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All Honorable Presidents, Step Forward. Not you, Donald.

As usual, I have a lot of posts floating around in my head. But instead of picking some half assed thought to write about, I think I’ll let them coalesce into something more meaningful.

But I didn’t want this day to go by without honoring our presidents, and one in particular.

There was something different about Abraham Lincoln, the best president we have ever had. He came from nothing. He was born on a frontier. He taught himself law. He ran for office and didn’t wear religion on his sleeve. Whatever it was in his life experiences, none of which were uncommon for a man of his era, he had a developed a profound understanding of human nature.

He said:

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

This is a universal and ancient theme, the test of power, from Plato to Tolkien.

None has failed it so spectacularly as Donald Trump.


In other news:

Amy Berman Jackson, judge presiding over Roger Stone’s case, has scheduled a conference call for tomorrow with the prosecutors and defense attorneys. Stone is to be sentenced on Thursday.


Hilary Mantel’s last book in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, will be released on March 10, 2020. It’s in my audible wish list. But the world may end before then. I’m concerned that we will never really know what the aristocrats said to King Henry VIII to make him turn on Cromwell and how responsible Cromwell was for his own demise.

The audiobook is a whopping 39 hours long. So, what will I do with the rest of my weekend?

18 Responses

  1. Will Bunch at The Smirking Chimp:

    Bloomberg vs Trump Would Mean That America Has Already Amused Itself To Death


    • Republican idea of vetting:: Does he advance our policies of lowering taxes for the rich, taking from the safety net to pay for them, removing all regulations on business, ending abortion, getting rid of ACA, etc? Does he have the kind of personality who can get votes?

      Democratic idea of vetting: Has he or she ever done or said anything which some of us might not like? Eaten salad with a comb? Possibly made a sexist remark? Touched a woman ion her neck? Yelled at staff? Misled on a job application? Implemented a policy as an executive, or cast a vote as a legislator, that we don’t like? Is she or he the perfect candidate, like we imagined Obama to be?

      Needless to say, Republicans will go with just about anyone who toes the party line. Democrats always have a large amount of voters who do not like their candidate. In this case, they don’t like any of them. Meanwhile, Democrats say that they are immensely focused on beating Donald Trump–except that they mus t not be, as they are all attacking or sneering at various other ones, without even reference to heir policies. But I guess they’re gearing up for finding the perfect candidate to retake the White House in 2024, facing a 7-2 right-wing Supreme Court, that Court and the lower judiciary corrupted for 50 years with young right-wing ideologues, the planet headed irreversibly toward massive climate dislocation, tens of millions without health care, an ever-increasing rise in gun ownership and violence. Or at least being satisfied that we lost the 2020 election which brought on or accelerated all of this, with the most “correct” candidate, or the least vetted one. Some might suggest that this is a self-destructive strategy, doomed to permanent minority status.

      • Garth. Take your Ritalin, man.

        First, Super Tuesday has not happened yet. Bernie and his Talibern may be looking at a severe reality check.

        Second, yeah, Putin might be able to maneuver Benedict Donald back into office. But even if every horrible thing you are ranting about comes to pass, IT IS NOT THE END OF THE FUCKING WORLD.

        One way or another, humanity and its technical civilization will survive.

        And if I’m wrong?

        Then we’ll survive in the afterworld. God is merciful. :mrgreen:

      • Democratic idea of vetting: Has he or she ever done or said anything which some of us might not like?

        Like, say, violating the 4th Amendment rights of thousands of people based solely on the color of their skin? Or refusing to comply with a lawful court order to stop doing it?

        We’ve already got one President who doesn’t believe the Constitution applies to him. Why wuld we want a second?

        • Of course, the murder rate in NYC did drop from 650,000 to 350,000, so I guess that made at least some people happy. And for someone who is now being attacked mercilessly, he was a popular mayor of a very diverse city. And there are a number of African-American mayors of major cities, who have endorsed him, which makes me think that perhaps they see all of this in perspective, know that he is not a racist, but just someone who wast trying to respond to a crisis of homicides, and picked a program which did indeed violate rights, and should have been abandoned, but then again that is almost always the difficulty with dealing with crime.

          Gregory Meeks, Congressman from NYC, has endorsed him, appeared on TV to support him, while saying that he disagreed with stop and frisk from the outset, but that Bloomberg has done a lot to help with the important issue of stopping gun violence and other things to benefit Black communities. . So everything needs perspective, but we are not getting it from MSNBC or other media sources. Being a mayor of a very large city is difficult, and he remains the most popular of the last three or four mayors there, at least based on polls asking that question.

        • Well, the murder rate in NYC was lowered from 650,000 to 350,000, so that did help some people. And there are a number of African-American mayors of various cities who have endorsed Bloomberg, so they are able to put all of this in perspective. This does not wholly excuse the program of stop and frisk, but it was not intended to be some assault against minorities. These other mayors may realize how difficult it is to deal with the problem of crime, which almost all mayors are held responsible for, including Butttigieg.

          Gregory Meeks, Congressman from NYC, who has endorsed Bloomberg, and has appeared on TV to support him, says that he himself always thought stop and frisk was wrong, but that Bloomberg has done a good deal to combat gun violence, and also to help predominantly Black communities. Perspective is important, but we are not seeing it from MSNBC, which seems to have as its predominant goal the getting rid of Bloomberg, perhaps because he is the only candidate who has a reasonable chance of keeping Sanders from the nomination. If Bloomberg were some kind of horrible mayor, there is no way that a city as diverse and savvy as NYC would have elected him three times, I don’t care how rich he is.

          And crucially, there is no way that Bloomberg could or would somehow institute such a program in states or city municipalities, and everyone knows that, but wants to use it as a definitive symbol for him. Just like, in a lesser but politically significant sense, Michael Dukakis was held responsible for Willie Horton, and Hillary Clinton for Benghazi and Libya, and both were extrapolated from to cast the former as a soft-headed liberal who felt sorry for criminals, and the latter as a warmonger who could not protect our diplomatic corps. And I will freely admit that if I had lived in NYC, and people were being shot on streetcorners by stray bullets, I might have thought that a program designed to keep young people from driving around with guns, had some value. Just like all those people, including the Congressional Black Caucus, which voted for the 1994 Crime Bill, which now is viewed as a terrible thing with the benefit of retrospect.

          • “650,000” is not a “rate” since it’s not relative to anything, and saying there was a decline is meaningless without a time interval. I have no idea where you pulled the non-rates of 650,000 and 350,000 from, since they seem unrelated to any data source I can think of.

            So: let’s take a look at the actual crime statistics from the NYPD:


            That first line, “Murder and non-negligent manslaughter” is probably the one we want. These are counts, not rates since they’re not normalized by population (which, I think may have varied a bit over the 12 years of Hizzoner’s tenure). Here are the counts, year-by-year:


            Again, these are raw counts, not “rates”. Note also (according to the statistical notes on that page) that the NYPD changed their counting methodology in 2006. This means it may not be strictly valid to compare numbers from before 2006 with those from afterwards.

            Bloomberg was mayor from January 1, 2002 to Dec 31, 2013.
            However, the class-action lawsuit that put an end to stop-and-frisk was decided in mid-2013.
            Stop-and-frisk was initially implemented under Giuliani starting in the late ’90s.

            So, the first thing I notice is that the number of murders is highly variable. Its hard to attribute the decline to stop-and-frisk when

            1) The count went up during the first year of Bloomberg’s expanded stop-and-frisk
            2) The count continued to vary pretty substantially throughout Bloomberg’s term. The only clear trend line is Bloomberg’s last year and the following years, after the program was ended. Whether you see a decline during his actual term depends on which years you cherry-pick. If you measured from 2004 to 2006, you’d think NYC was turning into a real hellhole.

            Interestingly enough, the number of murders continued to drop after stop-and-frisk was ended in mid-2013 (and after Bloomberg left office). The count of murders in 2018 was 295. This is lower than any year in which the policy was in effect. This suggests that other factors might well be at work, or as those of us who can actually *do* math put it: “correlation is not causation.”

            The murder rate also dropped nationwide during the same interval, from 6.6 per 100,000 in 2001 (that actually *is* a rate) to 4.5 per 100,000 in 2013. Needless to say, the drop in murders in flyover country is probably not due to stop-and-frisk in New York (just as it’s probably not due to the rise in shall-issue CCW in those states, as is often claimed by the NRA).

            What troubles me here is how willing you seem to be to sacrifice other people’s liberty and constitutional rights just to keep Republicans form calling you bad names.

            As for whether it would be possible for him to implement such a policy nationally, probably not. But then if you’d told me a couple of years ago that a sitting President could attempt to blackmail a foreign leader into interfering in a US election, I’d have said that was impossible, too. What I do think is that his willingness to sanction wholesale violations of civil liberties in the name of public safety doesn’t bode well for his willingness to safeguard such liberties on the national stage, where the stakes are much higher. He has contempt for the Constitution. He has contempt for people of color. He has contempt for women. He has contempt for working people. We’ve had one President like that already. We don’t need another.

        • Speaking of contempt for working people, there’s always that 2018 talk Bloomberg gave at the IMF where he called for abolishing the minimum wage:

          Because plutocrats really *would* like to bring slavery back.

          • The irony is that Bernie is an authoritarian. He loves dictators like Trump. Bernie is doing a great job of making sure a lot of us sit this one out. We couldn’t nominate a worse candidate than Bernie. He splits the party right in half. He has done nothing to make amends for his atrocious behavior in the past and continues. His whole primary theory is to character assassinate every other candidate to the point where they drop out and he’s the only one left to vote for. Then he is going to harass everybody during the GE using Trump. Bernie would be one term and likely would die in office. His life expectancy at this point is 3 years. We are giving up the power of incumbency with Bernie.

  2. As a boy, I read a couple of books on Lincoln but I have never read the longer and more scholarly works on him. I really don’t know about him in great depth, past the general outlines of his life and policies. He is venerated.

    Interestingly, after one gets past Lincoln, there are no venerated Presidents, outside of perhaps Washington, some of that being based on him being he first, and someone who turned down an opportunity to be King. There were other good, in some cases, great, presidents, but their histories are mired in partisan arguments about them. Republicans still hate FDR, who is my favorite president; consider that he barely made his way onto the dime, because of the March of Dimes and Republicans wanted to take him off it to be replaced by Reagan. How many schools are named after him, not many. Reagan is loved by Republicans, not thought of well by non-Republicans. Obama is admired by many, but I think most of that is due to him being the first non-White president, and also a personal dignity, not so much for anything he did while president, though of course in our partisan country, he was stymied for most of it by the other side. Bill Clinton had a very successful presidency, but Republicans hated him, too, and they impeached him for lying about an affair of sorts. Historians always considered Jefferson to be a great president, but now the issue of owning slaves, et al, has seemed to diminish him. Jackson was listed in a historian poll taken somewhere in the ’50’s,as a “great,” but he has similarly dropped based on racial biases and related things.

    So we have Lincoln. Even Trump praises Lincoln, not that he knows anything about him. He is the lodestone, and everyone argues and disagrees about the rest of them. From what I do know, I would probably rank them: 1) Lincoln, 2) FDR, 3) Washington, 4) Jefferson, 5) Clinton (eliminated the deficit, great prosperity, and handled foreign crises with great skill. Maybe Theodore Roosevelt tied with Clinton, but he was a game hunter, which I detest, but then again this is personal aspects coloring the presidential ones.

    • Maybe I should have put FDR on top, now does one separate the two, from different eras and with different crises to deal with? One of them had only four years, tragically’; one had a little over twelve. Both of them saved the country.

      • It’s really hard to choose among Washington, Lincoln, and FDR in my view. Washington could easily have made himself King or Lord Protector (like Oliver Cromwell). A lesser man almost certainly would have. He could have held onto office as long as he pleased, but like Cincinnatus he willingly relinquished it and set the precedent for peaceful transition of power. History is littered with revolutionary commanders who became depots. We were incredibly fortunate to have been spared that.

        Lincoln and FDR both saved the Republic, from different threats in different times by different means, but without Washington there would have been no Republic to save.

  3. “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
    Yes to the 1000th power.
    I’ve seen it anecdotally in colleagues who were promoted into executive positions. Most became besotted by the authority, a few managed to maintain perspective.

    • Some people are more in love with the title than the actual job.
      And some people have zero talent for management.
      Just saying.
      For them, it’s a constant struggle to know what to do next.

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