Archive for the ‘Brooks’ Category

Brooks and Krugman

September 23, 2016

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

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

Indeed we might!

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

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

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

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

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

What is going on here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And gimme another Trump Lump, please.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bobo, solo

September 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen, Don, amen.

Brooks and Krugman

September 16, 2016

Bobo has decided to school us on “The Uses of Patriotism.”  He says he’s trying to explain to high school athletes why pulling a Kaepernick is counterproductive.  In the comments “squiggles macgillicuddy” from Silver Spring had this to say:  “Now if you could explain to the young men who take a knee rather than stand up and sing the national anthem how, exactly, putting your hand over your heart and standing will fix the roads, bring jobs back to the inner cities, change the mind of the policeman about to fire, make education, healthcare, housing affordable and make the justice system such that a young black kid who shoplifts a candy bar and gets 3 years in Rikers while a white banking executive gets a big, fat bonus for money laundering billions then maybe you can persuade them that it has any real meaning and not as Samual Johnson tells us “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel””  In “Obama’s Trickle-Up Economics” Prof. Krugman says new statistics show that government can raise the quality of life for ordinary families without hurting the economy.  Here’s Bobo:

This column is directed at all the high school football players around the country who are pulling a Kaepernick — kneeling during their pregame national anthems to protest systemic racism. I’m going to try to persuade you that what you’re doing is extremely counterproductive.

When Europeans first settled this continent they had two big thoughts. The first was that God had called them to create a good and just society on this continent. The second was that they were screwing it up.

The early settlers put intense moral pressure on themselves. They filled the air with angry jeremiads about how badly things were going and how much they needed to change.

This harsh self-criticism was the mainstream voice that defined American civilization. As the historian Perry Miller wrote, “Under the guise of this mounting wail of sinfulness, this incessant and never successful cry for repentance, the Puritans launched themselves upon the process of Americanization.”

By 1776, this fusion of radical hope and radical self-criticism had become the country’s civic religion. This civic religion was based on a moral premise — that all men are created equal — and pointed toward a vision of a promised land — a place where your family or country of origin would have no bearing on your opportunities.

Over the centuries this civic religion fired a fervent desire for change. Every significant American reform movement was shaped by it. Abraham Lincoln wrote, “If ever I feel the soul within me elevate and expand to those dimensions not entirely unworthy of its almighty Architect, it is when I contemplate the cause of my country.”

Martin Luther King Jr. sang the national anthem before his “I Have a Dream” speech and then quoted the Declaration of Independence within it.

This American creed gave people a sense of purpose and a high ideal to live up to. It bonded them together. Whatever their other identities — Irish-American, Jewish American, African-American — they were still part of the same story.

Over the years, America’s civic religion was nurtured the way all religions are nurtured: by sharing moments of reverence. Americans performed the same rituals on Thanksgiving and July 4; they sang the national anthem and said the Pledge in unison; they listened to the same speeches on national occasions and argued out the great controversies of our history.

All of this evangelizing had a big effect. As late as 2003, Americans were the most patriotic people on earth, according to the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center.

Recently, the civic religion has been under assault. Many schools no longer teach American history, so students never learn the facts and tenets of their creed. A globalist mentality teaches students they are citizens of the world rather than citizens of America.

Critics like Ta-Nehisi Coates have arisen, arguing that the American reality is so far from the American creed as to negate the value of the whole thing. The multiculturalist mind-set values racial, gender and ethnic identities and regards national identities as reactionary and exclusive.

There’s been a sharp decline in American patriotism. Today, only 52 percent of Americans are “extremely proud” of their country, a historical low. Among those 18 to 29, only 34 percent are extremely proud. Americans know less about their history and creed and are less likely to be fervent believers in it.

Sitting out the anthem takes place in the context of looming post-nationalism. When we sing the national anthem, we’re not commenting on the state of America. We’re fortifying our foundational creed. We’re expressing gratitude for our ancestors and what they left us. We’re expressing commitment to the nation’s ideals, which we have not yet fulfilled.

If we don’t transmit that creed through shared displays of reverence we will have lost the idea system that has always motivated reform. We will lose the sense that we’re all in this together. We’ll lose the sense of shared loyalty to ideas bigger and more transcendent than our own short lives.

If these common rituals are insulted, other people won’t be motivated to right your injustices because they’ll be less likely to feel that you are part of their story. People will become strangers to one another and will interact in cold instrumentalist terms.

You will strengthen Donald Trump’s ethnic nationalism, which erects barriers between Americans and which is the dark opposite of America’s traditional universal nationalism.

I hear you when you say you are unhappy with the way things are going in America. But the answer to what’s wrong in America is America — the aspirations passed down generation after generation and sung in unison week by week.

We have a crisis of solidarity. That makes it hard to solve every other problem we have. When you stand and sing the national anthem, you are building a little solidarity, and you’re singing a radical song about a radical place.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Only serious nerds like me eagerly await the annual Census Bureau reports on income, poverty and health insurance. But the just-released reports on 2015 justified the anticipation.

We expected good news; but last year, it turns out, the economy partied like it was 1999. And this tells us something very important — namely, that a government that wants to can make American society more equitable, improving the quality of life for ordinary families.

The reports showed strong progress on three fronts: rapid growth in the incomes of ordinary families — median income rose a remarkable 5.2 percent; a substantial decline in the poverty rate; and a significant further rise in health insurance coverage after 2014’s gains. It was a trifecta that we haven’t hit since, yes, 1999.

It’s true that the surge in median income comes after years of disappointment, and even now the typical family’s income, adjusted for inflation, is slightly lower than it was before the financial crisis. But the percentage of Americans without health insurance is now at a record low. And the overall performance of the Obama economy has given the lie to much of the criticism leveled at President Obama’s policies.

Think back to the 2012 election campaign. There were already signs of the conspiracy-theory, bigotry-driven politics of this year’s election; Donald Trump was loudly proclaiming that Mr. Obama’s birth certificate was fake, and Mitt Romney eagerly accepted Mr. Trump’s endorsement.

But there was also something of a policy debate. Republicans accused Mr. Obama of being a “redistributionist,” taking money away from “job creators” to give free stuff to the 47 percent. And they claimed that these socialistic policies were destroying incentives and blocking economic recovery.

There was, in fact, a grain of truth in the first part of this accusation. Mr. Obama is no socialist, but since his re-election he has presided over a significant rise in taxes on high incomes. In fact, the top one percent is now paying about the same share of its income in federal taxes as it did in 1979, before Ronald Reagan began the era of big tax cuts for the rich. And some of the increased tax take is being used to subsidize health insurance for middle- and lower-income families.

Conservatives predicted disaster from these initiatives. Tax hikes on the rich, they insisted, would stall the economy. Obamacare’s combination of regulation and subsidies, they declared, would kill millions of jobs without increasing the number of Americans with insurance.

What happened instead after Mr. Obama was re-elected was the best job growth since the 1990s. But family incomes, at least as estimated by the Census, continued to lag. So there was still some statistical basis for the right’s Obama-bashing. Now that statistical basis is gone.

You might ask whether these numbers reflect reality. It’s often claimed that Americans aren’t feeling any economic recovery — and if anyone were to ask Mr. Trump, he would no doubt claim that the Census numbers, like every number he doesn’t like, are cooked.

But be wary of polling on this issue. When Americans are asked how the economy is doing, many of them just repeat what they think they heard on Fox News: By large margins, Republicans say that unemployment is up and the stock market is down under Mr. Obama, the opposite of the truth. On the other hand, when you ask people how well they personally are doing, the Obama years have been marked by large improvements — a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans who see themselves as thriving.

So the good news is real. And it should (but won’t) finally break the grip of trickle-down ideology on much of our political class.

You know how the argument goes: Any attempt to help working families directly, we’re told, will backfire by hurting the economy as a whole. So we must cut taxes on those “job creators” instead, counting on a rising tide to raise all boats.

It would be an exaggeration to say that the Obama administration has done the reverse, but there definitely was an element of trickle-up economics in its response to the Great Recession: Much of the stimulus involved expanding the social safety net, not just to protect the vulnerable, but to increase purchasing power and sustain demand. And in general Obama-era policies have tried to help families directly, rather than by showering benefits on the rich and hoping that the benefits trickle down.

Now the results of this policy experiment are in, and they’re not bad. They could have been better: The stimulus should have been bigger and more sustained, and Republican opposition hamstrung the administration’s economic policy after the first two years. Still, progressive policies have worked, and the critics of those policies have been proved wrong.

Brooks and Cohen

September 13, 2016

In “The Avalanche of Distrust” Bobo tells us that Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and much of society isolate themselves.  Right, Bobo…  Both sides do it, don’t they?  “Gemli” from Boston will have something to say about this.  Mr. Cohen, in “Fail Better, America, on this 9/11 Anniversary,” tells us not to believe in American disunity, and to lift our gazes beyond Yeats’ “weasels fighting in a hole.”  Here’s Bobo:

I’m beginning to think this whole sordid campaign is being blown along by an acrid gust of distrust. The two main candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are remarkably distrustful. They have set the modern standards for withholding information — his not releasing tax and health records, her not holding regular news conferences or quickly disclosing her pneumonia diagnosis. Both have a problem with spontaneous, reciprocal communication with a hint of vulnerability.

Both ultimately hew to a distrustful, stark, combative, zero-sum view of life — the idea that making it in this world is an unforgiving slog and that, given other people’s selfish natures, vulnerability is dangerous.

Trump’s convention speech was the perfect embodiment of the politics of distrust. American families, he argued, are under threat from foreigners who are as violent and menacing as they are insidious. Clinton’s “Basket of Deplorables” riff comes from the same spiritual place. We have in our country, she jibed, millions of bigots, racists, xenophobes and haters — people who are so blackhearted that they are, as she put it, “irredeemable.”

The parishioners at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., felt that even the man who murdered their close friends was redeemable, but Clinton has written off vast chunks of her fellow citizens as beyond hope and redemption.

But these nominees didn’t emerge in a vacuum. Distrustful politicians were nominated by an increasingly distrustful nation. A generation ago about half of all Americans felt they could trust the people around them, but now less than a third think other people are trustworthy.

Young people are the most distrustful of all; only about 19 percent of millennials believe other people can be trusted. But across all age groups there is a rising culture of paranoia and conspiracy-mongering. We set out a decade ago to democratize the Middle East, but we’ve ended up Middle Easternizing our democracy.

The true thing about distrust, in politics and in life generally, is that it is self-destructive. Distrustful people end up isolating themselves, alienating others and corroding their inner natures.

Over the past few decades, the decline in social trust has correlated to an epidemic of loneliness. In 1985, 10 percent of Americans said they had no close friend with whom they could discuss important matters. By 2004, 25 percent had no such friend.

When you refuse to lay yourself before others, others won’t lay themselves before you. An AARP studyof Americans aged 45 and up found that 35 percent suffer from chronic loneliness, compared with 20 percent in a similar survey a decade ago.Suicide rates, which closely correlate with loneliness, have been spiking since 1999. The culture of distrust isn’t the only isolating factor, but it plays a role.

The rise of distrust correlates with a decline in community bonds and a surge of unmerited cynicism. Only 31 percent of millennials say there is a great deal of difference between the two political parties. Only 52 percent of adults say they are extremely proud to be Americans, down from 70 percent in 2003.

The rise of distrust has corroded intimacy. When you go on social media you see people who long for friendship. People are posting and liking private photos on public places like Snapchat and Facebook.

But the pervasive atmosphere of distrust undermines actual intimacy, which involves progressive self-disclosure, vulnerability, emotional risk and spontaneous and unpredictable face-to-face conversations.

Instead, what you see in social media is often the illusion of intimacy. The sharing is tightly curated — in a way carefully designed to mitigate unpredictability, danger, vulnerability and actual intimacy. There is, asStephen Marche once put it, “a phony nonchalance.” It’s possible to have weeks of affirming online banter without ever doing a trust-fall into another’s arms.

As Garry Shandling once joked, “My friends tell me I have an intimacy problem, but they don’t really know me.”

Distrust leads to these self-reinforcing spirals. As Alex Tabarrok of George Mason University observed recently, in distrustful societies parents are less likely to teach their children about tolerance and respect for others. More distrust leads to tighter regulations, which leads to slower growth, which leads to sour mentalities and more distrust.

Furthermore, fear is the great enemy of intimacy. But the loss of intimacy makes society more isolated. Isolation leads to more fear. More fear leads to fear-mongering leaders. And before long you wind up in this death spiral.

The great religions and the wisest political philosophies have always counseled going the other way. They’ve always advised that real strength is found in comradeship, and there’s no possibility of that if you are building walls. They have generally championed the paradoxical leap — that even in the midst of an avalanche of calumny, somebody’s got to greet distrust with vulnerability, skepticism with innocence, cynicism with faith and hostility with affection.

Our candidates aren’t doing it, but that really is the realistic path to strength.

And Bobo gets paid vast, rolling tracts of cash to produce stuff like that…  Here’s what “gemli” had to say to him:

Barack Obama had the audacity to run on a platform of hope and change, yet he was savaged by a Republican Party that accused him of lying about every detail of his life. They showed their trust by demanding his birth certificate and his college transcripts. They accused him of being an anti-colonial Muslim foreigner. They stonewalled his every initiative, and when they weren’t shutting down the government they were making it a dysfunctional mess.

Women’s rights are under attack and fundamentalism is on the rise. LGBT citizens are being refused service, if not at lunch counters, at bakeries. Young people see a future of low salaries, usurious student loans and rising sea levels, all engineered by Republicans that make up in greed what they lack in compassion and common sense.

Yet in this glare of hatred, accusation, disdain, institutionalized ignorance and utter lack of cooperation, David Brooks turns the spotlight on us. Somehow, all 330 million Americans have decided to become distrustful. Whatever could the reason be?

Brooks tries to make Democrats and Republicans equally to blame. The disjointed ravings of an unqualified buffoon are the same as Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server. Her pointed honesty about a large swathe of Trump supporters is read as distrust, because Brooks must drag Clinton down to Trump’s level. If there’s no real equivalence, Brooks will draw a false one.

That’s trust, Republican style.”

Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

Joe Quinn is speaking. His brother Jimmy died on 9/11. The sun is shining from a clear sky, as it was that day. I am on the treadmill listening to music, watching images of the memorial service on the 15th anniversary of the attack on America. I pull the headphone plug out of my iPod and insert it in the treadmill jack.

The voice is strong. After his brother’s death Quinn was inspired to serve, doing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He recalls the national unity that followed the loss of 2,977 lives in the 9/11 attacks, 2,753 of them at New York’s twin towers, and notes the disunity that seems to have become the American condition since then.

“Don’t believe it,” Quinn says.

No, don’t believe it. Suspend all doubt and rancor. Of the 2,753 victims in New York, no identifying trace of 1,113 was ever found, according to the medical examiner’s office. If it has been required of so many to make their peace with such absence, it behooves us all to lift our gazes beyond Yeats’ “weasels fighting in a hole.”

Don’t believe in American disunity. Believe in the daily fashioning and refashioning of America, its constant reinvention and its high idealism, believe that, as Lincoln said, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” — and recall the onerous sacrifice over generations for that cause.

There are always politicians who, as the German Social Democrat Kurt Schumacher noted in a speech to the Reichstag in Berlin in 1932, make “a continuous appeal to the inner swine” of people by “ceaselessly mobilizing human stupidity.” Fear is the fertile soil in which such appeals propagate. The past year in the United States has demonstrated that. Resist fear. It is a distorting lens.

Some people jumped from the burning towers. I see them still. The choices we face may seem difficult. They are not.

Fifteen years. Time does not fly. Time eddies, accelerates, slows down and turns back on itself. A sob wells up in me as I watch Quinn.

I am staring again, a couple of days after the attack, at a photograph of a pregnant woman’s ultrasound tacked to a subway wall: “Looking for the father of this child.”

There are a lot of children aged 14-and-a-half who love but never saw their dads.

The commemoration service proceeds through name after name that evoke every corner of the earth, every creed. People who tried to get out of the towers and people who went into the towers to help them. A New Yorker is born every day from the acceptance this city offers.

Now I am back on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, near the East River, just before 9:00 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, having dropped my son at school. I am driving, stopped at a traffic light, and a guy on a motorbike leans over and says, “Hey, look, the World Trade Center is on fire.”

Smoke billows from the north tower. As I turn right toward Brooklyn Heights, where my family is in a temporary apartment having just moved from Berlin, I feel a boom and shudder as United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashes into the south tower at 9:03 a.m.

It is my daughter Adele’s fourth birthday (“Dad,” she will say years later, “my birthday’s famous but I’m not.”). It is my third week back in the United States. It is my first day in a new job as foreign editor.

I board a No. 2 subway headed for Times Square. All bridges and tunnels into Manhattan are closed at 9:21 AM; this must have been the last train to run. A woman beside me is crying. I try to console her. She believes her brother is in one of the towers. I reach my desk in time to see the south tower collapse at 9:59 a.m.

There follows the alchemy of newspapering, diverse talents fusing under pressure, to make that headline — “U.S. Attacked” — and that remarkable paper of Sept. 12 with its lead story by my colleague Serge Schmemann:

“Hijackers rammed jetliners into each of New York’s World Trade Center towers yesterday, toppling both in a hellish storm of ash, glass, smoke and leaping victims, while a third jetliner crashed into the Pentagon in Virginia.”

I emerged late that evening onto Times Square. There was nobody. Not a soul. I started to walk beneath the neon signs.

“Put one foot in front of the other,” says Quinn. Turn off your TV. Power down your phone, say hi to your neighbor, and introduce yourself to a stranger. Connect. Be the unity you seek.

The fires burned for weeks. The acrid sweet smell below Houston Street persisted. Papers from the towers fluttered across the East River toward Brooklyn. I picked one up and found on it — or did I imagine them? — these lines from Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Brooks and Krugman

September 9, 2016

Bobo’s become even more delusional than before.  In “Time for a Realignment” he babbles that by 2031 you may well have switched political parties.  Right.  Should I be alive in 2031 (and I SINCERELY hope I’m not going to be) the odds that I’ll become a Republican are about the same as my being elected Pope.  Prof. Krugman considers “Donald Trump’s ‘Big Liar’ Technique” and says he thinks he won’t get caught.  Well, if nobody ever holds his feet to the fire…  Here’s Bobo:

There’s a good chance many of you will be switching political parties over the next 15 years. You may be a corporate executive who’s voted rock-solid Republican for decades, but you may be a consistent Democrat by 2024. You may be an African-American community activist in Cleveland, but don’t be surprised if you someday call the Republican Party home.

The fact is that political parties can swap constituencies in unexpected and dramatic ways. Over American history there’s been a general pattern: a period of party stability; then some new issue comes to the fore that divides the country in new ways; old party coalitions fall apart and new ones emerge.

African-Americans were once Republican, but the Great Depression brought economics to the center and F.D.R. lured them the other way. New England professionals were once Republican, too, but the rise of Barry Goldwater-Ronald Reagan Sun Belt conservatism turned them Democratic.

We seem to be at one of those transformational moments now. Something bigger is afoot this year than the relative deficiencies of Trump and Clinton.

In the first place, many of the existing partisan mentalities are dying out. This is the last presidential election in which two baby boomers will be running against each other. In the years ahead, politics will no longer be defined by the hidden animosities of the Vietnam era, by the sexual revolution/culture war issues of the 1970s.

Future candidates will not be nostalgic for some white America of ancient memory or the union-heavy labor markets of the 1950s. They’re not going to be fired up by the “paradise lost” hot buttons that excite the old guys who watch Fox News.

Politics is catching up to social reality. The crucial social divide today is between those who feel the core trends of the global, information-age economy as tailwinds at their backs and those who feel them as headwinds in their face.

That is to say, the most important social divide today is between a well-educated America that is marked by economic openness, traditional family structures, high social capital and high trust in institutions, and a less-educated America that is marked by economic insecurity, anarchic family structures, fraying community bonds and a pervasive sense of betrayal and distrust.

These two groups live in entirely different universes. Right now each party has a foot in each universe, but those coalitions won’t last. Before too long the politics will break down into openness versus closedness, dynamism versus stability, what Ronald Brownstein of The Atlanticdescribed in 2012 as the Coalition of Transformation versus the Coalition of Restoration.

The Republican Party is now a coalition of globalization-loving business executives and globalization-hating white workers. That’s untenable. At its molten core, the Republican Party has become the party of the dispossessed, not the party of cosmopolitan business. The blunderers at the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable bet all their chips on the G.O.P. at the exact instant it stopped being their party.

Now imagine a Republican Party after Donald Trump, led by a younger candidate without his bigotry and culture war tropes. That party will begin to attract disaffected Sanders people who detest the Trans-Pacific Partnership and possibly some minority voters highly suspicious of the political elite.

The Democratic Party is currently a coalition of the upscale urban professionals who make up the ruling class and less-affluent members of minorities who feel betrayed by it. That’s untenable, too. At its molten core the Democratic Party is the party of the coastal professional class, the 2016 presidential ticket of Yale Law and Harvard Law. It’s possible that this year the Democrats will carry every state that touches ocean.

Just as the Trump G.O.P. is crushing the Chamber G.O.P., the Clinton Democrats will eventually repel the Sanders Democrats. Their economic interests are just different. Moreover, their levels of social trust are vastly different.

We don’t normally think that politics is divided along trust lines. But this year we’re seeing huge chasms depending upon how much trust you feel toward your neighbors and your national institutions. Disaffected low-trust millennials see things differently than the Hollywood, tech, media and academic professionals who actually run the party.

This sort of divide is being replicated all around the world. The distinctly American feature is race. If the Republicans can drop the racial wedges — which admittedly may be a big ask — and become more the party designed to succor those who are disaffected from the globalizing information age, then it might win over some minority voters, and the existing party alignments will unravel in short order.

Polls suggest Democrats will win among college-educated voters and Republicans among whites without college degrees. The social, mental and emotional gap between those two groups is getting wider and wider. That’s the future of American politics. Republicans are town. Democrats are gown. Could get ugly.

“Could.”  Gotta love that…  As usual, “gemli” from Boston, who by rights should have Bobo’s job, has something to say to him:

“Sorry, Mr. Brooks. If Republicans could change their spots, they’d have done it by now.

The Great Depression brought greed to the center, not economics. F.D.R. didn’t “lure” the abused and desperate masses to the Democratic Party. He rescued them from robber barons and sweatshops, massive income inequality, starvation wages, unemployment and penniless old ages.

Nothing has changed. Republicans are still trying to rip apart the social safety net as they replace the New Deal with the Raw Deal. They’re still on the wrong side of reality, denying science and thumping bibles while they disparage women, gay people, minorities and foreigners, all the while hoarding money and letting the country’s infrastructure crumble.

It’s no accident that Donald Trump is the spokesman for the party with nothing to say. He gained the attention of the right when he fostered lies about Obama’s birth and legitimacy, and was embraced by a Tea Party faction that had commandeered the government.

Trump wasn’t an aberration. He was chosen from a dismal array of 16 Republican candidates who exemplified the ignorance, intolerance and greed that the party of Lincoln now represents. Which candidate would have better represented the aspirations of ordinary Americans? Bush? Carson? Huckabee? Jindal?

Republicans strive to undo every progressive initiative that we fought for over the past century. There is no indication that they’re going to change their tune any time soon.”

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Long ago, you-know-who suggested that propagandists should apply the “big lie” technique: make their falsehoods so huge, so egregious, that they would be widely accepted because nobody would believe they were lying on that grand a scale. And the technique has worked well for despots and would-be despots ever since.

But Donald Trump has come up with something new, which we can call the “big liar” technique. Taken one at a time, his lies are medium-size — not trivial, but mostly not rising to the level of blood libel. But the lies are constant, coming in a steady torrent, and are never acknowledged, simply repeated. He evidently believes that this strategy will keep the news media flummoxed, unable to believe, or at least say openly, that the candidate of a major party lies that much.

And Wednesday night’s “Commander in Chief” televised forum suggested that he may be right.

Obligatory disclaimer: No, I’m not saying that Mr. Trump is another Hitler. More like Mussolini. But I digress.

Back to the issue: All politicians are human beings, which means that all of them sometimes shade the truth. (Show me someone who claims to never lie, and I’ll show you someone who is lying.) The question is how much they lie, and how consequentially.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Hillary Clinton has been cagey about her email arrangements when she was secretary of state. But when you look at what the independent fact-checkers who have given her a “pants on fire” or “four Pinocchios” rating on this issue actually have to say, it’s remarkably weak: She stands accused of being overly legalistic or overstating the extent to which she has been cleared, but not of making major claims that are completely at odds with reality.

Oh, and it barely got covered in the media, but her claim that Colin Powell advised her to set up a private email account was … completely true, validated by an email that Mr. Powell sent three days after she took office, which contradicts some of his own claims.

And over all, her record on truthfulness, as compiled by PolitiFact, looks pretty good for a politician — much better than that of any of the contenders for the Republican nomination, and for that matter much better than that of Mitt Romney in the last presidential election.

Mr. Trump, on the other hand, is in a class of his own. He lies about statistics like the unemployment rate and the crime rate. He lies about foreign policy: President Obama is “the founder of ISIS.” But most of all, he lies about himself — and when the lies are exposed, he just keeps repeating them.

One obvious question going into Wednesday’s forum was whether Mr. Trump would repeat his frequent claim that he opposed the Iraq war from the start. This claim is demonstrably false: His only documented prewar remarks on the subject support the war, and the interview he likes to cite as evidence of his prescience took place more than a year after the war began. But he keeps saying it anyway; if he did it again, how would Matt Lauer, the moderator, respond?

Well, he did do it again — and Mr. Lauer, who used about a third of his time with Mrs. Clinton talking about emails, let it stand and moved on to the next question.

Why is it apparently so hard to hold Mr. Trump accountable for blatant, in-your-face lies? Part of the answer may be that journalists are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of outrageous material. After all, which Trump line should be the headliner for a news analysis of Wednesday’s event? His Iraq lie? His praise for Vladimir Putin, who“has an 82 percent approval rating”? His denigration of the American military, whose commanders, he says, have been “reduced to rubble”?

There’s also a deep diffidence about pointing out uncomfortable truths. Back in 2000, when I was first writing this column, I was discouraged from using the word “lie” about George W. Bush’s dishonest policy claims. As I recall, I was told that it was inappropriate to be that blunt about the candidate of one of our two major political parties. And something similar may be going on even now, with few people in the media willing to accept the reality that the G.O.P. has nominated someone whose lies are so blatant and frequent that they amount to sociopathy.

Even that observation, however, doesn’t explain the asymmetry, because some of the same media organizations that apparently find it impossible to point out Mr. Trump’s raw, consequential lies have no problem harassing Mrs. Clinton endlessly over minor misstatements and exaggerations, or sometimes over actions that were perfectly innocent. Is it sexism? I really don’t know, but it’s shocking to watch.

And meanwhile, if the question is whether Mr. Trump can really get away with his big liar routine, the evidence from Wednesday night suggests a disheartening answer: Unless something changes, yes he can.

Bobo, solo

September 6, 2016

David Effing Brooks has a question in “The Incredible Shrinking Obamacare:”  Considering how it’s turned out, what was all the fuss about?  His monstrous piece of crap will be followed by a few comments.  Here’s his repellent turd:

During the debate over Obamacare, both supporters and opponents assumed the giant law would transform the American health care system. The supporters argued that the system would help Americans purchase health insurance through carefully regulated state exchanges.President Obama envisioned a day when consumers could shop for health coverage “the same way you’d shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon.”

In 2010, the Congressional Budget Office estimated there would be 21 million Americans using the exchanges by now. Many supporters argued that the exchanges would eventually replace the current dominant employer-based system.

The promise of Obamacare was that it would foster competition and offer lower premiums while covering tens of millions of Americans without, as Obama often put it, adding a dime to the deficit.

Unfortunately, most of the exchanges are in serious trouble. As many critics pointed out at the time, the law is poorly designed to induce younger, healthier people to get into the system. The penalties attached to the individual mandate are too weak. The subsidies are too small. The premiums are too costly. The deductibles are too high. Many doctors aren’t participating in the networks.

Only about 12 million people are in exchanges. More important, the exchanges are attracting sicker, poorer people, who drain money, and are not attracting the healthier people who pour money in.

Many insurers are suffering catastrophic losses and pulling out. As James Capretta of the American Enterprise Institute has noted, Aetna has lost $430 million since January 2014 on insurance plans sold through Obamacare and is withdrawing from 11 of its 15 states. United Healthcare has lost $1.3 billion on the exchanges and will cut its participation to three states from 34.

That means less coverage; 24 million Americans still lack health insurance. That means less competition. Before too long, a third of the exchanges will have just one insurer in them. That also means higher premiums. Blue Cross Blue Shield has requested a 62 percent increase for next year in Tennessee and an average 65 percent increase in Arizona. Some experts put the national requested increase at 23 percent.

The exchanges are also producing less coverage. The insurers that are staying offer pared-down restrictive plans that look more like Medicaid.

Does this mean Obamacare is failing? No. The law has produced many positive outcomes across the health care world. More than 20 million more Americanshave coverage because of it, and the evidence suggests their health has improved.

But it does mean Obamacare is not what we thought it would be. It’s a much more modest add-on to the pre-existing system.Sarah Kliff put it well in Vox: “Obamacare’s insurance expansion is on the path to looking like other safety net programs we know, offering limited services to a predominantly low-income population.”

Kliff quotes former administration official Michael Adelberg: “The exchange population — 85 percent of which qualifies for financial assistance — looks a lot like the Medicaid population. And with it, we’re seeing the start of the Medicaid-ization of exchange plans: narrow networks with no frills.”

Again, this is not bad. But we’d have had a very different debate if we knew the law was going to be a discrete government effort to subsidize health care for more poor people. For one thing, Democrats would have probably paid a much smaller political price if their effort wasn’t billed as an extravagant government grab to take over the nation’s health care system. The administration imagined something transformational; it ended up with something significant but incremental.

There are also lessons for people who think about policy making. First designing technocratic systems that will actually work is really hard. Second, designing effective technocratic systems that can pass politically is really, really hard. Third, designing politically plausible technocratic systems in a country divided on fundamental philosophy is hardness on stilts.

Philosophically, Obamacare tried to split the difference between European-style government coercion (the individual mandates) with a traditionally American respect for competition and freedom of choice (the exchanges).

But lawmakers couldn’t stomach a law involving forceful coercion (punishing penalties to make the young take part) and they couldn’t stomach a more purely market-based system. They wound up with a nonfunctioning compromise.

From here on out the health care debate will return, but in polarized form. Democrats are already really pushing for the public option, a heavier state player. Republicans are pointing out that technocrats are bad at designing dynamic systems and the insurance markets should work more like traditional markets. The next president will have to deal with all this, especially if the exchanges go into a death spiral, even though the subject has been basically ignored in the campaign.

It will be hard to govern after a campaign about nothing.

Dear, sweet, baby Jesus on a pogo stick but he’s got a set of brass balls to be able to write crap like that.  Here for a first comment we have “James Landi,” from Salisbury, MD:

“Oh please David–there was no “philosophical disagreement” to the ACA, and you know it. Lest you forget, the Republican party’s united effort to humiliate the president, derisively name the ACA Obamacare and then take the country through a national object lesson on three scores of floor votes over the past six years to demonstrate their abhorrence for the president was certainly not a lesson in country above politics. And then there are all those brilliant Republican governors who are blocking every effort to establish insurance exchanges in their health care bereft states . SO, you conveniently leave out the fact the ACA was a conservative innovation, the prototype run successfully in Massachusetts, and had the Republican standard bearer taken pride and ownership of the ACA concept and run as a Republican moderate “technocrat” who could unite the Republicans and Democrats in an effort to fix the ACA, we’d likely be moving into the second term of a Romney presidency. But no, there was no “philosophical disagreement” and you know it– there was only “table pounding neyt, neyt, neyt” from the knuckleheaded nihilist “refuseniks” who have created the party of no and given rise to the monstrous spectre of Trump.”

And here’s “Alan R. Brock” from Richmond, VA:  “‘They wound up with a non-functioning compromise.’  This is true. It is also true that Republican reactionaries were absolutely determined to render the ACA non-functional while offering nothing of substance as an alternative and not engaging in good-faith debate about how to improve the dysfunctional, incredibly expensive U.S. health care morass.  Such is the mindset of the party that now offers Donald Trump as their representative.”

And “gemli” from Boston also had a few words for Bobo:

“In their every word and deed, Republicans, including David Brooks, demonstrated that they cared more about the health of insurance companies than they cared about the health of uninsured Americans.

In a long tradition of attacks on welfare, food stamps, Social Security and anything that might help the needy, the ACA faced a barrage of assaults from conservatives that was so intense that no effective law could have emerged unscathed. John Boehner nearly swallowed his tongue in purple-faced apoplectic rage when the law passed. And things went downhill from there.

Opposition to Obamacare became a litmus test for Republicans who were determined to deny the president any shred of success. In all the years of Republican stonewalling when Congress did virtually nothing, the House voted 60 times to repeal the ACA in an impotent symbolic display of noncooperation.

Obamacare was a response to an out-of-control free market system that allowed insurers to drop sick policy holders, refuse coverage for preexisting conditions and set unrealistically low lifetime benefits. It might have been hailed as a mirror of the RomneyCare system that was working in Massachusetts, but instead destruction of the ACA became a badge of what passes for Republican honor.

The ACA emerged bruised and battered after the attacks, and so did the millions of Americans that might have benefited from a nonpartisan to help the sick. It’s too late now to pretend otherwise.”

I wonder how Bobo can stand to look at himself in the mirror every morning.

Brooks, Bruni, and Krugman

September 2, 2016

Bobo has delivered himself of a whine called “Identity Politics Run Amok” in which he moans that politics is no longer about argument or discussion; it’s about trying to put your opponents into the box of the untouchables.  As usual Bobo will be followed by what “gemli” in Boston had to say to him.  Mr. Bruni has a question in “Crying Wolf, Then Confronting Trump.”  He asks whether Democrats exhausted their alarm before they needed it most.  Prof. Krugman, in “Black Lead Matters,” says Poisoning kids is a partisan matter.  Here, gawd help us, is Bobo:

Once, I seem to recall, we had philosophical and ideological differences. Once, politics was a debate between liberals and conservatives, between different views of government, different views on values and America’s role in the world.

But this year, it seems, everything has been stripped down to the bone. Politics is dividing along crude identity lines — along race and class. Are you a native-born white or are you an outsider? Are you one of the people or one of the elites?

Politics is no longer about argument or discussion; it’s about trying to put your opponents into the box of the untouchables.

Donald Trump didn’t invent this game, but he embodies it. His advisers tried to dress him up on Wednesday afternoon as some sort of mature summiteer. But he just can’t be phony.

By his evening immigration speech he’d returned to the class and race tropes that have defined his campaign: that the American government is in the grips of a rich oligarchy that distorts everything for its benefit; that the American people are besieged by foreigners, who take their jobs and threaten their lives.

It’s not that these two ideas are completely wrong. The rich do have more influence. There are indeed some foreigners who seek to harm us. It is just that Trump (like other race and class warriors) takes these kernels of truth and grows them into a lie.

Trump argues that immigration has sown chaos across middle-class neighborhoods. This is false. Research suggests that the recent surge in immigration has made America’s streets safer. That’s because foreign-born men are very unlikely to commit violent crime.

According to one study, only 2 or 3 percent of Mexican-, Guatemalan- or Salvadoran-born men without a high school degree end up incarcerated, compared with 11 percent of their American-born counterparts.

Trump argues that the flood of immigrants is taking jobs away from unskilled native workers. But this is mainly false, too. There’s an intricate debate among economists about this, but if you survey the whole literature on the subject you find that most research shows immigration has very little effect on native wage or unemployment levels.

That’s because immigrants flow into different types of unskilled jobs. Unskilled immigrants tend to become maids, cooks and farm workers — jobs that require less English. Unskilled natives tend to become cashiers and drivers. If immigrants are driving down wages, it is mostly those of other immigrants.

Trump claims the rich benefit from immigration while everyone else suffers. Doctors get cheap nannies, everyone else gets the shaft.

This is false, too. The fact is, a vast majority of Americans benefit. A study by John McLaren of U.Va. and Gihoon Hong of Indiana University found that each new immigrant produced about 1.2 new jobs, because immigrants are producers and consumers and increase overall economic activity.

A report from the Partnership for a New American Economy found that immigrants accounted for 28 percent of all new small businesses in 2011. Between 2006 and 2012, over 40 percent of tech start-ups in Silicon Valley had at least one foreign-born founder.

The cities that are doing best economically work hard to attract new immigrants because the benefits are widely shared. As Ted Hesson points out in The Atlantic, New York, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles account for about 20 percent of America’s economic output, and in those places, immigrants can make up as much as 44 percent of the total labor supply.

Identity politics distorts politics in two ways. First, it is Manichaean. It cleanly divides the world into opposing forces of light and darkness. You are a worker or an elite. You are American or foreigner.

Seeing this way is understandable if you are scared, but it is also a sign of intellectual laziness. The reality is that people can’t be reduced to a single story. An issue as complex as immigration can’t be reduced to a cartoon. It is simultaneously true that immigration fuels American dynamism and that the mixture of mass unskilled immigration and the high-tech economy threatens to create a permanent underclass.

Second and most important, identity politics is inherently the politics of division. But on most issues — whether it is immigration or the economy or national security — we rise and fall together. Immigration, even a reasonable amount of illegal immigration, helps a vast majority of Americans. An economy that grows at 3 percent would help all Americans.

Identity politics, as practiced by Trump, but also by others on the left and the right, distracts from the reality that we are one nation. It corrodes the sense of solidarity. It breeds suspicion, cynicism and distrust.

Human beings are too complicated to be defined by skin color, income or citizenship status. Those who try to reduce politics to these identities do real violence to national life.

Of course, he had to work in some “both sides do it…”  Here’s what “gemli” had to say about his moaning:

“You know things have gotten out of hand when conservative pundits start telling the truth. The only reason Republicans are upset with Trump is that he lays their message bare, without providing the usual camouflage of finesse and plausible deniability.

Republicans clutch a bible and talk the talk about family values and jobs for Americans. Yet we know immigration isn’t a scourge that is taking jobs from Americans. In 2011 Georgia Republicans tried to put their mouth where their money is and passed laws that prevented immigrants from harvesting crops. Those crops rotted in the fields.

We know Republicans don’t care about family values, or real families for that matter. Just two years ago Republicans accused President Obama of domestic Caesarism and threatened him with impeachment when he issued an executive order to prevent cruel summary deportation of millions of illegal immigrants that would have separated parents from their children.

The right has reviled Mr. Obama as the antiChrist, but in fact he’s the antiTrump. Every decent, compassionate act that Obama has performed, from providing affordable medical care to treating LGBT citizens as human beings, has been met with virulent attacks from so-called compassionate conservatives.

The rich oligarchy that distorts everything for its benefit has every right to feel threatened. All the poisons that lurk in the Republican mud have hatched out, and they have taken the form of Donald Trump.”  Nice “I, Claudius” reference there…  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Conservative commentators and die-hard Republicans often brush off denunciations of Donald Trump as an unprincipled hatemonger by saying: Yeah, yeah, that’s what Democrats wail about every Republican they’re trying to take down. Sing me a song I haven’t heard so many times before.

Howard Wolfson would be outraged by that response if he didn’t recognize its aptness.

“There’s enough truth to it to compel some self-reflection,” Wolfson, who was the communications director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid in 2008, told me this week.

In fact, he finds himself thinking about it a whole lot: how extreme the put-downs of political adversaries have become; how automatically combatants adopt postures of unalloyed outrage; what this means when they come upon a crossroads — and a candidate — of much greater, graver danger.

“I worked on the presidential campaign in 2004,” he said, referring to John Kerry’s contest against George W. Bush. He added that he was also “active in discussing” John McCain when he ran for the presidency in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

“And I’m quite confident I employed language that, in retrospect, was hyperbolic and inaccurate, language that cheapened my ability — our ability — to talk about this moment with accuracy and credibility.”

Did Democrats cry wolf so many times before Trump that no one hears or heeds them now?

That’s a question being asked with increasing frequency, though mostly in conservative circles and publications. An essay by Jonah Goldberg in National Review in late July had this headline: “How the Media’s History of Smearing Republicans Now Helps Trump.”

In Commentary, Noah Rothman has repeatedly examined this subject. He wrote back in March that when “honorable and decent men” like McCain and Romney “are reflexively dubbed racists simply for opposing Democratic policies, the result is a G.O.P. electorate that doesn’t listen to admonitions when the genuine article is in their midst.”

“Today,” he added, “they point and shout ‘racist’ into the void, but Democrats only have themselves to blame for the fact that so many on the right are no longer listening.”

I think he’s being more than a bit disingenuous about the potential receptiveness of the right — or the left — to anything that the other side says in this polarized, partisan age. There hasn’t been all that much listening for some time.

Also, the Democratic condemnations of McCain and Romney weren’t as widespread and operatic as the ones of Trump.

And this is a two-way street. Republicans paint a broad spectrum of Democrats as socialist kooks, and Obama has been as strong a magnet for hyperbole as any politician in my lifetime. Let us not forget Dinesh D’Souza’s 2010 book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” or Newt Gingrich’s assertion that “only if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior” can you grasp Obama’s method of governing, or Trump’s insistence that Obama produce his American birth certificate.

The sad truth is that we conduct the bulk of our political debate in a key of near-hysteria. And this renders complaints of discrepant urgency, about politicians of different recklessness, into one big, ignorable mush of partisan rancor.

What stands out in this presidential campaign aren’t the alarms that Democrats are sounding about the Republican nominee but the ones that an unusual number of Republican defectors are. That’s what’s unfamiliar. And that’s what’s wounding Trump.

Democrats were indeed dire about Romney, even though many of them, including President Obama, now speak of him fondly, as a Republican whose prescriptions might be flawed but whose heart is true.

Four years ago, he was a bloodsucking capitalist vampire whose indictment of Obamacare was ipso facto proof of his racism. In The Daily Beast, he was called a “race-mongering pyromaniac.” On MSNBC, he was accused, by a black commentator, of the “niggerization” of Obama into “the scary black man who we’ve been trained to fear.”

Romney was supposedly out of touch with reality — never mind that he had governed a blue state, Massachusetts, without cataclysmic incident — just as McCain was described, in some quarters, as a combustible hothead who couldn’t be allowed anywhere near the nuclear codes. He was Trump before Trump, which makes Trump less Trump.

And those are just the presidential candidates. Plenty of other Republicans have confronted charges of florid racism and incipient fascism that apply to some of them infinitely better than to others. Gradations disappear. Distinctions vanish.

Important words are hollowed out, so that they lose their precision and their sting, and exist mainly to perpetuate a paralyzing climate of reciprocal hatred between political parties.

After Clinton’s 2008 campaign, Wolfson went on to work for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat who became a Republican and then an independent. He’s still in the former mayor’s employ, as a senior adviser.

That’s the vantage point from which he has watched Trump’s ascent, and from which he’s making some crucial observations.

“It’s only when you find yourself describing someone who really is the definition of an extremist — who really is, essentially, in my opinion, a fascist — that you recognize that the language that you’ve used in the past to describe other people was hyperbolic and inappropriate and cheap,” Wolfson said.

“It doesn’t mean that you somehow retrospectively agree with their positions on issues,” he added. “But when the system confronts an actual, honest-to-God menace, it should compel some rethinking on our part about how we describe people who are far short of that.”

“We should take stock of this moment,” he said, “and recognize that our language really needs to be more accountable and more appropriate to the circumstances.” I hope we do.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Donald Trump is still claiming that “inner-city crime is reaching record levels,” promising to save African-Americans from the “slaughter.” In fact, this urban apocalypse is a figment of his imagination; urban crime is actually at historically low levels. But he’s not the kind of guy to care about another “Pants on Fire” verdict from PolitiFact.

Yet some things are, of course, far from fine in our cities, and there is a lot we should be doing to help black communities. We could, for example, stop pumping lead into their children’s blood.

You may think that I’m talking about the water crisis in Flint, Mich., which justifiably caused national outrage early this year, only to fade from the headlines. But Flint was just an extreme example of a much bigger problem. And it’s a problem that should be part of our political debate: Like it or not, poisoning kids is a partisan issue.

To be sure, there’s a lot less lead poisoning in today’s America than there was back in what Trump supporters regard as the good old days. Indeed, some analysts believe that declining lead pollution has been an important factor in declining crime.

But I’ve just been reading a new study by a team of economists and health experts confirming the growing consensus that even low levels of lead in children’s bloodstreams have significant adverse effects on cognitive performance. And lead exposure is still strongly correlated with growing up in a disadvantaged household.

But how can this be going on in a country that claims to believe in equality of opportunity? Just in case it’s not obvious: Children who are being poisoned by their environment don’t have the same opportunities as children who aren’t.

For a longer perspective I’ve been reading the 2013 book “Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and Fate of America’s Children.” The tale the book tells is not, to be honest, all that surprising. But it’s still depressing. For we’ve known about the harm lead does for generations; yet action came slowly, and remains highly incomplete even today.

You can guess how it went. The lead industry didn’t want to see its business cramped by pesky regulations, so it belittled the science while vastly exaggerating the cost of protecting the public — a strategy all too familiar to anyone who has followed debates from acid rain to ozone to climate change.

In the case of lead, however, there was an additional element of blaming the victims: asserting that lead poisoning was only a problem among ignorant “Negro and Puerto Rican families” who didn’t fix up their dwellings and take care of their children.

This strategy succeeded in delaying action for decades — decades that left a literally toxic legacy in the form of millions of homes and apartments slathered in lead paint.

Lead paint was finally taken off the market in 1978, but then ideology stepped in. The Reagan administration insisted that government was always the problem, never the solution — and if science pointed to problems that needed a government solution, it was time to deny the science and bully the scientists, or at least make sure that panels helping set official policy were stuffed with industry-friendly flacks. The administration of George W. Bush did the same thing.

Which brings us back to the current political scene. What with everything else filling the airwaves, it may be hard to focus on lead poisoning, or environmental issues in general. But there’s a huge difference between the candidates, and the parties, on such issues. And it’s a difference that will matter whatever happens to Congress: A lot of environmental policy consists in deciding how to apply existing laws, so that if Hillary Clinton becomes president, she can have substantial influence even if she faces obstruction from a Republican Congress.

And the partisan divide is exactly what you would expect.

Mrs. Clinton has pledged to “remove lead from everywhere” within five years. She probably wouldn’t be able to get Congress to pay for that ambitious an agenda, but everything in her history, especially her decades-long focus on family policy, suggests that she would make a serious effort.

On the other side, Mr. Trump — oh, never mind. He rants against government regulations of all kinds, and you can imagine what his real estate friends would think about being forced to get the remaining lead out of their buildings. Now, maybe he could be persuaded by scientific evidence to do the right thing. Also, maybe he could be convinced to become a Buddhist monk, which seems about equally likely.

The point is that the divide over lead should be seen not just as important in itself but as an indicator of the broader stakes. If you believe that science should inform policy and that children should be protected from poison, well, that’s a partisan position.

Brooks and Krugman

August 26, 2016

Bobo has surpassed himself.  In “The Art of Gracious Leadership” he actually has the cojones to say that it’s not too late for Hilary Clinton to learn.  Gee, Bobo — do you think your short-fingered vulgarian could give her a few pointers?  As usual, “gemli” from Boston will have a few words to say back to Bobo.  Prof. Krugman says “No, Donald Trump, America Isn’t a Hellhole,” and that the Republican nominee has delusions of a dystopia.  Here, FSM keep us all sane, is Bobo:

Lately I’ve been thinking about experience. Donald Trump lacks political experience, and the ineptitude caused by his inexperience is evident every day. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is nothing if not experienced. Her ship is running smoothly, and yet as her reaction to the email scandal shows once again, there’s often a whiff of inhumanity about her campaign that inspires distrust.

So I’ve been thinking that it’s not enough to be experienced. The people in public life we really admire turn experience into graciousness.

Those people, I think, see their years as humbling agents. They see that, more often than not, the events in our lives are perfectly designed to lay bare our chronic weaknesses and expose some great whopping new ones.

Sooner or later life teaches you that you’re not the center of the universe, nor quite as talented or good as you thought. It teaches you to care less about what others think and, less self-conscious, to get out of your own way.

People who are gracious also understand the accuracy of John Keats’s observation that “Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.” You can learn some truth out of a book or from the mouth of a friend, but somehow wisdom is not lodged inside until its truth has been engraved by some moment of humiliation, delight, disappointment, joy or some other firsthand emotion.

The mistakes just have to be made.

Gracious people are humble enough to observe that the best things in life are usually undeserved — the way the pennies of love you invest in children get returned in dollars later on; the kindness of strangers; the rebirth that comes after a friend’s unexpected and overawing act of forgiveness.

The gracious people one sees in life and reads about in history books — I’m thinking of the all-time greats like Lincoln, Gandhi, Mandela and Dorothy Day as well as closer figures ranging from Francis to Havel — turn awareness of their own frailty into sympathy for others’ frailty. As Juan Gabriel Vásquez wrote, “Experience, or what we call experience, is not the inventory of our pains, but rather the learned sympathy towards the pain of others.”

They are good at accepting gifts, which is necessary for real friendship, but is hard for a proud person to do. They can be surprisingly tenacious in action. Think of Martin Luther King Jr. The grace that flowed into him from friends and supporters and from all directions made him radically hopeful and gave him confidence and tenacity. His capacity to fight grew out of his capacity to receive.

Such people have a gentle strength. They are aggressive and kind, free of sharp elbows, comfortable revealing and being abashed by their transgressions.

The U.S. military used to be pretty good at breeding this type of leader. In the years around World War II, generals often got fired. But they were also given second chances. That is, they endured brutal experiences, but they were given a chance to do something with those experiences and come back stronger and more supple.

They were also reminded very clearly that as members of an elite, they had the responsibilities that come with that station. Today, everybody is in denial about being part of the establishment, believing the actual elite is someone else. Therefore, no one is raised with a code of stewardship and a sense of personal privilege and duty.

Hillary Clinton has experience, but does not seem to have been transformed by it. Amid the email scandal she is repeating the same mistakes she made during the Rose Law Firm scandal two decades ago. Her posture is still brittle, stonewalling and dissembling. Clinton scandals are all the same. There’s an act of unseemly but not felonious behavior, then the futile drawn-out withholding of information, and forever after the unwillingness to ever come clean.

Experience distills life into instinct. If you interpret your life as a battlefield, then you will want to maintain control at all times. You will hoard access. You will refuse to have press conferences. You will close yourself off to those who can help.

If you treat the world as a friendly and hopeful place, as a web of relationships, you’ll look for the good news in people and not the bad. You’ll be willing to relinquish control, and in surrender you’ll actually gain more strength as people trust in your candor and come alongside. Gracious leaders create a more gracious environment by greeting the world openly and so end up maximizing their influence and effectiveness.

It’s tough to surrender control, but like the rest of us, Hillary Clinton gets to decide what sort of leader she wants to be. America is desperate for a little uplift, for a leader who shows that she trusts her fellow citizens. It’s never too late to learn from experience.

I can’t even imagine how he managed to write that without disappearing in a puff of sulfurous smoke…  Here’s what “gemli” had to say about it:

“Yet more irony from a Republican enabler.

This election season began with 16 of the most graceless human beings ever assembled running for office under the Republican banner. They universally trashed the most gracious and intelligent president we’ve had in the last half-century. The G.O.P.’s front-runner even made his political reputation by lying openly, blatantly and repeatedly about Mr. Obama’s citizenship, loyalty, honesty and legitimacy.

There are lessons to be learned about the character of people who rise to positions of leadership, but the “scandal” of using a private e-mail server pales in comparison to the toxic malevolence of Republicans who built their reputations on lying, science denying, shutting down the government, rending the social safety net, enriching the rich, denying women access to reproductive healthcare and promising to replace secular government with an army of evangelical zealots.

Proportion is as important as grace. The e-mail “scandal” seems trivial compared to the national embarrassment of Donald Trump. If one e-mail was found on Clinton’s server that said anything as damaged, deranged and despicable as Trump says in his every utterance, she would be instantly disqualified.

It’s hard to know which of the Republicans has “learned sympathy toward the pain of others,” as there’s not a Lincoln, Gandhi, Mandela or King among them. Any of these great leaders would have condemned the G.O.P. for making a mockery of our democracy.”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Donald Trump has taken a strange turn lately. O.K., he has taken a lot of strange turns — that’s what happens when you nominate a short-attention-span candidate who knows nothing about policy and refuses to sit still for more than three minutes. But never mind what passes for Trumpian policy ideas. What’s odd is the shift in what the problem is supposed to be.

When the Trump campaign started, it was, at least nominally, about economics. Foreigners are stealing your jobs, the candidate declared, both through unfair trade and by coming here as immigrants. And he would make America great again with punitive tariffs and mass deportations.

But the story changed at the Republican convention. There was remarkably little economic discussion on display; there wasn’t even much economic demagogy. Instead, the focus was all on law and order, on saving the nation from what the candidate described as a terrifying crime wave.

That theme has continued in recent weeks, with Mr. Trump’s “outreach” to minority voters. His notion of a pitch to these voters is to tell them how horrible their lives are, that they are facing “crime at levels that nobody has seen.” Even “war zones,” he says, are “safer than living in some of our inner cities.”

All of this is really strange — because nothing like this is actually happening.

Back when the Trump campaign was ostensibly about the loss of middle-class jobs, it was at least pretending to be about a real issue: Employment in manufacturing really is way down; real wages of blue-collar workers have fallen. You could say that Trumpism isn’t the answer (it isn’t), but not that the issue was a figment of the candidate’s imagination.

But when Mr. Trump portrays America’s cities as hellholes of runaway crime and social collapse, what on earth is he talking about? Urban life is one of the things that has gone right with America. In fact, it has gone so right that those of us who remember the bad old days still find it hard to believe.

Let’s talk specifically about violent crime. Consider, in particular, the murder rate, arguably the most solid indicator for long-run comparisons because there’s no ambiguity about definitions. Homicides did shoot up between the early 1960s and the 1980s, and images of a future dystopia — think “Escape From New York” (1981) or Blade Runner (1982) — became a staple of popular culture. Conservative writers assured us that soaring crime was the inevitable result of a collapse in traditional values and that things would get even worse unless those values were restored.

But then a funny thing happened: The murder rate began falling, and falling, and falling. By 2014 it was all the way back down to where it was half a century earlier. There was some rise in 2015, but so far, at least, it’s barely a blip in the long-run picture.

Basically, American cities are as safe as they’ve ever been. Nobody is completely sure why crime has plunged, but the point is that the nightmare landscape of the Republican candidate’s rhetoric — call it Trump’s hellhole? — bears no resemblance to reality.

And we’re not just talking about statistics here; we’re also talking about lived experience. Fear of crime hasn’t disappeared from American life — today’s New York is incredibly safe by historical standards, yet I still wouldn’t walk around some areas at 3 a.m. But fear clearly plays a much diminished role now in daily life.

So what is all of this about? The same thing everything in the Trump campaign is about: race.

I used scare quotes when talking about Mr. Trump’s racial “outreach” because it’s clear that the real purpose of his vaguely conciliatory rhetoric is not so much to attract nonwhite voters as it is to reassure squeamish whites that he isn’t as racist as he seems. But here’s the thing: Even when he is trying to sound racially inclusive, his imagery is permeated by an “alt-right” sensibility that fundamentally sees nonwhites as subhuman.

Thus when he asks African-Americans, “What do you have to lose by trying something new, like Trump?” he betrays ignorance of the reality that most African-Americans work hard for a living and that there is a large black middle class. Oh, and 86 percent of nonelderly black adults have health insurance, up from 73 percent in 2010 thanks to Obamacare. Maybe they do have something to lose?

But how was he supposed to know? In the mental world he and those he listens to inhabit, blacks and other nonwhites are by definition shiftless burdens on society.

Which brings us back to the notion of America as a nightmarish dystopia. Taken literally, that’s nonsense. But today’s increasingly multiracial, multicultural society is a nightmare for people who want a white, Christian nation in which lesser breeds know their place. And those are the people Mr. Trump has brought out into the open.

Bobo, solo

August 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take one public policy issue: the Zika virus.

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

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

Normal politics ?

More like a serious and fatal Republican birth defect.

Take another issue: voting, the basis of democracy.

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

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

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

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

Brooks and Krugman

August 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

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

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

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

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

So what’s the problem?

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

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

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

So how bad is the problem?

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

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

Beyond all that, what about the public option?

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

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

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

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