Marco Cruz

Marco Rubio - Ted CruzYou can think of handsome devil on the left as Ted Rubio, if you want; I like to think of him as Marco Cruz. He is my pathetic Photoshop attempt to combine Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in one photograph. But there’s something that these two guys have in common. It is pretty obvious, but give that some thought while I give you a little personal history.

When I was 8 or 9 years old, my family took a trip to Texas to visit relatives. We stopped at some little dinner along the highway one night. There we all were: mon, dad, and four kids. My father is Portuguese. In California, he doesn’t look exotic. He could probably pass as Italian. But he certainly isn’t pasty white. And in Texas, apparently, he looked downright foreign. At the dinner, two good ol’ boys began discussing my father’s ethnicity very loudly. They couldn’t decide whether my dad was Spanish or Mexican. Eventually one said, “Hell, I don’t matter anyway.”

He was not indicating that all of us—Mexicans and Spaniards alike—are brothers and so it didn’t matter what my father was. Rather, he was saying that regardless of what my dad was, he was one of “them” and therefore not to be trusted. It was a very tense time. We paid our bill and left. The good ol’ boys followed in their truck. They tailgated the car all the way to country line. Then I guess they got bored, having struck a blow for the white man in their little town.

My point with telling you this is that my father’s last name (Moraes) had nothing to do with that little interaction with the “real” America that Republicans like so much. It had everything to do with the fact that my father’s skin is a little dark. He’s got that ethnic look.

Now look at Marco Cruz above? Do you think that he would be the subject of good ol’ boy speculation? I don’t. I think the only thing ethnic about him is his name. And that gets right to the heart of one of the many problems that Republicans have in reaching out to the Latino community. These guys are the future of course: in not so many decades, there really won’t be much of a correlation between skin color and ethnicity. They are on the leading edge. But I don’t think it is any accident that the two major Latino Republican figures are only slightly less pasty than Newt Gingrich.

So let’s see. The Republican Party has a economic platform that Latinos generally hate. They have a pretend immigration plan that most of their party hates in a very public way. And they have Latino candidates who look like they grew up in Chelsea. How’s that Latino outreach going, guys?

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Ridiculous Deficit Scolds

Greg SargentGreg Sargent asked a couple of questions of the deficit hysterics, Questions for the “Blame it on Both Sides” Crowd. But I think he may be a little confused about who he’s talking to.

His first question is reasonable enough, “What is it exactly that you think Obama could do to make Republicans compromise?” This gets to the core of Matt Yglesias’ idea about BipartisanThink. This is the principle that the center is always by definition halfway between the Democrats and the Republicans. So if Obama said we had to replace the Sequester with only tax increases, then the “serious” position would be halfway between that and the Republican position. Thus: half spending cuts and half tax increases. But given that Obama has now compromised and accepted the old “serious” position of half and half, there is a new “serious” position: three-quarter spending cuts and one-quarter tax increases.

Sargent’s second question gets at the absurdity of this BipartisanThink. He wants to know what the deficit scolds actually think. As we all know, they currently think that a mix of spending cuts and tax increases is the right way to go. Thus, they should be complaining that the Republicans are absolutely against even a penny in new taxes. This is where I think Sargent is missing what is really going on. The Very Serious Scolds want the two sides to come together. That position will always be elusive until a deal is reached.

What is horribly, horribly wrong with this idea is that it rewards people who will not compromise. The more one party compromises, the more they lose. Basic psychology should tell the deficit scolds that this only makes reaching a deal harder. And once that deal is reached, it will be far closer to the least reasonable party. Of course, none of that matters to the deficit scolds. If it did, they wouldn’t be deficit scolds. The very idea that reaching any deal is more important than reaching a good deal is ridiculous. As are the deficit scolds.

The Hot l Baltimore

Hot l BaltimoreWhen I was a kid I loved plays. There were a lot of reasons for this. One of them is that I have a very good ability to imagine the play in my head. I don’t need or even particularly want a lot of detail: I’ve got that covered. Plays are by their nature kind of the Elmore Leonard style of writing; and given how popular his novels are, I think a lot of people feel the same way. The biggest reason that I read plays when I was young is related to this. I did (and still do) suffer from both forms of dyslexia. As a result of this, when I was young I was a painfully slow reader. But I could read a play in one night. And so I did: very many of them.

One of those plays I read was Lanford Wilson’s Hot l Baltimore. I remembered it as being a funny play. When I was a kid, I was so impressed with people who could write humor; it seemed almost magical. So I think I remember comedy more than the other things. Well, I just read it again and I would certainly not call it a comedy, even though it is an amusing read and would be quite funny performed. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be “poignant.”

It tells the story of a bunch of people living on the margins in the rundown old Hotel Baltimore. That’s where the title comes from: the “e” in the hotel sign has burned out. About midway through the first act, we learn that the hotel is going to be demolished and everyone is being evicted. But that doesn’t particularly matter, although there is much talk about it. The eviction is just part the fragility that is all their lives. It reminds me of Melissa Harris-Perry’s counter to the meme that the rich should be rewarded for their risk taking:

What is riskier than living poor in America? Seriously! What in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America? I live in a neighborhood where people are shot on my street corner… I am sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky. No. There is a huge safety net that whenever you fail will catch you and catch you and catch you! Being poor is what is risky!

But like all people on the margins, the characters in Hot l Baltimore keep pushing forward because they have no choice. The play culminates with April, an aging prostitute, forcing stunted Jamie, whose sister has abandoned him, to dance. It ends with them dancing as April shouts to the night manager about the radio, “Turn it up!”

What I probably didn’t understand when I was a kid was that these people’s lives were already over and they knew it; they were just keeping up appearances. There are multiple assertions from the characters, “I have plans!” The climax of the play, leading up to the end of the second act, is then “Girl”[1] informs Jackie that the land Jackie’s bought in Utah cannot be used to farm because it is a salt desert. Jackie claims she is lying, but Jackie knows the truth; Jackie probably always knew the truth.

If you aren’t going somewhere, then you’re just treading water. Soon, you’ll get tired and drown. Until then, “Turn it up!”

[1] She is the only character without a name. She is perhaps the only one who hasn’t given up. Instead, she is forever disappointed in the world. She is especially upset that the trains don’t run on time. She is a frightening reminder that disappointment is just a phase we go through on the way to hopelessness.

Righting Write

There TheirYesterday, Matt Yglesias wrote a sentence that needs to be shared, “I continue to think that conservatives are write to believe that the tax code should in fact favor the accumulation of production equipment…” I bring it up because Yglesias is a very smart man. He certainly isn’t ignorant of the difference between the words “write” and “right.” Yet there he is, writing “write” when he means to write “right.”

I do this all the time. As I do a quick read through before publishing an article, I often find these kinds of errors (and often don’t find them, even though they are there). My biggest problem is with “there,” “their,” and “they’re.” By default, I tend to type “their.” So I’m especially on the lookout for that. But not that long ago, a reader noted that I used “cite” when I meant “site.” That error is strange, because I’m not in the habit of typing that word. But she was right, even though I certainly know the difference between “cite,” “site,” and “sight.”

I think the reason we do this kind of thing is because once you type well, you don’t really type letters. I don’t so much have the keyboard memorized anymore. When I’m presented with an onscreen keyboard, I have to hunt around for the letters, even though I know that left third finger up is “w.” Now, when I think of a word, it just gets typed. I’m not conscious of it.

The problem exists because the word patterns on the keyboard seem to interact fairly directly with my homophone information rather than my meaning information. This isn’t totally the case, because under most circumstances, I do get the right homophone. But there are enough incorrectly typed words, that I’m sure that there is a very strong connection between the sound of a word and the keys that I type.

I found an interesting discussion of this over at MetaFilter. No one seems to know, but the more compelling ideas basically come down to what I proposed above. One person, however, mentioned a friend who wrote “Boston” when he meant to write “Austin.” I can’t remember any examples, but this happens to me too. It goes along with more obvious errors like typing “other” instead of “another.”

I write this as a kind of self-justification. When I see others like Matt Yglesias do it, I totally understand. I don’t think less of them. But it is hard not to feel that other people think I’m a total idiot when they read me writing “their” when I mean “there.”