Monday, November 28, 2016

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

I have steadfastly avoided discussing politics unless it centered around the Affordable Care Act or Criminal Justice, two issues of which I feel are of import. Regardless of party affiliation I have tried to reconcile and understand why many disagree just to disagree. The level of obstinance is something akin to a two year old not rational adults who supposedly share a love of country and the desire to attain and retain the concept of the "American Dream."

And then I realized we never will ever agree as everything now is resorted to sports-like arguments over whose team is better. From no apologies to name calling we are now a nation of regressed juveniles who unless they get their way they will fuck it up for everyone. And so now I have elected (pun intended) to be partisan and talk about the future President and what that may mean for our future. OUR not mine, not theirs, OURS

We have now elected perhaps the oldest man-child in history to the most pre-eminent position in the world. There is little indication that the promises to "act Presidential" will ever come to fruition and the reality that he will forsake running his empire is absurd if not ludicrous. He is a man caught up in his name and that means more to him than the role of President and what that entails.

I suspect early on the conflict of interests will become so egregious even the party of the President will struggle to turn a blind eye but in their ever increasing need of self interest will pursue an investigation in order to place the Vice President in the job, a well tried and true conservative who will tow the party line and finally achieve the goals that the GOP have been promising/threatening for years.

And that is when again the real battle for our sanity and security will arise. I am afraid for America and anyone who is not is deluding themselves.

Why Corruption Matters

Paul Krugman
The New York Times
NOV. 28, 2016


Remember all the news reports suggesting, without evidence, that the Clinton Foundation’s fund-raising created conflicts of interest? Well, now the man who benefited from all that innuendo is on his way to the White House. And he’s already giving us an object lesson in what real conflicts of interest look like, as authoritarian governments around the world shower favors on his business empire.

Of course, Donald Trump could be rejecting these favors and separating himself and his family from his hotels and so on. But he isn’t. In fact, he’s openly using his position to drum up business. And his early appointments suggest that he won’t be the only player using political power to build personal wealth. Self-dealing will be the norm throughout this administration. America has just entered an era of unprecedented corruption at the top.

The question you need to ask is why this matters. Hint: It’s not the money, it’s the incentives.

True, we could be talking about a lot of money — think billions, not millions, to Mr. Trump alone (which is why his promise not to take his salary is a sick joke). But America is a very rich country, whose government spends more than $4 trillion a year, so even large-scale looting amounts to rounding error. What’s important is not the money that sticks to the fingers of the inner circle, but what they do to get that money, and the bad policy that results.

Normally, policy reflects some combination of practicality — what works? — and ideology — what fits my preconceptions? And our usual complaint is that ideology all too often overrules the evidence.

But now we’re going to see a third factor powerfully at work: What policies can officials, very much including the man at the top, personally monetize? And the effect will be disastrous.

Let’s start relatively small, with the choice of Betsy DeVos as education secretary. Ms. DeVos has some obvious affinities with Mr. Trump: Her husband is an heir to the fortune created by Amway, a company that has been accused of being a fraudulent scheme and, in 2011, paid $150 million to settle a class-action suit. But what’s really striking is her signature issue, school vouchers, in which parents are given money rather than having their children receive a public education.

At this point there’s a lot of evidence on how well school vouchers actually work, and it’s basically damning. For example, Louisiana’s extensive voucher plan unambiguously reduced student achievement. But voucher advocates won’t take no for an answer. Part of this is ideology, but it’s also true that vouchers might eventually find their way to for-profit educational institutions

And the track record of for-profit education is truly terrible; the Obama administration has been cracking down on the scams that infest the industry. But things will be different now: For-profit education stocks soared after the election. Two, three, many Trump Universities!

Moving on, I’ve already written about the Trump infrastructure plan, which for no obvious reason involves widespread privatization of public assets. No obvious reason, that is, except the huge opportunities for cronyism and profiteering that would be opened up.

But what’s truly scary is the potential impact of corruption on foreign policy. Again, foreign governments are already trying to buy influence by adding to Mr. Trump’s personal wealth, and he is welcoming their efforts.

In case you’re wondering, yes, this is illegal, in fact unconstitutional, a clear violation of the emoluments clause. But who’s going to enforce the Constitution? Republicans in Congress? Don’t be silly.

Destruction of democratic norms aside, however, think about the tilt this de facto bribery will give to U.S. policy. What kind of regime can buy influence by enriching the president and his friends? The answer is, only a government that doesn’t adhere to the rule of law.

Think about it: Could Britain or Canada curry favor with the incoming administration by waiving regulations to promote Trump golf courses or directing business to Trump hotels? No — those nations have free presses, independent courts, and rules designed to prevent exactly that kind of improper behavior. On the other hand, someplace like Vladimir Putin’s Russia can easily funnel vast sums to the man at the top in return for, say, the withdrawal of security guarantees for the Baltic States.

One would like to hope that national security officials are explaining to Mr. Trump just how destructive it would be to let business considerations drive foreign policy. But reports say that Mr. Trump has barely met with those officials, refusing to get the briefings that are normal for a president-elect.

So how bad will the effects of Trump-era corruption be? The best guess is, worse than you can possibly imagine.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Regardless it's going

I have never been a fan of the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. It sucks frankly but it has good points; however it has never reduced costs, it has become largely unafforable for many with regards to premiums not deducted by the subsidies (as those whose income varies is out of reach by the levels set by law), the deductibles and the lack of choices on networks further strangulating choice of providers all make this Act the piece of shit wiped from Obama's shoe.  He never sold us on it and it was rammed through without real debate or option on single payer or Medicare for all.  Bye Obama just toss those shoes in the trash on the way out of the White House.

Wow, I had such belief in that man but at least it has prepared me to have none for the one taking his place.  There is the change I have been looking for and the hope is that I might be wrong, but doubtful.

So the Trumpkins that voted Il Douchebag in are much like the Tea Party folks, long on complaints actually short on what they really want.  They want change but no change that affects them is apparently what they mean.

So here is an article about Florida, the one state in contention that apparently voted in droves for Il Douchebag, however they don't want him to touch their medical insurance.  I can see this will go well.

Many in Florida Count on Obama’s Health Law, Even Amid Talk of Its Demise


By ABBY GOODNOUGH
THE NEW YORK TIMES
NOV. 25, 2016


MIAMI — Dalia Carmeli, who drives a trolley in downtown Miami, voted for Donald J. Trump on Election Day. A week later, she stopped in to see the enrollment counselor who will help her sign up for another year of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“I hope it still stays the same,” said Ms. Carmeli, 64, who has Crohn’s disease and relies on her insurance to cover frequent doctor’s appointments and an array of medications.

Mr. Trump and Republicans in Congress are vowing to repeal much or all of the health law, a target of their party’s contempt since the day it passed with only Democratic votes in 2010. If they succeed, they will set in motion an extraordinary dismantling of a major social program in the United States.

But for now, with open enrollment for 2017 underway, people are steadily signing up or renewing their coverage, and in conversations last week in South Florida, many refused to believe that a benefit they count on would actually be taken away.

Florida helped hand Mr. Trump the presidency when he narrowly won the state, but it has also provided more customers for the federal health insurance marketplace than any other state. This makes Florida a window to the complex and delicate task Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans face in deciding whether to scrap the entire law, which has brought coverage to more than 20 million people, and what to replace it with.
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Even though Gov. Rick Scott fiercely opposes the law, more than 1.5 million Floridians were enrolled in marketplace plans as of March, the last time the Obama administration released data. And some of the problems that have plagued the marketplaces in other states have been less of an issue here: The premium increases and overall prices have been lower than average, and at least in urban areas, a number of insurers are still participating.

Jay Wolfson, a professor of public health and medicine at the University of South Florida, said that while many Floridians would be happy to see the law disappear, and the state’s Republican leaders have never shied away from attacking it, failing to come up with a substantive replacement could be politically risky.

“The question I think we all have is, how do they transition out of it?” he said. “How do they do it without dumping millions of people off the edge of a cliff?”

Despite the law’s problems, including sharp premium increases for next year, millions of people, including many in states that Mr. Trump won, have come to depend on it. Texas, North Carolina and Georgia, like Florida, have large numbers of people insured through HealthCare.gov. And 16 states that now have Republican governors or governors-elect expanded Medicaid under the law, including Indiana under Mike Pence, now the vice president-elect.

The Obama administration said last week that over the first 12 days of open enrollment, plan selections in the states that use the federal marketplace were up by about 5 percent compared with the same period last year. Some of the states that run their own marketplaces have reported brisker business: In Colorado, sign-ups are running 30 percent higher than they were at this point in the last open enrollment period, according to Kevin Patterson, the chief executive of the state’s marketplace.

If the pace continues, hundreds of thousands more people could be added to the insurance rolls, even as Republicans discuss alternative legislation that could drop millions.

“Even with the whole situation, it’s been a great start,” said Odalys Arevalo, an owner of Sunshine Life and Health Advisors, an insurance agency that she said has enrolled tens of thousands of Floridians, mostly working-class Hispanics, in health law plans over the past three years. She added, however, that people were confused and were asking many questions about the future of the law.

Nonprofit groups with federal grants to enroll the uninsured are conducting an ever more strategic search for them — working, for example, with the consulates of Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Uruguay in Miami to identify “lawfully present” immigrants who might want coverage (they qualify for subsidies under the law, even without citizenship) and with a small American Indian tribe in the Panhandle.

“We’re in the here and now, and nothing has changed at the moment,” said Karen Egozi, the chief executive of the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, repeating a new mantra among the group’s 90 enrollment counselors. As of Tuesday, they had signed up 277 people for insurance since Nov. 1, when enrollment began, she said, compared with 193 over the same period last year.

In South Florida, a teeming mix of retirees who may not have reached Medicare age, hotel and restaurant workers and recently arrived immigrants working for small, homegrown businesses has helped ensure robust enrollment in the subsidized plans offered through the marketplace. While the Republican leaders of the state have refused to expand Medicaid, individuals with annual incomes of about $12,000 to $47,500 qualify for subsidies that pay some or most of the cost.

Ninety-one percent of plan holders in Florida this year receive premium subsidies — a higher percentage than in any other state — and 71 percent also have reduced deductibles, a benefit available to people at or below 250 percent of the poverty level.

Some of them, like Ms. Carmeli, voted for Mr. Trump. She pays $45 toward her monthly premium, with a subsidy of about $600 covering the rest. She is looking at a new premium of $171 if she keeps her current plan, but she believes that she will find a more affordable option.

“Trump is going to keep it for a while, at least the part where if you have a disease you can still get coverage,” she said, adding that she would turn 65 next summer and get Medicare, so she would stay covered regardless.

More vulnerable are people like Gerardo Murillo Lovo, 44, a construction worker who never had health insurance before signing up for a marketplace plan in 2014. He pays $15 a month and gets a subsidy of $590 for a plan that covers his wife, as well. When he renewed his coverage last week at the Epilepsy Foundation, he learned that the price would not increase next year.

“I’ve heard that what he wanted to do first is get rid of Obamacare,” Mr. Murillo, a Nicaraguan immigrant who is a citizen but did not vote, said of Mr. Trump. “But my personal opinion is that he will discuss it with other people who will convince him that we can’t get rid of this. I think it’s going to be maintained one way or another, and I’m going to keep it as long as I can.”

Mr. Trump has suggested he would like to keep popular parts of the law that guarantee access to insurance for people with pre-existing conditions and that allow children to stay on their parents’ policies until they turn 26. Congressional Republicans have floated other ideas, like providing tax credits to people who buy their own health insurance, but have not yet unified around a replacement plan. The challenge they face, health care economists say, is keeping prices down without requiring everyone to have coverage, the way the Affordable Care Act does.

Even the possibility of repeal is causing extreme anxiety among some people with health problems. Mary Benner, 57, who lives near Tampa and voted for Hillary Clinton, will undergo a test next week to determine whether a spot on her lung, discovered on a routine X-ray, is cancer.

“This has been a nightmare for me,” she said of having a health scare just as Mr. Trump won the presidency and renewed his promise to repeal the law. “What I’m really hoping is that they won’t be able to come to an agreement and can’t get anything passed, so everything just stays the same.”

Others, particularly those with higher incomes, are re-enrolling grudgingly, soured by the increasingly expensive cost of marketplace plans. Bob Verrastro, a corporate tax consultant who voted for Mr. Trump, said that while he and his wife get a subsidy that reduces their monthly premium to $274, their deductible and other out-of-pocket costs are unaffordable, and he is eager to see the law repealed.

“I think it was rammed down our throats,” Mr. Verrastro, 64, of Boynton Beach, said of the law. “I’m taking advantage of it because I’d be silly not to. But it needs to be changed.”

Luis Perez Cuevas last week visited a kiosk run by Sunshine Life and Health Advisors in the Mall of the Americas in Miami, ready to renew his marketplace plan. First, though, he asked his agent, Dennis Garcia, whether it would be foolish to do so.

“I actually believe Trump’s rhetoric,” said Mr. Perez, 55, an Uber driver and maintenance worker at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Mr. Perez is paying $107 a month for his plan this year, but next year the price will drop to $49 a month, with a $484 subsidy, in part because his daughter came from Cuba and joined his household as a dependent. Because his income is low, the government also covers his deductible.

After Mr. Perez left, Mr. Garcia, the insurance agent, allowed that he hoped Mr. Trump would, in fact, change the law. It is not fair that low-income people get help with their deductibles, he said, while marketplace customers with slightly higher incomes, like himself, do not.

“Maybe Mr. Trump can make it better by making it more equal,” he said.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Act of Sedition

I have long lamented the lack of intellectual curiosity and awareness of those I encounter.  Some of it I attribute to sheer stupidity the other to ignorance, two very different states of mind.  Ignorance is more willful and more deliberate and social media has enabled this to become embedded into the psyche of those who simply refuse to read, listen and actually communicate with those they deem "different." 

I am watching an older Seth Myers that was filmed in late October when everyone was assured that Hillary Clinton was to be the first woman President. Surprise!  The subject is fake news and he goes back into the past and discusses the role of Tabloids in the election - as in the National Enquirer and the former Weekly World News Report.  Then the role of paranoid idiots in talk radio that quotes these type of sources with impunity and that includes of course Fox News.

And this last week has brought a tsunami of revelations with regards to fake news from Russia and bots to morons on the street.

This story stood out for many reasons. One the sheer level of audacity that this Austin Texas moron, Eric Tucker.  I am not sure what I like more, the sheer level of assumption and in turn fabrication, the denial and then in turn the quote:  “I’m also a very busy businessman and I don’t have time to fact-check everything that I put out there, especially when I don’t think it’s going out there for wide consumption.”

Yes you are very busy.  My father used to say constantly "I'm a very busy man." All while watching TV or working in the garden, his favorite pastime. Yes that is busy and I still use it as tribute while sitting staring at kids.  Some laugh, well those in Seattle did in Nashville the intellect here is lacking so as a result is humor.  (No I have nothing good to say about the idiocy here and for the first time in my life I find myself no longer trying to explain, justify and excuse children)

But Eric Tucker is not the only one.  There is this group that interpreted, inferred from the Wikileaks

                                               ex·po·sé

and yes that is what Wikileaks became this election season - a tabloid.   I am unsure what the point was other than to do damage as no parallel hack was done to the Trump campaign so it is clear that it was with intent and design to harm the campaign of Ms. Clinton.

And this story about the pizza parlor that was the headquarters of a child human trafficking zone.  At no point did anyone contact authorities or ask any official to investigate said claims, no they threatened and harassed the joint with no substantial evidence to support the allegations.  The bizarre level of vitriol is on some level hilarious and on another distressing.  Maybe these people are not as busy as Eric Tucker.

This morning the BBC is discussing Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook devising a software program that will comply with the censorship demands of China in which to break into that lucrative market. Funny last week he was dismissing Facebook's role in the election process via the spreading of fake news.   I think the BBC finally made the most appropriate analogy that I have heard with regards to the child prodigy, he is akin to Rupert Murdoch.  Yes that Murdoch who was the king of tabloid journalism,  remember hack gate in England a few years ago?

I have no doubt that is what social media has become the de facto news source versus reading actual news articles written by Journalists who research and investigate stories and inform the public.  True that much media has failed to do so and this election the pass they gave to Trump was a contributory role, but like education, news across the country - print and television - has been underfunded and consolidated into bizarre quasi news that seems to just print opinion and news off the wire.  I have read our local paper The Tennessean and it is garbage liner but the Seattle Times was equally dismal, so at least that these two cities have that much in common - shitty journalism.

There are great sources that investigate and report on a myriad of subjects, Pro Publica is one. That might be a great place to make a last minute donation to support independent journalism.  Another is the Guardian UK that also reports on American news stories but also covers international ones that our own cable neglects.   There is the Marshall Project that focuses on the subject of Criminal Justice and with the upcoming Trumpkins and their racist in the closet AG, this might be a good time to investigate that on your own.  And think about subscribing to the New York Times or the Washington Post, they are still there still doing their work while simultaneously being both the target and the praise of Il Douchebag.  Let's hope that he doesn't revive the Alien and Sedition Acts.  






Friday, November 25, 2016

Grades? Who needs them

Our future envoy to the Middle East, Jared Kushner, is Il Douchebag's son-in-law. He is Jewish and so his daughter, Ivanka, who converted upon marrying the future Secretary to the Secretary of State.  He is the son of a criminal, yes he is and he is a wealthy, owns a newspaper that is now going to be just an online journal similar to Breitbart.  This makes it handy that Steve Bannon, known Jew hater, is also working for Il Douchebag as he can give him tips, such as clickbait headlines: A Jew Rages about the Blacks.

When Il Douchebag was railing on Obama's birth one of the many accusations that he seems to enjoy to perceived enemies of the now State (I am going with that he now thinks on our behalf collectively) is throwing any shit against the wall to see what sticks.  And one such piece of shit was that Obama did not graduate from Harvard or had done "poorly."  One thing about our future Il Douchebag-in-chief is that he sticks with a limited vocabulary which also belies his supposed Ivy League education, but then again like his diet he is like his favorite people the "poorly educated."

So let's find out about our future whatever he is in the role of Apprentice to Il Douchebag and his credentials.  

And for the record I think very little of Harvard as it is not anything new or surprising that nepotism, legacy admissions, donations and the few scraps thrown in for shits and giggles is part of their admission process. This school is ground zero for everything evil in America. 


How did ‘less than stellar’ high school student Jared Kushner get into Harvard?

Donald Trump’s son-in-law was accepted into the Ivy League university in the wake of a $2.5m pledge made by his parents


Daniel Golden
UK Guardian
Friday 18 November 2016 05 EST



I would like to express my gratitude to Jared Kushner for reviving interest in my 2006 book, The Price of Admission. I have never met or spoken with him, and it’s rare in this life to find such a selfless benefactor. Of course, I doubt he became Donald Trump’s son-in-law and consigliere merely to boost my lagging sales, but still, I’m thankful.

My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their underachieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5m to Harvard University not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school, which at the time accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes one out of 20.)

I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less-than-stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.

“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,’’ a former official at the Frisch school in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. “His GPA [grade point average] did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought, for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.’’


Risa Heller, a spokeswoman for Kushner Companies, said in an email on Thursday that “the allegation’’ that Charles Kushner’s gift to Harvard was related to Jared’s admission “is and always has been false”. His parents, Charles and Seryl Kushner, “are enormously generous and have donated over $100m to universities, hospitals and other charitable causes. Jared Kushner was an excellent student in high school and graduated from Harvard with honours.’’ (About 90% of Jared’s 2003 class at Harvard also graduated with honours.)

My Kushner discoveries were an offshoot of my research for a chapter on Harvard donors. Somebody had slipped me a document I had long coveted: the membership list of Harvard’s Committee on University Resources. The university wooed more than 400 of its biggest givers and most promising prospects by putting them on this committee and inviting them to campus periodically to be wined, dined and subjected to lectures by eminent professors.

My idea was to figure out how many children of these corporate titans, oil barons, money managers, lawyers, high-tech consultants and old-money heirs had gone to Harvard. A disproportionate tally might suggest that the university eased its standards for the offspring of wealthy backers.

I began working through the list, poring over Who’s Who in America and Harvard class reunion reports for family information. Charles and Seryl Kushner were both on the committee. I had never heard of them, but their joint presence struck me as a sign that Harvard’s fundraising machine held the couple in especially fond regard.

The clips showed that Charles Kushner’s empire encompassed 25,000 New Jersey apartments, along with extensive office, industrial and retail space and undeveloped land. Unlike most of his fellow committee members, though, Kushner was not a Harvard man. He had graduated from New York University. This eliminated the sentimental tug of the alma mater as a reason for him to give to Harvard, leaving another likely explanation: his children.

Sure enough, his sons Jared and Joshua had both enrolled there.

Charles Kushner differed from his peers on the committee in another way: he had a criminal record. Five years after Jared entered Harvard, the elder Kushner pleaded guilty in 2004 to tax violations, illegal campaign donations and retaliating against a witness. (As it happens, the prosecutor in the case was Chris Christie, recently ousted as the head of Trump’s transition team.) Charles Kushner had hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, who was cooperating with federal authorities. Kushner then had a videotape of the tryst sent to his sister. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison.
Jewish employee of Trump's son-in-law writes open letter over antisemitism row
Read more

I completed my analysis, which justified my hunch. Of the 400-plus tycoons on Harvard’s list – which included people who were childless or too young to have college-age offspring – more than half had sent at least one child to the university.

I also decided that the Kushner-Harvard relationship deserved special attention. Although the university often heralded big gifts in press releases or a bulletin called, in a classic example of fundraising wit, Re:sources, a search of these outlets came up empty. Harvard didn’t seem eager to be publicly associated with Charles Kushner.

While looking into Kushner’s taxes, though, federal authorities had subpoenaed records of his charitable giving. I learned that in 1998, when Jared was attending the Frisch school and starting to look at colleges, his father had pledged $2.5m to Harvard, to be paid in annual instalments of $250,000. Charles Kushner also visited Neil Rudenstine, then Harvard president, and discussed funding a scholarship programme for low- and middle-income students.

I phoned a Harvard official, with whom I was on friendly terms. First I asked whether the gift played any role in Jared’s admission. “You know we don’t comment on individual applicants,’’ he said. When I pressed further, he hung up. We haven’t spoken since.

At Harvard, Jared Kushner majored in government. Now the 35-year-old is poised to become the power behind the presidency. What he plans to do, and in what direction he and his father-in-law will lead the country, are far more important than his high school grades.


You're Hired

I laughed at the New York Times, the either failing or crown jewel in publishing dependent upon the mood of Il Douchebag, who put this editorial in yesterday's paper.


No Experience, No Problem

By the Editorial Board
The New York Times
November 24, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition has been a circus, to say the least, with a colorful and eclectic crowd of job seekers of varying ideological hues and levels of experience ascending to the 26th floor of Trump Tower to audition for some of the most consequential jobs in the country. The man who spent years saying “you’re fired” is now saying “you’re hired” to all sorts of people, though it’s not at all clear whether his choices result from a carefully thought-out strategy or are being made on the fly.

The latest winners in the Trump job fair are Gov. Nikki Haley, Betsy DeVos and, by all accounts, Ben Carson, who is likely to be named soon. Anyone seeking a clear policy or ideological pattern here will be disappointed.

Ms. Haley, Mr. Trump’s choice to be ambassador to the United Nations, is a popular South Carolina governor with a winning manner and zero foreign policy experience. Mr. Carson, who is expected to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is a famed neurosurgeon who was demolished by Mr. Trump in the Republican primaries and whose only experience with housing appears to be that he is a homeowner. Ms. DeVos, the prospective education secretary, is a wealthy Republican donor who leads the advocacy group American Federation for Children, but who spent a considerable amount of time on Wednesday insisting that she does not support Common Core, which Mr. Trump bashed on the campaign trail.

There is no perfect prescription for assembling a cabinet, although most incoming presidents have aimed for geographical balance and, in recent years, gender and racial diversity. Nor is there any particular order in which cabinet members are supposed to be named, although here, again, presidents-elect have sought to nail down top foreign policy and defense jobs fairly soon. On that score, Mr. Trump is only partly there, with Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser and Representative Mike Pompeo as director of central intelligence, but no secretary of state or defense as yet.If there is any ideological consistency it is in the appointments of General Flynn and Mr. Pompeo. Both are hard-liners, as is true of the hard-right Stephen Bannon, whom Mr. Trump appointed as his chief strategist. Reince Priebus, the new chief of staff, seems more of a consensus pick, since his main job over the last few years, as chairman of the Republican National Committee, has been to keep as many Republicans as possible as happy as possible.

Josh Bolten, who ran George W. Bush’s transition — acknowledged by experts to be one of the best-run in recent history — calls Mr. Trump’s wide-open approach to hiring “refreshing” and its organization “peculiar.” He has no better idea than the rest of us about where Mr. Trump is headed. After all, Mr. Trump has been tinkering with his stances on Obamacare, climate change, so-called enhanced interrogation and immigration, and often seems to express the views of the last person he’s spoken to.

But Mr. Bolten, like others, seems worried that Mr. Trump, like Groucho Marx, might be trotting out his principles, while saying, “If you don’t like them … well, I have others.”

“We had a governing agenda,” he said. “The Trump folks don’t, and so their personnel are going to have to write the book as they enter office. It can be done, but it multiplies the degree of difficulty.

Given the unpredictable nature of the president-elect and the erratic nature of the process, we may be in for a wild ride.

As of now the women at least offer diversity for the qualifications seemed to center around being a white guy named Mike.   The reality is that donors, bundlers or the well connected are often appointed to ambassador jobs or other low level roles.  In this case the truth is no experience is necessary in the Apprentice White House where they will likely compete in challenges and in turn the best wins.

I cannot comment on Governor Haley other than perhaps being a woman and of Indian descent was good enough as apparently Il Douchebag thinks his son-in-law is qualified to negotiate peace in the Mideast as his qualifications are, "he knows the area."  I think that means he is a Jew.

The shocking surprise was the Education Secretary when many more vitriolic and divisive figures were available but apparently even those women who are bitches times ten refused, Eva Moscovitz who has had her own wars with the times  and Michelle Rhee who could easily have duct taped Il Douchebag's mouth if he spoke out of turn at a cabinet meeting.

So Trump went with the moneybags for Ed Secretary.  This is not unusual as many Presidents do. Obama picked Arne Duncan his basketball buddy but at least he had some tangential role in Education prior to taking the gig, this woman, seems to have had nothing but the goal to destroy public education as we know it.     What I also find fascinating is that her brother is Eric Prince of Blackwater fame.  Well there you go the family that wants to privatize education and the army appear to be major contenders in the White House Apprentice.

Even ed reformers on the Times have expressed concern about this pick. And this editorial from David Leonhardt expresses those concerns.

I have said repeatedly that incorporating some of the charter concepts into public schools, along with funding to allow for manageable class sizes, planning time, staff that is qualified and available to help with the social services that are needed, and actual curriculum that is available to teach not teach the test would be a great start.  Enabling schools to be administered by a team of individuals that include the Principal, Teachers and Parents, akin to a Corporate Board would be a great start.

I spoke to a woman who said her two special need sons are not getting what they need.  She has one child in Catholic School at the tune of 14K annually and they cannot take her sons as many private and charters cannot, so she cries every day.  I would join her but I had to stop crying.  I have found pockets of schools that offer amazing programs for those kids but they are few and far between and in district as large as Nashville it is impossible for a parent to sort through ostensibly 80 options to find the one that works. This district is too large, too inadequate and too fucked up to fix.   So destroying them I get at some level but then what is the choice?  I doubt this new Education Secretary will do anything that Arne Duncan did and he really fucked things up in a big way, but that was because he had Obama's ear over the court.  I don't think we need to worry about that with Il Douchebag, unless she shares his propensity for junk food then we might worry.






Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Off With Their Heads!



As I opened up the Washington Post to see the title of this article:  Donald Trump Lost Most of the American Economy in this Election.

The piece is here and if you want to review how Il Douchebag managed to win the election while losing the popular vote, you also have to understand that America is much more complex than the divide between red and blue.   Its economics stupid! And that same phrase that won Bill Clinton's election lost Hillary Clinton's.

Living in the red states I have frequently said that people here are stupid. Some by choice others by design. The slow burn of funding towards Educations, the vilification of Teaching and Unions along with the move to privatize education has made many of our populace ignorant if not fully stupid.

I distinguish ignorant as a more willful state, a desire to know what one knows and choose to know only what one wants and needs.  Stupid is a state of being and is fixed with opportunity to learn and grow.  Many Americans are both and that is the real challenge of what it means to reconcile, to compromise and to find common ground between those who agree to not agree.  

America's industrial base is now urban vs suburban and rural. We use to grow things, make things and do things all across America.  Now we have a very specialized type of industry, largely Banking and Finance on the East Coast and Technology on the West. Scattered in between are some auto and plane manufacturing, some industry with many of these businesses foreign owned.   Family farms do not exist and those that do are beholden to their corporate master.   Union membership is declining although the service sector and the gig economy are reviving that concept despite the tide of red that turns states into right to work ones and blocks any and all attempts to organize.

The study found: 

The divide is economic, and it is massive. According to the Brookings analysis, the less-than-500 counties that Clinton won nationwide combined to generate 64 percent of America's economic activity in 2015. The more-than-2,600 counties that Trump won combined to generate 36 percent of the country's economic activity last year.

Clinton, in other words, carried nearly two-thirds of the American economy.


Regardless, we have an angry group with the tech sector threatening to ceded reminiscent of Texas when they have threatened as did parts of Colorado over the years.  The irony that the educated elite are doing so is not surprising they have tried to cede the Silicon Valley from California to become some type of Libertarian bastion of free enterprise and other modern bullshit imagined from the episodes of Star Trek.

So while Donald Trump did not get the money vote he got the people vote. Remember the 1% are just that and the rest of America is well the 99%.  And you can do the math there.  I have said repeatedly that when the great unwashed realize they have more in common than not we will have the revolution. This is our revolution. Way less bloodshed but no less damaging.  Il Douchebag is a combo of the Queen from Alice in Wonderland and King Louis XVI (aka Mr. Marie Antoinette). 

But the reality is that Trump won with angry peasants who may not storm the castle and scream "Off with their heads!" they will however expect payback. And payback is a bitch my friends.  And this may explain why this last week we have seen the GOP lining up to visit the castle and kiss the ring of the King as a means of protecting their own interests and jobs as they are the ones in the direct firing line when the peasants turn. 

The new Emperor is sitting literally in his gilded cage summoning the elite to kiss his ring and they do.  As he changes his mind, hourly, the cries and complaints rage. Funny these same people decried him and oddly too have changed their mind, willing to work with him if not for him. Ah the times they are a changing.

This Emperor reminds me of another fairy tale, the one who was sure he was summarily appointed and well attired and paraded around until the village idiot screamed, he has no clothes.  But this Emperor does, made by another set of peasants across the see in China.  But wait wasn't China an enemy of the state and they too will be punished?  Ah that was then this is now.  Rings are to be kissed and walls to be mended or built or whatever.

On January 20th the world will have turned and we will go back to doing whatever we were doing the 19th.

As for the rich, well they will go on doing what they do best. Exploiting others, hiding money and waiting this out to get their benefactors back into power.  Ah hope and change.  It worked out didn't it?

















Ancient Chinese Secret

As one who works in Education and has long lived in the diverse hoods in most cities, I have often wondered where the "Oriental" myth came from. I still see large swaths of Asian families and they are as diverse in their own culture as we are in the larger one. Asians come from many countries and in turn possess the cultural values, languages and views of that specific culture. Chinese people are not Taiwanese, nor are Vietnamese the same as Cambodian and then we have Indians. They are perhaps the most diverse under one country's umbrella under the East Asian star.

So to say that "Asian" families put better focus on education and in turn are more successful than "other" racial groups is laughable. Wow you mean all Asians get together an agree on this one factor of life and regardless of where they are from, their language, their culture, their own class and dynamic history they are completely on the same page regardless.

I have said it was a myth and was called racist for not painting a wide picture with a narrow brush. Sorry but I see kids of all types, colors, cultures and genders and kids are kids. There are times when you can easily stereotype as we do, we all carry biases and prejudices and preconceived beliefs into ever encounter and I am no different. I just have to recognize it and let it fall away and not affect how I talk to, teach or more importantly grade and evaluate students. It is why I became a Sub as frankly it is nearly impossible to do so and in turn the reality is that if you just don't like a kid, for whatever reason, you cannot step away from it easily. So as a sub I focus on the kids that are receptive and open and they matter and again any Teacher who says they are equally teaching and fairly evaluating a 150 kids or so a day is in heavy denial.

And it explains why the tech sector is big on generic rubrics, having kids learn on computers and radically eliminating the profession of Teacher as they are sure then the fake unicorn of meritocracy and equality will finally exist in America when we only interact with non humans. On that account they may be right but wait who is designing said robots and tech? Oh that is right the same people with biases and preconceptions and beliefs. We have found out the hard way that it is not so easy is it to eliminate reality when creating an algorithm.

Education is a type of power and it enables an individual to at least level the playing field somewhat. When someone won't hire you, you build your own business, your own empire and you run it and play under your own rules. And perhaps this is why Asian families are successful, they run their businesses and industries without being under a microscope and often invisibly as we tend to ignore any marginalized group. And this allows them to hire their own friends and family, people of their own culture and language and serve those who are the same. Whereas publicly owned businesses fall under federal guidelines and regulations don't have quite that luxury.

Ever wonder why Trump has never gone "public?" Why would he? It appears he is now trying to make the Government of the United States a family business. Ah transparency is for the big boys, and the big boys are usually white men. They don't like regulations, federal laws or any of that pesky business of having to be fair and equal.

The reality is family businesses rarely are.

The real secret to Asian American success was not education

By Jeff Guo
The Washington Post
November 19 2016


For those who doubt that racial resentment lingers in this nation, Asian Americans are a favorite talking point. The argument goes something like this: If “white privilege” is so oppressive — if the United States is so hostile toward its minorities — why do census figures show that Asian Americans out-earn everyone?

In a 2014 editorial, conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly pointed out that Asian household incomes were 20 percent higher than white household incomes on average. “So, do we have Asian privilege in America?” he asked. Of course not, he said. The real reason that Asians are “succeeding far more than African-Americans and even more than white Americans” is that “their families are intact and education is paramount,” he said.

This claim has been with us since at least the 1960s, when it served as a popular rejoinder to the challenges issued by the civil rights movement. Many newspapers printed flattering portraits of Asian Americans to cast skepticism on the people marching for economic and social justice.

“At a time when it is being proposed that hundreds of billions be spent to uplift the Negroes and other minorities, the nation’s 300,000 Chinese-Americans are moving ahead on their own,” claimed a 1966 story in the U.S. News and World Report, which noted their “strict discipline” and “traditional virtues.”

To the extent that all myths are rooted in truth, this model minority stereotype recognizes a real pattern of Asian upward mobility. A century ago, Asian Americans were known as laborers of the lowest wage. They were ditch diggers, launderers, miners. Yet over the decades, despite poverty, racial violence and widespread discrimination, many Asians managed to clamber up the socioeconomic ladder.

Until now, the story of how that happened has been poorly understood.

“The widespread assumption is that Asian Americans came to the United States very disadvantaged, and they wound up advantaged through extraordinary investments in their children’s education,” says Brown University economist Nathaniel Hilger.

But that's not what really happened, he says.

Hilger recently used old census records to trace the fortunes of whites, blacks and Asians who were born in California during the early- to mid-20th century. He found that educational gains had little to do with how Asian Americans managed to close the wage gap with whites by the 1970s.

Instead, his research suggests that society simply became less racist toward Asians.

Asian Americans have been part of the United States for most of its history. The first major wave of immigrants came in the 1800s, when Chinese laborers flocked to California to help build railroads. Their presence soon stirred up resentments among white Americans. The Chinese Massacre of 1871, which took place in the streets of Los Angeles, counts among the largest lynchings in U.S. history.

Asians in the United States have often endured racism. The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is one of the most infamous examples. (Russell Lee, April 1942, Los Angeles. Library of Congress)

In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which shut the door on the influx of low-skilled Chinese labor. By 1924, nearly all immigration from Asian nations was banned. Despite widespread discrimination, many families remained, settling mostly in California. Opinion surveys from that era show that whites expressed extreme prejudice against both Asian and African Americans. Asians also lived in segregated neighborhoods and often sent their children to segregated schools. To survive, many opened their own businesses because no one would employ them.

Hilger’s research focuses on native-born whites, blacks and Asians to rule out the effects of subsequent immigration. In 1965, changing laws ushered in a surge of high-skilled, high-earning Asian workers, who now account for most of the Asians living in the United States today.

But even before the arrival of those highly educated immigrants, the Asians already living in the United States had more or less closed the wage gap with whites.

At the time of the 1940 census, Hilger found, California-born Asian men earned less than California-born black men. By the 1970 census, they were earning about the same as white men, and by the 1980 census, the native-born Asian men were out-earning white men.

Throughout this time, many Asian American families did invest, increasingly, in their children's education. But Hilger discovered that the improvements in educational attainment were too modest to explain how Asians' earnings grew so fast.

The picture became much clearer when he compared people with similar levels of education. Hilger found that in the 1940s, Asian men were paid less than white men with the same amount of schooling. But by the 1980s, that gap had mostly disappeared.

“Asians used to be paid like blacks,” Hilger said. “But between 1940 and 1970, they started to get paid like whites.” The charts (linked here) shows average earnings for native-born black, white and Asian depending on how much education they had.

In 1980, for instance, even Asian high school dropouts were earning about as much as white high school dropouts, and vastly more than black high school dropouts. This dramatic shift had nothing to do with Asians accruing more education. Instead, Hilger points to the slow dismantling of discriminatory institutions after World War II, and the softening of racist prejudices. That’s the same the explanation advanced by economists Harriet Orcutt Duleep and Seth Sanders, who found that in the second half of the 20th century, Asian Americans not only started to work in more lucrative industries, but also started to get paid more for the same kind of work.

In other words, the remarkable upward mobility of California-born Asians wasn’t about superior schooling (not yet, anyway). It was the result of Asians finally receiving better opportunities — finally earning equal pay for equal skills and equal work.

Why couldn’t African Americans close the wage gap? It’s hard to say. Hilger found some evidence that there were underlying differences in skill. Between Asians and African Americans with the same amount of schooling, African Americans tended to achieve lower scores on military enlistment tests during the 1940s.

But it’s also likely that postwar racial attitudes shifted differently for Asians than for African Americans. In the 1850s, newspapers in California complained that Chinese immigrants were the dregs of the laboring class, having “most of the vices and few of the virtues of the African.” Yet by the 1960s, attitudes had completely flipped. Journalists praised Asians for being hard workers who cherished education, kept their heads down and rarely complained.

“Still being taught in Chinatown is the old idea that people should depend on their own efforts — not a welfare check — in order to reach America’s ‘promised land,’” the 1966 U.S. News and World Report article said.

Since then, waves of high-skill immigration have further cemented the stereotype of Asians as a studious, well-off demographic. Highly educated parents encourage their children to become highly educated, compounding the advantage. About half of Asian Americans over the age of 25 now hold college degrees, compared with only 28 percent of Americans overall.

Hilger's research found that 50 years ago, Asians were held back primarily by lack of opportunities. Now that discrimination against Asians has lessened somewhat, the Asian edge in education is apparent: Average incomes among Asians Americans are higher because Asian Americans have higher rates of college attainment. (To be clear, we are talking about averages only. As a group, Asian Americans have considerable socioeconomic diversity.)

But if we take a page from Hilger and focus on people with similar educational backgrounds, the residual disadvantages become clear. Asians actually earn 5 percent less compared with whites who also have advanced degrees — while blacks and Hispanics earn 20 percent less.

This is one of several problems with the model minority myth. (Here’s another.) Many people hold up Asian Americans as proof that hard work and education leads to success no matter your skin color. On the contrary, these statistics show that being a minority in the United States often means working harder to earn less.

More education will help close racial wage gaps somewhat, but it will not resolve problems of denied opportunity. In fact, recent studies suggest that income disparities are growing at the very top between blacks and whites. According to an Economic Policy Institute report from September, the difference between what a white college graduate earns and what a black college graduate earns has widened since the 1980s.


Emphasizing the power of educational attainment also obscures the barriers that remain. Despite the complaints of Stephen K. Bannon, President-elect Donald Trump’s alt-right adviser who’s a darling of white supremacy groups, it is simply false that “two-thirds or three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia.” Even among technology companies, which hire a disproportionate number of Asian workers, Asians are vastly underrepresented in upper management. Yet, the model minority myth makes a statement like Bannon's feel true to many.

Asian Americans — some of them at least — have made tremendous progress in the United States. But the greatest thing that ever happened to them wasn't that they studied hard, or that they benefited from tiger moms or Confucian values. It's that other Americans started treating them with a little more respect.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Next Detroit?

When I read the below article about Dallas I thought immediately that we are heading to the next 2008 and that is not a good thing

Last week I read where Wells Fargo foreclosed on a commercial structure, the Regions Building in Arkansas. And here in Nashville every day is another announcement of an LLC or REIT closing on a building for millions of dollars or a building being turned over to an new LLC/REIT that was on a property purchased less than a year ago. So in other words we have commercial property flipping and that does not feel good at all.

There are already problems with density issues, the reality of a city that has not developed infrastructure plans at all to handle the influx of people and the tourists that visit are often confused that there is no downtown core or business's that are not bars on a sole strip with not a drugstore, retail outlet or any other shop open past 5 or on weekends to provide an alternative to drinking. The millions of dollars being lost is staggering and the long term plan of building said development is three years out while hotel after hotel and apartment after apartment are being constructed, with jobs firmly planted in the middle to low tier of income ranges. So who is moving here and what are the jobs and what are they paying?

There is a disconnect here that I see consistently and given the intellect this is not surprising. Tennessee is another one of the many GOP controlled states with the constant tax reductions to attract industries while there is little to no spending on infrastructure that builds strong cities and a diverse economy. So at one point you have to ask who is all this building for? The $8/hr worker?

So when you read about Dallas their issues are much like Detroit with regards to the pension problems that many municipalities are facing. But what makes it unique is that the problems are about the team who were in charge of the funds. Read the article and you will see that the the failure is not that about the pensions themselves but those who manage them.


Dallas Stares Down a Texas-Size Threat of Bankruptcy

By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH
THE NEW YORK TIMES
NOV. 20, 2016


DALLAS — Picture the next major American city to go bankrupt. What springs to mind? Probably not the swagger and sprawl of Dallas.

But there was Dallas’s mayor, Michael S. Rawlings, testifying this month to a state oversight board that his city appeared to be “walking into the fan blades” of municipal bankruptcy.

“It is horribly ironic,” he said.

Indeed. Dallas has the fastest economic growth of the nation’s 13 largest cities. Its streets hum with supersize cars and its skyline bristles with cranes. Its mayor is a former chief executive of Pizza Hut. Hundreds of multinational corporations have chosen Dallas for their headquarters, most recently Jacobs Engineering, which is moving to low-tax Texas from pricey Pasadena, Calif.

But under its glittering surface, Dallas has a problem that could bring it to its knees, and that could be an early test of America’s postelection commitment to safe streets and tax relief: The city’s pension fund for its police officers and firefighters is near collapse and seeking an immense bailout.

Over six recent weeks, panicked Dallas retirees have pulled $220 million out of the fund. What set off the run was a recommendation in July that the retirees no longer be allowed to take out big blocks of money. Even before that, though, there were reports that the fund’s investments — some placed in highly risky and speculative ventures — were worth less than previously stated.

What is happening in Dallas is an extreme example of what’s happening in many other places around the country. Elected officials promised workers solid pensions years ago, on the basis of wishful thinking rather than realistic expectations. Dallas’s troubles have become more urgent because its plan rules let some retirees take big withdrawals.

Now, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System has asked the city for a one-time infusion of $1.1 billion, an amount roughly equal to Dallas's entire general fund budget but not even close to what the pension fund needs to be fully funded. Nothing would be left for fighting endemic poverty south of the Trinity River, for public libraries, or for giving current police officers and firefighters a raise.

“It’s a ridiculous request,” Mr. Rawlings, a Democrat, said in testimony this month to the Texas Pension Review Board, whose seven members are appointed by Texas governors, all Republicans for the last 20 years.

The mayor — who defeated a former Dallas police chief to win his office in 2011 — added that he had nothing but respect for the city’s uniformed safety workers, five of whom were gunned down by a deranged sniper during a protest against police shootings in July.

But that does not change the awful numbers. This month, Moody’s reported that Dallas was struggling with more pension debt, relative to its resources, than any major American city except Chicago.

“The City of Dallas has no way to pay this,” said Lee Kleinman, a City Council member who served as a pension trustee from 2013 until this year. “If the city had to pay the whole thing, we would declare bankruptcy.”

Other ideas being considered include raising property taxes, borrowing money for the pension fund, delaying long-awaited public works or even taking back money from retirees. But property taxes in Dallas are already capped, the city’s borrowing capacity is limited, and retirees would surely litigate any clawback.

This month, the city’s more than 10,000 current and retired safety workers started voting on voluntary pension trims, but then five people sued, halting the balloting for now.

The city is expected to call for an overhaul in December. But it has no power to make the changes, because the fund is controlled by state lawmakers in Austin. The Texas Legislature convenes only every other year, and Dallas is preparing to ask the state for help when the next session starts in January.

One state senator, John Whitmire, stopped by the pension building this month and urged the 12 trustees to join the city in asking Austin to scale back their plan.

“It’s not going to be pleasant,” said Senator Whitmire, a Democrat in the statehouse since 1973. But without some cuts, “this whole thing will come crashing down, and we’ll play right into the hands of those who would like 401(k)s or defined contribution plans.”

To many in Dallas, the hole in the pension fund seems to have blown open overnight. But in fact, the fuse was lit back in 1993, when state lawmakers sweetened police and firefighter pensions beyond the wildest dreams of the typical Dallas resident. They added individual savings accounts, paying 8.5 percent interest per year, when workers reached the normal retirement age, then 50. The goal was to keep seasoned veterans on the force longer.

Guaranteed 8.5 percent interest, on tap indefinitely for thousands of people, would of course cost a fortune. But state lawmakers made it look “cost neutral,” records show, by fixing Dallas's annual pension contributions at 36 percent of the police and firefighters’ payroll. It would all work as long as the payroll grew by 5 percent every year — which it did not — and if the pension fund earned 9 percent annually on its investments.

Buck Consultants, the plan’s actuarial firm, warned that those assumptions were shaky, and that the changes did not comply with the rules of the state Pension Review Board.

“The Legislature clearly ignored that,” Mr. Kleinman said. The plan’s current actuary, Segal Consulting, reported in July that 23 years of unmet goals had left Dallas with a hidden pension debt of almost $7 billion.

Back in Dallas, the pension trustees set about trying to capture the 9 percent annual investment returns. They opted for splashy and exotic land deals — villas in Hawaii, a luxury resort in Napa County, Calif., timberland in Uruguay and farmland in Australia, among others.

The projects called for frequent on-site inspections by the trustees and their plan administrator, Richard Tettamant. The Dallas Morning News reported that officials were spending millions on global investment tours, with stop-offs in places like Zurich and Pisa, Italy. Pension officials argued that their travel was appropriate and their investments were successes.

It was an investment right in Dallas that led to the pension fund’s undoing: Museum Tower, a luxury condominium high rise. It went up across the street from the Nasher Sculpture Center, a collection housed in a Renzo Piano building surrounded by manicured gardens. The Nasher, opened in 2003, was integral to a city campaign to revitalize its downtown.

Museum Tower started out modestly, with a $20 million investment from the pension fund. But as the downtown Arts District flourished, the pension fund raised its stake, then doubled the height of the building, and finally took over the whole development for $200 million. Mr. Tettamant became the general manager.

As Museum Tower soared to 42 stories, its glass cladding acted as a huge reflector, sending the sun’s intensified rays down into the sculpture center. Mr. Piano had installed a filtered glass roof, designed to bathe the masterpieces in soft, natural light. The glare from the tower ruined the effect, killed plants in the garden and threatened to damage the sculptures. The center called on the pension fund to reduce the glare. Mr. Tettamant said nothing could be done and suggested the center change its roof.

Mr. Rawlings, the mayor, brought in a former official of the George W. Bush administration, Tom Luce, for confidential mediation. But Mr. Luce resigned after five months, saying Mr. Tettamant had failed to adhere to “the conditions and spirit under which I agreed to serve.”

Before long, The Dallas Morning News published a long exposé of the fund’s real-estate holdings, raising serious questions about its claimed investment success. Some retirees began to clamor for a criminal investigation. The mayor demanded a full audit.

When the audit was done, it showed that the investments were indeed overvalued, and that the fund was in deep trouble.

Mr. Tettamant, who was dismissed in 2014, said he believed he was being blamed for problems he did not cause.

“The Dallas mayor has a vendetta against me,” he said in an interview. “I never made any real estate investments. The board made all the investment decisions, and I was not a board member.”

In April, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the offices of CDK Realty Advisors, a firm that helped the pension fund identify and manage many of its investment properties. A spokesman for CDK declined to discuss the raid, but said the firm was working to resolve its differences with the pension fund.

In his meeting with the trustees, Senator Whitmire recalled that in 1993 he had voted enthusiastically for the plan that sent the pension fund on its ill-fated quest for 9 percent investment returns.

“We all know some of the benefits, guaranteed, were just probably never realistic,” he said. “It was good while it lasted, but we’ve got some serious financial problems because of it.”

Go South

I am trying to reconcile the idiocy that I encounter here.  I meet it head on daily in the public schools and the students are only reflections of the holder of that mirror, the Educators.  I am reticent to call them Teachers as so far in my journeys through Nashville Public Schools I have seen little evidence of teaching.

When I see a natural Teacher as I did last week in a local middle school, I was surprised at her soft tone of voice, her natural command of the classroom and her skills at teaching her 5th graders math. The students were attentive and aware and it appeared they understood what the concepts were being taught. I wish I could say I see that consistently.

What I can tell from the lesson plans and from my encounters with students that this is a rarity. Today at the school of the arts a young man was surprised that I intended to actually teach the material as his experience is that subs just let them do what they want. Another student informed me that they had a sub that just played the guitar and sang.  My response was: "What about the word Teacher that confuses you? The substitute part or the Teacher part?"

The children are rude, smug, arrogant and very very stupid. I used to put kids down by using multi-syllabic vocabulary and act as if they understood when they wanted to argue.  Here I just use words and ramble on so fast and furious that I know they can't follow it and they become frustrated to the point they just shut up.  I am embarassed and ashamed that it has resorted to me being utterly unintelligible and hostile.

I had the opportunity to actually observe the Teacher I was filling in for and it was a lesson is dullness.  He was teaching the poem "Mending Fences" by Robert Frost and what could have inspired a lively and vigorous discussion on what it means by the expression "Good Fences  Make Good Neighbors" instead was a boring talk on the concepts and ideas Frost used to construct the work. Nothing contemporary or anything of relevance was addressed and I looked at the students, some sleeping, some just zoned out and I realized that this was just another day in the life in the schools of Nashville. He is the rule not the exception in this shithole of a district.

I talked to one student and she believes that the South is regressive when it comes to being open to change and that when they meet or encounter anything or anyone that disrupts their limited world view they become abusive, resentful and closed off.  I had a similar discussion with a young girl last week who said she had finally realized that her learning was affected by her beliefs and that she had to realize that as long as she refused to let go of them and open herself up to varying ideas she was never going to learn.  BINGO!   These are the exceptions in this shithole of a district.

And that summarizes the South, the idea that beliefs trump knowledge and that anything that puts those beliefs at risk are to be  ignored, belittled or summarily dismissed.  It is as if they just found out the world is round and this is not working out at all!

I found this article in Salon about growing up in the South and I think it accurately portrays what I have found in my stay here.  I cannot wait to get out of the schools, I feel ashamed, dirty and utterly abused.




Lies I learned as a Southerner: Racism, the Confederate flag and why so many white Southerners revere a symbol of hatred

Myths about the "Lost Cause," never mentioning race, came from our schools, from everywhere. Time to smash them

Charles McCain
Salon
July 15 2015

“This is where my grandfather shot and killed the Yankee soldier trying to rob us,” the retired Army colonel said, pointing to a bullet hole in the wood lining the entrance hall of his home.

My Boy Scout troop was visiting to view this noble reminder of the Civil War and how Southerners had resisted Union soldiers. It was 1970. I was fifteen. All of us gazed with reverence upon the hole as if medieval Catholics peering at the toe of a saint.

We were absorbing the Southern narrative of the Civil War. In February of 1865 Sherman’s bummers had invaded my small hometown in the South Carolina low country. This man’s grandfather had defended his home as any honorable Southerner would have done.

In the history of the Civil War preached to us lads growing up in the South in those years, slavery was never mentioned. Just perfidious Yankees and our brave boys in gray who repelled them until they were “compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources,” as General Lee described the situation in his General Order No. 9 announcing the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. Only a fool would interpret his words as admitting defeat. We weren’t defeated. We were just compelled to surrender. Completely different, of course.

Other realities had to be suppressed as well. When the North invaded the South all white Southern males eagerly volunteered to fight against the armies of the Union. But this is not true. The Confederate States passed the first conscription law on the North American continent on 16 April 1862. All white males between seventeen and fifty were required to serve three years in the Confederate Army.

Not every white Southern male was keen on this idea. From the very beginning of the law, many conscripts deserted from the army with the intent of never returning. This became in immense problem in the Southern armies. Not being consonant with the image of the “Lost Cause,” it was rarely mentioned in my youth and rarely mentioned now.

The penalty for desertion was death. Since tens of thousands of men deserted, they could not all be executed. But several hundred were shot by their brothers-in-arms in front of assembled Confederate regiments pour encourager les autres.

Over time we learned that after believing in Jesus Christ, our second most important moral and spiritual task was to uphold the honor of South Carolina and our native South. Be prepared to fight anyone if they insulted our heritage, most especially the Confederacy. Such insults were assaults on our honor as Southerners, something we are very touchy about.

Why did the South of our youth imbue us with such false knowledge? Because the memory of the Confederate defeat shaped Southern culture then and now. C. Vann Woodward, one of the greatest historians of the South, wrote that after the war ended, the Southerners had to learn “…the un-American lesson of submission. For the South had undergone an experience that it could share with no other part of America…..the experience of military defeat, occupation, and reconstruction.”

Because of this searing ordeal, Southerners had and continue to have a radically different historical narrative than the remainder of America. We have distorted our history to fit the Myth of the Lost Cause and it is this history which explains our obsession with the Civil War. Most Americans find both our narrative and our obsession with the war inexplicable. But it isn’t, really.

What Americans outside the South don’t understand is the Confederate defeat was so devastating the impact reverberates to this day. And where the depredations were the greatest, the war is remembered even more strongly. How could it not be? Columbia, the capital of South Carolina? Burned. Charleston? Bombarded. Plantations close by the city burned to the ground. Those of us born and raised in the Deep South grow up in a history book. My birthplace, Mobile, Alabama? Seized and burned after years of off and on attacks. New Orleans where I went to college? Seized by Union troops early in the war cutting off Gulf South from its key port.

In December of 1864, a month prior to crossing into South Carolina after“making Georgia howl,” General William Tecumseh Sherman wrote to H. W. Halleck, Union Army Chief-of-Staff, “… the whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance upon South Carolina. I almost tremble at her fate, but feel that she deserves all that seems in store for her.” Because South Carolina had started the Civil War, Union troops viewed it as the cradle of secession, which it was.

While Sherman had no need to ratchet-up their desire of vengeance, he did so anyway by saying to his men, “We are not fighting armies but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war.”

South Carolina soon thereafter felt the hard hand of war as no other place in the United States ever had— or ever will. Dozens of towns, plantations and public buildings were looted and burned. My hometown went up in smoke after Sherman’s bummers put it to the torch —an event the adults of my childhood often spoke about. Sherman wanted the South and South Carolina in specific to remember the pain and destruction of the war so we would never rebel again. We remembered. Unfortunately, the Union Army’s march through South Carolina was so devastating that we have continued to remember.

One of the tallest structures in my hometown was the monument to the local Confederate dead—impossible to miss for our bronze Confederate soldier stood atop a fifty foot limestone plinth in the middle of the town square. In 1960, following the lead of our legislature, the town also began to fly the Confederate flag on its official flagpole, also on the town square. Unfortunately, the rectangular banner with the elongated blue X known to most Americans, including Southerners, as “the Confederate flag” is actually the second Confederate naval jack which only flew on ships of the Confederate Navy from 1863 to 1865 and nowhere else. (The Confederacy kept changing flags and had different flags for different things).

To any student of the Civil War, flying the Confederate naval jack seems absurd, stupid even. But I hardly thought such things then. Did I believe we should always honor our gallant Confederate dead? Of course. Have streets in towns throughout the state named after Stonewall Jackson, Jeff Davis, and that crackpot political theorist, John C. Calhoun? Absolutely. In common with most white Southerners, I also revered the memory of General Robert E. Lee.

This was the man who possessed the greatest military mind ever produced in America; the man who became the very model of a Southern gentleman; who led the fabled Army of Northern Virginia; who was betrayed by Longstreet at Gettysburg and who now rests under a recumbent statue of himself, like a medieval knight in Christ like repose, in the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University.

Did Robert E. Lee oppose slavery? Of course he did—not. In reality he didn’t and had his slaves whipped for infractions by the local slave dealers. Was he a traitor by renouncing his sacred oath to defend the United States and joining the Confederate Army? I don’t think anyone in the South of my youth ever had that thought. But yes, while painful for me to write, Robert E. Lee was a traitor. Half of all Southern-born officers in the Union Army in 1860 remained loyal to the United States and never went South. They stayed true to their sacred oaths.

As for the greatest military mind produced by America? Lee lost the Battle of Gettysburg, the most critical battle in the Eastern Theater of the war. In those three days, one quarter of his men were also killed or wounded. Never again would the Army of Northern Virginia be capable of offensive action on a large scale.

All the misinformation I absorbed seemed right to me until my early twenties when my indoctrination began to slowly melt away — although that process took ten years. Like many Southerners, as I grew older and read and studied unbiased accounts of the Civil War, I rejected the idolization of the Confederacy. Dropped out of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and admitted the truth to myself: the South started the Civil War with South Carolina leading the way.

So why do so many whites in the South and especially South Carolina still cling with all their strength to the memory of the Confederacy? Because the American Civil War has never ended for much of the white South. Bitterness over the Confederate defeat remains. For decades after the war, everyone knew where the bitterness came from: the horrifying losses experienced by the Southern armies, the destructive vengeance by Northern troops and the enfranchisement of freed black slaves.

Unfortunately, over time this litany of specifics has been distilled into a blurry folk memory which has been manifested in willing provincial ignorance combined with the violent racism of the decades before the 1970s. When blacks began to be nominally treated with due process of law in the South, violence against them by whites declined. But provincial ignorance remains with many white Southerners seeming to take a perverse sort of pride in their lack of knowledge about the wider world.

Worse, virulent racism continues, fueled by a devil’s brew of rage against change, the perceived arrogance of Washington, the liberal media holding-up white Southerners to ridicule, economic stagnation and the most maddening of all, a black man as president. Beyond the immediate effects, all of these threaten the myth of the Lost Cause.

For Southerners, the memory of the Confederacy is part of our fierce regional identity. Even for me, a liberal Democrat, my strong regional identity separates me from Americans who aren’t from the South. By my own choice, I have not lived in the South for decades yet retain my gentle low country accent, my increasingly old-fashioned manners drilled into me as a child and my connections to a myriad of relatives and friends. I never forget that I am a Southerner and a South Carolinian—nor do I want to. I’m proud of my heritage—some of it—my family and my state.

In a time of head-spinning change, most of us cling to what we know, to what we were taught, to some sort of tradition which gives us identity. The South being the most conservative and traditional part of the country clings to its old traditions. And much of Southern tradition is the Confederacy represented by the Confederate flag. In a world moving at warp speed, many whites in the South sense they are losing their identity as Southerners and the more they feel this, the more vehement white Southerners become in defense of these symbols.

The trauma of the Confederate defeat cut to the bone of the South especially in my native state of South Carolina. When the fighting stopped in April of 1865 and the Confederacy collapsed, 260,000 white Southern males lay dead—23% of those eligible to serve in the Confederate Army. 21,000 were South Carolinians. This was a demographic catastrophe from which the South has never recovered. CSA managed to achieve almost total mobilization of white males into the army so the war touched every family.

When the Civil War finally ended, how could white Southerners come to an emotional acceptance of the hurricane of violence which had passed over them leaving a trail of destruction never imagined and a burden of grief so heavy such as Atlas never had to lift. To bear this, white Southerners had to look for a noble reason to explain why so many of their sons had died as a result of the war. That reason could not be the preservation of slavery. Only finding another reason was difficult since the Civil War was about preserving slavery.

Searching for this reason, white Southerners had to blind themselves to reality since they were surrounded by a huge population of freed slaves—whites actually being in a minority in South Carolina and several other Southern states at that time. Former slaves, written of in memoirs as being indolent, insulting, shiftless and unwilling to do any work, were a constant reminder of one of the major consequences of having lost the war.

And to preserve the “peculiar institution” the South had made a blood sacrifice of one-quarter of its young white males killed— with twice as many wounded— a casualty rate of 75 percent among those who served. Unprecedented in American history or Western history in the modern era. These brave young men clad in honorable gray could not have died to keep all these insolent, ignorant, lazy blacks enslaved. What kind of cause was that to die for?

There had to be another reason, a myth as it were. Slowly a cultural myth came to the fore: the South had fought the Civil War to secure Southern independence from the North and not for the right to maintain the institution of black slavery. The golden youths who had sacrificed their lives for the Confederacy became the revered dead of the South. Having given their lives in the War for Southern Independence, a truly righteous and just fight , the Confederate dead became the keystone in the creation of the myth of the “Lost Cause.” Since they died for such a glorious cause, these were young men for whom enough tears could never be shed.

The wording on the monument to the Confederate dead on the grounds of the South Carolina State House, which I have abbreviated, explains with simple eloquence how South Carolinians and by extension other white Southerners, came to remembered the war and how many still remember it today.

This monument
perpetuates the memory,
of those who…
have glorified a fallen cause
by the simple manhood of their lives,
the patient endurance of suffering,
and the heroism of death
and who,
found support and consolation
in the belief
that at home they would not be forgotten.

###

Let the stranger,
who may in future times
read this inscription,
recognize that these were men
whom power could not corrupt,
whom death could not terrify,
whom defeat could not dishonor;
and let their virtues plead
for just judgement
of the cause in which they perished….
May 13, 1879


This is the summary of the Myth of the Lost Cause. Unfortunately, the dehumanizing and soul destroying institution of black slavery, any mention of slaves who had suffered far worse, is not mentioned or even hinted at. And slavery could never be mentioned because it would shatter the Myth.

Writes Nobel Laureate Sir V.S. Naipaul on the sparse eloquence of this inscription:

“…the pain of the Confederate Memorial is very great; the defeat it speaks of is complete. Defeat like this leads to religion: it can be religion: the crucifixion, as eternal a grief for Christians, as for the Shias of Islam, the death of Ali and his sons…..the helpless grief and rage, such as the Shias know, about an injustice that cannot be rehearsed too often.” “A Turn In the South,” (1986, Knopf, NYC)

The belief that it was not about slavery is a studied denial of the truth, a willing suspension-of-disbelief which allows white Southerners to fully embrace the myth of the “Lost Cause” which propagates the lie that the war was fought for Southern independence and not for slavery.

Nothing cemented this myth more than the film “Gone With the Wind.” The opening title card before the movie begins reads: “There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South… Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and Slave… Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A Civilization gone with the wind…”

This is laughably untrue—a historical lie as wide as the Mississippi River is long. Worse, this belief by so many white Southerners that the Confederacy fought for Southern independence and not to preserve slavery has itself been a disaster for the South. Why? Two reasons. One, by holding white Southerners in its grip, this belief has prevented the whites from accepting blacks as equals and moving past the trauma of the Civil War. Two, by accepting the lie that the Civil War was fought for Southern independence and not to preserve slavery, the only way to preserve the Myth of the Lost Cause was to create a post-bellum society of brutal white supremacy so as to be completely different and hence nominally independent from the North.

The idée fixe that the war was about Southern independence absolves white Southerners from facing the truth of the war and breaking their emotional bond to the former Confederacy. Many conservative white Southerners remain in denial about the brutal reality of African-American slavery in the South. Black slaves were the property of their owners just like master’s house or horse.

Owners could kill their slaves if they wished. Rape the females—which they did. (And the males, too). Or starve them. Or make them work for twenty hours a day to get the harvest in—which they did. Whip them, which they did. Torture them, which they did. Even castrate them—a practice so barbaric it was outlawed in the Roman Empire by successive decrees of Emperors before the coming of Christ.

Most white Southerners will not— and cannot— confront the truth of the Civil War, for to do so is to acknowledge that the Myth of the Lost Cause is exactly that. And if they acknowledged the myth, they would have to accept that their ancestors (and my ancestors) fought the Civil War to keep 3 ½ million blacks enslaved in a system as brutal, as violent, and as filled with hopelessness as the labor camps of the Soviet gulag or konzentrationslägers of Nazi Germany.

In the process of accepting this unvarnished truth, white Southerners would also have to acknowledge the Confederate flag for what it actually represents: a nation long dead which fought a war to preserve the monstrous evil of African-American slavery. Further, white Southerners would also have to give up the comforting thought that only a handful of white Southerners owned slaves which is absolutely wrong. One-third of Southern families owned at least one or more slaves. In Mississippi and South Carolina the number of slave owning households approached one half.

Only when the Myth of the Lost Cause is finally exposed as a complete fraud and smashed into pieces by white Southerners themselves, will the South move past its reverence for the Confederacy and accept the moral imperative of African-American equality in the South, America and throughout the world.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Dumb and Dumber

I have been lamenting of late the rise of the idiot. I never thought I met anyone of great intellect in Seattle but they were always well intentioned, politically liberal or at least Libertarian which is a pot smoking whore loving Republican who lives next to a gay person, and they were utterly harmless.

Now I live in Nashville and the level of stupidity transcends a level of ignorance that in my 57 years  in which I have never seen anything like it and I have lived in Texas so there is a ground of comparison.

When I found this article (below) from Salon dated just shy of a year ago, I did not laugh at all, I felt relieved. At this point that is the best emotion I can muster right now between being utterly afraid, angry and just very very sad.

I have yet to meet one person who has any intellect, even singularly (a trait you find in the tech sector,an ability to handle math, data and figures but no social skills whatsoever). There is an almost odd pride of being stupid and those that possess degrees name drop the colleges they attended to somehow either validate their supposed intellect or to impress. I believe it is the latter as the class and money issue really define the true character here. There is the "one up" mentality that also characterizes many of the people here as if they are insecure and aware of how they are perceived so instead of simply just being they actually make things worse by ramming their bullshit down your throat with how "smart" they think they are and that you need to know that they think they are smart. It is so off the chain bizarre I find myself often wishing I could record these encounters to playback later to somehow encode or translate what the fuck they are saying.

Does any of this sound like anyone you know? Like anyone currently called the President Elect?  This overwhelming need to constantly berate, inform and scold while constantly reminding you that they are the most smartest bestest knowingist person in the room.  All the while you ask yourself: If you have to keep telling me you are the smartest person in the room maybe you aren't. 

Today I met perhaps the most ignorant and stupid individual I have ever met in my life. He is not "from" here but he is from Indiana. Same difference as you can see from the red sea of America where he swam from. He is of Latino hertiage and supposedly college educated (as he made sure to let me know he was a Purdue grad) and in the course of our encounter there was not one moment I thought he had an ounce of intellect. He had never heard of Evergreen trees or had ever seen one so my references to them and being from the Northwest thoroughly confused him. He had never heard of Paul Bunyan or Babe the Blue Ox, he had never heard any slang terms such as "throwing shade" "spilling tea" or "living on the south side of the tracks." He had no idea about pretty much anything I was writing about and kept telling me that the Simpsons were a better reference than the ones I was using as  they are from Springfield which is near Portland, Oregon.  Okay then.

To say that this young boy is both stupid and ignorant means his intellectual curiousity consisted of people explaining stuff to him,  all while actually sitting in a library not exploring there and finding resources and sources to learn on one's own seemed an anathema to this sad pitiful idiot.  I just felt bad for him and the aged crazy woman who ran the group and realized that is why no one comes as who would.

And while waiting for the group to start I was looking through a book of Fashion with some of the greatest photos from the greatest fashion houses in history and normally I would not expect a man to know any of them, but  had no idea who any of these people were even the most generic of fashion houses, such as Ralph Lauren. Each revelation throughout this short hour and half (to explain it was my first and LAST time at this writers group) where we were to share our work and receive feedback made me question myself and asked if this is how I will end up, alone, dumb, full of repressed rage and desperately seeking attention and affirmation.  And then again I reminded myself of our President elect and it all becomes clearer.

And this is my own arrogance and intellect issues at bay here but I have yet to meet a well read or informed individual since moving here. I sat tonight at a Gay bar near my home and many of them expressed relief that at least Mike Pence was a sound individual used to governing. I then showed them the laws, the issues surrounding the repression of LGBT rights out of Indiana during the Pence Governorship and they were horrified. Good to know or better late than never I guess.

So if you really believe that this age of Dynasty (another reference the moron would not get. He transcended the concept of moron and proved to me that anyone can get a degree) that is coming will somehow realize they got "trumped" and rebel think again. They will do what I see and experience here daily - misdirect their anger towards those that make them feel "less."

I figure I stay away from pretty much everyone here and maybe volunteer at the Library or the Art Museum I can at least talk about something superficial and general, anything beyond that is akin to putting a target on your back.   Be afraid, be very afraid.

America, you’re stupid: Donald Trump’s political triumph makes it official — we’re a nation of idiots  Trump's rise proves we're full of loud, illiterate and credulous people — and he's a mirror of them

Sean Illing
Salon
February 24 2016

“I love the poorly educated.” — Donald Trump

Before any votes were cast, when Donald Trump was the theoretical front-runner, the optimists preached patience. Just wait, they said. This will blow over. He’s a clown, a huckster, a TV personality. There’s no way he can win. It’s just not possible.

Well, it’s not only possible – it’s likely.

Trump won again in Nevada on Tuesday night, by a massive margin, and he may well sweep the Super Tuesday states. If that happens, and it’s the most probable outcome at this point, the race is effectively over. Trump will have won the nomination of one our two major parties, and he’ll have done it with extraordinary ease.

I hate to have to say it, but the conclusion stares us in the face: We’re a stupid country, full of loud, illiterate and credulous people. Trump has marched straight to the nomination without offering anything like a platform or a plan. With a vocabulary of roughly a dozen words – wall, Mexicans, low-energy, loser, Muslims, stupid, China, negotiate, deals, America, great, again – he’s bamboozled millions of Americans. And it’s not just splenetic conservatives supporting Trump or your garden-variety bigots (although that’s the center of his coalition), it’s also independents, pro-choice Republicans, and a subset of Reagan Democrats.
Video"I'd like to punch him in the face": Trump on protester

This says something profoundly uncomfortable about our country and our process. A majority of Americans appear wholly uninterested in the actual business of government; they don’t understand it and don’t want to. They have vague feelings about undefined issues and they surrender their votes on emotional grounds to whoever approximates their rage. This has always been true to some extent, but Trump is a rubicon-crossing moment for the nation.

Trump’s wager was simple: Pretend to be stupid and angry because that’s what stupid and angry people like. He’s held up a mirror to the country, shown us how blind and apish we are. He knew how undiscerning the populace would be, how little they cared about details and facts. In Nevada, for instance, 70 percent of Trump voters said they preferred an “anti-establishment” candidate to one with any “experience in politics.” Essentially, that means they don’t care if he understands how government works or if he has the requisite skills to do the job. It’s a protest vote, born of rage, not deliberation.

In no other domain of life would this make any sense at all. If your attorney drops the ball, you don’t hire a plumber to replace him. And yet millions of Trumpites say they don’t care if Trump has ever worked at any level of government or if he knows anything about foreign policy or the law or the Constitution. It’s enough that he greets them at their level, panders to their lowest instincts.

He even brazenly condescends to his supporters, as the opening quote illustrates, and they fail to notice it. Trump, a billionaire trust fund baby who inherited $40 million from his father, has convinced hordes of working-class white people that he’s just like them, that he feels their pain and knows their struggle. He’s made marks of them all.

People will say Trump is just another demagogue, a sophist with a talent for self-promotion. Or that’s he a vacuous populist who craftily tapped into the zeitgeist. Or that other presidential candidates have succeeded without, shall we say, an understanding of the issues. But that understates Trump’s significance.

Take Ronald Reagan. He exploded onto the political scene in the early 80s, and was famously ignorant by presidential standards. As I noted in November, Reagan’s list of doltish quotes is long and impressive. But he won over the country with superficial appeals and a generic handsomeness. Trump’s no Reagan, however. Reagan at least gave eloquent speeches studded with flowery rhetoric and serious-sounding aims. He was, after all, an actor who could read a script prepared by someone else with impeccable flair.

Trump isn’t half the orator Reagan was, and he doesn’t need to be. Trump has decided that voters are so clueless, so delirously angry, that feigned bigotry and empty promises to “make America great again” will do – no specifics needed. And he’s obviously right. Debate after debate, speech after speech, Trump has personified the anti-intellectualism percolating in this country for decades. Is there any doubt it’s working? He may be cynical, but he isn’t wrong.

To be sure, the media shares some of the blame here. In an essay worth reading, Matt Taibbi lamented the decline of cable news. He makes a relevant point:“We in the media have spent decades turning the news into a consumer business that’s basically indistinguishable from selling cheeseburgers or video games…When you make news into this kind of consumer business, pretty soon audiences lose the ability to distinguish between what they think they’re doing, informing themselves, and what they’re actually doing, shopping.”

All of that is true, but still we’re left with a demand-side problem: The people are getting what they want, and what they want is to have their idiocies and their discontent beamed back at them. Trump is clearly more than a media construction. He’s everything dumb and regressive about our political culture distilled into a single candidate. And he exists only because a sufficient number of Americans want him to – that’s the problem.

The Founders of this country were Enlightenment-era elitists. They represented everything Tea Partiers and Trumpites abhor – free inquiry, progress, science, and reason. Humans being high primates, they wondered whether the average citizen could be trusted with a democracy, whether the fury of the mob could be contained. They were wrong about a lot of things – race in particular – but a Trump nomination, perhaps more than anything else, would be the ultimate vindication of their concerns.