Krugman’s blog, 9/26/16

September 26, 2016

He must be in Europe…  This was posted at 3:51 AM EST today:  “The Falsity of False Equivalence:”

If Donald Trump becomes president, the news media will bear a large share of the blame. I know some (many) journalists are busy denying responsibility, but this is absurd, and I think they know it. As Nick Kristof says, polls showing that the public considers Hillary Clinton, a minor fibber at most, less trustworthy than a pathological liar is prima facie evidence of massive media failure.

In fact, it’s telling that this debate is usually framed as one of false equivalence and whether it’s a problem. It’s a lot better to have this debate than a continuation of the unchecked media assault on Clinton. But it’s actually much worse than that. The media haven’t treated Clinton fibs as the equivalent of outright Trump lies; they have treated more or less innocuous Clintonisms as major scandals while whitewashing Trump. Put simply, until the past few days the media have had it in for Clinton; only now, at the last moment or possibly after the last moment has the enormity of the sin begun to sink in.

Think about the Matt Lauer debacle. That wasn’t a case of false equivalence; a rough summary of his performance would be “Emails, emails, emails; yes, Mr. Trump, whatever you say, Mr. Trump.” One candidate was repeatedly harassed over something trivial, the other allowed to slide on grotesque falsehoods.

Or as Jonathan Chait says, the problem hasn’t just been the normalization of Trump, it has been the abnormalization of Clinton. Consider the AP report on the Clinton Foundation. An honest report would have said, “The foundation arguably creates the possibility of self-dealing and undue influence, but we’ve looked hard and haven’t found much of anything.” Instead, the report played up meetings with a Nobel Peace Prize winner as being somehow scandalous.

And it’s still happening, if not quite so relentlessly. We’re still seeing reports about how something Clinton did “raises questions,” “casts shadows,” etc. – weasel words that allow reporters to write negative stories regardless of the facts.

I’ve compared this to what went down in the 2000 campaign; Nick compares it to what happened in the runup to the Iraq war. Pick your analogy. But let’s use Nick’s example: actually, the media didn’t do false equivalence in 2002. What they – alas, including this paper – actually did was to breathlessly hype the case for war, reporting as an inside scoop everything that Dick Cheney fed them, while freezing out critics and skeptics. The other side was out there; McClatchy found plenty of insiders willing to say that we were being sold a bill of goods. But the skeptics couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Effectively, the media were pro-war.

And this time they have effectively been pro-Trump – actually anti-Clinton, but it comes to the same thing. I doubt that reporters or even editors have thought of themselves as trying to elect Trump; many of them will be horrified if he wins. But they went all in on Clinton Rules, under which sneering at and razzing a Clinton is considered good for your career. It’s really more like high school than high journalism, but it may have horrendous consequences.

A lot depends on whether the same behavior continues for the final stretch. If the media report on the debates the way they did in 2000 – if substance is replaced by descriptions of Clinton’s facial expressions, her sighs, or how she “comes across,” while downplaying Trump’s raw lies, say hello to the Trump White House. And history will not forgive the people who made it possible.

Blow and Krugman

September 26, 2016

In “Police Violence: American Epidemic, American Consent” Mr. Blow says that officers merely reflect the attitudes and fears of a racist society.  In “Progressive Family Values” Prof. Krugman outlines policies for the real, real America.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Another set of black men killed by the police — one in Tulsa, Okla., another in Charlotte, N.C.

Another set of protests, and even some rioting.

Another television cycle in which the pornography of black death, pain and anguish are exploited for visual sensation and ratings gold.

And yes, another moment of mistakenly focusing on individual cases and individual motives and individual protests instead of recognizing that what we are witnessing in a wave of actions rippling across the country is an exhaling — a primal scream, I would venture — of cumulative cultural injury and a frantic attempt to stanch the bleeding from multiplying wounds.

We can no longer afford to buy into the delusion that this moment of turmoil is about discrete cases or their specific disposition under the law. The system of justice itself is under interrogation. The cultural mechanisms that produced that system are under interrogation. America as a whole is under interrogation.

We are in a new age in which the shroud has slipped and trauma has risen.

This is a video age, in which facts that were previously filtered though police accounts and media sources, that were previously whispered over shoulders at barbershops and across kitchen tables, have been buttressed by the immediacy and veracity of visual proof.

It is an age in which the language of resistance has been set and accepted, in which the mode of expression and resistance has been demonstrated and proved effective. It is an age of enlightenment and anger, of fear and frustration, of activism and alertness. Black America is beyond the breaking point, a point of no return.

And in this era, the discussion around these issues must be broad and deep because the actions required to address the problems must be broad and deep.

This moment in our nation’s history is not about how individual fears are articulated — in an emergency call, in an officer’s response, in weapons drawn and fired, in black people’s desire to flee for their lives, in black parents’ anxiety about the safety of their children. This moment is about the enormous, almost invisible structure that informs those fears — the way media and cultural presentations disproportionately display black people, and black men in particular, as dangerous and menacing and criminal. It’s about the way historical policies created our modern American ghettos and their concentrated poverty; the ways in which such concentrated poverty and its blight and hopelessness can be a prime breeding ground for criminal behavior; the way these areas make poverty sticky and opportunity scarce; the way resources, from education to health care to nutrition, are limited in these areas.

We keep talking about choices, but we don’t talk nearly enough about the fact that choices are always made within a cultural and historical context.

People didn’t simply choose to live in neighborhoods with poor housing and poor schools and crumbling infrastructure and few grocery stores and fewer adequate health care facilities. There were many factors that created those neighborhoods: white flight, and the black flight of wealthier black people, community disinvestment, business lending practices and government policies assigning infrastructure and public transportation to certain parts of cities and not others.

And the people living in those communities — sometimes trapped in those communities — make choices, sometimes poor ones, within that context.

We may say that a poor choice is simply wrong and the offending party must deal with the consequences. But poor choices made in a poor environment don’t have the same consequences as those made in wealthy environments. For poor people, the same poor choices are punished more often and more severely, compounding their deficit.

Then America takes it further, imputing the poor choices of a few onto a whole race, and in so doing sets the stage for disaster. This creates the suspicion and fear that can lead to the deaths we’re seeing, in which the person killed may have made no poor choices, in which the only poor choice was the pulling of a trigger.

This is what people mean when they talk about the impact of systemic racism in these cases and in these areas. It is not that the police harbor more racism than the rest of America, but rather that racism across society, including within our police departments and system of justice, has been erected in ways that disproportionately impact poor, minority communities. That is acutely clear in these killings.

What took centuries to grow may take a long time to fully chop down. You can’t fight racism by plucking leaves from the top of the poisonous tree, but by taking an ax to the root.

Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence said last week, “We ought to set aside this talk, this talk about institutional racism and institutional bias,” calling it “rhetoric of division.” That is exactly the opposite of what we should do.

The police are simply instruments of the state, and the state is the people who comprise it. The police are articulating a campaign of control and containment of populations and that campaign has the implicit approval of every citizen within their jurisdictions. This is not a rogue officer problem; this is a rogue society problem.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Here’s what happens every election cycle: pundits demand that politicians offer the country new ideas. Then, if and when a candidate actually does propose innovative policies, the news media pays little attention, chasing scandals or, all too often, fake scandals instead. Remember the extensive coverage last month, when Hillary Clinton laid out an ambitious mental health agenda? Neither do I.

For that matter, even the demand for new ideas is highly questionable, since there are plenty of good old ideas that haven’t been put into effect. Most advanced countries implemented some form of guaranteed health coverage decades if not generations ago. Does this mean that we should dismiss Obamacare as no big deal, since it’s just implementing a tired old agenda? The 20 million Americans who gained health coverage would beg to differ.

Still, there really are some interesting new ideas coming from one of the campaigns, and they arguably tell us a lot about how Mrs. Clinton would govern.

Wait — what about the other side? Aren’t Republicans also offering new ideas? Well, I guess proposing to round up and deport 11 million people counts as a new idea. And Republicans in Congress seem to have moved past their tradition of proposing tax cuts that deliver most of their benefits to the wealthy. Now they are, instead, proposing tax cuts that deliver all of their benefits to the 1 percent — O.K., actually just 99.6 percent, but who’s counting?

Back to Mrs. Clinton: Much of her policy agenda could be characterized as a third Obama term, building on the center-left policies of the past eight years. That would hardly be a trivial matter. For example, independent estimates suggest that her proposed enhancements to the Affordable Care Act would extend health coverage to around 10 million more people, whereas Donald Trump’s proposed repeal of the act would cause around 20 million people to lose coverage.

In addition to defending and extending President Obama’s achievements, however, Mrs. Clinton is pushing a distinctive agenda centered around support for working parents. This isn’t a completely new idea, but the scale of the Clinton proposals is off the charts compared with anything that has gone before. And as I said, this tells us a lot about her priorities.

One piece of that agenda involves 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for new children, help sick relatives, or recover from illness or injury. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Mr. Trump, who has offered his own threadbare version of a maternal leave plan, was pants-on-fire lying when he claimed that his opponent has no such plan. Are you surprised?

Another, even more striking piece involves helping families with young children in several ways, especially through universal preschool and public outlays — subsidies and tax credits — to hold down the cost of child care (the campaign sets a target of no more than 10 percent of income.)

And everything we know, both about Mrs. Clinton’s long-term interests and her current choices of advisers, suggests that family-centered issues are close to her heart. I was personally struck by the campaign’s choice of Heather Boushey, a leading expert on work-life balance issues, as chief economist for the Clinton transition team. That tells me a lot about priorities.

But why should helping working parents be such a priority? It looks to me like an attempt to focus on the problems of the real America — not the white, rural “real America” of right-wing fantasies, but the real, real America in which most of our fellow citizens live. And that America is one in which working parents are the norm, in which stay-at-home mothers are a distinct minority, and in which the problem of how to take care of children while making ends meet is central to many people’s lives.

The numbers are striking: 64 percent of women with children under the age of 6 are in the paid labor force, up from 39 percent in 1975. Most of these working mothers are surely doing so out of economic necessity, and we as a society need to find a way to reconcile this reality with the need to raise our children well.

I suppose a free market purist might question why we need government policies to help deal with this new reality. But we are, after all, talking about the fate of children, who are to some extent a common responsibility. Furthermore, child care economics is in some ways like health economics: for a variety of reasons, mostly coming down to the fact that we’re dealing with people, not things, we can’t trust unregulated markets to deliver a decent outcome.

So anyone who complains that there aren’t big new ideas in this campaign simply isn’t paying attention. One candidate, at least, has ideas that would make a big, positive difference to millions of American families.

Cohen and Collins

September 24, 2016

In “Worst of the Trumps” Mr. Cohen says Syrian refugees are not a threat to America, they are the lifeblood of America.  Ms. Collins, in “And Now, Presidential Dog Days” is remembering Seamus and  introducing Alibi the horse and Ginger the chicken.  Here’s Mr. Cohen:

When a presidential campaign often inhabits the gutter it’s not easy to establish its low point.

We’ve seen Donald Trump vilify Muslims, Mexicans and women. We’ve seen him indulge airy suggestions that rifle-bearing Americans might like to shoot Hillary Clinton. We’ve seen him belabor the lie that President Obama was not born in the United States — until he recanted. For Trump, the low road to the White House is paved with boorishness. But perhaps his son Donald Trump Jr. set the nadir this week when he compared Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles.

A caption accompanying a photograph of the candy said: “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” Trump Jr. tweeted, “This image says it all.”

Where to begin? With the fact that human beings are not Skittles? With the fact that after more than five years of war 4.8 million Syrians are refugees and 6.1 million are internally displaced and Trump Jr., even with his coddled New York existence, can surely make the calculation that this amounts to almost 2.5 million more human beings than live in the five boroughs?

With the fact that you do not flee your home because you have a choice (like choosing between Skittles and M&Ms after a Manhattan dinner party) but because you no longer have one? With the fact that, according to a Cato Institute study of refugees admitted to the United States between 1975 and 2015, the chance of an American being killed in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion? With the fact that Syrians want to work, make a living, put their kids in decent schools, and recover their dignity, just like the rest of us?

Or perhaps with the fact that comparing Syrians to Skittles carries echoes of the Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher comparing Jews to mushrooms in a popular children’s book that posited the ticklish dilemma of how to distinguish poisonous toadstools from edible fungus; and has a mother saying to her son Franz:

“Yes, my child! Just as a single poisonous mushroom can kill a whole family, so a solitary Jew can destroy a whole village, a whole city, even an entire Volk.”

We all know, even the Trumps know, that the door into the United States was closed to desperate European Jews trying to escape the Holocaust.

If I may be pardoned for extending an awful analogy, I’d suggest to the Trumps that a better caption would read: “If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three of them would turn out to be Sergey Brin, Elon Musk and Pierre Omidyar, would you take a handful?”

The co-founder of Google, co-founder of Tesla, and founder of eBay were all immigrants. Steve Jobs’ biological father was a Syrian immigrant. In fact, earlier this year, the National Foundation for American Policy found that 51 percent of the country’s start-up companies valued at over $1 billion had at least one immigrant founder. A study by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition of governors and business leaders, found that in 2013 more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies, including seven of the world’s 10 most valuable brands, were started by immigrants or their children.

The strength of the United States is its creative churn. In contrast to European states, it is hard-wired to reinvention through immigration. When Trump traffics in fear about immigrants, whether Muslim or Mexican, he guts America of its greatness and turns his back on its singular idea.

The American response to the Syrian crisis has been paltry — almost 12,000 refugees admitted since the war began, or 0.25 percent of the total. Part of the slowness has come from the rigor of the vetting process. But what do the Trumps care? They are concerned with just one message: Muslim equals danger.

Let’s see now. Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich Trump, was a German immigrant. He arrived in the United States in October 1885. For decades, the family lied: They said he hailed from Sweden. In his book, “The Art of the Deal,” Trump says his grandfather “came here from Sweden as a child.” The family historian, John Walter, explained that Trump’s father, Fred, “had a lot of Jewish tenants and it wasn’t a good thing to be German in those days.”

Make up stories: It’s the Trump way. So here was a German-American posing as a Swedish-American opting not to rent to African-Americans.

Friedrich Trump, the immigrant, was young. He was penniless. He came not from Sweden but from Bismarck’s recently formed nation state in the middle of a turbulent Europe. A U.S. immigration officer allowed him into the United States in 1885 — not a decision without risk.

But an American decision taken in the spirit the Trumps now trample with cavalier untruth and vile innuendo.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

I think it’s time to talk about the presidential candidates’ pets.

Look, you need a break. And everybody — or almost everybody — likes an animal story. I’m not quite sure about Donald Trump, but we’ll get to him in a minute.

Pets, particularly dogs, pop up all the time in White House lore. Richard Nixon might never have even gotten there if he hadn’t used Checkers the cocker spaniel as a diversion from a campaign finance scandal. Lyndon Johnson posed — for reasons we will never understand — picking up his beagle by the ears. The décor at one Obama White House holiday party was many variations on the theme of Bo. This tradition goes way back. James Garfield had a Newfoundland named Veto. Calvin Coolidge seems to have acquired four cats, seven birds, nine dogs, two lion cubs, a raccoon, a bear, a wallaby, an antelope and 13 ducks.

I used to enjoy occasionally pointing out that Mitt Romney had once driven his family to Canada with Seamus the Irish setter strapped to the roof of the car. A campaign consultant told me that the Seamus story elicited stronger reactions from focus groups than any other aspect of the 2012 campaign.

Donald Trump doesn’t have any pets, and the animal anecdotes about him seem to be … unsettling. Clinton has had a number of dogs and cats, but their stories are generally … kind of boring. While she was first lady, Clinton wrote a book called “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.” In it, you can learn that Socks the cat’s tail was one foot long.

Socks, the most famous of the Clinton pets, has since passed away. So has Buddy the Labrador retriever, who was replaced by another chocolate Lab named — yes! — Seamus. This is a total coincidence. Right now the Clintons have a couple of fuzzy little dogs along the poodle line.

If Trump has ever in his life had a pet, his campaign doesn’t know about it. There’s some question, in fact, about whether he’s ever even had an animal friend. For a while, there was a story about Trump begging for prayers for a Lab named Spinee who was undergoing major surgery. I am very, very sorry to tell you that this appears to be a total fabrication.

There are two colorful stories about Trump’s previous encounters with animals in books written by ex-employees.

The first goes back to the 1980s, when Trump was in his first bloom of glitzy celebrity and acquired a promising 2-year-old racehorse named Alibi. John O’Donnell, a former Trump casino president, wrote that the colt fell apart when Trump insisted, despite the trainer’s objections, that Alibi be worked out even though a virus was going through his barn. O’Donnell claimed Alibi got very sick as a result — so ill he eventually had to have some of his hooves amputated and was retired. Then, O’Donnell said, Trump announced that he was not buying a defective animal and backed out of the sale.

“Jack O’Donnell is a disgruntled former employee, and this is a totally unsubstantiated and false claim,” said a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign.

You decide who’s right. The one thing we do know for sure is that when Trump first bought Alibi, he changed the poor horse’s name to D. J. Trump.

The other, much less depressing story involves a chicken named Ginger, who once played tic-tac-toe with Trump at a casino near Palm Springs. Like so very many things in our world, the casino had Trump’s name on it, but it was owned by someone else — in this case an Indian tribe.

Perhaps you have never seen a tic-tac-toe-playing chicken, but they’ve been around a long time. According to Gary Green, another former Trump casino executive who wrote a book, a computer under the board lit up a square, and if the chicken pecked it, said bird got some corn. Hey, it’s a job.

After the game was over — Trump won — Green ran an advertising campaign that featured Trump firing Ginger and starting a Chicken Apprentice contest for a replacement. While Ginger’s fate was not described explicitly, the casino started serving chicken wings as part of the promotion.

Beyond that, connections between Trump and the animal kingdom seem pretty sparse — if you ignore Jane Goodall’s recent comment to The Atlantic that his performances “remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance issues.” Bloggers have pointed out that Trump tweets a lot of unflattering dog references. (“… cheated on him like a dog …”) It is true that he does seem to specialize in insult via canine analogy. I once got a letter from him suggesting I resembled a dog. He did not seem to be thinking about my large, friendly eyes.

If he wins the election, we could have the first president in history to refuse to pardon the Thanksgiving turkey.

Hell, he’ll probably invite The Snowbilly Grifter to cut its head off…

Krugman’s blog, 9/22/16

September 23, 2016

There was one post yesterday, “The Curious Confidence of Charlatans and Cranks:”

Brad DeLong tells us about a letter being circulated by economists for Trump — although, as he notes, they don’t dare say that, and describe themselves only as critics of Clinton. Several things are notable about the letter, including the absence of many usually reliable Republican hired guns economists. But they do have a Nobelist, Eugene Fama, at the top. And the substance of the letter — government bad! taxes and regulation bad! free markets rool like Reagan! — is pretty standard.

What’s curious is why, exactly, anyone should believe this story. In recent memory, GW Bush failed to deliver the promised Bush boom and eventually presided over disaster; the Obama economy has not been all one might have hoped, but as many have noted, the job growth of the past three years and the income growth that has finally emerged would have been hailed as triumphs if Mitt Romney were president. Taking the longer view, Clinton > Reagan and Obama > Bush, by almost any measure. Why doesn’t this reality seem to register?

One big answer, I think, lies in profound ignorance, in the insistence that history is what it was supposed to be, not what it was. Way back Mr. Fama was caught insisting that there was a great takeoff of global growth after 1980 due to financial deregulation. In fact, growth in advanced countries has been slower since 1980 than it was before, and it’s really, really hard to attribute Chinese growth under Deng Xiaoping to U.S. banking deregulation. But this is the right: legends that support the cause trump awkward facts.

And let’s be clear: this is a problem that won’t go away even if Trump goes down to defeat. People like Paul Ryan are barely more in touch with reality than @ilduce2016.

Brooks and Krugman

September 23, 2016

Oh, fergawdsake…  Bobo used the word “fogeyish” to describe Clinton’s campaign.  As we all know Bobo is a member in EXCELLENT standing of the Old Fogey’s Club, where he regularly dismays his poor dog Moral Hazard.  (Thanks, Charlie Pierce!)  Bobo has extruded an extraordinary pile of turds called “The Clinton Calendar” in which he opines that Clintonworld lives in one century and the rest of us in another.  In this pile of turds he also informs us that the Republicans are running on “big ideas.”  As usual, “gemli” from Boston will have something to say about this.  Prof. Krugman, in “The Lying Game,” says in covering the presidential debates, and the campaign, the press needs to stand up for the truth amid Donald Trump’s fairy tales.  [snort] [guffaw]  This is why I call Krugman the Voice Crying in the Wilderness.  Brace yourself, Maggie, here’s Bobo:

Hillary Clinton made a very pertinent comment this week: “‘Why aren’t I 50 points ahead?’ you might ask.”

Indeed we might!

Clinton is running against a man whose approval ratings are under 40 percent and his disapproval rating is the highest of any candidate in American history. Only 38 percent of Americans think Donald Trump is even qualified to be president, according to a Quinnipiac survey.

Trump has practically no campaign to speak of while Clinton has a very professional one. Clinton is swamping Trump on the airwaves. Estimates vary by source, but according to Advertising Age, $145 million has been spent on pro-Clinton TV and radio ads while only $4 million has been spent on pro-Trump ads.

Meanwhile, the Trump scandals blow through like hurricanes in the tropics at peak season. Thanks to reporting by The Washington Post, we’ve learned that the Trump Foundation makes Trump University look like a model of moral rectitude. Donations Trump raised through that foundation went to pay his company’s legal bills and to buy two portraits of himself.

Every week he manages to stain his character a deeper shade of black. Trump has filled the culture with lies for the past many decades, but all those lies must bow down in reverence before the epic, galactic, gravity-reversing lies he just told about the birther nonsense.

And still he is within two or three points of Clinton nationally and leading in a bunch of the key swing states. In Ohio by five. In Iowa by six. In Florida by one. When you look at the secondary questions in the polls, Trump is doing miserably, but in the top-line “Who are you going to vote for?” question, he’s doing decently.

What is going on here?

Tyler Cowen recently gathered some of the more interesting theories on his blog Marginal Revolution: America is not ready for a woman president. The Democrats have a lot of policy proposals, but the Republicans are running on big ideas. A more diverse country is a more fractious and polarized country, and over the past few weeks white Republicans have been coming home to their candidate.

I see some truth in those theories, especially the last one. But my single explanation would be this: Clintonworld is a semi-closed system that operates according to its own calendar. Donald Trump is egregious, but at least he’s living in the 21st century, as was Bernie Sanders. Clintonworld operates according to its own time-space continuum that is slightly akilter from our own.

In the 21st century, politics operates around a different axis. It’s not left/right, big government/small government. It’s openness and dynamism versus closedness and security. It’s between those who see opportunity and excitement in the emerging globalized, multiethnic meritocracy against those who see their lives and communities threatened by it.

In the 21st century, the parties are amassing different coalitions. People are dividing along human capital lines, with the college educated flocking to the Democrats and the non-college educated whites flocking to the G.O.P. Democrats do great in America’s 100 most crowded counties, but they struggle in the 3,000 less crowded ones.

Clintonworld is a decades-old interlocking network of donors and friends that hasn’t quite caught up to these fundamental shifts. That’s because Clintonworld, in the Hillary iteration, is often defensive, distrusting and oriented around avoiding errors. In each of her national campaigns, Clinton has run against in-touch-with-the-times men who were more charismatic and generated more passion than she did. She’s always been the duller, unfashionable foil.

Her donor base and fund-raising style is out of another era. Obama and Sanders tapped into the energized populist base, but Clinton has Barbra Streisand, Cher and a cast of Wall Street plutocrats. Her campaign proposals sidestep the cutting issues that have driven Trump, Sanders, Brexit and the other key movements of modern politics. Her ideas for reducing poverty are fine, but they are circa Ed Muskie: more public works jobs, housing tax credits, more money for Head Start.

Her out-of-time style costs her big with millennials. If she loses this election it will be because younger voters just don’t relate to her and flock to Gary Johnson instead. It also leads to a weird imbalance in the national debate.

We have an emerging global system, with relatively open trade, immigration, multilateral institutions and ethnic diversity. The critics of that system are screaming at full roar. The champions of that system — and Hillary Clinton is naturally one — are off in another world.

There is a strong case to be made for an open world order, and a huge majority coalition to be built in support of it. But she is disengaged.

Don’t get me wrong. I still think she’ll eke out a win. I just hope her administration is less fogyish than her campaign.

I can’t wait until Driftglass sinks his teeth into this.  Until then, here’s what “gemli” had to say:

“We keep hearing pundits make this argument, and it’s becoming tiresome. Americans are in a candy store. There aren’t many choices. We can pick a boring, somewhat gummy and old-fashioned Clinton Chew, or a new confection that’s made of radioactive medical waste, hair and resentment. Nearly half of Americans are going for the Trump Lump. When asked why, they say they like the orange glow and the odd smell.

This election isn’t about dowdy ideas, or policy differences or polarization. It’s about a country that has lost its collective mind. Hillary Clinton isn’t perfect, but Trump is broken and leaking. She’s secretive, which is a turn-off. He makes no secret of the fact that he doesn’t have a clue and has no intention of getting one. We find that refreshing. She’s disengaged. His gears don’t mesh.

Conservatives have been telling the big lie for so long that many of us don’t know what the truth is anymore. Obama is the anti-Christ. Medical care for all is an abomination. The filthy rich are looking out for the poor. Women are weak, gays are disgusting and education is overrated. Bibles are the best, because, like, uh, God and what-not.

So let’s build a big ol’ wall. We’ll double down on burning coal and fracking the earth’s crust to bits. Let’s ignore climate change. Heck, I’m bettin’ that the rising sea levels will put out the forest fires! It’s a win-win!

And gimme another Trump Lump, please.”

Now here’s Prof. Krugman, crying in the wilderness:

Here’s what we can be fairly sure will happen in Monday’s presidential debate: Donald Trump will lie repeatedly and grotesquely, on a variety of subjects. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton might say a couple of untrue things. Or she might not.

Here’s what we don’t know: Will the moderators step in when Mr. Trump delivers one of his well-known, often reiterated falsehoods? If he claims, yet again, to have opposed the Iraq war from the beginning — which he didn’t — will he be called on it? If he claims to have renounced birtherism years ago, will the moderators note that he was still at it just a few months ago? (In fact, he already seems to be walking back his admission last week that President Obama was indeed born in America.) If he says one more time that America is the world’s most highly taxed country — which it isn’t — will anyone other than Mrs. Clinton say that it isn’t? And will media coverage after the debate convey the asymmetry of what went down?

You might ask how I can be sure that one candidate will be so much more dishonest than the other. The answer is that at this point we have long track records for both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton; thanks to nonpartisan fact-checking operations like PolitiFact, we can even quantify the difference.

PolitiFact has examined 258 Trump statements and 255 Clinton statements and classified them on a scale ranging from “True” to “Pants on Fire.” One might quibble with some of the judgments, but they’re overwhelmingly in the ballpark. And they show two candidates living in different moral universes when it comes to truth-telling. Mr. Trump had 48 Pants on Fire ratings, Mrs. Clinton just six; the G.O.P. nominee had 89 False ratings, the Democrat 27.

Unless one candidate has a nervous breakdown or a religious conversion in the next few days, the debate will follow similar lines. So how should it be reported?

Let’s take it as a given that one can’t report at length on every questionable statement a candidate makes — time, space and the attention of readers and viewers are all limited. What I suggest is that reporters and news organizations treat time and attention span as a sort of capital budget that must be allocated across coverage.

What businesses do when they must allocate capital is to establish a “hurdle rate,” a minimum rate of return a project must offer if it is to be undertaken. In terms of reporting falsehoods, this would amount to devoting on-air time or column inches to statements whose dishonesty rises above a certain level of outrageousness — say, outright falsity with no redeeming grain of truth. In terms of PolitiFact’s ratings, this might correspond to statements that are False or Pants on Fire.

And if the debate looks anything like the campaign so far, we know what that will mean: a news analysis that devotes at least five times as much space to Mr. Trump’s falsehoods as to Mrs. Clinton’s.

If your reaction is, “Oh, they can’t do that — it would look like partisan bias,” you have just demonstrated the huge problem with news coverage during this election. For I am not calling on the news media to take a side; I’m just calling on it to report what is actually happening, without regard for party. In fact, any reporting that doesn’t accurately reflect the huge honesty gap between the candidates amounts to misleading readers, giving them a distorted picture that favors the biggest liar.

Yet there are, of course, intense pressures on the news media to engage in that distortion. Point out a Trump lie and you will get some pretty amazing mail — and if we set aside the attacks on your race or ethnic group, accusations that you are a traitor, etc., most of it will declare that you are being a bad journalist because you don’t criticize both candidates equally.

One all-too-common response to such attacks involves abdicating responsibility for fact-checking entirely, and replacing it with theater criticism: Never mind whether what the candidate said is true or false, how did it play? How did he or she “come across”? What were the “optics”?

But theater criticism is the job of theater critics; news reporting should tell the public what really happened, not be devoted to speculation about how other people might react to what happened.

Now, what will I say if Mr. Trump lies less than I predict and Mrs. Clinton more? That’s easy: Tell it like it is. But don’t grade on a curve. If Mr. Trump lies only three times as much as Mrs. Clinton, the main story should still be that he lied a lot more than she did, not that he wasn’t quite as bad as expected.

Again, I’m not calling on the news media to take sides; journalists should simply do their job, which is to report the facts. It may not be easy — but doing the right thing rarely is.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

September 22, 2016

In “The Folly of the Protest Vote” Mr. Blow says either Clinton or Trump will be the next president of the United States. Not Jill Stein. Not Gary Johnson.  Mr. Kristof, in “The Best News You Don’t Know,” says the world is winning the war on extreme poverty.  Ms. Collins, in “Ready, Aim — Voting,” says the hottest political ad of the season shows a candidate assembling an assault rifle blindfolded.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Last week, after I delivered a speech at the impressive campus of Morgan State University, a historically black college in northeast Baltimore, a woman approached the mike during the question-and-answer period to raise an issue that she and I both found frustrating: What to say to young people, particularly young African-Americans, who have decided either not to vote in the forthcoming presidential election or to cast a protest vote for a third-party candidate who will most assuredly lose?

This is a very real issue this cycle. Many of these young people feel that there is no good choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

On Sept. 4, The New York Times published an article pointing out the devastating impact this lack of enthusiasm could have on Clinton’s prospects:

“Young African-Americans, like all voters their age, are typically far harder to drive to the polls than middle-aged and older Americans. Yet with just over two months until Election Day, many Democrats are expressing alarm at the lack of enthusiasm, and in some cases outright resistance, some black millennials feel toward Mrs. Clinton.”

The article continued:

“Their skepticism is rooted in a deep discomfort with the political establishment that they believe the 68-year-old former first lady and secretary of state represents. They share a lingering mistrust of Mrs. Clinton and her husband over criminal justice issues. They are demanding more from politicians as part of a new, confrontational wave of black activism that has arisen in response to police killings of unarmed African-Americans.”

Furthermore, as Farai Chideya pointed out on FiveThirtyEight:

“An ABC News/Washington Post poll released last week found that among black Americans of all ages, Clinton is leading Trump 93 percent to 3. But an August survey of young voters by GenForward found that 60 percent of black Americans aged 18 to 30 supported Clinton — or about 30 percentage points less than African-Americans at large. Fourteen percent of black millennials said they would not vote, 5 percent said they would vote for the Green or Libertarian candidates, and 2 percent planned to vote for Trump.”

When I am confronted by the “not voting” or “protest voting” crowd, their argument often boils down to one of principle: They can’t possibly vote for Trump or Clinton because both are flawed in their own ways.

I know immediately that they have bought into the false equivalency nonsense, and additionally are conflating the casting of a ballot with an endorsement of a candidate’s shortcomings.

Both ideas are incredibly problematic and potentially self-destructive.

First — and this cannot be said enough — Clinton and Trump are not equally bad candidates. One is a conventional politician who has a long record of public service full of pros and cons. The other is a demagogic bigot with a puddle-deep understanding of national and international issues, who openly courts white nationalism, is hostile to women, Mexicans and Muslims, and is callously using black people as pawns in a Donnie-come-lately kinder-gentler campaign.

Second, a vote isn’t just about the past — although comparing these two candidates on their pasts still leaves one as the clear choice — but about the present and the future.

There is a simple truth here: Either Clinton or Trump will be the next president of the United States. Not Jill Stein. Not Gary Johnson. Clinton or Trump.

There is another truth: That person will appoint someone to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court (assuming that the Senate doesn’t find religion and move on Merrick Garland before the new president takes office) and that person will also appoint federal judges to fill the 88 district court and court of appeals vacancies that now exist (there are 51 nominees pending for these seats).

These judgeships alone could cast a long shadow — not just for one or two terms of a presidency, but for decades, until those judges retire or die.

This election isn’t just about you or me, or Clinton or Trump. This election is quite literally about the future, all of our and our children’s and their children’s futures.

You can’t say you’re upset about police interaction with minority communities and not understand that the courts are where police tactics are challenged and where precedent is set.

You can’t care about this issue and risk having those judicial seats filled by a man who allowed Sheriff David Clarke to speak at his nomination convention. Sheriff Clarke has called Black Lives Matter “a separatist movement” comprising “slimy people” with a “hateful ideology” that should be added “to the list of hate groups in America.”

You can’t care about this issue and risk the ascendance of a man who last week was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, a group that in its questionnaire to candidates claims: “Fringe organizations have been given a platform by the media to convey the message that police officers are a ‘militarized’ enemy and it is time to attack that enemy.” The questionnaire goes further: “There is a very real and very deliberate campaign to terrorize our nation’s law enforcement officers, and no one has come to our defense.” This, of course, is cop fantasy, but this group is the nation’s largest police union, representing some 330,000 officers.

You can’t care about this issue and risk the ascendance of a man who said of black people this week that they are “absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before” and has said before that his key to restoring safety in black communities is in part “more law enforcement.”

You can’t have taken part in a march for Eric Garner, chanting “I can’t breathe,” and risk the ascendance of a man who has as one of his chief advisers Rudy Giuliani, the grandfather of the very “broken windows” policing strategy that sent officers after low-level offenders like Garner.

You can’t have supported the marching in Ferguson, and applaud the Justice Department’s findings that the city was systematically oppressing its black citizens, and allow Trump to pick the next attorney general.

You can’t have been enraged by the video of Freddie Gray and risk the ascendance of a man who tweeted about the unrest that followed: “Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore!”

You can’t be irate about the environmental injustice in Flint and risk the ascendance of a man who didn’t set foot in that city this cycle until the final stretch of the campaign, when he was engaged in his fake black outreach. And even after he did, he attacked the pastor who interrupted him and lied about details of the visit. You can’t allow that man to pick the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

You can’t have cried about Tamir Rice’s case and allow the ascendance of a candidate who would have his convention in the city where Tamir was killed and not even once reach out to Tamir’s mother or invite her to the convention. You can’t allow the ascendance of a candidate with the audacity to return to Cleveland to tape a town hall with his television booster Sean Hannity about issues facing the African-American community — taped in front of a largely white audience judging by the pictures — and still not reach out to Tamir’s mother to participate. Tamir’s blood cries out for better.

You can’t detest racial-dragnet-policy stop-and-frisk policing as not only morally abhorrent but thoroughly unconstitutional and risk the ascendance of a man who on Wednesday reportedly suggested that he would consider using stop-and-frisk more across the nation.

You can’t pretend to be “enlightened” or “woke” or “principled” and sit idly by and allow real and sustained damage to be done to the very causes you hold dear.

You can’t in good conscience compare Trump to the candidate who has embraced the “Mothers of the Movement,” has an expansive racial justice agenda outlined on her website, has been engaged with Flint for months and has won the praise of that city’s mayor, and will surely appoint more liberal judges.

As Bernie Sanders himself said last week: “This is not the time for a protest vote.”

Protest voting or not voting at all isn’t principled. It’s dumb, and childish, and self-immolating. I know you’re young, but grow up!

That ought to be required reading for every precious little millenial snowflake member of the Purity Police.  Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

The world is a mess, with billions of people locked in inescapable cycles of war, famine and poverty, with more children than ever perishing from hunger, disease and violence.

That’s about the only thing Americans agree on; we’re polarized about all else. But several polls have found that about 9 out of 10 Americans believe that global poverty has worsened or stayed the same over the last 20 years.

Fortunately, the one point Americans agree on is dead wrong.

As world leaders gather for the United Nations General Assembly this week, all the evidence suggests that we are at an inflection point for the ages. The number of people living in extreme poverty ($1.90 per person per day) has tumbled by half in two decades, and the number of small children dying has dropped by a similar proportion — that’s six million lives a year saved by vaccines, breast-feeding promotion, pneumonia medicine and diarrhea treatments!

Historians may conclude that the most important thing going on in the world in the early 21st century was a stunning decline in human suffering.

O.K., you’re thinking that I’ve finally cracked up after spending too much time in desperate places. So a few data points:

■ As recently as 1981, when I was finishing college, 44 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank. Now the share is believed to be less than 10 percent and falling. “This is the best story in the world today,” says Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank.

■ For the entire history of the human species until the 1960s, a majority of adults were illiterate. Now 85 percent of adults worldwide are literate and the share is rising.

■ Although inequality has risen in America, the global trend is more encouraging: Internationally, inequality is on the decline because of gains by the poor in places like China and India.

The U.N. aims to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, and experts believe it is possible to get quite close. In short, on our watch, we have a decent chance of virtually wiping out ills that have plagued humanity for thousands of generations, from illiteracy to the most devastating kind of hand-to-mouth poverty.

Yet the public thinks the opposite, that poverty is getting worse. A poll to be released Thursday by Motivaction, a Dutch firm, finds that only 1 percent of Americans surveyed realized that global extreme poverty had fallen by half over 20 years.

I wonder if those of us in journalism and the humanitarian worlds don’t err by focusing so much on human misery that we leave the public with the misperception that everything is always getting worse.

I’ve covered massacres in South Sudan, concentration camps in Myanmar and widespread stunting in India, but it’s also important to acknowledge the backdrop of global progress. Otherwise, the public may perceive poverty as hopeless and see no point in carrying on the fight — at just the point when we’re making the most rapid gains ever recorded.

When I first made the acquaintance of the developing world, as a backpacking law student in the 1980s, sometimes riding on tops of trains or buses and writing articles to pay my expenses, the most gut-wrenching aspect of poverty I encountered was ubiquitous blind beggars, robbed of dignity and any chance to be productive.

This is much less common today, partly because humanitarian aid — despite real shortcomings — has made a profound difference in health. The heroic work of former President Jimmy Carter and pharmaceutical donations from Merck have made river blindness less common. Vitamin A capsules costing 2 cents a dose have reduced blindness as well. Antibiotics have helped curb blinding trachoma. And a simple $25 surgery developed by a Nepali ophthalmologist, Dr. Sanduk Ruit, lets people suffering from cataracts see again.

The scenes of blind beggars on every street corner will soon be gone forever.

Cynics scoff that if more children’s lives are saved, they will just grow up to have more babies and cause new famines and cycles of poverty. Not so! In fact, when parents are assured that their children will survive, they choose to have fewer of them. As girls are educated and contraception becomes available, birthrates tumble — just as they did in the West. Indian women now average just 2.4 births, Indonesian women 2.5, and Mexican women just 2.2.

So in a moment we can return to urgent needs worldwide, from war to climate change to refugees. But first, let’s pause for a nanosecond of silence to acknowledge the greatest gains in human well-being in the history of our species — not to inspire complacency, but rather to spur our efforts to accelerate what may be the most important trend in the world today.

And last but not least here’s Ms. Collins:

The hottest political ad of the season — I am not counting anything involving Triumph the Insult Comic Dog — is probably for the Missouri Senate, in which the Democratic candidate talks about … gun background checks.

Well, obviously we all miss the one about hog neutering.

But this is pretty darned good. Jason Kander, who served a tour of duty in Afghanistan, assembles an assault rifle blindfolded while saying that he believes “in background checks so the terrorists can’t get their hands on one of these.”

His opponent, Senator Roy Blunt, had been lambasting Kander for his failure to toe the straight National Rifle Association line. “I approve this message,” Kander concludes, swiftly finishing his eyes-closed assemblage, “because I’d like to see Senator Blunt do this.”

Not going to happen. But Blunt did release a collection of videos ofother blindfolded rifle assemblers. (“Some do it … really, really fast.”) And then the announcer reminds Missouri that Kander got an “F” from the National Rifle Association.

Excellent example of how hard it is to please the N.R.A. Really, you could serve these people breakfast in bed for a year, but then one day the orange juice is watery and it’s Splitsville.

Kander, who’s the current Missouri secretary of state, mentions frequently that he volunteered for the service after graduating from law school.

There has been a bit of a controversy about whether Blunt avoided Vietnam because he drew a high number in the draft or via student deferments. The answer is both, but I believe I speak for many Americans when I say we’re over that particular debate. Truly. The man is 66. Let’s go back to the part about how his wife and three adult children are all lobbyists.

The race is close and Kander cites polls that show most voters are fine with background checks. (The people he talks to, he added, are more worried about college debt, which Blunt once blamed on the students’ “personal living standard.”)

Still, it would be amazing if Missouri elected a candidate who’s middle-of-the-road on guns, right after the State Legislature just set a record in the extremely competitive category of Loopiest N.R.A. Cave-In.

The massive Republican majority voted, for one thing, to eliminate all training requirements for concealed weapons permits. “I am in a real estate course,” said Jason Holsman, a state senator from Kansas City, in a phone interview during a class break. “Missouri law requires 72 hours of training before you can sell a house. Now, zero hours before you can carry a concealed gun.”

Actually, the N.R.A. went much, much further, and wiped out the permits entirely. Now, Missourians can just buy a gun and stick it in their pocket.

The new law also includes one of those “stand your ground” provisions. Now people walking around after dark could reasonably presume that anybody they ran into might have a concealed weapon, and would have a right to fire first if they felt physically threatened.

Thanks to Kander, the voters will at least get to hear a lively statewide debate about whether this is a good plan. Nationally, too, this is the first time in ages that the candidates are having a spirited debate on gun issues. Back in the day, this wasn’t a matter of partisan divide —Richard Nixon said “guns are an abomination” and George H.W. Bush resigned from the N.R.A. when it failed to show support for federal investigators after the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing.

Then came 2000. I still remember a moment, during the big presidential debate, when the moderator asked Al Gore how he differed from George W. Bush on guns. I was totally — totally! — expecting Gore to retort: “Well, there’s only one of us who thinks it’s a good idea to carry concealed weapons into church.” Instead, he stiffened and said something defensive about not being in favor of registration. Gore lost, and the Democrats blamed gun control.

Now Hillary Clinton is running on centrist reforms like background checks, while Donald Trump wants to eliminate gun-free zones at, say, nursery schools and give people from Missouri the right to carry their permit-free concealed weapons in Midtown Manhattan.

In gratitude, the N.R.A. has been running an ad that shows an intruder smashing into a house where a woman is sleeping, alone. When the terrified resident opens the safe where she keeps her gun, said weapon vanishes, and it’s pretty much curtains. This could happen to you, if you let Hillary Clinton take away our “right to self-defense.”

Of course, a woman is less likely to be shot by an intruder than by a member of her family. And really, Missouri, do you want to have everybody in St. Louis carrying a concealed weapon? Let’s talk.

Friedman, solo

September 21, 2016

In “Two Ex-Spies and Donald Trump” The Moustache of Wisdom says an old K.G.B. hand, Vladimir Putin, would be happy to see his admirer elected, but a former C.I.A. director, Robert Gates, sees Trump as unfit.  Here he is:

When it comes to assessing the presidential race, I prefer to listen to the spies. They tend to be brutally unsentimental, see through the nonsense and cut to the cold, hard bottom line. And right now, two of the world’s foremost former spymasters are sending uncoded messages about what it will mean for America and the Western alliance if Donald Trump is elected president.

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce former C.I.A. Director Robert Gates and his longtime nemesis and former K.G.B. agent, President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Putin is voting Trump. Gates is not.

In an essay in The Wall Street Journal, Gates, who also was defense secretary for George W. Bush and Barack Obama, criticized both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for failing to take the threat posed by Putin’s Russia seriously. But Trump, Gates added, has gone places with Putin no would-be American president should: “Mr. Trump’s expressions of admiration for the man and his authoritarian regime are naïve and irresponsible.”

Yes, Clinton has her own credibility issues on national security, Gates explained, but “Donald Trump is in a league of his own. He has expressed support for building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico; for torturing suspected terrorists and killing their families; for Mr. Putin’s dictatorial leadership and for Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent successes against terrorism. He also has said he is for using defense spending by NATO allies as the litmus test on whether the U.S. will keep its treaty commitments to them; for withdrawing U.S. troops from Europe, South Korea and Japan and for the latter two developing nuclear weapons — a highly destabilizing prospect.”

Clinton still has time to address her judgment and credibility issues and earn votes of people like himself, Gates said. As for Trump, he said, “on national security, I believe [he] is beyond repair. He is stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government, and temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform. He is unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief.”

I admire Gates for speaking out. Not enough attention has been paid to the national security implications of a Trump presidency.

I’m certain you’d see U.S. military officers and government officials quitting if Trump ordered them to torture captured terrorists, go house to house to evict illegal immigrants, start trade wars with China and Mexico or ban Muslims. Trump the chaos primary candidate became the chaos presidential nominee, and you can bet he’d be a chaos president.

Being unpredictable as a leader is fine, if you know where you’re going and it is a tool to get you there by keeping foes off balance. But being unpredictable because you have no discipline; because you think issues like ISIS are just a manhood test; because you have not studied the issues so anything can come out of your mouth; and because you don’t realize that when we tell countries like Japan or South Korea or our NATO allies that we might not protect them from Russia or China, they will go get their own nukes and make the world even less stable — well, that kind of unpredictability is how alliances get broken, messes get made and wars get started.

That’s why Putin is licking his chops. It is no accident that Putin praised Trump as “a really brilliant and talented person, without any doubt.” It is also no accident that Putin’s cyberagents have hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign — to create embarrassing leaks — while ignoring both Trump and the G.O.P. It’s because Putin knows the same thing that Gates does: A President Trump would keep Washington and the Western alliance in turmoil.

Moreover, Trump has told so many baldfaced lies in the last year, I can’t imagine what would happen if he had to take America into a war. Who would trust that he was telling the truth about anything?

Also, because of how Trump has disparaged our NATO allies, it is impossible to envision him leading the alliance — particularly if we have to blunt further Russian expansion. And how exactly is Trump going to enlist Arab Gulf nations against ISIS or to counterbalance Iran, having stated that their Muslim citizens should be banned from entering the U.S.?

Who will want to work with him? Trump is constantly saying extreme things and then taking them back or claiming to be misunderstood. Consider the havoc that will wreak with our diplomacy.

That’s why the cynical Putin admires Trump. Trump, narcissist that he is, thinks it’s because Putin really admires his leadership qualities. No, Donald. It’s because Putin knows a mess-maker when he sees one, and the thought of America being led by a man who would be wildly unpopular simultaneously in Europe, Beijing, Mexico, South America and the Muslim world is for Putin a dream come true. The old K.G.B. could never make that happen.

So, young people, listen up: Hillary doesn’t light your fire? O.K., I agree, she is a flawed candidate. But she can responsibly manage the affairs of state. Trump is beyond repair and won’t just light your fire — he’ll burn the house down. Ask the old spies.

Bobo, solo

September 20, 2016

Oh, gawd…  Bobo’s been out in “real Murrica” again.  (Or maybe his “real Murricans” are like Tommy Friedman’s foreign cab drivers.  Who knows?)  Today he’s seen fit to tell us all about “Dignity and Sadness in the Working Class.”  He tells us what he thinks he knows about one man’s journey through postindustrial America.  It’s standard Bobo, and will be followed by a reply from “gemli” in Boston.  Here, FSM help us all, is Bobo:

A few weeks ago I met a guy in Kentucky who’d lived through every trend of deindustrializing America.

He grew up about 65 years ago on a tobacco and cattle farm, but he always liked engines, so even while in high school he worked 40 hours a week in a garage. Then he went to work in a series of factories — making airplane parts, car seats, sheet metal and casings for those big air-conditioning fans you see on the top of buildings.

Every few years as the economy would shift, or jobs would go to Mexico, he’d get hit with a layoff. But the periods of unemployment were never longer than six months and he pieced together a career.

He’s in semiretirement now, but he hasn’t been able to take a vacation for four years because he and his wife take care of her elderly mother, who has trouble swallowing. He’s saved her life 10 times so far with the Heimlich maneuver, and they have to be nearby, in case she needs it again.

His best job came in the middle of his career, when he was a supervisor at the sheet metal plant. But when the technology changed, he was no longer qualified to supervise the new workers, so they let him go.

He thought he’d just come in quietly on his final day, clean out his desk and sneak away.

But word got out, and when he emerged from his office, box in hand, there was a double line of guys stretching all the way from his office in back, across the factory floor and out to his car in the lot. He walked down that whole double line with tears flowing, with the guys clapping and cheering as he went.

We hear a lot about angry white men, but there is an honorable dignity to this guy.

Some of that dignity comes from the fact that he knows how to fix things. One of the undermining conditions of the modern factory is that the workers no longer directly build the products, they just service the machines and software that do.

As the sociologist Richard Sennett once put it, “As a result of working in this way, the bakers now no longer actually know how to bake bread.” But this guy in Kentucky can take care of himself — redo the plumbing at home or replace the brake pads.

He also had a narrative about his own life. It’s not the agency narrative you often find in the professional segments of society: I found my passion and steered my own ship. It’s more of a reactive, coping narrative: A lot of the big forces were outside my control, but I adjusted, made the best of what was possible within my constraints and lived up to my responsibilities.

There’s honor to that, too. Still, over the past many months speaking with people in these situations, I can’t help feeling that society is failing them in some major way, and not just economically.

There is often a sad, noncumulative pattern to working-class lives. In some professions as you get older, you rise to more responsible positions. And that was true under the old seniority-based work rules in factories.

But now there is a stochastic, episodic nature to many careers. As workers get older, potential employers become more suspicious of their skills, not more confident in them. As a result, you often meet people who had been happiest at work in middle age, and then moved down to a series of positions they were overqualified for and felt diminished in.

Furthermore, I often run across people who have gone back to menial work in their 60s and 70s because they just want to get out of the house. When you ask them more questions, you find that they are devoted to home and work, but that they often don’t have rich connections outside these spheres.

Many of their friends came through work, but those friendships tend to fade away when the job ends. There are older people who feel unneeded. There are younger people who feel lost. Somehow these longing souls never find each other.

Suburbia isn’t working. During the baby boom, the suburbs gave families safe places to raise their kids. But now we are in an era of an aging population, telecommuting workers and single-person households.

The culture and geography of suburbia are failing to nurture webs of mutual dependence.

We are animals who can’t flourish unless we can’t get along without one another. Yet one finds too many people thrust into lives of semi-independence.

These are not the victims of postindustrial blight I’m talking about; they are successful people who worked hard and built good lives but who are left nonetheless strangely isolated, in attenuated communities, and who are left radiating the residual sadness of the lonely heart.

Yeah, I’m sure that the guy in Kentucky would have described his career as “stochastic.”  What an incredible foof Bobo is.  Now here’s what “gemli” had to say to him:

“Dave meets an awful lot of poor and working-class people who just happen to serve as perfect examples of an America in decline. Yes, ageing populations can feel disconnected and abandoned when they’re no longer working, and have lost purpose and friendships. I should know, because in many ways I’m that guy.

But guess what, Dave: there’s an inevitable arc to life that starts in the womb and ends in the grave. Things were far worse for the first million years or so of human evolution, and only in the past couple of generations have we had the ability to make life comfortable. When my grandparents were born the life expectancy of the average male was 40-something. Now it’s doubled. I hope.

The culture and geography of suburbia was a blip that briefly worked in our recent past, but things are changing, like they always do. Life was made comfortable for many in this country when progressive leaders recognized that people needed job security, a living wage, a comfortable retirement and medical care. Those leaders were Democrats.

Dave’s red-state friend’s elderly, ill mother-in-law wouldn’t be so burdensome if universal health care was available for all, and he might be better off if he’d had a good union job, rather than enduring frequent layoffs. Yet he’s emblematic of those disillusioned lower-middle-class white guys who are going to put Trump in the White House.

In a couple of months we’ll all be radiating residual sadness.”

And, as a bonus, here’s the most recent comment, from “Don Shipp” in Homestead, Florida:

“The perfect metaphor for this egregious exercise in patronizing condescension is David Brooks using the word “stochastic”to describe the travails of the contemporary Appalachian working class. David’s deigning to leave his ivory tower and mingle with the “victims” of post industrial America, attempting to educate us, with apocryphal tinged stories, of their true nobility, is the epitome of elitist pretension and an insult to the dignity he professes to admire.”

Amen, Don, amen.

Blow and Krugman

September 19, 2016

In “Trump, Grand Wizard of Birtherism,” says once again the Republican candidate has lied, and has compounded his lie by blaming the controversy on Hillary Clinton.  Prof. Krugman has a question in “Vote as if It Matters:”  Will minor parties do major damage?  Here’s Mr. Blow:

So, on Friday the Grand Wizard of Birtherism against President Obama admitted that birtherism was bunk, not by apologizing for his prominent role in the racist campaign — no, that would have been too right — but by suggesting that he deserved credit for dousing the flames he’d fanned.

This man is so low that he’s subterranean.

Donald Trump said Friday: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.”

That was a lie. There is no evidence Hillary Clinton and her campaign either started or took part in the efforts to question the location of Barack Obama’s birth.

He continued: “I finished it.”

That was also a lie. Well after it had been established that the president was born in this country, Trump continued to traffic in speculation to the contrary, all the way up to and including this year.

Then Trump said, without elaboration or allowing questions: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period.”

Trump has a long history of elevating the idiocy of conspiracy theories and normalizing the nonsensical.

Trump has claimed that Bill Ayers wrote the President’s acclaimed, best-selling memoir because surely this black man couldn’t have the talent to write the book. As Trump put it:

“I think somebody else had a lot to do with that book. I think he wrote the second book, which was certainly not a masterpiece. I’m very good at books, and it certainly wasn’t a masterpiece.”

It should be noted that Trump’s own best seller, “The Art of the Deal,” was ghostwritten by Tony Schwartz, who told The New Yorker in July, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.”

Trump claimed in a 2011 interview with Sean Hannity that President Obama was “born Barry Soetoro, somewhere along the line, he changed his name.” Soetoro is the surname of Obama’s mother’s second husband, who she married when Obama was a young boy.

But Trump didn’t stop there. He strung together more conspiracy theories, including coming back to his obvious envy of the success and quality of Obama’s first book:

“I heard he had terrible marks and he ends up in Harvard. He wrote a book that was better than Ernest Hemingway, but his second book was written by an average person. He shouldn’t have written the second book.”

Speaking of college, Trump has insinuated that Obama never attended Columbia University. In 2011, Trump told the Conservative Political Action Conference that “our current president came out of nowhere” and “In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

The fact-checking site PolitiFact rated this lie “Pants on Fire.”

He once suggested to Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly that maybe Obama hadn’t produced a birth certificate because it could reveal that he’s a secret Muslim. He said:

“People have birth certificates. He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that.”

Indeed, the list of conspiracy theories Trump has floated about President Obama is long, but Obama has not been the only target. Trump has also entertained the suspicion that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered, just as he suggests Vince Foster was. He has also intimated that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

This is what Trump does: He exalts gossip and innuendo, which has the direct and opposite effect of degrading truth and honesty. He finds a lie in which the depraved have faith and he lifts it up as if it’s a secret that their opponents fear.

This is an enormous distraction, because it means that time and attention that could be put into exposing that Trump’s policies are either paper thin or laughably unworkable are instead diverted to disproving lies which usher forth from his mouth like water from a hose at full throttle.

And even when confronted with proof positive that his conspiracies are baseless, he often doesn’t back down, or if he does, he does so without apology.

He is not only bending the truth, he is breaking the notion that truth should matter in the first place.

This is what is so baffling about the people supporting him: They know he’s lying, but they so want to believe the lies that they have pushed themselves into a universe of irrationality that is devoid of logic.

So, his admission on Friday was too little, too late; too contrived, too strategic and too lacking in context. In fact, Trump has peddled so many lies about the president that this clearly election-driven, down-to-the-wire political ploy rang hollow and felt like as much of an insult as the original claim.

No one who so proudly wears the mark of dishonesty and defamation possesses the power to grant the stamps of legitimacy and absolution.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Does it make sense to vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president? Sure, as long as you believe two things. First, you have to believe that it makes no difference at all whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump moves into the White House — because one of them will. Second, you have to believe that America will be better off in the long run if we eliminate environmental regulation, abolish the income tax, do away with public schools, and dismantle Social Security and Medicare — which is what the Libertarian platform calls for.

But do 29 percent of Americans between 18 and 34 believe these things? I doubt it. Yet that, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, is the share of millennial voters who say that they would vote for Mr. Johnson if the election took place now. And the preponderance of young Americans who say they’ll back Mr. Johnson or Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee, appear to be citizens who would support Mrs. Clinton in a two-way race; including the minor party candidates cuts her margin among young voters from 21 points to just 5.

So I’d like to make a plea to young Americans: your vote matters, so please take it seriously.

Why are minor candidates seemingly drawing so much support this year? Very little of it, I suspect, reflects support for their policy positions. How many people have actually read the Libertarian platform? But if you’re thinking of voting Johnson, you really should. It’s a remarkable document.

As I said, it calls for abolition of the income tax and the privatization of almost everything the government does, including education. “We would restore authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government.” And if parents don’t want their children educated, or want them indoctrinated in a cult, or put them to work in a sweatshop instead of learning to read? Not our problem.

What really struck me, however, was what the platform says about the environment. It opposes any kind of regulation; instead, it argues that we can rely on the courts. Is a giant corporation poisoning the air you breathe or the water you drink? Just sue: “Where damages can be proven and quantified in a court of law, restitution to the injured parties must be required.” Ordinary citizens against teams of high-priced corporate lawyers — what could go wrong?

It’s really hard to believe that young voters who supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary think any of this is a good idea. But Mr. Johnson and Ms. Stein have received essentially no media scrutiny, so that voters have no idea what they stand for. And their parties’ names sound nice: who among us is against liberty? The truth, that the Libertarian Party essentially stands for a return to all the worst abuses of the Gilded Age, is not out there.

Meanwhile, of course, it does make a huge difference which of the two realistic prospects for the presidency wins, and not just because of the difference in their temperaments and the degree to which they respect or have contempt for democratic norms. Their policy positions are drastically different, too.

True, much of what Mr. Trump says is incoherent: in his policy proposals, trillion dollar tax breaks are here today, gone tomorrow, back the day after. But anyone who calls him a “populist” isn’t looking at the general thrust of his ideas, or at whom he has chosen as economic advisers. Mr. Trump’s brain trust, such as it is, is composed of hard-line, right-wing supply-siders — whom even Republican economists have called “charlatans and cranks” — for whom low taxes on the rich are the overwhelming priority.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton has staked out the most progressive policy positions ever advocated by a presidential candidate. There’s no reason to believe that these positions are insincere, that she would revert to 1990s policies in office: What some are now calling the “new liberal economics” has sunk deep roots in the Democratic Party, and dominates the ranks of Mrs. Clinton’s advisers.

Now, maybe you don’t care. Maybe you consider center-left policies just as bad as hard-right policies. And maybe you have somehow managed to reconcile that disdain with tolerance for libertarian free-market mania. If so, by all means vote for Mr. Johnson.

But don’t vote for a minor-party candidate to make a statement. Nobody cares.

Remember, George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, but somehow ended up in the White House anyway in part thanks to the Nader vote — and nonetheless proceeded to govern as if he had won a landslide. Can you really imagine a triumphant Mr. Trump showing restraint out of respect for all those libertarian votes?

Your vote matters, and you should act accordingly — which means thinking seriously about what you want to see happen to America.

Krugman’s blog, 9/17/16

September 17, 2016

Prof. Krugman must be out of the country, or having insomnia, because this was posted at 3:09 AM today.  Here’s “A Lie Too Far?”:

I suspect Donald Trump is feeling a bit sandbagged right now, or will be when he wakes up. All along he has treated the news media with contempt, and been rewarded with obsequious deference — his lies sugar-coated, described as “disputed” or “stretching the truth,” while every aspect of his opponent’s life is described as “raising questions” and “casting shadows”, despite lack of evidence that she did anything wrong.

If Greg Sargent and Norm Ornstein are to be believed (and they are!), the cable networks at least initially followed the same pattern in their response to DJT’s latest:

But the print media appear to have finally found their voice (which may shape cable coverage over time). The Times and the AP, in particular, have put out hard-hitting stories that present the essence in the lede, not in paragraph 25.

What’s so good about these stories? The fact that they are simple straightforward reporting.

First, confronted with obvious lies, they don’t pretend that the candidate said something less blatant, or do views differ on shape of planet — they simply say that what Trump said is untrue, and that his repetition of these falsehoods makes it clear that he was deliberately lying.

Second, the stories for today’s paper are notable for the absence of what I call second-order political reporting: they’re about what Trump said and did, not speculations about how it will play with voters.

Doing these things doesn’t sound very hard — but we’ve seen very little of this kind of thing until now. Why the change?

You could say that the lies were so blatant that doing the right thing became unavoidable. But there were plenty of earlier lies — Trump lying about his opposition to the Iraq War, about his donations to charity, and much more. There was already the unprecedented contempt for the press he showed by refusing to release his tax returns. And all of these were soft-pedaled, with the media spending its main energy doing neener-neener on Clinton emails and the Clinton Foundation. Why did the press hit its limit?

One answer might be the storm of criticism over election coverage, with, for example, the Washington Post editorial page essentially taking its own reporting to task. The Matt Lauer debacle may have helped bring things into focus. And tightening polls probably matter too, not because journalists are being partisan, but because they are now faced with the enormity of what their fact-free jeering of HRC and fawning over DJT might produce.

There are now two questions: will this last, and if it does, has the turn come soon enough? In both cases, nobody knows. But just imagine how different this election would look if we’d had this kind of simple, factual, truly balanced (as opposed to both-sides-do-it) reporting all along.