Monday, August 31, 2015

What Goes Around

Conservative media and Fox News in particular have spent years - decades, if you count talk radio - training their audiences to believe that exhortations against sexism and racism are nothing but the “political correctness” police trying to kill your good time. ... You can’t tell people, day in and day out, that nothing is more fun than putting some mouthy broad in her place and then get upset when they continue to think it’s fun, even when the mouthy broad is one of yours.

-- Amanda Marcotte "Why Fox News' Defense of Megyn Kelly is Going to Backfire"

This week's featured articles are "Hey, Nerds! Politics is a System. Figure it out." and "Protesting in Your Dreams".

This week everybody was talking about Hurricane Katrina

which hit New Orleans ten years ago Saturday. A bunch of interesting retrospectives have appeared.

Slate posted "The Myths of Katrina", including the notion that "no one could have predicted" what happened. In fact, the gist of the disaster appeared in a local newspaper article three years earlier: the levee failures, and what would happen next:

Amid this maelstrom, the estimated 200,000 or more people left behind in an evacuation will be struggling to survive. Some will be housed at the Superdome, the designated shelter in New Orleans for people too sick or infirm to leave the city. Others will end up in last-minute emergency refuges that will offer minimal safety. But many will simply be on their own, in homes or looking for high ground.

... Hundreds of thousands would be left homeless, and it would take months to dry out the area and begin to make it livable. But there wouldn’t be much for residents to come home to. The local economy would be in ruins

The anniversary is an ambivalent moment. New Orleans is a viable city again, so that's worth celebrating. But the recovery has been uneven, with upscale neighborhoods rebuilding quickly and many poorer areas still full of abandoned homes.

The new New Orleans is a smaller, somewhat wealthier, and definitely whiter city; about 100,000 of its black Katrina-refugees never returned. As 538 elucidates, these losses were concentrated among middle-income and upper-income blacks, particularly the young professionals. Among whites it's the reverse: young white professionals and entrepreneurs are flocking in. Jacobin comments about one gentrifying neighborhood:

The declining poverty rate does not speak to some miraculous redistribution of wealth to working-class families, but rather to their forced exit amid a corresponding influx of high-income residents.

and another shooting

This one happened on live television.

With every new shooting, we go through the motions of trying to put gun control back on the agenda. But (as Dan Hodges summed up in a tweet) Newtown really kicked the life out of that movement. If massacres of white professional-class school children are acceptable, requiring not even a smidgen of change, it's hard to raise energy to try again.

If you do decide to try again, Vox has collected data for you and presented it well. Two things stood out for me:

  • We're averaging about one mass shooting (i.e., 4+ victims) per day. So if the aftermath of a mass shooting is not an appropriate time to talk about gun control (because that would "politicize tragedy"), then there will never be an appropriate time.
  • States with a lot of guns have about the same number of suicides-by-other-means as states with fewer guns, but quadruple the number of firearm-suicides. It's hard to escape the conclusion that guns cause suicides. Remember that the next time you think about buying a gun. Someday you'll be depressed, and you'll know that gun is sitting there.

and 2016

A second poll confirms that Bernie Sanders really is ahead in New Hampshire. Another poll suggests he's making serious gains in Iowa.

I'm getting increasingly annoyed at the media coverage of both Sanders and Clinton.

You know which 2016 candidate is consistently drawing the biggest crowds? Not Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders. (BTW, Sanders beats Trump 45%-37% in a head-to-head match-up. So which one is the more serious candidate?)

And yet Bernie's ability to draw a crowd is not news. Whether Trump's recent rally in Alabama was bigger or smaller than Sanders' rallies Portland and Los Angeles is open to interpretation. (Some estimates of Trump's crowd were marginally larger than Sanders'.) But what's not open to interpretation is the coverage: The news networks hyped Trump's rally before it happened and treated it like a major event afterwards. But the sizes of Sanders' crowds, when they get mentioned at all, are presented as weird little factoids.

When Sanders gets encouraging poll numbers, like the recent NH and Iowa ones I just mentioned, nobody says, "Wow! People really like this guy." Nobody focuses on what he's saying or why it's inspiring so much enthusiasm. Instead, the story is about Clinton's weakness: Democrats are so dissatisfied with Hillary that even Bernie Sanders might beat her in New Hampshire and Iowa.

And that brings me to the Clinton coverage, which has been even worse. The only stories you hear about Clinton consist of something-might-be-wrong-somewhere speculation about her emails. And yet, if you stick to the facts, it's hard to justify the claim that anything actually is wrong. I've had a hard time finding a clear statement of what might be wrong, or a clear accusation whose truth or falsehood could be established. Quite likely this is Benghazi or Filegate or Vince Foster all over again.

I don't see the media applying this maybe-something-somewhere-might-turn-out-to-be-bad standard to any other candidate. Rick Perry is under indictment. Scott Walker had an election-fraud investigation quashed under questionable circumstances by Wisconsin's partisan Supreme Court. Like Clinton, Jeb Bush used a private email account while governor, and decided for himself which emails to release to the public. Marco Rubio has received "hundreds of thousands of dollars" of personal assistance from a billionaire he's done political favors for.

Is any of that getting Clinton-style coverage? Coverage based on imagining what might turn out to be wrong (if new incriminating evidence somehow appears) rather than restricting attention to what we actually know? I'm not saying those stories should get that kind of attention, but why is the Clinton-email story getting it?

Frank Bruni explores the mystery of why Donald Trump seems to be the choice of the GOP's Evangelical Christian wing:

Let me get this straight. If I want the admiration and blessings of the most flamboyant, judgmental Christians in America, I should marry three times, do a queasy-making amount of sexual boasting, verbally degrade women, talk trash about pretty much everyone else while I’m at it, encourage gamblers to hemorrhage their savings in casinos bearing my name and crow incessantly about how much money I’ve amassed?

Has anybody seen a camel pass through the eye of a needle lately? That would explain it. Crooks and Liars compares Trump's indifference to religion in his own life to Dick Cheney's draft-dodging:

Right-wingers ... don't really care about whether a candidate or elected official has lived in accordance with their values. What they want is a candidate or elected official who will use their values (or, frankly, use anything) as a club to beat the people they don't like -- Democrats, liberals, immigrants, Muslims.

A standard applause line at Trump rallies is when he says the Bible is his favorite book, but when pressed in an interview to pick out one or two favorite verses, he had no answer. In her recent interview with Trump, Sarah Palin referred to this as a "gotcha" question -- I suppose because you can't expect a good Christian to remember phrases like "the 23rd Psalm" or "the Sermon on the Mount" off the top of his head.

Trump hasn't produced any TV ads yet. (Whether or not he'll spend the serious money necessary to buy TV time is my main criterion for determining whether he's seriously running for president or just using his campaign to build his brand.) So Jimmy Kimmel made one for him.

Kimmel satirizes of the vagueness of Trump's message, but that's precisely what makes it dangerous: Trump's vaguely targeted anger allows his audiences to imagine him railing against whatever makes them angry. Hence the calls of "white power" from his Alabama supporters.

The New Yorker has more:

On June 28th, twelve days after Trump’s announcement, the Daily Stormer, America’s most popular neo-Nazi news site, endorsed him for President: “Trump is willing to say what most Americans think: it’s time to deport these people.” The Daily Stormer urged white men to “vote for the first time in our lives for the one man who actually represents our interests.” ...

Jared Taylor, the editor of American Renaissance, a white-nationalist magazine and Web site based in Oakton, Virginia, told me, in regard to Trump, “I’m sure he would repudiate any association with people like me, but his support comes from people who are more like me than he might like to admit.”

Trump also has earned the support of David Duke and various other white nationalists. He hasn't sought their endorsements, but he doesn't have to. He's angry at a lot of the same people they hate. The exact why doesn't matter.

Another implication of vagueness is even scarier: Without a lot of specific policy ideas, or a coherent political philosophy, or a political viewpoint expressed consistently through the years, the Trump campaign by default becomes a cult of personality. Trump's America will be "great again" not because of any specific thing it will do, but because of him. Our greatness will follow from the greatness of our leader.

I think that's why words like fascist are starting to crop up, and comparisons to Europe's far-right movements.

and you also might be interested in ...

When talking about the poor, it helps to have data about who they are.

Here's the scariest thing I saw this week. A front page contributor on Red State comments:

There is no vocal advocate of Donald Trump’s GOP candidacy in 2016 that would tell you this publically, but I’ll bet $20 that a significant plurality of Trump’s backers feel what the women in this Youtube video below feel on a daily basis. They would only demur because they are sick and tired of being accused of racism for feeling the way they feel.

and let's close with some reassurance

Whatever you did this week, you didn't screw up this badly.

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