Sweating the Small Stuff

It’s Friday night. The impeachment stuff will take care of itself, next week. Only one thing was now settled:

With his Senate trial to begin in earnest next week, President Trump has added some high-profile lawyers to his legal team, including Harvard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz and former independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr.

Word of the new firepower came as House impeachment managers and Trump’s attorneys scrambled to produce legal briefs ahead of the Senate’s return Tuesday after the holiday weekend.

The Senate trial opened Thursday amid new allegations about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, including an assertion from Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani that Trump knew of Parnas’ role in the effort to dig up dirt in Ukraine that could benefit the president politically.

This will sort itself out in the coming weeks – the actual trial begins Tuesday – but Colin Kalmbacher adds this to the mix:

President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial defense team was announced late Friday morning. Chief among the familiar cast of characters are Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz, attorneys who famously served as defense attorneys for since-deceased pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Both men are, of course, seasoned, elite attorneys and prolific media personalities. Dershowitz is a best-selling author and Harvard professor; Starr is a Fox News contributor.

The scandalous aspects of these choices don’t quite end there. Starr was hounded out of his former job at Baylor University after it was revealed that he covered up a series of rapes committed by star football players. Dershowitz himself has been accused of raping underage girls alongside his late friend and client while on Epstein’s private island – and was a documented passenger on the Lolita Express. Dershowitz has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying that the accusations were part of a money-grab or extortion plot.

Well, this should be interesting. But that’s in the future. And it’s not clear that those Americans who are neither political junkies nor policy wonks are paying any attention at all to any of this. What does this have to do with them? Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Everyone says that. And there’s a reason everyone says that. It’s a California thing. There’s the curious case of the late Richard Carlson – born and raised in Piedmont, East Bay, San Francisco, with a bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine University in Malibu. It doesn’t get much more “California” than that, and of course he became a motivational speaker through his cheery and chirpy self-help books:

Carlson started his career as a psychotherapist and ran a stress management center. He published his first book in 1985, but became famous with his tenth book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all Small Stuff.”

While Richard Carlson did not coin the term “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” he was awarded a trademark for bringing it into American pop culture. The book was number one on the New York Times list for over 100 weeks…

Carlson died on December 13, 2006, from a pulmonary embolism during a flight from San Francisco to New York, while on a promotion tour for his latest book “Don’t Get Scrooged: How to Thrive in a World Full of Obnoxious, Incompetent, Arrogant and Downright Mean-Spirited People.”

Oops. But “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” is still available and still as shallow as ever – “Choose to be kind over being right and you’ll be right every time.”

He went to Pepperdine to learn that? But Carlson graduated long before this guy showed up:

Kenneth Winston Starr (born July 21, 1946) is an American lawyer who served as a United States circuit judge and 39th Solicitor General of the United States. He is best known for heading an investigation of members of the Clinton administration, known as the Whitewater controversy…

On April 6, 2004, he was appointed dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law. He originally accepted a position at Pepperdine as the first dean of the newly created School of Public Policy in 1996; however, he withdrew from the appointment in 1998, several months after the Monica Lewinsky controversy erupted. Critics charged that there was a conflict of interest due to substantial donations to Pepperdine from billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, a Clinton critic who funded many media outlets attacking the president. (Scaife’s money, however, supported the Vince-Foster-was-murdered theory, according to CNN, and Scaife defunded The American Spectator after it endorsed Starr’s conclusion of suicide and mocked a Scaife-aided book.) In 2004, some five years after President Clinton’s impeachment, Starr was again offered a Pepperdine position at the School of Law and this time accepted it.

And he left to become president and chancellor of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, in June 2010, and now he will save Trump. And that was the news. But don’t sweat the small stuff. It’ll all work out for the best.

Republicans, however, do sweat the small stuff, and that may have started with this:

The broken windows theory is a criminological theory that states that visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes. The theory suggests that policing methods that target minor crimes such as vandalism, public drinking, and fare evasion help to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes.

The theory was introduced in a 1982 article by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. It was further popularized in the 1990s by New York City police commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose policing policies were influenced by the theory. The decade saw a significant decline of crime in the city.

The decade also saw an explosion of racial profiling with the unchecked use of “stop-and-frisk” by the New York City Police Department on minorities almost exclusively, followed by the lawsuits and the injunctions that slowed that down a bit. But sell “loosies” – individual cigarettes – on the street and you can still be put in a chokehold and die and the NYPD guy will still walk – no harm, no foul. Broken windows theory lives on, or not:

Bratton and Kelling have written that broken windows policing should not be treated as “zero tolerance” or “zealotry”, but as a method that requires “careful training, guidelines and supervision” and a positive relationship with communities, thus linking it to community policing.

Rudy Giuliani never bought into that. Severely punish the small stuff, that small stuff done by this miserable minority or that. And let people know you’re doing just that. People pay attention to the small stuff. Let the starry-eyed Democrats talk about the big things – truth, justice, and the American way. Republicans will talk about the small things, where people live their lives every damned day. There’s “justice” hanging out there as a general concept. And then there are broken windows everywhere. Talk about those, Do that and win every election every time.

That’s what Donald Trump does. The Democrats had their debate this last week. Donald Trump had his simultaneous rally in Milwaukee:

As his Democratic presidential rivals debated on the CNN stage, Trump appeared to criticize Energy Department regulations for the energy efficiency of appliances.

He said to cheers from the crowd: “I’m also approving new dishwashers that give you more water so you can actually wash and rinse your dishes without having to do it 10 times – four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10.

“Anybody have a new dishwasher? I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry for that. It’s worthless. They give you so little water. You ever see it? Air comes out. So little water.”

He claimed that people were forced to take plates out and wash them “the old-fashioned way.”

He had been impeached. The walls were closing in. We have lost all our allies in the world. And he’s talking about this:

Other water-using appliances were also on Trump’s list of grievances. “Sinks, toilets, and showers – you don’t get any water,” he said.

“You go into a shower – and I have this beautiful head of hair. I need a lot of water,” he said, to cheers from the crowd.

“And you go into the shower, right? You turn on the water. Drip. Drip. Drip. I call the guy: ‘Is something wrong with this?’ ‘No, sir, it’s just the restrictor.'”

He added: “We’re getting rid of the restrictors. You’re going to have full shower flow.”

The crowd cheered because this was where they lived their lives:

Trump also expressed frustration with “the new lightbulb,” saying it “costs you five times as much, and it makes you look orange.”

Trump has previously attacked lightbulbs designed to be more efficient. He rolled back Obama-era standards on energy-saving lightbulbs in December, stopping a phasing out of older incandescent bulbs.

He has also blamed the efficient bulbs for making him look orange, saying in September: “The bulb that we’re being forced to use – No. 1, to me, most importantly, the light’s no good. I always look orange. And so do you. The light is the worst.”

Yes, he’s been at this for many months:

His comments on dishwashers were also a repetition of grievances. In December, Trump said newer dishwasher models had poorer performance.

“Remember the dishwasher? You’d press it, boom! There’d be, like, an explosion,” he said. “Five minutes later, you open it up, the steam pours out.”

He said that “women” told him it was no longer the same.

“Now you press it 12 times. Women tell me, again, you know, they give you four drops of water,” he said.

And of course it’s all nonsense. But that nonsense establishes a bond with those who feel abandoned and scorned and alone, and a month earlier it had been this:

In a speech to the pro-Trump student organization Turning Point USA on Saturday, Trump turned to berating windmills after criticizing the Green New Deal – the proposal by left-leaning Democrats to address climate change and inequality in the US.

Trump argued that windmills were “noisy” and “kill the birds,” and he was critical of the fact that many were built outside the US as he repeated his long-standing distaste for the renewable-energy source.

“I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much. I’ve studied it better than anybody I know. It’s very expensive. They’re made in China and Germany mostly – very few made here, almost none,” he said.

Trump also criticized the manufacturing process of the wind turbines as creating “fumes”:

“But they’re manufactured tremendous – if you’re into this – tremendous fumes. Gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint – fumes are spewing into the air. Right? Spewing. Whether it’s in China, Germany, it’s going into the air. It’s our air, their air, everything – right?”

What? It didn’t matter. He seemed angry at the small stuff, even if he made no sense. His audience loved it, and loved even the smaller details about windmills:

Trump also described them as an issue for anyone living near them: “And if you own a house within vision of some of these monsters, your house is worth 50% of the price. They’re noisy.”

on their effects on birds. “They kill the birds,” he said. “You want to see a bird graveyard? You just go. Take a look. A bird graveyard. Go under a windmill someday. You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen ever in your life.

“You know, in California, they were killing the bald eagle. If you shoot a bald eagle, they want to put you in jail for 10 years. A windmill will kill many bald eagles. It’s true.”

No, it’s not true, but never mind that:

Trump said that he thought windmills were “OK in industrial areas” and that he liked “all forms of energy.”

But he said one of his issues was with their appearance. “I’ve seen the most beautiful fields, farms, fields – most gorgeous things you’ve ever seen, and then you have these ugly things going up,” he said.

Among Trump’s grievances were the fact that different companies make them, meaning they may not all match in appearance and the idea that “after 10 years, they look like hell.”

And so on and so forth. Trump knows this works. Trump knows what Rudy knew. Trump knows that the small stuff is actually the big stuff. And that explains this:

The Trump administration moved on Friday to roll back school nutrition standards championed by Michelle Obama, an effort long sought by food manufacturers and some school districts that have chafed at the cost of Mrs. Obama’s prescriptions for fresh fruit and vegetables.

The proposed rule by the Agriculture Department, coming on the former first lady’s birthday, would give schools more latitude to decide how much fruit to offer during breakfast and what types of vegetables to include in meals. It would also broaden what counts as a snack.

This would bring back junk food once again, highly processed fatty sugary stuff with lots of chemicals, to increase shelf-life, manufactured by major corporations. Major corporations win, but more importantly, Michelle Obama’s legacy would be gone:

A spokeswoman for the department said that it had not intended to roll out the proposed rule on Mrs. Obama’s birthday, although some Democratic aides on Capitol Hill had their doubts. Food companies applauded the proposal, while nutritionists condemned it, predicting that starchy foods like potatoes would replace green vegetables and that fattening foods like hamburgers would be served daily as “snacks.”

So forget any of this:

Combating childhood obesity was Mrs. Obama’s signature issue, a rallying cry for her supporters and a lightning rod for conservative critics who saw it as epitomizing the liberal “nanny state” of the Obama era.

Mrs. Obama pressed to update federal nutrition standards and to bring healthier foods to schools. She planted the White House kitchen garden on the South Lawn – the first real garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s World War II “Victory Garden” – and invited students to sow and harvest it each year. And she created the first Task Force on Childhood Obesity and developed the “Let’s Move!” campaign that aimed to get children to engage in 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

Mrs. Obama’s work “improved the diets of millions of children, especially vulnerable children in food insecure households,” said Juliana Cohen, a nutrition professor at Harvard University’s School of Public Health. More students are eating vegetables and whole grain-rich foods because of the former first lady.

“Food waste was a problem before the healthier standards were enacted, so rolling them back won’t solve that problem,” Ms. Cohen said. “It’s just that more people are paying attention to the issue now.”

With nearly 14 million American children, or about 19 percent, considered obese, few doubted Mrs. Obama’s intentions. And with more than 30 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program, school meals were a powerful way to target poor diets. Of that total, 22 million children are from low-income families.

And every conservative, even the evangelicals, hated that:

The cost and prescriptions of her policies had detractors from the beginning: beef-and-potato state lawmakers, libertarians and camera-ready conservatives like Sarah Palin, who showed up to events carrying cookies and accused Mrs. Obama of robbing children of dessert.

And others disagreed:

“With one in three of our kids on track to have diabetes, it’s unconscionable that the Trump administration would do the bidding of the potato and junk food industries,” said Sam Kass, who served as the executive director of the Let’s Move! campaign.

Democrats reacted furiously. Representative Ayanna S. Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, said on Twitter that “The Occupant is trying to play petty with the food our babies eat. Add it to the list affirming that the cruelty is the point with this White House.”

Representative Robert C. Scott of Virginia, the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said, “For many children, the food they eat at school is their only access to healthy, nutritious meals.”

The Trump administration, he added, was putting “special interests above the long-term health and development of America’s students.”

No, Donald Trump and the conservatives and evangelicals are laughing at you, Bob.

And there’s nothing new here:

The “ketchup as a vegetable” controversy refers to proposed United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) regulations, early in the presidency of Ronald Reagan, that intended to provide more flexibility in meal planning to local school lunch administrators coping with National School Lunch Plan subsidy cuts enacted by the Omnibus Regulation Acts of 1980 and 1981. The regulations allowed administrators the opportunity to credit items not explicitly listed that met nutritional requirements. While ketchup was not mentioned in the original regulations, pickle relish was used as an example of an item that could count as a vegetable.

A similar controversy arose in 2011, when Congress passed a bill prohibiting the USDA from increasing the amount of tomato paste required to constitute a vegetable; the bill allowed pizza with two tablespoons (30 mL) of tomato paste to qualify as a vegetable.

The nation has argued about this before, and this really is the small stuff, but the small stuff is actually the big stuff, as Kevin Drum notes here:

This is yet another culture war issue, just like the toilets and the dishwashers and the light bulbs. Lots of working-class folks consider this stuff a bunch of elitist liberal rulemaking that continually makes their lives harder. Remove phosphates from dishwasher soap and your dishes don’t get as clean. Ban incandescent bulbs and you’re stuck with expensive bulbs that don’t look right. Get rid of straws and plastic bags and you make both shopping and eating a pain in the butt. Get rid of pizza at lunch and you’re basically telling parents that they aren’t feeding their kids right.

Oh, and the school lunch thing is a Michelle Obama initiative, so ditching it is an especially petty way of getting back at Barack Obama via his wife. It’s pure Trump and his fans love it.

And it’s the small stuff that’s actually the big stuff, at least to just enough voters that Trump might be around for another four years. Don’t sweat the small stuff? Chill out? Richard Carlson had it all wrong.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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