DIDN'T WE DESERVE A LOOK AT YOU THE WAY YOU REALLY ARE

Posted in Rants on July 27th, 2016 by Ed

Wednesday morning we all got a glimpse of why I've been predicting that Trump will hang himself given enough time and rope. He delivered a lot sooner than expected. I assumed it would happen during the debates. It's OK – it'll probably happen then too. It's going to keep happening until this is over.

There have been dozens of "Well certainly he must be finished now, right?" moments throughout the campaign. Nothing, now that he has won the nomination, is going to "end" his campaign. But the unhinged, half-assed comments inviting Russia to commit espionage to help him dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton are – unlike the other unhinged, half-assed comments so far – are not going to go away. They've undermined one of the only effective plays he had against Clinton.

Personally I couldn't care less about the "emails" pseudo-scandal, but there's no question there was a legitimate (if overblown) point to be made. To people who think that's a big deal, she didn't have much of a valid response to criticisms about what has been deleted, where it was stored, etc. Again, I find this all ridiculous, but to someone suddenly deeply concerned about emails sent years ago then I guess it's an issue one could press.

Now, every single time someone says "emails" the Clinton campaign doesn't have to respond in detail about the minutiae of server space. They can say, over and over again, "I showed bad judgment? I compromised national security? You actively invited a foreign government leak classified material. Who's judgment is questionable here?" And believe me, they are going to run that into the f-ing ground. They are NEVER going to let up on him for this, because even if it's not the most shocking, inflammatory, or outrageous thing he's said it is beyond any doubt the one that shows the most glaring flaws in him. It's the kind of inappropriate that anyone who isn't a Trump die-hard will hear and say, this guy is out of his mind – unless you think the Russians are suddenly popular with middle America.

Nothing hurts Trump per se because his supporters are a cult and they don't care about facts. This doesn't hurt Trump either. But it hurts his ability to attack Clinton. Had he thought about this for more than ten seconds and if he had a modicum of self-control and an adult attention span, he certainly would not have turned his best weapon into a Bugs Bunny gun that shoots himself in the face every time he pulls the trigger. But that's just it: He will never stop himself. He can't stop himself. He can't censor. He can't hide what he is. He is an unserious, petulant child in a bloated adult body. And now every time he tries to attack Clinton and question her judgment, anyone paying attention will be reminded of all of those characteristics and reminded of how dangerous they are in an elected leader.

"His supporters won't care," you say. And you're right. But here's the thing: the core of Trump supporters isn't even as large as the Republican Party, because there are a not-insignificant number of Republicans who can't bring themselves to vote for this guy. They'll either skip the presidential race or waste a vote on Gary Johnson. The united "We must defeat Obama" GOP was not enough to get Romney anywhere close to victory. So how is a portion of the GOP – the Tea Party plus some – going to do it? It isn't. That's why I'm confident, even though Clinton would be toast against a stronger GOP candidate. This guy has zero appeal outside his already fanatical followers. He is running an American version of a far-right European party's campaign, and they get 10-15% support at best. The people who like that message really like it, but it's hard to expand beyond that core. There are no "casual" neo-Nazis. You're in or you're out.

Independent and undecided voters are always overstated during elections, but the few genuine ones that exist are likely to be swayed by just this sort of thing – nothing that requires detailed policy understanding and knowledge. Instead, something that immediately and undeniably shows him to be an dangerously unpredictable fool. Like McCain in 2008, the convention week will prove to be Trump's peak. It's all downhill from here. Remember, people reacted very positively to Sarah Palin for about a week. Then she had to talk, and we know how that turned out.

LET IT ALL OUT

Posted in Rants on July 26th, 2016 by Ed

I'm getting to the point of personal overload on this election and hoped to take a little break for some different topics this week, but who am I kidding. So, quick roundup of Day 1 of the DNC.

This was well-scheduled. Give the first night to Sanders and Sanders supporters. He gave a terrific speech, as did Michelle Obama. Elizabeth Warren, meh. She had a zinger or two. But that address gave me a little more insight on what her potential limitations as a presidential candidate could be. She, like Barack Obama, has a Professor Mode. She's more of a lecturer than a "Let's go burn this motherfucker down" orator. She didn't do badly. It was just "meh."

Sanders insisting on a roll-call vote for the nomination is irrelevant. If that formality makes his supporters feel a little better, great. The outcome is the same whether the vote is counted or done by acclimation. Nothing gives any candidate the right to be elected by acclimation, so there's zero benefit to pushing for it.

And this is the part where I'm going to try very hard to be Good. To be Nice.

The more I listen to them, the more it's clear that the fundamental disconnect between Sanders supporters who will vote for Hillary and Sanders supporters who will not vote for Hillary is not an ideological one. It is a difference in worldview. And while not all of the "No Hillary" Sanders supporters are young, they seem to share in common a worldview that is often stereotypically ascribed to "millennials" (if that term even means anything anymore). There have been moments in my career dealing with college students in which I've been left speechless – you can appreciate how rarely I'm unable to fill the air around me with words – by their worldview. It's not a liberal-conservative thing, it is the apparent expectation that the world somehow has to make itself appealing to them. For example, I've had exasperating conversations with students who refuse to accept their only job offer because it either doesn't pay them what they have decided they're worth or it isn't "fun" enough for them. And I ask them sincerely, "So do you expect to just wait until the job market gives you what you'd like it to give you?" And you'll have to take my word on this: Some of them say yes. Some of them really do move back in with mom and dad and not work at all for years – years – waiting for something they think is worthy of them to come along. And of course it never does.

The "No Hillary" people they interviewed on MSNBC may have been cherry picked, but the ones that didn't sound dumb as a post expressed a large, visible amount of frustration with this process and with the fact that the choices available to them are unpleasant. People feel this kind of frustration all the time in all areas of their lives. The thing I just do not understand though – and here is the unbridgeable divide – is why they feel that if the choices don't please them, then they can refuse to make a choice until they get one they feel is worthy of them.

Nobody has to vote. The Sanders people are not in any way obligated to vote for Hillary Clinton or at all. Similarly, the students who don't like the jobs they're offered are free to refuse and wait for something else to come along. However, in both cases they seem destined to learn the hard way that refusing to do anything that you're not over-the-moon enthusiastic about doing is not an effective way of bringing better options to the table for the future. I just feel sorry for anyone whose approach to any part of life, including politics, is "I'm devastated if I don't get exactly what I want." God almighty, life must be one crushing disappointment after another to a person with that attitude. There are a handful of Hillary loyalists who really super-duper love Hillary Clinton, but they are a distinct minority. As with any other candidate, most people who plan to vote for her just like her better than the other options. Nobody promised us a rose garden. Sometimes you make a choice you don't love because you admit to yourself that the alternatives are worse. Is anyone reading this really excited about getting up and going to work tomorrow? I bet not. But you're going to do it – we're all going to do it – because it's the best choice we have at the moment.

To people whose worldview precludes that, politics, and I daresay a lot of other parts of life, is indeed bound to be extremely disappointing and frustrating.

VICTORIAN DIET

Posted in Rants on July 25th, 2016 by Ed

I read a great deal of history, none of which fascinates me more than 19th Century European and American history. A rough period beginning with the Industrial Revolution and ending with World War saw the world change more than it did in any similar span of time before or since. People born in the West in 1800 were born into a world that was essentially Medieval in medicine, technology, communication, travel, diet, and social organization. If that person lived to 1900, they died in a world with prototypical versions of all the same technologies we have today. It's truly amazing.

One thing Victorians had in common with pre-20th Century Americans – you could argue that this still has not changed – was a preference for indescribably bland food. Brits and Americans really nailed the whole concept of food that doesn't taste like much; no other cultures anywhere on Earth can lay a finger on us in that arena. This was partly out of necessity, as the spicier and more flavorful foods tend not to be found in cold climates, but also from distinct cultural preference. Victorians believed like no other people ever have any foods even slightly more exciting than a boiled potato or piece of white bread with a little butter was bound to cause great harm to one's constitution. "Exciting" foods were thought to be harmful to the digestive system, inappropriately arousing to the imagination and loins, and an invitation to countless maladies for which medicine had no cure.

Yes, I have a point.

The logic behind that is dubious. I find really spicy food to be the best medicine for some things like sinus problems. But when you're weak or recovering from a bad bout of the flu, the standard Middle Class American remedy of weak tea or flat soda combined with saltine crackers or pretzels does in fact do the trick. Those are not things that you'd ever get passionate about eating, but if you've been hurling your stomach lining up for a weekend they make a lot of sense.

That brings us to Tim Kaine. A big slice of white bread with some room temperature tap water. It's tempting to say he's not the most exciting pick for a running mate, but he may in fact be the least exciting.

It makes perfect sense from two perspectives. One is that Hillary Clinton is a politician, period. She makes decisions strategically, not ideologically. Moreover, she is the most risk-averse politician in modern memory. "Safe" would be the best description of every choice she makes. To her, an ideal candidate is one who doesn't expose the campaign to criticism, not one who somehow boosts the campaign over the top. Obama did the same thing; he didn't need a VP to help him win, so he just picked whoever he wanted. That worked out alright. The second way Kaine makes sense is that he is boring. It's an asset to be seen as dull, competent, safe, and reliable when one's opponent is a red-faced bellowing lunatic. This fits perfectly with how I described Clinton's campaign strategy last week – the goal is to be Adults in the Room while the Trump campaign operates like a circus run by a lunatic. Is that going to make many Democrats and liberals excited? No. Is it likely to lead to victory? Yeah. It's a good strategy if one's goal is simply to win. And we all know that winning is what this is all about for a career politician like Clinton.

Face it: He may not be exciting, but Kaine checks the boxes like no other. He has age, experience (legislative and executive), and swing state cred. There was no other choice that anyone familiar with Hillary Clinton could find plausible. She and Warren can't stand each other. Julian Castro is 41 and has five years as a mayor on his resume, making him a major "Not ready" liability. Thomas Perez has never been elected to anything. Cory Booker was probably the runner-up, but his love of the spotlight probably hurt him. So the optimal strategy here was to play defense, to play it safe, to pick someone who would Not Hurt the campaign more than he would Help it. He might not be a very exciting or interesting choice, but strategically it makes perfect sense. No one is more cold, calculating, and cynical than a staff of campaign professionals, and Clinton's obviously concluded that Trump had done enough to chase away the black and Hispanic vote and no VP choice aimed at firming those bases up was necessary. Cynical? Certainly. Correct? Yeah, probably.

When your opponent is a human ulcer spewing bile and acid in every direction, Clinton is betting that tap water and saltines will look pretty appealing in contrast. It's not exciting. That's the point.

ONE IN THREE

Posted in Quick Hits on July 21st, 2016 by Ed

So, as of Thursday morning we've had a speaker give Trump a Nazi salute for some reason, a crowd of yokels taking a break from their usual schedule of filling up local newspaper comment sections to chant creepy, third world ideas about how the democratic process works, six billion references to Benghazi and more uses of the words Hillary and Clinton than either Donald or Trump, a campaign team so inept that they gave Ted Cruz a primetime slot to spend twice his allotted speaking time taking a shit on Trump, a deranged man talking about Saul Alinsky and comparing Hillary Clinton to lucifer, a bizarre spectacle of Trump calling in to do a live interview with Bill O'Reilly because his own convention was so boring that apparently he didn't want to watch it, and an opening night of the convention basically devoted to a bunch of random nobodies talking about Benghazi and why America needs to worship law enforcement and the military more.

Meanwhile, other than the House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader, of whom the GOP appeared to mandate their appearance and pretend enthusiasm, fewer than ten members of the Republican Party in Congress (and, unless I missed someone, no governors other than future ex-Governor Pence) bothered to show up to their party's own convention. And here's the thing – regardless of any of this, regardless of the obvious fact that the candidate is a giant child-sociopath with zero interest in anything other than himself, about a third of the country is going to vote for him. Of everyone you see today of voting age, roughly one out of three of them think this is all great. Just what the doctor ordered for America.

The sad part about this whole degraded and degrading spectacle is not that Trump is going to win. It's the number of your fellow Americans who have retreated so far into their own fantasy world that they actually believe this person should be given access to nuclear weapons, American diplomacy, appointment power, and the legislative process. We don't need to elect Trump to know we're deeply messed up as an electorate; any number of votes he receives above zero is sufficient evidence of that.

OPTIMISM ABOUNDS

Posted in Quick Hits on July 19th, 2016 by Ed

People ask me how, given the degraded state of political discourse, I can be so confident that Trump isn't going to win. If you consider Monday night at the GOP Convention you'll have your answer. Ignore the plagiarism thing for a moment and consider that the GOP, like any party, is made up of politicians. They may be ignorant and wrong in a million ways in terms of their beliefs and positions and ideology, but nobody gets to where people like Senators, Governors, and Washington insiders without having good instincts. If these people know nothing else, they know self-preservation. And with just a handful of exceptions, they know not to get on an obviously sinking ship.

When TV viewers flip to your convention and the stands look like the third period at a minor league hockey game, it's not a good sign.

When the number of Senators willing to show their faces at their own party's convention can be counted on one hand, it's not a good sign.

When your first night's speakers lineup is a random group of nobodies there to rehash internet comment sections – Benghazi! Obama's a Muslim! Cop Lives Matter! – because no one more substantial in the party wants to appear, it's not a good sign.

When the news media spend the night talking about what went wrong with your campaign on July 18, it's not a good sign.

When the best celebrity you can get to show up is Scott Baio, it's not a good sign.

And more than anything, when your party that lost two straight presidential elections because it couldn't get anyone other than older white people to vote for the candidates decides to devote the opening night to doubling down on the message "Brown people are scary and dangerous" (as one Romney associate summarized the evening), it's not a good sign.

That's why I'm certain he's going down in flames. We already knew going into 2016 that the GOP is up against the wall in presidential elections because they struggle so much to appeal to African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, younger people, and people in urban areas. And rather than even pretending like they care to do something about that, Trump decided to hit people who are already voting for him – authority worshiping racists, basically – with a supersized dose of the message they've been getting all along: vote for me and I will get rid of all the Bad people. The people who don't belong here. The people who aren't Us.

You know how little patience I have for conspiracy theories, but last night was so bad that I found myself doing a double take on the theory that this is all a scheme Trump is executing to destroy the GOP because he's secretly a liberal. It's not true, but I can't blame people who are tempted by it. It's not entirely implausible anymore, not after what this convention is turning into.

I doubt many Republicans read this. If so, I feel sorry for you. This must really hurt to watch.

AUGMENTED REALITY

Posted in Rants on July 18th, 2016 by Ed

For more than three decades I've been at a loss to understand how people could have no interest in what's happening in the world around them. How can you not consume some form of news? Doesn't it drive you crazy to be unaware of what's going on? What if you miss something important? How can you tune out politics and elections so completely? Hell, by the time I was in kindergarten I felt weird if the paperboy was late and I didn't see the front of the Chicago Tribune before school.

Sunday I woke up, opened my laptop, and went to CNN. Screaming banner headlines about another attack on police officers resulting in at least three deaths. I blinked a half-dozen times to make sure the morning fog had cleared. I half-read the main story about it, then paused. I opened another tab for Cap Friendly. Ooh, the Stars just signed Jamie Benn to a huge extension. Wow. $76 million. Well, that's the going rate for a guy who finishes in the top five or ten in goals every year. Dallas is gonna be good, real good, if they can find some more help on D. Close all tabs. Close the computer. I left the house and didn't take my phone with me.

I can't claim to have fully informed myself on every news story of significance throughout my life, but that was the first time I can recall just…not being able to do it. With the unbroken string of horrible, crazy shit that has cast a pall over the world in the last few months, and without the events in Dallas, in St. Paul, and (the first) Baton Rouge being fully digested and comprehended, there was no part of me able to even take in another story along the same lines. Throw in the major European/Asian terrorist attack of the week and I didn't just ignore the news on Sunday. I actively avoided it. For one of the only times in my life, something important was happening and I had absolutely no desire to know anything about it. I still managed to feel guilty, but I can imagine that with enough practice that feeling would fade. Eventually.

It was only one day, one story, one experience. It helped me to understand, for example, why people retreat into Pokemon Go and Netflix binges and baseball season and reality TV and Tumblr and anything else you can do to take your mind off of the real world these days. Paying attention to what's happening around us arguably is more important right now than at any point in my lifetime, and that makes it feel all the more…heavy. Taxing. It feels like trying to conduct the activities of a normal life, and to interact with other human beings in a normal manner, while dragging around a sack of bricks. It makes perfect sense to want to put it down, even if only for a while.

What's going on here in the United States and around the world bothers me. I have to admit, it bothers me a lot. It's bothering me more than I realized. It hangs over me like a cloud. Sunday morning in Baton Rouge was my limit, apparently. I want to be engaged, but 2016 is making it difficult to remain engaged indefinitely. I am (we are?) used to terrible things happening intermittently. So we train ourselves to handle short sprints. This year is like a marathon; no breaks, just mile after mile of slogging. Obviously I don't have the stamina for it, especially knowing how many miles we still have to go.

I'VE SEEN THIS MOVIE BEFORE

Posted in Uncategorized on July 15th, 2016 by Ed

No Politics Friday is canceled. For obvious reasons.

I'm not the smartest person in the world, but I've read enough to know where this is going. To know how it ends. To see what happens when people become sufficiently fearful of The Other to weaken their attachment to civil liberties and embrace authoritarianism as it seduces them with promises of greater security. We've seen this before and I don't like where we're heading at all.

In Mexico, for example, the insane levels of violence that have resulted from the so-called Drug War have left better off Mexicans more than willing to give up rights, freedoms, and liberties (at least in theory) in exchange for greater security. In Europe, no matter how much they enjoy looking down their noses at the United States for our obvious problems with race and state-administered violence, their commitment to cultural liberalism crumbles fairly easily in the face of non-European immigration.

The ISIS plan all along – and without commenting on the morality of it, it's hard not to recognize its brilliance – has been to radicalize European Muslims by provoking extreme reactions from European non-Muslims. Despite the prejudices and social isolation they no doubt encounter, European Muslims have developed an appreciation for life in Europe over the last three decades. Yes, there is no doubt that they experience prejudice and racism and the sharp end of the stick of xenophobia, but if you asked the average Muslim immigrant to Europe how life there compares to life in Syria or Turkey or Iraq, they're going to look you in the eye and say "This is just fine." So ISIS endeavors to create enough chaos to provoke a far-right reaction from European governments which will allow them to tell European Muslims, "See? We told you so! Look at how these white Europeans treat you!"

I'm afraid, given the number of major terrorist attacks in Europe over the past year, that the strategy is on the verge of working. Far-right nationalist parties have been doing better than usual in European elections for the past few years, and xenophobia is on the rise everywhere. A nation partial to cultural hegemony like France is not far away from getting a decent amount of public support behind an idea like "Let's round up all the Muslims and put them in camps." It's plausible because there really is no means for a modern nation-state to stop attacks as low tech as what we've seen lately. The attack in Nice required nothing more than access to a truck. The pool of people in Europe who meet that stringent criteria number in the tens of millions.

What has been seen recently in Europe is not 9/11, not the London 7/7 bombings, not the Madrid train attacks. We have seen attacks lately that literally cannot be stopped because they are so low tech. It takes no sophistication, no ISIS coordination, no detailed planning to mount an attack along the lines of, "Let's go somewhere with lots of people and shoot a bunch of them" or "Let's find a big crowd and drive a truck into it." As people across Europe try to come to grips with the inability of states to grapple with these one- or two-man terrorist attacks, far right wing authoritarianism is going to appeal to more and more of the population. There is no way to stop one man acting alone driving a truck into a crowd of people; so, anyone pushing the message, "Let's get rid of all of Those People" will have the upper hand.

I do not like where this is headed. I do not like it one bit.

RUNNING IN PLACE

Posted in Rants on July 14th, 2016 by Ed

As the general election campaign shapes up along the lines of yesterday's post, one glaring flaw in what is very likely to happen becomes apparent.

Hillary is proceeding exactly along the lines that anyone familiar with the Clinton / New Democrat brand would expect: play it as safe as possible, emphasize dull competence, propose nothing until it's already clear that a large majority favors it, and give Republicans more than enough rope to hang themselves. To reiterate a point I beat nearly to death already, this is a terrific campaign strategy for 2016. Any competent campaign professional paid to advise her campaign would tell her to follow this course. The problem is, what makes for an effective approach to campaigning will translate to a terrible approach to governing.

Going all in on a safe, boring, status quo message is 99.9% likely to net Clinton a win in November, but therein lies the danger. Using the election as validation, she's likely to double down on it at a time when the nation faces a number of serious problems that demand the kind of leadership that mushy centrist Beltway types are fundamentally incapable of demonstrating. This is precisely why Sanders was the superior candidate; more accurately, he would have made the better president of the two. Just when the country most needs someone to move it forward, we have a candidate and likely winner whose entire political ethos is based on maintaining the status quo. She's betting – wisely – that older voters are averse to uncertainty, and nothing in the recent history of American politics is more unpredictable than Trump, whose campaign is rapidly descending into SNL skit territory. "Vote for me and I promise to keep everything basically the same" will seem appropriately comforting at the worst possible moment for the country.

That has been the argument against Clinton essentially forever. What matters to her is getting elected, but it's pretty clear that there isn't a whole lot beyond that on her wish list. Whenever a candidate runs for president without being able to articulate a goal beyond getting to be president (Mitt Romney, for example) we can safely be assured that they're not going to be going out on many limbs if and when they accomplish their only goal.

People remember the 90s fondly because they were strong economic times, not because Bill Clinton accomplished much of anything as president. The things he did do were straight off of the Republican agenda – NAFTA, welfare reform, and other fantasies from the neoliberal wank bank. This time around it's likely that the personal animosity between Republicans and Hillary Clinton – say what you will about her, you'd be hard pressed to find someone not named Obama who has been attacked and insulted more persistently and viciously than her for the past 20 years – will preclude the likelihood of many GOP-White House collaborations. So assuming continued GOP control of the House, which is all but inevitable, where does that leave us if the most likely possibilities at the moment play out?

It leaves us at a stalemate of the variety we saw during Bill Clinton's second term. Basically nothing will happen for four years. We got away with that from 1996 to 2000 when the GDP was growing at rates not seen since the 1950s. This time around, sitting on our national hands for four years while all of the problems ripping at the fabric of the nation fester will have much more serious consequences.

ADULT IN THE ROOM

Posted in Quick Hits on July 12th, 2016 by Ed

Obviously leaked rumors indicate that Hillary Clinton is considering former NATO Supreme Commander Admiral James Satvridis as a running mate. There's a lot to unpack here.

First, if I had to bet my life savings I'd call Vegas and put all $53.14 on this being a longshot. It's more likely a pre-screening of a guy who's at the top of the list to be Secretary of State or Defense in the future.

Second, as one of the commenters on Facebook put it, "bringing on a decorated military figure as a running mate should totally assuage fears of hillary being an unhinged hawk who will start four wars a year." I'm not inside the Clinton campaign, obviously, but I think it's pretty clear that they're adopting the attitude that with Sanders out of the picture, most people on the far left are going to vote for her simply because she isn't Trump so she doesn't have to worry too much about pissing them off. It's deeply cynical and pretty hard to disagree with.

Third, people I know in the foreign policy world speak very, very highly of this guy. Bear in mind I don't socialize with a lot of war hawks. He succeeded in getting NATO to stop acting like it's 1980 and the Soviets are about to come crashing through the Fulda Gap. And he does have a few interesting, albeit occasionally veering into corny, things to say about the nature of security today.

Fourth, the Grand Strategy for the Clinton campaign, of which the choice of a VP is only a small part, is strategically brilliant and highly likely to piss off a lot of people searching for excuses to talk themselves into voting for her. We all know how the media and older, more conservative types fawn all over military men. We know that Stavridis fits (just watch him speak for 30 seconds in that link) the stock description of a Very Serious Person to a tee. He could have no idea at all what he's talking about, but he looks and sounds like he does. So Clinton is going all in on a strategy of building a campaign of people who will make Trump look like the immature, half-assed bar drunk shouting at Fox News that he is. There is no way for any Democratic candidate to reach the people who love Trump, but older people (and older Republicans in particular) who are embarrassed at the thought of voting for Trump but also dislike Clinton might be convinced if they see just how stupid Trump looks and sounds next to a Very Serious Person. Trump will make his campaign a circus and fill it with people who don't know their ass from a hole in the ground; we're talking about a guy who wants Mike Ditka to speak at the GOP Convention. I guess Clinton is just going to play it safe and assume that when the small percentage of voters who are both rational and on the fence will break her way when they compare the idiots campaigning for Trump with her group of actual adults who sound like they've read a book at some point.

Remember above all else that VP picks tend to have little to no significant effect on vote choices in November. The expectation that they can "save" a shitty campaign is a fantasy, so in recent years the candidates who don't need Saving have been picking whoever they feel most comfortable around regardless of any perceived electoral benefits. Right or wrong, I think Clinton thinks she is going to win, so there's no need to pick a running mate she isn't 100% comfortable with in order to satisfy some bloc of voters or regional interests. That may be how running mates were chosen in the 19th Century, but those days are long gone.

NORMALIZATION OF DEVIANCE

Posted in Rants on July 11th, 2016 by Ed

Teaching will age you. Current high school students and college underclassmen, for example, don't remember 9-11. One such moment that stood out in my teaching career was making a reference to Rodney King and then having to explain who Rodney King is to a group of legal adults. The saddest part was not how old I felt at that moment, but that my students simply could not understand why it was a big deal. The idea that a video of police beating up a black man – who didn't even die – was ever novel or unusual to Americans is, for today's young adult, baffling. They made the same face they make when I tell them that television only had three channels at one point.

We have a problem. We have always had a problem, in fact. The violence isn't new, but the cameras are everywhere to record it now. What happened in Dallas last week was a sadly predictable reaction in a nation that already knows well the amount of havoc one angry young male with a high powered firearm can cause. I suppose young black men can only watch so many videos of police killing people who look like them with no greater social response than excuse-making, justifications, and victim-blaming before one person in a nation drowning in guns is going to decide that killing cops is a valid response.

I keep holding out hope that we will learn something from this, that police can say to themselves "All those Dallas officers wanted was to do their job and go home alive at the end of the day" and have some moment of inspired transference wherein they realize that every black person they pull over in a traffic stop wants the same. I keep holding out hope that empathy is an emotion that any adult is capable of experiencing if it is encouraged. I'm not giving up yet. But it's not looking good.

For now, I'm going to do what I do best and try to subject the problem with the way we respond to these incidents to some cold logic.

As this radio personality angrily but succinctly pointed out last week, the basic problem here is the culture of mutual protection that pervades law enforcement. There is never an incident of police conduct that other police do not defend. If every single incident is met with excuses and rationalizations, if there is never an incident that other police look at and collectively say "Holy crap, that's totally unacceptable," then we have to conclude that according to police, no police officer has ever done anything wrong. If they're never willing to look at one another and say "That's wrong" or "You suck at your job," that implies that police are right 100% of the time. That's flatly illogical, and any American in any profession can reach that conclusion without difficulty because the idea of 100% of any group of people being competent is ridiculous on its face. Are 100% of teachers good teachers? Are 100% of your co-workers good at their jobs? Do 100% of cabbies drive well? Are 100% of salesmen honest? Are 100% of stylists giving good haircuts?

OK. So with just the briefest application of logic we can reject the idea that 100% of police are good at their jobs, and that 100% of the actions police take are appropriate. It's totally implausible. Any profession has malingerers, assholes, malcontents, sociopaths, and incompetents. This includes police.

If most cops are good cops as we are repeatedly told – and statistically that's true, as most departments have a few officers who account for the majority of complaints – then it is time for the Good Cops to stop participating silently in a broken system. It's time for Good Cops to do something about Bad Cops. Enough with the Wells, the Buts, and the Umms, the excuses and the justifications and the sanctimonious explanations of why black men never, ever perform the correct steps in the correct order to avoid getting shot while Dylann Roof can kill nine people in a church and the police take him to Burger King on the way to jail because he wanted a Whopper. Public protesting of the actions of police is less likely to motivate changes (and will do so a lot more slowly) than Good Cops refusing to condone further the behavior of their Bad colleagues. I defy anyone to come up with a more effective way to restore the trust and confidence that the public no longer has in law enforcement than following up a video like the death of Eric Garner, for example, with the chief of police saying "This is unacceptable and we will do whatever is necessary to make sure it never happens again" and following through on the promise. Instead we get boilerplate bromides about the police investigating themselves (inevitably determining that they did nothing wrong) and reserving judgment until all the facts are in, a time period that happens to coincide with the time required to put the character of the dead man on trial and explain why his death was his own fault. Until all the Good Cops can look at these videos and say "This is wrong, period" there can be no trust and no confidence. If police think the police are right every time, what does that say about their judgment?

Nobody's promising that it will be easy. We've all seen Serpico. This is, in the literal sense, a matter of life and death. If you're a Good Cop, now's an excellent time to prove it. Police are always telling the public that policing – maintaining order, preventing crime – starts with the community and the citizen. Imagine if they applied the same concept to themselves. If it's just a few bad apples…well, what's the second half of that saying?