Archive for Presidential Race

Apr
29

Weak tea

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It will take more than fear of Donald Trump for Democrats to win this fall. They need a message. This article from Harold Meyerson after monumental losses in 2014 summed it up:

What, besides raising the minimum wage, do the Democrats propose to do about the shift in income from wages to profits, from labor to capital, from the 99 percent to the 1 percent? How do they deliver for an embattled middle class in a globalized, de-unionized, far-from-full-employment economy, where workers have lost the power they once wielded to ensure a more equitable distribution of income and wealth? What Democrat, besides Elizabeth Warren, campaigned this year to diminish the sway of the banks? Who proposed policies that would give workers the power to win more stable employment and higher incomes, not just at the level of the minimum wage but across the economic spectrum?

Bernie Sanders has focused on the banks this year, but Democrats as a party have failed so far to send a message to families working without a net that their concerns and anxieties have been both heard and felt, and that Democrats have a plan to address them. They need to forcefully answer the “cares about people like me” question.

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Last month I brought you the tale of the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council’s online poll for naming a new research vessel:

The NERC announced the online voting contest to name the nearly $300 million boat to be launched in 2019 recently, and the leading vote-getter so far is the simple but silly “Boaty McBoatface.”

Uri Friedman of the Atlantic considers the outcome and what it says about democracy:

The boat, which is really a ship, acquired new significance this week, when a British official suggested he wouldn’t respect the results of an online government poll in which more than 124,000 people voted to christen the country’s new $300-million research vessel “Boaty McBoatface.” The name received three times more votes than the runner-up entry. The people of the Internet had spoken emphatically, and they’d spoken like a five-year-old.

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After spending several post-college months riding trains around Europe, I took the train from New York to Washington, D.C. where I’d left my car with my sister. Compared to the silky ride of the Deutsche Bahn, this sucker was rocking, rumbling, and lurching all the way. Thought I was going to die.

The experience gave me a gut-level appreciation for well-maintained infrastructure and the unsung people who keep things working so smoothly one only notices when they don’t. “Hail the maintainers,” write Lee Vinsel and Andrew Russell for Aeon. “Innovation,” they believe, is overvalued:

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This morning the Boston Globe offers a glimpse into President Donald Trump’s America with a mocked-up front page illustrating the kind of stories we could expect if Trump were elected president. Stocks plunge, trade wars loom, and “riots continue” over mass deportations.

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Apr
06

There is power in high hopes

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A rubber tree plantation in Phuket, Thailand.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Last night during his speech in Laramire, Wyoming, Sen. Bernie Sanders brought up how real change happens in this country. It was an inspiring nod to #fightfor15, and worth reading if you missed it:

If we were here in this beautiful auditorium 5 years ago, not a long time from a historical perspective, [and] somebody would have jumped up and said, you know, I think a $7.25 federal minimum wage is a starvation wage and it has got to be raised to $15 an hour.

Now [if] somebody stood up 5 years ago and said that the person next to them would have said,

‘You’re nuts! Fifteen bucks an hour?! You want to more than double the minimum wage? You’re crazy! Maybe, maybe we get up to 8, 9 bucks an hour. But 15 bucks an hour? You’re dreaming too big.’

Sound familiar?

‘You are unrealistic. It can’t be done. Think smaller.’

But then, what happened is fast food workers, people working at McDonald’s, people working at Burger King, people working at Wendy’s, they went out on strike …

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Apr
03

“Frontiers of wrongness”

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Puzzling over how the next few months are going to shake out, it is easy to sympathize with Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir. He writes about a conference call this week in which strategist Tad Devine explained how the Bernie Sanders campaign means to whittle away at Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead:

One reason the thought-leaders of media groupthink listened so eagerly to Devine’s Gandalfian pronouncements is that we’ve been wrong about damn near everything in 2016 — wrong about Sanders, wrong about Trump, wrong about the enduring power of the “Republican establishment” and wrong about the stability of the two-party system. Who is to say we’re not wrong this time too? Who can imagine what new frontiers of wrongness lie ahead?

“Frontiers of wrongness” brought to mind the flat-earthers’ maps. Perhaps the most tantalizing aspect of their wrongness is the notion that beyond Antarctica lie uncharted lands still left to explore. Perhaps Donald Trump will build a resort/casino there? Perhaps North Carolina can send its unwanted gay and transgender people there?

Frank Bruni comments on both the wrongness and the shortsightedness of Republican’s anti-gay agenda, a provincial and retrograde attempt to stand athwart history as it bends towards equality and justice. Plus, sponsors are getting nervous about particpating in the RNC convention, what with the “brew of misogyny, racism and xenophobia stirred up by Trump.” Bruni writes:

THE party’s anti-gay efforts not only undermine its pro-business stance but also contradict conservatives’ exaltation of local decision making. The North Carolina law was drafted and passed expressly to undo and override an ordinance in the state’s most populous city, Charlotte, that extended L.G.B.T. protections against discrimination to transgender people who want to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The law went so far as to forbid any municipality from instituting its own anti-discrimination protections, lest they contradict the state’s.

Apparently conservatives love the concept of local control when the locality being given control tilts right, but they have a different view when it leans left. Rural sensibilities must be defended while cosmopolitan ones are dismissed.

And don’t miss the Trojan Horse provisions in that NC law that significantly indemnify discrimination by employers.

Charlie Pierce is in Madison, Wisconsin to cover the primary on Tuesday and has a few choice words on the wrongness of Gov. Scott Walker’s voter ID legislation. Bernie Sanders had more biting ones:

“It has never occurred to me and I think to most candidates that the way you try to win an election is to make it harder for people who might vote against you to participate in the election,” Sanders said. “That is political cowardice.”

The room erupted in cheers — including one man who yelled “Go get ‘em, Bernie!” — as he accused Walker and other Republican governors who support laws requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote of trying to deny people of color, poor people and the elderly their right to vote.

“If you don’t have the guts to participate in a free, open and fair election, get another job. Get outta politics,” Sanders said.

But getting back to O’Hehir’s frontiers of wrongness, where will Sanders supporters go this fall should he not win the Democratic nomination? Furthermore, where will Trump’s go if he wins the nomination and loses badly in the fall? Michael Bourne wonders:

For a generation, gun advocates have defended the right to bear arms as a check against tyranny, and for just as long liberals have dismissed this as a melodramatic talking point. But what if we take them at their word, and accept that it is possible we are witnessing the opening phase of a still-inchoate violent uprising by a broad class of Americans, who, ignored politically, bypassed economically, and dismissed socially, are beginning to take matters into their own hands?

What if, in other words, Donald Trump isn’t an aberration created by the miscalculations of a party elite, but the political expression of a much deeper, and more dangerous, frustration among a very large, well-armed segment of our population? What if Trump isn’t a proto-Mussolini, but rather a regrettably short finger in the dike holding back a flood of white violence and anger this country hasn’t seen since the long economic boom of the 1950s and ’60s helped put an end to the Jim Crow era?

What is most worrisome about the uncertainty ahead is the sense that on both the left and the right many people have convinced themselves that the republic is beyond repair. Decades of right-wing “voter fraud” propaganda have done their work, to where even the left believes, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren reminds us, “the game is rigged.” She may be speaking primarily (and accurately) about the economy, but the rigged meme is widespread, with even lefty activists quick to see conspiracies first and ask sober questions later.

There is a kind of Nero impulse afoot. Susan Sarandon’s comments captured the mood well. And if there are those on the left prepared to see the republic restored in cleansing fire, Bourne’s concerns about the right may be well-founded. The question is whether all the talk of revolution isn’t more Trumpian-style bluster. The thing about bringing down purifying fire is that innocent villagers tend to get sprayed with napalm.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Apr
01

Fetching Blue Yonder

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Well:

From the Guardian’s live blog: April Fools’ Day 2016: the best jokes from around the world. Now that that we have that out of the way….

We have a rusting, 30 yr-old F-150 pickup. We call it Blue Yonder. It’s a real gas hog. Carburated V8. But it uses no gas sitting in the driveway, which it does mostly, so we keep it around for what you keep pickup trucks around for. Which means we use it for moving other people’s furniture now and then or for the occasional dump run.

The truck is in the shop this week because it won’t start. A week ago, another shop replaced the coil, started it up and returned it. $60 cheap. A few days later, it wouldn’t start again. We towed it to our regular shop. They did something with the distributor, said to pick it up tomorrow, then called the next morning to say, no, when they tried it again, it wouldn’t start again. Give us another day. We did. They say they’ve got it fixed now and I’ll pick it up this afternoon.

Here’s why I’m telling you. These are people who repair vehicles for a living. They do it every day. Have for years. Even then, sometimes it’s hard to diagnose what’s wrong and fix it right the first time. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is traveling the highways and byways telling enthusiastic throngs of working-class people that America is broken and only he can fix it. Except Trump has zero experience in government and demonstrates that every day. Yet his fans are ready to entrust their beloved country to him.

Would you entrust your F-150 to a real estate developer?

(Cross-posted from
Hullabaloo.)

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Mar
28

Somebody will pay, believe it

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quote-i-have-a-great-relationship-with-the-mexican-people-they-love-me-i-love-them-donald-trump-124-25-00You have to wonder: Does Donald Trump have any friends? Really? Not many in New York, it seems. Maybe he should visit Mexico for Easter some time. He has lots of friends down there. Tre-men-dous friends. They love him down there:

Mexicans celebrating an Easter ritual late on Saturday burnt effigies of U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, whose anti-immigrant views have sparked outrage south of the American border.

In Mexico City’s poor La Merced neighborhood, hundreds of cheering residents yelled “death” and various insults as they watched the explosion of the grinning papier-mâché mock-up of the real estate tycoon, replete with blue blazer, red tie and his trademark tuft of blond hair.

Media reported that Trump effigies burned across Mexico, from Puebla to Mexico’s industrial hub Monterrey.

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Mar
27

Of Trumps and tweens and blastocysts

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New Yorker tells the sad tale of the latest failed experiment in AI. Apparently (I missed it), Microsoft last week rolled out a twitter bot named Tay:

Tay is an artificial intelligent chat bot developed by Microsoft’s Technology and Research and Bing teams to experiment with and conduct research on conversational understanding. Tay is designed to engage and entertain people where they connect with each other online through casual and playful conversation. The more you chat with Tay the smarter she gets, so the experience can be more personalized for you.

Tay is targeted at 18 to 24 year old in the US.

Uh-oh. You don’t have to be Mary Shelley to see where this is going. After barely a day of “consciousness,” Microsoft pulled Tay’s plug.

Anthony Lydgate explains:

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Mar
20

Property in Australia

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Given the animus in Washington directed at the current Democratic president, my wish list for the 2016 Democratic candidate is pretty modest. There are gubernatorial and other state races that have much more local impact than who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So I want only two things: the next two Supreme Court picks and coattails. For the first, I need the Democratic candidate to win. For the second, I need the candidate to win big.

Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann examine for Atlantic magazine how that might work out. The nominating conventions of both major parties will have a say in that. Ornstein and Mann observe that Cleveland has ordered riot gear for 2,000 in advance of the Republican convention in July:

We may shock you if we say that whatever the circumstances, if Trump does capture the Republican nomination and there is no significant third party or independent effort, he has a chance, however remote it looks now, to win. With America’s tribal politics, any nominee probably starts with a floor of 45 percent of the votes. What if there is serious economic turbulence or a Paris-style attack in the fall? Could enough voters in key states like Ohio and Michigan go to the strong man? It’s possible. And although a Trump presidency would be constrained by the elements of the American political system that have brought gridlock—separated powers, separate institutions, and centers of power—it would not be pretty.

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