Posts Tagged ‘Bobo’

Bobo and Bruni

August 15, 2017

Bobo has decided to tell us all about “How to Roll Back Fanaticism.”  He gurgles that modesty is the most powerful answer. It means having the courage to see the world as complicated and progress as a product of balancing competing truths.  Just like Mein Fubar, right Bobo?  Cripes…  Mr. Bruni says “President Trump Cannot Redeem Himself” and that his new words on Charlottesville — muted and late — weren’t enough.  Here’s Bobo, followed by a very brief comment by “JBC” from Indianapolis:

We’re living in an age of anxiety. The country is being transformed by complex forces like changing demographics and technological disruption. Many people live within a bewildering freedom, without institutions to trust, unattached to compelling religions and sources of meaning, uncertain about their own lives. Anxiety is not so much a fear of a specific thing but a fear of everything, an unnamable dread about the future. People will do anything to escape it.

Donald Trump is the perfect snake oil salesman for this moment. He lacks inwardness and therefore is terrified by the possibility of anxiety. He has been escaping self-scrutiny his whole life and has become a genius at the self-exculpating rationalization. He took a nation beset by uncertainty and he gave it a series of “explanations” that were simple, crude, affirming and wrong.

Trump gave people a quick pass out of anxiety. Everything could be blamed on foreigners, the idiotic elites. The problems are clear, and the answers are easy. He has loosed a certain style of thinking. The true link between the Trump administration and those pathetic loons in Charlottesville is not just bigotry, but also conspiracy mongering.

In the White House you have pseudo-intellectuals like Steve Bannon who think the world is secretly controlled by the “deep state.” You have memos like the one written by the recently fired Rich Higgins, positing a massive worldwide conspiracy involving the A.C.L.U., the Muslim Brotherhood, the United Nations and global Marxism. The alt-right, which has emerged in support of the Trump administration, is marked by the same conspiratorial epistemology. It provides explanations for complex events that allow its followers to avoid anxiety. The leaders of the alt-right claim to possess superior understanding that pierces through the myths that blind common mortals.

The world is secretly controlled by the globalists. The Sandy Hook school shooting never happened. There’s a child abuse ring run by Clintonites out of a pizzeria in Northwest D.C. All the ambiguities of life can be explained by pointing to the malevolent webs of secret power that only you — you precious, superior few — can see and understand.

From here it’s a short leap to those losers in Charlottesville. If the alt-right thinks the globalists secretly and malevolently control society, the neo-Nazis go back to the original version and believe that a conspiracy of Jewish bankers does. For them, tribalism is not only a way to feel some vestige of pride in their own lonely selves, it’s also an explanatory tool. The world can be a bewildering place, but not if you see it as a righteous war between whites and blacks, between straights and gays. The neo-Nazis are not the first group to discover that war is a force that can give an empty life meaning, even a race war.

The age of anxiety inevitably leads to an age of fanaticism, as people seek crude palliatives for the dizziness of freedom. I’m beginning to think the whole depressing spectacle of this moment — the Trump presidency and beyond — is caused by a breakdown of intellectual virtue, a breakdown in America’s ability to face evidence objectively, to pay due respect to reality, to deal with complex and unpleasant truths. The intellectual virtues may seem elitist, but once a country tolerates dishonesty, incuriosity and intellectual laziness, then everything else falls apart.

The temptation is simply to blast the neo-Nazis, the alt-right, the Trumpkins and the rest for being bigoted, vicious and hate-filled. And some of that is necessary. The boundaries of common decency have to be defined.

But throughout history the wiser minds have understood that anger and moral posturing are not a good antidote to rage and fanaticism. Competing vitriols only build on each other.

In fact, the most powerful answer to fanaticism is modesty. Modesty is an epistemology directly opposed to the conspiracy mongering mind-set. It means having the courage to understand that the world is too complicated to fit into one political belief system. It means understanding there are no easy answers or malevolent conspiracies that can explain the big political questions or the existential problems. Progress is not made by crushing some swarm of malevolent foes; it’s made by finding balance between competing truths — between freedom and security, diversity and solidarity. There’s always going to be counter-evidence and mystery. There is no final arrangement that will end conflict, just endless searching and adjustment.

Modesty means having the courage to rest in anxiety and not try to quickly escape it. Modesty means being tough enough to endure the pain of uncertainty and coming to appreciate that pain. Uncertainty and anxiety throw you off the smug island of certainty and force you into the free waters of creativity and learning. As Kierkegaard put it, “The more original a human being is, the deeper is his anxiety.”

Over the next few months I’m hoping to write several columns on why modesty and moderation are superior to the spiraling purity movements we see today. It seems like a good time for assertive modesty to take a stand.

And now here’s “JBC,” destroying Bobo in 24 words:

“So basically Brooks wants Obama back, a man who embodied the modesty and respect for the complexity of the world in which we live.”

Next up we have Mr. Bruni:

We saw Donald Trump’s true colors on Saturday, when he was given the chance — a ready-made moment for presidential grace — to denounce the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., and instead found wrongdoing “on many sides.” That was Trump minus the pressure and the planning. That was his initial instinct, his first impulse.

We saw a different palette at a lectern in the White House on early Monday afternoon, but it was pure artifice, and muted and unpersuasive because of that.

Sure, he got some of the brush strokes right: the succinct assertion that “racism is evil”; the specific callout of the “K.K.K.” and “white supremacists”; the remembrance — finally — of Heather Heyer, who died as a consequence of the precise hatred that it took him more than two days to name.

But we should note that just hours before he stepped up to that lectern, supposedly to make things right, he used that infernal Twitter account of his to taunt a black chief executive, Kenneth Frazier, for resigning from an administration advisory board. That was unscripted Trump. And he was peeved and hostile, not penitential and healing.

We should also note that he began his brief statement on Monday by congratulating himself on the American economy and implicitly taking credit for what he said were a million new jobs. This is what our self-consumed, ungenerous president prefers to do — brag. He thumps his chest when he should be on his knees.

Atone? Adjust? Inspire? These are outside of his character and beyond his ken. We can’t hope for any better, not at this point. And neither can his fellow Republicans, who find themselves at another juncture — maybe the most important one yet — where they must decide whether to continue showing him allegiance or carve out greater space between him and them. They’re no doubt judging the politics of it all and looking to the numbers. How I wish they’d judge the morality of it all and look to their souls.

Don’t get me wrong: I’d rather that Trump said what he did on Monday than maintain his silence, which was breathtaking, galling — and spectacularly revealing. He needed to speak, and to say some of the very words he did.

But the length of his delay upped the ante on his delivery, which was passionless. He barely cleared the bar of grudging. He fell miles short of stirring:

“Justice will be delivered.” “No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws.” “We are all made by the same Almighty God.” “Racism is evil.”

Amen, amen, amen and amen, but this preacher’s sermons have been wildly inconsistent and as often designed to divide as to unite. That was his path to power, one much uglier than most politicians travel, and his election didn’t do what so many of the Republicans who reluctantly supported him hoped that it would and make him a bigger person.

No, Trump is the yardstick by which all other Republicans measure large. He makes you yearn for leaders you never in your wildest dreams considered yearn-worthy.

When, before Trump, did you find yourself wishing that someone could just summon the courage, clarity and compassion of … Ted Cruz? If only the Texas senator were our president! Back on Saturday, when Trump was still hemming, hawing and hiding, Cruz released a statement superior to what Trump, with more time and the help of many aides, delivered on Monday.

“The Nazis, the K.K.K. and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism and hatred they propagate,” Cruz said. “These bigots want to tear our country apart, but they will fail.”

He was emphatic and eloquent. So were Senator Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, and Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican. As I heard their voices and read their words, I saw a glimmer of something positive: Trump’s failings are prompting G.O.P. leaders to enunciate certain principles in a clearer and more unequivocal way than they did before. Because of him, they’re drawing lines in the sand — at least semantically.

Of course the winds of opportunism and convenience could wipe out those lines in an instant. Of course Republicans have upbraided Trump before, only to hug him anew.

But there can be no doubt: He’s past the point of hugging. His pretend amends at the White House on Monday didn’t color him warm, cuddly and redeemed. They were just Trump trying to get through another miserable day. And you, Republican members of Congress, have to figure out how your party and the rest of us get through the next miserable years.

Bobo and Krugman

August 11, 2017

Oh, dear, oh dear!  Bobo’s delicate, fragile, white male sensibilities have been wounded.  Time to head to the fainting couch and clutch the pearls.  In “Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s C.E.O.” he moans that his handling of the fallout from James Damore’s memo shows he’s in the wrong job.  There will be 2 rebuttals, one from “LT” in Chicago and one from “gemli” in Boston.  Prof. Krugman, who doesn’t seem to have his panties in a bunch about this, addresses “The Axis of Climate Evil” and says bad faith may destroy civilization.  Here’s Bobo:

There are many actors in the whole Google/diversity drama, but I’d say the one who’s behaved the worst is the C.E.O., Sundar Pichai.

The first actor is James Damore, who wrote the memo. In it, he was trying to explain why 80 percent of Google’s tech employees are male. He agreed that there are large cultural biases but also pointed to a genetic component. Then he described some of the ways the distribution of qualities differs across male and female populations.

Damore was tapping into the long and contentious debate about genes and behavior. On one side are those who believe that humans come out as blank slates and are formed by social structures. On the other are the evolutionary psychologists who argue that genes interact with environment and play a large role in shaping who we are. In general the evolutionary psychologists have been winning this debate.

When it comes to the genetic differences between male and female brains, I’d say the mainstream view is that male and female abilities are the same across the vast majority of domains — I.Q., the ability to do math, etc. But there are some ways that male and female brains are, on average, different. There seems to be more connectivity between the hemispheres, on average, in female brains. Prenatal exposure to different levels of androgen does seem to produce different effects throughout the life span.

In his memo, Damore cites a series of studies, making the case, for example, that men tend to be more interested in things and women more interested in people. (Interest is not the same as ability.) Several scientists in the field have backed up his summary of the data. “Despite how it’s been portrayed, the memo was fair and factually accurate,” Debra Soh wrote in The Globe and Mail in Toronto.

Geoffrey Miller, a prominent evolutionary psychologist, wrote in Quillette, “For what it’s worth, I think that almost all of the Google memo’s empirical claims are scientifically accurate.”

Damore was especially careful to say this research applies only to populations, not individuals: “Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population-level distributions.”

That’s the crucial point. But of course we don’t live as populations; we live our individual lives.

We should all have a lot of sympathy for the second group of actors in this drama, the women in tech who felt the memo made their lives harder. Picture yourself in a hostile male-dominated environment, getting interrupted at meetings, being ignored, having your abilities doubted, and along comes some guy arguing that women are on average less status hungry and more vulnerable to stress. Of course you’d object.

What we have is a legitimate tension. Damore is describing a truth on one level; his sensible critics are describing a different truth, one that exists on another level. He is championing scientific research; they are championing gender equality. It takes a little subtlety to harmonize these strands, but it’s doable.

Of course subtlety is in hibernation in modern America. The third player in the drama is Google’s diversity officer, Danielle Brown. She didn’t wrestle with any of the evidence behind Damore’s memo. She just wrote his views “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender.” This is ideology obliterating reason.

The fourth actor is the media. The coverage of the memo has been atrocious.

As Conor Friedersdorf wrote in The Atlantic, “I cannot remember the last time so many outlets and observers mischaracterized so many aspects of a text everyone possessed.” Various reporters and critics apparently decided that Damore opposes all things Enlightened People believe and therefore they don’t have to afford him the basic standards of intellectual fairness.

The mob that hounded Damore was like the mobs we’ve seen on a lot of college campuses. We all have our theories about why these moral crazes are suddenly so common. I’d say that radical uncertainty about morality, meaning and life in general is producing intense anxiety. Some people embrace moral absolutism in a desperate effort to find solid ground. They feel a rare and comforting sense of moral certainty when they are purging an evil person who has violated one of their sacred taboos.

Which brings us to Pichai, the supposed grown-up in the room. He could have wrestled with the tension between population-level research and individual experience. He could have stood up for the free flow of information. Instead he joined the mob. He fired Damore and wrote, “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not O.K.”

That is a blatantly dishonest characterization of the memo. Damore wrote nothing like that about his Google colleagues. Either Pichai is unprepared to understand the research (unlikely), is not capable of handling complex data flows (a bad trait in a C.E.O.) or was simply too afraid to stand up to a mob.

Regardless which weakness applies, this episode suggests he should seek a nonleadership position. We are at a moment when mobs on the left and the right ignore evidence and destroy scapegoats. That’s when we need good leaders most.

Now, here’s what “LT” from Chicago has to say to Bobo:

“Mr Brooks, as someone paid to express opinions instead of say, writing software, you may be surprised to learn that most companies are not interested in providing a platform for employees to express controversial opinions outside of their job scope.

When such opinions interfere with the employees ability to effectively perform their job they are often asked to leave.

Mr. Damore expressed his thoughts in a way that made leading and working with a diverse team of engineers who may not share his opinion, difficult if not impossible.

You may feel Damore made several good points but Google is not a debating club and Pichai had every right to fire him.

And if next week someone at Apple or Microsoft or Walmart, decides that their company needs to read their valuable thoughts about say, Charles Murray’s “The Bell Curve” , perhaps they should remember they are not a columnist before they press send.”

And “gemli” from Boston also had a few thoughts about this:

“Well, there are differences between men and women. I mean, vive la différence! Hubba hubba!

Also, women are supposed to take care of Wally and the Beaver, putter around the kitchen in dresses and high heels and prepare meals for the breadwinner, who’s an executive at a big company that is quite diverse, in that it probably hires black people to run the elevators.

I exaggerate to make a point. I read James Damore’s memo, and I don’t think I was as shocked as a liberal is supposed to be. Then again, I’m a little insensitive to bunny-hugging college kids who need trigger warnings before sensitive topics, like literature and history, are discussed in class.

But I’m not sure what Damore was trying to accomplish in this memo that justified what amounted to juggling nitroglycerine, or why defending himself on right-wing AM radio seemed like the best venue for defending his thesis.

Is Google not making enough technological progress? Is taking over the world being slowed by offices full of hysterical females?

Back when my parents were born, women couldn’t vote. When I was born, the front page of the local newspaper reported that a woman(!) was a jury member in a murder trial. It’s been an uphill slog for women to gain fully human status and a modicum of respect, and it’s alarming that despite so much progress, crotch groping is not a disqualification for the presidency.

Damore needn’t grease the skids. They’re plenty greasy enough.”

And now we get to Prof. Krugman:

“It’s Not Your Imagination: Summers Are Getting Hotter.” So read a recent headline in The Times, highlighting a decade-by-decade statistical analysis by climate expert James Hansen. “Most summers,” the analysis concluded, “are now either hot or extremely hot compared with the mid-20th century.”

So what else is new? At this point the evidence for human-caused global warming just keeps getting more overwhelming, and the plausible scenarios for the future — extreme weather events, rising sea levels, drought, and more — just keep getting scarier.

In a rational world urgent action to limit climate change would be the overwhelming policy priority for governments everywhere.

But the U.S. government is, of course, now controlled by a party within which climate denial — rejecting not just scientific evidence but also obvious lived experience, and fiercely opposing any effort to slow the trend — has become a defining marker of tribal identity.

Put it this way: Republicans can’t seem to repeal Obamacare, and recriminations between Senate leaders and the tweeter in chief are making headlines. But the G.O.P. is completely united behind its project of destroying civilization, and it’s making good progress toward that goal.

So where does climate denial come from?

Just to be clear, experts aren’t always right; even an overwhelming scientific consensus sometimes turns out to have been wrong. And if someone offers a good-faith critique of conventional views, a serious effort to get at the truth, he or she deserves a hearing.

What becomes clear to anyone following the climate debate, however, is that hardly any climate skeptics are in fact trying to get at the truth. I’m not a climate scientist, but I do know what bogus arguments look like — and I can’t think of a single prominent climate skeptic who isn’t obviously arguing in bad faith.

Take, for example, all the people who seized on the fact that 1998 was an unusually warm year to claim that global warming stopped 20 years ago — as if one unseasonably hot day in May proves that summer is a myth. Or all the people who cited out-of-context quotes from climate researchers as evidence of a vast scientific conspiracy.

Or for that matter, think of anyone who cites “uncertainty” as a reason to do nothing — when it should be obvious that the risks of faster-than-expected climate change if we do too little dwarf the risks of doing too much if change is slower than expected.

But what’s driving this epidemic of bad faith? The answer, I’d argue, is that there are actually three groups involved — a sort of axis of climate evil.

First, and most obvious, there’s the fossil fuel industry — think the Koch brothers — which has an obvious financial stake in continuing to sell dirty energy. And the industry — following the same well-worn pathindustry groups used to create doubt about the dangers of tobacco, acid rain, the ozone hole, and more — has systematically showered money on think tanks and scientists willing to express skepticism about climate change. Many — perhaps even most — authors purporting to cast doubt on global warming turn out, on investigation, to have received financial support from the fossil fuel sector.

Still, the mercenary interests of fossil fuel companies aren’t the whole story here. There’s also ideology.

An influential part of the U.S. political spectrum — think the Wall Street Journal editorial page — is opposed to any and all forms of government economic regulation; it’s committed to Reagan’s doctrine that government is always the problem, never the solution.

Such people have always had a problem with pollution: When unregulated individual actions impose costs on others, it’s hard to see how you avoid supporting some form of government intervention. And climate change is the mother of all pollution issues.

Some conservatives are willing to face this reality and support market-friendly intervention to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But all too many prefer simply to deny the existence of the issue — if facts conflict with their ideology, they deny the facts.

Finally, there are a few public intellectuals — less important than the plutocrats and ideologues, but if you ask me even more shameful — who adopt a pose of climate skepticism out of sheer ego. In effect, they say: “Look at me! I’m smart! I’m contrarian! I’ll show you how clever I am by denying the scientific consensus!” And for the sake of this posturing, they’re willing to nudge us further down the road to catastrophe.

Which brings me back to the current political situation. Right now progressives are feeling better than they expected to a few months ago: Donald Trump and his frenemies in Congress are accomplishing a lot less than they hoped, and their opponents feared. But that doesn’t change the reality that the axis of climate evil is now firmly in control of U.S. policy, and the world may never recover.

And again I think God that I’m An Old.

Bobo.

August 8, 2017

Bobo is wailing about “Getting Trump Out of My Brain” and laments that things won’t just snap back to “normal” after Trump’s gone.  “Jasoturner” from Boston will have something to say.  Here’s Bobo:

Last week The Washington Post published transcripts of Donald Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders. A dear friend sent me an email suggesting I read them because they reveal how Trump’s mind works. But as I tried to click the link a Bartleby-like voice in my head said, “I would prefer not to.” I tried to click again and the voice said: “No thanks. I’m full.”

For the past two years Trump has taken up an amazing amount of my brain space. My brain has apparently decided that it’s not interested in devoting more neurons to that guy. There’s nothing more to be learned about Trump’s mixture of ignorance, insecurity and narcissism. Every second spent on his bluster is more degrading than informative.

Now a lot of people are clearly still addicted to Trump. My Twitter feed is all him. Some people treat the Trump White House as the “Breaking Bad” serial drama they’ve been binge watching for six months. For some of us, Trump-bashing has become educated-class meth. We derive endless satisfaction from feeling morally superior to him — and as Leon Wieseltier put it, affirmation is the new sex.

But I thought I might try to listen to my brain for a change. That would mean trying, probably unsuccessfully, to spend less time thinking about Trump the soap opera and more time on questions that surround the Trump phenomena and this moment of history.

How much permanent damage is he doing to our global alliances? Have Americans really decided they no longer want to be a universal nation with a special mission to spread freedom around the world? Is populism now the lingua franca of politics so the Democrats’ only hope is to match Trump’s populism with their own?

These sorts of questions revolve around one big question: What lessons are people drawing from this debacle and how will those lessons shape what comes next?

It’s clear that Trump is not just a parenthesis. After he leaves things will not just snap back to “normal.” Instead, he represents the farcical culmination of a lot of dying old orders — demographic, political, even moral — and what comes after will be a reaction against rather than a continuing from.

For example, let’s look at our moral culture. For most of American history mainline Protestants — the Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians and so on — set the dominant cultural tone. Most of the big social movements, like abolitionism, the suffragist movement and the civil rights movement, came out of the mainline churches.

As Joseph Bottum wrote in “An Anxious Age,” mainline Protestants created a kind of unifying culture that bound people of different political views. You could be Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or atheist, but still you were influenced by certain mainline ideas — the Protestant work ethic, the WASP definition of a gentleman. Leaders from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama hewed to a similar mainline standard for what is decent in public life and what is beyond the pale.

Over the last several decades mainline Protestantism has withered. The country became more diverse. The WASPs lost their perch atop society. The mainline denominations lost their vitality.

For a time, we lived off the moral capital of the past. But the election of Trump shows just how desiccated the mainline code has become. A nation guided by that ethic would not have elected a guy who is a daily affront to it, a guy who nakedly loves money, who boasts, who objectifies women, who is incapable of hypocrisy because he acknowledges no standard of propriety other than that which he feels like doing at any given moment.

Donald Trump has smashed through the behavior standards that once governed public life. His election demonstrates that as the unifying glue of the mainline culture receded, the country divided into at least three blocks: white evangelical Protestantism that at least in its public face seems to care more about eros than caritas; secular progressivism that is spiritually formed by feminism, environmentalism and the quest for individual rights; and realist nationalism that gets its manners from reality TV and its spiritual succor from in-group/out-group solidarity.

If Trump falls in disgrace or defeat, and people’s partisan pride is no longer at stake, I hope that even his supporters will have enough moral memory to acknowledge that character really does matter. A guy can promise change, but if he is dishonest, disloyal and selfish, the change he delivers is not going to be effective or good.

But where are people going to go for a new standard of decency? They’re not going to go back to the old WASP ideal. That’s dead. Trump revealed the vacuum, but who is going to fill it and with what?

I could describe a similar vacuum when it comes to domestic policy thinking, to American identity, to America’s role in the world. Trump exposes the void but doesn’t fill it. That’s why the reaction against Trump is now more important than the man himself.

One way or another I’m gonna wash that man right outta what’s left of my hair.

Oh, go eat a yoooge plate of salted rat dicks, Bobo.  You can certainly afford to ignore Trump, and only wail about what he’s doing.  You’re certain that YOU had nothing whatsoever to do with “those” Republicans and “their” policies, right?  RIGHT???  Here’s what “Jasoturner” in Boston had to say:’

“Awfully weak tea. Brooks has a tendency to write very passive, almost victimized columns when his precious GOP ideology fails to the point where denial or obfuscation is infeasible. Rather than “wash Mr. Trump right outta [his] hair”, Brooks would do well to look at the grotesque ideological trends in the GOP that allowed Trump to rise to power. Would it embarrass or shame Mr. Brooks to admit his complicity? Probably. But confession, they say, is good for the soul. It would certainly be good for his readers to get some hard headed thinking instead of this scribbling.”

Brooks and Cohen

August 1, 2017

Bobo has decided to discuss the time “Before Manliness Lost Its Virtue.”  He gurgles that the ancient Greeks wouldn’t recognize the Trump administration’s concept of manliness.  “Socrates” from Verona, NJ will have a response.  Mr. Cohen, in “Goodbye to the Scaramouche,” discusses a president with a codpiece and a former Marine Corps general trying to rein him in.  Here’s Bobo:

The Trump administration is certainly giving us an education in the varieties of wannabe manliness.

There is the slovenly “I don’t care what you think” manliness of Steve Bannon. There’s the look-at-me-I-can-curse manliness that Anthony Scaramucci learned from “Glengarry Glen Ross.” There is the affirmation-hungry “I long to be the man my father was” parody of manliness performed by Donald Trump. There are all those authentically manly Marine generals Trump hires to supplement his own. There’s Trump’s man-crush on Vladimir Putin and the firing of insufficiently manly Reince Priebus.

With this crowd, it’s man-craving all the way down.

It’s worth remembering, when we are surrounded by all this thrusting masculinity, what substantive manliness once looked like. For example, 2,400 years ago the Greeks had a more fully developed vision of manliness than anything we see in or around the White House today.

Greek manliness started from a different place than ours does now. For the ancient Greeks, it would have been incomprehensible to count yourself an alpha male simply because you can run a trading floor or sell an apartment because you gilded a faucet handle.

For them, real men defended or served their city, or performed some noble public service. Braying after money was the opposite of manliness. For the Greeks, that was just avariciousness, an activity that shrunk you down into a people-pleasing marketer or hollowed you out because you pursued hollow things.

The Greeks admired what you might call spiritedness. The spirited man defies death in battle, performs deeds of honor and is respected by those whose esteem is worth having.

The classical Greek concept of manliness emphasizes certain traits. The bedrock virtue is courage. The manly man puts himself on the line and risks death and criticism. The manly man is assertive. He does not hang back but instead wades into any fray. The manly man is competitive. He looks for ways to compete with others, to demonstrate his prowessand to be the best. The manly man is self-confident. He knows his own worth. But he is also touchy. He is outraged if others do not grant him the honor that is his due.

That version of manliness gave Greece its dynamism. But the Greeks came to understand the problem with manly men. They are hard to live with. They are constantly picking fights and engaging in peacock displays.

Take the savage feuding that marks the Trump White House and put it on steroids and you get some idea of Greek culture. The Greek tragedies describe cycles of revenge and counter-revenge as manly men and women wreak death and destruction on each other.

So the Greeks took manliness to the next level. On top of the honor code, they gave us the concept of magnanimity. Pericles is the perfect magnanimous man (and in America, George Washington and George Marshall were his heirs). The magnanimous leader possesses all the spirited traits described above, but he uses his traits not just to puff himself up, but to create a just political order.

The magnanimous man tries to master the profession of statecraft because he believes, with the Athenian ruler Solon, that the well-governed city “makes all things wise and perfect in the world of men.” The magnanimous leader tries to beautify his city, to arouse people’s pride in and love for it. He encourages citizens to get involved in great civic projects that will give their lives meaning and allow everybody to partake in the heroic action that was once reserved for the aristocratic few.

The magnanimous man has a certain style. He is a bit aloof, marked more by gravitas than familiarity. He shows perfect self-control because he has mastered his passions. He does not show his vulnerability. His relationships are not reciprocal. He is eager to grant favors but is ashamed of receiving them. His personal life can wither because he has devoted himself to disinterested public service.

The magnanimous man believes that politics practiced well is the noblest of all professions. No other arena requires as much wisdom, tenacity, foresight and empathy. No other field places such stress on conversation and persuasion. The English word “idiot” comes from the ancient Greek word for the person who is uninterested in politics but capable only of running his or her own private affairs.

Today, we’re in a crisis of masculinity. Some men are unable to compete in schools and in labor markets because the stereotype of what is considered “man’s work” is so narrow. In the White House, we have phony manliness run amok.

But we still have all these older models to draw from. Of all the politicians I’ve covered, John McCain comes closest to the old magnanimous ideal. Last week, when he went to the Senate and flipped his thumb down on the pretzeled-up health care bill, we saw one version of manliness trumping another. When John Kelly elbowed out Anthony Scaramucci, one version of manliness replaced another.

The old virtues aren’t totally lost. So there’s hope.

Isn’t it odd that Bobo couldn’t come up with Barack Obama as an example of the magnanimous man…  Here’s what “Socrates” has to say:

“The real lesson of the Trump administration is that it’s giving us a daily education in the fruits of the nihilistic Republican platform of unfettered greed complemented by infinitely cultured American stupidity.

What led us to this obvious catastrophe was 35-plus years of sustained psychopathic right-wing greed while simultaneously drowning the national IQ in a bathtub of God-Guns-Gays, hate radio, Fake News channel and Up Is Down stupidity.

The Republican political platform, fundamentally and comprehensively predicated on excess greed and excess stupidity, was bound to wreck something if left to blossom.

There’s nothing manly about greediness or stupidity, our Moron-In-Chief’s two shining attributes.

In the Art of the Idiot, our Idiot-In-Chief said:

“The point is that you can’t be too greedy.”

Dumber words were never written or spoken.

The fact that 60 million systematically stupified Americans thought it wise to place a lecherous, unlearned, lying Lothario and demonstrated Con Artist grifter in supreme power is evidence not of wannabe manliness, but of real exceptional stupidity.

The word ‘idiot’ means a “person so mentally deficient as to be incapable of ordinary reasoning”, “simple man, uneducated person, layman”, “ignorant person.”

That Trump is in the Oval Office wreaking national and international stupidity on an hourly basis is the manifest destiny of the Party of Stupid.

Perhaps collapsing the national IQ for cold cash wasn’t such a bright idea after all.”

Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

So the Scaramouch, a stock clown figure of old Italian comedy, is goneas White House communications director. Anthony Scaramucci’s foul mouth was never going to pass muster in a White House run by a retired United States Marine Corps general. John Kelly, President Trump’s new chief of staff, duly took care of him.

Scaramucci was perfect right down to his name. The Scaramouch, to quote my Webster’s dictionary, was a “braggart and a poltroon” in the theater that emerged in 16th-century Italy. Boastfulness and cowardice are Trump trademarks, one the other face of the other. In his White House job, Scaramucci communicated stupidity above all.

Good riddance to him. After he’d unloaded his bile, Scaramucci askedus all in a tweet to pray for his family, which seemed a bit rich. Still, I do want to thank the Scaramouch. He came straight from Central Casting. In his total absence of dignity and decorum, his violence and his vulgarity, he was the emblem par excellence of the Trump White House. That reports of his wife filing for divorce surfaced during his brief apotheosis completed the picture. Fast-talking and fatuous, self-important and servile, he embodied the “commedia dell’arte” of Trump’s dysfunctional crew.

The commedia featured larger-than-life stock characters like the Scaramouch. They included deluded old men, devious servants, craven braggarts and starry-eyed lovers. The president, at 71, is clearly a “vecchio,” or elder. He is probably best imagined as the miserly Venetian known as Pantalone wandering around in red breeches with the oversized codpiece of the would-be womanizer.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, fits the bill as the “Dottore,” who, as Jennifer Meagher writes in an essay, is “usually depicted as obese and red-cheeked from drinking.” I’m tempted to offer the role of the belligerent, windy “Il Capitano,” or Captain, to Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to Trump, who recently told the BBC that, “The military is not a microcosm of civilian society. They are not there to reflect America. They are there to kill people and blow stuff up.”

The lovers, of course, have to be Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner — they of the almost bloodless perfection — whose doting father complicates their sumptuous lives by bestowing upon them titles and tasks for which they are unqualified. The lovers grow quieter and quieter but are so pale they are unable to blush.

Will Kelly close down the “commedia?” The White House is supposed to run the free world. It’s time for seriousness. The president, busy and colorful and burrowing as a chipmunk, appears to have awoken to some vague desire for discipline that Kelly’s predecessor, Reince Priebus, was unable to provide.

It has to be said, in passing, that Priebus and “cojones” are utter strangers to each other. Ousted, Priebus confused taking the high road — territory unknown to this administration — with gelatinous loyalty to the president who knifed him. It is hard to keep up with these guys. If one tries too hard the urge to take a shower and scrub off the oleaginous ooze becomes overwhelming.

But back to Kelly: I doubt, however tough the new chief of staff may be, that the commedia is at an end. The Scaramouch was just a stand-in for the president he professed to love. The real “braggart and poltroon” sits in the Oval Office. The key to understanding him is probably that oversize codpiece.

What but some profound sense of inadequacy could explain the neediness and the nastiness, the pout and the pettiness, the vanity and the vulgarity, the anger and the aggression? This president gets off on the humiliation of others. He is inhabited by some deep violence to which self-control is a stranger. It is almost painful to watch the degree to which he pursues self-aggrandizement. He confounds masculinity with machismo. As J.K. Rowling put it in a tweet: “You tiny, tiny, tiny little man.”

In a single week, Trump reminded everyone — if a reminder were needed — just how mean he is. He tweeted an announcement that he had reinstated a ban on transgender individuals serving in “any capacity” in the United States armed forces, and suggested during a visit to Suffolk County Community College in New York that he wanted law enforcement to be “rough” on suspects.

The transgender decision (the one Gorka defended to the BBC by exalting the military’s mission to kill people) was, in the words of Stephen Burbank, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, “an engine of malice.” It illustrated how, “In the realm of moral leadership, President Trump is leading a race to the bottom.” The military promptly said policy would remain unchanged until the White House sends the Defense Department new rules. The police department in Suffolk County also pushed back; it would not tolerate brutality.

Multiple forces in American society are pushing back against Trump. But this is the president we have: turbulent, chaotic, boastful, cowardly and violent. He thrives on the commedia that brought the bilious Scaramouch to the White House. Kelly’s task is enormous. Because life is not comedy, much depends on his success: things like war and peace, for example.

Brooks and Krugman

July 28, 2017

Bobo has a new man crush, and he wants to carry his books home from school.  In “Jeff Flake Plants a Flag” he swoons and tells us that with a new book, a Republican senator protests for all to read.  “Socrates” from Verona, NJ will have a response.  Prof. Krugman, in “The Sanctimony and Sin of G.O.P. ‘Moderates’,” says whatever they say, they keep on enabling their party’s extremists.  Here’s Bobo:

Do you ever get the feeling we’re all going to be judged for this moment? Historians, our grandkids and we ourselves will look and ask: What did you do as the Trump/Scaramucci/Bannon administration dropped a nuclear bomb on the basic standards of decency in public life? What did you do as the American Congress ceased to function? What positions did you take as America teetered toward national decline?

For most of us, it’s relatively easy to pass the test. Our jobs are not on the line when we call out the mind-boggling monstrosity of what’s happening. For Republican senators, it’s harder. Their consciences pull them one way — to tell the truth — while their political interests pull them another way — to keep their heads down.

Some senators are passing the test of conscience — Ben Sasse, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, Mike Lee and John McCain. And to that list we can certainly add Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. In a few days he comes out with a book called “Conscience of a Conservative,” which is a thoughtful defense of traditional conservatism and a thorough assault on the way Donald Trump is betraying it.

Flake grew up in rural Arizona. “Cattle ranching is the hardest work I’ve ever known and the best people I have ever known have been cattle ranchers,” he writes. He was one of 11 children and his family did not dine out, even once, while he was young. He lost part of a finger and learned frontier self-reliance on the ranch. As a Mormon he learned to be wary of the government, and especially the way it can persecute minorities.

He came to Congress in 2001 and earned a reputation as a scourge against federal spending and earmarks and as a champion of tax cuts. But he walked into a Republican Party that was descending from Goldwater and Reagan, his heroes, to Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay. When I had coffee with Flake this week, he spoke about the philosophical and political corruption of the DeLay era with uncharacteristic contempt.

Things got worse. In 2016 the Republican Party, Flake argues in the book, lost its manners. “It seems it is not enough to be conservative anymore. You have to be vicious.” And it lost its philosophy. “We become so estranged from our principles that we no longer recognize what principle is.”

Flake told me he doesn’t want his book to be seen simply as a broadside against Trump. The rot set in long before, but Trump takes the decay to a new level.

On the day in 2015 when Trump endorsed a Muslim ban, Flake tweeted “Just when you think @realDonaldTrump can stoop no lower, he does.” Flake attended prayers at an Arizona mosque that afternoon. At the core of this book is a bill of indictment listing the ways Trump has betrayed the Goldwater Creed:

“Is it conservative to praise dictators as ‘strong leaders,’ to speak fondly of countries that crush dissent and murder political opponents …? Is it conservative to demonize and vilify and mischaracterize religious and ethnic minorities …? Is it conservative to be an ethno-nationalist? Is it conservative to embrace as fact things that are demonstrably untrue?”

Flake told me he didn’t even tell his staff about the existence of this book until just two weeks before publication because he didn’t want them to talk him out of publishing it.

He began working on it at night during the general election campaign, assuming it would be an autopsy for the party after Trump’s defeat. “It matters more now. It would be easier to wait until after the next election,” he told me, but he wanted to plant his flag at a time when his political future is at risk, at a time when it matters.

Frankly, I think Flake’s libertarian version of conservatism paved the way for Trump. People are being barraged by technology-driven unemployment, wage stagnation, the breakdown of neighborhoods and families. Goldwater-style conservatism says: “Congratulations! You’re on your own!” During the campaign, Trump seemed to be offering something more.

But Flake is in most ways an ideal public servant. He is an ideological purist but a temperamental conciliator. On spending and free trade he takes lonely principled stands; on immigration he’s crafted difficult bipartisan compromises.

In a time when politics has become a blood sport, he’s sunny and kind. “Assume the best. Look for the good,” his parents taught him. But he possesses a serene courage that is easy to underestimate because it is so affable.

Most important, he understands this moment. The Trump administration is a moral cancer eating away at conservatism, the Republican Party and what it means to be a public servant.

The 52 Senate Republicans have been thrust by fate into the crucial position of responsibility. They will either accept this decay or they will oppose it. They will either collaborate with the Trumpian path or seek to direct their party and nation onto a different path.

Flake has taken his stand. As the other Senate Republicans look at his example, they might ponder this truth: Silence equals assent.

So.  Jeff Flake thinks the Republican party “lost its manners” in 2016.  I guess he slept through the 8 years of the Obama administration.  Here’s what “Socrates” has to say about the little hypocrite:

“In 2013, four months after a mentally imbalanced gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Senate started voting on a bipartisan gun control bill.

At 54 to 46, most of the Senators approved the plan, which would have required expanded background checks, but it needed 60 votes.

80% of Americans supported increasing background checks at that time.

Jeff Flake voted AGAINST that 2013 gun control plan.

Just days earlier, Jeff Flake felt so bad for his Arizona constituent Caren Teves, whose son died shielding his girlfriend from bullets in the Aurora theater massacre, that he wrote her a handwritten note in response to a letter she sent him pleading for gun control reform.

“I am truly sorry for your deep loss,” Flake wrote. “While we may not agree on every solution, strengthening background checks is something we agree on.”

Then, Flake proceeded to voted against that 2013 gun control legislation strengthening background checks for guns sold online and at gun shows—just days after writing Teves his fake heartfelt letter.

Teves said Flake had promised to do the right thing — then let her down.

“The whole thing was just shameful,” she said in 2013 before heading to a protest at Flake’s office.

“What he did was to go against his own words and vote no against comprehensive background checks … I believe he’s a coward. I believe he’s not listening to the people he represents.”

Jeff Flake, another classic Republican fake, phony and fraud.”

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Everyone in the world of opinion spends a lot of time talking about the awfulness of Donald Trump — and with plenty of reason. But can we take a moment to consider the awfulness of Senator John McCain? Awfulness somewhat, but only somewhat, redeemed by his last-minute vote.

In case you haven’t been following the story, what has been going on in the Senate these past few days is one of the most shameful episodes in that body’s history. Policy that will affect the lives of millions of Americans (and may ruin many of those lives), that will shape a sixth of the economy, is being rushed through a process that is both chaotic and cynical.

We don’t know yet how all this will turn out, but one thing is clear: McCain has been a crucial enabler of the Senate’s shame — and a world-class hypocrite to boot. On Tuesday, he cast the decisive vote allowing this whole process to proceed, with no Democratic votes. Then he gave a sanctimonious speech denouncing partisanship and divisiveness, and declared that while he voted to allow debate to begin, he would never vote for the existing Senate bill without major changes.

And later that day, he voted for that very bill, even though, you guessed it, it hadn’t changed in any significant way.

Wait: It got worse. On Thursday, Senate leaders reportedly threw together a new bill that would totally restructure health care — health care! — over lunch, to be voted on within a few hours.

And three senators, including McCain, declared in a press conference Thursday afternoon that they would indeed vote for this “skinny reform” — but only if assured that the House would go into conference rather than simply passing it. That is, they were willing to vote for something they know is terrible policy, as long as they were assured that it wouldn’t actually become law. The dignity of the Senate, 21st-century style.

You might ask, why not just vote no and try to come up with actually good policy? Because, as they also know, Republicans don’t have any good policies to offer, so a bum’s rush is the only way they can pass anything. And, until that last-minute vote, McCain, who has demanded a return to “regular order” in the Senate, turns out to be perfectly willing to help the bums get rushed.

When we look at the degeneration of American politics, it’s natural to blame the naked partisans — people like Mitch McConnell, with his principle-free will to power, or Ted Cruz, with his ideological rigidity. And Trump has, of course, done more to degrade his office than any previous occupant of the White House.

But none of what is happening right now would be possible without the acquiescence of politicians who pretend to be open-minded, decry partisanship, tut-tut about incivility and act as enablers for the extremists again and again.

I started with McCain because so many journalists still fall for his pose as an independent-minded maverick, ignoring the reality that he has almost always been a reliable partisan yes-man whenever it matters. Incredibly, some commentators actually praised his performance earlier this week, focusing on his noble-sounding words and ignoring his utterly craven actions.

But he has rivals in the hypocrisy sweepstakes. Consider, for example, Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia — whose state has benefited enormously from the Affordable Care Act. “I didn’t come here to hurt people,” she declared not long ago — then voted for a bill that would quadruple the number of uninsured in West Virginia.

Or consider Rob Portman of Ohio, who cultivates an image as a moderate, praises Medicaid and talked big about the defects of Republican health plans — but also voted for that bill. Hey, in Ohio the number of uninsured would only triple. Let’s add Dean Heller of Nevada, who has lauded his state’s federally financed Medicaid expansion, but voted along with McCain to let debate proceed on an unknown bill, very much putting that expansion at risk.

Credit where credit is due: two senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, have stood up against the effort to betray every promise Republicans have made — and McCain did something right in the end. But every other supposed moderate in the Senate has offered a profile in cowardice.

And let’s be clear: This story didn’t start in the last few weeks, or the past few months. Republicans have been denouncing Obamacare and pledging to repeal and replace it for seven years, only to be caught flat-footed when given the chance to come up with an alternative. Shouldn’t someone in the G.O.P. have asked, “Hey, guys, what is our plan, anyway? If we don’t have one, shouldn’t we consider helping make this law work?” But nobody did.

So will the Senate pass something awful? If it does, will the House pass it, too, or try to use it as a Trojan horse for something even worse? I don’t know. But whatever happens, every Senate Republican besides Collins and Murkowski should be deeply ashamed.

This column has been updated to reflect news developments.

Bobo, gettin’ down with teh kidz

July 25, 2017

Oh, lord.  Bobo has decided to tell us all about “How Cool Works in America Today.”  I guess Bobo thinks he’s an expert on cool…  He says that wokeness shares cool’s rebel posture, but it is the opposite of cool in certain respects.  “Socrates” from Verona, NJ will offer thoughts on cool…  Here’s Bobo:

If you grew up in the 20th century, there’s a decent chance you wanted to be like Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Humphrey Bogart, Albert Camus, Audrey Hepburn, James Dean or Jimi Hendrix. In their own ways, these people defined cool.

The cool person is stoical, emotionally controlled, never eager or needy, but instead mysterious, detached and self-possessed. The cool person is gracefully competent at something, but doesn’t need the world’s applause to know his worth. That’s because the cool person has found his or her own unique and authentic way of living with nonchalant intensity.

In his entertaining book “The Origins of Cool in Postwar America,” Tulane historian Joel Dinerstein traces the diverse sources of this style — from the West African concept of “itutu,” which means mystic coolness, to the British stiff upper lip mentality. Jazz musicians, especially people like Lester Young, brought these influences together into what we now call the cool style. Jazz influenced the film noir directors, and then carried cool over to France, where it was embraced by existentialists like Camus.

Dinerstein shows that cool isn’t just a style, it’s an “embodied philosophy” that is anchored in a specific generational circumstance. Cool was first of all a form of resistance and rebellion, a rejection of the innocence, optimism and consumer cheeriness that marked the mainstream postwar experience.

It emerged specifically within African-American culture, among people who had to withstand the humiliations of racism without losing their temper, and who didn’t see any way to change their political situation. Cool culture in that context said, you can beat me but I am not beaten, you can oppress me but you can’t own me. It became a way of indicting society even if you were powerless, a way of showing your untrammeled dignity. It was then embraced by all those who felt powerless, whether they were dissident intellectuals or random teenagers.

Cool had other social meanings. It was a way of showing you weren’t playing the whole Horatio Alger game; you weren’t a smarmy career climber. It was a way to assert the value of the individual in response to failed collectivisms — to communism and fascism, to organized religion. The cool person is guided by his or her own autonomous values, often on the outskirts of society.

To be cool was to be a moral realist. The cruelties of the wars had exposed the simplistic wholesomeness of good and evil middle-class morality. A character like Rick Blaine in “Casablanca” is trying to live by his own honor code in an absurd moral world.

In an interview, I asked Dinerstein if cool was dead. He said that cool may not be dead, but it is rare. You can see cool figures like Kendrick Lamar and Lorde, but it’s hard to think of any contemporary cool movie icons in the manner of Bogart and Dean. Perhaps Robert Downey Jr. could have become one, Dinerstein said, but these days Hollywood pushes actors into the blockbuster mainstream.

The big difference, he continued, is technological. Fans viewed Miles Davis from afar. He was mysterious. Today because of social media, everybody is close up, present 24/7, familiar and un-iconic. That makes a huge difference in how public personalities are received.

I started to look around to see if there might be another contemporary ethos that has replaced the cool ethos. You could say the hipster ethos you find in, say, Brooklyn qualifies. But that strikes me as less of a cultural movement and more of a consumer aesthetic.

A better candidate is the “woke” ethos. The modern concept of woke began, as far as anybody can tell, with a 2008 song by Erykah Badu. The woke mentality became prominent in 2012 and 2013 with the Trayvon Martin case and the rise of Black Lives Matter. Embrace it or not, B.L.M. is the most complete social movement in America today, as a communal, intellectual, moral and political force.

The woke mentality has since been embraced on the populist right, by the conservative “normals” who are disgusted with what they see as the thorough corruption of the Republican and Democratic establishments. See Kurt Schlichter’s Townhall essay “We Must Elect Senator Kid Rock” as an example of right-wing wokedness.

To be woke is to be radically aware and justifiably paranoid. It is to be cognizant of the rot pervading the power structures. The woke manner shares cool’s rebel posture, but it is the opposite of cool in certain respects.

Cool was politically detached, but being a social activist is required for being woke. Cool was individualistic, but woke is nationalistic and collectivist. Cool was emotionally reserved; woke is angry, passionate and indignant. Cool was morally ambiguous; woke seeks to establish a clear marker for what is unacceptable.

Culture is the collective response to the core problems of the times. Today’s general disgust with institutions is producing a new style of collective action. It remains to be seen how substantive, rigorous and effective this new collective action will be.

Now here’s “Socrates:”

“You know who was ‘cool’ – and I say this as a devout atheist – Jesus Christ, who shared a lot of cool thoughts including the Golden Rule, “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.”

That incredibly fine Jewish boy traipsed around Galilee without a shekl to his name while spreading nothing but human decency, compassion and honesty.

Imagine if Jesus Christ visited the USA today and took a look at the pharisees, hypocrites and Prosperity Gospellers that stole his name and hijacked his message into modern-day Republistan, where Fake Christians arouse the bible-thumping and spiteful masses to gild the rich under the ‘God-Guns-Gays’ Three-Card Monte deception umbrella ?

Imagine if Jesus Christ visited present-day Republistan and their Lecherous Loudmouth Lothario cheerleading the Grand Old Phony Congress into slaughtering the American healthcare system in exchange for a few gold bars.

Jesus would not be keeping his cool for the Grand Old Perversion of Donald Trump and Republican intellectual, moral, economic and religious hypocrisy that sells his name in political fraud.

We saw cool a year ago in another nice Jewish boy, Bernie Sanders, who was cool because he pointed out that America’s oligarchy and fraudulent economics require a humane transformation.

Instead, America has an uncool Con-Artist working with an uncool Congress to rip off the very uncool ‘Christians’ that defy every tenet of Christianity.

Ripping off Jesus for personal profit: GOP 2017

So uncool.”

Brooks and Krugman

July 21, 2017

Bobo has just made an important discovery:  “Republicans Can’t Pass Bills.”  From his fainting couch, clutching his pearls, he tells us that the G.O.P. used to be willing to govern. Not now.  No shit, Sherlock.  “Gemli” from Boston will have a response.  Prof. Krugman, in “Health Care in a Time of Sabotage,” says Republicans are working hard to make Obamacare fail.  Here’s Bobo:

There are many different flavors of freedom. For example, there is freedom as capacity and freedom as detachment.

Freedom as capacity means supporting people so they have the ability to take advantage of life’s opportunities. You encourage your friend to stick with piano practice so he will have the freedom to really play. You support your child during high school so she will have the liberty to pick her favorite college.

Freedom as detachment is giving people space to do their own thing. It’s based on the belief that people flourish best when they are unimpeded as much as possible. Freedom as detachment is marked by absence — the absence of coercion, interference and obstacles.

Back when the Republican Party functioned as a governing party it embraced both styles of freedom, but gave legislative priority to freedom of capacity. Look at the Republicans’ major legislative accomplishments of the past 30 years. They used government to give people more capacities.

In 1990, George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act, which gave disabled people more freedom to move about society. In 1996, Republicans passed and Bill Clinton signed a welfare reform law that tied benefits to work requirements so that recipients would develop the skills they need to succeed in the labor force. In 2003, Republicans passed a law giving Americans a new prescription drug benefit, which used market mechanisms to give them more control over how to use it.

These legislative accomplishments were about using government in positive ways to widen people’s options. They aimed at many of the same goals as Democrats — broader health coverage, lower poverty rates — but relied on less top-down mechanisms to get there.

Over the past few decades Republicans cast off the freedom-as-capacity tendency. They became, exclusively, the party of freedom as detachment. They became the Get Government Off My Back Party, the Leave Us Alone Coalition, the Drain the Swamp Party, the Don’t Tread on Me Party.

Philosophically you can embrace or detest this shift, but one thing is indisputable: It has been a legislative disaster. The Republican Party has not been able to pass a single important piece of domestic legislation under this philosophic rubric. Despite all the screaming and campaigns, all the government shutdown fiascos, the G.O.P. hasn’t been able to eliminate a single important program or reform a single important entitlement or agency.

Today, the G.O.P. is flirting with its most humiliating failure, the failure to pass a health reform bill, even though the party controls all the levers of power. Worse, Republicans have managed to destroy any semblance of a normal legislative process along the way.

There are many reasons Republicans have been failing as a governing party, but the primary one is intellectual. The freedom-as-detachment philosophy is a negative philosophy. It is about cutting back, not building.

A party operating under this philosophy is not going to spawn creative thinkers who come up with positive new ideas for how to help people. It’s not going to nurture policy entrepreneurs. It’s not going to respect ideas, period. This is not a party that’s going to produce a lot of modern-day versions of Jack Kemp.

Second, Republican voters may respond to the freedom-as-detachment rhetoric during campaigns. It feels satisfying to say that everything would be fine if only those stuck-up elites in Washington got out of the way. But operationally, most Republicans support freedom-as-capacity legislation.

If you’re a regular American, the main threat to your freedom is illness, family breakdown, social decay, technological disruption and globalization. If you’re being buffeted by massive forces beyond your control, you don’t want legislation that says: Guess what? You’re on your own!

The Republicans could have come up with a health bill that helps people cope with illness and nurtures their capacities, a bill that offers catastrophic care to the millions of American left out of Obamacare, or health savings accounts to encourage preventive care. Republicans could have been honest with the American people and said, “We’re proposing a bill that preserves Obamacare and tries to make it sustainable.” They could have touted some of the small reforms that are in fact buried in the Senate bill.

But this is the Drain the Swamp Party. The Republican centerpiece is: “We’re going to cut your Medicaid.”

So now we have a health care bill that everybody hates. It has a 17 percent approval rating. It has no sponsors, no hearings, no champions and no advocates. As usual, Republican legislators have got themselves into a position where they have to vote for a bill they all despise. And if you think G.O.P. dysfunction is bad now, wait until we get to the debt ceiling wrangle, the budget fight and the tax reform crackup.

Sure, Donald Trump is a boob, but that doesn’t explain why Republicans can’t govern from Capitol Hill. The answer is that we’re living at a time when the prospects for the middle class are in sharp decline. And Republicans offer nothing but negativity, detachment, absence and an ax.

And here’s what “gemli” has to say about that:

“It’s hard for Republicans to govern when their slogan is “Give us all of your money, because we would like to have it.” They don’t even say thank you. They’re having trouble passing health care reform because “You’ll be fine as long as you don’t get sick” is hard to package. It ranks right up there with “Vote for us, because you’re stupid.”

This last one plays remarkably well, given that it stuffed Congress full of Republicans and put a complete doofus in the White House.

When they’re not grubbing for money, they’re making national laws against things they find personally disgusting. “Gay people are icky” has been the driving force behind much of their legislation, second only to “Women’s plumbing confuses us.”

America’s infrastructure is due for an update. Not much has happened since FDR and the WPA, when the motto was something like “Building a stronger America.” I don’t want to say that Republicans have been neglectful in this regard, but now it’s “Walk gently across that bridge.”

They’re big fans of the Second Amendment, but somewhere along the way a directive to ensure a well-regulated militia became “Hold still, we want to shoot you.”

Some decry the fact that since the last election nothing seems to be getting done. Under the circumstances, I’d say that’s a very good thing. It’s why the Democrat’s new motto is, “Never again.””

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Is Trumpcare finally dead? Even now, it’s hard to be sure, especially given Republican moderates’ long track record of caving in to extremists at crucial moments. But it does look as if the frontal assault on the Affordable Care Act has failed.

And let’s be clear: The reason this assault failed wasn’t that Donald Trump did a poor selling job, or that Mitch McConnell mishandled the legislative strategy. Obamacare survived because it has worked — because it brought about a dramatic reduction in the number of Americans without health insurance, and voters didn’t and don’t want to lose those gains.

Unfortunately, some of those gains will probably be lost all the same: The number of uninsured Americans is likely to tick up over the next few years. So it’s important to say clearly, in advance, why this is about to happen. It won’t be because the Affordable Care Act is failing; it will be the result of Trump administration sabotage.

Some background here: Even the A.C.A.’s supporters have always acknowledged that it’s a bit of a Rube Goldberg device. The simplest way to ensure that people have access to essential health care is for the government to pay their bills directly, the way Medicare does for older Americans. But in 2010, when the A.C.A. was enacted, Medicare for all was politically out of reach.

What we got instead was a system with a number of moving parts. It’s not as complex as all that — once you understand the basic concept of the “three-legged stool” of regulations, mandates and subsidies, you’ve got most of it. But it has more failure points than, say, Medicare or Social Security.

Notably, people aren’t automatically signed up for coverage, so it matters a lot whether the officials running the system try to make it work, reaching out to potential beneficiaries to ensure that they know what’s available, while reminding currently healthy Americans that they are still legally required to sign up for coverage.

You can see this dependence on good intentions by looking at how health reform has played out at the state level. States that embraced the law fully, like California and Kentucky, made great progress in reducing the number of the uninsured; states that dragged their feet, like Tennessee, benefited far less. Or consider the problem of counties served by only one insurer; as a recent study noted, this problem is almost entirely limited to states with Republican governors.

But now the federal government itself is run by people who couldn’t repeal Obamacare, but would clearly still like to see it fail — if only to justify the repeated, dishonest claims, especially by the tweeter in chief himself, that it was already failing. Or to put it a bit differently, when Trump threatens to “let Obamacare fail,” what he’s really threatening is to make it fail.

On Wednesday The Times reported on three ways the Trump administration is, in effect, sabotaging the A.C.A. (my term, not The Times’s). First, the administration is weakening enforcement of the requirement that healthy people buy coverage. Second, it’s letting states impose onerous rules like work requirements on people seeking Medicaid. Third, it has backed off on advertising and outreach designed to let people know about options for coverage.

Actually, it has done more than back off. As reported by The Daily Beast, the Department of Health and Human Services has diverted funds appropriated by law for “consumer information and outreach” and used them instead to finance a social media propaganda campaign against the law that H.H.S. is supposed to be administering — a move, by the way, of dubious legality. Meanwhile, the department’s website, which used to offer helpful links for people seeking insurance, now sends viewers to denunciations of the A.C.A.

And there may be worse to come: Insurance companies, which are required by law to limit out-of-pocket expenses of low-income customers, are already raising premiums sharply because they’re worried about a possible cutoff of the crucial federal “cost-sharing reduction” subsidies that help them meet that requirement.

The truly amazing thing about these sabotage efforts is that they don’t serve any obvious purpose. They won’t save money — in fact, cutting off those subsidies, in particular, would probably end up costing taxpayers more money than keeping them. They’re unlikely to revive Trumpcare’s political prospects.

So this isn’t about policy, or even politics in the normal sense. It’s basically about spite: Trump and his allies may have suffered a humiliating political defeat, but at least they can make millions of other people suffer.

Can anything be done to protect Americans from this temper tantrum? In some cases, I believe, state governments can insulate their citizens from malfeasance at H.H.S. But the most important thing, surely, is to place the blame where it belongs. No, Mr. Trump, Obamacare isn’t failing; you are.

Bobo. Just Bobo.

July 18, 2017

Today Bobo’s decided to wring his hands over inequality.  In “Getting Radical About Inequality” he babbles that a French philosopher looked at power struggles, and understanding his thinking might also provide some insight into President Trump.  “Socrates” from Verona, NJ will have something to say.  Here’s Bobo:

I’m not in the habit of recommending left-wing French intellectuals, but I’m beginning to think that Pierre Bourdieu is helpful reading in the age of Trump. He was born in 1930, the son of a small-town postal worker. By the time he died in 2002, he had become perhaps the world’s most influential sociologist within the academy, and largely unknown outside of it.

His great subject was the struggle for power in society, especially cultural and social power. We all possess, he argued, certain forms of social capital. A person might have academic capital (the right degrees from the right schools), linguistic capital (a facility with words), cultural capital (knowledge of cuisine or music or some such) or symbolic capital (awards or markers of prestige). These are all forms of wealth you bring to the social marketplace.

In addition, and more important, we all possess and live within what Bourdieu called a habitus. A habitus is a body of conscious and tacit knowledge of how to travel through the world, which gives rise to mannerisms, tastes, opinions and conversational style. A habitus is an intuitive feel for the social game. It’s the sort of thing you get inculcated with unconsciously, by growing up in a certain sort of family or by sharing a sensibility with a certain group of friends.

For example, in his surveys of French taste, Bourdieu found that manual laborers liked Strauss’s “The Blue Danube” but didn’t like Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” People who lived in academic communities, on the other hand, liked the latter but not the former.

Your habitus is what enables you to decode cultural artifacts, to feel comfortable in one setting but maybe not in another. Taste overlaps with social position; taste classifies the classifier.

Every day, Bourdieu argued, we take our stores of social capital and our habitus and we compete in the symbolic marketplace. We vie as individuals and as members of our class for prestige, distinction and, above all, the power of consecration — the power to define for society what is right, what is “natural,” what is “best.”

The symbolic marketplace is like the commercial marketplace; it’s a billion small bids for distinction, prestige, attention and superiority.

Every minute or hour, in ways we’re not even conscious of, we as individuals and members of our class are competing for dominance and respect. We seek to topple those who have higher standing than us and we seek to wall off those who are down below. Or, we seek to take one form of capital, say linguistic ability, and convert it into another kind of capital, a good job.

Most groups conceal their naked power grabs under a veil of intellectual or aesthetic purity. Bourdieu used the phrase “symbolic violence” to suggest how vicious this competition can get, and he didn’t even live long enough to get a load of Twitter and other social media.

Different groups and individuals use different social strategies, depending on their position in the field.

People at the top, he observed, tend to adopt a reserved and understated personal style that shows they are far above the “assertive, attention-seeking strategies which expose the pretensions of the young pretenders.” People at the bottom of any field, on the other hand, don’t have a lot of accomplishment to wave about, but they can use snark and sarcasm to demonstrate the superior sensibilities.

Sometimes, the loser wins: If you’re setting up a fancy clothing or food shop you go down and adopt organic and peasant styles in order to establish the superior moral prestige that you can then use to make gobs of money.

Bourdieu helps you understand what Donald Trump is all about. Trump is not much of a policy maven, but he’s a genius at the symbolic warfare Bourdieu described. He’s a genius at upending the social rules and hierarchies that the establishment classes (of both right and left) have used to maintain dominance.

Bourdieu didn’t argue that cultural inequality creates economic inequality, but that it widens and it legitimizes it.

That’s true, but as the information economy has become more enveloping, cultural capital and economic capital have become ever more intertwined. Individuals and classes that are good at winning the cultural competitions Bourdieu described tend to dominate the places where economic opportunity is richest; they tend to harmonize with affluent networks and do well financially.

Moreover, Bourdieu reminds us that the drive to create inequality is an endemic social sin. Every hour most of us, unconsciously or not, try to win subtle status points, earn cultural affirmation, develop our tastes, promote our lifestyles and advance our class. All of those microbehaviors open up social distances, which then, by the by, open up geographic and economic gaps.

Bourdieu radicalizes, widens and deepens one’s view of inequality. His work suggests that the responses to it are going to have to be more profound, both on a personal level — resisting the competitive, ego-driven aspects of social networking and display — and on a national one.

Here’s what “Socrates” has to say:

“The true radicals in America remain the members of the Republican Party, who have flushed most of America down their Trumpian toilet by diabolically utilizing Bourdieu’s concepts of religious capital (Christian Shariah Law), language capital (“free-dumb!”) and social capital (Whites R Us) and symbolic violence (“repeal Obamacare!”) to transmogrify the USA into a hollow flag-waving, bible-thumping shell of clamoring ignorant masses dumb enough to fall for a Snake-Oil-Salesman-In-Chief like Donald Trump and an ethically dead Russian-Republican Congress hellbent on gilding the oligarchy in the symbolically violent names of God (Greed), Guns (Death) and Gays (Hatred, Spite, Punishment).

Fake News, Hate Radio and Christian Radicals all united to carefully till the American soil with pure poison and ignorance for 35 years until a giant tree of Trumpian stupidity suddenly sprouted from the toxic Grand Old Propaganda Superfund site; up rose a perfect tower of intellectual, moral and economic bankruptcy gracing the formerly dignified White House grounds.

Donald Trump, who “you know” is “like, a smart person” and who adores the poorly educated like himself, cashed in his Birther Liar capital, Fake News capital and fake religious capital with America’s stunted masses and became America’s Fake President, leaving his country utterly abandoned.

We will fix America with intellectual capital, not by collapsing its IQ by digging down deeper with Dumb Donald Trump and the Party of Stupid.”

Oh, Christ, it’s Bobo again…

July 11, 2017

Today Bobo has decided to wail about “How We Are Ruining America.”  He moans that college-educated Americans have become devastatingly good at making sure children of other classes can’t join their ranks.  There’s a particularly rancid paragraph about taking “a friend” of his to a “gourmet sandwich shop.”  If that encounter is anywhere close to being based in reality I’ll eat my shoe.  Without salt.  Here’s his POS:

Over the past generation, members of the college-educated class have become amazingly good at making sure their children retain their privileged status. They have also become devastatingly good at making sure the children of other classes have limited chances to join their ranks.

How they’ve managed to do the first task — giving their own children a leg up — is pretty obvious. It’s the pediacracy, stupid. Over the past few decades, upper-middle-class Americans have embraced behavior codes that put cultivating successful children at the center of life. As soon as they get money, they turn it into investments in their kids.

Upper-middle-class moms have the means and the maternity leaves to breast-feed their babies at much higher rates than high school-educated moms, and for much longer periods.

Upper-middle-class parents have the means to spend two to three times more time with their preschool children than less affluent parents. Since 1996, education expenditures among the affluent have increased by almost 300 percent, while education spending among every other group is basically flat.

As life has gotten worse for the rest in the middle class, upper-middle-class parents have become fanatical about making sure their children never sink back to those levels, and of course there’s nothing wrong in devoting yourself to your own progeny.

It’s when we turn to the next task — excluding other people’s children from the same opportunities — that things become morally dicey. Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution recently published a book called “Dream Hoarders” detailing some of the structural ways the well educated rig the system.

The most important is residential zoning restrictions. Well-educated people tend to live in places like Portland, New York and San Francisco that have housing and construction rules that keep the poor and less educated away from places with good schools and good job opportunities.

These rules have a devastating effect on economic growth nationwide. Research by economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti suggests that zoning restrictions in the nation’s 220 top metro areas lowered aggregate U.S. growth by more than 50 percent from 1964 to 2009. The restrictions also have a crucial role in widening inequality. An analysis by Jonathan Rothwell finds that if the most restrictive cities became like the least restrictive, the inequality between different neighborhoods would be cut in half.

Reeves’s second structural barrier is the college admissions game. Educated parents live in neighborhoods with the best teachers, they top off their local public school budgets and they benefit from legacy admissions rules, from admissions criteria that reward kids who grow up with lots of enriching travel and from unpaid internships that lead to jobs.

It’s no wonder that 70 percent of the students in the nation’s 200 most competitive schools come from the top quarter of the income distribution. With their admissions criteria, America’s elite colleges sit atop gigantic mountains of privilege, and then with their scholarship policies they salve their consciences by offering teeny step ladders for everybody else.

I was braced by Reeves’s book, but after speaking with him a few times about it, I’ve come to think the structural barriers he emphasizes are less important than the informal social barriers that segregate the lower 80 percent.

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

American upper-middle-class culture (where the opportunities are) is now laced with cultural signifiers that are completely illegible unless you happen to have grown up in this class. They play on the normal human fear of humiliation and exclusion. Their chief message is, “You are not welcome here.”

In her thorough book “The Sum of Small Things,” Elizabeth Currid-Halkett argues that the educated class establishes class barriers not through material consumption and wealth display but by establishing practices that can be accessed only by those who possess rarefied information.

To feel at home in opportunity-rich areas, you’ve got to understand the right barre techniques, sport the right baby carrier, have the right podcast, food truck, tea, wine and Pilates tastes, not to mention possess the right attitudes about David Foster Wallace, child-rearing, gender norms and intersectionality.

The educated class has built an ever more intricate net to cradle us in and ease everyone else out. It’s not really the prices that ensure 80 percent of your co-shoppers at Whole Foods are, comfortingly, also college grads; it’s the cultural codes.

Status rules are partly about collusion, about attracting educated people to your circle, tightening the bonds between you and erecting shields against everybody else. We in the educated class have created barriers to mobility that are more devastating for being invisible. The rest of America can’t name them, can’t understand them. They just know they’re there.

For the love of all that’s holy…  Moral Hazard, will you please bite your master?

Brooks and Krugman

July 7, 2017

Bobo is taking time away from considering the catastrophe that is his Republican party to ponder “The Golden Age of Bailing.”  He sinks to his fainting couch and moans that flaking out on commitments has become so easy.  “DH” from Miami-Dade Florida will have a thought or two about this.  Prof. Krugman, in “Attack of the Republican Decepticons,” says the G.O.P.’s health care strategy is built entirely on dishonest claims and misrepresentations.  Here’s Bobo’s cri de coeur:

It’s clear we’re living in a golden age of bailing. All across America people are deciding on Monday that it would be really fantastic to go grab a drink with X on Thursday. But then when Thursday actually rolls around they realize it would actually be more fantastic to go home, flop on the bed and watch Carpool Karaoke videos. So they send the bailing text or email: “So sorry! I’m gonna have to flake on drinks tonight. Overwhelmed. My grandmother just got bubonic plague.…”

Bailing is one of the defining acts of the current moment because it stands at the nexus of so many larger trends: the ambiguity of modern social relationships, the fraying of commitments, what my friend Hayley Darden calls the ethic of flexibility ushered in by smartphone apps — not to mention the decline of civilization, the collapse of morality and the ruination of all we hold dear.

Bailing begins with a certain psychological malady, with a person who has an ephemeral enthusiasm for other people but a limited self-knowledge about his or her own future desires. In the abstract, the offer to meet up with an interesting person seems great, or at least marginally interesting. The people pleaser wants to make everybody happy so says yes to every invitation, with the unconscious knowledge that he can back out later.

The moment of cold reality doesn’t hit until you look at your calendar and find that you have five different commitments at 4 p.m. next Tuesday and not a free evening until 2021. A fog of anxiety descends, good intentions are dashed and the bailer starts bailing.

Technology makes it all so easy. You just pull out your phone and bailing on a rendezvous is as easy as canceling an Uber driver.

There are different categories of bailing. There is canceling on friends. This seems to follow a bail curve pattern. People feel free to bail on close friends, because they will understand, and on distant friends, because they don’t matter so much, but they are less inclined to bail on medium-tier or fragile friends.

Then there is professional bailing. This tends to have a hierarchical structure. A high-status person will frequently bail on a lower-status colleague, but if an intern bails on a senior executive, it is a sign of serious disrespect.

Finally, there’s the networker flake. In the information age, the highly ambitious are masters of acquaintanceship — making a zillion useful contacts, understanding the strength of weak ties and bailing on a networking prospect with a killer-eyed coldness when a better offer comes along.

I’ve been reading the online discussions to understand the ethics and etiquette of bailing. I’m struck by how many people are quick to bail and view it as an unproblematic act.

They argue that we all have a right to control our own time and achieve mastery over our own life. Bailees have a duty to understand that sometimes other people are just too frazzled to follow through on their promises.

And it’s true that sometimes bailing doesn’t hurt. I’m delighted half the time when people bail on me. They’ve just given me an unexpected block of free time.

But we should probably make bailing harder. Technology wants to make everything smooth, but friendship is about being adhesive. As technology pushes us toward efficiency, we should probably introduce social rules that create friction.

We could, for example, create three moral hurdles every bail must meet.

First, is it for a good reason (your kids unexpectedly need you, a new kidney became available for your transplant) or is it for a bad reason (you’re tired, you want to be alone)?

Second, did you bail well (sending an honest text, offering another date to get together) or did you bail selfishly (ghosting, talking about how busy your life is, as if you were the only person who matters)?

Third, did you really think about the impact on the other person? (I’ve learned it’s almost always a mistake to bail on somebody’s life event — wedding, birthday party, funeral — on the grounds that your absence won’t be noticed.)

My own sin is that I have a genius for sloppily double booking myself and forgetting to write stuff down on the calendar. I bail when crushed by work.

I could probably use some social norms that punished the bail, and thereby encouraged me to be discriminating about making commitments in the first place, intentional about how I spend my time and wary of overpromising and underdelivering.

There was a time, not long ago, when a social commitment was not regarded as a disposable Post-it note, when people took it as a matter of course that reliability is a core element of treating people well, that how you spend your time is how you spend your life, and that if you don’t flake on people who matter you have a chance to build deeper and better friendships and live in a better and more respectful way.

Of course, all that went away with the smartphone.

And now here’s what “DH” has to say:

“Mr. Brooks is right. There was a time, not long ago, when writing an op ed column was not regarded as a place for shallow observations, when an op ed writer took it as a matter of course that his column should engage with the serious matters of public life, and that if was done right a meaningful column would illuminate an important issue for thoughtful readers and perhaps even move the public issue towards a better outcome.

Of course, tenure in column writing can take that all away, apparently.”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Does anyone remember the “reformicons”? A couple of years back there was much talk about a new generation of Republicans who would, it was claimed, move their party off its cruel and mindless agenda of tax cuts for the rich and pain for the poor, bringing back the intellectual seriousness that supposedly used to characterize the conservative movement.

But the rise of the reformicons never happened. What we got instead was the (further) rise of the decepticons — not the evil robots from the movies, but conservatives who keep scaling new heights of dishonesty in their attempt to sell their reverse-Robin Hood agenda.

Consider, in particular, Republican leaders’ strategy on health care. At this point, everything they say involves either demonstrably dishonest claims about Obamacare or wild misrepresentations of their proposed replacement, which would — surprise — cut taxes for the rich while inflicting harsh punishment on the poor and working class, including millions of Trump supporters. In fact, there’s so much deception that I can’t cover it all. But here are a few low points.

Despite encountering some significant problems, the Affordable Care Act has, as promised, extended health insurance to millions of Americans who wouldn’t have had it otherwise, at a fairly modest cost. In states that have implemented the act as it was intended, expanding Medicaid, the percentage of nonelderly residents without insurance has fallen by more than half since 2010.

And these numbers translate into dramatic positive impacts on real lives. A few days ago the Indiana G.O.P. asked residents to share their “Obamacare horror stories”; what it got instead were thousands of testimonials from people whom the A.C.A. has saved from financial ruin or even death.

How do Republicans argue against this success? You can get a good overview by looking at the Twitter feed of Tom Price, President Trump’s secretary of health and human services — a feed that is, in its own way, almost as horrifying as that of the tweeter in chief. Price points repeatedly to two misleading numbers.

First, he points to the fact that fewer people than expected have signed up on the exchanges — Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces — and portrays this as a sign of dire failure. But a lot of this shortfall is the result of good news: Fewer employers than predicted chose to drop coverage and shift their workers onto exchange plans. So exchange enrollment has come in below forecast, but it mostly consists of people who wouldn’t otherwise have been insured — and as I said, there have been large gains in overall coverage.

Second, he points to the 28 million U.S. residents who remain uninsured as if this were some huge, unanticipated failure. But nobody expected Obamacare to cover everyone; indeed, the Congressional Budget Office always projected that more than 20 million people would, for various reasons, be left out. And you have to wonder how Price can look himself in the mirror after condemning the A.C.A. for missing some people when his own party’s plans would vastly increase the number of uninsured.

Which brings us to Republicans’ efforts to obscure the nature of their own plans.

The main story here is very simple: In order to free up money for tax cuts, G.O.P. plans would drastically cut Medicaid spending relative to current law, and they would also cut insurance subsidies, making private insurance unaffordable for many people not eligible for Medicaid.

Republicans could try to make a case for this policy shift; they could try to explain why tax cuts for a wealthy few are more important than health care for tens of millions. Instead, however, they’re engaging in shameless denial.

On one side, they claim that a cut is not a cut, because dollar spending on Medicaid would still rise over time. What about the need to spend more to keep up with the needs of an aging population? (Most Medicaid spending goes to the elderly or disabled.) La, la, la, we can’t hear you.

On the other side — even I was shocked by this one — senior Republicans like Paul Ryan dismiss declines in the number of people with coverage as no big deal, because they would represent voluntary choices not to buy insurance.

How is this supposed to apply to the 15 million people the C.B.O. predicts would lose Medicaid? Wouldn’t many people drop coverage, not as an exercise in personal freedom, but in response to what the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates would be an average 74 percent increase in after-tax premiums? Never mind.

O.K., so the selling of Trumpcare is deeply dishonest. But isn’t that what politics is always like? No. Political spin used to have its limits: Politicians who wanted to be taken seriously wouldn’t go around claiming that up is down and black is white.

Yet today’s Republicans hardly ever do anything else. It’s not just Donald Trump: The whole G.O.P. has become a post-truth party. And I see no sign that it will ever improve.