Politics postsSunday February 19, 2017
The Most Frightening Thing about 'Last Night in Sweden'
Last night Donald Trump held a rally in Melbourne, Florida to make himself feel better for being such a lousy president. There, he referenced what sounded like an immigration-related or refugee-related terror attack in Sweden:
You look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.
This led to confusion for ... everyone. Particularly those in Sweden.
Turns out he wasn't referencing a terror attack:
My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2017
Brian Stelter of CNN posted the Fox segment on Twitter, so I watched it earlier today. It's interesting to watch. Host Tucker Carlson had the right-wing filmmaker Ari Horowitz on the show, and Ami talked about the rise of crime in Sweden as it relates to that country's liberal refugee policy. Horowitz says that the stats clearly indicate that violent crime, particularly rape, has been on the rise since Sweden began letting in refugees, but that the Swedish government won't acknowledge this. The people won't either. You know why? They're too politically correct. Bad things are happening, and the stats show why, but the people won't own up to it because they want to be, in Carlson's word, “virtuous.”
It's interesting because it's obvious what the segment is about. It's not about Sweden. Sweden is a stand-in for liberals and Democrats, and rape and murder is what happens to good Americans when you follow Democratic policies. So vote Republican.
It's not news, it's propaganda.
At the same time, I was curious: Is violent crime going up in Sweden?
According to this piece on The Local, a European news site, and dated in January (so before Tucker and Ari politicized everything), “the number of rapes reported in Sweden increased by 13 percent in 2016 to 6,560.” Except that number is slightly less than the number of reported rapes in 2014. In other words, the number dipped, then returned to the previous level.
The article adds this:
Seen over a ten-year period, the number of reported rapes has gone up from 4,208 in 2006, partly because of legislative changes in the previous year and in 2013 broadening the definition, according to Brå.
Reuters' article mentions this:
Sweden's crime rate has fallen since 2005, official statistics show, even as the country has taken in hundreds of thousands of immigrants from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq.
So on a Friday night on FOX, Carlson and Horowitz act 100 percent certain of a rise in violent crime in Sweden, even though the stats are inconclusive, as a means to smear liberals, Democrats, and (let's face it) long-standing U.S. policy on immigration. Pres. Trump watches this and repeats it as if it were 100 percent true.
The most frightening thing to me? The way our president phrased his comment: “You look at what's happening last night in Sweden.” Last night? It's one thing to buy the bullshit on Fox, but surely Trump knows that, in reference to his comment, nothing happened last night in Sweden. That the only thing that happened was he watched TV. And surely he understands the difference between the two. Right? Reince? Someone? Anyone? Please tell me he knows the difference between the two.
A Weekend Catching Up on Old Magazines
Well, “old.” February.
First Vanity Fair, the one with Chris Pratt on the cover. I read a bit of that profile but only after I read two articles on Donald Trump. That's where the mind goes these days.
The first, by Nick Bilton, is about the search for salacious Apprentice material in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Disclosure: They don't find it. Bilton wonders if it would've mattered if they had. They already had him on tape in 2005 bragging about trying to bang a married woman: “I did try to fuck her,” he says. “I moved on her like a bitch,” he says. And then, most infamously, “When you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything ... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” The whole piece was interesting, but sad, of course, and two lines stood out. This one for obvious reasons:
Two days before the election, one entertainment executive with ties to Clinton contacted someone in the industry who had said he had a copy of a tape depicting Trump that could create problems for the then candidate. Would this person be willing to pass him the footage to give to the Clinton campaign? Since the latest poll numbers indicated it was clear Clinton would win the election—likely in a landslide—this person didn't want to risk it.
But this one even more:
(People who had worked with Trump on The Apprentice had heard that he would be in the 2016 race for two months at the most, then he'd be back on reality TV.)
The mess we're in: It wasn't supposed to be.
Michael Lewis has a piece in the same mag on creating his own Trump board game. The germ of that idea began the day after the election when he was volunteering at his kid's high school in L.A., and the kids staged a peaceful walkout to protest Trump's victory. Then the phone began to ring. Right-wing sites had written about the protest and Lewis was hearing sound and fury from Trump supporters who expected the world to fall in line now that their candidate had won the election—by having 3 million fewer votes. Offhandedly, Lewis wondered how Trump would keep up their vitriol once Hillary left the stage. (I think the answer is Don't let her leave the stage. Or: Find other scapegoats: the media, the courts. There's always something.) I forget the other type of mental game Lewis came up with before deciding on his new, imaginary board game—I lost interest, rare for a Lewis piece—but one line stood out for me. It was about kids he met when he went to talk in a high school in Oakland. He wrote:
The election had taught these kids that a large part of their country no longer holds political candidates to the standards of behavior enforced by their own high school.
Much recommended is the Feb. 13 & 20 issue of The New Yorker, the one with the Statue of Liberty's flame being snuffed out, where there's a great, long piece by Patrick Radden Keefe on chef, author and globetrotter Anthony Bourdain, and it includes his meeting with Pres. Obama in Hanoi last year for bun cha. After the encounter, after Pres. Obama had left, Bourdain said the following about Obama to Keefe:
I believe what's important to him is this notion that otherness is not bad, that Americans should aspire to walk in other people's shoes.
Agreed. And also sad. Given everything.
I particularly loved this later observation by Philippe Lajaunie, one of the owners of Les Halles, where Bourdain had been excecutive chef in the 1990s, about Bourdain. No politics in this one, just universal truths:
He has accepted that everyone has broken springs here and there. That's what most of us lack—the acceptance that others are as broken as we are.
Hold onto it.
Finally, definitely read James Surowiecki's financial page column, this one entitled “Trump's Budget Bluff,” in which Surowiecki crunches the numbers of Trump's budget proposals and promises (cut taxes, cut waste, get rid of PBS and the NEA, balance the budget) and what'll happen if he gets his way (we'll go into deeper debt). Why don't his supporters know this? Because they assume things like the NEA and aid to foreign countries make up a greater portion of the federal budget than they do. Surowiecki quotes from sociologist Arlie Hochschild, who has written a book on working-class Republicans in Louisiana:
Many of the people she talked to believe that the federal government employs forty per cent of American workers; it's closer to two per cent. “They think that the government is full of waste and freeloaders,” Hochschild told me. “And they believe that most government money is going to programs—welfare, foreign aid, the arts, even environmental protection—that aren't for them but for the people they feel superseded by.”
They think this because right-wing media lies to them (in HEADLINES!) and mainstream media corrects it (in the 12th graf). If they even correct it. If it's even seen.
The Science of Stopping Trump
John Holdren, the top science adviser to Pres. Barack Obama, spoke at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Friday, in Boston, and among other things offered up this advice to his fellow scientists for navigating the anti-intellectual, anti-science and anti-fact-based administration of Donald Trump. It's good advice for all of us:
- Don't be discouraged or intimidated.
- Keep doing your science ... don't change what you do or how you think about what you do or its importance.
- Become more broadly informed about science and scientific issues.
- Tithe at least 10 percent of your time to public service ... including activism.
- We as a community need to think carefully about how to focus and utilize our activities to try to insure the continuation, momentum, and the integrity of science in this new era.
I like “tithe.”
Some comments from the White House press corps to each other after Pres. Trump's first disastrous press conference on Thursday, as reported in Andrew Marantz's piece, “Inside Trump's Surreal Press Conference,” on The New Yorker site:
- “Did he literally say the words 'Russia is fake news'?”
- “Surreal. Surreal. Surreal.”
- “Who's the banana republic now?”*
- “April, I have a black friend in Cleveland—could you send him a message for me?”**
- “I mean, I can't even.”***
* from a reporter who's covered Latin American dictatorships
** to April Ryan, an African-American reporter, whom Donald Trump assumed would know the Congressional Black Caucus
*** from April Ryan
A Modest Proposal
I went to an anti-Trump, pro-LGBTQ rally at Cal Anderson Park yesterday morning, because that's what we do nowadays (sign spotted there: PROTEST IS THE NEW BRUNCH). Turned out it was put on by the Socialist Alternative of Seattle. It was a good crowd for a Saturday morning, and I'm all in favor of unity, and I'm hardly a public speaker myself so who am I to make suggestions? Yet here I go:
- Lay off the blanket attacks on capitalism. Attack the billionaire class, the .1%, Wall Street, Trump and his cabinet, dark money, Citizens United. But capitalism itself? I certainly have my problems with capitalism (it benefits the ruthless and unethical to a degree it shouldn't), but a blanket attack can only backfire. Focus on what we can do.
- Don't attack “corporate Democrats.” In the fight against Trump, we're all allies. Remember that. Don't shoot at your flank while the enemy is still on the rampage.
- Avoid “toppling the tsar” analogies. A rally on March 8 was mentioned. It was also mentioned that this was the day the so-called February Revolution began in 1917, which eventually led to the toppling of the Russian tsar. A friend looked at me and rolled her eyes, and I said, “Yeah, I don't think that ended well.”
It always makes me laugh when Republicans—most recently Jason Chaffetz of Utah, overwhelmed by his own constituents at his own town hall—claim that left-wing protesters are bought, they're paid for, since this would imply a kind of cohesive, united attack that the left has never displayed in my lifetime. We're usually all over the place. Everyone's got their pet cause, and many can't see the forest for their particular beloved twig. We can't afford that any longer. We need to focus. Trump is the reason we're out there in droves. Remember that. The future of the country depends upon it.