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“Shall We Choose Poison?”: A Choice Between Being Shot Or Poisoned To Death

The National Review has just come out with an entire issue dedicated to convincing Republicans not to nominate Donald Trump to be their presidential candidate. It wasn’t a painless decision. It cost them the right to cohost (along with Salem Radio and Telemundo) a Republican debate with CNN.

The magazine is more conflicted about Ted Cruz. Writing for The Corner, for example, David French accuses the Republican establishment of being petulant in their refusal to contemplate serving under a Cruz presidency.

What’s remarkable about Mr. French’s position is that he places absolutely no weight on the idea that a person who belongs to a 100-person organization and manages to make about 98 of the members detest and despise them, probably is not the kind of person you want to make the leader of anything.

French was responding to a report at CNN in which Senator Dan Coats of Indiana said that the wounds Cruz has created with the Republican caucus are so deep that they’d find it nearly impossible to work with him. And Coats was hardly alone in expressing that opinion. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina likened a choice between Trump and Cruz to a choice between being shot and poisoned to death. Most strikingly, Texas’s other senator, John Cornyn, refused to defend his partner after Bob Dole said that a Cruz candidacy would be “cataclysmic” for the party.

But French dismisses this as letting petty personal differences get in the way of the good of the party.

…this is sheer crazy talk. Look, I get that senators are people — they have feelings and pride and don’t like to be called names. But talk through the hurt with your spouse or pastor, and then man up, get out there, and make it clear that you’re going to campaign your heart out for the GOP nominee. After years of tough election campaigns, food fights on cable television, and withering attacks on social media, Ted Cruz is the one who broke your spirits?

I don’t think Ted Cruz broke their spirits. They know him. They know him and they don’t like him. They don’t like him and they don’t trust him. They don’t trust him and they don’t want to serve under him. They don’t think he should be our president.

Maybe their collective wisdom should count for something.

The fact that it doesn’t seem to among a lot of fairly well-educated conservatives is another indicator of just how little credibility the GOP establishment has with anyone.

But another indicator of how much Cruz is hated is that folks outside of the Senate are beginning to make sounds about Trump being more acceptable.

“If it came down to Trump or Cruz, there is no question I’d vote for Trump,” said former New York mayor and 2008 presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has not endorsed a candidate. “As a party, we’d have a better chance of winning with him, and I think a lot of Republicans look at it that way.”

So, this is where we are. The conservatives at the National Review, Weekly Standard, Red State and other like publications are doing a full-court press to stop Trump because they think he’s a flim-flam artist and a confidence man, while the elected officials (current and former) are telling anyone who will listen that Cruz is completely unacceptable.

For once, I agree with a lot of conservatives. I think they’re all right.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 22, 2016

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“How Change Happens”: Don’t Let Idealism Veer Into Destructive Self-Indulgence

There are still quite a few pundits determined to pretend that America’s two great parties are symmetric — equally unwilling to face reality, equally pushed into extreme positions by special interests and rabid partisans. It’s nonsense, of course. Planned Parenthood isn’t the same thing as the Koch brothers, nor is Bernie Sanders the moral equivalent of Ted Cruz. And there’s no Democratic counterpart whatsoever to Donald Trump.

Moreover, when self-proclaimed centrist pundits get concrete about the policies they want, they have to tie themselves in knots to avoid admitting that what they’re describing are basically the positions of a guy named Barack Obama.

Still, there are some currents in our political life that do run through both parties. And one of them is the persistent delusion that a hidden majority of American voters either supports or can be persuaded to support radical policies, if only the right person were to make the case with sufficient fervor.

You see this on the right among hard-line conservatives, who insist that only the cowardice of Republican leaders has prevented the rollback of every progressive program instituted in the past couple of generations. Actually, you also see a version of this tendency among genteel, country-club-type Republicans, who continue to imagine that they represent the party’s mainstream even as polls show that almost two-thirds of likely primary voters support Mr. Trump, Mr. Cruz or Ben Carson.

Meanwhile, on the left there is always a contingent of idealistic voters eager to believe that a sufficiently high-minded leader can conjure up the better angels of America’s nature and persuade the broad public to support a radical overhaul of our institutions. In 2008 that contingent rallied behind Mr. Obama; now they’re backing Mr. Sanders, who has adopted such a purist stance that the other day he dismissed Planned Parenthood (which has endorsed Hillary Clinton) as part of the “establishment.”

But as Mr. Obama himself found out as soon as he took office, transformational rhetoric isn’t how change happens. That’s not to say that he’s a failure. On the contrary, he’s been an extremely consequential president, doing more to advance the progressive agenda than anyone since L.B.J.

Yet his achievements have depended at every stage on accepting half loaves as being better than none: health reform that leaves the system largely private, financial reform that seriously restricts Wall Street’s abuses without fully breaking its power, higher taxes on the rich but no full-scale assault on inequality.

There’s a sort of mini-dispute among Democrats over who can claim to be Mr. Obama’s true heir — Mr. Sanders or Mrs. Clinton? But the answer is obvious: Mr. Sanders is the heir to candidate Obama, but Mrs. Clinton is the heir to President Obama. (In fact, the health reform we got was basically her proposal, not his.)

Could Mr. Obama have been more transformational? Maybe he could have done more at the margins. But the truth is that he was elected under the most favorable circumstances possible, a financial crisis that utterly discredited his predecessor — and still faced scorched-earth opposition from Day 1.

And the question Sanders supporters should ask is, When has their theory of change ever worked? Even F.D.R., who rode the depths of the Great Depression to a huge majority, had to be politically pragmatic, working not just with special interest groups but also with Southern racists.

Remember, too, that the institutions F.D.R. created were add-ons, not replacements: Social Security didn’t replace private pensions, unlike the Sanders proposal to replace private health insurance with single-payer. Oh, and Social Security originally covered only half the work force, and as a result largely excluded African-Americans.

Just to be clear: I’m not saying that someone like Mr. Sanders is unelectable, although Republican operatives would evidently rather face him than Mrs. Clinton — they know that his current polling is meaningless, because he has never yet faced their attack machine. But even if he was to become president, he would end up facing the same harsh realities that constrained Mr. Obama.

The point is that while idealism is fine and essential — you have to dream of a better world — it’s not a virtue unless it goes along with hardheaded realism about the means that might achieve your ends. That’s true even when, like F.D.R., you ride a political tidal wave into office. It’s even more true for a modern Democrat, who will be lucky if his or her party controls even one house of Congress at any point this decade.

Sorry, but there’s nothing noble about seeing your values defeated because you preferred happy dreams to hard thinking about means and ends. Don’t let idealism veer into destructive self-indulgence.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 22, 2016

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Idealism | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“What Candidates See As Our Infrastructure Priorities”: Time To Press The Presidential Candidates On Flint’s Water Crisis

In every presidential campaign, there are issues everyone knows beforehand will be discussed — what should we do about immigration, how can we improve the economy, where should we go on health care — and events that become campaign issues when they burst into the news. So it is with the public health crisis in Flint, Michigan, where a public health catastrophe has played out over the last two years, and more and more politicians are being asked to comment on it.

To get you up to speed, in 2014, in an effort to save money, the city stopped getting its water from Detroit and began getting it from the contaminated Flint River. It turned out that all manner of nasty chemicals were contained in the water, most alarmingly, lead. It’s important to understand that at the time, Flint’s own elected officials were all but powerless, because the city was being run by a “emergency manager” appointed by Michigan governor Rick Snyder; it was the emergency manager who made the final call to switch their water supply (you can read more about that here). Emails released yesterday by Snyder’s administration show that as Flint residents were complaining about the water’s color and taste, and reporting ill health effects, state officials were not particularly eager to do anything about it. Snyder’s chief of staff wrote in one email that other state officials felt that “some in Flint are taking the very sensitive issue of children’s exposure to lead and trying to turn it into a political football.”

Well it’s a political football now — as well it should be. I’ve long been an advocate of “politicizing” just about everything (see here or here), not because candidates should take any excuse to blame each other for anything going wrong anywhere in the country, but because elected officials need to make choices, and campaigns provide an opportunity to get them on record saying how they’d address critical issues. Right after a hurricane is the best time to talk about what government should do to prepare for disasters, just as the aftermath of a high-profile police shooting is the best time to talk about police practices. It’s when our attention gets focused on a problem and there’s a real opportunity to make progress.

So what we’re seeing now is that Democrats, particularly President Obama and those running for his party’s presidential nomination, are eager to talk about Flint. Obama met with Flint’s mayor, declared a state of emergency that will allow federal funds to flow there, and called the crisis “inexplicable and inexcusable.” Hillary Clinton raised it in Sunday’s debate when asked what issue she wish had been brought up but hadn’t, saying, “We’ve had a city in the United States of America where the population which is poor in many ways and majority African American has been drinking and bathing in lead contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care. He had requests for help that he basically stonewalled. I’ll tell you what, if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would’ve been action.” For his part, Bernie Sanders called for Snyder to resign.

And the Republicans? It won’t be surprising if they aren’t interested in discussing the race and class issues the crisis raises, and thus far, they don’t seem to want to talk seriously about it at all. Ben Carson was the first to give any substantive comment, placing the blame on Flint’s elected officials and the federal government, neatly excusing Governor Snyder’s administration of any involvement. Marco Rubio was asked about it on Monday and said he couldn’t say much, since “That’s not an issue that right now we’ve been focused on”; from what I can tell he hasn’t said anything about it since. Donald Trump was also reluctant to discuss it, responding to a reporter’s question on Tuesday by saying, “A thing like that shouldn’t happen, but, again, I don’t want to comment on that.” John Kasich said, “I think the governor has moved the National Guard in and, you know, I’m sure he will manage this appropriately.” I haven’t been able to find any comments from Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, or Rick Santorum.

But there is one Republican candidate who made detailed remarks about the issue: Ted Cruz. “It is a failure at every level of government, a failure of the city officials, a failure of the county officials, and the men and women of Michigan have been betrayed,” Cruz said. “Every American is entitled to have access to clean water. And to all the children who have been poisoned by government officials, by their negligence, by their ineptitude, it’s heart-breaking.” In addition, Cruz’s Michigan state director wrote on her Facebook page that the campaign was bringing bottled water to “crisis pregnancy centers” in the city, which try to convince women not to have abortions.

Cruz did his best to fit the issue in with his broader critique of government, but it isn’t surprising that the rest of his Republican colleagues didn’t really want to talk about it. If Snyder were a Democrat, you can be sure they’d be blaming him, but he isn’t. They aren’t going to say that this disaster demonstrates that the problems that affect poor and black people are given less attention by government at all levels than the problems that affect rich and white people, because most of them don’t think that’s actually true. They aren’t going to say that this shows that we need a major investment in infrastructure spending in America, because they don’t really believe that, either.

But those are the broader issues that the catastrophe in Flint raises, and that’s what the candidates ought to be pressed on. They don’t even have to agree on who bears the lion’s share of the blame to agree that we have a national problem that requires attention. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the country’s drinking water system a grade of “D” and says that in the next couple of decades we will need to invest hundreds of billions of dollars, perhaps even into the trillions, in order to bring the system up to where it should be.

So now that we’re focusing on the question of drinking water, the candidates should say what they see as our infrastructure priorities, how we should address them, how much we ought to spend, and how that fits in with the other things they’d like to spend money on.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, January 21, 2016

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Flint Michigan, Hillary Clinton, Presidential Candidates, Rick Snyder | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Not The America Of The Future”: GOP A Bridge To 1960, When 90 Percent Of The Population Was White

It’s hardly news to observe that partisan polarization in this country is reinforced by sharp divisions in the demographic composition of the two major parties. But National Journal‘s Ron Brownstein offers one bit of data that dramatizes the issue as well as any I’ve seen:

In 2012, whites ac­coun­ted for about 90 per­cent of both the bal­lots cast in the Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial primar­ies and the votes Mitt Rom­ney re­ceived in the gen­er­al elec­tion. The last time whites rep­res­en­ted 90 per­cent of the total Amer­ic­an pop­u­la­tion was 1960.

Think about that. If the Republican Party were a country, it would racially resemble the America of 1960, 55 years ago. Brownstein goes on to argue that Democrats are also out of alignment with today’s demographics — but it most resembles an America of the future, and the not-too-distant future at that.

Eth­nic groups now equal just over 37 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans. But voters of col­or ac­coun­ted for nearly 45 per­cent of Pres­id­ent Obama’s votes in 2012. Eth­nic minor­it­ies likely won’t equal that much of the total pop­u­la­tion for about an­oth­er 15 years.

If one party (whose average age of about 52 means that a sizable minority can actually remember the America of 1960) is composed of people who are both aware of their once-dominant position and of how quickly it is slipping away, is there any reason to be surprised that party is strongly influenced by feelings that the country has taken a wrong turn that must be resisted? And should anyone be shocked that reaction to cultural and demographic change might well begin to compete with free-market economics or universalistic values in shaping the party’s positions and leadership?

I don’t think so. When in response to Bill Clinton’s promise to “build a bridge to the 21st century,” 1996 GOP nominee Bob Dole — first elected to Congress in 1960 — described his Republican presidential campaign as “a bridge to an America that only the unknowing call myth,” he ironically hit on his party’s future message.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 22, 2016

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Demographics, Ethnic Groups, Minorities | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Do Cops See Guns That Aren’t There?”: Our Perception Is Driven By Our Biases

It happens with disturbing regularity. Police shoot someone who is unarmed, all too often a black male. And as the officer recounts their version of what happened, they frequently repeat the same phrase: “I thought he was armed.”

It’s impossible to say exactly what the officer perceived and the visual information their brain used to determine a person was armed. Far from acting like reliable, high-definition cameras, our vision is actually rather imperfect, transmitting only bits and pieces of the whole picture and leaving the rest for our brain to fill in. And in high-stress situations, says a new study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, our brains prioritize the processing of coarse features rather than the fine details that would enable someone to tell the difference between a real gun and a cellphone, can of soda, or even a toy gun.

“How stressed we are affects how we perceive,” said Karin Roelofs, a neuropsychologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and senior author of the new study.

All students in Introductory Psychology classes learn about the fight-or-flight response and how, when an animal perceives a threat, it prepares to take a stand or run away. There’s also a third option, in which the animal freezes in place. It’s the deer-in-headlights phenomenon and serves to protect the animal from predators that often hunt by detecting movement. In dangerous situations, humans will freeze, too, our nervous systems governed by the same hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Animals use the time while “frozen” to take in information about their surroundings and make the decision whether to fight or run.

Scientists generally believed that freezing behavior heightened sensory perception, but no one had actually measured this in the lab. What Roelofs and her team wanted to know was how feeling threatened and the subsequent freezing behavior altered visual perception in humans. She recruited 34 healthy young adults to complete a task that asked them to judge whether a series of lines were horizontal or vertical. Some of the options contained a few, large lines, which simulated coarse information, whereas others contained many thinner lines to simulate fine detail.

But there was a catch. Roelofs also intermittently displayed a red or a green dot. Occasionally, the red dot was followed by a mild electric shock that was unpleasant but not painful or dangerous. The sight of the red dot elicited freezing behavior. When Roelofs and colleagues measured how well the subjects did, they found that the stressed and fearful conditions improved their abilities on the low-detail images but hampered their judgement on the high-detail images.

“The brain is always making predictions about what we see. It’s generally more important to know if something’s there than what it is,” Roelofs said.

These and other studies help to underline the close links between emotion and perception.

The brain has certain templates that help us predict what to expect, says Aprajita Mohanty, a psychologist at Stony Brook University. If you’re driving on snow, you instinctively look out for icy patches. If you see a black person, years of growing up in a prejudiced culture may make you assume they are armed and dangerous. “Your brain is never really walking into a situation blind,” she said.

However, Roelofs cautions that her study took place under controlled lab conditions, which makes it difficult to say exactly how these results might apply to the real world, where tense situations often require split-second decisions. Other studies provide some detail that provides clues about how the brain makes rapid decisions while under stress, such as when a cop pulls a gun on a civilian.

Racial bias is everywhere in America, and police are no more immune than anyone else. Social neuroscientist Daniel Amodio of New York University has spent his career studying how thoughts and emotions, including stereotypes, affect perception and behavior.

One of his studies asked a racially diverse group of individuals from different countries around the world to play a computer game in which they were the police officer and had to decide whether the person on screen was armed and whether to shoot them. Regardless of the ethnicity of the participant, the Americans were far more likely to shoot African Americans, regardless of whether or not they were armed.

When Amodio and his team tracked the eye movements of the participants to see what they were looking at, he found that people always looked at the face of the person on the screen before they shifted their gaze to the object they were carrying. The problem was that they had made the decision about whether or not to shoot before they turned their attention to the object to determine whether it was a gun or something non-threatening. Other of his social neuroscience studies show that people often show decreased neural processing of faces from different racial or ethnic groups, meaning that people see them as being, in some ways, less human.

“If you’re under stress and need to act quickly, you tend to rely on mental shortcuts” such as prejudice and stereotypes, Amodio said. “If someone is amped up and afraid because there might be a shooter and they see a kid, like with what happened with Tamir Rice, they say that when I drove up, I saw a man who looked to be armed. In the split second it took for the officer to drive up and shoot, it’s quite possible that all of these instincts lead to that decision.”

This isn’t to say that the appropriate response to these shootings is a defense of “my brain made me do it.” Rather, the goal of his work, Amodio says, is to try to counter these prejudices and understand how people make these snap decisions to provide better training to police officers. Racial bias plays a key role because it’s the raw material from which the brain fills in our perceptual gaps.

“We need to raise awareness of how bias might affect what police officers see,” Amodio says.

To Mohanty, our perception is driven by our biases. “There is no such thing as true perception,” she said. “Modifying our beliefs can change how we perceive.

 

By: Carrie Arnold, The Daily Beast, January 22, 2015

 

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Black Men, Police Shootings, Racial Bias | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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