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, July 31, 2016

Family Reunion

We all get back together today.

Today will be a good day, and I'm not going to spoil it by thinking about Trump.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

I've Wondered This, Too

Will Trump pull out of the debates?

I imagine he will get creamed by Clinton, because he's a fucking imbecile and can't remember the difference between Tom Kean and Tim Kaine.  He won't study the facts or the issues, and Hillary already mastered them.

Trump thrived in the primaries by playing the field off against each other.  He will therefore try and get Gary Johnson and Jill Stein into the debates.  Johnson might qualify at the 15% threshold, but Stein doesn't stand a chance.  So Trump will keep moving the benchmarks.

Hillary Clinton isn't Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, she is more than capable of handling Trump.  I suspect on some level he knows it, though self awareness isn't his strong suit.


I had the unpleasant experience of catching a little bit of a panel show on CNN yesterday. The topic, naturally, was Trump's alleged ties to Russia.  The conservative rebuttal - as near as I could determine from the close captioning - was that there was no evidence that Trump has any financial connection to Putin's regime or the cyberattacks that Russia is waging on the Democratic party.

If this were a court of law, that is an undeniable truth. Trump has the presumption of innocence in a court of law.  However, Trump is not in a court of law, he is running for office.  Given his well known propensity for suing people and waging proxy battles in the courts, he's not doubt familiar with a presumption of innocence and will exploit that.

There are two problems with Trump relying on presumption of innocence.  The first, as mentioned, is that he is not in court, he's running for President.  It would seem reasonable enough for the American people to ask Trump to disclose his entire financial dealings with Russia, but we know he is very unlikely to do this.  Both by temperament and because I would wager his tax returns are embarrassing to a man who claims to be a billionaire, but likely is not.

The second problem is that Trump does not extend this presumption of innocence to anyone else.  The repeated chants of "Lock her up" at the RNC and subsequent rallies are based on her criminality in....what exactly?  Was Benghazi investigated?  To death?  By her political enemies?  Even people like Trey Gowdy and Darrell Issa couldn't find plausible criminal acts in Benghazi.  The emails?  The FBI determined that there was nothing worth seeing there.  The email server violated State department best-practices, not any laws.

Trump engages in the worst sort of off-the-cuff speculative character assassination.  It's part of his shtick.  You lose the power of crying that you're being persecuted, when your entire campaign seems based on persecution and character attacks.

What is so depressing about this is the way our media is sure to handle this is the "both side" fashion that they know so well. A few lonely voices are speaking up to note that Trump is unlike any candidate we've seen.  Ezra Klein correctly notes that this election is not Republican vs Democrat but Abnormal vs Normal.  Trump is so far from any existing political norms that regular rules can't be applied to him.

But the Media are loath to give up their mantle of Olympic objectivity.  What they can't see is that objectively speaking, Trump is a profoundly dangerous and unhinged candidate for President.

You can't have a panel show where you treat Trump as normal, and every disagreement between the campaigns as normal political back and forth.  When Trump invites Russia to hack Clinton's emails and then Russia hacks Clinton's campaign...How the fuck is that normal?

My hope - and it's a thin one - is that as we get closer to the election and Trump continues to manifest dangerous traits, that a certain core of Republicans come out and denounce him and even endorse Clinton.  I'm thinking the Bushes and people like John McCain and even Rand Paul.  Maybe they endorse Gary Johnson.  I don't know.

But sadly, it will require major Republican figures to allow the Media to say what is manifestly true: Donald Trump is an active menace to the norms of American politics.

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Pretty Good Show

I thought the DNC was pretty impressive, despite the efforts of some Bernie dead-enders to try and disrupt things.  It was emotive, positive and drew a stark contrast between Trump and Clinton.  I thought it did about as good a job of reintroducing Clinton as you could do for someone everyone thinks they already know (and don't like).

This election shouldn't be close.  Hopefully in a few days or weeks the polls will reflect that.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


This speech was simply amazing.

Here was a craftsman of rhetoric and delivery.  From the language to the delivery, it was tremendous performance.

Hillary Clinton simply can't hit those notes, anymore than I can hit high notes.  But she has been trapped in the essentially male rhetorical pattern. When she tried the call and response or other typical devices, she fell flat.

But when she spoke from detail and experience, it was real.  It was good.  Hillary Clinton is not a great speech maker.  But she has it in her to be a great communicator.

She just needs to drop the male-type speech patterns.

Culture Shock

One of the fascinating effects of the Trump-Pence ticket is how thoroughly it has alienated cultural figures.  The "Right" has struggled with this for years, and Chris Christie can certainly still feel the pain where his idol Bruce Springsteen kicked him.

But Trump's blustering racial demagoguery and Pence's febrile culture warfare have really created a perfect storm where you have even small incidents like this.  Cultural conservatives have long lamented the effects that Hollywood and New York have on American culture.  Their loss on gay marriage, for instance, was a direct byproduct of shows like Will and Grace and Modern Family.  You can't win the culture wars by alienating those who make the culture.

And now we can add on top of it, Trump's propensity to stiff subcontractors to the list.  Even the shitty, atonal fascism-lite mewlings of those poor girls can now be used as an exhibit against Trump.

I remain confident that Clinton will win the election.

I remain distressed and disgusted that it could possibly be close.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Two Americas

Barack Obama rose to political prominence - as he noted tonight in his speech - via his keynote address at the convention in Boston in 2004.  In that speech he argued that we are one America, not a red and blue America.  He tried to return to that theme tonight, but it seemed even he couldn't sell it.  Instead, he argued, as he does so persuasively, that we need to always strive to be our best self.  That we become our best self through our work with others.

The contrast to Cleveland - or Trump's press conference today - is simply mind blowing.  To paraphrase Henry Adams, Trump should not exist.  He should wear skins and live in a cave.  And yet, millions of Americans will vote for him, because he has an "R" next to his name.  Tonight - and really all the nights - we have seen a vision of Barack Obama's America: a great country always striving to be better.  I honestly believe - and have believed for quite some time now - that this is also Hillary Clinton's vision of America.  Luckily, I don't think Clinton believes quite so readily in grand compromises.  That was always Obama's shortcoming.

She believes in a vision of this country rooted in hard work and a promise of a better tomorrow.  Trump believe in Trump.

The fact that this election will even be close - and I mean even Johnson-Goldwater close - makes me incredibly sad.

From Russia With Love

I haven't commented on the growing suspicions that Donald Trump may have tied to Putin's Russia.

In some ways, this is typical hardball from Democrats, the sort that Trump really hasn't had to deal with.  He's largely skated from one PR disaster to another without any one "gaffe" pulling him down, because how can you pick one?

As we enter the homestretch of the 2016 Hunger Games, Trump will be put under different microscopes that he was in the past.  It exasperated Jeb Bush that he could not bring typical political lenses to bear on Trump, and maybe it will prove impossible.  Plus, no matter what, Trump will win over 40% of the vote because of partisanship.

The Russian charges are currently circumstantial and speculative to a large degree and thus reek of conspiracy theory mumbo-jumbo.

However, we do know that Trump has been shut off by every major American bank - only Deutschebank will lend to him.  He is not liquid and needs capital, and apparently, Russian investors have backed him.  We also know that he admires Vladimir Putin and vice versa.  We know that his statements about withdrawing US from NATO commitments is warming to Putin's heart.  And we know that Paul Manafort has a long history of working with despots and dictators, including people close to Putin. Finally, it seems pretty clear someone in Russia was behind the hack of the DNC.

Put together, it's fishy as hell, but not definitive.

What Trump needs to do, however, to make this go away is to release his tax returns.  These returns would demonstrate that he's not as rich as he says he is, and also that he pays very little tax.  They could also disclose how much money he gets from Russia.

Trump isn't going to release his tax returns. Again, for most candidates, that's a deal breaker.  Romney eventually had to release his returns, even though that caused him political damage.

Is this another case of Trump denying the laws of political gravity?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Aside From The Spoiled Children...

I don't know why, exactly, but I have been moved to tears at several points during the convention.  Michelle Obama certainly moved me in ways I didn't expect.  As I've said, she isn't a natural, which is what makes her so natural.

Tonight, the Mothers of the Movement...I mean, what can you say?  How do you look at a parent whose child has died with anything but love and compassion?  And if that child was taken wrongly, unjustly?  How do you confront that grace and that heartbreak?

As I posted on Facebook, Bill Clinton could talk paint off a barn.  We all know he's a shitty husband, but I think we also know he's probably a great one, too.  As someone said, he's been waiting a quarter of a century to give this speech.

I know he glossed over the troubling aspects of Hillary's long record in public life.  But he portrayed Hillary Clinton as the person who people who know her are devoted to.  I've been a "hard" Clinton supporter, as opposed to those who say, "I'll vote for her, but..."  One reason is that I'm a grown up.  The other, bigger reason, is I see who her character witnesses are.  People who work with her and for her don't have bad things to say about her.

At the end of the Mothers of the Movement video, there is a moment where HRC asks for a prayer.  It doesn't sound natural.  She sounds like she's forcing it.  But I honestly believe she means it.  She is not a naturally emotive person.  Unlike her husband, unlike many of the speakers, including Michelle Obama, she doesn't lay her emotional core out there to see.  She's been attacked too many times, her armor is too tough.

This makes her, in her husband's words, a great change maker.  It does not make her a natural stump speaker.

The vision that is being put forward in Philly is so different than the one put forward in Cleveland.  Maybe that's why I find myself tearing up.  We are being called to be our best selves by my party, not our worst.  I want to live in THAT world.  I have hope for THAT world.

And we have two more freaking nights?  When does Scott Baio speak?

These Fucking People

So the Dead Enders walked out.  Good.  Take their credentials and bid them adieu.  Let them form a drum circle outside the convention.

These maroons have tape across their mouth saying they were silenced by the DNC - minutes after a roll call vote, where their voices were heard.  Look, you simpering narcissists, your guy lost.  There isn't going to be a revolution.  There's going to be an election, and judging from the last few months, you have not one clue how those work.  The person, see, with the most votes wins.

These boutique, dilettante Maoists who are all about revolution until it threatens to burn down their Whole Foods or interrupt their wi-fi service have demonstrated nothing about the electoral process except their ignorance of it.  Please, walk out, and keep walking.

TBogg doesn't blog nearly enough anymore, but his greatest post of all time deserves to be reprinted here in full:

Your Mumia sweatshirt won’t get you into heaven anymore
A comment left over at digg regarding Ralph Nader:
The Democrats really hate Nader because he points out the fact that they are asking those of us on the left to vote for them but they aren’t doing anything for us. Did they end funding for the Republican’s crime spree in Iraq? No. Have they moved for UHC? No. Have they tried to stop corporate crimes? No. Have they tried to reform the tax code to be progressive? No. Have they tried to protect homeowners from predatory lenders? No. Have they defended our constitutional rights? No. Take back the FDA from the corporations? No. The FCC? No.
The Democrats don’t deserve my vote. They aren’t helping the left, why should the left help them?
Let me see if I can explain it this way: 
Every year in Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land all of the sprites and elves and woodland creatures gather together to pick the Rainbow Sunshine Queen. Everyone is there: the Lollipop Guild, the Star-Twinkle Toddlers, the Sparkly Unicorns, the Cookie Baking Apple-cheeked Grandmothers, the Fluffy Bunny Bund, the Rumbly-Tumbly Pupperoos, the Snowflake Princesses, the Baby Duckies All-In-A-Row, the Laughing Babies, and the Dykes on Bikes. They have a big picnic with cupcakes and gumdrops and pudding pops, stopping only to cast their votes by throwing Magic Wishing Rocks into the Well of Laughter, Comity, and Good Intentions. Afterward they spend the rest of the night dancing and singing and waving glow sticks until dawn when they tumble sleepy-eyed into beds made of the purest and whitest goose down where they dream of angels and clouds of spun sugar. 
You don’t live there. 
Grow the fuck up.

This Is Where Revolution Gets You, Bernie

The ink clouds of butthurt from the mostly young Bernie or Bust crowd have not abated except at the margins. Tonight Clinton will seal the nomination and hopefully the boo-birds will walk out in "protest."

Sanders' rhetoric of "revolution" led us here. Revolutionaries don't compromise, politicians do. And elections are about politics not barricades. 

It's not a surprise that Bernie is surprised by his dead enders. He never really seemed to know the fire he was playing with. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Day One

Michelle Obama...I mean damn.  There really isn't anything to say beyond what she said and how she said it.

Professor Senator Warren was fine doing what she does.

As for Bernie, watching the shots of crying Bernie people in the audience was...weird.  There is clearly a bizarre dynamic that I can't locate at play here.  The aging Leftists, I get that.  The young Leftists, too.

But there is something about the young people that feels like every pernicious stereotype of Millenials.  They want their Participants Trophy.  The shouting and barracking from the convention floor during strong speeches by people like Cory Booker was pointless.  Sarah Silverman was right, you're ridiculous.

As for Bernie himself, listening to him speak, it is truly bizarre that THIS is the guy who tapped into young people's anger.  Compared to FLOTUS and Booker and most of the speeches, this is kind of simultaneously shouty and flat.

Hopefully, the shouters in the crowd will lose their voice as the week goes on.  Either metaphorically or literally.

The Internet Is Killing Our Politics

Boutique reading of the news is destroying the civic fabric of America.  All you do is read the news and clips you agree with and reinforce your existing biases.  And you are a sucker for click-bait.

Martin Longman has it correct.  The civil war on the right has real stakes for people on the right.  Whether the GOP becomes the party of Trump or the party of Paul Ryan has real consequences.  I would argue that neither is good, because Ryan's economic vision is pretty awful.  But at least there are legitimate differences.

On the Left, the internecine scrapping is pathetic.  When you are running to the barricades because Hillary "only" wants to raise the minimum wage to $12/HR instead of $15/HR or because Tim Kaine only VOTES pro-choice instead of passing some pro-abortion litmus test, you are being fucking fool and an asshole.

The difference between Trump and Clinton is so vast as to boggle the mind.  Here's a peak at something worth considering:

"Lying Hillary" is one of the more honest politicians today.  Only Obama is more factually accurate.  Trump, meanwhile, is our most dishonest.

That anyone could extrapolate a false equivalency between Trump's lies and Clinton's lies is a complete breakdown of the idea of empirical facts.

Similar arguments can be made about the "corruption" of Hillary Clinton.  Clinton does what every single politician does: She makes speeches, she raises money, she tailors her speeches to her audience.  She hews to established standards of factual accuracy.

But she has also been the target of a 30 year campaign of smears and innuendo.  If people want to know why I've always felt that the email "scandal" was bullshit, it comes down to this: Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster, Benghazi and a million other tiny smears.

I suppose one could congratulate the Right on successfully smearing the most successful and important female politician in our history, but I feel no need to congratulate those on the Left who pick up these baseless smears and repeat them as truths.

This email bullshit is a case in point.  A bunch of staffer at the DNC didn't think Sanders could win the nomination because SANDERS COULDN'T WIN THE NOMINATION.  That was true by mid-March and certainly mid-April.  The math was stacked against Sanders.  It always was. Yes, the DC establishment was behind her.  Given the shitshow on the GOP side, maybe it's not such a bad idea to have people who actually know politics conduct politics.

This is an existential election.  A Trump victory would literally imperil American democracy.  His candidacy alone is already degrading many of our civic institutions.  Any efforts made to bring the possibility of a Trump victory to fruition need to be fought with every fiber of our political being.

So, Left Blogsylvania, get off your fucking high horse about Bernie Sanders or Hillary or Tim Kaine and fight for what you profess to believe in.

We don't need another Ralph Nader.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

I'm Tired Of Hearing About These Damned Emails

From all the reporting I've seen, the DNC didn't like Bernie (duh) but they also didn't DO anything. In fact one of the emails said, "We have been told to neutral."  

Won't make a difference to the Bernie crowd I imagine. 


The odious Debbie Wasserman Schultz will resign as head of the DNC after the convention. I'm not sure the Wikileaks stuff was good grounds to fire her, but I hope Senator Warren gets her job 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Yes, We Kaine

So in a predictable, somewhat anticlimatic manner fitting the man himself, Tim Kaine has been tapped as Clinton's running mate.  This is, as Ezra Klein notes, a safe choice.  Kaine doesn't guarantee winning Virginia, but clearly and correctly, Clinton believes that winning Virginia is a big part of winning the election.  The "DC Establishment" extends into Northern Virginia, and many of them can't stomach Trump.  Kaine gives a few more of them license to vote for the relative safety of a Clinton-Kaine ticket.

So, why Virginia?  Let's give Clinton the states that 270 To Win gives her as safe: All the Northeast except PA and NH, the West Coast and Hawaii, NM, IL, MI and MN.  That's a reasonable floor.  You can argue that PA isn't really in play, but let's go with that.  If you add Virginia and Wisconin to the Democrats, Clinton now sits at 240.  Let's add Nevada and Colorado, with their large Hispanic populations.  Now we are 255.

That leaves Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina out in the cold.  She wins either of those states, she wins.  Turning Pennsylvania has been a dream of the GOP for years and it's never happened.  The most recent poll in Florida has Clinton +7.

Winning Virginia really narrows Trump's ability to get to 270.  In fact, my conservative take right now has Clinton with 314 EV.  But I can realistically see a map with 384 EV.  That's a map where Trump continues to scare the shit out of people, making more and more unforced errors, and with Gary Johnson siphoning off just a few votes from Trump.

As for Kaine himself, aside from being safe and reassuring, he makes an interesting play for "Francis Catholics" and can do Hispanic outreach better than most white dudes.

Kaine has, however, predictably set off caterwauls from the Left.  He is not a pick used to mollify the  Sanders wing of the party.  As Martin Longman correctly notes: tough shit, he's a solid pick.

Kaine isn't a "Blue Dog" but he's as close as you could plausibly imagine being the VP pick.  Clinton believes that playing for the center could get her potentially more votes in the House.   She also knows and trusts him.  Tim Kaine - like Hillary Clinton - can make a reasonable claim to being well-prepared for the presidency.  Trump can't make that claim.  (I mean, he will, but...)

The Conventional Wisdom is that "2016 is a crazy year and anything can happen!"  I don't think that's necessarily true.

Brexit was crazy, but it was also crazy-close.  Austria almost elected a right wing nationalist.  But they didn't.  Trump won the nomination, but he isn't creating an electoral coalition that can win in November.

Trump hasn't rewritten the rules of politics.  He's served as an avatar for Angry Republicans.  That can only get him so far.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Nuremburg On The Cuyahoga

So that happened....

Trump managed to fire up his crowd of fellow travelers with his "red meat" schtick last night.  Most sane observers from the reality based world saw a speech with no policy specifics and no vision for America beyond the inarguable greatness of Donald J Trump.  They saw incitement to hatred juxtaposed jarringly with claims of tolerance.  By the end of a very long speech, they saw Orange turn to Red as Shouty Man yelled and yelled and yelled.

Inevitably, a convention produces a "bounce" for the candidate at the polls.  Trump just got a week of free media, he should expect to see his numbers rise.

But most media coverage was unremittingly negative - from plagiarism to Ted Cruz to the tone to the lies.  Will even terrible coverage give Trump a bump?  Will all the awful things said about Hillary Clinton drive her numbers down?  Or will they rally some Bernie supporters around her in defense?

Most of all: What did Trump do to unify his party or win new voters that didn't vote for Mitt Romney in 2012?  Certainly the party is not unified.  Conservative "thought leaders" are denouncing the party of Trump and leaving the Republican party.  Not enough to have an electoral effect, perhaps, but that's telling.  Some evangelical groups are choking on Trump, too.

But what has he done to win new voters?  Remember two things: Obama won fairly handily in 2012 during the lingering pain of the worst economy since the 1930s.  The Obama Coalition is younger than the Romney Coalition.

So, we can presume that 2012 is kind of a baseline of sorts.  Obama had a bad economy that hadn't bounced back as much as it has now.  He was running against an anodyne boring Republican.  In the summer of 2012, his job approval rating was basically break even after being underwater for most of 2011.  While Obama was more personally popular than Clinton, he wasn't a "lock" for reelection.  Even with those headwinds, Obama won 51% of the popular vote and 332 electoral votes.

How many of those 51% who voted for Obama are going to vote for Trump?  How many of the 47% who voted for Romney might vote for Clinton?  Or Gary Johnson?

So, keep your eye on the convention "bump" but don't worry too much until after the Democrats have their turn.

If there's no bump however, that means a lot.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Roger Ailes' America

As Cretinous Manslime Roger Ailes slinks off to a lucrative twilight, we have to realize we live in his country in many ways.

Tonight - if the leaked copy is correct - Trump will describe a dystopian hellscape where America is under siege from all sorts of threat, most of them imagined.

Here is a good example.  My old buddy Jake Tapper notes that historical crime trends are down, citing the FBI.  Paul "Love Me Some Dictators" Manafort says that the FBI is suspect because they didn't pursue the bullshit server story.

Think about that.  Revel in that.

The FBI... the most esteemed law enforcement agency in the country... is drawn into yet another partisan battle.  James Comey, a Bush appointee at one point, is yet another tool of the Democrats.  So we are going to throw out years of longitudinal study of crime by the FBI in order to keep you afraid.

At this point, my lovely wife is listening to the Overgrown Racist Oompa Loompa engage in his fear mongering and authoritarian leanings.  (It's frankly hard to blog with the noise coming in.)

Ailes perfected the fear-based media model.  He stoked the fears and resentments of the white working class for years, always tinged with race.

Trump took his model and ran with it.


Here is where we are.

Was Cruz's unvetted speech that riled up the Trumpsters and got him booed of stage a ploy of Cruz's or Trump's?

Cruz ripped the already delicate fabric of party unity last night.  Did the Trump campaign vet his speech and allow him to do that, setting him up to be booed off stage?  That is Booman's perspective.  And that guy is wicked smart.  His argument is that Trump WANTED Cruz to create a rift, because in Trump-land, all press is good press.

Or is this yet another example that these maroons couldn't organize a one person parade?

A Tsunami Of Bullshit

The Trump campaign is so awash in lies that it literally becomes impossible to keep up with them.

But people say Hillary is untrustworthy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

This Is A Big Deal

Eliminationism is  the  "belief that one's political opponents are "a cancer on the body politic that must be excised—either by separation from the public at large, through censorship or by outright extermination—in order to protect the purity of the nation".[1]"

If you were searching for the tone and substance of the GOP convention, there it is. Dave Neiwert has argued that this trend towards eliminationist rhetoric and thought has been building within the right wing media echo chamber for years.  The fever swamps of talk radio has been full of this for decades.  Fox News has always danced up to that line, but rarely crossed it.  

What we are seeing in Cleveland is that line being obliterated.  And that's terrifying.

I can't recall how many times I've worried about Trumpism's destruction of American political norms.  Here is a clear and dangerous example.

- You have a New Hampshire delegate saying Clinton should be shot for treason.
- You have a West Virginia legislator call for her hanging.
- You have Chris Christie called first for the jailing of Clinton and then for the purging of the civil service.  Christie gave less of a speech and more of a Stalinist show trial.

This REALLY freaking matters.  This is so much more important than whether Melania plagiarized her speech (she did) or whether Donald Junior plagiarized his (sort of, but only in academia).  

Eliminationist rhetoric was at the heart of the Birther movement.  It posits first that no Democratic president can be legitimate because "those people" voted them into office.  As the GOP looks to lose their third consecutive presidential election, the shrill cries of the eliminationists will get louder.

As we have seen with Black Lives Matter, even tempered calls for radical change can energize and empower the radical fringes.  I've met Deray McKesson, he's a thoughtful, considerate and peaceful man.  But his message can be pared away to a warped version of itself by the Dallas and Baton Rouge shooters.  

What will the warped minds on the Right do with people who are outright calling for the death of the Democratic nominee for president?  

Clinton has high unfavorables.  I remain convinced that a great deal of that is that she is a woman who grates certain men the wrong way.  Combine that with the "D" after her name and you get millions of Americans who don't want her as president.


But the rhetoric from Cleveland is deeply, deeply dangerous in its extremism.  It is not saying that Clinton is incompetent or wrong or unqualified or flawed.  It is saying that she is a traitor, a criminal and, literally, in league with Lucifer.  If they really believe that, what happens when Clinton gets 55% of the popular vote in November?  Or even 51%?    Or 47% and 310 electoral votes?


That's what happens.

Eliminationism is a preceding cause of the Holocaust, Rwanda, Pol Pot's killing fields, Stalinist name it.  First, you deny them their humanity and rights.  Then you round them up.  Then you kill them.

Trump thinks it's all theater, I suppose.  It's not.  Not to some people.

Has The Press Reached Its Breaking Point

Chris Cuomo of noted journalistic swamp CNN has reached the limits of bullshit that he is prepared to eat.

As Cuomo says, the repeated and insistent lying from the Trump campaign is so blatant and unrepentant that it beggars belief.  Here's the key part:
“I can't move on,” Cuomo said. “Because you keep lying about it, so I can't move on from it.”
“Chris, I'm not lying about anything,” Manafort said.
“What is true: Did the language, did a portion of the language of that speech come from Michelle Obama’s speech, yes or no?”
“As far as we're concerned, there are similar words that were used,” Manafort said. “We've said that. But the feelings of those words, and the commonality of those words do not create a situation which we feel we have to agree with you. You want to have that opinion, fine.”
“It is not an opinion. That's the problem,” Cuomo replied.

So this is journalism as we would hope it would be practice.  Cuomo is better than most.  This isn't Wolf Blitzer or Don Lemon.  That might shatter the space-time continuum if those chowderheads committed journalism.

The Trump campaign - the Trumpster Fire - is so dysfunctional and so transgressive that the media literally don't know how to cover it.

This is a nice start.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Other Than That Mrs. Lincoln....

So, last night Melania Trump plagiarized part of her speech.  To be clear, this wasn't the worst thing about last night.

Booman has the rundown.

I'm in the middle of teaching a workshop on research based writing and obligingly moved up the section on plagiarism to today.  Thanks, guys!

But plagiarism is mostly a matter of academic standards.  We call it academic theft, but that's a bit melodramatic if accurate.

The level of racist fearmongering last night was willfully appalling.  What she did was merely incompetent.

UPDATE:  Josh Marshall has more.  As always, the issue with Trumpism is multi-fold.  It represents a fundamental violation of the norms that have governed American politics for decades, if not centuries.  It reeks of the beer halls of Munich in the 1920s, even if it lacks the coherent ideology of Nazism.

We will have trouble walking back through the door this "Cheeto-faced, ferret-wearing shitgibbon" has led us through.

Monday, July 18, 2016


I've been in the same room with Roger Ailes.  I refused to meet him or shake his hand.  I believe that about 50% of the political problems we face as a nation can be laid at that motherfucker's feet.

I guess better late than never.

State Of The Race

Josh Marshall breaks down where we are in the presidential polls entering the period of volatility of the conventions.

He also rehashed a piece of conventional wisdom I heard on NPR this morning: It's hard for a party to win a third term.

Is it really?

Let's start in 1900, because why not.  And let's see if a party won a third  or fourth term when they could.

1908 - Taft beats Bryan for Teddy's "third term."

1912 - Wilson wins a four-way race that splits the Republican party.

1920 - Republicans take back the White House after two terms of Wilson.

1928 - Hoover wins a third term.

1940 - FDR wins a third term.
1944 - FDR wins a fourth term.
1948 - Truman wins a second term.

1952 - Eisenhower wins after five terms of Democratic rule.

1960 - JFK wins.

1968 - Nixon wins.

1976 - Carter wins.

1988 - Bush wins.

2000 - Bush wins.  Kind of.

2008 - Obama wins.

So, it's a mixed bag.  But here's another pattern.  From 1900-1932, Republicans held the White House with the exception of Woodrow Wilson.  Wilson won because the Republican party split in 1912.

From 1932-1968, Democrats held the White House, with the exception of Dwight Eisenhower.  Eisenhower enjoyed remarkable personal popularity but had short coattails.

From 1968-1988, Republicans held the White House, with the exception of Carter, who barely beat Ford, who was tainted by his pardon of Nixon.

From 1988-today, Democrats have held the White House with the exception of Dubya, who may or may have won Florida and definitely lost the popular vote.

Incumbent presidents almost always win, with the exceptions of intraparty divisions (1912,1976,1980) or economic hardships (1932).  Or both (1976 and 1980).

This is why 2016 is a lost opportunity for the Republicans.  Unless the Sandernistas split the party in 2020 or there is a major (and truly substantive) scandal, Clinton will likely win re-election.

But what about term limited attempts to hold on to the White House?  This has only been in effect since Eisenhower.  Nixon almost won in 1960.  He would win in 1968, during the upheaval of Vietnam and the latter part of the civil rights movement.  Bush 41 did in fact win a third term.  And Al Gore got a half million more votes than Bush 43.

The evidence to me look a lot like certain parties go through prolonged periods where they hold on to the White House.  Republicans pretty much held the White House from 1860-1932 with only two exceptions.  Democrats held on to it from 1932-1968 with one exception.  Republicans from 1968-2008 with one exception (or maybe it's Democrats who will hold on from 1992-2020).

Ultimately, it seems like electoral coalitions are fundamentally more important than candidates.  When the Democrats lost the South in 1968, they lost the White House - except for the unique circumstances surrounding Watergate - until 1992.  Even Clinton needed a divided GOP and a three way race to win election.

Obama looks to have solidified a new electoral majority coalition.  Trump's terrible numbers amongst college-educated whites would help solidify the Obama coalition.

Given Clinton's unfavorable numbers (even leaving aside Trump's awful numbers), we will be able to test my theory, with only the future of western civilization on the line.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Our Latest Shooter

The latest maniac to shoot up Americans exemplifies three things about America today.

1) The breakdown in race relations, especially with regards to policing.  Despite some remarkable progress in my lifetime over race relations, few people today can say with a straight face and possession of the facts that America is a color-blind society when it comes to law enforcement.  By all accounts, the Baton Rouge police department is a bulwark of racist police tactics.  There are still stories circulating about cops from other parts of the country who went - as volunteers - to Baton Rouge after Katrina.  They were shocked by the racism they saw in that department.

The killing of Alton Sterling - like the killing of Michael Brown - did not happen in a vacuum.  This was an egregious example of bad policing that citizens knew all too well.

The result was first protests, and now this new wrinkle after Dallas - retributive killings.

After Dallas, one could hope that both sides would take a deep breath and try and walk back from the cliff.  Almost immediately thereafter, the Baton Rouge police cracked down on peaceful protesters, and Gavin Long perhaps began to plan his own killings.

This is what a breakdown in the social contract looks like.  If there is no sense that police will be held accountable in a court of law, then crazy people take up guns.  That the shooter did this before a Grand Jury even convened in Alton Sterling's case says a great deal about where our faith is in our laws in some quarters.

2) You're goddamned right it's about guns.  When you have a single person, admittedly a former Marine, able to kill three cops and critically injure another, you are talking about the incredible ease with which we have made killing other human beings in this country.

For every ammosexual out there, telling me how his Glock and his AR-15 and his assault-style shotgun are necessary to protect himself, let me ask you this: If these well trained police officers could be killed this easily, do you really think you'd fair better?  Of course, the ammosexual would reply that he would, because he's REALLY good at Call of Duty or some specious bullshit.

I've argued before that having this many guns on the street makes every police action potentially lethal.  Add that to racial assumptions about black men, and you have the resulting mess of unarmed black men being shot by police.

Guns turn an everyday asshole into a lethal threat.

3) Revolutionary anti-establishmentarianism is inherently violent.  Bernie Sanders doesn't want cops killed.  Donald Trump doesn't want unarmed black people killed.  But the  anti-establishment rhetoric that flows from all quarters these days inevitably leads to violence.

Once you delegitimize the established order of things - not merely criticize or decry it, but say it is inherently corrupt and beyond repair - you open the door for crazy people to start shooting up police officers.  I know that people like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are kind of boring technocrats.  Obama at least had soaring rhetoric, but at heart he was a technocrat.

But the attacks on technocratic governance that came from both the Left over the past 8 months and the Right over the past 8 years have left a serious wound on the ability of the center to hold.  The Establishment - for all its many flaws - is still critical for making sure society unfolds in an orderly fashion.  You want to know what a revolution looks like?  It looks like dead people in the streets.

The Baton Rouge shooter was part of an anti-government organization.  At this point, we're not sure if it was black separatist or simply anti-government, sovereign citizen type of organization.  We don't know to what degree convenient Right or Left labels can be put on this man and his beliefs.

But we know in the process of retributive killings for the situation in Baton Rouge (presuming that's what they are) he killed a black police officer.  Montrell Jackson - the slain officer - wrote the following a few days ago: "I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city love me.  In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat."

Those sentences are painful to read in light of the fact that he died serving a city that didn't know what to do with a black man or a blue uniform.  To the shooter, he was "the state."  He was the act of violence against black men.

John Bel Edwards, Louisiana's governor, has called this an attack against "all of us."

It is.  It's an attack against the forces that hold us together.

It's an attack empowered by the loudest, angriest voices on both sides.  It's an attack that happens when people no longer have faith in compromise.  It's an attack that underscores the lack of faith we have that laws apply to all of us equally.

We have to begin walking back from this abyss.  Every day, people reach out across lines of race and class.  You have stories like this from Georgia.  It really isn't all bad.  I swear it.

But it is pretty awful in great, dramatic actions.

I hate to cite Thomas Friedman, but he did have a point when he said we've moved from superpowers to super-empowered individuals.  We live in a fractured world where every voice is presumed equally valid, because we can find a sub-reddit to agree with us.  We live in a world where if you want to slaughter people, all you need is a truck or a boatload of weapons.  That's a world where every asshole with an ax to grind can create tremendous damage.

How do we heal this world we live in?

When Will It Be Said And Repeated And Repeated?

Yesterday, the Overgrown Racist Oompa-Loompa introduced his running mate, Indiana hatemonger and Talibangelical, Mike Pence.

As Ezra Klein succinctly put it, that speech clearly demonstrates why Trump should never be President.

The reason is that Donald Trump clearly suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  That this remote diagnosis could be even questioned at this point is ridiculous.  Trump is like a walking exemplar of every aspect of the disorder.

Let's run through the DSM V's definition.

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance 
Yup.  "Everyone loves me.  I'm very popular."

  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
Yup.  How many bankruptcies is it?

  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
Yup. Have a Trump steak while you consider that one.

  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
Yup. From trophy wives to the constant refrain of self-adoration.

  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
Yup.  He thinks he's smarter than Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

  • Requiring constant admiration
Yup.  And if you don't admire him?  You're fired.

  • Having a sense of entitlement

  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
Yup.  His steamrolling of the RNC and the convention platform is a great example of this.

  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
Yup.  Ask Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich about this.

  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
Yup.  I mean, pretty much every word out of his mouth.

  • Being envious of others and believing others envy you
Yup. Certainly the last one, but the first one he keeps hidden.

  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
Yup.  I mean...Yeah.

The Republican Party has nominated someone with a full blown, ten mile high personality disorder - what we might call a mental illness.  I don't want to stigmatize mental illness, I've seen what personality disorders can do and it can be tragic.

But I also don't want to elect someone President who suffers from one.

Never has a tag-line seemed so appropriate.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Worst Possible Result

The coup in Turkey has apparently failed.  It was so ham-fisted and amateurish that some have suggested that Erdogan himself planned it.

Coups have a long history in Kemalist Turkey.  The Army has insured that the state remain secular and largely oriented towards the West.  Erdogan has been slowly eroding the democratic and institutional checks on his power, and the failed coup will accelerate that consolidation.  Hence the conspiracy theories that Erdogan planned it.  That's probably confusing cause and effect, as conspiracy theories often do.

From - broadly speaking - the West's point of view, we would prefer Turkey to be a democratic, secular state that models stability for the Middle East - a modern Muslim state, though not an Islamist one.

Whatever the motivations of the coup plotters, it's pretty clear that this coup will deal a potentially fatal blow to democracy in Turkey.  Erdogan is already more or less following the Putin blueprint in consolidating power, and just as Putin used Chechen terror attacks to consolidate power, Erdogan will use this event to snuff out opposition.

The opposition to Erdogan is primarily focused on two groups: the Kurds and the Gulen Movement. The Kurds are more or less America's best friends in the Middle East.  Iraqi Kurdistan is reasonably secular and pro-Western, and there is a certain sympathy for the self-determination of the Kurdish people in America.  Certainly, US troops that served in Iraq preferred working with the Kurds over anyone else.

The Gulen Movement is precisely the sort of Islam we would like to see: Islam should inform your private life, but Islam should not be political.  Islam should build bridges to other faiths.  This is why Fethullah Gulen currently lives in the Poconos, because he's hated by Erdogan but represents what we would like to see Islam become.  Of course, he's probably corrupt, but that hardly differentiates him from other developing world figures who has money at his fingertips.

An ideal end for the events of yesterday - from a US point of view - would have been a collapse of the Erdogan regime and the failure of the coup.  We would like democracy to survive in Turkey and neither Erdogan nor a military coup really delivers on that hope.

Terrorist attacks like what happened in Nice are tragic and horrific and violate our sense of shared community and public spaces.  But what just happened in Turkey is probably worse for the Middle East and Europe than what happened in Nice.  More Turks died last night than died in Nice, but even more troubling is it's tough to see democracy in Turkey survive either.

UPDATE: Maybe this actually leads to more and better democracy?  

Friday, July 15, 2016

This Is Intetesting

Power In Weakness

As Richard Mayhew notes, terror attacks are fundamentally attacks borne of weakness.  ISIS has no armored divisions massed on the Turkish border.  ISIS is not and never has been a fundamental threat.  The absolute horror of the Nice attacks derives from the chaotic unpredictability of it.  More Americans will commit suicide today than died in Nice. And the day after that.  And the day after that.  But suicides are personal and private (usually) and their audience is limited, if it exists at all.

Terrorism is grisly theater.  It is intended for public consumption.  And mostly, it is intended to create a reaction.  Sadly, Trump and the current GOP is making C+ Augustus look like B+ Augustus.  Dubya never equated 9/11 with Islam.  He made a conscious effort to divorce the acts of terrorism from the religion of the perpetrators.  Trump and his minions and fellow travelers are falling over themselves to initiate new bans on Muslims.  Gingrich latest emetic offering is to round up all Muslims and then ask them if they believe in Sharia law.  If they do, deport them.

Basically, Gingrich wants to recruit for ISIS.

If I am a radical or angry Muslim American, I simply lie about Sharia (permitted in Islamic tradition) and then shot up a shopping mall at Christmas.  Secondly, Sharia law isn't Islamism, and certainly not radical, Salafist Islamism.  Sharia is simply religious rules for daily life.  What constitutes Halal food?  Who gets what in a divorce?  Can I charge interest on a loan to a non-Muslim?  Yes, there are parts of Sharia that we rightly consider barbaric - chopping off the hands of thieves, flogging rape victims for adultery.  Most of the awful aspects of Sharia are tied up in the unique religious-political system of Saudi Arabia.  No one in the US is using Sharia law to flog an adulterer.

The Right Wing fixation on Sharia is the sort of mind-numbingly stupid oversimplification of issues that should reasonably disqualify Republicans from being allowed to make complicated decisions from the Oval Office.  Republicans are no longer capable or allowed to make complicated and nuanced decisions.  They have been reduced to reflexive tics that come out like Tourettes: BENGHAZI!  SHARIA!  EMAILS!  FAST AND FURIOUS!

This is how Trump was able to takeover the Republican Party. Either by design or by accident, he tapped into the stupidity - and that's the word, sorry if that's elitist - of a Republican base that is incapable of holding contradictory ideas in its head.  "You hate these people, I hate these people."

The Nice attacks are a horror show.  But they are also an example of the fundamental weakness of ISIS and their strain of Takfir violence.  ISIS has lost Fallujah.  They are losing Ramadi and Mosul.  They are being rolled back in Syria.

But their strain of anti-Western nihilism is still laying there for any angry Muslim to pick up and use.  The solution is to stop alienating Muslims who live in the West and discredit ISIS by destroying their "caliphate" but to destroy it without invading another Arab country.  It is not to give in to fear and hatred.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

David Cameron's Legacy

As he leaves office, it's proper to reflect on Cameron's PM-ship. 

He was telegenic and charming. His PM questions were great. 

But he oversaw austerity, Libya (largely an Anglo-French affair) and Brexit. Not sure Britain is losing much. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Who Is Hillary Clinton?

Ezra Klein has a pretty good answer.

Also, now that Sanders has endorsed Clinton, we will see that quite a few of the Bernie or Bust crowd was really about hating Clinton.  It always has been.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Baton Rouge vs Dallas

In the aftermath of the terrible shootings in Dallas, several figures - including the Dallas Chief of Police and the mayor - have done very well in how they handled the political ramifications of the attack on Dallas police.  Namely, they downplayed the politics.  They treated it as a crime and the perpetrator as a criminal.  Most importantly, they understood that the peaceful protesters were citizens of Dallas and potential victims of violence, too.  Several cities have done similar good work in making sure that protests don't become violent, even if there are provocative acts within a small number of the protesters.

And then you have Baton Rouge.

One would have thought that a singular lesson of Ferguson was to avoid having your mostly or all white police force look like an occupying army.

One would have been wrong.

It does seem that some on the Libertarian Right are willing to engage on the issue of the over-militarization of our police force.  But the Authoritarian Right - as typified by the GOP nominee - is more than cool with this.

Again, it goes back to the intersection of racism and too many guns.  

But our salvation as a nation is only going to come when we stop treating our own population as the enemy.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Is This 1968 All Over Again?



As Josh Marshall notes, maybe this is 1967, the bloody lead-up to the social disintegration of 1968.

I think we might be more resilient that 1968, because at least we aren't mired in Vietnam and America is more diverse.  But that diversity is what drives Trumpism.  That Trumpism seems to have a ceiling of about 30% (with the rest of his support coming from people who are simply opposed to HRC or loyal Republicans) is heartening.

My worry remains two-fold.

First, Trump will continue to do and say things that are outrageous and break the rules and norms of political discourse in their country. He will normalize the abnormal.  As of now, the Black Lives Matter movement has vehemently rejected violence and I don't expect that to change.  But that leads to my second worry.

We live in a time where the demonstrations of Sandy Hook, San Bernadino, Orlando and now Dallas show that any long asshole can sufficiently arm themselves in a way that can cause mass casualties.  There are some heartening signs in the aftermath of Dallas - Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan both made very eloquent statements about the disadvantages of being black in America - but how many more angry men will take matters into their own hands.

I fear that it is almost certain that a politician will be assassinated this year.  Maybe not of the stature of King or Bobby Kennedy, but someone, somewhere.

Is it 1968?  No.  Maybe.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Compare And Contrast

"Some people" have responded to the tragedy by embracing language of exclusion and dripping with white privilege.  Seriously, if you are still confused about white privilege, read this:
I grew up in a world — I've been around long enough that we always had bad people, we always had dangerous people, but the general public respected police.

Yeah, respected....terrified of...those are so hard to keep distinct.

On the other hand, "some people" think we should try and heal our broken country.  Some people learned something from history.
We've got to turn to love. We have to stop shooting. We have got to turn to love. We cannot bring about justice through violence. We cannot bring about love through violence. If we continue to turn to violence, we are going to continue to see heartache and devastation.

I want to come together in common ground.  I mean Newt Fucking Gingrich has basically come out and said, "Yeah, it sucks to be black, and we need to understand that."  Newt Gingrich.

But as long as suppurating hemorrhoids like Dan Patrick are out there?  Tough to come together.

This Is Good, Too

The Common Weal

We are losing our sense of what it means to be a country, a nation.

The centrifugal forces on our politics have created a moment that is genuinely dangerous.

Nations and states don't just happen; they are acts of will and planning.  When we created our form of government in 1787, it was an act of will that many people resisted.  But eventually, we came to accept the Constitution, for all its flaws.  We set about trying to create a "more perfect Union."  It was not always a smooth or steady process, but the arch of the universe and all that.

When we create a government, we invest that government with a monopoly of violence.  That's Max Weber's term, and it means that we cede to the state the ability to enforce laws, even unto death.  But that "violence" could presumably apply to property, too.  We cede to the state the ability to seize our property in the form of taxation.

This is necessary for governments to function.  The alternative is anarchy.

The rhetoric of America has spun into the realm of anarchy.  Much of that rhetoric exists on the Right, from the Bundys to the NRA saying we need guns to protect ourselves from the government.  The Libertarian Right has - as its model - the idea that each citizen stands apart and "free" from the state.  Frankly, the Anarchist Left has the same model.

I'm not trying to engage in false equivalencies here, but once you undermine the legitimacy of the state, you unleash all sorts of shit.

The language on the Right of Armed Rebellion and on the Left of Revolution is a language that undermines the legitimacy of the state.  I can't count how many times I've heard the phrase "all politics is corrupt" or "they're all terrible in Washington."  That's cheap cynicism, but it's also terribly erosive to the common weal, the common good.

The roots of this, I do believe, lie predominantly with the Tea Party.  Their entire genesis was a resistance to the idea that the federal government should do much of anything beyond national security.  The anti-government rhetoric was matched by a complete resistance to the idea of governing.  At least we are currently not about to default on our debt, but it was touch and go. Remember at least a few Tea Party politicians embraced the Bundys at first.

The ideologues on the Right have now been met by ideologues on the Left.  As I've written elsewhere, their constant attacks on Hillary Clinton are really just an attack on centrist government.  Some of that attack is marinated in an unacknowledged sexism, but it is also a by-product of the idea that "we need a revolution" that Sanders promulgated.  I know Sanders was not talking about killing police officers.  But revolutions involve killing police officers.  Not the kind he was talking about, but that rhetoric, once it leaves his rally can latch on to some angry or deranged man with powerful weaponry.

An assault on police officers is an assault on the ability of the state to perform its most essential task: the maintenance of order.  The war of attrition waged against black men that I wrote about yesterday also erodes the ability of the state to maintain order.  As Deray McKesson said when he spoke at our school: "We don't hate police, we just want them to stop killing us."  As a white person, I don't trust the police necessarily, but I don't mistrust them either.  If I was black, I would actively mistrust them, and frankly, I would have reason to do so.  That has to change or there will be more Dallases.

Governments are built on institutions.  Many of those institutions are informal.  They are things we agree to do in order to serve the common weal.  Many of those norms in Congress were destroyed by the Tea Party.  They were attacked by groups like the Bundys.  They are now under assault from men with heavy weaponry.

Our institutions - our boring, conservative institutions - are shaking under our feet.  We have a candidate for President who routinely violates those norms.  Every day, he says or does something that would have been beyond the Pale a year ago.  There is a cost to that.  I do not think Trump can win election.  But I think he can continue this pattern of tearing apart the fabric of our society by repeatedly shredding the norms and boundaries we have erected for ourselves over the years.

Do you want to know what pulling down the edifices of government really looks like?  Look at Baton Rouge, look at Minneapolis, but really look at Dallas.

In November, 1963, in Dallas, we saw a similar assault on our collective life. While great and positive change came in the next few years, by 1968, the country was on the brink of anarchy.

How about we not do that?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The War Of Attrition On Black Men Is Uniquely American

Two days, two more police killings of black men who should not have been killed.  Inevitably, the outrage, anger and hurt of some Americans is met with the defensiveness of other Americans.  Both men had guns on them, neither men was brandishing those guns or pointing them at officers.  Compare this to the treatment the Bundy Gang demonstrated or the way police treated Dylan Roof, and the rage of African Americans and the anger and bewilderment of many white Americans is completely understandable.

Inevitably, though, you find those people who will say that Alton Sterling was a sex offender (he had sex with a 17 year old as a 21 year old).  That he was carrying a gun.  That he was breaking the law by selling those CDs.  The idea that this would carry a death sentence never seems to occur to them.  And the evidence is overwhelming that that death sentence was leveled because of the color of his skin.  Philando Castile had a licensed firearm on him, was not reaching for it and was shot four times.

In TRYING to be objective, it occurs to me that these shootings are uniquely American for several reasons.

First, there are too many goddamned guns.  Both Castile and Sterling had legal weapons on them.  If you're a police officer, every single encounter you have in the course of a day's work could become a shoot out.  They almost never do, but they could.  And that's because we are awash in weaponry.  That makes every encounter potentially lethal and ups the stakes, ups the tension of a police officer's job. Fear makes you stupid.

Second, you're goddamned right it's about race.  White people see threats in black people that simply don't exist.  They see young kids as adults and adults as predatory giants.  They imbue African Americans with a lethality that doesn't exist.  When a police officer interacts with an African American it is simply different than how they interact with white Americans.  And it you are white and can't see that, then you are blind to the country we a live in.

Finally, we have created a permanent underclass in this country.  That underclass - black or white - is like the impoverished anywhere in the world: they will do what they have to do to get by.  If that means selling a little weed or loose cigarettes or CDs, then they will do that.  And we have created a system that would rather jail them - especially if they are black, but also simply if they are poor - than create a livable world for them.

We don't see these sort of events in Europe because there aren't as many guns and there isn't the same legacy of racial violence in the service of a white power structure.  In fact, the countries with the highest murder rates in the world almost ALL have legacies of race based chattel slavery.  As Europe begins to contend with racial minorities, it is beginning to see some of these same trends, but the absence of widespread weaponry means that the dynamic is different.  The historical legacy is different, too.

We have a problem with police executing African Americans for the crime of being threatening while black.  And that crime can extend to any African American make, even if he's a teenage kid walking through his neighborhood with Skittles and iced tea.

I don't know what it will take to change this.  I don't hear the NRA being outraged over the deaths of men and boys who were killed in open carry states. Funny, that.  I do hear people saying "thug" or "brute."  Because in the eyes of many white people, that's what they see.  Alton Sterling had a grill on his teeth.  That's why he deserved to die, I guess.  His dental work and the color of his skin.

We can change laws - we must change laws - but until we can make large swaths of the American public at least somewhat aware of their racial biases, and until we can get police to see African American men as deserving of the same protections and assumptions as white men, we will continue to see the slow war of attrition on African Americans.

It's sickening.

God bless America.

She needs it.

UPDATE: I wrote all this before the brutal attacks in Dallas.  If anything it's a grotesque data point that proves this thesis.  The gunman sounds deranged, but he latched on to the free floating anger and allowed it to give him license.  I'll address the idea later that we are losing, every damned day, the idea that we are a nation.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Clinton Rules

Dylan Matthews takes a break from explaining why the War for Independence was a mistake to try and explain whether or not the Clintons get unusually negative press.  He runs through the pre-Lewinsky era Clinton scandals, almost all of which are huge, huge nothingburgers.  From Vince Foster to Whitewater to Travelgate to Haircutgate (remember that one?), the Clintons came to Washington and were immediately targeted by an unprecedented smear machine.  All of this lead to the ridiculous impeachment scandal.

When the Clintons say that they get smeared for doing things any other politician does, they are speaking the truth.  There is no better example of this than the email scandal, which turns out to be a lapse in judgment at worse and really more like a failure of best-practices that pervades the State Department and other government agencies, because they can't keep up with technology.

Matthews also notes that Obama has been remarkably free from this cycle of scandal.  Certainly, Bill Clinton's perpetual need to be loved led to a seductive side of him that gave Gennifer Flowers and other allegations legs.  Obama doesn't have that.  But it's fascinating that the same Right Wing Wurlitzer that churned out the Clinton Era smears never got traction with Tony Rezco, Bill Ayers or the fucking birth certificate - beyond the people who would believe things like the fucking birth certificate.

Efforts to smear Obama never got beyond the Fox-o-sphere, whereas Clinton smears are part of the New York Times tradition.

One thing that Matthews leaves out is that HRC has pretty much decided to ignore the press.  She treats them as hostile, because they are, and then they respond to being frozen out by being more hostile.  Clinton gets more negative coverage than any other candidate this cycle - and that included guys like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.

Where Clinton is erring is that she is not really creating an alternative media outlet to sell her story.  She is ceding too much ground to her detractors.  I spend a fair amount of time online defending Clinton from Bern-outs and Trumpsters.  I'll keep doing that, because I think she is the most wrongly maligned public figure in recent history.

But shouldn't that be someone's job?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Your Fourth Of July Reading

This is a much better piece than Dylan Matthew's piece from a few days ago.

It does commit the sin of conflating liberals with the Left, which I guess I'm going to keep fighting until my death.  The Left has a problem with Jefferson and Washington.  Liberals don't.  Or shouldn't.

Finally, I really, really have a problem - as a historian - with presentism.  Presentism is roughly applying modern values to past actions.  It's not that we shouldn't apply those values, but they have to be tempered by our understanding of the times.  We shouldn't excuse Washington's slave-holding, except to note that he freed most of them at his death.

And slavery as a whole should be understood to precede from economic necessity that had a racial component built on top of it.  If you go back to 17th century Virginia, you will see African slaves and English indentured servants being treated differently primarily in the terms of their service.  It was only after Bacon's Rebellion that indentured servitude died out to be replaced by African chattel slavery.  The economic need for labor predated the racism of slavery; the racism grew up around it in an effort to justify it.

If you take the 2016 perspective on slavery, then you fail to understand where it came from and why.  And you fail to understand where the racial assumptions that came to underpin slavery came from.  Jefferson, for instance, is dismissed for being a slaver, but he had rather benevolent and non-racist feelings towards Native Americans.  He assumed that future Americans would be the mixture of European and Native Americans, which is ironic, since we know that future Americans would be a mixture of European and African Americans, like Jefferson's own children.

I'm currently slogging through a book on 17th century Britain and the process that unleashed the idea of republican government in the English-speaking world.  That was a process that proceeded by fits and starts in Britain and then jumped the Atlantic to the colonies.  It then went in directions that men like Washington could likely have never imagined.

The impatience of the Left to see everything done yesterday ignores the reality that true and lasting change is evolutionary, not revolutionary.  Ignoring the seeds that were planted by men like Washington, Jefferson and Madison - because they offend modern sensibility - isn't history, it's religion.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Lot To Unpack Here

Matthew Yglesias has a piece that talks about the lack of impact that globalization is having on certain developing countries.  He focuses on Mexico.  Conventional Wisdom says that as countries like Mexico industrialize, they develop their economies.  This has been a big deal for countries like Mexico, as growing a middle class is central to their growth as democracies and stable states.  And there is evidence that the Mexican middle class is growing.

Now, perhaps it is also true that Mexico is losing industrial jobs to Mexico but still seeing economic development.  This is where I wonder if they are missing the forest for the trees:
The Mexican manufacturing sector has actually remained quite small.
"A modern fast-growing Mexico with globally competitive multinationals and cutting-edge manufacturing plants co-exists," she writes, "with a far larger group of traditional Mexican enterprises that do not contribute to growth."
The dynamic manufacturing sector, in other words, simply isn't big enough to employ many people. And it's not really growing much as a share of the Mexican economy. 
Here is where we run into the multiplying effect of economic development.  As we can measure when a factory leaves an American town for China (or Mexico), the rest of the economic activity declines with it.  Laid off factory workers means fewer diner customers.

Those traditional Mexican enterprises are getting a boost from the maquiladora down the street.

It could very well be that Mexican workers aren't seeing huge gains in productivity the way American workers are.  American manufacturing jobs are being lost to automation as much as to outsourcing, but that allows America to still manufacture a ton of stuff.  We just don't employ nearly enough people to make all that stuff.

Mexico tends to absorb jobs where there is no technological productivity growth.  If that job COULD be done better by a machine, it likely stayed in the US.

This feels like economics at its worst: digging into data to find something odd and counter-intuitive for the sake of finding something odd and counter-intuitive.

Friday, July 1, 2016


Dylan Matthews has a very Slate type piece up, arguing that the world would be a better place if the American Revolution hadn't happened.

His first argument is that England would have put an end to slavery sooner than the US did.  Let's leave aside that Britain very nearly intervened on behalf of the Confederacy, and let's look at Britain's overall record on these issues.  They did end slavery in the empire 30 years before we did in America.  I think we can anticipate that if Britain had tried to end slavery in the US in the 1830s, the American Revolution would have been over slavery and other issues.  The South wasn't going to let Northerners limit the expansion of slavery, they sure as hell weren't going to let Britain end it by fiat.

In other words, the American Revolution would have been a political fight over the future of slavery rather than over the right of self government.

His second argument is probably correct, in that Britain would've treated Native Americans better.  However, again, the economic course of expansion was very strong. Britain put into place a Proclamation Line in 1763 to stop westward expansion.  It didn't work.  Canada didn't expand the same way, because there simply weren't enough Canadians.

Also, I think we can agree that Britain's record of treating indigenous peoples in the rest of the empire is hardly stellar.  American racism against Natives comes from England.

Finally, he argues that America would be better off with a parliamentary system.  Yes.  Parliamentary systems are generally preferable.

However, what the American Revolution unleashed was the spirit of individual liberty and democracy.  The degree to which Britain became a democracy - incrementally over centuries - was strongly influenced by the United States.

Britain and the US have been carrying on a conversation about what it means to be a Republic since John Winthrop and Co, planted the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Cromwell chopped off Charles I's head.

Without the example of the American Revolution, the very idea of popular democracy and constitutional law would not exist.  We invented those.  We wouldn't have if we have remained in the empire.

Have a happy Fourth.