Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Really Good Read

Here is a piece really everyone should read.

This is a deep dive into the Tea Party/Trump movement, with a focus on Louisiana. If you've been struggling with exactly what "white ethno-nationalist party" means, here is your answer.

The author is a sociologist who has been looking at the lives of conservatives in one of America's most conservative states.  His spirit-guide is a college educated single mom and staunch Paul Ryan conservative.  But her clients - working class whites - are Trump supporters.  And the critical divide is that Trump - unlike the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver - isn't talking about cutting benefits.  He's really only talking about cutting benefits for "them."  The Browns and Blacks and Women and Gays and Muslims.

The unifying theme of modern conservativism has been anti-statism.  The Gubmint is bad!  But there is a divide in that idea.  Working class whites have fewer problems accepting government aid.  They can't wait for Social Security and Medicare to kick in, because working life is tough. Real tough.  And if they need some food stamps to make ends meet, so be it.  They just don't want to see those benefits wasted on people who "don't deserve them."

The more prosperous conservatives have a pure ideological opposition to government assistance, that is easier to pull off, because they are more financially secure.  They aren't completely secure though, because the modern middle class is a status filled with anxiety.  They, too, hate the moochers, but they are less animated by the racial aspects - at least overtly.

Anyway, it's a fascinating look at the very real problems that working class people face and the poor face in America and the very different ways that conservatives - whether Ryan or Trump supporters - see this problem and its possible solutions.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Trigger Warnings, Mental Health and Liberal Education

The University of Chicago sent out a slightly belligerent letter that they would not be having trigger warnings on courses or literature, safe spaces on campus or cancelling controversial speakers.

Trigger warnings, of course, are barely a thing.  Some courses offer them, but as far as I know, no college requires them.  What's more, their efficacy is highly suspect.  If the point of trigger warnings is to protect someone from having a traumatic experience relived, most PTSD treatments are explicitly about reliving the traumatic experience so that you can process it properly.

The problem, therefore, is not with the literature, but with the way we define and treat mental health issues.  If, for instance, a young woman was sexually assaulted at her high school prom and then has to read a book in her freshman lit class where a rape features prominently, then the problem isn't the literature.  The problem is that we have no institutional way to provide the young woman with counselling after her rape, to make sure that she can enjoy a healthier emotional and psychological life afterwards.

We can't change the past for a rape victim, any more than we can for a combat veteran or the victim of a vicious beating.  Those events happened.  Sometimes they come with physical disabilities, but they can also come with psychological scars.  As a society, however, we are still stuck on the "rub some dirt on it" school of toughness.  For some, perhaps, that can work; for others it cannot.  There is no way to know what is happening inside the brain of any one person.

What we need, therefore, is not warnings or safe spaces, but resources available - more than available, it has to be proactive - to allow for someone to process the emotions surrounding the original trauma.

If all we do is protect the mind from exposure to that trauma, then it's no different from wearing a brace for too long.  That limb will atrophy, and the brain and psyche will become stuck in that trauma.  The problem isn't the literature or the educational intent, the problem is that as we understand more and more about the human psychology, we need to make sure that we extend the benefits of that knowledge to more and more people.  The point is not that a student who was abandoned by her mother shouldn't have to read Sophie's Choice, but that we should be able to get her to a place where she can read Sophie's Choice.

And, yeah, on top of it all, we should expect colleges to challenge and confront students. If they want a safe space, then that's what their dorms and student organizations are for.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Here Comes Your Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown

As I said a few days ago, the media are PRAYING for a Trump pivot.  They badly need a horse race to clear their margins for the executives at Scheinhart Wigs, and Trump is blowing it.  So, Trump comes out and embraces the Gang of 8 plan that he pilloried in the primaries.

First, we have marveled - I guess - at the dedication of Trump's supporters, but "building the wall" and "kicking all the brown people out" was kind of integral to his message.  Plus, he was running as a not-politician.  Now he's done the most politician thing possible: flip-flopped on his main message in a desperate move right before Labor Day.  Ideally, there is some Dark Money PAC out there to run ads against Trump for this craven flip-flop.  Making Trump a politician is one way to depress enthusiasm for him.

Second, this drives home the more salient criticism of Trump than he's a great big racist.  He's temperamentally unfit to be President.  He bounces from position to position without any regard for the consequences.  He's an ADD 10 year old on a sugar high.

Finally, does anyone really think this will repair his standing with Hispanics, any more than his bizarre pitch to African Americans will win him black votes?  I know that the real target is white conservatives who are uncomfortable with his racism, rather than the targets of his racism itself.  But this ploy is so transparent, plus you can almost guarantee he will wander off script at some point and go back to "build that wall."  Trump is who Trump is, and everyone knows who that is.  Flip-flopping on his unrealistic mass deportation plan is not going to convince anyone.

But that won't stop the media from trying.

I suppose one possible positive of Trump abandoning his Deportation Force is that maybe he can create enough room for an actual immigration bill to pass Congress.  Except Trump has clearly proven to House Republicans exactly what their base voters hate, and it rhymes with Hispanics.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Opportunity Knocks

Jon Chait has been engaged in some dubious "both sides" journalism by decrying the appearances - rather than the reality - of corruption surrounding the Clinton Foundation.  While there might have been some access issues, with big donors getting meetings with Secretary Clinton, there hasn't been a whiff of quid pro quo.  In this year of free-floating populist rage at elites, that might be enough, especially since HRC has unbridled disdain for the press.

However, I can certainly see a nice opportunity to flip this Clinton Foundation story on its head.  The issue needs to be reframed around all the good things the Clinton Foundation does.  Here is an opportunity not to hide from the story, but use it to your advantage.

Clinton needs to put together a big old presentation on all the good things the Clinton Foundation has done around the world.  Then give that presentation, and follow it up with a press conference where she can defend herself against this issue and put the "press conference question" to bed, too.

I doubt she will do that, because she's winning, but it might be a good idea to prevent any creeping "both sides" journalism to erode any part of her lead.

She needs to win handily in order to flip the Senate and possibly House.  She will win the presidency, at this point.  What she needs is a wave election.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Too Late

Apparently, the Trump campaign has realized that its deportation scheme is unworkable and politically toxic.  Apparently, Trump is also trying to link he plan to Obama's aggressive deportation practices, which were part of an effort to get immigration reform passed a few years back.

The idea that Trump can moderate his positions is predicated on the idea that his positions are important to his followers and opponents.  Trump HAS no positions, not really.  He has an attitude. That attitude can't change, because Trump can't change.

Most importantly, Trump has shown his ass for a year now - actually over several decades.  We know who this guy is.  You can't redefine him two and a half months before the election.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Praying For The Pivot

When Trump said, "Believe it or not, I regret..." I'm going with "not."

However, if Bannon and Conway are able to smooth over some of Trump's language, we will be force fed the narrative of Trump's finally-successful "pivot" to a more moderate stance.

The reason is that by most historical models, this race is over.  Clinton leads outside the margin of error in enough states to get to 270.  Easily.

And that is death for the media.  The desperately need a competitive race to get eyeballs.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

This Is Parody, Right?

When I read this, I am left with the sad realization that the Right will return to power after the Left is done draining the humor and spontaneous joy from life.

A Body Count

When Democrats started talking about a War on Women, not only the Right, but the Sensible Center accused them of hyperbole.

Now we know that the War on Women has a body count.

Planned Parenthood does great work for poor communities.  When you gut them, you gut poor women's access to reproductive health services.  When that happens, you get developing world levels of childbirth mortality.

This isn't hard to understand.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Correction

Paul Manafort is leaving Trump's campaign to spend more time with his lawyers. 

Media Mogul

The speculation is that Trump's latest move to turn over his campaign to alt-Right website Breitbart.com - and now the resignation of Paul Manafort - is a demonstration of Trump's desire to set up a rival to Fox News after he loses in November.  Matthew Yglesias notes that Trump isn't really a "business man" he's a media star.  Given his mediocre business record and value he puts on his brand, that certainly rings true.

The idea that he's preparing to launch an even more rabid version of Fox is advanced by John Cassidy among others.  Certainly, if Jabba the Hutt cosplay enthusiast Roger Ailes is landing in Trump's camp, that would be a sign that Trump's vision could be shifting to a media empire.

Secondly, a lot of Republicans are looking at the connection between Trumpism and Fox News' fact free inflammatory programming.  "How did this happen?" has to begin with Fox and people like Hannity and O'Reilly.  And of course Ailes.  Will Murdoch start to rein in the worst excesses of his evil spawn?  Certainly, the decision to hire Ailes acolytes to succeed Ailes suggests that he won't.

But if we are left with a shattered Republican party in November, they are going to have to look at the possibility of returning to some sort of recognizable reality.  And that will have to start with its media arm: Fox.

If that happens, there is a niche market for Trump & Co. to launch a version of Breitbart TV (Trump TV, natch), and an audience is perfectly set up for it.  Sarah Palin kinda sorta tried that, but the Quitta from Wasilla was never the sort to follow through on anything: elective office, media empires or sentence structure.

Trump threatens to turn the GOP into an ethno-nationalist party.  The Paul Ryan/Mitch McConnell/Ayn Rand wing of the party will have to fight back somehow.  Is this the beginning of that conflict?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Full Breitbart


Trump's elevation of a Breitbart editor to campaign guru means a doubling down on the mean spiritedness and spittle-flecked conspiracy theories.  It likely means an attack on the Republicans in Washington, too.

Trump could very well have started a civil war within the GOP.  Previously, it was more like a minor insurgency over the tone of his campaign.  Now it's full on war.