Archive for the ‘Krugman’ Category

Blow and Krugman

July 25, 2016

In “More Damned Emails” Mr. Blow moans that while the Republicans have a horrible candidate, many Democrats have little faith in their own.  Prof. Krugman, in “Delusions of Chaos,” says some are seeing America through blood-colored glasses, despite the evidence all around us.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Following last week’s Republican calamity in Cleveland, the Democratic National Convention rolls into Philadelphia on Monday with big opportunities and big challenges.

Many Democrats will come with enthusiasm, but also with reservations.

Unlike the Republican Convention’s speaker lineup, which was backfilled with Donald Trump’s children because there were so few party heavyweights to anchor it, the Democratic Convention will have a litany of A-listers: The president, the first lady, Bernie Sanders and former President Bill Clinton among them.

These speakers will paint a vastly different picture of the country and its future than the unremittingly dark and dangerous one portrayed by the Republicans.

There will also likely be less acrimony in Philadelphia, as the Democrats review the failed stagecraft of Cleveland and work hard not to replicate it.

But, all is not roses for the Democrats.

The presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, has a battered image — partly due to a concerted effort by Republicans to batter it, and partly the result of her own poor choices. Two-thirds of registered voters don’t believe that she’s honest and trustworthy, and trustworthiness is one of those attributes that tends to be difficult to quickly and easily alter.

Clinton’s honesty numbers are even worse than Trump’s, but not by much. They both have some unbelievable negatives. As The New York Times reported earlier this month:

“In a development not seen in any modern presidential contest, more than half of all voters hold unfavorable views of the two major party candidates and large majorities say neither is honest and trustworthy. Only half of voters say Mrs. Clinton is prepared to be president, while an astonishing two-thirds say that Mr. Trump is not ready for the job — including four in 10 Republicans.”

But, being about as bad as Trump is hardly a good thing. Trump is a horrible candidate who shouldn’t have a shot, but in this race he does. Although Clinton remains the favorite to win in November, the race is too close for comfort. There are paths to victory — uphill though they may be — for Trump to win.

(Just typing that sent shivers down my spine. The idea that a man who used a racist attack on a judge in one of his own cases might get to pick the next one — or even two or three — Supreme Court justices is in itself unfathomable. The fact that he’s even competitive makes me question the electoral competency of America.)

Too many voters find themselves in the worst possible position: They have a choice between a Republican of whom they are frightened and disgusted and a Democrat of whom they are leery and unenthused.

Last week Clinton had a chance to shake up the race with her vice-presidential pick, but instead she chose the safer route, choosing the Democratic centrist Tim Kaine.

Kaine has his virtues — he is solid and affable, a solid liberal from the crucial state of Virginia — but this is not the sort of pick that taps into the progressive populism sweeping the party or the expansive diversity that constitutes the party.

Kaine reinforces Clinton’s “steady hand” message, but that is a message, however valid and necessary, that’s completely devoid of sizzle.

Trump is campaigning on fear, change and winning, all intense and even seductive ideas, even though his proposals are insular, unrealistic or hollow. “Steady” just doesn’t have the same emotional appeal. And although I hate to boil a historic election, and monumental policy challenges, down to emotions, I’ve been around long enough to know that this sort of visceral sensibility can swing elections.

The Democrats also have to deal with the resurgent idea of a primary process and party apparatus that favored Clinton and wasn’t completely fair to Sanders.

This was reignited in the conversation last week when WikiLeaks released nearly 20,000 internal emails from the Democratic National Committee in which some officers expressed antipathy and outright hostility to Sanders and his candidacy.

No matter whom one supported during the primaries, or even what party one aligns with, this should turn the stomach. This kind of collusion is precisely what is poisoning faith in our politics.

This reinforced the feeling of many that the system was rigged from the beginning.

CNN reported on Sunday that in the wake of the scandal, the tainted party chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, agreed to step down from her role at the conclusion of the convention.

But the injury is already inflicted.

These leaks further damage an already damaged faith in the Democratic nominating process. In March, thePew Research Center found:

“Forty two percent of Republican voters have a positive view of the primary process, compared with 30 percent of Democrats. The share of Democrats expressing a positive view of the primary process has declined 22 percentage points (from 52 percent) in February 2008. Republicans views are little different than in 2000 or 2008.”

What are those Democratic voters supposed to do who don’t trust the candidate, the party or the process, even if they view The Donald as the Devil? This is one of the convention’s conundrums.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Last year there were 352 murders in New York City. This was a bit higher than the number in 2014, but far below the 2245 murders that took place in 1990, the city’s worst year. In fact, as measured by the murder rate, New York is now basically as safe as it has ever been, going all the way back to the 19th century.

National crime statistics, and numbers for all violent crimes, paint an only slightly less cheerful picture. And it’s not just a matter of numbers; our big cities look and feel far safer than they did a generation ago, because they are. People of a certain age always have the sense that America isn’t the country they remember from their youth, and in this case they’re right — it has gotten much better.

How, then, was it even possible for Donald Trump to give a speech accepting the Republican nomination whose central premise was that crime is running rampant, and that “I alone” can bring the chaos under control?

Of course, nobody should be surprised to see Mr. Trump confidently asserting things that are flatly untrue, since he does that all the time — and never corrects his falsehoods. Indeed, the big speech repeated some of those golden oldies, like the claim that America is the world’s most highly taxed country (when we are actually near the bottom among advanced economies).

But until now the false claims have been about things ordinary voters can’t check against their own experience. Most people don’t have any sense of how their taxes compare with those paid by Europeans or Canadians, let alone how many jobs have been displaced by Chinese competition. But 58 million tourists visited New York last year; tens of millions more visited other major cities; and of course many of us live in or near those cities, and see them every day. And while there are, as there always were, bad neighborhoods and occasional violent incidents, it’s hard to see how anyone who walks around with open eyes could believe in the blood-soaked dystopian vision Mr. Trump laid out.

Yet there’s no question that many voters — including, almost surely, a majority of white men — will indeed buy into that vision. Why?

One answer is that, according to Gallup, Americans always seem to believe that crime is increasing, even when it is in fact dropping rapidly. Part of this may be the wording of the question: People may have a vague, headline-fueled sense that crime is up this year even while being aware that it’s much lower than it used to be. There may also be some version of the “bad things are happening somewhere else” syndrome we see in consumer surveys, where people are far more positive about their personal situation than they are about the economy as a whole.

Again, however, it’s one thing to have a shaky grasp on crime statistics, but something quite different to accept a nightmare vision of America that conflicts so drastically with everyday experience. So what’s going on?

Well, I do have a hypothesis, namely, that Trump supporters really do feel, with some reason, that the social order they knew is coming apart. It’s not just race, where the country has become both more diverse and less racist (even if it still has a long way to go). It’s also about gender roles — when Mr. Trump talks about making America great again, you can be sure that many of his supporters are imagining a return to the (partly imagined) days of male breadwinners and stay-at-home wives.

Not incidentally, Mike Pence, Mr. Trump’s running mate, used to fulminate about the damage done by working mothers, not to mention penning an outraged attack on Disney in 1999 for featuring a martially-minded heroine in its movie Mulan.

But what are the consequences of these changes in the social order? Back when crime was rising, conservatives insistently drew a connection to social change — that was what the whole early ’90s fuss over “family values” was about. Loose the bonds of traditional society, and chaos would follow.

Then a funny thing happened: Crime plunged instead of continuing to rise. Other indicators also improved dramatically — for example, the teen birthrate has fallen 60 percent since 1991. Instead of societal collapse, we’ve seen what amounts to a mass outbreak of societal health. The truth is that we don’t know exactly why. Hypotheses range from the changing age distribution of the population to reduced lead poisoning; but in any case, the predicted apocalypse notably failed to arrive.

The point, however, is that in the minds of those disturbed by social change, chaos in the streets was supposed to follow, and they are all too willing to believe that it did, in the teeth of the evidence.

The question now is how many such people, people determined to live in a nightmare of their own imagining, there really are. I guess we’ll find out in November.

Brooks and Krugman

July 22, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blow, Cohen and Krugman

July 18, 2016

In “Trump’s Chance to Reboot” Mr. Blow says the Republican candidate has a golden opportunity at the convention to improve his standing with the voters, but don’t count on it.  Mr. Cohen considers “Turkey’s Coup That Wasn’t” and says a failed coup in Turkey does not mean democracy is the winner. In fact Erdogan may now undermine democracy further.  Prof. Krugman, in “Both Sides Now?,” says many in the news media feel the need to set up a false equivalence between a candidate who lies repeatedly and his opponent.  He’s a voice crying in the wilderness.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

As the Republican National Convention kicks off Monday, Donald Trump has a tremendous opportunity to rebrand and reboot his campaign, to make it look and feel more professional and less petulant.

Even for the people who loathe him — and there are many — the intensity of outrage inevitably wanes. This says less about those people’s commitment to their core principles or the veracity of their objections, and more about the very human propensity toward fatigue.

Sustained outrage can be exhausting. Some folks eventually succumb to resignation or tacit acceptance. That’s just the way people are built.

Outrage is a beast that needs constant feeding to remain strong, and over the last few weeks, following the killing of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the police officers in Dallas, Trump has been noticeably more in control and controversy-free.

It seems almost certain that someone has gotten through to him, convincing him that he needs to tamp down the tweets and pump up the scripted speeches.

None of this changes the essence of the man. The intolerance, bigotry and narcissism are not so easily alterable. But public personas are protean. And that’s why a convention offers an incredible opportunity for a candidate.

All Trump — or Hillary Clinton, for that matter — has to do is to move a relative few of the people who now say, “I could never…” toward a position of “I could possibly…”

Conventions offer the most unfiltered and uninterrupted visions of parties and presidential candidates during a campaign. They are about shaping a message and conveying it. They allow candidates to completely reframe the conversation and to remake people’s perceptions.

These are big-money, high-stakes, focused-attention affairs. Voters who don’t follow every machination and who don’t stay glued to the television are likely to tune in just for the pageantry and spectacle of it all.

And these conventions usually are great shows. When the political parties concentrate on their candidates and put the totality of their attention into a single message, they can even doll up the devil.

But something tells me that Trump does not have the constitutional restraint and self-interested prudence to allow this to happen.

One of Trump’s greatest flaws — putting aside for the moment his utter vileness and ignorance of virtually every issue — is that he simply can’t stop being himself. He can’t coast; he must careen. He doesn’t trust drift, only drive.

This instinct may have served him well in business (although the many bankruptcies and lawsuits, as well as the unreleased tax returns, suggest that his business acumen and personal wealth may be in some part an illusion) but it creates conditions that are prime for a cascade of errors.

Unconventional campaigns can handicap what a political convention is great at providing — clarity.

Trump seems allergic to clarity.

Just take the rollout of his vice-presidential pick, Mike Pence, about as drab and boring a public figure as one could imagine. Of course this all disguises a man who is rabidly opposed to things like gay rights and a woman’s right to choose, but the political minds inside the campaign were apparently able to convince Trump that boring was the perfect balance to his own bombast.

First he orchestrated the selection like a reality show. It was hard to know if one was watching the final decision of a candidate or the final episode of The Bachelor.

In the end, Pence prevailed, although there were rumblings and reports that Trump still had trepidations up until the last minute.

Was this Trump’s preferred choice or simply a bow to pressure? Both, according to the meandering, sleep-on-my-sofa-because-you-may-be-drunk speech Trump gave to introduce Pence. In the speech Trump said that Pence was both his “first choice” and a choice for “party unity.”

Yes, there are many in Trump’s own party who still have serious misgivings about him, who no doubt wake up occasionally like I do in a cold sweat, with the realization that this man actually will be the Republican Party’s nominee.

Pence is meant to assuage those fears.

In a way, Trump picked Pence, a man who presents as an adult, so that Trump himself can continue to behave like a child. The vice-presidential pick has the presidential disposition on the ticket. Go figure.

But this arranged marriage looks as uncomfortable as it sounds and signals a precarious prelude to a convention that holds the potential to catapult Trump into greater acceptability before the Democrats and their all-star lineup of heavy hitters pick him apart at next week’s Democratic National Convention.

It would not surprise me one iota if Trump squanders this opportunity. He is proving to be a horrible general election campaigner. The man seems tragically prone to self-sabotage. For instance, after Sunday’s killing of police officers in Baton Rouge, Trump was back to sending incendiary tweets calling America a “divided crime scene” when he should have focused on Cleveland and unity.

I will pay close attention this week to see if this candidate transforms an event that has always served as a moment of ascendance into a moment of collapse. If I were a betting man…

Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

As coups go, the Turkish effort was a study in ineptitude: No serious attempt to capture or muzzle the political leadership, no leader ready to step in, no communication strategy (or even awareness of social media), no ability to mobilize a critical mass within either the armed forces or society. In their place a platoon of hapless soldiers on a bridge in Istanbul and the apparently uncoordinated targeting of a few government buildings in Ankara.

It was enough for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking on his cellphone’s FaceTime app, to call supporters into the streets for the insurrection to fold. That Erdogan will no doubt be the chief beneficiary of this turmoil, using it to further his push for an autocratic Islamist Turkey, does not mean that he staged it. The Turkish Army remains isolated from society. It is entirely plausible that a coterie of officers believed a polarized and disgruntled society would rise up once given a cue. If so, they were wrong — and the error has cost more than 260 lives.

But in Erdogan’s Turkey, mystery and instability have become the coin of the realm. It is no wonder that conspiracy theories abound. Since an electoral setback in 2015, the president has overseen a Turkey that is ever more violent. This dangerous lurch has enabled him to bounce back in a second election in November and portray himself as the anointed one averting mayhem. His attempt to blame, without any evidence, the attempted coup on Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric and erstwhile ally living in Pennsylvania, forms part of a pattern of murkiness and intrigue.

Through Erdogan’s fog this much seems clear: Over 35 years after the last coup, and almost 20 years after the 1997 military intervention, Turks do not want a return to the seesawing military and civilian rule that marked the country between 1960 and 1980. On the contrary, they are attached to their democratic institutions and the constitutional order. The army, a pillar of Kemal Atatürk’s secular order, is weaker. Every major political party condemned the attempted coup. Whatever their growing anger against the president, Turks do not want to go backward.

A successful coup would have been a disaster. Erdogan has massive support in the Anatolian heartland, particularly among religious conservatives. Mosques all over the country were lit through the night as imams echoed the president’s call for people to pour into the street. There can be little doubt that any military-controlled administration would have faced a Syria-like insurgency of Islamists and others. The blow to what is left in the Middle East of democratic institutions and the rule of law would have been devastating.

No wonder President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry “agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected Government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence of bloodshed.”

But “restraint” is not part of Erdogan’s vocabulary. As Philip Gordon, a former special assistant to Obama on the Middle East, told me: “Rather than use this as an opportunity to heal divisions, Erdogan may well do the opposite: go after adversaries, limit press and other freedoms further, and accumulate even more power.” Within hours, over 2,800 military personnel had been detained and 2,745 judges removed from duty.

A prolonged crackdown on so-called “Gulenists,” whoever Erdogan deems them to be, and the Kemalist “deep state” (supporters of the old secular order) is likely. An already divided society will grow more fissured. Secular Turkey will not quickly forget the cries of “Allahu akbar” echoing from some mosques and from crowds in the streets.

A rapid push by Erdogan to reform the Constitution by referendum and create a presidency with sweeping powers is possible. He now has a case to say only such powers will keep enemies at bay.

“It may well be that democracy has triumphed in Turkey only to be strangled at a slower pace,” Jonathan Eyal, the international director at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, told me. There can be little doubt the expressions of support for Erdogan from Western capitals came through gritted teeth.

For the Obama administration, the dilemmas of the Middle East could scarcely have been more vividly illustrated. When an Egyptian general, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, led a coup three years ago against the democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, Obama did not support the democratic government, as he has now in Turkey. The administration even avoided use of the word “coup” in Egypt. In effect, the president sided with the generals in the name of order.

True, Morsi was deeply unpopular. The Egyptian coup had massive support. It was a fait accompli by the time Obama weighed in. Still, principles in the Middle East are worth little. Policy often amounts to choosing the least bad option.

The least bad — Erdogan’s survival — has prevailed. That does not mean much worse won’t follow. A failed coup doesn’t mean democracy is the winner. The worst of this prickly autocrat may now be unleashed upon Turkey, with America and its allies able to do little about it.

And now we get to Prof. Krugman:

When Donald Trump began his run for the White House, many people treated it as a joke. Nothing he has done or said since makes him look better. On the contrary, his policy ignorance has become even more striking, his positions more extreme, the flaws in his character more obvious, and he has repeatedly demonstrated a level of contempt for the truth that is unprecedented in American politics.

Yet while most polls suggest that he’s running behind in the general election, the margin isn’t overwhelming, and there’s still a real chance that he might win. How is that possible? Part of the answer, I’d argue, is that voters don’t fully appreciate his awfulness. And the reason is that too much of the news media still can’t break with bothsidesism — the almost pathological determination to portray politicians and their programs as being equally good or equally bad, no matter how ludicrous that pretense becomes.

Just to be clear, I’m not arguing that distorted news coverage is the whole story, that nobody would support Trumpism if the media were doing their job. The presumptive Republican nominee wouldn’t have gotten this far if he weren’t tapping into some deep resentments. Furthermore, America is a deeply divided country, at least in its political life, and the great majority of Republicans will support their party’s nominee no matter what. Still, the fact is that voters who don’t have the time or inclination to do their own research, who get their news analysis from TV or regular news pages, are fed a daily diet of false equivalence.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. During the 2000 campaign George W. Bush was flatly dishonest about his policy proposals; his numbers didn’t add up, and he claimed repeatedly that his tax cuts, which overwhelmingly favored the 1 percent, were aimed at the middle class. Yet mainstream coverage never made this clear. In frustration, I wrote at the time that if a presidential candidate were to assert that the earth was flat, news analysis articles would have the headline “Shape of the planet: Both sides have a point.”

And Mr. Trump is far from being the only current political figure who benefits from the determination to find balance where none exists. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, has a reputation as a policy wonk, committed to fiscal responsibility, that is utterly incomprehensible if you look at the slapdash, fundamentally dishonest policy documents he actually puts out. But the cult of balance requires that someone on the Republican side be portrayed as a serious, honest fiscal expert, so Mr. Ryan gets slotted into that role no matter how much a con man he may be in reality.

Still, there are con men, and then there are con men. You might think that Donald Trump, who lies so much that fact-checkers have a hard time keeping up, who keeps repeating falsehoods even after they’ve been proved wrong, and who combines all of this with a general level of thuggishness aimed in part at the press, would be too much even for the balance cultists to excuse.

But you would be wrong.

To be fair, some reporters and news organizations try to point out Trump statements that are false, frightening, or both. All too often, however, they still try to maintain their treasured balance by devoting equal time — and, as far as readers and viewers can tell, equal or greater passion — to denouncing far less important misstatements from Hillary Clinton. In fact, surveys show that Mrs. Clinton has, overall, received much more negative coverage than her opponent.

And in the last few days we’ve seen a spectacular demonstration of bothsidesism in action: an op-ed article from the incoming and outgoing heads of the White House Correspondents’ Association, with the headline “Trump, Clinton both threaten free press.” How so? Well, Mr. Trump has selectively banned news organizations he considers hostile; he has also, although the op-ed didn’t mention it, attacked both those organizations and individual reporters, and refused to condemn supporters who, for example, have harassed reporters with anti-Semitic insults.

Meanwhile, while Mrs. Clinton hasn’t done any of these things, and has a staff that readily responds to fact-checking questions, she doesn’t like to hold press conferences. Equivalence!

Stung by criticism, the authors of the op-ed issued a statement denying that they had engaged in “false equivalency” — I guess saying that the candidates are acting “similarly” doesn’t mean saying that they are acting similarly. And they once again refused to indicate which candidate was behaving worse.

As I said, bothsidesism isn’t new, and it has always been an evasion of responsibility. But taking the position that “both sides do it” now, in the face of this campaign and this candidate, is an act of mind-boggling irresponsibility.

Blow and Krugman

July 11, 2016

In “A Week From Hell” Mr. Blow says we as a society will not extinguish violence quickly, but individuals can make a start today.  Prof. Krugman says “Cheap Money Talks,” and that  what it says is to invest in the future.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Last week was yet another week that tore at the very fiber of our nation.

After two videos emerged showing the gruesome killings of two black men by police officers, one in Baton Rouge, La., and the other in Falcon Heights, Minn., a black man shot and killed five officers in a cowardly ambush at an otherwise peaceful protest and wounded nine more people. The Dallas police chief, David O. Brown, said, “He was upset about Black Lives Matter” and “about the recent police shootings” and “was upset at white people” and “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”

We seem caught in a cycle of escalating atrocities without an easy way out, without enough clear voices of calm, without tools for reduction, without resolutions that will satisfy.

There is so much loss and pain. There are so many families whose hearts hurt for a loved one needlessly taken, never to be embraced again.

There is so much disintegrating trust, so much animosity stirring.

So many — too many — Americans now seem to be living with an ambient terror that someone is somehow targeting them.

Friday morning, after the Dallas shootings, my college student daughter entered my room before heading out to her summer job. She hugged me and said: “Dad, I’m scared. Are you scared?” We talked about what had happened in the preceding days, and I tried to allay her fears and soothe her anxiety.

How does a father answer such a question? I’m still not sure I got it precisely right.

Truth is, I am afraid. Not so much for my own safety, which is what my daughter was fretting about, but more for the country I love.

This is not a level of stress and strain that a civil society can long endure.

I feel numb, and anguished and heartbroken, and I fear that I am far from alone.

And yet, I also fear that time is a requirement for remedy. We didn’t arrive at this place overnight and we won’t move on from it overnight.

Centuries of American policy, culture and tribalism are simply being revealed as the frothy tide of hagiographic history recedes.

Our American “ghettos” were created by policy and design. These areas of concentrated poverty became fertile ground for crime and violence. Municipalities used heavy police forces to try to cap that violence. Too often, aggressive policing began to feel like oppressive policing. Relationships between communities and cops became strained. A small number of criminals poisoned police beliefs about whole communities, and a small number of dishonorable officers poisoned communities’ beliefs about entire police forces. And then, too often the unimaginable happened and someone ended up dead at the hands of the police.

Since people have camera phones, we are actually seeing these deaths, live and in living color. Now a terrorist with a racist worldview has taken it upon himself to co-opt a cause and mow down innocent officers.

This is a time when communities, institutions, movements and even nations are tested. Will the people of moral clarity, good character and righteous cause be able to drown out the chorus of voices that seek to use each dead body as a societal wedge?

Will the people who can see clearly that there is no such thing as selective, discriminatory, exclusionary outrage and grieving when lives are taken, be heard above those who see every tragedy as a plus or minus for a cumulative argument?

Will the people who see both the protests over police killings and the killings of police officers as fundamentally about the value of life rise above those who see political opportunity in this arms race of atrocities?

These are very serious questions — soul-of-a-nation questions — that we dare not ignore.

We must see all unwarranted violence for what it is: A corrosion of culture.

I know well that when people speak of love and empathy and honor in the face of violence, it can feel like meeting hard power with soft, like there is inherent weakness in an approach that leans so heavily on things so ephemeral and even clichéd.

But that is simply an illusion fostered by those of little faith.

Anger and vengeance and violence are exceedingly easy to access and almost effortlessly unleashed.

The higher calling — the harder trial — is the belief in the ultimate moral justice and the inevitable victory of righteousness over wrong.

This requires an almost religious faith in fate, and that can be hard for some to accept, but accept it we must.

The moment any person comes to accept as justifiable an act of violence upon another — whether physical, spiritual or otherwise — that person has already lost the moral battle, even if he is currently winning the somatic one.

When we all can see clearly that the ultimate goal is harmony and not hate, rectification and not retribution, we have a chance to see our way forward. But we all need to start here and now, by doing this simple thing: Seeing every person as fully human, deserving every day to make it home to the people he loves.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

What with everything else going on, from Trump to Brexit to the horror in Dallas, it’s hard to focus on developments in financial markets — especially because we’re not facing any immediate crisis. But extraordinary things have been happening lately, especially in bond markets. And because money still makes the world go ’round, attention must be paid to what the markets are trying to tell us.

Specifically, there has been an extraordinary plunge in long-term interest rates. Late last year the yield on 10-year U.S. government bonds was around 2.3 percent, already historically low; on Friday it was just 1.36 percent.  German bonds, the safe asset of the eurozone, are yielding minus — that’s right, minus — 0.19 percent. Basically, investors are willing to offer governments money for nothing, or less than nothing. What does it mean?

Some commentators blame the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, accusing them of engineering “artificially low” interest rates that encourage speculation and distort the economy. These are, by the way, largely the same people who used to predict that budget deficits would cause interest rates to soar. In any case, however, it’s important to understand that they’re not making sense.

For what does “artificially low” mean in this context? Compared to what? Historically, the consequence of excessively easy money — the way you know that money is too easy — has been out-of-control inflation. That’s not happening in America, where inflation is still below the Fed’s target, and it’s definitely not happening in Europe, where the central bank has been trying to raise inflation, without success.

If anything, developments in the real economies of the advanced world are telling us that interest rates aren’t low enough — that is, while low rates may be having their usual effects of boosting the housing sector and, to some extent, the stock market, those effects aren’t big enough to produce a strong recovery. But why?

In some past episodes of very low government borrowing costs, the story has been one of a flight to safety: investors piling into U.S. or German bonds because they’re afraid to buy riskier assets. But there’s little sign of such a fear-driven process now. The premiums on risky corporate bonds, which soared during the 2008 financial crisis, have stayed fairly low. European bond spreads, like the difference between Italian and German interest rates, have also stayed low. And stock prices have been hitting new highs.

By the way, the financial fallout from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union looks fairly limited, at least so far. The pound is down, and investors have been pulling money from funds that invest in the London property market. But British stocks are up, and there’s nothing like the kind of panic some pre-referendum rhetoric seemed to predict. All that seems to have happened is an intensification of the trend toward ever-lower interest rates.

So what’s going on? I think of it as the Great Capitulation.

A number of economists — most famously Larry Summers, but also yours truly and others — have been warning for a while that the whole world may be turning Japanese. That is, it looks as if weak demand and a bias toward deflation are enduring problems. Until recently, however, investors acted as if they still expected a return to what we used to consider normal conditions. Now they’ve thrown in the towel, in effect conceding that persistent weakness is the new normal. This means low short-term interest rates for a very long time, and low long-term rates right away.

Many people don’t like what’s happening, but raising rates in the face of weak economies would be an act of folly that might well push us back into recession.

What policy makers should be doing, instead, is accepting the markets’ offer of incredibly cheap financing. Investors are willing to pay the German government to take their money; the U.S. situation is less extreme, but even here interest rates adjusted for inflation are negative.

Meanwhile, there are huge unmet demands for public investment on both sides of the Atlantic. America’s aging infrastructure is legendary, but not unique: years of austerity have left German roads and railways in worse shape than most people realize. So why not borrow money at these low, low rates and do some much-needed repair and renovation? This would be eminently worth doing even if it wouldn’t also create jobs, but it would do that too.

I know, deficit scolds would issue dire warnings about the evils of public debt. But they have been wrong about everything for at least the past eight years, and it’s time to stop taking them seriously.

They say that money talks; well, cheap money is speaking very clearly right now, and it’s telling us to invest in our future.

Brooks and Krugman

July 8, 2016

Oh, cripes.  Bobo has now decided to harangue us on “The Power of Altruism.”  He bleats that we inherently desire to do good, but society’s assumptions of selfishness affect our behavior.  His “thoughts” will be followed by a comment by “Socrates” from Downtown Verona, NJ.  Prof. Krugman considers “All the Nominee’s Enablers” and says the G.O.P. establishment, and the people behind it, will accept a lot as long as the rich ultimately benefit.  Here’s Bobo:

Western society is built on the assumption that people are fundamentally selfish. Machiavelli and Hobbes gave us influential philosophies built on human selfishness. Sigmund Freud gave us a psychology of selfishness. Children, he wrote, “are completely egoistic; they feel their needs intensely and strive ruthlessly to satisfy them.”

Classical economics adopts a model that says people are primarily driven by material self-interest. Political science assumes that people are driven to maximize their power.

But this worldview is clearly wrong. In real life, the push of selfishness is matched by the pull of empathy and altruism. This is not Hallmark card sentimentalism but scientific fact: As babies our neural connections are built by love and care. We have evolved to be really good at cooperation and empathy. We are strongly motivated to teach and help others.

As Matthieu Ricard notes in his rigorous book “Altruism,” if an 18-month-old sees a man drop a clothespin she will move to pick it up and hand it back to him within five seconds, about the same amount of time it takes an adult to offer assistance. If you reward a baby with a gift for being kind, the propensity to help will decrease, in some studies by up to 40 percent.

When we build academic disciplines and social institutions upon suppositions of selfishness we’re missing the motivations that drive people much of the time.

Worse, if you expect people to be selfish, you can actually crush their tendency to be good.

Samuel Bowles provides a slew of examples in his book “The Moral Economy.” For example, six day care centers in Haifa, Israel, imposed a fine on parents who were late in picking up their kids at the end of the day. The share of parents who arrived late doubled. Before the fine, picking up their kids on time was an act of being considerate to the teachers. But after the fine, showing up to pick up their kids became an economic transaction. They felt less compunction to be kind.

In 2001, the Boston fire commissioner ended his department’s policy of unlimited sick days and imposed a limit of 15 per year. Those who exceeded the limit had their pay docked. Suddenly what had been an ethic to serve the city was replaced by a utilitarian paid arrangement. The number of firefighters who called in sick on Christmas and New Year’s increased by tenfold over the previous year.

To simplify, there are two lenses people can use to see any situation: the economic lens or the moral lens.

When you introduce a financial incentive you prompt people to see their situation through an economic lens. Instead of following their natural bias toward reciprocity, service and cooperation, you encourage people to do a selfish cost-benefit calculation. They begin to ask, “What’s in this for me?”

By evoking an economic motivation, you often get worse outcomes. Imagine what would happen to a marriage if both people went in saying, “I want to get more out of this than I put in.” The prospects of such a marriage would not be good.

Many of our commitments, professional or civic, are like that. To be a good citizen, to be a good worker, you often have to make an altruistic commitment to some group or ideal, which will see you through those times when your job of citizenship is hard and frustrating. Whether you are a teacher serving students or a soldier serving your country or a clerk who likes your office mates, the moral motivation is much more powerful than the financial motivations. Arrangements that arouse the financial lens alone are just messing everything up.

In 1776, Adam Smith defined capitalism as a machine that takes private self-interest and organizes it to produce general prosperity. A few years later America’s founders created a democracy structured to take private factional competition and, through checks and balances, turn it into deliberative democracy. Both rely on a low but steady view of human nature and try to turn private vice into public virtue.

But back then, there were plenty of institutions that promoted the moral lens to balance the economic lens: churches, guilds, community organizations, military service and honor codes.

Since then, the institutions that arouse the moral lens have withered while the institutions that manipulate incentives — the market and the state — have expanded. Now economic, utilitarian thinking has become the normal way we do social analysis and see the world. We’ve wound up with a society that is less cooperative, less trusting, less effective and less lovely.

By assuming that people are selfish, by prioritizing arrangements based on selfishness, we have encouraged selfish frames of mind. Maybe it’s time to upend classical economics and political science. Maybe it’s time to build institutions that harness people’s natural longing to do good.

Great.  Let’s start by destroying the Republican party and everything it currently stands for.  They don’t call Paul Ryan the “Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver” for nothing, Bobo.  Here’s the comment by “Socrates:”

“Machiavelli would be perfectly at home moored in the bay of one of today’s 0.1% Cayman Island or Panamanian tax havens, napping peacefully on his 500-foot super yacht on a bed of red roses handpicked by serfs this morning.. “completely egoistic; feeling his needs intensely and striving ruthlessly to satisfy” his insatiable greed.

0.1% individuals and their families have as much as $32 trillion of hidden financial assets in offshore tax havens, according to the Tax Justice Network, and economist James Henry.

0.1% trillions of graft and greed is held in tax havens by private elites and puts it beyond the reach of tax authorities and excludes it from the common good.

Research estimates that since the 1970s, the richest citizens of 139 countries had amassed $7.3 to $9.3 trillion of “unrecorded offshore wealth” by 2010.

Private wealth held offshore represents “a subterranean” systemic “economic equivalent of an astrophysical black hole” of 0.1% greed in the world economy.

The $32T estimate is roughly twice the size of the US GDP —- offshored ‘altruism’ and compassionate 0.1% conservatism at its truly finest.

“Wall Street and other major banks manage the tax havens — their business is fraud and grand theft. Private banking operations yield huge profits. Keeping funds secreted tax free attracts rich clients and criminals – funds are welcome from anyone, “no questions asked”, wrote Stephen Lendman of Global Research.

The Power Of Greed is a timeless psychopathy, Mr. Brooks.”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman, the voice crying in the wilderness:

A couple of weeks ago Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, sort of laid out both a health care plan and a tax plan. I say sort of, because there weren’t enough details in either case to do any kind of quantitative analysis. But it was clear that Mr. Ryan’s latest proposals had the same general shape as every other proposal he’s released: huge tax cuts for the wealthy combined with savage but smaller cuts in aid to the poor, and the claim that all of this would somehow reduce the budget deficit thanks to unspecified additional measures.

Given everything else that’s going on, this latest installment of Ryanomics attracted little attention. One group that did notice, however, was Fix the Debt, a nonpartisan deficit-scold group that used to have substantial influence in Washington.

Indeed, Fix the Debt issued a statement — but not, as you might have expected, condemning Mr. Ryan for proposing to make the deficit bigger. No, the statement praised him. “We are concerned that the policies in the plan may not add up,” the organization admitted, but it went on to declare that “we welcome this blueprint.”

And there, in miniature, is the story of how America ended up with someone like Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee and possible next president. It’s all about the enablers, and the enablers of the enablers.

At one level, all Mr. Trump has done is to channel the racism that has always been a part of our political life — it’s literally as American as apple pie — and hitch it to the authoritarian impulse that has also always lurked behind democratic norms. But there’s a reason these tendencies are sufficiently concentrated in the G.O.P. that Trumpism could triumph in the primaries: a cynical political strategy that the party’s establishment has pursued for decades.

To put it bluntly, the modern Republican Party is in essence a machine designed to deliver high after-tax incomes to the 1 percent. Look at Mr. Ryan: Has he ever shown any willingness, for any reason, to make the rich pay so much as a dime more in taxes? Comforting the very comfortable is what it’s all about.

But not many voters are interested in that goal. So the party has prospered politically by harnessing its fortunes to racial hostility, which it has not-so-discreetly encouraged for decades.

These days, former President George H.W. Bush is treated as an elder statesman, too gentlemanly to endorse the likes of Donald Trump — but remember, he’s the one who ran the Willie Horton ad. Mitt Romney is also sitting this one out — but he was happy to accept Mr. Trump’s endorsement back when the candidate was best known for his rabid birtherism.

And Mr. Ryan, after a brief pretense of agonizing about Mr. Trump, is now in full attack-dog mode on the candidate’s behalf. After all, the Trump tax plan would be a huge windfall for the wealthy, while Hillary Clinton would surely sustain President Obama’s significant tax hike on high incomes, and try to push it further.

I’m not saying that all leading Republicans are racists; most of them probably aren’t, although Mr. Trump probably is. It is that in pursuit of their economic — actually, class-interest — goals they were willing to act as enablers, to make their party a safe space for prejudice. And the result is a party base that is strikingly racist, in which a plurality of voters believe that Mr. Obama is a Muslim, and more — a base just waiting for a candidate willing to blurt out what the establishment conveyed by innuendo.

But there’s one more crucial element here: We wouldn’t have gotten to this point if so many people outside the G.O.P. — in particular, journalists and self-proclaimed centrists — hadn’t refused to acknowledge what was happening.

Political analysts who tried to talk about the G.O.P.’s transformation, like Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, were effectively ostracized for years. Instead, the respectable, “balanced” thing was to pretend that the parties were symmetric, to turn a blind eye to the cynicism of the modern Republican project.

Which brings me back to Mr. Ryan, the de facto leader of his party until the Trumpocalypse. How did he reach that position? Not by inspiring deep loyalty in the base, but rather by getting incredibly favorable treatment from journalists and centrists eager to show their bipartisanship by finding a serious, honest Republican to praise — or at least someone able to do a passable job of playing that character on TV. And as the latest from Fix the Debt shows, the charade is still going on.

The point is that this kind of false balance does real harm. The Republican establishment directly enabled the forces that led to Trump; but many influential people outside the G.O.P. in effect enabled the enablers. And so here we are.

Blow and Krugman

July 4, 2016

In “Giving Clinton Her Due” Mr. Blow says of the two flawed presidential candidates, one is clearly out-campaigning the other.  Prof. Krugman considers “Trump, Trade and Workers” and says bashing China doesn’t make you labor’s friend.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

It is easy in an election cycle that has seen the improbable rise of the preposterous presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump to center all discussion about the race on him: how poorly he’s doing, how outrageous this week’s comments were, how damning a new investigative report into his past has proved.

But doing so exposes a bias toward the sensational, underselling another rather remarkable story, at least for the month of June: Hillary Clinton ran an incredibly strong campaign last month.

First, let’s start with the obvious. As Gallup pointed out last week: “Trump and Clinton are currently among the worst-rated presidential candidates of the last seven decades.” But the article continued: “In the race to the bottom, however, Trump’s 42 percent highly unfavorable score easily outpaces Clinton’s 33 percent. Prior to now, 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater had the highest negative score, with 26 percent rating him highly unfavorably in October 1964.”

A couple of weeks ago Gallup found that “Americans’ views of Donald Trump have drifted slightly more negative over the past month and a half, with his net favorable rating slipping to -33 for June 13-19 from -28 in the first week of May. Americans’ views of Hillary Clinton have remained significantly less negative than their views of Trump — and have been more stable, with her current -13 net favorable rating almost identical to her -14 from early May.”

Both Clinton and Trump are flawed and damaged candidates, but they aren’t equally flawed and damaged. And while Trump is digging his holes deeper, Clinton is remaining steady in some and climbing out of others.

Clinton began the month with a major foreign policy speech that CNN called an “evisceration of Donald Trump,” and she never let up. She delivered a stinging critique of Trump as dangerous in an economic policy speech in Ohio. In an article about the speech, The New York Times pointed out: “The barrage comes at a perilous moment for Mr. Trump, who fired his campaign manager on Monday and faces severe disadvantages in fund-raising and on-the-ground organization. One supporter introducing Mrs. Clinton said gleefully that the campaign had more staff members in Ohio than Mr. Trump had nationwide.”

How did Trump respond to this speech? He live-tweeted his objections.

When he did give a major speech in response, it was roundly condemned for the numerous falsehoods it contained. But this is nothing new for Trump. Of all the statements by Trump that have been examined by the fact-checking site PolitiFact, most have been rated false or “pants on fire.”

Trump simply can’t muster the discipline that is one of Clinton’s hallmarks. While giving a trade speech in New Hampshire last week, Trump departed from the subject to again go after Mexico. What is this man’s issue with Mexico, anyway?

As The Times observed: “Donald J. Trump was seven minutes into an address on Thursday on the loading dock of a shuttered lighting plant here in New Hampshire, reading from prepared remarks, when he turned his attention to Mexico. That country’s leaders are smarter than those in the United States, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said. Then, as the sound of a plane overhead drowned out his voice, Mr. Trump went off his script. ‘In fact,’ Mr. Trump said, pointing his finger toward the sky, ‘that could be a Mexican plane up there. They’re getting ready to attack.’”

At times last month, Clinton and her campaign so outmatched Trump that the competition wasn’t even close.

And perhaps most intriguingly, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Orlando and Turkey and the Brexit vote in England, Clinton turned what many had seen as a negative for her into a positive: Her cautious delivery, which can sometimes feel a bit guarded and robotic, began to sound steady, reassuring and presidential.

Trump, in contrast, stumbled terribly, because rather than rise in these moments of trauma and volatility, he sinks to being more, well, Trump. He made everything about him.

After the Orlando massacre, Trump tweeted: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”

Following the Brexit vote, MSNBC reported: “Asked about economic turmoil and the degree to which the Brexit results are undermining the value of the British pound,” Trump replied “that the market decline is good news — for him. ‘If the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly,’ he said, referring to the location of his resort. ‘For traveling and for other things, I think it very well could turn out to be positive.’ ”

There’s no way to know if this will continue, especially in light of the ongoing F.B.I. investigation of her emails, but last month Clinton out-campaigned and outclassed Trump at every turn. It’s important that she is given her due.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Donald Trump gave a speech on economic policy last week. Just about every factual assertion he made was wrong, but I’m not going to do a line-by-line critique. What I want to do, instead, is talk about the general thrust: the candidate’s claim to be on the side of American workers.

Of course, that’s what they all say. But Trumponomics goes beyond the usual Republican assertions that cutting taxes on corporations and the rich, ending environmental regulation and so on will conjure up the magic of the marketplace and make everyone prosper. It also involves posing as a populist, claiming that getting tough on foreigners and ripping up our trade agreements will bring back the well-paying jobs America has lost.

That’s a departure, although not as much as you may think — people forget that Mitt Romney similarly threatened a trade war with China during the 2012 campaign. Still, it was interesting to see a Republican presidential candidate name-check not just Bernie Sanders but the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, which has long been critical of globalization.

But the institute is having none of it: Lawrence Mishel, the think tank’s president, put out a derisive reply to what he called the “Trump trade scam.” His point was that even if you think, as he does, that trade agreements have hurt American workers, they’re only part of a much broader set of anti-labor policies. And on everything else, Donald Trump is very much on the wrong side of the issues.

About globalization: There’s no question that rising imports, especially from China, have reduced the number of manufacturing jobs in America. One widely-cited paper estimates that China’s rise reduced U.S. manufacturing employment by around one million between 1999 and 2011. My own back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that completely eliminating the U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods would add about two million manufacturing jobs.

But America is a big place, and total employment exceeds 140 million. Shifting two million workers back into manufacturing would raise that sector’s share of employment back from around 10 percent to around 11.5 percent. To get some perspective: in 1979, on the eve of the great surge in inequality, manufacturing accounted for more than 20 percent of employment. In the 1960s it was more than 25 percent. I’m not sure when, exactly, Mr. Trump thinks America was great, but Trumponomics wouldn’t come close to bringing the old days back.

In any case, falling manufacturing employment is only one factor in the decline of the middle class. As Mr. Mishel says, there have been “many other intentional policies” driving wages down even as top incomes soar: union-bashing, the failure to raise the minimum wage with inflation, austerity, financial deregulation, the tax-cut obsession.

And Mr. Trump buys fully into the ideology that has driven these wage-destroying policies.

In fact, even as he tried to pose as a populist he repeated the same falsehoods usually used to justify anti-worker policies. We are, he declared, “one of the highest taxed nations in the world.” Actually, among 34 advanced countries, we’re No. 31. And, regulations are “an even greater impediment” to our competitiveness than taxes: Actually, we’re far less regulated than, say, Germany, which runs a gigantic trade surplus.

As Mr. Mishel wrote, “if is he so keen to help working people, why does he then steer the discussion back toward the traditional corporate agenda of tax cuts for corporations and the rich?” I think we know the answer.

But never mind Mr. Trump’s motivations. What’s important is that voters not mistake tough talk on trade for a pro-worker agenda.

No matter what we do on trade, America is going to be mainly a service economy for the foreseeable future. If we want to be a middle-class nation, we need policies that give service-sector workers the essentials of a middle-class life. This means guaranteed health insurance — Obamacare brought insurance to 20 million Americans, but Republicans want to repeal it and also take Medicare away from millions. It means the right of workers to organize and bargain for better wages — which all Republicans oppose. It means adequate support in retirement from Social Security — which Democrats want to expand, but Republicans want to cut and privatize.

Is Mr. Trump for any of these things? Not as far as anyone can tell. And it should go without saying that a populist agenda won’t be possible if we’re also pushing through a Trump-style tax plan, which would offer the top 1 percent huge tax cuts and add trillions to the national debt.

Sorry, but adding a bit of China-bashing to a fundamentally anti-labor agenda does no more to make you a friend of workers than eating a taco bowl does to make you a friend of Latinos.

Blow and Krugman

June 20, 2016

In “The G.O.P.’s Cynical Gay Ploy” Mr. Blow says suggesting that Trump and the Republicans would best serve the L.G.B.T. community is absurd on many levels.  Prof. Krugman, in “A Tale of Two Parties,” asks why is Hillary Clinton holding up so well against Donald Trump? And why were establishment Republicans so hapless?  Here’s Mr. Blow:

One of the most brazen — craven even — ploys by Republicans in the wake of the Orlando massacre has been to suggest, incredibly, that they would be better for the L.G.B.T. community than the Democrats.

At a rally on Thursday, Donald Trump said “L.G.B.T is starting to like Donald Trump very much lately, I will tell you, starting to like Donald Trump very, very much lately.” He mentioned that the Clinton Foundation had taken money from countries where “they kill gays,” and continued:

“So you tell me who’s better for the gay community and who’s better for women than Donald Trump?”

As Tierney Sneed of Talking Points Memo put it last week:

“The same Republicans who have argued that gay couples should not be allowed to marry, that L.G.B.T. Americans don’t need federal anti-discrimination protections and that trans people should not use the bathroom that matches their identity are now claiming that they — not Democrats — are the party on the L.G.B.T. community’s side.”

Republican Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama took it even further, saying last week:

“The Democrats are in a perplexing position. On the one hand, they’re trying to appeal to the gay community, but, on the other hand, they’re trying to also appeal to the Muslim community, which, if it had its way, would kill every homosexual in the United States of America.”

But the L.G.B.T community is not deceived by this treachery, in which the mouth speaks of protections while the hands and heart toil away at subjugation, if not destruction.

An analysis this month by The Washington Post of state efforts to limit L.G.B.T. rights found that:

“Since 2013, legislatures have introduced 254 bills, 20 of which became law. According to data collected by the American Civil Liberties Union and analyzed by The Washington Post, the number of bills introduced has increased steadily each year. In the first half of 2016 alone, 87 bills that could limit L.G.B.T. rights have been introduced, a steep increase from previous years.”

It is no wonder then that in a May opinion piece, Gallup’s Frank Newport pointed out that just 18 percent of those who identify as L.G.B.T. held a favorable opinion of Trump.

These vacuous appeals fly in the face of facts and are simultaneously laughable and infuriating.

At first, I couldn’t figure out the motive and mechanism of these appeals.

Were they about abject silliness, or a political senility, or an exercise in depraved cynicism? In any case, it is flat out wrong and a distortion of the reality — both in the language of hate and the policies of inequality — that queers know and live.

Then it occurred to me that these weren’t appeals to the L.G.B.T. community at all. This wasn’t a way of peeling off the rainbow contingent from liberals’ rainbow coalition, but instead a way of making Republicans and amenable independents feel good about supporting the party’s schismatic policies. This was a way to salvage nobility for the homophobic, to say that there are factional benefits for tribalism, that liberalism itself is flawed because you can’t house the wolves with the rabbits.

But this too shall fail.

Republicans want us to forget that, according to the former George W. Bush campaign manager and Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman (who has since come out himself as gay), Republicans like Karl Rove have used anti-gay marriage amendments in crucial states to help draw homophobes to the polls and benefit Republicans.

As The Atlantic reported in a profile of Mehlman in 2010:

“Mehlman’s leadership positions in the G.O.P. came at a time when the party was stepping up its anti-gay activities — such as the 2006 distribution in West Virginia of literature linking homosexuality to atheism, or the less-than-subtle, coded language in the party’s platform (‘Attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country…’). Mehlman said at the time that he could not, as an individual Republican, go against the party consensus. He was aware that Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief strategic adviser, had been working with Republicans to make sure that anti-gay initiatives and referenda would appear on November ballots in 2004 and 2006 to help Republicans.”

Maybe Republicans want us to forget that, as ThinkProgress reported in December:

“Six of the Republican candidates vying for the presidency have signed a pledge promising to support legislation during their first 100 days in the White House that would use the guise of “religious liberty” to give individuals and businesses the right to openly discriminate against L.G.B.T. people.”

They want us to forget that although people of all political stripes have evolved on the issue of gay equality — including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton —Republicans are the trailing edge of that evolution.

No amount of the exploitation of fear and the revising of history is going to change what we know about the Republican Party and their continued abysmal record on gay rights.

In the wake of tragedy, you can’t conveniently hang the L.G.B.T. community on the tree of life as a glistening ornament. You must recognize, now and always, that the L.G.B.T. community is a most natural branch of that tree.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Do you remember what happened when the Berlin Wall fell? Until that moment, nobody realized just how decadent Communism had become. It had tanks, guns, and nukes, but nobody really believed in its ideology anymore; its officials and enforcers were mere careerists, who folded at the first shock.

It seems to me that you need to think about what happened to the G.O.P. this election cycle the same way.

The Republican establishment was easily overthrown because it was already hollow at the core. Donald Trump’s taunts about “low-energy” Jeb Bush and “little Marco” Rubio worked because they contained a large element of truth. When Mr. Bush and Mr. Rubio dutifully repeated the usual conservative clichés, you could see that there was no sense of conviction behind their recitations. All it took was the huffing and puffing of a loud-mouthed showman to blow their houses down.

But as Mr. Trump is finding out, the Democratic establishment is different.

As some political scientists are now acknowledging, America’s two major parties are not at all symmetric. The G.O.P. is, or was until Mr. Trump arrived, a top-down hierarchical structure enforcing a strict, ideologically pure party line. The Democrats, by contrast, are a “coalition of social groups,” from teachers’ unions to Planned Parenthood, seeking specific benefits from government action.

This diversity of interests sometimes reduces Democrats’ effectiveness: the old Will Rogers joke, “I am not a member of any organized political party — I’m a Democrat” still rings true. But it also means that the Democratic establishment, such as it is, is resilient against Trump-style coups.

But wait: Didn’t Hillary Clinton face her own insurgency in the person of Bernie Sanders, which she barely turned back? Actually, no.

For one thing, it wasn’t all that close. Mrs. Clinton won pledged delegates by almost four times Barack Obama’s margin in 2008; she won the popular vote by double digits.

Nor did she win by burying her rival in cash. In fact, Mr. Sanders outspent her all the way, spending twice on much as she did on ads in New York, which she won by 16 percentage points.

Also, Mrs. Clinton faced immense, bizarre hostility from the news media. Last week Harvard’s Shorenstein Center released a report on media treatment of the candidates during 2015, showing that Mrs. Clinton received by far the most unfavorable coverage. Even when reports focused on issues rather than alleged scandals, 84 percent of her coverage was negative — twice as high as for Mr. Trump. As the report notes, “Clinton’s negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end.”

And yet she won, fairly easily, because she had the solid support of key elements of the Democratic coalition, especially nonwhite voters.

But will this resilience persist in the general election? Early indications are that it will. Mr. Trump briefly pulled close in the polls after he clinched the Republican nomination, but he has been plunging ever since. And that’s despite the refusal of Mr. Sanders to concede or endorse the presumptive nominee, with at least some Bernie or Busters still telling pollsters that they won’t back her.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is flailing. He’s tried all the tactics that worked for him in the Republican contest — insults, derisive nicknames, boasts — but none of it is sticking. Conventional wisdom said that he would be helped by a terrorist attack, but the atrocity in Orlando seems to have hurt him instead: Mrs. Clinton’s response looked presidential, his didn’t.

Worse yet from his point of view, there’s a concerted effort by Democrats — Mrs. Clinton herself, Elizabeth Warren, President Obama, and more — to make the great ridiculer look ridiculous (which he is). And it seems to be working.

Why is Mrs. Clinton holding up so well against Mr. Trump, when establishment Republicans were so hapless? Partly it’s because America as a whole, unlike the Republican base, isn’t dominated by angry white men; partly it’s because, as anyone watching the Benghazi hearing realized, Mrs. Clinton herself is a lot tougher than anyone on the other side.

But a big factor, I’d argue, is that the Democratic establishment in general is fairly robust. I’m not saying that its members are angels, which they aren’t. Some, no doubt, are personally corrupt. But the various groups making up the party’s coalition really care about and believe in their positions — they’re not just saying what the Koch brothers pay them to say.

So pay no attention to anyone claiming that Trumpism reflects either the magical powers of the candidate or some broad, bipartisan upsurge of rage against the establishment. What worked in the primary won’t work in the general election, because only one party’s establishment was already dead inside.

Brooks, Cohen, and Krugman

June 17, 2016

In “Religion’s Wicked Neighbor” Bobo gurgles that terrorism isn’t central to Islam, and terrorists aren’t practicing religion.  In the comments “Don Shipp” from Homestead, FL had this to say:  “David Brooks is misrepresenting Obama’s position. He is not “asserting that Islamist terrorism has nothing to do with Islam”. He is simply saying that by avoiding its usage he is preventing his words from being conflated by extremists to apply to all of Islam. Most devoutly religious people and Republicans don’t do verbal nuance, they do dogma, distortion, and demonization.”  Mr. Cohen says “Brexit Would Be a Colossal Blunder” and that a British vote to leave would be a colossal risk to no good end.  In “Fear, Loathing and Brexit” Prof. Krugman says Britons have a choice between bad and worse.  Here’s Bobo:

Barack Obama is clearly wrong when he refuses to use the word “Islam” in reference to Islamist terrorism. The people who commit these acts are inflamed by a version of an Islamist ideology. They claim an Islamist identity. They swear fealty to organizations like ISIS that govern themselves according to certain interpretations of the Quran.

As Peter Bergen writes in his book “The United States of Jihad,” “Assertions that Islamist terrorism has nothing to do with Islam are as nonsensical as claims that the Crusades had nothing to do with Christian beliefs about the sanctity of Jerusalem.”

On the other hand, Donald Trump is abhorrently wrong in implying that these attacks are central to Islam. His attempt to ban Muslim immigration is an act of bigotry (applying the sins of the few to the whole group), which is sure to incite more terrorism. His implication that we are in a clash of civilizations is an insult to those Muslims who have risked and lost their lives in the fight against ISIS and the Taliban.

The problem is that these two wrongs are feeding off each other. Obama is using language to engineer a reaction rather than to tell the truth, which is the definition of propaganda. Most world leaders talk about Islamist terror, but Obama apparently thinks that if he uses the phrase “Islamic radicalism” the rest of us will be too dim to be able to distinguish between the terrorists and the millions of good-hearted Muslims who want only to live in fellowship and peace.

Worst of all, his decision to dance around an unpleasant reality is part of the enveloping cloud of political correctness that drives people to Donald Trump. Millions of Americans feel they can’t say what they think, or even entertain views outside the boundaries laid down by elites, and so are drawn to the guy who rails against taboos and says what he believes.

The fact is that 15 years after 9/11 we still haven’t arrived at a true understanding of our enemy. How much is religion involved in jihadism, or psychology, or politics?

And the core of our confusion is that we are unclear about what a religion is, and how it might relate to violence sometimes carried out in its name.

For clarity on that question, it helps to start with William James’s classic work, “The Varieties of Religious Experience.” In that book, James distinguishes between various religious experiences and “religion’s wicked practical partner, the spirit of corporate dominion, and religion’s wicked intellectual partner, the spirit of dogmatic dominion, the passion for laying down the law.”

In other words, there is the spirit of religion and, frequently accompanying it, its wicked neighbors, the spirit of political and intellectual dominion.

It seems blindingly obvious to say, but the spirit of religion begins with a sense that God exists. God is the primary reality, and out of that flows a set of values and experiences: prayer, praise, charity, contrition, grace and the desire to grow closer toward holiness. Sincere faith begins with humility in relation to the Almighty and a sense of being strengthened by his infinite love.

In some sense the phrase “Islamic radicalism” is wrong because terrorism is not a radical extension of this kind of faith. People don’t start out with this kind of faith and then turn into terrorists because they became more faithful.

The spirit of dominion, on the other hand, does not start with an awareness of God. It starts with a sense of injury and a desire to heal injury through revenge and domination.

For the terrorist, a sense of humiliation is the primary reality. Terrorism emerges from a psychic state, not a spiritual one. This turns into a grievance, the belief that some external enemy is the cause of this injury, rather than some internal weakness.

This then leads to what the forensic psychologist Reid Meloy calls “vicarious identification” — the moral outrage that comes from the belief that my victimization is connected to the larger victimization of my group.

It’s only at this point in the pathway that religion enters the picture, or rather an absolutist, all-explaining political ideology that is the weed that grows up next to religion. Bin Ladinism explains all of history, and gives the injured a course of action that will make them feel grandiose and heroic. It is the human impulse for dominance and revenge that borrows righteous garb.

For the religious person it’s about God. For the terrorist, it’s about himself. When Omar Mateen was in the midst of his rampage, he was posting on Facebook and calling a TV station. His audience was us, not the Divine.

Omar Mateen wanted us to think he was martyring himself in the name of holiness. He was actually a sad loser obliterating himself for the sake of revenge.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen, writing from Bari, Italy:

The prospect that Britain might next week commit an act of national folly by voting to leave the European Union has politicians throughout Europe alarmed. Integration has been the Continent’s leitmotif for more than six decades. Fracture would suddenly be underway. And what would be left?

“If a British withdrawal were seen by Germany as opening the way to govern Europe as a Germanic federation, the European Union will fall apart,” Michele Emiliano, the president of the southern Puglia region, told me in an interview. “Europe can only function as a union of equal states. Under German dominion, it would contain the genes of its dissolution.”

Germany has already become what the postwar strategic architecture of Europe was designed to prevent: the Continent’s most powerful nation. But Britain, through the size of its economy, has played an offsetting role. Absent Britain, Germany would loom larger still, a source of alarm to the economically weaker Mediterranean states.

Postwar Italy was fragile, torn between the West and Communism, between “scaling the Alps” and succumbing to the Mafia-suffused inertia of the south, or mezzogiorno. European Union membership was the country’s anchor and magnet, securing it in the free and democratic Western family, luring it toward prosperity. Now that role is played most conspicuously for newer members of the union. But its importance persists.

Emiliano, a former mafia-combating public prosecutor, heads a region that is its own tribute to the union’s quiet miracles. Puglia, long a languishing part of the chronically underdeveloped south, is now an area of fast-growing industry and tourism, the poster child of the generally depressed mezzogiorno. Like other outlying regions of the E.U., it has been slowly tugged through stability toward the living standards of the European core.

In a Facebook post, Martin Fletcher, a former foreign editor of The Times of London, put these European Union achievements well. “Contrary to the cartoon caricature of the E.U. we read about in the national press,” he wrote, the union “has cemented peace in Europe. It allows younger generations to live and work anywhere in Europe in a way my generation could only dream about. It has vastly simplified travel across the Continent. It has brought Eastern Europe into the family of free, democratic nations after decades of Soviet control. It has broken up powerful monopolies and cartels in a way national governments acting alone could not. It has forced member states to clean up the environment.”

He continued: “We would be willfully removing ourselves from a single market of 500 million people without the faintest idea whether, or on what terms, we would be allowed to continue trading with 27 E.U. states who would want to punish us. Why on earth would we take such a monumental risk?”

The answer is that this huge gamble would be taken for the chimera of restored “sovereignty.” It would reflect petulant nationalism, base bigotry and laughable little England pretensions. Fletcher expressed the reality behind all this with laconic bluntness: “As a single country we would have minimal influence on world affairs. Does anyone seriously think the prospect of British sanctions would alarm Vladimir Putin, or have persuaded Iran to curtail its nuclear program?”

The European Union has significant failings, many of them precipitated by the sudden end of the Cold War, the reach to embrace states formerly enslaved in Moscow’s imperium, and the flawed attempt to contain a united Germany by integrating it into a common currency called the euro. It is, as an overarching European structure, short on democracy and long on bureaucracy. But, as Italy’s postwar development demonstrates, its achievements far outweigh its problems, which Britain could play a leading role in addressing.

“Politics is about seizing the moment, interpreting what history has given you the responsibility to do,” Emiliano told me. “Thanks to the Americans who landed on Sicilian beaches, I have the freedom to speak and you the freedom to write. I never forget this. If politics is not about respecting the past to secure the future, it is merely a mirror you gaze in, a form of narcissism.”

Such narcissism is rampant in Britain and America these days. For Britain to succumb to its delusions and leave the union would be a colossal blunder of historic proportions.

When in Italy, I often think of my late uncle, Bert Cohen, who, as an officer of the 6th South African Armored Division, 19th Field Ambulance, fought the entire Italian campaign, moving up the peninsula from south to north. After the Allied victory, he visited Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps, on September 2, 1945, and went up to Hitler’s mountain retreat, the Eagle’s Nest. He etched his name on the Führer’s table.

What sweet retribution to have “Cohen” inscribed there!

Later, he made his life in Britain — the home of a freedom that, to him, was not insular but European and universal. To vote out would also betray that inscription and all it stands for.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

There are still four and a half months to go before the presidential election. But there’s a vote next week that could matter as much for the world’s future as what happens here: Britain’s referendum on whether to stay in the European Union.

Unfortunately, this vote is a choice between bad and worse — and the question is which is which.

Not to be coy: I would vote Remain. I’d do it in full awareness that the E.U. is deeply dysfunctional and shows few signs of reforming. But British exit — Brexit — would probably make things worse, not just for Britain, but for Europe as a whole.

The straight economics is clear: Brexit would make Britain poorer. It wouldn’t necessarily lead to a trade war, but it would definitely hurt British trade with the rest of Europe, reducing productivity and incomes. My rough calculations, which are in line with other estimates, suggest that Britain would end up about two percent poorer than it would otherwise be, essentially forever. That’s a big hit.

There’s also a harder to quantify risk that Brexit would undermine the City of London — Britain’s counterpart of Wall Street — which is a big source of exports and income. So the costs could be substantially bigger.

What about warnings that a Leave vote would provoke a financial crisis? That’s a fear too far. Britain isn’t Greece: It has its own currency and borrows in that currency, so it’s not at risk of a run that creates monetary chaos. In recent weeks the odds of a Leave vote have clearly risen, but British interest rates have gone down, not up, tracking the global decline in yields.

Still, as an economic matter Brexit looks like a bad idea.

True, some Brexit advocates claim that leaving the E.U. would free Britain to do wonderful things — to deregulate and unleash the magic of markets, leading to explosive growth. Sorry, but that’s just voodoo wrapped in a Union Jack; it’s the same free-market fantasy that has always and everywhere proved delusional.

No, the economic case is as solid as such cases ever get. Why, then, my downbeat tone about Remain?

Part of the answer is that the impacts of Brexit would be uneven: London and southeast England would be hit hard, but Brexit would probably mean a weaker pound, which might actually help some of the old manufacturing regions of the north.

More important, however, is the sad reality of the E.U. that Britain might leave.

The so-called European project began more than 60 years ago, and for many years it was a tremendous force for good. It didn’t only promote trade and help economic growth; it was also a bulwark of peace and democracy in a continent with a terrible history.

But today’s E.U. is the land of the euro, a major mistake compounded by Germany’s insistence on turning the crisis the single currency wrought into a morality play of sins (by other people, of course) that must be paid for with crippling budget cuts. Britain had the good sense to keep its pound, but it’s not insulated from other problems of European overreach, notably the establishment of free migration without a shared government.

You can argue that the problems caused by, say, Romanians using the National Health Service are exaggerated, and that the benefits of immigration greatly outweigh these costs. But that’s a hard argument to make to a public frustrated by cuts in public services — especially when the credibility of pro-E.U. experts is so low.

For that is the most frustrating thing about the E.U.: Nobody ever seems to acknowledge or learn from mistakes. If there’s any soul-searching in Brussels or Berlin about Europe’s terrible economic performance since 2008, it’s very hard to find. And I feel some sympathy with Britons who just don’t want to be tied to a system that offers so little accountability, even if leaving is economically costly.

The question, however, is whether a British vote to leave would make anything better. It could serve as a salutary shock that finally jolts European elites out of their complacency and leads to reform. But I fear that it would actually make things worse. The E.U.’s failures have produced a frightening rise in reactionary, racist nationalism — but Brexit would, all too probably, empower those forces even more, both in Britain and all across the Continent.

Obviously I could be wrong about these political consequences. But it’s also possible that my despair over European reform is exaggerated. And here’s the thing: As Oxford’s Simon Wren-Lewis points out, Britain will still have the option to leave the E.U. someday if it votes Remain now, but Leave will be effectively irreversible. You have to be really, really sure that Europe is unfixable to support Brexit.

So I’d vote Remain. There would be no joy in that vote. But a choice must be made, and that’s where I’d come down.

Krugman, solo

June 13, 2016

In “A Party Agrift” Prof. Krugman explains why scammers rule on the right.  Here he is:

This is not a column about Donald Trump.

It’s not about the fraudulent scheme that was Trump University. It’s not about his history of failing to pay contractors, leading to hundreds of legal actions. It’s not about how he personally profited while running his casinos into the ground. It’s not even concerned with persistent questions about whether he is nearly as rich as he claims to be, and whether he’s ever done more than live off capital gains on his inheritance.

No, my question, as Democrats gleefully tear into the Trump business record, is why rival Republicans never did the same. How did someone who looks so much like a cheap con man bulldoze right through the G.O.P. nomination process?

I mean, it’s not as if any of this dirt was deeply hidden. The Trump U. story was out there long before it became the big deal it is today. It took some real reporting to flesh out the details of Mr. Trump’s other business practices, but we’re talking about ordinary if skillful journalistic legwork, not revelations from Deep Throat.

So why didn’t any of Mr. Trump’s primary opponents manage to make an issue of his sleazy business career? Were they just incompetent, or is there something structural about the modern Republican Party that makes it unable to confront grifters?

The answer, I’d argue, is the latter.

Rick Perlstein, who has documented the rise of modern conservatism in a series of eye-opening books, points out that there has always been a close association between the movement and the operations of snake-oil salesmen — people who use lists of campaign contributors, right-wing websites and so on to sell get-rich-quick schemes and miracle health cures.

Sometimes the political link is direct: dire warnings about the coming depression/hyperinflation, from which you can only protect yourself by buying Ron Paul’s DVDs (the “Ron Paul curriculum”) or gold shares hawked by Glenn Beck. Sometimes it just seems to reflect a judgment on the part of the grifters that people who can be persuaded that President Obama is Muslim can also be persuaded that there are easy money-making opportunities the establishment doesn’t want you to know about.

There’s also a notable pattern of conservative political stars engaging in what is supposed to be activism, but looks a lot like personal enrichment. For example, Sarah Palin’s SarahPAC gives only a few percent of what it raises on candidates, while spending heavily on consultants and Mrs. Palin’s travels.

Then there’s the issue of ideology. If your fundamental premise is that the profit motive is always good and government is the root of all evil, if you treat any suggestion that, say, some bankers misbehaved in the run-up to the financial crisis as proof that the speaker is anti-business if not a full-blown socialist, how can you condemn anyone’s business practices?

Consider this: Even as the newspapers are filled with stories of defrauded students and stiffed contractors, Republicans in Congress are going all-out in efforts to repeal the so-called “fiduciary rule” for retirement advisers, a new rule requiring that they serve the interests of their clients, and not receive kickbacks for steering them into bad investments. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, has even made repealing that rule part of his “anti-poverty plan.” So the G.O.P. is in effect defending the right of the financial industry to mislead its customers, which makes it hard to attack the likes of Donald Trump.

Finally, the con job that lies at the heart of so much Republican politics makes it hard to go after other, more commercial cons. It’s interesting to note that Marco Rubio actually did try to make Trump University an issue, but he did it too late, after he had already made himself a laughingstock with his broken-record routine. And here’s the thing: The groove Mr. Rubio got stuck in — innuendo that the president is deliberately weakening America — was a typical example of the political snake-oil the right sells along with free money and three-minute cures for high blood pressure.

The point is that Mr. Rubio was just as much a con artist as Mr. Trump – just not as good at it, which is why, under pressure, he kept repeating the same memorized words. So he, like all the G.O.P. contenders, didn’t have what it would have taken to make Mr. Trump’s grifting an issue. But at least so far it appears that Hillary Clinton and her allies won’t have the same problem.

In the months ahead Republicans will claim that there are equivalent scandals on the Democratic side, but nothing they’ve managed to come up with rises remotely to the level of even one of the many Trump scams in the news. They’ll also claim that Mr. Trump doesn’t reflect their party’s values. But the truth is that in a very deep sense he does. And that’s why they couldn’t stop him.

Brooks and Krugman

June 10, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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