Thursday, December 31, 2015

Response to Sexual Politics

(See: Just Above Sunset: Sexual Politics)

Here's Donald Trump, justifying his retort to Hillary Clinton after she accused him of sexism for using the word "schlonging":

"Frankly, Hillary brought up the whole thing with 'sexist', and all I did was reverse it on her because she's got a major problem, happens to be right in her house."

In fact, whatever Trump thought he was responding to in his reply to Hillary on "sexism" had nothing to do with sexism. It seems that "sexism", like "racism", changes its meaning each time some ill-informed blockhead uses it, and its meaning becomes whatever anyone anywhere wants it to mean.

And yes, I understand the difference between dictionary definitions and real life, but the fact remains that "having sex" is actually not sexism, nor is cheating on your wife, both of which I think Trump has admitted to having at some point done himself, sometimes even bragging about it:

"Oftentimes when I was sleeping with one of the top women in the world I would say to myself, thinking about me as a boy from Queens, 'Can you believe what I am getting?'"

Has Hillary, or has even Bill, ever publicly said anything that lounge-lizardy? And he's going to call those two out for being sexists?

I could also ask, had this lowlife not become extremely rich, if he ever would have been able to lure any of those "top women in the world" into his bed -- but that would not only be actually sexist, it's also an unseemly way to talk about someone who could possibly become our next president -- unless saying something "unseemly" is no longer considered political correct this year. (Yes, it's true, I'm having a hard time following all of this stuff.)

The fact is, words do matter, and in this case, it can probably be demonstrated that neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton are "sexists", while Trump obviously is -- and the fact that someone treats women as commodities and inferior to men is probably more important to most voters than any sex they ever had. But add to that the fact that whatever extra-marital sex Bill Clinton got involved in is not something that can be easily pinned on his wife anyway, I have a hard time imagining this becoming an issue in the general election.

In fact, I'm not even sure that, as Josh Marshall calls them, the "agitated and conservative middle aged white men" that vote in the Republican primaries would even care about any of this so-called "sexist" stuff either. They seem to be more concerned with getting their country back, whatever that means.

As a matter of fact, if you want to read something that could possibly, if anything can, really get The Donald where he lives -- that is, his ego! -- then read this:

In her memoir, Trump's first wife, Ivana, alleged her husband hit her while recovering from surgery to reduce the bald spot on his scalp. Trump has denied the accusation; his former wife has backed away from her claim.

No, no, not the allegations that he beat his first wife! I'm talking about this:

Do Trump's followers realize he had surgery to reduce that bald spot on his scalp?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Response to Exactly Revenge

(See: Just Above Sunset: Exacting Revenge)

Eugene Robinson, of the Washington Post, makes a good point about Donald Trump:

What Trump has done is call out the establishment on years of dishonest rhetoric. ... 
The Republican Party promised – with nods, winks and dog-whistle toots – to change all of this and make everything the way it used to be. In practice, however, party leaders were compelled to deal with the world as it actually is – hence, for example, the establishment view a couple of years ago in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. ... 
Enter Trump, who has the temerity to point out that the party establishment says one thing but does another. He launched his campaign by calling the GOP’s bluff on immigration: If the 11 million people here without documents are really “illegal,” as the party loudly proclaims, then send them home. Other candidates were put in the position of having to explain why, after claiming that President Obama was somehow “soft” on immigration, their position on allowing the undocumented to stay is basically the same.

This reminds me of my time in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the early 1970s when I launched a TV Magazine program on public access cable and was hanging around a local Democratic club, the Park River Independent Democrats, to find out how politics worked in the neighborhood.

One big issue at the time was the "51st State Movement" that had many New York City Democrats wanting the city to secede from the state because the Republicans in Albany were mistreating us. The club had set up card tables on Broadway and 72nd Street and were asking passersby to sign secession petitions.

I remember asking Henry Berger and Paula Weiss, the two leaders of the club, if they really believed secession possible, or was even a good idea, and both laughed -- and I'm paraphrasing here: "Of course not! First of all, it's a pretty stupid idea, but second, it'll never happen!"

Then why are you soliciting petitions for it?

Their answer was that they were trolling for new members for the club, figuring that citizens who care enough about this issue to sign a petition might start coming to club meetings, get involved with local politics, and will hopefully stay involved long after this whole stupid secession movement is dead and gone and forgotten.

It was a ruse, albeit from their perspective, a well-intentioned and forgivable one.

The difference between the so-called Republican "establishment" and the so-called Republican "base" is the difference between the leadership of that Democratic club and the rubes who stopped to sign the petition. The establishment is sophisticated enough to know what needs to happen to get real things done, even if they have to pull the wool over the eyes of rubes to do it -- which is fine until the rubes catch on. Then? All the plans fall apart and nothing of import happens.

Donald Trump isn't just calling the GOP's bluff, he represents the logical extension of everything Republicans secretly think but are afraid to say out loud.

Politics may have kept John Boehner in check, keeping him from accomplishing anything Republicans really wanted to do, but Trump's not a politician, so he can promise, at least at this point, to deliver things that politicians never could deliver. Whether Trump would actually break the machine if he became president, or would miraculously smarten up and just be an Obama third term, is an open question at this point.

But can Ted Cruz beat Trump? One reason I doubt it is that all he has going for him is that he's an outsider, but he's an outsider who has been working on the inside, and has still demonstrated that he is totally feckless at accomplishing anything -- which gives Trump supporters no good reason to abandon him for Cruz. After all, if you're going to fail at achieving your agenda, you might as well do it with some guy who goes around loudly saying outlandish and controversial things that nobody else has the guts to say.

The real issue may be the future fate of the Republican party. 

I see this as a huge game of Jumbo Jenga, where you stack up a tower of wooden pieces that players then pull out one by one, seeing how long they can do this before the whole structure inevitably tumbles over. (By the way, in recent years, I've googled to see whatever happened to the Park River Independent Democrats club back in Manhattan, and it seems to have vanished.)

I think everything points to the national Republican Party eventually breaking down into two separate parties made up, on one side, of relatively moderate wrong-headed conservatives, and on the other, outright wackadoodle wrong-headed conservatives. This may temporarily please us Democrats, but only until it dawns on us that both those groups carry guns.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Response to Policing America

I just want to introduce one possible complication to what seems like an otherwise very thorough take on the Tamir Rice killing in Cleveland.

At first glance, and without looking too closely, this case seems to be an exception among those cases of white cops shooting black people, especially the two in Chicago -- shooting some guy across the street sixteen times, and shooting a woman and teen in a doorway from twenty feet away. Those two shootings seem absolutely indefensible, and to claim those cops felt their lives were threatened is total nonsense, an example of the sort of absurdity you'd expect to see in Franz Kafka's "The Trial".

I keep wondering if, when he was shooting away at Laquan McDonald, Officer Jason Van Dyke was taking into consideration that the odds were seemingly in his favor of getting away with this since, according to Huffington Post:

Van Dyke's indictment was the first time in more than 30 years that a Chicago police officer had been charged with murder. If convicted, he could serve 20 years to life in prison -- and would be the first Chicago cop in the modern era to be convicted of first-degree murder from an on-duty shooting. 

But it's a different case when a cop car pulls right up next to a suspect, and before the wheels even stop rolling, the cop comes out of the car and sees the suspect pulling out a gun. In this case, as awful as it is, I can understand him doing what he did.

A few years ago, the security department at my wife's employer (CNN) invited her to participate in one of those simulated training sessions in which you, the cop, standing there with a gun and watching a film of suspects popping out of various places, have to decide whether to shoot them or not. I can't remember the details, but I think she accidentally shot down several innocent civilians, but also decided to not shoot somebody who then, first, shot her, but then shot some innocent bystander that wouldn't have been shot, had she been doing a better job of being a cop. She found the whole experience illuminating. I'm thinking we should offer everyone in America the chance to go through one of those sessions.

But it occurs to me today that one thing that her simulated shootout didn't take into account was this business of “officer-created jeopardy” -- that is, what did my wife do to get herself in that situation in the first place where she was forced to think about shooting someone?

The answer, of course, is nothing. She just showed up at the pretend crime scene with her pretend gun drawn because the cameraperson showed up at that specific location and filmed it. Jane had no choice in the matter.

And what of Officer Timothy Loehmann, the officer who shot Tamir Rice? Shouldn't he have approached his suspect from farther away?

I would say yes, but the truth is, he apparently didn't have a choice either, since it was not he who was driving the patrol car, it was his partner, Officer Frank Garmback. In this case, Loehmann can't be held accountable for placing himself in the wrong location, and I'm not even sure whether Garmback can either, since he didn't do the shooting -- although I would think he should be somehow, since had he not driven up so close, we might not all be talking about this shooting incident today.

I understand that all this is playing out within the context of the national issue of too many white cops shooting too many black youths, with members of "Black Lives Matter" taking to the streets to protest each suspected case, but I would also hope that even the protesters could recognize that some cases don't fit that profile, and that the Tamir Rice case, in particular, seems to be far different than those Chicago cases, in that, rather than blatant police misconduct, it was just a tragedy that we really need to find out how to avoid in the future.

Examples of some things we could look into that, had they been in place, could have saved Tamir Rice's life:

* Should cops be required to keep their distance from suspects, and not drive right up to them? Should they be charged if they fail to do this?

* Should 911 operators be obligated to pass on bits of information to dispatchers that they hear from the callers, such as that this seemed to be a boy who was playing with a toy gun -- and the dispatchers be required to pass these on to the patrol officers responding to the call? Should there be legal consequences if they don't?

And only slightly off the subject but still sort of relevant: Should not the people who originally set up the "Black Lives Matter" movement instead have called it "Black Lives Matter, Too"?

I think that would have made the point more clearly, without so much chance of misunderstanding, and done it by staking a claim on the middle ground, which would have partly pulled the rug out from under all those Fox News-types or whomever it is that are now depicting the movement, with a certain amount of success, as some sort of anti-white hate group.

In fact, it may not be too late. If someone with influence in "Black Lives Matter" is reading this, it's not too late for you to convince everyone to change the name of the movement to "Black Lives Matter, Too!"

It'd be quite the public relations coup, assuming you care about that sort of thing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Response to Nothing to Fear

(See: Just Above Sunset: Nothing to Fear)

It's a rare day that I find myself disagreeing with Kevin Drum, but today is indeed one of them. Here he is, responding to Democrats blaming GOP candidates for "Exploiting Working-Class Fears":

Here’s the thing that liberals tend not to want to accept: different people evaluate threats in far different ways. This is not right or wrong. It’s just human nature.

Okay, this takes me back to my favorite study by John Hibbing, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln:

"We know that liberals and conservatives are really deeply different on a variety of things," Hibbing explains on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast [See #88 on list.] "...We can measure their sympathetic nervous systems, which is the fight-or-flight system. And liberals and conservatives tend to respond very differently." 
For example, startle reflexes after hearing a loud noise were stronger in conservatives. And after being shown a variety of threatening images ("a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face, and an open wound with maggots in it," according to the study), conservatives also exhibited greater skin conductance — a moistening of the sweat glands that indicates arousal of the sympathetic nervous system, which manages the body's fight-or-flight response. 
It all adds up, according to Hibbing, to what he calls a "negativity bias" on the right. Conservatives, Hibbing's research suggests, go through the world more attentive to negative, threatening, and disgusting stimuli — and then they adopt tough, defensive, and aversive ideologies to match that perceived reality.

But Drum, who lives in California, continues:

In my case, I never even bother getting out of bed if I feel an earthquake. I just roll over and wait for it to stop. 
This is, by almost any measure, stupid. ... Wouldn’t it make sense to at least hop out of bed and get ready in case my house starts to collapse? Yes it would. I’m putting my life in danger by underplaying the threat.

Not really, he's only acting like a conservative, by giving into his fears instead of dealing with them rationally.

First of all, concerning earthquakes:

Like Kevin, l've lived in California (I was born there, and lived there from age four to twelve). I "experienced" several earthquakes -- and I put that in quotes because, although they happened, I never once felt one. I remember several times in class, everybody would stop talking and the teacher would say, "You feel that? It's an earthquake!" I would sit there and look at everyone sitting still, looking fearful. 

The topper was the time that I woke up one morning and the family all said, "Boy, that was something last night!" My older brother said it shook him out of bed (the top bunk!) onto the floor. I told everybody I never felt it and they took me out back to show me the swimming pool, which was 20 feet by 40 feet and eight feet deep, and it was half-empty, the water having shlossed out into the gully behind our property.

I guess I was a born liberal because it didn't scare me. Or maybe I just figured the big one would kill me in my sleep, so I wouldn't suffer.

But I think Kevin is wrong on this:

Not only do I, as a liberal, accept that, because of human nature, liberals and conservatives evaluate threats in different ways, but I also think liberals are right, which means that conservatives are wrong.

In National Review, there's Jim Geraghty, answering that Saturday Night Live skit with a faux Chris Christie, pronouncing that, “Mothers are putting their kids on buses, and these buses are being driven off cliffs by terrorists!", by quoting, I guess as a corrective, the real Christie,saying this:

America has been betrayed. We’ve been betrayed by the leadership that Barack Obama and Hilary [sic] Clinton have provided to this country over the last number of years. Think about just what’s happened today. The second largest school district in America in Los Angeles closed based on a threat. Think about the effect that, that’s going to have on those children when they go back to school tomorrow wondering, filled with anxiety, to whether they’re really going to be safe. 
Think about the mothers who will take those children tomorrow morning to the bus stop wondering whether their children will arrive back on that bus safe and sound. 
Think about the fathers of Los Angeles, who tomorrow will head off to work and wonder about the safety of their wives and their children. 
What is it that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton done to this country? That the most basic responsibility of an administration is to protect the safety and security of the American people.

(Did you get how Obama and Hillary supposedly caused the thing in Los Angeles to happen? Me, neither, but never mind that.)

Better yet, think about the senseless fear that the leadership of Los Angeles propagated by closing down the second-largest school system in America in the face of the same threat that the wiser leadership of New York, the first-largest, were able to see was a hoax. Yes, New York took a chance that could have backfired on them, but it wasn't "rolling the dice", it was using their brains and showing leadership in combatting terrorism, since closing down a school system for every fake threat that comes along is expensive and cowardly, and just hands the bad guys an easy victory.

So instead of fear-ridden New Jersey Governor Chris Christie running for president, maybe courageous and proven-capable New York Mayor Bill De Blasio should take his place? (No, never mind that. The Democrats are not in need of capable candidates. Although maybe De Blasio could run as a Republican?)

What Obama is trying to say, although probably not with the specificity that's required, is that although ISIL (that's what he calls ISIS) will continue trying to attack us, and although a few of them will get through and kill some of us here and there, we have been successful over the years of thwarting many such attacks, and they will not come anywhere near to destroying our country, much less taking us over and making us part of their so-called "caliphate". So since the chances of you or anyone you know being an actual victim of terrorism are minimal, you will only be a victim of your own exaggerated fears if you allow yourself to give in them. So don't.

Think of Britain during the Blitz. Even though German bombs killed close to 40,000 of them, they stayed calm and carried on, and finally ended up the victors. We're not suffering anywhere near those casualties, and yet the conservatives seem to be quivering in their boots. Remember, the real question is not whether you're afraid, it's how you are able to handle your fears without losing your sense of direction.

So yeah, our fears differ, but that doesn't mean conservatives aren't scaredy-cats. They are, and they should be ashamed, and should just man up and try to control themselves!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Response to Political Anomalies

It's fun to think Vladimir Putin endorsed Donald Trump, but the truth is, he didn't; in fact, he made a point of saying it's up to the American people.

He was only responding to reporters random questions, saying, depending on which translation you believe, that Trump is “an outstanding and talented personality", or else that Trump is "flamboyant", which might mean something else altogether. But the next thing, we're all talking bromance, or at least that the two guys are, in many ways, very much alike.

Which, according to Masha Gessen, a Russian-American journalist, is largely true:

"Putin respects fighters and he respects aggression and he doesn’t respect sort of calm and deliberation,” Gessen said. “He wants a manly adversary. He wants somebody he can understand.”

("Manly"? Hey, not that there's anything wrong with this, but the little guy is only 5' 7" tall! The next time he's in Moscow, Obama, who is 6' 1", should challenge Putin to a little game of one-on-one basketball. If Putin insists, he can even be "skins"!)

But remember, Putin expects to compete against this adversary, and he also expects to win. It's easier for him to win against somebody he can understand, someone like Trump. It's harder for him to win against someone he doesn't understand, someone like Obama, and maybe even Hillary. 

Trump and Putin both fit the Mussolini strong-man image of leadership. This country doesn't need a "strong-man" leader who does a lot more posturing than thinking. Obama has played Putin fairly well when it was necessary -- getting him involved in removing chemical weapons from Syria, for example -- and Republicans, who tend to focus more on posturing than actual diplomacy, never acknowledged that.

One thing Trump -- who says he wants to "Make America Great Again!" -- seems not to understand that this country has an actual two-hundred-plus-year history of lofty ideals that have served it well, at least until now. Just as he can see us throwing away what the United States stands for, he can also see himself as its strongman leader along the lines of Vladimir Putin, who also wants to return his own country to the greatness of the past, which, in his case, was always a nation mired in misery, ruled with an iron fist by ruthless czars and commissars, all with inferiority complexes.

Instead of trying to "make America great again" by changing it into Russia, Trump should audit a few courses on American history to learn a little more about the country he is threatening to dismantle. 

And so, by the way, should all of those "low-information" followers of his, who may actually be the real villains of this piece.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Response to Political Indigestion

This was good.

Yes, there was a lot of good material to chew on in that debate the other night, but maybe too much -- so much that it was overwhelming. I'm surprised anybody had the heart and the energy to sort it all out. Kudos.

But that runaway convention thing sounds pretty good, especially if it brings with it the possibility of us retaking the Senate and maybe even the House? I hadn't heard that speculation before. Is that really being discussed out there?

Yep, that scenario certainly would be better than a "President Rubio" or even a "President Jeb!", either of which I think is still a possibility if the Republicans wake themselves up in time. But if they don't, this whole era of backing clueless "outsiders" -- and refusing to even sit down in the same room with Democrats -- may serve as an epic object lesson to those people over there on the other side.

Man, I can't wait to see Reince Pubis' post-mortem after that all happens.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Response to Angry Gloom and Doom

(See: Just Above Sunset: Angry Gloom and Doom)

Kevin Drum, of Mother Jones, live-blogged last night's debate, and I saw he wrote this at 9:07 PM:
These folks are still obsessed about whether Obama will say radical Islamic terror. Can someone please ask why they're so fixated on this? Do they really think that saying this over and over actually makes a difference?
I wish I could cite the sources who can document this, but it is apparently true that if you say "Radical Islamist Terrorist", then Muslims the world over, most of whom don't understand English, just hear "blahblahblah Islam blahblahblah".

I've always wondered why nobody ever seemed to ask one of the Republican candidates about this, point blank, and was pleased to see on CNN, after the debate, Jake Tapper ask Ted Cruz, specifically wondering out loud if he couldn't see how damaging this can be in that it seems to tell the world that we are at war with Islam itself!

Paraphrasing Cruz's answer (which I can't quote because I don't have a transcript) was, No, no! The Democrats refuse to say the term because of political correctness! They just don't want to hurt someone's feelings.

There you have it! Occam's razor! The truth is just too complicated to be true.

So who won the debate, you ask?

Since there's nothing substantially new in successive debates, so maybe it doesn't really matter. The only thing I haven't heard anybody mention is Rand Paul bringing what sounded like an entourage of maybe eight to ten people, with instructions to try, after everything he says, to be as loud as everybody else's followers. I think the campaign calculated that this would bring his poll numbers up from the basement, but I seriously doubt it worked for him.

I'm convinced that having so many debates, with so many candidates repeating the same stuff over and over, is not just destructive to their own party, it's destructive to the whole American zeitgeist. After all, with interest rates going up today, one more indication that the economy is coming back, what do the Republicans have to sell except fear that something awful is going to happen? By hearing this doom and gloom repeated over and over again, in debate after debate, citizens have little choice but take it for granted that the country is in deep doodoo -- which it isn't -- and that weakling Barack Obama and feckless Hillary Clinton have royally screwed things up -- which they haven't.

Still, asking who wins these Republican dog-and-pony shows is like asking who won last year's "Puppy Bowl" on Animal Planet. Do you remember? Of course not! Nobody does. People watch the "Puppy Bowl" just for the senseless spectacle, and when any contestant wins, it's largely by accident. 

But something else the two events have in common is that contestants of both know about equally as much as the other about which part of the nuclear triad to upgrade first.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Response to No Growing Up

(See: Just Above Sunset: No Growing Up)

Two comparisons worth a closer examination, being between Donald Trump and (a) Richard Nixon, and also (b) Fascists:

First, Hunter S. Thompson, who said of Nixon that he was "a man with no soul, no inner convictions", has his own colorful memory of Richard Nixon:
"The Nixon I remembered was absolutely humorless; I couldn’t imagine him laughing at anything except maybe a paraplegic who wanted to vote Democratic but couldn’t quite reach the lever on the voting machine.”
That surely is reminiscent of Donald Trump recently doing his impersonation of a disabled newspaper reporter, which should help remind us of the fact that conservatives, except for a few warped examples of mockery, such as these, don't seem to have much of a sense of humor.

But wasn't Nixon, as many have noted, actually just a liberal in conservative clothing, the president who brought us the Environmental Protection Agency, the famous opening up of China, and Wage and Price Controls? Liberal, Schmiberal, the man had no ideology and did pretty much only what he thought was politically expedient at the time, which is what all those programs were. For example, there were also those stories of Nixon seeking reassurance from Henry Kissinger just before the China trip that historians would indeed treat him kindly for doing it.

And when it comes to Trump, his politics also have been all over the map, and those accusations that he was once a liberal, while having some truth to them (remember him famously telling Wolf Blitzer in 2004, back when he wasn't running for anything, that the economy always seems healthier under the Democrats), seem to give him more credit than he deserves for thinking things through. Actually, he, somewhat like Nixon but with less thinking involved, just says what he thinks and feels, at the moment, will impress his followers, at that moment.

Which brings us to what Mark Bowden says about what he learned about Trump from interviewing him, in his recent (and wonderful) Vanity Fair article:
He has no coherent political philosophy, so comparisons with Fascist leaders miss the mark. He just reacts.
Yes, he certainly does, but the Fascism comparisons "miss the mark"? Not so fast, Mr. Bowden! You may be giving into that modern-day prohibition about referencing WWII Axis-types when discussing latter day misbehavers.

First of all, Fascism is a "coherent political philosophy"? Here's what George Orwell said about that, in his "What is Fascism?" back in 1944, when Fascism itself was in full bloom:
Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.
In a word, Bingo!

The popularity of Fascism that arose after WWI was, for the most part, a reaction against the failures of the past. In the words of Wikipedia, "Fascists view World War I as having made liberal democracy obsolete, and regard total mobilization of society under a totalitarian single-party state as necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflict and to respond effectively to economic difficulties" -- not so much a coherent philosophy as merely a thoughtless gut response of lazy thinkers to the times they live in. 

That sounds pretty Trumpian, to me.

One more irony regarding Trump mocking that disabled reporter is that, if everyone thought it was okay to make fun of people with infirmities, everyone would be making fun of Trump for his seemingly-overt "Cluster B" personality disorder.

Oh, wait! We do!

Okay, well, nobody's perfect.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Response to Affirmative Inaction

(See: Just Above Sunset: Affirmative Inaction)

Remember the Bakke case, back in the late 1970s? That was the beginning of what we're seeing today:
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978) was a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States. It upheld affirmative action, allowing race to be one of several factors in college admission policy. However, the court ruled that specific quotas, such as the 16 out of 100 seats set aside for minority students by the University of California, Davis School of Medicine, were impermissible. 
Although the Supreme Court had outlawed segregation in schools, and had even ordered school districts to take steps to assure integration, the question of the legality of voluntary affirmative action programs initiated by universities was unresolved. Proponents deemed such programs necessary to make up for past discrimination, while opponents believed they were illegal and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. ... 
Allan P. Bakke, an engineer and former Marine officer, sought admission to medical school, but was rejected for admission by several, in part because, in his early thirties, he was considered too old. After twice being rejected by U.C.-Davis, he brought suit in state court. The California Supreme Court struck down the program as violative of the rights of white applicants and ordered Bakke admitted.

But the Supreme Court back then still bought the argument about affirmative action, that "such programs [are] necessary to make up for past discrimination", so rather than ruling it unconstitutional, it just started watering it down a bit.

Fast-forward to today, to a case which one might make the mistake of jumping to the conclusion that those who think society picks on white people too much may have jumped the shark. Scott Lemieux explains in the Guardian:
Early in the arguments, [Justice Antonin] Scalia asserted that “there are­­ there are those who contend that it does not benefit African­ Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well.” Scalia’s apparent assumption, albeit one that he attributed to others, that African Americans admitted under affirmative action programs must be unqualified is offensive in itself – and particularly offensive given how marginal the qualifications of the plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, were. 
As the 5th circuit court of appeals observed in its opinion upholding the UT affirmative action program, Fisher almost certainly would not have been admitted even if UT used strictly race-neutral admissions criteria. The argument that colleges should not even consider the racial diversity of its student body in order to give white applicants with poor qualifications a very slightly better chance doesn’t strike me as a very compelling one. 
And I must have missed Scalia condescendingly suggesting that Fisher would have been better off at a less-demanding school.
Boy, our country really must be going down the toilet, so much so that the concept of so-called "reverse discrimination" has seemingly made so much headway that mediocre white people are now arguing that they deserve to be given advantages over mediocre black people -- since not to be given them is just a form of racial prejudice. Incredible logic!

Two can play that game: The Court could take heed of Fisher's argument, that we shouldn't take one's race into consideration, by simply throwing the case out of court -- since with absolutely no consideration of her race, there goes her claim of being discriminated on the basis of her race, and she's got absolutely no case!

But considering the regressive zeitgeist of 2015, a legal decision like that would surely be seen as a huge leap forward, and might be just enough to start a revolution in this country -- that is, if Republican voters could only tear themselves away from all that other stuff that always seems to have their shorts in a bunch.

But speaking of the country? I want my country back.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Response to Reductio

(See: Just Above Sunset: Reductio)

Try these two headlines out as examples of Reductio Ad Absurdum:
Trump Reclaims Lead in Iowa Polls
You think that would do it? Probably not. His fans don't care what he says or does, as long as it's not "politically correct". I think the man has sold his soul to Satan.

Think about this Muslim ban:

As Martha Raddatz pointed out on ABC's "Good Morning America" this morning, Trump would ban Muslims on athletic teams from entering the country? He'd ban King Abdullah of Jordan? He'd ban Malala, the little girl who won the Nobel Peace Prize? And remember, by far most of the Muslims in the world are not in the Middle East, they're in Asia and the Pacific Rim, so he would be banning all Indonesian diplomats from showing up at the UN in New York.

Also on GMA this morning, George Stephanopoulos talked with Trump about his new plan:
GS: Let's talk to Mr. Trump himself, he joins us via the phone. Donald Trump, thank you for joining us again this morning. You've heard that chorus of condemnation, not only from (inaudible) but from a lot of Republicans as well, including the Chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party; she says it's Un-Republican, Un-Constitutional, Un-American. Do you have any second-thoughts at all that you may have gone too far? 
DT: Well, first of all, George, she's a Bush person and she wants to see Bush, and Bush has crashed like nobody's ever seen anyone crash before. Uh -- we have had tremendous support. We've had calls in, thousands and thousands of people. You saw last night, we were on a ship, there were thousands of people there, there were thousands of people outside that couldn't get in, and frankly, it was a standing ovation that wouldn't stop. Uh, the people, and you did polls, I mean, people went and interviewed the people that were at my speech last night, and they just want to see something happen.
His argument here being that, forget America, forget the Constitution -- and not to forget to forget the Republicans! -- people are eating it up!

Forget morality and American traditions of fairness that have developed and survived down through the centuries, what's important here is that thousands and thousands and thousands of people are trying to get on a ship to give me a standing ovation that won't stop.

So just in case you're buying his argument, that his poll rankings should outweigh constitutional concerns, someone needs to refer him, first of all, to Nate Silver's wise admonition, back on November 23rd, to not get all that excited about Donald Trump's poll numbers:
If even by New Year’s Day (a month before the Iowa caucuses, which are scheduled for Feb. 1) only about one-third of Iowa voters will have come to their final decision, the percentage must be even lower now — perhaps something like 20 percent of voters are locked in. When you see an Iowa poll, you should keep in mind that the real situation looks something more like this: 

  • Undecided 80% 
  • Donald Trump 5 
  • Ben Carson 4 
  • Ted Cruz 3 
  • Marco Rubio 2 
  • Jeb Bush 1 
  • Carly Fiorina 1 
  • Mike Huckabee 1 
  • Chris Christie 1
So in reality, Trump wasn't leading in Iowa at that point, "Undecided" was leading in Iowa, with 80% to Trump's 5%.

But, second of all, I'll go Nate further by noting that those percentages only apply to Republicans, and that if we, for argument's sake, estimate that half the state is Democratic -- I doubt that it is, but anyway -- that would give him only about two-and-a-half percent!

Of course, it would really be even less than that, since Republicans and Democrats share the state with lots of political Independents, along with members of third parties.

To put that another way, while Donald Trump's answer to all criticism of his proposal to turn the United States into a dictatorship, in which a popular leader can do anything he wants, is that most people seem to like it -- he needs to look a little closer at his numbers, and he might find out that most Americans actually are not with him, to the tune of probably somewhere over 98%.

And while we're contemplating glimmers of good news about Donald Trump, we need to keep in mind that if we lived in that hypothetical country in which Donald Trump could actually do all the unconstitutional things he is proposing, then we would also be living in a country that could very easily lock Donald Trump up, just for being a humongous jerk.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Response to Longing for Cheap Talk

(See: Just Above Sunset: Longing for Cheap Talk)

Do we have any quotes anywhere from anyone explaining why it's important to call our enemy "Radical Islamic Terrorists" or whatever? Although I'm glad to finally see this from Matthew Yglesias:
The Oval Office address represents Obama's best effort to meet the psychological needs of a frightened nation under attack...
Of course, Matthew Yglesias is not a conservative candidate for president, and although he does seem to be generally discussing the kind of things those people fault Obama for not addressing, he's not specifically talking about what to call the terrorists. Still, it's the closest answer I've seen to what I'm asking, so it'll have to do.

And yet, has any reporter ever asked Trump and that gang for a good reason to refer to those people with a phrase that has the word "Islamic" in there? Or, just as good, have any of the candidates, or even their acolytes, ever volunteered an answer, without having been asked? And if not, why not? Do they assume the answer is so obvious that no one need ask?

Mind you, we've all heard Obama and others give us any number of times the explanation of why we shouldn't lump Islam into the phrase -- no matter what we think we mean by using that word, the "undecided" Muslims in the middle see it as us being involved in some sort of "War of Civilizations", the West versus all Islam, which is exactly what the extremists hope to achieve -- but the Republicans never seem to acknowledge even hearing that explanation.

Worse yet, many in the media don't seem to understand this any clearer than the Republicans do. I've heard several mainstream, theoretically objective journalists lately (I think I heard it from Chuck Todd this past Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press") seem to wonder out loud when the Democrats, particularly Hillary Clinton, will finally cave in and somehow use the word "Islamic". We need to keep asking all these people, Republicans and journalists alike, "Are we at war with Islam? Do you want us to be? If not, then why do you keep trying to tell the whole world that we are, since that's what moderate Muslims hear over there?"

Those "psychological needs" probably don't just include the feeling that our president understands, first of all, that we're at war, and also who we're at war with, but also that, with every new event, the inkling that he will offer a change in approach, even if no new approach is necessarily called for.

Here's something else Yglesias said:
The deaths in San Bernardino were both tragic and horrifying. But if there is one thing the United States has learned from Sandy Hook and Charleston and Colorado Springs and scores of other mass shooting events, it is that the United States of America is fundamentally robust to the occasional spree killing.
In fact, that's a point that I wish Obama had made in last night's speech.

Americans might not understand when Obama tells them that ISIS does not present an "existential threat" to America -- if they ever do try to "take us over", they will fail miserably -- but I do think it would help to let them know that there will probably be more attacks, and that more Americans may die, but we will withstand them, and maybe even survive just as Britain heroically survived the German bombardment in 1940. That way, he could cover himself after the next terrorist attack, instead of us having to endure the wailing of those delicate flowers who, panicked, will be once again shrieking, "Look! It happened again! And he has still done nothing to prevent it!"

Yet, believe it or not, not doing anything in response could actually discourage homegrown terrorists, since it would show them that their feeble attempts to stir us up have no more effect than getting us all onto discussing gun control. It would be our version to the stiff-upper-lip UK response of "Keep Calm and Carry On" to War of Britain bombings in WWII.

But yes, I realize that conservatives too often look to Hollywood for positive examples of fictional American presidents with the kind of backbone they admire, not the least of which being President James Marshall, the Harrison Ford character in "Air Force One".

In real life, Harrison Ford's father's family is Irish Catholic and German, and his mother's is Jewish:
When asked in which religion he and his brother were raised, Ford has jokingly responded, "Democrat," "to be liberals of every stripe". ... Like his parents, Ford is a lifelong Democrat, and a close friend of former President Bill Clinton. ... 
In 2003, he publicly condemned the Iraq War and called for "regime change" in the United States. He also criticized Hollywood for making violent movies, and called for more gun control in the United States.
In case you missed the point, Hollywood's most heralded tough-guy president, Harrison Ford, is a Democrat -- as have been most of our recent, most exemplary presidents.