Fucking Politics, How Does It Work?
By Scott Lemieux
There are really no good arguments for voting third party for president in the currently existing American electoral system. To the extent that third-party voting has any justification at all, there are three bad categories. The first is to argue that it doesn’t really matter because the major parties are essentially the same. Dr. Jill Stein, MD makes this argument:
Admitting Trump is the worst possible thing that could happen to the country, she also says that the binary options amount to “death by gunshot or death by strangulation.”
The main problem with this argument, as applied to the election of 2016, is that it is reflects massive dishonesty, massive stupidity, massive ignorance, or some cocktail of the three. American political parties are polarized to an unusual extent, and the Democrats are far better on a wide range of issues and worse on none.
If one admits the obvious truth that there are material differences between the two parties, there are a couple of terrible arguments one can trot out. The first is the hieghten-the-contradictions routine, which deliberately makes things worse in order to make things better. One example is Jill Stein’s contention that the lesson of Nazi Germany is that it’s better for fascists to take power than to form a coalition with liberals. Rarely has an argument been more convincingly self-rebutted. If one recognizes that heighten-the-contradictions arguments tend to be not merely wrong but monstrous, the next move tends to be “vote Jill Stein — it has no chance of affecting anything whatsoever, but will allow you to pat yourself on the back for being too good to be part of a mere political coalition.” Which doesn’t strike me as a very attractive argument, but whatever. It’s not really one that’s easily available to Jill Stein, however. So there’s another variant, the MORE EFFECTIVE EVIL theory:
“Donald Trump, I think, will have a lot of trouble moving things through Congress,” Stein says. “Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, won’t … Hillary has the potential to do a whole lot more damage, get us into more wars, faster to pass her fracking disastrous climate program, much more easily than Donald Trump could do his.”
The ignorance of basic facts about American politics that this reveals is astounding. The idea that a Republican-controlled House would pass Hillary Clinton’s climate change legislation is as stupid as the idea that Hillary Clinton’s climate change agenda consists entirely of “MOAR fracking plz.” Even worse is the idea that agendas are determined solely by presidents, the assumption that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have no agenda of their own when in fact they have a longstanding agenda they would pass and Donald Trump would allow to pass into law because he has no interest in public policy. The idea that Congress would stop Trump from pursuing military adventurism is comically ignorant of history. Then there’s the fact that she ignores the people Donald Trump would staff the federal judiciary and executive branch with, and also ignores that the only circumstances under which the Senate would fail to confirm is if Trump accidentally chose a non-wingnut. And so on. Although it least she doesn’t make the “sure, Republican presidents will do more bad things, but these bad things will generate more Uncle Sams on stilts” variant of the argument.
If you must vote third party because you’re too good for mere politics, I would again recommend writing in someone more knowledgeable about basic facts of American government, like Harambe.
Donald J. Trump has a cruel streak. He willfully causes pain and distress to others. And he repeats this public behavior so frequently that it’s fair to call it a character trait. Any single example would be off-putting but forgivable. Being shown many examples across many years should make any decent person recoil in disgust.
Judge for yourself if these examples qualify.
* * *
In national politics, harsh attacks are to be expected. I certainly don’t fault Trump for calling Hillary Clinton dishonest, or wrongheaded, or possessed of bad judgment, even if it’s a jarring departure from the glowing compliments that he used to pay her.
But even in a realm where the harshest critiques are part of the civic process, Trump crossed a line this week when he declared his intention to invite Gennifer Flowers to today’s presidential debate. What kind of man invites a husband’s former mistress to an event to taunt his wife? Trump managed to launch an attack that couldn’t be less relevant to his opponent’s qualifications or more personally cruel. His campaign and his running-mate later said that it was all a big joke. No matter. Whether in earnest or in jest, Trump showed his tendency to humiliate others.
Talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt, who is supporting Donald Trump in this year’s election, was subject to the cruel streak months ago while moderating a GOP debate. “A year ago you told me on my radio show—the audio and transcript are out there on YouTube—that you would release your tax returns,” Hewitt said to Trump. “First of all, very few people listen to your radio show,” Trump replied. “That’s the good news. Let me just tell you—which happens to be true. Check out the ratings.” Trump took pleasure in puffing himself up by being gratuitously cruel.
What quality within him causes him to lash out this way? It was on display again when Trump attacked the wife of his primary opponent Ted Cruz. Here is the tweet he sent:
What kind of person attacks a rival by mocking the appearance of his wife? For the whole of his presidential campaign, Trump has gleefully launched gutter attacks like this. And while a cruel streak directed solely at rivals would hardly be excusable, Trump doesn’t even have that excuse. After Chris Christie endorsed him, Trump attended a fundraiser with the New Jersey governor, and said this to the crowd: “I’m not eating Oreos anymore, you know that—but neither is Chris. You’re not eating Oreos anymore. No more Oreos. For either of us, Chris. Don’t feel bad.”
That’s who Trump is: If he’s in front of a crowd with an ally who has a weight problem, he’ll find an excuse to bring it up, to humiliate the ally, for no apparent reason.
And this penchant for purposeless cruelty goes beyond the political realm. “Heidi Klum. Sadly, she’s no longer a 10,” Trump said once for no apparent reason, baffling the model. “I’ve known Donald for many, many years. Personally I don’t know why he did it,” Klum said. “I don’t know what I have to do with a presidential campaign.” Imagine knowing someone for years, then having them attack your appearance for no reason on national TV. You’d think they were a sociopath.
The people closest to Trump have painful experience with this same quality. In September 1990, Marie Brenner wrote at length in Vanity Fair about how the billionaire humiliated Ivana Trump.
I first became aware of Donald Trump when he chose to make cheating on his first wife front-page news. Donald and Ivana Trump broke up over the course of months. Not that divorce is shocking, mind you. Among the glitterati marriage seems more unusual. Nor is infidelity exactly novel.
But it requires a particular breed of lowlife to advertise the sexual superiority of one’s mistress over the mother of one’s children. That was Trump’s style. He leaked stories to the New York tabloids about Ivana’s breast implants—they didn’t feel right. Marla Maples, by contrast, suited him better. She, proving her suitability for the man she was eager to steal from his family, told the papers that her encounters with the mogul were “the best sex I’ve ever had.” It wasn’t just Donald Trump’s betrayal that caught my eye, nor just the tawdriness—it was the cruelty.
What kind of person treats the mother of his children that way? Is there anyone to whom he wouldn’t be cruel? In fact, none of the examples offered thus far captures the depths of Trump’s cruelty. Understanding that requires hearing the story of the late Freddy Trump, the candidate’s older brother, who died an alcoholic in 1983. After college, Freddy had tried to join the family business, but his heart wasn’t in it. He became an airplane pilot, showing talent in the profession. When his heavy drinking posed a safety risk, however, he quit, and wound up living in an apartment owned by his father and working on one of his maintenance crews, even as his kid brother Donald began to make a name for himself.
Here is the jaw-dropping conclusion to the story, as reported in the New York Times:
In 1977, Donald asked Freddy to be the best man at his first wedding, to the Czech model Ivana Winklmayr, an honor Donald said he hoped would be “a good thing for him.” But the drinking continued, and four years later, Freddy was dead.
Over the next decades, Donald put the Trump name on skyscrapers, casinos and planes.
In 1999, the family patriarch died, and 650 people, including many real estate executives and politicians, crowded his funeral at Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue. But the drama was hardly put to rest. Freddy’s son, Fred III, spoke at the funeral, and that night, his wife went into labor with their son, who developed seizures that led to cerebral palsy. The Trump family promised that it would take care of the medical bills.
Then came the unveiling of Fred Sr.’s will, which Donald had helped draft. It divided the bulk of the inheritance, at least $20 million, among his children and their descendants, “other than my son Fred C. Trump Jr.” Freddy’s children sued, claiming that an earlier version of the will had entitled them to their father’s share of the estate, but that Donald and his siblings had used “undue influence” over their grandfather, who had dementia, to cut them out. A week later, Mr. Trump retaliated by withdrawing the medical benefits critical to his nephew’s infant child.
“I was angry because they sued,” he explained during last week’s interview.
I have to ask again.
What kind of billionaire withdraws the health insurance of an infant with cerebral palsy in a fit of pique? A person comfortable being cruel to others. “This was so shocking, so disappointing and so vindictive,” his niece Lisa Trump said at the time.
* * *
There are lots more stories to tell about Trump’s cruel streak. In the present campaign, he mocked John McCain for being captured and tortured while fighting for the United States in Vietnam and attacked the Gold Star Family that spoke at the Democratic National Convention after losing a son in Iraq. Many people know that years before Trump was a politician he feuded with a talk show host. “Well, Rosie O’Donnell is disgusting both inside and out,” he declared. “You look at her, she’s a slob. She talks like a truck driver… If I were running The View I’d look right in that fat ugly face of hers and say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’” What few people know is that later, when O’Donnell got engaged, Trump went on Twitter to write this:
I feel sorry for Rosie ‘s new partner in love whose parents are devastated at the thought of their daughter being with @Rosie–a true loser.
What kind of person rekindles a feud with insults on hearing that someone got engaged?
I could talk about Trump being cruel to others for another 20,000 words. But deep down, even many Trump supporters already know this truth about the man they’re supporting. They’re just so acclimated to his cruelty that they’ve stopped noticing it.
Enough. Wake up. Look at this man with fresh eyes.
People disagree about the ideal traits to have in a leader. But almost no one wants a president who has proven himself an addict to being cruel, mean-spirited, and spiteful. For decades, Trump has been deliberately cruel to others, often in the most public ways. He behaves this way flagrantly, showing no sign of shame or reflection.
What kind of person still acts that way at 70? A bad person.
It is that simple.
Giving a cruel man power and expecting that he won’t use it to inflict cruelty is madness. To vote for Trump, knowing all of this, is to knowingly empower cruelty.
If Facts Don’t Matter, Presidential Debates Are Just a Reality Show
By David Atkins
Janet Brown, the executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates has declared that the debates should be a fact-check-free zone:
“I think personally, if you start getting into fact-checking, I’m not sure. What is a big fact? What’s a little fact? And if you and I have different sources of information, does your source about the unemployment rate agree with my source? I don’t think it’s a good idea to get the moderator into essentially serving as the Encyclopedia Britannica.”
This is terrible on many levels. Debates are supposed to illustrate how the candidates would respond to a variety of policy challenges. Those challenges depend on having a shared set of facts: a 10% unemployment rate would create a very different policy environment from a 5% unemployment. If each candidate is claiming different unemployment statistics, you don’t have a debate. You have a noisy argument that sheds a lot of heat and no light. It’s a useless exercise.
Moreover, the example she gave is frankly bizarre. It’s one thing to dispute, say, models of economic growth or the efficacy of various foreign policy approaches. But the unemployment rate? That has a single reliable source: the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is literally the only legitimate source for unemployment numbers. There is a small debate within economic circles as to whether the BLS unemployment statistics appropriately reflect the reality of economic pain within the country, in terms of not counting people who stopped looking for work or potentially ignoring too many of the underemployed. Some people use a U6 model for unemploymentrather than a U3 model. But the starting point for any reasonable discussion of the unemployment rate is the official BLS number.
If one candidate says that unemployment is at 5% and the other candidate says it’s much higher, it’s absolutely the job of a moderator to inform the public that the official BLS statistics support one candidate’s assertion. The candidate trying to claim an alternate reality should then be pressed to say why they disbelieve the BLS, proving either that they’re a conspiracy monger, or potentially that they have a sophisticated critique of the government’s economic model–which would certainly be an interesting and informative conversation, but one that can only happen in the context of a single, authoritative factual source acknowledged by both candidates.
Republicans are still furious that Candy Crowley fact-checked Mitt Romney’s lies about Benghazi in 2012. But Crowley did precisely the right thing. When the candidates are presenting not just different perspectives but different versions of easily verifiable reality, it’s up to the press to ground the debate in fact.
Otherwise it’s just a spectacle, and one that damages the fabric of the country further as our country’s ideological tribes inhabit not just different cultures and geographies, but different understandings of reality entirely. That serves no one, and it’s the opposite of objective.
The Keith Lamont Scott Execution Video
By John Cole
I still, for the life of me, can not figure out why they did this. Why did they have to have him out of the damned truck. he wasn’t who they were looking for, he was in his truck minding his own business, and they dragged him out and shout him. He didn’t do anything threatening. His hands were at his sides. North Carolina is an open carry state. The cops were undercover. He probably thought he was being jacked or something.
There was literally no reason for them to do this. They could have easily backed up, secured the area, calmed down, assessed the situation, and de-escalated. There is no reason for this. None.
If anyone in the military behaved like this anywhere in the world, they would be court-martialed, dishonorably discharged, and probably sent to Leavenworth. There would be a thorough review of training policies, and tens of thousands of man hours would go into making sure something like this doesn’t happen again.
I didn’t know whether to laugh and roll my eyes or just cry when I saw that. I bet if you fucking scroll back the douchebag will be wearing a hazmat suit. It’s not even a half gram of weed. I haven’t smoked pot in, well, a while, and that’s not even enough to get a person high. Maybe a mild buzz and a craving for a milkshake. They wouldn’t even prosecute this- a half ounce (that’s 14 grams for you squares) gets you a $200 fine. It’s a class 3 misdemeanor, which, btw, just to remind you, is not punishable with the death penalty. They’d most likely just make you shred it in front of them if they caught you with it.
I mean, we’ve all heard the phrase “killer weed,” but they don’t mean it literally. But now, because a bunch of hotheads with gun and a badge killed a man for no reason, this pitiful joint (it’s a shitty roll, too, if that matters) is now causus belli for a public execution. And they didn’t even know he had it. And they wouldn’t have if they hadn’t fucked up and rolled up like fucking commandos on a dude at a bus stop waiting for his kid to come home from school.
Should we treat Chicago gun violence as a public health problem like HIV?
By Greg Camp
In the past, I’ve expressed my criticism of sloppy analogies between gun violence and disease, but that doesn’t mean that I see no valid ways to approach the use of guns to injure or kill thousands of Americans each year as a matter of public health. If we can keep the factors straight that are of the same form, making an analogy between two seemingly dissimilar situations can shake loose new ideas from the ruts in our thinking.
One example of this comes from Yale professor of sociology, Andrew V. Papachristos, who suggests that we look at gun violence as though it were a blood-borne pathogen, something like HIV. If he had said that gun violence is like a cold virus or is analogous to cancer caused by cosmic rays, that would be a bad attempt at comparison. But AIDS is a disease that results from a specific set of actions or negligence, well understood these days, or from accidental exposure. The latter—infection from the blood supply, for example—is much less frequent, thanks to the precautions that have been taken.
And in these respects, gun violence has a lot in common. The argument made by Papachristos, whose work has focused on gun homicides in Chicago, is that murder typically isn’t a random event, isn’t something like picking up a cold virus by opening a door or passing through a room. That should sound obvious, though much of gun control does treat gun violence as the sort of thing that just happens because guns are present. Advocates of control claim that we need to reduce the availability of guns in the same way that so many obsessively wipe every surface with antibiotics—even though, both in analogy and in the literal sense, such things are useless.
The problem is that Chicago’s violence has a lot about it that we don’t understand. Currently, the number of murders stands at 500 for this year, with no promise of peace in the remaining months. The laws are close to those in New York and were essentially identical for a long time. Unemployment is lower now than last year. New York had “stop and frisk,” while the Chicago police force has engaged in their own forms of aggressiveness. And yet, what has been tried hasn’t worked—if the goal is reducing violence, that is.
Papachristos says that the solution has to be of a similar nature to public health approaches to fighting AIDS. We don’t blanket the city. We treat infected persons and search out their sexual partners. He provides data from Chicago showing that forty percent of gun homicides occur in only four percent of the population. Working with those four percent would achieve much greater reductions in violence than the traditional strategies have done.
As Papachristos cautions, though, we must especially avoid the policies like the aforementioned “stop and frisk,” policies that use stereotyping as a substitute for good police work. We’re handed a choice here, to use good science to achieve the stated purpose of saving lives or to cling to failed methods in the hopes that punishing good people by curtailing their rights will work—this time, for the first time.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.
Kevin Drum made an interesting observation this morning – a lot of major central banks would like to see more inflation right now, but so far no one has pulled it off. A bunch of people replied that maybe one of the central banks should try printing a lot of money, so Drum pointed out that Japan already did that.
So the conclusion is…free money is really free? Can we print out the entire federal deficit? Alexander Hamilton would roll over in his grave, but think of the positive side. America would finally qualify for a decent mortgage rate. The Fed could mail fat envelopes of cash to everyone with a social security number. I bet that would poll pretty well.
I would guess* the answer has more to do with the psychological side of finance. Maybe printing money has no effect as long as everyone thinks that the bank is still being responsible. If international investors get nervous that the bank is really shooting the moon, maybe they will all get worried at the same time and all the bad stuff we associate with an inflation spike will kick in irreversibly all at once. Or maybe it’s not enough for the Fed to print money. Rich folks mostly just squirrel excess cash away in in some foreign account where it gathers fees and puffs up investment bubbles and generally doesn’t do anyone much good.
Perhaps you also need to get that scratchola into the hands of people who will reliably stimulate the economy with it. That is to say, poor people. If you give a poor person ten dollars they will spend most of it right away, in America, on stuff that supports jobs in America. Poor people all having enough money to buy eggs (and a refrigerator) will pretty much a priori make eggs (and refrigerators) more expensive. In my happy fantasy world where Republicans return the value of the air they consume, I can imagine coupling a major QE push with a comparable surge in infrastructure/jobs and safety net spending. Betcha ten bucks we would hit two percent inflation pretty quickly, and without the likely very bad consequences of the Fed just leaving the presses running until China and Europe hit the panic button.
(*) Professor Krugman is trying to knock a stuck bag of Welch’s fruit snacks free from a vending machine, so I’m just going to sit in his chair here for a minute and write this. Don’t tell him, ok?
«Perhaps you also need to get that scratchola into the hands of people who will reliably stimulate the economy with it. That is to say, poor people. If you give a poor person ten dollars they will spend most of it right away, in America, on stuff that supports jobs in America. Poor people all having enough money to buy eggs (and a refrigerator) will pretty much a priori make eggs (and refrigerators) more expensive.»
“Q: Are we any closer to understanding the root cause of gravity between objects with mass? Can we use our newly discovered knowledge of the Higgs boson or gravitational waves to perhaps negate mass or create/negate gravity?”
A person by name Bill Andrews (unknown to me) gives the following answer:
“A: Sorry, Jeff, but scientists still don’t really know why gravity works. In a way, they’ve just barely figured out how it works.”
The answer continues, but let’s stop right there where the nonsense begins. What’s that even mean that scientists don’t know “why” gravity works? And did the Bill person really think he could get away with swapping “why” for a “how” and nobody would notice?
The purpose of science is to explain observations. We have a theory by name General Relativity that explains literally all data of gravitational effects. Indeed, that General Relativity is so dramatically successful is a great frustration for all those people who would like to revolutionize science a la Einstein. So in which sense, please, do scientists barely know how it works?
For all we can presently tell gravity is a fundamental force, which means we have no evidence for an underlying theory from which gravity could be derived. Sure, theoretical physicists are investigating whether there is such an underlying theory that would give rise to gravity as well as the other interactions, a “theory of everything”. (Please submit nomenclature complaints to your local language police, not to me.) Would such a theory of everything explain “why” gravity works? No, because that’s not a meaningful scientific question. A theory of everything could potentially explain how gravity can arise from more fundamental principles similar to, say, the ideal gas law can arise from statistical properties of many atoms in motion. But that still wouldn’t explain why there should be something like gravity, or anything, in the first place.
Either way, even if gravity arises within a larger framework like, say, string theory, the effects of what we call gravity today would still come about because energy-densities (and related quantities like pressure and momentum flux and so on) curve space-time, and fields move in that space-time. Just that these quantities might no longer be fundamental. We’ve known since 101 years how this works.
After a few words on Newtonian gravity, the answer continues:
“Because the other forces use “force carrier particles” to impart the force onto other particles, for gravity to fit the model, all matter must emit gravitons, which physically embody gravity. Note, however, that gravitons are still theoretical. Trying to reconcile these different interpretations of gravity, and understand its true nature, are among the biggest unsolved problems of physics.”
Reconciling which different interpretations of gravity? These are all the same “interpretation.” It is correct that we don’t know how to quantize gravity so that the resulting theory remains viable also when gravity becomes strong. It’s also correct that the force-carrying particle associated to the quantization – the graviton – hasn’t been detected. But the question was about gravity, not quantum gravity. Reconciling the graviton with unquantized gravity is straight-forward – it’s called perturbative quantum gravity – and exactly the reason most theoretical physicists are convinced the graviton exists. It’s just that this reconciliation breaks down when gravity becomes strong, which means it’s only an approximation.
“But, alas, what we do know does suggest antigravity is impossible.”
That’s correct on a superficial level, but it depends on what you mean by antigravity. If you mean by antigravity that you can let any of the matter which surrounds us “fall up” it’s correct. But there are modifications of general relativity that have effects one can plausibly call anti-gravitational. That’s a longer story though and shall be told another time.
A sensible answer to this question would have been:
The recent detection of gravitational waves has been another confirmation of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, which still explains all the gravitational effects that physicists know of. According to General Relativity the root cause of gravity is that all types of energy curve space-time and all matter moves in this curved space-time. Near planets, such as our own, this can be approximated to good accuracy by Newtonian gravity.
There isn’t presently any observation which suggests that gravity itself emergens from another theory, though it is certainly a speculation that many theoretical physicists have pursued. There thus isn’t any deeper root for gravity because it’s presently part of the foundations of physics. The foundations are the roots of everything else.
The discovery of the Higgs boson doesn’t tell us anything about the gravitational interaction. The Higgs boson is merely there to make sure particles have mass in addition to energy, but gravity works the same either way. The detection of gravitational waves is exciting because it allows us to learn a lot about the astrophysical sources of these waves. But the waves themselves have proved to be as expected from General Relativity, so from the perspective of fundamental physics they didn’t bring news.
Within the incredibly well confirmed framework of General Relativity, you cannot negate mass or its gravitational pull.
You might also enjoy hearing what Richard Feynman had to say when he was asked a similar question about the origin of the magnetic force:
This answer really annoyed me because it’s a lost opportunity to explain how well physicists understand the fundamental laws of nature.
Come for the theoretical physics pedantry, stay for the always-awesome Feynman interview.