Author Archives: Mitch

Trump’s priorities

  • Respectful disobedience by NFL players: Fire the sons of bitches!

  • Nazis (fought a war against the US to promote racism), Ku Klux Klan (terrorists promoting racism) and Confederates (also fought a war against the US to promote racism): They got a bad rap.

  • Millions of Americans without electricity or clean water in Puerto Rico after a hurricane: Not important.

Four-party system

Arnold Kling: The US today is divided into four political parties, in two uneasy and fragmented coalitions.

Kling sees the distinctions as:

  • “hard left,” which is positive about socialism, negative about capitalism, and fine with refusing to allow conservatives to speak in public;

  • the “bobo center,” which strongly favors immigration leniency, is liberal on social policy, “generally content with the status quo on most economic issues, but worried about inequality;”

  • the “anti-Bobo heartland,” essentially Trump country, strongly favoring restrictive immigration, “America first” foreign and trade policy, and very suspicious of the other three parties;

  • and “conservatarians, meaning conservative-flavored libertarians or libertarian-flavored conservatives,” who “worry about unsustainable fiscal policy, the power of the regulatory state, and the loss of key values, such as individual responsibility and respect for freedom of speech.”

I’m in the Bobo center, as Kling describes it. It’s not a perfect fit. I’m not “generally content with the status quo on most economic issues.” Fixing inequality will require fundamental fixes to the economic system. But all political categorization is imprecise, and Kling’s is the best I’ve seen recently.

Kling also says: “There is a good chance that the Democratic nominee in 2020 will cater to the hard left. If so, then this will give the Bobo center the sort of discomfort that the conservatarians feel with the Trump phenomenon.”

My “discomfort” with Trump is based more on the man than on his politics. I’d oppose any Republican candidate, but Trump is incompetent, an egomaniac, and if he’s not a white supremacist himself he’s perfectly fine with allying with them and pandering to them. I like to think these qualities in Trump would be repellent even to people who would enthusiastically support a Republican conservative. And, indeed, we did see some Republican champions defecting to the “hold your nose and vote for Hillary” camp.

Just don’t call them “homeless”

“Life on the Road, and in a Walmart Parking Lot,” by Jessica Bruder:

“People who never imagined being nomads are hitting the road. They’re giving up traditional houses and apartments to live in what some call ‘wheel estate’—vans, secondhand RVs, school buses, pickup campers, travel trailers, and plain old sedans. They are driving away from the impossible choices that face what used to be the middle class. Decisions like:

“Would you rather have food or dental work? Pay your mortgage or your electric bill? Make a car payment or buy medicine? Cover rent or student loans? Purchase warm clothes or gas for your commute?

“For many the answer seemed radical at first.

“You can’t give yourself a raise, but what about cutting your biggest expense? Trading a stick–and–brick domicile for life on wheels?

“Some call them ‘homeless.’ The new nomads reject that label. Equipped with both shelter and transportation, they’ve adopted a different word. They refer to themselves, quite simply, as ‘houseless.’

“From a distance, many of them could be mistaken for carefree retired RVers. On occasions when they treat themselves to a movie or dinner at a restaurant, they blend with the crowd. In mind-set and appearance, they are largely middle class. They wash their clothes at Laundromats and join fitness clubs to use the showers. Many took to the road after their savings were obliterated by the Great Recession. To keep their gas tanks and bellies full, they work long hours at hard, physical jobs. In a time of flat wages and rising housing costs, they have unshackled themselves from rent and mortgages as a way to get by. They are surviving America.

“But for them—as for anyone—survival isn’t enough. So what began as a last-ditch effort has become a battle cry for something greater. Being human means yearning for more than subsistence. As much as food or shelter, we require hope.

“And there is hope on the road. It’s a by-product of forward momentum. A sense of opportunity, as wide as the country itself. A bone-deep conviction that something better will come. It’s just ahead, in the next town, the next gig, the next chance encounter with a stranger.

“As it happens, some of those strangers are nomads, too. When they meet—online, or at a job, or camping way off the grid—tribes begin to form. There’s a common understanding, a kinship. When someone’s van breaks down, they pass the hat. There’s a contagious feeling: Something big is happening. The country is changing rapidly, the old structures crumbling away, and they’re at the epicenter of something new. Around a shared campfire, in the middle of the night, it can feel like a glimpse of utopia.”

Tips From Spies

Spies want to “fly below the radar, stay out of trouble, and always have a getaway…. On this episode we learn how to think like a spy, how to spot danger like a spy and how to drive like a spy, or at least park like a spy at the grocery store.”

Planet Money.

“I Love My Baby, But I Wish He Would Stop Saying, ‘This Human Form Is Limiting'”

Lauren Schwein on Runt:

Once, I woke up in the middle of the night and decided to check on him. He was sitting up in his crib muttering in a language I couldn’t understand (thanks to eight years of Catholic school, I was able to make out a few words in Latin). Then, when he caught me watching him he exclaimed, “Human mother, I am glad you are here, I need milk from your breasts.”

A second-generation American from a macho culture struggles with what it means to be a man.

“Discovering Manhood in Soapy Bubbles,” by Nat Martins at The New York Times:

“It wasn’t until I started doing dishes that I realized men in my family don’t do dishes.

“At parties, I rarely saw Martins men helping out in the kitchen. Instead, our grandmothers, aunts and female cousins (all Portuguese and Argentine immigrants) would cook and serve the meal, and afterward the men would stack their plates near the sink like a Jenga tower before returning to the table, where they would finish their wine and pick their teeth as the women cleaned up.”