Archive for the ‘Brooks’ Category

Blow, Brooks, Cohen, and Krugman

October 21, 2016

In “Donald Trump vs. American Democracy” Mr. Blow says Trump is desperate for a reason to explain why he’s losing.  Bobo has decided to tell us all about “How to Repair Moral Capital.”  He says that the task ahead is globalism with solidarity.  Whatever that means.  As a delightful lagniappe, in true “Both Siderism” he actually refers to the totally discredited James O’Keefe.  And he has yet to disavow Trump.  Mr. Cohen, in “Trump the Anti-American,” says rage is all that Trump has had to offer. His America is small. But this is still the land of “Sure,” of the embrace of possibility.  Prof. Krugman, in “Why Hillary Wins,” has a memo to pundits:  Maybe she actually deserves it.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

I’m just stunned.

In a race that has been full of shocking moments, one at Wednesday’s presidential debate stands out as the most shocking: Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to accepting the outcome of the election.

And that’s saying something, because there were other shocking moments during the debate, like when Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” or when he said he would deport “bad hombres” or suggested that late-term abortion included instances where doctors would “rip the baby out of the womb of the mother” and do so “as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth.”

But nothing even came close to this exchange between the moderator, Chris Wallace, and Trump:

Wallace: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely — sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?

Trump: I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now, I’ll look at it at the time.

Trump went on in his response to complain about the media, saying: “They’ve poisoned the minds of the voters.” Then he complained about outdated voter registration rosters, then he pivoted to his belief that Clinton shouldn’t have been allowed to run. To him, all these things contributed to the election being “rigged.”

Wallace came back with a short history lesson:

But, sir, there is a tradition in this country — in fact, one of the prides of this country — is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?

Trump’s response:

What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. O.K.?

Clinton called the remark “horrifying,” and she was right. This is jaw-dropping, unprecedented and thoroughly irresponsible. This is an attack on our democracy itself.

And Trump has been peddling his “rigged” election theory for weeks, stating flatly this week that “Voter fraud is all too common, and then they criticize us for saying that.” Trump continued: “But take a look at Philadelphia, what’s been going on, take a look at Chicago, take a look at St. Louis. Take a look at some of these cities, where you see things happening that are horrendous.”

It should be noted that these are all heavily Democratic, majority-minority cities, and Republicans don’t fare well in places like that.

Indeed, as reported last November, Mitt Romney didn’t get a single vote in 59 of Philadelphia’s 1,687 voting divisions. As the paper put it: “These are the kind of numbers that send Republicans into paroxysms of voter-fraud angst, but such results may not be so startling after all.” The paper pointed out that “Chicago and Atlanta each had precincts that registered no votes for Republican Senator John McCain in 2008.”

As for the inclusion of St. Louis, it’s not clear to me that Trump isn’t confusing St. Louis with St. Lucie County, Fla., which was included in a viral email about voter fraud after the 2012 election. That email included this line: “In St. Lucie County, Fla., there were 175,574 registered eligible voters, but 247,713 votes were cast.”

But looked into that claim and found it to be “bogus,” writing:

It’s simply not true that there were tens of thousands more votes cast than voters available in St. Lucie County. Whoever first started this falsehood misread a St. Lucie election board document showing that 249,095 “cards” were cast, and registered voters totaled 175,554. But the supervisor of elections website explains that a “card” is one page, and the full “ballot” contained two pages. Total cards are not double the number of voters, as not every voter cast both pages (or “cards”).

But Trump, of birther fame, is not the kind of man who shies away from conspiracy theories; he embraces them.

He needs a reason that he’s losing other than the fact that he is arguably the least qualified, most ridiculous candidate to ever run for president as a major party nominee. He needs a reason other than the fact that he is being done in by his own words and actions. He needs a reason so that his self-inflated self-image as a relentless winner is not undone should he lose this election by embarrassing margins.

But to take that need for a diversion and distraction and turn it toward questioning the integrity of the electoral process itself and leaving open the possibility of not conceding should he lose is beyond the pale.

When Donald Trump gave that answer, he proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is completely unqualified to be president.

And now, FSM help  us all, here’s Bobo:

Hillary Clinton, who has been in politics all her adult life, seems to have learned something from Michelle Obama, who has never run for public office. Clinton gave three masterful answers in the debate Wednesday night that were tonally different from her normal clichés.

They were about Donald Trump’s alleged assaults on women, his refusal to respect the democratic process and the contrast between his years of “Celebrity Apprentice” experience and her own governing experience. Clinton’s answers were given in a slow and understated manner, but they were marked by moral passion, clarity and quiet contempt.

They were not spoken from the point of view of a politician. They were spoken from the point of view of a parent, which is the point of view Michelle Obama frequently uses. The politician asks: What can I offer to win votes? The parent asks: What world are my children going out into when they leave the house?

The politician is focused on individual interest, but the parent is interested in the shared social, economic and moral environment.

That turns out to be a useful frame for this ugly year. It’s becoming ever clearer that the nation’s moral capital is being decimated, and the urgent challenge is to name that decimation and reverse it.

Moral capital is the set of shared habits, norms, institutions and values that make common life possible. Left to our own, we human beings have an impressive capacity for selfishness. Unadorned, the struggle for power has a tendency to become barbaric. So people in decent societies agree on a million informal restraints — codes of politeness, humility and mutual respect that girdle selfishness and steer us toward reconciliation.

This year Trump is dismantling those restraints one by one. By savagely attacking Carly Fiorina’s looks and Ted Cruz’s wife he dismantled the codes of etiquette that prevent politics from becoming an unmodulated screaming match. By lying more or less all the time, he dismantles the fealty to truth without which conversation is impossible. By refusing to automatically respect the election results he corrodes confidence in our common institutions and risks turning public life into a never-ending dogfight.

Clinton has contributed to the degradation too. As the James O’Keefe videos remind us, wherever Hillary Clinton has gone in her career, a cloud of unsavory people and unsavory behavior has traveled alongside. But she is right to emphasize that Trump is the greatest threat to moral capital in recent history and that the health of that capital is more fundamental than any particular policy position.

The sad fact is that in the realm of common life, gnats can undo the work of giants. “Moral communities are fragile things, hard to build and easy to destroy,” Jonathan Haidt writes in his book “The Righteous Mind.” “When we think about very large communities such as nations, the challenge is extraordinary and the threat of moral entropy is intense.”

We are now in a country in which major presidential candidates can gibe about the menstrual cycles of their interviewers and the penis size of their opponents. We are now in a society in which the childish desires of a reality-TV narcissist can insult the inheritance that Washington and Hamilton risked their lives to bequeath. We are now in a society in which serial insults to basic decency aren’t automatically disqualifying.

Clearly, we have a giant task of moral repair ahead of us. That starts with a renunciation of the Trump style. One big lesson of 2016 is that that can only happen if people police members of their own party. If somebody is destroying the basic social and moral fabric through brutalistic rhetoric and vicious misogynistic behavior, it doesn’t really matter that he agrees with you on taxes and the Supreme Court; he has to be renounced or else he will drag the whole society to a level of degradation that will make all decent politics impossible.

It also means addressing the substantive social chasms that fueled Trump’s rise. We are clearly going to have a lot of angry populists around in the years ahead, of right and left. It should be possible to oppose them with a political movement that champions dynamism with cohesion, globalism with solidarity — a movement that supports free trade, open skilled immigration, ethnic diversity and a free American-led world order, but also local community building, state-fostered economic security, moral cohesion and patriotic purpose.

In other words, it should be possible to be conservative on macroeconomics, liberal on immigration policy, traditionalist on moral and civic matters, Swedish on welfare state policies, and Reaganesque on America’s role in the world.

The election of 2016 has exposed the staleness of the Republican and Democratic ideologies. It has also established a nihilistic, reality TV standard of conduct that will pull down the country if it is allowed to survive. The one nice thing about Trump is that he has prompted so many people to find their voice, and to turn from their revulsion to a higher alternative.

Yeah.  Right.  And how many of those people have stated that they won’t vote for Trump?  And now here’s Mr. Cohen:

Delmore Schwartz, the poet, wrote of “the beautiful American word, Sure.”

To anyone raised as I was in the crimped confines of a wearier continent, Europe, that little word is indeed a thing of beauty, expressing a sense of possibility, an embrace of tomorrow, openness to the stranger, and a readiness for adventure that no other country possesses in such degree. It is the most concise expression of the optimism inherent in the American idea.

It is also something incommunicable until lived. To the outsider, America may appear by turns vulgar or violent, crass or childish, ugly or superficial, and of course it can be all of these things. Jonathan Galassi, the poet and publisher, has written of the “American cavalcade,” Philip Roth of “the indigenous American berserk,” and there is a gaudy, raucous, cinematic tumult to American life that is without parallel. Relentless reinvention is what America does; that is not always pretty. But beneath it all reside a can-do straightforwardness and directness that are the warp and weft of the American tapestry.

“Will you come with me?”


No questions asked. Sure I will. The word is at once strong and soft, reassuring above all. The American experiment unravels without this.

The spirit of “Sure” stands in contrast to the culture of impossibility and the fear of failure that often undercut European enterprise. Bitter experience of repetitive cataclysm has taught Europe to be wary of risk. Perhaps the French brick wall contained in the phrase “pas possible,” a frequent response to my inquiries during the years I lived in Paris, best expresses this mind-set. Call it the spirit of “Non.” No wonder Europe does social protection better than innovation.

Now if this America, whose essence is openness, whose first question is not “Where do you come from?” but “What can you do for me?” becomes consumed by rage, then it is lost. Rage is a closing of the mind. Anger against the foreigner, against the outsider and against the other may offer some passing consolation in times of difficulty or dread but they lead America away from itself. They offer the spirit of suspicion in place of the spirit of “Sure.” They undercut American decency. They replace the draw of the next frontier and of the unknown with the dead end of walls. Rage is also a form of dishonesty because it precludes the reflection that leads to truth.

And this in the end is all that Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for the highest office in the land, has had to offer America: his shallow, manipulative, self-important, scapegoat-seeking form of rage.

Over the three debates withHillary Clinton it became clear that this businessman who says he wants to make America great again in fact wants to make America shrink into a defensive crouch of resentment. Trump was small in the debates. He was as small as the America he seems to envisage. He was mean, nasty, petty and lazy. Smallness oozed from his petulant pout; it was all that would fit between those pursed lips. Any target was good for this showman whose ego is so consuming that he is utterly without conviction: Mexicans, Muslims, women, the disabled, war heroes, and, in the end, American democracy itself, for which he showed contempt in suggesting he might contest the outcome of an election that he contends, without the slightest shred of evidence, might be “rigged.”

The America of “Sure” is a stranger to Trump. His is the angry America of “shove it.” If that frustrated, tribal and incensed America were not lurking in a time of disorienting economic upheaval, Trump would not have garnered millions of votes. He has held up a mirror to a troubled and divided society. That, I suppose, is some form of service. But the deeper, decent, direct, can-do America is stronger; and for that America the Trump now visible in all his aspects is simply unfit for high office. He would threaten to undo what America is.

Of all the sentences written about Trump over many, many months now, my favorite is the last one in the letter sent this month by The New York Times lawyer David McCraw to Trump’s lawyer. Trump had demanded the retraction of an article about two women who had come forward to describe the way he had groped them. The women’s accounts, McCraw argued, constituted newsworthy information of public concern, and he concluded: “If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”

Sure, we’ll see you in court.

Sure, America is a country that, despite its “original sin” of racism, elected a black man.

Sure, America will elect a woman as president.

Sure, this land was made for you and me.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Hillary Clinton is a terrible candidate. Hey, that’s what pundits have been saying ever since this endless campaign began. You have to go back to Al Gore in 2000 to find a politician who faced as much jeering from the news media, over everything from claims of dishonesty (which usually turn out to be based on nothing) to matters of personal style.

Strange to say, however, Mrs. Clinton won the Democratic nomination fairly easily, and now, having pummeled her opponent in three successive debates, is an overwhelming favorite to win in November, probably by a wide margin. How is that possible?

The usual suspects are already coalescing around an answer — namely, that she just got lucky. If only the Republicans hadn’t nominated Donald Trump, the story goes, she’d be losing badly.

But here’s a contrarian thought: Maybe Mrs. Clinton is winning because she possesses some fundamental political strengths — strengths that fall into many pundits’ blind spots.

First of all, who was this other, stronger candidate that the G.O.P. might have chosen? Remember, Mr. Trump won the nomination because he gave his party’s base what it wanted, channeling the racial antagonism that has been the driving force for Republican electoral success for decades. All he did was say out loud what his rivals were trying to convey with dog whistles, which explains why they were so ineffective in opposing him.

And those establishment candidates were much more Trumpian than those fantasizing about a different history — say, one in which the G.O.P. nominated Marco Rubio — acknowledge. Many people remember Mr. Rubio’s brain glitch: the canned lines about “let’s dispel with this fiction” that he kept repeating in a disastrous debate performance. Fewer seem aware that those lines actually enunciated a crazy conspiracy theory, essentially accusing President Obama of deliberately weakening America. Is that really much better than the things Mr. Trump says? Only if you imagine that Mr. Rubio didn’t believe what he was saying — yet his insincerity, the obvious way he was trying to play a part, was surely part of his weakness.

That is, in fact, a general problem for establishment Republicans. How many of them really believe that tax cuts have magical powers, that climate change is a giant hoax, that saying the words “Islamic terrorism” will somehow defeat ISIS? Yet pretending to believe these things is the price of admission to the club — and the falsity of that pretense shines through.

And one more point about Mr. Rubio: why imagine that a man who collapsed in the face of childish needling from Mr. Trump would have triumphed over the woman who kept her cool during 11 hours of grilling over Benghazi, and made her interrogators look like fools? Which brings us to the question of Mrs. Clinton’s strengths.

When political commentators praise political talent, what they seem to have in mind is the ability of a candidate to match one of a very limited set of archetypes: the heroic leader, the back-slapping regular guy you’d like to have a beer with, the soaring orator. Mrs. Clinton is none of these things: too wonky, not to mention too female, to be a regular guy, a fairly mediocre speechifier; her prepared zingers tend to fall flat.

Yet the person tens of millions of viewers saw in this fall’s debates was hugely impressive all the same: self-possessed, almost preternaturally calm under pressure, deeply prepared, clearly in command of policy issues. And she was also working to a strategic plan: Each debate victory looked much bigger after a couple of days, once the implications had time to sink in, than it may have seemed on the night.

Oh, and the strengths she showed in the debates are also strengths that would serve her well as president. Just thought I should mention that. And maybe ordinary citizens noticed the same thing; maybe obvious competence and poise in stressful situations can add up to a kind of star quality, even if it doesn’t fit conventional notions of charisma.

Furthermore, there’s one thing Mrs. Clinton brought to this campaign that no establishment Republican could have matched: She truly cares about her signature issues, and believes in the solutions she’s pushing.

I know, we’re supposed to see her as coldly ambitious and calculating, and on some issues — like macroeconomics — she does sound a bit bloodless, even when she clearly understands the subject and is talking good sense. But when she’s talking about women’s rights, or racial injustice, or support for families, her commitment, even passion, are obvious. She’s genuine, in a way nobody in the other party can be.

So let’s dispel with this fiction that Hillary Clinton is only where she is through a random stroke of good luck. She’s a formidable figure, and has been all along.

Solo Bobo

October 18, 2016

I could have sworn something important might be happening in this country in 21 days, but Bobo can’t be bothered to take notice.  Today he’s all about “The Power of a Dinner Table” and tells  us that each Thursday, a couple opens their home and offers teenagers a warmth missing from their lives.  Here he is:

Kathy Fletcher and David Simpson have a son named Santi, who went to Washington, D.C., public schools. Santi had a friend who sometimes went to school hungry. So Santi invited him to occasionally eat and sleep at his house.

That friend had a friend and that friend had a friend, and now when you go to dinner at Kathy and David’s house on Thursday night there might be 15 to 20 teenagers crammed around the table, and later there will be groups of them crashing in the basement or in the few small bedrooms upstairs.

The kids who show up at Kathy and David’s have endured the ordeals of modern poverty: homelessness, hunger, abuse, sexual assault. Almost all have seen death firsthand — to a sibling, friend or parent.

It’s anomalous for them to have a bed at home. One 21-year-old woman came to dinner last week and said this was the first time she’d been around a family table since she was 11.

And yet by some miracle, hostile soil has produced charismatic flowers. Thursday dinner is the big social occasion of the week. Kids come from around the city. Spicy chicken and black rice are served. Cellphones are banned (“Be in the now,” Kathy says).

The kids call Kathy and David “Momma” and “Dad,” are unfailingly polite, clear the dishes, turn toward one another’s love like plants toward the sun and burst with big glowing personalities. Birthdays and graduations are celebrated. Songs are performed.

I started going to dinner there about two years ago, hungry for something beyond food. Each meal we go around the table, and everybody has to say something nobody else knows about them.

Each meal we demonstrate our commitment to care for one another. I took my daughter once and on the way out she said, “That’s the warmest place I can ever imagine.”

During this election season of viciousness, vulgarity and depravity, Thursdays at Kathy and David’s has been a weekly uplift, and their home a place to be reminded of what is beautiful about our country and what we can do to bring out its loveliness.

The kids need what all adolescents need: bikes, laptops and a listening heart. “Thank you for seeing the light in me,” one young woman told Kathy after a cry on the couch. David and Kathy have set up a charitable organization called AOK, for All Our Kids, to help each of the kids come into his or her own fullness. Four started college this year, and one joined City Year, the national service organization.

Poverty up close is so much more intricate and unpredictable than the picture of poverty you get from the grand national debates. The kids can project total self-confidence one minute and then slide into utter lostness the next.

The college application process often seems like a shapeless fog to them; nobody’s taught them the concrete steps to move along the way. One young woman lied on her financial aid forms because she didn’t want to admit that her father was dead, her mother was on drugs — how messed up her home life actually was.

There’s no margin for error for these kids, and she would have lost her college dreams if not for a squad of adults ready to mobilize around her.

The adults in this community give the kids the chance to present their gifts. At my first dinner, Edd read a poem from his cracked flip phone that I first thought was from Langston Hughes, but it turned out to be his own. Kesari has a voice that somehow emerged from New Orleans jazz from the 1920s. Madeline and Thalya practice friendship as if it were the highest art form. Jamel loses self-consciousness when he talks of engine repair.

They give us a gift — complete intolerance of social distance. When I first met Edd, I held out my hand to shake his. He looked at it and said, “We hug here,” and we’ve been hugging and hanging off each other since.

Bill Milliken, a veteran youth activist, is often asked which programs turn around kids’ lives. “I still haven’t seen one program change one kid’s life,” he says. “What changes people is relationships. Somebody willing to walk through the shadow of the valley of adolescence with them.”

Souls are not saved in bundles. Love is the necessary force.

The problems facing this country are deeper than the labor participation rate and ISIS. It’s a crisis of solidarity, a crisis of segmentation, spiritual degradation and intimacy.

Throughout this ugly year, AOK has been my visit to a better future, more powerful than any political tract about what we need next.

Sometimes Kathy and David are asked how they ended up with so many kids flowing through their house. They look at how many kids are out there, and respond, “How is it possible you don’t?”

Well, it might be possible to have no kids in need like that.  Of course, that would mean that the Forced Birth Party would have to start giving a shit about the nation’s children after they’re born.  Just sayin’…

Brooks, Cohen, and Krugman

October 14, 2016

Bobo’s decided to pretend that The Short Fingered Vulgarian doesn’t exist.  Today he’s graced us with a thing called “The Beauty of Big Books,” in which he informs us that a law professor takes a swing at the mother of all questions.  In the comments “syfredrick” from Providence, RI had this to say:  “Another book report from Mr. Brooks as he whistles past the graveyard.”  Nothing else needs to be said.  Mr. Cohen, in “How Dictatorships Are Born,” says thanks to Trump the unsayable can now be said. “Go back to where you came from,” is the phrase of the moment.  Prof. Krugman considers “The Clinton Agenda” and says a large margin of victory will be needed for an effective presidency.  Here’s Bobo:

Not long ago, an astonishing book landed on my desk. It’s called “Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan” and it weighs in at an impressive 1,076 pages. The author is Anthony Kronman, the former dean of the Yale Law School.

In an age of academic specialization, this is an epically ambitious book. In an age when intellectuals have lost their sense of high calling, this is an intellectual adventure story based on the notion that ideas drive history, and that to dedicate yourself to them is to live a bigger, more intense life.

Kronman has always had an abiding obsession: to understand the meaning of the modern world. “Since I first began to think about such things in even a modestly self-conscious way,” he writes, “I have been haunted by the thought that destiny has placed me in a world with a unique historical identity and been anxious to know what this is.”

Kronman has never been religious, but he felt that to understand the current era, you had to understand it in relation to all the other moments in history.

He was convinced that if he understood the meaning of this history, he would be saved from the moral perplexities of life, and he would even in some way conquer death: “Although we cannot be immortal, the worldis, and … every increase in our understanding of it, and in our power to sing its song, is a further, deeper experience of the deathlessness of the world.”

When Kronman was a college student in the 1960s, Karl Marx explained all things to him. In Marx’s view, history is driven by a single mechanism, class conflict, and it has a goal, communism, and we’re one revolutionary step away from it.

Then Kronman became a follower of Max Weber. Weber argued that science and reason give us vast powers, but the price is that we no longer feel our lives enchanted by religious significance. We live in a godless universe and must have the courage to face that squarely.

Later, as a middle-aged law professor, he became more Burkean. The search for a big philosophic explanation for everything is a fool’s errand, but we can gradually add to the practical wisdom of our species, and work out better ways to do things.

But the antiphilosophical position is too cold. Kronman wanted a worldview that would explain the sense of loving gratitude that is the proper response to living: “A life without the yearning to reach the everlasting and divine is no longer recognizably human.”

He is now a “born-again pagan.” He’s learned from the Greeks and the atheists, but he thinks such thinkers render people too prideful and solitary. He’s also learned from the Christians, but he thinks their emphasis on the next world disparages this world. He doesn’t like the way religion asks the intellect to bow down before faith.

To be a born-again pagan is to believe that God is not something outside the world; God is the world, down to its smallest detail. Kronman’s mother’s last significant words were, “The world comes back.” He reflects, “perhaps what she meant is this — that the world, from which we are separated at birth, returns to reclaim us at death, that it leaves no stragglers behind.”

His guiding philosophers now are Spinoza, Nietzsche and Walt Whitman, men who saw God “as the eternal intelligibility of the world itself, now expanded to include the whole of reality.”

Whitman, for example, was the prophet of diversity. The point is not for all of us to approximate a single model or a fixed pattern of living. Instead, “the supreme goal of democracy is to promote the uniqueness of every individual” — for each person to be vibrantly distinct.

Democracy isn’t a political or legal bargain. It’s enchanted like romantic love, but on a larger scale. Each democratic citizen receives the love of her fellows as a gift to which the only appropriate response is gratitude and love in return.

The poet has a special responsibility as society’s seer, who grasps the eternity in the present and sings to people about their own unique divine powers within.

Personally, I have issues with born-again paganism. Shapeless, it leads to laxness — whatever moral quandary you bring it, it gives back exactly the answer you’d prefer to hear. It throws each person back on himself and leads to self-absorption and atomization, as everybody naturally worships the piece of God that is one’s self. Naïve, it neglects the creedal structures that are necessary for those moments when love falters.

But Kronman’s book is like a gift from another epoch, a time when more people did believe that time-tested books held the golden keys to life, a time when people defined themselves by philosophic commitments as much as by partisan, sexuald or ethnic ones, a time when it was generally believed that if you didn’t throw yourself in some arduous way at the big questions of your moment, you’d live a meager life, and would have to live and die with that awful knowledge.

Bobo’s as much a coward as Paul Ryan.  Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

“Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?”

Of course Bob Dylan deserved the Nobel Prize for Literature. We’re all Mister Jones now. It’s the wildest political season in the history of the United States.

Just to make his pedigree clear, Donald Trump is now suggesting that Hillary Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty, in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends, and her donors.”

What was it the Nazis called the Jews? Oh, yes, “rootless parasites,” that’s it. For Stalin they were rootless cosmopolitans.

Just saying.

Societies slide into dictatorship more often than they lurch, one barrier falling at a time. “Just a buffoon,” people say, “and vulgar.” And then it’s too late.

I’ve been reminded in recent weeks of the passage in Fred Uhlman’s remarkable novella, “Reunion,” in which a proud German Jewish physician, twice wounded in World War I, and convinced the Nazis are a “temporary illness,” lambasts a Zionist for trying to raise funds for a Jewish homeland:

“Do you really believe the compatriots of Goethe and Schiller, Kant and Beethoven will fall for this rubbish? How dare you insult the memory of twelve thousand Jews who died for our country?”

Germans fell for the rubbish. The Republican Party fell for the garbage.

Today, millions of Americans who plan to vote for Trump are apparently countenancing violence against their neighbors, people who might be different from them, perhaps Muslim or Latino. It’s easy to inject the virus of hatred: just point a gun.

That Trump traffics in violence is irrefutable. His movement wants action — deportations, arrests, assassination and torture have been mooted. The most worrying thing is not that Trump likes Vladimir Putin, the butcher of Aleppo, but that he apes Vladimir Putin.

Speaking of Latinos, here’s what happened the other day to Veronica Zuleta, who was born in El Salvador and became an American citizen more than a decade ago. She was in the upscale Draeger’s Market in Menlo Park when the man next to her said:

“You should go to Safeway. This store is for white people.”

Zuleta was shocked. Never had she encountered a comment like that about her brown skin. But even the Democratic bastion of Silicon Valley is not immune to the Trump effect: Once unsayable things can now be said the world over. “Go back to where you came from” is the phrase du jour.

In the three months after the Brexit vote in Britain, homophobic attacks rose 147 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. It’s open season for bigots.

Financial and emotional pressures have been mounting on Zuleta. She lives in what the visionaries of Google, Facebook and the like consider the center of the universe. Where else, after all, are people thinking seriously about attaining immortality; or life on Mars; or new floating cities atop the oceans; or a universal basic income for everyone once the inevitable happens and artificial intelligence renders much of humanity redundant?

Y Combinator, a big start-up incubator, has announced it will conduct a basic income experiment with 100 families in Oakland, giving them between $1,000 and $2,000 a month for up to a year. Just to see what people do when they have nothing more to do. Oh, Brave New World.

Back in the present, prices for real estate have soared. Zuleta lives in a modest rented place on what used to be the wrong side of the tracks, in East Menlo Park, east of Route 101 that runs down the Valley. As it happens, her home is now a couple of blocks from Facebook’s sprawling headquarters designed by Frank Gehry that opened last year. She asked about a job in the kitchen, to no avail. She struggles to make ends meet.

Facebook, she told me, “is intimidating for people like me. It’s like, get out of here if you don’t know anything about technology.”

For its part, Facebook says it cares about and invests in the local community — $350,000 in grants donated to local nonprofits this year and last, new thermal imaging cameras for the local fire district, and so on. Its revenue in 2015 was $17.9 billion.

Zuleta works from 6:30 in the morning until midnight, cleaning homes, driving children to school and activities, running errands for wealthy families (like shopping for them at Draeger’s), and cleaning offices at night. In between she tries to care for her two young children. The other day, she was in the kitchen, collapsed and found herself in the hospital.

“The doctor said I need to sleep and relax,” she told me. “But I can’t!”

Life is like that these days for many Americans: implacable and disorienting. As a Latina, Zuleta said she would never vote for Trump, but she feels overwhelmed.

Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?

And now we get to Prof. Krugman:

It ain’t over until the portly gentleman screams, but it is, as intelligence analysts say, highly likely that Hillary Clinton will win this election.  Poll-based models put her chances at around 90 percent earlier this week — and that was before the campaign turned totally X-rated.

But what will our first female president actually be able to accomplish? That depends on how big a victory she achieves.

I’m not talking about the size of her “mandate,” which means nothing: If the Obama years are any indication, Republicans will oppose anything she proposes no matter how badly they lose. The question, instead, is what happens to Congress.

Consider, first, the effects of a minimal victory: Mrs. Clinton becomes president, but Republicans hold on to both houses of Congress.

Such a victory wouldn’t be meaningless. It would avert the nightmare of a Trump presidency, and it would also block the radical tax-cutting, privatizing agenda that Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, has made clear he will steamroll through if Mr. Trump somehow wins. But it would leave little room for positive action.

Things will be quite different if Democrats retake the Senate. Poll-based models give this outcome only around a 50-50 chance, but people betting on the election give it much better odds, two or three to one.

Now, even a Democratic Senate wouldn’t enable Mrs. Clinton to pass legislation in the face of an implacably obstructionist Republican majority in the House. It would, however, allow her to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia.

Doing that would have huge consequences, for environmental policy in particular. In his final years in office, President Obama has made a major environmental push using his regulatory powers, for example by sharply tightening emission standards for heavy trucks.

But the most important piece of his push — the Clean Power Plan, which would greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants — is currently on hold, thanks to a stay imposed by the Supreme Court. Democratic capture of the Senate would remove this roadblock.

And bear in mind that climate change is by far the most important issue facing America and the world, even if the people selecting questions for the presidential debates for some reason refuse to bring it up. Quite simply, if Democrats take the Senate, we might take the minimum action needed to avoid catastrophe; if they don’t, we won’t.

What about the House? All, and I mean all, of the Obama administration’s legislative achievements took place during the two-year period when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Can that happen again?

Until the last few days, the chances of flipping the House seemed low, even if, as now seems all but certain, Democratic candidates in total receive more votes than Republicans. Partly that’s because G.O.P.-controlled state governments have engaged in pervasive gerrymandering; partly it’s because minority voters, who overwhelmingly favor Democrats, are clustered in a relatively small number of urban districts.

But a sufficiently big Clinton victory could change that, especially if suburban women desert a G.O.P. that has turned into the gropers-owned party. And that would let her pursue a much more expansive agenda.

There’s not much mystery about what that agenda would be. I don’t know why so many pundits claim that Mrs. Clinton lacks a vision for America, when she has actually provided an unusual level of detail on her website and in speeches.

Broadly speaking, she would significantly strengthen the social safety net, especially for the very poor and children, with an emphasis on family-related issues like parental leave. Such programs would cost money, although not as much as critics claim; she proposes, credibly, to raise that money with higher taxes on top incomes, so that the overall effect would be to reduce inequality.

Democratic control of the House would also open the door for large-scale infrastructure investment. If that seems feasible, I know that many progressive economists — myself included — will urge Mrs. Clinton to go significantly bigger than she is currently proposing.

If all of this sounds to you like a second round of what President Obama did in 2009-2010, that’s because it is. And why not? Despite Republican obstruction, Mr. Obama has presided over a remarkable rise in the number of Americans with health insurance, a significant decline in poverty and the creation of more than 11 million private-sector jobs.

In any case, the bottom line is that if you’re thinking of staying home on Election Day because the outcome is assured, don’t. Barring the political equivalent of a meteor strike, Hillary Clinton will be our next president, but the size of her victory will determine what kind of president she can be.

Solo Bobo

October 11, 2016

Poor, sad Bobo is wringing his hands over “Donald Trump’s Sad, Lonely Life.”  He moans that politics is an effort to make human connection, but Trump seems incapable of that.  But he does tell us that he thinks Trump has a mental problem, and in doing so he used a term (alexithymia) I had never seen in 35+ years of doing medical transcription.  Let’s draw the veil of charity over the fact that Bobo seems to be a YOOGE fan of Erick Erickson, one of the nastier pieces of work on his side of the aisle.  And, OF COURSE, he never implies that he won’t be voting for him.  He will be followed by a comment from “Thin Edge Of The Wedge” from Farquier County, VA.  Here’s Bobo:

The point of town hall debates is that regular voters get to ask questions. In every town hall I’ve seen, the candidate turns to the voter, listens attentively and directs the answer at least partially back to that person.

The candidates do that because it’s polite, because it looks good to be seen taking others seriously and because most of us instinctively want to make some connection with the people we are talking to.

Hillary Clinton, not exactly a paragon of intimacy, behaved in the normal manner on Sunday night. But Donald Trump did not. Trump treated his questioners as unrelatable automatons and delivered his answers to the void, even when he had the chance to seem sympathetic to an appealing young Islamic woman.

That underlines the essential loneliness of Donald Trump.

Politics is an effort to make human connection, but Trump seems incapable of that. He is essentially adviser-less, friendless. His campaign team is made up of cold mercenaries at best and Roger Ailes at worst. His party treats him as a stench it can’t yet remove.

He was a germophobe through most of his life and cut off contact with others, and now I just picture him alone in the middle of the night, tweeting out hatred.

Trump breaks his own world record for being appalling on a weekly basis, but as the campaign sinks to new low after new low, I find myself experiencing feelings of deep sadness and pity.

Imagine if you had to go through a single day without sharing kind little moments with strangers and friends.

Imagine if you had to endure a single week in a hate-filled world, crowded with enemies of your own making, the object of disgust and derision.

You would be a twisted, tortured shrivel, too, and maybe you’d lash out and try to take cruel revenge on the universe. For Trump this is his whole life.

Trump continues to display the symptoms of narcissistic alexithymia, the inability to understand or describe the emotions in the self. Unable to know themselves, sufferers are unable to understand, relate or attach to others.

To prove their own existence, they hunger for endless attention from outside. Lacking internal measures of their own worth, they rely on external but insecure criteria like wealth, beauty, fame and others’ submission.

In this way, Trump seems to be denied all the pleasures that go with friendship and cooperation. Women could be sources of love and affection, but in his disordered state he can only hate and demean them. His attempts at intimacy are gruesome parodies, lunging at women as if they were pieces of meat.

Most of us derive a warm satisfaction when we feel our lives are aligned with ultimate values. But Trump lives in an alternative, amoral Howard Stern universe where he cannot enjoy the sweetness that altruism and community service can occasionally bring.

Bullies only experience peace when they are cruel. Their blood pressure drops the moment they beat the kid on the playground.

Imagine you are Trump. You are trying to bluff your way through a debate. You’re running for an office you’re completely unqualified for. You are chasing some glimmer of validation that recedes ever further from view.

Your only rest comes when you are insulting somebody, when you are threatening to throw your opponent in jail, when you are looming over her menacingly like a mafioso thug on the precipice of a hit, when you are bellowing that she has “tremendous hate in her heart” when it is clear to everyone you are only projecting what is in your own.

Trump’s emotional makeup means he can hit only a few notes: fury and aggression. In some ways, his debate performances look like primate dominance displays — filled with chest beating and looming growls. But at least primates have bands to connect with, whereas Trump is so alone, if a tree fell in his emotional forest, it would not make a sound.

It’s all so pathetic.

On Monday, one of Trump’s conservative critics, Erick Erickson, published a moving essay called “If I Die Before You Wake… .” Erickson has been the object of vicious assaults by Trump supporters. He and his wife are both facing serious health ailments and may pass before their children are grown. Yet as the essay makes clear, both are living lives of love, faith, devotion and service. Both have an ultimate confidence in the goodness of creation and their grace-filled place in it.

You may share that faith or not, but Erickson is living an attached life — emotionally, spiritually, morally and communally. Donald Trump’s life, by contrast, looks superficially successful and profoundly miserable. None of us would want to live in the howling wilderness of his own solitude, no matter how thick the gilding.

On Nov. 9, the day after Trump loses, there won’t be solidarity and howls of outrage. Everyone will just walk away.

Now here’s “Thin Edge Of The Wedge:”

“Sympathy for the devil, eh, Mr. Brooks? Although your description is accurate, it still treats Trump as if he is an unprecedented, isolated phenomenon within the GOP. Not so. Trump is the GOP. He is the avatar exposing the rotten core, the dead soul of the Republican Party. Trump, Pence, Cruz, McConnell, Ryan, Christie, Ailes, all the way back through Nixon to Joseph McCarthy, dead men walking, every one, surrounded by their mindless, amoral howling storm troopers. Trump won’t just walk away, nor will his supporters. And even if he should, Republicans like the Koch brothers will continue to create, promote, and fund new Trumps. They’ve been at it my entire adult life, and won’t quit until they have strip mined the US Constitution, economy, and entire society for their own selfish ends.”

Brooks and Krugman

October 7, 2016

Bobo has a question in “Intimacy for the Avoidant:”  What is phone addiction doing to friendship?  Instead of “gemli” from Boston let’s have “Sally Gschwend” from Uznach, Switzerland respond to Bobo’s question with one of her own:  “Has David Brooks switched over to pop psychology because he can’t bear to talk about his beloved GOP?”  Prof. Krugman, in “What About the Planet?,” also has a question:  Why is the media not raising climate change as part of the presidential race?  Probably because that would involve covering actual policy positions instead of a horse race.  Here’s Bobo:

Over the past generation there seems to have been a decline in the number of high-quality friendships.

In 1985, most Americans told pollsters that they had about three confidants, people with whom they could share everything. Today, the majority of people say they have about two. In 1985, 10 percent of Americans said they had no one to fully confide in, but by the start of this century 25 percent of Americans said that.

All of this has left people wondering if technology is making us lonelier. Instead of going over to the neighbor’s house, are we sitting at home depressingly surfing everybody else’s perfect lives on Facebook?

Over the past decade, the best research has suggested that no, technology and social media are not making us lonelier. These things are tools. It’s what you bring to Facebook that matters. Socially engaged people use it to further engage; lonely people use it to mask loneliness.

As Stephen Marche put it in The Atlantic in 2012, “Using social media doesn’t create new social networks; it just transfers established networks from one platform to another.”

But recently, people’s views of social media have grown a bit darker. That’s because we seem to be hitting some sort of saturation level. Being online isn’t just something we do. It has become who we are, transforming the very nature of the self.

Earlier this year, Jacob Weisberg had a fine essay in The New York Review of Books reporting that, according to a British study, we check our phones on average 221 times a day — about every 4.3 minutes.

A decade ago almost no one had a smartphone. Now the average American spends five and half hours a day with digital media, and the young spend far more time. A study of female students at Baylor University found that they spent 10 hours a day on their phones.

A lot of this traffic is driven by the fear of missing out. Somebody may be posting something on Snapchat that you’d like to know about, so you’d better constantly be checking. The traffic is also driven by what the industry executives call “captology.” The apps generate small habitual behaviors, like swiping right or liking a post, that generate ephemeral dopamine bursts. Any second that you’re feeling bored, lonely or anxious, you feel this deep hunger to open an app and get that burst.

Last month, Andrew Sullivan published a moving and much-discussedessay in New York magazine titled “I Used to Be a Human Being” about what it’s like to have your soul hollowed by the web.

“By rapidly substituting virtual reality for reality,” Sullivan wrote, “we are diminishing the scope of [intimate] interaction even as we multiply the number of people with whom we interact. We remove or drastically filter all the information we might get by being with another person. We reduce them to some outlines — a Facebook ‘friend,’ an Instagram photo, a text message — in a controlled and sequestered world that exists largely free of the sudden eruptions or encumbrances of actual human interaction. We become each other’s ‘contacts,’ efficient shadows of ourselves.”

At saturation level, social media reduces the amount of time people spend in uninterrupted solitude, the time when people can excavate and process their internal states. It encourages social multitasking: You’re with the people you’re with, but you’re also monitoring the six billion other people who might be communicating something more interesting from far away. It flattens the range of emotional experiences.

As Louis C.K. put it in a TV appearance, “You never feel completely sad or completely happy. You just feel kinda satisfied with your products. And then you die.”

Perhaps phone addiction is making it harder to be the sort of person who is good at deep friendship. In lives that are already crowded and stressful, it’s easier to let banter crowd out emotional presence. There are a thousand ways online to divert with a joke or a happy face emoticon. You can have a day of happy touch points without any of the scary revelations, or the boring, awkward or uncontrollable moments that constitute actual intimacy.

When Montaigne was describing the accumulating intimacy he enjoyed with his best friend, he described an emotional interaction that was full and progressive: “It was not one special consideration, nor two, nor three, nor four, nor a thousand; it was some mysterious quintessence of all this mixture which possessed itself of my will and led it to plunge and lose itself in his; which possessed his whole will and led it, with a similar hunger, and a like impulse, to plunge and lose itself in mine.”

When we’re addicted to online life, every moment is fun and diverting, but the whole thing is profoundly unsatisfying. I guess a modern version of heroism is regaining control of social impulses, saying no to a thousand shallow contacts for the sake of a few daring plunges.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Our two major political parties are at odds on many issues, but nowhere is the gap bigger or more consequential than on climate.

If Hillary Clinton wins, she will move forward with the Obama administration’s combination of domestic clean-energy policies and international negotiation — a one-two punch that offers some hope of reining in greenhouse gas emissions before climate change turns into climate catastrophe.

If Donald Trump wins, the paranoid style in climate politics — the belief that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a vast international conspiracy of scientists — will become official doctrine, and catastrophe will become all but inevitable.

So why does the media seem so determined to ignore this issue? Why, in particular, does it almost seem as if there’s a rule against bringing it up in debates?

Before I get there, a brief summary of the policy divide.

It’s strange how little credit the Obama administration gets for its environmental policies.

Everyone has heard about how loan guarantees to one solar-energy company, Solyndra, went sour — at a cost, by the way, that amounted to only a bit more than half the amount Mr. Trump personally lost in just one year thanks to bad business decisions. Few people, by contrast, have heard about the green energy revolution that the administration’s loans and other policy support helped promote, with plunging prices and soaring consumption of solar and wind power.

Nor have many heard about the administration’s tightening of fuel efficiency standards, especially for trucks and buses, which in itself is one of the most significant environmental moves in decades.

And if Mrs. Clinton wins, it’s more or less certain that the biggest moves yet — the Clean Power Plan, which would regulate emissions from power plants, and the Paris climate agreement, which commits all of the world’s major economies to make significant emission cuts — will become reality.

Meanwhile, there’s Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly called climate change a hoax and has suggested that it was invented by China to hurt U.S. competitiveness. I wish I could say that this puts him outside the mainstream of his party, but it doesn’t.

So there is a huge, incredibly consequential divide on climate policy. Not only is there a vast gap between the parties and their candidates, but this gap arguably matters more for the future than any of their other disagreements. So why don’t we hear more about it?

I’m not saying that there has been no reporting on the partisan climate divide, but there has been nothing like, say, the drumbeat of stories about Mrs. Clinton’s email server. And it’s really stunning that in the three nationally televised forums we’ve had so far — the “commander inchief” forum involving Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, the first presidential debate and the vice-presidential debate — the moderators have asked not a single question about climate.

This was especially striking in Tuesday’s debate.

Somehow Elaine Quijano, the moderator, found time for not one but two questions inspired by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget — an organization concerned that despite relatively low budget deficits now and extremely low borrowing costs, the federal government may face fiscal problems a couple of decades down the line. There may be something to this, although not as much as deficit scolds claim (and Ms. Quijano managed to suggest that Mrs. Clinton’s proposals, which are fully paid for, are no better than Mr. Trump’s multitrillion-dollar debt blowout).

But if we’re worried about the longer-term implications of current policies, the buildup of greenhouse gases is a much bigger deal than the accumulation of low-interest debt. It’s bizarre to talk about the latter but not the former.

And this blind spot matters a lot. Polling suggests that millennial voters, in particular, care a lot about environmental protection and renewable energy. But it also suggests that more than 40 percent of young voters believe that there is no difference between the candidates on these issues.

Yes, I know, people should be paying more attention — but this nonetheless tells us how easy it is for voters who rely on TV news or don’t read stories deep inside the paper to miss what should be a central issue in this campaign.

The good news is that there are still two debates to go, offering the opportunity to make some amends.

It’s time to end the blackout on climate change as an issue. It needs to be front and center — and questions must be accompanied by real-time fact-checking, not relegated to the limbo of he-said-she-said, because this is one of the issues where the truth often gets lost in a blizzard of lies.

There is, quite simply, no other issue this important, and letting it slide would be almost criminally irresponsible.

A small personal note — Hurricane Matthew is scheduled to visit Savannah tonight.  We’re likely to lose power, and during the last storm, which wasn’t as severe as Matthew some people in town were without power for almost 3 days.  If that happens I’ll do a post (or several posts) of what I missed when the lights were out.  Keep your fingers crossed for us, please.

Brooks and Cohen

October 4, 2016

In “Trump, Taxes and Citizenship” Bobo tells us that citizens enrich society and themselves when they pull their fair share.  He’s still upset that those people over there landed him with Trump.  And “gemli” from Boston has a few words on the subject.  Mr. Cohen takes a grim look at “The Trump Possibility” and says it’s the last chance to prevent a lazy and limited man who lies and cheats and thinks he has “great genes” from demeaning the Oval Office.  Here’s Bobo:

You can be a taxpayer or you can be a citizen. If you’re a taxpayer your role in the country is defined by your economic and legal status. Your primary identity is individual. You’re perfectly within your rights to do everything you legally can to look after your self-interest.

Within this logic, it’s perfectly fine for Donald Trump to have potentially paid no income taxes, even over a long period of time. As Trump and his allies have said, he would have broken no law. He would have taken advantage of the deductions just the way the rest of us take advantage of the mortgage deduction or any other; it’s just that he had more deductions to draw upon.

As Trump and his advisers have argued, it is normal practice in our society to pay as little in taxes as possible. There are vast industries to help people do this. There is no wrong here.

The problem with the taxpayer mentality is that you end up serving your individual interest short term but soiling the nest you need to be happy in over the long term.

A healthy nation isn’t just an atomized mass of individual economic and legal units. A nation is a web of giving and getting. You give to your job, and your employer gives to you. You give to your neighborhood, and your neighborhood gives to you. You give to your government, and your government gives to you.

If you orient everything around individual self-interest, you end up ripping the web of giving and receiving. Neighbors can’t trust neighbors. Individuals can’t trust their institutions, and they certainly can’t trust their government. Everything that is not explicitly prohibited is permissible. Everybody winds up suspicious and defensive and competitive. You wind up alone at 3 a.m. miserably tweeting out at your enemies.

And this is exactly the atomized mentality that is corroding America. Years ago, David Foster Wallace put it gently: “It may sound reactionary, I know. But we can all feel it. We’ve changed the way we think of ourselves as citizens. We don’t think of ourselves as citizens in the old sense of being small parts of something larger and infinitely more important to which we have serious responsibilities. We do still think of ourselves as citizens in the sense of being beneficiaries — we’re actually conscious of our rights as American citizens and the nation’s responsibilities to us and ensuring we get our share of the American pie.”

The older citizenship mentality is a different mentality. It starts with the warm glow of love of country. It continues with a sense of sweet gratitude that the founders of the country, for all their flaws, were able to craft a structure of government that is suppler and more lasting than anything we seem to be able to craft today.

The citizen enjoys a sweet reverence for all the gifts that have been handed down over time, and a generous piety about country that is the opposite of arrogance.

Out of this sweet parfait of emotions comes a sense of a common beauty that transcends individual beauty. There’s a sense of how a lovely society is supposed to be. This means that the economic desire to save money on taxes competes with a larger desire to be part of a lovely world.

In a lovely society we all pull our fair share. Some things the government does are uncontroversial goods: protecting us from enemies, preserving the health and dignity of the old and infirm. These things have to be paid for, and in the societies we admire, everybody helps.

In a lovely society everybody practices a kind of social hygiene. There are some things that are legal but distasteful and corrupt. In a lovely society people shun these corrupt and corrupting things. The tax code is a breeding ground for corruption, so they don’t take advantage. The lottery system immiserates the poor so they don’t contribute to its acceptability by playing.

In a lovely society everyone feels privilege, but the rich feel a special privilege. They know that they have already been given more than they deserve, and that it is actually not going to hurt all that much to try to be worthy of what they’ve received.

Citizens aren’t just sacrificing out of the nobility of their heart. They serve the common good for their own enrichment, too. If they practice politics they can learn prudence; if they serve in the military they can learn courage. Public citizenship is the path to personal growth.

You can say that a billionaire paying no taxes is fine and legal. But you have to adopt an overall mentality that shuts down a piece of your heart, and most of your moral sentiments.

That mentality is entirely divorced from the mentality of commonality and citizenship. That mentality has side effects. They may lead toward riches, but they lead away from happiness.

If only Bobo had big enough cojones to come out and say that he won’t vote for Trump…  Now here’s what “gemli” had to say:

“The thing that douses my warm glow isn’t the fact that Trump paid no taxes. It’s that people like Trump are the ones who get to write the tax rules in their favor.

David Brooks is always talking about the country as if the little guy is in control. He acts as though we get together and decide to be patriotic this week, or more religious, or nobler or less responsible. We don’t. We react to forces that are pretty much out of our control.

The tax code is nearly 75,000 pages long, and I can assure you that all of those rules aren’t there for my benefit. I deduct a mortgage payment and a charitable contribution or two. I rarely have to worry about what happens if I lose a billion dollars.

It’s no accident that there are more millionaires in Congress today than there have ever been. They’re not there for the puny salary, or even for the generous health benefits. They’re there to write the rules that have allowed income inequality to soar into the stratosphere.

But frankly, I don’t care if Trump paid taxes. I care that a lying, emotionally immature idiot is within shouting distance of the presidency. I care that government has been rendered so dysfunctional by Republican greed that Trump could seem like a viable option. I care that so many of us think that Trump is all we deserve.

If Trump would just go away, I’d be happy if he never paid another nickle in taxes as long as he lived.”

And now here’s Mr. Cohen:

Donald Trump is a thug. He’s a thug who talks gibberish, and lies, and cheats, and has issues, to put it mildly, with women. He’s lazy and limited and he has an attention span of a nanosecond. He’s a “gene believer” who thinks he has “great genes” and considers the German blood, of which he is proud, “great stuff.” Mexicans and Muslims, by contrast, don’t make the cut.

He’s managed to bring penis size and menstrual cycles and the eating habits of a former Miss Universe into the debate for the highest office in the land. He’s mocked and mimicked the handicapped and the pneumonia-induced malaise of Hillary Clinton. His intellectual interests would not fill a safe-deposit box at Trump Tower. There’s more ingenuity to his hairstyle than any of his rambling pronouncements. His political hero is Vladimir Putin, who has perfected what John le Carré once called the “classic, timeless, all-Russian, bare-faced whopping lie.”

This is a man who likes to strut and gloat. He’s such a great businessman he declared a loss of $916 million on his 1995 tax return, a loss so huge the tax software program used by his accountant choked at the amount, which had to be added manually. His cohorts, including the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, reckon this makes Trump a “genius” because he could offset the loss against many millions of dollars of income for years afterward and perhaps pay not a dime in taxes. All of which did a lot of good for the United States of America and all the working stiffs who did not know that losing about a billion dollars is a financial masterstroke.

And this man, with the support of tens of millions of Americans, is a hairbreadth from the Oval Office.

I am shocked — yes, shocked! — Trump’s burbling about the Iran nuclear deal in the first presidential debate has received little attention. He called it “the worst deal I think I’ve ever seen negotiated,” before suggesting “Iran has power over North Korea” and should use it, before saying Iran had been given $400 million and then $1.7 billion and then $150 billion, as well as saying, “this is one of the worst deals ever made by any country in history!”

Of course, Trump has no idea what is in the agreement, since that would require reading it, and so he would not have an inkling that it has slashed and ring-fenced Iran’s nuclear capacity until 2030, reversing the Islamic Republic’s steady accumulation of centrifuges, and has also opened the way for Boeing to sell Iran 80 commercial passenger aircraft — just the sort of job-creating deal Trump professes to like.

And this man, whose meanness and petulance and childlike inadequacies have been on display for more than a year now, may become president next month.

How is this possible? It is possible because spectacle and politics have merged and people no longer know fact from fiction or care about the distinction. It is possible because fear has entered people’s lives and that fear is easily manipulated. It is possible because technology has created anxiety-multipliers such as have never been known before. It is possible because America is a country living with the dim dissatisfaction of two wars without victory and the untold trillions spent on them. It is possible because a very large number of people want to give the finger to the elites who brought the crash of 2008 and rigged the global system and granted themselves impunity. It is possible because of growing inequality and existential dread, especially among the white losers from globalization who know minorities will be the majority in the United States by midcentury. It is possible because both major parties have abandoned the working class. It is possible because a lot of Americans feel the incumbent in the White House has undersold the United States, diminished its distinctive and exceptional nature, talked down its power, and so diluted its greatness and abdicated its responsibility for the well-being of the free world. It is possible because the identity politics embraced by urban, cosmopolitan liberals have provoked an inevitable backlash among those who think white lives matter, too. It is possible because Trump speaks to the basest but also some of the most ineradicable traits of human beings — their capacity for mob anger, their racist resentments, their cruelty, their lust, their search for scapegoats, their insecurities — and promises a miraculous makeover. It is possible because the Clinton family has been in the White House and cozy with the rich and close to the summit of a discredited political establishment for a quarter-century now and, to people who want change or bridle at dynastic privilege, that makes Hillary Clinton an unattractive candidate. It is possible because history demonstrates there is no limit to human folly or the dimensions of the disasters humanity can bring on itself.

Yes, it is possible. There is still time to stop a man who keeps stooping lower. That time is now.

Brooks and Krugman

September 30, 2016

Bobo has decided to whine about “The Death of Idealism” and says it’s sad to see how the promise of the decades when Clinton and Trump established themselves has aged.  “Gemli” from Boston has a few words to say about that.  Prof. Krugman addresses “How the Clinton-Trump Race Got Close” and says Hillary Clinton was hurt by hostile reporting from the mainstream media.  Here’s Bobo:

This presidential election is a contest between the oldest of the baby boomers. Yet Donald Trump, 70, and Hillary Clinton, 68, represent two very different decades in the formation of that generation. Donald Trump became famous as a classic 1980s type, while Hillary Clinton first attained public notice as a classic 1960s type.

It’s interesting, and sad, to see how the promise of those two decades has aged.

Trump opened Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan in November 1983. Go-go capitalism had a lot of élan back then. Capitalism had washed away the stagnation of the 1970s. It was defeating the Soviet Union. During the Reagan years, writers celebrated capitalism not only as a wealth-generating engine but also as a moral system, a way to arouse hard work, creativity and trust.

Of course, Trump was always a scuzzy version of the capitalist type. Somehow I got on the guest list of a few of the ’80s-era parties he hosted in the lobby of his skyscraper and would go for sociological entertainment.

They were filled with the sort of B-grade celebrities and corrupt city officials who were desperate for any mention on the front and sixth pages of The New York Post. A friend of mine came up to me at one of those parties and summarized the atmosphere: “Not indicted, not invited.”

As we saw on Monday night, Trump now represents capitalism degraded to pure selfishness. He treats other people like objects and lies with abandon. Proud to be paying no taxes while others foot the bill, proud to have profited off the housing bust that caused so much suffering, he lacks even the barest conception of civic life and his responsibilities to it.

His ethos is: Get what I can for myself, and everyone else can take care of themselves. As Alexi Sargeant pointed out in First Things, “Trump’s policies, such as they are, usually come down to America breaking its promises.” Trump would have America break its promises to its NATO allies, Japan, its creditors, its trading partners and its own constitution.

Trump reminds us — even those of us who champion capitalism — how corrosive capitalism can be when unaccompanied by a counterbalancing ethos of moral restraint.

Rod Dreher of The American Conservative points out that when a leader consistently breaks promises, communal life is impossible. “If you cannot count on people to honor their vows, you never know what is real,” Dreher writes. Trump is the low, dishonest detritus of a once bright decade.

Clinton gave her Wellesleycommencement speech in the spring of 1969. It was filled with that ’60s style of lofty, inspiring and self-important idealism.

“The challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible,” she said. “We’re not interested in social reconstruction; it’s human reconstruction,” she continued. “We’re searching for more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating modes of living.”

She dreamed of a society in which trust would be restored. “Where you don’t manipulate people. Where you’re not interested in social engineering for people.” The words were grandiose, but at least there was a spiritual ambition to them.

That poetic, aspirational quality is entirely absent from what has become the Clinton campaign. Clinton can be a devastatingly good counterpuncher, but she lacks the human touch when talking about the nation’s problems, and fails to make an emotional connection.

When asked why she wants to be president or for any positive vision, she devolves into a list of programs. And it is never enough just to list three programs in an answer; she has to pile in an arid hodgepodge of eight or nine. This is pure interest-group liberalism — buying votes with federal money — not an inspiring image of the common good.

The twin revolutions of the 1960s and the 1980s liberated the individual — first socially and then economically — and weakened the community. More surprising, this boomer-versus-boomer campaign has decimated idealism.

There is no uplift in this race. There is an entire absence, in both campaigns, of any effort to appeal to the higher angels of our nature. There is an assumption, in both campaigns, that we are self-seeking creatures, rather than also loving, serving, hoping, dreaming, cooperating creatures. There is a presumption in both candidates that the lowest motivations are the most real.

Ironically, one of the tasks for those who succeed the baby boomers is to restore idealism. The great challenge of our moment is the crisis of isolation and fragmentation, the need to rebind the fabric of a society that has been torn by selfishness, cynicism, distrust and autonomy.

At some point there will have to be a new vocabulary and a restored anthropology, emphasizing love, friendship, faithfulness, solidarity and neighborliness that pushes people toward connection rather than distrust. Millennials, I think, want to be active in this rebinding. But inspiration certainly isn’t coming from the aging boomers now onstage.

I can’t wait until Driftglass gets his teeth into this — he’ll love that Bobo cited Dreher…  Now here’s what “gemli” had to say to Bobo:

“There is no equivalence between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Those who say that they’re both flawed are typically conservatives who are trying to assuage the embarrassment they feel that Trump is carrying the Republican banner. There’s no way to make him look better, so they try to make Hillary look worse.

Trump isn’t a “classic” anything. He’s the worst example of an amoral economic mobster of the kind that emerged in the 1980s, at a time when Saint Reagan was setting the moral tone for conservatives by declaring that schoolchildren could eat Ketchup.

Whatever her flaws, Hillary Clinton was an idealist from day one. If she was strident or grandiose, it was in the service of ideas that would improve people’s lives. Her ideas were lofty when she was in college, but Brooks can’t help tagging them as self-important, and reminding us that the aspirational tone is now absent.

Of course, we have a president now who was ridiculed by conservatives for his aspirational tone, and for the idea that hope and change were possible. He was set upon by the Tea Party for daring to suggest that the crimes and the despair of the Bush years could be put behind us.

Trump is the legacy of hate handed down by those who championed greed, and whose moral compass always pointed to whatever might enrich them.

Right now, there is no quest more idealistic than preventing Trump from becoming president. Hillary Clinton needs our support, not a screed that undermines her chances.”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Monday’s presidential debate was a blowout, surely the most one-sided confrontation in American political history. Hillary Clinton was knowledgeable, unflappable and — dare we say it? — likable. Donald Trump was ignorant, thin-skinned and boorish.

Yet on the eve of the debate, polls showed a close race. How was that possible?

After all, the candidates we saw Monday night were the same people they’ve been all along. Mrs. Clinton’s grace and even humor under pressure were fully apparent during last year’s Benghazi hearing. Mr. Trump’s whiny braggadocio has been obvious every time he opens his mouth without reading from a teleprompter.

So how could someone like Mr. Trump have been in striking position for the White House? (He may still be there, since we have yet to see what effect the debate had on the polls.)

Part of the answer is that a lot more Americans than we’d like to imagine are white nationalists at heart. Indeed, implicit appeals to racial hostility have long been at the core of Republican strategy; Mr. Trump became the G.O.P. nominee by saying outright what his opponents tried to convey with dog whistles.

If he loses, Republicans will claim that he was some kind of outlier, showing nothing about the nature of their party. He isn’t.

But while racially motivated voters are a bigger minority than we’d like to think, they are a minority. And as recently as August Mrs. Clinton held a commanding lead. Then her polls went into a swoon.

What happened? Did she make some huge campaign blunders?

I don’t think so. As I’ve written before, she got Gored. That is, like Al Gore in 2000, she ran into a buzz saw of adversarial reporting from the mainstream media, which treated relatively minor missteps as major scandals, and invented additional scandals out of thin air.

Meanwhile, her opponent’s genuine scandals and various grotesqueries were downplayed or whitewashed; but as Jonathan Chait of New York magazine says, the normalization of Donald Trump was probably less important than the abnormalization of Hillary Clinton.

This media onslaught started with an Associated Press report on the Clinton Foundation, which roughly coincided with the beginning of Mrs. Clinton’s poll slide. The A.P. took on a valid question: Did foundation donors get inappropriate access and exert undue influence?

As it happened, it failed to find any evidence of wrongdoing — but nonetheless wrote the report as if it had. And this was the beginning of an extraordinary series of hostile news stories about how various aspects of Mrs. Clinton’s life “raise questions” or “cast shadows,” conveying an impression of terrible things without saying anything that could be refuted.

The culmination of this process came with the infamous Matt Lauer-moderated forum, which might be briefly summarized as “Emails, emails, emails; yes, Mr. Trump, whatever you say, Mr. Trump.”

I still don’t fully understand this hostility, which wasn’t ideological. Instead, it had the feel of the cool kids in high school jeering at the class nerd. Sexism was surely involved but may not have been central, since the same thing happened to Mr. Gore.

In any case, those of us who remember the 2000 campaign expected the worst would follow the first debate: Surely much of the media would declare Mr. Trump the winner even if he lied repeatedly. Some “news analyses” were already laying the foundation, setting a low bar for the G.O.P. nominee while warning that Mrs. Clinton’s “body language” might display “condescension.”

Then came the debate itself, which was almost unspinnable. Some people tried, declaring Mr. Trump the winner in the discussion of trade even though everything he said was factually or conceptually false. Or — my favorite — we had declarations that while Mr. Trump was underprepared, Mrs. Clinton may have been “overprepared.” What?

But meanwhile, tens of millions of Americans saw the candidates in action, directly, without a media filter. For many, the revelation wasn’t Mr. Trump’s performance, but Mrs. Clinton’s: The woman they saw bore little resemblance to the cold, joyless drone they’d been told to expect.

How much will it matter? My guess — but I could very well be completely wrong — is that it will matter a lot. Hard-core Trump supporters won’t be swayed. But voters who had been planning to stay home or, what amounts to the same thing, vote for a minor-party candidate rather than choose between the racist and the she-devil may now realize that they were misinformed. If so, it will be Mrs. Clinton’s bravura performance, under incredible pressure, that turned the tide.

But things should never have gotten to this point, where so much depended on defying media expectations over the course of an hour and a half. And those who helped bring us here should engage in some serious soul-searching.

Bobo, solo

September 27, 2016

Bobo has decided to talk about THOSE people again.  You know, THOSE people who call themselves Republicans in this country.  Not him, by any means.  He’s not like THOSE people…  In “The Age of Reaction” he has decided to tell us all about how reactionaries supplanted conservatives on the right.  Bobo is sure that he and his ilk had nothing to do with anything that happened to the Republican party over the last 40 years…  “Gemli” from Boston will have a few words for him in rebuttal.  Here’s Bobo:

In the normal telling, history is driven by visionaries and revolutionaries. If you studied history in school you probably plowed through book after book about this revolution or that one — the American Revolution or the French, the industrial revolution or the information one. In the normal telling of the past, events are driven by revolutionaries, and the few reactionaries who stand in the way get run over.

But really, history is often a volley between revolutionaries (who take control in some periods) and reactionaries (who drive events in others). Today, as the Columbia political theorist Mark Lilla points out in his compelling new book, “The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction,” reactionaries are in the saddle.

Reactionaries, whether angry white Trumpians, European nationalists, radical Islamists or left-wing anti-globalists, are loud, self-confident and on the march.

Reactionaries come in different stripes but share a similar mentality: There was once a golden age, when people knew their place and lived in harmony. But then that golden age was betrayed by the elites. “The betrayal of elites is the linchpin of every reactionary story,” Lilla writes.

Soon, they believe, a false and decadent consciousness descended upon the land. “Only those who have preserved memories of the old ways see what is happening,” Lilla notes. Only the reactionaries have the wisdom to turn things back to the way they used to be, to “Make America Great Again.”

“Reactionaries are not conservatives,” Lilla continues. “They are, in their way, just as radical as revolutionaries and just as firmly in the grip of historical imaginings. Millennial expectations of a redemptive new social order and rejuvenated human beings inspire the revolutionary; apocalyptic fears of entering a new dark age haunt the reactionary.”

Reactionaries are marked by a militant, apocalyptic mind-set, a crisis mentality. They are willing to take extreme, violent action to turn back the clock. In their narcissism, they think they alone understand the crisis and are in a position to reverse the trends.

It’s understandable that we would be living in a reactionary moment. The periods after financial crises are always bumpy politically. Whether it was the 1890s, the 1930s or today, such periods often thrust up ugly, backward-looking ideologies.

Eras after mass immigration tend to be bumpy, too. There tends to be a repulse against the sudden influx of new people. Moreover, for many groups, especially the less educated working class, life genuinely is worse than it was in the mid-60s. It’s no wonder such people buy Donald Trump’s paradise-lost narrative.

The more serious problem is today’s pervasive and self-reinforcing pessimism, which feeds the reactionary impulse.

The belief systems that used to reinforce a faith in progress have become less influential. First there was moderate religiosity, the belief that God is ultimately in control, that all things are ultimately fashioned toward the good and that the arc of history bends toward justice. This was the mind-set that made Martin Luther King Jr. fundamentally optimistic, even in temporarily dark times. Then there was humanism, the belief that people are learning more and more, inventing more and more, and so history is a steady accumulation of good things.

As humanism and moderate religion have withered, gloom has pervaded that national mind. It doesn’t matter how much living standards rise or the poverty rate falls, it makes you seem smart and woke to be alarmed and hypercritical. Every dour attention-grabber wants to claim that the elites are more corrupt than ever.

The paranoid style of conspiracy-mongering has become the lingua franca of the internet. Public conversation is dominated by people’s ahistorical insistence that this country is sliding toward decline. As Arthur Herman writes in his book “The Idea of Decline in Western History,” “The sowing of despair and self-doubt has become so pervasive that we accept it as a normal intellectual stance — even when it is directly contradicted by our own reality.”

The best weapon against the reactionary is not bubbly, blind optimism. It is, frankly, temperamental conservatism. It is the belief that, thanks to the general spread of market freedom and cultural pluralism, our society is becoming stumblingly but gradually richer, more just and more creative. But economic and technological dynamism needs to be balanced by cultural cohesion.

It’s stupid and impossible to turn back the clock. But history is a repository of wise cultures. Each historic culture — Ming dynasty China, medieval Germany, Victorian England — contained some piece of wisdom and had its own strengths and weaknesses. Classical Greek culture could produce epic courage but was weak when it came to compassion.

The conservative looks fondly to the past not as a paradise to return to but as a treasure trove of experience to borrow from. The conservative seeks to revive, restore and reconstruct — to use the gifts of the dead to make the present a little sweeter and deeper. Many of history’s most inspiring leaps forward (the Renaissance) came from a blending of past cultural and spiritual wisdom with present technological advance.

The global pluralistic marketplace is a permanently revolutionary force. If you don’t balance it with the communal, humanistic and spiritual countercultures from the past then the people, naked, will try to reject it altogether. They’ll succumb to the angry extremism of reaction and discard progress whole cloth.

That impulse is on the march just now.

And I don’t recall Bobo inveighing against it.  Here’s what “gemli” had to say about Bobo’s offering:

“I believe it was Sir Isaac Newton who said, “For every action there is an equal and opposite distraction.” This applies today whenever we hear conservatives disavowing the chaos caused by their corrosive worldview. It’s not the honorable, God-fearing conservatives who are the problem, they say. Conservatives merely want to return us to the good old days, back when womenfolk who had abortions would burn in Hell, and brown people knew their place.

Conservatives, of course, are not all of one stripe. Some want to saturate the nation with guns. Some want to put the fear of God in godless gays. Some are content to work in Washington, denying reality while they amass wealth for themselves and for the one percent of the American people that they represent.

Mr. Brooks says we’re living in a reactionary moment caused by a financial crisis that came out of nowhere. Don’t bother to look for the cause of that crisis (Bush), because these things just happen (Cheney). Obama was such a horrible president (every Republican) that nothing got done. Besides, things are always Trumpy—I mean bumpy—after mass immigrations.

Conservatives know how to put a pleasant face on some ugly realities. It’s called creating plausible deniability, and conservatives are masters of the art. Sadly, we sometimes see the pig without the lipstick, and that’s what’s happening now. But this is merely a Trump—I mean bump—in the road.”

Brooks and Krugman

September 23, 2016

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

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

Indeed we might!

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

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

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

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

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

What is going on here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And gimme another Trump Lump, please.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bobo, solo

September 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen, Don, amen.