Understatement Of The Year Competiton May Already Be Over

Posted July 1, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Election 2016, Snark, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Still too swamped to do much in the way of serious posting, but I’ve got something too sweet not to share.

Seems that there is a little trouble in paradise with the new hires to Herr Drumpf’s campaign — the folks brought on post-Lewandowski to bring adult supervision to the romper room masquerading as the national campaign of the GOP’s presumptive nominee.  Here’s what Keven Kellems, in charge of surrogate operations, had to say [Politico link] as the door was flapping shut:

“While brief, it has been an interesting experience.”

James_Tissot_-_The_Farewell

I’ll bet.

Image:  James Tissot, The Farewell, 1871.

Racism Kills…And Kills…And Kills

Posted June 15, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Medicine, Race, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

Anger?  Heartbreak? Disbelief? Berserker rage?  Which should come first in response to this?

For forty years, the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male passively monitored hundreds of adult black males with syphilis despite the availability of effective treatment. The study’s methods have become synonymous with exploitation and mistreatment by the medical community. We find that the historical disclosure of the study in 1972 is correlated with increases in medical mistrust and mortality and decreases in both outpatient and inpatient physician interactions for older black men. Our estimates imply life expectancy at age 45 for black men fell by up to 1.4 years in response to the disclosure, accounting for approximately 35% of the 1980 life expectancy gap between black and white men. (h/t Jesse Singal at The Science of Us)

Graveyard_in_the_Tyrol_1914-1915_JS_Sargent (1)

That’s the abstract of a paper by Stanford Medical School’s Marcella Alsan and the University of Tennessee economist Marianne Wanamaker. It’s currently in the working paper stage at the National Bureau of Economic Research (which is, despite its name, not a government research institution).

As Singal writes over at New York Magazine that means both that this is not quite the final draft of this paper (or at least, that it hasn’t yet gone through the whole journal process yet) — and that there is a host of nuance and specific contingencies that surround the Tuskeegee story.  But the central point remains:  specific acts of racial cruelty harm not just those bearing the immediate brunt, but also can — and did here — do  lasting and lethal damage to so many more.

Alsan and Wanamaker conclude:

Our findings underscore the importance of trust for economic relationships involving imperfect information. Typically the literature on trust has focused on trade settings (Greif, 1989); however, much of medical care depends on health providers and patients resolving information asymmetries. Trust, therefore, is a key component of this interaction…

Indeed.

And if we needed any more reasons to take this election seriously (we don’t) think on this:  Donald Trump’s candidacy is based on racism, on the denial of a share in American polity and society to those who look the wrong way.  There’s a breach of trust there, deep and dangerous — and in so many ways, deadly as hell.

John Singer Sergant, Graveyard in the Tyrolbetween 1914 and 1915

Beyond The Watch List

Posted June 15, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Guns, Uncategorized, Women's rights are human rights

Tags: , ,

ETA: As Botsplainer relates in this comment to the mirror post over at Balloon Juice, there is already federal law on gun ownership and domestic violence:  if you’ve been convicted of misdemeanor or felony domestic violence, you can’t own a gun. In certain circumstances and in some states that applies to those under restraining orders.  The law is far from comprehensive, though. For example, partner violence in a couple that hasn’t lived together/shared a child falls through its cracks.

Current law also depends on some basic functions at the state level that don’t always happen, including proper updating of lists of domestic violence convictions/restraining orders so as to invoke the federal ban when an offender sets out to buy weapons.

To be clear: I erred in my first pass at this, caught up in my generalized anger, and I apologize for the mistake.  At the same time a deepened, broadened and intensified approach to the new law that is needed and the application of existing law around guns and domestic violence is absolutely needed.

Back to a corrected version of your previously scheduled program:

I’ve my doubts whether this time will be different, but there are some signs that the Orlando massacre will persuade some (I hope enough) of the GOP of the need for the first baby steps towards a useful gun control regime.

But denying guns to those on the terror watch or no-fly lists — and even a much-less-likely assault weapon ban — will still leave an enormous gateway to murderous violence to be dealt with:

When Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group, analyzed F.B.I. data on mass shootings from 2009 to 2015, it found that 57 percent of the cases included a spouse, former spouse or other family member among the victims — and that 16 percent of the attackers had previously been charged with domestic violence.

It is, as always, important to note that correlation does not equal cause. As

David_Remeeus_Portrait_of_a_Lady

Reporter Amanda Taub writes,

There are, of course, a tangle of factors behind every murder, especially terrorism inspired by foreign groups. But research on domestic violence hints at a question that often surrounds seemingly inexplicable events like Mr. Mateen’s massacre of 49 people at an Orlando nightclub — what drives individuals to commit such mass attacks? — and sheds light on the psychology of violence.

That is, as Taub argues:

Terrorist attacks and mass shootings garner attention and frighten the public much more than episodes of domestic violence. But domestic violence has a much higher death toll in the United States.

According to the Violence Policy Center, 895 women in the United States were murdered by their current or former intimate partners in 2013 (and this does not include those killed amid mass shootings). That single-year tally is more than nine times the 92 people the New American Foundationhas counted as killed in jihadist attacks on American soil in the past decade.

But there are striking parallels between the intimate terrorism of domestic violence and the mass terrorism perpetrated by lone-wolf attackers like Mr. Mateen. Both, at their most basic level, are attempts to provoke fear and assert control.

Most chilling, this informed speculation:

Paul Gill, a senior lecturer at University College London who studies the behavior of lone-actor terrorists, said that violence was, in a sense, a learned psychological skill: “Having a history of violence might help neutralize the natural barriers to committing violence.”

From that perspective, domestic violence can be seen as a psychological training ground for someone like Mr. Mateen to commit a mass attack.

Read the whole thing — and for a lagniappe, check out Nancy LeTourneau’s gloss on Taub’s piece over at The Washington Monthly.

Here I just want to add to minimal list of necessary gun control measures: full enforcement and extension of federal law prohibiting access to guns — including seizure of weapons already in possession* — not only for convicted domestic abusers, but also and urgently for anyone subject to a restraining order.  As noted in the correction at the top of this piece, there are gaps in the current legal and enforcement system that helps deepen the misery of our existing domestic partner violence.  (See, e.g., this story.)

This shouldn’t be controversial:  if the threat you pose has risen to the level that a judge is willing to bar you from your home and partner and/or family — then the threat is too high to leave you with such ready means to kill.

*this is one of the areas of concern in current law.

Image: David Remeeus, Portrait of a lady with a gold chain and pistol-shaped charm 1597.

 

If You Need A Break (I Do)

Posted June 10, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Art, Fun

Tags:

Here’s some utterly non-political awesomeness with which to launch the weekend:

My regret:  the strandbeests came to Massachusetts last fall — the MIT campus even! — and I didn’t manage to see them in action.

Anyway…Enjoy!

Everything I Love About Bernie

Posted June 8, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Election 2016, Uncategorized

Tags:

Attention Conservation Notice (w. apologies to Cosma Shalizi)What follows is roughly 1,000 words of navel gazing on the subject of winners, losers and charity.  The shorter: In this I’m with some of our sane Bernistas in thinking this is chill time, not the occasion to go all Michael Corleone on the Sanders campaign over the next couple of weeks.

The longer:

I think y’all know I’m a Hillbot.  I have said as clearly as I can that I affirmatively prefer her to Bernie on her substantive policy choices, and that where I disagree with her, I at least understand what she’s on about.*

And now I love Bernie and his (sincere) supporters.  Not because I have come to agree with his or their view of the Presidency, or the likely shape of the fall campaign, or the most effective path to actually changing policy, and hence lives, on the ground.

Rather, I love Bernie and the Bernistas for a couple of reasons.  At their best, they’re making the right call:  C.R.E.A. all of us — and whatever we can do to get more cash in the hands of the poor and the middle class we should do. That’s a core Democratic Party value and it has to be reasserted every damn election.

They’ve made the right call (one anticipated and shared by Hillary) that Citizens United and all it’s substructure is a disaster.

They’ve made the right call on student debt, even if the slogan that passes as policy isn’t likely to get us far; at bottom, the theft of opportunity my generation has committed against the next several is both stupid and wrong, and we should be looking for all the ways to redress that harm.

These are all basic Democratic views, and it’s good to be reminded of them, and it will be excellent to remind the electorate that Democrats know how to address such issues in ways that the Republicans simply cannot — for to do so would require them to cease being Republicans and become Democrats.  I don’t think for a moment that Bernie knows how to do what needs to be done to advance the Democratic vision in response to those policy goals, but one of the things you hope for in a presidential campaign is for the candidates between them helping the party figure out what it is and what it needs to do.  Bernie, at least on his best days, did all that.

TL:DR for the above:  Lord, how I love the Bernie that reminds us that Democrats think about society when Republicans think about their friends.

And second, I love Bernie and the Bernistas because they and we now have a job to do together.

Jan_Sanders_van_Hemessen-Enfant_Prodigue_IMG_1469

I take second place to no one in my rage and disdain for the worst moments in the primary campaign.  I loathed how, it seemed, the Sanders camp would scorch the earth with right wing talking points leaving Hillary an utterly wounded candidate (shades of 1968, and to some extent, 1980) — or, in the vanishingly unlikely event of a Sanders upset, present the GOP with a perfect punching bag of a candidate that, to me, was unbelievably vulnerable to the GOP-thug noise machine. (Socialist who honeymooned in Moscow and willl raise taxes to fund more intrusive govt….)

And then I remember 2008, and a Democratic primary in which the losing candidate painted her opponent as feckless, young, not to be trusted close to the button….and (say this softly) Black!

And going even further back, I turn to that sage of sages, the good Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.   His Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail captures one aspect of American politics perfectly:  there is no insanity like the madness that flares in the heat of a campaign.

Bernie got close — far closer than he expected of (as is now obvious) planned for.   You get that near to power and you change — I don’t think there’s any doubt of it.  Hell!  Most of us have experienced a pale version of that fever, that rush of hope and expectation and fear of disappointment and all the rest when we get called back for the second interview, or submit the application that feels like the one and so on.  Magnify that times a gazillion and you have politics at the highest level.

All of which makes me — after the contest is over — to find some charity where a couple of weeks ago I felt only contempt for a Bernie who couldn’t seem to let go of what most of us recognized as obviously already beyond his grasp.

In other words:  it’s hard as hell to lose, and it’s impossible for all but saints to do so with full and instant equanimity.  That’s why I can’t go all “F**k Bernie and his demands.”  I just can’t.  It may not be fair that the winning side has to extend the olive branch first, and maybe most…but it’s fully human, and in the context of a non-zero possibility of any Republican in the White House, it’s necessary too.

So, unless he doubles down, unless he heads further down that path of excoriating Clinton and Democrats in general, unless he acts to sabotage the most important campaign I can recall — the need to defeat America’s home-grown fascist — I’m ready to like me some Sanders, and his Sandernistas too.

I’ll come to love him and them if they take the last step: not just get out of the way of the campaign to come, but dive in.  Which many of them will, with or without Bernie himself.  Were I betting man, I’d take long odds that Bernie will find his way on this.  He’s got plenty of reasons, some base, some noble, (just like all of us) to  do so, and having come so close, I don’t think he wants to stumble at the final straight-away.  I could be wrong, but I’m not going to assume I am until events force me to.

TL:DR — The parable of the prodigal, like all good stories, can be read many, many ways.  But the simple reading is the one Hillary gave us last night. We are stronger, and very much better — together.

*For one example:  a post I’ve not yet and may never get around to writing is on how the Rwandan genocide shaped the views of those on whose watch it occurred.  Hillary was one of those, and I think what some see as neo-colonial interventionism is at least party shaped by a “never again” reaction to the collective failure that allowed such evil to(re)occur.

Image: Jan Sanders (no relation) van Hemessen, The Parable of the Prodigal Son, 1536.

INVINCIBLE!

Posted June 7, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Election 2016, Republican follies, ridicule, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Attention conservation notice (thanks, Cosma Shalizi):  What follows is some political naval gazing, a trip down memory lane to scan the GOP primary just gone by.  The TL:DR — what a craptastic effort by all concerned.  If you’ve nothing better to do, read on, and snark at will in the comments.

Not to aggrandize one of our more feeble trolls, but something that personage produced in a comment yesterday caught my eye.  Donald Trump, we were told, more than once, is INVINCIBLE (sic on the caps and bold).

What convinced our troll of this fact?

That the Gauleiter of Midtown Manhattan had defeated “the deepest primary field in history” (quoted from memory).

Well, a ruby in a dungheap is still a gem, and that remark caught my attention.  So, in a waltz down memory lane, I went to look up that deep field, here in the order in which they formally entered the campaign:

Ted Cruz.  Jeb Bush.  Ben Carson. Chris Christie. Carly Fiorina.  Jim Gilmore. Lindsey Graham.  Mike Huckabee.  Bobby Jindal.  John Kasich. George Pataki.  Rand Paul.  Rick Perry.  Marco Rubio.  Rick “don’t Google me” Santorum. Donald Trump, and Scott Walker.

Jheronimus_Bosch_011

Let’s review:

Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul:  first term senators of no accomplishment.

Carly Fiorina:  a failed business tycoon whose sole claim to fame is her near-destruction of one of the most respected corporations in tech.

Ben Carson:  a neurosurgeon who calls to mind the old joke:  “What’s the difference between God and a surgeon?”  “God knows he’s not a doctor.”

Jim Gilmore:  Jim Gilmore.

George Pataki:  George Pataki.

Rick Santorum: where to begin? Lost his last election by 30 points or more; hasn’t improved on extended acquaintence.

Chris Christie:  not yet indicted.

George Pataki:  smart boy glasses didn’t work.

Bobby Jindal:  Kenneth the office boy left the governor’s mansion in Louisiana as the single most potent unifier in state history: everyone, Democrat, Republican, Martian, loathed this incompetent poseur.

Mike Huckabee:  book salesman masquerading as Torquemada.

Scott Walker:  goggle-eyed homunculus almost instantly revealed as a small-time grifter utterly unsuited for the big time.

That leaves four:  Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and the ferret-headed swindler himself.

Jeb?, Graham and Kasich had at least recognizably plausible credentials to mount a presidential bid.  Jeb, of course, was burdened with the worst name in politics, a record in Florida that mostly consisted of having the good sense to preside during a housing boom and to get out before the crash, and an easily torpedoed post-government high-class business-grift career.  Worst of all of course, he turned out to have zero talent as an actual working politician.

Lindsey Graham was always a “message” candidate.  Yes, he’s a senator with actual legislative experience, and on paper he’s at least plausible.  But at no time did he actually capture the interest of a significant faction of the party.  It’s conceivable, at least, that if the Republican field had been the same size as the Democrats — five at the most — he might have had a chance to move from being McCain’s mini-me to some more plausible shot at the nomination, but if I were the Emperor of all the Indies, I’d be farting through silk, and that hasn’t happened either.

John Kasich, as a lot of commentators pointed out, was the most plausible “conventional” candidate on a paint by numbers sort of analysis:  federal experience, re-elected as governor of a large, diverse and swing state, actual policy knowledge.  (All bad policy, of course, but at least he understands the task.)  For all that’s wrong with him on his actual merits, I can’t deny that at the start of the campaign season, he actually appeared to be someone who could say “I’m running for president” with a straight face.

Hence the obvious response to “INVINCIBLE!”  This was the political analogue to a boxing undercard of stiffs, tomato-cans, punchers with slow feet, cutesy fighters better at dancing than fighting and so on.  These were the bouts you arrange so as not to undermine the confidence of a still-raw devotee of the Sweet Science.  They were, as it turned out, palookas.

IOW:  A well-stocked bench does not equal a strong bench, and it’s worth thinking about that a little as we move on to the general.  The Republican party is in a dominant position in state governments and in Congress.  Despite that, it has a dearth of those who can plausibly put themselves forward as national leaders.  And it’s not getting better with the up-and-comers.  Sasse?  Cotton?  Ernst? New Mexico’s Martinez, in a party now led by an anti-Latino bigot…and so on.

Or think on the surrogates the two nominees-presumptive can bring to bear on the campaign at hand.  As lots have noted, Hillary gets POTUS, FLOTUS, Uncle Joe, Senator Professor Warren, and some guy named Bill as her starting five.  Combover Caligula (thanks Betty!)? Chris Christie. Somebody.  Somebody else.  Somebody’s twin nephews.  Or, if we take his former rivals expressions of support seriously:  Christie, Rubio, and I don’t know, maybe a couple more.

I’m not writing this to gloat or to suggest that the election is over.  It’s not.  Trump is many things, but what makes him dangerous is that he has a dedicated, too-large base of support he knows exactly how to motivate.  We let our guard down, he and they win; the country and the world loses.

But that phrase “a deep bench” still needs examination.  The 2016 Republican primary is, as our troll suggests, a measure of the state of the party.  There’s no doubt it commands power. What’s striking, though, is how thoroughly mediocre are those who wield it.

Which is, of course, why they must be destroyed, their cities sacked, and their fields sown with salt.

Factia Grandeava Delenda Est.

Image: Hieronymus Bosch, Ship of Fools, c. 1494-1510.

Verbum Sat Sapienti Est…Or Maybe Not

Posted June 6, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Election 2016, Republican follies, Uncategorized, words mattter

Tags: , ,

Try as I might, I cannot for the life of me figure out this from Gauleiter Drumpf:

I am getting bad marks from certain pundits because I have a small campaign staff. But small is good, flexible, save money and number one!

“Save money and number one!”  So his number lines begin at two?  He and his staff promise to pee less?  He’s running for a job as the Count’s assistant?

I read that tweet in light of this analysis of Trump’s purported advantage over Clinton, made by a once and (at least so he hopes so) future Republican candidate-whisperer:

“She is fighting a conventional war and he is fighting an asymmetrical war, and I don’t think that bodes well for her,” said Terry Sullivan, a Republican strategist. Mr. Sullivan has a unique perspective on the question, as the former manager of Senator Marco Rubio’s vanquished presidential campaign.

Trump’s secret weapon according to Sullivan:  feed the beast.  Constantly.

The primary lesson: “The solution is always more content, not less,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Partly, this is just grift.  Here’s how the reporter, James Rutenberg acquired that earth-shattering insight:

Mr. Sullivan; the former Rubio communications adviser Alex Conant; and a lawyer for Mr. Rubio, Will Holley, had reached out to me to discuss their new consulting firm, Firehouse Strategies. It’s based on the premise that Mr. Trump has rewritten the rules of modern communications strategy, and candidates and corporations need to take heed.

But what strikes me in this Firehoser’s argument is his apparent ignorance of everything that’s happened in media beyond politics over the last decade.  “Always more content” turns all content into noise soon enough.

Trump may have a bit of a first mover advantage in his dominance of the sclerotic political mediascape, but I think (a) that’s wearing thin, and one of the shocks of last week for the Trump camp was the degree to which their former lapdogs in the media have turned on them.

Frans_Snyders_-_Hounds_Bringing_down_a_Boar_-_WGA21530

And more important, (b):   as a number of people have pointed out Trump’s got a long haul problem: when the brand is escalation, at some point you’re promising to build a wall to bar the Red Lectroids from Planet Ten — paid for by the takings from Vogon poetry readings.

Which is to say, There’s much to be done to stomp his campaign into utter oblivion, but if texts like the Drumpf-tweet up top represent the current state of his content stream, I’m OK with that.

Image:  Frans Snyders, Hounds Bringing Down A Boar (couldn’t resist), before 1650.


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