Blog Credo

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

H.L. Mencken

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Really Good Read

Here is a piece really everyone should read.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Trigger Warnings, Mental Health and Liberal Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Here Comes Your Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown

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

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

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

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

But that won't stop the media from trying.

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Opportunity Knocks

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Too Late

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

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

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

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Praying For The Pivot

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 20, 2016

This Is Parody, Right?

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

A Body Count

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

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

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

This isn't hard to understand.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Correction

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

Media Mogul

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Full Breitbart


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

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

This Is So Much Awesome

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/michael-cohen-brianna-kielar-trump-polls

The first 30 seconds are just...yessss.

Slow Motion Catastrophe

While the world is simultaneously moved by the Olympics and horrified by the overgrown racist Oompa Loompa that the Republican Id has vomited forth, Louisiana is drowning.

They received two feet of rain in about 48 hours.  That's simply mind-boggingly.

Louisiana has now been the victim of two "freak" weather events in 11 years.  For a normal person, this would trigger some sort of alarm bell.  Why are so many freak weather events occurring?  The answer, of course, is that the global climate is warming and weather patterns are changing.  Events like the Louisiana flooding are going to be normal now.  In the end, the migration crises we see from civil war in Syria will be dwarfed by environmental refugees from changing climate.

While most of the world is incredibly concerned about this, only one major political party in the developed world believes this to be a hoax.  Only one.  As a result, the world's #1 (or #2) greenhouse gas emitter is hamstrung by a caucus of willful ignoramuses whose knee jerk antipathy to science and evidence threatens their own constituencies with more floods, more deadly storms.

Every day, we freak out over violent crimes, as the news blares video of yellow police tape and pictures of victims.  (Every summer we spend with our parents is a re-introduction to the horror show of the "news".)  We obsess over violent crime at precisely the moment that violent crime has reached historic lows.

Meanwhile, we are slowly cooking our planet, and Louisiana is drowning in the broth.

The Gob, It Is Smacked

Donald Trump has turned away from Nixonian, dictator-loving Paul Manafort.  Manafort - who has close ties to some of the world's worst people - will remain in a nominal strategic role.

Trump is turning his campaign over to the guy who runs Breitbart's Mausoleum of Unemployables.  Breitbart, for those of you who don't know, is a web news organization for people who find Fox News too balanced, too leftist.  They are the cretins who give a platform to people like James O'Keefe, the guy who makes "sting" videos that are edited beyond recognizable fact.  He was arrested for his activities surrounding Mary Landrieu. Andrew Breitbart, the late founder, was entirely about provocation, not journalism.

In other words, Trump is doubling down on the Belligerent Asshole strategy.

God help us, we have almost three more months of this short fingered, Cheeto faced, ferret wearing shitgibbon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

So, This Is Bad News

Obamacare has been one of the singular achievements of the Obama administration.  It caps off over a full century of trying to bring universal (or close to it) health insurance to the American people.  It has been wildly successful.

Until now.

There is an open question as to whether this constitutes payback for the DoJ nixing Aetna's merger, or whether the exchanges aren't working.

The clear solution would be a public option, which fucking Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson killed back in 2009-10.  Adding a public option should be a first priority - along with immigration reform - should Clinton miraculously carry the House as well as the Senate.

Obamacare was always a jury-rigged system, because no one could tolerate the disruption of going to single payer.  It has worked really, really well.  But if the big carriers get out of the Exchanges, that could be a problem.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Trump's Best Way Forward

If Orange Julius Caesar simply stopped campaigning and went back to TrumpTower he would likely do better than he's doing now. He's so inept a campaigner that every day he makes Clinton look better. If he stopped campaigning the media - out of boredom - would turn to bullshit like Hillary's emails.  

I think at some point he might actually call the process so rigged he can't win and quit making appearances. That might be the GOP's best hope. They can't replace him, but if he shut up they might keep their losses down. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

More Data

http://www.vox.com/2016/8/12/12454250/donald-trump-gallup-trade-immigration-study

One absent criteria: relative deprivation. One fascinating study of revolutions shows that they don't occur when everyone is miserably poor, but rather when things are getting better, but not fast enough to keep up with expectations. If relatively well-off blue collar whites still feel things aren't as good as they SHOULD be (because of "those people") then they could be open to a revolutionary figure like Orange Julius Caesar. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Souls Of White Volk

Josh Marshall argues that Trump has exposed the GOP as a white ethno-nationalist party, along the lines of France's National Front or Britain British Nationalist Party.  He seems uncertain about the degree to which it has always been an ethno-nationalist party and the degree to which it remains a center-right party.

As Marshall notes, the GOP has nominated people like John McCain and Mitt Romney quite recently.  But then he also says that "normal" Republicans like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are likely to remain influential figures in the party.

Mitch McConnell may or may not be an ethno-nationalist, but McConnell represents the complete breakdown of the idea of the GOP as a center-right party.  It was McConnell who created the idea of complete obstruction of Obama's agenda and the abdication of any idea of compromise, even in the face of the greatest economic crisis since 1933.  That complete stonewalling of any legislative compromise is what led to the unleashing of the Tea Party in 2010.  McConnell rode that tiger to the Senate Majority Leader's office.  That tiger is now consuming the GOP.  If McConnell has regrets about that, he's not showing any.  Neither is Ryan.

Trump's ability to rip open the coded language that the GOP has used since Nixon has proven very illuminating.  For decades, Democrats have been lamenting the dog-whistle politics of the GOP, but the very rationale for dog-whistle politics is deniability.  Trump eviscerates that deniability.  He takes the angry, racist id of the GOP and lays it out upon the table for all to see.  And while not all Trump supporters are racists, they are overwhelmingly white nationalists, in the sense that they very much define themselves as part of an in-group that is white.  They see America going to hell, because of a black president (who's Muslim), a lady president, a bunch of gay people marrying, a bunch of black people protesting and a bunch of hippies who want to get rid of coal and stuff.  The fact that there aren't enough of them to win a presidential election only adds fuel to their anger.

Trump is going to lose in November.  The margins should not be tight, but they will be tighter than they should be.  Will he lose McCain/Dole bad or Goldwater/McGovern bad?  Probably the former.  He will probably hold on to 40% of the electorate.

What happens though, when Clinton runs in 2020?  Whom do the Republicans throw forward then?

Can they find someone who speaks Trump's language in code?  Will there be enough white people to even make a race of it?  George W. Bush wondered if he was the last Republican president, and if the GOP doubles down on a Trump-lite candidate in 2020, he could be right.

America needs a center-right party that is invested in governance.  Right now that doesn't exist beyond the febrile imaginings of the David Brooks/Cokie Roberts set.  There is no equivalency between Clinton's email server and Trump's call for Second Amendment solutions.  There is no equivalency between Clinton's speeches to Goldman Sachs and Trump's calling the president a traitor.
The Republican party created an autopsy report after 2012 and the Trump lit that on fire and pissed on it, before spoon feeding the urine-soaked ashes to the Republican establishment. In early 2017, there has to be a core group of Republicans who will need to take a further step to separate from the Party of Trump.  Perhaps it will be under the Libertarian Party, perhaps it will be as a faction of the GOP.

The Party of Lincoln died decades ago.  This is the Party of Nixon and Trump now, and it really always has been so.  That party is largely closed off from the White House, because of the changing nature of America.

What will come next?

Baltimore

The Department of Justice report on Baltimore is disturbing, precisely because it's so unsurprising.  As Wesley Lowery tweeted, "why does it take costly federal probe for us to believe what black people tell us about how they're policed?"  The answer, of course, is that term du jour: white privilege.  White people typically, though not always, have encounters with police that follow some sort of model of police behavior.  What we see in Baltimore is that black people don't.

The argument - put forth by someone close to me - that Baltimore couldn't have racist policing because it's a majority black city with (barely) a majority minority police department, ignores the fact that we have created police forces that are countries unto themselves.  As crime rates sink to historic lows, any crime becomes a problem.  So rather than respect the constitutional rights of black citizens, they treat all blacks as potential criminals.

The police officers who killed Freddie Grey were acquitted because the system worked the way it was supposed to: they had a presumption of innocence.  Absent any video evidence of what happened in the back of that van, you could not prove beyond a doubt that those police officers engaged in negligent or malicious behavior.

When police forces target black and minority populations, that targeting can prove lethal.  When they arrest people for telling a cop to go fuck himself, that's a violation of the First Amendment.  And yet that person is likely beaten in the course of his arrest and then jailed for resisting arrest - arrest for a crime that's not a crime.  That goes doubly true for the arrests for loitering, jaywalking and "trespass" that have their roots in Jim Crow police tactics.

And when it turns lethal, there is no appeals process.  The officers that killed Freddie Grey had the benefit of a legal process where their constitutional rights were respected.  Grey never had that opportunity.  Neither do any of the other African Americans (and whites) who are killed by police when they are not actively threatening them.

When you invest a group with the power over life and death, that power HAS to be checked and regulated.  In places like Baltimore and Baton Rouge and Ferguson, that power has been unchecked and the result is a powder keg.

The Bill of Rights is designed to prevent a police state; it's designed to prevent tyranny.  Yet that is exactly what exists in many parts of America.  The police are becoming a country unto themselves, and that is incredibly dangerous to everyone.  We need good policing as much as we need good educations, good roads or good health care.  It is a vital component of a free and open society.

Whether we can get there or not is one of the great challenges of our time.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Nexus Of Derp

Fanatical Clinton haters, Judicial Watch, is back at their core job: bullshit lawsuits against the Clintons.

Now they are suing HRC over Benghazi AND the email server because reasons!

I in no way want to minimize the pain of the families who lost loved ones in Benghazi.  But they are being sold a nonsense conspiracy theory that feeds off their pain.  If you want to argue that the FBI does not know how to properly investigate things - fine.  You're an idiot with an ax to grind, but fine.
To argue that we don't know what happened in Benghazi - after 8 different investigations - is utter, rank bullshit.  If you open your mouth and Benghazi comes out?  You're an asshole.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Protesting Was FUN!

We had a lovely family day, biking out to protest Trump's presence on the island for a fundraiser.  It was a really nice group of people, everyone having a good time.  There was a lot of good humor. Our signs went over well:

"We shall overcomb"
"Vlad and Donny sitting in a tree..."
"Immigrants do jobs we won't.  Right Melania?"
"Love beats hate" with the "O" in love being the Obama logo and the "a" in hate being an inverted version of that logo with Trump's hair.

I think we're going to have to go out and counterprotest when Hillary shows up.

Off To Protest The Donald

Trump is coming by today and I have to go make protest signs...

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Worst Tour Package EVER

Foreign tourists attacked in Afghanistan
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-36974648

Who vacations in a war zone?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Trump Boycott

I'm not going to write about that bastard today (unless something truly amazing happens).

Instead, I'd like to take a moment to talk about Theresa May.  British politics don't follow the same grooves and channels that ours do, so trying to fit May into our politics is hard.  The only thing I can find out about her is that she was simultaneously good and terrible on civil rights as Home Secretary, and simultaneously against Brexit AND immigration.  She strikes me as being a skilled political nut-cutter, without the verbal flamboyance of David Cameron.

Conservatives seem to have rallied around her in precisely the way Labour has not rallied around Corbyn.

If the Lib Dems weren't the Lib Dems, they could really make hay right now....

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Where Is The Tipping Point?

Donald Trump continues a true master class in self-inflicted wounds this week.  First, he picks a fight with a Gold Star family, then he lies about things that are easily proven to be lies.

What next?

Josh Marshall has laid out the persuasive case that Trump is entirely motivated by dominance - the need to win, whatever winning might look like.  It's the central method of New York real estate. When you hear the tales of people who worked for Trump and then got bullied into taking pennies on the dollar, this makes sense as Trump's world view.  This is why he thinks he can extort NATO allies into paying protection money.  This is who this man is.  He's a liar and a bully.  There is no pivot.  There is no "more mature" Trump waiting to be unveiled.

Eugene Robinson asks the critical question: Is Trump mentally ill? For the record, yes, Trump suffers from a textbook case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

He cannot afford emotionally to lose any fight.  This is why he's already pre-preparing his sour grapes over losing the election.  Trump can never lose, he can only be betrayed.

The fights he is picking are damaging to him and our public discourse.  The mother of a veteran was booed at a Pence rally for asking Pence about Trump's behavior towards the Khans.  The horrible fact is, we are seeing him re-define the limits of Republican discourse.  The most avid partisans will simply assimilate his rhetoric and positions. Attacking veterans will now be cool (although that's not a new thing among Republicans - See their treatment of John Kerry and Max Cleland in 2004.)

The reason that almost no GOP politicians showed up in Cleveland is because they know Trump could destroy them personally in years to come.  Video of you endorsing Trump will not disappear.

But as Trump goes further and further off the deep end - and he's going to keep going, he can't help himself - when do prominent Republicans finally say, "Enough is enough?"

At what point do they put their country above their party and their re-election bids?