The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

An inability to think coherently

New Republic's Brian Buetler reports that the wing-nuts in the Republican Party (i.e., about half of them) are already laying the psychological groundwork for the increased reporting on Donald Trump's past coming out now that he's the presumptive nominee:

The Republican primary campaign revealed (or rather reestablished) that Donald Trump is a bigot and a sexist and a creep. In fairness, this was not entirely a testament to fearless journalism; Trump happily exhibited all of these behaviors in front of live television cameras week after week. But reporters and campaigns did bring incidents of bigotry, sexism, and creepiness from his past to light, which helped feed the public’s exceedingly negative impression of the GOP’s new standard-bearer.

Despite months of digging, though, they may have only scratched the surface of Trump’s public and private sordidness. Now that he’s effectively secured the Republican Party nomination, we can expect the full details to pour out in the weeks and months ahead.

Before he dropped out of the race, Ted Cruz predicted this would happen. He attributed it to a liberal conspiracy: The media would sit on their most explosive Trump exposés until he’d won the nomination thanks to the invaluable free airtime they’d given him—and then destroy him with a series of damning revelations they’d been waiting to unleash.

It goes without saying that Democrats have none of those perverse incentives to worry about. They will unearth what Republicans missed; they will find what reporters can’t, if they haven’t already. And to the extent that their dossiers overlap, they will release what Republicans withheld. Reporters will happily field this opposition research, run it to ground, and publish it. It isn’t the media that’s been strategically holding fire—it’s the Democrats. They even boast about it.

And it's not like this guy doesn't have a whole load of dirty laundry to air. But such is the pathology of the Republican base right now that any bad news about their candidate must be part of a larger conspiracy, because the cognitive dissonance otherwise would be incapacitating.

Wow, this is going to be a long campaign.

Obama at Howard University

Via Daily Kos, the President gave the commencement address at Howard University Saturday, giving a clear rebuke to Bernie Sanders' central message throughout:

The president was not attacking Sanders’ ideology of fairness. But he was clearly separating himself from Sanders’ dogmatic insistence on revolutionary transformation.

If you want to make life fair, then you have to start with the world as it is.

The balance between idealism and pragmatism was clearly at the forefront of the president’s mind.

Democracy requires compromise, even when you are 100% right. This is hard to explain sometimes. You can be completely right and you still have to engage folks who disagree with you. If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral security, but you will not get what you want.

This is one reason there has been somewhat of a class divide between Bernie and Hillary supporters. The “moral security” Obama refers to is an emotional and intellectual luxury if it doesn’t contribute to substantive change.

Here's the whole speech:

Presidential decisions

Five years ago yesterday, President Obama announced to the world that U.S. forces had captured and killed Osama bin Laden. Earlier that night, after making one of the biggest decisions of his presidency, he did this:

Back in September, New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik made the same observation:

What was really memorable about the event, though, was Trump’s response. Seated a few tables away from us magazine scribes, Trump’s humiliation was as absolute, and as visible, as any I have ever seen: his head set in place, like a man in a pillory, he barely moved or altered his expression as wave after wave of laughter struck him. There was not a trace of feigning good humor about him, not an ounce of the normal politician’s, or American regular guy’s “Hey, good one on me!” attitude—that thick-skinned cheerfulness that almost all American public people learn, however painfully, to cultivate. No head bobbing or hand-clapping or chin-shaking or sheepish grinning—he sat perfectly still, chin tight, in locked, unmovable rage. If he had not just embarked on so ugly an exercise in pure racism, one might almost have felt sorry for him.

Then, this weekend, Andrew Sullivan said that the U.S. has never been so ripe for tyranny. I haven't digested his article yet, and I'm probably more optimistic than he, but all of these things are related.

But hey, if you think Donald Trump has the temperament and nuance to be president, you go right ahead and vote for him.

CJ Cregg returns to the White House

Well, not really; but this is worth a view.

NPR explains:

Posing as her character C.J. Cregg, who was the press secretary in the critically acclaimed show that ran from 1999 until 2006, actress Allison Janney took a surprise turn on the podium to the delight and surprise of the real White House press corps.

Janney ended the spoof by revealing the real reason she was at the White House: to talk about opioid addiction and what was being done to combat the problem. Her current show on CBS, Mom, deals with drug addiction and its struggles.

"This is a disease that can touch anybody, and all of us can help reduce drug abuse through evidence-based treatment, prevention and recovery. Research shows it works, and courageous Americans show it works every day," Janney said.

This comes on the heels of Bradley Whitford (who played opposite Janney on The West Wing) endorsing Hillary Clinton as "by far the most qualified candidate to run for president in my lifetime."

What the what?

It looks like David Koch has left the reservation:

In the interview with chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, which aired on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," Charles Koch said Bill Clinton had done a better job than George W. Bush in controlling government growth while president.

"So is it possible another Clinton could be better than another Republican?" Karl asked.

"It's possible," Koch responded.

"You couldn't see yourself supporting Hillary Clinton, could you?" Karl pressed.

Koch responded: "Well, I - that - her - we would have to believe her actions would be quite different than her rhetoric, let me put it that way. But on some of the Republican candidates we would - before we could support them - we'd have to believe their actions will be quite different than the rhetoric we've heard so far."

Now, as Josh Marshall pointed out, this doesn't mean that Koch actually supports Clinton. But he's not actually supporting Trump either. This is getting pretty interesting.

John Hodgman endorses Clinton

Comedian and writer John Hodgman endorsed Hillary Clinton on his blog this week, making the argument I've been making to my friends for years:

No one can succeed 100% of the time in our system. But I think she can foster policies that will capitalize on the initial gains made by President Obama, whom I supported and still do, and surely, if slowly, move our nation closer to the ideals that I embrace. 

Will it be fast? No. But there is a lot to do to shift the the nation’s policies back after the slow, economically rightward/socially intolerant swing that began with Ronald Reagan and peaked with the reelection of George W. Bush in 2004.

I don’t think this is a time to laugh at the Republican party. 

I think it is a moment to consolidate and continue our gains, enact new progressive policies; let existing progressive policies mature in place; offer independent and new voters the allure of continuity, professionalism, and effectiveness; and gradually regain the congress.

Well put. 

Something about the way he speaks

Donald Trump's speech is fundamentally different than other national politicians':

Word choice isn’t the only way Trump differs from his presidential candidate contemporaries. Jennifer Sclafani, an associate professor at Georgetown University who studies the construction of political identity through language, said Trump is an enigma — the “anti-politician” when it comes to talking.

According to Sclafani, Trump doesn’t often [use discourse markers]. Usually, she said, he starts his answers with “I.” But when Trump does want to divert his answers, however, Sclafani says that’s where he gets tripped up.

For example, in the first debate, he was asked to explain why he once supported a liberal, single-payer health care system. He responded: “First of all, I’d like to just go back to one. In July of 2004, I came out strongly against the war with Iraq, because it was going to destabilize the Middle East. And I’m the only one on this stage that knew that and had the vision to say it.”

Trump was trying to illustrate that he has had stances contrary to the Republican party before, and that they were correct. But at the time, Sclafani said it came off “totally incoherent,” because he combined the discourse marker “first of all” with a complete change of subject.

Of course, criticizing Trump for the way he speaks is like criticizing Mussolini for having bad taste in clothing. It really only shows you one expression of a much deeper pathology.

Student debt and deflation

As someone with both student debt and mortgages, our encroaching deflation (and consistent below-target inflation) frustrates me. Take a look at this special report by Crain's showing how bad the problem of student debt has become in general:

The share of college grads owing at least $30,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars jumped from 6 percent to 30 percent in the eight years ended in 2012, according to the College Board, while the average debt of new graduates in Illinois ballooned 85 percent, to $29,984, over the last decade. Among 46 Illinois schools reporting data to the Princeton Review, 19 say 2014 graduates' debt averaged more than $30,000. Debt for graduates of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago was $42,097, topped only by downstate MacMurray College's $50,039. Neither school commented.

A study published in 2014 by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, noting that small businesses account for about 60 percent of net jobs and rely primarily on personal debt for startup capital, found "a significant and economically meaningful negative correlation" between growth of student debt and small-business formation.

February's unemployment rate for 25- to 34-year-olds was a seasonally adjusted 5.1 percent, not much higher than the 4.9 percent overall rate and down from 9 percent four years ago. Yet median compensation for 30-year-olds in 2014 has dropped over the last decade to mid-1980s levels, according to the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.

So let's review:

  • You need a college degree to meet the minimum qualifications for most jobs.
  • College costs have risen at multiples of inflation for 20 years or more.
  • Students have to borrow more money than ever before to get the college degrees they need to get jobs.
  • The resulting debt service depresses consumer spending, reducing demand for goods and services, and making the jobs even scarcer.
  • Republican Party policies aimed at reducing taxes and government spending, especially in the wake of the 2008 crash, have also suppressed demand for services.
  • Republicans have also simultaneously chipped away at the social safety net built up by bipartisan governments from 1934 to 1976, making repaying debt even harder for people living on the edge.
  • Let's not forget the Republican-drafted, Bush-approved bankruptcy law of 2005 that makes it impossible to get out from under crushing student-loan debt in most circumstances.
  • All of these Republican policies cause—cause—lower inflation verging on deflation, which makes it harder to repay debts. Keep in mind that the biggest beneficiaries of lower inflation are the bankers who contribute disproportionately to Republicans.

As we say in software, the transfer of wealth from young students to old bankers is a feature, not a bug, of Republican economic and tax policies.

You want to know how to keep student debt from destroying the Millennials? Simple. Government stimulus to get us out of the deflation trap, and allowing student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy.

You want to know how to do those things? Simple. Elect Democratic majorities in Federal and state legislatures, and vote for Hillary Clinton on November 6th.

Qualifications for president

Via Fallows, I'm now reading the transcript of Donald Trump's recent meeting with the Washington Post editorial board. It's...I don't even know how to describe it. He makes no sense. Example, from early on:

[Fred] HIATT [WaPo editorial page editor]: The root of many people’s unhappiness in Baltimore was the perception that blacks are treated differently by law enforcement. And the disproportionate – do you think it’s a problem that the percentage of blacks in prison is higher than whites, and what do you think is the root of that situation?

TRUMP: Well I’ve never really see anything that – you know, I feel very strongly about law enforcement. And, you know, if you look at the riot that took place over the summer, if that were stopped – it all, it mostly took place on the first evening, and if that were stopped on the first evening, you know, you’d have a much nicer city right now, because much of that damage and much of the destruction was done on Evening One. So I feel that law enforcement, it’s got to play a big role. It’s got to play a big role. But that’s a pretty good example, because tremendous amounts of damage was done that first evening – first two evenings, but the first evening in particular. And so I’m a very strong believer in law enforcement, but I’m also a very strong believer that the inner cities can come back.

HIATT: Do you see any racial disparities in law enforcement – I mean, what set it off was the Freddie Gray killing, as you know. Is that an issue that concerns you?

TRUMP: Well, look, I mean, I have to see what happens with the trial. I—

HIATT: Well, forget Freddie Gray, but in general, do you believe there are disparities in law enforcement?

TRUMP: I’ve read where there are and I’ve read where there aren’t. I mean, I’ve read both. And, you know, I have no opinion on that. Because frankly, what I’m saying is you know we have to create incentives for people to go back and to reinvigorate the areas and to put people to work.  And you know we have lost million and millions of jobs to China and other countries. And they’ve been taken out of this country, and when I say millions, you know it’s, it’s tremendous. I’ve seen 5 million jobs, I’ve seen numbers that range from 6 million to, to smaller numbers. But it’s many millions of jobs, and it’s to countries all over. Mexico is really becoming the new China. And I have great issue with that. Because you know I use in speeches sometimes Ford or sometimes I use Carrier – it’s all the same: Ford, Carrier, Nabisco, so many of the companies — they’re moving to Mexico now. And you know we shouldn’t be allowing that to happen. And tremendous unemployment, tremendous. They’re allowing tremendous people that have worked for the companies for a long time, they’re allowing, if they want to move around and they want to work on incentives within the United States, that’s one thing, but when they take these companies out of the United States. Other countries are outsmarting us by giving them advantages, you know, like in the case of Mexico. In the case of many other countries. Like Ireland is, you’re losing Pfizer to Ireland, a great pharmaceutical company that with many, many jobs and it’s going to move to Ireland.

What...the...fuck is he talking about? Incoherent doesn't seem strong enough a word. The lack of thought, the lack of knowledge, the lack of any ability to discuss a real problem in a real way should be completely disqualifying.

But after the Republican Party has spent 50 years hammering into people the idea that coherent, reasoned, informed thought doesn't get the job done (and by extension, education is worthless and fast-talking liberals are trying to win one over on you), this was kind of inevitable, wasn't it?