Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tweet Of The Day: Trump Encapsulated

This post is also an experiment on how posting and sharing with a new phone will work.

@stephenWalt: Trump's views on foreign policy suggest he also thinks he can control weather, reverse tides, make pigs fly, and make NYJets a winner. Shared via TweetCaster

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Quotation Of The Day: We May Have A Problem With Rights In The United States Edition

From this Washington Post story:
“I got a right to have whatever I want and that’s it.” 
The right in question was a woman's "right" to have Lowe's send a white delivery driver. The manager who granted her request has been fired.

I'm not sure nation can survive if rights exist without the idea of responsibility or citizens refuse to recognize that rights may conflict in ways that makes the exercise of rights in an absolute sense impossible.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Tweet And Quotation Of The Day: Reading As Soulcraft Edition

From John Merrow

Mosley's continuation is equally eloquent:
I’m not saying that you have to be a reader to save your soul in the modern world. I’m saying it helps. Artists, musicians, naturally empathetic children and people born to the beat of a different drum often embark on more original lives than the Company Store wants for us. They’re naturally more resistant to the forces of big business and big government.
But readers don’t have to be all that special. They have the guidance of a thousand stories to help them make their way. They are never alone. They are equipped to challenge (or ignore) the expectations laid down by standardized testing, fifth-grade bullies and parents that gaze upon the present-day world with eyes that only see the past. They can envision alternatives to economic and political systems that have no heart, art or true ­humanity.
Most readers stop here. They gather their ever-widening circle of favorite writers and read and reread their beloved books. But some are compelled to become writers. The stories they were told or read kindle an obsession that cries out to be heard. Like minor gods, they rummage in the mud looking to make characters with whom to explore their dreams, and nightmares.
Paragraphs like these also likely explain why politicians like Governor Daugaard seek to ignore literature and focus on STEM.

Scripture And Songs For The Week: Jeremiah 31 Edition

23 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity, the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: ‘The Lord bless you, you prosperous city, you sacred mountain.’ 24 People will live together in Judah and all its towns—farmers and those who move about with their flocks. 25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
26 At this I awoke and looked around. My sleep had been pleasant to me.
27 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Republican Debate Reaction

I listened rather than watched. I did not see Rand Paul's eye roll or any other mannerisms that someone in my Twitter timeline criticized. Based on what I heard,  Kasich and Rubio should be considered the clear winners. (I did not watch or listen to the so-called happy hour debate, so I will take the conventional wisdom at face value; Fiorina won hands down.)

I can't vouch for the accuracy of the chart below, but I'll use it as a starting point to give my reactions to each candidate.

Ben Carson: If the chart is accurate, he has a cult following. He sounded stiff even when he was wasting time cracking jokes during his closing statement. He supported torture, so I hope his candidacy flounders quickly, but it looks as if it won't.

Chris Christie: He did nothing to change his image of being bombastic. Favoring a Reagan-era sized navy and implying that the NSA should expand domestic surveillance, he may have been the most bellicose in both style and substance.

Donald Trump: Trump was Trump and it should have cost him. I suspect that his hard floor is above 10%, so he won't be going away even though he didn't seem to fair well tonight.

Jeb Bush: He made no waves and didn't stumble. It was a lackluster performance but on a stage with ten people that effort was all an alleged favorite needed to live to fight another day

John Kasich: He handled all of the questions well. He sounded knowledgeable and passionate. He's probably running for VP.

Marco Rubio: See Kasich. On a side note, when the older candidates on the panel invoke Reagan, I'd give Rubio bonus points for saying "I was a teenager when Ronald Reagan was President; I was more interested in the red-head sitting two desks ahead of me than I was anything he did. I've moved on; the party should too." On the other hand, I can see why that would be political suicide.

Mike Huckabee: He wants to tax pimps and prostitutes. He took the hardest line on abortion and pretty much made himself unelectable.

Rand Paul: On substance he won the exchange with Christie; he lost it on style. One of his former major advisers is in legal hot water. This candidacy is over.

Scott Walker: I can't remember a single thing he said.

Ted Cruz: He seemed virtually absent until the God question. It seems as if he trying to hang around to get the angry voters who know Trump can't win. I'm surprised at the 50/50 split he earned.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Middle Class, The 1980s, And $100,000

There seems to be a certain meme running through some circles to try to convince folks that the middle class is not in bad shape. It runs as follows:
If you're still not convinced, consider this simple thought experiment from Washington Post reporter Matt O'Brien: "Adjusted for inflation, would you rather make $50,000 in today's world or $100,000 in 1980's?" Is that added dough enough for you to give up your flat-screen television, smartphone, and internet access? If it isn't, or if the answer isn't obvious, that would suggest living standards aren't stagnant or anything close to it.
The list left off ATMs, something I consider a necessity. No one in his or her right mind would trade superhero movies or television in the 1980s with contemporary offerings. Video games are certainly better now than they were in 1985. An average car today has all of the amenities of a luxurycar in the 1980s

I do admit to a certain nostalgia for a time when MTV actually played music videos, but YouTube has that covered. Looking through catalogs and making telephone orders was not an onerous undertaking, but Amazon is consumer's dream.

Going with the items mentioned in the quotation, smart phones are awesome. They are a computer and entertainment center that one can carry in a pocket. In 1985 the Sony Walkman or recently released Discman were portable. The IBM PC wasn't, and I couldn't have used one to post this on the Interwebs.

And yet, the comparisons produce a feeling of being distracted by, if not bread and circuses,  trinkets and treats Some things are more important than technological toys. To take one essential, the cost of new house in 1985 was $89,330. In 2013, the average new house cost $289,500. Hypothetically, $100,000 would have paid for the 1980s house. Fifty thousand dollars leaves one far short in 2015.

Although this thought experiment requires one to look backward, looking forward was cheaper in 1985.  The average college tuition for a public university was $1,318; the average tuition for private universities was $6,121. Harvard's tuition was $10,590. This fall average in-state tuition at a public university will be $9,960. Harvard's tuition and fees are $45,278.  The answer to above question might provoke less ambivalence if it were posed, "Would you give up your smart phone to pay for your child's college education?"

One can rightly assert that Americans obsess over first world problems and take for granted things that would have been luxuries thirty or forty years ago. That fact doesn't mean the American middle class is not getting squeezed when it comes to affording essentials.

The Republicans Will Debate: How Are They Going To Adapt To Conflicting Paradigms?

The Republicans will debate later today. The debate coach in me is happy even though it won't be a debate. Real debate involves delivering prepared cases, engaging in direct cross examination, and presenting concise rebuttals that sum up the key issues in the round. The event would more accurately be described as dueling extemporaneous speeches, but I digress.

 Before the young'uns go into a debate, we usually go discuss the judges. In preliminary rounds there's only one judge. In semi-final or final rounds there are usually three. Many judges have paradigms that determine how the young'uns approach the round. If the panel is composed of judges with conflicting paradigms, the young'uns have some tough choices. The Republicans on the big stage tonight have a few million judges with some fairly set but conflicting paradigms.

That fact prompts a few questions. Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio all seem to be fighting to get the establishment vote. Will Bush solidify his lead with this group or will one of the other cut into Bush's support? Will Kasich, Christie, or Rubio make a play for one of the other constituencies. For example, Rubio might try to wrest the tea party vote from Trump or prevent Ted Cruz from making inroads into that constituency.

 Rand Paul seems to be the favorite among libertarian leaning Republicans. Will he make a play for the angry tea party folk that now seem to gravitate toward Donald Trump? For that matter will Trump try to allay some establishment fears or ensure that he heads off any efforts from Paul or, perhaps, Scott Walker to take some of those voters?

 Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee seem to fighting for the social conservative vote. Will one of them emerge as a clear favorite of that constituency? Will Carson cede this group to Huckabee and go after the tea party vote reasoning that social conservatives will follow him if he can outlast Huckabee? The same questions might apply to Ted Cruz,

The groups admittedly overlap and many candidates have their feet in two camps, but at this stage of the campaign, the Republican candidates are not unlike high school debaters trying to determine how to win a round with a panel of judges who disagree about what constitutes a winner.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Minor Musing About The Paula Hawks Candidacy

Let's encapsulate what will happen in the Paula Hawks challenge to Kristi Noem. First, Republicans will repeatedly cast Hawks as a tax and spend liberal; they will then go on to accuse her of being a socialist or a terrorist sympathizer who will weaken the nation and force school children to begin each school day by reciting entire suras from the Quran. Perhaps they will attempt to be creative and combine the accusations.

Later, the Noem campaign will find a news article or a Hawks social media post and use it to create a YouTube video to belittle Hawks. Hawks will respond by citing Noem's voting record; Republicans and South Dakota's incumbent-friendly mainstream media will accuse Hawks of negative campaigning.

Throughout the campaign, Noem will decry government waste but tout her work on the farm bill and the highway bill that should be finished later this year, and the conservatives who profess to hate pork barrel politics will applaud Noem's work on these bacony pieces of legislation because they provide South Dakota with a heaping helping of Washington's largesse.

Hawks has not begun well. The rollout has been underwhelming. Cory Heidelberger's mostly positive review admits the announcement video lacked thunder. Ken Santema finds it "lackluster." Pat Powers, as his wont for every non-Republican campaign, echoes those who call it "substandard." Whatever mistakes Hawks has made, her worst mistake is not having a professional war room ready to respond to the attacks and poor reviews, especially those from mainstream media outlets.

Another mistake she may be tempted to make is trying to copy Noem's efforts to tie Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to Nancy Pelosi  by attempting to tie Noem to Speaker John Boehner. I find orange skinned men who weep too easily disconcerting at best. Most South Dakota Republicans are not disconcerted in the least. Perhaps Boehner's orange hue makes them nostalgic for the television program Alf.  Pelosi, on the other hand, is a San Francisco Democrat. For most South Dakotans, that description is a pejorative only slightly less offensive than a short guttural verb that been appended with both prefix and suffix to imply that one has experienced carnal knowledge with one's female parent.

South Dakota needs competitive statewide races. I hope Hawks will successfully challenge Noem, but Hawks needs to be ready for fifteen months of rough and tumble campaigning.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Another Angry Image Of The Day

This image came across my Twitter feed over the weekend.

Picture from here.
The man, carrying a rifle and who has his hand on his handgun, was part of a rally held at Stone Mountain, Georgia to support the Confederate flag. As I understand the story, the man in the white t-shirt burned a Confederate battle flag to protest the rally. Until the hand went to handgun, both men were engaging in provocative political speech that the First Amendment is designed to protect.

This image troubles leaves me with dozens of questions, but I'll ask just three.

First, is the police officer preternaturally calm or would his reaction have been different if an African American had had his hand on the gun?

Second, has the nation really come to the point that any political speech must be loud and any speech which violates one's sensibilities must be responded to with the threat of violence?

Most importantly, if the answer to the second question is "yes," what can citizens do to protect free speech rights?

Headline And Chart Of The Day: Donald Trump And Nickelback Edition

From Nate Silver at comes this headline: Donald Trump Is The Nickelback Of GOP Candidates.

Silver, a master at both political and sports data analysis also offers this chart to show where the Republican candidate stand among the various Republican constituencies:

(If you click the chart, it will get bigger)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Two Ledes, A Body Paragraph, And A Tweeted Mashup Sum Up American Politics

The first lede is from today's New York Times:
Fewer than four hundred families are responsible for almost half the money raised in the 2016 presidential campaign, a concentration of political donors that is unprecedented in the modern era.
The vast majority of the $388 million backing presidential candidates this year is being channeled to groups that can accept unlimited contributions in support of candidates from almost any source. The speed with which such “super PACs” can raise money — sometimes bringing in tens of millions of dollars from a few businesses or individuals in a matter of days — has allowed them to build enormous campaign war chests in a fraction of the time that it would take the candidates, who are restricted in how much they can accept from a single donor. [emphasis mine]
The second, from yesterday's Wall Street Journal re-frames the numbers:
Billionaires are bankrolling the early days of the 2016 presidential campaign to an unprecedented degree, with at least 40 of the wealthiest Americans plowing $60 million into super PACs aligned with the top tier of candidates.
The torrent of super PAC money is revolutionizing presidential politics in the wake of a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and individuals into these outside groups.
Super PACs backing 17 presidential candidates raised more than $250 million in the first six months of this year, roughly doubling the $125 million raised by the candidates for their campaigns, disclosure reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission show. [emphasis mine]
The New York Times also provides a body paragraph that makes one think that contemporary elections exist so that the real-life equivalents of Randolph and Mortimer Duke can wager a dollar on the outcome:
Many of the country’s biggest donors are not only financial peers but also friends, members of an elite class of contributors who gather at a series of enclaves around the year, from the Club for Growth’s annual Palm Beach retreat on the right, to the closed-door meetings of the liberal Democracy Alliance on the left. Some live or work in the same buildings in New York or Chicago.
The mashup in this tweet seems to capture contemporary politics fairly accurately even if done technically poorly.