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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ben Carson Is A Fool

No.  None of my students wish to sign up for ISIS.

By examining the mistakes we make as a country, we can examine perhaps the most American words in any of our foundational documents: "to make a more perfect Union."

Today, for instance, we discussed the Articles of Confederation government.  We discussed its many flaws, but also what it did well - keeping the idea of republican government alive, settling the northwest territories dispute, being so weak it had to be scrapped rather than amended, heck, winning the war for independence.  But that was balanced by its lack of an executive or courts system, its inability to regulate trade or levy taxes; its lack of being a real government rather than a union of independent states.

We discussed the particular American contribution to world political theory: the idea of a fundamental law that is inviolable and difficult to change to create a bedrock set of rules and norms for government.  The British have no written constitution, no fundamental law.  That's us; we did that.  Almost every country in the world now has a fundamental law.  True, many ignore them, but the very preference for the rule of fundamental law is an American invention.

But we also talked about the problems in amending the Constitution and how that creates a stagnant government that only changes in times of crisis or in a spasm of reform.

In other words, we engaged in the process of historical analysis.

I wouldn't presume to tell Dr. Carson how to operate on a patient.  I would kindly request he stay the fuck out of my classroom.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Steve King: Leader Of The Asshole Caucus

One of the tropes you see a lot in political reporting is that "So-and-So isn't stupid..." and then goes on to explain why this person does what are apparently stupid things.  A variation of this is the Newt Gingrich Effect, whereby a person gets a reputation as being intelligent, despite all evidence to the contrary.

The profile of Steve King quotes people who note that he's "not stupid" and by that they mean that the outrageous things he says are not impulsive, off the cuff statements, but rather a conscious political calculation to change the debate.

And change the debate he has.

But this "Steve King is smart" idea is confusing successful with smart.  The central fact of American politics right now is the narrowing of the GOP base.  Both generationally and racially, the GOP is losing its future, and as the country becomes less pale, the ensuing panic among whites - especially whites in relatively racially homogeneous areas (and the South which is a weird mix of segregation and coexistence) - has made people like Steve King popular.

The article notes that King was a college drop-out and entered construction, where he was also successful.  The idea of college has been the cultivation of the mind beyond the vocational.  The term "liberal arts" refers to the freedom of thought that should be engaged at the collegiate level.  (This is the theory, keg stands and frat basements notwithstanding.)

But it is in that lack of perspective, nuance and intellectual empathy that we see King's essentially blinkered and, yes, stupid side.

King routinely makes up his own numbers - either because he can't understand how to read them or because he doesn't care.  His position resonates well within the GOP base, but it has a negative effect on the GOP as a whole.  It makes Steve King important in a party that is going to struggle to win a national election absent a scandal.

King has succeeded in defining the immigration debate in his terms, but I think the Democrats are having some success in making King the face of GOP immigration policy.  (see "self-deport")

Steve King has been successful in promoting Steve King, but it's tough to see that as "smart".

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Between the Falcons and my kids' soccer teams, I went 0-3 as a fan today.

I guess the Barves won, but I've given up on them until they fire their idiot manager.

And now I'm in a terrible mood.

I think I need to give up sports.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Anyone Have A Spare $1,000,000?

We are thinking of getting a travel grant to travel to Britain.

So I bought a guide book.

I think we need to go there for three months.

Friday, September 26, 2014

If You Don't Eat Your Vegetables, ISIS Will Behead You

I hate ISIS and everything they stand for.

But they aren't a threat to the United States.  They aren't massing on the border.  They aren't planning to bomb the subway.

They are trying to carve out a Sunni state from Iraq and Syria that conforms to a barbaric, medieval form on Islam that is repulsive.

When will Americans wake up to the fact that the so-called "Daddy Party" is full of bed-wetting cowards?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Just A Few Bad Apples

Who is having a worse 2014?  The NFL or America's police?

Remember when that guy jumped the White House fence and managed to enter the building?  Remember how they corralled that guy without shooting him?

I guess maybe we should be training the police in this country not to treat everyone they meet like Tony Montana.

But this is certainly proof of the efficacy of dashboard cams and a strong argument for lapel cams, too.

I Find This Concerning

If he had called his boss a "liar" then I could see a suspension.

But how do you suspend an opinion writer for issuing opinions on his podcast?  And shouldn't ESPN - as putative sports journalists - be protecting their writers from any pressure from the NFL?

I can't imagine the NFL would be so stupid as to contact ESPN and tell them to silence Simmons.  Of course, the NFL has proven itself to be ham-handed and idiotic for a while now.

Instead, this is ABC/Disney/ESPN looking out for another powerful entity.  This is how the powerful ignore the voices from the street.

None of the Sunday morning shows dealt with the climate change protests that involved hundreds of thousands of people.  Much of the news just ignored it entirely, as they did the anti-war protests in March 2003.

It is time to understand that the Fourth Estate is looking more and more like the First.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Wire And ISIS

Interesting parallel.

But as the author notes, Marlo had to die.  There are some lines you don't cross and ISIS has crossed almost all those lines.

That doesn't mean that turning ISIS into a shell of itself will make Iraq and Syria functional.

It just means the psychopaths will be replaced with sociopaths.  And the latter are at least more predictable.

Full Of Awesome

Monday, September 22, 2014

This Could Save The Senate For The Democrats

It's fucking Louisiana.  By all means, belittle both LSU and drinking beer.

And pitch perfect response from Landrieu.

The Way I Was Raised

One of the interesting and hopefully illuminating aspects to come out of the Adrian Peterson saga has been to shine a light on the practice of corporal punishment.  One player (Calvin Johnson?) said that he would continue to discipline his child as he saw fit, and there was a story yesterday that Peterson simply doesn't get the degree of trouble that he's in.

The "I was whupped and I turned out fine" argument is a fascinating one, especially when applied to Peterson.  Because self-evidently, he did not turn out fine.  He turned into a man who left scars on his four year old child.  On the other hand, he's a millionaire and not in prison - which for a black kid from Texas and from limited means is a sort of accomplishment.

There have been several good stories - Vox and The New Republic are good examples - that catalog the overwhelming evidence that corporal punishment is not good for a child.  Among other things: it damages the trust between parent and child that is critical in their emotional development, it teaches the child that violence is a way to solve problems, it instills fear of repercussion rather than teaches good behavior and it instills a fear of authority.  The long term effects are higher incidents of depression, substance use and the tradition of violence that gets passed down from one generation to the next.

There is also the fact that very rarely is corporal punishment applied dispassionately.  I have two sons.  I have wanted to swat them countless times.  They do incredibly aggravating/dangerous/disrespectful/hurtful things on a daily basis.  Did I mention they were boys?  Luckily for me (and the boys) my wife is wiser and calmer than I and laid down a "no spanking" rule in our house.  Because every impulse I've had to spank my kids has come from MY anger and MY frame of mind.  If you discipline from a place of anger (a place most parents are all too familiar with) you will teach anger.  If you discipline from a place of rationality, you will teach thoughtfulness.

But there is a cultural issue at play here, too.  Last week, I was teaching my students about political culture and how tricky it is to tease out causation and correlation when it comes to culture, so let those caveats apply.  I don't know if there is a determinative effect here or whether this reflects the culture.  But look at the map of states that ban all forms of physical punishment in schools:

Does that map look familiar?

It's not perfect - you'd need to swap Colorado and Utah, and the northern plains states probably have some of that vestigial Germanic educational tradition - but that's a striking map.

It would be interesting to tease out the use of corporal punishment by parents between "red" states and "blue" states, but from what we know of corporal punishment we know that it does create a more fearful attitude towards authority.

In the outrage over Trayvon Martin, white America was introduced to the reality of "The Talk" that African American parents give their kids, especially their sons.  We've learned that the world is fraught for black boys, replete with dangers and pitfalls.  But what sort of multiplying effect does the reliance on corporal punishment have?  In an effort to protect their sons from a world that looks down on them and values them less are parents making things worse by adding the psychological damage of corporal punishment on top of the societal weight of racism?

And what is the cultural effect on overall violence?  The ten most violent states in the country in the 2006 census are South Carolina, Tennessee, Nevada, Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, Delaware (!), Maryland, New Mexico and Michgan.  The highest ranked New England state in Massachusetts at 20.  Most European nations - that outlaw all forms of corporal punishment including by the parents - see much, much lower rates of violent crime.

To be clear, I'm not arguing that spankings turn people into violent criminals.  Nor am I trying to "blame the victim" when it comes to racism.

But I do wonder if the culture of "I was raised this way" that leads to the use of violence over education to discipline a child is one of the contributing factors in America's bloody body count.

Cross posted at Booman Tribune

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Monkey Business

Matt Bai has written a book.  But you can save yourself some money and get the gist of it from the article.

Bai argues - somewhat persuasively - that Gary Hart's famous implosion in 1987 represents a sea change in American political reporting and therefore of American politics as a whole.  He traces the impulse to catch Hart in his infidelity back to Watergate.  It was Watergate, he argues, that made the personal morality of politicians a legitimate target of investigative reporting.

Journalists - wanting the fame and money of Woodward and Bernstein - became obsessed with sniffing out ANYTHING that might be scandalous.  Interestingly, Bai disproves the narrative that Hart challenged reporters to dig up dirt and that's why the Rice scandal broke.  The Miami Herald had the story before the "follow me" quote appeared.

So, the Hart story reaffirms two flaws that we tend to associate with the political journalism class.  First, their sense of their own moral importance and second, their reliance on post hoc narratives.  Bill Clinton committed a crime.  Al Gore sighed.  At one point, Bai points out a significant error on the lead reporter's own online biography, and it takes the guy a year to change it.  But, yeah, they are trustworthy and politicians are all dogs.

I had been a Hart fan in the '80s.  To me, he seemed a fresh voice in a party that was lost in the Reagan wilderness. Smart, gifted with foresight and ruggedly charismatic, Hart seemed a bracing change from the Hollywood Regency of the Reagan years.  Today, we'd likely decry him as a DLC DINO, but for that moment in time, what the Democratic Party needed was a response to Reagan.  When Hart went down in flames, we would have to wait another four years before we found that response.

Hart's fall happened at the same time as Iran Contra, and yet the difference in coverage is profound.  Hart's story was salacious, and the press could hold aloft Hart's scalp.  In Iran Contra, we had actual law breaking that we know could have been traced to Vice President and President.

But the complexity of Iran Contra proved impenetrable to both reporters and public alike.  Arguably, Iran Contra was a more serious constitutional breach than Watergate.  And yet the press became obsessed with biography and "scandal" at the expense of covering policy.  While they certainly covered Iran Contra, in the end, they allowed the Tower Commission's white-wash to stand as a definitive account.  In many ways, they gave the lame duck Reagan exactly the same break that they denied Clinton a decade later.

When Gary Hart went down in flames, we lost more than preventing the first Bush Administration - and Clarence Thomas - we lost the thread of political journalism.

The article ends with the poignancy of Hart reflecting that if he had beaten the elder Bush in 1988, there would have also been no second Bush Administration either.  No Iraq, no Abu Ghraib, no Michael Brown.

Perhaps, with the advent of the internet and the debacle of the Bush years, we are beginning to return to realizing that what a politician does is more important than who they fuck.  I doubt it, but change is often hard to observe when you're in the middle of it.

Our ideas are better.  But if we allow personality to become the metric on which people decide who their leaders are, we are disadvantaged by the ability of bullshit to trump meaning.

x-posted at Booman

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ray Rice And Roger Goodell

The fascinating thing that comes from reading this authoritative account of the Ray Rice saga is that Rice - of all people - comes off looking pretty good.

Rice has - throughout his career - been exactly what the NFL wants its players to be: great competitors and great citizens.  Rice was incredibly active in the community and with charitable organizations.

It also seems clear that - unlike say Michael Vick - this was not a pattern of behavior but a drunken incident that Rice regrets with gut wrenching sincerity.

Goodell, however, comes across as a mercenary, favorite-playing situational ethicist.

It has always been problematic that league commissioners tend to work for the owners.  Bud Selig WAS an owner.  But it's the lack of independence of the commissioner from the owners that creates the sort of conflicts of interest that leads to Goodell suspending players for having marijuana in their pee but slapping the owner of the Colts wrist for an actual DUI.

What seems apparent with all this bullshit talk of "getting it right" is that someone like Goodell is not temperamentally empathetic enough to see beyond his cloistered group of advisers and owners.  As the outrage built over Rice's relatively lenient suspension, Goodell acted - not out of moral urgency - but because the league's bottom line was threatened.

Ray Rice seems like a decent person who did an awful thing; Roger Goodell seems like an awful person who was forced to do something decent after he has exhausted all other possible options.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Well, That Was Anti-Climactic

So, we don't have to re-write the maps, and I don't have to toss the chapter in my Comp Gov textbook dealing with Great Britain.

I told my class that I thought late breakers would vote for union, simply because that would've been a huge disruptive change and people tend to get cold feet.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

American Ignorance

Yglesias seems to think asymmetrical federalism would be a terrible thing for the UK.

In fact, many countries practice asymmetrical federalism for exactly the same reason that the UK might offer that for Scotland: giving large but separate ethnic groups more autonomy for local matters.

But, yeah, it won't be American federalism.  So what?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What Separates Adrian Peterson From Ray Rice?

When the news of Peterson's "discipline" of his child came out, there was a certain reticence to lump him in with Rice.  Rice cold-cocked his fiance and dragged her around a hotel lobby.  That was malicious.

Peterson applied the disciplinary standards that he grew up with a child.  You misbehaved, you got a whupping.  Presumably what he did, he did out of a need to discipline his child.

And I think part of me said, "Well, there are certain cultural expectations in African American families about discipline that..." and I looked at my shoes.

The thing is, it's not OK to beat a child.

As the article states, there simply is no good reason to whip a child with a switch.  It produces - perhaps - short-term fear and compliance without creating an understanding of proper behavior.  In fact, just the opposite.  As Adrian Peterson and others have said, "I got whupping and I turned out fine."  Uh, no you didn't.  You turned into a man who beats his child with a stick until you raise welts and break the skin.

You didn't turn out all right.

Admittedly, you probably came out better than most African American men who grow up in difficult circumstances, but that probably has a little to do with your freakish athletic ability than with the beating you got as a child.

Now, every single parent out there I imagine can recall a time when they wanted to hit their child.  They can perhaps recall a time they resorted to corporal punishment.  Personally, I once swatted Thing Two's behind as a reaction to something he did (threw a glass bottle I think) when he was two.  And while I've been physical with Thing One - mostly holding him tightly when he was upset - I never struck him.

But there have been countless other times when I WANTED to physically discipline our boys.  But my wife - wisely - laid down the law.  No spanking.  We have found other, more effective ways of creating disciplinary consequences.  This isn't about discipline or no discipline.  It's about effectively teaching someone to behave properly.

We can hope that we have a more serious discussion - perhaps especially in the African American community, but really across the board - about the harm that comes from relying on corporal punishment to create compliance.

Adrian Peterson has largely owned what he did, as Ray Rice did.  But unlike Rice, Peterson still doesn't understand what he did was child abuse.

So who's the bigger monster now?

Here We Go

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It's Getting Worse

When the people who make Bud Light think you have bad taste, that's a bad sign.

To recap where the NFL is:

- The Washington team could lose copyright protection because their mascot is blatantly racist, and they won't change it because fuck you, proles.

- The Carolina Panthers nearly played Greg Hardy, who - unlike Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice or Ray McDonald - has actually been convicted on domestic violence charges.  Only consistent outcry made them change their mind.

- Meanwhile, McDonald continues to play.

- Adrian Peterson's reinstatement has led to a backlash, including the governor of Minnesota calling it a disgrace.

Exactly how bad does Roger Goodell have to be at his job before he gets fired?

The Harper's Index

Check out these two factoids.

• Percentage of U.S. Republicans who say they could not live on the minimum wage: 69
• Who support raising it: 37

In this one, we see the clear link between a lack of empathy and being a Republican.  First of all, the 30% who say they can live on the minimum wage are your 27% of brain damage crazy conservatism that thinks Glenn Beck is a good economist.

But of the 70% who can do math, about half them say, "So what? I'm not poor or work at McDonalds, so screw those who do."

In some ways, this tells us everything we need to know about the current iteration of the GOP: Fuck you, I got mine.

The next one speaks more to Americans as a whole:
• Amount Americans spent last year on UNICEF donations to trick-or-treaters: $3,731,057
• On Halloween costumes for their pets: $330,000,000

Now, Americans are a remarkably generous people when it comes to charitable giving.  This is in part because you add in the Bill Gates and Ted Turners and you get a big number.  But overall, Americans give to charity.

But they also buy a bunch of ridiculous crap.

I'm certainly not immune to this, few of us are.

But the shit we buy is, I think, an indictment of the wealth of our society.  We are so rich, we buy Halloween costumes for our pets.  I bought one once.  I spent about $10 on it, which was no big deal.  But there are plenty of people for whom $10 is a big deal.

And those people are likely working for minimum wage.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Barack Obama is not exactly enjoying his best stint as President.  The Middle East is roiling, the economy isn't growing fast enough, Republicans hate him and Democrats are disappointed in him.

But among his accomplishments, we should be grateful that Obama prevent John McCain from becoming President.  Let's leave off the fact that John McCain is the only reason we have to put up with the Crazy Brawling Caribou Barbie.  I mean, that boneheaded, knee jerk decision should be enough to make us all count our lucky stars he was kept away from the Oval Office.

But John McCain - and his sidekick Huckleberry Graham - have done nothing but advocate for war since they became "experts" on foreign policy, despite the fact their "expertise" consists rather consistently of urging the United States to kill people overseas.

One of my favorite quotes from the article is this one, where McCain argues to violate the sovereignty of Nigeria:

"If they knew where they were, I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without permission of the host country. I wouldn't be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan."

That "some guy" is the duly elected President of the largest country in Africa by population.  He has a PhD in zoology, which made him an unlikely politician.  But his reputation for honesty in a country where few politicians have any made him the second in line of succession for a governorship.  He ascended to the governorship when the governor was arrested.  He commenced to clean house.  That made him Vice President, and in this case the President, Amara Yar Adua, died.

Jonathan has a funny name!  Let's point and laugh!

And let's ignore the decades of turbulent rule in Nigeria, where coup led to counter coup and democracy has only held any sway for about 14 years.  Instead, let's just invade shit, because there are never any negative consequences to killing brown people with our awesome weapons.

America has a critical role to play in the world.

We are establishing - with Europe - certain norms for international behavior that should (and have) reduce the number of interstate wars.

But then we wind up violating those norms. And it's largely at the behest of people like John McCain.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Being an Atlanta sports fan is a unique form of misery.


Chait does a nice job of breaking down the symptoms of acute neoconservatism.

The interesting one is "serious" combined with all the other traits.

Neo-cons refer to their political opponents as "unserious" and that "serious" people agree with them.  Perhaps a better word than serious would be severe.  Because there is little that is serious about the half-baked, knee-jerk, simplistic way that neo-cons see the world.

Neo-cons can't make threat differentiation; they can't distinguish Sunni from Shia or Wahhabist from Alawite.  All they see is "bad guys" who must be addressed with violence.

That's a profoundly stupid, cloistered way of looking at the world.

It is the exact opposite of "serious".

Saturday, September 13, 2014

This Is Amusing

I would argue that there ARE good voices on the Middle East, but that they are almost never on the TeeVee.

Also, could Scotland really do this?

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I posted something to Facebook that I'd like to expand upon.

I want to forget 9/11.  I want to stop wallowing in the memory of that day.  I especially want to forget the assholes who did it.  I want their names to disappear from our consciousness.

We should mourn and support those families who are still grieving those loved ones who will never come home.  But we should therefore cede this day to them.  It's their day, an awful anniversary of mourning.

But as a nation, we need to stop obsessing about 9/11.

It was - by all accounts - a massive lapse in security on many levels that allowed this to happen.  And undoubtedly, at some point some terrorist group will strike us again.  Unless you count the insane, in which case Newtown and Aurora and countless other places are there own forms of terrorism.  Not that we've changed anything about our lives - our gun policies - because of them.

But we changed ourselves over 9/11.  As Charlie Pierce notes we went crazy as a nation.  We invaded countries that didn't attack us.  We tortured people at Abu Ghraib and black sites.  We made airline travel even more ludicrous and unpleasant than it already was.

I'm tired of erecting monuments of stupidity to our fear.

It's called terrorism because it seeks to make is afraid, and when you look back at the last 13 years, we were made afraid and did stupid things from the place of our fear.

The reason I posted this on Facebook was because there were dozens of "Never Forget" posts with pictures of the two pillars of light that shine where the towers once stood.

I'm tired of remembering absence.

Much better are the pictures I've seen of the ridiculously named Freedom Tower.  At least there it is about building something.  It is about rebuilding on ashes.  That is a quintessentially American - even to a fault.

We are willing to whitewash our past and create a sort of moral amnesia about what Americans did in the past that was unrighteous.  If we are to "Never Forget" 9/11, then we should never forget Abu Ghraib and the firebombing of Fallujah.

But if not, then we are fetishizing 9/11 rather than remembering it.

From now on, for me, 9/11 is about the grief of those families.  It's not about something noble, beyond what individuals did on that day.

If we remain crouched in our fear - of Boko Haram and Al Qaeda and ISIS - then we are remembering all the wrong things about 9/11.

John McCain Needs To STFU

The President isn't popular right now, but his policy is.  McCain wanted an open ended commitment in Iraq and Syria.  We aren't going to do that.

We shouldn't do that.

We should fight ISIL in ways that we can short of another ground war in the Middle East.

And as far as arming the Syrian "moderates", they are a non-effective fighting force.  We armed the Iraqi army and they threw away their weapons as soon as ISIL appeared.

Arming the Syrian "moderates" would be the same as arming ISIL.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I don't know if Andrew Cuomo ever had national aspirations, but I'd say if he did, they're toast now.

Zephyr Teachout is actually a very intelligent, credible candidate.  But she's named Zephyr Teachout.

And she got over 30% of the vote.

If You Build Your Case With Lies...

I guess it's a good thing Michael Brown wasn't armed with Skittles and Iced Tea.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Now THIS Is Interesting

I've always felt that one of the abiding mistakes of Reagan Era conservativism is its focus on the federal government.  I know that this has roots in the cultural South that saw the national government as impinging on its racial prerogatives, but the real abuse of government is at the local level.

Interestingly, Madison felt the same way.  It's why he went to Philadelphia in the first place.

Obama vs Reagan

A buddy on Facebook posted contrasting videos of Obama saying he didn't have a strategy for dealing with ISIL and Reagan's announcement for bombing Libya.

He said Reagan projected a greater mastery of foreign affairs.  I argued that it was more projection than reality.

Reagan sent arms to Iran in return for vague and unfulfilled promises for help releasing hostages in Lebanon.  Reagan retreated from  Beirut after the Marine barracks bombing of 1983.  Reagan supplied arms to Saddam Hussein, including components of the chemical weapons he used against the Iranians and the Kurds.  Reagan supported brutal death squads in El Salvador.  His national security team turned a blind eye to narcotics traffickers (in the middle of Nancy's "Just Say No" campaign) in order to garner their help in supporting the Contras.

But he DID project certainty.  Reagan held a few simply truths that he hung all his actions on.  One - communism was impossible to function and survive - was a really good one.  Many of the others were disastrous or naive.

Obama is more contemplative.  He's less a "Decider" than a "Ruminator".  This is why they apparently foist John McCain and Lindsey Graham on us every Sunday morning to say we should "do something".  Of course, one year ago, "doing something" would have meant funneling arms to Syrian opposition groups, including ISIS.  Brilliant.  Doing something in 2003 meant invading Iraq.  Brilliant.

There is no good strategy for dealing with the Islamic State.  There is only containment and slowly trying to degrade it.  I have my own ideas, but they are likely to be as frustrating as anyone else's.

For a country that invented mass participatory democracy, we sure don't seem to want to grow up and rationally discuss policies.  Instead, we want to "feel" things about our policies.

Obamacare is working.  And its constituent parts are becoming more and more popular.  But we don't "feel" good about Obamacare, so...  We don't "feel" like the globe is warming, because it was a cool summer here in New England.

We are idiots and deserve the crappy government we will get if the Republicans win control of the Senate.

Monday, September 8, 2014

This Is What Racism Looks Like In 2014

Charles Blow has a blog piece about how crime and race are linked in the minds of most white Americans.

This linkage is a matter of perception and not fact, but that perception creates facts like the overwhelming belief that minorities are more responsible for crimes than they are.

Michael Brown (allegedly) shoplifted some cigars.  When I was a year older than Brown, I shoplifted a cassette tape.  Brown's criminal act made him a "thug" and "no angel" and was released by the Ferguson police as a non-sequitar defense of shooting him dead in the street.  I got a fine and the humiliation of a court hearing and that was pretty much that.

The biggest lines are these:
• “White Americans overestimate the proportion of crime committed by people of color and associate people of color with criminality. For example, white respondents in a 2010 survey overestimated the actual share of burglaries, illegal drug sales and juvenile crime committed by African-Americans by 20 percent to 30 percent.”
• “White Americans who associate crime with blacks and Latinos are more likely to support punitive policies — including capital punishment and mandatory minimum sentencing — than whites with weaker racial associations of crime.”
The United State of Fear at work again, as white believe that minorities commit more crimes than they actually do and then condemn criminality because they associate it with "them."

But, Al Sharpton... blah blah blah.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


I don't require tidy resolutions to my stories, but The Leftovers better have a season two.

Back To School

Putting on long pants this morning to greet the new students and their parents felt vaguely like putting on handcuffs.

Maybe a straight jacket.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Governing From A Defensive Crouch

As I've argued before, anything that Bob Schrum advises is probably stupid.

Obama's decision to delay immigration reform is a bad one.  But it's a bad one he set up himself by saying he would do something.

This is just terrible politics and terrible policy.

Slavery Was Racist, OK?

The Economist published, then apologized for, a review of a book about slavery that criticized it for being, you know, anti-slavery.

In a way, this ties in to the conservative push against the APUSH exam redesign.  Slavery was a moral abomination.  Don't take my word for it, listen to slaveholders like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison grapple with the incongruity of American ideals with the necessary economic power that slavery placed in their hands. Jefferson noted that slavery degrades the slaveholder as well as the slave by making him a tyrant.

Attitudes in the South were very conflicted about slavery until the introduction of cotton as a profitable crop.  While slavery had had appeal during the colonial period because of the chronic labor shortage during that time, as the US economy and white population grew, there emerged a strong movement to end slavery in states like Virginia and Maryland.

It is worth noting that these manumission movements wanted also to expel the freed African Americans from their country.  They presumed that people of African descent were incapable of citizenship (this despite the fact that enslaved African American had increasing amounts of European blood in them).  Jefferson actually wrote once that he thought European and Native Americans would intermarry seamlessly.  Ironically, he did not write this about African Americans, despite fathering several children with Sally Hemmings.

What made slavery ultimately impossible to eradicate short of war was the economic benefits it brought to the elites of the South and North through cheap cotton and the intractable racism that underlay the entire  institution.  Even those without slaves in the South took pride in their place above the slave in the social order.  Emancipation without deportation could deprive them of that.

Slavery drew its support from the racism of Americans.  Even many white abolitionists felt the weight of this racism. As Frederick Douglass noted, many abolitionists hated the slave as much as they hated slavery.

If there was one force that worked against this consistently, it was the slaves and former slaves themselves.  What Professor Baptist is part of an academic movement that is trying to restore the voice of anti-slavery blacks to their proper historical relevance.

For me, the central moment in America's pre-Civil War history occurs from 1829-1831.  In 1829, David Walker, a free black man living in Boston, published his Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World.  Two years later, William Lloyd Garrison published The Liberator and Nat Turner launched the bloodiest slave rebellion of the antebellum period.

Prior to these events, Southerners had been morally conflicted about slavery.  It's economic appeal was obvious, but slavery came with powerful undercurrents of fear, as slave owners lived surrounded by a people they, at best, deprived of liberty and, at worst, brutalized and killed.

After Garrison and Turner - who seem to have been influenced by Walker - the South moved from a passive defense of slavery to an active defense.  The Missouri Crisis and Compromise of 1820 had threatened to create a fevered sectional divide, but it wasn't until the 1830s that the rise of an abolitionist movement in the North was mirrored by a pro-slavery movement in the South.

And that pro-slavery movement based itself explicitly and consistently on racism.

Slavery was the great original sin of American history.  It is the sin from which so much other heartache and death rises from.  That The Economist couldn't see that is a profound problem.

The Economist is perhaps the last voice of reasonable conservatism in the US, perhaps because it's based primarily in Britain.  What Professor Baptist's work in this book does is simply to consolidate much of the current scholarship that has endeavored to revivify the voices of a people whom whites tried for centuries to silence.

Perhaps most embarrassingly of all, the magazine ran their review with a picture from 12 Years A Slave, arguably the strongest contemporary effort to give voice to the silenced millions who were enslaved.

No excuse, really.

Friday, September 5, 2014


Interesting article on why we sleep.

But it's telling to me that the author suggests that we learn why we need sleep so we can get less of it.

This is part of the mania to "do more" and "be more productive."

As Gandhi said, "There is more to life than increasing its speed."  The idea that we should get less sleep makes sense if you see yourself as a cog in a machine that needs to  be "more productive."  But there is something to be said for the gentle peace of an afternoon nap or the luxury of eight hours of sleep.

We are so obsessed with doing, sometimes we lose sight of the pleasures of being.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Elephant In The Room

I like Sarah Kliff's writing on health care, but she seems to leave out an obvious factor.  The logic behind Obamacare was that it would slow the rising health care costs by imposing spending restraints in return for greater coverage.

Health care providers tended to overcharge people with insurance to cover those without insurance.  This typically happened at hospitals, but that set the standard across the board for the rest of the health care industry.  This is why an aspirin cost $5 when you had your appendix out.

So this sentence in the opening:
The federal government thinks we're entering a new era of slower-than-normal health care spending — even after Obamacare expands coverage to millions of Americans.

is somewhat misleading.  It's not "even after" but "because".

As Diamond Joe Biden said, "This is a big, f-cking deal."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Some Men Want To See The World Burn

Josh Marshall makes a decent case that the preponderance of ethnic Europeans in ISIL, which is to say that a lot of ISIL fighters are ethnic Europeans who aren't Islamic by birth.  These people are the sort who tend to always ally themselves with revolutionary movements.

Basically, we need to bring back Marxism.  It would keep capitalism honest and give radicals something to do with their hands.

When Francis Fukuyama spoke of the end of history, he clearly underestimated the appeal of a countervailing ideology, whatever that ideology might be.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Way To Go, Bibi.

No one could've predicted....

If there is anything that can be predicted it is this: If an external actor attacks a regime, it will strengthen the domestic support for that regime.

Democrats Suck At Politics

I can understand the thinking behind waiting on immigration.  As stated in the article, control of the Senate can come down to some close races in reddish states where Democrats have to win white votes.

Of course, that depends on whether white voters will vote for Hagan, Landrieu or Pryor anyway.

You can be sure that it's a dubious idea because Bob Shrum thinks it's a good one.  Shrum if the living, breathing voice of the '80s-'90s "defensive crouch" Democrat.  The embarrassing defeats of Carter, Mondale and Dukakis created in that generation of Democrats a reflexive fear of populist politics.  They are always on the defensive, always deferring to GOP narratives.

The reason to advance executive action on immigration is, yes, to mobilize Hispanic votes in places like Colorado (and there are a fair number of Hispanics in North Carolina, too).  But it is also designed to force the GOP's hand on impeachment.

If Obama issues an executive action that reduces deportations of non-criminal immigrants, the GOP can almost be counted on going off the deep end and impeaching him.

While the immigration move could mobilize Angry White Dude votes against Democrats, impeachment would nationalize the election around the issue of GOP craziness.

There is also the fact that Obama could limit his immigration actions to a few palatable moves that most people support.  Save the bigger actions for after the election, but simply stop deporting children who came here with their parents - the so-called DREAMers.

Shrum's basic idiocy is that he thinks that there is some cautious, careful way to win over whites who are scared of brown people.  That will NEVER HAPPEN.  Those people left the Democratic party and are not coming back.

Maybe it is the smart move to avoid immigration.  But if Shrum says it is, I'm inherently skeptical.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Enjoying Labor Day? Thank A Union

"Liberals" are a strange group, because that word can mean a great many things.  But certainly the Clintonista Liberals are anti-union.

Income inequality is the second most important issue we face after climate change.  Unlike ISIS or Ukraine or the color of Obama's suit, these issues matter and have long term consequences.

The Democratic party has to care about income inequality.  And that means they have to care about unions.

UPDATE: This is about teaching, but it touches on teacher's unions.