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“Durr, It’s A Republic, Not a Democracy, Durr” And Other Terrible Arguments

[ 152 ] November 30, 2016 |

trump-supporters-3Actually, neither silent nor a majority

Whenever you observe that the Electoral College is indefensible, someone invested in the legitimacy of a president illegitimately chosen by the Electoral College is likely to retort that the Constitution established A REPUBLIC, NOT A PURE DEMOCRACY. This phrase is, as a late great writer once said, words next to each other:

Because of the strong tendency to valorize the founding fathers and the Constitution, many people will still defend and rationalize the Electoral College. But it’s exactly as indefensible as it seems on its face. Departing from the norm that the candidate with the most votes wins places the burden of proof on the deviant institution. Defenders of the Electoral College will often invoke the phrase “the United States is a republic, not a democracy,” or observe that the United States is not a “pure democracy.” But these explanations do not constitute meaningful defenses. Even if the American president, as in most other democratic countries, was elected by popular vote, the United States would still be a representative democracy, not a pure one. Given the complexities of American government in the 21st century, the concept of pure democracy, where every citizen votes on every policy issue or initiative, is meaningless.

The Electoral College has to be defended on its own merits. Which is a problem for apologists, because it can’t be. Indeed, even the origins of the Electoral College make it look worse, not better. Some founders, including James Madison, preferred a direct popular vote. But the Electoral College was a compromise made to accommodate other concerns. Some founders believed that the citizens’ political ignorance would be a problem, and that the public should have their votes filtered, first by elites in the Electoral College and then by members of Congress (where the founders, who didn’t anticipate the formation of a party system, expected most elections to be decided.)

The Electoral College also was designed to increase the representation of slave states; slaves, of course, did not vote but were counted as three-fifths of a person when apportioning the House of Representatives— which, in turn, determined the representation states received in the Electoral College. It should go without saying that both of these justifications are not merely inadequate but repugnant in 2016. Moreover, the Electoral College still has a distinctly white supremacist tilt, as it substantially over-represents white voters, a factor that contributed to Donald Trump’s victory despite losing badly to Clinton in the popular vote.

Some will defend the Electoral College on the grounds that it requires presidential candidates to pay more attention to small states. But there is little reason to give small states, already overrepresented somewhat in the House and massively overrepresented in the Senate, yet another thumb on the scale. Besides, if it were a good idea in theory, it doesn’t work in practice. As Ari Berman of The Nation observes, “94 percent of campaign visits and money went to just 12 states.” To defend the Electoral College on the grounds that it broadens the scope of presidential campaigning is truly perverse.

I don’t think the electors picking Hillary Clinton would be a good idea for various reasons, and of course if they did the House wouldn’t certify the result anyway. But the possibility and the response does underscore that belief in “originalism” is almost always opportunistic:

Three eminent legal scholars have advocated a more radical, short-term solution. They have argued that the Electoral College should fulfill its original function by having the electors independently choose Clinton as the better-qualified candidate with greater popular support. There is a certain dark irony to the fact that a system designed to prevent the people from choosing an unqualified demagogue has resulted in the election of an unqualified demagogue not chosen by the people.

But a move by the electors to override the Electoral College and elect Clinton would be a disaster. Her presidency would be fatally hobbled from Day One. The potential for violence would be terrifying, and the presidential election system would be permanently broken—and the Republicans would declare any future Democratic winner an unqualified demagogue. The cure would be worse than the disease.

Preventing someone like Donald Trump from becoming president was a core reason why the Electoral College was instituted. That doesn’t make electors exercising independent judgment a good idea — and, pace the framers, an actually democratic system for picking the president would have defeated Trump — but it does show that nobody can really defend the Electoral College, but people who stand to gain from minority rule feel compelled to rationalize.

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Mitt Romney, International Man of Principle

[ 167 ] November 29, 2016 |

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I’m not sure what my favorite part of Mittens’s fanfic-from-the-bottom is, but I think I’d pick the stuff about Trump’s “message of inclusion.”

Of course, the beauty of Mittens’s absurdly overpraised Act of High Principle is that everything required to repudiate it entirely should he win was already contained in the text. But, Jesus, #NeverTrump was pathetic even by Republican “moderate” standards.

Congress Will Be Trump’s Accomplices

[ 138 ] November 29, 2016 |

Donald-Trump_Ted-Cruz

At the end of last month, I gave a talk at Brooklyn College on the question of whether the Constitution would protect the country from Donald Trump. My tl; dr answer was “no.” As Stephen Griffin puts it, the Constitution does not have its own police force. The real question is whether Congress and/or the courts would act as a check on Trump’s corruption and authoritarianism, and given who would control these institutions under Trump in most cases they wouldn’t.

Of course, at the time this all seemed a mere abstraction. Now, it’s all too real:

Even before the election, it was clear to anybody who paid attention that unified control of government would mean an executive branch free of accountability or oversight. The investigative arm of the Republican Congress, which had been gearing up for four years of ceaseless torment of Hillary Clinton for any offenses real or imagined, has already switched over to a policy of ignoring already-existing constitutional violations. That policy seems to be extending to the rest of the party.

Of course, most Republicans in Congress support Trump and are happy to sing his praises. In cases where they don’t, they simply abdicate any critical judgment. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy evaded questions about Trump’s unprecedented lack of transparency and self-dealing in office, first referring the matter to Trump’s handpicked counsel, then denying any knowledge of what has been front-page news.

[…]

You’d think the famous straight-talker John McCain, who is now 80 years old and fresh off reelection to a new six-year term in the Senate, might have some ability to exercise independent judgment. But McCain’s stated policy, as revealed to the Huffington Post’s Laura Barron-Lopez, is, “I will not discuss President-elect Donald Trump.” McCain added, “I’m responsible for the people of Arizona.” It’s not like he is a member of some branch of government that the founders designed as a check and balance on the executive. As far as Republicans in Congress are concerned, they’re all working for Trump now.

As long as congressional Republicans think that Trump can deliver them tax cuts, defense pork and attacks on the welfare state, and conservative judges he’ll be allowed to do pretty much whatever he wants.

The War On Democracy: A Reinforcing Cycle

[ 140 ] November 29, 2016 |

Chief-Justice-John-Roberts

Trump is trying to delegitimize an election he won for a reason:

Donald Trump’s tweets yesterday about “the millions of people who voted illegally in 2016” and “serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California” cannot be dismissed as just another Twitter meltdown from the president-elect. (It goes without saying that Trump’s claims are categorically false.)

His conspiracy theories about rigged elections during the presidential race were meant to delegitimize the possibility of Hillary Clinton’s election. But now that he’s won the election we have to take his words far more seriously. He will appoint the next attorney general, at least one Supreme Court justice and thousands of positions in the federal government. His lies about the prevalence of voter fraud are a prelude to the massive voter suppression Trump and his allies in the GOP are about to unleash.

Imagine a world in which a significant number of conservative evangelicals, in the runup to an election with a Supreme Court vacancy, spent most of their time groaning about how because the Supreme Court hadn’t overruled Roe v. Wade the Republican Party did nothing for evangelical voters, and Trump was only the slightest bit to the right of Hillary Clinton, and perhaps this was good time to engage in some C+ Econ 101 reasoning about why voting is for suckers. Their media outlets would spend much of the election trying to make major scandals out of the fact that Paul Ryan had a publicist on his staff. I really prefer this world to the one we have.

The new Radical Republicans

[ 46 ] November 29, 2016 |

 

Thanks to Donald Trump’s eminently predictable parroting of every important dogma of the contemporary Republican party, total denial is about to become the official position of every branch of the US government in regard to the great environmental crisis of our time:

 

Priebus appeared on the latest Fox News Sunday to explain Trump’s apparent “major flips on policy this week in an interview with the New York Times,” as host Chris Wallace put it — including the apostasy of possibly having “an open mind” about “pulling out of the Paris climate agreement.”

Trump is appointing countless climate science deniers to key positions, which tells you vastly more about what he believes and what he’ll do than his latest semi-coherent ramblings. As I wrote last week, Trump’s repetition of the phrase “open mind” during his Times interview was meant to distract from his constant repetition of long-debunked denier talking points (and it worked).

Priebus confirmed Trump wasn’t being forthright with the Times, telling Wallace, “As far as this issue on climate change — the only thing he [Trump] was saying after being asked a few questions about it is, look, he’ll have an open mind about it but he has his default position, which most of it is a bunch of bunk, but he’ll have an open mind and listen to people.”

You can’t you have an “open mind” on climate if your default position is “most of it is a bunch of bunk.” What is there to “listen to” if you believe the decades of research by thousands of scientists embraced by every nation in the world is mostly bunk? That’s the definition of epistemic closure of the mind. No surprise, then, that FoxNews — a major promoter of denial — didn’t call Priebus out on this absurd statement.

Here’s a little thought experiment: if you were to transport the contemporary GOP back to, say, 1970, what would the Party Line be on the existence of, say, anthropogenic smog?  Since the human contribution to global warming is today as well established as the human contribution to smog was back then, my better than a guess is that the Line would be identical to the present Line on climate change.

In other words, we’d hear a lot about how there really isn’t a smog problem at all, and to the extent there is one it’s almost wholly a natural phenomenon (forest fires! volcanoes! ozone is a natural part of the atmosphere!), and didn’t you know they had terrible smog in 19th century London EVEN THOUGH THERE WERE NO CARS LOL, and anyway there were only 96 Stage Three smog alerts in the LA basin in 1969 after the 107 in 1968 so this supposed “crisis” is going away all on its own.  Just ask this scientician!

Clean Air Act vote, 1970:

Senate:  73-0

House:  374-1

In Chancery

London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting
in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in
the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of
the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus,
forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn
Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black
drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown
snowflakes--gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of
the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better;
splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one
another's umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing
their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other
foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke
(if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust
of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and
accumulating at compound interest.

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and
meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers
of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city.
Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping
into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and
hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales
of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient
Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog
in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper,
down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of
his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the
bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog
all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the
misty clouds.

Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as
the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman
and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their
time--as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling
look.

The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the
muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction,
appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old
corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln's Inn
Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in
his High Court of Chancery.

Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire
too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition which
this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners, holds
this day in the sight of heaven and earth.

Tort Reform Might Finally Be Coming!

[ 266 ] November 29, 2016 |

Obama-sells_Obamacare-620x320

Goody:

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services secretary, already has a plan for how to abolish Obamacare.

The Washington Post reported late Monday that Trump intends to announce Price, who currently serves as House Budget Chair, to lead the federal agency overseeing Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act.

Price will arrive with at HHS with a clear blueprint for what comes next. He is the author of the Empowering Patients First Act, one of the most thorough and detailed proposals to repeal and replace Obamacare. He’s the HHS secretary you’d pick if you were dead serious about dismantling the law.

It would replace the law with a plan that does more to benefit the young, healthy, and rich — and disadvantages the sick, old, and poor. Price’s plan provides significantly less help to those with preexisting conditions than other Republican proposals, particularly the replacement plan offered by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

The biggest cut to the poor in Price’s plan is the full repeal of the Medicaid expansion, a program that currently covers millions of low-income Americans, which Price replaces with, well, nothing.

I’m sure that the insurance and medical lobbies that are among his biggest funders will totally bail on him when they find out that wants to end Obama’s neoliberal BAILOUT of the insurance industry, though!

…Sargent:

Jonathan Cohn has a good piece explaining what the choice of Rep. Price means in policy terms. Unlike many Republicans, Price has at least given a lot of thought to how to replace the ACA. But Price’s own replacement proposal would roll back the Medicaid expansion, a substantial portion of financial assistance for others getting coverage, and a fair amount of regulation of the individual market. And so, the likely end result (again, at best) is that a lot of the 20 million people who would lose coverage due to repeal will remain without coverage, and protections for those with bad medical conditions will be eroded.

[…]

I have obtained new numbers from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index that suggest that a lot of poor and working-class whites — who voted for Trump in disproportionate numbers — have benefited from Obamacare, meaning they likely stand to lose out from its repeal (and even its replacement with something that covers far fewer people). Gallup-Healthways numbers from earlier this fall showed that overall, the national uninsured rate has plummeted to a new low of 10 percent, a drop of over six percentage points since the law went into effect — which alone is a major achievement.

But that drop, it turns out, is even more pronounced among poor whites. Gallup-Healthways tells me that among whites without a college degree who have household incomes of under $36,000, the uninsured rate has dropped from 25 percent in 2013 to 15 percent now — a drop of 10 percentage points. It’s often noted that the law has disproportionately expanded coverage among African Americans and Latinos. That is correct, but it has also disproportionately expanded coverage among poor white people.

Of only editors and journalists had any discretion over what was worth covering, this might have gotten, say, half as much attention as Hillary Clinton’s email management practices.

Obstructionism Works

[ 341 ] November 29, 2016 |

MItch McConnell

Mitch McConnell’s Supreme Court blockade was not only a yooooge substantive win, it was a political coup as well:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a risk when he declared last February that the Senate would not consider any appointment by President Barack Obama to replace the recently deceased Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. McConnell risked making himself and his party look intransigent and dangerously irresponsible, blinded by hatred of Obama to the point of disabling a branch of government. He risked making voters angry at his party during an election year.

The risk paid off. Near as I can tell, Republicans paid no electoral penalty for this maneuver. Sure, they took some heat from the political media for it, but, like most other issues, it was quickly absorbed into the partisan divide. Conservative media sources claimed it would be inappropriate for a president to name a justice during his final year in office, other outlets noted there was precedent for it, and the Senate majority held fast to its position.

But there was a larger game being played here. McConnell’s move made the Supreme Court seat an issue for the presidential election. It motivated conservatives to stay on board with the Republican presidential nominee no matter who it was.

[…]

The Supreme Court vacancy changed all that. It informed key constituencies, particularly evangelical Christians, that there was far more on the ballot than Trump. The balance of the Court, particularly on such issues as abortion, was in play. Abandon the nominee, and Hillary Clinton gets to pick the next one, two, or three justices. Stand by the nominee, no matter how repellent, and you get to.

Of course, one question I can’t answer is why marginal liberal voters are less able to keep their eyes on the prize. People on the left seem much more likely to go through contortions to explain away the significance of the Supreme Court or argue that it’s BLACKMAIL to bring it up or whatever. I don’t get it.

I will say that there was a potential missed opportunity here. Barack Obama made at least one blunder that materially affected the election, nominating James Comey to head the FBI. His nomination of Merrick Garland probably didn’t. But if only as part of a longer-term project to focus liberal attention on the Court, it would have been nice to pick a nominee that Democratic constituencies would have a stake in. Instead he picked a nominee almost guaranteed to generate a minimum of attention. Given that his nominee was obviously never going to be given a hearing, politics were the only relevant consideration, and the politics of Garland never made any sense. But at least the Democrats will get credit for not playing “identity politics,” right?

Anyway, I still find the fact that people are seriously talking about Dems working with Trump after 8 years of watching McConnell prove that congressional obstructionism is a bill the president gets stuck with amazing.

A Day in My Life

[ 220 ] November 28, 2016 |

dumb-and-dumber-to-harry-and-lloyd

Above: Steve Bannon and Jonah Goldberg

On Saturday, I wrote a post about Fidel Castro. It is titled “Castro–It’s Complicated!” That’s because he was a complex man with a complex legacy. I used the post and a boatload of historical literature on these issues to do two things. First, I attempted to place Castro within the context of his time, both in terms of Cuban history and the larger history of postwar global revolutions. Most of you liked that. I also sought to point out the hypocrisy of American responses to Castro given our own history. The response to this was more mixed, but that’s fine. In general though, the point was that Castro was a very complex person who needs to be seen in a larger context. Fairly uncontroversial generally, especially given that around some parts of the old left there were outright lamentations for his passing, although most of the left had pretty complex takes on it.

Earlier today, I was contacted by the press person for Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News to appear to talk about my Castro essay. First, LOL. Yes, please make me your piñata for the evening. What fun. I mentioned this to Lemieux earlier today and he pointed me to what my interview would look like. I didn’t even respond to the bow-tied jerk.

But then, why did this happen? How on earth did this come to their attention? I found this really confusing, especially given the tone of the essay. The post literally says “It’s Complicated!” But of course I remembered the Professor Watch List, which I am on. And so I figured I should at least investigate this a little bit. So I put my name into Google News. And lo and behold, it is of course originating from terrible, poorly written stories by right-wing students funded by the larger fascist funding network. I mean, could you at least spell my name correctly in the various paragraphs when you discuss me? Or at least incorrectly in the same way? It’s like some kid who gets a D in my class all of a sudden gets hired to write for Rolling Stone or something.

But here’s how the fascist networks operate. Low level functionaries get paid something I guess to gather the red meat. And then it spreads up the line, presumably without anybody even reading any of it. Again, this is based on a post actually saying that Castro’s legacy is nothing more than complicated. The kid uses quotes from it that are literally “Castro did this one thing was good but on the other hand did this other thing that was bad.” But if we know one thing in 2016, it’s that truth does not matter. So it started going up the food chain. First, Laura Ingraham’s lifestyle site (what!?!) grabbed it. Evidently, they employ an editor because my name was spelled correctly.

Who grabbed it then? Why none other than Steve Bannon, Inc. Yes, I was attacked in the official publication of the incoming president of the United States.

Many professors at universities across the United States have praised Castro for his efforts in combating colonialism, capitalism, and racism.

Erik Loomis, a professor of history at the University of Rhode Island, praised Castro as a champion of social justice, calling the dictator “a tremendously complex person who attempted to rebuild a society around ideas of justice while also refusing to allow democratic institutions to form.”

Loomis goes on to add that in his several decades at the helm of leadership in Cuba, Castro brought “outstanding medical care and education to his own people and the poor around the world while limiting the ability of educated people to use their skills at home.”

He called Castro, along with Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara and communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, “an inspiration for billions of people around the world seeking freedom from colonial overlords.”

Like Loomis, 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders came under fire during the Democratic primaries for an interview he gave in 1985 in which he praised Castro for his efforts in bringing healthcare and education to Cuba.

Let’s step back a second here.

calling the dictator “a tremendously complex person who attempted to rebuild a society around ideas of justice while also refusing to allow democratic institutions to form.”

So, like, someone who tried to do some good things but also really screwed up? Wow, I truly wish I was on the front lines with Pol Pot in 1976. And then:

He called Castro, along with Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara and communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, “an inspiration for billions of people around the world seeking freedom from colonial overlords.”

That’s crazy. Actual demonstrable facts undisputed by any professional historian. Might as well be a member of the NKVD torturing some poor sap for a forced confession in 1938 Stalinist Soviet Union!

I do like how they segue straight from me to one Bernie Sanders. Also, if the following video of Bernie praising Castro proves one thing, it’s that the Trump campaign would have had no red meat to attack Sanders with and thus Bernie would have walked away with the presidency if only Democrats hadn’t nominated that huge sellout $hillery.

From there, it has gone to the most dishonest human being on the internet. That’s right, one Jonah Goldberg, author of Liberal Fascism: Two Words Next to Each Other. After wrapping himself in his sexual fantasy of what George Orwell stood for instead of the actual Orwell with his tremendous commitment to justice, he writes:

Such un-nuanced arguments always make leftist eyes roll. As University of Rhode Island professor Eric Loomis put it, “Castro: It’s Complicated!” cautioning against thinking “in terms of simplistic moral judgments.” It seems to me that when people want to ban simplistic moral judgments, it’s usually because simple morality is not on their side.

Some of us would call nuanced arguments and a lack of simplistic moral judgments “critical thinking.” But then this is Jonah Goldberg, so LOL.

To my knowledge, this is as far as it has gone. This is so transparently stupid that I can’t imagine it going any farther. But again, this is part of a well-funded plan to intimidate professors from speaking out. And let’s not beat around the bush–Breitbart is Trump’s publication. It’s entirely possible and in fact probable that I am going to become a frequent target of attack in a nation with declining freedoms. You can imagine that I don’t feel that comfortable right now. But as I have said before and will continue to say, this is the moment where you decide whether you will stand up to fascism or whether you acquiesce to make your life easier. This level of previously unfathomable intimidation is going to continue and get worse. I will fight until the end. Being tough in the face of this and publishing more rather than less is the only answer. And despite the fact that facts don’t actually matter to these people, if they want to attack me on issues of historical fact backed up with dozens if not hundreds of books and articles of historical and other scholarly literature, go for it.

In conclusion:

Moral panic in the culture of fear

[ 62 ] November 28, 2016 |

This is big story right now on most of the mainstream national news sites, (although to its credit at least the Times isn’t treating it like the outbreak of World War III):

 

An Ohio State University student plowed a car into a campus crowd, then jumped out and started stabbing people with a butcher knife before being shot dead by police Monday morning, officials said.

Ten people were taken to hospitals after the ambush, but none of the injuries were considered life-threatening. The incident was initially reported as an “active shooter” situation, but the suspect did not shoot anyone.

A police officer was on the scene within a minute and killed the assailant, likely saving lives, university officials said. “He engaged the suspect and eliminated the threat,” OSU Police Chief Craig Stone said. [emphasis added]

This actually sounds quite a bit like something that happened down the street from me just last month, which I’m pretty sure you haven’t heard about unless you live in the Denver-Boulder area, and maybe not even then:

BOULDER — A man wielding a machete on the University of Colorado campus was shot and killed on Wednesday morning after ignoring orders to drop his weapon — becoming the third person killed by Boulder law enforcement officers this year.

CU and Boulder police defended the use of deadly force inside the Champions Center on the north side of Folsom Field. Officers shot the man inside a stairwell after responding to a report of a man inside the building armed with a machete.

“Given the weapon the suspect was armed with, given the statement already made to our initial victim and given the nature of how he was maneuvering through the Champions Center, we believe it was in the best interest of the university that it was a deadly-force situation,” CU campus Police Chief Melissa Zak said at a news conference.

At 9:15 a.m., a patient who was being treated at the sports medicine facility at the Champions Center encountered the suspect in the parking lot outside the building, Zak said.

The suspect made harassing statements and followed the patient, who was not identified, into the building, Zak said. Officers from CU and the Boulder Police Department arrived and confronted the suspect on a stairwell between the fourth and fifth floor of the Champions Center.

“They ordered the individual to drop the machete,” Zak said, “and he did not drop it, at which time an officer-involved shooting occurred.”

Obviously other people suffered injuries in this morning’s incident, although none of those injuries are apparently life-threatening, while the CU incident merely involved threatening behavior.  But it would be safe to say that in a country in which 45 people are murdered on an average day, neither of these incidents would seem especially noteworthy or of more than strictly local interest.

Hey, but what if we’re talking about a terrorist attack of some sort?

Officials said the former Marine shot and killed by police after entering a University of Colorado building wielding a machete displayed character “incongruent with Marine Corps’ expectations and standards,” but his friends said he was a “goofball” at heart who had overcome a rough upbringing to excel as a drill instructor. . .

Officials have not revealed any possible motive for the incident, but a source close to the investigation told the Daily Camera the suspect was a “religious zealot of some kind” and who had been overheard talking about “looking for sinners.”

The source said the suspect approached a woman sitting in her car in the parking lot outside the Champions Center and wrote a message referring to the Ten Commandments on the vehicle before he entered the sports-medicine facility.

In a video posted on his Facebook page, Simmons speaks out against the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

“Get the (expletive) over it,” Simmons said in the video. “They want the human population to stop focusing on all the money and the conflict, they want you to focus on the racism and that stuff.”

Looks like we’ve got another mentally disturbed white guy on our hands.  Not a story, in other words.

Meanwhile, Twitter has some thoughts on today’s incident:

You insisted Ohio take in Somali Muslims knowing the inevitable terrorism they’d bring Ohio State University is on you

Looks like Kasich will eat any and everything.
Idiot John Kasich shoves pancakes down his throat while shoving terrorists down Ohio’s.

John Kasich’s comments all about him. No mention of Somali Muslim Terrorist. Just “we may never know why”. I know why. Duh.

Thanks John Kasich for inviting 45,000 Somali terrorists to Ohio. We will R.E.M. her this at your next reelection

John Kasich speaking – STFU – You asked for this!

The Economic Anxiety “Debate”

[ 524 ] November 28, 2016 |

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I am really frustrated with the entire state of the post-election debate, whether it is liberals hating Bernie Sanders, the left gloating, or especially the dismissal of economic anxiety as a real thing. This debate is especially problematic because you have some people legitimately saying that the overwhelming reason for white votes for Trump is economic anxiety. This is not true. Most whites have been voting Republican for a long time. On the other hand, you have stories like this that interview white Republicans that seem to dismiss the entire idea of economic anxiety because that’s not what is driving the various voters they speak with. Such is this piece on voters in Ritzville, Washington. Ritzville is a town in eastern Washington with not much going on except for being an outpost on I-90.

Ritzville proper is something of a time capsule from the ’50s. Even the names of the throwback storefronts hint at this — Memories Diner, the Ritzville Pastime Bar and Grill. It’s also got a Perkins and a Starbucks closer to the highway and the people of Ritzville are proud to tell you both are among the most successful in the state — thanks to truck drivers and travelers making one last stop before the final push to Seattle.

Two main streets run parallel on either side of a set Northern Pacific railroad tracks, headed south toward Tri-Cities. One street’s got the gas stations and the motels while the other is where the old stone buildings and “character” of the town lies, including Chamberlain’ shop. Every few hours, an Amtrak or a multi-engine train pulling coal or oil or grain lumbers by and the town is cleaved in two.

It seemed like a place to test the dominant narrative that has grown out of the election: This, supposedly, is the place government has forgotten — the home of the poor, rural, white masses that flipped the national electoral map for Trump. While cities flourish, the story goes, agrarian backwaters like Ritzville have fallen off of the map for public officials. Frustrated, residents of towns like this turned to Trump, casting a vote for change, even if it came from a man further from these parts of the world than any candidate in history.

Yes, Donald Trump turned Grays Harbor and swaths of Washington’s Timber Belt red. Yes, factories have closed and union members have leaned farther right. But the people I spoke to in Ritzville and nearby Lind don’t go right to economic hardship when asked why they voted for our new President-elect. They meander toward other things like refugees and Trump’s proposed wall along the Mexican border and, yes, the “rioters” in Seattle before arriving at economic anxiety, if they ever get there at all. Many out here are doing just fine.

Seems to me like some basic research about Ritzville is in order before making any claims about its relationship to the election. In 2016, Adams County voted 67-24 Trump, at least according to the latest number I saw. In 2012, Adams County voted Romney 66-32. In 2008, Adams County voted McCain 67-32. In 2004, Adams County voted Bush 73-26. In 2000, Adams County voted Bush 69-28. I could go on. There is nothing about what happened in Ritzville or Adams County that says anything at all about what has changed between 2012 and 2016. It says nothing about “economic anxiety” in any way. What it says is that Adams County, Washington is a deeply conservative place and that hasn’t changed meaningfully at any point in last 5 election cycles at least.

And that’s what is really frustrating about the blithe dismissals of economic anxiety as an important thing. Of course one can point to crazy racism and laughingly say “Economic Anxiety!!!” But that doesn’t help because those people weren’t changing their votes over this or any other issue.

Where the economic anxiety debate legitimately matters is not in long-term Republican counties. It’s in traditionally blue counties in swing states that swung sharply to the right in the last 4 years. Erie County, Pennsylvania went 48-46 for Trump. He won by 2000 votes. In 2012, Obama defeated Romney 57-41 in Erie County, winning by 19,000 votes. Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by about 68,000 votes. It is counties like these–blue-collar union counties with long histories within the Democratic Party, histories that lasted long after LBJ delivered the South to the Republicans in 1964, long after the Reagan era, that voted for Barack Hussein Obama twice. The critical question is why did these people switch their votes at this time. This is where a discussion of economic dislocation and hopelessness plays an important role. It must play an important role. These are voters that Democrats can probably get back without appealing to racism, which it absolutely must never do. That’s the debate we need to be having. Economic issues need to be taken seriously as part of that debate.

But as for why ranchers in eastern Washington or suburbanites north of Dallas voted for Trump, stories that say it was not because of economic anxiety are so obvious as to be ignored.

Resistance in Trump’s America

[ 83 ] November 28, 2016 |

immigrant-rights-sign

This sort of massive resistance is critical. It will happen around undocumented immigrants and sanctuary cities. If ICE agents actually invade churches to take out undocumented people, the national outrage will be tremendous.

 

In New York, with a large and diverse Latino population, Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged not to cooperate with immigration agents. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago has declared that it “will always be a sanctuary city.”

Across the nation, officials in sanctuary cities are gearing up to oppose President-elect Donald J. Trump if he follows through on a campaign promise to deport millions of illegal immigrants. They are promising to maintain their policies of limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration agents.

In doing so, municipal officials risk losing millions of dollars in federal assistance for their cities that helps pay for services like fighting crime and running homeless shelters. Mr. Trump has vowed to block all federal funding for cities where local law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents.

Some believe Mr. Trump could go further than simply pulling federal funding, perhaps fighting such policies in court or even prosecuting city leaders.

“This is uncharted territory in some ways, to see if they’re just playing chicken, or see if they will relent,” said Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports reduced immigration.

Cities have “gotten away with this for a long time because the federal government has never attempted to crack down on them,” Ms. Vaughan said.

The fight could also signal a twist in the struggle over the power of the federal government, as this time liberal cities — rather than conservative states — resist what they see as federal intervention.

Cities “may not have the power to give people rights,” said Muzaffar Chishti, the director of the Migration Policy Institute’s office at the New York University School of Law. “But they have a lot of power of resistance, and that’s what they’re displaying right now.”

It’s hard to really say to what extent some cities will resist. When city budgets decline by 10 percent, will that lead to tensions that harm immigrants? If mayors are prosecuted, what will happen? But if people stand tall in this situation, the moral correctness of their stance will win out in the end, I believe. While a lot of Americans are pretty racist, many of them, or at least the average Trump voter, is some degree of passive in that racism. Will they go so far as to see troops invade churches? Well, some will. But some won’t and I refuse to believe that the country has become so depraved that it will squash resistance like a bug. Maybe I am just overly optimistic right now.

Overall, this is a fine story except to say that at the very end, they very heavily mischaracterize the meeting in Providence that Mayor Jorge Elorza spoke at. I was at that meeting. It did not have 150 people. It had approximately 1000 people. That’s the sort of mass resistance meeting that can really lead to something positive. And right now, we all need something positive to hang some hopes upon. What we need is massive resistance to crackdown on voting rights, to the doubling down on the war on drugs, to the treatment of Muslims, and to all the outrages that could potentially be starting in less than 2 months.

The Media Refuses Accountability For Its Own Malpractice

[ 145 ] November 28, 2016 |

I generally admire Lynn Vavreck’s work, but this apologia for the media’s gross malpractice in its coverage of the 2016 campaign is, to say the least, unpersuasive. I completely reject the general assumption that the media essentially lacks agency and can only follow the lead of campaigns. But aside from that, the analysis has a lot of problems:

I compared the content of campaign ads with the content of news articles about two specific topics: candidate traits or characteristics, and the economy or jobs. Both the candidates and news organizations spent more time discussing the candidates’ fitness for office (or lack of it) than they did the nation’s economy.

Note the choice to focus solely on ads rather than on ads and speeches and candidate websites, etc., which obviously stacks the deck against policy appeals. And it also obscures the fact that Clinton’s campaign paid much more attention to policy and in much more detail.

The candidates’ controversies received more coverage, on average, than their views on the economy. From June until Election Day, 38 percent of the stories mentioned Mr. Trump’s various missteps, and 35 percent mentioned Mrs. Clinton’s email.

Let’s just stop here and note that this data reflects a grotesque failure on the part of the media to inform the public.

Closer to the election, from Oct. 8 on, the numbers got even more lopsided. This was an important date — just after the release of the “Access Hollywood” video and a few weeks before F.B.I. Director James B. Comey’s letter to Congress. From this point, 53 percent of the campaign articles mentioning either controversies or the economy discuss Mrs. Clinton’s email, while only 6 percent mention her alongside jobs or the economy. As for Mr. Trump, 31 percent mention his entanglements, while 10 percent mention him related to jobs and the economy.

Again, this is extraordinary. Clinton’s EMAILS! were receiving constant attention and being treated as the equivalent of Trump’s many actual scandals, even when there was no actual news about Clinton’s EMAILS! happening. What is being described her is just staggering malpractice. And yet:

These choices have consequences. According to the Gallup Organization, Americans’ reports of what they heard or read about Mrs. Clinton between June and September were mainly references to her handling of emails during her time as secretary of state. In contrast, mentions of Mr. Trump changed week by week, tracking what was happening on the campaign trail.

But before anyone blames the news media, it’s important to examine what the candidates themselves were talking about over the course of the campaign. If media reports reflect candidate discourse accurately, then it is not merely the media choosing to report on scandals. It might be at least as much the candidates’ choosing to campaign on them that results in unending coverage of traits and characteristics.

Leaving aside the implicit denial of agency to the media, conflating “what candidates are saying” with “advertising” is obviously very problematic. Clinton spent a lot of time talking about policy; the media just chose not to cover it. (For this reason, I also find the implicit empirical assumption that the media would have spent significantly less time focusing on EMAILS! if Clinton had run more policy ads massively implausible. I think Clinton running more policy ads would have been a good idea, but that’s a different issue.) And the denial of agency to the media shouldn’t be left aside.

I will concede that when it comes to covering Trump, the media had a legitimate dilemma. There is no precedent for a major national candidate engaging in one ordinarily disqualifying act after another throughout a campaign. The sheer number of scandals had the perverse effect of diluting the impact of any one. But each one of the scandals were news, and the media couldn’t refuse to report on one because it would dilute the impact of other stories. There were problems with the coverage of Trump but he didn’t receive the kind of fawning coverage George W. Bush did in 2000.

But what can’t possibly be defended is the media’s relentless focus on EMAILS!, an utterly trivial pseudo-scandal featuring no significant misconduct by Clinton, and implicitly equating it with Trump’s frauds and alleged sexual assaults and boasts about sexual assaults and serial dishonest. The media wasn’t forced to engaged in this false equivalence. It wasn’t forced to provide this extraordinarily disproportionate amount of coverage. Nothing forced the media to report non-stories like “donor asks Huma Adebin for a meeting and doesn’t get one” as the equivalent of Donald Trump refusing to pay contractors or conning his fans out of tens of millions of dollars. As Krugman says:

Prominent media outlets made choices about what to cover and how to cover it. They weren’t compelled by the candidates or the campaigns. These choices have to be defended on their own merits. The editors and journalists involved want to deny their agency precisely because these choices cannot possibly be defended, and the consequences of the malpractice will be horrific in many respects (not least for the free press.)

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