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 (not many of them, in either case).

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 slightly different from what happened in Nebraska, given the pathetic turnout in our primary, too. (The caucus turnout was only 2.5%, while the primary turnout - without the presidential contest meaning anything - was even less than that.) Still, in both cases, Sanders lost the primary, but still received the most delegates.

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.


A big nothingburger


The State Department released a report on Hillary Clinton's email server yesterday. Here's the article in the New York Times.

But to my mind, this comment by Josh Marshall at TPM sums it up pretty well:
Let's focus on the essential point: Despite the fact that there are some real questions about the impartiality of the IG, the report says the issues with the management of the Secretary of State's emails are of longstanding and go back with the last five Secretaries of State. The report also singles out Colin Powell, who had a similar set up. The criticism is there. It definitely wasn't a good arrangement. But to see this as a damaging report after the hyperbolic and frequently insane coverage of this issue is crazy. This was never more than some poor judgment overlayed by a big bureaucratic pissing match all slathered over by a thick layer of partisan game playing and media derp.

Like most Clinton scandals, if there there hadn't been months, maybe more than a year of weird conspiracy theories, expected perp walks and general nonsense, one might read this and say, wow, that's disappointing. But after all that, it's just a big nothingburger. Like it almost always is.

Yup, that about sums it up. But Republicans want political ammunition, so they'll manufacture it from whatever they can. And the media want viewers. The media want sensationalism. A story on "nothing to see here" is useless to them.

There's another thing that strikes me about this ridiculous 'controversy.' There were no negative results from it. Not even Republicans claim that anything actually happened as a result of her using her personal email account (as other Secretaries of State did, as well).

At least the Benghazi circus had four dead Americans to drag through the political muck. What does this have? Conspiracy theories?

Keep in mind that government officials still send personal emails. They're expected to keep official business separate, though that's entirely a matter of their own judgment. The fact that Clinton sent personal emails, too, is a complete non-issue, no matter how much her political enemies try to imply something nefarious.

Republicans have attacked Hillary Clinton nonstop for two decades now, and the media have gone along with it, because 'controversy' sells. Those attacks have had a real effect on Clinton's popularity (which Republicans have even admitted was the whole point), but they haven't found anything that's even slightly noteworthy.

Just a big nothingburger.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Trevor Noah: the NRA endorses Trump



Yesterday, I showed you the video clip of Seth Meyers covering this same issue. Today, it's Trevor Noah. I thought the similarities and the differences were interesting.

And both are quite funny, of course. Donald Trump is the gift that just keeps on giving, for comedians.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Let's put some soothing ointment on that Bern



I'm getting increasingly fed up with Bernie Sanders - well, with his supporters, mostly. But he's feeding this.

I liked the way he was running his campaign at first. But apparently, he doesn't play well with others. What is more important, his own political ambition or the possibility of a Trump presidency?

He's losing. It's almost over, in fact. But he's not losing because of any conspiracy against him. He's losing because more people voted for Clinton. That's how it works.

I mean, it's bad enough that voter suppression has been giving Bernie Sanders a boost. But those were the rules going in. They damn well should be changed for the next election (but probably won't be), but if he had won with those caucuses, he would still have won. But he didn't.

Throwing a tantrum because you're losing - or because your beloved candidate is losing - is not going to do anyone any good. Except the Republican Party, maybe.

Samantha Bee: the religious right, part 2




The above video clip is just the introduction, but I thought it was worth including here.

I posted the first part of Samantha Bee's The Religious Right last week (here). Now for Part Two:





It bears repeating. Abortion was just a convenient political issue for the religious right. Their real concern was keeping the tax breaks on their segregated, white-only schools.


Seth Meyers: the NRA endorses Trump



How could anyone support Donald Trump? How could anyone believe a word he says?

Republicans aren't just crazy; they're crazy even by their own standards of crazy, let alone mine. Of course, the NRA always takes crazy to a whole new level, but... sometimes they still surprise me.

Yes, I know that they're faith-based, not evidence-based. But is there no limit to what they'll swallow? Apparently not, huh?

Of course, this is Donald Trump we're talking about. Clearly, you must place no value in reality whatsoever in order to think that Donald Trump is presidential material in the first place.

Monday, May 23, 2016

John Oliver: primaries and caucuses



What a way to pick a president, huh?

I've blogged about this previously, how caucuses are voter suppression on steroids (not my phrase). In that post, I said:
And here in Nebraska, where the Democratic Party has had a caucus since 2008, party leaders are struggling to get voters to show up at the primary, where other offices are at stake, but not the presidential election. That can't be good.

So, how did that turnout? Just as bad as I expected.

Bernie Sanders won the caucus in Nebraska, and was awarded two-thirds of our delegates. But nearly half of his supporters couldn't be bothered to actually vote when the primary election came around. Hillary Clinton 'won' that election (though it was meaningless at that point, of course).

Make no mistake, the turnout was pathetic in both cases and for both candidates. Almost 15% of Clinton supporters didn't bother to vote, either - a lot better than the 46% of Sanders supporters who shrugged it off, but not good.

And keep in mind that the caucus turnout was pathetic in itself - just 2.5% of eligible voters, apparently. Even that was more than they expected. Believe it or not, the headlines here in Nebraska were about the "big caucus turnout."

There are two problems with this. The first is that caucuses suppress the vote. Yeah, 2.5% turnout was considered huge (with a fierce presidential contest still undecided, too). Well, I don't want my presidential candidate determined by 2% or less of the Democrats here.

But the other problem is that there are other races and other issues, all of which need voter consideration, as well. However, when you take away the presidential decision from a primary election, how do you get people to show up for it?

As I say, here in Nebraska, nearly half of the people who gave Bernie Sanders that caucus win didn't even bother to vote a few weeks later.

And it's worse than that, because here in Nebraska, the Democratic Party caucuses, but the Republicans don't. Thus, Republicans do have the presidential contest to get them out to the polls. (As it turned out, Donald Trump was the only candidate left by the time Nebraska held its primary, so there wasn't much of an incentive for them, either. But that was pure luck.)

I've heard a lot about those notorious "superdelegates" this year, and I don't want our presidential candidate determined by them, either. But I think I'd rather have superdelegates - most of whom were elected, at least - making that decision than caucuses. Of course, I'd much prefer to have a primary election.

At least it's relatively easy to participate in a primary. At least you have to work at it to suppress the vote in a primary. And if you vote in a primary, maybe we can have some confidence that you'll actually show up to vote in the general election, too.

Friday, May 20, 2016

We've been here before


Do women walk around naked in women's restrooms? Are there no doors on the stalls? Do you just sit side by side, chatting with your neighbor?

Indecent exposure is still a crime. Nothing about transgender policy would change that. So what's the problem?

Now, in a men's room, there are urinals. But for some reason, we don't hear about the problem of women standing beside a man at one of those. (Admittedly, I probably wouldn't notice, because I don't look at the people peeing beside me, let alone at their genitals!)

As Trevor Noah points out, we've been here before. We've been here when racists were outraged about the idea of sharing a restroom with a black person. We've been here when homophobes were outraged at the idea of sharing a restroom - or a shower - with a gay person. It's the same thing.

Well, not quite, because transgender people are a tiny fraction of the population. If you're not one of them, chances are good that you will never have a problem or even anything that you could imagine as a problem. Indeed, they've always existed, and we've never had a problem before now. Do you routinely inspect the genitals of every person you share a restroom with?

For transgender people, this is a problem. It's a problem they face every day. But for the rest of us, it's not. For the rest of us, it's just bigotry or acceptance.

PS. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend this video. Transgender rights haven't been on the radar for most of us for very long. Ignorance is understandable, but can - and should - be corrected.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Samantha Bee: the victims of super-PACs



Two video clips from the same show on the same day? Sorry, I couldn't resist. Samantha Bee is doing such a good job! Besides, it's not as though I've been posting all that much lately, huh?

I just thought this was funny. Mel Immergut seems like a good sport, at least, even if I can't stand his politics and hate the whole 'money is speech' idea that lets the wealthy buy our politicians. On the other hand, it cheers me up that they don't always get what they pay for.

Samantha Bee: the religious right



I knew all this, but I wonder how many people realize that it was racism that got the religious right active in politics. Abortion was just a happy (for them) accident, an issue that turned out to be popular (and better for their image than segregation).

Edit: Here's Part Two from Samantha Bee.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Republican Party's cancer train


Yup, this is kind of what I think about it (minus the peeing). Sure, it's embarrassing. Sure, it's dangerous as hell for America. But it's still hilarious.

The Republican Party brought this on themselves. And I really, really hope they end up regretting what they've done the past few decades.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Rising xenophobia

In another incident of hysteria and xenophobia - as we've seen in previous incidents like this one - a blonde passenger on an American airlines flight became suspicious of her seatmate:
On Thursday evening, a 40-year-old man — with dark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent — boarded a plane. It was a regional jet making a short, uneventful hop from Philadelphia to nearby Syracuse. ...

Had the crew or security members perhaps quickly googled this good-natured, bespectacled passenger before waylaying everyone for several hours, they might have learned that he — Guido Menzio — is a young but decorated Ivy League economist. And that he’s best known for his relatively technical work on search theory, which helped earn him a tenured associate professorship at the University of Pennsylvania as well as stints at Princeton and Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

They might even have discovered that last year he was awarded the prestigious Carlo Alberto Medal, given to the best Italian economist under 40. That’s right: He’s Italian, not Middle Eastern, or whatever heritage usually gets ethnically profiled on flights these days.

Menzio had been on the first leg of a connecting flight to Ontario, where he would give a talk at Queen’s University on a working paper he co-authored about menu costs and price dispersion. His nosy neighbor had spied him trying to work out some properties of the model of price-setting he was about to present. Perhaps she couldn’t differentiate between differential equations and Arabic.

Yes, that brilliant American passenger couldn't distinguish mathematics from Arabic. Not that it would have mattered if this man had been writing Arabic. So what? Not that it should have mattered if he'd been of Middle Eastern, rather than Italian, ancestry. What in the world has happened to us?

You can read the whole story here. But it's completely insane. Like Donald Trump's candidacy, it's a triumph of hysteria, xenophobia, and irrational fear over sanity, courage, and common sense.

Actual Islamic terrorists must be laughing their asses off. This is exactly what terrorism is designed to accomplish. It works best on cowards, because cowards overreact. And what better way to destroy America than to encourage America to destroy itself? (They must be overjoyed at the rise of Donald Trump.)

It's bad enough that we have to take our shoes off before boarding a plane, because one guy tried - unsuccessfully - to explode his shoes. And it was certainly disgusting that we were willing to torture prisoners of war because we were scared (or because the Bush Administration wanted to justify their invasion of Iraq, take your pick).

But this degree of hysteria is just ridiculous. Now an Italian economist can't even take a plane in America? Or anyone who speaks Arabic to a relative on a phone? Or any Muslim at all? (Or anyone who even looks Muslim?)

What has happened to the America I love?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Donald Trump: Republican Party unifier



This is a campaign ad from Hillary Clinton. Pretty good, isn't it? I don't think I've ever agreed with so many Republicans as much as I do here.

Of course, I don't see it changing any minds. If you supported that boastful clown in the first place, you're beyond reason. And the majority of these Republicans - who know exactly how bad Trump is - will still back him in the general election. Few will put country above party.

After all, this is the same party that deliberately used racism for political advantage. This is the same party that, as our country was collapsing in the worst economic crash since the Great Depression, pledged to do nothing to help, in order to make the situation as bad as possible for our first black president. This is the same party that committed treason against America to advance their own political ambition.

Donald Trump is a natural progression from that. So is Ted Cruz, who was Trump's only real rival on the campaign trail. This is the Republican Party Republicans have created from decades of their Southern strategy of deliberately wooing white racists.

It all comes back to that Southern strategy. In the 1960s, Democrats chose to do what was right, rather than what was politically advantageous. In response, Republicans chose to do what was wrong, because it would give them a lot of political power. (And it did. Using racism was wildly successful.) Today's Republican Party - Donald Trump and all - is the result of that.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

The party of Donald Trump



"The Republican Party is the party of Donald Trump." Yup. Seth Meyers is absolutely right about that (as he proceeded to demonstrate).

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A win for hate and nonsense


Well, after losing Indiana, Ted Cruz has dropped out of the presidential race, so it's smooth sailing for Donald Trump to win the GOP nomination.

Wow! Hard to believe, isn't it? Republicans have actually chosen that clown to be President of the United States!  Who could have predicted this?

Of course, it's not that Ted Cruz would have been any better. In both cases, I'll refer you to my earlier post about how the Republican Party's hate and nonsense debt has come due. (And no, that's not my phrase. I was paraphrasing Josh Marshall at TPM.)

That's still my opinion, so I won't repeat myself here. I've done that often enough, already. But now, we'll see Republican Party leaders changing their tune about Trump, don't you think?

And really, he just does Republican hate and nonsense better than they do. They might be unhappy about that, but they'll get over it.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Caucuses are voter suppression on steroids?

(TPM)

From Josh Marshall at TPM:
You know that I've been saying over and over that to the extent that the Democratic nomination process is 'rigged', the rigging has been a huge advantage to Bernie Sanders. As I've noted, that's mainly because of caucuses. It drives me crazy, candidly, when Sanders claims on the stump that where voter turnout has been highest, he's done best. That's not remotely true. Indeed, where it's been lowest, he's done best. Almost entirely because of caucuses, which are really the most effective voter suppression method in politics today.

And now here's a good visualization of this fact.

Jeff Stein at Vox highlights this study prepared by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law which captures a lot of what's wrong with caucuses. Read the study itself because it goes into specific issues with complaints about disenfranchisement, complaints, reasons for the problems, etc. But the bare numbers tell the story clearly enough.

As you can see, with the single slight exception of Idaho, no primary state had a lower turnout than any caucus state. Most primary states were in the 30% or 30%+ ballpark, with two states (which Sanders actually won) around 50%. Most caucus states were under 10%.

If you care anything about voter participation or making sure people can vote even if they have a job or don't have a free evening to spend at the local YMCA or school gym, the case against caucuses is simply overwhelming.

That image probably isn't easy to see, but there's a larger version here. Or maybe this image will work better:

(Vox)

This isn't about the current election, not really. Caucuses have apparently helped Bernie Sanders this year, but both sides knew the rules before the election even started. No, this is about our democracy.

This is about encouraging more participation in our political process, rather than suppressing the vote (even if that's not the intent, it's still the result).

And here in Nebraska, where the Democratic Party has had a caucus since 2008, party leaders are struggling to get voters to show up at the primary, where other offices are at stake, but not the presidential election. That can't be good.

In state after state, the Republican Party has been trying to suppress the vote, especially the vote of Democratic-leaning constituencies. It's time for the Democratic Party to stand up for increased participation. Caucuses are not the way to go.