Trump, Jr. Under the Bus

I’m in Israel at the moment, attending a scientific conference. So I’ve been a bit out of the loop, politically. But the revelation that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected attorney in the hopes of turning up dirt on Hillary Clinton is extremely bad. Probably not Trump-will-be-impeached bad but unethical, slimy and disgusting. The best defense I’ve heard — I mean other than “the media lies about stuff the White House is telling them!” — is that he was too dumb to know that this was a bad thing to do.

We’re gonna have four years of this garbage. It’s only going to get worse.

Update: Jesus Christ.

It’s Idiocy All the Way Down

Let me see if I can follow the train of events here.

  • Last week, Donald Trump posted a gif that someone had made of him “beating” a guy at a wrestling event as part of the act. They had put CNN’s logo over the face of the other actor so it appeared as though Trump were beating down CNN. This was kind of stupid.
  • The media, of course, gave it non-stop coverage to the detriment of major news stories such as North Korea’s missile test, the G20 summit and the AHCA debate. Some called it a threat of violence although it was clearly, in a legal sense, no such thing. This was really stupid.
  • It was then discovered that the gif came from a thread on Reddit, the human sewer of the internet. That the Trump team is plumbing the depths of Reddit for tweets by the President of the United States is incredibly stupid.
  • CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski then decided to track down the person who made the gif — a Reddit user by the name of HansAssholeSolo. Because apparently this was of interest to anyone. The user, fearing exposure, issued a groveling apology, saying that he was just shitposting and didn’t mean to offend anyone. This was unbelievably stupid from everyone.
  • CNN’s report on Han ended in the note that it wasn’t revealing his identify because he was a private citizen and had apologized. According to them, the legal department then added the note, “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.” Whatever the intention of that statement was, it crossed almost everyone who read it as a threat. This was not only monumentally stupid, but kind of evil.

The internet erupted over that last line and for very good reason. It’s horrible that people feel the need to go on the internet and be bigoted trolls. But the punishment in this case — doxxing the user — would be massively out of proportion to the crime. Being exposed for putting bad or controversial stuff on the internet can ruin someone’s life. They lose jobs, they get threats, they get harassment. It is the Sword of Damocles that hangs over all of us who comment on blogs, Twitter or even Facebook. I’ve been lucky so far but have often thought of quitting this whole shebang out of the fear that some poorly phrased tweet or ill-considered post could destroy my life.

For CNN to even hint at this was, well …

Althouse:

So the human being behind the ridiculous pseudonym HanA**holeSolo should cringe for the rest of his life and never publish anything that CNN could possibly deem “bigoted” or “racist” because it would trigger CNN’s delusional duty to destroy him.

Absolutely despicable.

This person is a nonentity. We shouldn’t even have heard about him in the first place. Who cares who originally posted the video clip of the CNN logo stuck on the face of the guy Trump was wrestling?

Ken White, in a really great post looking at the whole phenomenon of internet rage:

I found this alarming and ugly. CNN should publish the name or not publish the name. For CNN to tell him what he should or shouldn’t say in the future, and threaten him that they will reveal his name in the future if they don’t like his speech, does not make them sound like journalists. It makes them sound like avenging advocates, and lends substantial credibility to the argument that they pursued him because he posted a GIF about them. I don’t know what they actually intended — they’ve denied intent to threaten and claim this was only to clarify that there was no agreement. If so, that could have been conveyed much less like a threat. However they meant it, this is reasonably interpreted as a warning that the Redditor must speak only as approved by CNN or suffer for it. That’s grotesque. Legal, but grotesque.

German Lopez, with whom I rarely agree:

Personally, if I reported this story, it would have been pretty straightforward: “CNN is not publishing ‘HanAssholeSolo’s’ name because he is a private citizen.” Period. The rest of the information in that paragraph is unnecessary, because a media organization simply shouldn’t release a private citizen’s personal information. He shouldn’t have his private information threatened just because the president picked up one of his Reddit shitposts, which he made with the expectation that he would be kept anonymous. (Though it is a truly bizarre turn of events that it’s even possible to write this sentence.)

In journalism, there is a clear line between public and private figures. Public figures are held to a higher standard — since they represent not just themselves but their offices, their industries, and so on. But private figures are given a veil of privacy, since it’s not really in the public interest to get some random person’s private information.

The problem here is that the internet is not proportional. People wouldn’t merely react to this guy making some offensive remarks on the internet by making some offensive remarks to him. They would react as the internet has reacted before to these kinds of situations — with potentially thousands of hateful messages, death threats, attempts to get him fired, and harassment not just against him but also his family. Lines would quickly be crossed.

Our friend, Thrill:

First, there was no reason to track this Asshole guy down. None. He had nothing to do with the story, really. In fact, it’s even possible that CNN got the wrong guy. I can’t read that paragraph and see anything other than that CNN wanted contrition out of the guy, not a story. Again, the story shouldn’t have been about anything except Trump being a prick for posting the inflammatory .gif.

As for that last line, how can anyone see any other message other than, “If he posts anything like that again, naturally, we will reveal his name and ruin his life”? This guy is probably going to stay off the Internet for the rest of his life for fear that CNN will come after him again and set the SJW mob loose on his employer and family.

It’s gotten even stupider since then, with people threatening Kaczynski and even his parents, for some reason. Because apparently, no one can be a dick these days without someone saying, “Hold my beer.”

Almost everyone in this story is acting like a dick. The anonymous shitposter is a dick; Trump is a dick; CNN is a bag of dicks; the people threatening Kacyznski are dicks. And since it seems that being a dick is in fashion these days, I’ll go ahead and say I’m a dick, too. Last week, I wrote about the need for empathy in politics and said that it was a subset of a need for empathy in our society. This fiasco illustrates it perfectly. If anyone involved had taken just a second to think about what it would be like if they were on the receiving end of their action, the entire chain of bullshit would have been broken off.

The Acceptable Prejudice

So this happened:

Occurring a day ahead of Chicago’s enormous Pride Parade, the Dyke March has always billed itself as a social justice-driven gathering that seeks to build alliances across race, religion, class, gender identity and immigration status.

At its core, organizers say, the march is designed to celebrate inclusiveness.

At this year’s march, however, some participants accused organizers of excluding them for expressing their Jewish pride. Laurie Grauer, 35, told The Washington Post that she was one of three marchers who were asked to leave the event because they were carrying Jewish Pride flags — a symbol that some in the crowd viewed as a symbol of Palestinian oppression.

The Dyke March has defended their decision, as have several other Leftist organizations. They claim that Israel’s oppression of Palestine justified kicking these people out. They further claim that Israel’s record on LGBT rights — which is the best in the entire continent of Asia — is simply “pinkwashing” their crimes against Palestinians. Because clearly Israel, with millions of conservative Jews, decided to embrace LGBT rights so no one would notice Gaza.

Now pair that reaction to this incident in Toronto in which Antifa activists tried to stop LGBT Muslims from demonstrating in the gay pride parade and calling out homophobia in Islamic countries. Their reason, they said, was that this would provide fuel to Islamophobes. This is not an isolated incident: there has been a curious silence from many on the Left about the oppression of LGBT folk in Muslim countries. This is the exact reason they give every time: they don’t want to promote hatred of Muslims. I understand that instinct. Oppression of LGBT people in majority-Mulim countries is sometimes used as a club to bash Muslims by people who don’t care about LGBT rights to begin with. But is pretending that gays don’t get murdered by Islamic radicals helping anyone? Why is it OK to call out Israel for Palestine but not to call out, say, Saudi Arabia, over gays?

Ask yourself: if you were an LGBT Muslim, which country would you rather live in? Israel, which grant full rights to Muslims and has the most gay-friendly legal regime on the continent? Or literally any other country in the Middle East? Tel Aviv is known as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. They don’t just have an annual gay pride parade; they have a gay pride week. There is literally no other country in that region where a gay pride parade would not be met with violence and oppression.

This is just one more piece of evidence that this “intersectionality” stuff is mostly garbage.

Intersectionality is the big idea of today’s progressive left. In theory, it’s the benign notion that every form of social oppression is linked to every other social oppression. This observation — coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw — sounds like just another way of rephrasing a slogan from a poster I had in college: My liberation is bound up with yours. That is, the fight for women’s rights is tied up with the fight for gay rights and civil rights and so forth. Who would dissent from the seductive notion of a global sisterhood?

Well, in practice, intersectionality functions as kind of caste system, in which people are judged according to how much their particular caste has suffered throughout history. Victimhood, in the intersectional way of seeing the world, is akin to sainthood; power and privilege are profane.

By that hierarchy, you might imagine that the Jewish people — enduring yet another wave of anti-Semitism here and abroad — should be registered as victims. Not quite.

Why? Largely because of Israel, the Jewish state, which today’s progressives see only as a vehicle for oppression of the Palestinians — no matter that Israel has repeatedly sought to meet Palestinian claims with peaceful compromise, and no matter that progressives hold no other country to the same standard. China may brutalize Buddhists in Tibet and Muslims in Xinjiang, while denying basic rights to the rest of its 1.3 billion citizens, but “woke” activists pushing intersectionality keep mum on all that.

The Left feels free to throw “intersectionality” out the window whenever it comes into conflict with their agenda — be it anti-Israel sentiment or anti-Islamophobia. To be fair: balancing various political interests is always a delicate dance. Just witness the mess going on in the Republican Congress as they try to balance Trumpers, establishment conservatives, mainstream conservatives, Tea Partiers and the needs of the country. But to be really fair, the Left has a long history of doing that dance by throwing anyone under the bus who they think is doing the wrong steps.

Electoral Reform Hits A Rock

Well, this was entirely predictable:

A Trump administration letter requesting data from all 50 state’s voting rolls has put some states and voting rights advocates on edge after many were already wary of the aims of the President’s commission on voting.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’s vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, sent a letter to each state Wednesday asking a series of questions soliciting feedback about election administration, voter fraud and the integrity of the process. CNN obtained a copy of the letter sent to Maine’s secretary of state.

Kobach also requested that each state provide “publicly available voter roll data” as allowed under each state’s laws, which could include full names of registered voters, dates of birth, party registration, last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting history.

Multiple states, Republican and Democrat, have told the commission to go jump in an ocean. No, I mean that literally. Mississippi’s Secretary of State said, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from. Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”

This is not surprising. Truly eliminating voter fraud, multiple registration and purging expired registration would require a national voter database. And the states zealously guard their ability to run their own elections, especially from someone like Kobach, who has long advocated a more aggressive approach to purging voter roles. I think they are absolutely in the right to refuse to provide this information and would almost certainly win a court battle over this. I’m surprised to see many liberal siding with the states here since a national voter database would be necessary if one wanted to abolish the Electoral College. But … their partisanship happens to line up with what’s right.

The NRA Ad

There are many reasons why, despite being a zealous supporter for the Second Amendment, I am not a member of the NRA. There is their support for the militarization of police and their unblinking support for police in all matters — as exemplified by their total silence on the Philando Castile matter. There is their response to school shootings, which involves putting armed officers in every school. There is their willingness to crush every other Amendment in the Constitution besides the one they like — especially the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. I can not abide an organization that says that the Second Amendment is necessary to prevent tyranny while happily allowing a tyrannical state apparatus to be put into place. And now there’s this, a deranged conspiratorial ad designed to make Americans feel terrified because liberals are saying nasty things about the President; an ad that seems to embrace police crackdowns on protest. These are not the words of an organization that is devoted to freedom. These are the words of an organization trying to cash in on fear. So I’ll side with them when they’re right on opposing gun control. But I can’t side with them on this nonsense.

This is one of the things that I have found bothersome about the Right Wing since about 2004. I understand being angry when your’e out of power. But the anger doesn’t seem to subside when we’re in power. If anything, it intensifies.

Today in “What A Surprise!”

I know, I know. You’re all shocked:

This paper evaluates the wage, employment, and hours effects of the first and second phase-in of the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance, which raised the minimum wage from $9.47 to $11 per hour in 2015 and to $13 per hour in 2016. Using a variety of methods to analyze employment in all sectors paying below a specified real hourly rate, we conclude that the second wage increase to $13 reduced hours worked in low-wage jobs by around 9 percent, while hourly wages in such jobs increased by around 3 percent. Consequently, total payroll fell for such jobs, implying that the minimum wage ordinance lowered low-wage employees’ earnings by an average of $125 per month in 2016. Evidence attributes more modest effects to the first wage increase. We estimate an effect of zero when analyzing employment in the restaurant industry at all wage levels, comparable to many prior studies.

Now, the study does come with some legitimate concerns about methodology. Among other things, it excluded workers who work with chains (which is about 40% of low-wage jobs) because that data is provided on a state, not a city, level. But the latest of multiple studies show that the Law of Supply and Demand does, in fact, apply to low-wage labor. And this does come from the very group the city commissioned to study the effect.

The thing I keep saying about the minimum wage is that it is literally gambling the lives of people on crackpot economic theory. To quote myself:

Here’s the thing: the Democrats are claiming, based on a grand total of one study that doesn’t say what they think it says, that we can raise the minimum wage without increasing unemployment. Let’s pretend that this point is up for debate and that we are, in effect, engaging in a massive gamble on the laws of economics. What is the downside risk if they’re wrong?

As I noted in my last post, long-term unemployment is one of the most damaging things that can happen to someone. It can repress earnings for a lifetime, it can affect health and happiness and, as we’ve seen in Europe, masses of unemployed young men can become a hotbed of crime and extremism. That’s the risk if they’re wrong.

The Democrats are gambling the futures of millions of people on this will-o-the-wisp idea that the Law of Supply and Demand is magically suspend for labor because … well, because the unions want it to be. If they’ve gambled wrong, they won’t be paying the price. Millions of poor people and minorities will. If the $15 wage causes mass unemployment, the effects will last for generations. It may not be reparable in our lifetime.

I’m glad the Democrats have a few pet economists who will tell them this is a low-risk bet. But it’s yet another illustration of how the Democrats “help” people by holding their heads underwater. I have no doubt that they think they are being compassionate. But gambling someone’s life on crackpot economic ideas is not compassion.

The last time we gambled our country on Left-Wing economic theory was when we deliberately inflated our currency in the 1960’s and 1970’s based on the idea that the Phillips Curve predicted it would end unemployment. We then ended up with both high inflation and high unemployment, which the Keynesians has assured us was mathematically impossible. It never ceases to amaze me how the Left will gamble so much on economic theory.

The Holdout Soldiers

Speaking of tribalism …

Daou has become a reliable holdout soldier for Clinton, constantly insisting that she’s really awesome, trying to tie every story back to her and demanding that the world embrace her. But this tweet (and the sentiment behind it) is illustrative of something deeply stupid in American politics and in the Democratic Party in particular.

I was recently chatting with a British friend about the snap election. He predicted that Theresa May would be out of power by Christmas at the latest, July at the earliest. The reason, he said, is that the Conservatives tend to be fairly ruthless about leadership. When a politician leads them to disaster — as May has — that politician does not tend to last very long.

I agree with the prediction but I wouldn’t use the word “ruthless”. I would use the word “smart”. Parties have limited political capital. When a politician starts becoming a liability, the party should not expend one ounce of that capital propping that wounded duck up. Dump them and invest that energy in someone new. It doesn’t matter if the damage to the politician is “fair” or not. What matters is that you are wasting time and energy complaining to the refs instead of trying to move the ball downfield.

Maybe the criticism of Clinton and Pelosi is unfair (I happen to think it’s very fair). But that doesn’t matter a wit. Neither of them is a young once-in-a-generation political talent. Or a political talent at all. Defending them isn’t about fairness or political wisdom. It’s about tribalism. It’s about defending “their side” from the awful awful Republicans. It’s about not letting the Republicans “win” by not letting them dictate who runs your party.

But here’s the thing … denying the Republicans a “win” on Pelosi and the Democratic leadership has given the Republicans win after win at the ballot box. The Democratic leadership is old and out of touch. The most popular Presidential candidates right now — Warren, Pelosi, Clinton, Biden, Sanders — are all on the wrong side of 70 and have big political liabilities. This leadership, which the base seems to love so much, has led the Democrats to one of the lowest political ebbs in history — Republicans in both houses, Trump in the White House, most state legislatures and governorships controlled by Republicans, a party confined almost entirely to big cities and the coasts. For Pete’s sake, why are you wasting energy defending these people? The batting coach of the Tampa Bay Rays is held more accountable than these jack-a-napes.

Granted, some of the young Democrats — Preening Preet Bharara, Fascist Kamela Harris, Dumbell Andrew Cuomo — aren’t exactly inspiring. But there have got to be young political talents out there who can rebuild the Democratic brand. Take Jon Ossoff. He was wet-behind-the-ears but he moderated a bit and could get elected (maybe in the district he lives in). In my own state, Tom Wolf just worked with Republicans to pass what was once unthinkable: a massive reform of state employee pensions that will cap our future liabilities and keep us from becoming Illinois with mountains. There are thousands of Democratic politicians out there and 60 million people who voted for them. There’s got to be someone better than these old farts.

If there were any accountability in the Democratic Party, Pelosi would have been forced out after 2010 and the entirety of the leadership would have been forced out after 2016’s disaster. But the Democrats don’t seem to want to face reality.

One of the reasons the Republican Party has been successful is that they’ve been better at holding their leadership accountable for what happens in the polls. Newt, for example, was forced out in 1998 after a poor mid-term performance. They’re not perfect — there’s far too many former whatevers running around Fox News. But they are better. And they have been way better at promoting the young wave of conservatives like Rubio, Haley, Martinez and Jindal.

Look, I’ve been following politics for a long time and I know how the Cult of Personality works. But the Cult of Personality afflicting the Democrats right now is deeply deranged. It’s one thing to have a Cult of Personality around successful politicians like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. But building one around losers like Pelosi, Hillary and Schumer? What the hell is that even about?

Around the country, Democrats are lamenting their losses, wondering why they can’t win. They’ve resorted to blaming Republicans and voters for being awful people. They’ve been throwing up their hands and saying, “How can you appeal to racist sexist bigots?” That’s comforting, I guess. But the country isn’t really that awful. Your leadership is.

Empathy in Politics

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how bad things have gotten in politics. When I started this blogging thing back in 2004, blogging about politics was a lot of fun. It wasn’t just that “my guy” was in the White House, if Bush was ever “my guy”. It was that the internet had opened up a million voices. It could allow someone like Lee to rise to some degree of prominence by making smart, focused and often hilarious arguments in favor of his beliefs.

Over time, however, a lot of that has curdled. Not just on the internet but everywhere. The most powerful voices are, often as not, those that demonize the opposition. Arguments tend to be less about facts than name-calling. Liberals are dysfunctional snowflakes who are, nevertheless, turning America into Nazi Germany. Conservatives are mindless thugs who are also turning America into Nazi Germany. It’s a big reason why I blog less and have been engaging less on Twitter. And it’s odd (or maybe not so odd) that the tone has gotten so bad considering that the policy differences between our two major parties are smaller than they were when I was coming of age in the 70’s and 80’s.

I’m used to a bit of crazy in politics, especially from the side out of power. Megan McArdle long ago coined Jane’s Law: “The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.” But what’s distressing is that we’re now seeing insanity from the devotees of the party that is in power. We saw some of this with Obama but it’s been ratcheted up to 11 with Trump. Charles Skye has a great piece on conservatism and how it has lost its way:

If there was one principle that used to unite conservatives, it was respect for the rule of law. Not long ago, conservatives would have been horrified at wholesale violations of the norms and traditions of our political system, and would have been appalled by a president who showed overt contempt for the separation of powers.

But this week, as if on cue, most of the conservative media fell into line, celebrating President Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, and dismissing the fact that Mr. Comey was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia.

While there are those like Sean Hannity who are reliable cheerleaders for all things President Trump, much of the conservative news media is now less pro-Trump than it is anti-anti-Trump. The distinction is important, because anti-anti-Trumpism has become the new safe space for the right.

Here is how it works: Rather than defend President Trump’s specific actions, his conservative champions change the subject to (1) the biased “fake news” media, (2) over-the-top liberals, (3) hypocrites on the left, (4) anyone else victimizing Mr. Trump or his supporters and (5) whataboutism, as in “What about Obama?” “What about Clinton?”

For the anti-anti-Trump pundit, whatever the allegation against Mr. Trump, whatever his blunders or foibles, the other side is always worse.

But the real heart of anti-anti-Trumpism is the delight in the frustration and anger of his opponents. Mr. Trump’s base is unlikely to hold him either to promises or tangible achievements, because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish.

That’s the conservative side. But I would argue that the liberal side has gotten just as bad if not worse. The entirety of the Left Wing media has lost its damned mind. I’ve backed off of all the late-night TV shows except Oliver (on occasion) because the tone has gotten so bitter and angry. We are constantly deluged with outrages Trump has committed. And while some of those are indeed outrageous, others are stuff Obama did (executive orders), stuff every President does (Loyalty Day) or stuff that did not, in fact, actually happen (the MLK bust removal). Despite no evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians and little evidence that anyone in his campaign did, it’s routine to see him denounced as a traitor and to hear Republicans denounced as complicit because they haven’t impeached him yet. And it culminated last week with a Democrat — one who loved Maddow and Maher and belonged to Facebook groups calling for revolution — taking shots at a bunch of Republicans.

Look at the comments section of any liberal blog or even a New York Times article on bad rhetoric. Republicans are routinely denounced as, in one of the top-rated comments, “ignorant, mean-spirited, inhumane, racist, misogynist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, culturally backward and/or downright stupid.” And if you have the temerity to point this out, you are blasted for “false equivalence”. We’re told MSNBC isn’t as bad as Fox News or that Colbert isn’t as bad a Limbaugh. Maybe. But which side rioted in the streets after an election? Which side has Antifa thugs punching people, looting stores and shouting down speakers? Which side is turning places like Evergreen College into Mickey Maoist clubs?

None of these points are new. The press, the media and the pundits have been talking about the extreme partisanship for some time. But I think they have tended to misjudge the problem. Most of the time, they simply decry “partisanship” or “rhetoric”. But … we’ve always had that. And frankly, it doesn’t bother me that much. I want people to be passionate for and motivated by the things they believe in. If you think abortion is a modern-day holocaust, I don’t think you should feel any compunction about saying so. And if you think abortion restrictions make women slaves to their wombs, don’t hold back. I want people to speak powerfully for what they believe to be right. If you remember Lee, you’ll know he wasn’t one to pull punches at all. That’s what I liked about him.

In fact, partisanship can be a good thing. McArdle points out one of the blind spots in policy wonkage — people don’t look too hard for evidence that invalidates their pet theories. Partisanship, however, becomes a natural balance to this:

The idea of perfectly neutral arbiters looking for “just the facts, ma’am” is an illusion; we are all human, fallible, and more than occasionally blind. Ideological diversity within a group means that even if the individuals are blind in different spots, at least the collective has a decent panoramic view.

That base, irrational, often angry “I know that’s wrong!” feeling that people get when reading an op-ed by the other team is actually the start of something wonderful: the search for disconfirming evidence that can falsify bad theories (the other team’s, of course), and refine good ones (yours, of course). So that bit by bit, jab by jab, we get closer to the whole picture.

So I don’t mind partisanship. Debate and argument are not just “not bad”; they’re essential for the proper functioning of a democracy. Partisan opposition killed some of the worst parts of Obamacare. Partisanship brought us a balanced budget back in the 90’s. Often, when we’ve blundered, it’s because of a lack of opposition. “Partisanship” usually translates out of Punditese as “people disagreeing with me” and calls to end “partisanship” are often misguided calls for one side to just concede.

No, partisanship qua partisanship isn’t bad; what’s bad is the lack of empathy for the other side. The problem is that both sides have decided that the opposition is not just wrong, but evil. That every argument “they” make is a disingenuous front to conceal their real motives. So the pro-life side can’t honestly be concerned about what they see as the extinguishing of millions of lives; no, that’s just a front to conceal their hatred of women and desire to control their bodies. And the pro-choice side can’t honestly believe women should control their own bodies; they want a hedonistic society in which sex doesn’t have consequences. We’ve defined each side not by the millions of reasonable people but by the thousands of crazy assholes. We don’t just hate politicians; we hate everyone who supports them.

Look at our current healthcare debate. One side is telling us that the Republicans want to literally murder millions of people so that rich people can get tax cuts. The other side insists Obamacare is the step to fascist welfare state. Never can it can be considered that maybe Republicans honestly think handouts are a bad idea and maybe Democrats honestly think people shouldn’t be terrified of losing their insurance.

We can’t bring ourselves to think that gun controllers may not want to create a policy state or that second amendment advocates may care about gun violence but don’t see gun control as the answer.

We can’t admit that maybe thawing our relationship with Iran is a good thing. Or that maybe getting close to another terror state is bad thing. Or that maybe we should be less involved with NATO. Or maybe NATO is more important now than ever.

We can’t admit that a lot of this nation’s poverty is a result of people making bad life decisions. Or we can’t admit that it’s easier to make the right decisions (and recover from bad ones) if you’re not born into poverty in the first place.

This, of course, has been fed by a media and social media machine that insists on a constant cycle of outrage. They define the other “side” entirely by their worst imaginings. And every misstep — be it a comedian’s bad joke or a politician’s awkward quip — is recast into some peek into their inner awfulness.

But it’s a deeper even than that. It’s a cliche to say that our debates suffer from an unwillingness to listen to the other side and that we all live in “bubbles” of websites, blogs and news stations that agree with us. That’s true enough but those bubbles are not some law of nature; they are created on purpose. They are a result of our need to divide the world into “our” tribe of decent people and the “other” tribe of bad people. And in this, they reflect a deeper and more malignant ill that is afflicting our culture: an inability to empathize with anyone beyond our own social circle.

The great advice columnist Amy Alkon has written about this many times — that we have minds evolved for the stone age functioning in a modern world. We tend to see people close to us — usually limited to a couple of hundred people — as human and fallible. When they make mistakes or have misfortunes, we sympathize. When they make arguments we think are wrong, we engage them honestly. But we regard those outside of that small circle as alien and view them with suspicion. This is why we tend to be rude to strangers, why we scream at cars in traffic, why we get furious at people we don’t even know. It explains why we so readily form internet shame mobs: because we understand if your uncle makes a racist joke he’s just making a bad joke. But if someone we don’t know does it, they’re a vile person. If your sister leaves her children in the car for ten seconds, she’s just being practical. If a stranger does, they’re endangering their kid. And so we quickly revert to our primal need to stone foreign devils.

Returning to politics, the 2016 election was the eruption of this malignancy into the political sphere. The primary qualification of both candidates was their ability to enrage the other side. Democrats loved that Republicans hated Hillary Clinton. And Republicans loved that Democrats hated Trump. And now it has progressed to where what Democrats most love is hating Trump and what Republicans most love is Democrats hating Trump.

We need to get past this is we’re going to be a functional society. It’s not just a need to listen to the other side; it’s that we need to empathize: to see their politics from their point of view. You can still think they’re full of shit (and you’ll probably be right because almost everyone is full of shit about something). But we have to engage them on the arguments they are making not the arguments we wish they were making (typically because those arguments would cast them in a bad light or are easy to rebut). We have to remember that, if we’d been born in a different place or raised in a different environment, we’d probably have the same views. We have to imagine that their views are held by someone we deeply care about and respect. Because inevitably they are held by someone that someone loves and respects.

(I’m as bad at this as anyone. I try to be better, mostly because I have good friends and family members in both ideological camps. It bothers me to see them at each other’s throats, mainly because of scrounging carnival barkers persuading them that the other camp is filled with vile uncaring monsters. But it’s hard not to just write off whole masses of the body politic.)

There are people who don’t have any political principles, of course. Both the 2016 candidates come to mind. But we can’t let them define our country. As much as I despised Clinton, her supporters were fundamentally decent people. And as much as I despise Trump, his supporters are fundamentally decent people. Almost everyone is fundamentally decent, regardless of their politics. Yeah, there are the deplorables — on both sides. Antifa and the Alt-Right crowds come to mind. But they are a tiny, tiny fraction of this country and even their ranks are filled more with misguided idiots than evil zealots. We can’t let our politics be defined by such debris. And until we stop, until we stop defining political success entirely as “winning” one from that awful awful other side, our politics will continue to get not only more nasty but more dysfunctional.

First Blue model state to Greece it..

Looks like I lose a bet with a buddy, because Illinois beat California to the punch. Well maybe Connecticut can go right after California, so I win that bet. From the letter of the comptroller of the now bankrupt state of Illinois:

See attached letter sent to elected officials from across the state this morning.

As Illinois’ Chief Fiscal and Accountability Officer, my Office is responsible for managing the state’s financial accounts as well as providing the public and the state’s elected leadership with objective and timely data concerning the state’s difficult fiscal condition. As you are quite aware, I have been very vocal regarding these issues and the budgetary impasse since assuming office six months ago; however we are now reaching a new phase of crisis.

Accordingly, I must communicate to you at this time the full extent of our dire fiscal straits and the potential disruptions that we face in addressing even our most critical core responsibilities going forward into the new fiscal year. My Office has very serious concerns that, in the coming weeks, the State of Illinois will no longer be able to guarantee timely and predictable payments in a number of areas that we have to date managed (albeit with extreme difficulty) despite an unpaid bill backlog in excess of $15 billion and growing rapidly.

We are effectively hemorrhaging money as the state’s spending obligations have exceeded receipts by an average of over $600 million per month over the past year.

My cause for alarm is rooted in the increasing deficit spending combined with new and ongoing cash management demands stemming from decisions from state and federal courts, the latest being the class action lawsuit filed by advocates representing the Medicaid service population served by the state’s Managed Care Organizations (MCOs). As of June 15, the MCOs, and their provider networks, are owed a total of more than $2.8 billion in overdue bills at the Comptroller’s Office. There is no question that these obligations should be paid in a more timely manner and that the payment delays caused by the state’s financial condition negatively impact the state’s healthcare infrastructure. We are currently in court directed discussions to reach a workable and responsive payment schedule going forward, but any acceleration of the timing of those payments under the current circumstances will almost certainly affect the scheduling of other payments, regardless of other competing court orders and Illinois statutory mandates.

Heh, they ran out of other people’s money! Now if Hillary was president, the productive tax payers would just be told to grab their ankles and bail out these yokels, but with Trump-Putin, that is unlikely to happen. No wonder so many blue staters are losing their fucking minds and hoping to reverse the election results. They had banked on their girl saving them from their own ineptness, and now they are stuck with that debt they ran up figuring someone else would end up paying it anyway

I eagerly await your response as to next steps for furthering this discussion.

How about cut your nanny state fucking spending?

Must be why Obama chose to not return home and stayed in D.C…..