Nick Sandmann, Donald Trump, and the Modern GOP

Nick Sandmann at the RNC

I wasn’t at all surprised that the GOP announced that Nick Sandmann would be speaking at the Republican National Convention. In a sense, he’s the perfect speaker because the party is nothing but a reactionary group with nothing to offer but whining about how mean everyone is to them.

If you don’t remember, Nick Sandmann is a high school bully who got into a stand-off with a Native American who interceded between some Covington Catholic High School students and a group of Black Hebrew Israelites.

Sandmann’s creepy grin and his racist comrades got some bad attention on Twitter and in the news. So his parents hired a PR firm and he went on a media tour culminating with nuisance lawsuits against The Washington Post, CNN, and others.

Nick Sandmann Gives a Speech

So the GOP gave him 5 minutes at the RNC. The worst you can say about the media coverage of the original incident is that it was too critical. I happen to think it wasn’t critical enough. Sandmann was a bully running the usual, “I’m not touching you!” play.

But it was interesting to watch Sandmann’s speech because he changed his story notably from what he told while on his media tour. What’s more, it made the Native American involved in the incident, Nathan Phillips, out to be the bad guy. Of course, I knew that was always what laid behind his behavior. It was always just a bunch of privileged white kids acting racist.

The last quarter of Sandmann’s RNC speech was about how badly Donald Trump had been treated by the media. “I know that you’ll agree with me when we say that no one in this country has been a victim of unfair media coverage more than President Donald Trump.” Because we all know who the real victim is in all this: the leader of the free world!

Whining and Moaning

But the next day, Sandmann told Fox News:

I would have given this same exact speech at the DNC if the Democrat National Convention actually cared about holding the media accountable. But I haven’t seen that, and they never invited me to give such a speech. So, I used the platform I had.

(Note that it is the “Democrat” National Convention, not the “Democratic” National Convention. This is a typical bully move: not calling people by their names. Sandmann can’t resist this even when on his best behavior!)

First, a quarter of the speech was a love letter to Donald Trump. Is Sandmann confused on that point? Does he really think the DNC would be interested in that speech? But more important: he’s making a stand for media accountability?!

Even if you agree with him that the media was unfair, how is this a major issue? The single largest news channel is Fox News, at it is nothing if not reactionary in favor of the right. The day after Sandmann’s speech, Tucker Carlson was on the network apologizing for an apparent murderer.

I saw people on Twitter claiming that Kyle Rittenhouse is being “wronged” the way Nick Sandman was. (Don’t be surprised if Rittenhouse is turned into the same kind “victim” who was just acting in self-defense.) People on the right who claim that the media is unfair are just saying that the wrong people are being attacked.

This Is the Modern GOP

And Sandmann wasn’t alone in this regard. Most of the speeches at the RNC were filled with the same kind of whining that have come to define the Trump era. They claim to be the alpha-men who are strong and powerful. But they can’t take even the most minor criticism.

The truth is that relative to his behavior, Donald Trump has been given a pass. The mainstream news is still trying to figure out how to respond to his continual bald-faced lies. But there is Nick Sandmann and all the other Trump enablers. They don’t spend much time talking about Trump and what he does. (I wonder why?!) Instead, it’s all the world is being mean to Donald Trump — and other rich white guys who, for example, get PR firms to protect them when they behave badly in public.

Afterword

It is now widely accepted that Nick Sandmann was just a non-violent kid who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But Nathan Phillips got in front of him because Sandmann and his friends were walking toward the Black Hebrew Israelites with clear (admittedly understandable) negative intent.

But it goes to show that in America, the truth doesn’t matter when you have money and a PR firm behind you.


Image of Nick Sandmann taken from ABC News under Fair Use.

Odds and Ends Vol 31

Odds and Ends

Welcome to another Odds and Ends. Yet another week has gone by without my working on this at all.

The problem is that I’m busy. I try to watch one to two films per day. That may sound like entertainment, but I assure you, it isn’t.

Like yesterday, I watched the John Wayne film Brannigan. It’s a pretty good film. I am a fan of the director, Douglas Hickox. And it’s filled with a lot of good British actors. The problem is Wayne. I’m planning to write a whole article about it soon. So let me leave it at this: he reminds me of Bruce Willis at his worst. It isn’t acting; it’s more like guest-hosting on SNL.

Anyway, it’s time for a couple Odds and Ends.

Democratic National Convention

This week was the DNC. I didn’t watch it. I find political conventions hard enough under the best of circumstances. The idea of a Zoom convention is terrifying.

I did, however, watch the main speeches on C-SPAN and I thought I would share the better ones.

Bernie Sanders

I’ve come to see Sanders and Warren as the dad and mom of leftist politics in this country. And Sanders presented a much-needed indictment of the Trump administration. And he weaved that together with the policy positions we know him for.

Michelle Obama

Watching Michelle Obama was cathartic. She seemed to be channeling my own anger. And it’s mixed with frustration. So many days, my overall feeling is, “Really?! This is what we are now?” I also like that she clarified that “going high” does not mean rolling over. We have to fight.

Trump attacked Michelle Obama for having a pre-recorded segment because she mentioned that there were “over 150,000” COVID-19 deaths. Jonathan Chait noted that this was probably not as good an argument as Trump thinks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

AOC gave a short speech. I’m only highlighting it because many tried to say it was an attack on the Democratic Party because she nominated Bernie Sanders for president. This was a convention necessity and nothing more. She is very good, though! And it’s constantly amusing that conservatives ignorantly claim she’s stupid. She understands economics better than any major figure on the right. Belittle her if you want. I suspect one day she will be Speaker of the House.

Jill Biden

Jill Biden was great. But what I really want to talk about is the opening tracking shot as she walks into the classroom and then completes the whole speech with a single camera. Very cool! And that hokey ending was sweet too.

Barack Obama

Obama’s speech was spectacular. I think it was the high point of the convention. He was angry. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a former president speak about a sitting president in this way. And rightly so! Of course, after Trump is out of office, he’s going to talk about the sitting president the way he currently talks about all former presidents. If you only watch one speech, this is the one to watch.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris was more on in her speech than I ever saw her during the primary. One thing that has been much on my mind recently is the way that many on the left have attacked her as a “cop” and a centrist Democrat. It isn’t just the mainstream press that grabs onto convenient narratives as this proves. Because other than Warren, Harris is the most liberal Democrat in the Senate. How does that happen? We on the left need to do better.

Joe Biden

It is hilarious that it has become an article of faith that Joe Biden is a decrepit old man who is suffering from dementia. This narrative would anger me if I didn’t know it is going to crash down on conservatives when the debates come.

Congratulations America!

I understand that a lot of people are disappointed that Joe Biden ended up as our nominee instead of Bernie Sanders or another candidate. I share that disappointment, to some extent. But I think leftists need to appreciate what has been accomplished over the last 5 years.

The Joe Biden and Kamala Harris ticket is the most liberal ticket that the Democratic Party has ever run. And frankly, I’m kind of tried hearing leftists-come-lately bitch and whine about a ticket and a party they would have been thrill about just four years ago.

Who are these people who thought a political revolution was just one election cycle away? Too many of the disgruntled leftists remind me of Carey Wedler, the young woman her burned her Obama shirt in 2014 because she was disappointed in him. “But, like a lot of Obama supporters, I sat back for the next couple of years and figured I’d let you handle all that change, because you were the one that was selling it anyway.”

That’s what I saw from a lot of Sanders supporters and I had this vision of him becoming president and then sitting on their asses for six years and then burning his shirt. That’s not acceptable.

The current situation is that the Democratic Party is about 30 percent leftist. The rest are liberals and centrists. What we on the left need to do is change that. We need to convince some of the others that we are right on policy (because we mostly are). And we need to get other people involved.

This is what we need to talk about. All this nonsense about the DNC conspiring to stop us is just nonsense. If we get the numbers, they will join us in an instant.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has nominated an exciting presidential ticket. This is a good day for the party. And it’s a good day for America. And I will continue contributing both my time and my money to help us take over Washington.

Pamala Harris

My father really likes Kamala Harris. But he’s old and hard of hearing. So he always calls her “Pamela Harris.” But he pronounces it with a soft-a, so he clearly hears the way it is pronounced. He just can’t hear that K. It’s one of the most charming things about my father.

William reminded me of this SNL skit that sums up the issue nicely. If you have an elderly parent, you probably interact with them very much as the Amazon Echo Silver does.

The Jim Jefferies Show

In preparation for when it is reported that Jim Jefferies really has been doing the bad thing that everyone pretty much knows he must be doing because, hey, Louis CK, I feel I must put down a marker and admit that I love Jim Jefferies.

He’s makes me laugh in a way that other people I like never do. Seth Meyers, Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert? I like their work but Jim Jefferies is the only one I consistently find funny.

Politically, I disagree with him about a number of things. But if the world were filled with people like him, it would be a thousand percent better. And I like his straightforward, populist take on the world — even when I disagree.

Here’s a playlist of 11 videos. And if Jim Jefferies ever does turn out to have been like Louis CK, well, it won’t make him any less right about all this.

Valley of the Zombies

Valley of the Zombies is a classic B-feature. What that means is that it was made to be the minor film in a double feature. And as such, it has something that we just don’t see much of these days: a short running time!

It’s just 55 minutes long. And what’s great about this is that there’s no padding. Most films these days are so long because the second acts are extended. And that’s really bad because most second acts are a muddle anyway. So it’s just a bunch more scenes to sit through before the film finally gets around to resolving itself.

That’s not always the case, however. John Woo is famous for third acts that go on and on. But that’s the same thing. The best third acts and quickest third acts. A 45 minute third act is just a short film shoehorned into another film.

Valley of the Zombies isn’t much of a horror film. In fact, much of it is quite funny. And it’s overall effective. Also: it treats cops with the disdain that they deserve.

Valley of the Zombies is playing over at Psychotronic Review. Watch it now!

Until Next Time

I won’t even promise anything for next week. I’m a very busy man!

Odds and Ends Vol 30

Odds and Ends

Welcome to another Odds and Ends. I don’t have as much this week as before because the whole thing got past me. I was busy working away, making money. And then it hit me, “It’s Thursday night!”

A lot has been going on. In fact, I’ve been really depressed. I’ve been concerned about the Post Office and Republican efforts to kill it for over a decade. But now that process is on warp speed — at the moment when we need it for the upcoming election.

What’s always most bugged me about the Republican attacks on the USPS is that they make such ostentatious claims about loving the Constitution. “It’s the greatest document in the history of history!” You’d think that they would thus love the Post Office. Of course, that assumes they’ve read the Constitution — and it was always clear that they haven’t. It’s a holy relic, not a document.

Anyway, it’s time for a couple Odds and Ends.

Racist US Senate

We all know how non-representational the US Senate is. Jonathan Chait noted the following: the four least populous states (Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, and North Dakota) represent 2.7 million people. The four most populous states (California, Texas, Florida, and New York) represent 110 million people. Yet both groups get equal representation in the Senate.

That’s a ratio of roughly 40 to 1. But if you look at just California and Wyoming, the ratio is 70 to 1. It is totally unjustified. But Chait also notes that the more populous states are more diverse. And he quotes some numbers worked out by David Leonhardt.

This table shows how much representation different groups have per one million people.

GroupRep
White0.35
Black0.26
Asian0.25
Latino0.19

You might think that the equal protection clause of the Constitution would have something to say about that. But it seems that only applies to rich white men.

Washington Generals

When I was a kid, the Harlem Globetrotters were a big thing. They had their own Saturday morning cartoon! (With Scatman Crothers as Meadowlark Lemon!) And you would occasionally see them on the Wide World of Sports. So I knew about them. In fact, I knew that they always played the Washington Generals. But I was all wrong about what they were.

I figured that they were just local teams who came to play for the money or charity or something. But not that I think back on it, that would be an organizational nightmare. So instead, there was a standing team that traveled around with them called the Washington Generals (and other things at times).

Better Than You’d Think

The team is generally thought of as a bunch of clowns, but of course, they are all excellent players. All over the world are people who are almost at the top of their professions. In most areas, it doesn’t much matter. In anything entertainment-related, it matters a great deal.

So the guys on the Generals aren’t as good as people in the NBA or on the Globetrotters. Looking at the players, they mostly seem to have been very strong players in NCAA Division II teams. They mostly have degrees in business or communications. Many of them also play in professional leagues outside the US.

I love this. It’s a great joy to be good at something. There’s a certain point you reach in a skill where doing it is something akin to a religious experience. And the fact that these guys get to do this for a few years, I think it should be applauded.

What’s more, it pushes against the idea that you should only do something if you can be the best. That’s the philosophy of a society that is on its way down. These young men, who are employed to lose to the Globetrotters are probably better at basketball than I am at anything I can do.

Now I want to pay the ridiculous prices for a Harlem Globetrotters game just so I can see the Washington Generals. (Of course, the Globetrotters are interesting for the same reasons.) There is, however, the question of which Washington Generals. The truth is that there are three different Washington Generals squads. That’s because there are three different Harlem Globetrotters squads. On a given night, they all play in different cities. Each squad plays about 130 games during their 5-month season — sometimes two games in a day!

The Legend of Haggard Vance

This is from a recent episode of Late Night With Seth Meyers. I seem to be the only one of my friends who likes Meyers. I’m not sure what the problem is.

Anyway, they presented the following film poster parody that I had to grab. It reminds me of the great days of The Daily Show — you know: when it was still hosted by someone who cares about politics.

The Legend of Haggard Vance

The Woman in Black

Back in 1989, a filmed version of Susan Hill’s Gothic horror novel The Woman in Black was made for British television. (This is not the Daniel Radcliffe film!) Normally, this would be the moment to yawn. But it’s amazingly good.

The truth is that I find most modern horror films amusing. I’m easily startled, but otherwise, there’s just a lot of silliness to them, as in last week’s film Frogs. Ghost stories are one kind of horror that consistently scares me.

And this film is amazing in this regard. What’s more, it does it with some of the simplest things. That’s the thing about ghosts: you don’t know what they are going to do. So just showing them hanging around is enough to give you chills.

But we get a lot more than that here. There are a number of really effective moments. I highly recommend watching this. In fact, I’m so keen on this film that I ordered the new Blu-ray release of it from the UK. As is becoming a thing with me, the films I most like aren’t released here at all. Thank God for all-region Blu-ray players!

The Woman in Black is playing over at Psychotronic Review. Watch it now!

Until Next Time

Hopefully, I’ll have something different in the next couple of days.

Odds and Ends Vol 29

Odds and Ends

Welcome to another Odds and Ends. I almost didn’t write it this week and went with a long article about the falling number of men working (see below). But there’s so much to write about!

Also, I’ve been putting off publishing a general interest article about apples because apples are cool. Speaking of which, my cousin just dropped a bunch of pears on me and this weekend, I need to do some major pie making.

Anyway, it’s time for more Odds and Ends.

Our Messed Up Electoral System

Will forwarded me the current odds on the US presidential race. They are illustrative even if they are more or less what you would think. Biden is -160 and Trump is +135. That means that Biden is a moderate favorite. You have to bet $160 to win $100. For Trump, you have to bet $100 to win $135.

But what’s shocking are the odds of the candidates winning the popular vote. Since neither candidate is the official nominee, it is by party. The Democratic candidate is -600 — bet $600 to win $100. The Republican candidate is +375 — bet $100 to win $375.

Roughly speaking, these are the odds of the candidates winning:

CandidatePopularElectoral
Biden96%68%
Trump4%32%

I can accept the popular and electoral vote not being exactly the same. But that’s ridiculously out of balance. Basically, unless there is major voter suppression, Biden is going to win the popular vote. We know that.

Yet here we are worried that the election will be very close or even that Trump will win. Democracies do not exist like this for long. Eventually, people will just give up because they see that the deck is stacked. Americans are clueless but even we can’t stay that way forever.

Kanye West

It looked like nothing would come of Kanye West’s presidential campaign, but it turns out that he has “friends” in high places. You know: Republicans who want to re-elect Trump with an even smaller fraction of the vote he managed in 2016.

I tend to think there is nothing to this. The kind of people who would fall for this are the kind of people who can’t even bother to vote. But I will admit that I’m still concerned. This election could come down to a very small number of votes in a state like Wisconsin. Biden could win the popular vote by 6 million and still lose. So we need to take this seriously.

But I want to say something to people who think we shouldn’t criticize West: fuck off! If he’s mentally ill, then he should have a handler who doesn’t allow him to run for president. He doesn’t get to do whatever the fuck he wants and then have an army of defenders claim he isn’t responsible when he’s criticized. If you’re going to take the love, you’ve got to take the hate too.

And yes: I hate Kanye West. You see, it really doesn’t matter to me whether or not he means to be evil. The actions result in evil being done. And it’s not even being done for the betterment of society. Even if he thinks his “dragon power” would be a force for good in the White House, he is not going to win. So fuck him. Fuck Howard Schultz. And fuck Ralph Nader!

A Social Ill

One last thing: our society needs to get past this idea that because someone is great at one thing they should be listened to about other things. Being a great stock trader does not mean you know anything about macroeconomics. Kanye West is taken seriously as a candidate because he’s a great musician. We’ve already been through that with Trump who was taken seriously by people who mistakenly thought he was a competent businessman.

Update: Kanye West Indicates That His Spoiler Campaign Is Indeed Designed to Hurt Biden.

Don Henley

Don Henley is a well-known asshole. But the guy is smart. At one of Mojo Nixon’s concerts, he forced his way on stage and performed “Don Henley Must Die.” But there was apparently no goodwill about it. He seemed to be pissed off the whole time. Regardless, good for him!

This tweet made me think of him.

This is the first Mojo Nixon song I ever heard. It’s probably the first that most people heard. I probably heard it on Dr Demento. “Elvis is in Joan Rivers — but he’s trying to get out!” The best thing about him is that he never changed.

Employment to Population

Something weird has been going on for a while: the employment-to-population ratio for prime-aged male workers. This is the percentage of men between the ages 25 and 54 who are working. Before the pandemic, it was sitting at roughly 86 percent. But it was roughly 95 percent in 1967 and it has been steadily declining since then.

Overall, the employment-to-population ratio rose from this period to about 1990 due to more women entering the labor market. But even it has been fairly steady in the high 70s since then.

When this issue is brought up, most people brush it aside as due to more people retiring. This makes no sense at all given that this is specifically for younger workers. (I’m not even included in this group!) So I asked Dean Baker about it on Twitter.

Bad Jobs

This resulted in a bit of discussion. Harland AL thinks it is due to the reduction in good jobs since that time. This makes a lot of sense. As economists are always telling us: incentives matter. And given that most jobs pay poorly, offer no benefits, and have little potential for advancement, why would people take them?

Note that the main (usually unstated) reason that conservative hate the safety net is because it gives workers options. The best thing for employers is to have a desperate and terrified workforce.

Mass Incarceration

But Dean Baker is the master at the unusual take and he presented a white paper that his think tank (CEPR) published a decade ago, Ex-Offenders and the Labor Market. It notes:

We use Bureau of Justice Statistics data to estimate that, in 2008, the United States had between 12 and 14 million ex-offenders of working age. Because a prison record or felony conviction greatly lowers ex-offenders’ prospects in the labor market, we estimate that this large population lowered the total male employment rate that year by 1.5 to 1.7 percentage points. In GDP terms, these reductions in employment cost the U.S. economy between $57 and $65 billion in lost output.

This doesn’t give us data over time, but it’s a strong indicator that increases in incarceration has had a notable effect on employment and has harmed the overall economy.

Most Americans think that people who commit felonies “pay their debt to society” and then get on with their lives. This explains why they are so often confused about recidivism. But the truth is that our society punishes felons for the rest of their lives.

Passive-Aggressive Poe

Andrea sent me this.

Passive-Aggressive Raven: Nevermind!
Via Arte Van Gogh on Pinterest.

Kansas Senate Race

There are big happenings in Kansas. Roger Marshall managed to beat Kris Kobach in the Republican primary, which my sources tell me makes this a horse race. His challenger is Kansas State Senator Barbara Bollier. So if you can, donate to her campaign. The only way that we can move forward with Biden as president is by taking the Senate. So this is important.

Barbara Bollier

Frogs

I’m not sure why AIP decided to put out a horror film with the title “Frogs.” They aren’t the most terrifying creatures even if people do tend to find them a bit creepy. What’s next? “Banana Slugs: The Movie”?!

But Frogs is a pretty good little film starring Sam Elliott and Ray Milland. And other there they being a lot of frogs (mostly toads) on screen, it really isn’t about frogs. Nature is turning against man in the form of every creature in the swamp.

Most horror films don’t really scare me except for the jump scares, which I am especially prone to. But at a certain point in Frogs, I was certain things were crawling on me. If you are looking for meatier fare, check out The Mountain of the Cannibal God. But bear in mind that you will see real animal cruelty as well as a man anally raping a hog (thankfully, only simulated). But you get to see Ursula Andress’ boobs!

Frogs is playing over at Psychotronic Review. Watch it now!

Until Next Time

Hopefully, I’ll see you before next week. But it should be next week at the latest.