Posted Wednesday morning, January 11, 2017.
What’s a dumbfounded, frustrated, and self-important blogger to do in the face of something like this?
Why, write a letter the supposed recipient will never read and which would have no effect if she did, of course.
Dear Ms McCain,
Or...maybe if your father hadn't flip-flopped back and forth for months and had instead come out straight-forwardly and forcefully against Trump from the start and stuck with it…
But I suspect he was afraid he needed Trump supporters to win his primary.
If he’d been braver he might have prevented Trump from carrying Arizona. About 107,000 more Arizonans voted for your father than voted for Trump. Think it could have been 200 thousand if he'd tried? Would have been a tall order, but he’s John McCain!
And considering the high regard your father's held in across the country, he could have convinced voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
But like too many other GOP leaders, he weaseled and waffled and tried to have it both ways almost until the end.
So unless you think Meryl Streep's opinion carries more weight with Republicans than John McCain's, you might consider looking closer to home to place the blame for President-elect Donald Trump.
A mere actress criticized the President of the United States. And for what? He’s going to be the most powerful man in the world and he made fun of somebody he supposedly regards as a nobody’s disabilities. And he’s still unapologetic about it. In fact, he lies about it. Says he didn’t do it. Wouldn’t do it. But he would and he did. That’s what he does. He mocks and belittles everybody he feels threatened by, and he feels threatened by everybody because he’s weak, insecure, and full of self-loathing. Narcissist? Paranoid neurotic. “You think you’re better than me? I’ll show you, Lying Ted, Little Marco, Pocahontas, Crooked Hillary.” He mocked and belittled your father.
A draft dodger. Five Deferment Don. He made fun of your father’s suffering. Made a joke out of his heroism.
You don’t need me to remind you of that. And you don’t need me to remind you he hasn’t been exactly complimentary toward you either.
That was the basis of his campaign. Picking on people he and his supporters thought weak. And he hasn’t changed his style since November. He’s a petty, small-minded, cruel, vindictive, malicious, and dishonest spoiled-brat of a man. All Meryl Streep did was point that out and ask people to join her in calling him out for his pettiness, cruelties, and dishonesty each and every time he tries to act on them over the next four years, which, judging by his behavior so far, is going to be every other day. And millions of people will like him for it and cheer him on. You think it’ll be because they’re in a snit over Meryl Streep’s having hurt their feelings?
Instead of criticizing Streep, you should join her. Use your platform to speak out against the ways he’s already degrading and debasing the Presidency and the country, against the ways he’s going to use his office to hurt, punish, and abuse those of his “many enemies” he decides are weaker than him.
Your father has taken a big step in the right direction by calling for an investigation of the Russians’ attempts to disrupt the election, undermine the democratic process, and get their hooks in the man who’s going to be the next President of the United States and who may have been all too willing to have their hooks in him, who may very well have helped them subvert our democracy and our faith in our ability to govern ourselves.
Instead of worrying about Meryl Streep’s effect on people who probably have never seen a single one of her movies, try asking your father to increase his efforts and his criticism and then cheer him on when he does.
Because if Trump is re-elected in four years, it’ll be because good people kept silent and let him get away with his depredations and destructiveness without opposition or complaint.
Maybe you should also consider that your own too cool for school attitude had an effect too.
Nope. Didn’t mock him. Didn’t make fun of his disability. Not our President-elect. No, sir. But even if he did, what Meryl Streep said at the Golden Globes is worse because it hurt the feelings of people who cheered when Trump did this:
Posted Friday night, December 23, 2016. Revised to include quote from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail January 3, 2017.
And yet, in the end, [Thompson] ends up right back where he started, right back in Dick Nixon's America, a nation of "200 million used car salesman with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable." ---from Matt Taibbi's introduction to Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson.
Lots of fear and loathing out there (and in here) concerning what our President Trump is going to do to make life more miserable and dangerous than it already it is. This morning he seemed bent on re-starting the nuclear arms race, although since the Soviet Union’s long gone---you’d think his buddy Putin might have clued him in on this---it’s not clear with whom he intends to race to Armageddon. I’d bet the Iranians. But it could be North Korea. China’s also a possibility, although he seems more eager to have a trade war with them. And Russia can’t be ruled out. Putin’s his pal but Trump doesn’t really have pals and he has a record of betraying partners, employees, investors, clients and customers, and the people who pass for his friends. Loyalty is not one of his virtues. Unless it says TRUMP on it, he doesn’t care what he does to it. Lucky for his kids they bear his name.
But while what he is going to is frightening to contemplate, it’s what he’s already doing that’s depressing me tonight. Doing and has been doing and has already done.
Making this a nastier place to live.
Making us a nastier, meaner, and more selfish people.
Making us dislike and distrust each other and in the process dislike and distrust ourselves.
And in this he’s simply continuing the work begun by Richard Nixon and built on by Ronald Reagan and furthered by George W. Bush.
Nixon didn’t actually start it. The country was already dividing six ways from Sunday when he took office. But he didn’t become President by promising to bring us together. And he made no sincere attempt to do it once he was in the White House. He ran on the lie that he had a secret plan to end the War in Vietnam and a stated determination to restore law and order. The secret plan was to sabotage the peace talks and then keep the war going for four more years and expand it. Law and order meant only the problem is THEM! Those PEOPLE! Those OTHERS! The ones who AREN’T LIKE US! His appeal to the Silent Majority was calculatedly divisive. The message was clear and it was meant for the white majority, who’ve never been as silent as they like think. For one thing, they can’t shut up about how they don’t whine and complain like other people they could name. They love to whine and complain about how other people whine and complain. At any rate, the Silent Majority was the White Majority and they knew it---they knew that being white made them the majority and the majority rules, right? In fact, the majority gets everything it wants and THEY, THOSE OTHERS get only what the majority feels like sharing, which has usually turned out to be nothing or, at best, not much.
Nixon’s domestic policies, as much as he had any he cared about, were mostly a matter of buying off the White Majority by giving them whatever they wanted while making it perfectly clear that none of it had to be shared with THEM, THOSE OTHERS.
Our long national nightmare wasn’t over when he helicoptered off the White House lawn, waving and grinning like he was leaving a retirement party with a new gold watch in his pocket, all too characteristically pitying himself to the end. It had barely begun. Shortly after, along came Reagan to warn us about the Welfare Queens and strapping young bucks and to declare that government wasn’t the solution, it was the problem. What he was telling us, with a twinkle and a chuckle, is that everybody crying for help was in reality a cheat and a thief and that government didn’t do anything but set itself up to be cheated and robbed by THEM, THOSE PEOPLE, those OTHERS.
He told us not to trust our government and in a democracy that’s basically telling us not to trust ourselves or our fellow Americans. It’s a repudiation of the idea of self-government. We can’t be trusted to govern ourselves. All we do is vote to give ourselves free stuff. By “we” of course he meant THEM, THOSE PEOPLE, THOSE OTHERS not “you” particularly. “You” are smart, and wise, and good. But everybody else? Well, there he goes again…
Bush accused everyone else of being traitors. If you weren’t with him, you were against him. You were one of THEM, THOSE PEOPLE, THOSE OTHERS. And so once again Americans were encouraged to see fellow Americans as not with them, but against them, as being THEM, THOSE PEOPLE, THOSE OTHERS, and not US.
Now we have our President-elect Trump who barged onto the scene othering all and sundry, starting with President Obama and moving on to Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, the disabled, women, everybody who wasn’t going to vote for him---all of them were THEM, THOSE PEOPLE, THOSE OTHERS and their removal, their banishment, their arrest, their deaths were what was needed to make America great again.
Whatever was wrong, whatever had made America less than great, THEY did! THEM, THOSE PEOPLE, THOSE OTHERS did it, to America, to YOU, to US! And THEY, THOSE PEOPLE, THOSE OTHERS would have to pay for it!
THEY, THOSE PEOPLE, THOSE OTHERS would get what’s coming to them at last. And whatever THEY, THOSE PEOPLE, THOSE OTHERS took---stole---from YOU, from US would be stolen back. WE, US, the good plain folk, the real Americans would get it all back and we wouldn’t ever again have to share.
That’s it, the whole basis of our President-elect’s political program. Anger, resentment, vindictiveness, retribution, punishment, revenge. Very Serious People who keep expecting the Republican Congressional leadership to finally get fed up with him are missing the point. His politics are their politics. They are Nixon’s heirs too. Nixon's, Reagan’s, Bush’s. They’re in government to make sure THEY, THOSE PEOPLE, THOSE OTHERS are punished. They’re in government to make sure WE, US GOOD PLAIN FOLK don’t have to share, any of it, it being the country and the benefits of living here.
A whole lot of Trump’s voters are going to find out that they’re actually part of THEM, THOSE OTHERS. Because US, WE REAL AMERICANS, WE GOOD PLAIN FOLKS aren’t rich and only the rich matter to the Republicans as human beings. US, WE REAL AMERICANS, WE GOOD PLAIN FOLKS matter only to the degree we’re useful in making the rich richer, and, individually, none of us are useful in any great degree in that process.
But most Trump voters won’t notice or allow themselves to care if they do, because they’re Republicans. The greater part of their lives, most of them, their whole lives, many them, has been lived in Nixon’s America, Reagan’s America, Bush’s America, and they’ve adapted easily and comfortably. They don’t care what’s being done to them by their own Party as long as THEY, THOSE PEOPLE, THOSE OTHERS are having worse done to them.
And if millions of THEM, THOSE PEOPLE, THOSE OTHERS turn out to be other Americans, well, isn’t that just too darn bad?
Adapted from the Twitter feed, Tuesday, November 30, 2016.
The defining trait of conservatives used to be greed. They'd prefer to call it "thrift" but it was greed. They wanted to keep all the $.
"Not with my tax money, you don't!" As if they did all the work and paid all the taxes.
But these days it's cruelty.
They're not happy unless they've done something to make someone suffer.
They seem to think it's their divine mission.
They're still greedy. But cruelty comes first and they're willing to waste money to punish the weak, poor, and unfortunate.
TX will spend millions in tax money to defend embryo funerals, and the state is cutting funds for actual children: https://t.co/JUy0OwEBCm— Amanda Marcotte (@AmandaMarcotte) November 30, 2016
Amanda follows up with a post at Salon:
https://t.co/VrwVUC88Mc Texas will now require funeral services for women who miscarry or have abortions at a clinic or hospital.— Amanda Marcotte (@AmandaMarcotte) November 30, 2016
To jump straight to Elena Mejia Lutz and Edgar Walters story at the Texas Tribune, follow the link to "Texas moving forward with budget cuts for disabled kids' therapy services."
For Amanda's post, follow the link to "Texas will now require funeral services whenever a woman has an abortion."
Monday morning, September 26, 2016.
Donald Trump's continued outreach to African-American voters led to an unprecedented declaration about the state of life for those communities.---Meghan Keneally, ABC News. September 21, 2016.
Trump has made efforts in recent weeks to reach out to African Americans in a Detroit church and a Cleveland charter school.---Kathleen Gray, USA Today Network. September 20, 2016.
If there’s a heaven and it works the way it does in old movies and the stories the nuns used to tell us in grade school, then every journalist, editor, producer, and pundit who refers to what Trump’s been up to as he swaggers about in places like Flint, Chicago, and Detroit, pretending concern for African-Americans while telling them how miserable their lives are and promising only he can fix things---”What have you got to lose?”--- without promising them anything but cuts in government services and more and more forceful abuse by the police, in any words that add up to some version of “Donald Trump continued his outreach to African-American voters today…” will be met and judged at the Pearly Gates not by St Peter but by a tribunal consisting of the souls of Benjamin Franklin, Ida B. Wells, Ida Tarbell, and I.F. Stone, who will send them straight to a hell designed especially for them, which I imagine as being very much like one of those economically blasted Midwestern or Southern small towns elite and pretentious journalistic hacks like to portray as homes to the only real Americans where for all eternity they will be unable to get a good WiFi connection or a decent IPA and be expected to actually care about NASCAR.
There’s no outreach to African-American voters. There never has been. There never will be. Trump doesn’t need a single black vote. He does need every single white vote he can corral, and that’s what he’s been up to. Reaching out, all right, reaching out to his angry, white, racist base and any and all other angry, white, racists who are on the fence about voting for him or staying home.
He’s telling African-American voters that their lives stink and it’s their own fault. It’s their own fault for voting for Democrats. And it’s their own fault for being lazy, self-indulgent, undisciplined, and dependent on government handouts. He’s telling them off.
And he’s doing it in order to tell his angry, white, racist base that they’re right to be angry and racist. He’s reassuring them that they’re not just better off for having been born white, they’re morally and mentally and even physically superior. He’s been telling them it’s ok to resent and fear black people. He’s making the old racist point that there’s no point in caring what happens to THEM or doing anything to make THOSE PEOPLE’S lives better because THEY don’t want to make their lives better, they’re happy to live in squalor and filth, to send their children to bad schools, to have to duck bullets just to run to the corner store to buy cigarettes and Red Bull. They’re happy to produce child after child by different fathers and mothers and to leave those children to be raised by somebody else. They’re happy not to have jobs because they’re happy not to have to work. They’re happy for all this because they’re happy to live off the tax money of good, hard-working, morally and mentally superior white people.
He’s telling his voters that black lives don’t matter because they don’t matter to black people themselves.
He’s telling his white racist voters that all the problems that beset black people---all black people, because there are no successful, hardworking, taxpaying black people---that aren’t their own fault are the fault of Democrats and liberals whose Big Government policies and programs not only fail to solve those problems, they make them worse.
He’s telling his voters that they not should they be afraid of black people, they’re morally justified to act on that fear in harsh, cruel, and even violent ways. He’s telling them to be afraid, be very afraid, but...don’t worry, he’ll save and protect them.
He’s promising to build yet another wall, this one made up of blue uniforms and guns.
If the first deadly sin for journalists is to fail to report the truth without fear or favor, and the second is to let a liar get away with telling a lie, then most of the American political press corps is already damned on two counts.
But surely the third deadly sin is to help that liar tell his lie.
To describe what Trump’s up to as reaching out to African-American voters is to complete the trifecta.
And to actually believe it is to commit the Fourth Deadly Sin against good journalism.
Letting yourself be played for a sap.
Tuesday. July 26, 2016.
Trump’s core voters clearly don’t care that he’s a know-nothing racist. They like that about him. They’re racists themselves and they don’t think there’s anything to know worth knowing that they don’t already know. They believe that everybody who claims to know things they don't---experts, intellectuals, political policy makers---is faking it, making it up, or actually stupid, lacking in common sense, street smarts, and the real life experience that would have taught them how the world really works and how real people live.
They don’t care, either, that Trump is a liar, a cheat, a criminal, a thief, a conman, and a madman. They don’t care that he’s pretty much promising to govern as a shake-down artist. Clawing our money back from China. Making Mexico pay for the wall. Taking their oil. Breaking our NATO commitments and leaving Europe to fend for itself against Russia. These are threats along the lines of Nice little restaurant you have here, shame if something happened to it. They like all that about him too, even the madness. Sure, they’ll tell you, he’s crazy. Crazy like a fox. As far as they can tell, the country is run by liars, cheats, thieves, conmen and conwomen, madmen and madwomen. Blackmail, bribery, and extortion are the arts behind the all the deals. And it’s hard to tell them they’re wrong. What they want from Trump is that he lies, cheats, steals, cons, blackmails, bribes, and shakes down other countries on their behalf.
On their behalf. Not on the country’s. Not on America’s. On their own specific and exclusive behalf. No sharing. They just use America as a synonym for ME and MINE!
And they don’t care that Trump doesn’t play by the rules, either in business or in politics or in his personal life. They like it that he acts as if rules don’t apply to him. The way they see it, rules are written to benefit the people who write them and to be used against people like themselves. And like I said before, it’s hard to tell them they’re wrong. Trump has given them permission to say to hell with the rules. Trump, they believe, is going to re-write the rules so they work in their favor at last.
These are disappointed and angry people. They believe they’ve been robbed, cheated, abused, and suckered. And now they want revenge. They want to make THEM pay!
This is why I say Trump’s an infection. He plays to their anger and resentment and sense of having been denied what they’ve rightfully earned and he inflames it and encourages them to spread it to others. And part of what makes him so infectious is that he’s promising to get revenge for them. To take it back. Finally, he’s telling them, you’re going to get what’s owed to you. Finally, you’re the ones who are going to come out on top. Finally, you’re going to be the ones raking it in. Finally, you’ll be the ones pocketing the loot.
That’s what they want. hat’s what they expect him to deliver.
Their cut of the take. Their piece of the action. Their slice of the pie.
Wait until they find out he’s planning to leave them holding the bag. Again.
May 12, 2016.
It’s not that Trump himself’s an ignoramus. Who knows if he is? Who knows what’s inside his head? Who knows what he’s thinking? Who knows if he’s thinking? As far as I can tell, he doesn't think. He reacts. He appears governed entirely by instinct, appetite, reflex, ego, and whim. Decent people keep expecting him to pay a price for being such a monster of vanity but there is no price to pay. He doesn’t have to think. He doesn’t have to know anything. His voters don’t care what he knows. They only care what he’ll do, what they believe he’ll do---make their lives better by telling everybody they blame for their lives being what they are to go to hell. His winning the Republican nomination didn’t depend on him having to know anything besides the fact that all his opponents were cowards and weaklings who wouldn’t call him on his lies and challenge him on the issues and facts because they were afraid of offending his voters whom they expected to pick up for themselves when Trump faltered and failed---as they assumed he would. Their own vanity prevented them from seeing themselves as the ones more likely to falter and fail.---and because they were telling many of the same lines except they were more careful to try to sound presidential when they lied. Instead they just sounded like typical politicians telling typical lies. And he knew he didn’t have to know anything to bluster his way through debates and interviews because most political journalists don’t know enough themselves to show him up and the ones who do are either afraid of losing him as a interview subject because that would mean losing his audience or they just don’t feel they have the time to pin him down on any one issue and keep him pinned down long enough for them to get him to reveal how little he knows or has thought about the things a president has to know and be always thinking about. Why then should he bother not to be an ignoramus? It’s so much more fun and a much better use of his time to mindlessly tweet away the time between campaign rallies and appearances on the news where he can strut and posture and bloviate to his heart’s content while the suckers cheer and the journalists flatter and fawn.
I don’t know how worthwhile it is to read Krugman on this, except that it’s generally worthwhile to read Krugman on anything. Seems he’s just doing what I’m doing here, venting. He knows no good’s going to come out of it. But it is Krugman. His venting is always smarter, more informed, and better written than most anyone else’s, and even just venting he always has serious points to make:
But before we simply ridicule him — or, actually, at the same time that we’re ridiculing him — let’s ask where his bad ideas really come from…
The important thing to realize, then, is that when Mr. Trump talks nonsense, he’s usually just offering a bombastic version of a position that’s widespread in his party. In fact, it’s remarkable how many ridiculous Trumpisms were previously espoused by Mitt Romney in 2012, from his claim that the true unemployment rate vastly exceeds official figures to his claim that he can bring prosperity by starting a trade war with China.
None of this should be taken as an excuse for Mr. Trump. He really is frighteningly uninformed; worse, he doesn’t appear to know what he doesn’t know. The point, instead, is that his blithe lack of knowledge largely follows from the know-nothing attitudes of the party he now leads.
Here, you can read the whole post, The Making of an Ignoramus, at the New York Times.
Really wish Bernie’d stop using the word “Revolution.”
Purely personal reaction. Just me being a crank about words again. I don’t expect you to agree with me. Better you don’t. Crankiness isn’t good for the mind or the soul. But the word doesn’t conjure up any positive associations for me, unless preceded by “American” or “Scientific” or followed by “No. 9” or used in connection with what the earth is doing in relation to the sun. Otherwise I immediately think “French”, “Russian”, “Chinese”, or “Sexual.”
Nothing really bad about that last one. Certainly not in the same league as the other three. Again, it’s personal. I don’t think of Stonewall or Roe vs Wade or even of my own good luck in entering my dating years after it did its job revolutionizing. I just see fleeting images of guys with heavy mustaches and gold chains and heavily made-up women in bell bottom jumpsuits.
My own cranky knowledge of history is also at work in my antipathy to the word. Generally, it’s used with an implicit or explicit “political” attached and it’s my belief there’s only been one political revolution in history that didn’t end with something terrible in its own way or as terrible or worse than what it replaced governing the place that got revolutionized and that was ours---and the reason for that was that the “new” government was already in place and running things before the shots were fired at Lexington and Concord. In fact, it can be argued that the “new” government was actually the old government restored after the King and Parliament “revolted” and tried to impose their authority illegally on the self-governing colonies.
Can be argued?
That’s pretty much the case as it’s laid out in the Declaration of Independence.
Most of the founders were liberal-minded and liberal thinking men but they were temperamentally conservative and not comfortable in their roles as revolutionaries. The American colonies had enjoyed generations of benign neglect by England and were used to governing themselves that included electing men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams to public office. Those men saw themselves as defenders of a status quo the King was disrupting. As far as they were concerned, they weren’t the ones trying to turn the world upside down. The world had been turned upside down by the King and the so-called revolutionaries were trying to turn it back rightside up. The King didn’t know to leave well enough alone. The Patriots weren’t taking power. Their constitutional powers were being taken away. In that light, the king was the revolutionary and they were the conservatives.
So, there’s that. Then there’s my prejudiced feelings about the people I’ve known who’ve been most enamored of the word and the concept and the prospect---Right Wingers and Leftists.
It’s not just the Tea Party types who showed up at protests in knee britches and tricorn hats or who have Gadsden flag decals on their Hummers who see themselves as revolutionaries in the spirit of the Founders as popularly imagined. The whole thrust of movement conservatism---of the “Reagan Revolution”---has been towards overthrowing the liberal elites Right Wing Republicans (which is to say all Republicans now) believe have imposed their illegal authority upon the good, God-fearing, regular and real American people. And of course the outcome of their Revolution will put them in charge. That’s what revolutions are all ultimately about. Who gets to be the boss. In my experience, the most revolutionary spirits are also the possessors of the most authoritarian mindsets. What they want most is to be the bosses. That goes for the leftists as well as the Right Wingers.
I can’t help it. I suspect most leftists of being frustrated authoritarians. No. I don’t suspect it. I know they are. All the ones I’ve ever known have been, at any rate. What they want is to live in a world that has been made over new in their image. They want to be the ones in charge, if not directly, then through someone strong enough and bold enough to make sure that the way they think things should be run are the way things are run, no ifs, ands, or buts, and no compromise.
The leftists I’ve known and loved, would-be revolutionaries all, are contemptuous of the processes of Democratic government, because it’s messy, it’s unpredictable, and uncontrollable. Things are continually working out in ways not to their perfect satisfaction. The system is rigged. They know this because it must be. How else to explain why they or at least people who think exactly like them aren’t in charge, running the country exactly as they know it needs to be run. They can’t believe there are that many other people who have other interests and needs of their own, other ideas of their own, other expectations that they can be outvoted in so many places in so many elections. And their only explanation for the perversity of voters refusing to do what leftists know is best for them and everyone is they are corrupt or ignorant. If the former, they are irredeemable. But there’s nothing wrong with the latter a little consciousness raising can’t sure. They can be saved, if only they can be made to listen to reason and submit to some re-education.
Like I said up top. This is just be being a crank. But…
You say you want a revolution?
Bernie Sanders’ campaign has been based on the idea that the country is on the wrong track and headed for ruin, the President and the Democratic Party have failed us, and a major shake up is needed, a revolution, even, in order to…
Wait for it....
Make America great again.
This is what I crankily worry about.
If you convince people that the world needs to be turned upside down and everything made over new, they will follow the person they believe is strong enough, tough enough, and willful enough to do the turning and the remaking. If it all needs to be burned to the ground, they will hire an arsonist. If the temple needs to come crashing down, they will look for a Samson who won’t mind getting himself and everyone else crushed in the process.
There are two candidates in the race for President running on the promise to tear everything down and start over.
If tearing everything down is what you think needs to be done, then Donald Trump is the guy, because he is the one most gleefully geared for demolition and destruction.
Most of you regular readers of the blog probably know and the rest of you can likely guess that I’m not real fond of the political pundits’ notion that Democrats need to stop disrespecting and dismissing Trump supporters and start showing more sympathy or come November we’ll regret it. The idea behind this preposterous pretense of egalitarianism on the part of some of the snootiest and most condescending elitists on the planet is that Trump voters ought to be a natural Democratic constituency; hardworking blue collar types who’ve been having a tough time of it for a long while now and feel that nobody in Washington is listening or cares. They feel they’ve been screwed over every which way and don’t see anything ahead but a further screwing. They’re mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore. Which is all true. To a point. It leaves out what else they are.
Hateful. Hate-filled and hate-fueled.
They are hardworking white working class types who are mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore from THEM.
Yes, they’ve been having a tough time of it. Most of us have. But they blame everybody but themselves and while that includes bankers and Wall Street types and corporate bosses, it includes them vaguely and abstractly. They get a little more specific and concrete when they direct their anger and resentment at the Republican Party Establishment. But they get most specific and concrete when THEM means just about all black and brown people here and abroad. THEY’RE to blame more than anyone else and Trump voters want THEM punished for it and put back in their place, which for some of THEM is Mexico and others is the grave and a lot of the rest jail.
And Trump is promising to do the punishing.
And while he’s at it he’s going to take THEIR money, the money THEY stole from YOU, and divvy it up among his supporters.
That’s what he means and what they hear when he boasts he’s going to be “Greedy for America” and his supporters have both their hands out.
Hard to sympathize with that.
And while studies show these just plain folks have strong authoritarian streaks, which means that they like to boss and be bossed, and many of them sound like fascists, we’re told what they really are are good old fashioned populists and Democrats should be sympathetic to that. Except…
The only continuing tradition of populism in the country right now, which used to be a feature of the Democratic Party but hasn’t been since the segregationists stormed out of the party and, by invitation, stormed into the Republican Party followed by northern and midwestern working class white folks riled up by George Wallace and welcomed by Nixon and Reagan, has been Southern Populism. And Southern Populism is racist, nativist, know-nothing and selfish.
Southern populists were happy to share in the benefits of the New Deal. They just didn’t want to share those benefits with any of THEM.
We’re supposed to show some understanding? Fine. Then let’s understand them completely. Let’s understand that when Trump says he’s going to be greedy for America they hear the same thing Huey Long’s supporters heard when he said “Share the Wealth”: All for us, none for THEM. And when Trump boasts he’s going to make America great again, his supporters heard what Long’s supporters heard when he promised to make every man a king: You’re going to be on top and then you can push around everybody whoever pushed you around, especially THEM.
Why should Democrats sympathize with that? How could they do it without insulting and alienating their base? What good would it do to win them over if it caused real Democrats to stay home on election day in disgust.
A case can be made that trying that is why Louisiana, Arkansas, and North Carolina have brand new Republican senators and Kentucky has its same old one.
Instead of cozying up to Trump’s supporters, I had the idea of using them against him by simply showing them up for what they are.
I thought it would be a good idea to run ads with the theme “Do you really want to be on the same side as these racist idiots?” The ads would use news clips from Trump rallies and campaign events of his supporters straight-forwardly explaining what they thought it means to make America great again and why Donald Trump is the guy to do it.
This is why nobody pays me for my political advice.
Here’s the problem.
Ads like this would look like what they would be: the work of smug elitists humiliating put-upon and powerless working people who can’t fight back.
People watching would feel sorry for them and sympathize with them.
I would feel sorry for them and sympathize with them.
Ads like that would epitomize one of their major complaints: they are in trouble and nobody in the elitist leadership of either the Democrats or the Republicans seems to want to do anything to help them or to even care.
And the truth is that as much as they might not want to share with THEM, that’s a complaint they share with all working people of all colors and religions.
The way the political media cover things, it often seems they think no working people vote for Democrats. It often seems they think all working class people are white. And it often seems they think no white people vote Democratic.
I don’t have much sympathy for Trump’s supporters because of what they want done about their plight (and who they want it done to) but I have a lot of sympathy for their plight because it’s the plight of too many working class Americans and many of those working class Americans---millions of them---don’t have to be lured into voting Democratic because they’re already Democrats and have been voting Democratic all their lives. They’re hurting and they’re in trouble. They’re getting screwed every which way and don’t see much ahead for them but another screwing. They’re mad as hell and they don’t want to take it anymore and there doesn’t seem to anybody with the power to help them with their problems who's listening or even cares. But they aren’t racists. They aren’t blaming THEM. They don’t want anybody punished, except maybe a few bankers and hedge fund managers and the corporate types outsourcing their jobs. They don’t want what Trump is actually promising, which is revenge. They just want some help, which they’re willing to share. The party needs to sympathize with them and their problems and do something more to help them because we need them and we owe them and because it’s the right thing to do.
Let me tell you what got me started writing this post.
I’m at the McDonald’s up the road from Ken Mannion’s dojo, waiting for him to be done with his karate lesson. As usual, I’m trying and failing to resist the temptation to listen in on the conversations of people at the nearby tables. A little while ago I tried and failed not to overhear this:
"I don't want that man for president. He's too arrogant. One wrong move and you're fired? You don't like the way he talks, you're gone. Who needs that in a president?"
The speaker was a middle-aged white woman, probably blue collar, out with her teenage daughter and mother. My reasons for thinking she’s working class include the way she was dressed, her hair, and her manner of speech. But my main reason is that I could tell by the way she talked about Trump as a boss that she knows what it’s like to have to work for someone who holds all the cards and whose mercy and good nature you have to depend on to keep your job and your pride and yourself and your family fed.
I don’t want the Democrats to want Trump’s supporters’ votes or to do anything to get them.
But I do want them to want that woman’s vote and do whatever needs to be done to help her and her family.
Much of the media’s growing hysteria about Donald Trump is feigned.
They’re really eating him up with a spoon.
He makes great copy. Any story featuring him is click-bait of an order that makers of listicles can only dream about. He is all by himself everything the media loves, sensation, spectacle, and scandal. CNN can’t get enough of him or give us enough. It’s as if he’s another lost airliner.
But what political journalists and pundits like best is he’s keeping the horse race a race, at least as long as the Republican primaries last.
On the other hand, though, I think many members of the press corps and the punditocracy are sincerely appalled by him and the prospect of his winning the nomination, let alone the Presidency frightens them and disgusts them. They’re frustrated by their inability to make a dent in his poll numbers by reporting the truth about him and his lies. They can’t understand why none of the other Republican candidates can stand up to him. And they can’t begin to get their collective heads around the idea that their obsession with him and the way they cover him contributes to his continued strength and potential to increase it.
Is there nobody who can save us from this madman? they cry.
This is why they’re so eager to join “establishment” Republicans in their desperate search for a “moderate” alternative.
Maybe, they hope as one, Rubio is the savior. Maybe Cruz isn’t as bad as he seems. (Dear pundits: he’s worse.) Maybe this time Jeb will finally get some traction. Maybe everybody but us hasn’t forgotten about Chris Christie.
Maybe, just maybe, Cruz and Rubio “colliding” at the debate signals…something.
“Question of course is what moments have legs for the next few news cycles. The Rubio v Cruz storyline is most likely,” NBC’s Chuck Todd Tweeted fatuously after the debate ended last night, as if this will happen magically, and Todd and his clubmates will have nothing to do with it, they’ll just report on the phenomenon.
And all this concern and the bizarre hope on the part of a still essentially liberal media that a Right Wing demagogue will save us from a Right Wing demagogue arises from a simple fact.
A great many journalists and pundits can’t shake the idea that a real President can't be anybody other than a tough-talking white man.
There is somebody who can save us from this madman. There is a true, responsible, grown-up political leader in the race. There is someone who is in temperament and in experience already a President. But this candidate has two qualities that blind the press corps to that candidate’s qualifications, abilities, and personal and public virtues.
The last name of Clinton.
And a woman’s body.
Dear Political Pundits and Journalists,
Nothing---NOTHING---you think Hillary Clinton has done that’s unethical or criminal or---the worst sin in your eyes---just plain Clintonesque compares to the way every single Republican candidate kowtows to the NRA, an organization of sociopaths, arrested adolescents, weak and impotent middle-aged men compensating for various physical and emotional inadequacies, and narcissistic fantasists who believe their individual right to own any and as many guns they want is more important than the lives of thousands of other people.
And if you don’t see the Republican response to mass shootings like yesterday’s as more proof that the Party has lost its collective minds, then you are either deluding yourself, stupid, out of your own mind, or in some Republican’s pocket in one way or another.
Finally, if you spend today and the rest of the weekend talking only or mainly about Clinton’s email and what it means for her chances to become President, then you are depraved.
Following up here on my post from last week about Jeb Bush and his misreading of The Scarlet Letter as a manual for how to put the Hester Prynnes of this world in their place: Up on a metaphorical scaffold in front of a glowering crowd of Puritan scolds with a great big mark of shame on her breast. The New York Times had a story about Jeb(!)'s trying to talk his way around the fact that at one time he advocated publicly shaming unwed mothers as a solution to the problem of teenage pregnancy.
Jeb is a Republican, as if you need me to remind you, and for a Republican teenage pregnancy isn't a problem because of the burdens it places on young single mothers and their children. It’s a problem because of the burdens those mothers and their children place on Republican taxpayers. Teenage pregnancy leads to poverty and poverty leads to food stamps, public housing, school lunch programs, Medicaid, and Obamaphones. It also leads to crime and crime is scary, particularly when the criminals are black or brown and the victims are white, which as we all know is almost always the case, just as almost all teenage mothers are black and brown, and that's no coincidence. But I'm not a racist. At any rate, Republicans tend to yadda-yadda the poverty leads to crime part because that implies that doing something about poverty might be a good idea and to do that would require Republicans to spend money on people they don't really care about. It's far easier and cheaper to believe it's all about individuals taking responsibility.
Shaming doesn't cost anywhere near as much as universal pre-k.
The Times reports that although Jeb doesn't out and out disavow what he wrote twenty years ago now, he has modified his thinking, and anyway he didn't really mean we should shame unwed mothers for having sex and getting pregnant, although it might have sounded that way. He meant we should shame the fathers who didn't stick around to help raise their children into returning to take on their responsibilities.
The Times goes on to help Jeb out by pointing out that
Mr. Bush is not alone in using pointed language — and the concept of shame — to encourage two-parent households. Democratic leaders, including President Obama, have done the same.
That's true, as far as it goes. It just doesn't go very far because of whom Jeb and the President are talking to.
It's not the same people.
When evaluating the substance of politicians' speeches, statements, and op-ed pieces, always keep in mind who they're talking to.
Their first audience is their base and so you have to ask who that is and what do they want to hear.
President Obama has often spoken about personal responsibility and the importance of both parents in the lives of children. I don't recall his ever using language that could be construed as shaming. That would include an implicit criticism of his mother and he never talks about her without reverence, respect, admiration, gratitude, and love. So, if anything, he's done the opposite of trying to shame single mothers. But talking about her is part of what else he's doing besides preaching. He's holding up himself and his family --- Michelle, her mother, who, remember, lives with them in the White House, and his grandparents, along with his mother---as role models for the people he's mainly talking to. Young African Americans.
The Times quotes from a campaign speech from his first run for President.
“We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception,” Mr. Obama said as a candidate in 2008.
“Too many fathers are M.I.A., too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes,” Mr. Obama said at the time. “They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”
The rhetoric is stern, a bit lecturing, even scolding, because he can't help himself that way sometimes, but still fatherly. The intention is to be instructive and offer guidance. Far from shaming, it's encouraging. The underlying goal is to help young men and young women on the way to taking advantage of opportunities to help themselves better themselves and their lives, and it's substantive because it's backed up by policies and programs to create such opportunities and give them the means, the skills, and the know-how to take advantage of those opportunities.
Republicans aren't talking to those young people. They're talking about them and not with any real intention to be instructive or helpful. They're talking about them to their base---primarily white Southern and Midwestern suburbanites---and they're talking about them as objects on which the base should focus their anger and their fear.
The object isn’t to shame. It’s to blame.
There's no substance to what they say. There's only demagoguery.
There's no substance to almost everything Republicans say because they don't want to do anything substantial. Republicans come to Washington to collect their paychecks, funnel government contracts to friends and donors back home, and find ways to make life easier for the rich and harder for the rest of us and even harder for the poor. Everything they say includes a promise to do that.
But their white Southern-Midwestern-suburban base wants to hear more than that. They want to hear that they are good people.
The only good people.
So they also need to hear that everybody else is bad because in their minds there can't be a good without a counterbalancing bad.
Good is the opposite of bad and so the only thing it takes to be good is not be bad.
And since bad is by definition an other, then bad people are others, those others, and all it takes to be good is to not be one of those others. To not be one of them.
So Republican rhetoric is a continual exercise in identifying others and assuring the base they aren’t like those others. They aren’t them.
From the Times’ story:
Asked about the passage on Thursday during a news conference in Poland, Mr. Bush said his stances have evolved since 1995 but that “my views about the importance of dads being involved in the lives of their children haven’t changed at all.”
This puts him in tune with the things Republicans like Rand Paul were saying about the troubles in Baltimore back in April. The cause wasn’t that the cops there are out of control and have infuriated the African American community they police through intimidation and violence. The trouble wasn’t caused by the killing of Freddie Gray.
As for root causes, Paul listed some ideas of his own.
"There are so many things we can talk about," the senator said, "the breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of a moral code in our society."
The trouble is all of their own making.
Jeb’s version is more toned down, pitched in a lower key, sung in a softer voice, but it’s the same song because it’s sung to the same audience.
Whatever Republicans say about anything, they’re saying it to their base. They’re saying what the base wants to hear, and what the base wants to hear is this:
“You aren't like them. You are good. You deserve all that is good. The reason you don't have it is them. Everything that's wrong with your life is their fault. You are right to hate them and fear them and want to see them put down and punished. You're right to think they deserve whatever suffering God inflicts upon them. You're right not to want to help them. You can't help them even if you wanted to. It's happening to them because they are what they are. You can't change that. They have to do it for themselves and obviously they don't want to or they'd have done it already. That they haven't changed is proof they don't want to change and that they don't want to change is proof that they're bad and like being bad and want to continue to be bad, because they are bad. Unlike you, who are good because you're not like them."
“They want what you have but because they're bad they don't want to work for it. The only way to have it without working for it is to take it from someone who has worked for it. Someone like you. They want to take it from you.
We will stop them. We will protect you and what belongs to you. We will take back from them what they've taken from you. Vote for us. Vote Republican and we'll make sure you get what's coming to you.”
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Updated below. Thursday morning. May 28, 2015.
There can be no honest reporting on American politics unless and until you folks in the political press acknowledge as one what the Republicans are up to.
It's an easy and straight-forward thing to do. You start by taking them at their word. They mean everything they say about shredding the social safety net, ending all entitlements---that includes Social Security and Medicare. Not reforming. Ending---cutting taxes on the rich to next to nothing, deregulating everything but the private behavior of the poor and women of all classes except the rich, outlawing---not restricting, making it a crime---abortion, privatizing every function of government in order to increase the opportunity for rich investors to get richer, and basically handing whatever's left of government services over to the states where they can be controlled by the local rich white male conservative elite.
They tell you and anybody who’ll listen they want to do those things and whenever and wherever they hold power they pass laws that will get those things done.
When they can, they undo things.
The rest of their effort and energy goes into preventing Democrats, all Democrats, but chiefly the one in the White House, from doing anything they deem "liberal".
That would be anything that does the least bit of good for anybody who isn't a member of the rich white male conservative elite, costs the elite money and power, and doesn't serve the elite's main interest which is acquiring more money and more power.
This isn't a revelation. They say this stuff all the time. They promise to do what they are in fact doing on the campaign trail. They introduce and pass legislation whose intended consequences are clearly stated.
You folks in the political press corps are loathe to report this because you're afraid it wouldn’t be “balanced” reporting.
You don't want to be accused of taking the Democrats' side.
But it's only taking the Democrats' side if you think the Republican side is wrong on the face of it. If you think unflinching obstructionism is wrong. If you think taking the country back to where the South was at the turn if the 20th Century is wrong. Republicans don't think any of that is wrong. Why should they complain if you report it? How is it taking sides if you report what one side says is their side of things?
Because it all sounds bad?
It sounds like something most people don't want?
It sounds like it would be bad for people and the country?
Well, if it sounds bad, then maybe it is bad.
That can be determined.
Determining it is called journalism.
And if you determine it's bad, then you should report that.
Balance and objectivity and honesty require you to.
You wouldn't report that a tornado blew through town, leveling whole blocks and leaving hundreds injured, homeless, and dead but some town officials argue that's a good thing.
The Republicans are that tornado.
People live and die because of what politicians do.
That's why reporting on politics as if it's a sport is depraved!
The Republicans are doing things that hurt people. They’re doing it on purpose and while stating it as their goal. Hurting people is intrinsic to their politics. It serves their purposes. It serves their interests. It makes them feel good.
Do your jobs.
Oh, you want to but you can't because Hillary won't talk to you? She won't answer your trivial questions about personality and process and ginned up pseudo-scandals and explain why you don't like her?
Cry me a river.
Every Republican running for President is promising to hurt people.
Every one of them is promising to take health insurance away from millions of people which means taking away their health care. It means leaving them to get sick, lose their jobs, go bankrupt, lose their homes, lose their lives! People die from not being able to go to the doctor or buy medicine.
Every one of them is promising to one way or another limit and take away women's rights to control their own bodies, health, economic lives, autonomy, and personal agency. Every one is promising to do all they can to prevent and undo marriage equality and find ways to let bigots discriminate legally.
Every one of them is promising to kick as many brown people out of the country as they can match jackboots to backsides and keep out twice as many more.
Every one of them is promising to take more benefits and aid away from the poor and unfortunate and increase the burdens of not having been born rich or remained lucky while increasing the benefits of already benefiting from having more money than God.
Every one of them is promising to end Medicare and Social Security. Again, yes, they are. Look at their plans for "saving" and "reforming" both. They all boil down to making sure neither will exist in any truly useful or helpful form for anyone now under 50 when they need them.
Every Republican is promising to do nothing about climate change which means letting the parts of the country that aren't going to dry up and burn and blow away drown under rising seas.
Every one of them is promising to do what he or she can to take us back into war in the Middle East, against ISIS, Iran, Syria, Islamofascists everywhere, or any combination of the above. Every one, that is, except Rand Paul, who is actually promising nothing about what he'll do about the Middle East as President. He's just making vaguely anti-war noises. The rest of them are clear: they’re looking forward to making a lot of people over there dead.
Basically, all of them are promising to do from the White House what Republicans are doing and trying to do in Congress and the state legislatures.
And every one is lying about what they're promising, adding to whatever destructive promise they make that they're not really saying what it sounds like they're saying, they don't really intend what it sounds like they’re intending, and even if they do what they're promising to do, by some miracle the opposite will actually happen. The poor will get rich. Social Security will be saved. Health insurance will become affordable for all and even the poorest of us will be able to buy gold plated policies.
The climate will heal itself. Individual liberty will expand. Peace will reign on earth.
That's what they're up to. Report on that.
Do your fucking jobs!
Political reporters: You have no guaranteed “role.” That’s a fiction you and your colleagues created to keep the game the same every four years so you don’t have to go to school on how to be useful and powerful in the election system as it evolves. The fiction works if you can get the right people to believe it, but when they clearly don’t care about your “role in the process” how are you going to make ’em care? Got a plan for that?
Read his whole post at PressThink, Campaign reporters: you are granted no “role in the process.” It is your powers against theirs.
Updated to tell you what I already told you. Every Republican running for President is promising to hurt people: Rick Santorum got into the race yesterday, apparently just to prove my point. One surprise. Santorum supports raising the minimum wage. As for everything else…
From Eric Krupke at PBS NewsHour: What does Rick Santorum believe? Where the candidate stands on 10 issues.
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People who love money don’t become teachers. People who do things because it will make them lots of money don’t become teachers. People who will become teachers because they might now and then win Andrew Cuomo’s proposed teacher lottery and pocket what only sounds like a lot of money are not people we want becoming teachers.
Back in January, I wrote a post called Andrew Cuomo remembers he’s a Democrat and his father’s son. I thought about titling this post “Andrew Cuomo forgets he’s a Democrat and makes his father spin in his grave.” The January post was in praise of some fine liberal sentiments he expressed in his State of the State speech. I was moved by the words and glad he said them but they didn’t make me like Cuomo more. He can talk like a liberal but he’s still not liberal enough. And in the same speech he managed to sound not liberal at all.
We are going to continue the transformation of our system and reward performance by creating a teacher excellence fund. It is going to be the first statewide teacher performance bonus program that actually rewards performance for teachers and incentivizes teachers who perform well. Teachers who are rated highly effective on their evaluations, which is the highest statewide rank, would be eligible to receive $20,000 as a bonus, in performance pay, which is on average 27% of their salaries. You want teachers who can perform and do perform? Then incentivize performance with a performance bonus and pay them like the professionals they are.
The teachers lottery Cuomo’s proposing isn’t a liberal or a Democratic idea. It’s Republican and conservative through and through because it’s based on the first and over-riding principle of Republicanism.
Money is everything.
People don’t do anything except for money…unless they’re fools.
But that’s how Republicans think. Doing things for the bucks leads to excellence because the measure of excellence is simply making a lot of bucks.
The principle breaks down like this. The right people, people like us, wearers of five-thousand dollar suits and occupiers of corner offices, and people who want to be like us, won’t work hard unless we---um, they---are paid gobs of money. Everybody else, the shiftless rabble, won’t work at all unless they’re terrified they won’t get paid any money at all.
Teacher lotteries---What Cuomo’s proposing used to be called “merit pay”. I call them lotteries because you win by hitting the right numbers and because luck plays a big role in whether or not you hit them: even “excellent” teachers can’t control what students land in their classrooms. Anybody who doesn’t understand how much having the right sort of students, students who are prepared and eager to learn, contributes to teacher “excellence” doesn’t understand how teaching works or what it really means to be an excellent teacher---teacher lotteries like the one Cuomo’s proposing for New York may look at first glance like the first aspect of the principle but they’re really expressions of the second because they always come attached to plans to make teachers terrified they won’t get paid anything. They start with the elimination of tenure, the breaking of teacher unions, the end of collective bargaining, and the scaling back and even elimination of benefits.
Cuomo wants all that too.
His fondest dream is to break the unions.
This isn’t because he’s a closet Republican, though. It’s because a born tyrant and can’t stand it when anyone stands up to him or gets in the way of his doing what he wants to do exactly the way he wants to do it.
It’s also because one way he truly is his father’s son is in holding a grudge on the old man’s behalf. Andrew Cuomo blames unions for making Mario Cuomo’s time as governor less than idyllic.
He has never seen unions as one constituency with interests a Democratic governor has to balance against others’. He sees them as his personal enemies. He sees all the other constituencies as his personal enemies too. Like I said. A born tyrant.
Back to the teacher lotteries.
In a system in which real bonuses are fairly awarded, every employee earns one or can earn one. The size of your bonus depends on how good a job you do. Excellent employees will earn higher bonuses as a matter of course. But that doesn’t prevent the less than excellent from receiving theirs. There’s incentive for everyone, the excellent, the very good, the good, the average to try to be better, and there’s a penalty for incompetence, but there’s no serious penalty for trying hard to be better but not being better enough or for failing to be better than the best. But teacher lotteries are winner take all. If you win, I lose. Teacher lotteries put teachers in competition with each other.
Putting employees in competition with each other is something law firms and sales offices do. Law firms and sales offices are not environments children should grow up in.
Good teachers work in cooperation with other teachers at their schools. Good schools unite teachers. Schools start to fail when teachers are left to go it alone. At such schools, good teachers work harder and desperately to make up for the schools’ failings and wear themselves out in the process. Average teachers just muddle along. And bad teachers just give up. At a failing school, there is no incentive for teachers to perform well except that which comes from their hearts. And hearts give out. Teacher lotteries don’t change that dynamic. They intensify it. They dis-incentivize teamwork and collegiality. They incentivize an every teacher for her/himself attitude.
The lotteries are only affordable for the state if very few teachers can win them. And few will. Most teachers aren’t excellent and are never going to be excellent, for the same reason that most people in every other line of work---including governing states---aren’t excellent. They’re human. Human beings on the whole are only as good at anything as they need to be to get by. And this isn’t because they’re lazy and don’t try or aren’t incentivized to become more than human. It’s because people are born with a limited set of talents and, something else necessary to achieving excellence, energy. Most of us just aren’t physically strong enough. No incentive in the world can turn us into superhumans. And, although vanity prevents us from admitting it outloud or even to ourselves, at some level we know this about ourselves. We know what we’re good at and what we’re less than good at. We know our limits and how far we can push past them before we collapse or start screwing up because we’re just not excellent enough. So, never mind the incompetents, what happens when the good and very good but not excellent teachers realize they’re never going to win one of the lotteries?
Pretty much nothing different. The good and very good along with the incompetent go about their jobs as they’ve always done except maybe a little more dis-incentivized to try harder.
Basically, teacher lotteries don’t incentivize any one to excellence except the naive and deluded. The already excellent don’t need the incentive. They’re incentivized by their own talent, ambition, drive, commitment to their students, pride in themselves as professionals.
That’s what makes them excellent.
But how many times can an individual excellent teacher hit the lottery anyway?
Odds are not even once. But let’s say you are an excellent teacher and the odds and gods favor you and you hit it twice in your career.
That’s forty extra grand in the bank.
Your kid’s college education. Provided your kid goes to a state school and lives at home.
But average it out over the course of a thirty year teaching career.
That’s a bonus of $1333.33 a year.
That would be a welcome chunk of change if you’ve got a big credit card bill due or need to have the car repaired, provided you have it in hand when you need it, but it won’t make up for the raises you aren’t getting, the increased amount you have to spend on health insurance, the larger contribution you have to make to the privatized retirement accounts that will replace real pensions. But you’re not supposed to notice that the overall objective is to pay you and your less than “excellent” colleagues less.
Teacher lotteries are premised on “excellent” teachers being as driven by money as lawyers and salesmen and too stupid to do the math.
The real plan isn’t to increase the quality of public schools. The plan is to make them cost less to maintain. The plan is to pretend to be doing something for the schools when the real goal is to save the rich from paying taxes to send your kids to school.
And a key part of the plan is to pay teachers less while making them as fearful of losing their jobs as factory workers in right to work states.
Who’d want to become a teacher under those conditions?
I believe the honest “Reformers’” answer to that is Who cares? What does it matter? My kids aren’t going to public school.
And some would answer that way, the more brazen but thoughtful if cynical ones.
Most of the rest won’t answer. They’ll just do what dishonest politicians and business leaders always do when asked to explain themselves: pretend they weren’t asked the question, change the subject, or simply restate what they just said that needs explaining as if restatement is explanation.
Some, however, have another answer. Their answer is based on their not thinking of teaching as a profession. It their minds it’s basically volunteer work, community service, that any well-meaning, intelligent, but not exceptionally talented person can do.
That person, by the way, is in their minds a woman.
Teaching is women’s work and that makes it less important work. Easy work. Work that doesn’t require talent, skill, or real intelligence. Just a warm heart and an ability to keep the kiddies in their seats for a few hours a day while knowledge just seeps into their heads. Teachers aren’t professionals. They’re well-meaning amateurs.
And they should be paid accordingly and not expect anything more. Their reward is knowing they’ve done good.
And who would become teachers under those conditions? The people who should become teachers. Very nice married ladies whose own kids are grown and very nice young single ladies who need to make a respectable living until they get married and start having kids of their own and nuns, all of whom go into teaching out of the goodness of their hearts.
“Excellent” teachers are greedheads and innumerates or saints.
It gets worse.
The chief criteria for judging and rewarding excellence is test scores.
Excellent teachers are teachers whose students do well on standardized tests.
And this is the other part of Cuomo’s plan to improve New York Schools. He wants to make how their students do on standardized tests fifty per cent of teachers’ evaluations. Actually, it’s the main part of his plan. The teacher lottery is smoke and mirrors. It allows him to talk as if he wants to reward “highly effective” teachers. What he really wants to do is punish teachers whose students don’t measure up and punish schools whose teachers don’t measure up by taking jobs away from the teachers and money away from the schools.
Never mind the problems with judging students’ individual levels achievement and depth and breadth of knowledge and understanding by their test scores.
Never mind the problems this presents to teachers who have to teach to the test while still actually teaching.
And never mind the classism at work---the better prepared students are for school, the better they do on standardized tests, and, surprise, surprise, the best prepared students live in the richest suburban school districts where most of the parents are professionals with college degrees and that can afford to incentivize excellence by hiring it to begin with.
Test scores are how the bureaucrats who dole out the state and federal dollars measure the success and failure of schools and school districts. Higher test scores keep the money coming coming in. Schools that don’t “perform” are punished by having money withheld. Which means they have to cut their budgets. Which means laying off staff or not hiring needed replacements or, usually, both, thus incentivizing teachers who manage to keep their jobs by burdening them with overcrowded classrooms, the stress of having to compensate for the understaffing and diminution of resources---like crayons, glue sticks, and books---and the fear that they’re next. What this means on the administrative level is that superintendents and principals are incentivize to do whatever it takes to keep the money coming in.
Running a school becomes like running a law firm or a sales office. The bosses’ chief concern is to make money. And like bosses in any business they’re going to “encourage” their employees to work harder at the things that make the business money.
Grade school principals should not be made to inspire their teaching staffs by sounding like Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross.
You want to incentivize teachers, Governor Cuomo? Here’s what you do.
Pay them well enough that they don’t have to worry about money, give them job security, improve working conditions all around so they focus on their work and make the kinds of on-the-spot, independent, creative decisions that as professionals they are qualified to make without being afraid that making those decisions will cost them their jobs and without having their decision-making influenced by how much money they stand to make if they hit the jackpot.
The teacher lotteries don’t incentivize “excellence.” They incentivize doing it all for the bucks and as Thers says at Whiskey Fire:
The very definition of a terrible teacher would be someone flogging kids to get better test scores in order to make more money.
Outside law firms and sales offices, professionals get paid well to start and are given usually modest but reasonable raises based on their having performed well according to standards higher than just how much money they made for their employers and having made all their colleagues look like lazy incompetents. Bonuses are bonuses. Professionals get them in addition to raises not in lieu of them and certainly not in stingy compensation for cuts in pay and benefits.
I should be using the past tense. That’s how it used to be before the misers and thieves and sociopaths got control of all the money in the private sector. Now there are fewer professionals by that measure everywhere in every line of work and more wage and debt slaves.
The same misers and thieves and sociopaths want control of all the money in the public school systems. Cuomo wants to open up the safe for them.
He wants more charter schools.
Homework, and, yes it will be on the test:
Thers’ whole post at Whiskey Fire, Andrew Cuomo: Let’s Make New York More Like Wisconsin.
This story by Will Bredderman at The Observer, De Blasio Education Chancellor Rips Cuomo Teacher Evaluation Proposal.
Teachers rally against Cuomo’s education plan by Bennet J. Louden at the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Baloney" at the Washington Post.
And from Kenneth Lovett at the New York Daily News, Andrew Cuomo rips teacher unions as selfish 'industry' more interested in members' rights than student needs. But! Cuomo says claim he dislikes teachers is ‘nonsense’. (Jessica Bakeman, Capital.)
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A big difference between the Republicans and the Democrats is that Republicans have to lie about what they’re about and Democrats don’t.
I’m not talking about the usual sort of lies individual politicians tell to get themselves elected---making promises they know they won’t be able to keep, pretending to be concerned about issues they know don’t matter, exaggerating their achievements, minimizing their mistakes, fudging their records, fudging their opponents’ records, faking feelings they don’t have---I’m talking about what their respective parties stand for and intend to do for the country. In the case of Republicans that’s really “intend to do to the country” which is the basis for the lie.
It works like this.
The main accusations Republicans make against Democrats and liberals are that we want to redistribute the wealth and tell people how they should live their lives. And both are true. We admit it. We boast of it. And we’ll gladly tell you how we plan to do it---redistribute the wealth and tell people how to live their lives---and why we’re going to do it and why you should vote to let us do it. We can show how doing both will increase opportunity and prosperity for all. There are questions about the degree to which we should do any of it, unintended consequences, and whether or not we have the resources or competency to pull it off, but on the whole the Democratic mission is to continue forming a more perfect union of the nation---no states’ rights fragmentizing of interests for us---establish justice---not merely enforce law and order---insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense---as opposed to defending the property and financial interests of the rich and the corporations they run---promote the general welfare---directly, not by hoping those whose welfare is already established will deign to share---and secure the blessings of liberty to our children and our posterity---with our meaning all of ours, not just me and mine. We have no problem saying any of this.
But our main accusation against them is also true. They are the party of the rich and the rich want all the money. They think they own the rights to everything and the rest of us get and deserve nothing but what they think will help make them more money. That’s what the rest of us are here for, to work to make them richer. And that’s it. That’s all the Republicans stand for and all they want to do, help the rich make more money. The rich get richer while everybody else works themselves to exhaustion and death, keeps their heads down, does what they’re told, does without, goes broke, gets sick, grows old, and, when their no longer of use, dies as quickly and anonymously as possible.
Of course Republicans don’t dare admit this, let alone boast about it. They know how it would sound, like what it is. Selfish, greedy, unfair, un-American in that it places the interests of a few families and the corporations they own over the interests of the nation as a whole, un-Christian---as if Jesus advocated storing up treasures on earth and doing unto others whatever you damn well please to make yourself money and said nothing about what how whatever we do to the least of other brothers and sisters we do to him---and anti-capitalistic, which of course it is, because it’s a return to feudalism.
They know that if they admit and boast about it a lot of decent middle class and rich people who think of themselves as conservative and Republican will be repelled. Their consciences will wake up. Their senses of justice and fairness will take over. The real Christians among them will remember what it means to be Christian. They might even realize that they are, if not Democrats, democrats.
There’s also the possibility that the members of the rank and file who have no problem with the ideas that’s it’s all us versus them and we’re here to get rich and everybody else can go suff because they think their interests are aligned with the rich, and have even deluded themselves that if they aren’t rich they soon will be, might have it dawn on them be that they belong to the THEM and count as everybody else and not only aren’t they rich the Republican plan is that they, because they belong with everybody else, never will get rich because that would take money out of the wallets of the already rich.
So they try mightily not sound like they’re saying what they’re saying. They talk around it, they euphuize, they torture the language, they speak in code, they use words as if they mean their opposites. They rewrite history. They invent history. They fudge the math. They don’t bother with the math at all when they think they can get away with it, which thanks to the innumeracy and short attention spans of the political press corps, is almost always. They argue from personal anecdote---Joni Ernst’s “When I was a little girl,” every Obamacare hater’s “I’ve talked to a lot of doctors,”---instead of from facts. They ignore facts, make up facts, deny facts are facts.
They hire the likes of Paul Ryan to go about looking and sounding reasonable while selling plans that amount to “We’re going to take all the money but don’t worry, a miracle will happen and you won’t lose anything yourselves or if you do you’ll gain more by losing!”
But mainly they do their best to keep the rubes distracted and the suckers focused on hitting the jackpot. They rile up passions, stir up trouble, encourage resentments, anger, fear. They invoke their vindictive God, wrap themselves in the flag, and wave the bloody shirt. They promise unlimited wealth. They promote greed. They identify Others, Thems to be despised and put down and put back in their place, infuriating the faithful and misdirecting their rage at those Others, at Them, making them to mad to think about just who gets included among Us.
They flat out lie. About what they just said. About what they mean. About what they intend. About what they’re doing. About what Democrats say, mean, intend, and do.
Except the parts about our wanting to redistribute the wealth and tell people how to live their lives. Like I said, it’s true and we’re proud of it.
This doesn’t mean all Democrats are moral paragons, speakers of truth and standers-up for principle. And too often the Democrats in general don’t pursue their goals with the courage, boldness, determination, and honesty that they should.
But it does mean that all Republicans are liars.
Every single one of them.
The best that can be said of some is that they lie to themselves. But they’re still lying.
All the time.
If you’re inclined to object to my accepting the Republican characterization of us liberals as wanting to tell people how to run their lives, try this. Make a list of all the things you think would make the country a better place to live and work but put every item in the form of a commandment, that is, as a Do This or Don’t Do That statement. It’s easy, isn’t it?_________________________________
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Are we still at this?
Of course we are.
Some of us are anyway.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is claiming that there is widespread fraud in the country’s disability system because most people who get benefits merely suffer from anxiety or sore backs.
At a meeting with legislative leaders in Manchester, NH on Wednesday, caught on tape by American Bridge, Paul told the room:
“The thing is that all of these programs, there’s always somebody who’s deserving, everybody in this room knows somebody who’s gaming the system. I tell people that if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting a disability check. Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everyone over 40 has a back pain.”
Dear Senator Paul,
Nobody wants to be disabled.
Most people as in almost everybody wants to work.
The number of people on disability who don’t want to work is nothing next to the number of people who want to work but can’t work because they’re disabled!
The number of people on disability who don’t want to work is vanishingly small next to the number of people on disability who want to work but can’t work because employers discriminate against people with disabilities or can’t or won’t afford to make accommodations that would enable them to work.
Everybody is only temporarily abled. At some point in our lives all of us will be disabled to the point of not being able to work. Some of us by injury, some of by illness---including mental illness---all of us by old age. It’s that last disablement that has caused the number of people collecting disability to increase in the last couple of decades. Lots of Baby Boomers have grown too old to do the work their jobs require. Old age is relative. Coal miners, construction workers, farm workers, people who work on their feet all day, people who work with their backs get old sooner than college professors and United States Senators, neither of whom, by the way, work close to a full fifty-two weeks a year or, averaged out, five days a week or eight hours a day, and have any business lecturing people who do put in a full day’s, week’s, and year’s worth of work for very little money, few benefits, and no paid vacation or sick days, and, if you and your fellow Republicans in Congress work your will, no hope of collecting disability if they get injured on the job or get old before their time worn out and worn down by working physically punishing jobs their whole adult lives and develop “back problems” or “anxiety” on their lack of a proper work ethic.
“Back pain”? “A little anxious”? That’s all that’s wrong with them?
I have “back pain”. It has a cause. Spondylolisthesis. You went to medical school. You probably know what that is. Two of my vertebrae are fractured and out of place, pinching the nerves to my legs. There are days I can barely walk. I can’t stand for more the a few minutes at a stretch on even my best days. I’m not on disability. I have a job. I teach college. I can and do work sitting down in a comfortable chair. Days when the pain gets too much for me, if I don’t have to be in class, I can take off. I can spend hours lying flat on my back on the floor. I’m lucky. If I was a construction worker or a coal miner I wouldn’t be able to do this. I wouldn’t be able to work. I’d be out of a job.
A reminder. Not being able to work = DISABLED!
I hear there are a few coal miners in your state.
Ever been down in one of the mines?
Think you could work down in one of those all day with “back pain”?
As for being “a little anxious”? By “a little anxious” do you mean “suffering from a severe and debilitating mental illness like depression”?
Do you even know what depression means? How it afflicts people?
Do you know anything at all about human psychology? For instance, do you know that people who are obsessed with the idea that other people are chiselers and thieves are usually chiselers and thieves themselves? Do you know that the sins and vices we’re most offended by are usually the ones we’re ignoring in ourselves? Do you remember what Jesus said about the mote and the beam?
Apparently, you don’t.
How in God’s name did you earn a medical degree without any understanding or sympathy of and for human beings’ physical and mental frailty?
Yours in the good fortune neither of us deserve,
PS. You should read this whole article at ThinkProgress. You’re mentioned.
Standing up to a bully on the playground works but only if…
You convince the bully you can hurt him and he’s afraid of getting hurt or…
He’s lazy and a fight isn’t worth the trouble to him or…
His motivation is to enjoy watching his targets cower in fear.
It doesn’t work if he doesn’t care if he gets hurt or…
He wants to hurt you because he likes to inflict pain or…
He has a nuclear arsenal and his motivation is to acquire a warm water seaport and he doesn’t believe that you’ll start World War III to stop him.
Corporatist Right: To the overworked, the underpaid, the unemployed, to the deeply in debt; to the old, to the sick, to the poor, and the unlucky; to women who aren’t our wives, our daughters, or partners in our businesses; to anyone struggling in this rotten economy that we brought about for our benefit, enrichment, and aggrandizement: It’s your own fault for not listening to us back in the 80s when we told you we planned to get our hands on all the money. We meant it when we said “We want it all, and we want it now!” Now fork over what’s left or you’ll find out how really hard we can make it for it you. Oh what the hell. We’ll just take what’s left and make you miserable anyway, just to teach you.
Tea Party Right: Oh kind corporatists, please notice how we’re trying to punish and make miserable all of those people you don’t like and reward us by making us rich too or at least by leaving us and our money alone.
Religious Right: Life is supposed to be hard, so we like it when you two make it harder. For them. Us and our money you can leave alone, because we’re saved and deserve to be rewarded here on earth. But while you’re at it, can you ship a few pieces of silver our way? Like we said, we’re saved so we should get some of it too as the Good Lord pre-ordained.
On a related note (ha ha), over at digby’s place, David Atkins on what the Republicans Party has become.