Archive for the ‘Brooks’ Category

Bobo, solo.

May 31, 2016

Oh, gawd.  Bobo has decided to wax rhapsodic over “Big and Little Loves.”  He babbles that life is full of small attachments held close, but great loves too big to contain are not so common.  In the comments “craig geary” from Redlands, FL had this to say:  “It was your republican party, and your party’s leaders Mr. Brooks who eviscerated the thriving post WW II American economy.  It was your party who perpetrated trickle down, the tax free life of the 1%, perpetual war in the Middle East, gutted unions, offshored industry, deregulated Wall Street.  It was ReaganBushBush who combined to raise the debt ceiling 28 times over 240 months of inept, largely criminal, misrule.  The big love is buried in veteran’s cemeteries from coast to coast.  The big money accrued to the war profiteering swindlers of KBR/Halliburton, Blackwater, SAIC, the for profit torturers of CACI and the thieves of Wall Street.”  If we could only believe that Bobo actually READS any of the replies to his PsOS.  Well, FSM help us all, here he is:

Ever since the days of ancient Greece, philosophers have distinguished between the beautiful and the sublime. Beauty is what you experience when you look at a flower or a lovely face. It is contained, pleasurable, intimate and romantic. Sublime is what you feel when you look at a mountain range or a tornado. It involves awe, veneration, maybe even a touch of fear. A sublime thing, like space or mathematics, over-awes the natural human dimensions and reminds you that you are a small thing in a vast cosmos.

Recently neuroscientists have shown that the experiences of beauty and awe activate different parts of the brain.

The distinction between the beautiful and the sublime is the distinction between the intimate and the transcendent. This sort of distinction doesn’t just happen in aesthetics, but in life in general. We have big and little loves.

The soldiers who we honored on Memorial Day were animated by a big love — serving their country — and by a little one — protecting their buddies. Religious people experience a love of God that is both big and little.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik wrote that God is in one guise majestic and infinite, the author of the universe. But when Soloveitchik’s wife lay on her deathbed, God did not appear that way. Instead, he appeared as a “close friend, brother, father. … I felt His warm hand, as it were, on my shoulder, I hugged His knees, as it were. He was with me in the narrow confines of a small room, taking up no space at all.”

In daily life we have big and little loves, too. The little loves, like for one’s children, one’s neighborhood or one’s garden, animate nurture, compassion and care. The big loves, like for America or the cause of global human rights, inspire courage and greatness. A little love is a shepherd protecting his flock. A great love is Martin Luther King Jr. leading his people.

The small attachments serve as the foundation of our emotional lives, but when you have a big love for your country or a cause, you are loving something that transcends a lifetime. You are pursuing some universal ideal and seeking excellence. A big love involves using power well, seeking honor and glory and being worthy of them.

The amount of big love in a society can rise and fall. Alexis de Tocqueville wondered if democracy would dampen Americans’ big love. “What worries me most,” he wrote, “is the danger that, amid all the constant trivial preoccupations of private life, ambition may lose both its force and its greatness, that human passions may grow gentler and at the same time baser, with the result that the progress of the body social may become daily quieter and less aspiring.”

I’d say that in America today some of the little loves are fraying, and big love is almost a foreign language. Almost nobody speaks about the American project in the same ardent tones that were once routine.

Big love is hopeful, but today pessimism is in vogue. Big love involves a confidence that one can use power well, but today Americans are suspicious of power, have lost faith in leaders and big institutions and feel a sense of impotence in the face of big problems.

Big love involves thinking in sweeping historical terms. But today the sense that America is pursuing a noble mission in the world has been humbled by failures and passivity. The country feels more divided than unified around common purpose.

Big love involves politics, and thus compromise, competition and messiness. Americans today are less likely to discern the noble within the grittiness of reality. The very words that the founders used to describe their big love for their country sound archaic: glory, magnanimity, sacred honor and greatness.

There is, in sum, less animating desire in the country at the moment, and therefore less energy and daring. The share of Americans moving across state lines in search of opportunity has fallen by more than half since the 1970s. The rate of new business creation is down. Productivity is falling for the first time in three decades. Economic growth is anemic. There’s a spiritual and cultural element behind these trends.

So I write today in defense of big love, the love not only of your little platoon but of the grand historical project this country represents. Young people now want to join start-ups or NGOs, or eat locally grown foods, but I’m writing in defense of the big love that once inspired big projects, like NASA, the national railroads and the creation and maintenance of the postwar, American-led world order, with the free movement of people, goods and ideas.

Before the country can achieve great things it has to relearn the ability to desire big things. It has to be willing to love again, even amid disappointments — to love things that are awesome, heroic and sublime.

Oh, he is SO full of crap.  How full?  Let’s let “gemli” from Boston tell us:

“Mr. Brooks, you should have written this column the morning of November 9, 2008, the day following Barack Obama’s historic election. Mayhap the long knives of Mitch McConnell and his co-conspirators would have been sheathed?

“Big love,” you continue, “involves politics, and thus compromise, competition and messiness.” Had you penned these lines seven years and almost eight months ago, you may have done a patriotic service (big love) in warning off a racist Congressional coup determined to handcuff the new president simply because “we, the people,” were animated by a “big love,” a profound rejection of a corrupt and feckless administration that thought war was a toy, a game, that the further widening between rich and poor was a “big hate” that was justified by an “ambition that lost both its force and greatness…and grew baser” with the acquiescence of a lazy electorate.

You end your lament by writing that in America today there is less “glory, magnanimity, sacred honor and greatness.” I hope that you took the time to read the transcript of President Obama’s address at the Hiroshima Memorial. The moving eloquence of this president who reached back into the dawn of the nuclear age to remind us of the awful possibility of of the past repeating itself with the “energy and daring” to forever end its rule over our lives. Not a single Republican politician commented upon this demonstration of “big love” by our president. Not one.

What does that tell you of America’s greatness?”

Brooks and Krugman

May 27, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brooks and Cohen

May 24, 2016

Oh, FFS…  Today Bobo has the unmitigated gall to ask “Why Is Clinton Disliked?”  He gurgles that she fails to bond with voters because she doesn’t show us the parts of her life where most of us feel most human.  Bullshit, Bobo.  Here’s a brief comment from “rarand” in Paris that may help Bobo understand better:  “Being slandered and ridiculed for twenty-five years by people like David Brooks may also have something to do with the level of Mrs. Clinton’s popular trust, but it’s not apparently a possibility that Mr. Brooks cares to entertain.”  I guess Bobo has forgotten The Great Clenis Hunt of the 1990s.  Mr. Cohen considers “Australia’s Offshore Cruelty” and says they should scrap a policy that condemns refugees to a desperate and hopeless limbo.  Here, FSM help us all, is Bobo:

I understand why Donald Trump is so unpopular. He earned it the old-fashioned way, by being obnoxious, insulting and offensive. But why is Hillary Clinton so unpopular?

She is, at the moment, just as unpopular as Trump. In the last three major national polls she had unfavorability ratings in the same ballpark as Trump’s. In the Washington Post/ABC News poll, they are both at 57 percent disapproval.

In the New York Times/CBS News poll, 60 percent of respondents said Clinton does not share their values. Sixty-four percent said she is not honest or trustworthy. Clinton has plummeted so completely down to Trump’s level that she is now statistically tied with him in some of the presidential horse race polls.

There are two paradoxes to her unpopularity. First, she was popular not long ago. As secretary of state she had a 66 percent approval rating. Even as recently as March 2015 her approval rating was at 50 and her disapproval rating was at 39.

It’s only since she launched a multimillion-dollar campaign to impress the American people that she has made herself so strongly disliked.

The second paradox is that, agree with her or not, she’s dedicated herself to public service. From advocate for children to senator, she has pursued her vocation tirelessly. It’s not the “what” that explains her unpopularity, it’s the “how” — the manner in which she has done it.

But what exactly do so many have against her?

I would begin my explanation with this question: Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun? We know what Obama does for fun — golf, basketball, etc. We know, unfortunately, what Trump does for fun.

But when people talk about Clinton, they tend to talk of her exclusively in professional terms. For example, on Nov. 16, 2015, Peter D. Hart conducted a focus group on Clinton. Nearly every assessment had to do with on-the-job performance. She was “multitask-oriented” or “organized” or “deceptive.”

Clinton’s career appears, from the outside, to be all consuming. Her husband is her co-politician. Her daughter works at the Clinton Foundation. Her friendships appear to have been formed at networking gatherings reserved for the extremely successful.

People who work closely with her adore her and say she is warm and caring. But it’s hard from the outside to think of any non-career or pre-career aspect to her life. Except for a few grandma references, she presents herself as a résumé and policy brief.

For example, her campaign recently released a biographical video called “Fighter.” It’s filled with charming and quirky old photos of her fighting for various causes. But then when the video cuts to a current interview with Clinton herself, the lighting is perfect, the setting is perfect, her costume is perfect. She looks less like a human being and more like an avatar from some corporate brand.

Clinton’s unpopularity is akin to the unpopularity of a workaholic. Workaholism is a form of emotional self-estrangement. Workaholics are so consumed by their professional activities that their feelings don’t inform their most fundamental decisions. The professional role comes to dominate the personality and encroaches on the normal intimacies of the soul. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones once put it, whole cemeteries could be filled with the sad tombstone: “Born a man, died a doctor.”

At least in her public persona, Clinton gives off an exclusively professional vibe: industrious, calculated, goal-oriented, distrustful. It’s hard from the outside to have a sense of her as a person; she is a role.

This formal, career-oriented persona puts her in direct contrast with the mores of the social media age, which is intimate, personalist, revealing, trusting and vulnerable. It puts her in conflict with most people’s lived experience. Most Americans feel more vivid and alive outside the work experience than within. So of course to many she seems Machiavellian, crafty, power-oriented, untrustworthy.

There’s a larger lesson here, especially for people who have found a career and vocation that feels fulfilling. Even a socially good vocation can swallow you up and make you lose a sense of your own voice. Maybe it’s doubly important that people with fulfilling vocations develop, and be seen to develop, sanctuaries outside them: in play, solitude, family, faith, hobbies and leisure.

Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote that the Sabbath is “a palace in time which we build.” It’s not a day of rest before work; you work in order to experience this day of elevation. Josef Pieper wrote that leisure is not an activity, it’s an attitude of mind. It’s stepping outside strenuous effort and creating enough stillness so that it becomes possible to contemplate and enjoy things as they are.

Even successful lives need these sanctuaries — in order to be a real person instead of just a productive one. It appears that we don’t really trust candidates who do not show us theirs.

Bobo, go eat a YOOOGE plate of salted rat dicks.  Here’s Mr. Cohen, writing from Sydney:

The Australian treatment of refugees trying to reach this vast, thinly populated country by boat follows textbook rules for the administering of cruelty. It begins with the anodyne name for the procedures — “offshore processing” — as if these desperate human beings were just an accumulation of data.

It continues with the secrecy shrouding what goes on “offshore” in the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, where a total of more than 1,350 people languish with no notion of how their limbo will end, where they will go or how to get answers to their predicament. Under the Australian Border Force Act of last year, disclosure by any current or former worker of “protected information” is punishable by up to two years in prison.

It goes further with the progressive dehumanization of people — dubbed “illegals” without cause — who are caught in this Australian web under a policy now dating back almost four years. They are rarely visible. They are often nameless, merely given identification numbers. Women and children are vulnerable in squalid conditions where idleness and violence go hand in hand.

The refugees are consistently demeaned, as when the conservative immigration minister, Peter Dutton, said this month that they could not read and would somehow contrive at once to steal Australian jobs and “languish in unemployment queues” — a statement that prompted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to call Dutton “outstanding,” no less.

Turnbull, who came to office with a reputation for being from the more progressive wing of the conservative Liberal Party but has proved beholden to the hard-line right, faces an election in early July. Clearly both he and Dutton reckon casting the marooned of Nauru and Manus Island as threats to Australia will play well with voters.

Beyond electoral calculations, people are dying. Last month, a young Iranian refugee, Omid Masoumali, self-immolated on Nauru and died in a Brisbane hospital. Soon after, a 21-year-old Somali refugee, identified only as Hodan, set herself on fire and was taken in critical condition to Brisbane. Their acts were reflections of the desperation and exhaustion inflicted by Australia under a policy that was supposed to be temporary, has not been thought through, and places people in conditions of hopelessness.

Perhaps “offshore processing” was supposed to afford the government plausible deniability. Australia would pay billions of dollars to poor Nauru and poor Papua New Guinea to take a big problem off its hands. But in reality there can be no plausible deniability. On the contrary, by any ethical standard, the policy engages Australian responsibility for cruelty.

Dutton even suggested that human rights advocates bore responsibility for the self-immolations by giving asylum seekers “false hope.” He said the government was “not going to stand for” people trying to twist its arm. Well, a dead person cannot do that, of course.

“We don’t see the boats, we rarely see a human face and there is a black hole of accountability,” said Madeline Gleeson, a human rights lawyer and the author of the recently published book “Offshore.” She told me, “The international community does not understand how outrageous this policy is, how far from basic human standards and how shot through with violence and sexual abuse.”

The government argues it is keeping the country safe from terrorism, preventing a proliferation of Australia-bound boats that could result in deaths on a scale seen in the Mediterranean, and ensuring its immigration policy remains orderly. In the current fiscal year, the country has offered to take in 13,750 people under its Humanitarian Program, and committed, exceptionally, to a further 12,000 from the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts (a handful of them have been processed). But it has vowed that nobody in Nauru or on Manus Island will gain admission to Australia.

Australia’s “offshore processing” is falling apart and must end. The Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea ruled in April that the Australian-funded detention center on Manus Island was illegal. In Australia, only retroactive legislation enacted after a lawsuit was filed provided legal support for a policy that was in effect pursued illegally since 2012.

This country’s history includes the long and unhappy chapter of its White Australia policy under which a vast land mass was portrayed as under threat of invasion by uncivilized “natives” from across Asia. Politicians like Dutton are playing scurrilously on similar fears.

A nation of immigrants, short of agricultural labor, Australia has benefited when it has overcome its fears, as with the admission of Vietnamese “boat people” in the 1970s. As Steven Glass, an international lawyer, observed in introducing Eva Orner’s new movie, “Chasing Asylum,” “What, exactly, are we scared of?” Even women raped and impregnated on Nauru have been treated as if they are security threats.

Bring those stranded in Nauru and on Manus Island, many of whose refugee claims have already been deemed legitimate, to Australia. Treat them with humanity as their demands for permanent settlement are assessed. Scrap a policy that shames a nation with its pointless cruelty.

Brooks and Krugman

May 20, 2016

Bobo is still wringing his hands over “The Fragmented Society” and says Yuval Levin offers a gripping diagnosis of changes in society in his new book.  I guess he and/or the NYT got tired of Bobo being taken to the woodshed because comments have been turned off.  I’ll just point out that one of the “authorities” that Bobo cites is Charles Murray.  Here’s what the Southern Poverty Law Center has to say about him.  Prof. Krugman considers “Obama’s War on Inequality” and says two events this week highlight little-known progressive successes.  Here’s Bobo:

There are just a few essential reads if you want to understand the American social and political landscape today. Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids,” Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart” and a few other books deserve to be on that list. Today, I’d add Yuval Levin’s fantastic new book, “The Fractured Republic.”

Levin starts with the observation that our politics and much of our thinking is drenched in nostalgia for the 1950s and early 1960s. The left is nostalgic for the relative economic equality of that era. The right is nostalgic for the cultural cohesion. The postwar era has become our unconscious ideal of what successful America looks like. It was, Levin notes, an age of cohesion and consolidation.

But we have now moved to an age of decentralization and fragmentation. At one point in the book he presents a series of U-shaped graphs showing this pattern.

Party polarization in Congress declined steadily from 1910 to 1940, but it has risen steadily since. We are a less politically cohesive nation.

The share of national income that went to the top 1 percent declined steadily from 1925 to about 1975, but has risen steadily since. We are a less economically cohesive nation.

The share of Americans who were born abroad dropped steadily from 1910 to 1970. But the share of immigrants has risen steadily ever since, from 4.7 percent of the population to nearly 14 percent. We are a more diverse and less demographically cohesive nation.

In case after case we’ve replaced attachments to large established institutions with commitments to looser and more flexible networks. Levin argues that the Internet did not cause this shift but embodies today’s individualistic, diffuse society.

This shift has created some unpleasant realities. Levin makes a nice distinction between centralization and consolidation. In economic, cultural and social terms, America is less centralized. But people have simultaneously concentrated off on the edges —- separated into areas of, say, concentrated wealth and concentrated poverty. The middle has hollowed out in sphere after sphere. Socially, politically and economically we’re living within “bifurcated concentration.”

For example, religious life has bifurcated. Church attendance has declined twice as fast among people without high school diplomas as among people with college degrees. With each additional year of education, the likelihood of attending religious services rises by 15 percent.

We’re also less embedded in tight, soul-forming institutions. Levin makes another distinction between community — being part of a congregation — and identity — being, say, Jewish. Being part of community takes time and involves restrictions. Merely having an identity doesn’t. In our cultural emphasis and life, we’ve gone from a community focus to an identity focus.

Our politicians try to find someone to blame for these problems: banks, immigrants or, for Donald Trump, morons generally. But that older consolidated life could not have survived modernity and is never coming back. It couldn’t have survived globalization, feminism and the sexual revolution, the rising tide of immigration and the greater freedom consumers now enjoy.

Our fundamental problems are the downsides of transitions we have made for good reasons: to enjoy more flexibility, creativity and individual choice. For example, we like buying cheap products from around the world. But the choices we make as consumers make life less stable for us as employees.

Levin says the answer is not to dwell in confusing, frustrating nostalgia. It’s through a big push toward subsidiarity, devolving choice and power down to the local face-to-face community level, and thus avoiding the excesses both of rigid centralization and alienating individualism. A society of empowered local neighborhood organizations is a learning society. Experiments happen and information about how to solve problems flows from the bottom up.

I’m acknowledged in the book, but I learned something new on every page. Nonetheless, I’d say Levin’s emphasis on subsidiarity and local community is important but insufficient. We live within a golden chain, connecting self, family, village, nation and world. The bonds of that chain have to be repaired at every point, not just the local one.

It’s not 1830. We Americans have a national consciousness. People who start local groups are often motivated by a dream of scaling up and changing the nation and the world. Our distemper is not only caused by local fragmentation but by national dysfunction. Even Levin writes and thinks in nation-state terms (his prescription is Wendell Berry, but his intellectual and moral sources are closer to a nationalist like Abraham Lincoln).

That means there will have to be a bigger role for Washington than he or current Republican orthodoxy allows, with more radical ideas, like national service, or a national effort to seed locally run early education and infrastructure projects.

As in ancient Greece and Rome, local communities won’t survive if the national project disintegrates. Our structural problems are national and global and require big as well as little reforms.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

There were two big economic policy stories this week that you may have missed if you were distracted by Trumpian bombast and the yelling of the Sanders dead-enders. Each tells you a lot about both what President Obama has accomplished and the stakes in this year’s election.

One of those stories, I’m sorry to say, did involve Donald Trump: The presumptive Republican nominee — who has already declared that he will, in fact, slash taxes on the rich, whatever he may have said in the recent past — once again declared his intention to do away with Dodd-Frank, the financial reform passed during Democrats’ brief window of congressional control. Just for the record, while Mr. Trump is sometimes described as a “populist,” almost every substantive policy he has announced would make the rich richer at workers’ expense.

The other story was about a policy change achieved through executive action: The Obama administration issued new guidelines on overtime pay, which will benefit an estimated 12.5 million workers.

What both stories tell us is that the Obama administration has done much more than most people realize to fight extreme economic inequality. That fight will continue if Hillary Clinton wins the election; it will go into sharp reverse if Mr. Trump wins.

Step back for a minute and ask, what can policy do to limit inequality? The answer is, it can operate on two fronts. It can engage in redistribution, taxing high incomes and aiding families with lower incomes. It can also engage in what is sometimes called “predistribution,” strengthening the bargaining power of lower-paid workers and limiting the opportunities for a handful of people to make giant sums. In practice, governments that succeed in limiting inequality generally do both.

We can see this in our own history. The middle-class society that baby boomers like me grew up in didn’t happen by accident; it was created by the New Deal, which engineered what economists call the “Great Compression,” a sharp reduction in income gaps. On one side, pro-labor policies led to a striking expansion of unions, which, along with the establishment of a fairly high minimum wage, helped raise wages, especially at the bottom. On the other side, taxes on the wealthy went up sharply, while major programs like Social Security aided working families.

We can also see this in cross-country comparisons. Among advanced countries, the U.S. has the highest level of inequality, Denmark the lowest. How does Denmark do it? Partly with higher taxes and bigger social programs, but it starts with lower inequality in market incomes, thanks in large part to high minimum wages and a labor movement representing two-thirds of workers.

Now, America isn’t about to become Denmark, and Mr. Obama, facing relentless opposition in Congress, has never been in a position to repeat the New Deal. (Even F.D.R. made limited headway against inequality until World War II gave the government unusual influence over the economy.) But more has happened than you might think.

Most obviously, Obamacare provides aid and subsidies mainly to lower-income working Americans, and it pays for that aid partly with higher taxes at the top. That makes it an important redistributionist policy — the biggest such policy since the 1960s.

And between those extra Obamacare taxes and the expiration of the high-end Bush tax cuts made possible by Mr. Obama’s re-election, the average federal tax rate on the top 1 percent has risen quite a lot. In fact, it’s roughly back to what it was in 1979, pre-Ronald Reagan, something nobody seems to know.

What about predistribution? Well, why is Mr. Trump, like everyone in the G.O.P., so eager to repeal financial reform? Because despite what you may have heard about its ineffectuality, Dodd-Frank actually has put a substantial crimp in the ability of Wall Street to make money hand over fist. It doesn’t go far enough, but it’s significant enough to have bankers howling, which is a good sign.

And while the move on overtime comes late in the game, it’s a pretty big deal, and could be the beginning of much broader action.

Again, nothing Mr. Obama has done will put more than a modest dent in American inequality. But his actions aren’t trivial, either.

And even these medium-size steps put the lie to the pessimism and fatalism one hears all too often on this subject. No, America isn’t an oligarchy in which both parties reliably serve the interests of the economic elite. Money talks on both sides of the aisle, but the influence of big donors hasn’t prevented the current president from doing a substantial amount to narrow income gaps — and he would have done much more if he’d faced less opposition in Congress.

And in this as in so much else, it matters hugely whom the nation chooses as his successor.

Brooks and Cohen

May 17, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britain’s pathologies resemble South Carolina’s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brooks and Cohen

May 10, 2016

In “Putting Grit in Its Place” Bobo gurgles that an education system that was truly aligned with kids’ potential would focus less on G.P.A.s and more on innate aspiration.  “gemli” from Boston had this to say:  “I don’t think Mr. Brooks need worry about all those students who strive for a 4.0 grade average. Our exceptional country is sinking on every scale by which great nations are measured, including education. Besides, his appeal for students to de-emphasize the G.P.A. herd mentality for individual interests is a little ironic, since he’s often railing about the evils of individualism.”  Mr. Cohen considers “Sadiq Khan vs. Donald Trump” and says the new mayor of London is a Muslim. Trump would bar him from the United States.  Here’s Bobo:

We all know why it exists, but the grade-point average is one of the more destructive elements in American education.

Success is about being passionately good at one or two things, but students who want to get close to that 4.0 have to be prudentially balanced about every subject. In life we want independent thinking and risk-taking, but the G.P.A. system encourages students to be deferential and risk averse, giving their teachers what they want.

Creative people are good at asking new questions, but the G.P.A. rewards those who can answer other people’s questions. The modern economy rewards those who can think in ways computers can’t, but the G.P.A. rewards people who can grind away at mental tasks they find boring. People are happiest when motivated intrinsically, but the G.P.A. is the mother of all extrinsic motivations.

The G.P.A. ethos takes spirited children and pushes them to be hard working but complaisant. The G.P.A. mentality means tremendous emphasis has now been placed on grit, the ability to trudge through long stretches of difficulty. Influenced by this culture, schools across America are busy teaching their students to be gritty and to have “character” — by which they mean skills like self-discipline and resilience that contribute to career success.

Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania is the researcher most associated with the study and popularization of grit. And yet what I like about her new book, “Grit,” is the way she is pulling us away from the narrow, joyless intonations of that word, and pointing us beyond the way many schools are now teaching it.

Sure, she starts the book by describing grit as persevering through unpleasantness. She describes Beast Barracks, the physical ordeal that first-year West Point cadets have to endure.

She writes about high school students who grind away at homework for hours and athletes capable of practicing in the most arduous way possible.

And yet Duckworth notes that moral purpose also contributes to grit. People who are motivated more by altruism than personal pleasure score higher on grit scales. She also notes that having a hopeful temperament contributes to perseverance.

Most important, she notes that the quality of our longing matters. Gritty people are resilient and hard working, sure. But they also, she writes, know in a very, very deep way what it is they want.

This is a crucial leap. It leads to a very different set of questions and approaches. How do we help students decide what they want? How do we improve the quality and ardor of their longing?

The G.P.A. mentality is based on the supposition that we are thinking creatures. Young minds have to be taught self-discipline so they can acquire knowledge. That’s partly true, but as James K. A. Smith notes in his own book “You Are What You Love,” human beings are primarily defined by what we desire, not what we know. Our wants are at the core of our identity, the wellspring whence our actions flow.

At the highest level, our lives are directed toward some telos, or vision of the good life. Whether we are aware of it or not, we’re all oriented around some set of goals. As David Foster Wallace put it in his Kenyon commencement address, “In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships.” Some worship money, or power or popularity or nursing or art, but everybody’s life is organized around some longing. The heart is both a driving engine and a compass.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really bad at being self-disciplined about things I don’t care about. For me, and I suspect for many, hard work and resilience can only happen when there is a strong desire. Grit is thus downstream from longing. People need a powerful why if they are going to be able to endure any how.

Duckworth herself has a very clear telos. As she defines it, “Use psychological science to help kids thrive.” Throughout her book, you can feel her passion for her field and see how gritty she has been in pursuing her end.

Suppose you were designing a school to help students find their own clear end — as clear as that one. Say you were designing a school to elevate and intensify longings. Wouldn’t you want to provide examples of people who have intense longings? Wouldn’t you want to encourage students to be obsessive about worthy things? Wouldn’t you discuss which loves are higher than others and practices that habituate them toward those desires? Wouldn’t you be all about providing students with new subjects to love?

In such a school you might even de-emphasize the G.P.A. mentality, which puts a tether on passionate interests and substitutes other people’s longings for the student’s own.

And now here’s Mr. Cohen:

The most important political event of recent weeks was not the emergence of Donald J. Trump as the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party but the election of Sadiq Khan, the Muslim son of a London bus driver, as mayor of London.

Trump has not won any kind of political office yet, but Khan, the Labour Party candidate, crushed Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative, to take charge of one of the world’s great cities, a vibrant metropolis where every tongue is heard. In his victory, a triumph over the slurs that tried to tie him to Islamist extremism, Khan stood up for openness against isolationism, integration against confrontation, opportunity for all against racism and misogyny. He was the anti-Trump.

Before the election, Khan told my colleague Stephen Castle, “I’m a Londoner, I’m a European, I’m British, I’m English, I’m of Islamic faith, of Asian origin, of Pakistani heritage, a dad, a husband.”

The world of the 21st century is going to be shaped by such elided, many-faceted identities and by the booming cities that celebrate diversity, not by some bullying, brash, bigoted, “America first” white dude who wants to build walls.

It is worth noting that under the ban on Muslim noncitizens entering the country that Trump proposes, Khan would not be allowed to visit the United States. To use one of Trump’s favorite phrases, this would be a “complete and total disaster.” It would make America a foul mockery in the eyes of a world already aghast at the Republican candidate’s rise.

Khan’s election is important because it gives the lie to the facile trope that Europe is being taken over by jihadi Islamists. It underscores the fact that terrorist acts hide a million quiet success stories among European Muslim communities. One of seven children of a Pakistani immigrant family, Khan grew up in public housing and went on to become a human rights lawyer and government minister. He won more than 1.3 million votes in the London election, a personal mandate unsurpassed by any politician in British history.

His election is important because the most effective voices against Islamist terrorism come from Muslims, and Khan has been prepared to speak out. After the Paris attacks last year, he said in a speech that Muslims had a “special role” to play in countering the terrorism, “not because we are more responsible than others, as some have wrongly claimed, but because we can be more effective at tackling extremism than anyone else.”

Khan has also reached out to Britain’s Jewish community, vigorously disavowing the creeping anti-Semitism in Labour ranks that last month saw Ken Livingstone, a former London mayor, suspended from the party.

As George Eaton observed in The New Statesman: “Khan will be a figure of global significance. His election is a rebuke to extremists of all stripes, from Donald Trump to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who assert that religions cannot peacefully coexist.”

Trump as a politician is a product of American fear and anger above all. In the past several weeks, a U.C. Berkeley student has been escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight because he was heard speaking Arabic, and an olive-skinned, curly haired Italian Ivy League economist was taken off an American Airlines flight because he was spotted scribbling mathematical calculations that his seatmate found suspicious.

Trump — described to me by Norm Ornstein, the political scientist, as “the most insecure and ego-driven person in the country” — is the mouthpiece of this frightened America that sees threats everywhere (even in an Italian mathematician).

When Trump declares, “America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration,” the rest of the world hears an angry nation flexing its muscles.

Khan’s rise, by contrast, is a story of victory over the fears engendered by 9/11. His victory is a rebuke to Osama bin Laden, the Islamic State, jihadi ideology of every stripe — and to the hatemongering politicians like Trump who choose to play the Muslim-equals-danger game. Khan has argued that greater integration is essential and “too many British Muslims grow up without really knowing anyone from a different background.”

Sigmund Freud wrote, “It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct.” Donald Trump has written: “I have learned to listen and trust my gut. It’s one of my most valued counselors.” He recently said, “We must, as a nation, be more unpredictable.”

Right.

Put together an egotist, a bully, immense power and a taste for gut-driven unpredictability and you have a dangerous brew that could put civilization at risk. Those small fingers would have access to the nuclear codes if Trump was elected.

In this context, Sadiq Khan’s victory is reassuring because he represents currents in the world — toward global identity and integration — that will prove stronger over time than the tribalism and nativism of Trump.

Brooks and Krugman

May 6, 2016

Bobo has decided to tell us all about “Clinton’s Imagination Problem.”  He sniffs that her coal gaffe and predictable policy prescriptions for Appalachia illustrate her campaign’s failure to connect with voters.  In the comments “Rocco” from California had this to say:  “She should have said the truth – we as a nation need to stop embracing 19th Century energy and move forward with 21st Century technology. Guess what – when Henry Ford invented the car, blacksmiths and horsemen were put out to pasture. That’s life. Stop pandering like knucklehead Trump who “loves the coal miners” and wants to “reopen the mines”.”  Prof. Krugman considers “Truth and Trumpism” and says don’t believe the peddlers of centrification or fall for false comparisons.  Here’s Bobo:

In March Hillary Clinton told a CNN interviewer, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” That was a true but dumb thing to say in advance of the West Virginia primary. So this week Clinton went on an apology and listening tour through Appalachia.

She heard tales of loss and renewal. Then she gave a speech proposing an agenda for the region. It was a perfectly serviceable speech. Yet you can see in it some of the reasons the Clinton campaign has not exactly caught fire.

The core problem is that she sounds like a normal Democratic candidate in the noble tradition of Edmund Muskie and Hubert Humphrey, but she doesn’t sound like an imaginative candidate who is responding with fresh eyes to situations today.

This year it seems especially important to show voters that you see them and know them, and can name the exact frustrations in their lives. Clinton’s speech was filled with the flattery that candidates always offer their audiences — “Appalachia is home to some of the most resilient, hard-working people anywhere.” But the political rhetoric was conventional and she didn’t really capture the texture of life.

She didn’t really capture the way economic loss has triggered a series of complex spirals, and that social decay is now center stage. A few decades ago there were 175,000 coal jobs in the U.S. Now there are 57,000. That economic dislocation has hit local economies in the form of shuttered storefronts and abandoned bank buildings.

Everywhere there are local activists trying to rebuild, but it’s hard to hold off the dislocation, distrust and pessimism. Birthrates drop. Family structures erode. Life expectancy falls. People slip between the cracks and inevitably drug use rises. According to The Charleston Gazette-Mail, between 1999 and 2009, per-capita consumption of oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl tripled. By 2009 West Virginians were annually filling 19 painkiller prescriptions a person.

Heavy opioid use often slides over into heroin use. Heroin overdose deaths tripled between 2009 and 2014. In those years the state had the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation.

It’s not surprising that there’s so much drug use in towns where there’s so little to do. But the root of this kind of addiction crisis is social isolation. Addiction is a disease that afflicts the lonely. It is a disease that afflicts those who have suffered trauma in childhood and beyond. And once the social fabric frays it’s hard for economic recovery to begin. I ran into employers in Pittsburgh who had industrial jobs to fill but they couldn’t find people who could pass the pre-employment drug test.

Clinton did gesture toward some of these truths, saying, “They’re dying from suicide, but I thought Bill really put his finger on it. He said, ‘You know what they’re really dying of? They’re dying of a broken heart.’” But her policy ideas don’t exactly respond to current realities.

She vowed to “take a hard look at retraining programs.” She’d expand tax credits to encourage investment. She’d get tough on trading partners who are trying to dump cheap steel. These are the normal, sensible ideas candidates propose, but they are familiar and haven’t exactly done much good.

A daring approach might have been to use the speech to propose a comprehensive drug addiction and mental health agenda. That would have grabbed the attention of all those Americans whose families are touched by addiction and mental health issues — which is basically everybody.

A more imaginative approach might have been to unfurl a vision to reweave social fabric, the way David Cameron has in Britain. In areas of concentrated poverty, everything is connected to everything else — job loss, family structure, alcoholism, domestic violence, neighborliness. It would be nice if America, too, had creative politicians who could put together a comprehensive agenda that nurtures social connection, rather than just relying on economic levers like job-training programs that have consistently disappointed.

A more timely approach would have noted this fact: That for all of American history, people have moved in search of opportunity, but these days we’re just not moving. The number of Americans who move in search of jobs has been declining steadily since 1985.

Place-based federal anti-poverty programs discourage mobility; if you move in search of opportunity you risk losing your benefits. The government could offer mobility grants to help people get their families from one place to another. It could set up migration zones — helping people find housing and connection in places where jobs are available.

Clinton’s speech was not bad by any means. But she could have offered something inspiring and audacious — to tackle mental health problems, to reweave community, to make America the daring mobile place it used to be. She could have grabbed the nation’s attention.

This is a country seriously off course. A little creativity is in order.

Oh, FFS Bobo…  Hasn’t Trump been “creative” enough for you?  And it was your crowd of lunatics that drove the country onto the rocks.  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

How will the news media handle the battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? I suspect I know the answer — and it’s going to be deeply frustrating. But maybe, just maybe, flagging some common journalistic sins in advance can limit the damage. So let’s talk about what can and probably will go wrong in coverage — but doesn’t have to.

First, and least harmful, will be the urge to make the election seem closer than it is, if only because a close race makes a better story. You can already see this tendency in suggestions that the startling outcome of the fight for the Republican nomination somehow means that polls and other conventional indicators of electoral strength are meaningless.

The truth, however, is that polls have been pretty good indicators all along. Pundits who dismissed the chances of a Trump nomination did so despite, not because of, the polls, which have been showing a large Trump lead for more than eight months.

Oh, and let’s not make too much of any one poll. When many polls are taken, there are bound to be a few outliers, both because of random sampling error and the biases that can creep into survey design. If the average of recent polls shows a strong lead for one candidate — as it does right now for Mrs. Clinton — any individual poll that disagrees with that average should be taken with large helpings of salt.

A more important vice in political coverage, which we’ve seen all too often in previous elections — but will be far more damaging if it happens this time — is false equivalence.

You might think that this would be impossible on substantive policy issues, where the asymmetry between the candidates is almost ridiculously obvious. To take the most striking comparison, Mr. Trump has proposed huge tax cuts with no plausible offsetting spending cuts, yet has also promised to pay down U.S. debt; meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton has proposed modest spending increases paid for by specific tax hikes.

That is, one candidate is engaged in wildly irresponsible fantasy while the other is being quite careful with her numbers. But beware of news analyses that, in the name of “balance,” downplay this contrast.

This isn’t a new phenomenon: Many years ago, when George W. Bush was obviously lying about his budget arithmetic but nobody would report it, I suggested that if a candidate declared that the earth was flat, headlines would read, “Shape of the Planet: Both Sides Have a Point.” But this year it could be much, much worse.

And what about less quantifiable questions about behavior? I’ve already seen pundits suggest that both presumptive nominees fight dirty, that both have taken the “low road” in their campaigns. For the record, Mr. Trump has impugned his rivals’ manhood, called them liars and suggested that Ted Cruz’s father was associated with J.F.K.’s killer. On her side, Mrs. Clinton has suggested that Bernie Sanders hasn’t done his homework on some policy issues. These things are not the same.

Finally, I can almost guarantee that we’ll see attempts to sanitize the positions and motives of Trump supporters, to downplay the racism that is at the heart of the movement and pretend that what voters really care about are the priorities of D.C. insiders — a process I think of as “centrification.”

That is, after all, what happened after the rise of the Tea Party. I’ve seen claims that Tea Partiers were motivated by Wall Street bailouts, or even that the movement was largely about fiscal responsibility, driven by voters upset about budget deficits.

In fact, there was never a hint that any of these things mattered; if you followed the actual progress of the movement, it was always about white voters angry at the thought that their taxes might be used to help Those People, whether via mortgage relief for distressed minority homeowners or health care for low-income families.

Now I’m seeing suggestions that Trumpism is driven by concerns about political gridlock. No, it isn’t. It isn’t even mainly about “economic anxiety.”

Trump support in the primaries was strongly correlated with racial resentment: We’re looking at a movement of white men angry that they no longer dominate American society the way they used to. And to pretend otherwise is to give both the movement and the man who leads it a free pass.

In the end, bad reporting probably won’t change the election’s outcome, because the truth is that those angry white men are right about their declining role. America is increasingly becoming a racially diverse, socially tolerant society, not at all like the Republican base, let alone the plurality of that base that chose Donald Trump.

Still, the public has a right to be properly informed. The news media should do all it can to resist false equivalence and centrification, and report what’s really going on.

Bobo, solo.

May 3, 2016

Oh, gawd, but he’s a tiresome little fop.  Bobo is now hyperventilating and wringing his hands over “The Choice Explosion.”  He gurgles that American life today is defined by many options, but we often lack the techniques to make good decisions.  Here’s a short comment by “Len Safhay” from New Jersey, with the complete comment by “gemli” from Boston following Bobo: ” “…the choice explosion has contributed to widening inequality.”  Hmmmm…choices choices, choices. Let’s see…go sailing? Nah, too wet. Spring semester in Paris? Too rude. Buy a classic 10 room co-op on Park Avenue? Too stuffy. Pick up a Bonnard at Christies? Too yellow. Man, I wish I had a priest or a rabbi to tell me what to do; this lack of old time values and moral authority figures and shibboleths is leaving me spiritually, emotionally and intellectually adrift! Wait…here’s one…work for $8 an hour; no benefits. Bingo!  Yep, must be it.”  Here, FSM help us all, is Bobo:

A few years ago, the social psychologist Sheena Iyengarasked 100 American and Japanese college students to take a piece of paper. On one side, she had them write down the decisions in life they would like to make for themselves. On the other, they wrote the decisions they would like to pass on to others.

The Americans filled up the side for decisions they want to decide for themselves. Where to live. What job to take. The other side was almost blank. The only “decision” they commonly wanted to hand off to others was, “When I die.”

The Japanese filled up the back side of the sheet with things they wanted others to decide: what they wore; what time they woke up; what they did at their job. The Americans desired choice in four times more domains than the Japanese.

Americans have always put great emphasis on individual choice. But even by our own standards we’ve had a choice explosion over the past 30 years. Americans now have more choices over more things than any other culture in human history. We can choose between a broader array of foods, media sources, lifestyles and identities. We have more freedom to live out our own sexual identities and more religious and nonreligious options to express our spiritual natures.

This opening has produced much that is wonderful. But making decisions well is incredibly difficult, even for highly educated professional decision makers. As Chip Heath and Dan Heath point out in their book “Decisive,” 83 percent of corporate mergers and acquisitions do not increase shareholder value, 40 percent of senior hires do not last 18 months in their new position, 44 percent of lawyers would recommend that a young person not follow them into the law.

It’s becoming incredibly important to learn to decide well, to develop the techniques of self-distancing to counteract the flaws in our own mental machinery. The Heath book is a very good compilation of those techniques.

For example, they mention the maxim, assume positive intent. When in the midst of some conflict, start with the belief that others are well intentioned. It makes it easier to absorb information from people you’d rather not listen to.

They highlight Suzy Welch’s 10-10-10 rule. When you’re about to make a decision, ask yourself how you will feel about it 10 minutes from now, 10 months from now and 10 years from now. People are overly biased by the immediate pain of some choice, but they can put the short-term pain in long-term perspective by asking these questions.

The Heaths recommend making deliberate mistakes. A survey of new brides found that 20 percent were not initially attracted to the man they ended up marrying. Sometimes it’s useful to make a deliberate “mistake” — agreeing to dinner with a guy who is not your normal type. Sometimes you don’t really know what you want and the filters you apply are hurting you.

They mention our tendency to narrow-frame, to see every decision as a binary “whether or not” alternative. Whenever you find yourself asking “whether or not,” it’s best to step back and ask, “How can I widen my options?” In other words, before you ask, “Should I fire this person?” Ask, “Is there any way I can shift this employee’s role to take advantage of his strengths and avoid his weaknesses?”

The explosion of choice means we all need more help understanding the anatomy of decision-making. It makes you think that we should have explicit decision-making curriculums in all schools. Maybe there should be a common course publicizing the work of Daniel Kahneman, Cass Sunstein, Dan Ariely and others who study the way we mess up and the techniques we can adopt to prevent error.

This is probably especially important for schools that serve the less fortunate. The explosion of choice places extra burdens on the individual. Poorer Americans have fewer resources to master decision-making techniques, less social support to guide their decision-making and less of a safety net to catch them when they err.

As the researchers Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir have shown, the stress of scarcity itself can distort decision-making. Those who experienced stress as children often perceive threat more acutely and live more defensively. A school principal I met in Pittsburgh observed that living in an area of concentrated poverty can close down your perceived options, and comfortably “relieve you of the burden of choosing life.” It’s hard to maintain a feeling of agency when you see no chance of opportunity.

In this way the choice explosion has contributed to widening inequality.

It’s important to offer opportunity and incentives. But we also need lessons in self-awareness — on exactly how our decision-making tool is fundamentally flawed, and on mental frameworks we can adopt to avoid messing up even more than we do.

This whining, simpering fop needs to get the hell out of his “vast spaces for entertaining” and spend a full year living on the minimum wage.  What an awful foof he is.  Now here’s what “gemli” had to say to him:

“We don’t need anyone’s help making decisions for ourselves. What we need is a level playing field. Every “freedom” that Mr. Brooks mentions had to be fought for against a conservative backlash that condemned people for their choices. And the battle is far from over.

If David Brooks thinks that people can live out their sexual identities he hasn’t been paying attention to initiatives in North Carolina that would tell the transgendered which restrooms they can use. No one chooses to be gay, but increasing religious freedom has often meant the freedom to openly demonize gay people, undermine abortion rights and to inject medieval theology into public policy.

Mr. Brooks mentions “schools that serve the less fortunate” as if they’re a fact of nature and not a choice that has been made for us. They exist because cities have been economically abandoned for decades, crumbling under the weight of a pathetic minimum wage, egregious income inequality and a Civil War that never really ended.

Some of us chose Mr. Obama as our president to recover from eight years of Republican war and economic collapse. That choice was taken away from us by conservatives who crippled our democracy by refusing to cooperate with the president. For the upcoming election, they’ve given Republicans the choice between a real estate buffoon and an evangelical dominionist.

There is no choice when it’s a game of heads they win, tails we lose.”

The editors of the NYT should fire Bobo’s useless butt and give the space to gemli.

Brooks and Krugman from 4/29 and Collins from today

April 30, 2016

Sorry about missing yesterday, but I had some eye surgery on Thursday that left me a bit under the weather yesterday, and seeing is still a bit of a challenge.  Bobo on Friday gave us “If Not Trump, What?” and Prof. Krugman addressed the “Wrath of the Conned.”  Today Ms. Collins considers “The One Thing Worse Than Trump.”  Here’s Bobo’s offering:

Donald Trump now looks set to be the Republican presidential nominee. So for those of us appalled by this prospect — what are we supposed to do?

Well, not what the leaders of the Republican Party are doing. They’re going down meekly and hoping for a quiet convention. They seem blithely unaware that this is a Joe McCarthy moment. People will be judged by where they stood at this time. Those who walked with Trump will be tainted forever after for the degradation of standards and the general election slaughter.

The better course for all of us — Republican, Democrat and independent — is to step back and take the long view, and to begin building for that. This election — not only the Trump phenomenon but the rise of Bernie Sanders, also — has reminded us how much pain there is in this country. According to a Pew Research poll, 75 percent of Trump voters say that life has gotten worse for people like them over the last half century.

This declinism intertwines with other horrible social statistics. The suicide rate has surged to a 30-year high — a sure sign of rampant social isolation. A record number of Americans believe the American dream is out of reach. And for millennials, social trust is at historic lows.

Trump’s success grew out of that pain, but he is not the right response to it. The job for the rest of us is to figure out the right response.

That means first it’s necessary to go out into the pain. I was surprised by Trump’s success because I’ve slipped into a bad pattern, spending large chunks of my life in the bourgeois strata — in professional circles with people with similar status and demographics to my own. It takes an act of will to rip yourself out of that and go where you feel least comfortable. But this column is going to try to do that over the next months and years. We all have some responsibility to do one activity that leaps across the chasms of segmentation that afflict this country.

We’ll probably need a new national story. Up until now, America’s story has been some version of the rags-to-riches story, the lone individual who rises from the bottom through pluck and work. But that story isn’t working for people anymore, especially for people who think the system is rigged.

I don’t know what the new national story will be, but maybe it will be less individualistic and more redemptive. Maybe it will be a story about communities that heal those who suffer from addiction, broken homes, trauma, prison and loss, a story of those who triumph over the isolation, social instability and dislocation so common today.

We’ll probably need a new definition of masculinity, too. There are many groups in society who have lost an empire but not yet found a role. Men are the largest of those groups. The traditional masculine ideal isn’t working anymore. It leads to high dropout rates, high incarceration rates, low labor force participation rates. This is an economy that rewards emotional connection and verbal expressiveness. Everywhere you see men imprisoned by the old reticent, stoical ideal.

We’ll also need to rebuild the sense that we’re all in this together. The author R. R. Reno has argued that what we’re really facing these days is a “crisis of solidarity.” Many people, as the writers David and Amber Lapp note, feel pervasively betrayed: by for-profit job-training outfits that left them awash in debt, by spouses and stepparents, by people who collect federal benefits but don’t work. They’ve stopped even expecting loyalty from their employers. The big flashing lights say: NO TRUST. That leads to an everyone-out-for-himself mentality and Trump’s politics of suspicion. We’ll need a communitarianism.

Maybe the task is to build a ladder of hope. People across America have been falling through the cracks. Their children are adrift. Trump, to his credit, made them visible. We can start at the personal level just by hearing them talk.

Then at the community level we can listen to those already helping. James Fallows had a story in The Atlantic recently noting that while we’re dysfunctional at the national level you see local renaissances dotted across the country. Fallows went around asking, “Who makes this town go?” and found local patriots creating radical schools, arts festivals, public-private partnerships that give, say, high school dropouts computer skills.

Then solidarity can be rekindled nationally. Over the course of American history, national projects like the railroad legislation, the W.P.A. and the NASA project have bound this diverse nation. Of course, such projects can happen again — maybe through a national service program, or something else.

Trump will have his gruesome moment. The time is best spent elsewhere, meeting the neighbors who have become strangers, and listening to what they have to say.

Next up we have Prof. Krugman from yesterday:

Maybe we need a new cliché: It ain’t over until Carly Fiorina sings. Anyway, it really is over — definitively on the Democratic side, with high probability on the Republican side. And the results couldn’t be more different.

Think about where we were a year ago. At the time, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush were widely seen as the front-runners for their parties’ nods. If there was any dissent from the commentariat, it came from those suggesting that Mr. Bush might be supplanted by a fresher, but still establishment, face, like Marco Rubio.

And now here we are. But why did Mrs. Clinton, despite the most negative media coverage of any candidate in this cycle — yes, worse than Donald Trump’s — go the distance, while the G.O.P. establishment went down to humiliating defeat?

Personalities surely played a role; say what you like (or dislike) about Mrs. Clinton, but she’s resilient under pressure, a character trait notably lacking on the other side. But basically it comes down to fundamental differences between the parties and how they serve their supporters.

Both parties make promises to their bases. But while the Democratic establishment more or less tries to make good on those promises, the Republican establishment has essentially been playing bait-and-switch for decades. And voters finally rebelled against the con.

First, about the Democrats: Their party defines itself as the protector of the poor and the middle class, and especially of nonwhite voters. Does it fall short of fulfilling this mission much of the time? Are its leaders sometimes too close to big-money donors? Of course. Still, if you look at the record of the Obama years, you see real action on behalf of the party’s goals.

Above all, you have the Affordable Care Act, which has given about 20 million Americans health insurance, with the gains biggest for the poor, minorities and low-wage workers. That’s what you call delivering for the base — and it’s surely one reason nonwhite voters have overwhelmingly favored Mrs. Clinton over a challenger who sometimes seemed to dismiss that achievement.

And this was paid for largely with higher taxes on the rich, with average tax rates on very high incomes rising by about six percentage points since 2008.

Maybe you think Democrats could and should have done more, but what the party establishment says and what it does are at least roughly aligned.

Things are very different among Republicans. Their party has historically won elections by appealing to racial enmity and cultural anxiety, but its actual policy agenda is dedicated to serving the interests of the 1 percent, above all through tax cuts for the rich — which even Republican voters don’t support, while they truly loathe elite ideas like privatizing Social Security and Medicare.

What Donald Trump has been doing is telling the base that it can order à la carte. He has, in effect, been telling aggrieved white men that they can feed their anger without being forced to swallow supply-side economics, too. Yes, his actual policy proposals still involve huge tax cuts for the rich, but his supporters don’t know that — and it’s possible that he doesn’t, either. Details aren’t his thing.

Establishment Republicans have tried to counter his appeal by shouting, with growing hysteria, that he isn’t a true conservative. And they’re right, at least as they define conservatism. But their own voters don’t care.

If there’s a puzzle here, it’s why this didn’t happen sooner. One possible explanation is the decadence of the G.O.P. establishment, which has become ingrown and lost touch. Apparatchiks who have spent their whole careers inside the bubble of right-wing think tanks and partisan media may suffer from the delusion that their ideology is actually popular with real people. And this has left them hapless in the face of a Trumpian challenge.

Probably more important, however, is the collision between demography and Obama derangement. The elite knows that the party must broaden its appeal as the electorate grows more diverse — in fact, that was the conclusion of the G.O.P.’s 2013 post-mortem. But the base, its hostility amped up to 11 after seven years of an African-American president (who the establishment has done its best to demonize) is having none of it.

The point, in any case, is that the divergent nomination outcomes of 2016 aren’t an accident. The Democratic establishment has won because it has, however imperfectly, tried to serve its supporters. The Republican establishment has been routed because it has been playing a con game on its supporters all along, and they’ve finally had enough.

And yes, Mr. Trump is playing a con game of his own, and they’ll eventually figure that out, too. But it won’t happen right away, and in any case it won’t help the party establishment. Sad!

And now here’s Ms. Collins from today:

Ted Cruz continues to astound. Every time it appears he can’t get more awful, he finds a new avenue, like a ground mole sniffing out a beetle. Right now, he’s in Indiana, trying to save his presidential career by ranting about transgender people and bathrooms.

“Even if Donald Trump dresses up as Hillary Clinton, he shouldn’t be using the girls’ restroom,” Cruz declaimed at a rally. It’s his new favorite line. He is constantly reminding Republican voters that Trump, when asked which bathroom transgender people should use, simply replied the one that they felt most appropriate.

That was possibly the most rational moment of the Trump campaign, and of course he has since started fudging on it. But not enough for Cruz, who has earned the distinction of being a presidential candidate who can make Donald Trump look good. “I get along with almost everybody, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life,” said the former House speaker, John Boehner. He also called Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh.”

If this has become a battle between fear and loathing, it appears that Republicans who know both candidates are deciding they’d rather be afraid.

Tuesday’s Indiana primary is critical for Cruz, and he scored a coup when Gov. Mike Pence endorsed him. Perhaps Pence, an extreme social conservative, felt he had to go with the only candidate who opposed allowing rape victims to seek abortions. But you have heard more enthusiastic announcements from flight attendants demonstrating the proper use of seatbelts.

Pence praised Trump for taking “a strong stand for Hoosier jobs” while blandly commending Cruz for his “knowledge of the Constitution.” We all know that as a youth, Ted memorized that document, and you can imagine him reciting Article II for the edification of his classmates. Which is both commendable and a possible explanation for why his former college roommate told The Daily Beast that he’d rather vote for a name picked randomly from the phone book.

It was a week in which Cruz made headlines with his disastrous attempt to connect with Indiana sports fans, in which he referred to a basketball hoop as a “ring.” That was a terrible moment, although certainly not as bad as Trump’s boastful announcement that he’d gotten the backing of the ex-boxer Mike Tyson. (“I love it … Iron Mike. You know all the tough guys endorse me. I like that, O.K.?”) Tyson has strong ties to Indiana, having served three years in prison there for raping a beauty pageant contestant in 1992.

Cruz made a desperate play for attention by picking Carly Fiorina as his ticket’s vice-presidential candidate. While he’s still way behind in delegates, the senator from Texas now leads the pack in anointed running mates.

Fiorina was obviously chosen after long and careful consideration. But who do you think the other finalists were? He clearly needed a woman whose best career option was joining the Ted Cruz ticket. I am thinking the possible contenders were:

A) That State Board of Education candidate in Texas who claims Barack Obama used to pay for his drug habit by working as a prostitute.

B) Mrs. Cruz

C) The House member who made the impassioned speech denouncing government regulation of ceiling fans.

D) Wendy who delivered pizza to the campaign headquarters during the Ohio primary.

The woman from Texas is an actual person. The one from the House is Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. (“First they came for our health care. Then they took away our light bulbs … now they are coming after our ceiling fans.”) She’d be perfect, really. But unfortunately, she’s leaning toward Trump.

Cruz says that as the former head of a Fortune 500 company, Fiorina knows “where jobs come from.” (And where jobs go — she laid off 30,000 Hewlett-Packard employees.) She also ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in California — who can forget that campaign commercial where her opponent was depicted as a satanic sheep? The California connection might at least help him out in the state’s June primary, except that Fiorina decamped for Virginia after she lost the election, leaving behind memories and unpaid campaign debts.

The whole political world tuned in to watch Cruz announce Fiorina’s elevation, then wandered off to dust some bookshelves as he orated on for half an hour before turning over the stage. Fiorina then mesmerized the remaining viewers by singing a song, which she claimed she used to entertain Cruz’s daughters on bus rides, in a little-girl voice.

Cruz has been dragging the children, 5 and 8, into his campaign a lot. It appears they now spend their days on a bus with Carly Fiorina and being trotted onstage by Dad — before he gets to the part about Donald Trump cross-dressing in the girls’ restroom. They’ve also starred in a TV campaign ad reading from a mock Christmas book called “The Grinch Who Lost Her Emails.”

Free the Cruz Kids.

Never fear, America.  After DefeaTED loses Indiana he’ll announce his transition team.

Bobo, solo

April 26, 2016

Welp, Bobo is still in Havana, not “rediscovering” America.  And he’s decided to wax philosophical, which is always dangerous.  In “Getting to Zero” he gurgles that Hemingway’s life was in many ways a mess, but he proved it is possible to create honest and unvarnished art even in the midst of decline.  [sigh]  Here’s the comment (in its entirety) from “Robert Eller:”  Mr. Brooks, you’re in Cuba. You have a singular opportunity to act on your recently self-lamented admonishment to do your job better, and get out among people, to report on something most Americans don’t know.  Instead you retreat to your own weakness. You focus on a long dead American writer, and overlay that writer’s over-explained, over-analyzed life and work with your own over-analysis. Adding to your failure to seize the opportunity to be in Cuba, you “see” an opportunity to make a raggedy Ayn Rand comment about an artist preserving his purity by not serving the community. Unfortunately, you seem to think that all producers lose their purity not serving their community, because somehow, despite the constant lesson of all of nature, for people like you all of competition is inherently good, all of cooperation inherently evil. (Try reading Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s “Mother Nature,” Mr. Brooks, or any honest work of field anthropology or primatology. Even you might learn something about human beings.)  Cubans could have taught you something about cooperation, if you had not already decided that everything good in Cuba was frozen in amber, waiting to be “rescued” by the re-introduction of competition, the “purity” of not serving others. Oh, well. No man is an island, and you certainly are not Cuba.  Hemingway, by the way, because of his success and wealth, could afford his weaknesses and sins, even if those around him did not do so well. There’s a real Cuban story for you.”  Now here’s Bobo his ownself:

Ernest Hemingway’s house in Cuba seems like such a healthy place. It is light, welcoming and beautifully situated. There are hundreds of his books lining the shelves, testimony to all the reading he did there. There’s a baseball diamond nearby where he used to pitch to local boys.

Yet Hemingway was not a healthy man during the latter phases in his life. He was drunk much of the time; he often began drinking at breakfast and his brother counted 17 Scotch-and-sodas in a day. His wives complained that he was sporadic about bathing. He was obsessed with his weight and recorded it on the wall of his house.

He could be lively and funny, the organizer of exciting adventures. But he could also be depressed, combative and demoralized. His ego overflowed. F. Scott Fitzgerald, who endured a psychological crisis at about the same time, observed that Hemingway “is quite as nervously broken down as I am, but it manifests itself in different ways. His inclination is toward megalomania and mine toward melancholy.”

Even as a young man Hemingway exaggerated his (already prodigious) exploits in order to establish his manliness. When he was older his prima donna proclivities could make him, as one visiting photographer put it, “crazy,” “drunk” and “berserk.”

He was a prisoner of his own celebrity. He’d become famous at 25 and by middle age he was often just playing at being Ernest Hemingway. The poet David Whyte has written that work “is a place you can lose yourself more easily perhaps than finding yourself … losing all sense of our own voice, our own contribution and conversation.” Hemingway seems to have lost track of his own authentic voice in the midst of the public persona he’d created.

His misogyny was also like a cancer that ate out his insides. He was an extremely sensitive man, who suffered much from the merest slights, but was also an extremely dominating, cruel and self-indulgent one, who judged his wives harshly, slapped them when angry and forced them to bear all the known forms of disloyalty.

By this time, much of his writing rang false. Reviewer after reviewer said he had destroyed his own talent. His former mentor Gertrude Stein said he was a coward.

Yet there were moments, even amid the wreckage, when he could rediscover something authentic. Even at these late phases, he could write books like “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Old Man and the Sea” and passages like some in “To Have and Have Not” and “Islands in the Stream” that remain loved and celebrated today.

This is a process that we might call “getting to zero,” when an artist — or anyone, really — digs through all the sap that gets encrusted around a career or relationship and retouches the intrinsic impulse that got him or her into it in the first place. Hemingway’s career got overlayered by money, persona and fame, but sometimes even at this late stage he was able to reconnect with the young man’s directness that produced his early best work.

When you see how he did it, three things leap out. The first is the most mundane — the daily disciplines of the job. In the house, there is a small bed where he laid out his notes and a narrow shelf where he stood, stared at a blank wall and churned out his daily word count. Sometimes it seems to have been the structure of concrete behavior — the professional routines — that served as a lifeline when all else was crumbling.

Second, there seem to have been moments of self-forgetting. Dorothy Sayers has an essay in which she notes it’s fashionable to say you do your work to serve the community. But if you do any line of work for the community, she argues, you’ll end up falsifying your work, because you’ll be angling it for applause. You’ll feel people owe you something for your work. But if you just try to serve the work — focusing on each concrete task and doing it the way it’s supposed to be done — then you’ll end up, obliquely, serving the community more. Sometimes the only way to be good at a job is to lose the self-consciousness embedded in the question, “How’m I doing?”

Finally, there was the act of cutting out. When Hemingway was successful, he cut out his mannerisms and self-pity. Then in middle age, out of softness, laziness and self-approval, he indulged himself. But even then, even amid all the corruption, he had flashes when he could distinguish his own bluster from the good, true notes.

There is something heroic that happened in this house. Hemingway was a man who embraced every self-indulgence that can afflict a successful person. But at moments he shed all that he had earned and received, and rediscovered the hard-working, clear-seeing and unadorned man he used to be.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 167 other followers