The President of the United States said on Twitter last week that he is under investigation for firing James Comey from the FBI:
The President’s private lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said yesterday that the President is not under investigation:
“The tweet from the president was in response to the five anonymous sources purportedly leaking information to the Washington Post,” he said, referring to the Post’s report this week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the election now also includes a look at whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice.
Sekulow claimed the president is not spending a lot of time composing the tweets, but defended them as a means of speaking directly to voters, saying “he’s responding to what he’s seeing in the media in a way in which he thinks is appropriate to talk to those people that put him in office.”
The President’s own lawyer is telling the world that the President of the United States does not spend enough time crafting the messages he sends via his primary channel of communication to provide clear, reliable statements. In other words, we and the entire world cannot take at face value the words of the President of the United States.
I say this same thing every time Dr. David Newquist puts up a new blog post: he doesn’t write much, but when he does, his words are powerful. This weekend, Dr. Newquist explains how Donald Trump’s lies are destroying our democracy as surely as our government’s lies demoralized the American Indians.
As usual, it is hard to excerpt Newquist. Every paragraph is powerful, but every paragraph gains even more power in concert with the whole. Here’s just one passage, which should inspire every reader to read everything Newquist says about the lies of the “village idiot” in the White House:
The most serious damage lying inflicts is on the language. When words are used to deceive, they become untrustworthy. An environment of lies makes the language useless in conducting any kind of human transactions. And when people cannot trust words, they cannot trust anything or anybody. The misuse and consequent mistrust of language spreads into documents and the laws that govern us. People realize that laws are construed to oppress some people and exempt others from any kind of responsibility [David Newquist, “Pathological Lying Destroys Human Possibilities,” Northern Valley Beacon, 2017.06.10].
Read and share Newquist’s full critique. Forward these words to our elected officials. And fight the cynical linguistic nihilism that Trump is using to destroy our democratic institutions as he raids the national cookie jar.
This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it [Donald Trump, speech to leaders of 50+ Muslim countries, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as transcribed by CNN, 2017.05.21].
Terrorists are engaged in a war against civilization, and it is up to all who value life to confront and defeat this evil….
Civilization is at a precipice—and whether we climb or fall will be decided by our ability to join together to protect all faiths, all religions, and all innocent life. No matter what, America will do what it must to protect its people [Donald Trump, statement, 2017.05.26].
For Donald Trump, words are mere accessories, thrown on like his too-long neckties to tickle and exaggerate his manhood. Looking for logical consistency in such fire-and-forget blurts is an oral fixation not worth pursuing.
I’ll offer this one faint attempt at finding some consistency in Trump’s civilization/war statements. Trump’s words still contradict the thesis of Clare Lopez and his anti-Muslim base, who contend that the Muslim Brotherhood is waging civilization jihad to replace Western civilization with Islamic civilization. However, when he said there is no war between civilizations, he did not logically exclude the possibility that there are extra-civilizational evildoers who are trying to tear down the whole idea of civilization. These two statements five days apart thus allow Trump to cling to the rhetorical position that we face a battle not of civilization versus civilization but of all civilizations versus anarchy.
But there I go again, putting far more thought into Donald Trump’s words than he himself puts into them.
The other day I noticed that Holabird political expert Nick Nemec claimed on Facebook that “contrary to recent reports,” he actually coined the term “priming the pump.” I didn’t understand the reference until this morning, when another friend forwarded this incredible transcript of Donald Trump explaining economics to editors from The Economist:
[The Economist] Another part of your overall plan, the tax reform plan. Is it OK if that tax plan increases the deficit? Ronald Reagan’s tax reform didn’t.
[Trump] Well, it actually did. But, but it’s called priming the pump. You know, if you don’t do that, you’re never going to bring your taxes down. Now, if we get the health-care [bill through Congress], this is why, you know a lot of people said, “Why isn’t he going with taxes first, that’s his wheelhouse?” Well, hey look, I convinced many people over the last two weeks, believe me, many Congressmen, to go with it. And they’re great people, but one of the great things about getting health care is that we will be saving, I mean anywhere from $400bn to $900bn.
Mr Mnuchin: Correct.
President Trump: That all goes into tax reduction. Tremendous savings.
But beyond that it’s OK if the tax plan increases the deficit?
It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long. You may have two years where you’ll…you understand the expression “prime the pump”?
Yes. We have to prime the pump.
It’s very Keynesian.
We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. Have you heard that expression before, for this particular type of an event?
Priming the pump?
Yeah, have you heard it?
Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.
But Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine explains that Trump not only didn’t invent the phrase but isn’t using it correctly:
…Trump did not invent the phrase “prime the pump.” It has been around since at least the 1930s and is extremely familiar to economists. Nor does it describe his plan. Priming the pump refers to a program of temporary fiscal stimulus to inject demand into an economy stuck with high unemployment. Trump is instead proposing to permanently increase the deficit in an economy with low unemployment. Telling The Economist you invented the phrase “priming the pump,” to describe a plan that does not prime the pump, is a bit like sitting down with Car and Driver, pointing to the steering wheel on your car and asking if they have ever heard of a little word you just came up with called “hubcap” [Jonathan Chait, “Donald Trump Tries to Explain Economics to The Economist, Hilarity Ensues,” New York Magazine: Daily Intelligencer, 2017.05.11].
As a bonus, Chait cites this chart showing that Trump’s claim that “we’re the highest-taxed nation in the world” is also false:
I don’t know if we need a new pump, but we need a new President, one who can get basic facts straight.
At yesterday’s crackerbarrel in Watertown, rookie Rep. Neal Tapio (R-5/Watertown responded to a question about getting rid of Medicaid by saying (timestamp 54:35), “I want to kill it altogether.”
Three minutes and fifteen seconds later, in response to a follow-up question about how we proposes to take care of elderly, children, disabled, and other folks currently on Medicaid, Rep. Tapio said, “I’m not saying that we get rid of it.”
It is quite easy to blame politicians for our problems. We have more power than politicians to bring change to our lives, but this requires that we reach out and connect with each other. It requires that we discover our mutual needs and try to help each other. It requires a mutual protection pact with all Americans and, by extension, to all humanity. It requires that we search for, discover and value what we have in common over the few things we have in difference. This does not require the permission of the government or anyone else [Lawrence Diggs, “Time for the Country to Unite Again,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.12.23].
Yet I also read in this gentle populist tone a retreat from the war that decent people must fight against darkness. As Diggs exhorts us to smile and be nice to the neighbors around us, he turns us away from the language we must use to criticize and reject the evil that is taking hold of our government:
We can be more flexible. It is too easy to write people off as “sexist,” “racist,” “deplorable” or some other term that writes people off as “unredeemable.” It is useful to remember that change is hard and we are all victims of the same brainwashing that pits us against each other. We need to practice seeing each other as collaborators [Diggs, 2016.12.23].
We can only be so flexible. It is easy and necessary to describe Donald Trump and those around him as sexist, racist, and deplorable because they are sexist, racist, and deplorable. It is vital to remember that the change Donald Trump wants is not just hard but destructive. We are not all victims of the same brainwashing: some of us recognize that Donald Trump is a menace, and saying otherwise makes us collaborators in tyranny.
Yes, be nice to each other. Recognize our common humanity. But resist at every turn the greatest threat to our common humanity, the tyrant who is getting the nuclear codes for Christmas.
During the last election, America was looking for a moderate voice, someone that had an accomplishment of getting things done in government, someone who could reach out to everybody and understand what it’s like to be really really poor as well as have you know maybe some on that opposite end of the stream too [Mike Huether, on The Greg Belfrage Show, 2016.12.21 ].
Huether used that point to springboard to talking about himself rather than elaborating on his analysis of the national electorate (expect a lot of that focus from the Huether campaign). But what is he saying here? Is he explaining why Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.87 million votes? Is he saying America wants something other than the President it’s getting? Or is he just in campaign mode, projecting his own slogans onto the entire country?
He appointed billionaire Betsy DeVos who has been active in promoting charter schools, which cater to the wealthy. She works to dismantle public education, and give poor kids other opportunities. She has donated to a “think tank” that would repeal the child labor laws so that kids can be sent into the workforce to learn the virtues of hard work, instead of sitting in classrooms learning useless stuff. Other than attempting to dismantle it, DeVos has no experience in education [David Newquist, “A Happy Thanksgiving from the One Percent,” Northern Valley Beacon, 2016.11.25].
This past election campaign has been a nuclear-level assault on language. Donald Trump is an anti-language warrior such as has been seen only in dystopian fiction. His outbursts are incoherent, ungrammatical, and predication-free. News organizations have termed his lying as unprecedented. In checking out 334 statements Trump made during his campaign, Politifact found that 70 percent of his statements were false; 15 percent had a slight truth; and only 15 percent fell into the truthful category.
…The reign of Donald Trump signals the victory of the destruction of language. You can’t believe him. You can’t believe those who support him because their knowledge of the world about them is submerged in the muck of false, malevolent, and corrupt language. There can be no arguments of reason because the counterfeiting of fact-based language has destroyed any possibility of dealing with truth [David Newquist, “It’s the Language, Stupid,” Northern Valley Beacon, 2016.11.27].
If Newquist’s reference is not obvious, please review George Orwell’s clever appendix to 1984, “The Principles of Newspeak,” in which Orwell explains how his fictional Party whittled the English language down to a stream of uncreative and shamelessly counterfactual grunts. See also the Two Minutes Hate, a mind-control method that manipulates and enflames raw emotion to crowd out reasoned discourse. (An incurious, self-serving, sexist, racist fascist seeks the Presidency, but you’re mad and it feels good to shout “Build a wall!” and “Lock her up!” so you are absolved of your moral and intellectual responsibility to vote wisely and can go ahead and elect your imminent oppressor, and anyone criticizing your choice is just an arrogant elitist whom you can ignore.) See also Orwell’s Newspeak term prolefeed, “meaning the rubbishy entertainment and spurious news which the Party handed out to the masses.”
Newquist is about as optimistic as Orwell. He sees defenders of modern language and reason occupying a place similar to that of our Lakota neighbors 150 years ago when our ancestors pushed them onto reservations and tried to take away their language.
Like the Native Americans have learned, for the survival of language as a tool and for our own survival, it is necessary for us to trust only language that is guarded and protected by those who value knowledge, facts, and the language that records and transmits them. Those who value those things won’t engage with those who use the defiled language. To do so is pointless and exposes honest language to the disease that destroys it. The survival of a useful and productive language is dependent upon enclaves of educational and deliberative institutions that maintain a rigorous and unrelenting standard for the use of language. It must be protected from those who seek to undermine human communication.
That means that there must be elite who protects language from any influence from the Trumps and those who support and condone him. And that means a severely divided America. The future of civilization and any viable culture depends on those who serve in reverence for knowledge and language [Newquist, 2016.11.27].
I understand the hazards of engaging the Trumpists and suffering their poisonous anti-rationality. But I also recognize the danger of dividing America. If we don’t engage, we will lose. If we run from Trumpism, we let Trump portray us (us? liberals? moderates? journalists? truth-tellers? intellectuals? teachers? First Amendment advocates? patriots?) as elitists, outsiders, people who don’t belong in his fantasy (masculine, white, entitled because I’m rich) America. We cannot feed Trump’s exclusion.
People like Newquist are the medicine for Trumpism. Without that medicine, the patient—America—will die.
Lisa Furlong and the peddlers of Amendment U, the fake 18% rate cap, have demonstrated their willingness to lie to block Initiated Measure 21, the real 36% rate cap. Reviewing Furlong’s proponent statement for the usury amendment in the official 2016 Ballot Question Pamphlet leads me to contend that Furlong is breaking state law concerning false or erroneous information about ballot questions.
Any person knowingly printing, publishing, or delivering to any voter of this state a document containing any purported constitutional amendment, question, law, or measure to be submitted to the voters at any election, in which such constitutional amendment, question, law, or measure is misstated, erroneously printed, or by which false or misleading information is given to the voters, is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor [SDCL 12-13-16].
This measure places a strict 18% cap on interest rates, is far more stringent than that of other measures being proposed, and takes the extra step of amending the South Dakota constitution, which will ensure that the cap placed on interest rates are not undone or weakened by politicians.
This measure takes a balanced approach to protecting poor and middle-class people and families from predatory lending, while also protecting their access to money in cases of emergency. This measure places greater protections for borrowers in South Dakota by putting an 18% cap on interest rates right in the constitution – making it much more difficult for special interest groups and politicians to undermine or weaken it [Lisa Furlong, proponent statement on Amendment U, 2016 South Dakota Ballot Question Pamphlet, published August 2016].
That article VI of the Constitution of South Dakota be amended by adding new sections to read as follows:
No lender may charge interest for the loan or use of money in excess of eighteen per cent per annum unless the borrower agrees to another rate in writing. No law fixing an annual percentage rate of interest for the loan or use of money is valid unless the law provides borrowers the right to contract at interest rates as may be agreed to by the parties.
No law fixing a rate of interest or return for the loan or use of money, or fixing the service or any other charge that may be made or imposed for the loan or use of money, for any particular group or class engaged in lending money is valid. Any rate of interest or charge fixed by law shall apply generally and to all lenders without regard to the type or classification of the lender’s business [Amendment U, as submitted 2015.08.10].
Amendment U imposes an 18% rate cap on loans made on oral agreements. Amendment U’s rate cap does not apply to loans with written agreements.
SDCL 54-4-70 requires that title loans be evidenced by a written agreement. On title loans, U is thus not a “strict” cap; it is a non-existent cap. It is not “more stringent” than IM 21’s 36% rate cap on title loans, nor does it provide “greater protections for borrowers”; U forbids any specific protection for title borrowers and annuls any protection for all borrowers signing written agreements, which under current law includes every South Dakotan taking out a title loan.
Wading into deeper water, I find SDCL 53-8-2 requires certain contracts be in writing. Among oral agreements that are unenforceable in South Dakota is “An agreement for a loan of money or for an extension of credit, which agreement may be enforced by a beneficiary for whom the agreement was made, including, but not limited to, vendors of agricultural goods, services or products.” That language suggests (and I invite the finance experts of my comment section to correct me, if necessary) that any loan, including ag loans, have to be written down to amount to a hill of beans in court. If my interpretation is correct, then Amendment U’s 18% cap on oral loans is a complete legal fiction.
Even if my interpretation is incorrect, I feel confident stating that no payday lender in South Dakota will let me walk out their door with fresh cash in hand without getting my signature. Either under law or under current business practice, Amendment U’s 18% rate cap applies to no significant loan currently offered by any lender affected by both Amendment U and Initiated Measure 21. Amendment U provides no “strict” or “more stringent” rate cap and no “greater” protection for borrowers. Amendment U restricts only the ability of the Legislature and the voters to put stringent caps on interest rates, a fact Attorney General Marty Jackley himself admits in his official explanation of Lisa Furlong’s fake rate cap.
Amendment U is unenforceable trick, and Lisa Furlong’s proponent statement is misleading and false. The latter makes Furlong guilty of violating South Dakota law.
Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick… (crowd booing) If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know [Donald Trump, speech as transcribed by Time, Wilmington, NC, 2016.08.09].
To deflect charges that Trump was implying that Second Amendment supporters could save the country from liberal judges by shooting Hillary Clinton, supporters scrambled for Trump’s Hannity-enabled assertion that “there can be no other interpretation” besides his post-speech assertion that he was talking about NRA voting power rather than firepower.
In this case, the Clinton interpretation is actually simpler and more faithful to the text than the Trump/NRA interpretation. Review the six words Trump used to describe the action he had in mind:
Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know….
He didn’t actually say the action. If he’s thinking of getting out the vote, not saying that action is silly. Why would he not call voters to the action of voting? Why would he hold back and only hint as faintly as possible at the noble action he had in mind, the most important and moral action that everyone in the room can take to prevent the bad outcome he just described? A mere moment’s review of the speech before taking the stage would have suggested a far less shruggy call to action: “…nothing you can do—but you Second Amendment people can do something this year by getting out to vote and making sure Hillary Clinton never picks a judge!”
Instead of making that clear call to action, Trump refers obliquely to the action he has in mind. Why else would he not mention that action explicitly other than that he was thinking of a shameful, violent action? An unsaid recommendation is more likely a suggestion to do a bad thing for which the speaker doesn’t want to be held responsible than a good action that the speaker could easily use to rouse his crowd and sound like a leader.
Moving beyond this brief passage and reading Trump’s words in context reveals (a) a terrible, disjointed, stream-of-consciousness jumble of undigested conservative talking points punctuated with Trump’s characteristic “Believe Me” belches and (b) nothing that supports his post-speech blank-filling. Trump’s only mentions of the National Rifle Association in his Wilmington speech were to mention the NRA’s endorsement of his candidacy, his and his son’s membership in the NRA, and this nonsense passage:
If you – we can add I think the National Rifle Association, we can add the Second Amendment to the Justices – they almost go – in a certain way, hand in hand. Now the Justices are going to do things that are so important and we have such great Justices, you saw my list of 11 that have been vetted and respected [Trump, 2016.08.09].
When Trump spoke of the Second Amendment and guns elsewhere in his speech, he said more use of firearms could stop atrocities being plotted and committed by some unnamed “them”:
Our military cannot be beaten. But you know what could happen? When we don’t know where they are, where they’re coming, you’ve them all over the place.
And folks, it’s some. You don’t need many; you don’t need many. One person in Orlando. Two people — look at in France, 130. Now, they have the strictest gun laws anywhere in the world, France, Paris. One hundred and thirty people killed, 130.
And I’ve said 100 times, if this man or if this woman, or if that woman or man had a gun in Paris or in San Bernardino and the bullets were flying in the other direction, would have been a whole different story, folks.
Would have been a whole different.
For those — for those foolish people that say Second Amendment, would have been a whole different — and I’d go a step further. If these people, bad people, bad, sick, sick, sick people.
If these people knew there were guns in the good guys hands, right, they probably wouldn’t have gone in in the first place, all right? All right? Gun free — what do you think of these gun- free zones?
Do you know what a gun-free zone is? That’s like — they study where the gun-free zones — if they would have known you had guns, if they would have known that they were going to be shot at from the other side, it would have been a whole different story. Maybe it wouldn’t have even happened in the first place.
That passage urging violent action with guns preceded the ominous “Second Amendment people” comment. A minute later, Trump made a comment about “bad guys burst[ing] into your house,” adding to the violent imagery of the speech. Trump’s references to the Second Amendment had no discernible relation to getting out the vote and everything to do with shooting guns. Viewed in context of the speech in its entirety, Trump’s comment looks even more like a call to violence.