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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


Posted in Rants on July 6th, 2016 by Ed

What can be said at this point that hasn't been said before? I got halfway through writing about Alton Sterling, felt like I was repeating myself (which no doubt was true) and realized that there was nothing to say that Roxane Gay didn't say in the New York Times:

It’s overwhelming to see what we are up against, to live in a world where too many people have their fingers on the triggers of guns aimed directly at black people. I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know how to allow myself to feel grief and outrage while also thinking about change. I don’t know how to believe change is possible when there is so much evidence to the contrary. I don’t know how to feel that my life matters when there is so much evidence to the contrary.

This is what happens when tragedy becomes routine. Even with a second video that looks even worse (for the police) than the first, we all kinda know where this is going. It isn't going anywhere.The police will investigate themselves and determine they did nothing wrong. The Justice Department will make some noise and then back out once the media and public have moved on to something else.

After another round of listening to right-wing white men with hard-ons for guns (although oddly enough they don't seem to be leaping to the defense of Mr. Sterling's right to have had a gun in his pocket) invent a reality that allows them to pin the blame on anything and everything but race, we're left with the same problem. That police manage to place white people carrying guns under arrest constantly without shooting them, and that white people openly brandish guns (as allowed by law) without so much as a second glance from law enforcement, has to be explained away with complicated logical gymnastics to avoid the reality that police approach white and black suspects differently. They respond to them differently. Even black police treat black suspects differently. The culture of law enforcement reinforces the idea that a white person with a gun is probably a law abiding citizen who, even if arrested, certainly won't attack police. A black person is a criminal, period, and must be approached with a hair trigger since all black Americans really truly desire out of life is to kill cops.

In this case we've fabricated a tale in which a man with both hands cuffed behind his back and two police officers sitting on him was "reaching for a gun" despite the video showing nothing of the sort. It was bad enough in the days before smartphones when there was no visual evidence to contradict the horseshit Official Position of the police. And now that we have it, we're apparently willing to ignore it and stick with the old system of weaving a tale that conforms to our preferred conclusion, a racist version of the Just World Phenomenon wherein everyone gets exactly what they deserve and nothing more. Or less.


Posted in Rants on July 5th, 2016 by Ed

As the writers at Lawyers, Guns, and Money already noted, only the fact that the following opinion piece ran in the Washington Post (which presumably checks on such things) stands between us and the conclusion that it is a parody and its author is not a real person. "Jim Ruth" is taglined as a "retired financial adviser," which if true suggests that pretty much anyone can write a featured editorial in WaPo these days. Maybe if you send in 100 cereal box tops they give you 500 words. That explanation for how this happened is as plausible as any other.

If you're ready to read some Grade A, Hope Diamond level bullshit passive-aggressive rationalizations for voting for Donald Trump despite the fact that he is an idiot-child sociopath beloved by white supremacists and every American who has lost a toe on a carnival ride, read on. To reiterate one final time: this is real. You may need to come back to that sentence to ground yourself; it will be your Inception totem in the dreamlike netherworld of white Boomer fantasies in which you are about to be cast three levels deep. It is entitled – You ready? Have a sip of your drink. Dim the lights. – "I Hate Donald Trump. But He Might Get My Vote."

There is no god.

No Trump campaign buttons or bumper stickers for me.

That sounds like something a human adult who can read would say. That's great, but forgive me if we don't burst into applause for it. It's like declaring, "I have no plans at present to burn down a mosque." It's a declaration that raises questions about why you would even have considered it in the first place.

I’m part of the new silent majority: those who don’t like Donald Trump but might vote for him anyway.

Oh, you mean white people over 50. Yeah, no, that's not a majority. In fact you're all dying much more quickly than you're being replaced with new Old White People. Also I'm not entirely sure Jim Ruth knows what "silent" means. These people are the literal antithesis of silent. They bleat like goats being castrated without anesthetic. The average Trump supporter shouts more than any human being who is not employed as a gym teacher at a bad middle school. A roomful of Trump supporters sounds like a demented chorus of whistling teakettles backed by the undulating beat of an air raid siren.

For many of us, Trump has only one redeeming quality: He isn’t Hillary Clinton. He doesn’t want to turn the United States into a politically correct, free-milk-and-cookies, European-style social democracy where every kid (and adult, too) gets a trophy just for showing up.

If every email forward sent from a Hotmail or AOL account in the past eight years could be condensed into a single, insipid statement, this is it. If you didn't read that card catalog of right wing talking points in the voice of your uncle who claims he can't work because he's "disabled" but sure does ride his ATV and complain about lazy black people a lot, then you did it wrong.

Have you noticed that these people REALLY don't like "political correctness"? As best I can tell, what they mean is that they can no longer call that woman at work with short hair a dyke without getting in trouble. It's their god-given right, dammit.

Members of this new silent majority, many of us front-wave baby boomers, value hard work and love the United States the way it was.

Hoo-boy. I got some work to do here. OK. Members of (this new silent majority,)* (many of us)** front-wave baby boomers, value hard work and love the United States (the way it was)***

**All of us
***Back when being white and male was 95% of the battle, and the other 5% was pretty much "not being Jewish or gay"

We long for a bygone era when you didn’t need “safe spaces” on college campuses to shelter students from the atrocity of dissenting opinions, lest their sensibilities be offended. We have the reckless notion that college is the one place where sensibilities are supposed to be challenged and debated. Silly us.

This is the Rainbow Parties of the 2010s. Honest to god, I have taught at three different universities of substantial enrollment and literally have not once ever encountered anything like this. This is what people who have never been on a college campus think a college campus is like. To the extent that students exist who feel this way, they are very few in number and probably no different a proportion of the student body today than such Overly Sensitive Strawmen have ever been in the past. Yeah, some people cry when they receive criticism for the first time. That isn't new. The other 99.9% of college students are interested in, in descending order, boning each other, getting drunk, and looking at their phones.

And please don’t try to stereotype us. We’re not uneducated, uninformed, unemployed or low-income zealots. We’re affluent, well-educated, gainfully employed and successfully retired. Some of us even own our own business, or did before we retired, creating not only our own job but also employment for others. While we’re fiscally conservative, we’re not tea partyers. And on certain social issues, many of us even have some leftward leanings. Shhhh . . .

OK so you're a "majority" but you're affluent, well-educated, and gainfully employed or retired? Yeah the majority of Americans are affluent. This guy knows what's up.

Bonus lolz: "Don't stereotype us! We're not like those Skoal-chomping fucktards who vote for the same people as us and believe all the same things we do! We're different."

The only pleasure the new silent majority has taken throughout this primary season has been watching progressives marinate in their own righteous indignation. They were giddy, like spoiled children opening Christmas presents, as they watched 17 Republican combatants call in airstrikes on one another. But eventually the tables turned as the Hillary-Bernie slugfest got ugly, and we took particular delight in the sourpuss expression on the faces of the lefties we know when they realized that the Republicans, left for dead, suddenly had new life and a chance to win the presidency.

It's hard to sum up six months of the nomination process involving 20-some candidates in a short paragraph, but…really? This is what Jim Ruth ("Jim Ruth") took away from that? Because it sounds an awful lot like the summary of a sporting event one would hear from someone who did not actually watch that sporting event but overheard some people who did watch it but aren't real bright summarize it.

We are under no illusions about Trump.

To read Jim Ruth say a bunch of things that contradict this statement directly, press 1
To read Jim Ruth tell some bumper sticker jokes about Hillary Clinton, press 2
To read Jim Ruth make a logically consistent argument suggesting underlying integrity, press 3

Hey, this phone doesn't have a 3!

We know that this Man Who Would Be King is a classic bully and a world-class demagogue in his personal, professional and political lives. He will continue to demonize his perceived enemies and take the low road at every opportunity.

Well those sound like some pretty goddamn convincing reasons not to vote for the man who gets to decide when nuclear weapons are used. I'd say that person would be quite dangerous with power.

And we know that if Trump makes it all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., the view after that is murky at best.


We’re confident that he will surround himself with smart and capable people from the business world, as well as some Capitol Hill veterans. But here’s the rub: Past business associates describe him as a micromanager who likes yes men at his side. How long this new Washington brain trust will last in a Trump administration is anybody’s guess.

Yeah I'm also confident that the man who wants the GOP convention speakers to be a bunch of sports celebrities because he's "sick of politicians" is definitely going to surround himself with a real mix of talent and experience.

I read the work of college undergraduates for a living and this is the actual dumbest argument I've ever read.

Who’s to blame for the Trump phenomenon? There’s culpability on both sides of the aisle for the absence of bipartisanship that fueled his rise. The left blames the policies of a fragmented, delusional, right-wing GOP. But the left bears responsibility, too.

Who here is surprised that it's "the left's" fault? In fact, it wouldn't be entirely surprising if it was you know who's fault…

Turns out that the obstructers in Congress weren’t just the Republicans, as Bob Woodward reported in his book “The Price of Politics.” President Obama kept “moving the goal posts” in the 2011 sequester negotiations with Republicans. And who can forget the way Republicans were bullied over health care? They were left with no choice but to use every procedural maneuver in their arsenal to block, delay or postpone the liberal legislative agenda.

Ahh that's the stuff. OK seriously, which one of you wrote this? This section doesn't even make sense. And how could anyone not respect the intellectual integrity of an author who falls back on "We would totally be reasonable if the other side just wasn't so darn awful and dangerous" argument. Because that's what Republicans are: people who would work with Democrats if only they would believe all the same things as Republicans do.

So why then would rational, affluent, informed citizens consider voting for The Donald? Short of not voting at all — still an option some of us are considering — he’s the only one who appears to want to preserve the American way of life as we know it. For the new silent majority, the alternative to Trump is bleak: a wealthy, entitled progressive with a national security scandal in her hip pocket. In our view, the thought of four to eight more years of a progressive agenda polluting the American Dream is even more dangerous to the survival of this country than Trump is.

Finally, some honesty. What he means is, "We're scared." The world is different than it was fifty years ago – and somehow this surprises us, probably because we are unbelievably narcissistic and stupid – and we can't handle it. We want the demagogue who promises us that we can go back to women knowing their place and the homos staying in the closet and the blacks using the other door. That's what "American Dream" means to people like this guy – not the dream of freedom and prosperity, because as the author states he already has that. What it means, then, is the dream of a nation in which they (white men) hold a dominant position in the social, economic, and political hierarchy. He just claimed a few paragraphs ago that he and this "Silent Majority" have done extremely well. So if this isn't a social hierarchy thing, what exactly is it?

I'll wait.

So come Nov. 8, you’ll find many of us sheepishly sneaking into voting booths across the United States. Even after warily pulling the curtain closed behind us, we’ll still be looking over our shoulders to make sure the deed is shielded from view. Then, fighting a gag reflex, we’ll pull the lever. We hate Donald Trump. But he just might get our vote.

The funniest thing about this is the way he mocks Safe Spaces College Kids when in fact this entire column is a classic example of one of the most legitimately annoying thing The Kids These Days do: Wasting mental energy trying to explain how they have noble motives for making selfish choices. Look, Jim, you are going to vote for Donald Trump because he stands for everything you do. You just said as much in the preceding lines. All you're doing here is intellectualizing (or trying to, badly) your reactionary politics to make yourself look like a smart person making a sound, reasoned choice for which valid arguments can be made. I hope it made you feel better, Jim, because those of us who had to read it certainly don't. As the Kids say, tl;dr – Old racist white guy tries, fails to argue that he is not old racist white guy for voting for old racist white guy.



Posted in Rants on July 3rd, 2016 by Ed

On this Independence Day, don't let anyone tell you what it means to be an American.

Don't let whoever can shout the loudest define who is and is not a Real American. Ronald Reagan and Audie Murphy were Americans. So were Sandra Bland and Mother Jones and Fred Hampton and Eugene Debs and Paul Robeson.

Don't let other people use their total ignorance of history to invent an America that never was and then insist that we must return to it – an America devoid of slavery, inequality, Indian genocide, gender discrimination, and white supremacy.

Don't let anyone rewrite American history as an unbroken tableau of pure Rugged Individualism devoid of collective action, community, public goods, and the role of central government.

Don't feel ashamed to assert the difference between patriotism and jingoism just because the people around you think they are one and the same.

Don't forget that Mel Gibson or Chuck Norris or John Wayne war films are not documentaries. They are idealized fantasy versions of what in reality were struggles that required monumental collective sacrifice and effort to achieve success.

Don't let anyone forget that this country has, for more than 300 years, become home to people of every language, skin color, religion, nation of origin, and ethnicity. Rarely have we succeeded in welcoming all of these people with open arms, but we have the opportunity to learn from those mistakes and recognize how much better we are for it.

Don't support the fallacy that America has buried all of its problems in the past; that, OK, maybe a few people used to be racist but now we elected a black president so racism is over; that the drum beat of war hawks may have led us astray a few times, but this time is different; that we used to discriminate against women but stopped, and we used to treat poor people badly but now we don't, and that unfettered Robber Baron capitalism brought us to ruin once but this time just you watch and see the magic.

Don't let anyone convince you that it's OK to vilify other Americans to justify one's own failures. The poor did not steal your money. The Mexicans did not steal your job. Nobody is coming for Your Women or your guns or your Bibles.

Don't be silent when people voice support for denying rights to other Americans that they demand for themselves.

Don't let descriptions of the Good Ol' Days go unchallenged, without pointing out how many people had to be oppressed and discriminated against to allow white middle class America to enjoy the post-War prosperity to the extent that it did.

Don't listen to rants about The Young People These Days without recognizing how many advantages our predecessors had that young people today do not and never will have.

Don't be swayed by symbolism and empty emotional appeals. Think about what being an American means rather than shouting bumper sticker slogans.

Don't forget to remember all that we do have without forgetting all of the ways in which we can do better.

And, most importantly, no matter how much as it seems like a good idea to light a firework while it's in your hand, trust me on this one. It isn't a good idea.