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.

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.

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.

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?

OUT IN THE STREET, THEY CALL IT MURDER

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.

JIM RUTH GETS THE FJM TREATMENT

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)***

*Minority
**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.

SO WHY NOT LET'S ROLL THEM DICE, AMIRITE? Seems responsible.

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.

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PATRIOTIC REFLECTIONS

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.

NEW NORMAL

Posted in Rants on June 29th, 2016 by Ed

While some people devote their mental energy to going insane with fear and retreat into the belief that any problem can be solved with enough money and Anglo-Saxon masculine Toughness, the rest of the world begins to realize that living with the permanent, inescapable threat of terrorism is just the new normal. We are seeing why terrorism is so effective and so popular as a tactic – it works. It creates a state of constant fear driven home by the realization that it can't be stopped. It can be fought against, curtailed, and kept in check, but it can never be stopped. As long as there are a handful of people who can get their hands on guns (and god knows anyone can) and think of some brilliant strategy on the order of, "Let's go to the mall / airport / train station and shoot a bunch of people!", terrorism will continue. There is no way around it. High tech, expensive plots can be foiled because there are so many things that have to go right to make them work. Low cost, crude plots like the kind seen in Paris, Orlando, or Istanbul. It's some guys with homemade bombs and cheap guns. No perversion of the balance between freedom and security can account for that, provided they're not dumb enough to do things like call information and ask for the number for ISIS.

You can kill as many terrorists as you want, pass a bunch of laws that create the illusion of security, and vote for as many right-wing xenophobic ultra-nationalists as you can find, and ultimately it won't bring the one thing everyone seeks: peace of mind. The feeling that one can live and work and travel and play without the risk of some idiot with a small arsenal bursting in and blowing himself up or firing off a few hundred rounds. The risks can be minimized but never eliminated, which is slowly driving older, more reactionary cliques in the Western world insane. This isn't The Commies who could be kept at bay with Deterrence and saber-rattling, nor the Nazis or Imperial Japan who could be bombed and burned and shot into submission. It's a new, persistent threat that our aging leaders are trying to counter with strategies from a different era.

Europe and the US are starting to experience a state of affairs that is already quite familiar to states with weaker central governments. Take your average poor or moderately developed country and the power of the government doesn't extend much beyond the borders of major urban areas. With rural areas not under effective control, the urban population gets used to living with endless, percolating insurgency in The Countryside. And every once in a while a car bomb explodes or a mortar shell lands in the suburbs or someone wearing a vest of cheap plastic explosives blows himself up in a market. That's just life.

This is what happens now. Get used to it. Anyone who claims to know how to stop it either doesn't understand the nature of the threat or is lying.