Weekend Links

Gratuitous photo of me chilling with a friend’s dog during my visit home last month.

Today was the first day of classes at our English training school here in Dali, Yunnan Province. This semester I have three classes, each two hours. I am exhausted tonight. It usually takes me two weeks to get back into teaching shape. Teaching English as a foreign language to kids, you’re on your feet pretty much the entire class playing games, using the whiteboard, presenting new words and language patterns, and giving kids attention when they have group or individual tasks. That means I was on my feet and on mentally, switching between English and Chinese, for six hours. Cry me a river, I know, but wow do I feel like having a beer and watching some TV.

On American politics, where else can we start but with Donald Trump and what went down in Chicago? This BBC report has the story and raises some fair questions. It’s obviously not ideal that violence erupted yet again and that Trump felt compelled to cancel his rally. This just seems bad on both sides, though I haven’t gone through the reporting or footage in any depth. But, in true both-side-do-it fashion, there is an element of “why are you making us look like racists by protesting our racist rhetoric and making us get into fights with you” going on here.

I’m conflicted about the effectiveness of these Trump protests. For one thing, I doubt they have any influence over the direction of the Republican nomination contest at this point. Trump’s core supporters are locked in and every other candidate understands they need those voters to win the nomination outright or steal it from Trump at the convention and still have any chance in the general election. If anything, the protests probably encourage Trump supporters to close ranks and feel that Trump must be saying something right. After all, from their perspective, Trump’s speeches and his supporters’ behavior at his rallies are making all the right people angry. This Trump thing is more tribal than it is anything else.

For all we know, the clashes may be encouraging Republicans repulsed by Trump to default to their tribal allegiance. Still, I don’t mean to suggest that protesters should sit idly by and let Trump’s movement go unchallenged. Really, there are no good options here.

Some links:

  • It’d be nice if a gift for clairvoyance, or profound political acumen, explained my getting this Trump movement right back in August of last year. Alas, there was no secret. It was just understanding what motivates a large and enthusiastic plurality of Republican voters. This information’s been hiding in plain sight for decades, and has been lit up in neon since a certain president with a certain skin color took office in 2009. Also, I should credit professor of law Paul Campos, whom I read over at Lawyers, Guns & Money, for pointing out in July 2015 that Trump needed to be taken seriously, likening his candidacy to Ronald Reagan’s.
  • Campos again, writing at Salon about the bill of goods the Republican elite has been selling the base since Reagan. Read the whole thing after you pick your jaw up from the floor:

Here are the numbers: between 1945 and 1974, per capita GDP in the U.S. grew from $17,490 to $27,837.  That is an impressive improvement, but it pales in comparison to what has happened since: in 2014, per capita GDP was $55,185, i.e., almost exactly double what it was in 1974.  In terms of economic output, the country is twice as rich per person now as it was then.

Where has all this money gone?  The answer ought to shock anyone who cares about either economic opportunity or increasing inequality.  The average household income of the bottom 50% of American households was $25,475 in 1974, and $26,520  in 2014.  In other words, half the population has gotten essentially none of the extra $10 trillion dollars of national wealth that the American economy has generated over the past forty years.

  • Josh Marshall with a reliably useful take on the most recent Republican debate.
  • Also at Marshall’s site TPM, here’s an article reminding us that Trump has been encouraging his supporters to get violent. I don’t know how we would read his comments any other way, or why we would think his supporters would hear or read them any other way.
  • Hillary Clinton does make it hard sometimes. In trying to find something nice to say upon Nancy Reagan’s passing, she just completely made stuff up about Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s HIV/AIDS record. They basically couldn’t have had a worse record. Clinton has retracted and apologized, and it’s plausible that she misspoke, but this was bad. Read Dan Savage’s appropriately outraged take on this, and listen to the embedded audio if you can stomach listening to Reagan’s administration and the press laugh and joke about the burgeoning epidemic. And yes, it’s as bad as I just made it sound.
  • Ending on a somewhat lighter note, here’s Jonathan Chait on the top-notch advice Marco Rubio has received in the past several weeks. Hopefully Rubio’s admirers’ will start cursing Trump with their wisdom.

Enjoy the weekend. Time for that beer and some idiot box.


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