Archive for the ‘2016 Clown Car’ Category

Blow and Collins

June 30, 2016

In “The State of Race in America” Mr. Blow says what is worrisome in a new report is how far apart whites and blacks are in their optimism about relations improving.  Ms. Collins has a “Patriotic Presidential Quiz.”  She says if you’re still following the race, here’s a reward for your dedication.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

On Monday, the Pew Research Center released a fascinating and expansive report on the state of race relations in America. It serves as a stark reminder that although events like this insane and historic presidential election, continuing terrorist attacks and global shocks like Brexit overtake news cycles, the issue of racial inequality is just as urgent as ever.

2015 was the year of Black Lives Matter. Discussion of police interactions with minority communities; institutions and interpersonal racism; and “safe spaces” dominated popular literature, film, television, talks shows and newspaper column inches. It seemed everyone, everywhere, was talking about race in some capacity.

Now, at least in the media, the heat around the subject has cooled. The media has moved on. There are new stories to chase. There are new awards to win.

But the issue of racial inequality — as a lived experience — remains unaltered, and many in fact believe that it’s actually getting worse.

Racial inequality is not a trendy issue; it is an entrenched issue.

A year, or even two, of intense focus does not provide sufficient alteration of a condition in a country that has developed over centuries.

And so it is in this simmering wake of unfinished business that the Pew report lands.

It is the kind of report that demands more space that I can give it in a column, but please allow me to quote it here liberally, both the optimistic and pessimistic components of it, and to weigh in on it to the degree that I feel I must.

It is no surprise that whites and black would see racial issues and barriers to racial equality differently, or that differences would be manifest in the ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans.

What is more worrisome is how far apart whites and blacks are in their optimism about race relations improving. As the report puts it:

An overwhelming majority of blacks (88 percent) say the country needs to continue making changes for blacks to have equal rights with whites, but 43 percent are skeptical that such changes will ever occur. An additional 42 percent of blacks believe that the country will eventually make the changes needed for blacks to have equal rights with whites, and just 8 percent say the country has already made the necessary changes.

It continues:

A much lower share of whites (53 percent) say the country still has work to do for blacks to achieve equal rights with whites, and only 11 percent express doubt that these changes will come. Four in 10 whites believe the country will eventually make the changes needed for blacks to have equal rights, and about the same share (38 percent) say enough changes have already been made.

This gulf in optimism is incredibly troubling. What happens to a people when they stop believing, stop hoping, stop trusting that a concerted effort toward improvement will bear fruit?

Part of the problem here is that white and black people have such vastly divergent views about the lived black experience in America. According to the report:

By large margins, blacks are more likely than whites to say black people are treated less fairly in the workplace (a difference of 42 percentage points), when applying for a loan or mortgage (41 points), in dealing with the police (34 points), in the courts (32 points), in stores or restaurants (28 points), and when voting in elections (23 points). By a margin of at least 20 percentage points, blacks are also more likely than whites to say racial discrimination (70 percent versus 36 percent), lower quality schools (75 percent versus 53 percent) and lack of jobs (66 percent versus 45 percent) are major reasons that blacks may have a harder time getting ahead than whites.

These gaps are enormous. The question is whether or not these divergent beliefs are also intractable. If we can’t come to an agreement on the basic facts of life, how on earth can we come to an agreement on the fundamentals of a united path forward?

About six in 10 (59 percent) white Republicans say too much attention is paid to race and racial issues these days, while only 21 percent of Democrats agree.

Finally, we continue to be deceived about the enormous and epidemic nature of often-invisible institutional racism, preferring instead to direct our ire at the more easily identified and vilified interpersonal racism. The report puts it this way:

On balance, the public thinks that when it comes to discrimination against black people in the U.S. today, discrimination that is based on the prejudice of individual people is a bigger problem than discrimination that is built into the nation’s laws and institutions. This is the case among both blacks and whites, but while whites offer this opinion by a large margin (70 percent to 19 percent), blacks are more evenly divided (48 percent to 40 percent).

Although it may feel interminable, this election won’t last forever. In November, America will make a choice.

But the choices that America has already made mean that the persistent question of race will still be with us, unresolved, waiting for yet another moment to explode. No amount of fatigue will change this. Only a true and earnest effort to address race relations fundamentally and honestly will provide the overdue and necessary fix.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Independence Day weekend’s coming — time to show a little patriotism. Budweiser beer just renamed itself “America,” for heaven’s sake. If a Belgian brewing company can do that, the least you can do is show you’re a well-educated citizen. Let’s see whether you’ve been keeping up with the presidential race:

1  Since endorsing Donald Trump for president, Chris Christie …

  • Tracked down the man he once chased down the boardwalk while waving an ice cream cone and apologized.

  • Got the support of a full 18 percent of New Jersey voters on whether Trump should pick Christie as his running mate.

  • Told reporters he does not want to be the vice-presidential nominee because “really, my life is ruined already.”

2  When Marco Rubio ran for president, he made it clear he was done with being a senator forever. (“I have only said like 10,000 times I will be a private citizen in January.”) This month he …

  • Told reporters he was pursuing a lifelong dream of playing defensive back for the Miami Dolphins.

  • Said he was running for re-election because “I’ve discovered I’m not worth nearly as much money as I thought in the private sector.”

  • Said he was running for re-election because “Control of the Senate may very well come down to the race in Florida.”

3  After the demise of his presidential campaign, Ben Carson joined the Trump team. When his candidate claimed a federal judge was biased due to his Mexican heritage, Carson said that Trump …

  • “… was probably talking out loud rather than thinking.”

  • Believes all jurists should be examined for “the fruit salad of their life.”

  • Has many good Mexican friends among the caddies at his golf courses.

4  Paul Ryan began the month by endorsing Donald Trump for president. Since then, he’s denounced several of the candidate’s more outrageous statements. When asked how many times he could do this without washing his hands of the whole campaign, Ryan said …

  • “Four.”

  • “I don’t know the answer to that, either.”

  • “Did I tell you I saw John Boehner in Florida? God, that man looks happy.”

5  Duncan Hunter of California, one of the first members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump, announced he’s going to stop trying to answer for things the candidate says. But he’s still on the Trump bandwagon because …

  • “Everybody makes mistakes”

  • “… him talking about things and saying things about things is different than him saying what he’s going to do.”

  • “Hell, I don’t know. Go ask Paul Ryan.”

6  After he dropped out of the Republican race, Senator Lindsey Graham endorsed Ted Cruz, whom he loathes. Then when Cruz dropped out, he …

  • Endorsed William Howard Taft, noting, “He’s dead, but nobody’s perfect.”

  • Said he’d “probably write somebody in or just skip the presidential.”

  • Compared the current campaign to “Game of Thrones” and announced that it was “time for a woman president, but only if it’s Daenerys the Dragon Queen.”

7  Bernie Sanders’s biggest post-primary news was that …

  • He’s going to endorse Hillary Clinton (but that doesn’t mean he’ll vote for her).

  • He’s going to vote for Hillary Clinton (but that doesn’t mean he’s endorsing her).

  • He needs to take one more look at Martin O’Malley.

8  When Britain voted to exit the European Union, Donald Trump was visiting his golf course in Turnberry, Scotland. Asked for his analysis of the big event, Trump said …

  • “You know, when the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly.”

  • “Analysts have drastically overstated the impact on the British economy; we will of course have to keep a close eye on the manufacturing sector.”

  • “Vote? What vote?”

9  A former White House Secret Service officer has written a tell-all book about the Clintons in which he claims to have seen evidence that Hillary once …

  • Broke a law.

  • Broke a promise.

  • Broke a vase.

10  Campaigning in New York, Hillary Clinton demonstrated she had lost some of her old city sophistication when she …

  • Had trouble getting into the subway.

  • Made eye contact with a fellow passenger in the subway.

  • Posed for a selfie in front of Trump Tower.

11  When Clinton made her big speech on foreign policy this month, people couldn’t help noticing that she appeared on stage in front of…

  • Huge pictures of Abraham Lincoln, Oprah Winfrey and the pope.

  • Her grandchildren.

  • 19 American flags.

12  Which of the following is NOT one of Trump’s arguments for why his business credentials are a great preparation for the presidency …

  • He’s run the Miss Universe pageant in Russia.

  • Running a country is much like running a golf course. (“You’ll be amazed how similar it is.”)

  • The nation needs a leader who has extensive experience in filing for bankruptcy.

 

The answer key:   1B, 2C, 3A, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8A, 9C 10A, 11C, 12C

 

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Brooks and Krugman

June 10, 2016

Bobo has a bad case of the flop sweats.  In “The Unity Illusion” he moans that you can’t be teammates with Donald Trump.  In the comments “Sha” from Redwood City, CA had this to say:  “Trump once said: ” I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”
Now he can confidently say he could shoot somebody and the Republican party will still support him. It’s a disgrace.”  Prof. Krugman, in “Hillary and the Horizontals,” says that in America, you can’t avoid the race question.  Oh, Paul, don’t be silly.  Ask any Republican and they’ll tell you that Nothing Is Ever About Race.  Here’s Bobo:

Paul Ryan says it’s time for Republicans to unite with the presumptive nominee Donald Trump. Sure, Trump says racist things sometimes and disagrees with most of our proposals, but Republicans have to go into this campaign as a team. There has to be a Republican majority in Congress to give ballast to a Trump presidency or block the excesses of a Clinton one. If Republicans are divided from now until Election Day they will lose everything.

Unity will also be good for the conservative agenda. Congressional Republicans are currently laying out a series of policy proposals. If they hug Trump, maybe he’ll embrace some of them. Or, as a Wall Street Journal editorial put it this week: “There’s no guarantee Mr. Trump would agree to Mr. Ryan’s agenda, but there’s no chance if Mr. Ryan publicly refuses to vote for him.”

These are decent arguments. Unfortunately, they are philosophically unsound and completely unworkable.

For starters, this line of thinking is deeply anticonservative. Conservatives believe that politics is a limited activity. Culture, psychology and morality come first. What happens in the family, neighborhood, house of worship and the heart is more fundamental and important than what happens in a legislature.

Ryan’s argument inverts all this. It puts political positions first and character and morality second. Sure Trump’s a scoundrel, but he might agree with our tax proposal. Sure, he is a racist, but he might like our position on the defense budget. Policy agreement can paper over a moral chasm. Nobody calling themselves a conservative can agree to this hierarchy of values.

The classic conservative belief, by contrast, is that character is destiny. Temperament is foundational. Each candidate has to cross some basic threshold of dependability as a human being before it’s even relevant to judge his or her policy agenda. Trump doesn’t cross that threshold.

Second, it just won’t work. The Republican Party can’t unify around Donald Trump for the same reason it can’t unify around a tornado. Trump, by his very essence, undermines cooperation, reciprocity, solidarity, stability or any other component of unity. He is a lone operator, a disloyal diva, who is incapable of horizontal relationships. He has demeaned and humiliated everybody who has tried to be his friend, from Chris Christie to Paul Ryan.

Some conservatives believe they can educate, convert or civilize Trump. This belief is a sign both of intellectual arrogance and psychological naïveté.

The man who just crushed them is in no mood to submit to them. Furthermore, Trump’s personality is pathological. It is driven by deep inner compulsions that defy friendly advice, political interest and common sense.

It’s useful to go back and read the Trump profiles in Vanity Fair and other places from the 1980s and 1990s. He has always behaved exactly as he does now: the constant flow of insults, the endless bragging, the casual cruelty, the need to destroy allies and hog the spotlight. “Donald was the child who would throw the cake at the birthday parties,” his brother Robert once said.

Psychologists are not supposed to diagnose candidates from afar, but there is a well-developed literature on narcissism that tracks with what we have seen of Trump. By one theory narcissism flows from a developmental disorder called alexithymia, the inability to identify and describe emotions in the self. Sufferers have no inner voice to understand their own feelings and reflect honestly on their own actions.

Unable to know themselves, or truly love themselves, they hunger for a never-ending supply of admiration from outside. They act at all times like they are performing before a crowd and cannot rest unless they are in the spotlight.

To make decisions, these narcissists create a rigid set of external standards, often based around admiration and contempt. Their valuing criteria are based on simple division — winners and losers, victory or humiliation. They are preoccupied with luxury, appearance or anything that signals wealth, beauty, power and success. They take Christian, Jewish and Muslim values — based on humility, charity and love — and they invert them.

Incapable of understanding themselves, they are also incapable of having empathy for others. They simply don’t know what it feels like to put themselves in another’s shoes. Other people are simply to be put to use as suppliers of admiration or as victims to be crushed as part of some dominance display.

Therefore, they go out daily in search of enemies to insult and friends to degrade. Trump, for example, reportedly sets members of his campaign staff off against each other. Each person is up one day and belittled another — always kept perpetually on edge, waiting for the Sun King to decide the person’s temporary worth.

Paul Ryan and the Republicans can try to be loyal to Trump, but he won’t be loyal to them. There’s really no choice. Congressional Republicans have to run their own separate campaign. Donald Trump does not share.

So, Bobo, who are YOU going to vote for in November?  I’ll bet I know, and I’ll bet it’s not for a Democrat, you pusillanimous turd.  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

I spent much of this politically momentous week at a workshop on inequality, where papers were presented on everything from the causes of wage disparities to the effects of inequality on happiness. As so often happens at conferences, however, what really got me thinking was a question during coffee break: “Why don’t you talk more about horizontal inequality?”

What? Horizontal inequality is the term of art for inequality measured, not between individuals, but between racially or culturally defined groups. (Of course, race itself is mainly a cultural construct rather than a fact of nature — Americans of Italian or even Irish extraction weren’t always considered white.) And it struck me that horizontal thinking is what you need to understand what went down in both parties’ nominating seasons: It’s what led to Donald Trump, and also why Hillary Clinton beat back Bernie Sanders. And like it or not, horizontal inequality, racial inequality above all, will define the general election.

You can argue that it shouldn’t be that way. One way to think about the Sanders campaign is that it was based on the premise that if only progressives were to make a clear enough case about the evils of inequality among individuals, they could win over the whole working class, regardless of race. In one interview Mr. Sanders declared that if the media was doing its job, Republicans would be a fringe party receiving only 5 or 10 percent of the vote.

But that’s a pipe dream. Defining oneself at least in part by membership in a group is part of human nature. Even if you try to step away from such definitions, other people won’t. A rueful old line from my own heritage says that if you should happen to forget that you’re Jewish, someone will remind you: a truth reconfirmed by the upsurge in vocal anti-Semitism unleashed by the Trump phenomenon.

So group identity is an unavoidable part of politics, especially in America with its history of slavery and its ethnic diversity. Racial and ethnic minorities know that very well, which is one reason they overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton, who gets it, over Mr. Sanders, with his exclusive focus on individual inequality. And politicians know it too.

Indeed, the road to Trumpism began with ideological conservatives cynically exploiting America’s racial divisions. The modern Republican Party’s central policy agenda of cutting taxes on the rich while slashing benefits has never been very popular, even among its own voters. It won elections nonetheless by getting working-class whites to think of themselves as a group under siege, and to see government programs as giveaways to Those People.

Or to put it another way, the G.O.P. was able to serve the interests of the 1 percent by posing as the defender of the 80 percent — for that was the white share of the electorate when Ronald Reagan was elected.

But demographic change — rapid growth in the Hispanic and Asian population — has brought the non-Hispanic white share of the electorate down to 62 percent and falling. Republicans need to broaden their base; but the base wants candidates who will defend the old racial order. Hence Trumpism.

And race-based political mobilization cuts both ways. Black and Hispanic support for Democrats makes obvious sense, given the fact that these are relatively low-income groups that benefit disproportionately from progressive policies. They have, for example, seen very sharp reductions in the number of uninsured since Obamacare went into effect. But the overwhelming nature of that support reflects group identity.

Furthermore, some groups with relatively high income, like Jews and, increasingly, Asian-Americans, also vote strongly Democratic. Why? The answer in both cases, surely, is the suspicion that the same racial animus that drives many people to vote Republican could, all too easily, turn against other groups with a long history of persecution. And as I’ve already mentioned, we are indeed seeing a lot of right-wing anti-Semitism breaking out into the open. Does anyone doubt that a reservoir of anti-Asian prejudice is similarly lurking just under the surface?

So now comes the general election. I wish I could say that it will be a battle of ideas. But it mostly won’t, and not just because Mr. Trump doesn’t have any coherent policy ideas.

No, this is going to be mostly an election about identity. The Republican nominee represents little more than the rage of white men over a changing nation. And he’ll be facing a woman — yes, gender is another important dimension in this story — who owes her nomination to the very groups his base hates and fears.

The odds are that Mrs. Clinton will prevail, because the country has already moved a long way in her direction. But one thing is for sure: It’s going to be ugly.

Brooks and Krugman

June 3, 2016

Bobo is convinced he knows “Where America is Working” and he gurgles that we should build on our success and not, like the Trump campaign, wallow in despair of what we’ve lost.  In the comments “Gene” from Florida had this to say:  “Wrong again. The Republicans have been riding the doom and gloom train since Obama’s first day in office. From day one they’ve been hollering about how they have to stop him from destroying America and pointing out (lying about) how bad it is in America because of him. Trump’s merely cashing in on all the Republican effort. What’s more, this is all secondary to what drives most Trump supporters. The common trait among Trump supporters is bigotry with racism at the top of the list.”  Prof. Krugman takes a look at “The Id That Ate the Planet” and says climate change can be countered and the environment saved, but not if the hair spray-obsessed, science-denying Donald Trump is elected.  Here’s Bobo:

As individuals, we all try to build on our strengths and work on our weaknesses, and it’s probably a good idea to balance these two activities. But as a country we are completely messing this up.

In this election we’ve been ignoring the parts of America that are working well and wallowing in the parts that are fading. This has led to a campaign season driven by fear, resentment and pessimism. And it will lead to worse policy-making down the road, since prosperity means building on things we do well, not obsessing over the things that we’ve lost.

The person chiefly responsible for this all-warts view of America is, of course, Donald Trump.

Trump has focused his campaign on the struggling white neighborhoods in the industrial Midwest. The prototypical Trump voter is an upscale man from a downscale place.

As Nate Silver has demonstrated, Trump voters are not poor. Their median household income is about $72,000, which is far above the national average. But they tend to be from former manufacturing hubs, which have been in decades-long decline. They tend to be from places like Kokomo, Ind., which has had a 13.5 percent decline in weekly wages since 2000, and Saginaw, Mich., which has had a 9.8 percent decline.

These areas enjoyed a brief resurgence four years ago, when manufacturing picked up. But the manufacturing economy has headed south again over the past 19 months, thanks to low foreign demand. People in such places are so desperate for any sort of change that they’re willing to overlook all the baggage that comes with Donald Trump.

Trump’s general election focus on the swing states of the industrial Midwest means that Hillary Clinton will have to focus her efforts there, too. The whole tenor of the fall campaign will be shaped by the pain of towns that are in long-term decline — where people feel economically adrift and culturally left behind.

Energy issues will play an outsized role. As Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic has shown, Republicans tend to do well in industrial places heavily reliant on carbon-intensive fuels. Democrats tend to do well in postindustrial places where carbon output is low. Trump will hit Clinton for supporting environmental regulations that hurt the manufacturing economy. Clinton will rally her people with efforts to address climate change.

This style of campaign could also pave the way for a longer-term realignment. Michael Lind of New America argues in an essay in Politico that Republicans are becoming a Midwestern, white working-class party that embraces economic nationalism — walling out immigrants and global economic competition. The Democrats are becoming a multicultural globalist coalition that will see national boundaries as obsolete.

But there’s another America out there, pointing to a different political debate. For while people are flooding out of the Midwest, they are flooding into the South and the West. The financial crisis knocked many Sun Belt cities to their knees, but they are back up and surging. Jobs and people are now heading to Orlando, Phoenix, Nashville, Charlotte, Denver and beyond.

There are two kinds of places that are getting it right. The first we might call Richard Florida cities, after the writer who champions them. These are dense, highly educated, highly communal places with plenty of hipsters. These cities, like Austin, Seattle and San Francisco, have lots of innovation, lots of cultural amenities, but high housing prices and lots of inequality.

The second kind of cities we might call Joel Kotkin cities, after the writer who champions them. These are opportunity cities like Houston, Dallas and Salt Lake City. These places are less regulated, so it’s easier to start a business. They are sprawling with easy, hodgepodge housing construction, so the cost of living is low. Immigrants flock to them.

As Kotkin and Tory Gattis pointed out in an essay in The City Journal, Houston has been a boomtown for the past two decades. It’s America’s fourth-largest city, with 35 percent metro area population growth between 2000 and 2013. It’s the most ethnically diverse city in America and has had a surge in mid-skill jobs. Houston’s diversified its economy, so even the energy recession has not derailed its progress.

We should be having a debate between the Kotkin model and the Florida model, between two successful ways to create prosperity, each with strengths and weaknesses. That would be a forward-looking debate between groups who are open, confident and innovative. That would be a debate that, while it might divide by cultural values and aesthetics, wouldn’t divide along ugly racial lines.

We should be focusing on the growing, dynamic places and figuring out how to use those models to nurture inclusive opportunity and rejuvenate the places that aren’t. Instead, this campaign will focus on the past: who we need to shut out to get back what we lost.

The future is being built right now. The prevailing sense of public despair is just wrong.

That deserves one more reply, this time from “soxared040713” from Crete, IL:  “Mr. Brooks, the demonization of President Obama, now in its eighth year, was created by your party. You have done no small part to fan the flames of despair these past seven-plus years ginning up a mob-like resentment against not only him, but Democrats in general. … House Speaker Paul Ryan’s cowardly capitulation to Trump yesterday is merely the latest in a continuing cascade of reasons our “prevailing sense of public despair” is so great.  Are you happy now?”  And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

On Tuesday the political arm of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of America’s most influential environmentalist groups, made its first presidential endorsement ever, giving the nod to Hillary Clinton. This meant jumping the gun by a week on her inevitable designation as the presumptive Democratic nominee, but the NRDC Action Fund is obviously eager to get on with the general election.

And it’s not hard to see why: At this point Donald Trump’s personality endangers the whole planet.

We’re at a peculiar moment when it comes to the environment — a moment of both fear and hope. The outlook for climate change if current policies continue has never looked worse, but the prospects for turning away from the path of destruction have never looked better. Everything depends on who ends up sitting in the White House for the next few years.

On climate: Remember claims by climate denialists that global warming had paused, that temperatures hadn’t risen since 1998? That was always a garbage argument, but in any case it has now been blown away by a series of new temperature records and a proliferation of other indicators that, taken together, tell a terrifying story of looming disaster.

At the same time, however, rapid technological progress in renewable energy is making nonsense — or maybe I should say, further nonsense — of another bad argument against climate action, the claim that nothing can be done about greenhouse gas emissions without crippling the economy. Solar and wind power are getting cheaper each year, and growing quickly even without much in the way of incentives to switch away from fossil fuels. Provide those incentives, and an energy revolution would be just around the corner.

So we’re in a state where terrible things are in prospect, but can be avoided with fairly modest, politically feasible steps. You may want a revolution, but we don’t need one to save the planet. Right now all it would take is for America to implement the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and other actions — which don’t even require new legislation, just a Supreme Court that won’t stand in their way — to let the U.S. continue the role it took in last year’s Paris agreement, guiding the world as a whole toward sharp reductions in emissions.

But what happens if the next president is a man who doesn’t believe in climate science, or indeed in inconvenient facts of any kind?

Republican hostility to climate science and climate action is usually attributed to ideology and the power of special interests, and both of these surely play important roles. Free-market fundamentalists prefer rejecting science to admitting that there are ever cases when government regulation is necessary. Meanwhile, buying politicians is a pretty good business investment for fossil-fuel magnates like the Koch brothers.

But I’ve always had the sense that there was a third factor, which is basically psychological. There are some men — it’s almost always men — who become enraged at any suggestion that they must give up something they want for the common good. Often, the rage is disproportionate to the sacrifice: for example, prominent conservatives suggesting violence against government officials because they don’t like the performance of phosphate-free detergent. But polluter’s rage isn’t about rational thought.

Which brings us to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who embodies the modern conservative id in its most naked form, stripped of the disguises politicians usually use to cloak their prejudices and make them seem respectable.

No doubt Donald Trump hates environmental protection in part for the usual reasons. But there’s an extra layer of venom to his pro-pollution stances that is both personal and mind-bogglingly petty.

For example, he has repeatedly denounced restrictions intended to protect the ozone layer — one of the great success stories of global environmental policy — because, he claims, they’re the reason his hair spray doesn’t work as well as it used to. I am not making this up.

He’s also a bitter foe of wind power. He likes to talk about how wind turbines kill birds, which they sometimes do, but no more so than tall buildings; but his real motivation seems to be ire over unsuccessful attempts to block an offshore wind farm near one of his British golf courses.

And if evidence gets in the way of his self-centeredness, never mind. Recently he assured audiences that there isn’t a drought in California, that officials have just refused to turn on the water.

I know how ridiculous it sounds. Can the planet really be in danger because a rich guy worries about his hairdo? But Republicans are rallying around this guy just as if he were a normal candidate. And if Democrats don’t rally the same way, he just might make it to the White House.

Blow, Cohen, Kristof and Collins

June 2, 2016

In “A Chill Wind Blows” Mr. Blow says that Trump’s rhetoric suggests that in his mind, adulation is the only honesty.  Mr. Cohen, in “The Right Asian Deal,” says Congress should ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and that its failure would be a big victory for China.  In “Building Children’s Brains” Mr. Kristof says that in order to get  more kids to college we should invest in infants.  Ms. Collins, in “Tightwad Trump Explodes,” says Donald, just show us the money for veterans.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump, a man who tosses the truth around with the callous disdain of a spoiled child with a toy he has outgrown, has spent much of his campaign calling the media dishonest, even though his manipulation of the media is the only reason he’s the last Republican standing.

He seems to view any unflattering, or otherwise critical, coverage as an attack. His rhetoric suggests that in his mind, adulation is the only honesty.

Such is his wont. And no Republican in a party that continues to veer dangerously toward fact-hostile absolutism has ever lost points with his base by calling the media biased against him.

But there is a strand of these comments and behavior that heralds something more dangerous than an ideological animosity toward the press. Trump keeps signaling that if he had his druthers, he would silence dissent altogether.

At a spectacle of a news conference on Tuesday, Trump laid into reporters for asking simple accountability questions about funds going to charity groups. He even called one reporter a “sleaze” and complained that coverage of his donations to the groups “make me look very bad.”

This isn’t the first time he has used base language to attack reporters with whom he disagreed or was annoyed. The New York Times has collected a comprehensive list of his Twitter insults (often waged against journalists), which simply boggles the mind. (I am among those he has accused of “dishonest reporting.”)

But even that isn’t what’s most troubling. What’s troubling is that under a Trump administration, the First Amendment itself — either in spirit or in law, or both — could be severely weakened. What we have to worry about is a chill wind blowing from the White House.

This is no small thing. Our constitutionally protected freedom of speech and freedom of the press are pillars that make this country great, and different.

Not only did Trump say Tuesday that if he became president he was going to “continue to attack the press,” but in February, he said:

One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we’re certainly leading. I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So that when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.

Exceptions for falsehoods are already part of our libel jurisprudence, but the worrisome nature of that comment lies in its vagueness. What does “open up our libel laws” mean? Is he equating “purposely negative” and “horrible” — both subjective determinations — with “false”?

These principles of free press and free speech, which are almost as old as the country itself, are not things to be tinkered with on the whim of a thin-skinned man who has said flattering things about dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, ruler of a country that the press watchdog group Freedom House calls “one of the most repressive media environments in the world,” where “listening to unauthorized foreign broadcasts and possessing dissident publications are considered ‘crimes against the state’ that carry serious punishments, including hard labor, prison sentences, and the death penalty.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that this week Time magazine reported that “a North Korean state media outlet has praised Donald Trump as a ‘wise politician’ and ‘farsighted candidate’ who can reunify the Korean Peninsula.”

Trump’s dictatorial instinct to suppress what he deems “negative” speech, particularly from the press, is the very thing the founders worried about.

In 1737, more than 50 years before the Constitution was adopted, signed and ratified — before the First Amendment was adopted — Benjamin Franklin wrote in The Pennsylvania Gazette:

“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.”

Our unfettered freedom to interrogate and criticize our government and our leaders are part of our patriotism and an expression of our national fealty.

James Baldwin put it this way: “I love America more than any other country in the world, and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

And that extends to the country’s politicians.

This idea is so much bigger than Trump, a small man of small thought who is at war with scrutiny.

Freedom of speech and the press are principles that we must protect from this wannabe authoritarian.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen, writing from Ho Chi Minh City:

An American who has been a resident here for a few years said to me the other day: “You know, they still look at us here the way we want to be looked at. America equals opportunity, entrepreneurship and success. That’s not true in so many places anymore.”

Four decades after the war, in one of the world’s consoling mysteries, the United States enjoys an overwhelming approval rating in Vietnam, reflected in the outpouring of enthusiasm for President Obama during his three-day visit last month. In this fast-growing country of 94 million people, about one-third of them on Facebook, America is at once the counterbalance to the age-old enemy, China, and an emblem of the prosperity young people seek.

The best way to kick Vietnamese aspirations in the teeth, turn the country sour on the United States, and undermine the stabilizing American role in Asia, would be for Congress to fail to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Obama’s signature trade agreement with 11 Pacific Rim countries including Vietnam but not China.

If T.P.P. falls apart, China wins. It’s as simple as that. Nonratification would signal that Beijing gets to dictate policy in the region, and the attempt to integrate Vietnam comprehensively in a rules-based international economy fails.

Obama’s decision to spend so much time here was an indication of the importance he attaches to this cornerstone of his so-called Asia “pivot.” The agreement — with countries accounting for close to 40 percent of the global economy — anchors the United States as a Pacific power and reinforces its critical offsetting role in Asia as China rises. By visiting Ho Chi Minh City and Hiroshima, Japan, Obama also made a powerful statement that past enmities can be overcome in the name of mutual prosperity — a signal to Cuba and Myanmar, among others.

But such long-term transformations, pulling hundreds of millions out of poverty in Asia, are not the stuff of an American election characterized by anger above all. Among the popular one-liners is this: International trade deals steal American jobs. Not one of the three surviving candidates backs the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Hillary Clinton was for it — and right — before she was against it — and wrong. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are simply against it, big time.

The trade agreement — with countries including Peru, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Malaysia — has flaws, of course. There are issues it does not address, like currency manipulation. Legitimate concerns have been raised about the impact that patent enforcement will have on affordable medicines.

The Obama administration has acknowledged that some manufacturing and low-skilled jobs will be lost, but argued this will be offset by job growth in higher-wage, export-reliant industries. The Peterson Institute for International Economics, in a report issued this year, found the accord would stimulate job “churn” but was “not likely to affect overall employment in the United States,” while delivering significant gains in real incomes and annual exports.

What the agreement will do, as Clinton noted when she backed the deal, is deliver “better jobs with higher wages and safer working conditions, including for women, migrant workers and others.” It obliges countries like Vietnam to allow workers to form independent unions; it requires a minimum wage and higher health standards; it bans child labor and forced labor. It binds Vietnam to countries where the rule of law is arbiter rather than authoritarian diktat.

At a time when a drought in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam’s rice bowl, and a massive fish kill along the coast have sparked protests and sharpened concerns about global warming, the agreement is also designed to combat overfishing, illegal logging and other environmental scourges. It commits countries to shift to low-emissions economies.

To which, all Donald Trump has to say in a recent article in USA Today is that T.P.P. is “the biggest betrayal in a long line of betrayals” of American workers. But when pressed in a Republican debate on which parts of the deal were badly negotiated, he could only cite currency manipulation and “the way China and India and almost everybody takes advantage of the United States.”

China and India, of course, are not part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

As for Clinton, she believed in 2012 that the T.P.P. “sets the gold standard in trade agreements,” before deciding last October that “I am not in favor of what I have learned about it.” The best that can be said about this is that it was probably a tactical cave-in she would reverse if she wins.

Developed economies face huge problems that have produced this season of rage. But the world has enjoyed growing prosperity over decades because of continuously reduced trade barriers. A reversal would be the road to conflict. Like the best trade accords, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is also a strategic boost to liberty and stability in the fastest-growing part of the globe. Congress should resist populist ranting and ratify it.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

First, a quiz: What’s the most common “vegetable” eaten by American toddlers?

Answer: The French fry.

The same study that unearthed that nutritional tragedy also found that on any given day, almost half of American toddlers drink soda or similar drinks, possibly putting the children on a trajectory toward obesity or diabetes.

But for many kids, the problems start even earlier. In West Virginia, one study found, almost one-fifth of children are born with alcohol or drugs in their system. Many thus face an uphill struggle from the day they are born.

Bear all this in mind as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump battle over taxes, minimum wages and whether to make tuition free at public universities. Those are legitimate debates, but the biggest obstacles and greatest inequality often have roots early in life:

If we want to get more kids in universities, we should invest in preschools.

Actually, preschool may be a bit late. Brain research in the last dozen years underscores that the time of life that may shape adult outcomes the most is pregnancy through age 2 or 3.

“The road to college attainment, higher wages and social mobility in the United States starts at birth,” notes James Heckman, a Nobel-winning economist at the University of Chicago. “The greatest barrier to college education is not high tuitions or the risk of student debt; it’s in the skills children have when they first enter kindergarten.”

Heckman is not a touchy-feely bleeding heart. He’s a math wiz renowned for his work on econometrics. But he is focusing his work on early education for disadvantaged children because he sees that as perhaps the highest-return public investment in the world today.

He measures the economic savings from investments in early childhood — because less money is spent later on juvenile courts, prisons, health care and welfare — and calculates that early-education programs for needy kids pay for themselves several times over.

One of the paradoxes of American politics is that this is an issue backed by overwhelming evidence, enjoying bipartisan support, yet Washington is stalled on it. Gallup finds that Americans by more than two to one favor universal pre-K, and Clinton and Sanders are both strong advocates. Trump has made approving comments as well (although online searches of both “Trump” and “preschool” mostly turn up comparisons of him to a preschooler).

To be clear, what’s needed is not just education but also help for families beginning in pregnancy, to reduce the risk that children will be born with addictions and to increase the prospect that they will be raised with lots of play and conversation. (By age 4, a child of professionals has heard 30 million more words than a child on welfare.)

The best metric of child poverty may have to do not with income but with how often a child is spoken and read to.

So it’s in early childhood that the roots of inequality lie. A book from the Russell Sage Foundation, “Too Many Children Left Behind,” notes that 60 to 70 percent of the achievement gap between rich and poor kids is already evident by kindergarten. The book recommends investing in early childhood, for that’s when programs often have the most impact.

It is true that cognitive gains from preschool seem to fade by the third grade, but there are differences in life outcomes that persist. Many years later, these former pre-K students are less likely to be arrested, to drop out of high school, to be on welfare and to be jobless.

A wave of recent research in neuroscience explains why early childhood is so critical: That’s when the brain is developing most quickly. Children growing up in poverty face high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which changes the architecture of the brain, compromising areas like the amygdala and hippocampus.

A new collection of essays from Harvard Education Press, “The Leading Edge of Early Childhood Education,” says that this “toxic stress” from poverty impairs brain circuits responsible for impulse control, working memory, emotional regulation, error processing and healthy metabolic functioning. Early-childhood programs protect those young brains.

So in this presidential campaign, let’s move beyond the debates about free tuition and minimum wages to push something that might matter even more: early-childhood programs for needy kids.

“It is in the first 1,000 days of life that the stage is set for fulfilling individual potential,” writes Roger Thurow in his powerful and important new book on leveraging early childhood, “The First 1,000 Days.” “If we want to shape the future, to truly improve the world, we have 1,000 days to do it, mother by mother, child by child.”

America’s education wars resemble World War I, with each side entrenched and exhausted but no one making much progress. So let’s transcend the stalemate and focus on investing in America’s neediest kids.

We rescued banks because they were too big to fail. Now let’s help children who are too small to fail.

Well, Mr. Kristof, maybe YOU can get the Forced Birthers to start giving a crap about children once they’re in the post-fetal stage.  You know, born.  Last but not least we have Ms. Collins:

Donald Trump has a simple reason for his long delay in explaining what happened to the money he raised for veterans’ charities: He didn’t want any publicity.

“Because I wanted to make this out of the goodness of my heart,” he told a press conference in which he castigated reporters for forcing him to provide details.

Of all conceivable explanations, “too self-effacing” ranks somewhere below “temporarily kidnapped by space aliens.” Let’s look elsewhere. The best possibilities seem to be:

A) Cheapness.

B) Tendency to make things up.

C) Difficulty in getting a disorganized, minimally qualified, perpetually short-handed staff to keep track of the cash.

Obviously, we’re going for all three.

The story so far: Trump was supposed to do a Republican primary debate in January on Fox News, a network with which he was feuding. So he staged his own counter-event, a much-publicized fund-raiser for veterans’ charities. The highlight was an announcement that the veterans were getting $6 million, including a $1 million donation from the Donald himself.

Time passed. And he wouldn’t say where the money went.

People, I know you’re tired of hearing Donald Trump stories, but did you want the reporters to just drop the subject? Trump certainly did. Particularly when it came to his own personal million-dollar contribution, which did not actually materialize until the news media, particularly The Washington Post, started asking questions. Many questions. Which went unanswered.

“Oh, I’m totally accountable, but I didn’t want to have credit for it,” Trump said.

The money was turned over to a veterans’ charity about, um, a week ago.

We have heard a lot from Trump about his passion for veterans lately. It’s an intense interest that goes back at least … a year. Before that, his major involvement with the military appeared to be getting a deferment for “a foot thing” when he was eligible for the draft during the war in Vietnam.

It is not unusual for presidential candidates to have avoided military service. Bill Clinton did. Bernie Sanders did. Most of Congress did. Dick Cheney got himself five deferments — and, O.K., when it came to Dick Cheney we took offense. But in general, we’ve gotten used to nonveterans as the political norm.

One of the very few major American politicians who did serve, under fire, is John McCain, and one of the first things Trump did in his race for president was to make fun of McCain’s years as a prisoner of war. (“I like people who weren’t captured.”) He also portrayed himself as a guy who had done way, way more to help veterans than John McCain, a claim that was … oh Lord, let’s not even go there.

The donations to Trump’s January fund-raiser were supposed to be distributed through the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which had been around for years without previously making veterans a priority, or even an afterthought.

We will not bother to point out that Donald J. Trump himself did not have a history of being a big donor to the Donald J. Trump Foundation. In fact, Trump never seemed to give much money to anybody. This appears to be one of the most tightfisted billionaires since Scrooge McDuck.

Unless he’s not a billionaire at all. If Trump ever releases his tax records and it turns out that he’s only worth, say, $755,000, he’ll deserve a big apology from those of us who thought he was a self-centered rich guy with zero interest in sharing his wealth with the less fortunate. Honestly, I will be the first to raise my hand.

But about the veterans. Trump brings up his commitment to our fighting men and women all the time now. Really, the only person he talks about more than the American soldier is Bobby Knight, the former basketball coach who is famous for roughing up his players and endorsing Donald Trump for president.

On Memorial Day weekend, Trump spoke to a gathering of veterans and bikers in Washington, and managed to both drop Bobby Knight’s name and complain about the small crowd. “I thought this would be like Dr. Martin Luther King, where the people will be lined up from here all the way to the Washington Monument,” he said.

On Tuesday, Trump said he was just joking. Let’s accept that at face value and agree that he simply made a humorous remark in which he compared himself to a slain civil rights leader.

He also insisted the media was conspiring to undercount the attendance: “So instead of saying Trump made a speech in front of a packed crowd they said Trump was disappointed.” Have we ever had a president who referred to himself in the third person? The answer, as a number of readers have been kind enough to point out is — yes! We had Richard Nixon.

See if that makes you feel any better.

Blow and Krugman

May 30, 2016

In “The Ghosts of Old Sex Scandals” Mr. Blow points out the obvious, that if Donald Trump dwells on Bill Clinton’s misdeeds, we should remember Trump’s and other Republicans’ hypocrisy on such matters.  In “Feel the Math” Prof. Krugman takes a look at numbers and the state of politics.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

We are now being forced to relive the decades-old sex scandals of Bill Clinton, as Donald Trump tries desperately to shield and inoculate himself from well-earned charges of misogyny.

I say, if we must go there, let’s go all the way. Let’s do this dirty laundry, as Kelly Rowland, former Destiny’s Child, once crooned.

First, multiple women have accused Clinton of things ranging from sexual misconduct to rape. Paula Jones famously brought a sexual harassment case against Clinton. The case was dismissed, but on appeal, faced with the prospect of having to testify under oath, Clinton settled the case out of court.

Clinton has maintained that he had inappropriate sexual relationships with only two women: Gennifer Flowers, a model and actress, and Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern.

Clinton was impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with his affair with Lewinsky.

Let’s just say this: Clinton was as wrong as the day is long for his affairs. There is no way around that.

But the problem was that many of the men condemning the beam in Clinton’s eye were then shown to have one in their own.

Newt Gingrich, who was so incredibly disliked that he stepped down not only from his speakership in the House of Representatives, but also from Congress altogether, later admitted cheating on his first wife (with whom he discussed divorce terms while she was in the hospital for cancer) and on his second (that cheating occurred whileGingrich led the Clinton impeachment proceedings).

Into the void created by Gingrich’s departure stepped speaker-to-be Robert L. Livingston of Louisiana.

But, as The Chicago Tribune reported at the time:

“On the eve of the House debate to impeach President Clinton for lying about sex with Monica Lewinsky, House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston told his Republican colleagues Thursday night that he had strayed from his marriage and had adulterous affairs. Only a few hours after Livingston decided to proceed with the impeachment debate despite U.S. forces being engaged in hostilities in Iraq, he admitted in a G.O.P. caucus that he had “on occasion” committed infidelity and in ‘doing so nearly cost me my marriage and family.’”

And Livingston wasn’t the only Republican moving to impeach Clinton for lying about a sexual affair who would be forced out of the shadows for his own sexual scandals.

J. Dennis Hastert, who became speaker in 1999, pleaded guilty last year to illegally structuring bank withdrawals in order to pay what prosecutors contend was hush money to a man Hastert had sexually abused as a child. Indeed, as The Times reported in April, federal prosecutors asserted that Hastert “molested at least four boys, as young as 14, when he worked as a high school wrestling coach decades ago,” before the Clinton impeachment hearings.

Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who The Times reported had raised “the specter of the Watergate era” when discussing Clinton, admitted to a journalist during the proceedings that he’d had a five-year affair with a married woman decades earlier.

Dan Burton, House Government Reform and Oversight Committee chairman, who The Washington Post described as “one of President Clinton’s most persistent and combative critics,” was forced to admit that he had a secret love child.

And, just last week, The Times reported:

“Kenneth W. Starr, the former independent counsel who delivered a report that served as the basis for President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, was removed as president of Baylor University on Thursday after an investigation found the university mishandled accusations of sexual assault against football players.”

The sweep of karma and the level of hypocrisy is just staggering.

No wonder nearly two-thirds of Americans opposed Clinton’s impeachment, and he emerged from the impeachment with record-high approval ratings.

Now, Trump wants to dip into this muck again, even though he has had his own extramarital affair.

Indeed, nine days after Clinton admitted his affair with Lewinsky, Trump seemed to support him and find kinship, saying, “Paula Jones is a loser, but the fact is that she may be responsible for bringing down a president indirectly.” Trump also mused on the prospect of his own run for public office, saying, “Can you imagine how controversial that’d be? You think about him with the women. How about me with the women? Can you imagine…”

I can, actually.

Last week, when the Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was confronted on CNN with Trump’s defenses of Clinton during the sex scandals, Cohen responded that at the time Trump was simply trying to “protect a friend.” And yet, this is the same camp lambasting Hillary Clinton as an “enabler” for trying to protect a husband?

It’s all incredibly distasteful, yes, but it also doesn’t jibe. And, aside from the unshakable feeling that there is something tragically off about using a husband’s philandering as a weapon against a betrayed wife, I also doubt the public will have much stomach for these stories, just as it didn’t in the 1990s.

Dirty laundry, done.

But, of course, as we all know IOKIYAR.  As an aside, it’s rather telling that the Times isn’t allowing comments on this.  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

This is my fifth presidential campaign as a New York Times columnist, so I’ve watched a lot of election coverage, and I came into this cycle prepared for the worst. Or so I thought.

But I was wrong. So far, election commentary has been even worse than I imagined it would be. It’s not just the focus on the horse race at the expense of substance; much of the horse-race coverage has been bang-your-head-on-the-desk awful, too. I know this isn’t scientific, but based on conversations I’ve had recently, many people — smart people, who read newspapers and try to keep track of events — have been given a fundamentally wrong impression of the current state of play.

And when I say a “wrong impression,” I don’t mean that I disagree with other people’s takes. I mean that people aren’t being properly informed about the basic arithmetic of the situation.

Now, I’m not a political scientist or polling expert, nor do I even try to play one on TV. But I am fairly numerate, and I assiduously follow real experts like The Times’s Nate Cohn. And they’ve taught me some basic rules that I keep seeing violated.

First, at a certain point you have to stop reporting about the race for a party’s nomination as if it’s mainly about narrative and “momentum.” That may be true at an early stage, when candidates are competing for credibility and dollars. Eventually, however, it all becomes a simple, concrete matter of delegate counts.

That’s why Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee; she locked it up over a month ago with her big Mid-Atlantic wins, leaving Bernie Sanders no way to overtake her without gigantic, implausible landslides — winning two-thirds of the vote! — in states with large nonwhite populations, which have supported Mrs. Clinton by huge margins throughout the campaign.

And no, saying that the race is effectively over isn’t somehow aiding a nefarious plot to shut it down by prematurely declaring victory. Nate Silver recently summed it up: “Clinton ‘strategy’ is to persuade more ‘people’ to ‘vote’ for her, hence producing ‘majority’ of ‘delegates.’” You may think those people chose the wrong candidate, but choose her they did.

Second, polls can be really helpful at assessing the state of a race, but only if you fight the temptation to cherry-pick, to only cite polls telling the story you want to hear. Recent hyperventilating over the California primary is a classic example. Most polls show Mrs. Clinton with a solid lead, but one recent poll shows a very close race. So, has her lead “evaporated,” as some reports suggest? Probably not: Another poll, taken at the very same time, showed an 18-point lead.

What the polling experts keep telling us to do is rely on averages of polls rather than highlighting any one poll in particular. This does double duty: it prevents cherry-picking, and it also helps smooth out the random fluctuations that are an inherent part of polling, but can all too easily be mistaken for real movement. And the polling average for California has, in fact, been pretty stable, with a solid Clinton lead.

Polls can, of course, be wrong, and have been a number of times this cycle. But they’ve worked better than many people think. Most notably, Donald Trump’s rise didn’t defy the polls — on the contrary, he was solidly leading the polls by last September. Pundits who dismissed his chances were overruling what the surveys were trying to tell them.

Which brings us to the general election. Here’s what you should know, but may not be hearing clearly in the political reporting: Mrs. Clinton is clearly ahead, both in general election polls and in Electoral College projections based on state polls.

It’s true that her lead isn’t as big as it was before Mr. Trump clinched the G.O.P. nomination, largely because Republicans have consolidated around their presumptive nominee, while many Sanders supporters are still balking at saying that they’ll vote for her.

But that probably won’t last; many Clinton supporters said similar things about Barack Obama in 2008, but eventually rallied around the nominee. So unless Bernie Sanders refuses to concede and insinuates that the nomination was somehow stolen by the candidate who won more votes, Mrs. Clinton is a clear favorite to win the White House.

Now, obviously things can and will change over the course of the general election campaign. Every one of the presidential elections I’ve covered at The Times felt at some point like a nail-biter. But the current state of the race should not be a source of dispute or confusion. Barring the equivalent of a meteor strike, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee; despite the reluctance of Sanders supporters to concede that reality, she’s currently ahead of Donald Trump. That’s what the math says, and anyone who says it doesn’t is misleading you.

Brooks and Krugman

May 27, 2016

Sigh.  Bobo now thinks he can Bobosplain what goes on “Inside Student Radicalism.”  He gurgles that a clash of experiences at Oberlin College demonstrates the difficulty of reconciling identity politics with a meritocracy.  In the comments “gemli” from Boston had this to say:  “This is rich. A vulgar conservative uber-capitalist ignoramus will be the Republican presidential nominee, but David Brooks says it’s the liberal meritocracy that has become amoral. He diagnoses this liberal illness from a spasm of outrage elicited by a few students at a small performing arts college.  It’s more likely that these students are canaries in a political and social coalmine. They’re awakening to the difference between our country’s ideals and the deep, ingrained unfairness that is its reality. Most of us older folks take for granted the de facto racism, sexism and homophobia that permeate and pollute our national psyche.”  Prof. Krugman addresses “Trump’s Delusions of Adequacy” and says no, businessmen aren’t economic experts.  Here, gawd help us, i

Today’s elite college students face a unique set of pressures. On the professional side life is competitive, pressured, time-consuming, capitalistic and stressful. On the political side many elite universities are home to an ethos of middle-aged leftism. The general atmosphere embraces feminism, civil rights, egalitarianism and environmentalism, but it is expressed as academic discourse, not as action on the streets.

This creates a tension in the minds of some students. On the professional side they are stressed and exhausted. On the political, spiritual and moral side they are unfulfilled.

On the professional side some students are haunted by the anxiety that they are failing in some comprehensive but undefinable way. On the spiritual side they hunger for a vehement crusade that will fulfill their moral yearnings and produce social justice.

This situation — a patina of genteel progressivism atop a churning engine of amoral meritocracy — is inherently unstable and was bound to produce a counterreaction. In his essay “The Big Uneasy,” in the current issue of The New Yorker, Nathan Heller describes life at Oberlin College in Ohio. In his penetrating interviews with the activist students you can see how the current passion for identity politics grows, in part, as a reaction against both sides of campus life.

The students Heller interviewed express a comprehensive dissatisfaction with their lives. “I’m actually still trying to reconcile how unhappy I’ve been here with how happy people were insisting I must be,” one student says. “Whatever you do at Oberlin as a person of color or a low-income person, it just doesn’t work,” says another.

Many of these students have rejected the meritocratic achievement culture whole cloth — the idea that life is about moving up the ladder. “I don’t want to assimilate into middle-class values,” one student tells Heller. “I’m going home, back to the ‘hood’ of Chicago, to be exactly who I was before I came to Oberlin.”

“Working my piece of land somewhere and living autonomously — that’s the dream,” another says. “Just getting … out of America. It’s a sinking ship.”

On the other hand they want a moral life that is more vehement, more strenuous than anything being offered by their elders. Oberlin College is as progressive as the day is long. But in mid-December, a group of students gave the Oberlin administration a list of 50 nonnegotiable demands, asserting that “this institution functions on the premises of imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy.”

The identity politics the students have produced inverts the values of the meritocracy. The meritocracy is striving toward excellence; identity politics is deeply egalitarian. The meritocracy measures you by how much you’ve accomplished; identity politics measures you by how much you’ve been oppressed. In the meritocracy your right to be heard is earned through long learning and quality insight; in identity politics your right to be heard is earned by your experience of discrimination. The meritocracy places tremendous emphasis on individual agency; identity politics argues that agency is limited within a system of oppression.

The meritocracy sees the university as a gem tumbler, a bouncing place where people crash off one another and thereby hone their thoughts and skills. The students Heller describes sense the moral emptiness of the current meritocracy and are groping for lives of purpose. At the same time they feel fragile and want protection — protection from rejection, failure or opposing or disturbing ideas.

What one sees in the essay are the various strains of American liberalism crashing into one another: the admiration for achievement clashing against the moral superiority of the victim; the desire to let students run free, clashing against the desire to protect the oppressed from psychologically unsafe experiences.

The current identity politics movement, like all previous forms of campus radicalism, is sparked by genuine social injustices. Agree or disagree with these students, it’s hard not to admire the impulse to serve a social good and commit to some lofty purpose.

On the other hand, this movement does not emerge from a place of confidence and strength. It emerges from a place of anxiety, lostness and fragility. It is distorted by that soil. Movements that grant themselves the status of victim lack both the confidence to lead change and the humility to converse with others. People who try to use politics to fill emotional and personal voids get more and more extreme and end up as fanatics.

There is a vacuum at the heart of things here. The meritocracy has become amoral. We ask students to work harder and harder while providing them with less and less of an idea of how they might find a purpose in all that work.

If we slowed down the frenetic pace of competition, and helped students think about vocation — the meaning and purpose of work — then life would have a firmer base. Political life — whether left or right, radical or moderate — wouldn’t be distorted so much by inner pain.

Oh, FFS…  In the comments “trillo” from Massachusetts summed this up very succinctly:  “Another data-free column from Brooks. Firm conclusions drawn from thin air, and cast in lofty, moralistic terms. Such pious, self-righteous nonsense.”  In other words, par for the course for Bobo.  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

In general, you shouldn’t pay much attention to polls at this point, especially with Republicans unifying around Donald Trump while Bernie Sanders hasn’t conceded the inevitable. Still, I was struck by several recentpolls showing Mr. Trump favored over Hillary Clinton on the question of who can best manage the economy.

This is pretty remarkable given the incoherence and wild irresponsibility of Mr. Trump’s policy pronouncements. Granted, most voters probably don’t know anything about that, in part thanks to substance-free news coverage. But if voters don’t know anything about Mr. Trump’s policies, why their favorable impression of his economic management skills?

The answer, I suspect, is that voters see Mr. Trump as a hugely successful businessman, and they believe that business success translates into economic expertise. They are, however, probably wrong about the first, and definitely wrong about the second: Even genuinely brilliant businesspeople are often clueless about economic policy.

An aside: In part this is surely a partisan thing. Over the years, polls have generally, although not universally, shown Republicans trusted over Democrats to manage the economy, even though the economy has consistently performed better under Democratic presidents. But Republicans are much better at promoting legends — for example, by constantly hyping economic and jobs growth under Ronald Reagan, even though the Reagan record was easily surpassed under Bill Clinton.

Back to Mr. Trump: One of the many peculiar things about his run for the White House is that it rests heavily on his claims of being a masterful businessman, yet it’s far from clear how good he really is at the “art of the deal.” Independent estimates suggest that he’s much less wealthy than he says he is, and probably has much lower income than he claims to have, too. But since he has broken with all precedents by refusing to release his tax returns, it’s impossible to resolve such disputes. (And maybe that’s why he won’t release those returns.)

Remember, too, that Mr. Trump is a clear case of someone born on third base who imagines that he hit a triple: He inherited a fortune, and it’s far from clear that he has expanded that fortune any more than he would have if he had simply parked the money in an index fund.

But leave questions about whether Mr. Trump is the business genius he claims to be on one side. Does business success carry with it the knowledge and instincts needed to make good economic policy? No, it doesn’t.

True, the historical record isn’t much of a guide, since only one modern president had a previous successful career in business. And maybe Herbert Hoover was an outlier.

But while we haven’t had many business leaders in the White House, we do know what kind of advice prominent businessmen give on economic policy. And it’s often startlingly bad, for two reasons. One is that wealthy, powerful people sometimes don’t know what they don’t know — and who’s going to tell them? The other is that a country is nothing like a corporation, and running a national economy is nothing like running a business.

Here’s a specific, and relevant, example of the difference. Last fall, the now-presumed Republican nominee declared: “Our wages are too high. We have to compete with other countries.” Then, as has happened often in this campaign, Mr. Trump denied that he had said what he had, in fact, said — straight talker, my toupee. But never mind.

The truth is that wage cuts are the last thing America needs right now: We sell most of what we produce to ourselves, and wage cuts would hurt domestic sales by reducing purchasing power and increasing the burden of private-sector debt. Lower wages probably wouldn’t even help the fraction of the U.S. economy that competes internationally, since they would normally lead to a stronger dollar, negating any competitive advantage.

The point, however, is that these feedback effects from wage cuts aren’t the sort of things even very smart business leaders need to take into account to run their companies. Businesses sell stuff to other people; they don’t need to worry about the effect of their cost-cutting measures on demand for their products. Managing national economic policy, on the other hand, is all about the feedback.

I’m not saying that business success is inherently disqualifying when it comes to policy making. A tycoon who has enough humility to realize that he doesn’t already know all the answers, and is willing to listen to other people even when they contradict him, could do fine as an economic manager. But does this describe anyone currently running for president?

The truth is that the idea that Donald Trump, of all people, knows how to run the U.S. economy is ludicrous. But will voters ever recognize that truth?

Oh, fergawdsake, Teh Donald bankrupted four casinos.  CASINOS!  You know, those places where the house always wins…

Friedman and Bruni

May 25, 2016

In “Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel-Palestine” The Moustache of Wisdom tells us that in his scheme, his country may suffer but he survives.  Mr. Bruni ponders a question in “Trumping on Eggshells:”  Do his relatives support Donald Trump? He doesn’t want to know.  Here’s TMOW:

Israel has recently been under intense criticism on the world stage. Some of it, like the “boycott, divestment, sanctions” (B.D.S.) campaign, is a campus movement to destroy Israel masquerading as a political critique. But a lot of it is also driven by Israel’s desire to destroy itself — thanks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s steady elimination of any possibility that Israel will separate itself from the Palestinians in the West Bank.

Netanyahu is a man who is forever dog paddling in the middle of the Rubicon, never crossing it, always teasing you (“I’m coming your way — I’m going to make a decision”), only to remain right where he is, balancing between all his rivals, so that he alone survives. Meanwhile, Israel sinks ever deeper into a de facto binational state controlled by Jewish extremists.

Soon, this newspaper will have to call Netanyahu what he’s made himself into: “Prime Minister of the State of Israel-Palestine.”

I raise this now because Israel under Netanyahu has gone from bad to worse. He just forced out Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon. Yaalon, a former army chief of staff, is a very decent man — a soldier’s soldier, determined to preserve the Israeli Army as a people’s army that aspires to the highest standards of integrity in the middle of a very dangerous neighborhood.

Netanyahu plans to replace Yaalon with the far-right Avigdor Lieberman, who boasts he could not care less what American Jews think about how Israel is behaving and a man whom, Haaretz reported, was only recently dismissed by Bibi’s team as “a petty prattler,” unfit to be even a military analyst, and whose closest brush with a real battle was dodging a “tennis ball.”

Lieberman, when he has not been under investigation for corruption, has mused about blowing up Egypt’s Aswan Dam, denounced Israelis who want Israel to get out of the West Bank as traitors and praised an Israeli soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria, who fatally shot a wounded Palestinian assailant in the head as he was lying on the ground awaiting medical attention.

Describing Netanyahu’s dumping of Yaalon for Lieberman, Yediot Aharonot columnist Nahum Barnea wrote, “Instead of presenting to the world a more moderate government ahead of the diplomatic battles to come in the fall, Netanyahu is presenting the most radical government to ever exist in Israeli history.”

Yaalon himself warned, “Extremist and dangerous forces have taken over Israel and the Likud movement and are destabilizing our home and threatening to harm its inhabitants.” Former Labor Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, “What has happened is a hostile takeover of the Israeli government by dangerous elements.” Former Likud Defense Minister Moshe Arens wrote in Haaretz that Bibi and his far-right cronies “insulted not only Yaalon, they insulted the I.D.F. [Israeli Army]. It’s a people’s army.”

This whole episode started March 24 when Azaria, a medic, was caught on video shooting the wounded Palestinian. He was one of two Palestinians armed with knives who had stabbed an Israeli soldier, lightly wounding him. Azaria just decided on his own to kill him.

Yaalon and the Army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, reacted swiftly, saying this is not how the Israeli Army behaves. Azaria was charged with manslaughter and inappropriate military conduct. At first Netanyahu, too, said the killing violated the army’s values, but when his settler base came out in favor of the killing, Netanyahu shifted, urging the court to take a balanced view of what happened. Lieberman actually went to the court to show support for Azaria.

All of this deeply troubled Yaalon and the army leadership, and it erupted on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day when the army’s deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, speaking to the nation, said, “It’s scary to see horrifying developments that took place in Europe begin to unfold here.” Yes, you read that right.

Netanyahu slammed Golan, but Yaalon, in an address to the army’s top generals, said, “Keep acting in accordance with your humane conscience and moral compass, and not according to which way the winds are blowing.”

So Netanyahu, who only acts the way the wind blows, purged Yaalon. With that move, said the Hebrew University religious philosopher Moshe Halbertal, we are witnessing “Israel’s ruling party being transformed from a hawkish nationalist party that used to have a humanitarian and democratic base, into an ultranationalist party that is now defined by turning against the ‘enemies’ from within — the courts, the NGOs, the education system, the Arab minority and now, the army — anyone who stands in the way of their project of permanent occupation of the West Bank. Having failed to deliver a solution for the enemies on the outside, so now Likud is focused on the enemies inside. This is a major transformation in Israel and should be looked upon with great concern.” The army’s leadership, added Halbertal, “is trying to transcend this war of all against all and impose moral order on chaos rather than inflame it for narrow political gains.”

Netanyahu does just the opposite. For those of us who care about Israel’s future, this is a dark hour.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

I recently asked a good friend where her boss stood on Donald Trump.

This wasn’t an idle question. Her boss gives big money to Republican candidates. He’s both power broker and weather vane. And she talks politics with him all the time.

But she has no idea about him and Trump. She hasn’t inquired, because she doesn’t want to know. She’s fond of her boss. She respects him. But what if he’s made peace with a candidate who called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, mocked a disabled journalist, belittled John McCain’s experience as a prisoner of war, praised Vladimir Putin’s thuggish leadership style, complimented the Chinese government on its brutal handling of the uprising in Tiananmen Square, made misogynistic remarks galore and boasted during a debate about the size of his penis?

She can’t go there.

I understand.

I have many relatives who loyally vote Republican, regardless of their excitement about the particular nominee. There’s a definite chance that some of them back Trump. So I steer clear of talk about this election, though we’ve spoken plenty — and placidly — about every other election.

One of these relatives routinely pushes back at any Trump-negative columns I write, and I’ve convinced myself that he’s just baiting me and playing devil’s advocate. I’ve never said to him, point blank, “Are you actually voting for Trump?” And I won’t. It’s my goal to get to and through Election Day without learning the truth.

There are various measures of the chilling singularity of Trump’s candidacy, including the last two Republican presidents’ announcement that they won’t be attending their party’s convention, all the prominent G.O.P. donors who have publicly rejected Trump and the stubborn drumbeat among some Republicans for a third-party challenger, if only as a means to assure Hillary Clinton’s victory. These are extraordinary developments. We mustn’t forget that.

But another gauge of this freaky interlude is the number of us who are steadfastly avoiding conversations we’d normally have. We pride ourselves on not letting political arguments disrupt personal relationships. We have friends across the ideological spectrum. We esteem leaders from both parties. We value a healthy give-and-take.

But we can’t fit Trump into that. He’s a disagreement too far, an enthusiasm too bizarre. So we’re treading lightly and maneuvering around him. We’re Trumping on eggshells.

That’s not the same as burying our heads in the sand, and it’s not a squandered opportunity to dissuade someone from Trump. Most Trump supporters aren’t ignorant of the litany I presented above. They’ve decided not to be bothered by it. They’ve crafted a counterargument. I’ve heard it.

At least he’s not Clinton, they say. True. Neither is Kim Kardashian. Shall we elect her? Her husband, Kanye West, has said that he might run in 2020. Let’s accelerate the timetable and speed the couple to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Trump has a furtive decency and unsung sensitive side, or so his boosters claim. They cite his relationship with his grown children. You know who else is an obviously loving and beloved parent? Clinton. You know who had a strained relationship with his kids? Ronald Reagan. If that wasn’t a mark against him, why is the opposite a gold star for Trump?

But Trump will be a competent executive! Let’s assume that’s so. Will he be executing a Muslim ban? In that case, wouldn’t incompetence be preferable?

Enough about the Muslim ban, his accommodators respond: He doesn’t believe in three-quarters of what he puts out there. It’s all theater.

Great! So what does he believe in? Are we supposed to guess and hope for the best? And will his theatrical impulse dissipate when he takes the oath of office? Or will it flare now and again, sending markets into turmoil and ships into battle?

With Clinton, they say, we get the status quo. With Trump we get disruption.

Possibly. But disruption cuts many different ways. And Trump’s particular disruption could leave us in shreds.

To some of us, Trump is a fundamentally unserious person, and thus a dangerous one. To others, he’s a vessel of grievance and protest, and that’s enough. The chasm between those viewpoints isn’t easily bridged. So we take detours around it. They’re as elaborate as cloverleafs.

Friends have asked me about the leanings of other friends, because they shudder to find out for themselves. Relatives have grilled me on other relatives. I’m acquainted with anti-Trump Republicans who have purged the billionaire from their discourse with Trump-acquiescent Republicans, simply so they can press on.

There will be epic ugliness in the foreground of this election. But pockets of silence in the background will be just as unsettling, because they’ll reflect a despair and bafflement beyond words.

Collins, solo

May 21, 2016

In “Meet Deadeye Donald” Ms. Collins says we should beware Trumps bearing arms.  Here she is:

Donald Trump has a permit to carry a gun.

“Nobody knows that,” he told a gathering of the National Rifle Association on Friday. Well actually, it’s pretty hard to not know since he brings it up all the time.

“Boy, would I surprise somebody if they hit Trump,” he told the audience. People, have we ever had a president who spoke about himself in the third person? Something to consider. But more important, what would that surprise entail? Was Trump trying to say that he’d quickly draw his concealed weapon and take the gunman out of circulation?

“If I wasn’t — if I wasn’t surrounded by, like the largest group of Secret Service people,” he began, and it did sound as if we were about to get a description of his shooting prowess. But then Trump veered off to demand a standing ovation for police officers and never did get back to the original point.

Chances are he couldn’t hit the side of a barn. (If he could, don’t you think we’d have been forced to watch videos of Trump taking that barn out of commission?) Last summer, an NBC interviewer asked if he ever used his weapon on, say, gun ranges. Trump replied that it was “none of your business.”

This is a more important matter than just the ability to make fun of Donald Trump for bragging, although that’s pretty enjoyable. The entire mythology of the N.R.A. and its supporters is based on the idea that if a person is armed, he or she will be capable of shooting accurately. That the big problem is lack of gun availability, not gun owners who are sloppy, inept and occasionally psychotic.

If we required that anyone who wants to buy a gun first demonstrate the ability to hit a target, sales would plummet overnight.

In his speech, which came after he received the N.R.A.’s enthusiastic endorsement, Trump bragged about his sons’ marksmanship. “They have so many rifles and so many guns, sometimes I even get a little bit concerned,” he said, to rather uncertain laughter from the audience — the N.R.A. theory is that you cannot possibly have too many guns. But give credit to Donald Jr. and Eric — they apparently spend a lot of time practicing. We are not going to revisit the day they killed the elephant.

The myth of the masses of skillful shooters is also central to Trump’s much-repeated claim that terrorists would be deterred if they thought they were going to run into an armed citizenry. He’s described the way ISIS gunmen in Paris would have been undone if people at the Bataclan theater had been able to get up and start firing back — an image that presumes Europeans bearing arms would have the capacity to stand up in a dark, hysterical auditorium and take out the villains without mowing down the rest of the audience.

“I can tell you that if I had been in the Bataclan or in the cafes, I would have opened fire,” Trump told a French magazine. “I may have been killed, but I would have drawn.”

More likely, he’d have hit the waiter. It’s very, very hard to shoot accurately when you’re scared or under stress. Police officers generally can’t do it. There was an armed security officer at the Columbine shootings, and he couldn’t do it. There was an armed bystander at the shopping center mass shooting that nearly killed Representative Gabby Giffords. He said later he was “very lucky” not to have shot the wrong man.

However, the N.R.A. vision of the world is one where every shot is true. “Americans use guns to defend themselves against violent crime more than a million times a year,” said Trump. This is a fantasy, based on one phone survey conducted in 1992, and frequently debunked.

And nobody in the presidential race wants to prevent law-abiding people from keeping guns in their homes. Certainly not Hillary Clinton, who has been known to brag about her previous hunting triumphs. She’s probably not very proficient now, but she could probably still beat Trump in a shoot-off.

At the N.R.A. gathering, where Clinton was depicted as a near-maniac intent on freeing criminals, confiscating guns and repealing the Second Amendment, Trump claimed that “Heartless Hillary” wants to disarm the nation’s grandmothers, leaving them defenseless against murderers and rapists. He’s had great success tacking unflattering adjectives on his opponents’ names. Since we’re having so much trouble keeping track of his own evolving positions, let’s try referring to the candidate’s prior incarnations as “Previous Donald.”

Previous Donald told TMZ that he was surprised his sons liked hunting and that he himself was “not a believer.” He favored banning assault weapons and expanding the waiting time for gun purchases. Beyond that, the Second Amendment didn’t seem to be a big issue in his pre-campaign life. Except for a snide reference to Republicans who “walk the N.R.A. line and refuse even limited restrictions.”

So Previous.

There isn’t a word that comes out of his piehole that isn’t a bald-faced lie at this point.

Friedman and Bruni

May 18, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom has some advice for Teh Donald.  In “Donald, Save Your Golf Greens, and the Planet” he says Trump could protect his financial interest, America’s interest and his grandkids’ if he embraced the reality of climate change.  Yeah, like that’s going to happen.  If it doesn’t involve tweeting or insulting someone Teh Donald ain’t interested.  Mr. Bruni, in “Where Republican Dreams Die?”, says in a tumultuous patch of the South, some of 2016’s biggest themes and questions will play out.  Here’s TMOW:

MEMO TO: DONALD TRUMP

FROM: TOM FRIEDMAN

SUBJECT: GOLF COURSES

Dear Donald,

It’s been a while since we talked on the practice tee at Doral. (Nice course you built.) I am only going to do this once, but I am going to offer you some free advice — and it’s about all the things you love most: yourself, your kids, winning, money and golf. Have I got a deal for you …

You see, Donald, I was looking at all the golf courses you own. Some of them are real gems, like Doral, Turnberry, Doonbeg, Palm Beach, Aberdeenshire. But you know what else I noticed? How many of them are on or near coastlines. And do you know what’s going to happen to those golf courses, Donald, if the climate scientists are even half right? They’re going to go from oceanfront property to ocean-floor property. Because ice melt and sea level rise are going to threaten all of them. Here’s a July 21, 2015, story from Weather.com:

“As our seas continue to rise, some cities, like Miami, are planning to spend billions on revamping infrastructure. But some scientists say sea level rise will lead to another phenomenon in South Florida, and local leaders need to start preparing for it now. The region that’s home to thousands of high-priced homes nestled against the water is expected to be threatened directly by the rising seas in the coming decades, and when the harsh reality sets in, a mass exodus could commence. … In short, there’s no way to save South Florida, and lawmakers should start to prepare for millions to move north. … More than 2.4 million people live within 4 feet of the local high-tide line, and according to Climate Central, the risk of storm surge flooding will be far higher by 2030. … ‘This is not a future problem. It’s a current problem,’ Leonard Berry, director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University, told PBS.”

In other words, Donald, there is no candidate in this race who is more exposed to climate change than … you. And I am not talking only about your coastal golf courses. Global warming doesn’t mean the weather, on average, just gets hotter. It means the weather gets weirder. You get more weather extremes — hotter hot days, wetter wet ones, longer droughts, fiercer storms, heavier snows.

The Climate Wire quoted a United States Golf Association turf expert in August 2014 as saying that “individual golfers and club leadership are becoming aware that these are real issues.” I can only imagine what this will mean for insurance rates for golf course. And that was before Nature magazine published a new study in March indicating that sea levels could rise almost twice as much as previously predicted by the end of the century — “an outcome that could devastate coastal communities around the globe,” as The Washington Post noted, unless we curb emissions of greenhouse gases. Ask your golf course greens keepers how many of them think climate change is a hoax?

So here’s the advice: I know that you’ve tweeted that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” (Just as an aside, Donald, that’s incredibly stupid. The Chinese are ahead of us in putting a price on carbon because they can’t breathe.) But let’s put that aside. We both know that you know as much about climate change as you did about abortion rights and the nuclear triad. It was just one of those things you put out there to keep you looking like a Republican good ol’ boy.

Donald, you’ve done something truly revolutionary: You’ve single-handedly reshaped the agenda of the Republican Party, mixing some left-of-center and centrist positions with the G.O.P.’s traditional right-of-center stuff. You should do the same now, embrace the reality of climate change and vow as president that you will be “huge, huuuuuge” on this issue — that “I’ll make the whole planet great again.”

It would be in your financial interest, America’s interest and your grandkids’ interest. Nobody who voted for you in the primaries did so because of climate, except maybe coal miners in West Virginia. Your base does not care about this issue, and, by the way, all their kids are telling them climate change is real. The reason the G.O.P. has its head in the sand on climate is the oil companies force it to. But you don’t need Big Oil’s money.

Here’s what you need: some Bernie Sanders voters. You can’t win without some of them. And they’re all greens. If you promised to take climate change seriously, you’d make it much easier for some of them, who dislike Hillary, to hold their noses and vote for you. You’d also get a lot of other people to give you a second look. Most important, it would tip the G.O.P. on this issue.

Cards on the table, Donald, I won’t be voting for you. But if you really want to make this race interesting, continue to reshape the G.O.P., raise the odds of winning Florida, preserve your wealth and do something to make America great again, tweet this: “Talked to some scientists, smartest in the world, changing position on climate change. Feeling the burn. Gotta protect our kids.”

After all, Donald, you don’t want to be remembered as the politician who’ll be the answer to the question, “Who lost Florida?”

If TMOW thinks any Sanders supporters will go to Trump I’d love to have some of what he’s smoking.  Here’s Mr. Bruni, writing from Raleigh, NC:

Ohio and Florida. Florida and Ohio. What a pair of election-year divas, always preening for the pundits. Enough. There are other comely swing states on the stage.

Let’s gawk at North Carolina.

If Donald Trump drags down Republicans across the board, this is one of the places where they’ll flail. Its Republican governor, nearing the end of a tumultuous first term, is in trouble. One of the state’s two Republican senators is facing a tougher re-election battle than was predicted just months ago. Democrats are circling. Make that drooling.

Although purple, North Carolina turned deceptively red over the last few years, and Republican lawmakers have behaved with a potentially suicidal swagger. In the process they’ve managed to enrage corporate America, exposing a newly profound tension in the G.O.P. between its business-minded wing and the religious right.

Some of the most interesting crosswinds of American politics blow through this state.

In 2008 it voted for Barack Obama — by a margin of just .32 percent. Enthusiasm for him helped to propel Democratic women to the Senate and the governor’s office.

Both are gone now, replaced by Republican men, and Mitt Romney won the state narrowly in 2012. But the more sweeping change has been in the state legislature, where an overwhelming Republican majority took hold and hurtled forward (or, rather, backward).

Take the recently passed measure known as H.B. 2. It’s the law that mandates that people use bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates. Republicans, including Gov. Pat McCrory, gambled that it would energize elements of the party’s base.

But it went much, much further than that supposed solution to a nonexistent problem, overriding local anti-discrimination statutes. Many prominent companies denounced it. Some withdrew business from the state — or are threatening to. Conventions have been canceled. Tourism has declined. By some estimates, the state has already lost tens of millions of dollars.

“I’m talking to businesspeople all the time,” Deborah Ross told me when I sat down with her in Raleigh last week. “They are livid.”

Ross is the Democratic challenger to Senator Richard Burr. She’s a fierce underdog: an articulate, energetic lawyer who served for decades in the legislature. She’d be the third woman sent to the Senate by North Carolinians, after Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan.

But her résumé also includes work for the A.C.L.U., and Republicans detect a gold mine of negative ads. I wager that the Koch brothers and other big G.O.P. donors will flood this state with money. How much could be decisive.

There are other pivotal questions, reflecting crucial dynamics around the country.

Will new voter-identification laws hurt Democrats? Since the last presidential election, Republicans here significantly tightened rules and requirements — and not out of the goodness of their hearts.

Which demographic and economic trends will hold the greatest sway? North Carolina is America in miniature: Its minority population has grown and it has urbanized, developments that favor Democrats, but it has also hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs, so it brims with the sorts of displaced workers who’ve rallied to Trump.

A recent Pew Research Center study listed three of North Carolina’s metropolitan areas among the 10 nationally that had “lost the most in economic status” between 2000 and 2014. By that measure, it fared worse than any Rust Belt state.

“There’s a lot of economic anxiety here, mixed with race and cultural change, that will keep Trump and other Republicans viable,” said Ferrel Guillory, a longtime analyst of state politics who is now a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Can Republicans profit from a culture war? They failed with H.B. 2. But the Obama administration’s new directive advising schools to let transgender students use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity may scramble the situation, allowing the G.O.P. to pin the charge of overreach on the federal government.

“There’s a possibility that the Obama directive is something of a lifeline to Republicans,” said Pope McCorkle, a former Democratic consultant who teaches at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

Just how toxic is Trump? McCorkle noted, with a chuckle, that the state’s Democrats have usually been the ones fretting about their party’s presidential nominee: “Do you go to the airport to greet him? Touch him? Allow a picture?”

“What’s interesting,” he added, “is how much the shoe is on the other foot this time.” Burr hasn’t said whether he’ll campaign with Trump.

Perhaps he noticed several polls that showed Hillary Clinton with a lead over Trump in a head-to-head matchup in this state, which has 15 electoral votes, just three fewer than Ohio. It matters. And it’s ready for its close-up.

Brooks and Cohen

May 17, 2016

In “One Neighborhood at a Time” Bobo babbles that healing the social fabric is complex, but communities like Lost Hills, Calif., are beacons of hope.  He neglects to tell us that his friends are bloated plutocrats.  Here’s a comment by “Socrates” from Downtown Verona NJ:  “One Orwellian Inspiration At A Time, Lord Brooks.  75% of Lost Hills’ poor, mostly Latino 2,400 people work for one company, Paramount Farms, the pistachio/almond water-hungry subsidiary of the duplicitously named Wonderful Company LLC, the private corporation owned by billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick that uses 120 billion gallons of water each year, enough to supply San Francisco’s 852,000 residents for a decade.  The Resnicks are the Koch Brothers of both California and Fiji water who work full-time behind the political scenes to ensure their privatized profits are guaranteed full exploitative economic rights over public water rights.  “As a result of the political influence of billionaires who receive taxpayer-subsidized water, California’s Dept. of Water Resources functions almost as a subsidiary of the water exporters,” wrote Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta.  “Through a series of subsidiary companies, Roll International (Wonderful’s old company name) is able to convert California’s water from a public, shared resource into a private asset that can be sold on the market to the highest bidder” and as one of the largest private water brokers in the US, Roll International makes millions in profits off marketing subsidized public water back to the public, wrote journalist Yasha Levine.  https://goo.gl/zWEg2z ,  http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/09/fiji-spin-bottle  This column is completely nuts on every conceivable level.”  Just as most of his stuff is.  Mr. Cohen considers “The Know-Nothing Tide” and says that Trump says America was strongest when “politics ended at water’s edge.” He’s wrong.  Here, gawd help us, is Bobo extolling his plutocrat buddies:

What is the central challenge facing our era? My answer would be: social isolation.

Gaps have opened up among partisan tribes, economic classes and races. There has been a loss of social capital, especially for communities down the income scale.

Take, for example, the town of Lost Hills. Lost Hills is a farming town in the Central Valley, 42 miles northwest of Bakersfield. It is not a rich town, but neither is it a desolate one. There are jobs here, thanks to the almond and pistachio processing plants nearby. When you go to the pre-K center and look at the family photos on the wall, you see that most of the families are intact — a mom, a dad and a couple kids standing proudly in front of a small ranch house. Many of these families have been here for decades.

But until recently you didn’t find the community organizations that you’d expect to find in such a place. There’s still no permanent church. Up until now there has been no library and no polling station. The closest police station is 45 miles away. Until recently there were no sidewalks nor many streetlights, so it was too dangerous to go trick-or-treating.

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that Americans are great at forming spontaneous voluntary groups. But in towns like Lost Hills, and in neighborhoods across the country, that doesn’t seem to be as true any more.

Maybe with the rise of TV and the Internet people are happier staying in the private world of home. Maybe it’s the loss of community leaders. Every town used to have its small-business owners and bankers. But now those businesses and banks are owned by investment funds far away.

Either way, social isolation produces rising suicide rates, rising drug addiction, widening inequality, political polarization, depression and alienation.

Fortunately, we’re beginning to see the rise of intentional community instigators. If social capital isn’t going to form spontaneously, people and groups will try to jump-start it into existence.

Lost Hills is the home of a promising experiment. The experiment is being led by Lynda Resnick, who, with her husband, Stewart, owns the Wonderful Company, which includes FIJI Water, POM juice and most of the pistachios and almonds you eat. You should know that I’m friends with Lynda and Stewart and am biased in their direction. But what they are doing is still worth learning from.

First, they are flooding the zone. They’re not trying to find one way to serve this population. The problems are so intertwined, they are trying to change this community from all directions at once. In Lost Hills there are new health centers, new pre-K facilities, new housing projects, new gardens, new sidewalks and lights, a new community center and a new soccer field. Through the day, people have more places to meet, play and cooperate with their neighbors.

Second, they’ve created a practical culture of self-improvement. You can talk about social reform in ways that seem preachy. But the emphasis here is on better health and less diabetes, a nonmoralistic way to change behavior.

At the nut plant I met men and women who’d lost over 100 pounds. One of the workers gets up at 2:45 every morning, so he can hit the gym by 4 and be at work by 6. This guy wants to be around to watch his kids grow, and his self-disciplined health regime has led to a whole life transformation. He’s now taking business and law courses online.

The new institutions here are intensely social. When you go to the health center, you don’t sit silently in the waiting room before going into a small room for your 15-minute visit. Many of the patients have group visits (sort of like Al Anon groups) to meet communally with doctors and encourage one another’s healthier behavior. The medical staffs perform as teams, too. Staff members sit together in a central workroom collaborating all day.

Finally, there are more cross-class connections. Dr. Maureen Mavrinac moved here from the UCLA Family Medicine Department. Dr. Rishi Manchanda was the lead physician for homeless primary care at the Los Angeles V.A. These are among the dozens who have come to Lost Hills not to save the place from outside, but to befriend it. Their way of being ripples. I met several local women who said they were shy and quiet, but now they are joining community boards and running meetings.

What’s the right level to pursue social repair? The nation may be too large. The individual is too small. The community is the right level, picking a piece of land and giving people a context in which they can do neighborly things — like the dads here who came to the pre-K center and spent six hours building a shed, and with it, invisibly, a wider circle of care for their children.

Bobo should be put in a barrel with 5 angry weasels and rolled down a hill.  Here’s Mr. Cohen:

On the evidence, ethnocentrism is a pretty basic human instinct. Band together with your own. Keep the outsider down or out. In the 1850s, at another moment of American unease, the Know-Nothings swept Massachusetts and won mayoral elections in Philadelphia and Washington on a nativist platform to “purify” national politics by stopping the influx of Irish and German Catholics.

Papist influence was then the perceived scourge through which the Know-Nothing movement, as the Native American Party (later the American Party) was commonly known, built its following. Today the supposed threat is Muslim and Mexican infiltration. Or so Donald Trump, the de facto Republican presidential candidate, would have us believe in his “America First” program.

A know-nothing tide is upon us. Tribal politics, anchored in tribal media, has made knowing nothing a badge of honor. Ignorance, loudly declaimed, is an attribute, especially if allied to celebrity. Facts are dispensable baggage. To display knowledge, the acquisition of which takes time, is tantamount to showing too much respect for the opposition tribe, who know nothing anyway.

Any slogan can be reworked, I guess. America First has a long, unhappy history, the America First Committee having pressed the view that the United States should stay out of the war to defeat Fascism in World War II. Its most famous advocate was Charles Lindbergh, the aviator, who undermined the movement when he revealed that he blamed Jews for prodding America toward war. That was in 1941, not a good year for Jews anywhere, particularly in Europe, where, while Lindbergh opined, the annihilation of Jewry had begun.

Well, America First is back, tweaked as Trump’s we-won’t-be-suckers-anymore ideology. In his favor, it cannot be said that Trump has a stranglehold on political stupidity. Britain is seriously debating leaving the European Union, the greatest force for peace and stability in Europe since the carnage of the 1940s.

One is put in mind of the remark of James L. Petigru, a prominent jurist and politician, upon the secession of South Carolina from the Union in 1860: “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.”

Britain’s pathologies resemble South Carolina’s.

Now where was I? Ah, yes, Trump, naturally. Trump, who has declared — or perhaps it was only a suggestion — that “Our moments of greatest strength came when politics ended at water’s edge.” Totally, he said that. Absolutely, he said that. Really, really, he said that. To deny it would be “absolutely a total lie.”

I suppose Trump was thinking of the Normandy landings, or perhaps the Marshall Plan, or Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall,” or the freeing of hundreds of millions of people from the totalitarian Soviet imperium, or the opening to China.

American isolationism is an oxymoron because America is a universal idea. That does not change however far short of its ideals the nation may fall.

On China, Trump has said: “We can both benefit or we can both go our separate ways.” Go our separate ways! Let’s unpack that. Right now America buys everything China makes, and China buys the American debt incurred for all the spending sprees on stuff from Guangzhou. Just because there may be separate ways into the gutter does not make the gutter any more alluring. Chinese-American symbiosis is an existential issue.

As for Egypt, Trump believes America ousted “a friendly regime” (of the former dictator, Hosni Mubarak) “that had a longstanding peace treaty with Israel.” No, Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel. Mr. Mubarak did not.

Speaking of Israel, Trump says, “President Obama has not been a friend to Israel.” Right, he has not been a friend to the tune of over $20.5 billion in foreign military financing since 2009. He has not been a friend by providing over $1.3 billion for the Iron Dome defense system alone since 2011. He has not been a friend by, in 2014, opposing 18 resolutions in the United Nations General Assembly that were biased against Israel; by helping to organize in 2015 the first U.N. General Assembly session on anti-Semitism in the history of the body; and by working tirelessly on a two-state peace, not least on the security arrangements for Israel that are among its preconditions. He has not been a friend by turning the other cheek in the face of what Nancy Pelosi once called “the insult to the intelligence of the United States” from Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The know-nothings are on the march. But of course they must know something. Millions of people who vote for Trump cannot be wrong. Perhaps their core idea, along with the unchanging appeal of ethnocentrism, is that politics no longer really matter. Celebrity matters.

Power centers are elsewhere — in financial systems, corporations, technology, networks — that long since dispensed with borders. That being the case, loudmouthed, isolationist trumpery may just be a sideshow, an American exercise in après-moi-le-déluge escapism.