He Apparently Earned A B.S. In B.S.

Not normally a fan of Friedmans, but this is very good. “Trump’s Motto: Your Money or Your Life“. Still in a post-Warren funk, maybe I’m not fully appreciating Byedon. My enthusiasm for his candidacy has been based on one overarching thing. He’s not Trump.

“Imagine that your child is sick with a disease and you decide to take her to 100 different doctors to get multiple opinions — and 99 doctors give you the same diagnosis and prescribed treatment and one tells you that there’s nothing to worry about, that your child’s disease will ‘disappear … like a miracle, it will disappear.’

What parents in their right minds would follow the advice of the doctor with the one-out-of-100 diagnosis?

This, alas, is no hypothetical. This, alas, is actually the most important question facing voters in choosing our next president. Are you ready to trust your own child’s and the country’s health to the guy who holds the one-out-of-100 view on both climate change and Covid-19? He being Dr. Donald Trump, founder of Trump University, where he apparently earned a B.S. in B.S.

It is stunning to me how many conservatives want to go with the doctor with the one-out-of-100 diagnosis, since doing so is anything but conservative.”

The Beginning Of The End For The (dis)United States

As one part of my history major, I studied Central and Latin American history in college. And there was one thing I could never figure out. Until this weekend.

I didn’t understand why, whenever a populist, land-reform promising political party gained control of political power, they never managed to follow through on their promises to upset the status quo, distribute power more fairly, and improve ordinary people’s lives.

Forty years later*, I realize it’s because the idealists’ hatred for their predecessors became so all encompassing it distracted them from the day-to-day work of building a brighter future.

The common good took a backseat to getting even with the bastards in the other party for the sometimes decades-long laundry list of political grievances including massive corruption, and in some cases, government sponsored death squads.

The political class in the (dis)United States thinks the (dis)United States is superior to any country to the south, so my reference is irrelevant. But it’s dead wrong, human nature doesn’t respect political boundaries. We are prone to the exact same desire to get revenge. I know that because I feel it in a more visceral way this weekend than ever before. Others do too, no doubt.

Consequently, we are on the precipice of a very similar downward spiral that’s seemingly inevitable when every political party assumes the worst of the other.

Listening to the Senate Majority Leader, the President, and other Republicans unprecedented, unapologetic politicizing of the Supreme Court convinces me that they care way more about their party’s interests than the country’s.

The Democrat’s refrain this week will be, “Never forget.” Democrats risk being overwhelmed by anger at the Republican’s historic hypocrisy. When they gain power, which they inevitably will sooner or later, they are likely to seek revenge. And when the Republicans regain it, which they inevitably will sooner or later, they will do the exact same.

Just like that, if it hasn’t already, the organizing principle of our politics will become revenge. Instead of looking to the future, we’ll be mired in the past. And our national debt will grow large; our natural environment will grow more inhospitable; our infrastructure will erode further; racial justice will remain more illusive; and more people will struggle to meet their basic needs for food, shelter, and clothing.

And I will take zero joy in being right.

*better late than never

2020 Election Predictions

  • There’s a less than .1% chance Trump pulls the plug before November 3rd. Smart people like the Rajin’ Cajun are letting their fantasies cloud their judgement. Trump is grinding, spewing non-stop hatred for his opponents—Biden, Harris, and Biden-Harris voters. Nothing in his recent behavior suggests anything resembling a capitulation. Nor could he stand being known in history as “The guy who up and quit.” 
  • There’s a 99.9% chance Trump contests a Biden-Harris victory. This deeply depressing description of what’s likely to go down and why is extremely convincing. 

And The Winner Is

In the (dis)United States, politics has become an intense, zero-sum competition. No one is ever changing their mind again. Neighbors signal their team affiliation with signage like TikTok’s Tony and Ezekiel.

We’ve become way too competitive for our own good, and yet, to differing degrees, we’re wired for competition. So what are we to do?

There are lots of different non-political ways to get our competition fix. We should turn our attention to them.

Professional soccer is alive and kicking. As is professional basketball and golf. Maybe we should argue about the Lakers and Clippers chances of winning it all. Or Milwaukee’s? Or be like the young dude on Harrison who when he saw Blanca and me ride up to him Tuesday morn, dug down and rode especially hard to make sure we knew he was faster. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. That’s the spirit.

Psychologists refer to it as displacement.

Or compete with those closest to you. Who does more of the household work or runs more of the errands or listens better? That always ends well. Or see if you can choose the fastest check-out line at the grocery store like me. Or be the driver who gets the most miles per gallon for your model of car like me. Or see who can save the most money in a month by not eating out and other self-imposed austerity measures. Or see who can collect the most masks. Or see who knows the most people at the farmer’s market.

If we just turn off the cable news and unplug from our devices, the possibilities are endless.

I’ll start. No more politics for me. For at least a few hours.

 

 

 

Kamala, 2020, and Beyond

From the same Perry Bacon Jr. article on FiveThirty Eight.

You can take this to the bank.

“. . . in the 2020 election, expect Trump and his campaign, who have had a hard time casting Biden as an extremist or a radical, to make attacks on Harris with sexist and racist undertones, cast her as an ultra-liberal Californian out of touch with Middle American values and suggest that voting for Biden in November means that Harris will be running the country for 12 years.”

This too.

“The biggest unknowns are around Harris herself and her electoral skills. Harris is a good politician based on these facts alone: She was elected senator in the nation’s most populous state and in a country with a lot of race and gender discrimination, Harris is the second Black woman ever elected to the Senate, and arguably the first to be a serious presidential candidate. That said, it’s still not clear if she is a particularly strong politician on the national stage, and therefore if she will be that helpful for Democrats in the No. 2 slot in 2020 or as the main candidate in a future presidential election.”

Here’s hoping she surprises on the upside.

Byedon-Harris

From FiveThirtyEight.

“Harris’s selection is the latest sign of the increasing diversity of the Democratic Party. Democrats last had an all-white, all-male ticket in 2004, with then Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards. This vice presidential process, with Biden committing to choosing a woman fairly early on and then choosing a Black woman, suggests the Democrats may rarely in the future have a ticket of two white men. They may also rarely in the future have a ticket of two white people (as in 2016 with Clinton and Tim Kaine) or two men (as in 2012, with Obama and Biden).”

“May rarely” is the cautious, prudent phrase. I’m throwing caution and prudence to the wind, and saying again, I do not expect to ever see two white men on a Demo ticket. That ship has sailed.

Is Complexity Obsolete?

I break with a lot of my fellow liberals when it comes to negative, largely anonymous, internet-based rushes to judgement of people who feel they have the right to decide what is and isn’t socially acceptable.

Often the mob is right, the offending person deserves to be censored and/or fired, and/or made to stand trial, especially if the people they lead would suffer those consequences from saying or doing the same things.

But sometimes the mob is not right. Which they realize once there’s some context. But then it’s usually too late. The offending person’s reputation, and sometimes livelihood, is ruined.

Consider the case of Al Franken as detailed in this Jane Mayer New Yorker article from 2019.

“A remarkable number of Franken’s Senate colleagues have regrets about their own roles in his fall. Seven current and former U.S. senators who demanded Franken’s resignation in 2017 told me that they’d been wrong to do so. Such admissions are unusual in an institution whose members rarely concede mistakes. Patrick Leahy, the veteran Democrat from Vermont, said that his decision to seek Franken’s resignation without first getting all the facts was ‘one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made’ in forty-five years in the Senate. Heidi Heitkamp, the former senator from North Dakota, told me, ‘If there’s one decision I’ve made that I would take back, it’s the decision to call for his resignation. It was made in the heat of the moment, without concern for exactly what this was.’ Tammy Duckworth, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, told me that the Senate Ethics Committee ‘should have been allowed to move forward.’ She said it was important to acknowledge the trauma that Franken’s accusers had gone through, but added, ‘We needed more facts. That due process didn’t happen is not good for our democracy.’ Angus King, the Independent senator from Maine, said that he’d ‘regretted it ever since’ he joined the call for Franken’s resignation. ‘There’s no excuse for sexual assault,’ he said. ‘But Al deserved more of a process. I don’t denigrate the allegations, but this was the political equivalent of capital punishment.’ Senator Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, told me, ‘This was a rush to judgment that didn’t allow any of us to fully explore what this was about. I took the judgment of my peers rather than independently examining the circumstances. In my heart, I’ve not felt right about it.’ Bill Nelson, the former Florida senator, said, ‘I realized almost right away I’d made a mistake. I felt terrible. I should have stood up for due process to render what it’s supposed to—the truth.’ Tom Udall, the senior Democratic senator from New Mexico, said, ‘I made a mistake. I started having second thoughts shortly after he stepped down. He had the right to be heard by an independent investigative body. I’ve heard from people around my state, and around the country, saying that they think he got railroaded. It doesn’t seem fair. I’m a lawyer. I really believe in due process.'”

That’s a remarkable paragraph.

Have we completely stopped thinking about how we’d want to be treated in a similar situation? Are we not smart enough to recognize and acknowledge subtlety, nuance, and complexity?

These are the questions I’ve been asking myself when thinking about the great policing debate. From my vantage point, there are only two choices. The Left’s “Option A” is to believe that police are an occupying force that does more harm than good. Consequently they need to be defunded. Which the Right consciously and continuously misrepresents. Most Black Lives Matter activists argue:

“Police forces have been receiving an increasingly disproportionate amount of a city’s budget. Instead of paying for such things as extensive officer overtime and expensive military equipment, cities should reallocate that money to a city’s social services, such as mental health, education, and housing.”

That filling in of context is still an anathema to the Right and their “Option B”. These “Blue Lives Matter” people argue the Left is exaggerating the problem of police brutality. Why rethink policing when it’s only a few bad apples?

I’m holding out hope for a third option which is neither centrist or moderate as much as it is intellectually honest because it acknowledges the complexity that’s inherent to any discussion of an institution as large and consequential as policing.

Somehow, in “Option C”, we’d muster the intelligence to do two things simultaneously. First, we’d get a whole lot better at identifying the particular police behaviors and police departments’ activities that are so far outside the common good, as to be unredeemable. The badge-wearing Derek Chauvins of the world. And we’d break the hold of police unions so that we could prosecute them for their brutality much more often than we have so far. In short, we’d get even more angry and determined to purge the police of the “too far gone”.

Equally important, we’d get a whole lot better at identifying the particular police and departments that are building positive working relationships with their communities and consistently and competently upholding the common good. This is especially important for those of us on the Left. Most simply put, we have to reject the utter mindlessness of “All Cops are Bastards”.

There either are important differences between individual police and their departments or there are not. I believe there are. I believe the most intelligent option is neither Option A or B. It’s C. For complexity.

A Glimmer of Hope at (Anti)Liberty University

Calum Best, 22, who graduated from Liberty in May and who has spoken out against Mr. Falwell’s political activity, called the move ‘a victory.’

‘It feels like they did it more because they were embarrassed, more than because it was the correct thing to do,’ he said. But, he said, ‘it’s great that he is gone.’

‘He is the one who holds up Liberty’s culture of focus on money, material well-being, political nationalism,’ he said. ‘Without Falwell gone, we can’t really change any of that.’

Ruth Graham’s last piece for Slate, Why That Falwell Jr. Yacht Photo Was the Final Straw before she moves to the New York Times. Graham quotes Marybeth Davis Bagget who taught English at Liberty for 17 years and resigned this spring after publishing an op-ed calling for Falwell Jr.’s removal based on his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

“One man cannot act this way without many enablers, and any meaningful reform of the school will require a thorough and brutally honest inquiry into the LU culture.”

Amen to that.

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