Trump’s 100th-day speech may have been the most hate-filled in modern history

From The Washington Post:

By Michael Gerson
May 1, 2017

For those who claim that Donald Trump has been pasteurized and homogenized by the presidency, his sour, 100th-day speech in Harrisburg, Pa., was inconvenient.

Trump used his high office to pursue divisive grudges (Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is a “bad leader”), to attack the media (composed of “incompetent, dishonest people”) and to savage congressional Democrats (“they don’t mind drugs pouring in”). Most of all, Trump used his bully pulpit quite literally, devoting about half his speech to the dehumanization of migrants and refugees as criminals, infiltrators and terrorists. Trump gained a kind of perverse energy from the rolling waves of hatred, culminating in the reading of racist song lyrics comparing his targets to vermin. It was a speech with all the logic, elevation and public purpose of a stink bomb.

On a selection of policy issues (Chinese currency manipulation, NATO, the North American Free Trade Agreement), Trump has been forced to accommodate reality. But those who find the president surprisingly “conventional” must somehow dismiss or discount this kind of speech, which George Wallace would have gladly given as president. They must somehow ignore the children in the audience, soaking up the fears and prejudices of their elders. They must somehow believe that presidential rhetoric — capable of elevating a country — has no power to debase it.

It is not sophisticated or worldly-wise to become inured to bigotry. The only thing more frightening than Trump’s speech — arguably the most hate-filled presidential communication in modern history — is the apathetic response of those who should know better.

For vigorous and insightful criticism of Trump, we should turn to someone who is not an American at all. He is a Czech intellectual, playwright and politician — who also happens to be dead.

I viewed Trump’s speech immediately after reading Vaclav Havel’s essay “Politics, Morality and Civility” (in an edition recently issued by the Trinity Forum). Havel surveyed the post-communist politics of his time and found leaders willing “to gain the favor of a confused electorate by offering a colorful range of attractive nonsense.” Sound familiar? His diagnosis continues: “Making the most of this situation, some characters with suspicious backgrounds have been gaining popular favor with ideas such as, for instance, the need to throw the entire government into the Vltava River.”

The great temptation, in Havel’s view, is for people to conclude that politics can’t be better — that it “is chiefly the manipulation of power and public opinion, and that morality has no place in it.” This demoralized view of politics would mean losing “the idea that the world might actually be changed by the force of truth, the power of a truthful word, the strength of a free spirit, conscience and responsibility.”

“Genuine politics,” argues Havel, “is simply a matter of serving those around us; serving the community, and serving those who will come after us.” And this responsibility grows out of a moral and spiritual reality. “Genuine conscience and genuine responsibility are always, in the end, explicable only as an expression of the silent assumption that we are observed ‘from above,’ that everything is visible, nothing is forgotten.”

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Who’s Faking, Trump or the News?

From Bill Moyers:

By Todd Gitlin
May 1, 2017

For getting a sense of what Americans think, decent polls, for all their deficiencies, are better than wild guesses. So consider the findings of a major poll that last month looked into the question of whom to believe, Trump or the major media. It ain’t pretty.

First of all, how many Americans think that media are responsible for “fake news”? According to this poll, commissioned from Langer Research Associates by ABC News/The Washington Post, 52 percent of Americans think that news organizations “regularly” produce false stories. Regularly.

True, that’s not as big a number as the 59 percent of the same sample who think the Trump administration “regularly” makes false claims. Even factoring in the poll’s sampling error, the news organizations would seem to be slightly — but only slightly — more credible than the White House falsehood machine. How much of a victory is that?

Curiously, 40 percent of the same sample think that it’s a bigger problem that mainstream news organizations produce false stories than that the Trump administration makes false claims. Forty-three percent think it’s the other way round. Eleven percent think they’re equally at fault. Allowing for the sampling error, it’s a wash. Small comfort for media, I’d say.

Another poll (which asks about “national political media,” not “news organizations,” but such are the vagaries of the disorderly polling business), gives a result even less flattering to the news media as a whole:

Trump’s critiques of the media, which he commonly derides as “fake news” also seems to have struck a chord with Americans. A plurality (42 percent) said they see fake news in national newspapers or network news broadcasts more than once or about once a day. About 3 in 10 (31 percent) said they saw fake news from those sources once every few days, once a week or slightly less often than that.

Unsurprisingly, this poll was touted by Breitbart News.

Another poll, this one by The Economist/Yougov in February, asked the question more pointedly, and found a more dramatic tilt toward media over Trump. Their question was:

“When the media challenges Donald Trump about whether things he and his Administration say are correct, or not correct, do you feel… (A) Trump and the Administration usually turn out to be right on the facts; (B) The media usually turns out to be right on the facts; (C) Not sure.”

Thirty-one percent trusted Trump more, 39 percent trusted the media more.

Neither poll specified which news organizations the pollsters were asking about. That’s a serious deficiency. Presumably, respondents were welcome to include, among “news organizations,” Fox, Breitbart, Infowars and other right-wing vehicles that I have been calling the Vortex — VOices of RT-Wing EXtremism. So what are we entitled to conclude about the state of national disbelief? To judge historical tendencies, we have to resort some educated guesswork. So here goes.

It was in 1972 that Gallup started asking Americans how much “trust” (sometimes “confidence”) they had in news media generally, which the pollster sometimes labeled a bit more specifically as “newspapers, TV and radio.” For 35 years, between 1972 and 2007, the total of “great deal” and “fair amount” always stood at 50 percent or higher.  Other pollsters asked comparable questions, posing the alternatives a bit differently: high, medium and low confidence. Between 1977 and 1983, the total of “high” and “medium” confidence soared as high as 89 percent.

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Kansas City Archdiocese Cutting Ties With Girl Scouts Over ‘Troubling Trends’

From NPR:

May 2, 2017

The Archdiocese of Kansas City says it is severing its years-long relationship with Girl Scouts in nearly two dozen Kansas counties because the organization promotes materials “reflective of many of the troubling trends in our secular culture.”

“The decision to end our relationship with Girl Scouting was not an easy one,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann said in a statement released Monday. He asked pastors to “begin the process of transitioning away from the hosting of parish Girl Scout troops.”

Instead, he calls for chartering American Heritage Girls troops, which he describes as “based on Christian values.” According to its website, the organization was formed in 1995 by a former Girl Scouts volunteer who was “uneasy with the way her troop was asked to handle matters of faith.”

Now, local pastors will choose whether to end Girl Scout programs immediately or “over the next several years, ‘graduate’ the Scouts currently in the program.”

Girl Scouts of the USA identifies as a secular organization with ties to faith, and the national organization and the Catholic Church have had a relationship that dates back a century.

A few within the Church, instead of aligning with the Church Hierarchy’s positive position on Girl Scouts, have chosen to propagate misinformation that the Catholic Church has acknowledged to be false,” the Girl Scouts national organization said in a statement following the archdiocese’s announcement. “Girl Scouts is always willing to work with any and every person or organization in order to fulfill our mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.”

Naumann said he is troubled by materials that highlight the roles of women such as birth control activist Margaret Sanger and feminist writers and activists Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. A local representative of the Girl Scouts told NPR that these women and many others have been celebrated because of their leadership qualities.

The archbishop’s letter also states that Girl Scouts of the USA “contributes more than a million dollars each year to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS), an organization tied to International Planned Parenthood.”

However, on its national website, the Girl Scouts says it “does not have a relationship or partnership with Planned Parenthood.” The organization says it pays membership dues to WAGGS and compares the relationship to the one between the U.S. and the U.N.: “The United States may not agree with every position the UN takes, but values having a seat at the table.”

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New Rule: The Lesser of Two Evils | Real Time with Bill Maher

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