Monday, July 25, 2016

John Oliver - feelings vs reality

John Oliver has done it again. This is what I continually blog about here: believing what you want to believe vs reality.

The Republican Party has abandoned reality, and there's no better example of that than with Donald Trump.

John Oliver: "What is truly revealing is his [Antonio Sabato, Jr.] implication that believing something to be true is the same as it being true. Because if anything, that was the theme of the Republican National Convention this week. It was a four-day exercise in emphasizing feelings over facts."

To the Republican Party these days - and to a frighteningly large percentage of the American people - reality isn't important. To them, reality is whatever they want it to be. The fantasy they've built up in their minds is the new reality, to them. It's as real as 'reality TV' - which means, of course, that it isn't real at all. But they don't care.

Crime in America has been dropping for decades. Fewer police officers are being killed in the line of duty. The world is less violent than it's ever been. But terrorists and Republicans push fear for their own purposes. And people who are faith-based, rather than evidence-based, 'feel' what isn't true, while rejecting what is.

This is the problem with faith-based thinking. It's not just religion. The problem is not caring about the truth of your beliefs. Demagogues can use that.

You have the right to your own opinions, but you don't have the right to your own reality. Reality exists, whatever you might think about it. And your own feelings don't alter the facts.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Make America Fear Again

At the Republican National Convention Monday, the theme was "Make America Fear Again." Well, that was the real theme. Speakers pushed fear at hysterical cowards. Well, that's been the Republican strategy for some time now, hasn't it?

The fact that crime has dropped in recent decades is immaterial to the elderly white men - and some women - who are easily frightened by change. Of course, that's ideal for a fascist political message. Make people afraid, and then offer them vague promises from a bombastic authoritarian promising to make them feel safe again.

The fact that it's the authoritarian who's pushing that fear doesn't seem to register with them. Well, they're faith-based, not evidence-based. They believe what they want to believe.

Is terrorism scary? Of course. That's the whole point of terrorism. Terrorism is a tool of the weak, and it relies on cowardice. Terrorists want to make you afraid, so that you'll overreact (thus creating more terrorists for them). If you're easily scared, that's perfect for them.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party is allied with the terrorists in this. The Republican Party wants the same thing the terrorists want - to make you afraid, so that you'll overreact (in this case, so you'll elect a bombastic, narcissistic, fascist clown to the presidency of the United States).

This convention has been crazy, so far. (The only sane part of it was plagiarized from Michelle Obama.) Josh Marshall at TPM noted this about the first day in Cleveland:
We've become so inured to Trump's brand of incitement that it's barely gotten any notice that Trump had three parents whose children had been killed by illegal/undocumented immigrants tell their stories and whip up outrage and fear about the brown menace to the South. These were either brutal murders or killings with extreme negligence. The pain these parents experience is unfathomable.

But whatever you think about undocumented immigrants there's no evidence they are more violent or more prone to murder than others in American society. One could just as easily get three people whose children had been killed by African-Americans or Jews, people whose pain and anguish would be no less harrowing. This isn't illustration; it's incitement. When Trump first did this in California a couple months ago people were aghast. Now it's normal.

Even more disturbing, numerous speakers from the dais, including some of the top speakers of the evening, called for Hillary Clinton to be imprisoned. At least two - and I think more - actually led the crowd in chants of "lock her up!" There has never been any evidence of criminal activity on Clinton's part. An investigation with a lot of pressure to find something amiss concluded that no charges should be recommended against her and that no prosecutor would bring charges against her for anything connected to her private email server.

It goes without saying that it is a highly dangerous development when one presidential nominee and his supporters make into a rallying cry that the opposing candidate should be imprisoned. This is not Russia. This is not some rickety Latin American Republic from half a century ago. This is America. For all our failings and foibles this is not a path we've ever gone down.

This is not a disagreement about a matter of law: it is a demand for vengeance and punishment, one rooted in the pathologies of the current Trumpite right and inevitably to some extent about the fact that Clinton is a woman. If you have a chance rewatch the speeches by Rudy Giuliani or even more ret. Gen Michael Flynn. These are not normal convention speeches. It is only a small skip and a jump to the state legislator in West Virginia who demanded Clinton by executed by hanging on the National Mall. In such a climate, don't fool yourself: worse can happen.

Today's Republican Party was built on their notorious "Southern strategy" of deliberately wooing white racists. Politically, that worked great for them for decades. But it's not working so well these days.

Rather, it's still working great within the GOP base, those people who were attracted to the party by that racism in the first place, but not so well in the rest of our country. Elsewhere, they're losing, and they know it. That's making them hysterical.

That's why we're getting this apocalyptic rhetoric. They're losing. They know it. That's why fascism is gaining ground in the Republican Party.

There were riots in some American cities when my Irish ancestors started arriving here in large numbers. Now, we're getting that same kind of hysteria about Hispanic immigrants. Lou Holz called it an "invasion" when he spoke at a Republican luncheon in Cleveland:
“I don’t want to become you,” he said, as quoted by the Daily Beast. “I don’t want to speak your language, I don’t want to celebrate your holidays, I sure as hell don’t want to cheer for your soccer team!”

But we didn't become the Irish. Those Irish immigrants became us. If  you don't want to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, no one is forcing you. And I don't cheer for soccer any more than I cheer for football.

This is fear-mongering, pure and simple. We turned away Jewish refugees in the 1930s, sending them back to be killed in the Holocaust - sending back Jewish children to be killed in the Holocaust. That, too, was because of bigotry and fear.

And now? Now we're seeing that same bigotry and fear when it comes to Muslim immigrants. And even worse, it's America, this time, which is turning to fascism - a significant proportion of us, at least.

Not every Republican is happy with Donald Trump, true (although the vast majority still support him). But these are the same people who've gleefully pushed bigotry, irrational fear, and hysterical anger for decades now, for their own political ambition. This is the party built on racism and fear-mongering.

The Republican Party created Donald Trump. This is the end result (hopefully) of that "Southern strategy." No Republican leader should be surprised by this.

And if you're still a Republican, even after the race-baiting and the fear-mongering, don't act so superior to Trump now. You were quite willing to use these hysterical bigots, even if you're not one yourself.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Donald Trump pushing race-hatred,... again

From Josh Marshall at TPM:
This isn't getting a lot of attention. But it should. Everybody took note when Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that American Muslims across the river in New Jersey celebrated and cheered as the Twin Towers fell on 9/11 - an entirely fabricated claim. Last night on Bill O'Reilly's show and then separately at a rally in Westfield, Indiana he did something very similar and in so doing cemented his status an impulsive propagator of race-hatred and violence.

The details of the rapid-fire fulmination are important. So let's look at them closely.

Trump claimed that people - "some people" - called for a moment of silence for mass killer Micah Johnson, the now deceased mass shooter who killed five police officers in Dallas on Thursday night. There is no evidence this ever happened. Searches of the web and social media showed no evidence. Even Trump's campaign co-chair said today that he can't come up with any evidence that it happened. As in the case of the celebrations over the fall of the twin towers, even to say there's 'no evidence' understates the matter. This didn't happen. Trump made it up.

The language is important: “When somebody called for a moment of silence to this maniac that shot the five police, you just see what's going on. It's a very, very sad situation.”

Then later at the Indiana rally: “The other night you had 11 cities potentially in a blow-up stage. Marches all over the United States—and tough marches. Anger. Hatred. Hatred! Started by a maniac! And some people ask for a moment of silence for him. For the killer!”

A would-be strong man, an authoritarian personality, isn't just against disorder and violence. They need disorder and violence. That is their raison d'etre, it is the problem that they are purportedly there to solve. The point bears repeating: authoritarian figures require violence and disorder. Look at the language. "11 cities potentially in a blow up stage" .. "Anger. Hatred. Hatred! Started by a maniac!" ... "And some people ask for a moment of silence for him. For the killer."

At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, if you translate the German, the febrile and agitated language of 'hatred', 'anger', 'maniac' ... this is the kind of florid and incendiary language Adolf Hitler used in many of his speeches. Note too the actual progression of what Trump said: "Marches all over the United States - and tough marches. Anger. Hatred. Hatred! Started by a maniac!" (emphasis added).

The clear import of this fusillade of words is that the country is awash in militant protests that were inspired by Micah Johnson. "Started by ..."

We're used to so much nonsense and so many combustible tirades from Trump that we become partly inured to them. We also don't slow down and look at precisely what he's saying. What he's saying here is that millions of African-Americans are on the streets inspired by and protesting on behalf of a mass murderer of white cops.

This is not simply false. It is the kind of wild racist incitement that puts whole societies in danger. And this man wants to be president.

Trump is lying, just as he lied about the thousands of American Muslims cheering 9/11. But his supporters don't care. They're faith-based, not evidence-based. They don't care what the truth is. They just know they want to believe what they want to believe.

But Trump is deliberately inciting race-hatred. Again. Whether he's that racist - or that delusional - himself or he's just using it for political purposes, I don't know. It's just as bad, either way. How could anyone want to vote for this racist, fascist clown?

Donald Trump is lying. Josh Marshall goes on to point out what anyone with a brain should already know:
There have continued to be protests. There's no reason why there should not be. But every Black Lives Matter leader of any note has spoken clearly denouncing Johnson's atrocity. Indeed, if anything the continuing protests have been tempered calls for an end to violence on all sides. For all the horror, the outrage has spawned moments of bridge-building, unity. So these are combustible times. But they're not the racial end times Trump is describing. Indeed, what Trump said in the passage above is something verging on the notorious "big lie". Micah Johnson didn't inspire any marches. No one is marching on his behalf. Even the truly radical and potentially violent black nationalist fringe groups had apparently shunned him even before the shooting. No one called for a moment of silence on Johnson's behalf or honored him in any way. This is just an up is down straight up lie served up for the purpose of stoking fear, menace and race hate.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

It's not 1968

As bad as the latest news as been, it's not 1968, as Jonathan Chait reminds us:
In his January 2008 speech following his defeat in the New Hampshire primary — the one set to music — Barack Obama insisted, “We are not as divided as our politics suggest … we are one people, we are one nation.” That conviction, to say the least, has been sorely tested during Obama’s presidency. It has been especially strained during a presidential campaign in which Republicans nominated a race-baiting demagogue for president. And last night, when a gunman murdered police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, it appeared to reach a kind of breaking point. In the feverish late-night heat, race-baiters at the New York Post, Breitbart, and Matt Drudge stoked a race war they clearly craved. It was 1968 again, more than a few observers said. Everything seemed to be coming apart.

But the old, tattered ideal of unity may be healthier than it seemed. The demonstration in Dallas was the very model of a functioning liberal society — a peaceful protest against police conducted under the protection of the police themselves. Even the most radical of the protesters deplored the shootings, and the police honored the right to protest.

Probing deeper, into more tender spots, one could even detect a formative consensus about the underlying cause of the protest: the routine violence by police against African-Americans. Videos of the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have not only galvanized African-Americans who have grown accustomed to the constant threat of police brutality, but they also shocked no small number of white Americans. ...

Among Republican leaders, the impulse to restore calm prevailed over the impulse to stoke racial hysteria. Paul Ryan praised the values of peaceful protest. Newt Gingrich -- Newt Gingrich! -- conceded, "It's more dangerous to be black in America. You’re substantially more likely to be in a situation where police don’t respect you." Even Donald Trump obliquely, and with a characteristically shaky command of the facts, conceded the need for some solution to police abuse: “The senseless, tragic deaths of two motorists in Louisiana and Minnesota reminds us how much more needs to be done.” Whatever Trump actually believed — the identification of Trump’s real convictions always being more art than science — he at least felt compelled to make some nod toward the perception that the police had gone too far. It was not inspiring, it was not ideal, but it was also more than one would have gotten from, say, circa-1968 George Wallace.

That's not to say that we don't have our George Wallaces, even today. Former Congressman Joe Walsh (Republican, Illinois) tweeted "This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you."

Meanwhile, the organizers of that Dallas protest, those "black lives matter punks," condemned the shooting in unequivocal terms. It was a peaceful protest, as guaranteed by our Constitution. The shooter appears to have been a lone, heavily armed crazy. We've certainly seen enough of those, haven't we? Is the fact that this one was black really significant in any way?

A reader at TPM describes 1968 this way. I remember it. I was still a teenager, far more concerned about myself than about the world at large, but I remember it. Despite the absolute hysterics about our first black president, we've progressed since then. Indeed, the fact that we elected a black president is a pretty good indication of that.

Sure, there are racists who gleefully predict a race war. Yes, there are lunatics in our country. And, of course, they're all armed to the teeth, thanks to the NRA, hysterical gun nuts, and cowardly politicians. But sane people still make up the majority in our country.

If you don't know how bad it's been, it's always easy to think that the current day is the worst ever. Indeed, I have people tell me that - people eager to predict the Christian end times, people woefully ignorant of history. It's not true.

The problem these days is that random lunatics can do more damage than ever, thanks to the ever-increasing availability of military grade weapons (and the capability of those weapons to kill large numbers of people). That's a problem we haven't been willing to address.

It's not just guns, either. As our technology improves, the ability of small numbers of people to kill vast quantities of other people also increases. There's always the possibility of truly horrendous acts of terrorism.

Unfortunately, it's not a problem that will ever be completely solved. At best, we can only try to minimize the incidents. Don't get me wrong. We should definitely be doing that. But we won't ever be 100% successful, no matter what we do.

But random lunatics aren't going to destroy our country. We have to do that. And despite everything - despite Donald Trump, despite Joe Walsh and the people like him, despite the hysteria on the right - I'm confident that we're going to survive 2016 just like we survived 1968.

There are people who want violence. There are people who push violence. And there are people who will use violence for their own political advantage. But that's not America. Most of us are better than that.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Fourth of July

I needed some optimism, I guess.

I am even less a fan of over-the-top ├╝ber-patriotism (more suited to North Korea or the old Soviet Union than America) than I am of fireworks. And I still can't believe anyone is supporting Donald Trump for President of the United States!

But I still have confidence in our Constitution and our whole system of government, if not so much in my fellow citizens. Well, we do progress. It's just slow (and never guaranteed, so make sure you vote, in every election).

Anyway, enjoy the holiday. We have good reasons to celebrate. We do not need to "make American great again," because we already are great. In fact, America is even greater now than it was in the past. (Obviously, "great" doesn't mean "perfect." This is the real world, after all.)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Scathing Atheist podcast

The Scathing Atheist, Episode One

(Note: I'm experimenting here, so I don't really know if that mp3 player is going to work.)

I listen to podcasts sometimes when I'm working in the yard or taking a walk, and this week, I stumbled across The Scathing Atheist. It's absolutely hilarious! (And I don't normally have a particularly high tolerance for dick jokes, either.)

I listened to the most recent episode first, #176: Texas Fetus Massacre Edition, and I was hooked. Since then, I've listened to several more of the recent episodes, then started through their archives from the beginning.

The audio file above (assuming that I got it to work right) is their very first episode, from January, 2012. (If I didn't get it to work right, maybe you can just click on that link.) As you can tell, they didn't need any time to get up to speed.

The same people also do a podcast, just as funny, called God Awful Movies, where they pick a different Christian movie in each episode to eviscerate. I love it! You can also get the podcasts - many of them, at least - on YouTube here. They're still just audio only, as far as I know. But that might be more convenient for you.

I was running out of podcasts, since I've already listened to the entire archive of The Atheist Experience TV show. And I listened to The Human Bible before that podcast ended, too. Yes, there are many more out there, but some just hold my interest better than others. But I don't think I've ever found another as funny as The Scathing Atheist. Check it out.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Letter from an ex-Muslim

Wow! Just... wow!

More weird - and illegal? - stuff from the Trump campaign

Josh Marshall at TPM points out that that it's not just the Trump campaign that's soliciting money from foreign politicians (which is illegal, of course), but a pro-Trump Super PAC, too. And it's illegal for a political campaign to work with a Super PAC.

So what's going on?
The more we've looked into it, it seems increasingly implausible that he got this list from a list vendor. Not impossible just not likely at all. It now seems more probable that the Trump Organization simply had these emails in some business related database and decided to dump them into the email hopper for the fundraising blitz or just found some site that had a zip file of foreign government officials and used that. As I've said, all of these possibilities are outlandish and ridiculous. But we know for a fact that he has and continues to spam members of Parliament in the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland and Iceland and possibly others. So one of these completely preposterous set of facts has to be true.

And here's where we get to coordination, which is a big no no.

Given what I've said above, the existence of this list almost has to originate in Trump Derpland. A virtual certainty. So how did the same list end up in the hands of a Trump SuperPac? I looked up Crippled America PAC and as of their last filing just a couple weeks ago, they're total budget was $40. No m or b after that $ sign, forty bucks, the price of a fancy dinner. So obviously CAP was just stood up and actually started operating just now. And now they're showing up in Tim's inbox. [Tim Watts, MP in the Australian Parliament]

Again, normally you'd just say, they're both buying the list from the same vendor. I'm also pretty sure that a good campaign finance lawyer could find a way to get lists from a campaign to its supportive SuperPacs without running afoul of the rules against campaigns coordinating with SuperPacs. But let's be honest, does any of this look like its done by anyone who has the slightest clue about fundraising or campaign finance law? Of course, not.

... But the point is this: it seems extremely likely that this email list was put together by the Trump campaign. Now it seems to be in the hands of at least one Trump supporting SuperPac. Campaigns and SuperPACs are not allowed to coordinate. And there's nothing about this operation that gives any reason to believe they did this in a way to even try to make it pass legal muster.

It's unlikely that this will have a political impact. After all, it's Trump. No one who plans to vote for  him gives a crap about far worse things than this. And any crime wouldn't be charged, let alone prosecuted, until after the election, anyway.

But this is the kind of amateurish ignorance and complete incompetence all too many Americans want running our country, the most powerful country on Earth. That just blows my mind! What is wrong with those people?

This isn't a 'reality' TV show. This is reality. In the past, I would have found this too implausible even for a television sitcom. But it's actually happening. I guess truth really is stranger than fiction.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Protecting your family with a gun

PZ Myers puts this so well that I'm just going to post what he said:
Christy Sheats posted this on her facebook page last March.
It would be horribly tragic if my ability to protect myself or my family were to be taken away, but that’s exactly what Democrats are determined to do by banning semi-automatic handguns.
You know exactly where this is going, right? Sheats is dead, shot by the police after she refused to drop that handgun, after she’d used it to murder her 17 and 22 year old daughters.

I think the tragedy is that no one took her guns away before she killed two people with them.

Sorry about the depressing story. But we can't keep ignoring things like this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

More bigoted lies from Donald Trump

Donald Trump just gets crazier and crazier, doesn't he? He's like the past few decades of the Republican Party on fast-forward.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

President Obama stands up to Trump bigotry

Refreshing, isn't it? When did sanity become so refreshing?

But it's the age of Donald Trump. It's the age of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and many other Republican lunatics, who are encouraged by Republicans willing to use that insanity in order to advance their own political ambition, no matter what it does to our country.

Note my last post, where I pointed out Christian pastors who were praising the Orlando shooting. Well, the Bible does tell Christians to kill gay people. Like Muslim extremists, those Christian extremists take such primitive superstition seriously. Does Trump want to discriminate against Christians, too, then?

No, it's just bigotry. It's the unholy combination of bigotry and politics, that's all. Barack Obama has faced that for almost eight years now. He's got to be getting pretty sick of it, don't you think?

Trevor Noah addresses the Orlando shooting

These events are so sickening that I hate to talk about them at all, or even think about them. But what's especially sickening is that we never do anything about it.

Well, if a grade school could be shot up without America actually trying to do something about it, what would get us to take action?

Here's another perspective:

And re. that last video, check out what these Christian pastors say about the Orlando attack:
After 49 people were gunned down in an Orlando gay nightclub in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, pastors in California and Arizona praised the gunman for massacring “perverted predators” and “pedophiles.”

In Sacramento, Pastor Roger Jimenez of Verity Baptist Church said the killer succeeded in making Orlando safer.

“Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today?” Jimenez said in a sermon originally posted on YouTube. “Um no, I think that’s great! I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida is a little safer tonight.”

In the sermon, delivered just hours after the rampage on Sunday morning, Jimenez also said, “I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a wall, put a firing squad in front of them and blow their brains out.”

Tempe, Arizona preacher Steven Anderson also rushed to praise the “good news” that “there are 50 less pedophiles in this world.” ...

"The bad news is that a lot of the homos in the bar are still alive, so they're going to continue to molest children and recruit children into their filthy homosexual lifestyle," he said, adding the attack would be used to attack Christians and push gun control.

Maybe Republicans would like to ban all Christians from entering America?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Elizabeth Warren, my favorite politician

This is Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the 2016 American Constitution Society convention.

She's great, isn't she? The whole speech is great, but the part about Donald Trump - which seems to be getting the most attention - starts at 13:44 (if you don't have time to watch the whole thing).

You know, Bernie Sanders should be more like Elizabeth Warren. Warren knows what's important. Sanders seems to be letting his personal ambition, and his unhappiness at losing the Democratic nomination, get in the way of doing what's right for America.

Look at Sen. Warren. She doesn't just point out how despicable Donald Trump has been, she ties that into the rest of the Republican Party.

And yes, despite their frequent unhappiness at Trump's blatant racism and crude language, this is exactly what Republican Party leaders have been doing for years. They just don't like it being expressed so bluntly.

Well, Elizabeth Warren isn't going to let them get away with that. This is why she's my favorite politician, and although it would be a step down for her, I'd love to see Hillary Clinton choose her as our next vice-president.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Trump University and the get-rich-quick seminar

I'm only posting this teaser, but it's a fascinating article:
In 2005, both of us became fixated on a late-night infomercial that promised access to "hundreds of billions of dollars" in "free government money." As journalism grad students at the time, our evenings often ended with a couple beers as we decompressed by watching whatever was on our tiny 13" TV. And what was on at the time—repeatedly—was a half-hour advertisement for an outfit called "National Grants Conferences" (NGC).

Why did the NGC infomercial captivate us? It wasn’t the charisma of the commercial’s star, ex-football player and former Congressman J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), who was busy making a mockery of whatever credibility he once had. And it wasn’t the enthusiastic couple who founded NGC, Mike and Irene Milin, proclaiming that numerous government grants were there for the taking.

No, we couldn't stop watching because NGC just felt so sleazy. Even in comparison with other get-rich-quick schemes competing for time in the twilight TV hours—the obnoxious guy with the question marks all over his suit, the insufferable smile factories bragging about their real estate conquests from tropical locales—this one seemed suspect. ...

Intrigued, we spent the better part of a year researching NGC, its claims, and its founders’ pasts. We ultimately found that NGC—with several seminar teams circling the country and clearing tens of millions of dollars each year in sales—and its memberships produced no money for any of the customers we interviewed.

Arriving at that conclusion was no great surprise. Nor was it surprising that the NGC money train would continue running well after we wrote a piece about it, which was published on the front page of The Sacramento Bee on July 5, 2006. What was remarkable—and what still feels surreal more than a decade later—is what happened near the end of our reporting.

Donald Trump waltzed into our story.

Yup, this was the start of Trump University. But I'll let you read the rest of the story here.

It's no surprise. Indeed, Donald Trump has always seemed like one of those sleazy pitchmen milking the gullible for their own profit (and no more than since he's been running for president).

This is interesting, too. For one reason or another, Texas politicians let Donald Trump off easy, in an investigation into Trump University:
“Once they got our first subpoena, the first thing the lawyers said was, ‘Okay, we’ll stop doing business in Texas.’ That's common. We didn’t do anything,” Owens said. “In no other case of this magnitude did we leave consumers with $2.6 million out-of-pocket, some of them their life savings, high and dry like this.”

Monday, May 30, 2016

Donald Trump exposes the GOP's little secret

From Salon, this is exactly what I've been saying for awhile now:
Paul Ryan is angry with Donald Trump, not so much for failing to espouse conservative values, as for exposing America’s dirty little secret — white rage: that deep-seated determination to block black progress in this country. For years, conservative politicians have relied upon the cover of high-minded principles and slogans – “protecting the integrity of the ballot box,” or waging a “war on drugs” — in order to cloak their determination to restrict African Americans’ citizenship rights. The racism fueling Trump’s campaign and his followers, however, is so overt, that it is undoing decades of hard covert work by the GOP.

When Trump didn’t immediately disavow an endorsement from Klansman David Duke; when the GOP front-runner condoned the beatings African Americans endured at his campaign rallies; and when 20 percent of his followers insisted that the Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery, was bad policy, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan’s carefully stitched plan of “racism with plausible deniability” began to unravel.

Shortly before he died, Reagan’s strategist Lee Atwater explained the game plan of the Southern Strategy in a matter-of-fact clinical policy. “By 1968 you can’t say ‘n***r’ — that hurts you, backfires,” Atwater emphasized. “So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. And you’re getting so abstract now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.” But Donald Trump doesn’t do abstract and that is what has sent the GOP into a tizzy.

Nixon and Reagan mastered this by adapting to the new racial terrain carved out by the Civil Rights Movement. As Nixon aide John Ehrlichman explained to Harper’s Dan Baum in 1994, “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be against black[s], but by getting the public to associate . . . blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing” the drug “we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” ...

The trick to pulling this off was subtlety; to mask overt racism with sincere concern for community safety. Nixon did it with “law and order,” Reagan with “the war on drugs.” But Trump’s jugular racism has no subtlety. ...

Trump’s take-no-prisoner style exposes in ways that no legitimate Republican front-running presidential candidate has in decades the racial lies behind the policies. That’s the problem the GOP really has with him.

The Republicans’ current crusade to “protect the ballot box” is a case in point...

The column goes on to talk about Republican efforts at voter suppression, which I've talked about before. There's also more about the "war on drugs" being racially motivated, which I haven't addressed much in the past. (Whether the point was racism or the point politics, using racism, might be a distinction that isn't hugely important.)

In their notorious "Southern strategy," Republican politicians discovered that racism works - and not just in the South. As Lee Atwater pointed out, though, they couldn't be too blatant about it. Blatant might well have worked in the South - certainly with some of the people that they were attracting - but it would have lost them some voters, too.

But subtle racism works very well, even on people who don't think that they're racist - or don't like to be considered racist, at least. It doesn't have to be very subtle. But even in the Reagan years, as Lee Atwater candidly pointed out, "nigger, nigger, nigger" didn't work as well as it used to. And as time went on, as America progressed, racism still worked, but you needed even more subtlety.

Or that was the thinking before Donald Trump came along, at least.

Of course, even Donald Trump is subtle compared to "nigger, nigger, nigger" or "wetback." And "protect the ballot box" isn't overtly racist. That's the effect, and every Republican politician knows that's the effect. That's why they push a solution to a nonexistent problem. But they rarely admit it.

The Republican Party is long past just wooing racists, too. They wooed Christian fundamentalists for the same reason - for political power. (Of course, the religious right got its start because of racism. That was the whole point, at the beginning.) And racists tend to be xenophobes and religious bigots, as well. The GOP's anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim hysteria is just part of the package.

This has been working for them for decades, but Republican politicians - who never worried about the effect this political tactic would have on America - are starting to worry that it won't work as well going forward. And they're worried that Donald Trump, win or lose, is going to be the straw that broke the camel's back.

Donald Trump doesn't do subtle very well. Plus, he's incredibly, blatantly sexist. Now, sexism has been a part of today's Republican Party, too, of course. Racists have many bad qualities, and bigots don't usually restrict their bigotry much.

But their sexism has usually been aimed at single women - sluts, as Rush Limbaugh calls them - allowing the GOP to maintain the support of married women (who can be racists and xenophobes, themselves, of course).

But Donald Trump has been so blatantly sexist that he's losing women in general. Apparently, 70% of women have an unfavorable view of him, and that includes people Republicans need to win. (In other polls mentioned at that link, 70% of married women have an unfavorable view of Trump, and 66% of white women.)

True, he's still beating Hillary Clinton slightly (by 3%) among married women (while losing by 52% among unmarried women), but then Clinton has high unfavorability numbers, too. And that's not much for a demographic Republicans need.

How much longer can the Republican Party survive, no matter how successful they are at voter suppression and gerrymandering, as the party of white men - actually, as the party of old, straight, Christian white men. Keep in mind that they won't get all of them, either. (Except for the "Christian" part, that describes me pretty well. And these days, I wouldn't vote Republican if my life depended on it.)

Of course, Donald Trump can still win, especially if progressives are idiotic enough not to turn out for Hillary Clinton. Besides, there's a lot of misogyny in America, and that might work on men who wouldn't go for the racism. Who knows? (There's a lot of misogyny in the atheist community, I'm sorry to say. Trump might well appeal to those people because of his sexism.)

And if the Republicans win, they'll pack the Supreme Court with more Antonin Scalias. They'll push voter suppression like there's no tomorrow (and there won't be, for the Republican Party, if they don't). They'll start wars to ramp up fear and hatred. Donald Trump proposes turning America into an isolationist police state. By doing that, he's likely to make more Republicans, just because of the severe problems that will cause us.

But other Republican politicians worry about him for good reason. They had a good thing going with their racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia, as long as they didn't overdo it. Pushing anger and fear works, at least in the short-term. But Donald Trump is the result of all that. (Ted Cruz, too.)

Where does it end? If it doesn't end this year, I fear for my country.

PS. My thanks to Jim Harris for the link.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Are cell phones the key to eternal life?

As I've noted about the current political situation, media companies are in business to make money. Sensational articles attract readers. Sensational videos attract viewers. And controversy always sells.

"Nothing to see here" doesn't attract people. Nuance is boring. Agreement is boring. And the people writing these articles and announcing these discoveries aren't scientists and likely don't fully understand what they're reporting, themselves.

But whether they understand the science or not, they definitely understand what will make money for them and what won't. After all, that's their job. It's not informing the public. It's making money for their employer. That's why they were hired.

 And yes, it's the exact same thing when it comes to politics. Sure, everyone is biased. That's unavoidable. But the overall bias of media companies (with obvious exceptions like Fox 'News') isn't about politics. It's about making money.

That's why our media are the way they are. They're shallow and sensationalist. They're terrified of losing access by being too good at journalism. And above all else, they want two sides fighting over the truth. It doesn't make any difference if one side is batshit crazy, because it's the fight itself that's actually important to the media, not the issue.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Donald Trump's latest conspiracy theory

This just gets crazier and crazier, doesn't it?

Remember, birthers used to be an embarrassment to the Republican Party. Oh, sure, they encouraged it, but those Republicans who still kept in distant touch with reality were a bit embarrassed by it. Now, their candidate for President of the United States is a birther!

And not just that, either. Donald Trump is a conspiracy enthusiast to top all conspiracy enthusiasts. He's the National Enquirer of politicians. Reality has long since ceased to have any meaning for him. Yet this is the guy they want running the most powerful nation on Earth?

Of course, his fans, too, have long since parted ways with reality. And the rest of the Republicans would support Darth Vader if it would advance their political interests. They're Republicans, and they just don't care how crazy their party gets.

But this has stopped being funny, don't you think?

More problems with caucuses

Earlier this week, I mentioned how Bernie Sanders won Nebraska's Democratic caucus - and received most of our delegates - but Hillary Clinton's supporters actually bothered to vote in the primary.

So I was interested to hear another example of how caucuses are suppressing the vote and, this year, clearly in Sanders' favor:
What I am quite sure about is that primary process has not been 'rigged' as the Sanders forces claim. As I've argued, to the extent they're rigged, they're rigged in Sanders favor!. Last night's Washington state primary tells the story. Back in March Sanders got a huge morale boost and a minor delegate boost when he absolutely crushed Clinton in the state's caucus. Last night, when the state held a primary Clinton scored a solid win. The difference is that a bit over 200,000 people participated in the caucus and well over 600,000 voted in the primary. Unfortunately for Clinton, the delegates were all awarded on the basis of the low turnout caucus. Caucuses should be abolished in every state. They're just the best voter suppression method in politics today.

This is similar to what happened in Nebraska, where two and a half times as many Democrats voted in the primary as participated in the caucus. And those Democrats who actually voted chose Hillary Clinton, while Sanders was awarded two-thirds of our delegates because of the caucus win. [Note: My original figures were wrong, so check my revised post here.]

Votes matter. If you're not going to bother voting in a primary, why should we expect you to vote in the general election? Note that, there are other important political races, too, besides the presidential contest. Other issues, as well, in primary elections.

And what does it tell you when Sanders wins caucuses which have, in nearly every case, a very low turnout compared to elections?

I saw nothing about this in the media when Nebraska announced our primary results, absolutely nothing. I hope the same thing happening in Washington will get some notice, at least. I agree with Josh Marshall. Caucuses should be abolished.

I'm fine with getting rid of superdelegates, too, but caucuses are the bigger problem. Caucuses suppress the vote. That's not anything Democrats should be doing.