Posted in Rants on November 24th, 2015 by Ed

I loathe the fact that I'm about to bring up political theory for the second time in one calendar year but it's not my fault that modern conservatives hold such deeply illogical beliefs that we have to go back to square goddamn one with these people to try to make sense of them.

In an introductory course on American Government one does not linger on theory. Basically (with one, maybe two class periods available to talk about the basic concepts in politics, the Constitution, and the founding period before moving on to the dozen other topics we have to cover in a semester) most of us hit Locke, Hobbes, Paine, and the rest of the "This is why people choose to govern themselves and to be governed" stuff. There is no heavy lifting. With the time pressure involved, most of us are satisfied if the students grasp the idea of the Social Contract, collective action problems, and the freedom vs. security relationship. I linger on the last two. They are important, so if the students walk away with nothing else I want them to get that.

I explain freedom and security as two opposing ends with a slider on the scale inbetween. We could achieve perfect security, for example, only by giving up all freedom; if everyone were chained in a small box and fed through a tube then nobody could commit crimes against their neighbors. On the other end of the spectrum we achieve perfect freedom in pure anarchy by giving up any semblance of security. Everyone can do anything and you have to sleep sometime. Life is elemental and sad because no meaningful economic or cooperative activity can take place. So in practice every society sets its preferences at some point between the two, accepting that by giving ourselves freedoms we are forfeiting the idea of complete safety. By giving Americans the freedom to move about as they please and buy whatever they can afford (including some things that could be used to do harm) we are choosing (reasonably) to live with some risk. We're never completely safe. As I tell the students, the only way to guarantee that you won't be stabbed on the way to your next class is to create a society in which either cutlery or the right to walk around outside are forbidden. It's certainly not likely to happen, and that's why we choose to live with the minuscule risk that it will.

This is all incredibly simple, yet here I am explaining it because half of adult Americans do not appear to understand it. At one moment we appear to believe that we can protect ourselves from a nebulous and ephemeral threat and at the next moment we are willing to increase vastly the risks to ourselves and to society. The same people, for example, who oppose admitting Syrian refugees because doing so might pose the slightest increase in risk of danger from terrorism are most vocally in favor of letting everyone carry any kind of gun anywhere and at all times. We're so concerned about our security that we are willing to let Syrian refugees die (literally) to protect ourselves, yet we don't see a problem with handing out powerful, high-capacity firearms to any possibly unstable, possibly deranged white guy who can pass a laughable background check (or use one of the many loopholes in gun sales to circumvent even that) and hand over the purchase price. Our national principles can be jettisoned when we're confronted with scary brown refugees but when we deal with the desire some of us have to avoid being murdered at work or school our freedoms are sacrosanct.

The only way to turn that mental detritus into something consistent is to realize that these people accept the risk of being around armed-to-the-teeth dumbasses inasmuch as they assume that the arming will be limited to people like themselves and the violence they meet out will be limited to the dark, scary Other. They certainly aren't envisioning groups of black male teenagers or Mexican immigrants or guys named Hassan walking around open-carrying .223 rifles. They're envisioning themselves and other rednecks enjoying the freedom of being armed and serving as self-contained judge-jury-executioner units. Similarly, they are fine with immigrants who look or act sufficiently like themselves but crap the bed at the mere thought of anyone dressed differently, non-Christian, with a Foreign Name, or, God forbid, dark skinned.

In short, you're unlikely to see the massive proliferation of guns throughout our society as a threat to your security if you picture yourself and people like you, with whom you share an understanding of who is and is not a Threat, as the ones doing all the shooting. In that light it makes perfect sense.


Posted in Rants on November 23rd, 2015 by Ed

I teach a biennial course called Media & Politics, a catch-all course of the type you find in any half decent political science department in the country. We cover topics like the various theories of how viewers are affected by what they see and read on the news, how structural changes in the media over time have changed the way news is reported, forms of bias, and how political actors try to manipulate the media to their advantage. As far as academic courses go, it's pretty interesting. One thing we cover in depth is the impact of professional norms in journalism on what we see and read. Journalism is no different than any other profession in that there are broadly agreed upon standards of professional conduct (which are flouted on more than a few occasions, of course). One of the most important norms in recent years is objectivity.

Long story short, conservatives have succeeded since the 1970s in beating the "Liberal media" drum so loudly and insistently that journalists are now, as a group, quite defensive about it. Accusing the media of bias is a low-cost and fairly effective strategy. Even if the coverage one receives remains negative, the accusations will at the least lead reporters to pull back a little to prove just how Objective and Fair they are. In the Republican primaries, for example, most of the coverage of people like Trump and Carson is negative. But on the merits it should be a lot more negative. Basically the media should be telling viewers "This is a modern fascist movement driven almost entirely by racism, stupidity, and xenophobia." Since that is a true statement, anything short of that shows that reporters are more interested in being perceived as Fair than in taking any professional risks by inviting the ire of a campaign and its supporters. The path of least resistance is to hold back a bit, play the Objectivity game, and let the campaign pass into the shit heap of history.

It is fair to wonder, though, when a bunch of frothy-mouthed white people literally administer a gangland beatdown to a black protester at a Trump event if treating his campaign like a legitimate political phenomenon is not far more irresponsible than it would be to openly insult and reject it, forsaking all pretense of professional neutrality. There comes a point at which simply covering this without being explicit about what it is abets it. Were I a journalist (a lamentably easy construction to use, as of course I am not) I would have some reservations about what responsibility I might have as a professional in legitimizing that movement. It's obviously difficult to single out just one GOP campaign, and deciding which one is the most openly fascist, racist, and dangerous is like trying to pick the worst L.A. Clippers team from the 1990s. Competition among superlatives is never easy. Nonetheless the Trump campaign is openly embracing email forward / Facebook comments level racism and racist memes at this point. Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary responses.

The whole Trump campaign is a live-action internet comment section; nobody feels compelled to take the latter seriously, so why do we have to treat the former with a disingenuous objectivity that it does nothing to deserve?


Posted in Rants on November 18th, 2015 by Ed

Admitting you're wrong is a difficult thing to do but it's also a sign of maturity and wisdom. So I'm not entirely embarrassed to admit that I think I've been wrong about concealed carry for a long time. I agree with Donald Trump and essentially every Republican voter: the solution to the problem presented by terrorist attacks and mass shootings is more guns.

Maybe the NRA and the ammosexuals have been right all along and the widespread adoption of concealed carry might stop or lessen the body count from attacks like we saw in Paris last week. I doubt it, but it's not impossible. Maybe all of the would-be Rambos who envision themselves pulling out a concealed weapon and blazing away to save the day really can use their guns as effectively as they seem to believe they can. I wouldn't bet money on it, but there's only one way to find out.

No, I'm flip-flopping on concealed carry because I think that the only point at which we will begin to address – sincerely, and not just as window dressing and kabuki theater – the root causes of problems like this is the point at which we realize that our society is undeniably, completely, utterly broken and descended into the most grotesque kind of lunacy. And I think when millions and millions of people are walking around with guns and we respond to crimes or terrorist attacks in progress by blazing away en masse like some vulgar Wild West fantasy scenario, we might recognize how fucked up we have allowed ourselves to become. When someone opens fire in a theater and 1000 people pull out concealed pistols to return fire we might have a moment of self awareness. It will happen when our actions are as visibly barbaric as our ideas; when the world we see in front of us is as black and hopeless as our thought processes. We are hurtling toward a Mad Max / State of Nature world at present, so why not hurry up and get there faster. Arm everyone to the teeth and bring on Thunderdome.

Maybe people need to see with their own two eyes what the world they're advocating actually looks like, what the end result of the ideas they advocate will feel like to wear and to live with. As we are at a sincere loss for ideas on how to stop terrorist acts that can be perpetrated very cheaply, by a small number of people, with resources and planning skills within the abilities of any but the most incurably dimwitted, this is as good a time as any to give Vigilantism a try. Maybe we will like what we see. More likely, we will finally see how miserable, insane, and inhuman our world will look when we get what we have insisted for so many years is the solution. The only way to convince a lot of people to their satisfaction that a world in which every individual is judge, jury, executioner, and Delta Force commando rolled into one is utter insanity is to make them live in it for a while.

Those of us who survive will no doubt learn a great deal from the experience.


Posted in Rants on November 16th, 2015 by Ed

What is the point of these large scale terrorist attacks in Europe, aside from what they share in common with all acts of terror?

The first step to answering that question is to read this piece from March by Graeme Wood entitled, "What ISIS Really Wants." It's a very long, thorough, and non-sensational account of their theology. Given that they are motivated entirely by their theology, that's important to understand. The too long, didn't read version is that they want to establish a caliphate and initiate the apocalypse. Their view of Islam holds that all Muslims are obligated to join their caliphate because, and stop me if any of this sounds familiar in re: religious extremists, they alone correctly understand Islam and are, in short, the only True Muslims.

That's a very well researched take. Assuming that the people running ISIS are not naive and lacking any secular political awareness, here's what I think they want.

Europe has a lot of Muslims. Like the U.S. or any other country, European nations have some issues with immigration and suffice it to say that they haven't been welcomed with open arms. That said, Muslim immigrants to Europe appear to find living in Europe on the whole alright. Not terrible. I'm sure they feel (with justification) discriminated against or unwelcome at times but Muslims in Germany, France, the UK, etc. hardly look like they are eager to go back to their original countries of residence. The situation could be better but life in France is far superior to, for example, life in Iran. So the dominant attitude among European Muslims, especially younger ones, appears to be "Sure, this is alright."

Radical extremist Muslims do not like this. They want Muslims to loathe Western society and to be primed for radicalization. They want that for selfish reasons – to grow and legitimize their terrorist organizations. They can neither grow their movement nor succeed in their goals if Muslim kids in Europe are wearing miniskirts and going to music festivals. The problem they face is that while Muslims in Europe face discrimination, they're not treated badly enough to make them hate Western society and governments. They certainly don't hate them enough to want to start killing them. In order for Europe's Muslims to be radicalized en masse as opposed to only a few here and there becoming attracted to "The Cause," European governments would have to treat them worse. Far worse.

Logically, then, what ISIS wants is to push European states far enough to produce a massive anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim backlash. Not just a backlash in terms of attitudes and prejudices but of laws. If some far-right government came to power in France and decided, for example, to round up every Muslim into camps or to force Muslims to carry electronic devices to track their movements then ISIS and their ilk can claim to be prophetic; "See? See? Look at how they treat us!" Recruiting young Muslims to anti-Western and anti-anything other than hardcore Islam terrorism would become a whole lot easier.

That's what I think their real goal is, theology notwithstanding. The worse Western societies treat Muslim immigrants the easier it will be to craft recruitment propaganda. The more indiscriminate large scale killing ISIS does, the worse Western governments will treat Muslim immigrants. Far right, nationalist, anti-immigrant politics are already disturbingly popular in some parts of Europe and they figure that with a little more motivation in the form of random terror with big body counts they can be pushed over the edge into full-throated discrimination as a matter of national policy. In France they see a target nation that has already had race riots and other issues stemming from the social privations of its immigrant underclass. If they rioted before they could be inspired to riot again. The most obvious way to make that happen is to encourage French society and laws to start treating them even worse.

The sad thing is that it might work. I'm not sure they'll succeed in radicalizing many people, but they certainly are making headway toward fueling far-right politics in Europe.


Posted in Rants on November 10th, 2015 by Ed

Most of the (almost inevitably white) people you find making excuses for racism have a limit. Like, anything that could conceivably be argued to fall into some kind of gray area they will litigate and downplay until the cows come home. But if you ask them, point blank, "If a pickup truck full of white fratboys drive past a black university student and scream 'NIGGER!' over and over, that would have to qualify as racist, right?" They might not admit that anything short of that counts as racism, but unless they're really deeply disturbed, don't understand the definitions of words, or are trolling you hard, they'll give you that one. That would count as racism.

It is nothing short of amazing, then, that the above incident actually happened to the student body president at the University of Missouri in Columbia and there are still (white) people complaining about those uppity negroes demanding that everyone cater to their prima donna needs. You know. Like the desire to attend a public university that is not openly hostile to their presence (in small numbers). Go around the internet reading comments (never do what I just told you to do, ever) and count the instances of balding white men with tits using phrases like "playing the race card" and "whining" in reference to, just so we are clear, a truck full of presumably drunk white guys screaming racial slurs at a black student walking by himself. A reasonable individual might feel like that behavior and more importantly tacit condoning of that behavior by the community and the authorities constitutes a hostile environment in which personal safety is by no means assured. How many emboldened gaggles of drunk white hillbillies do you think it would take to graduate from screaming insults to physical violence?

That such a thing is even being mentioned in conversation in 2015 underscores just how badly the alleged "leadership" of the U of Missouri system has failed. I'm starting to think that being a moron may not be a prerequisite to serving in such positions but it certainly does seem to be an asset. The level of tone-deafness that leads a person to describe a swastika of human feces as "some graffiti" is difficult to comprehend, yet there you have it. Much commentary has focused on the role of college athletes at Missouri in applying pressure (It's an SEC school, the billion-dollar NCAA football conference for those overseas). I'm neither surprised nor bothered by that. If that's what it takes, that's what it takes. And I'm already on record supporting the idea of shutting down athletic programs or having walkouts/sit-downs/whatever you want to call it by football and basketball players to hold state legislators and university administrators over the fire.

By the way, is Missouri actively campaigning for Asshole of America status or did it stumble into the lead accidentally? We see the problem inherent in people in The North or the Coasts making fun of the Deep South; it's not that they don't deserve the mockery down there in Mississippi, it's that the rural parts of any state are every bit as bad. Or in Missouri's case, the urban areas too. Pretty much just the whole thing.


Posted in Rants on November 10th, 2015 by Ed

Look, we know cops aren't very bright. Yeah you know a good cop blah blah blah nobody cares. These people are not the sharpest knives in the drawer at their best, and when you start scraping the bottom of the barrel you quickly find that expecting even mediocrity is too ambitious.

This video of the bottom of the bottom of the barrel – the campus cops at University of Alabama, a school best known for its excellence in chanting "Roll Tide" – doesn't show us anything we have not seen before. Buzz-cut idiots with seriously violent tempers that come immediately to the fore the second they sense that they are not being treated with sufficient deference reacting with disproportionate force toward something that presents no threat to anything except their insecurities…I mean, that's old news by now. What amazes me is how these people seem oblivious to the fact that they are being video recorded as though we don't know exactly how this is going to turn out. Congratulations, Buford "Hoss" McGee or whatever the hell your hillbilly name is: you have until Friday to clean out your desk! If you doubt that, just remember that all the students in the video are white. Their parents probably have money too.

The sheer stupidity necessary at this moment in time to realize that you're being videotaped, act like that, and think "I'm going to come out of this looking good!" is hard to conceptualize. With all but the oldest, most authoritarian, and most reactionary segment of the American public slowly waking up to the fact that police in a lot of places in this country are basically street gangs with badges, you might think that handling this situation differently might have had some appeal. Instead, they chose this. They chose this because they are not smart enough to realize why choosing this approach was a bad idea. And they thought that the video would hit the internet and they would somehow be hailed as heroes. For using six people to beat up a 5 foot tall college girl. Way to go there, Audie Murphy. Let's get you guys some medals.

Watch it again and remember that this guy knew he was on about five different smartphone videos. He thought we would be impressed at his bravery and sympathetic to the nightmare of Teen Sass that he has to confront every day. He doesn't understand that all we see is a man who is about to lose his double-wide in a civil judgment and will be lucky to have a desk job by this weekend.


Posted in Rants on November 4th, 2015 by Ed

Being shitty at running for president has worked out pretty well for Mike Huckabee when you think about it. Given that the sum total of his political achievements is winning the 2008 Iowa Caucus and being elected Governor of Dogpatch twice, the man is fabulously well-off. In 2008 and again in 2016 he has used other people's money to run for president not with the expectation of winning but to give priceless publicity to the Mike Huckabee Brand. And before you chuckle at that dismissively, remember just how lucrative Beltway Welfare can be. Speaking fees at right-wing events, AM Radio and Fox News hosting gigs, book deals, personal brand stuff on the internet…this man has no doubt been earning millions of dollars per year since leaving elected office in 2006. And it has been for remarkably easy work.

It's hard to say that running for president and getting creamed has not worked out very well for Mr. Huckabee and his family. That's why New York mag asking "Is Ben Carson Running for President?" is long overdue. As I've been saying for…well, years, I guess…the line between self-promotion and campaigning has long since become indistinct. These people who have zero chance of winning the nomination are hanging around for one reason, and it isn't because they like doing a debate every two weeks. Even those doing well like Carson and Trump aren't clearly Serious Candidates as opposed to two guys trolling. Trolling hard. As Chait states:

But now Carson actually is running for president. Or is he? It is hard to tell. Conservative politics are so closely intermingled with a lucrative entertainment complex that it is frequently impossible to distinguish between a political project (that is, something designed to result in policy change) and a money-making venture. Declaring yourself a presidential candidate gives you access to millions of dollars' worth of free media attention that can build a valuable brand. So the mere fact that Carson calls himself a presidential candidate does not prove he is actually running for president rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to build his brand. Indeed, it is possible to be actually leading the polls without seriously trying to win the presidency.

The system has become so ridiculous and the idea of personal branding through social media has become so pervasive and potentially lucrative that it is now impossible to determine who is running for president and who is running to build an empire of dolts easily parted from their cash. It is relatively easy to spot a career narcissist like Trump and wonder aloud if he is dumb enough to think he can win or if this is all an elaborate publicity stunt. That skepticism needs to be applied more broadly, though. 90% of the people running are suspect on that criteria. The professional campaigning industry abets this large scale grift too. What paid consultant is going to tell Bobby Jindal that he is a lost cause? There's free money to be had. Why get off the gravy train until absolutely necessary? Just keep pretending you're serious about getting elected, collect checks from cartoonishly rich donors and mouth-frothing old white people, and plot ways to convert the publicity into cold, hard cash when the tap finally runs dry. All you have to do is suffer through a few months of relatively light work. Everybody gets paid. Everybody wins.

This is what we've come to.


Posted in Rants on November 4th, 2015 by Ed

There are many institutional features, some entirely unique to the United States, that contribute to our abysmally low voter turnout. That low turnout is in turn a contributor to the election outcomes we live with. Two overlooked factors that help explain Tuesday's smattering of races across the country are the frequency of elections and the length of our campaign/election seasons. By a substantial margin, Americans are asked to come out to vote more regularly than citizens of any other democratic country. We have elections at the drop of a hat, thanks in part to our federal system in which statewide, local, and Federal offices are staggered and elected in different years depending on the state. General elections, municipal elections, recall elections, special elections to fill vacancies, runoff elections in majority-requirement jurisdictions, primary elections…the average American is asked to come out and vote several times per year. For an act in which most people are not especially interested or enthusiastic this is an effective death sentence. We barely care enough to vote in "major" elections like a presidential race or a midterm congressional election. By the time we get down to local and primary elections we're looking at turnout in the single digits of eligible voters in many places. When turnout is that low you know exactly what the electorate looks like: old, white, and cranky. And this is not unreasonable; who else but old, cantankerous white people have the time or inclination to pay a lot of attention to the Pigsknuckle County Board races? That hot race for Sanitation District Commission Seat 3B? That barn-burner of a school board contest?

Unfortunately these things, while not terribly interesting to most of us, are important. And we're usually too sick of politics to give them much thought when their turn comes.

The length of our campaigns is similarly fatiguing. The 2016 presidential race has been going on for roughly 3 months already, and the informal jockeying for even longer. We're already three months into an election campaign that culminates next November and we expect people to pay attention to and participate meaningfully in the 2015 elections – elections that most people don't even know exist? I am the first to revel in the joys of dumping on the civic capacities of the Average* American, but when it comes to the costs of voting and sheer fatigue I think we have a legitimate gripe. No other nation asks or expects people to pay attention to what has become one endless campaign cycle with regular exhortations to Get Out the Vote. I get paid to talk about American politics and even I get sick of the lack of ability to come up for air in this process. The nine-month long 2014 campaign barely ended before, after a break of a few months of unproductive Governing, states with 2015 races were flogging voters again. And the 2016 race didn't even wait until 2015 was over to not only begin but to reach the breaking point of sanity and overexposure.

This is the dilemma. Nobody is going to vote this often and pay this much attention to such a vast number of different elected offices and ballot issues unless their life consists literally of nothing but sitting in front of Fox News 24-7 and obsessively harassing the local newspaper's unpaid editorial intern. There are people who fit that description. And we really, really don't want them making our decisions for us. That is exactly what happens and will continue to happen in practice, though, since no amount of shaming or appeals to conscience will convince people with lives, shit jobs, family obligations, and a need to occasionally stop watching the news to preserve their mental health to vote this many times and consume this much OMG Election!!11!! stuff. It's like that fifth Red Bull of the day, the one at which your adrenal glands can be flogged no further and your body simply shuts down with fatigue and overstimulation.

It makes sense. It sucks that a lot of you didn't vote yesterday. It hardly makes you a bad person, though. It makes you a normal human being who has a limit, a limit that has been reached.



Posted in Rants on November 2nd, 2015 by Ed

I'm unsure how much national press this has gotten – I suspect that having colleagues at University of Nebraska who are anti-capital punishment activists to boot has made me disproportionately aware of it – but Gov. Pete Ricketts' epic quest to find ways to kill death row inmates despite the lack of lethal injection drugs is like a modern day version of Moby Dick. Well, that's a rough analogy. The novel was a complex, brooding commentary on man's search for meaning. This is just a story about an asshole who wants to kill people so other, terrible people will like him more.

As with every post in the history of Gin and Tacos that deals with capital punishment, let us remember the incontrovertible truth that politicians love the death penalty because it's the only way a bunch of paunchy, candy-ass white guys can look tough. Many death penalty opponents look at Ricketts as a perfect example of the way inmates' lives are used as fodder when elected officials need to shore up support with their old, white base. It's also a good example of political miscalculation and not knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em – Ricketts has chosen to die upon this hill (so to speak) without having much of a strategy once his first steps didn't result in success. But more than anything the wrangling, legal and practical, over lethal injection pharmaceuticals is a black comedy skit on the illusion that killing people as the endpoint of a legal process made up of fallible, biased humans can be made Humane.

I am 100%, without exception opposed to capital punishment. I also believe that if you're going to kill someone it doesn't make a hell of a lot of difference how you do it provided the infliction of suffering isn't one of the goals of the process. We like lethal injection because it's bloodless and doesn't create a gruesome scene. It looks, when it works properly, like someone calmly passing out and never waking up. Unfortunately for the states that continue to insist on using it, it's also not a particularly effective method. I see nothing valuable about the method. If you're going to kill people anything quick and reliable will do. Gunshot to the head. Long-drop hanging. Hell, why not the guillotine. They're all just means to a cruel end of a cruel process. The only advantage lethal injection has over any of them is that it makes us feel better about ourselves as a society. It lets us feel morally superior to the "uncivilized" Chinese shooting people in the head or Middle East heathens beheading people with cartoon sized swords. As if it matters. As if the morality of killing people is determined by the method employed.

To see Ricketts go full Ahab so that his state can continue sanctioned homicide would be funny if the consequences weren't so grave. It's useful, though, to let the country see what rabidly pro-death penalty politicians really are: a group of people who are so enthusiastic about killing that they will devote themselves to concocting ways to circumvent the law they claim to care about upholding. It's almost like they're a little too excited about killing. You know, the kind of person who we generally consider a danger to society.


Posted in Rants on October 28th, 2015 by Ed

Recently I overheard on public transit two twenties/thirties Frat Bro types praising Carly Fiorina's appearance. I listened for a while and thought, well, they probably wouldn't do the same thing to a male candidate, although I could just as easily picture them making path of least resistance cracks about Trump's hair or Christie's turkey waddle and girth. In the end I contributed only "If you think she looks good now, you should have seen her when she was alive" before exiting the train. Should I have asked them why they were focusing on appearance with the only woman in the GOP race or suggested that they think about her issue positions rather than superficial factors? Probably. But here's the thing. I was tired, and ultimately talking about what Carly Fiorina thinks ("thinks") is about as interesting or relevant as talking about her face.

Imagine the following set of options for how you can spend the next hour of your life. You could push a round stone the size of a minivan up a steep incline. You could run up a staircase that never ends. You could read the user manual and instructions for a selection of pop-up toasters. Or you could explain at length, point by point, why Ben Carson is insane or Carly Fiorina's ideas are not good ones.

Take your time.

I understand on an intellectual level why making cracks about the candidates' appearance or other superficial characteristics is, in the grand sense, Wrong. It makes me and anyone else who does it, by the most literal definition, a Bad Person. The reason I do it sometimes, and the reason I don't get as bent out of shape as a lot of people do when I hear someone else do it, is that there is nothing I can imagine at this point in my life and in American politics that is more tedious, more of a waste of effort, or less engaging than explaining why the "ideas" presented by these candidates are stupid. I'm going to be honest; if my options are to point out that Chris Christie looks like an unemployed pipefitter from Bayonne, NJ or to explain, point by point, why his stale, thirty year old set of Republican talking points rephrased as policy positions is wrong, I'm going to pick the former more often than not.

Think of it this way. If I devoted this space to explaining that supply side economics doesn't work, starting wars is a bad idea, or opposition to gay marriage is hypocritical, Constitutionally unjustifiable, and ignorant, how interesting would that be for you to read? In the last 15 years how many times would you estimate you've read those arguments? How many times have you made them or explained this to someone unwilling or unable to understand them? How many sentences into that post would your eyes glaze over and your mouse begin poking around for something more interesting?

It's just too much effort to continue to take these people seriously. The leading GOP candidates are an actual reality TV troll, a clinically insane man who hears voices from god, a woman whose entire resume is a series of staggering failures in the corporate world, and George W. Bush's dumber brother. There are only so many times you can say "Hey everyone, I don't think cutting taxes on the wealthy is an effective economic strategy!" or "The things these candidates say seem incorrect and outrageous most of the time!" Their barrage of stupidity and falsehoods is too constant for anyone with a normal attention span to keep shooting down for very long. We get it. I get it. You get it. These people are all goddamn insane, and the ones that aren't insane are dangerously stupid, and the ones that aren't insane or stupid are bloodless, craven sociopaths who will say anything if they think it will make morons vote for them. Pointing that out over and over again is tedious and pointless. To engage them on the merits of their "ideas" – not a single one of which is of more recent vintage than about 1990, excepting the occasional new and completely insane theory they cook up for attention in this cacophony of monkey howls – adds as much to our intellectual lives as Chris Christie fat jokes, which is to say not a goddamn thing.