mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The GOP Finally Finds The Courage To Attack Donald Trump”: You Can’t Shame Someone When They Had No Shame To Begin With

The GOP may finally have found the means to rid itself of that meddlesome real estate tycoon. And it’s fitting—and really, should have been predictable—that what is uniting Republicans against Donald Trump is his own big mouth. It’s one thing to call Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers—that caused some agita, but not enough to rid Trump’s GOP opponents of their visceral fear of alienating his supporters. But insulting John McCain’s war record? That’s something everyone can agree on, and thus gives the other candidates just the excuse they’ve been waiting for to bring out the knives for Trump.

On the off chance you haven’t heard, on Saturday, Trump said some interesting things about McCain, with whom he has had a little East Coast/Southwest beef of late. The setting was the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, where the candidates go to assure the evangelical voters who dominate the state’s Republican caucuses that they are loyal members of Team Jesus. At a presentation in which he was interviewed by pollster Frank Luntz, Trump essentially said that McCain is sort of a war hero, but maybe not really. “He’s a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said. “I like people that weren’t captured.”

That’s the part you’ve heard about. But the fuller picture shows that as silly as Trump’s assertion was, the really asinine thing in that exchange was the question. Trump and McCain have been arguing about a number of things, but most particularly, McCain said that Trump was succeeding because he “fired up the crazies,” and Trump responded by tweeting that McCain “should be defeated in the primaries. Graduated last in his class at Annapolis—dummy!” (the details of all this are explained here, if you care). Luntz said to Trump, “Referring to John McCain, a war hero, five and a half years as a POW, you call him a dummy. Is that appropriate in running for president?”

If you watch the video, you’ll see Trump give a rambling explanation of why he doesn’t like John McCain, saying nothing about his war record, and after a minute or so Luntz can’t take it anymore and blurts out, “He’s a war hero!” It’s only then that Trump says the part about McCain being captured. But what exactly was Luntz arguing here? That no one is allowed to say anything mean to John McCain because of what he went through almost half a century ago? McCain’s captivity was surely horrible, and he showed great courage in enduring it. But the guy has been a politician for more than 30 years. I’m pretty sure it ought to be okay to insult him.

The truth is that there are a whole lot of people in politics, both Democrats and Republicans, who share Donald Trump’s opinion that John McCain is a jerk. But if Frank Luntz was hoping to bait Trump into denying McCain’s heroism and create the moment that would bring Republicans together against him, he couldn’t have planned it any better. This particular comment, far more than all the other stupid or offensive things Trump has said just in the past couple of months, offered the perfect vehicle for them to attack—and without any of the risk that might come from sounding like you don’t hate immigrants. The reaction from everyone in the GOP was unanimous, and Rick Perry summed it up well: “His attack on veterans makes him unfit to be commander in chief of the forces and he should immediately withdraw from the race for president.” Don’t you wish.

The Republicans are getting ample help from the news media, whose adoring relationship with John McCain goes back two decades. McCain’s Vietnam experience is one of the foundations of that relationship—reporters have unlimited admiration for it, and express that admiration not only in endless retellings of McCain’s suffering, but in the comically false assertion, also endlessly repeated, that McCain is so noble and modest that he would never bring up Vietnam himself. (The truth is that McCain constantly brings up Vietnam to use to his political advantage, and always has, from his very first run for office. Which is his right to do, of course, but the rest of us should at least be honest about it.) So it isn’t only politicians rushing to McCain’s side of this spat; the news media are, too.

If there’s one thing Republicans know how to do, it’s bludgeon someone for showing insufficient respect for “the troops”; it just so happens that this is the rare case when it might be somewhat justified, even if their outrage is utterly opportunistic. Up until now, all the candidates knew they had to get rid of this guy, because he was making their party look both hateful and ridiculous. But they were too worried that if they attacked him, they’d alienate the voters drawn to his anti-immigrant rhetoric. Now they’ve got their chance to beat him down without much risk to themselves, and they aren’t going to pass it up.

If you’re an ordinary Republican primary voter today, you’re seeing every politician you respect condemning Donald Trump, and one might think that would inevitably have an impact on his standing in the primaries. But that may not necessarily be the case. Trump’s support, substantial though it may be, is limited—right now he’s leading the field, but five out of six primary voters are still supporting someone else. And all the evidence suggests that the people who are supporting him, conservative though they may be, are as angry at the party’s establishment as they are at immigrants and Barack Obama.

So it’s entirely possible that once the campaign moves on from the next micro-controversy in a few days, Trump’s standing won’t be too different from what it is now. One thing’s for sure: He won’t be pushed out of the race by the rest of the party. You can’t shame someone into submission when they had no shame to begin with.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, July 19, 2015

July 25, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, John McCain | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Sense Of Disgust With Airlines”: Enough With The Crazy Change Fees

In 2014, airlines in the United States billed more than three billion dollars in “change fees”—fees charged to customers who cancelled or changed itineraries. This bounty came after most of the industry (minus Southwest) tacitly agreed to create a new industry standard of two hundred dollars per change, plus, in some cases, an additional fifty-dollar service fee for tickets booked on non-airline Web sites. And the worst may be yet to come: as the airline-revenue-optimization consultant Tom Bacon wrote a little while back, “Don’t be surprised if you see change fees increase again. … My guess is that change fees will eventually hit $300.” Meanwhile, fees can be four hundred dollars on international routes; on some first-class fares, they are as much as seven hundred and fifty dollars. The size of the fees alone may cause many a sense of disgust: Why pay so much for something that feels like nothing? But the strongest case against high change fees is that they introduce a rigidity into the travel system that is inconsistent with the fast-moving contemporary economy.

Modern life moves quickly, and we change plans constantly, but if we need to change our travel plans we face harsh punishments. It’s as if this one part of modern life—planning how we move through the air—is stuck in another age, while everything else is in flux. This rigidity translates into an economic case against high change fees, based on what an economist might call “the deadweight costs” created by stranded passengers.  Consider two travellers—each is on a trip and, due to changed circumstances (perhaps a meeting is cancelled, or a family member falls ill), each should come home early. The first pays the two-hundred-dollar change fee. The second does not, either because she cannot afford it or because she cannot, subjectively, bring herself to pay it. The second traveller creates stranding costs—wasted time, missed meetings, neglected children, and so on—without any benefit to the airline.

Airlines prefer the high change fees for reasons both obvious and less so. The obvious reason is the money. The less obvious reason is that change fees “protect” revenue and help airlines keep their planes as full as possible (achieving “higher load factors,” in the jargon). Without high fees, last-minute changes would be more common, leaving behind seats that are hard to fill on short notice and at the high price that airlines charge last-minute travellers.

High change fees surely both generate and protect revenue for the airlines. But the potential losses from empty seats caused by changes are mitigated in several ways. For one thing, travellers who change their tickets usually absorb any increase in fares, and sometimes the airlines profit from the change, by effectively selling the same seat twice. When changes are made far in advance, there’s plenty of time for the airline to resell the seat. No one can deny that high change fees yield higher profits (for what’s presently a profitable industry). But the fact that Southwest charges no change fees yet remains highly profitable counters the argument that an airline cannot be run without them.

Sometimes airlines defend their change fees by pointing out that they also sell “fully refundable” tickets without such fees, effectively blaming consumers for failing to read the fine print. This argument comes close to a sham, for it ignores the fact that the fares without fees are so expensive that, in practice, only customers in highly unusual situations would purchase them, particularly given that the refund process is itself highly unreliable. This pricing actually serves to protect the change-fee racket, because no rational person would buy a ticket at, say, three times the normal fare instead of one at the regular price, plus a potential change fee. In other words, offering a fully refundable fare simply creates an illusion of choice that the airlines exploit.

Are high change fees a problem that we can expect competition to solve? In an ideal world, yes. But the airlines find it more profitable to collude instead of compete when it comes to fees, despite this being a country where price-fixing is supposedly a felony. To its credit, the Justice Department is currently investigating the price-fixing of fares through agreements to place limits on the number of available seats. But, when it comes to change fees, the airlines rely on a legal form of collusion. The major airlines simply take turns initiating fee increases and then play follow-the-leader. The latest increase (to two hundred dollars) was quietly initiated by United, in the spring of 2013, and copied almost immediately by the other major airlines. If the agreement were explicit, it would be a crime, but the same results are achieved legally, neutering the power of competition. Consolidation after rounds of mergers does not help; Southwest Airlines’ continued defection from the fee cartel has exerted no apparent competitive pressure on larger airlines such as United, Delta, and American.

The Department of Transportation is supposed to prohibit “unfair” and “unreasonable” practices in air transportation. All this suggests that the D.O.T., or perhaps Congress, ought do more hard thinking about what an “unfair” or “unreasonable” change fee looks like. If free changes are too much to ask for, imposing a return to the fifty-dollar fees that were charged in the late nineteen-nineties might more fairly balance the airlines’ interest in dealing with constant changers with the national interest in a more flexible and adaptable travel system. The consumer group flyersrights.org has filed a petition with the D.O.T. requesting a limit on international fees at the reasonable level of a hundred dollars. The major airlines would surely protest, but it is worth remembering that they, like the banks, have been protected by taxpayers against financial failure. In exchange for providing a safety net and putting up with so much else, the public deserves more in return.

 

By: Tim Wu, Professor, Columbia School of Law, The New Yorker, July 21, 2015

July 25, 2015 Posted by | Airline Industry, Change Fees, Flying Public | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Challenge For White Liberals”: A Conundrum That Usually Culminates In Some Sort Of Series Of Crossroads And Reckonings

It’s relatively easy for liberals to recognize and call out the racism of conservatives. But the interaction between #BlackLivesMatter activists and Bernie Sanders has given us an opportunity to examine our own unique brand.

I’m not here to judge or support the manner in which these activists confronted Sanders. I’ll simply note that many of the people criticizing them are the ones who have celebrated the same tactics when used in other situations: Exhibit A.

As so often happens when these opportunities present themselves, I am reminded of something “Zuky” wrote way back in 2007 about the “white liberal conundrum.” I’d like to take a moment to review what he said because it captures many of the interactions I’m reading on social media lately.

First of all, let’s define what we’re talking about:

Anti-racism is a rewarding but grueling journey which must be consciously undertaken and intrepidly pursued (both inwardly and outwardly) if one hopes to make serious progress along its twisting passageways and steep inclines. There’s no static end-condition at which an anti-racist can arrive and definitively declare, “Hallelujah! I am Not A Racist!” Rather, it’s a lifelong process of historical education, vigilant self-interrogation, personal growth, and socio-political agitation.

Now, let’s look at the difference between conservative and liberal racism.

Some might be surprised to learn that when people of color talk about racism amongst ourselves, white liberals often receive a far harsher skewering than white conservatives or overt racists. Many of my POC friends would actually prefer to hang out with an Archie Bunker-type who spits flagrantly offensive opinions, rather than a colorblind liberal whose insidious paternalism, dehumanizing tokenism, and cognitive indoctrination ooze out between superficially progressive words. At least the former gives you something to work with, something above-board to engage and argue against; the latter tacitly insists on imposing and maintaining an illusion of non-racist moral purity which provides little to no room for genuine self-examination or racial dialogue.

Ouch! If that one didn’t sting a bit, you’re probably not paying attention.

What usually happens when we’re confronted about this?

Countless blogospheric discussions on racism amply demonstrate the manner in which many white liberals start acting victimized and angry if anyone attempts to burst their racism-free bubble, oftentimes inexplicably bringing up non-white friends, lovers, adopted children, relatives, ancestors; dismissing, belittling, or obtusely misreading substantive historically-informed analysis of white supremacism as “divisive”, “angry”, “irrational”; downplaying racism as an interpersonal social stigma and bad PR, rather than an overarching system of power under which we all live and which has socialized us all; and threatening to walk away from discussion if persons of color do not conform to a narrow white-centered comfort zone. Such people aren’t necessarily racists in the hate-crime sense of the word, but they are usually acting out social dynamics created by racism and replicating the racist social relationships they were conditioned since birth to replicate.

Any of that sound familiar? Zuky goes on from there with a description that sounds an awful lot like what happened both at Netroots Nation and in the aftermath.

From what I can see, though, a solid majority of white liberals maintain a fairly hostile posture toward anti-racist discourse and critique, while of course adamantly denying this hostility. Many white liberals consider themselves rather enlightened for their ability to retroactively support the Civil Rights movement and to quote safely dead anti-racist icons, even though their present-day physical, intellectual, and political orbits remain mostly segregated…Armed with “diversity” soundbites and melanin-inclusive photo-ops, they seek electoral, financial, and public relations support from people of color. Yet the consistent outcome of their institution-building agendas is to deprioritize and marginalize our voices, perspectives, experiences, concerns, cultures, and initiatives.

Why is it so hard for white liberals to confront this bias? Because doing so will likely cost us…perhaps a lot.

For those white liberals and progressives who become serious about extracting racism from their worlds and their lives, who wish to participate in the dismantling of white supremacism, the white liberal conundrum usually culminates in some sort of series of crossroads and reckonings. They’re often forced to make tough decisions about which of their previous alliances and networks — newly illuminated and often unfavorably recontextualized by anti-racist analysis — are worth trying to maintain, which are too invested in the distortions of the white lens to salvage, and which new directions and networks to pursue.

On a personal note, I read this article by Zuky back when he first posted it in 2007 and I can tell you that putting his advice into practice is difficult and still mostly aspirational for me. But in the process of working on it, I’ve learned more about myself and the world we live in than I could possibly capture in a blog post. Zuky is absolutely right, doing so has meant that I have left some old alliances behind and found “new directions and networks to pursue.” In the end, I have no regrets.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 21, 2015

 

 

July 25, 2015 Posted by | Racism, White Conservatives, White Liberals | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Why Liberals Have To Be Radicals”: Going After The Grotesquely Concentrated Wealth And Power At The Top

Just about nothing being proposed in mainstream politics is radical enough to fix what ails the economy. Consider everything that is destroying the life chances of ordinary people:

  • Young adults are staggered by $1.3 trillion in student debt. Yet even those with college degrees are losing ground in terms of incomes.
  • The economy of regular payroll jobs and career paths has given way to a gig economy of short-term employment that will soon hit four workers in 10.
  • The income distribution has become so extreme, with the one percent capturing such a large share of the pie, that even a $15/hour national minimum wage would not be sufficient to restore anything like the more equal economy of three decades ago. Even the mainstream press acknowledges these gaps.

The New York Times’s Noam Scheiber, using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, calculated that raising the minimum wage to $15 for the period 2009 to 2014 would have increased the total income for the 44 million Americans who earn less than $15 an hour by a total of $300 billion to $400 billion. But during the same period, Scheiber reported, the top 10 percent increased its income by almost twice that amount.

Scheiber concludes:

So even if we’d raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour, the top 10 percent would still have emerged from the 2009-2014 period with a substantially larger share of the increase in the nation’s income than the bottom 90 percent. Inequality would still have increased, just not by as much.

Restoring a more equal economy simply can’t be done by raising incomes at the bottom, even with a minimum wage high that seemed inconceivable just months ago. It requires going after the grotesquely concentrated wealth and power at the top.

Last week, another writer in the Times, Eduardo Porter, assessed Hillary Clinton’s eagerly anticipated speech on how to rescue the middle class.

Porter’s conclusion? Far from sufficient. He writes:

Mrs. Clinton’s collection of proposals is mostly sensible. The older ones — raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing child care to encourage women into the labor force, paying for early childhood education — have a solid track record of research on their side. The newer propositions, like encouraging profit-sharing, also push in the right direction.

But here’s the rub: This isn’t enough.

Nothing in mainstream politics takes seriously the catastrophe of global climate change. Few mainstream politicians have the nerve to call for a carbon tax.

The budget deadlock and the sequester mechanism, in which both major parties have conspired, makes it impossible to invest the kind of money needed both to modernize outmoded public infrastructure (with a shortfall now estimated at $3.4 trillion) or to finance a green transition.

The economy is so captive to financial engineers that even interest rates close to zero do not help mainstream businesses recover. There is still a vicious circle of inadequate purchasing power and insufficient domestic investment.

The rules of globalization and tax favoritism make it more attractive for companies to assemble products, export jobs and book profits overseas.

To remedy the problem of income inequality would require radical reform both of the rules of finance and of our tax code, as well as drastic changes in labor market regulation so that employees of hybrids such as Uber and TaskRabbit would have both decent earnings and the protections of regular payroll employees.

Congress would have to blow up the sequester deal that makes it impossible to invest money on the scale necessary to repair broken infrastructure and deal with the challenge of climate change.

Politicians would have to reform the debt-for-diploma system, not only going forward, as leaders like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have proposed, but also to give a great deal of debt relief to those saddled with existing loans.

Unions would need to regain the effective right to organize and bargain collectively.

This is all as radical as, well, … Dwight Eisenhower. Somehow, in the postwar era, ordinary people enjoyed economic security and opportunity; and despite the economy of broad prosperity, there were plenty of incentives for business to make decent profits. There just weren’t today’s chasms of inequality.

But the reforms needed to restore that degree of shared prosperity are somewhere to the left of Bernie Sanders.

This is one of those moments when there is broad popular frustration, a moment when liberal goals require measures that seem radical by today’s standards. If progressives don’t articulate those frustrations and propose real solutions, rightwing populists will propose crackpot ones. Muddle-through and token gestures won’t fool anybody.

 

By: Robert Kuttner, Co-Founder and Co- Editor, The American Prospect, July 22, 2015

July 25, 2015 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Economy, Middle Class | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: