Tuesday Links

Are you ready for more email scandals? No? Good, you’re in luck because emails are only scandalous when Hillary Clinton or one of her aides sends and receives them. By Loteriademedellin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Hard to believe the election was already a week ago. Life goes on, but it has been disorienting. A loved one turned off Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” in favor of Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open” the other day. I don’t know anything anymore.

  1. Steve Bannon becoming chief strategist for President-elect Donald Trump’s White House should be the story of the week, the month, the transition period – really, for whatever amount of time he holds power. Ignoring Bannon’s run as head of Breitbart and the white nationalists, racists, misogynists, and anti-Semites who correctly note that Bannon’s elevation also empowers them is whistling past the graveyard.
  2. Paul Ryan wants to destroy Medicare. Many Trump and third party voters don’t understand that’s what they just voted for, because Trump ran on preserving Medicare (as well as Social Security and Medicaid, also likely to be on the chopping block in Ryan and Mitch McConnell’s congress.) Josh Marshall, whose Talking Points Memo helped illuminate George W. Bush’s efforts to destroy Social Security back in 2005, is on the case again. Call your representative, your senators, and even Ryan’s offices in order to find out where they stand and start putting pressure on them to defend Medicare. I would not bet on Trump vetoing legislation. This fight is going to have to be won in the House and/or the Senate.
  3. Vice President-elect Mike Pence is involved in his own email scandal (warning: auto-play video at link). Pence’s situation, unlike the pseudo-scandal of Hillary Clinton’s email, actually has a clear motive. Pence wants to hide communications he’s had around using public money to fight President Obama’s actions on immigration. I look forward to the nation’s new and sincere email management and transparency voters taking Pence to task for his efforts to shield his emails from the public.
  4. Protests against Trump’s election are potentially useful for a few reasons: they can remind the country that neither a plurality nor a majority of the 2016 electorate voted for Trump, they can encourage passion and help build community among protesters, and they demonstrate strength to resist some of the malignant forces Trump’s presidency threatens to unleash. However… violence and/or destruction of property should be condemned. They are not necessary and will only distract from the genuine issues at stake. Also, reports like this one out of Portland, Oregon that find many non-voters among the protesters probably get Trump voters and Clinton voters to agree on one thing, at least: grow up and get your ass to the polls next time. To be clear, I’m not saying you don’t have a right to peaceful protest if you didn’t vote. I’m saying nobody is going to listen to you because in a democracy, you don’t matter unless you vote.
  5. Not sure what to make of the turmoil in the Trump transition team. While bad news for Chris Christie warms the hearts of humans everywhere, the lack of experienced, competent and decent people willing to work for Trump’s government is concerning.

Whomever you voted for, stay informed and hold Trump and his unified Republican government accountable. I plan to provide a links roundup once or twice a week, in addition to writing one or two of my own essays a week. Feel free to share other articles and essays we should read in comments or in an email. Have a great day!


Weekend Links

8-13-16 dinner
I’m happy to be back in the U.S.

With my wife out of the country on a business trip, I spent the weekend with my parents on the Jersey shore. Lovely if hot beach day yesterday, capped off with one of my favorite dinners: lobster! My mom found them at the supermarket at $5.99 a pound, so why not? We grilled them, which was easy and we all thought tastier than boiling. Although neither preparation method is likely to get the lobsters’ endorsement. Anyway, to grill them: brush the lobsters with olive oil, place them backs down on grill preheated to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit, flip them after six or seven minutes, then grill for another six or seven. Serve with melted butter, and our sides were baked potatoes and grilled corn on the cob. Delicious!

Some links:

  • Murdering lobsters and then writing about it the next day requires one to provide a link to David Foster Wallace’s great essay about the Maine Lobster Festival: “Consider the Lobster.”
  • Donald Trump’s suggestion that 2nd Amendment fanatics might be able to do something about President Hillary Clinton’s appointees to the Supreme Court is just the latest in a long line of similar rhetoric from Republican candidates, officials, and their supporters.  And that “do something” is assassination. Words have meaning and to argue that’s not what Trump was saying is to be a hack or someone who does not understand the language. Ed Kilgore has a brief history, with examples, of people on the political right suggesting violence is appropriate when they don’t win elections.
  • On the bright side, as Scott Lemieux notes in a hilariously titled post “Donald Trump’s Plan of Committing Massive Blunders While Not Advertising Is Going Well”, Trump is losing badly in states that are must-wins for him if he’s going to have any chance of reaching 270 electoral votes.
  • On top of poor showings in battleground states, Trump’s candidacy is managing to put Arizona, Georgia, and Utah (!) in play!
  • Trump is in fourth place nationally with African American voters. That’s right, fourth place. Jill Stein, whom the average American couldn’t pick out of a lineup of two people, is ahead of Trump. Sad!

Enjoy your Sunday!

Weekend Links

I’ll start with a couple of pictures that capture aspects of my life here in Dali, Yunnan Province. I’m leaving for good in seven weeks, so I really ought to do more of this. Yesterday evening, there was a bit of rain and then around 6:45 p.m. we were treated to a rainbow stretching across the width of the lake. Some people in my WeChat took pictures from the lakeshore that put mine to shame. But yeah, spectacular scenery is something I’m going to miss.

Also pictured is a bowl of noodles I eat once a week called zhájiàng miàn (炸酱面). When my wife and I lived closer to the restaurant, I was eating it twice or three times a week. It’s wheat noodles bathed in a brown pork sauce, with some sprouts and greens mixed in. Also, there’s a fixings station where I add cilantro, chives, and ground chili pepper. Wow, is it good! If anyone wants to open a Chinese noodle shop that makes a reasonable approximation of this near Duncan Avenue in Jersey City, I’ll single-handedly keep you in business.

Onto some of the articles I read this week:

  • If you read one thing I recommend all year, make it this piece about in-groups and out-groups. It’s very long but entirely worth it. In a general election where many of us are going to wonder how it’s possible that Donald Trump will win at minimum 45% of the popular vote, it’s important both to look in the mirror and to wrestle with the tribal nature of Americans’ voting behavior. I came to this by way of Nate Silver’s attempt to explain the decisive movement in Trump’s direction by the Republican electorate over the last few weeks.
  • In my post about Trump’s emergence as presumptive nominee, I mentioned that the Democratic Party has many advantages in the electoral college. Ed Kilgore explains that if the Democratic nominee carries every state the party has carried since 1992, plus Florida, that’s 271 electoral college votes and it’s all over (270 needed to win). And Florida is looking all kinds of bad for Trump. That’s a Democratic victory WITHOUT Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Virginia, all of which are battleground states President Obama won in at least one of the last two presidential elections.
  • Jonathan Chait wonders how Republicans limit Trump’s damage to their down ballot races and their brand, and comes up empty.
  • There are several reporters and commentators that helped me take Trump seriously earlier than most of American media. Charles Pierce, who writes for Esquire and has been a tireless chronicler of the madness in the Republican Party, is one of those authors and here he is on how Ted Cruz paved the way for his vanquisher.
  • Josh Marshall, another writer I rely on who was in early on Trump being the nominee, has two good ones over at Talking Points Memo about Trump: first, there is no mystery about Trump winning the nomination if you were watching the data this whole time, and second, Trump begins his general election campaign with a blatantly unconstitutional, not to mention economically illiterate, idea about not paying U.S. debts.

Long day of teaching and I still need to make a batch of tomato sauce. We’re having two of our older groups of kids come to the school tomorrow evening for a DIY pizza party. I’ll try to remember to take pictures.

Enjoy the weekend!

Weekend Links

Female soldiers honor Women's Suffrage Day
If women can still vote on November 8, 2016, the Republican Party is doomed. Sad! Soldiers at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan with the 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion performed a skit depicting the women’s suffrage movement, Aug. 24. This month marked the 93rd anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote. Congress passed the 19th Amendment was on June 4, 1919 it was then ratified Aug. 18, 1920. (Photo by 1Lt. Amanda Cookman, 87th CSSB) By 1st Lt. Amanda Cookman (https://www.dvidshub.net/image/1008171) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 

Some of the articles I read this week:

  • Hillary Clinton has adopted more liberal policies during her campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination in response to a strong Bernie Sanders challenge and a liberal shift among Democrats. Pressure from the grassroots is how change happens. Some people may call this flip-flopping, but we can also call it democratic responsiveness to the will of one’s supporters. For example, better that Clinton has publicly promised to protect and expand Social Security than otherwise, whatever her personal feelings.
  • Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) restoring the voting franchise to 200,000 Virginia citizens is a good example of how politicians tend to enact policies under pressure from their supporters, even if we think those politicians are centrist hacks. Change often ends with a political leader rather than begins with him or her. As Scott Lemieux explains, “In the end, presidents lead coalitions.”
  • On a related note, while trying to engage political opponents is good, Sanders supporters would do better by focusing on pressuring the party that shares their interests rather than pretending that the Tea Party is full of closet democratic socialists.
  • Donald Trump figured out how to hack the Republican nomination contest.
  • However, in doing so, Trump has alienated the largest voting force in American politics: women. Conservatives like to minimize these problems Republicans have with certain voting groups by railing against “identity politics” (let’s briefly mention two problems with this: first, it’s a category error to conflate interests and identity, and second, it’s a blatant double standard that somehow it’s bad for Democrats to appeal to certain groups based on their interests, such as reproductive health, while it’s okay for Republicans to appeal to certain groups based on their interests, such as discrimination against LGBT citizens). Josh Marshall puts it in terms of “political bilingualism” in which the two likely candidates, Trump and Clinton, speak mutually unintelligible politics. The problem for Trump is that his language is understood by fewer and fewer people. Trump’s going to need a repeal of the 19th Amendment in order to win the general election.
  • The Republican Party is really, really unpopular.
  • Ed Kilgore interviews an expert on the Republican nomination-process and learns that it’s possible to thwart Trump if he doesn’t reach the majority threshold of 1,237 first ballot-pledged delegates, but hey, who knows at this point.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Weekend Links

Central Park New York skyline
Thank you, New York, for sharing your values with Ted Cruz. By dronepicr (Central Park New York skyline) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Here are some articles I read this week (update below):

  • One of the many myths that Americans believe about our politics is that politicians don’t keep their promises. Professor of political science Timothy Hill explains at FiveThirtyEight that elected officials tend to keep most of their promises.
  • In a response to a comment about “An Open Letter to Sanders Supporters” I mentioned that progressive defenders of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party need to get constructive about how the Bernie Sanders faction can leverage its size and energy for actual influence within the Democratic Party. For now, let me outsource that to James Downie at The Washington Post.
  • Sanders probably would have done better in New York – but he still wouldn’t have won – if the state had reasonable deadlines for voter and party registration. Scott Lemieux argues that New York needs to change its policies on these matters. Lemieux also notes that even with more reasonable deadlines, closed primaries are justified and the special snowflakes too pure to soil themselves by identifying with a major party need to get over themselves.
  • Ed Kilgore, who now writes at New York Magazine, finds Republicans saying exactly what I’ve always feared about Sanders – he’s exactly who they are dying to run against. I may disagree with Republicans about most policies, but I’ll give them this: they know how to exploit weakness and win elections. I don’t doubt for a second that by the end of the summer Sanders’ favorables would be underwater after a sustained red-baiting attack. All the general election polls that show Sanders running stronger than Clinton against all comers are really quite meaningless and won’t correlate with November until American voters start paying attention in July after the conventions.
  • New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait finds John Kasich doing an unfortunate impersonation of William H. Macy’s character from Fargo during an interview with The Washington Post. Kilgore finds the Kasich campaign doing none of the things it actually needs to do in order to be relevant at the convention in Cleveland. Turns out Not Moderate Kasich is also Not Not Full of It Kasich and Not Competent Campaigner Kasich.

Enjoy the weekend and this classic Fargo clip!




Update: I pressed “publish” before I read about Prince’s unfortunately young death at the age of 57. Via Jesse David Fox at Vulture, start, continue, or end your own rabbit hole appreciation of the man and his music with this awesome guitar solo during George Harrison’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction:

Weekend Links

dali cloudy morning
View from my window here in Dali, Yunnan Province on a recent morning.
dali sun rays ila
View from our school this morning.

Some links for the weekend:

  • New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait wrote a few good pieces recently. Here he is on the stakes of the 2016 election for the environment, the pragmatic tradition of African American voters given that the American system almost always requires compromise and gradual, incremental change, and the questions New York Democrats – and really, all Democrats and Democratic Party-leaners – need to consider when voting in this year’s primaries.
  • Also in New York Magazine, reporter Gabriel Sherman has a fascinating article on Donald Trump’s campaign. Sherman deserves a Pulitzer just for the fact-checking technique he uses in this paragraph alone:
    • Trump is cheap, and proud of it. Indeed, Lewandowski’s bonus for winning New Hampshire was a paltry $50,000. It’s part of Trump’s central argument: He will run the government like a business. (Though, truth be told, there are few businesses that operate the way his does: Trump’s company is primarily a marketing vehicle at this point, licensing his name to other firms’ developments.) “I don’t spend much money,” he told me. “In New Hampshire, I spent $2 million” — actually $3.7 million — “Bush spent $48 million” — actually $36.1 million — “I came in first in a landslide, he came in sixth” — actually fourth. “Who do you want as your president?”

  • Bernie Sanders apparently does not know what he’s talking about when it comes to the policies behind some of his signature rhetoric. That’s a problem if you want to be the grown-up in the room come November. Though, not knowing what they’re talking about rarely seems to be a problem for Republican candidates. Anyway, while I’m fine with Sanders as the nominee, his coming up empty on policy makes it a bit harder to Feel the Bern.
  • Speaking of not feeling it, Josh Marshall lets Sanders and his campaign have it for claims that Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president. As an advocate for vote the party not the individual, I think that Sanders – while it’s his right to campaign as he sees fit – is playing with fire here.
  • Good on a former Republican staffer in Wisconsin for being honest about what motivates strict voter ID laws: knowledge that such laws restrict minority and younger voter participation, taking away Democratic votes.
  • Speaking of Wisconsin, here’s my recap of the primaries there on Tuesday.

Have a great weekend!

Weekend Links

rainbow farm
My colleague and I on the roof of a house owned by a Chinese couple who have a small plot of land between Dali Old Town and Erhai (the lake).

With the weather so nice here during spring, though it gets very windy in the afternoons, we’ve decided to hold at least one outdoor event for the students at our school this semester. A Chinese couple has been kind enough to offer us the use of their space, and it’s about as good as we’re going to find. There’s a patch of flat land covered in grass that should be big enough for games and a picnic. It’s actually a challenge to find such places in urban China sometimes. Unless you have access to a school, there are few sports fields that are open to the public. Many parks just aren’t big and open enough, and the few that are suitable tend to be covered in signs telling you not to step on the grass.

Crazy week in politics, though they’re probably all going to be crazy going forward.

  • Find my election numbers crunching of the Republican race here and the Democratic race here.
  • So, this is literally true: Donald Trump retweeted an image juxtaposing an unflattering image of Ted Cruz’s wife with a flattering image of Trump’s own wife, the latter one taken a long time ago. When you read the text overlaying the images, it’s clear that the only conceivable purpose of this is to insult a woman’s looks. The Party of Lincoln, everyone!
  • Josh Marshall reminds us that Trump’s women bashing doesn’t play well outside of his base, and links to a good article by Franklin Foer about Trump’s misogyny. I’m not kidding here, if Trump and Hillary Clinton are the nominees, what’s the over/under on number of days it takes after the general election begins on July 29th before Trump calls Clinton a b-word or c-word or something similarly awful? A week? A month? If anyone wants to bet that it takes more than a month, I’ll send you my bank account information now so you can just go ahead and wire me the money.
  • As if the Republican race weren’t already in the gutter, the National Enquirer – published by a friend of Trump – has a story suggesting Cruz has had five mistresses. Gary Legum, author of the linked piece, after providing relevant details about the situation, goes on to make a good point: the Republican Establishment still has no idea how to play gutterball with Trump.
  • If not moderate John Kasich insists on staying in the race even though he’s mathematically eliminated from winning a majority of delegates before the convention starts, a Cruz-Kasich two front war to deny Trump a majority would have to look like this.
  • Bernie Sanders could win big in the state of Washington today, which awards 101 delegates. If he doesn’t win at least 70% of them, while also doing well in Hawaii (25 delegates) and Alaska (16 delegates) which also go today, he’ll be in worse position than he was going into the weekend.
  • Ending on a no politics but sad note: Garry Shandling passed away at the age of 66. Go here to see Conan O’Brien’s touching opening monologue tribute to the late comedian. The Larry Sanders Show, Shandling’s masterpiece, is AWESOME. If you haven’t watched it and have the money and the time, buy the DVDs.