Sep
11

Stupid is as stupid does

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Many have commented on the recent Facebook posting by a Georgia Republican state senator. Fran Millar complained about siting an early voting location in a South DeKalb mall heavily used by African American residents, a location with large black churches nearby. Millar then made things worse in followup comments:

“I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters. If you don’t believe this is an efort [sic] to maximize Democratic votes pure and simple, then you are not a realist. This is a partisan stunt and I hope it can be stopped.”

That feeling among Republicans goes back at least to Paul Weyrich’s oldy-goldy, Goo-Goo syndrome speech from 1980.

George Chidi, a Georgia journalist writing in the Guardian, acknowledges the partisan flavor of the location decision, calling the plan “a gigantic middle finger to Republicans intent on suppressing black voters.” But if Republicans want to head off “the coming demographic Armageddon,” Chidi believes, they might just want to start courting those black voters.

Considering that early voting will begin in a few weeks, I want pivot to Millar’s crack about preferring “more educated voters” to more voters generally. It’s easy to sneer at Millar for (basically) calling constituents stupid. Besides being condescending, it’s not the message to send people right before you ask for their votes.

Yet, I sometimes hear the same from lefties about poor, white, Republican voters. Occasionally, they just blurt out that voters are stupid. More often it’s couched in a dog-whistle complaint about people voting against their best interests. Which, if you think about it, is just a more polite way of saying the same thing.

As a field organizer in the South, I remind canvassers that, no, those voters are not stupid. They’re busy. With jobs and kids and choir practice and soccer practice and church and PTA and Friday night football and more. Unlike political junkies, they don’t keep up with issues. They don’t have time for the issues. When they go to the polls they are voting to hire someone to keep up with the issues for them. And when they look at a candidate — your candidate — what they are really asking themselves is simple: “Is this someone I can trust?”

One of my favorite southernisms is, “I wouldn’t trust anyone my dog doesn’t like.” That, I caution canvassers, is how most Americans really vote, like it or not. And if you don’t purge the thought, those “low information” voters? They will know you think they’re stupid before you do. Right before you ask for their votes.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


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Sep
11

An economic cult

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Paul Krugman this morning writes about “the inflation cult,” doomsaying pundits and supposed economic experts who, economic rain or shine, predict that a steep rise in inflation is coming anytime now and, quite reliably, get it wrong time after time.

Part of that appeal is clearly political; there’s a reason why Mr. Santelli yells about both inflation and how President Obama is giving money away to “losers,” why Mr. Ryan warns about both a debased currency and a government that redistributes from “makers” to “takers.” Inflation cultists almost always link the Fed’s policies to complaints about government spending. They’re completely wrong about the details — no, the Fed isn’t printing money to cover the budget deficit — but it’s true that governments whose debt is denominated in a currency they can issue have more fiscal flexibility, and hence more ability to maintain aid to those in need, than governments that don’t.

And anger against “takers” — anger that is very much tied up with ethnic and cultural divisions — runs deep. Many people, therefore, feel an affinity with those who rant about looming inflation; Mr. Santelli is their kind of guy. In an important sense, I’d argue, the persistence of the inflation cult is an example of the “affinity fraud” crucial to many swindles, in which investors trust a con man because he seems to be part of their tribe. In this case, the con men may be conning themselves as well as their followers, but that hardly matters.

This tribal interpretation of the inflation cult helps explain the sheer rage you encounter when pointing out that the promised hyperinflation is nowhere to be seen. It’s comparable to the reaction you get when pointing out that Obamacare seems to be working, and probably has the same roots.

Not just economists, but the country (and perhaps the entire Republican Party) seems to be in the grip of an economic cult concerned with much more than inflation — that’s just a symptom. As Krugman suggests, ethnic and cultural (and class) divisions factor into it. Digby has written repeatedly (and just yesterday) that many of the same people “have always been wrong about everything.” And yet, their followers keep listening. Conservatism never fails. It is unfalsifiable. I wrote last week that the Koch brothers’ evangelism for the their libertarian Kochification Church resembles recruiting techniques used by cults.

Hey, let’s start a meme.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Sep
11

Failing at Thought

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Sigh.

Then she said she wanted the government to force McDonalds to pay more “so I won’t have to struggle.”

If you think it is the government’s job to force your employer, who is more likely than not paying you before he pays himself, to raise your wages, you’ve got a problem and it is not your employer’s problem and it is not my problem.

I don’t think that McDonalds needs to worry about making payroll.

Without struggle, there is no progress. Forcing your employer, via government action, to pay you more is not struggling.

They missed the part about me being a conservative and not libertarian and therefore supporting a social safety net for people who cannot take care of themselves.

Nice struggling straw man there. And your whole position seems to be that government should not force employers to raise wages which, without even raising the minimum wage from it’s paltry $7.25 an hour, it is already doing. Sounds like you would abolish the minimum wage. So definitely not libertarian.

And apparently it’s a conservative first principle to allow markets to race to the bottom and have everyone else pick up the tab for their failure. But I didn’t get the part about the safety net being for people who cannot take care of themselves. People who hold a full time job can’t take care of themselves? Anyway sounds a whole lot like redistributin’ the wealth.

Meanwhile another conservative has a different take on it:

“The bottom line is that the American government right now spends $250 billion a year on social welfare programs to benefit the working poor,” he said. “What we have right now is the classic case of businesses privatizing the benefits of the workers, but socializing the costs — shifting the burden to taxpayers and the rest of society. And I think businesses should stand on their own two feet and pay their own workers, rather than force the taxpayers to make up the difference.”

Standing on their own two feet also known as picking yourself up by your own bootstraps.


Categories : Economy, Labor
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Sep
10

Math is hard

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TillisCaptureNorth Carolina’s Republican House Speaker, Thom Tillis, wants to be the state’s next U.S. senator. He’s finding it a tough sell. Tea party members and Republican small businessmen oppose Tillis for pushing for toll lanes on I-77 in his own district and elsewhere in the state. Then, someone anonymously slipped a provision into a must-pass budget bill that “allows warrantless drone surveillance at all public events … or any place which is in ‘plain view’ of a law enforcement officer.” Privacy advocates from left to right cried foul.

Next, Tillis was been pilloried for “mansplaining” both in his debate with incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan and in a TV ad where he uses “simple math” (just numbers on a white board) to show how math is lost on Hagan. The Tillis ad spotlights the average 7% raise he claims state teachers received under his leadership (only after the loud public outcry over Republican education cuts in an election year). Well, not so fast.

When Gov. Pat McCrory wrote to welcome teachers back to the classroom, he touted a “substantial” pay raise that amounted to “an average pay increase of 5.5 percent for teachers.”

That might have been exciting news, except that legislative leaders have been touting a 7 percent average pay raise for more than a month. House Speaker Thom Tillis trumpets that 7 percent figure as “simple math” in a recent campaign ad for his U.S. Senate campaign.

McCroryCapture

I guess math is hard for Pat and Thom.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


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“It’s just sad when a political party has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. I am not willing to defend them anymore.” – retiring Wisconsin state Senator Dale Schultz, the sole Senate Republican to oppose early voting limits

The New York Times editorial page the other day turned it’s ire on voter the fraud squad. Specifically, on Texas where the Justice Department and other groups are in court challenging its absurdly restrictive 2011 identity card law. (Almost as absurd as North Carolina’s.) The Times states the obvious: These laws are about erecting obstacles to Democratic-leaning voters voting.

The laws’ backers rely on a 2008 Supreme Court ruling upholding an Indiana voter-ID law, but at least two of the judges in that case have since admitted they were wrong. Richard Posner, a federal appeals court judge who approved the law, said last fall that voter-ID laws were “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.” And former Justice John Paul Stevens, who voted with the majority, said that in retrospect the dissent was “dead right.”

Rather than find a way to appeal to a wider swath of voters, Republican lawmakers rig the game with pointless obstacles to voting. The courts are finally catching on, but in the meantime, many of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens are shut out of the democratic process.

Oh, you have to give the voter fraud squads their due for dedication. Whatever else, they are persistent. The “evidence” they produce to support their claims of rampant fraud are voluminous. What they lack in quality they make up for in quantity. Fraud theorists have never produced actual wrongdoers in numbers to justify claims of widespread fraud. But statistical analyses? They produce those in bulk.

They’ve got nothing. But we are to be impressed by the sheer volume of the nothing. So much so that we will agree to requiring every American to present a photo identity card before voting. Because nothing says freedom like a government official asking to see your papers.

Read More→


Categories : Vote Suppression
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Sep
09

If Dogs Could Talk

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Don’t you like a good new fashioned dust up between two biologists who you would expect to agree on most things? A recent hypothetical draws a strong reaction which draws an even more outlandish hypothetical. Biologist, author, blogger and atheist PZ Myers recently wrote in a post titled The only abortion argument that counts:

We can make all the philosophical and scientific arguments that anyone might want, but ultimately what it all reduces to is a simple question: do women have autonomous control of their bodies or not? Even if I thought embryos were conscious, aware beings writing poetry in the womb (I don’t, and they’re not), I’d have to bow out of any say in the decision the woman bearing responsibility has to make.

Which drew this reaction from Richard Dawkins:

To which PZ responds by drawing up an even more fantastic hypothetical Read More→


Sep
08

Privileged lanes

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London bicycle courier, Oxford Street
Photo: ProfDEH, Wikimedia Commons

Can’t stop thinking about Ferguson, MO.

Over at A Little More Sauce, jdowsett draws an analogy between bicycle riding and white privilege that doesn’t rely on impugning anyone’s character. He very cleverly uses the highway infrastructure’s bias towards cars over bicycles to illuminate how the social infrastructure is skewed in ways many rarely notice.

I can imagine that for people of color life in a white-majority context feels a bit like being on a bicycle in midst of traffic. They have the right to be on the road, and laws on the books to make it equitable, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are on a bike in a world made for cars. Experiencing this when I’m on my bike in traffic has helped me to understand what privilege talk is really about.

Read More→


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Sep
08

Whose Side Are You On?

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Warren on solving the student debt crisis:

Young people are– they’re not buying homes, they’re not starting small businesses. They’re struggling with the student loan debt. It’s bringing them down. It’s bringing their parents down. This is something that America sees, understands. We know which side families stand on and we know which side the millionaires and billionaires stand on. For me, it’s time to choose and that’s what I’ve learned about Washington. You make people choose, sometimes they make good choices.

Which side are you on? Warren is crystal clear.

Sen. Kay Hagan needs to answer that question definitively. Reacting to last week’s debate between Hagan and NC Speaker Thom Tillis, the News & Observer sees An empty race for the U.S. Senate: “This exorbitantly funded Senate contest has taken a page from Seinfeld. It is a race about nothing. With Seinfeld, it was funny. With Hagan-Tillis, it’s sad.”

Hagan has a large and vigorous field operation across the state which may carry her to a second term. But as “the most moderate senator,” she’s giving voters little to get off the couch and vote for. The N&O asks:

Is it too much to expect politicians at this level to engage in a bold debate about the issues that matter? Over a thousand Moral Monday protesters gave themselves up to arrest because they felt passionately about the state’s direction under its Republican leadership. Just Thursday, fast-food workers in North Carolina were arrested after they joined a national protest demanding a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Can’t people seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate take the risk of taking a stand?

“Moderate” may be poll-tested and consultant-approved, but will it get Democrats out to vote in a mid-term election this November?

Hagan’s campaign could use a dash of hot sauce. Or whatever Breakfast of Champions Elizabeth Warren eats every morning.


Categories : NC Senate race
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Your dystopian future has arrived. NPR’s May series, Guilty and Charged, explored the spreading judicial practice of judging people guilty of misdemeanor offenses then imprisoning those unable to pay fines and an expanding menu of fees. (The poor.) But while practice of billing defendants for their punishment may be relatively new, the municipal courts in St. Louis County, MO, where the unarmed Michael Brown was shot by police last month, resemble something out of Dickens. Or else Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Radley Balko (Rise of the Warrior Cop) painted a detailed portrait of the county’s legal culture — if you can call it that — in the Washington Post last week.

It’s a world in which white flight created a string of subdivisions-turned-towns stretching north and west from St. Louis. As black families followed, whites retreated or quickly established dozens of zoned, postage-stamp-sized municipalities.

“The state’s one requirement before giving you the power to zone was that you had to incorporate and draw up a city plan,” [University of Iowa historian Colin] Gordon says. “That plan could be as simple as getting an engineer to slap a ‘single family’ zone over the entire development. Your subdivision is now a town.”

Gordon says this is why the towns in St. Louis can have such unusual names, such as Town & Country or Bellefontaine Neighbors. “Look at a place like Black Jack in North County. It began as a private subdivision in the 1970s. When they saw the looming threat of housing projects, they quickly zoned the neighborhood as single-family and incorporated as a municipality.” Today Black Jack is more than 80 percent black. There’s a similar town of about 1,200 people near Ferguson, just across the street from the Normandy Country Club. It’s 91 percent black, has a 35 percent poverty rate, and has a median household income 40 percent below the state median. Its name? Country Club Hills.

As black families filtered in, the towns too small to sustain local government with property and sales taxes made police departments into profit centers that generate revenues by shaking down residents, most of them poor.

“You see that sort of thing a lot,” [legal aid attorney Michael-John] Voss says. “We’ll get a client who was pulled over and cited for failure to provide proof of insurance, or driving with a suspended license. But there’s no additional citation for a moving violation. So why was she pulled over in the first place?”

But the stop might generate a string of violations, fines and fees that, if not addressed, result in arrest warrants and court costs.

There are many towns in St. Louis County where the number of outstanding arrest warrants can exceed the number of residents, sometimes several times over. No town in Jackson County comes close to that: The highest ratios are in the towns of Grandview (about one warrant for every 3.7 residents), Independence (one warrant for every 3.5 residents), and Kansas City itself (one warrant for every 1.8 residents).

St. Louis County is a dispiriting labyrinth of speed traps and police demands to see permits and papers. Those so targeted are unlikely to afford the fees, much less an attorney to help get them discharged or reduced. Balko explains that with 23,457 pending arrest warrants in 2013 in Pine Lawn (roughly 7.3 per resident), the town brought in about $576 per resident. Antonio Morgan’s story is especially instructive and infuriating. Just trying to support his family by repairing cars makes Morgan a police target, like Brazil‘s “terrorist” heating and air conditioning engineer Archibald “Harry” Tuttle.

It’s a place where the poor are prey, and the prey are black. With “the every day harassment and degradation” of such a system, it’s a wonder Ferguson, MO didn’t explode sooner.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : Corruption, National, Race
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Sep
07

Sunday Morning Music

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