Thu, 29 May 2014
There really are a small number of activists so devoted to ideology they cannot find within themselves any sympathy for the families of the Sandy Hook children. Some parents of those little kids still report anonymous messages of hostility.
And this newest tragedy carried with it yet another stunning reaction. The open letter on a conservative website targeted the grieving father who had appeared on television.
Tue, 27 May 2014
My friend John Myste asks me my diagnosis of urban youth.
Race notwithstanding, Mr. Deming, what do you think of the general work ethic, or more specifically, the motivation to succeed, of the urban youth?
My friend T. Paine seconds the motion, along with the lament:
I would not be able to ask simply due to the racist implications of the question regardless of whether I specified "race notwithstanding" or not."
The life of an oppressed conservative is hard.
Mr. Paine is correct in that "urban" has become a euphemism for African American. That is why he hesitates. A long, long history of stereotypes would make Mr. Paine's hesitation a conservative anomaly.
The short answer to the question of urban work ethic is obvious.
Sun, 25 May 2014
We got news reports of the attacks on the base, and Marine fatalities, just as his messages suddenly stopped. We realized that electronic communication would not be possible during transport, but as days dragged on, fear bore down a little harder. I had private talks with God that were a little harsher than usual. Of course, we feared the worst.
He eventually was able to let us know he was safe.
I occasionally think back on that time, and on the prayers. We still carry the relief that came when we heard from him. I also carry the inherent selfishness, the zero-sum nature of my talks with God. Please, Lord, let it be other families who get the bad news.
Thu, 22 May 2014
Conservatism was so much simpler when I was a kid. Conservatives just didn't much like black people.
Some were outspoken about it. Black people had all sorts of new privileges. Too many. They could vote. In fact, they could vote for the first time in some parts of the country. Lynching was now against the law. Segregation was still pretty strong, but it was technically against the law. Same with discrimination in housing and hiring. It was still going on, but it was against the law.
What more did they want?
The fact that, with the leadership of a Democratic President, some form of civil rights had become the law enraged enough conservatives that a migration of sorts had already begun. Lyndon Johnson remarked privately that new laws respecting the rights of black people would ensure that Democrats would lose the South for many decades. Conservatives left the Democratic party and became Republicans.
Even back then, outright racism, the kind spoken out loud, was confined to a vocal minority. Most commonly, the some-of-my-best-friends denial was a preface to each expression white resentment.
Tue, 20 May 2014
Karl Rove's newest questions about Hillary Clinton seem to be obvious missteps. He was quoted in a friendly paper, saying Hillary Clinton had suffered brain damage in a fall a couple of years ago.
He denied saying that. He had only said she had fallen, had a serious head injury, and had been seen wearing special glasses designed for brain injured people. That's all he had said. Very innocent.
Oh, and one other thing. You know, she's very, very old.
You might think Republicans would distance themselves from this one. Here's the chairman of the Republican National Committee.
"People" said that, did they?
Sun, 18 May 2014
Cybernetics is used across scientific disciplines. It is used to explain evolutionary development, to formulate mechanical engineering constructs, for neuroscience, and mathematics. It is used in pretty much anything that incorporates a feedback loop for guidance. I do x - or x comes from an outside event - and y happens as a result. That changes what my next action will be as I adjust.
Cybernetics happens a lot in nature. We experience it in our own actions. How many times have we been told that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result?
I've been thinking lately about how my limited understanding of cybernetics applies to politics and policy.
Republicans win their last election in 1928 until they learn to partially accept Social Security and finally win through the 1950s.
Democrats lose Presidential elections that don't involve Watergate from the late 1960s until the early 1990s. Painful introspection produces changes. Democrats get majorities of the electorate in five of the next six elections.
The Great Depression drags on and on. So a new policy, Keynesian economics, is devised and timidly applied. Things get better. World War II arrives and Keynesian economics is involuntarily amplified. The Great Depression disappears. So Keynesian economics becomes official policy for generations.
The Obamacare website doesn't work. So new experts are brought in. They work around the clock. Then the website works.
In recent decades, Republicans seem to have lost the capacity for change through introspection.
Thu, 15 May 2014
Okay, let's see if I've got this straight. The New York Times gets its first female Executive Editor in 163 years. Her bosses won't let her manage with the same level of trust and non-interference every male employee in her position has had. They pay her less than any male employee in her position has ever been paid.
And the frustration came because she was pushy on the issue? Pushy?
I'm not an expert on feminism, aside from wanting to be a good guy - fair on identifiable issues. I can be kind of a dolt on aspects to which I haven't devoted enough thought. I've had to be sharply corrected by close friends who know me well enough to feel okay doing it.
But isn't aggressiveness in business, in management, in journalism, thought to be an asset? At least for males? Pushy?
There is a denial: pay is not the issue. The salary is equal to that of previous editors. But it doesn't take much to see past that. Salary is often a small part of compensation. The denial is accompanied by an acknowledgement that other areas had been cut back.
Tue, 13 May 2014
We live in a different world than the one presented to us when I was a kid. My childhood involved Saturday mornings in front of the family television. Cartoons were okay, but kids my age went to westerns and adventure stories. "The Rifleman" and "Superman".
Good was very good. Bad was very bad. The bad guys not only knew they were bad guys, they enjoyed being bad guys. They reveled in it. They laughed as they rolled about in evil, coating themselves with it.
Within every half hour episode, good and evil were definable, easily recognized. The journey toward adulthood involved a gradual discovery that clarity is seldom found in the real world, the grown up world.
Racism was presented to us in cross burnings and bodies hanging from trees. It was white hoods and governors standing in schoolhouse doors.
My bet is that Cliven Bundy never participated in a Klan rally. My imagination tells me that, in his heart, he explains to himself that he likes and sympathizes with those he thinks of as Negroes colored folk. Donald Sterling has a documented history of contentious relations with African Americans. He sees them as unruly and unclean. My guess is that he likes them anyway.
Mon, 12 May 2014
Cliven Bundy started as a conservative cause célèbre. He was surrounded by a small, brave, band of patriots standing courageously against federal tyranny.
Then came this:
"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro."
Followup televised clarifications haven't helped him, but the very first interview endowed him with the green glow of conservative kryptonite.
Even the wingiest of wingnuts have scrambled for lead shields. The gleeful aiming of firearms at fleeing workers from the Bureau of Land Management has gone from the subject of bombastic boasts to the subject of FBI investigations. Members of Cliven Bundy's well armed band of brothers are now the keystone cowboys.
Racial suspicion remains the undercurrent of American politics. But recognizable, overt, in-your-face, racism strikes a painful nerve. Conservatives have nurtured the myth that racism is over, that the only remaining racism lies within those who perceive racism.
Thu, 8 May 2014
North Carolina's new Republican nominee for the United States Senate, Thom Tillis, is Speaker of the State House of Representatives. He has worked tirelessly to cut back Medicaid in North Carolina. Folks in Thom Tillis' state who are seriously ill or disabled, and who cannot afford medical insurance, are blocked from receiving federal help.
Speaker Tillis refers to objections to the restrictions as "whining coming from losers." He is on video describing to an appreciative audience how he intends to appeal to those losers.
Wed, 7 May 2014
Senator Lindsey Graham summarizes the memo, but he relies more on what he knows in his heart about motivation than he does on actual content.
Bill O'Reilly provides a motive for the conspiracy.
It really is the coverup, isn't it, that implicates more than the crime that's being covered up?
The conspiracy theory does have a major flaw.
Sun, 4 May 2014
Although most opponents of civil rights laws through the 1960s were openly motivated by race, this was not true for everyone. Barry Goldwater had quietly opposed segregation in Phoenix. He later described his efforts as a series of private appeals.
The Goldwater argument against Civil Rights law was based on a largely libertarian interpretation of Constitutional rights. "You can't legislate morality." The liberal response at that time was "The Hell you can't!"
Author Jim Fedako adds a wrinkle with a sort of goose and gander logic. If customers can pick and choose which businesses they will purchase from, why can't business owners make similar choices about which patrons they will serve? If government is to restrict the right of a business to choose its customers, why not dictate to customers from whom they must buy?
Thu, 1 May 2014
You can't just poll voters, if you want to predict how voters will choose. You have to poll voters who will choose. If a voter isn't going to vote, that voter will not have much effect on an election.
It is hard to figure out who is going to vote. Some pollsters go by past elections, taking into account what percentage of different ages, races, income groups, and educational levels have voted. So, if you find you're over-representing left handed people with blue eyes, you just count their numbers less. It's called weighting.
But weighting depends on past patterns holding in the future. Patterns are getting tricky.
It's getting harder to figure out who is going to vote for another reason. Republicans have been taking steps to make it harder for minorities and college students and working class people to vote. At the same time, courts are beginning to take a harder look at voter suppression. So it's hard to predict who will have their voting rights taken away by conservatives.