Martin O’Malley’s Pathetic Shot at Bernie Sanders

Bernie SandersOh. My. God! Did you know that Bernie Sanders was pro-gun?! Mark Joseph Stern seemed pretty worked up about it last month, Bernie Sanders, Gun Nut. He wrote then, “But before liberal Democrats flock to Sanders, they should remember that the Vermont senator stands firmly to Clinton’s right on one issue of overwhelming importance to the Democratic base: gun control.” Really?! Is that an issue of overwhelming importance to us? Because I didn’t know that. I thought the Democratic Party had given up on gun control some time in the 1980s.

But okay, Sanders is no kind of gun control fanatic. Just the same, he’s no kind of gun rights fanatic. It’s hard to figure out NRA ratings, but as far as I can tell, Sanders’ NRA grade was F in 2003, D- in 2012, and F now. So let’s think about this. Even if Sanders is inclined toward more gun freedom than the Democratic base, how would it ever matter given the state of not just the Republican Party but the conservative wing of the Democratic Party? What’s more, I don’t think that most Democrats are all that extreme when it comes to gun control. It is just a matter of sensible measures — and even they are beyond the pale.

I kind of think that Stern’s article was an indirect attack from the Clinton campaign. But now we have an attack ad from Generation Forward, the Super-PAC of Martin O’Malley. And it’s pretty effective in its way. Just the same, when I saw it, I though, “So?!” For one thing, I know that Sanders isn’t a liberal. In most nations, socialists are the nationalists. One of the great things about Sanders is that he is no shrinking violet. Conservatives might blast him on his economics (which are hugely popular), but they can’t pretend that he isn’t strong — they can’t paint him as effete.

There’s more than a hint of desperation here. This line is telling, “The NRA even paid for ads attacking a Sanders opponent.” That’s a reference to Sanders 1990 campaign against Peter Smith for the Vermont’s at-large Representative seat. Apparently, Smith had angered the NRA by voting for the assault weapons ban. So it was 25 years ago, and it certainly wasn’t an endorsement of Sanders.

The text that goes along with Generation Forward’s YouTube post of the video claims, “You can’t claim to soak the fat boys and exempt the profiteers in the gun industry.” That’s a good one! For one thing, it’s a total distortion of Sanders’ economic policies. For another, there is a big difference between different gun control policies and proper economic policy. No one thinks that Sanders has voted the way that he votes to curry favor with the small weapons industry and its media arm, the NRA.

Politics is serious business. I don’t blame O’Malley for doing whatever it takes to get a little traction. I just doubt it will work. It seems a little early to start this kind of thing anyway. There are still the debates, which will doubtless help him. But for right now, I can see his campaign getting a desperate. Sanders is getting a lot of good attention. But so did Howard Dean in 2004. We should all relax.

Oh, also: Bernie Sanders 2016!

Greater Equality Helps Economic Growth

Era Dabla-NorrisEarlier IMF work has shown that income inequality is bad for growth and its sustainability. Our new research shows that income distribution itself — not just the level of income inequality — matters for growth.

Specifically, we find that making the rich richer by one percentage point lowers GDP growth in a country over the next five years by 0.08 percentage points — whereas making the poor and the middle class one percentage point richer can raise GDP growth by as much as 0.38 percentage points… Put simply, boosting the incomes of the poor and the middle class can help raise growth prospects for all.

One possible explanation is that the poor and the middle class tend to consume a higher fraction of their income than the rich… What this means is that the poor and the middle class are key engines of growth. But with inequality on the rise, those engines are stalling.

—Era Dabla-Norris et al
Growth’s Secret Weapon: The Poor and the Middle Class

Sure, Bobby Jindal Is as Good a Candidate as Any

Bobby JindalBobby Jindal announced his run for the presidency yesterday with a video — probably because it’s too expensive to pay actors to fill a room. There is no doubt that he’s a long-shot. For the past six months, he’s had a string of embarrassments. Most notably, he went to the UK to talk about the supposed “no-go zones” in London. He was widely mocked in the British press. Lucky for Jindal, the American press is much nicer about this kind of thing. To me, the biggest thing about Jindal is his social conservative bent. He is normally a Catholic, but he sounds like an evangelical. He follows the church’s teaching when it comes to homosexuality and abortion and pretty much nothing else. (Note: the Catholic church is not easy for liberals or conservatives.)

But Jonathan Bernstein has a positive take on the candidacy, Bobby Jindal’s 2016 Bid Makes Sense. He noted that the race is actually wide open. Jindal may be polling at number 15 (which puts him below some people who haven’t officially announced), but a lot could change, “Jindal — like Chris Christie, who is apparently moving ahead with his own effort — has correctly assessed that the Republican front-runners are weak enough that a long shot could win the nomination.” So why not?

Think back to the 2012 Republican nomination fight. It seemed that every week there was a new front runner. But 2016 was supposed to be different because there were going to be some top tier candidates. I don’t even know what that means anymore. The Republicans have a problem in that they really don’t disagree about anything. Every once in a while, someone will come out in favor of immigration reform, only to be shouted down. So who is in the lead is more or less random — based upon the most recent news. (Check this out: Donald Trump currently polls in second place in New Hampshire.)

Remember that Newt Gingrich got 137 electoral votes in the primary. If he had been a reasonable candidate, he could have caught fire and gone the whole way. And he wasn’t even trying hard. Consider, more tellingly, Herman Cain. Had he been a real candidate, he probably would have won. The truth is that the Republican base is desperate to vote for an African American who will tell them that race is not an issue and that they are the true victims. And I think Jindal fits that bill very well. The Republicans, after all, are proud of having the two whitest Latinos in the world — Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. The fact that Jindal in Indian, doesn’t matter.

It is a crap shoot. But sure: Jindal has a shot. I certainly think he has a better shot than Chris Christie does. But the fact that he has a shot is more a reflection of the Republican Party than it is of him. The truth is that the party has little to offer. So they are all going to stand on the debate state and pander to the base. We will see which one of them can be more against immigration or more for destroying the Islamic State and just generally be more “real America.” Jindal could catch a break. So could almost any of them. Just like in 2012.

Why Focus on Jihad When There Are Bigger Killers

Terror and Other Threats to Americans

It usually doesn’t mean much to tell people not to be afraid of airplane travel because it is so much safer than automobile travel. Similarly, it doesn’t mean much to tell people not to worry about terrorist acts because they are far more likely to be crushed by their refrigerator. So on that level, I don’t think it much matters that New America released a report that found that right wing terrorists were responsible for just under twice as many American deaths as jihadists were.

Of course, most Americans are not worried about terrorism. It is something far removed from their lives. It is just something that they worry about now and then because the media get them worked up about it. And for those poor people who have Fox News on all day, we must have great sympathy. They are fed a constant diet of hate and fear to the point where they actually think that the Islamic State poses a threat to them in the suburbs of Kansas City.

But I think the New America report ought to be very important from a policy standpoint: that we aren’t using our resources effectively. After Dylann Roof committed his heinous murders and we found out about his online “manifesto” and his well known attitudes and threats, I wondered where the FBI had been. It seems that a couple of times per year, we hear about some big terrorist plot that was stopped by the FBI. And in each case, it is the same: the FBI found a mentally unstable person, whipped him up into a jihadist frenzy, and then arrested him for it. It’s like clockwork.

And the coverage is always the same. The mainstream media report on the big “terror plot.” There are congratulations all around. And then, we read in The Guardian or The Intercept that it was just another FBI plot foiled by the FBI. We seem to spend a whole lot of time and energy on this kind of thing. And just imagine how many people the FBI tries to set up who won’t go along with the deal. Regardless, these resources could be used to scan all the new domain name purchases. One called The Last Rhodesian should stand out. Or it would if the FBI were interested in real threats to Americans rather than creating finely scripted “terror plots” for the mainstream media to eat up and the government to keep funding.

But look at the chart above. It’s from an article by Glenn Greenwald and Josh Begley, The Greatest Obstacle to Anti-Muslim Fear-Mongering and Bigotry: Reality. It is a nice reminder. It brings back memories of Fahrenheit 9/11, where people in a Virginia suburb can only come up with Walmart as a possible terrorist target. But the truth is that the people in the FBI and all the other parts of the “homeland security” apparatus know all this stuff. But apparently, there is little money in reducing real threats like cars and environmental hazards.

So we will continue on getting a constant focus on the jihadists, even as they seem more occupied far away killing peaceful Muslims. And we will only occasionally be reminded of right wing extremists when people like Roof pop up to kill people. There will be no more resources put on it. We won’t be allowed to talk about easy access to guns. Even racism will be largely off limits. But if we are very, very lucky, the South Carolina capital grounds will stop flying the Confederate flag. I guess that’s something. But there is still the state flag of Mississippi. And, you know, everything else.

Morning Music: The Lovin’ Spoonful

Hums of the Lovin' SpoonfulI’m all done with my paying work, yet I’m finding it very difficult to work. Part of this is because this flu continues on, but the cough seems to get worse. I’m wondering if I don’t also have a respiratory infection. But the other issue is that it is hot. Very hot — in the mid-90s today. I live and work in a room with two south facing windows. It gets like an oven in here. Saturday is supposed to be better, then next week, even worse. Maybe I will go down and visit my sister — it’s always ten to twenty degrees cooler down there.

Anyway, I thought I would offer up The Lovin’ Spoonful’s mega-hit “Summer in the City” off their third real album, Hums of the Lovin’ Spoonful. Now you might think that I would hate The Lovin’ Spoonful. But you would be wrong. For a couple of years, they were a very bright light in the business of popular music. It doesn’t get any better — just different. I think it is the influence of jug band music. It always helps for young musicians to have some form of music that they don’t quite do right but well enough to create something new. Other examples of this include Talking Heads’ hopeless attempts at funk and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s — I don’t know — Louisiana swamp music. (I always find it curious that people from my hometown think CCR is from way far away and not El Cerrito — a Bay Area suburb.)

There are many songs by The Lovin’ Spoonful that I like more, but for this day, it’s got to be “Summer in the City”:

Anniversary Post: King Richard III

King Richard IIIOn this day in 1483, Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester became King Richard III of England. I’ve long been fascinated by him because of the play, “If King Edward be as true and just, as I am subtle, false, and treacherous…” Who can’t help but love a hunchback with a shriveled arm who not only became the king of England but ended up being the last king to die the proper way: in battle. The problem is that Richard had no shriveled hand nor was he was a hunchback. He did, however, have distinct curvature of the spine. And it is hard not to think of him as Tyrion Lannister — although apparently Richard’s scoliosis did not occur until his adolescence.

The most recent research indicates that Richard’s deformity probably wasn’t big enough that the public would even have known. But certainly the aristocracy knew. I tend to think that the treachery that led to Richard’s death at the Battle of Bosworth Field was due primarily to his deformity. Let’s face it, even today, people rate beautiful people as smarter, kinder, and every other metric of goodness in comparison to ugly folk. And at that time, deformity was doubtless thought to indicate that God looked down on the sufferer.

None of this is to say that Richard was a saint. I’m sure he was just as vile as the other kings of that time. But I suspect much of his horrible legend is also due to the same distaste that led to his death. Still, it made a hell of a play — one of Shakespeare’s best. And I’ve come to think that no one has ever been as good as Ron Cook in the role:

Happy King Day, Richard; I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted!