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On the University of Chicago’s Letter to Students Prospective Donors

[ 246 ] August 28, 2016 |

TriggerWarning-Link

The University of Chicago has issued a letter coming out against BIG POLITICALLY CORRECT. I think DeLong is right to subject it to “a hermeneutics of derp:”

It seems to me more likely than not that John Ellison is not talking to his future students here. It seems to me that he is more likely than not to be talking to those of their parents who spend an unhealthy amount of time glued to and being traumatized by Fox News. And he is doing so in the hope that those parents will send more students to U. of C. It’s a marketing ploy–not part of an orientation for new students.

[…]

But, Jesse, surely John Ellison can find a way to say “we welcome the contributions to the intellectual life of the college of Donald Trump supporters” that doesn’t also carry the very strong implication that Hillel and the Newman Center are in some sense illegitimate?

As I said, this is a very charitable reading he is engaging in here.

As I see it, a university is:

*first of all, a safe space for ideas.

*second, a safe place for scholars.

Those two imperatives do not forbid but rather mandate trigger warnings, whenever they are helpful in aiding the members of the University and scholars to grapple and process with difficult ideas or shocking facts.

Those two imperatives also require all members of the university to treat one another with respect–to avoid giving even a hint that other members do not belong or do not have rights or are not secure in their persons.

And these two imperatives require that sub-communities within the university have spaces that are safe–in which discussion can proceed accepting for the moment the premises of the sub-community.

I’ve never understood the argument that trigger warnings are some kind of inherent threat to free speech on campus and I still don’t. If you’re applauding the actions of Chicago’s administration, it sure can’t be because of academic freedom.

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Donald Trump’s Race-Baiting of the Hour

[ 120 ] August 27, 2016 |

What a guy:

NBA star Dwyane Wade’s cousin Nykea Aldridge was fatally shot Friday pushing a child in a stroller in a Chicago.

Less than 24 hours later, Donald Trump said her death was evidence that African-Americans will vote for him in November.

As always, there are ways in which Trump’s bluntness is relatively unusual. But the underlying idea — African-Americans will leave the DEMOCRAT PARTY PLANTATION because BLACK-ON-BLACK VIOLENCE is not exactly rare in Republican circles.

In other Trump news, this picture of the doctor who wandered out of a Paul Thomas Anderson movie to to take 5 minutes writing up a report declaring Trump the healthiest presidential candidate in the history of history itself is the sole redeeming factor of his campaign:

harold-bornstein-trump-doctor

Above: the Cuervo Gold, the fine Colombian, make tonight a wonderful thing

Can Our Revolution Be His?

[ 34 ] August 26, 2016 |

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Bernie Sanders’s new group is off to a somewhat rocky start:

Bernie Sanders has launched Our Revolution, a new group meant to support progressive causes. In doing so, they’re also promising to “revitalize American democracy” and “elevate the political consciousness.” All of which sounds great, and crucial, and they will probably be right on it, as soon as they replace the majority of the staff, who have resigned almost instantly.

Some of this initial rough patch seems to be connected to choices made by Sanders. In particular, Jeff Weaver, sort of the Mark Penn of the left, is predictably alienating a lot of staffers and causing resignations over Sanders’s personal entreaties. But as Merlan says, there are broader issues with this kind of enterprise that aren’t really about Bernie per se:

Politico reports that the board, which is chaired by Jane Sanders, was growing “increasingly concerned about campaign finance questions being raised over the last week.” Questions like, how does a political nonprofit founded by and closely linked to a sitting U.S. senator operate legally, even if Sanders isn’t directly running the show?

[…]

The nonprofit status also means the group can’t give money directly to candidates. And the arrangement is deeply ironic, given that 501 (c)(4) designations are usually pursued by people who don’t want to disclose their donors. The most infamous example is Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, which managed to get itself qualified as a nonprofit “social welfare group” despite being run by Karl Rove.

There are, in other words, structural reasons why major activist groups tend not to be led by sitting politicians: doing so limits what they can do and limits their leverage. If Our Revolution or a similar group of set of groups is going to be successful — and finding a way to harness Sanders’s strong support into a powerful voice in the party is important — it probably can’t be about Bernie or any other currently office-holding politician per se. And that’s probably not a bad thing.

The Grand Old Alt-Right Party

[ 105 ] August 26, 2016 |

Clinton’s speech yesterday carefully laying out Donald Trump’s history of racism was indeed very important. It’s also enormously difficult to imagine a major Democratic politician giving it ten years ago — Trump has had a taboo-shattering effect two ways, not only making the overt expression of racism within the Republican Party more common but allowing it to be called out without immediately setting off Both Sides Do It alarms. I also agree with Jeet Heer that what appeared to be conciliatory language towards Republicans was actually more like “if you support Trump, explicitly or passively you own him.” And the most important Republicans, we should never forget, do:

Republican leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have ducked questions about Clinton’s denunciation of the alt-right. But the question has already been answered. Party leaders who can accept Trump as their nominee have made a public admission that racism in the Republican coalition is a fact of political life they are willing to live with.

Banning “Burkinis” is a Disgrace

[ 318 ] August 25, 2016 |

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Katha Pollitt is excellent on why coercively policing the appearance of women in the name of secularism is not better than doing so in the name of religion:

But how do bans on Islamic dress—the head scarf, the niqab, and now the burkini—free women? That would be true only if wearing them were enforced by Muslim communities regardless of women’s own preferences. This is the case in Saudi Arabia and Iran, where covering is the law, and in parts of many Muslim-majority countries by social custom. When France instituted its ban on head scarves in public schools in 2004, it was justified as necessary in part to protect schoolgirls from male relatives keen to control them. (Those views now seem overblown.) The same theory explains why the ban on wearing the niqab (the two-part full-face veil) in public calls for a €150 fine for the woman, but a whopping €30,000 fine and a year in jail for any person who forces a woman to wear it. (No one has yet been convicted.) As Ed Vulliamy points out in The Guardian, though, the penalty for wearing a burkini (€38 in Cannes) falls on the woman alone. Are those women subjugating themselves? “It is my choice to try and cover whilst poolside so I can feel comfortable and make the most out of my love for swimming, and my faith,” writes Shereen Malherbe on Muslimah Media Watch.

The apparent fact that some Muslim women want to wear burkinis doesn’t mean that the garment isn’t sexist. Sexism would never have become the powerful social force it is if women didn’t buy into it too. That’s why it’s easy to find women who think that a woman who won’t wear a burqa—or a knee-length skirt—is asking to be raped. Still, it’s hard to see pathbreaking Muslim Olympic athletes like the hijab-wearing American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad or Egyptian volleyball player Doaa Elghobashy as lacking agency. Even if you think Islamic garb—or Orthodox wigs, or fundamentalist-Mormon prairie dresses—is a fashion prison, it doesn’t follow that banning it is the path to liberation.

In fact, it does the opposite: It fetishizes Islamic covering as a communal identity marker and turns it into a way of poking the majority culture in the eye. It also further marginalizes Muslim women. Not men, who dress as they please with no awkward questions about whether they truly want to sport that beard or crocheted skullcap. In France, street attacks on women in Muslim dress have increased since the niqab ban. A Muslim woman in a head scarf can’t work in a government job. According to a recent legal ruling, she can even be denied a job in a day-care center lest she give toddlers the wrong idea about a woman’s place. Prime Minister Valls even wants to ban the head scarf from universities. This isn’t feminism; it’s cultural panic.

The Clinton Rules: Still In Effect

[ 249 ] August 25, 2016 |

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I mentioned earlier this week how the Washington Post used misleading language to try to turn distinctly non-scandalous behavior into a scandal because Hillary Clinton. Well, the AP had an even more ambitious attempt at making a scandal out of nothing at all, which Clizza et al. immediately swallowed whole. The problem is that it was also a massive trainwreck. LeTourneau:

But here is where the AP blew their story. In an attempt to provide an example of how this becomes an “optics” problem for Hillary Clinton, they focused much of the article on the fact that she met several times with Muhammad Yunus, a Clinton Foundation donor. In case you don’t recognize that name, he is an economist from Bangladesh who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance as a way to fight poverty, and founded Grameen Bank. For those efforts, Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.

The connection the AP tries to make is that SoS Clinton met with Yunus because he was a Clinton Foundation donor. What they didn’t mention is that their relationship goes back over 30 years to the time Hillary (as first lady of Arkansas) heard about his work and brought him to her state to explore the possibility of implementing microfinance programs to assist the poor.

During the time that Clinton was Secretary of State, the government of Bangladesh was trying to discredit Yunus and remove him from leadership at Grameen Bank due to the fact that he was seen as a political threat.

I used to be a Democrat, but since I found that Hillary Clinton met repeatedly met with Muhammad Yunus I’m outraged that Bill and Hillary Clinton lost money in a minor Arkansas land deal and plan to support someone who has ripped off and defrauded so many people he can’t get a loan from an American bank instead.

Yglesias:

According to their reporting, Clinton spent a remarkably large share of her time as America’s chief diplomat talking to people who had donated money to the Clinton Foundation. She went out of her way to help these Clinton Foundation donors, and her decision to do so raises important concerns about the ethics of her conduct as secretary and potentially as president. It’s a striking piece of reporting that made immediate waves in my social media feed, as political journalists of all stripes retweeted the story’s headline conclusions.

Except it turns out not to be true. The nut fact that the AP uses to lead its coverage is wrong, and Braun and Sullivan’s reporting reveals absolutely no unethical conduct. In fact, they found so little unethical conduct that an enormous amount of space is taken up by a detailed recounting of the time Clinton tried to help a former Nobel Peace Prize winner who’s also the recipient of a Congressional Gold Medal and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Here’s the bottom line: Serving as secretary of state while your husband raises millions of dollars for a charitable foundation that is also a vehicle for your family’s political ambitions really does create a lot of space for potential conflicts of interest. Journalists have, rightly, scrutinized the situation closely. And however many times they take a run at it, they don’t come up with anything more scandalous than the revelation that maybe billionaire philanthropists have an easier time getting the State Department to look into their visa problems than an ordinary person would.

There is a liberal critique of the Clinton Foundation, which as recently as last month I found fairly credible, that even if they weren’t doing anything wrong, it created the unnecessary potential appearance of corruption. The view of the Clintons is apparently that literally anything they do will be treated as scandalous so if they think the Clinton Foundation is a net positive it’s worth doing. I suppose both can be true, but the ridiculous reporting this week makes me think that the latter position is more accurate.

Party of Trump, Party of Breitbart

[ 151 ] August 25, 2016 |

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Really good piece by Zack Beauchamp about Breitbart portending Trump, with its indifference to both truth and policy, overt racism, and belief that political correctness is the biggest threat facing the country:

So in March, when then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski manhandled Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields and then denied it, the site faced an existential dilemma. Back your reporter, like any journalistic outlet would do, or side with the Trump campaign, like a Trump Super PAC would?

We all know the answer at this point. Breitbart forbade its reporters from supporting Fields (who, I should disclose, is a personal friend of mine). A Breitbart editor, Joel Pollak, published a piece arguing that the incident “could not possibly have happened” as Fields described it. Fields quit Breitbart in disgust, as did several members of the site’s staff.

Trump is the vindication of everything Breitbart has ever stood for, so standing with him over Fields made sense.

Overriding focus on attacking political correctness? Check. Harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric? Check. Broadsides against the conservative elite? Check. Politics of white resentment? Check, check, and check.

The whole thing is very much worth reading.

UNCUCKED AND HELL-BENT

[ 108 ] August 24, 2016 |

This is a thing that exists. [TRIGGER WARNING: to paraphrase Pauline Kael, it would take the wisdom of Solomon to determine whether this video is more offensive aesthetically, psychologically, morally, or politically.]

This is surely the greatest piece of winger art since “Take the R Train.”

[Via Weigel]

Bad Campaign Will Make Futile Attempt to Counter Accurate Perception

[ 112 ] August 24, 2016 |

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The Trump campaign perceives a problem:

Donald Trump is rapidly trying to turn around his presidential campaign with a vigorous and at times strained effort to shed a label applied to him by a substantial portion of the electorate: racist.

Guided by his new campaign leadership, the Republican nominee has ordered a full-fledged strategy to court black and Latino voters and is mobilizing scores of minority figures to advocate publicly for his candidacy.

I would have to agree that there’s one problem with this:

The main difficulty Trump faces in dispelling the impression that he is a racist is that Trump is, in fact, a gigantic racist. His first appearance in the New York Times came in the context of his being caught refusing to rent apartments to African-Americans. A former Trump employee has detailed a series of private racist statements and acts — saying “laziness is a trait in blacks,” objecting to black people working for him in accounting, his staff shooing black people off the casino floor when he arrived. Trump has replied that the comments were “probably true,” but berated the person who made them as a “loser.” He has questioned the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate, called him a “terrible student,” and implied he only made it into Harvard Law School due to affirmative action.

[…]

Attacking Clinton for having supported punitive crime policies two decades ago is quite a turn for Trump, who is running on a platform of punitive crime policies right now. It was only last month when he made the entire theme of his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention “law and order,” promising a brutal crackdown on crime, and lambasted Obama for encouraging black criminals by calling attention to police mistreatment of African-Americans. Trump also once spent his own money on a newspaper ad calling for five minority youths to be executed for a rape they turned out not to have committed. “What has happened to the respect for authority, the fear of retribution by the courts, society and the police for those who break the law, who wantonly trespass on the rights of others?,” he wrote, urging, in hysterical all-caps, “CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!”

Trump has spent more than a year identifying himself as the candidate of white-backlash politics, using his appeal to the most racially resentful Republicans to win the nomination. And now he’s running to Clinton’s left on criminal justice! Trump adviser Roger Stone tells the Post, “an entire generation of young black men are incarcerated” because of the 1994 bill. So African-Americans should instead vote for the candidate who literally called for “retribution” and an end to civil liberties. Does Trump’s campaign really think anybody is going to believe this?

But I’m sure a quick tour of Detroit with Ben Carson will solve everything!

The Fundamental Dilemma of Health Care

[ 48 ] August 24, 2016 |

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I have a piece at the Prospect about Aetna bailing on most of the ACA exchanges is participates in. On the one hand, it shows the necessity of the public option; on the other hand, is shows (as Erik said yesterday) why it will be enormously difficult to pass:

The Obama administration shouldn’t cave. Instead, Democrats should take steps to address the health law’s underlying problems. The obvious solution is one that surfaced repeatedly in the multiple draft versions of the legislation that eventually became the ACA, and that is now part of the 2016 Democratic Party platform: a public option. This would entail making a government-operated health-care plan available on public markets. Allowing good public insurance to compete would both ensure that decent, affordable insurance is available in all 50 states, and prevent power plays like Aetna’s by making public insurance available as a backstop. If private companies can provide insurance that people want to buy at rates competitive with the public option, good. If they can’t, this would also be fine, because the public sector would absorb a bigger share of the health insurance market, a positive development in itself.

What makes the public option desirable will also make it very hard to pass, of course, even in the event that Congress becomes more Democratic and more progressive after Election Day. Insurance companies know full well how a robust public option would eat into their customer bases and profits, and will fight it with everything they’ve got. Democrats should exhaust every avenue for winning a public option. But if they fall short, there are other ways to strengthen health insurance exchanges.

There are some alternative measures which might be more viable, the best of which is the Medicare buy-in Joe Lieberman torpedoed. You can click the link to find out!

Donald Trump Is A Terrible Candidate Running A Terrible Campaign

[ 217 ] August 24, 2016 |

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Donald Trump is not raising as much money as a presidential candidate should be raising in 2016, and much of what he is raising he’s using to add a third layer of fake gold to plaster his toilets. If he were running a serious presidential campaign, this would make it all the more crucial that his remaining time and resources would have to be spent very efficiently. This is…not happening:

Donald Trump might be moderating his rhetoric, but he hasn’t adjusted a campaign strategy that has him spending valuable time in states that will not prove decisive on Election Day.

With fewer than 80 days to go and lagging in the polls, the Republican nominee will host a rally Tuesday in Austin, Texas, and another on Wednesday in Jackson, Mississippi. Both cities sit inside strongly Republican states that are safe and uncompetitive.

These visits follow a recent trip by Trump into heavily Democratic Connecticut, a choice that enraged and confused Republicans.

“I have never known a general election campaign in my adult life, a Republican campaign, to spend time in Mississippi outside of raising money,” said Austin Barbour, a Mississippi-based Republican operative. “Donald Trump’s going to win Mississippi by at least double digits.”

But Trump is behind, several polls show, in North Carolina, a state that has gone Republican in eight of the past nine presidential elections. Georgia, which hasn’t voted Democratic since 1992, is competitive, with the latest poll showing a tied race. And more traditional battleground states have moved away from Trump: Ohio, which polls showed was a tied race last month, is now tilting in Hillary Clinton’s direction. Meanwhile, he is up in Mississippi by double digits, one recent survey shows.

He has totally hacked and disrupted presidential campaigning!

Maybe Trump’s benefactor Woody Johnson can solve his logjam at QB by trading Christian Hackenberg to the Trump campaign. It’s hard to imagine that he could be worse at campaign consulting than he is at NFL quarterbacking.

Steven Hill, R.I.P.

[ 45 ] August 23, 2016 |

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The great character actor has died. Somebody needs to make gifs of great Adam Schiff one-liners; my nominee would be “the only pattern here is that you have no facts.”

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