Archive for Presidential Race

At an event Saturday night in eastern Tennessee, an organizer brought up the meme that poor people tend to “vote against their best interests,” for Republicans who vote to slash safety net programs that keep them afloat. This complaint, as I have written, is an old pet peeve. First, because it’s a lefty dog whistle for saying those voters are stupid — which they hear clearly even if we cannot. And second, as liberals do we really want our neighbors to go into the voting booth to vote what’s best for No. 1 rather than for an America that aspires to something better? But Saturday night, the same organizer offered a new twist from a New York Timesarticle by ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis:

In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.

This is perhaps a manifestation of the “last place aversion” I wrote about in February. It is the need to have someone to look down on so you do not see yourself on the bottom rung of life’s ladder: Read More→


A dose of sanity

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A dose of sanity in a minute, I promise.

Donald Trump is America’s crazy, right-wing uncle—and he’s coming for Thanksgiving. His Thursday comments about creating a Muslim database had me fantasizing whether Trump isn’t secretly asking himself just how far he can go before his Real American fans balk. Is Trump wondering, “What if I slipped lines from Mussolini into my speeches? Would they still cheer? What if I called for putting Muslims in camps? Would they pump their fists in the air?” Finally, Trump would throw up his hands and say, “Look at you idiots! This is the United States of America we’re talking about. You would really do it. Whatta buncha losers!”

I know. Not gonna happen.

Even though Trump tried to walk back the “unconstitutional, morally repugnant” comments, it was a Kinsley gaffe. In response, Chris Hayes recalled President George W. Bush’s “Islam is peace” speech at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. days after the September 11 attacks, and Jeb Bush’s people pounced:

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Wingnut Memento

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What does a Memento remake look like in 2015?” asks The Verge. You remember Memento, Christopher Nolan’s 2000 neo-noir film about Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) who is hunting down his wife’s killer? Shelby lost his ability to form new, short-term memories in the same attack and so hangs onto “clues” by tattooing them on his body and scrawling notes on Polaroid photographs. Shelby’s condition makes him easy prey for people who would manipulate him to their own ends. Shelby winds up killing the wrong man. He had already killed his wife’s killer. Then he immediately forgot.

It’s a shame, isn’t it, that tattoos aren’t more popular with Republican politicians? They are still struggling with the blowback from when after September 11 they killed the wrong country and created Daesh in the process. It took Barack Obama to get Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden played the war hawks like a fiddle. Now it’s Daesh’s turn. They know just which buttons to push, too, and they pushed them last weekend in Paris. Republicans responded as predictably as Pavlov’s dog.

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to shut down mosques.

Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz (whose father was a Cuban refugee) wants to stop resettlement of Syrian refugees.

Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush thinks we should let in only proven Christians.

Republican Presidential candidate John Kasich wants to fund a new, government agency to promote Judeo-Christian values around the world. (There might be a slight upholding-the-constitution problem with that, but these are stone killers we’re talking about, right?)

House Republicans want to bar women and children fleeing death at the hands of Daesh from entering the United States.

Here’s a memento that won’t help them remember how well things worked out last time:

Maybe a mug with “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” on it?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Adrift without their towels.

According to the Washington Post, panic is setting in at the RNC as Donald Trump and Ben Carson continue to top polling in the party’s nomination for president. Insiders are flailing, seeing no path to toppling the two they see as a disaster for the party’s 2016 prospects. The approach of the holiday season will only accelerate the process, believes former Romney 2012 advisor Eric Fehrnstrom. There’s even talk of drafting Romney who appears uninterested:

For months, the GOP professional class assumed Trump and Carson would fizzle with time. Voters would get serious, the thinking went, after seeing the outsiders share a stage with more experienced politicians at the first debate. Or when summer turned to fall, kids went back to school and parents had time to assess the candidates. Or after the second, third or fourth debates, certainly.

Nope. Sorry.

And it gets worse:

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Yesterday’s Leftovers

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Got a little busy yesterday and didn’t have time to cross-post this:

I resemble that remark

From Tuesday’s GOP debate, Marco Rubio:

For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.

Uh, that’s fewer philosophers, Marco. He’s wrong about those pay levels, of course, as philosophy major Matt Yglesias observes. But being factual wasn’t Rubio’s point anyway. Reality having a left-wing bias and all.

For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized liberal arts education. Or education in general.

Anyway, the philosophers are speaking out. The New York Times consulted Cheshire Calhoun, chairwoman of the American Philosophical Association and a philosophy professor at Arizona State University:

Ms. Calhoun notes that philosophy is not about toga-wearing thinkers who stroke big beards these days. Rather, she says, the degree denotes skills in critical thinking and writing that are valuable in a variety of fields that can pay extremely well.

While some universities have cut back or eliminated their philosophy departments, and the job prospects for academic philosophers are notoriously bad, Ms. Calhoun argues that students who pursue undergraduate philosophy degrees tend to have a leg up when applying to graduate school. The notion that philosophy means “pre-poverty” is a misnomer, she said.

Rubio might have considered that Carly Fiorina was standing just feet away. She holds a degree in medieval history and philosophy from Stanford.

At Salon, Avery Kolers, philosophy professor at the University of Louisville pushes back at the notion that market price is any measure of social worth:

… What kind of person would assume without justification or explanation that an endeavor (or a person’s) value, derives solely from the amount of money it can make?

A market economy is a tool for securing human welfare and promoting human freedom. It may or may not be effective at those things, but either way, that’s what it is: a tool. Sadly, the contemporary Republican Party has elevated that tool into a religion, bowing before it and disparaging those who don’t.

Ed Kilgore had a little fun with that as well, speaking of religion:

But here’s the thing: Rubio (or my recruiter, for that matter) could have made the exact same point using religious studies or theology as an example of a pointy-headed field of study we should not be subsidizing. Church gigs on average pay even more poorly than philosophy, I’m pretty sure, and why should taxpayers be encouraging private religious training?

I have a philosophy degree myself, as I’ve mentioned before:

I grew up thinking that education was its own reward. In college, I studied, philosophy, art, drama and science. Yeah, I waited tables and traveled for awhile. After college, I was appalled at the attitude of many customers. They’d ask if I was in college. No, I told them, I’d graduated. Next question: What was your major?

When I told them, their eyes went blank. “But what are you going to do with it,” they’d ask. You could see the gears going round in their heads. How did that (a philosophy degree) translate into *that* as they mentally rubbed their finger$$ together.

Then again, there were those two suited, young businessmen dining on their expense accounts one evening at Table 29.

“Tom, where have you been? Haven’t seen you here lately,” one asked as I approached their table.

I told them I had taken the summer off for a solo, cross-country trip. I’d driven out to Los Angeles, then up the coast and as far as Alaska. I had just come back to work.

They looked at each other and you could see it in their eyes: What the hell are we doing?

Life’s not always about size (of your paycheck).

Today I design factories for a living. When I’m finished doing my job, other people get jobs making products in this country.

Funny thing, this little video on our attitudes on cost and worth just came over the transom last night:

(h/t RJF)

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


GOP Debate IV: Back to the Future

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Well, that was pretty incoherent. Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino summed up last night’s GOP presidential debate with this tweet late in the game:

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I’m Dangerous. Elect Me.

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The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
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Revenge of the disempowered

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Just yesterday I wrote about there being some hope of Americans across the political spectrum finding common ground. This morning, Robert Reich is thinking about the same topic. He is on a book tour through a number of red states where he finds even T-party types agree with him. They see they are being screwed and they don’t like it. They oppose crony capitalism, too-big-to-fail banks, factory farms, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and the Trans Pacific Partnership. Basically, “they see government as the vehicle for big corporations and Wall Street to exert their power in ways that hurt the little guy,” writes Reich at Salon. They want that power back:

They call themselves Republicans but many of the inhabitants of America’s heartland are populists in the tradition of William Jennings Brian.

I also began to understand why many of them are attracted to Donald Trump. I had assumed they were attracted by Trump’s blunderbuss and his scapegoating of immigrants.

That’s part of it. But mostly, I think, they see Trump as someone who’ll stand up for them – a countervailing power against the perceived conspiracy of big corporations, Wall Street, and big government.

Backing Trump is their revenge against the status quo. Trump can’t be bought, they believe. Republicans who plan to support Bernie Sanders have told me the same thing.

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Lunatic mainstream revisited

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Because as Charlie Pierce observed yesterday, “America is the greatest country ever invented to be completely out of your mind,” we’re suffering a little insanity overload this morning.

Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s emergency appendectomy gave him a chance to experience America’s “best in the world” health care system this week. Raw Story:

The host said he periodically fainted from the pain of a perforated appendix, but the nurse told him he was not allowed to faint in the waiting area and should instead go to triage to lose consciousness.

“You’re telling me where I can and cannot faint?” he said.

Noah was finally taken, trembling with pain, to another room for treatment — where he was followed by the same nurse, who brought still more forms and asked how he would be paying for treatment of his life-threatening condition.

“With my life, clearly,” he said.

She decided because she recognized Noah from the billboards that he could pay whether or not he had insurance.

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List of demands

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How far down the rabbit hole have we gone that Republican candidates for president think they are entitled to a list of demands from networks hosting debates (and I use that term reservedly) that would make rock bands blush? (Remember, no brown M&Ms.) The Washington Post obtained the list. Here are just a few:

  • Will there be questions from the audience or social media? How many? How will they be presented to the candidates? Will you acknowledge that you, as the sponsor, take responsibilities for all questions asked, even if not asked  by your personnel?
  • Will there be a gong/buzzer/bell when time is up? How will the moderator enforce the time limits?
  • Will you commit that you will not:
    • Ask the candidate to raise their hands to answer a question
    • Ask yes/no questions without time to provide a substantive answer
    • Allow candidate-to-candidate questioning
    • Allow props or pledges by the candidates
    • Have reaction shots of members of the audience or moderators during debates
    • Show an empty podium after a break (describe how far away the bathrooms are)
    • Use behind shots of the candidates showing their notes
    • Leave microphones on during the breaks
    • Allow members of the audience to wear political messages (shirts, buttons, signs, etc.). Who enforces?
  • What is the size of the audience? Who is receiving tickets in addition to the candidates? Who’s in charge of distributing those tickets and filling the seats?
  • What instructions will you provide the audience about cheering during the debate?
  • What are your plans for the lead-in to the debate (Pre-shot video? Announcer to moderator? Director to Moderator?) and how long is it?
  • What type of microphones (lavs or podium)?
  • Can you pledge that the temperature in the hall be kept below 67 degrees?

Dude, can I get on the “guest list” and a backstage pass to hang out with the band?

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