Our New Hillside, and the usual political matters

First of all, tree trimmers have been near us for two days, trimming and potentially cutting down the eucalyptus trees on the hillside next to our house. This is welcome news because eucalyptus trees are fire-prone, and because a couple of the trees at the base of hill — the bottom of a property that faces Skyline Drive, above us — have blocked our view of the SF city skyline.

Here it was as they began yesterday:

And here it is so far today.

It looks *worse* today, but once they remove all the tree trunks, I hope what will be left is a nice, grassy hillside. Maybe with wildflowers.

Today’s topics:

  • Heather Cox Richardson on destroying the government, and suppressing the vote (of Democrats);
  • The nine principles of propaganda, which we’re familiar with from a recent example;
  • How Republicans love big government when it suits their purposes;
  • How gun rights amount to a war on youth;
  • What science says about what hurts and helps L.G.B.T.Q. youth

Heather Cox Richardson, Facebook, 19 Apr 2023: The debt ceiling crisis has brought the difference between Biden Democrats and the modern Republican Party into sharp relief. …

I was struck by this passage:

That inability to get their way through normal political channels illustrates the larger story behind the Republicans’ position: they want to destroy the government as it has existed since 1933, but since that government is actually quite popular, they cannot get the cuts they want by going through normal legislative procedures. Instead, they are trying to get their demands by holding the rest of us hostage. It is notable that while the Republicans are willing to slash education, food safety, and so on, they want to preserve the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations that cost the Treasury $2 trillion. Their stated concern for financial responsibility is also undermined by the reality that repealing the funding for the woefully understaffed IRS is expected to cost the Treasury $124 billion as wealthy tax cheats continue to avoid enforcement.

And today, expanding on something I mentioned earlier:

Heather Cox Richardson, Facebook, 20 Apr 2023: There were a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated stories in the news that all seem to point to an important theme: … Namely:

Josh Dawsey and Amy Gardner of the Washington Post reported that lawyer Cleta Mitchell, who was deeply involved in Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, this weekend told Republican donors that the party must restrict access to the vote for young voters. Gen Z voters were the key element in providing the extraordinary 11-point victory for pro-choice Wisconsin supreme court candidate Janet Protasiewicz, and they are central to the movement to enact gun safety legislation.

Far from being ostracized for her attempt to overthrow our democratic system, Mitchell is advising the Republican National Committee. In her presentation she declared: “Our constitutional republic’s survival is at stake.”


Another item from Facebook.

Geoffrey A. Landis, Facebook, 17 Apr 2023: The Nine Fundamental Principles of Propoganda, from PropagandaPrinciples.wordpress.com

1. BIG LIE – Always choose the big lie over the small; the masses will believe it more readily.
2. FOCUS – Use only one or at most two selling points.
3. REPEAT – Use them over and over until even your enemies know them by heart.
4. BLAME – Never waver, acknowledge no doubt; always blame, never credit the other side. Debase, defame, dehumanize.
5. PROVOKE – First attract attention, then appeal to emotions.
6. CRISIS – Shades of gray don’t work: Issues must be life/death, good/evil, freedom/slavery, love/hate.
7. EMOTIONAL SYMBOLS – Good slogan have no literal meaning, only a strong emotional appeal.
8. PANDER – Ignore intellectuals and reasonable arguments; target the unthinking masses with powerful emotional pitches.
9. NO LIMITS – Ignore all moral limits whenever you deem it useful.

Sound familiar? “Make America Great Again”? And item 1, and 4, and especially 6, and of course 7, and certainly 8, and no question 9.


Recent headlines.

NY Times, Jamelle Bouie, 21 Apr 2023: Turns Out Republicans Don’t Hate Big Government

“A modern state needs a large, active government,” Bouie acknowledges. The gist here is that the Republicans want a government large enough to control people’s lives in ways Republicans approve of.

Of course, the crown jewel of the Republican effort to build a more intrusive, domineering government is the set of laws passed to ban or sharply limit abortion, regulate gender expression and otherwise restrict bodily autonomy. These laws, by their very nature, create a web of state surveillance that brings the government into the most private reaches of an adult’s life, or a child’s.

You could say that there is limited government in those conservative states, so long as you live the way Republicans want you to live.

When it comes to the demands of capital or the prerogatives of the right kind of Americans, Republicans believe, absolutely, in the light touch of a “small” government that stays out of the way. But when it comes to Americans deemed deviant for their poverty or their transgressions against a traditional code of patriarchal morality, Republicans believe, just as fervently, that the only answer is the heaviest and most meddlesome hand of the state.


On the topic of the week, as discussed yesterday.

Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 21 Apr 2023: The GOP war on youth: Spate of innocent stranger shootings shows perils of paranoid rhetoric, subtitled “Republicans encourage paranoid, angry men to buy guns — young people are the ones paying the price”


NY Times, guest essay by Nathaniel Frank, 20 Apr 2023: What the Science Says About ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and Young People

The issue here is that demeaning and marginalizing gays leads to more suicides, not that conservatives seem to care particularly about LGBTQ people. And of course, Republicans don’t care about science.

Florida Republicans on Wednesday expanded a state law that prohibits classroom instruction on L.G.B.T.Q. subjects through third grade. Now the “Don’t Say Gay” law will also apply to students in grades four to 12.

Though the legislation might appear to be just about allowing parents a say in their children’s education — up to high school graduation — its breadth and vagueness have a chilling effect on what students and teachers think they can say about sexual orientation and gender identity. Just as dangerously, scientific research has linked the gag order’s implicit message of exclusion, shame and unworthiness to tangible health harms for L.G.B.T.Q. youth.

The writer has this background:

I spent decades studying another notorious anti-L.G.B.T.Q. gag rule: the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned military members from saying they were gay. Its lessons are instructive. As with “Don’t Say Gay” laws, proponents of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” promised to protect the rights, privacy and dignity of people on all sides of the fraught debate around sexuality. The policy was sold as a way to prevent the culture wars from infecting a key institution of American society. Yet in reality, it did the opposite, heightening division, undermining trust, hampering morale and driving capable people away.

He ends:

We know so much about what hurts and helps L.G.B.T.Q. youth. It is heartbreaking to watch lawmakers pass bills that are known to cause harm and whose only upside is scoring political points. Laws like these don’t actually give parents any more rights than they currently have, while the damage they cause is already palpable, with students sharing more and more stories of censorship, isolation and fear. When combined with book bans and limits on transition-related care, along with a restrictive federal bill passed by the Republican-controlled House, the landscape for L.G.B.T.Q. youth looks grim.

We know how to make these young lives better. We also know how to make them worse. The question is whether the adults actually care.

It seems that many Republican adults do not, in fact, care.

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