2015 LIEBERMAN AWARD WINNER: DONALD TRUMP

Posted in Rants on December 30th, 2015 by Ed

(Editor's note: The Lieberman Award is given annually to the worst example of a human being over a twelve month period. Click the tag at the end of the post to review past winners.)

medalGin and Tacos and its parent company, Nordyne Defense Dynamics, hold very high standards with respect to the final product you see published here four or five times per week. When we say someone is an asshole, we want you the reader to know that we have done our homework and vetted the subject thoroughly. We aren't going to give you people who are just kind of an asshole. You can rest assured that when we look back at a year and say "This person was an asshole of such magnitude that 2015 was in part defined by how rotten he is at being human," the honor is richly deserved and well earned.

As loathsome as it may be at this point to give Donald Trump additional attention, there really is no other choice for this award. Here is a man who is so much of a asshole that he succeeds in making people like Ted Cruz seem rational and intelligent by comparison. He leads what is a fascist movement in all but name, exposing the ugliest aspects of the American electorate to no end more complex or noble than to bask in the attention it brings him. Here is a man so devoid of principles that he doesn't mind being embraced by the white supremacist movement and spreading its propaganda, operating on the apparent theory that it doesn't matter who follows him as long as he has a following. He may or may not, as Hillary Clinton claimed, be an effective recruiting agent for ISIS but he sure does wonders for the dying American neo-Nazi movement.

There is no doubt that the thrill of having an audience of fans and admirers is a high on which it is easy for a public figure to get hooked; Elia Kazan's 1957 film A Face in the Crowd demonstrates that principle and its deep roots in American politics. But like any addiction it has the ability to rob people of their dignity in the pursuit of the next fix. People with the ability to feel things like shame and self-awareness are confronted with a moral dilemma; how far will I go to get more attention? Will I lie to get it? Will I stoop to appealing to the lowest common denominator? Will I wade into the basest swamps of populism, playing on racism and xenophobia in exchange for the thrill of standing before a crowd of admirers?

Well, Donald "Lonesome Rhodes" Trump doesn't need to worry about any such questions, because in his mind there is no question. There are no issues of morality or decency, only the goal of having cameras and microphones stuck in his face. Anything that accomplishes that goal is, by definition, acceptable behavior. The end result of his egomania, and the sad willingness of the ratings- and hits-hungry media to debase themselves by rewarding it, is the death of the last few vestiges of dignity in American elections. What were already expensive, hyperbolic spectacles of little interest to many voting-eligible Americans have now become fully indistinguishable from reality shows – and not even the higher class of reality shows that require participants to have some sort of talent to put forth for public consumption, but the most vulgar, Real Housewives of Whatever variety driven exclusively by egomania and delusions of grandeur. So that one man can get half-erect from an ephemeral feeling of power, we've turned the process of electing the president of our country (a process already teetering on the brink of credibility in recent years) into a nauseating hybrid of Survivor and a lynch mob.

There is neither use nor interest in criticizing the things Donald Trump says because the words don't even mean anything to him. They are simply his calculation of whatever he can say at a given moment to draw the most attention to himself. And at this he is truly gifted. No one can deny his incredible instinct for self-promotion. His ideology is not an ideology; there is nothing he says that you could not find in YouTube comments posted by 14 year old boys. He says what people who don't think about things believe. And that is why they find him so inspiring. He boasts of "telling it like it is" when even the most cursory look at his life would lead to the conclusion that this man hasn't the slightest experience with reality or How Things Are. Yet the evil genius of it is that his intended audience is far too dumb to consider that, or to care when it is pointed out to them. The kind of person who could convince himself that a spoiled, sociopathic billionaire is the voice that the Common Man really needs is fully prepared to accept any logical impossibility that he decides to embrace.

In short, Donald Trump is not merely a terrible person. He was the terrible person of 2015. God help us, he will probably ruin most of 2016 as well.

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2015: THE YEAR IN BLACK PEOPLE GETTING KILLED BY POLICE THAT YOU PROBABLY FORGOT ABOUT BECAUSE THERE WAS A NEW ONE LIKE EVERY WEEK

Posted in Rants on December 29th, 2015 by Ed

Tired of Best Movies of the Year lists? Well this should be a refreshing change of pace. Let's take a look at the year in unarmed black people, mostly but not exclusively males, killed by police in 2015. It's worth a review because, as you know by now, part of the process of normalizing these incidents is that you can't focus on any one because they happen so regularly that the media and public never follow any single case to its conclusion, with rare exceptions. I'll cheat just a little by starting at the end of 2014 since 12 year old Tamir Rice was shot in Cleveland by an officer who, it was just announced, will not be punished. This is just a sample of officer-involved killings in 2015, and I've sampled only the most egregiously sketchy cases here. If you want to sort through all 1,190 (so far) from 2015, knock yourself out. Otherwise take a look at this timeline and be honest with yourself about how many of these cases you remember hearing about when the link jogs your memory but otherwise had completely forgotten.

Nov. 22, 2014
Tamir Rice, 12, Cleveland OH
(Officers exonerated)

Dec. 2
Rumain Brisbon, 34, Phoenix AZ
(Officers exonerated)

Dec. 30
Jerame Reid, 36, Bridgeton, NJ
(Routine traffic stop, on video)

Jan. 8, 2015
Artago Damon Howard, 36, Union County, AR
(Weapon discharged "accidentally")

Feb. 4
Jeremy Lett, 28, Tallahassee, FL
(Unarmed, no criminal record, "fit description" of burglary suspect)

Feb. 15
Lavall Hall, 25, Miami Gardens, FL
(Mentally ill, wielding a broomstick)

Feb. 28
Thomas Allen, 34, Wellston, MO
(Cop jumps in moving car to shoot fleeing suspect, "feared for his life" despite fleeing)

March 1
Charly Leundeu Keunang, 43, Los Angeles, CA
(Seven cops against one unarmed homeless man)

March 6
Naeschylus Vinzant, 37, Aurora, CO
(Unarmed, skipped parole)

March 6
Tony Robinson, 19, Madison, WI
(Officer emptied weapon blindly while retreating, unarmed)

March 8
Anthony Hill, 27, DeKalb County, GA
(Mentally ill Air Force veteran, naked when shot)

March 12
Bobby Gross, 35, Washington, DC
(Mentally ill, naked, wielding tree branch, was on DC Metro tracks when shot)

March 19
Brandon Jones, 18, Cleveland, OH

April 2
Eric Harris, 44, Tulsa, OK (Shot "accidentally" by a 73 year old "reserve deputy" playing cop)

April 4
Walter Scott, 50, North Charleston, SC (Officer indicted for murder, since it was on video and he attempted to plant a weapon)

April 15
Frank Shephard, 41, Houston, TX
(Killed after chase)

April 22
William Chapman, 18, Portsmouth, VA
(Officer fired)

April 25
David Felix, 24, NYC
(Mentally ill)

May 5
Brendon Glenn, 29, Venice, CA
(Shooting on video ruled "justified")

June 15
Kris Jackson, 22, South Lake Tahoe, CA
(Officer claimed "perceived a threat", no weapon found)

June 25
Spencer McCain, 41, Owings Mills, MD
(Officer claimed he had a weapon; unarmed)

July 12
Salvado Ellswood, 36, Plantation, FL
(Homeless man slapped officer, who shot him multiple times)

July 13
Sandra Bland, 28, Hempstead, TX

July 17
Albert Joseph Davis, 23, Orlando, FL
(Shot in back while fleeing)

July 17
Darrius Stewart, 19, Memphis, TN
(Officer mistaked him for a suspect)

July 19
Samuel Dubose, 43, Cincinnati, OH
(Officer fired, charges possible)

Aug. 7
Christian Taylor, 19, Arlington, TX
(Officer fired, "regrets" shooting)

Aug. 21
Mansur Ball-Bey, 18, St. Louis, MO (Police claimed he was aiming a gun at them; autopsy revealed he was shot in the back)

Sept. 23
Jeremy McDole, 28, Wilmington, DE (Paraplegic shot after allegedly brandishing gun from his wheelchair)

Oct. 18
Corey Jones, 31, Palm Beach Gardens, FL (Shot by plainclothes cop while waiting by his disabled vehicle on highway)

Nov. 15
Jamar Clark, 24, Minneapolis, MN (Shot while handcuffed, protesters later shot at by white supremacists)

Dec. 26
Quintonio Greer, 19, and Bettie Jones, 55, Chicago, IL (Greer "acted erratically" and Jones, an uninvolved neighbor, was shot "accidentally" according to the CPD)

And remember, this is just a slice of the nearly 1200 people killed by police in the U.S. this year.

NPF: BIRD SHIT, VOL. 2

Posted in No Politics Friday on December 24th, 2015 by Ed

(No, it's not Friday, but presumably everyone is done with or in the process of being done with this week)

So I've really kept you on the edge of your collective seat with that cliffhanger about guano, right? You're thinking nothing could possibly be more fascinating than the Guano Islands Act of 1856 and you keep waiting to be proven wrong. Get ready.

Last time we noted that guano experienced a meteoric rise from useless animal waste to valuable industrial commodity to totally depleted resource in a relatively short period of time. Many of the small islands on which it was found were essentially scraped clean by the latter part of the 20th Century and, just as a reminder, the landscape that gets left behind by guano mining is…bleak:

topside-landscape01
Looks promising

If you live on a very small island with no valuable resources and suddenly it is revealed that your island is literally made of something rich countries want, you can imagine how little restraint would be practiced in harvesting and selling it. Once it is all gone, though, you're back where you started, only worse. You have no valuable resources and now you live in an unremediated, totally cashed former strip mine. Hopefully your nation invested what it earned from resource extraction wisely, right?

That brings us to Nauru.

Leaving aside European microstates, Nauru is the smallest country on Earth. It is barely 8 square miles. Total. For comparison, Philadelphia is 134 square miles in size. Oh, and it's incredibly remote and lacking in infrastructure, so the usual "At least we have tourism!" corollary of the South Pacific does not apply. You're thousands of miles from anything, barren, impoverished, and 1/20th the size of Philadelphia's city limits; what do you do to ensure the economic future of your 10,000 citizens when a fairly large but one-time-only windfall comes your way?

If you're the government of the Nauru you establish the Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust to make that money last. You also make sure that no one who has any concept of what "investing" entails is in any way involved, and those involved conceive of investing in the way a tycoon in 1920s comic books might. During the 1980s the Trust managed to lose nearly every penny the island earned by selling itself to the petrochemical industry through a string of almost comically bad investments. It financed a 1993 West End flop "Leonardo the Musical," about the painting of the Mona Lisa. It was one of the biggest financial disasters in the history of UK theater. It spent nearly a quarter of a billion dollars (AUD) to build Nauru House, a skyscraper in Melbourne, Australia. Eventually it was sold to real estate developers for about half of what was outstanding on the loans the Trust undertook to run it. Partially to encourage tourists to come to the island and partially to allow Nauru's elite to get off the godforsaken rock as often as possible, Air Nauru, the government-run airline, purchased a spankin' new Boeing 737. The tourists never came, as tourists do not generally enjoy going to the middle of nowhere to see nothing and stay in unelectrified concrete block houses. The plane was repossessed by debt collectors in 2004 in what I can only imagine was an awesome job for some Australian Repo Man. Media accounts pitifully underscored the situation by describing the 737 as the island's "only link with the outside world" and Air Nauru's only plane.

At this point Nauru, a poor and indebted nation, did what poor and indebted individuals often do. It turned to the gray economy. Or, you know, crime. Basically crime. It started an "economic citizenship" program of the type that were common prior to 9/11, in which a passport and citizenship were sold to any individual willing to pay $25,000 to the failing government. When that was shut down by the U.S. and Australia, Nauru became a money laundering hub for Russian and East Asian organized crime. That didn't last long, but this time Australia offered Nauru an appealing alternative: it could take millions of dirty Australian dollars to build a prison for asylum seekers. Aussies were alarmed in the 2000s by the number of (NON-WHITE ASIAN) asylum seekers attempting to enter the country, and housing them on Australian soil was considered an unacceptable option. A third nation desperate for cash and reasonably proximate to Australia presented the idea solution. Amnesty describes the detention camp as "a human rights catastrophe, a toxic mix of uncertainty, unlawful detention and inhumane conditions." About a month ago, Nauru decided to simply open the camp and let the detainees wander around the barren island as they please, which has improved conditions.

Just kidding, the detainees are getting raped a lot.

The end of the Guano Economy didn't treat anyone especially well, but nobody can claim that it treated them worse than it did Nauru. It might be the actual worst place on Earth right now, excepting Fresno.

LA GRANDE ILLUSION

Posted in Quick Hits on December 22nd, 2015 by Ed

Many, many years ago, before even beginning the long road into academia in graduate school, I worked at a collection agency. Collection agencies pay well and I needed money after graduating from college with a mountain of credit card debt, not to mention the student loans. Collection agencies pay well because they are terrible places to work. It helped somewhat that I was in a semi-managerial position, which is to say that when the people who owned the place and were properly "in charge" were absent, which was often, I was their stand-in.

As is the case with most wealthy white male businessmen, they did not believe in paid holidays. If memory serves, Christmas was a paid holiday (Jewish employees swapped out another day in December and worked Christmas) but we always worked on the 24th and the 26th. This struck, and strikes, me as ludicrous and uniquely American. Since the principals took nearly the entire month of December off – as Job Creators this was their god-given right, of course – I was inevitably "in charge" during the holiday season. One year I spoke with the owner on the 24th and requested permission to let everyone go at noon. Nobody was working anyway. It was December 24. With Dickensian fortitude, he declined the request and insisted on keeping everyone there all day. With boldness bordering on heroism, by about 2:30 I announced that This is Ridiculous and everybody should just go home.

It was ridiculous. We go through this bizarre American charade of showing up to work and doing next to nothing because to close and to give the workforce actual time off would be, I don't know, slothful? Insufficiently Puritan? It was just ludicrous. Most of a collection agency's activity in our particular niche (hospitals) involves being on the phone with insurance companies and hospital business offices. Since those places tended not to be open (or to be as, uh, relaxed toward working as our office) during the last few weeks of December, nothing was getting done. Why we could not all just admit, "Hey, nobody's doing any work anyway, why don't we all just go home?" was beyond me. It still is.

How much work are you doing today? How much work will you be doing all week? My guesses are "not much" and "very little." Yet just to make sure you understand your place, you have to show up anyway. The boss(es) won't be in attendance, of course. They're in Vail or the Caribbean or one of the other places populated with the deserving few during this time of year. If you're in, say, retail or restaurants it makes sense for you to be at work right now, at least economically, because you're actually working. You might even be busy. But my guess is that a lot of you are sitting around an office checking Facebook every 90 seconds and having long, frequent conversations with your coworkers that serve mostly to fill time.

It's idiotic. Go home. Or at least go to the bar. Tip well.

NEGATIVE MOTIVATION

Posted in Rants on December 21st, 2015 by Ed

Every argument about the presidential election on the internet follows one of two courses. The first is the bullet train to Fantasy Land, with references to bizarre conspiracy theories, inaccurate reconstructions of history, and predictions of things that will never, ever happen. The second is the Let's Be Realistic track, wherein people defend positions that cannot be defended on their merits by appealing to being "practical" or "pragmatic."

Whenever a person describes him- or herself as a realist, they are doing something they know to be wrong and of which they are ashamed. That's a free life lesson.

You'll notice this regularly in conversations about the Democratic nomination this year, and to a lesser extent back in 2008 when Obama started out as a nobody (albeit one with considerably more obvious "electability" than 75 year old Bernie Sanders). Every argument in favor of Hillary Clinton, once stripped of the fallacy that she is distinguishable on most major economic issues from Mitt Romney and that her new-found social liberalism was not determined by focus group three or four years beyond the point at which it was deemed electorally "safe" to take those positions, boils down to "Well, you have to vote for her." If you don't, you're electing President Trump! Remember Nader? Remember Hitler? Why do you want to elect Hitler?

The strange thing is that I don't disagree with this logic. I, and millions of others, will vote for Hillary Clinton simply because the alternative is even worse. This speaks directly to the problem at the core of American politics, though. It is very difficult to get anybody interested in, let alone excited about, a process in which we are constantly reminding them that they have to participate to pick between two things they don't like and choose the one that they dislike less. Does the Clinton campaign really hope to fire up the voting base with semi-authoritarian appeals that everyone to the left of Glenn Beck is essentially obligated to vote for her? Regardless of how "practical" or pragmatic that may be, does it sound like a winning message to you?

What are the reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton? There appears to be one: she can most likely beat any of the shaved apes the GOP is considering as a nominee right now. That's it. Vote for her not because she is good or honest or trustworthy or makes us believe something better about ourselves and our nation, but because she has statistically higher odds of winning the November election than the Democratic alternatives.

I'm not saying that's incorrect. I'm saying it's pathetic, and it goes a long way toward explaining why the campaigns across the political spectrum have to struggle mightily to get half of eligible adults to show up to vote in our most publicized and high-profile election every four years. Imagine you were told that you couldn't cheer for your favorite football team, but could only root for the Chicago Bears to lose every week and support whoever they happened to be playing at the moment. How motivated would you be to devote your time and money to attending games? That would start to feel pointless and boring pretty quickly, and more than a little soul-crushing.

NUMBER ONE: EVERYTHING

Posted in Quick Hits on December 18th, 2015 by Ed

I'm on my way to see The Force Awakens and I'll give you a real NPF soon, but it seems appropriate to remind anyone who enjoys the Star Wars franchise who might not be familiar with them to watch the Plinkett Reviews of the prequels on Red Letter Media. Hiding behind the often ridiculous humor of the Plinkett character is a really thorough deconstruction of exactly why those movies are so bad. Anyone can watch them and come to the conclusion, "These movies are terrible." But if you're at all interested in the process of moviemaking and script development and film criticism, there's a lot in here for you.

If the opening line of Plinkett dialogue – "Episode I: The Phantom Menace is the most disappointing thing since my son. But unlike my son, who hung himself in a gas station bathroom, the Phantom Menace is going to be here forever." – appeals to you, then it's safe to say that his humor will be an additional incentive for you to watch.

Youth, nostalgia, and love of the franchise carried me through Phantom Menace ("Well…I guess it was OK….") but to this day I have never, ever seen a worse movie that I did not go to see specifically because I expected it to be bad than Attack of the Clones. I've seen worse movies, but never one that I went into hoping it might be good. It is so very bad that the idea that there is anyone alive who enjoys watching it baffles me. Right now, about 90 minutes away from seeing the new film, Attack of the Clones is a powerful reminder of just how low the bar is for Mr. Abrams and his sequels.

MAKING TROUBLE

Posted in Rants on December 16th, 2015 by Ed

I don't like posting about Work. Sure, I love telling the occasional classroom anecdote, carefully stripped of any potentially revealing or identifying characteristics but with its core intact, or talking about academia as a field but the "My boss is a pain in the ass" stuff has never been my style and for obvious reasons isn't a good idea for me or anyone else. Fortunately my father and I have jobs that are similar in one crucial respect even though they are quite different, so let's talk in completely anonymous terms about his field instead.

My dad is a local judge. One of the best, if not THE best, parts of being a judge is that the position is essentially held for life as long as you continue to show up to work and do at least the bare minimum amount of work required to claim that you are doing your job. True, state and county judges do not properly hold lifetime appointments in the same way that a Federal judge does in the United States, but let's just say the obstacles to keeping the job once you have it are not formidable in most states. In that sense, judges are very much like professors with tenure. You can do a really half-assed job if you so choose, but short of not showing up to do the job or violating one's contract (punching a student, disappearing for a month, not grading student work, etc) they can't fire you. Similarly, I imagine that judges vary in their activity levels from the bulk of them trying earnestly to do their job well (either to advance professionally or just because of their personality) and some doing as little as possible. That is any and every workplace. One of the leading frustrations people have regardless of profession is the sense, or reality, that not everyone is doing their fair share. Such is life.

What amazes me when my dad tells stories about issues or conflicts at work (not about actual courtroom things, but interactions among coworkers) is how similar the stories sound to ones I hear from academic friends. Of course part of the explanation is that every workplace is the same on some level; people gripe, have petty feuds, gossip, and so on. From the White House to White Castle, that is just the nature of the proverbial office water cooler. But in my line of work and Elder Ed's, the fact that coworkers engage in pitched battles with one another makes even less sense than it usually does. Nobody can get fired. Why in the name of god do people feel the need to quarrel and cause problems when it is explicit that all anyone – everyone – has to do is to continue showing up and if that high standard is met, everyone gets a paycheck pretty much indefinitely?

The other amazing thing is that both of these professions fall under the "Challenging, not hard" category. In one sense we both have what amounts to the easiest job in the world; we sit on our asses all day and spend a varying amount of time talking. We have to write things. Mentally the jobs can be difficult and stressful, but as I like to say, being a professor ain't exactly coal mining. Intellectually it is trying. Physically it's the closest you can get to being paid to lie on a couch.

Despite every word of what I just said being true, people in jobs like this still feel the need – for reasons I have the most difficult time fathoming – to fuck with their coworkers. My best guess is that it boils down to insecure people with fragile egos that require constant stroking and the perception of "insults" where a normal person would either not see one or see it and think, "Yeah but who gives a shit?" If one judge tells another "You are a moron and you don't know anything about the law," why would anyone bother responding with anything beyond "Oh, OK."? And why would anyone care enough to say that to a colleague in the first place? We can't get fired. We have life by the balls. Why, under such conditions, would anyone care about their colleagues' opinions or feel compelled to offer their own unsolicited? If I think you suck at your job it profits me nothing to say so. You will continue to get a paycheck and so will I. It does not matter what you think of me nor I of you. So really, what's the point?

People just need to make drama and conflict, perhaps. Even when none exists and nothing can be gained by creating it. Maybe it's the same impulse that led cavemen to paint on rocks, except in this example we replace the urge for creative expression with the urge to be a dick and start fights every time our fee-fees get hurt or we're bored.

LIKE A BAD SMELL

Posted in Rants on December 13th, 2015 by Ed

Everyone keeps asking when Donald Trump is going to go away. Even The Onion has noticed his staying power, noting the number of times the candidate has said or done something that led observers to conclude, "That was the final straw; he's done now." It turns out though that a campaign can survive a lot when its core supporters are racists, people who aren't very smart, and racists who are not very smart. As superlative nonfiction author Mark Bowden, who covered Trump nearly 20 years ago for a magazine piece, says:

Apart from the comical ego, the errors, and the self-serving bluster, what you get from Trump are commonplace ideas pronounced as received wisdom. Begin registering all Muslims in America? Round up the families of suspected terrorists? Ban all Muslims from entering the country? Carpet-bomb ISIS-held territories in Iraq (killing the 98-plus percent of civilians who are, in effect, being held hostage there by the terror group and turning a war against a tiny fraction of the world’s Muslims into a global religious crusade)? Using nuclear weapons? The ideas that pop into his head are the same ones that occur to any teenager angry about terror attacks. They appeal to anyone who can’t be bothered to think them through—can’t be bothered to ask not just the moral questions but the all-important practical one: Will doing this makes things better or worse?

When your bread and butter is people who don't like to think, it's pretty difficult to drive them away by saying poorly thought out, offensive, and stupid things. And here he is, leaving every major poll about a month out from the first real live nominating events.

So when IS he going to go away?

Well. One school of thought has been that his leading position will disappear when actual votes are cast. In other words, people who say right now that they like him or choose him on polls simply because of his name recognition will get serious and choose a "real" candidate when it's time to vote. Another is that eventually he will say something so offensive that his supporters will abandon him for a candidate with a better chance of winning. I think both of these scenarios are improbable.

The most obvious problem, and also the best explanation for why Trump has yet to disappear, is that knocking someone out of first place requires someone else to step into that position. All of the other candidates in this field are so bad, so inept, and so ruthlessly unlikable that none of them can build enough momentum and support to threaten Trump except Carson, whose followers are of the same "What's the point of thinking?" variety. Were there a single good candidate in the field, you wouldn't have 17 candidates in the first place. There's no Mitt Romney this time around, no candidate who is safe, relatively sane, superficially affable, and ready to be handed the keys when it becomes apparent that everyone else in the field is just too insane.

My best guess is that Trump is going to go away once the primaries heat up, but not for the reasons so many people believe right now. This is a man of unprecedented arrogance who has never paid attention to a detail in his life; something tells me that he and his campaign are not going to shine when the time comes for old fashioned, ground level campaigning to begin. I'm guessing that Trump's ground game strategy is something along the lines of "I'm awesome, of course people are gonna come vote for me." The knowledge, ability, and willingness of a campaign led by an arrogant sociopath and made up of complete morons to campaign effectively in anything but the current "talk into the camera" part of the campaign must be lacking. Who is making up the precinct lists in Iowa? Who's in charge of the ground game in New Hampshire? What's the broader strategy for the first wave of primary states after Feb. 1? Has anyone involved in the Trump campaign at any level though of any of this? Certainly he can afford to pay campaign professionals; has he acquired the services of any competent, experienced ones? What are his volunteers doing aside from showing up at the occasional publicity stunt waving signs?

In short, it remains to be seen if Trump can campaign seriously because this is a man who has never taken anything seriously. He is so in love with his self-styled genius that it probably hasn't occurred to him that he does not know how to run a campaign at the nuts-and-bolts level. If his strengths are limited, as they appear to be, to drawing attention to himself in the national media, then the wheels will indeed come off this clown car when the actual ballots begin to be cast. If not, and he proves smart enough to hire people who know what they're doing to run his campaign, then the historic awfulness of this Republican field could enable him to stick around for quite some time and even, if there is a prankster God who loves us, win the nomination. But that's quite an "if". My gut reaction is that neither he nor anyone like-minded has the attention span and intellect necessary to do the long, tedious work of actual campaigning.

FLAILIN'

Posted in Rants on December 11th, 2015 by Ed

Sorry for the lack of updates this week. I have plenty of things to write about but I'm having a serious case of the Why Bothers. I came painfully, achingly close to resolving my Central Illinois problem but fell short, and if academia continues along its current trajectory I might get another chance to get out in, oh, three or four years. So I feel an awful lot like I'm standing before a judge who just banged a gavel and sentenced me to three more years of wasting my life. That's the best case scenario, in which I will be 41 when I'mfinally be able to do things a normal human being does like start making friends, have things to do, begin working my way up from the bottom rung of my profession, maybe not spend the rest of my life alone, etc.

So yeah, that's where this week is at. I'll try to post NPF soon. Except whether or not I do, it doesn't matter. None of this amounts to anything anyway, and I'm basically doing it to create the illusion that I have someone to talk to. Not that three days per week chatting about the banalities of university politics and being ignored by totally uninterested students isn't fulfilling before I drive back home to stare at Netflix for a couple days on end. Have you ever noticed that if you aren't into stupid shit like church and don't like hanging out with your coworkers it's basically impossible to make friends as an adult? Or even to have a conversation with another adult once every week or two? Yeah, it turns out that very few people leave their house thinking "I hope an unattractive, unsuccessful 37 year old man who is alone strikes up a conversation with me." So in advance, please spare me your stories about how I *must* be doing something wrong because people are always talking to you when you go out.

I don't even know what this post is about. It's pretty clear that I'm at a dead end in my professional life and my personal life doesn't exist beyond chatting with people on Facebook that I knew 5+ years ago when I had a life. It is greatly reducing my motivation to do…anything, really. But especially this. Even when I think of something interesting to write about it's like, what's the point? It's not as if it will lead to anything or that more than a small handful of people will ever read it anyway.

I'm not a nihilist, I swear. It's just that everything is pointless.

FASCISM UPDATE

Posted in Quick Hits on December 7th, 2015 by Ed

Remember a couple weeks ago when I wrote that the Trump campaign is basically the modern American manifestation of fascism, and then immediately after that it got even more fascist? Such as when he proposed putting religious buildings under surveillance, tracking and monitoring Muslim US citizens, and, today, barring any Muslim from entering the U.S. (a move wildly applauded by well known white supremacists)? It wasn't exactly a brilliant or complex insight, but for some reason as soon as people began to point out the striking similarities to fascism someone in the Trump campaign decided that it was time to abandon any pretense to the contrary and go Fascism to 11.

The Huffington Post, although not exactly a formidable name in journalism these days, is right to cease immediately all coverage of his campaign. Other news organizations with an ounce of integrity should do the same. Silly time is over. This is no longer amusing. My guess is that the TV news networks can't quit him even if they want to, addicted as they are to the attention-seeking soundbites he generates daily.

Sinclair Lewis is regularly quoted for his observation that, "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a Bible." He was close. The flag is there, but in place of the Bible it's holding a gun.