Wednesday, December 16, 2015

And This Goes On And On And On.....

The American media landscape is so disparate that networks cover what will get the attention of the portion of the audience that is most easily duped into spending money and spend the most time listening to/watching their product.

In an era where the only way you keep this audience is through the age old trick of making that audience feel victimized/held back/terrorized by "others" and being charismatic enough to convince your idiot uncle that they, and only they, are telling you the truth.

It's just a deviation on the Evangelical church model, really.

To that end, among this group of people, which is primarily white, rural and aging, that make up somewhere between 9 and 12% of the US adult population, Donald Trump is more or less their Holy Grail. In a normal election, a Republican field filled with charisma sucking black holes like Mitt Romney who have some cross demographic appeal would be fine. This group would even grumble at an egghead like Ted Cruz or someone as vapid as Marco Rubio (who would and will get slaughtered in debates like labor laws in a Walker Administration) and fall in line.

But this time, they're being led by the nose by the Carnival Barker in Chief, and there's no one who's going to talk them out of it.

Quite the dilemma for the GOP this cycle, wouldn't you say?

Is Trump going to be President? Not if the Democrats scrounge up even a reasonable ground game. There's a zero percent chance he takes any significant demographic slice out of the existing Democratic coalition, as unenthusiastic as it may be. The eight remaining moderate Republicans, three of whom are wondering why they're still donating money to Jeb Bush's campaign, would likely either cross the aisle or sit it out.

Is Trump going to get the Republican nomination? Unless he gets bored, he has a decent chance of conquering the hinterlands and earning enough delegates as part of the process to cause a serious schism in the party at a national level, resulting in a brokered convention. Which makes me glad I'm half an hour away from downtown Cleveland when the true believers set the Quicken Loans Arena on fire. (And a good chance for Republicans to learn the consequences of the Cleveland Police Department's 'shoot first and ask questions later' police first hand).

Normally, I'm screaming at the Democrats for playing rope-a-dope, but for once it's working brilliantly. The schism on the right Trump is causing is absolutely consuming the news cycle and is destroying, possibly once and for all, any hope the GOP had at image rehab someone like Marco Rubio could employ with non-white people below the age of 50. And for that, we have Donald Trump to thank.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Donald Trump as Wish Fulfillment

Donald Trump and Doug Flutie at a 1984 press conference, because why not?

Primary season is always an interesting season, because you get a good idea at how the coalitions that make up the two dominant parties in American politics will behave.

And that brings us to the GOP clown car field, which consists largely of people backed by billionaires, business failures and, of course, The Donald.

It's no coincidence that Donald Trump dominates the GOP field at this early point. He is loud, obnoxious, brash and adept at sucking the oxygen out of a room on a moment's notice. Oxygen, at this point in a primary, is essentially press coverage.

But what's most interesting to me is what he represents. His favorables essentially exist among one subset of Republican voters; white males above the age of 65.

This makes sense, since Trump is 69, white and male. (This also seems to be roughly the sweet spot for the average demographic of a Fox News viewer).

It occurred to me recently what Trump is. He is the unchecked ID of the Republican Party. He speaks without regard for consequence. He cares nothing about the responsibilities of his actions. He boasts of obscene wealth that doesn't exist. Nothing is his responsibility. He trades in wives once they reach a certain age. He rails against the "other" as if they are the source of all problems, covering the external locus of control position that is the default position for the entire platform of the Republican Party.

Essentially, he embodies the perception that life can be lived to excess without consequences or regard for anyone other than one's self, and is expert at creating the perception of excess. He is, along with aviator sunglasses and Hall and Oates revivals, the 1980s last stand. And if we're being honest, living that by proxy is much more fun than slapping a Reagan '84 bumper sticker to cover over the rust spots on your Lexus LS 430 or Mercury Grand Marquis and dreaming of the good old days (that never actually existed).

But he's also the wish fulfillment personality of every angry old white male temporarily displaced millionaire that makes up the Republican Party's base. And that's why he's so popular. You don't have to have any regard for women, or minorities or foreigners, you can walk around saying whatever you want and you roll through life with 'fuck you' money. Who wouldn't want to be that person by proxy if they could?

Well, for starters, people with basic human empathy and an understanding that the world consists of more than elderly white people and their willing arm candy. Also, it should be noted that this is an election for the highest office in the United States, not Prime Minister of Italy, so maybe the person being chosen should have a bit more intellectual and diplomatic gravitas than Trump.

Who am I kidding, as soon as he's due to reveal his financials, he'll rage against the transparency machine and ride off into the sunset with middle fingers blazing until the next election cycle. Then we're left with boring old Jeb! trying to pretend he's smarter than his brother, and won't that be a treat?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Coming Soon: 1964, Revisited

In April 1964, Anne Newman attempted to walk into one of Maurice Bessinger's BBQ restaurants and sit down for a meal. She was barred from doing so by the owner on religious grounds.

Maurice Bessinger was a pretty scummy guy as you can read about here among other places. Although, to be fair, his barbeque sauce is terrific. What he was first and foremost, was an evangelical who attempted to refuse service to African Americans on the grounds that it was against his religious beliefs.

So Anne Newman did what people of the time, and to some extent today, still do, she sued. And won in an 8-0 shutout (It should be noted that Thurgood Marshall abstained). The case, Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, is really more noteworthy in legal circles for establishing the ground work by which people who sue and win Civil Rights cases can have the defendant pay their attorney's fees, but I mention it because I think, ultimately, it's going to come into play on fairly short order for another reason.

On the fringes of the news recently are those private business owners, the cake bakers, photographers, florists and pizza places, who refuse to serve gay couples. They do so due to religious objections.

Clearly,  some states, such as Oregon, address this type of discrimination already, and we see certain well deserved victories when state legislatures attempt to push anti-gay measures  in places such as Indiana and Louisiana.

But if you're looking for proof that while history doesn't repeat itself, it does rhyme, get ready for another visit from Good Ole Boy and virulent racist Maurice Bessinger, because the parallels between how people like him treated African Americans in the wake of the Civil Rights Act are likely to manifest themselves in the wake of Obergfell v. Hodges. Only this time, there is no sweeping Civil Rights Act to defend against.

My own personal opinion that you shouldn't be able to refuse to do any aspect of your job due to religious reasons, and that includes pharmacists and the Morning After Pill aside, I do think the legal minefield we're likely to end up walking through in the post gay marriage Equal Protection Clause enforcement world will be an interesting one. It's one thing to gain equal protection under the law, it's another to gain it within your own community. Rather than one sweeping Civil Rights Act, what we're likely to see are dozens of state legislative fights over the coming years, and lawsuits around those fights, unless and until we have a Congress willing to step in and codify anti-discrimination measures for the LGBT community. (And I wouldn't look for that until after 2020).

While the moral arc of the universe is long, ultimately, it does bend toward justice. Just ask Maurice Bessinger's kids.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

So About All Those Criminal Illegal Aliens

So it occurred to me the other day that the key to getting ahead in a Republican primary is to be the most effective carnival barker at stoking the perpetual state of righteous indignation that the increasingly aging, white and rural isolationist suckers who make up what remains of the party (you know, the ones the richer wing grift off of) live in.

Right now, of course, the best barker is Donald Trump. Now, the Donald knows a thing or ten about grifting, one need look no further than Jim Byrne's The $1 League for a view of just how he operates among people at his economic level and above.

So, now that the Republican Party has been more or less neutered in treating gays and African Americans as the evil other to be feared (not that some candidates aren't trying, ahem, Piyush Jindal) we're back to race bating illegal immigrants.

“They are bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They’re rapists,” Mr. Trump said about Mexican immigrants, adding, “some, I assume, are good people.”

Which should sound familiar to anyone who has to put up with the crazy elderly uncle/aunt/grandparent/cousin who comes in from the sticks at holiday dinner (I'm assuming you've set their Fox News based e-mail forwards to go directly to your Junk folder and weeded them out of your Facebook feed at this point.)

But it does open the question, just what is the crime rate among illegal immigrants, anyway, and how does it compare to the non illegal population at large?

Well, I'm glad you asked that. I wanted to find that answer myself, and to at least get some statistical background on it, I had to dig through some research courtesy of another, even dumber, race bater, former Texas Governor and stem cell treatment recipient Rick Perry.

The Texas Department of Public Safety estimates that 1.7 million illegal immigrants reside in the state. Over the period of October 2008 to July 2014, there were roughly 204,000 arrests of immigrants, or 34,000 per year.

That's an arrest rate of 2% annually.

If we examine Texas arrest statistics,  and you can pick your period here but I'm going to use 2013, of the 26.5 million legal residents, there were 967,470 arrests.

That's an arrest rate of 3.66% annually.

Now, you can slice or dice numbers as finely as you want, but if we focus on violent crimes, and take those numbers at face value, despite Politifact and the FBI telling us we shouldn't bother, the percentage of overall crimes committed by illegal aliens (defined as homicide, sex offenses and sexual assault) constitutes just 7.7% of the overall arrests of illegal aliens over that same time frame.

For legal Texas residents, violent crime arrests constituted 10.9% of all arrests in 2013.

I'm sure you aren't surprised that Trump and his ilk are wrong. But it's interesting to see just how wrong.

Happy Fourth of July everyone!