Archive for the ‘Bobo’ Category

Bobo, solo

August 23, 2016

Well, maybe no better but certainly later.  The Times finally got around to putting up Bobo.  In “Why America’s Leadership Fails” he gurgles that the call to service is drowned out by the system’s noise, and a vocation becomes a career.  His babbling will be followed by a comment from “Socrates” from Downtown Verona, NJ.  Here’s Bobo:

We’ve clearly had a failure of leadership in this country. The political system is not working as it should. Big problems are not being addressed.

But what’s the nature of that failure? The leading theory is that it’s the corruption: There is so much money flowing through Washington that the special interests get what they want and everyone else gets the shaft. Another theory has to do with insularity: The elites spend so much time within the Acela corridor that they don’t have a clue about what is going on beyond it.

There’s merit in both theories. But I’d point to something deeper: Over the past few decades, thousands of good people have gone into public service, but they have found themselves enmeshed in a system that drains them of their sense of vocation.

Let’s start with a refresher on the difference between a vocation and a career. A career is something you choose; a vocation is something you are called to.

A person choosing a career asks, How can I get the best job or win the most elections? A person summoned by a vocation asks, How can my existing abilities be put in service of the greatest common good?

A career is a job you do as long as the benefits outweigh the costs; a vocation involves falling in love with something, having a conviction about it and making it part of your personal identity.

A vocation involves promises to some ideal, it reveals itself in a sense of enjoyment as you undertake its tasks and it can’t be easily quit when setbacks and humiliations occur. As others have noted, it involves a double negative — you can’t not do this thing.

It’s easy to be cynical, but I really do think most people entered public life with this sense of idealistic calling. When you spend time around government officials you are constantly struck by the fact that they are more impressive in private than in public. Somewhere at the base of their personal story you usually find an earnest desire to serve some vulnerable group.

The fact is, political lives are simply not that glamorous or powerful or fun. Most politicians wouldn’t put up with all the fund-raising, the stupid partisan games, unless they were driven at some level by the right reasons.

But over the years, many get swallowed by the system: all the calculating consultants; the ephemeral spin of the media cycle; the endless meetings with supplicants; the constant grind of public criticism; the way campaigning swallows time so they get to spend less time thinking about policy; the way service to a partisan team eclipses service to the cause that brought them into this in the first place.

For example, Hillary Clinton seems to have been first inspired by a desire to serve children, but over the decades walls of hard-shell combativeness formed. Mitt Romney seems to be an exceptionally fine person, but when he was campaigning his true nature was often hidden under a film of political formulas.

As the poet David Whyte once put it, “Work, like marriage, is a place you can lose yourself more easily perhaps than finding yourself … losing all sense of our own voice, our own contributions and conversation.”

It plays out differently in different cases. But a careerist mentality often replaces the vocation mentality. The careerist mentality frequently makes politicians timid, driven more by fear of failure than by any positive ideal.

Such people are besieged by the short-term calculations and often forget about their animating vision and long-term ideal. They rationalize that, since the opposition is so evil, anything that serves their career serves the country. This is not just bad for the people involved but for the system itself.

People with a vocation mind-set have their eyes fixed on the long game. They are willing to throw themselves toward their goals imaginatively, boldly and remorselessly.

People who operate a career mind-set, on the other hand, often put self-preservation above all. Nothing gets done because everybody’s doing the same old safe rigid thing.

I do think there’s often an arc to vocation. People start with something outside themselves. Then, in the scramble to get established, the ambition of self takes over. But then at some point people realize the essential falseness of all that and they try to reconnect with their original animating ideals.

And so I think it possible to imagine a revival of vocation. If Clinton is elected, maybe even she can remind us that we’ve all developed these bad habits, that most of us secretly detest the game we’re in and the way we are playing it.

It would be an act of amazing bravery if she could lead people to strip away all the careerist defense mechanisms and remember their original vows and passions.

Christ, what crap.  Here’s what “Socrates” had to say to him:

Another leading theory is that America is a right-wing hijacking victim, the only civilized country in the world where evolution and climate change are industrially denied while fringe subject matters like abstinence, homophobia and gun worship are championed as critical ingredients of a nutritious daily diet.

Take one public policy issue: the Zika virus.

Democrats want to allocate funds to fight it, study it and prevent birth defects and a public health catastrophe.

Republicans agree…as long as Planned Parenthood is bankrupted and free contraception, STD diagnostics and cancer screening is eliminated for millions of poor people.

Normal politics ?

More like a serious and fatal Republican birth defect.

Take another issue: voting, the basis of democracy.

There’s close to zero evidence of modern voter fraud in America, except for the 2000 Florida vote hijacked by GOP operatives and saboteurs, and yet voter suppression laws are a full-time job for Republican legislatures.

Another issue: pharmaceutical products like the EpiPen for kids with peanut allergies recently spiked to the extortion price of $600 in America, but it’s on permanent sale in Canada for $130.

Democrats fight against that; Republicans think that kind of Greed Over People – even though it kills Americans – deserves a giant waving flag and a dozen high-fives.

What would be amazing is if a GOP water boy like yourself renounced Republicanism as the organized national brain damage that it truly is.”

Brooks and Krugman

August 19, 2016

Bobo has a question:  “Is Our Country as Good as Our Athletes Are?”  He says we’re doing pretty well, in and outside of sports.  Surprising, since his party’s candidate paints the country as a dystopian hellscape…  Prof. Krugman says “Obamacare Hits a Bump,” but that it shouldn’t be hard to fix.  Here’s Bobo:

Pessimism has flavored this election campaign. America is in decline. The country is on the wrong track. We’re getting our clocks cleaned in global trade deals. We’re still suffering from the humiliation of Iraq.

The share of Americans who say that democracy is a “fairly bad” or “very bad” system of government is rising sharply. A quarter of young Americans feel that way, according to data drawn from the World Values Survey. A majority of young Americans believe that the United States should stay out of world affairs, according to a Chicago Council on Global Affairs report.

Yet when you watch the Olympics, we don’t seem like some sad-sack country in terminal decline. If anything, the coverage gets a little boring because we’re always winning! And the winners have such amazingly American stories and personality types (Biles, Ledecky, and, yes, Lochte).

American Olympic performance has been astoundingly consistent over the recent decades. With rare exception, we can be counted on to win between 101 and 110 medals Olympiad after Olympiad. The 2016 team seems on pace to win at least that many.

We’re not great when measured by medals per capita (New Zealand, Denmark, Hungary, Australia and Britain are the big winners there), but America does have more medals than any other nation in history, and that lead is widening.

Moreover, America doesn’t win because we have better athletes (talent must be distributed equally). America does well because it has such great systems for preparing athletes. Medals are won by institutions as much as by individuals. The Germans have a great system for training kayakers, equestrians and throwers — the discus or javelin. The U.S. has amazing institutions to prepare jumpers, swimmers, basketball players, gymnasts, runners and decathletes.

The big question is: Is the greatness of America’s sports institutions reflective of the country’s strong institutions generally, or is it more like the Soviet Union’s sports greatness, a Potemkin show masking national rot?

Well, if you step outside the pall of the angry campaign rhetoric, you see that America’s institutions are generally quite strong. Over the past decades, some developing countries, like Brazil, India and China, posted glitzy economic growth numbers. But those countries are now all being hampered by institutional weakness and growth is plummeting.

But America’s economic success is like our Olympic success, writ large. The nation’s troubles are evident, but our country has sound fundamentals. The American dollar is by far the world’s currency. The Food and Drug Administration is the benchmark for medical standards. The American patent system is the most important in the world.

Nine of Forbes’s 10 most valuable brands are American (Apple, Google, IBM and so on). The U.S. is the leading energy producer. We have 15 (at least!) of the world’s top 20 universities, while Hollywood is as dominant as ever.

America is also quite good at change. The median age in the U.S. is 37.8, compared with 46.5 for both Germany and Japan. The newer a technology is the more the U.S. is likely to dominate it — whether it’s the cloud or the sharing economy. According to The Economist, 91 percent of online searches are done through American companies’ services, and 99 percent of smartphones run on American-made operating systems.

Some American industries have declined, but others are rising. American fund managers handle 55 percent of the world’s assets. American businesses host 61 percent of the world’s social media users.

On the campaign circuit, global trade is portrayed as this great national disaster. We’re being destroyed by foreigners! The Trans-Pacific Partnership was the central dominating boogeyman at the Democratic National Convention, especially among people who have no clue what’s in it.

In fact, America succeeds in global trade about as well as at the Olympics. We rank third, behind Switzerland and Singapore, in global competitive rankings put out by the World Economic Forum. When trade is leveled by international agreements, American firms take advantage and win customers.

As Robert B. Zoellick noted recently in The Wall Street Journal, in the first five years after the U.S. has concluded free-trade agreements, the country’s exports to those places have risen three times faster than overall export growth.

Over the past five years, Zoellick wrote, the U.S. has run a $320 billion trade surplus in manufactured goods with its free-trade partners. The country’s farmers and ranchers boosted exports to free-trade partners by 130 percent between 2003 and 2013.

In one important way sports is not like economics. In Rio there are only three medals in each event. Global trade is not zero-sum. It spreads vast benefits across societies, while undeniably hurting some businesses in narrow fields along the way.

Of course, we have to take care of those who are hurt, but the biggest threat now is unmerited pessimism itself, and the stupid and fearful choices that inevitably flow from it.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

More than two and a half years have gone by since the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, went fully into effect. Most of the news about health reform since then has been good, defying the dire predictions of right-wing doomsayers. But this week has brought some genuine bad news: The giant insurer Aetna announced that it would be pulling out of many of the “exchanges,” the special insurance markets the law established.

This doesn’t mean that the reform is about to collapse. But some real problems are cropping up. They’re problems that would be relatively easy to fix in a normal political system, one in which parties can compromise to make government work. But they won’t get resolved if we elect a clueless president (although he’d turn to terrific people, the best people, for advice, believe me. Not.). And they’ll be difficult to resolve even with a knowledgeable, competent president if she faces scorched-earth opposition from a hostile Congress.

The story so far: Since Obamacare took full effect in January 2014, two things have happened. First, the percentage of Americans who are uninsured has dropped sharply. Second, the growth of health costs has slowed sharply, so that the law is costing both consumers and taxpayers less than expected.

Meanwhile, the bad things that were supposed to happen didn’t. Health reform didn’t cause the budget deficit to soar; it didn’t kill private-sector jobs, which have actually grown more rapidly since Obamacare went into effect than at any time since the 1990s. Evidence also is growing that the law has meant a significant improvement in both health and financial security for millions, probably tens of millions, of Americans.

So what’s the problem?

Well, Obamacare is a system that relies on private insurance companies to provide much of its expanded coverage (not all, because expanded Medicaid is also a big part of the system). And many of these private insurers are now finding themselves losing money, because previously uninsured Americans who are signing up turn out to have been sicker and more in need of costly care than we realized.

Some insurers are responding by hiking premiums, which were initially set well below what the law’s framers expected. And some insurers are simply pulling out of the system.

In Aetna’s case there’s reason to believe that there was also another factor: vindictiveness on the part of the insurer after antitrust authorities turned down a proposed merger. That’s an important story, but not central to the broader issue of health reform.

So how bad is the problem?

Much of the new system is doing pretty well — not just the Medicaid expansion, but also private insurer-based exchanges in big states that are trying to make the law work, California in particular. The bad news mainly hits states that have small populations and/or have governments hostile to reform, where the exit of insurers may leave markets without adequate competition. That’s not the whole country, but it would be a significant setback.

But it would be quite easy to fix the system. It seems clear that subsidies for purchasing insurance, and in some cases for insurers themselves, should be somewhat bigger — an affordable proposition given that the program so far has come in under budget, and easily justified now that we know just how badly many of our fellow citizens needed coverage. There should also be a reinforced effort to ensure that healthy Americans buy insurance, as the law requires, rather than them waiting until they get sick. Such measures would go a long way toward getting things back on track.

Beyond all that, what about the public option?

The idea of allowing the government to offer a health plan directly to families was blocked in 2010 because private insurers didn’t want to face the competition. But if those insurers aren’t actually interested in providing insurance, why not let the government step in (as Hillary Clinton is in fact proposing)?

The trouble, of course, is Congress: If Republicans control one or both houses, it’s all too likely that they’ll do what they do best — try to sabotage a Democratic president through lack of cooperation. Unless it’s such a wave election that Democrats take the House, or at least can claim an overwhelming mandate, the obvious fixes for health reform will be off the table.

That said, there may still be room for action at the executive level. And I’m hearing suggestions that states may be able to offer their own public options; if these proved successful, they might gradually become the norm.

However this plays out, it’s important to realize that as far as anyone can tell, there’s nothing wrong with Obamacare that couldn’t be fairly easily fixed with a bit of bipartisan cooperation. The only thing that makes this hard is the blocking power of politicians who want reform to fail.

Bobo, solo

August 9, 2016

Oh, dear, sweet baby Jesus on a tricycle…  Bobo has had a great revelation.  Bobo has decided that money is not good for you.  Really.  In “The Great Affluence Fallacy” he gurgles that money can buy privacy, but privacy often makes life worse.  I wonder when he’ll move out of his gated community…  And “gemli” from Boston will have something to say about Bobo’s crap.  Here, FSM help us, is Bobo:

In 18th-century America, colonial society and Native American society sat side by side. The former was buddingly commercial; the latter was communal and tribal. As time went by, the settlers from Europe noticed something: No Indians were defecting to join colonial society, but many whites were defecting to live in the Native American one.

This struck them as strange. Colonial society was richer and more advanced. And yet people were voting with their feet the other way.

The colonials occasionally tried to welcome Native American children into their midst, but they couldn’t persuade them to stay. Benjamin Franklin observed the phenomenon in 1753, writing, “When an Indian child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and make one Indian ramble with them, there is no persuading him ever to return.”

During the wars with the Indians, many European settlers were taken prisoner and held within Indian tribes. After a while, they had plenty of chances to escape and return, and yet they did not. In fact, when they were “rescued,” they fled and hid from their rescuers.

Sometimes the Indians tried to forcibly return the colonials in a prisoner swap, and still the colonials refused to go. In one case, the Shawanese Indians were compelled to tie up some European women in order to ship them back. After they were returned, the women escaped the colonial towns and ran back to the Indians.

Even as late as 1782, the pattern was still going strong. Hector de Crèvecoeur wrote, “Thousands of Europeans are Indians, and we have no examples of even one of those aborigines having from choice become European.”

I first read about this history several months ago in Sebastian Junger’s excellent book “Tribe.” It has haunted me since. It raises the possibility that our culture is built on some fundamental error about what makes people happy and fulfilled.

The native cultures were more communal. As Junger writes, “They would have practiced extremely close and involved child care. And they would have done almost everything in the company of others. They would have almost never been alone.”

If colonial culture was relatively atomized, imagine American culture of today. As we’ve gotten richer, we’ve used wealth to buy space: bigger homes, bigger yards, separate bedrooms, private cars, autonomous lifestyles. Each individual choice makes sense, but the overall atomizing trajectory sometimes seems to backfire. According to the World Health Organization, people in wealthy countries suffer depression by as much as eight times the rate as people in poor countries.

There might be a Great Affluence Fallacy going on — we want privacy in individual instances, but often this makes life generally worse.

Every generation faces the challenge of how to reconcile freedom and community — “On the Road” versus “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But I’m not sure any generation has faced it as acutely as millennials.

In the great American tradition, millennials would like to have their cake and eat it, too. A few years ago, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis came out with a song called “Can’t Hold Us,” which contained the couplet: “We came here to live life like nobody was watching/I got my city right behind me, if I fall, they got me.” In the first line they want complete autonomy; in the second, complete community.

But, of course, you can’t really have both in pure form. If millennials are heading anywhere, it seems to be in the direction of community. Politically, millennials have been drawn to the class solidarity of the Bernie Sanders campaign. Hillary Clinton — secretive and a wall-builder — is the quintessence of boomer autonomy. She has trouble with younger voters.

Professionally, millennials are famous for bringing their whole self to work: turning the office into a source of friendships, meaning and social occasions.

I’m meeting more millennials who embrace the mentality expressed in the book “The Abundant Community,” by John McKnight and Peter Block. The authors are notably hostile to consumerism.

They are anti-institutional and anti-systems. “Our institutions can offer only service — not care — for care is the freely given commitment from the heart of one to another,” they write.

Millennials are oriented around neighborhood hospitality, rather than national identity or the borderless digital world. “A neighborhood is the place where you live and sleep.” How many of your physical neighbors know your name?

Maybe we’re on the cusp of some great cracking. Instead of just paying lip service to community while living for autonomy, I get the sense a lot of people are actually about to make the break and immerse themselves in demanding local community movements. It wouldn’t surprise me if the big change in the coming decades were this: an end to the apotheosis of freedom; more people making the modern equivalent of the Native American leap.

He should be dragged out of his palatial living quarters and forced to live in an inner city on minimum wage for a year, the prick.  Here’s what “gemli” has to say:

David Brooks, or as I like to think of him, Big Chief Running Mouth, talks a good game. But somehow I can’t imagine him trading his gated community for a tepee. He should realize that we’ve been trying to bring the tribal ethos to the U.S. for a long time, with strong local communities providing the sort of help and social services that bind people together and take care of each other as we get older, or fall short in some way.

But He Who Talks with Forked Tongue likes to imagine an egalitarian utopia where 99 percent of us are quietly stitching blankets while a few get to hoard the vital resources. When the tribesmen and women protested and occupied Wall Street, Brooks nearly went on the warpath, and wrote a column in the Times entitled “The Milquetoast Radicals,” (10/11/2011) in which he castigated the unwashed hippies who dared to protest the insane degree of income inequality in this country.

When he writes about the wonderful local communities that he values so highly, he expects them to operate on a volunteer basis (“A Nation of Healers,” 6/21/2016). There will be no wampum for medical services, or for building schools, roads and bridges. The people who built the country, and who made it possible for the few to thrive, will be begrudged the retirement they paid into and be buried in paupers’ graves.

If we needed proof, the title of this piece says it all. When a wealthy person tells you that affluence is a curse, hide your wampum and run.”

Brooks and Krugman

August 5, 2016

Bobo haz a concern.  Bobo is VERY concerned.  Bobo is fretting about “those” Republicans, you know, the ones WAAAY over there, certainly not anyone HE knows…  In “Trump’s Enablers Will Finally Have to Take a Stand” he firmly tells them that Trump’s behavior has left them no more middle ground to keep dancing between embracing him and disowning him.  I’ll believe any of this crap once Bobo bites the bullet and says that he’s not voting for the short-fingered vulgarian.  Even George Effing WILL has had that much courage.  “Gemli” from Boston will have something to say about this, following Bobo.  Prof. Krugman, in “No Right Turn,” says Hillary Clinton shouldn’t give disaffected Republicans a less progressive agenda.  Amen to that.  Here’s Bobo, wringing his hands over THOSE Republicans:

Up through the convention there were all sorts of Republican officeholders who weren’t really for Trump, but they weren’t really against him. They sort of endorsed him implicitly, while trying to change the subject.

Their bodies squirmed when they were asked about their nominee. They refused to look you straight in the eye. They made little apologetic comments so you would still like them even though they were doing this shameful thing.

They had all sorts of squirrelly formulations about why it was O.K. to ride the Trump train: He can be tamed or surrounded and improved. Sure, he’s got some real weaknesses, but he’s more or less a normal candidate who is at least better than Hillary.

Over the past few days, Trump has destroyed this middle ground. He’s exposed the wet noodle Republicans as suckers, or worse. Trump has shown that he is not a normal candidate. He is a political rampage charging ever more wildly out of control. And no, he cannot be changed.

He cannot be contained because he is psychologically off the chain. With each passing week he displays the classic symptoms of medium-grade mania in more disturbing forms: inflated self-esteem, sleeplessness, impulsivity, aggression and a compulsion to offer advice on subjects he knows nothing about.

His speech patterns are like something straight out of a psychiatric textbook. Manics display something called “flight of ideas.” It’s a formal thought disorder in which ideas tumble forth through a disordered chain of associations. One word sparks another, which sparks another, and they’re off to the races. As one trained psychiatrist said to me, compare Donald Trump’s speaking patterns to a Robin Williams monologue, but with insults instead of jokes.

Trump insults Paul Ryan, undermines NATO and raises the specter of nuclear war. Advisers can’t control Trump’s brain because Trump can’t control it himself.

He also cannot be contained because he lacks the inner equipment that makes decent behavior possible. So many of our daily social interactions depend on a basic capacity for empathy. But Trump displays an absence of this quality.

He looks at the grieving mother of a war hero and is unable to recognize her pain. He hears a crying baby and is unable to recognize the infant’s emotion or the mother’s discomfort. He is told of women being sexually harassed at Fox News and is unable to recognize their trauma.

The same blindness that makes him impervious to global outrage makes it impossible for him to make empathetic connection. Fear is his only bond.

Some people compare Trump to the great authoritarians of history, but that’s wrong. They were generally disciplined men with grandiose plans. Trump is underdeveloped and unregulated.

He is a slave to his own pride, compelled by a childlike impulse to lash out at anything that threatens his fragile identity. He appears to have no ability to experience reverence, which is the foundation for any capacity to admire or serve anything bigger than self, to want to learn about anything beyond self, to want to know and deeply honor the people around you.

Republicans are not going to be able to help the 70-year-old man-child grow up over the next few months. Nor are they going to be able to get him to withdraw from the race. A guy who can raise $82 million mostly in small donations has a passionate niche following.

But they can at least get out of the enabling business. First, they can acknowledge that they are being sucked down a nihilistic whirlpool. Second, they can acknowledge the long-term damage being done to the country and to themselves.

Amid the chaos, all sorts of ugliness is surfacing. See the video of the horrific things shouted at Trump rallies compiled by Times reporters. Moreover, Trump is permanently tainting the names of conservatism and the Republican Party and the many good men and women who have built and served it. As Ben Shapiro writes in National Review, “Trump asks something more — your political soul.”

Events are going to force Republicans off the fence. For the past many months Republican leaders have been condemning Trump’s acts while sticking with Trump the man. Trump is making that position ridiculous and shameful. You either stand with a man whose very essence is an insult to basic decency, or you don’t.

Those who don’t will have to start building a Republican Party in Exile. They will have to tell the country what they honestly think of Donald Trump. They will have to build a parallel campaign structure that will survive if Trump implodes, a structure of congressional and local candidates. They will have to jointly propose a clear manifesto — five or 10 policies the party in exile ardently supports.

There comes a time when neutrality and laying low become dishonorable. If you’re not in revolt, you’re in cahoots. When this period and your name are mentioned, decades hence, your grandkids will look away in shame.

Cripes.  What a gutless wonder he is.  Here’s what “gemli” in Boston had to say to him:

“Brooks gives an excellent analysis of Trump’s damaged mentality, but can’t understand why so many ordinary Republicans are unable to reject him outright. Can’t they see that he lacks empathy? Aren’t they concerned that he appears impervious to a mother’s pain? Does blatant sexual harassment leave them unmoved?

This is coming as a surprise to our conservative pundit, as if it’s just dawning on him that something is seriously wrong with kinder, gentler Republicans if you’ve got to explain to them why Trump is a bad idea.

Welcome to reality, Mr. Brooks. Trump is merely the Republican equivalent of Spinal Tap, with the volume turned up to eleven. While you hear Paul Ryan gently coo about privatizing Medicare and decimating Social Security, it sounds like a screech to us. When Mike Pence piously murmurs about banning marriage equality and supporting gay conversion therapy, it makes our ears bleed.

Perhaps the chorus of debating Republicans was music to your ears, but all we heard was a discordant howl of simple-minded hate speech aimed at a thumping Republican base who thought that gay bashing, defunding Planned Parenthood and jingoistic pseudo-patriotism had a nice beat.

Ever since Saint Reagan decreed that Ketchup was a vegetable we’ve known that something was amiss in the Republican worldview. There’s an underlying sickness to the conservative movement that has festered for decades. Trump is merely the rash it’s broken out in.”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

All the experts tell us not to pay too much attention to polls for another week or two. Still, it does look as if Hillary Clinton got a big bouncefrom her convention, swamping her opponent’s bounce a week earlier. Better still, from the Democrats’ point of view, the swing in the polls appears to be doing what some of us thought it might: sending Donald Trump into a derp spiral, in which his ugly nonsense gets even uglier and more nonsensical as his electoral prospects sink.

As a result, we’re finally seeing some prominent Republicans not just refusing to endorse Mr. Trump, but actually declaring their support for Mrs. Clinton. So how should she respond?

The obvious answer, you might think, is that she should keep doing what she is doing — emphasizing how unfit her rival is for office, letting her allies point out her own qualifications and continuing to advocate a moderately center-left policy agenda that is largely a continuation of President Obama’s.

But at least some commentators are calling on her to do something very different — to make a right turn, moving the Democratic agenda toward the preferences of those fleeing the sinking Republican ship. The idea, I guess, is to offer to create an American version of a European-style grand coalition of the center-left and the center-right.

I don’t think there’s much prospect that Mrs. Clinton will actually do that. But if by any chance she and those around her are tempted to take this recommendation seriously: Don’t.

First of all, let’s be clear about what she’s running on. It’s an unabashedly progressive program, but hardly extreme. We’re talking about higher taxes on high incomes, but nowhere near as high as those taxes were for a generation after World War II; expanded social programs, but nothing close to those of European welfare states; stronger financial regulation and more action on climate change, but aren’t the cases for both overwhelming?

And no, the program doesn’t need to be more “pro-growth.”

There’s absolutely no evidence that tax cuts for the rich and radical deregulation, which is what right-wingers mean when they talk about pro-growth policies, actually work, or that strengthening the social safety net does any harm. Bill Clinton presided over a bigger boom than Ronald Reagan; the Obama years have seen much more private job creation than the Bush era, even before the crash, with job growth actually accelerating after taxes went up and Obamacare went into effect.

It’s true that there are things we could do to boost the U.S. economy. The most important of these things, however, would be to take advantage of very low government borrowing costs to greatly expand public investment — which is something progressives support but conservatives oppose. So enough already with the notion that being on the center-left somehow means being anti-growth.

Now let’s talk about the politics.

The Trumpification of the G.O.P. didn’t come out of nowhere. On the contrary, it was the natural outcome of a cynical strategy: long ago, conservatives decided to harness racial resentment to sell right-wing economic policies to working-class whites, especially in the South.

This strategy brought many electoral victories, but always at the risk that the racial resentment would run out of control, leaving the economic conservatives — whose ideas never had much popular support — stranded. And that is what has just happened.

So now the strategy that rightists had used to sell policies that were neither popular nor successful has blown up in their faces. And the Democratic response should be to adopt some of those policies? Say what?

Also, I can’t help but notice a curious pattern in the recommendations of some self-proclaimed centrists. When Republicans were in the ascendant, centrists urged Democrats to adapt by moving right. Now that Republicans are in trouble, with some feeling that they have no choice except to vote Democratic, these same centrists are urging Democrats to … adapt by moving right. Funny how that works.

Back to the main theme: Grand coalitions do sometimes have a place in politics, as a response to crises that are neither party’s fault — external threats to national security, economic disaster. But that’s not what is happening here. Trumpism is basically a creation of the modern conservative movement, which used coded appeals to prejudice to make political gains, then found itself unable to rein in a candidate who skipped the coding.

If some conservatives find this too much and bolt the party, good for them, and they should be welcomed into the coalition of the sane. But they can’t expect policy concessions in return. When Dr. Frankenstein finally realizes that he has created a monster, he doesn’t get a reward. Mrs. Clinton and her party should stay the course.

Brooks and Cohen

August 2, 2016

I guess Bobo’s had all he can take of being outside the Acela corridor, and the conventions may have taken all the ginger out of him, poor thing.  Today he’s decided to tell us all about “How Artists Change the World.”  He ‘splains that Frederick Douglass used photography to alter perceptions of African-Americans.  As usual, what “gemli” from Boston had to say will follow.  Mr. Cohen, in “Obama’s American Idea,” says there is no real America to take back, as Trump insists, because America’s many-hued reality is a ceaseless becoming.  However, he can’t resist taking a swipe at Obama.  Here’s Bobo:

As usual, there were a ton of artists and musicians at the political conventions this year. And that raises some questions. How much should artists get involved in politics? How can artists best promote social change?

One person who serves as a model here was not an artist but understood how to use a new art form. Frederick Douglass made himself the most photographed American of the 19th century, which is kind of amazing. He sat for 160 separate photographs (George Custer sat for 155 and Abraham Lincoln for 126). He also wrote four lectures on photography.

Douglass used his portraits to change the way viewers saw black people. Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard points out that one of Douglass’s favorite rhetorical tropes was the chiasmus: the use of two clauses in a sentence in reversed order to create an inverse parallel.

For example, Douglass wrote, “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.”

And that’s what Douglass did with his portraits. He took contemporary stereotypes of African-Americans — that they are inferior, unlettered, comic and dependent — and turned them upside down.

Douglass posed for his portraits very carefully and in ways that evolved over the years. You can see the progression of Douglass portraits in a new book called “Picturing Frederick Douglass,” curated by John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd and Celeste-Marie Bernier, and you can read a version of Gates’s essay in the new special issue of Aperture magazine, guest edited by Sarah Lewis.

In almost all the photographs, Douglass is formally dressed, in black coat, vest, stiff formal collar and bow tie. He is a dignified and highly cultured member of respectable society.

But within that bourgeois frame there is immense personal force. Douglass once wrote, “A man without force is without the essential dignity of humanity.” Douglass’s strong features project relentless determination and lionlike pride. In some early portraits, starting when he was around age 23, his fists are clenched.

In some of the pre-Civil War photos he stares directly into the camera lens, unusual for the time. And then there was his majestic wrath. In 1847 he told a British audience that when he was a slave he had “been punished and beaten more for [my] looks than for anything else — for looking dissatisfied because [I] felt dissatisfied.”

Douglass brought that look of radical dissatisfaction to the studio. When he was a young man, his stares were at once piercing, suspicious and solemn. As he got older, his face took on a deeper wisdom and sadness while losing none of his mountainous solemnity. He was combining moral depth and great learning.

Douglass was combating a set of generalized stereotypes by showing the specific humanity of one black man. (The early cameras produced photographs with great depth of field revealing each pore, hair and blemish.)

Most of all, he was using art to reteach people how to see.

We are often under the illusion that seeing is a very simple thing. You see something, which is taking information in, and then you evaluate, which is the hard part.

But in fact perception and evaluation are the same thing. We carry around unconscious mental maps, built by nature and experience, that organize how we scan the world and how we instantly interpret and order what we see.

With these portraits, Douglass was redrawing people’s unconscious mental maps. He was erasing old associations about blackness and replacing them with new ones. As Gates writes, he was taking an institution like slavery, which had seemed to many so inevitable, and leading people to perceive it as arbitrary. He was creating a new ideal of a just society and a fully alive black citizen, and therefore making current reality look different in the light of that ideal.

“Poets, prophets and reformers are all picture makers — and this ability is the secret of their power and of their achievements,” Douglass wrote. This is where artists make their mark, by implanting pictures in the underwater processing that is upstream from conscious cognition. Those pictures assign weights and values to what the eyes take in.

I never understand why artists want to get involved in partisanship and legislation. The real power lies in the ability to recode the mental maps people project into the world.

A photograph is powerful, even in the age of video, because of its ability to ingrain a single truth. The special “Vision and Justice” issue of Aperture shows that the process of retraining the imagination is ongoing. There are so many images that startlingly put African-American models in places where our culture assumes whiteness — in the Garden of Eden, in Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring.”

These images don’t change your mind; they smash through some of the warped lenses through which we’ve been taught to see.

And here’s what “gemli” had to say about that:

“The one thing that comes through all of the photographs of Frederick Douglass I’ve ever seen is dignity. It seems to be part of his character that is so powerful it leaves a trace on the photographic plate. It may be all the more striking because you rarely see it these days, particularly in the political arena.

It’s not because the technology has moved on. Modern cameras are just as receptive to strength and dignity as were the ones in Douglass’ time, but they’re often not focused on it. On the occasions when it does happen, it can be jarring.

One recent example occurred at the Democratic National Convention. After several rousing but ordinary convention speeches, Khizr Khan and his wife took the podium. They did something that no one has been able to during this entire election season.

With quiet dignity and few words, there were able to pierce the armor of ignorance, deceit and disdain that has protected Donald Trump from criticism.

Trump responded to Mr. Khan’s story of pain and the sacrifice of his son with a claim that money and business success entailed sacrifice as well. Although Mrs. Khan’s silence spoke volumes, Trump criticized her for saying nothing.

Our would-be emperor was revealed to have no clothes. The dignity gap created by the wrath of Khan was a chasm that swallowed Donald Trump and his entire sham of a campaign.”

Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

There is a line from a conversation 20 years ago between Barack Obama and the photographer Mariana Cook that offers an important insight into the president: “All my life,” he said, “I have been stitching together a family, through stories or memories or friends or ideas.”

There was much to stitch: his lost Kenyan father, his Indonesian stepfather Lolo Soetoro, his unusual journey through various names and identities, his black paternal side and his white maternal side, his youth in Asia, his adolescence in Hawaii, his student years in California and New York, and his coming-of-age in Chicago.

What Barack Obama ended up “stitching together” in his path to selfhood — the unifying idea that became his core reference — was the United States of America. As he said in his keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, “In no other country on earth is my story even possible.”

This was the moment Obama emerged onto the national stage: “There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.” I can still feel the frisson his words stirred in Boston.

In the dozen years since, his message has not changed. It was evident again in Philadelphia last week as he endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. He spoke of the American values that led his Kansan grandparents and his wife Michelle’s family to see the children of immigrants as “just as American as their own, whether they wore a cowboy hat or a yarmulke; a baseball cap or a hijab.”

Obama was at his most uplifting. Because he discovered America, pieced it together after his years overseas, saw it as a newcomer might, understood from experience the space it affords for personal reinvention, he brings a singular intellectual passion to the American idea: a nation of immigrants equal before the law dedicated to the proposition that among their inalienable rights are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

He admonished Donald Trump, the would-be savior: “We don’t look to be ruled.” No, Americans are engaged in “self-government.” He was reminding Americans, at a critical moment, of the first words of the Constitution: “We the People.” Of every color, creed, sexuality, race, ethnicity are the people composed: That, for Obama, is America’s strength; it’s what gave him his.

In no other nation is tomorrow so vivid, yesterday so pale. Where you came from yields to American rebirth. There is no real America to take back, as Trump insists, because America’s many-hued reality is a ceaseless becoming. It is a mosaic in which a Barry Soetoro, his boyhood name in Indonesia, can become a Barry Obama and at last a proud Barack Hussein Obama — the country where, as Obama said in 2004, a “skinny kid with a funny name” finds his place.

Yet this America, whose fault lines Obama the hybrid stepped across 12 years ago, is perhaps more divided than ever as his presidency winds down. There was something about Obama’s blackness, his intellectualism, his cool distillation of problems that was intolerable to a wide swath of the white working class angered by lost jobs, lost wars, lost security and lost pride. These Americans have felt left behind. They have perceived not outreach from Obama’s White House but condescension.

More than 2.5 million members of the American armed forces have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 15 years. For a significant number of those 2.5 million families, Obama has failed to honor their sacrifice because, in his prudent realism (a “surge” in Afghanistan with a date certain to end), there is little place for the heroic American narrative.

I think a lot of this fracture was inevitable given the global economic context, and domestic political and cultural realities, within which Obama worked. Still, he could not bridge the divide; perhaps he sharpened it.

Michelle also participated in Obama’s 1996 conversation with Cook, part of which appeared in The New Yorker in 2009, and worried that her husband was “too much of a good guy for the kind of brutality” of politics. Obama talked about how Michelle was at once “completely familiar” and “a complete mystery to me in some ways” and how the tension between those two feelings “makes for something strong, because, even as you build a life of trust and comfort and mutual support, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about the other person.”

America has been governed, for almost eight years now, by a happy, grounded man who knows how to love a woman. That has not been the least of Obama’s gifts to the nation he stitched together in his personal quest.

We were reminded of that gift last week in Philadelphia by Obama and Michelle — and are reminded every day of Trump’s threat to America’s “E pluribus unum — Out of many, one.” Trump, whose American journey has led him only to denigration of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Muslim parents of a fallen American soldier, and to this arid conviction: Hatred brings a headline.

Brooks and Krugman

July 29, 2016

Bobo says “The Democrats Win the Summer,” but that it may not matter which party had the better convention.  Bobo wrings his hands over the dystopian hellscape that the Republicans are trying to convince us we live in, but he can’t bring himself to call out Trump for the lying, misogynist, malignant narcissist that he is.  Even George Effing Will did…  Prof. Krugman has a question:  “Who Loves America?”  He says the Republicans’ flag-waving has nothing to do with patriotism.  Here’s Bobo:

Donald Trump has found an ingenious way to save the Democratic Party. Basically, he’s abandoned the great patriotic themes that used to fire up the G.O.P. and he’s allowed the Democrats to seize that ground. If you visited the two conventions this year you would have come away thinking that the Democrats are the more patriotic of the two parties — and the more culturally conservative.

Trump has abandoned the Judeo-Christian aspirations that have always represented America’s highest moral ideals: toward love, charity, humility, goodness, faith, temperance and gentleness.

He left the ground open for Joe Biden to remind us that decent people don’t enjoy firing other human beings.

Trump has abandoned the basic modesty code that has always ennobled the American middle class: Don’t brag, don’t let your life be defined by gilded luxuries.

He left the ground open for the Democrats to seize middle-class values with one quick passage in a Tim Kaine video — about a guy who goes to the same church where he was married, who taught carpentry as a Christian missionary in Honduras, who has lived in the same house for the last 24 years.

Trump has also abandoned the American ideal of popular self-rule.

He left the ground open for Barack Obama to remind us that our founders wanted active engaged citizens, not a government run by a solipsistic and self-appointed savior who wants everything his way.

Trump has abandoned the deep and pervasive optimism that has always energized the American nation.

He left the ground open for Michelle Obama to embrace the underlying chorus of hope that runs through the American story: that our national history is an arc toward justice; that evil rises for a day but contains the seeds of its own destruction; that beneath the vicissitudes that darken our days, we live in an orderly cosmos governed by love.

For decades the Republican Party has embraced America’s open, future-oriented nationalism. But when you nominate a Silvio Berlusconi you give up a piece of that. When you nominate a blood-and-soil nationalist you’re no longer speaking in the voice of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and every Republican nominee from Reagan to McCain to Romney.

Democrats have often been ambivalent about that ardent nationalistic voice, but this week they were happy to accept Trump’s unintentional gift. There were an unusually high number of great speeches at the Democratic convention this year: the Obamas, Biden, Booker, Clinton, the Mothers of the Movement and so on.

These speakers found their eloquence in staving off this demagogue. They effectively separated Trump from America. They separated him from conservatism. They made full use of the deep nationalist chords that touch American hearts.

Trump has allowed the Democrats to mask their deep problems. A Democratic administration has presided over a time of growing world chaos, growing violence and growing anger. But the Democrats seem positively organized and orderly compared to Candidate Chaos on the other side.

The Sanders people have 90 percent of the Democratic Party’s passion and 95 percent of the ideas. Most Sanders people are kind- and open-hearted, but there is a core that is corrupted by moral preening, an uncompromising absolutism and a paranoid unwillingness to play by the rules of civic life.

But the extremist fringe that threatens to take over the Democratic Party seems less menacing than the lunatic fringe that has already taken over the Republican one.

This week I left the arena here each night burning with indignation at Mike Pence. I almost don’t blame Trump. He is a morally untethered, spiritually vacuous man who appears haunted by multiple personality disorders. It is the “sane” and “reasonable” Republicans who deserve the shame — the ones who stood silently by, or worse, while Donald Trump gave away their party’s sacred inheritance.

The Democrats had by far the better of the conventions. But the final and shocking possibility is this: In immediate political terms it may not make a difference.

The Democratic speakers hit doubles, triples and home runs. But the normal rules may no longer apply. The Democrats may have just dominated a game we are no longer playing.

Both conventions featured one grieving parent after another. The fear of violent death is on everybody’s mind — from ISIS, cops, lone sociopaths. The essential contract of society — that if you behave responsibly things will work out — has been severed for many people.

It could be that in this moment of fear, cynicism, anxiety and extreme pessimism, many voters may have decided that civility is a surrender to a rigged system, that optimism is the opiate of the idiots and that humility and gentleness are simply surrendering to the butchers of ISIS. If that’s the case then the throes of a completely new birth are upon us and Trump is a man from the future.

If that’s true it’s not just politics that has changed, but the country.

Funny how he never mentions that the Republicans have worked with all their might for the last 40 years to create Trump and now they’re horrified…  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

It has been quite a week in politics.

On one side, the Democratic National Convention was very much a celebration of America. On the other side, the Republican nominee for president, pressed on the obvious support he is getting from Vladimir Putin, once again praised Mr. Putin’s leadership, suggested that he is O.K. with Russian aggression in Crimea, and urged the Russians to engage in espionage on his behalf. And no, it wasn’t a joke.

I know that some Republicans feel as if they’ve fallen through the looking glass. After all, usually they’re the ones chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” And haven’t they spent years suggesting that Barack and Michelle Obama hate America, and may even support the nation’s enemies? How did Democrats end up looking like the patriots here?

But the parties aren’t really experiencing a role reversal. President Obama’s speech on Wednesday was wonderful and inspiring, but when he declared that “what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican,” he was fibbing a bit. It was actually very Republican in substance; the only difference was that the substance was less disguised than usual. For the “fanning of resentment” that Mr. Obama decried didn’t begin with Donald Trump, and most of the flag-waving never did have much to do with true patriotism.

Think about it: What does it mean to love America? Surely it means loving the country we actually have. I don’t know about you, but whenever I return from a trip abroad, my heart swells to see the sheer variety of my fellow citizens, so different in their appearance, their cultural heritage, their personal lives, yet all of them — all of us — Americans.

That love of country doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, uncritical. But the faults you find, the critiques you offer, should be about the ways in which we don’t yet live up to our own ideals. If what bothers you about America is, instead, the fact that it doesn’t look exactly the way it did in the past (or the way you imagine it looked in the past), then you don’t love your country — you care only about your tribe.

And all too many influential figures on the right are tribalists, not patriots.

We got a graphic demonstration of that reality after Michelle Obama’s speech, when she spoke of the wonder of watching her daughters play on the lawn of “a house that was built by slaves.” It was an uplifting and, yes, patriotic image, a celebration of a nation that is always seeking to become better, to transcend its flaws.

But all many people on the right — especially the media figures who set the Republican agenda — heard was a knock on white people. “They can’t stop talking about slavery,” complained Rush Limbaugh. The slaves had it good, insisted Bill O’Reilly: “They were well fed and had decent lodgings.” Both men were, in effect, saying that whites are their tribe and must never be criticized.

This same tribal urge surely underlies a lot of the right’s rhetoric about national security. Why are Republicans so fixated on the notion that the president must use the phrase “Islamic terrorism,” when actual experts on terrorism agree that this would actually hurt national security, by helping to alienate peaceful Muslims?

The answer, I’d argue, is that the alienation isn’t a side effect they’re disregarding; it’s actually the point — it’s all about drawing a line between us (white Christians) and them (everyone else), and national security has nothing to do with it.

Which brings us back to the Vlad-Donald bromance. Mr. Trump’s willingness to cast aside our nation’s hard-earned reputation as a reliable ally is remarkable. So is the odd specificity of his support for Mr. Putin’s priorities, which is in stark contrast with the vagueness of everything else he has said about policy. And he has offered only evasive non-answers to questions about his business ties to Putin-linked oligarchs.

But what strikes me most is the silence of so many leading Republicans in the face of behavior they would have denounced as treason coming from a Democrat — not to mention the active support for Mr. Trump’s stance among many in the base.

What this tells you, I think, is that all the flag-waving and hawkish posturing had nothing to do with patriotism. It was, instead, about using alleged Democratic weakness on national security as a club with which to beat down domestic opponents, and serve the interests of the tribe.

Now comes Mr. Trump, doing the bidding of a foreign power and inviting it to intervene in our politics — and that’s O.K., because it also serves the tribe.

So if it seems strange to you that these days Democrats are sounding patriotic while Republicans aren’t, you just weren’t paying attention. The people who now seem to love America always did; the people who suddenly no longer sound like patriots never were.

Bobo, solo

July 26, 2016

Bobo’s busy concern trolling.  In “Hillary, This Is Why Democrats Are Still Struggling” he ever-so-kindly diagnoses all our problems and says that Madam Secretary needs to fight her party’s materialistic mind-set.  His crap will be followed by a comment from “gemli” in Boston.  Here, FSM help us, is Bobo:

Dear Hillary,

Donald Trump has presented you with an amazing opportunity to become a world historical figure! If you crush him in this election, you could create a new Democratic majority and reduce the G.O.P. to an ever-declining rump of ethnic nationalism. On the other hand, if you fail to beat Trump, you will go down as America’s most hapless political loser and be vilified forever for enabling an era of American Putinism.

No pressure! Have fun in Philadelphia!

To end up on the right side of this equation you’re probably going to have to resist three natural tendencies, two of them your party’s and one your own.

First, you’re going to have to fight your party’s materialistic mind-set.

This is 2016, not 1992. Over the past few years, economic and social anxiety has metastasized into something spiritual and existential.

Americans are no longer confident in their national project. They no longer trust their institutions or have faith in their common destiny. This is a crisis of national purpose. It’s about personal identity and the basic health of communal life. Americans’ anger and pessimism are more fundamental than anything that can be explained by G.D.P. statistics.

Many Democrats have trouble thinking in these terms. When asked to explain any complex phenomenon, they instinctively reduce it to a materialist cause. If there’s terrorism there must be lack of economic opportunity. If marriage is declining it must be because of joblessness.

This materialistic mind-set means that many Democrats are perpetually surprised by events that involve cultural threats and national identity. Why don’t working-class Kansans vote for us? We offer them more programs. Why did the Brits leave the E.U.? It’s against their economic interest.

The mind-set is also reductionist. There’s a tendency to break national problems into small, interest-group-size chunks and then deliver pandering policy promises.

Look at your website. As Oren Cass points out in The City Journal, every demographic or interest group gets its own pander. If you’re a horse lover, the Clinton campaign vows to crack down on “horse soring, in which chemicals or other inhumane methods are applied to horses’ limbs to exaggerate their gait.”

If Democrats wage that kind of niche-targeted campaign this year they will lose. Voters are worried that the whole society is falling apart. If Democrats think a crisis of national identity can be addressed with targeted tax credits they are living in a different century.

To stand a chance, Secretary Clinton, you’re probably going to have to talk as adeptly about threats to personal dignity as you do about day care. You’re probably going to have to talk bluntly about the American civic religion. You’re going to have to show you understand the way members of your class have slighted people who are less educated and less cosmopolitan.

Second, you’re going to have to fight the Sanders tide, which on Day 1 of this convention was astoundingly strong. Many Democrats have grown hostile to capitalism. Sixty percent of Democrats are friendly to socialism, according to a poll by OnMessage Inc. and the American Action Network.

Of course, this is general election suicide. If you want a perfect way to turn off suburban service economy office park workers who will decide this election, then the Bernie Sanders route is it! The economic nostalgia of the left is as futile as the demographic nostalgia of the righ

Somehow you’re going to have to come up with an updated muscular Clintonism. For 30 years your name has stood for a Democratic governing style that is internationalist in foreign affairs, socially moderate and pro-global integration (while softening its edges). That open, optimistic approach has to be combined with a more aggressive and radical effort to help people compete in the new economy.

Third, you’re going to have to answer hatred with love. Your tendency so far in your career has been to answer hostility with distrust, and secretiveness.

You’ve ended up projecting coldness but also weakness and hurt. People who build emotional walls amid conflict do so out of fear, not strength.

Along the way you’ve made yourself phenomenally unpopular. The polls show that you are now just as distrusted by the American people as Donald Trump is.

The confident move is to break out of the emotional bunker with vulnerability. The sign of strength is to answer the “Lock Her Up” enmity with a confident honest account of what it feels like to be you — embroiled in the political combat, encased in this global celebrity role, but maintaining authenticity in a world that conspires against it.

Imagine if you displayed honest self-appraisal and even moments of remorse. You’d have the world rooting for you, not against you.

This convention is about resetting relationships: establishing trust between you and voters, restoring optimism that we can thrive in the modern economy, redefining a soul satisfying faith in the American project.

And now here’s what “gemli” had to say about that piece of shite:

Before David Brooks diagnoses the Democrats, he might want to get a check-up himself. He’ll certainly need to have an eye exam, because he’s clearly a Republican who can’t see the elephant in the room.

He thinks Democrats have a materialistic mind-set, possibly because they talk about raising a stagnated, unlivable minimum wage, and think that billionaires shouldn’t use political power to hoard all of the money. It seems we don’t worry about “the health of communal life” as much as we worry about our own health, and the economic motives of a party that makes removing health care a campaign plank.

We can date the loss of confidence in the national project from the moment an African-American Democrat was elected to the White House. The current Republican front runner was just an ignorant, gold-plated opportunistic liar back then who tried to delegitimize the president by attacking his citizenship and his academic credentials.

Democrats aren’t surprised by cultural threats when red-state fundamentalists take blue-state tax dollars while they pass laws against gay people. It’s practically become a national cliché. Republicans pander to these folks and promise to return us to the moral and racial traditions of the 1950s.

In a cesspool of Republican gun fanatics, sanctimonious bible thumpers, homophobes, science deniers, fear-mongerers and idiotic presidential contenders, Brooks give Hillary advice on restoring optimism.

It can’t be fixed. It can only be flushed.”

Brooks and Krugman

July 22, 2016

Bobo is bewailing “The Death of the Republican Party” and moans that Donald Trump’s acid bath hollows out the G.O.P.  Right.  It’s THOSE people, over THERE who created the mess, with no help at all from pandering pundits.  His ravings will be followed by a comment from “soxared040713” from Crete, Illinois.  Prof. Krugman, in “Donald Trump, the Siberian Candidate,” says the Republicans’ presidential nominee doesn’t just admire Vladimir Putin.  Here’s Bobo:

On the surface, this seems like a normal Republican convention. There are balloon drops, banal but peppy music from the mid-1970s and polite white people not dancing in their seats.

But this is not a normal convention. Donald Trump is dismantling the Republican Party and replacing it with a personality cult. The G.O.P. is not dividing; it’s ceasing to exist as a coherent institution.

The only speaker here who clearly understands this is Ted Cruz. He understands that the Trump phenomenon is probably not going to end the way a normal candidacy ends. It’s going to end catastrophically, in November or beyond, with the party infrastructure in tatters, with every mealy mouthed pseudo-Trump accommodationist permanently stained.

Some rich children are careless that way; they break things and other people have to clean up the mess.

I’m not a Cruz fan, but his naked ambition does fuel amazing courage. As the Republican Party is slouching off on a suicide march, at least Cruz is standing athwart history yelling “Stop!” When the Trump train implodes, the docile followers who are now booing and denouncing Ted Cruz will claim they were on his side all along.

It’s been gruesomely fascinating to see the Trumpian acid eat away the party of Lincoln and T.R. and Reagan.

A normal party has an apparatus of professionals, who have been around for a while and can get things done. But those people might as well not exist. This has been the most shambolically mis-run convention in memory — with a botched V.P. unveiling, a plagiarism scandal, listless audiences most of the time, empty seats midway through prime time, vote-counting strong-arm tactics, zero production creativity, no coherent messaging and a complete inability to control the conversation.

A normal party is united by a consistent belief system. For decades, the Republican Party has stood for an American-led international order abroad and small-government democratic capitalism at home. That capitalist ethos at least gave Republicans a future-oriented optimism.

Trump is decimating that too, along with the things Republicans stood for: NATO, entitlement reform, compassionate conservatism and the relatively open movement of ideas, people and trade.

There’s no actual agenda being put in its place, just nostalgic spasms that, as David Frum has put it, are part George Wallace and part Henry Wallace. This has been a convention of loss — parents who have lost children, workers who have lost the code that gave them dignity, white retirees who in a diversifying America have lost an empire and not found a role. Trump policies, if they exist, are defensive recoils: build a wall, ban Muslims, withdraw from the world.

A normal party has a moral ethos. For Republicans it has been inspired by evangelical Christianity. That often put the party on the losing side of the sexual revolution, but it also gave individual Republicans a calling toward private acts of charity, a commitment toward personal graciousness, humility and faithfulness. Mitt Romney is no evangelical, but his convention was lifted by stories of his personal mentorship.

All that is eviscerated, too. The selection of Mike Pence for his running mate notwithstanding, Trump has replaced Christian commitment with the ethos of a whining gladiator. Everything is oriented around conquest, success, supremacy and domination. He’s shown you can be a public thug and a good dad, but even in his children’s speeches, which have been excellent, he exists mostly as a cheerleader for high grades, moneymaking and worldly success.

This has been the Lock Her Up convention. The proper decibel level was set by Rudy Giuliani screaming. The criminalization of political difference was established by Chris Christie. Most of the delegates here are deeply ambivalent about their nominee, so they grab onto extreme Hillary bashing as one thing they can be un-ambivalent about.

But think about it: Can you think of a party or political movement that has devoted so much time to hatred without being blinded by it?

For example, look at the way Donald Trump has been calling people liars and traitors for a year. Then when Cruz has the temerity to use the phrase “vote your conscience,” the Trumpians fall all over themselves mewling, whining and twitching, without any faint self-awareness of how ridiculous they appear.

Confronted with Cruz’s non-endorsement, the Trump people seemed to decide they could crush him under a chorus of boos and antipathy. But this is a long game.

The Republican Party is not going to return to its old form. For a long time it will probably be a party for the dispossessed, but I suspect it will look a lot more like Ted Cruz in the years ahead than Donald Trump: anti-immigrant, anti-trade, but also more conventionally small government, more socially conservative. Ted Cruz types will lead the party in a million ways I don’t like. But at least it will be a party, not the narcissistic vehicle for one soft core Putin.

Poor, poor, Bobo and his big sad…  Here’s what “soxared040713” had to say:

“Mr. Brooks, you got the party and convention you deserved.

You’re making the same mistake by cheering Ted Cruz your party made by ignoring the signposts that led to Donald Trump. If all you have, in your ideological despair this Friday morning is a ruin of a party with Canadian-born Cruz at its center, you become Sisyphus. You’ll never get to the top of the steep climb without the stone rolling down to the bottom. The GOP is officially a bomb shelter.

You also need to drop “the party of Lincoln” lie. The 16th president lived and died to preserve the union. Ronald Reagan moved the right-leaning party from the devious Richard Nixon into territory co-opted by Trump for the past year, one truly “oriented around conquest, success, supremacy and domination.”

The acid core of the current GOP was minted by Reagan. You know this but continue to praise him as one of its champions. Reagan made segregation and racism acceptable in the GOP. He was the popular populist who threw stones at government as the people cheered. His message was “it doesn’t work; let’s kill it.” And you’re surprised that Trump echoes the nostalgia that won Reagan two terms?

Cruz led the insurgent Tea Party shutdown of the federal government and you tell us he’s the party’s future champion? You say “I’m not a Cruz fan” but then, like Mark Antony, you go on to praise murdered Caesar in the public square; you come not to bury Trump but to praise Cruz. How are they different?

GOP, rest not in peace. Just die.”  Amen.  Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

If elected, would Donald Trump be Vladimir Putin’s man in the White House? This should be a ludicrous, outrageous question. After all, he must be a patriot — he even wears hats promising to make America great again.

But we’re talking about a ludicrous, outrageous candidate. And the Trump campaign’s recent behavior has quite a few foreign policy experts wondering just what kind of hold Mr. Putin has over the Republican nominee, and whether that influence will continue if he wins.

I’m not talking about merely admiring Mr. Putin’s performance — being impressed by the de facto dictator’s “strength,” and wanting to emulate his actions. I am, instead, talking about indications that Mr. Trump would, in office, actually follow a pro-Putin foreign policy, at the expense of America’s allies and her own self-interest.

That’s not to deny that Mr. Trump does, indeed, admire Mr. Putin. On the contrary, he has repeatedly praised the Russian strongman, often in extravagant terms. For example, when Mr. Putin published an article attacking American exceptionalism, Mr. Trump called it a “masterpiece.”

But admiration for Putinism isn’t unusual in Mr. Trump’s party. Well before the Trump candidacy, Putin envy on the right was already widespread.

For one thing, Mr. Putin is someone who doesn’t worry about little things like international law when he decides to invade a country. He’s “what you call a leader,” declared Rudy Giuliani after Russia invaded Ukraine.

It’s also clear that the people who gleefully chanted “Lock her up” — not to mention the Trump adviser who called for Hillary Clinton’s execution — find much to admire in the way Mr. Putin deals with his political opponents and critics. By the way, while the Secret Service is investigating the comments about executing Mrs. Clinton, all the Trump campaign had to say was that it “does not agree with those statements.”

And many on the right also seem to have a strange, rather creepy admiration for Mr. Putin’s personal style. Rush Limbaugh, for example, declared that while talking to President Obama, “Putin probably had his shirt off practicing tai chi.”

All of this is, or should be, deeply disturbing; what would the news media be saying if major figures in the Democratic Party routinely praised leftist dictators? But what we’re now seeing from Mr. Trump and his associates goes beyond emulation, and is starting to look like subservience.

First, there was the Ukraine issue — one on which Republican leaders have consistently taken a hard line and criticized Mr. Obama for insufficient action, with John McCain, for example, accusing the president of “weakness.” And the G.O.P. platform was going to include a statement reaffirming this line, but it was watered down to blandness on the insistence of Trump representatives.

Then came Mr. Trump’s interview with The New York Times, in which, among other things, he declared that even if Russia attacked members of NATO he would come to their aid only if those allies — which we are bound by treaty to defend — have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”

Now, some of this is Mr. Trump’s deep ignorance of policy, his apparent inability to understand that you can’t run the U.S. government the way he has run his ramshackle business empire. We know from many reports about his stiffing of vendors, his history of profiting from enterprises even as they go bankrupt, that he sees contracts as suggestions, clear-cut financial obligations as starting points for negotiation. And we know that he sees fiscal policy as no different; he has already talked about renegotiating U.S. debt. So why should we be surprised that he sees diplomatic obligations the same way?

But is there more to the story? Is there some specific channel of influence?

We do know that Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, has worked as a consultant for various dictators, and was for years on the payroll of Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president and a Putin ally.

And there are reasons to wonder about Mr. Trump’s own financial interests. Remember, we know nothing about the true state of his business empire, and he has refused to release his taxes, which might tell us more. We do know that he has substantial if murky involvement with wealthy Russians and Russian businesses. You might say that these are private actors, not the government — but in Mr. Putin’s crony-capitalist paradise, this is a meaningless distinction.

At some level, Mr. Trump’s motives shouldn’t matter. We should be horrified at the spectacle of a major-party candidate casually suggesting that he might abandon American allies — just as we should be horrified when that same candidate suggests that he might welsh on American financial obligations. But there’s something very strange and disturbing going on here, and it should not be ignored.

Solo Bobo

July 19, 2016

Poor, poor Bobo.  He’s stunned, STUNNED I tell you.  It turns out that Trump is Trump after all.  In “Trump Is Getting Even Trumpier!” he finally asks himself the question:  Is the Republicans’ nominee losing it?  Bobo’s POS will be followed by a comment from “Socrates” from Downtown Verona, NJ.  Here, FSM help us all, is Bobo:

Does anybody else have the sense that Donald Trump is slipping off the rails? His speeches have always had a rambling, free association quality, but a couple of the recent ones have, as the Republican political consultant Mike Murphy put it, passed from the category of rant to the category of full on “drunk wedding toast.

Trump’s verbal style has always been distinct. He doesn’t really speak in sentences or paragraphs. His speeches are punctuated by five- or six-word jabs that are sort of strung together by connections that can only be understood through chaos theory: “They want the wall … I dominated with the evangelicals … I won in a landslide … We can’t be the stupid people anymore.”

Occasionally Trump will attempt a sentence longer than eight words, but no matter what subject he starts the sentence with, by the end he has been pulled over to the subject of himself. Here’s an example from the Mike Pence announcement speech: “So one of the primary reasons I chose Mike was I looked at Indiana, and I won Indiana big.” There’s sort of a gravitational narcissistic pull that takes command whenever he attempts to utter a compound thought.

Trump has also always been a little engine fueled by wounded pride. For example, writing in BuzzFeed, McKay Coppins recalls the fusillade of abuse he received from Trump after writing an unflattering profile (he called Mar-a-Lago a “nice, if slightly dated, hotel”).

Trump was so inflamed he tweeted retaliation at Coppins several times a day and at odd hours, calling him a “dishonest slob” and “true garbage with no credibility.” The attacks went on impressively for over two years, which must rank Coppins in the top 100,000 on the list of people Donald Trump resents.

Over the past few weeks these longstanding Trump patterns have gone into hyperdrive. This is a unique moment in American political history in which the mental stability of one of the major party nominees is the dominating subject of conversation.

Everybody is telling Trump to ratchet it down and be more sober, but at a rally near Cincinnati this month and in his Pence announcement speech on Saturday, Trump launched his verbal rocket ship straight through the stratosphere, and it landed somewhere on the dark side of Planet Debbie.

The Pence announcement was truly the strangest vice-presidential unveiling in recent political history. Ricocheting around the verbal wilds for more than twice as long as the man he was introducing, Trump even refused to remain onstage and gaze on admiringly as Pence flattered him. It was like watching a guy lose interest in a wedding when the bride appears.

The structure of his mental perambulations also seems to have changed. Formerly, as I said, his speeches had a random, free-form quality. But on Saturday his remarks had a distinct through line, anchored by the talking points his campaign had written down on pieces of paper. But Trump could not keep his attention focused on this through line — since the subject was someone else — so every 30 seconds or so he would shoot off on a resentment-filled bragging loop.

If you had to do a rough diagram of the Trump remarks it would be something like this: Pence … I was right about Iraq … Pence … Hillary Clinton is a crooked liar … I was right about “Brexit” … Pence … Hillary Clintons ads are filled with lies … We’re going to bring back the coal industry … Christians love me … Pence … I talk to statisticians … Pence is good looking My hotel in Washington is really coming along fantastically … Pence.

Donald Trump is in his moment of greatest triumph, but he seems more resentful and embattled than ever. Most political conventions are happy coronations, but this one may come to feel like the Alamo of aggrieved counterattacks.

It’s hard to know exactly what is going on in that brain, but science lends a clue. Psychologists wonder if narcissists are defined by extremely high self-esteem or by extremely low self-esteem that they are trying to mask. The current consensus seems to be that they are marked by unstable self-esteem. Their self-confidence can be both high and fragile, so they perceive ego threat all around.

Maybe as Trump has gotten more successful his estimation of what sort of adoration he deserves has increased while the outside criticism has gotten more pronounced. This combination is bound to leave his ego threat sensors permanently inflamed. So even if Candidate Trump is told to make a normal political point, Inner Boy Trump will hijack the microphone for another bout of resentful boasting.

Suddenly the global climate favors a Trump candidacy. Some forms of disorder — like a financial crisis — send voters for the calm supple thinker. But other forms of disorder — blood in the streets — send them scurrying for the brutal strongman.

If the string of horrific events continues, Trump could win the presidency. And he could win it even though he has less and less control over himself.

But so far Bobo hasn’t bothered to tell us that he’s not going to vote for the lunatic.  At least George Effing Will was that honest.  Here’s what “Socrates” had to say:

“And Brooks is getting Brooksier.

You could’ve chosen adulthood at some point, Mr. Brooks, and taken the time and dignity to mention that the horror show of Donald Trump’s reality-Presidential-candidacy is a cataclysm to be categorically rejected by reasonable voters, but instead you conclude with the theme song of the Doris Day Show.

“Que sera, sera – Whatever will be, will be – The future’s not ours to see – Que sera, sera”.

Political Frankensteins don’t just happen by themselves; Grand Old Psychopaths build them.

Mad Republican political scientists hellbent on greed and power created Trumpenstein in their Machiavellian labs through decades of market testing the darker angels of anger, racism, misogyny, cultured stupidity, religious fanaticism, flag waving war and gun anarchy.

Trump’s a political mutation created by a mutant political party that has no interest in roads, bridges, tunnels, schools, health care, technology, infrastructure, housing, public safety, civil rights, voting rights or living wages for 320 million Americans who could use a just a little decent public policy to help their everyday lives.

Trumpenstein wants to give America a 1000-mile wall magically paid for by Mexico and Vice President Mike Pence – a Salem Witch Trial cast member who adores forced pregnancies and hates homosexuals – and all you can say is “que sera sera” ?

Mr. Brooks, stand up tell the truth: GOP swindling and con-artistry and Trumpery has no place in the serious adult world.”

Bobo, solo

July 12, 2016

Oh, but this is precious.  Bobo is wringing his hands and wailing.  He has a question:  “Are We on the Path to National Ruin?”  He moans that Europe in the 1930s and America in the 1890s faced many troubling conditions like we do today. They responded with very different answers.  Here’s a brief response from “zb” in BC, with “gemli” response to follow after Bobo.  Here’s “zb:”  “For 50 years the rightwing has been promoting the notion of “national ruin” as the center piece of its political strategy (along with pandering to hate, ignorance, and hypocrisy) and now you want to play the part of an ignorant bystander to it all?  Really, give us a break.”  Now here’s Bobo, writing from San Antonio:

I never really understood how fascism could have come to Europe, but I think I understand better now. You start with some fundamental historical transformation, like the Great Depression or the shift to an information economy. A certain number of people are dispossessed. They lose identity, self-respect and hope.

They begin to base their sense of self-worth on their tribe, not their behavior. They become mired in their resentments, spiraling deeper into the addiction of their own victimology. They fall for politicians who lie about the source of their problems and about how they can surmount them. Facts lose their meaning. Entertainment replaces reality.

Once facts are unmoored, everything else is unmoored, too. People who value humility and kindness in private life abandon those traits when they select leaders in the common sphere. Hardened by a corrosive cynicism, they fall for morally deranged little showmen.

And then perhaps there’s a catalyzing event. Societies in this condition are culturally tense and socially isolated. That means there are a lot of lonely, alienated young men seeking self-worth through violence. Some wear police badges; some sit in their rooms fantasizing of mass murder. When they act, the results can be convulsive.

Normally, nations pull together after tragedy, but a society plagued by dislocation and slipped off the rails of reality can go the other way. Rallies become gripped by an exaltation of tribal fervor. Before you know it, political life has spun out of control, dragging the country itself into a place both bizarre and unrecognizable.

This happened in Europe in the 1930s. We’re not close to that kind of descent in America today, but we’re closer than we’ve been. Let’s be honest: The crack of some abyss opened up for a moment by the end of last week.

Blood was in the streets last week — victims of police violence in two cities and slain cops in another. America’s leadership crisis looked dire. The F.B.I. director’s statements reminded us that Hillary Clinton is willing to blatantly lie to preserve her career. Donald Trump, of course, lies continually and without compunction. It’s very easy to see this country on a nightmare trajectory.

How can America answer a set of generational challenges when the leadership class is dysfunctional, political conversation has entered a post-fact era and the political parties are divided on racial lines — set to blow at a moment’s notice?

On the other hand …

I never really understood how a nation could arise as one and completely turn itself around, but I think I’m beginning to understand now. Back in the 1880s and 1890s, America faced crises as deep as the ones we face today. The economy was going through an epochal transition, then to industrialization. The political system was worse and more corrupt than ours is today.

Culturally things were bad, too. Racism and anti-immigrant feelings were at plague-like levels. Urban poverty was indescribable.

And yet America responded. A new leadership class emerged, separately at first, but finally congealing into a national movement. In 1889, Jane Addams created settlement houses to serve urban poor. In 1892, Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance to give the diversifying country a sense of common loyalty. In 1902, Owen Wister published “The Virginian,” a novel that created the cowboy mythology and galvanized the American imagination.

New sorts of political leaders emerged. In city after city, progressive reformers cleaned up politics and professionalized the civil service. Theodore Roosevelt went into elective politics at a time when few Ivy League types thought it was decent to do so. He bound the country around a New Nationalism and helped pass legislation that ensured capitalism would remain open, fair and competitive.

This was a clear example of a society facing a generational challenge and surmounting it. The Progressives were far from perfect, but they inherited rotting leadership institutions, reformed them and heralded in a new era of national greatness.

So which path will we take? The future of the world hangs on that question.

One way to think about it is this: America still has great resources at the local and social level. Here in San Antonio, there are cops who know how to de-escalate conflicts by showing dignity and respect. Everywhere I go there are mayors thinking practically and non-dogmatically. Can these local leaders move upward and redeem the national system, or will the national politics become so deranged that it will outweigh and corrupt all the good that is done block by block?

I’m betting the local is more powerful, that the healthy growth on the forest floor is more important than the rot in the canopy. But last week was a confidence shaker. There’s a cavity beneath what we thought was the floor of national life, and there are demons there.

You gotta love him citing the Pledge of Allegiance. He neglected to mention that a Republican administration added “under God”…  I can’t wait to see what Driftglass has to say about this.  Now here’s “gemli”:

“A half-truth is worse than a lie. Brooks gives us a great example when he says that our dysfunctional system is the result of a disorganized peasant revolt. He says unknown cosmic forces wrecked the economy and destabilized the government, and the people, confused and resentful, drew the wagons in a circle and started shooting each other and voting for liars.

Cosmic forces had nothing to do with it. We were on a progressive roll throughout the 20th century, undoing stupid biblical ideas about the worth of women, the resentments of race, and the normal spectrum of sexuality. We were protecting the working class as wages rose, and had woven a social safety net for people who had trouble making it.

There were some horrible setbacks, but for a bunch of recently-evolved primates we weren’t doing too badly. Things were looking up.

Then, suddenly, a few monkeys wanted all the bananas. Wages froze and people went begging, while a few banked billions. Biblical ideas reasserted themselves regarding women, non-whites and gays. There was war, social upheaval and economic abandonment of whole communities. In the turmoil that followed we locked up a lot of the victims and flooded the country with deadly weapons.

We’re all only half a chromosome removed from chimps. Some who aided and abetted the turmoil try to rewrite history, to absolve themselves of responsibility. But I’d stand back from the cage if I were you, given what we’re wont to fling.”


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 168 other followers