Paragraph to Ponder—Trump Downward Spiral Edition

If you’re like me, the worse Trump does, the better you feel about the country’s future. So despite it being gray outside, I woke up Saturday a bit more bullish about things. But thanks to John Cassidy of The New Yorker for the proverbial, political science slap in the face:

“Another argument you hear from Trump supporters, and even from some nervous Democrats, is that the polls might be understating his chances. That could be the case if pollsters are systematically underestimating the likely turnout among groups who like Trump, or they are systematically overestimating the likely turnout among groups supportive of Clinton, or both. It’s also conceivable that some Trump voters are reluctant to reveal their support for him to pollsters. These sorts of things can happen. Look at Brexit. Most of the polls in Britain got that result wrong, partly because their assumptions about turnout turned out to be mistaken.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates on O.J. Simpson

I hadn’t yet learned that black people are not a computer program but a community of humans, varied, brilliant, and fallible, filled with the mixed motives and vices one finds in any broad collection of humanity. More important, I did not understand the ties that united Simpson and the black community. When O. J. Simpson ran from justice, returned to it, was tried for murder, and eluded justice again, it was the most shocking statement of pure equality since the civil-rights movement. Simpson had killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. I suspected that then, and I am sure of it now. But he’d gotten away with it—in much the same way that white people had killed black men and women for centuries and gotten away with it.

The essay in its entirety.

How To Win The Presidential Debate

Recognize most people watching have a built-in wariness of anyone wanting to “run” the country because the ambition needed to apply for the job is mind boggling. Many wonder, what kind of person thinks they’re qualified to lead the country? Most, understandably conclude, only a serious ego-maniac. Therein lies the challenge. Ego-maniacs make poor leaders because effective leadership requires humility and the ability to respect and work with diverse groups of people.

Broad policy ideas are important, but the details are likely to be forgotten in a few days time. Don’t trot out any preplanned lines that you hope are especially memorable because the most successful one-liners are always a mix of spontaneity and authenticity. If you’re focused and lucky, the spirit of spontaneous, authentic, memorable lines may strike you at some point. That’s the best you can hope for.

To gain respect of voters, choose self respect over political science, and refrain from counter-punching when attacked. Convey a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to serve the nation.

Present the most positive vision for the country and you’ll win the debate. More specifically, present the most convincing plan to continue closing the gap between our stated ideals and challenging realities and you’ll win. Convince voters you have the necessary mix of character, confidence, and humility to improve people’s quality of life, and you’ll win.

I’ll be watching.


A Long Way to Go

Despite the demagogues rhetoric, the U.S. is becoming more inclusive. In part because of changing demograpics. Nearly eight years ago, we elected our first African American President. Then we re-elected him.

Odds are we’re going to elect our first female President this November. When though, will we elect our second female President? Our second African American? Our first Latino or Latina? Second Latino or Latina?

A conservative friend writes me and says this election shouldn’t have anything to do with gender. Only excellence. I guess I’m supposed to believe it’s a crazy coincidence that forty four times in a row a man has been most excellent just as one could flip a coin forty four times and have it come up heads everytime. Sure, that’s plausible.

Only when we join the following list will candidates’ gender start to fade in importance.

Countries that have had more than one female leader (includes acting, interim leaders etc)^

Switzerland (6) Six presidents*
Sri Lanka (3) One president, two prime ministers
Haiti (3) One president, two prime ministers
Finland (3) One president, two prime ministers
South Korea (3) Two prime ministers, one president
Lithuania (3) One president, two prime ministers
Argentina (2) Two presidents
Bangledesh (2) Two prime ministers
Central African Republic (2) One president, one prime minister
Guyana (2) One president, one prime minister*
Iceland (2) One president, one prime minister
India (2) One president, one prime minister
Ireland (2) Two presidents
Israel (2) One president, one prime minister
Liberia (2) Two presidents
Philippines (2) Two presidents
New Zealand (2) Two prime ministers
São Tomé and Príncipe (2) Two prime ministers
Sengal (2) Two prime ministers

*Switzerland has seen six female presidential terms, though two of those were held by the same woman. Guyana’s tally is also debatable, since their female prime minister and female president were the same person.

^ Source

The Whitest City in America

Portland, Oregon. Thought of by most as especially hip and progressive. We’re indebted to Alana Semuels for scratching well below the surface. She starts strong in her piece about the city’s racist history:

Victor Pierce has worked on the assembly line of a Daimler Trucks North America plant here since 1994. But he says that in recent years he’s experienced things that seem straight out of another time. White co-workers have challenged him to fights, mounted “hangman’s nooses” around the factory, referred to him as “boy” on a daily basis, sabotaged his work station by hiding his tools, carved swastikas in the bathroom, and written the word “nigger” on walls in the factory, according to allegations filed in a complaint to the Multnomah County Circuit Court in February of 2015.

Pierce is one of six African Americans working in the Portland plant whom the lawyer Mark Morrell is representing in a series of lawsuits against Daimler Trucks North America. The cases have been combined and a trial is scheduled for January of 2017.

“They have all complained about being treated poorly because of their race,” Morrell told me. “It’s a sad story—it’s pretty ugly on the floor there.” (Daimler said it could not comment on pending litigation, but spokesman David Giroux said that the company prohibits discrimination and investigates any allegations of harassment.)

The allegations may seem at odds with the reputation of this city known for its progressivism. But many African Americans in Portland say they’re not surprised when they hear about racial incidents in this city and state. That’s because racism has been entrenched in Oregon, maybe more than any state in the north, for nearly two centuries. When the state entered the union in 1859, for example, Oregon explicitly forbade black people from living in its borders, the only state to do so. In more recent times, the city repeatedly undertook “urban renewal” projects (such as the construction of Legacy Emanuel Hospital) that decimated the small black community that existed here. And racism persists today. A 2011 audit found that landlords and leasing agents here discriminated against black and Latino renters 64 percent of the time, citing them higher rents or deposits and adding on additional fees. In area schools, African American students are suspended and expelled at a rate four to five times higher than that of their white peers.

All in all, historians and residents say, Oregon has never been particularly welcoming to minorities. Perhaps that’s why there have never been very many. Portland is the whitest big city in America, with a population that is 72.2 percent white and only 6.3 percent African American.

Survey Scourge

scourge—noun. 1. a whip or lash, especially for the infliction of punishment. 2. a person or thing that administers punishment or criticism. 3. a Donald Trump-like cause of affliction or calamity.

Dear Every Business I Frequent,
Scratch that.
Dear Every For-Profit and Non-Profit With Which I Interact,
Scratch that.
Dear Every Entity En Todo El Mundo,
     I’m sick and tired of your stupid surveys. And I think I speak for every other human on the face of the Earth. You may think information is the lifeblood of your organization, but your surveys are so impersonal, they’re worthless. You should plant several trees to make amends and then have your heads examined for placing any faith in the feedback you receive.
     My vote for “most stupid use” of surveys goes to Olympia Honda whose service techs say, “If you can’t give me a ‘5’ for exemplary on every item, please let me know because I have to get perfect scores.” I don’t blame the techs, it’s the suits who should have their MBA’s revoked and then be tarred and feathered.
    If you REALLY want to know what I think about your service department, restaurant, product, organization, ASK me some open-ended questions. Then pay me for my time. Otherwise, knock that shit off.
Sincerely yours,

I’m an Idiot

Effective leaders mix humility, kindness, and composure, in what may be thought of quite simply, as “human decency”.

Most Republican primary voters do not share my view. The one candidate displaying the most decency is in last place. And it appears as if most Democratic primary voters do not share my opinion either. The Democratic candidate exhibiting the most humility, kindness, and composure is losing that race too.

I can’t help but conclude, I’m an idiot.

I also believe life in the United States has improved over the last seven years—fewer people are destitute around the world, GLBT citizens are enjoying new civil rights, more people are working and have health insurance, our environmental ethic is stronger, we’re opting for diplomacy over conventional warfare, the stock market has more than doubled in value, and everything has worked out beautifully on Downton Abbey.

Most Republican primary voters do not share my view. Apparently, the frontrunner’s success is the result of deep-seated, widespread anger at the state of things. In their view, we don’t win anymore. Who cares about people in other places, traditional marriage and religious liberty are under constant attack, socialized medicine means worsening quality of care, and who cares about the stock market when there’s not any savings to invest. If only “W” could have had a third and fourth term.

My whacked out thinking is probably the result of my white, male, well-to-do privilege trifecta. In the interest of going along to get along, maybe I should get more angry, think more negatively, and support the most brash candidate possible, human decency be damned.