs.” He says Jeff Sessions schooled college students on free speech, but his most important pupil is the president.  Here’s TMOW:

Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote a famous memoir, “Present at the Creation,” about the birth of the post-World War II order — an order whose institutions produced six decades of security and growth for a lot of people. We’re now at a similar moment of rapid change — abroad and at home. Many institutions have to be rethought. But any book about Washington today would have to be called “Absent at the Creation.”

Surely one of the most cynical, reckless acts of governing in my lifetime has been President Trump and the G.O.P.’s attempt to ram through a transformation of America’s health care system — without holding hearings with experts, conducting an independent cost-benefit analysis or preparing the public — all to erase Barack Obama’s legacy to satisfy a few billionaire ideologue donors and a “base” so drunk on Fox News that its members don’t understand they’ll be the ones most hurt by it all.

Democrats aren’t exactly a fire hose of fresh ideas, but they do respect science and have a sense of responsibility to not play around with big systems without an ounce of study. Not so Trump. He scrapped the Paris climate treaty without consulting one climate scientist — and no G.O.P. leader protested. Think about that.

That failure is particularly relevant because, as this column has been arguing, “climate change” is the right analytical framework for thinking about how we shape policy today. Why? Because we’re going through three climate changes at once:

We’re going through a change in the actual climate — disruptive, destructive weather events are steadily on the rise.

We’re going through a change in the “climate” of globalization — going from an interconnected world to an interdependent one, from a world of walls where you build your wealth by hoarding the most resources to a world of webs where you build your wealth by having the most connections to the flow of ideas, networks, innovators and entrepreneurs. In this interdependent world, connectivity leads to prosperity and isolation leads to poverty. We got rich by being “America Connected” not “America First.”

Finally, we’re going through a change in the “climate” of technology and work. We’re moving into a world where computers and algorithms can analyze(reveal previously hidden patterns); optimize (tell a plane which altitude to fly each mile to get the best fuel efficiency); prophesize (tell you when your elevator will break or what your customer is likely to buy); customize (tailor any product or service for you alone); and digitize and automatize more and more products and services. Any company that doesn’t deploy all six elements will struggle, and this is changing every job and industry.

What do you need when the climate changes? Adaptation — so your citizens can get the most out of these climate changes and cushion the worst. Adaptation has to happen at the individual, community and national levels.

At the individual level, the single most important adaptation is to become a lifelong learner, so you can constantly add value beyond what machines and algorithms can do.

“When work was predictable and the change rate was relatively constant, preparation for work merely required the codification and transfer of existing knowledge and predetermined skills to create a stable and deployable work force,” explains education consultant Heather McGowan. “Now that the velocity of change has accelerated, due to a combination of exponential growth in technology and globalization, learning can no longer be a set dose of education consumed in the first third of one’s life.” In this age of accelerations, “the new killer skill set is an agile mind-set that values learning over knowing.”

At the community level, the U.S. communities that are thriving are the ones building what I call complex adaptive coalitions. These comprise local businesses that get deeply involved in shaping the skills being taught in the public schools and community colleges, buttressed by civic and philanthropic groups providing supplemental learning opportunities and internships. Then local government catalyzes these coalitions and hires recruiters to go into the world to find investors for their local communal assets.

These individual and communal adaptation strategies dictate the national programs you want: health care that is as portable as possible so people can easily move from job to job; as much free or tax-deductible education as possible, so people can afford to be lifelong learners; reducing taxes on corporations and labor to stimulate job creation and relying instead on a carbon tax that raises revenues and mitigates costly climate change; and immigration and trade policies that are as open as possible, because in an age of acceleration the most open country will get the change signals first and attract the most high-I.Q. risk takers who start new companies.

There was no good time for Donald Trump to be president. But this is a uniquely bad time for us to have a race-baiting, science-denying divider in chief. He is impossible to ignore, and yet reacting to his daily antics only makes us stupid — only makes our society less focused on the huge adaptation challenges at hand.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

I’m thrilled that Jeff Sessions is such an evangelist for free speech.

Now if only he could convert his boss.

On Tuesday afternoon, with much fanfare, Sessions strode onto a stage at Georgetown University and decried the rise of a creature with an insatiable appetite for affirmation, a distressing inability to respect the other side and an ugly impulse to silence anyone who dwells there. He meant today’s college student. He could have been describing today’s president.

While decency and decorum are dying in this administration, irony and hypocrisy thrive: Sessions’ defense of the First Amendment came just days after Donald Trump needlessly went to war against professional athletes who were exercising the very rights it protects. When pressed on this dissonance in a question-and-answer period after his remarks, Sessions simply refused to recognize it. He fell unswervingly in line with Trump, contradictions be damned. To serve in this administration is a transcendently speech-freeing thing.

There’s no dispute that many campuses are illiberal enclaves of bluntly enforced groupthink, and there’s no doubt that many students deserve the stern words that Sessions aimed at them. But they’re still green and still growing. What’s Trump’s excuse?

Given his office and capacity for destruction, he needs the lecture that Sessions delivered most of all. So let’s redirect it from its intended audience to its ideal one, from the ivory tower to Trump Tower, and look at Sessions’ remarks through the prism of his ruler.

“There are those who will say that certain speech isn’t deserving of protection. They will say that some speech is hurtful — even hateful … But the right of free speech does not exist only to protect the ideas upon which most of us agree.”

Bull’s eye, bingo and hallelujah. The right of free speech protects whatever Colin Kaepernick has to say and whatever he intended to communicate by kneeling during the national anthem. Trump may not be fond of that particular gesture. I myself never was. And as Sessions correctly noted, the president is free to make those thoughts known.

But he went so much further, exhorting team owners in the National Football League to fire players who didn’t listen to the anthem and salute the flag in the manner that Trump would like. The First Amendment says that the government mustn’t prohibit free expression, and his campaign against pro athletes, threatening them with the loss of their livelihoods, edges up to that territory.

“As Justice Robert Jackson once explained, ‘If there is a fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion.’ ”

Our highest official is also our pettiest, and his attack on athletes smacks of such an attempted prescription. So did the statement of his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, that the ESPN host Jemele Hill’s characterization of the president as a “white supremacist” constituted a “fire-able offense.” That’s between ESPN and Hill. The government — meaning the White House — shouldn’t be getting involved.

And Trump’s onetime suggestion that flag burning be made a crime: How does that square with the constitution’s fixed star?

“A shelter for fragile egos.”

That’s how Sessions portrayed the college campus. Make “egos” singular and the phrase defines the Oval Office now. This president has such an overweening investment in his own glory, or rather in the illusion of it, that he distorts truth (the size of his inauguration crowd) and invents facts (the voter fraud that supposedly gave Hillary Clinton the popular vote) to sustain it.

As news organizations call him out on these and all of his other lies, he doesn’t merely push back at the stories one by one. He tweets and bleats that the media is an “enemy of the American people,” trafficking in “fake news.” He tries to intimidate given reporters and news organizations.

He has called for changes in the law to make it easier to sue news organizations for libel. At rallies, he has encouraged crowds to rant at reporters. On Twitter, he has shared violent imagery in regard to CNN.

No president in my lifetime has so thoroughly rejected the media’s role as a vital pillar of democracy and so assertively sought to discredit it as an institution. Freedom of the press is mentioned snug alongside freedom of speech in Sessions’ beloved First Amendment, but you’d never know it from Trump’s behavior.

“The university is supposed to be the place where we train virtuous citizens.”

The White House is supposed to be the place to which we elevate the most virtuous ones of all, at least in happy theory. But can you show me the honor in a president who warps reality itself to his advantage and savages all who get in the way? And where in that ruthlessness is respect for the lofty principles that Sessions so disingenuously espoused?

Administration, heal thyself.

Krugman’s blog, 9/25/17

September 26, 2017

There was one post yesterday, “Why Do You Care How Much Other People Work? Revisited:”

Greg Leiserson has an interesting post on assessing tax reform, in which he argues that distribution tables — showing the direct gains and losses from a tax change — properly measure welfare gains, and don’t need to be revised to consider the induced effects on labor supply, effort etc.

This caught my eye because I made a similar point three years ago with regard to projections of labor supply reduction from Obamacare.

The point in each case is that while changes in taxes or transfers may induce changes in how much people work, when you assess these changes you have to bear in mind that, to a first approximation, workers are paid their marginal product. This means that if increased transfers induce some people to work less, it also causes them to earn less, so that the rest of society isn’t any worse off; if lower taxes induce high earners to work more, it also means that they’re paid more, so that the rest of society doesn’t reap any of the gains.

This is also, by the way, the logic behind the Diamond-Saez proposition that the optimal top tax rate is the one that maximizes revenue: aside from the taxes they pay, increased effort by the very rich to a first approximation makes no difference to everyone else, because the increase in output is fully captured by higher top incomes.

All of this gets obscured by talk about economic growth. Reminder: workers care about their welfare, not what happens to GDP. Making the rich richer without trickle down does the rest of us no good.

 

It’s Bobo time again…

September 26, 2017

Well, the title pretty much sums up what Bobo’s peddling today.  He’s extruded something called “The Abbie Hoffman of the Right: Donald Trump” in which he gurgles that Trump is winning at shredding the dominant American culture.  Yes, it’s as wrong-headed as the title suggests, and “gemli” from Boston will have a rebuttal.  Here’s Bobo:

It has to be admitted that Donald Trump is doing exactly what he was elected to do.

He was not elected to be a legislative president. He never showed any real interest in policy during the campaign. He was elected to be a cultural president. He was elected to shred the dominant American culture and to give voice to those who felt voiceless in that culture. He’s doing that every day.

What’s troubling to me is that those who are the targets of his assaults seem to have no clue about what is going on. When they feel the most righteous, like this past weekend, they are actually losing and in the most peril.

Let me try to explain what I think is happening:

After World War II the Protestant establishment dominated the high ground of American culture and politics. That establishment eventually failed. It tolerated segregation and sexism, led the nation into war in Vietnam and became stultifying.

So in the late 1960s along came a group of provocateurs like Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and the rest of the counterculture to upend the Protestant establishment. People like Hoffman were buffoons, but also masters of political theater.

They never attracted majority support for their antics, but they didn’t have to. All they had to do was provoke, offend the crew-cut crowd, generate outrage and set off a cycle that ripped apart the cultural consensus.

The late 1960s were a time of intense cultural conflict, which left a lot of wreckage in its wake. But eventually a new establishment came into being, which we will call the meritocratic establishment.

These were the tame heirs to Hoffman and Rubin. They were well educated. They cut their moral teeth on the civil rights and feminist movements. They embraced economic, social and moral individualism. They came to dominate the institutions of American society on both left and right.

Hillary Clinton is part of this more educated cohort. So are parts of the conservative establishment. If you’re reading this newspaper, you probably are, too, as am I.

This establishment, too, has had its failures. It created an economy that benefits itself and leaves everybody else out. It led America into war in Iraq and sent the working class off to fight it. It has developed its own brand of cultural snobbery. Its media, film and music industries make members of the working class feel invisible and disrespected.

So in 2016, members of the outraged working class elected their own Abbie Hoffman as president. Trump is not good at much, but he is wickedly good at sticking his thumb in the eye of the educated elites. He doesn’t have to build a new culture, or even attract a majority. He just has to tear down the old one.

That’s exactly what he’s doing. Donald Trump came into a segmenting culture and he is further tearing apart every fissure. He has a nose for every wound in the body politic and day after day he sticks a red-hot poker in one wound or another and rips it open.

Day by day Trump is turning us into a nation of different planets. Each planet feels more righteous about itself and is more isolated from and offended by the other planets.

The members of the educated class saw this past weekend’s N.F.L. fracas as a fight over racism. They felt mobilized and unified in that fight and full of righteous energy. Members of the working class saw the fracas as a fight about American identity. They saw Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin try to dissuade Alejandro Villanueva, a three-time combat veteran, from celebrating the flag he risked his life for. Members of this class also felt mobilized, unified and full of righteous energy.

I don’t know which planet is bigger, or which would win an election, but that frankly doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Trump is shredding the culture and ending the dominance of the meritocratic establishment.

He continually goes after racial matters in part because he’s a bigot but also in part because multiculturalism is the theology of the educated class and it’s the leverage point he can most effectively use to isolate the educated class from everyone else.

He is so destructive because his enemies help him. He ramps up the aggression. His enemies ramp it up more, to preserve their own dignity. But the ensuing cultural violence only serves Trump’s long-term destructive purpose. America is seeing nearly as much cultural conflict as it did in the late 1960s. It’s quite possible that after four years of this Trump will have effectively destroyed the prevailing culture. The reign of the meritocratic establishment will be just as over as the reign of the Protestant establishment now is

Of course Donald Trump is a buffoon. Buffoonery is his most effective weapon. Because of him, a new culture will have to be built, new values promulgated and a new social fabric will have to be woven, one that brings the different planets back into relation with one another.

That’s the work of the next 20 years.

Words fail me…  Thank goodness they don’t fail “gemli:”

“I told you so, says Mr. Brooks. You children of the ‘60s embraced buffoons like Hoffman and Rubin, people who ignored just authority, offended the conservative establishment, protested ill-considered wars, fought for racial equality and women’s rights, and thought pot should be legal. If they had been around a bit later, they’d have probably occupied Wall Street, the ungrateful hippies.

Sounds like the Obama era to me. But Brooks wags his finger, and says these anti-war, socially aware defenders of economic freedom ultimately led us into Iraq, wrecked the economy and feathered their own nests.

Huh? What he’s describing is the Bush/Cheney era, when ignorance flourished, tax cuts were for the wealthy, health care was throttled by insurance companies and the low-information voter reigned supreme.

Brooks sideswipes multiculturalism as the theology of the educated class. He makes meritocracy sound like a bad thing, as if what’s important is not what you know, like those snobbish, Obama-style elites, but who you are. What’s bred in the bone is what matters.

Somehow, the low-info crowd who put a destructive moron in the White House is the fault of liberals. So Brooks scolds us with exasperated glee. Now there’s chaos, and we’ll have to build a new world order all over again. So long, meritocracy. Adios, multicultural whiners.

Hello, stupid people, says Brooks. Thanks for wrecking this experiment in liberal democracy. We’ll take it from here.”

Blow and Krugman

September 25, 2017

In “A Rebel, A Warrior and a Race Fiend” Mr. Blow says that Donald Trump’s insults are about a lot more than football and flags.  Prof. Krugman, in “Trapped By Their Own Lies,” explains why Republicans can win, but can’t govern.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump is operating the White House as a terror cell of racial grievance in America’s broader culture wars.

He has made his allegiances clear: He’s on the side of white supremacists, white nationalists, ethno-racists, Islamophobes and anti-Semites. He is simpatico with that cesspool.

And nothing gets his goat quite like racial minorities who stand up for themselves or stand up to him.

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors was asked about the annual rite of championship teams visiting the White House, and Curry made clear that he didn’t want to go because “we basically don’t stand for what our president has said, and the things he hasn’t said at the right time.”

Trump responded to Curry’s expressed desire not to go by seeming to disinvite the entire team, to which Curry responded with a level of class that is foreign to Trump. Curry said, “It’s surreal, to be honest.” Curry continued: “I don’t know why he feels the need to target certain individuals, rather than others. I have an idea of why, but it’s kind of beneath a leader of a country to go that route. That’s not what leaders do.”

Of course, Curry is correct. Not only is this episode surreal, the entire Trump tenure is surreal. He is not a leader.

Separately, on Friday night at a political rally in Alabama, Trump took to task N.F.L. players who kneel in protest during the national anthem and N.F.L. owners who allow it.

Trump said owners should respond by saying: “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. Fired!”

Pause. No, full stop. Folks, this cretin is who we are supposed to call a “president.” He uses harsher language against people quietly protesting injustice than he does against violent racists marching through the streets. Unbelievable. O.K., continue.

Last year, Colin Kaepernick, who was then a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, kicked off these protests when he began to quietly kneel during the pre-game playing of the national anthem.

At the time he explained his rationale to NFL Media, saying: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” He continued, “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Let alone that the anthem was authored by a white supremacist, Francis Scott Key, who was a proponent of African colonization — exporting free blacks back to Africa — and an opponent of the anti-slavery movement.

Let alone the fact that the third stanza of that anthem, the part that you never hear, goes like this:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,

A home and a country, should leave us no more?

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave,

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.

This is thought by some to be an excoriation of the Colonial Marines, a mostly black unit composed primarily of runaway slaves who fought for the British during the War of 1812, on the promise of attaining their freedom. The unit humiliated Key’s own unit in battle.

As Jason Johnson, a professor of political science at Morgan State University and political editor at The Root wrote on the site last yearWith a few exceptions,” Key “was about as pro-slavery, anti-black and anti-abolitionist as you could get at the time.”

Kaepernick’s objection is valid on its own, but the anthem itself is problematic. It all points to the complexity we encounter when we pull back the gauzy veil of hagiographic history we have woven.

The exploitation of black bodies and the spilling of black blood are an indelible part of the American story, and how we deal with that says everything about where we are as a nation and who we are.

This is about far more than football and flags, about more than basketball and battle cries. This is about American memory, the ongoing quest for equality, the racial inequities fused to the DNA of power in this country. This is also about the response to minority advances and the coming minority-to-majority demographic conversion.

This is about the honest appraisal of what America was, is, and should be.

Trump is not a proper leader for any moment or any conversation, let alone this moment and this conversation.

Trump has no desire to advance truth and reconciliation when it comes to race in this country. His venality and vulgarity seeks only to exploit white racial anxiety and hostility, in the most vulgar of terms, to maximum political gain.

With every passing day, Trump diminishes the office of the presidency and elevates a virulent strain of racial animus. Trumpism is becoming ever more synonymous with racism.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

On Saturday pretty much the entire medical sector — groups representing doctors, hospitals, and insurers — released an extraordinary open letter condemning the Graham-Cassidy health bill. The letter was written in the style of Emile Zola’s “J’accuse”: a series of paragraphs, each beginning with the bolded words “We agree,” pointing out the bill’s many awful features, from the harm it would do to people with pre-existing conditions to the chaos it would cause in insurance markets.

It takes a truly terrible proposal to elicit such eloquent unanimity from organizations that are usually cautious to the point of stodginess. So how did Republicans come up with something that bad, and how did that bad thing get so close to becoming law? Indeed, it still has a chance of being enacted despite John McCain’s “no.”

The answer is that Republicans have spent years routinely lying for the sake of political advantage. And now — not just on health care, but across the board — they are trapped by their own lies, forced into trying to enact policies they know won’t work.

Reporting on why the G.O.P. plowed ahead with Graham-Cassidy makes it clear that many Republicans supporting it are well aware that it’s a bad bill, although they may not appreciate just how bad. “You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered,” said Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. “But,” he continued, “Republicans have campaigned on this,” meaning repeal-and-replace, and had to fulfill their promise.

Carl Hulse of The New York Times adds more detail: one big factor behind the push for Graham-Cassidy was anger among big donors, who wanted to know why Republicans had broken their vows to kill Obamacare.

But repealing the Affordable Care Act wasn’t the only thing Republicans promised; they also promised to replace it with something better and cheaper, doing away with all the things people don’t like about Obamacare without creating any new problems. Remember, it was Bill Cassidy, not Jimmy Kimmel, who came up with the “Jimmy Kimmel test,” the pledge that nobody would be denied health care because of expense.

Yet Republicans never had any idea how to fulfill that promise and meet that test, or indeed how to repeal the A.C.A. without taking insurance away from tens of millions. That is, they were lying about health care all along.

And the base, both the grass roots and the big money, believed the lies. Hence the trap in which Republicans find themselves.

The thing is, health care isn’t the only issue on which lies are coming back to bite the liars. The same story is playing out on other issues — in fact, on almost every substantive policy issue the U.S. faces.

The next big item on the G.O.P. agenda is taxes. Now, cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy may be an easier political lift than taking health insurance away from 30 million Americans. But Republicans still have a problem, because they’ve spent years posing as the party of fiscal responsibility, and they have no idea how to cut taxes without blowing up the deficit.

As with health care, the party has masked its lack of good ideas with lies, claiming that it would offset lower tax rates and even reduce the deficit by eliminating unnamed loopholes and slashing unnamed wasteful spending. But as with health care, these lies will be revealed once actual legislation is unveiled. It’s telling that Republicans are already invoking voodoo economics to justify their as-yet-unspecified tax plans, insisting that tax cuts will pay for themselves by leading to higher economic growth.

At this point, however, few people believe them. The Bush tax cuts didn’t create a boom; neither did the Kansas tax-cut “experiment.” Conversely, the U.S. economy did fine after the 2013 Obama tax hike, as has the California economy since Jerry Brown raised state taxes. Party apparatchiks will no doubt engage in an orgy of Reaganolatry, but the broader public probably won’t be moved by (false) claims about the wondrous results of tax cuts 36 years ago.

So tax policy, like health care, will be hobbled by a legacy of lies.

Wait, there’s more.

Foreign policy isn’t usually a central concern for voters. Still, past lies have put the Trump administration in a box over things like the Iran nuclear deal: Canceling the deal would create huge problems, yet not canceling it would amount to an admission that the criticisms were dishonest.

And soon the G.O.P. may even start to pay a price for lying about climate change. As hurricanes get ever more severe — just as climate scientists predicted — climate denial is looking increasingly out of touch. Yet donors and the base would react with fury to any admission that the threat is real, after all.

The bottom line is that the bill for cynicism seems to be coming due. For years, flat-out lies about policy served Republicans well, helping them win back control of Congress and, eventually, the White House. But those same lies now leave them unable to govern.

Brooks and Krugman

September 22, 2017

In “The Coming War on Business” Bobo babbles that a quarter century ago, Sam Francis was championing the things that got Donald Trump elected last year.  Sam Francis was a crank and a racist, so I guess he’s a good precursor for Trump…  Prof. Krugman, in “Cruelty, Incompetence and Lies,” says Graham-Cassidy says a lot about the Republican Party, none of it good.  Here’s Bobo:

The only time I saw Sam Francis face-to-face — in the Washington Times cafeteria sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s — I thought he was a crank, but it’s clear now that he was at that moment becoming one of the most prescient writers of the past 50 years. There’s very little Donald Trump has done or said that Francis didn’t champion a quarter century ago.

In a series of essays for conservative magazines like Chronicles, Francis hammered home three key insights. The first was that globalization was screwing Middle America. The Cold War had just ended, capitalism seemed triumphant and the Clinton years seemed to be an era of broad prosperity. But Francis stressed that the service economy was ruining small farms and taking jobs from the working class.

His second insight was that the Republican and conservative establishment did not understand what was happening. He railed against the pro-business “Economic Men” who thought G.D.P. growth could solve the nation’s problems, and the Washington Republicans, who he thought were infected with the values of the educated elites.

In 1991, when his political mentor, Pat Buchanan, was contemplating a presidential bid, Francis told him to break with the conservative movement. “These people are defunct,” Francis told Buchanan. “Go to New Hampshire and call yourself a patriot, a nationalist, an America Firster, but don’t even use the word ‘conservative.’ It doesn’t mean anything anymore.”

His third insight was that politics was no longer about left versus right. Instead, a series of smaller conflicts — religious versus secular, nationalist versus globalist, white versus nonwhite — were all merging into a larger polarity, ruling class versus Middle America.

“Middle American groups are more and more coming to perceive their exploitation at the hands of the dominant elites. The exploitation works on several fronts — economically, by hypertaxation and the design of a globalized economy dependent on exports and services in place of manufacturing; culturally, by the managed destruction of Middle American norms and institutions; and politically, by the regimentation of Middle Americans under the federal leviathan.”

Middle American voters, he wrote, were stuck without a party, appalled by pro-corporate Republican economic policies on the one hand and liberal cultural radicalism on the other. They swung to whichever party seemed most likely to resist the ruling class, but neither party really provided a solution. “A nationalist reaction is almost inevitable and will probably assume populist form when it arrives. The sooner it comes the better.”

The Buchanan campaign was the first run at what we now know as Trumpian populism. In a profile of Francis called “The Castaway,” Michael Brendan Dougherty smartly observed that Buchanan and Francis weren’t just against government, they were against the entire cultural hegemony of the ruling class.

Francis wrote a wickedly brilliant 1996 essay on Buchanan, “From Household to Nation”: “The ‘culture war’ for Buchanan is not Republican swaggering about family values and dirty movies but a battle over whether the nation itself can continue to exist under the onslaught of the militant secularism, acquisitive egoism, economic and political globalism, demographic inundation, and unchecked state centralism supported by the ruling class.”

Francis urged Buchanan to run an unorthodox campaign (of the sort Trump ended up running), and was ignored. “If Buchanan loses the nomination, it will be because his time has not yet come,” Francis wrote. The moment would end up coming in 2016, 11 years after Francis’ death.

Francis’ thought was infected by the same cancer that may destroy Trumpism. Francis was a racist. His friends and allies counseled him not to express his racist views openly, but people like that always go there, sooner or later.

The Civil War was an open wound for many in his circle, and in 1994 Francis told a conference, “The civilization that we as whites created in Europe and America could not have developed apart from the genetic endowments of the creating people, nor is there any reason to believe that the civilization can be successfully transmitted to a different people.”

He was fired by The Washington Times and cast out of the conservative movement by William F. Buckley and others.

When you look at today’s world through the prism of Francis’ work, a few things seem clear: Trump is not a one-time phenomenon; the populist tide has been rising for years. His base sticks with him through scandal because it’s not just about him; it’s a movement defined against the so-called ruling class. Congressional Republicans get all tangled on health care and other issues because they l don’t understand their voters. Finally, Trump may not be the culmination, but merely a way station toward an even purer populism.

Trump is nominally pro-business. The next populism will probably take his ethnic nationalism and add an anti-corporate, anti-tech layer. Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple stand for everything Francis hated — economically, culturally, demographically and nationalistically.

As the tech behemoths intrude more deeply into daily life and our very minds, they will become a defining issue in American politics. It wouldn’t surprise me if a new demagogue emerged, one that is even more pure Francis.

Yeah, Bobo, one that is even more pure fascist, wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

Graham-Cassidy, the health bill the Senate may vote on next week, is stunningly cruel. It’s also incompetently drafted: The bill’s sponsors clearly had no idea what they were doing when they put it together. Furthermore, their efforts to sell the bill involve obvious, blatant lies.

Nonetheless, the bill could pass. And that says a lot about today’s Republican Party, none of it good.

The Affordable Care Act, which has reduced the percentage of Americans without health insurance to a record low, created a three-legged stool: regulations that prevent insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, a requirement that individuals have adequate insurance (and thus pay into the system while healthy) and subsidies to make that insurance affordable. For the lowest-income families, insurance is provided directly by Medicaid.

Graham-Cassidy saws off all three legs of that stool. Like other Republican plans, it eliminates the individual mandate. It replaces direct aid to individuals with block grants to states, under a formula that sharply reduces funding relative to current law, and especially penalizes states that have done a good job of reducing the number of uninsured. And it effectively eliminates protection for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Did Graham-Cassidy’s sponsors know what they were doing when putting this bill together? Almost surely not, or they wouldn’t have produced something that everyone, and I mean everyone, who knows anything about health care warns would cause chaos.

It’s not just progressives: The American Medical Association, the insurance industry and Blue Cross/Blue Shield have all warned that markets would be destabilized and millions would lose coverage.

How many people would lose insurance? Republicans are trying to ram the bill through before the Congressional Budget Office has time to analyze it — an attempt that is in itself a violation of all previous norms, and amounts to an admission that the bill can’t bear scrutiny. But C.B.O. has analyzed other bills containing some of Graham-Cassidy’s provisions, and these previous analyses suggest that it would add more than 30 million people to the ranks of the uninsured.

Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy, and the bill’s other sponsors have responded to these critiques the old-fashioned way — with lies.

Both Cassidy and Graham insist that their bill would continue to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions — a claim that will come as news to the A.M.A., Blue Cross and everyone else who has read the bill’s text.

Cassidy has also circulated a spreadsheet that purports to show most states actually getting increased funding under his bill. But the spreadsheet doesn’t compare funding with current law, which is the relevant question. Instead, it shows changes over time in dollar amounts.

That’s actually a well-known dodge, one that Republicans have been using since Newt Gingrich tried to gut Medicare in the 1990s. As everyone in Congress — even Cassidy — surely knows, such comparisons drastically understate the real size of cuts, since under current law spending is expected to rise with inflation and population growth.

Independent analyses find that most states would, in fact, experience serious cuts in federal aid — and everyone would face huge cuts after 2027.

So we’re looking at an incompetently drafted bill that would hurt millions of people, whose sponsors are trying to sell it with transparently false claims. How is it that this bill might nonetheless pass the Senate?

One answer is that Republicans are desperate to destroy President Barack Obama’s legacy in any way possible, no matter how many American lives they ruin in the process.

Another answer is that most Republican legislators neither know nor care about policy substance. This is especially true on health care, where they never tried to understand why Obamacare looks the way it does, or how to devise a nonvicious alternative. Vox asked a number of G.O.P. senators to explain what Graham-Cassidy does; the answers ranged from incoherence to belligerence to belligerent incoherence.

I’d add that the evasions and lies we’re seeing on this bill have been standard G.O.P. operating procedure for years. The trick of converting federal programs into block grants, then pretending that this wouldn’t mean savage cuts, was central to every one of Paul Ryan’s much-hyped budgets. The trick of comparing dollar numbers over time to conceal huge benefit cuts has, as I already noted, been around since the 1990s.

In other words, Graham-Cassidy isn’t an aberration; it’s more like the distilled essence of everything wrong with modern Republicans.

Will this awful bill become law? I have no idea. But even if the handful of Republican senators who retain some conscience block it — we’re looking at you, John McCain — the underlying sickness of the G.O.P. will remain.

It’s sort of a pre-existing condition, and it’s poisoning America.

As Charlie Pierce at Esquire says, they are the mole people.