Things I Can Do Without For 7/19/2019

It’s been a busy week in things that I think suck, from Trump’s racist rallies to this summer’s persistent annoying cloudiness, it’s time for Things I Can Do Without…*

1. Cloudiness.

Yes, I know. We’ve all seen the damn meme.

And I will thank you not to refer to me as “old man”.

At any rate, these bastards have been hanging around most of the last two weeks, wrecking backyard astronomy and outdoor Shakespearean theater alike. Since these are the two things I’ve been spending most of this summer doing, those puffy rainbearing motherfuckers have really started to frost my shorts.

Fortunately, we’re headed toward a better stretch of weather this week, which’ll be great if your want to watch me and, you know, some other people, act, and will allow me to take some more pictures of the sky. Here’s a preview of coming attractions from early this morning.


2. White Fragility

For those who need this explained, here’s a proper definition of the term from Dr. Robin DiAngelo PhD, who coined the term:

White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.

We’ve seen a lot of this this week, on a national level from Republicans who continue to insist their obviously racist leader isn’t racist (while also saying the members of congress he told to go back where they came from are the real racists), but also from….goddamn it. I’d so love to tell you, but I can’t until the story plays out one way or another. All I can say for now is that in the last few days I encountered some of this bullshit while working on a project, and now the place where I live turns my stomach.

3. Pundits

Pundits: you can’t live with them, and you can’t live with them. The world is full of pundits, these overpaid, fact-free, copper-plated oracles who cram op-ed pages and crowd out the news on cable news. If you listen to one long enough, you either vomit or you turn into one yourself. Love them or hate them, I hate you if you don’t hate them.

This weeks irritant is Thomas Friedman, who took time out from his busy schedule of staying in five star resorts yammering about world flatness to worry us about the 2020 election:

I’m struck at how many people have come up to me recently and said, “Trump’s going to get re-elected, isn’t he?” And in each case, when I drilled down to ask why, I bumped into the Democratic presidential debates in June. I think a lot of Americans were shocked by some of the things they heard there. I was.

Something about the Trump years (we’ve had, what, 3 million of those now?) has made me suspicious of stories that start with people going up to the storyteller and confirming the storyteller’s own thoughts. But even if we take it as read that Friedman is more honest than Trump–not a hard bar to clear–honestly, what sort of people regularly approach Tom Friedman to talk to him about stuff? Cable news show bookers? Fellow guests in the lobby at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong? The other clients of his bespoke tailor?

But okay, fine, what’s been giving Tom Friedman the vapors lately?

I was shocked that so many candidates in the party whose nominee I was planning to support want to get rid of the private health insurance covering some 250 million Americans and have “Medicare for all” instead. I think we should strengthen Obamacare and eventually add a public option.

I was shocked that so many were ready to decriminalize illegal entry into our country. I think people should have to ring the doorbell before they enter my house or my country. 

I was shocked at all those hands raised in support of providing comprehensive health coverage to undocumented immigrants. I think promises we’ve made to our fellow Americans should take priority, like to veterans in need of better health care.

It is possible to argue the merits of each of these ideas, but Friedman is ill equipped to do that, so he claims they shock him as a way of shutting the conversation down. Decriminalizing illegal entry, for example, wouldn’t mean that immigration laws would go unenforced. It would simply mean that breaches of the law would be treated as civil, rather than criminal, offenses. As explained by Vox:

Under [Democratic Presidential Candidate Julian] Castro’s plan, an immigrant crossing into the US without papers — whether he was seeking asylum in the US or coming for some other reason — would not be committing a federal crime. If caught by Border Patrol agents, she’d be detained for a brief amount of time, but if she didn’t raise any red flags, she’d be released into the US (with a case management system to check up on her whereabouts) pending an immigration hearing.

If she didn’t qualify for some form of legal status like asylum, she’d still ultimately be ordered deported from the US. Being in the US without papers would still be a civil offense — the federal equivalent of a traffic ticket — and deportation would still be the penalty. That’s what Castro points out distinguishes his plan from “open borders”; he’s not actually suggesting that everyone who comes into the US be allowed to stay. 

But he is saying that none of them should be charged with a crime, immediately deported, or detained for more time than strictly necessary for crossing the border.

That seems like an approach to ending the appalling situation of Trump’s concentration camps worth considering. It’s fair to disagree, but being shocked about decriminalizing illegal border crossing or advocating Medicare For All is not an argument. It’s a pose.

But okay, if these are things Friedman doesn’t want, what does he want?

Democrats should focus on how we create sustainable wealth and good jobs, which is the American public-private partnership model: Government enriches the soil and entrepreneurs grow the companies.

It has always been what’s made us rich, and we’ve drifted away from it: investing in quality education and basic scientific research; promulgating the right laws and regulations to incentivize risk-taking and prevent recklessness and monopolies that can cripple free markets; encouraging legal immigration of both high-energy and high-I.Q. foreigners; and building the world’s best enabling infrastructure — ports, roads, bandwidth and basic social safety nets.

These things have made “us” rich? Tom, I hate to bring this up, but no, they’ve made you rich. Or, more accurately, they’ve made it possible for you to marry rich. I, by quite stark contrast, am not remotely rich. I don’t have time to get into what’s wrong with capitalism right now. (Besides, Contrapoints does it just fine.) But whatever our disagreements on how to distribute the world’s stuff, we all have our political interests and preferences, and Friedman is certainly allowed his. If he wants to vote for Joe Biden or Tim Ryan or Seth Moulton (wait, is he still running?) that’s his deal. Where trouble comes in is when Tom commits the Pundit Fallacy, defined by Matthew Yglesias as “that belief that what a politician needs to do to improve his or her political standing is do what the pundit wants substantively.

Dear Democrats: This is not complicated! Just nominate a decent, sane person, one committed to reunifying the country and creating more good jobs, a person who can gain the support of the independents, moderate Republicans and suburban women who abandoned Donald Trump in the midterms and thus swung the House of Representatives to the Democrats and could do the same for the presidency. And that candidate can win!

Short version: nominate a decent, sane person–which means someone who agrees with me all the time–and you win! It’s just that easy!

It is?

Absolutely! And if you act now, you also get the Cap Snaffler!


4. The Rambling Shitshow that is Donald J. Trump

Not a complete list.

Trump let fly with a racist tweetstorm, which led to his preening before a crowd while they chanted “Send them back” at him, which led to his distancing himself from the chant, then distancing himself from his attempt to distance himself.

He claims to have been “not a fan” of billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Video surfaces of Trump and Epstein creeping on cheerleaders.

He held a social media summit with a collection of racist trolls, randos, and fraudsters, to complain about how badly they’ve all been treated on social media. From where I sit, it is to laugh.

He claimed that Paul Ryan was bribed to call him stupid. And here I am doing it for free.

He named Antonin Scalia’s kid, who hates labor and is a big fan of repetitive stress injuries, to be the next Secretary of Labor.

That was the week in shittiness that was. Until next week.

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