Sunday, September 3, 2023

Sunday Reading

America The Stupid — Brian Karem explains how we got here.  Hint: Ronald Reagan.

How screwed are we? I’ll tell you.

On Wednesday, the news was all about a big bag of wind destroying Florida and flooding the South, spreading destruction and threatening pestilence and death.

Then there’s Hurricane Idalia.

Also on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell froze and stood motionless in front of an assembly of reporters — for the second time this summer — so that’s encouraging.

But seriously, folks. Last Thursday, Donald Trump turned a 22-minute booking for a felony indictment in Georgia into a six-hour media special, complete with a larger motorcade than the actual president’s — with dozens of camera lights on the runway and a chopper-talk session.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden, the aforementioned actual president, quietly lent assistance to Hawaii after the devastating wildfires on Maui, for which he was criticized by Republican members of Congress. He also met with international leaders at the White House this week, and went after Big Pharma to negotiate reduced Medicare prices for 10 common prescription drugs.

The press? Well, we completely missed the point, as usual, and covered every juvenile tantrum Donald Trump threw in his malevolent attempt to stay in the news. The context is missing. The press is failing us, and people are too ignorant to notice the problem. That’s because we’re busy dividing ourselves into teams of social cheerleaders, cheering on our champions and literally booing the opposition.

Welcome to politics 2023. One man, who claims to support Christian values, continues his run for the highest office in the land based on revenge and hypocrisy, while our president, a devout Catholic, is insulted by the likes of Ted Cruz, accused of being anti-Catholic and “the face of corruption” in a post on X (formerly Twitter). Biden, in case anyone cares, goes to church every Sunday. Trump never went once in his four years at the White House. Rumor was it would burst into flames if he did.

It would be easy to claim that all of this is new. But that would also be wrong. The seeds of today’s political division and reporting began with Ronald Reagan.

While lying to the press, Reagan also set out to destroy it. He himself was quoted in the New York Times on Oct. 6, 1985, saying, “A substantial part of the political thing is acting and role playing and I know how to do that.”

Of course that’s literally all it is today.

What else is different?

Well, the press itself is different too. Reagan destroyed the FCC’s “fairness doctrine” and encouraged media consolidation. Decades later, as social media rose to take the place of the corporate media’s diminished role in providing vetted information, the slide accelerated.

People hiding behind anonymous handles rather than their actual names hurled insults and threats. Twitter offered “verified” names as a way to combat that — until Elon Musk took over and turned the verification process upside down, once again making anonymous insults and trolls fashionable.

Every tool used to legitimize and verify information in the last 40 years has evaporated under the push to make money. Fewer companies own most of the corporate media. Fewer independent news platforms exist — and they often get lumped in with bloggers and trolls.

The end result is chaos. Confusion.

That’s how America became stupid. Neil deGrasse Tyson, while trying to address how the U.S. is being left behind in areas such as physics, math and engineering (not to mention infrastructure) observed in a recent speech that “Science illiteracy is rampant in our culture.” When he addressed the problems of journalism, he pointed out a headline that read, “80 percent of airplane crash survivors had studied the locations of the exit doors on takeoff.”

As Tyson noted, there are quite a few things wrong with that headline, including this: Did they manage to interview those people who didn’t survive plane crashes? Another headline reported that half the schools in a certain district were “below average.” No kidding: That’s what “average” means. (OK, technically that would be the definition of ‘median,” but to insist on nuance now is pointless.)

Our inherent, vapid stupidity in the news business makes us sound more like characters in the 1970s novelty song”The Streak” than the diligent investigative reporters played by Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in “All the President’s Men.”

That’s right. We’re just as proud as we can be of our anatomy and we’re inviting public critique.

Too arcane? Try it this way: We don’t get it.

Donald Trump faces 91 felony charges in four different jurisdictions, brought by approximately 100 American citizens sitting on four different grand juries. This major play by the justice system is the last bid for accountability that I’ll see in my lifetime for Donald Trump, and by extension for those who hold power and are willing to break the law in order to keep it. If it fails, then, quite literally, God help us. There will be no holding the rich and the powerful accountable — for anything, ever.

Meanwhile, Trump himself is desperate. He smells of it as surely as a “Supernatural” demon smells of sulfur. Yet we continue to give him a thin veneer of credibility by allowing him to claim that a legitimate prosecution is political persecution.

Who cares what Donald Trump thinks?

When Charles Manson went on trial for orchestrating a series of gruesome murders, we did not dance on the head of a pin for his demons. Is Trump a lesser demon? No. If anything, he’s worse. His criminal activity has caused the suffering of millions, if not billions, across the planet and the fallout has only just begun.

We give his illegitimate political spawn, like Vivek Ramaswamy and Marjorie Taylor Greene, ample opportunity to propose bombing our allies for supplying drugs that millions of our citizens demand, while claiming climate change is a hoax. These minor demons are drafting off Trump while creating whole new lanes of lunacy.

In the corporate media, we keep fighting over competing inaccurate narratives while members of Congress contribute to the mayhem by “playing a role,” as Ronald Reagan put it 40 years ago.

The stupidity of the press is actually harder to decipher than the pandering of our politicians to constituents whom they view as fans of their fictional personas. Most of us are vaguely aware of the danger posed by Donald Trump. Some of us are acutely aware of it. But we’re also insecure and ignorant and not sure how to write or speak about him. If we simply call him a liar and a charlatan, we risk being called partisan. If we don’t show respect for “both sides,” then we are sullying our reputation — unless of course we are overtly partisan, and in that case we don’t care.

Either way, we flail about because of our inexperience. Everyone — even corporate news managers — say they wish we had more Walter Cronkites than Tucker Carlsons in the profession. You know, people with experience and common sense, rather than clowns chasing shadows.

The very same managers who wistfully wish for the “good old days” do not hire or promote people like Walter Cronkite, particularly not in television. The grizzled beat reporter with vast experience has been replaced by smiling, blissfully ignorant and much cheaper talking heads who can either entice or enrage an audience with their good looks while sounding knowledgeable. They definitely aren’t. We too have chased the Reagan model, and cover politics the same way politicians conduct their business: flash over substance.

You don’t have to look at political reporters. Just look at how we cover natural disasters, like the hurricane in Florida. How many times have you heard a reporter tell an anchor during a live shot, “Great question!” That’s usually a self-congratulatory comment, since the reporter has likely scripted the question for the anchor. The routine descriptions of all hurricanes, since I began covering them in the 1980s, includes cliché phrases like, “Never seen anything like this before” and “unparalleled destruction,” while the reporters wade through flood waters trying to look brave.

Please. TV reporters have covered hurricanes and major weather events the same way since Dan Rather waded into the flood waters while covering Hurricane Carla for KHOU in 1961. His stunt reporting eventually led to him replacing Cronkite as the anchor of “CBS Evening News.” Rather is revered today, but his contemporary peers often did not see him that way. He was a product of television, seen as a performer in his earlier years. He grew into his role and earned his stripes, but he was also the anchor who critics argue ushered in the new era of flash over substance. The fact that he’s so respected  today speaks not only to his growth as a reporter, but perhaps also to our lowered expectations of reporters.

But please: It’s all about the Barbie movie! Or the horse race of politics, or the polls.

We can report on numbers and fictional characters. They are simple and clean. People are not. Covering people takes a lot of experience, an ability to understand nuances of speech, actions and culture. We have none of that today — either among the press or among politicians.

Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill said of Reagan that “he knows less than any president I’ve ever known.” The joke that circulated around D.C. during his presidency was that Reagan had tried to defect to the Soviet Union but was sent back because “he didn’t know anything.” As a performer playing Reagan in the off-Broadway show “Rap Master Ronnie” put it, “If you’re right 90 percent of the time, why quibble over the remaining three percent?”

John Wayne, a notorious conservative and longtime ally of Reagan’s, wrote him a blistering letter in 1977 telling Reagan to stop misinforming people about the Panama Canal treaty. “I’ll show you point by God damn point in the treaty where you are misinforming people. This is not my point of view against your point of view. These are facts,” Wayne wrote.

Reagan didn’t care. He played to the crowd he helped create, which has proliferated since he won the presidency in 1980. “You’d be surprised how much being a good actor pays off,” he told the Washington Post in 1984.

Now you understand how Donald Trump and his minions can spout limitless hypocrisy and get away with it. And you understand how the press, which was once able to accurately point out the lies and hypocrisy, today cannot.

“Floating down the stream of time,” George Harrison once told us “makes no difference where you are or where you’d like to be.”

Yes. It is all too much.

We are led by aging and frail men and women who should step aside, or by grifters who con their constituents because they don’t know or don’t care about anything better.

And all of this is being reported by indifferent, insecure, ignorant and incompetent journalists whose only goal is to fill time, gain ratings and pretend they know what they’re doing.

That’s how screwed we are.

The only consolation is that if the Justice Department remains sound, then Donald Trump will likely spend his remaining years behind bars, staring at himself in the mirror with no access to the outside world.

Doonesbury — Guess who?

Friday, August 7, 2020

Racism Up North

What we’re up against in trying to end the pandemic and get back to some form of normal:

A local road commission meeting in northern Michigan on Monday started with one commissioner asking another why he wasn’t wearing a mask amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The unmasked official responded with a racist slur and an angry rant against the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Well, this whole thing is because of them n—–s in Detroit,” Tom Eckerle, who was elected to his position on the Leelanau County Road Commission in 2018, told his colleague at the start of the public meeting.

The commission chairman, Bob Joyce, immediately rebuked his colleague, but Eckerle continued his diatribe.

“I can say anything I want,” Eckerle said at the meeting, which the public could listen to via a dial-in number, the Leelanau Enterprise first reported. “Black Lives Matter has everything to do with taking the country away from us.”

Eckerle’s remarks came the same week Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) declared racism a public health crisis because of the disparate impact the coronavirus pandemic has had in Black, Native American and Latino communities. Michigan has reported at least 94,656 cases and 6,506 deaths since the start of the pandemic.


The racist remark spurred widespread condemnation of Eckerle, who is Republican, and calls to resign from party officials. Despite the backlash, Eckerle doubled down on his comments on Thursday, defending his position and using the slur repeatedly in an interview with the local public radio station.

“I don’t regret calling it an n—-r,” Eckerle told Interlochen Public Radio. “A n—-r is a n—-r is a n—-r. That’s not a person whatsoever.”

About 93 percent of Leelanau County’s 21,761 residents are white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Fewer than 1 percent of the people who live there are black.

“It’s horrible,” Joyce told the Detroit News. “It’s absolutely horrific.”

He told the News that the other three road commissioners are pressing Eckerle to resign.

“We do not tolerate that,” he told the newspaper. “That’s not who we are.”

But Eckerle has not wavered. State Rep. Jack O’Malley (R), who represents Leelanau County, said he had a conversation with Eckerle and also asked the commissioner to step down.

I spent summers of my childhood in Leelanau County, and I lived in that part of Michigan year-round for seven years. Mr. Eckerle and his views are not an anomaly. Certainly not everyone is like him, but they’re there. They may not be on the record and spoken so bluntly, but it was my experience that racism and those kinds of epithets are an undercurrent in a part of the state that is over 90% white. I knew a number of people who moved there not only for the natural beauty but to get away from what they called the “mess” in downstate Michigan, meaning Detroit. Along with putting up with the “fudgies” — the local term for tourists who came in search of the legendary chocolate confection — getting away from Other people was a fair price to pay for living Up North.

This wouldn’t be news — gee, a racist on a county board in a snow-white community in rural Michigan — except for the fact that his hatred and racism is helping spread Covid-19 and kill people in the process.

Monday, February 3, 2020

America, Stop Electing Stupid People

Via the Washington Post:

Rep. Rodney Garcia, a state lawmaker in Montana, told a roomful of Republicans he believes the U.S. Constitution says socialists can be jailed or shot simply for being socialists. Garcia initially made the statement at an election event, then he reiterated it to a Billings Gazette reporter.

The Republican Party in Montana swiftly rebuked him.

Garcia’s inflammatory assertion first came Friday night, after former interior secretary Ryan Zinke gave a speech at the party event in Helena. According to reporting from the Gazette, Garcia said he was concerned there were socialists “everywhere” in Billings, which he represents in House District 52.

Billings Gazette reporter Holly Michels later asked Garcia to clarify his remarks, and the lawmaker doubled down.

“So actually in the Constitution of the United States, [if you] are found guilty of being a socialist member you either go to prison or are shot,” Garcia told Michels.

Garcia was not able to say where he finds that in the Constitution, the Billings Gazette reported.

Anthony Johnstone, a law professor at the University of Montana, told The Washington Post that “nothing in the Constitution of the United States authorizes the government to punish socialists or anyone else on the basis of their political beliefs.” In fact, the First Amendment prohibits punishing political speech, and the Constitution of Montana “expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of political beliefs,” Johnstone said. All state lawmakers swear an oath to uphold those doctrines.

Rep. Garcia can’t help it if he’s a stone-cold idiot, but the people in Montana should know better than to give him a job where he actually has power over the lives of them, much less access to sharp objects.

By the way, the Constitution starts off with “We The People,” which sounds pretty damn socialist.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Time for my annual recap and predictions for the coming year.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

Barring natural causes or intervention from an outside force, Trump will still be in office on December 31, 2019. There is no way he will leave voluntarily and even with the House of Representatives in Democratic control and articles of impeachment being drafted they will not get to the Senate floor because the Republicans are either too afraid to rile up the base or they’re too enamored of their own grip on power to care about the government being headed by a poor imitation of a tin-pot banana republic authoritarian douche-canoe.

That was an easy A.  As of today, the articles of impeachment are still with the House as Speaker Pelosi holds on to them.

The Mueller Report will be released to Congress and even though it’s supposed to be classified it will be leaked with great fanfare and pundit predictions of the end of the Trump administration with calls for frog-marching him and his minions out of the West Wing. Despite that, see above.

I get a C on that.  There were no leaks and the Mueller report was too nuanced for the punditry to read it and spit out sound bites.  The unintended consequence, though, was that the day after Mr. Mueller testified before Congress, Trump picked up the phone and placed an overseas call to Ukraine.

There will be no wall. There never will be. Immigration will still be a triggering issue as even more refugees die in U.S. custody.

That was a gimme.

There will be no meaningful changes to gun laws even if the NRA goes broke. There will be more mass shootings, thoughts and prayers will be offered, and we’ll be told yet again that now is not the time to talk about it.

Another gimme, more’s the pity.

Obamacare will survive its latest challenge because the ruling by the judge in Texas declaring the entire law unconstitutional will be tossed and turned into a case study in law schools everywhere on the topic of exasperatingly stupid reasoning.

Roe vs. Wade will still stand.

With the Democrats in control of the House, the government will be in permanent gridlock even after they work out some sort of deal to end the current shutdown over the mythological wall.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will become the Willie Horton for the GOP base and blamed for everything from budget deficits to the toast falling butter-side down.

An A- on these three.  As of today, Obamacare is still in place but the Supreme Court is sniffing around the whack-ass lower court ruling, so see below, and the same goes for Roe v. Wade.  The House has passed over 250 bills and sent them on to the Senate, but Mitch McConnell has not touched them, and won’t.

We will have a pretty good idea who the Democratic front-runner will be in 2020. I think Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s chances are still good (she announced her exploratory committee as I was writing this), as are Sen. Kamala Harris’s, and don’t count out Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, but who knew that Beto O’Rourke, a charismatic loser in the Texas senate race, would raise a lot of hopes? That said, fifteen years ago when I started this blog, Howard Dean looked like the guy who was going to beat George W. Bush.

A big old red F on that one.

The economy will continue with its wild gyrations, pretty much following the gyrations of the mood of Trump and his thumb-driven Twitter-fed economic exhortations. The tax cuts and the tariffs will land on the backs of the people who provide the income to the government and the deficit will soon be out there beyond the Tesla in outer space. But unlike that Martian-bound convertible, the economy will come crashing back to Earth (probably about the time I retire in August) and Trump will blame everyone else.

That’s a C.  It hasn’t happened yet, but with the deficit doubling since Trump took office, something will have to give.  The question was — and remains — when will it?

There will be a natural event that will convince even skeptics that climate change and sea level rise is real and happening. Unfortunately, nothing will be done about it even if lots of lives are lost because [spoiler alert] nothing ever is done.

That’s an A.  It’s already happening.

I’m going out on a limb here with foreign affairs predictions, but I have a feeling that Brexit will end up in the dustbin of history.

Another big old red F, right up there with the Dolphins and the Lions ending up in the Superbowl in 2020.

Personally, this will be a transition year.  My retirement from Miami-Dade County Public Schools occurs officially on August 31, 2019, and I’m already actively looking for something both meaningful and income-producing to do after that.  (E-mail me for a copy of my resume; nothing ventured, nothing sprained.)  My play “Can’t Live Without You” opens at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, for a two-week run on March 30, and I’m planning on returning to the William Inge Theatre Festival for the 28th time, either with a play or most assuredly with a scholarly paper.  I have my bid in for a variety of other theatre events and productions; I think I’m getting the hang of this playwriting thing.

Things went pretty much as planned this year.  I retired on August 31 and started my new part-time jobs the next week.  The run of “Can’t Live Without You” was great, and I had a very busy year in getting plays done and conferences attended and new friends made from Miami to Alaska.

On to the predictions:

  • Trump will survive impeachment.  The fix is in.  Revelations about his corruption will keep on coming, and yet the Republicans will cower with him.  It will be his big campaign rallying point.
  • I have no idea who the Democratic Party will nominate for president, and neither do you, but whoever it is will beat Trump in November despite the best efforts of the Kremlin.  I hope it is by such a margin that even Fox News will call it a blowout.  Trump will scream and carry on about it being rigged, but by this time in 2020, he’ll be doing everything he can to trash the place on the way out the door with pardons and lame-duck appointments of Nazi sympathizers and pedophiles.  (If I’m wrong on this and Trump is reelected, I’m moving to Montserrat.  It’s safer to live on an island with an active volcano.)
  • Obamacare will survive in the Supreme Court but by a 5-4 ruling.
  • There will be more restrictions placed on reproductive rights, but Roe v. Wade will not be struck down.
  • The Democrats will take back the Senate by one seat and all that bottled-up legislation will finally get through in time for the House, still under Nancy Pelosi, to pass them all again and get them signed by the new president.
  • The economic bubble will burst, the trade deals with China and Europe will screw over the American consumer, and it’s going to look like one of those 19,000 piece domino videos.  Trump and Fox will blame the Democrats for the monster deficit and carry on about how we need to cut more taxes and destroy Social Security and Medicare to save them.
  • Even with the Democrats taking over in 2020, they won’t be in office until January 2021, so I’ll save predictions for what they’ll come up with in terms of health care, gun safety, and climate change until this time next year, assuming my house in the suburbs of Miami at 10 feet above sea level is still on dry land.
  • As for me, my playwriting and productions thereof will continue.  I’m planning on my 29th trip to the Inge Festival in May and hope to be invited back to Alaska in June.  As I’m writing this, the novel that I started twenty-five years ago tomorrow is on the glide path to land by the time I go back to work next week.  I can predict that it will never be published because I never meant it to be.
  • As for hopes for the new year, I hope for continued good health and fortune for my friends and family.  I can’t ask for more than that.

Okay, your turn.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Here we go with my annual recap and prognostication for the year.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

  • I have no earthly idea what will happen with Trump in the White House.  But I can say that for the first time in my life — and I will hit 65 this year — I am frightened both for myself and my country.
  • At some point in 2017 elements of the electorate will realize that they got conned into voting for Trump and that they were played for fools.  The backlash will begin when they find out he can’t follow through on his bullshit promises, and reach a peak when they find out that repealing Obamacare and deporting 11 million people effects them personally.  When it happens, it will not be pretty.

I’m still frightened.  Nothing — not the Mueller investigation, the revelations coming from various sources, or chatter about impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment — has calmed my fear that he is still capable of doing something that puts us and the rest of the world in peril.  As for the second bullet point, we are seeing faint glimmers that disillusionment is happening in the nooks and crannies of America where he can do no wrong, and no amount of tweeting and bullshit from Fox News can turn around his dismal approval numbers.  But that just means that fully 1/3 of the electorate still approve of him.  Even his failures — Obamacare yet survives and the deportations haven’t happened — haven’t dimmed the hopes of the dim.

  • There will be a downturn in the economy thanks to the cyclical nature of economics and the instability in the market by the Twitter-In-Chief. He will, of course, blame it on Barack Obama.

Obviously I’m not an economist because if I was I would have known that the economy lags behind and the continued growth and low unemployment rate are a result of Obama’s policies.  Of course Trump is taking credit for it.

  • A year from now the Syrian civil war will still be dragging on.  ISIS will still be a factor, and if Trump does what he says he will do with the Iran nuclear deal, expect to see them re-start their nuclear program.  “Dr. Strangelove” will be seen by historians as a documentary.
  • The refugee crisis will continue and fester once nativists and right-wing elements win majorities in western European countries.

The Syrian civil war goes on but it’s not dominating the news cycles, and ISIS is a lessening factor.  I don’t know if it’s sheer exhaustion.  The refugee crisis goes on but with a lesser magnitude.

  • Our diplomatic thaw with Cuba will freeze as the attempts to end the blockade will not get through Congress. Only until Trump gets permission to open a casino in Varadero Beach will there be any progress.

Trump rescinded some of the Obama administration’s changes in our relations with Cuba but not enough to return us to Cold War status.  The blockade, such as it is, enters its 57th year.

  • Violence against our fellow citizens will continue and take on a more xenophobic tone as the white supremacists think they are now in control. The attorney general will do nothing to put an end to it because, in his words, “they had it coming.”

Charlottesville and Trump’s tacit support of the Nazis proved that to be true, more’s the pity.

  • We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. 2016 was an especially painful year. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

I lost two uncles and a nephew since I wrote that.

  • The Tigers will finish second in their division.

They traded Justin Verlander.  Yeah, he helped the Astros win the World Series, but…

Okay, now on to predictions.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.
  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)
  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.
  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.
  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.
  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.
  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.
  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.
  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)
  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.
  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.
  • I’ll do this again next year.

Okay, friends; it’s your turn.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

And They Vote

CNN reports on the impact of Puerto Ricans moving to the mainland after Hurricane Maria.

In the wish lists of Democratic strategists, one imagines the arrival of tens of thousands of Democratic-leaning voters to Florida, seemingly overnight, ranks pretty high.

Two months after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island, new data suggests that’s exactly what’s happened.

Figures on school enrollment provided to CNN from the Florida Department of Education suggest that well over 50,000 Puerto Ricans will have moved to Florida and made it their residence heading into the midterm election next year.

These voters are likely to be strong Democrat supporters, as an analysis by Dan Smith, a University of Florida professor, found that heavily-Puerto Rican districts only gave 15 to 35% support to Trump.

Counting the number of school children arriving from Puerto Rico is a good way to understand how Florida’s electorate will change due to Hurricane Maria. “School enrollment is the best indicator for long-term settlement,” said Edwin Melendez, director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York.

More than 6,500 Puerto Rican children have enrolled in Florida schools as of November 14. The data shows a strong continuing trend: A week earlier, the figure stood at 5,600. A week before that, it was 4,300. The evidence suggests that substantially more children are enrolled at this point as this kind of data can have a lag and has reporting gaps, Melendez said.

With a colleague, Melendez found that if 9,600 Puerto Rican children enroll in schools, that means a total of about 41,000 Puerto Ricans migrated to Florida. On the high end, if 15,400 students enroll, an estimated 83,000 Puerto Ricans migrated. There is a very high probability based on the current trend that the lower estimate will be surpassed by next November.

Migration at this level will mean Republicans face an even harsher demographic shift in a state already trending away from them. Hispanics constituted an estimated 12% of the eligible voter population in Florida in 2000. Before the Hurricane, that number was expected to double by 2030.

“It’s a little more headwind for Republicans who were already grappling with an increasingly Democratic population,” said Rob Griffin, director of quantitative analysis at the Center for American Progress and contributor to the States of Change project.

I can report that Miami-Dade County Public Schools is already accommodating the arrival.  We’re sadly accustomed to this; after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 we took in a lot of new students and made room for them.

As for the impact this could have on the elections in 2018 and 2020, it’s highly unlikely that the people who were basically ignored by the Trump administration until the public outcry forced them to do something — like toss paper towels — while they did everything they could for Texas (although it wasn’t nearly enough, according to the people in Texas) will forget what happened in the aftermath of the storm.  They were not just ignored; they were mocked, vilified, and set up for a con.

The reason for this treatment is simple Republican logic.  Puerto Ricans can’t vote in the presidential election and even if they could, they’re largely Democrats anyway.  Texas, on the other hand, is very Republican and also the home of one of Trump’s possible primary challengers in 2020, Ted Cruz.  You go where the money is and where you can score electoral points.

But once Puerto Ricans are on the mainland and registered to vote, they will vote.  And they will remember.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

These People Vote

Rachel Maddow got hold of some new polling for the GOP primary.

While the findings at the top of the poll are what we’ve come to expect from the Republican field – Donald Trump and Ben Carson securing the top spots – what is more surprising is to find Beltway-favored candidates Chris Christie and Rand Paul floundering at the bottom with barely any support.

The poll also shows the tea party character of the Republican Party, with strong birther views and a dubious grasp of some key facts about President Obama and Senator Ted Cruz.

For instance, when asked if they believe President Obama is a Christian, a Muslim, or “not sure,” Republicans answered 54% Muslim, 14% Christian, 32% Not Sure.  (Spoiler alert: the president is a Christian.)

When asked if President Obama was born in the United States, 29% said he was.  When asked the same about Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), 40% said yes, Sen. Cruz was born in the United States.  In fact, President Obama was born in the United States.  Sen. Cruz was born in Canada.

The question for the candidates then becomes: Why would you want anyone that stupid voting for you?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sunrise, Sunset

And some people think we spend too much money on education…

Americans are enthusiastic about the promise of science but lack basic knowledge of it, with one in four unaware that the Earth revolves around the Sun, said a poll out Friday.

The survey included more than 2,200 people in the United States and was conducted by the National Science Foundation.

Nine questions about physical and biological science were on the quiz, and the average score — 6.5 correct — was barely a passing grade.

Just 74 percent of respondents knew that the Earth revolved around the Sun, according to the results released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

Fewer than half (48 percent) knew that human beings evolved from earlier species of animals.

HT to Steve Bates and Nicolaus Copernicus.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Confederacy of Dunces

Sometimes I think I should do just a collection of links to the latest outbursts of stupid without comment, much in the same way I do the Short Takes every morning.  That way you could see what the far side is up to in a short burst and then get on with your day.  Trust me, there’s no shortage of material.

For instance:

BOISE – Coeur d’Alene Sen. John Goedde, chairman of the Idaho Senate’s Education Committee, introduced legislation Tuesday to require every Idaho high school student to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and pass a test on it to graduate from high school.

When Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, asked Goedde why he chose that particular book, Goedde said to laughter, “That book made my son a Republican.”

Teaching high school kids to be greedy bastards?  Isn’t that redundant?

Or this genius:

In a recent interview, [Alabama State] Senator Shadrack McGill, said he wants to introduce a personhood bill that will define life as beginning at conception. This is nothing new — fifteen states introduced personhood bills in the 2012 legislative session alone –but McGill’s interview is instructive because it illustrates just how dangerous and unhinged Forced Birth ideology has become.

First, McGill compares unfertilized eggs to eagle eggs — yes – eagle eggs:

“Did you know you can be charged up to $250,000 for destroying an eagle egg, but you can destroy babies in the womb?”

Um… bald eagles are a protected species because they are on the endangered species list. Humans are not.

He later went on to inform us that there is Hell to pay for abortion:

“Just based on the Scripture alone, the Psalm that talks about God knowing us before he placed us in our mother’s womb, is enough for me to know that that is a life inside of a mother,” said McGill, R-Macedonia.

“So my question concerning aborted babies is, where do they go, heaven or hell? I just want to know what [people’s] perspective is.”

Moving right along….

It’s not that there aren’t enough of these interesting characters out there; the street corners and blog comment threads are full of these whackadoodles.  What I find most disturbing is that these people decided to run for elected office in their state, got people to campaign for them, and actually won.  What does that tell you?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Annals of Self-Loathing


Janis Lane is the president of the Central Mississippi Tea Party, and she believes that women should not be allowed to vote because they are diabolical and emotional.

“Our country might have been better off if it was still just men voting. There is nothing worse than a bunch of mean, hateful women. They are diabolical in how than can skewer a person. I don’t see that in men,” said Lane during an interview with the Jackson Free Press.

I don’t think Ms. Lane knows a whole lot of men.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Seal Team Six Leader Romney

How about this for low-information voters:

According to a Public Policy Polls survey of Ohio voters, 38% of Ohio Republicans say Barack Obama is most responsible for the bin Laden’s death, 15% say Romney, and 47% were unsure. The results were similar in North Carolina, where 29% of Republicans said Obama deserves more credit, versus 15% Romney and 56% unsure.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Consider the Alternative

Bill Keller in yesterday’s New York Times on how the Republicans and President Obama’s ambivalence have left us with some blank spaces.

I can stand a little ambivalence in our leaders, particularly compared with the blinkered certitude of the previous administration. But in politics there are few greater liabilities than a perceived lack of definition.

Against Obama we have a cast of Republicans who talk about the federal government with a contempt that must have Madison and Hamilton spinning in their coffins. The G.O.P. campaign sounds like a contest for the Barry Goldwater Chair in States’ Rights: neuter the Fed; abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and a few other departments; turn Medicare and Social Security into individual 401(k) programs; dismantle national health care and revoke consumer protections. Rick Perry, who likes to rouse Texans by claiming the right to secede from the union, sometimes sounds as if he has expanded his view to encompass the secession of all 50 states. Even Mitt Romney — at heart a Republican technocrat (and the only candidate I’ve ever seen give a campaign speech with PowerPoint) — talks as if the main role of the president is to grant waivers from any kind of mandate upon the states. Such is the power of our new, centrifugal populism.

Do they really believe this, or are they just playing to the Ron Paul libertarian niche? Do you really want to find out?

So let’s get real. Yes, Obama could do better. But we could do a lot worse.

There’s another element to this, and that’s the suicidal efforts of a lot of voters to elect someone who is clearly working against their own interests for the purposes of “sending a message.” This came up last week in the special election in New York to fill the seat vacated by Anthony Weiner. People who claimed they were life-long Democrats voted for the the Republican right-winger to tell President Obama they weren’t happy with the economy. That’s like someone shooting themselves in the foot to protest the lousy way their health insurance system works.

The mind, it doth boggle.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gaming the System

There’s talk in Pennsylvania about changing the way the state counts electoral votes in the presidential election, going from a winner-take-all, which is the way 48 states do it, to a proportional vote based on the outcome by congressional district.

Under the Republican plan, if the GOP presidential nominee carries the GOP-leaning districts but Obama carries the state, the GOP nominee would get 12 electoral votes out of Pennsylvania, but Obama would only get eight—six for winning the blue districts, and two (representing the state’s two senators) for carrying the state. This would have an effect equivalent to flipping a small winner-take-all state—say, Nevada, which has six electoral votes—from blue to red. And Republicans wouldn’t even have to do any extra campaigning or spend any extra advertising dollars to do it.

The Constitution allows states to set up their elections and the choosing of their electors any way they want, so there’s nothing a political party — i.e. the Democrats — can do to stop it. And since Republicans control most of the state legislatures, there’s nothing to stop any state from doing something like this.

Rachel Maddow explains.

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This, along with coming up with draconian rules for voter registration and photo ID requirements that are clearly aimed at people who tend to vote for Democrats, makes me wonder why it is that Republicans feel as if they have to cheat to win. After all, aren’t they always telling us that the majority of Americans are behind them 100%?

HT to Booman.

Monday, April 25, 2011

These People Vote

Via Pam Spaulding and SFDB, here is a video of South Carolina Republicans speaking their mind at a rally. Dave Weigel at Slate sums it up:

South Carolina Democratic consultant named Tyler Jones took a camera down to the Columbia, S.C. Tea Party rally that Michele Bachmann and Nikki Haley both spoke at.

“I interviewed around 25 people total and probably 75 percent of them said they were supporting Donald Trump,” says Jones, “and just about every single person is a birther. I took two hours of footage and chopped it down to six minutes of mind-blowing stuff.”

My favorite: the person who says the U.S. spends too much money on education.