Two Petitions Worth Signing

I have the somewhat tedium-inducing sense that the next four years of our lives will involve a lot of petitions–reading them, signing them, and enduring widespread derision for doing so.

Tedious it is, but don’t let that stop you. It’s doubtful (I know) that petitions serve any straightforwardly instrumental function: it’s not as though the Trump Administration will recoil in horror at the discovery that 20,000+ academics deplore his Executive Order on immigration, and that 272+ academics deplore the attitudes he’s expressed toward Mexico–and then decide to roll back his immigration policies. But those of us who oppose Trump and his policies feel the entirely healthy desire to do something to oppose his administration, and signing a petition is something–not much, but something. At the very least, it gives us something cheap and easy to do while we figure out what else to do. It serves an expressive function, which is not nothing, and offers solidarity to those adversely affected by the policies, which, though not much, is better than nothing. Continue reading

Revisiting “The Muslim Registry”

In light of recent events, including Donald Trump’s firing Sally Yates, the Acting Attorney General, I thought I’d re-post this item from November, on the so-called “Muslim registry.” Actions like Yates’s were just what I had in mind when I wrote the post. My hope is that others will emulate her.

A postscript: In the November post, I mentioned that I had intended to try my proposal out on the Bergen County Prosecutor, Gurbir Grewal, on a visit he was making to my university that week. The question I asked him back in November was whether he would be willing to withhold county law enforcement resources from efforts to enforce unconstitutional deportation orders. He side-stepped the question to some degree, pointing out that he was obliged, in the case of undocumented aliens within his custody, to pass relevant information on to the federal immigration authorities, and presumably to cooperate in any legal proceedings they initiated. Continue reading

(Law of) Identity Politics

The razor-sharp mind of David Brooks at work, in a column on the recent anti-Trump march on Washington, D.C.:

The biggest problem with identity politics is that its categories don’t explain what is going on now.

Two paragraphs later:

I loathed Trump’s inaugural: It offered a zero-sum, ethnically pure, backward-looking brutalistic nationalism. But it was a coherent vision, and he is rallying a true and fervent love of our home.

So either ethnicity is not a category of identity politics, or the concept of ethnicity is irrelevant to explaining a coherent vision based on a brutal, nationalist conception of ethnic purity.

Either way, rest assured: we can count on David Brooks to light the way in these dark times. Good to know.

Report From The Rust Belt: The Trump Thank You Rally in Wisconsin

Last Tuesday, my wife and I braved the bitter cold and police-blocked highways to drive over to State Fair Park in West Allis.  President-elect Donald Trump was in town, on his post-election “victory lap,” holding a rally to thank the people of Wisconsin for his recent electoral victory.  We had a connection to get tickets, and since neither of us had seen Trump speak in person, and both of us wanted to see firsthand what he and the crowd were like at a rally, we took what we expect – but don’t really know for certain – might be the last opportunity to witness both interacting during this campaign, the politician and the people.

This election certainly has been an interesting one, to understate matters mildly.  So much has already been said in the last months – though quite often shooting from the hip, groping for explanations and intelligibility, rather than contributing cogent analysis – about all sorts of topics.  Fake news, interference with the elections, fascism, the alt-right, the anger of the white working class, authoritarianism, a post-truth environment, bullying and insults, demagoguery, normalization.  Those are among the topics that still require a good bit of sorting out and sorting through at present. Continue reading

Fake News: All the Counterfactual Conditionals Fit to Print

I encountered this passage in what was supposed to be a news story about Donald Trump’s intervention in the Carrier factory job decision in Indiana:

And just as only a confirmed anti-Communist like Richard Nixon could go to China, so only a businessman like Mr. Trump could take on corporate America without being called a Bernie Sanders-style socialist. If Barack Obama had tried the same maneuver, he’d probably have drawn criticism for intervening in the free market.

Does that set of claims really qualify as news? I’m not even sure the passage qualifies as editorializing. Neither sentence expresses a verifiable fact. Both sentences just seem like handwaving slop. Continue reading

John Allison at Trump Tower

Readers interested in John Allison’s appearance at Trump Tower may also be interested in Arnold Kling’s review of Allison’s book, The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure, which appeared in the October 2012 issue of Reason Papers. 

An excerpt: 

When it comes to the financial crisis of 2008, the conventional view seriously under-estimates the extent to which collectivization of financial risk was the cause of the problem and seriously over-estimates the extent to which strengthening this collectivization represents a long-term solution. I am in complete accord with Allison on that score. However, I do not share his view that there is a free market “cure.” At best, there are movements in the direction of the free market that would reduce the costs of regulation without increasing the risks of another meltdown. However, such changes will not be made as long as the conventional history of the crisis—which treats it as resulting from the loss of will to regulate—holds sway. And I do not believe that, in the end, Allison’s book will have much of an impact on converting those who hold the conventional view.

Read the whole thing here (4 page PDF).

H/t: Alison Bowles (for the WSJ article)

Reince Preibus Meets Moore’s Paradox

Not a perfect example of Moore’s Paradox, but close enough, from incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus:

“Look, I’m not going to rule out anything,” Priebus said. “We’re not going to have a registry based on a religion.”

Clearly, we’re not going to have a registry based on religion. But we might.

Alas, the question Preibus was asked was: “Can you equivocally rule out a registry for Muslims?” Which is exactly what he did. And not all that hard to do, either. I mean, I could do that. And it’s not even my policy.

Kevin Vallier on Decentralization and the Election Results

The election results have been traumatic to many people, and have occasioned the revival of two structural proposals usually unpopular among left-leaning liberals–decentralization through federalism, and secession. Both strike me as pointless and unrealistic gimmicks. The first won’t solve the problem; the second won’t work, and might not solve the problem if it did.

The real options, it seems to me–at least for those of us traumatized by the prospect of a Trump presidency, as opposed to those welcoming it or viewing it with equanimity–are endurance or emigration. Since I count myself among the traumatized, those are what I regard as my own options. Endurance is the less pleasant but more realistic option, emigration the more attractive but harder to pull off. Continue reading

Against Unity: A Response to Mayor Michael Venezia (Bloomfield, New Jersey)

This is a comment I wrote on the Citizens of Bloomfield Facebook page, responding to Michael Venezia, Mayor of Bloomfield (Nov. 11 at 2:10 pm). Venezia had called in his post for a “united Bloomfield” behind Trump. I reject the idea. My comment was deleted from the comments section of the post without explanation, as apparently violating the site’s policies. Evidently, the mayor has free rein to say whatever he wants, but firm criticism is impermissible.

I’m not interested in any form of unity with anyone who voted for Trump. The whole idea of “uniting” with such people is presumptuous and ridiculous. No, we shouldn’t violate their rights (or anyone else’s). We should keep our hands off others’ property and persons, regardless of their politics. And yes, those in power should facilitate a peaceful transition of power.

But that has nothing to do with making common cause with Trump supporters. I have nothing in common with them, and they have nothing in common with me. We have to stop engaging in wishful thinking and amnesia about these people and their intentions. We can’t make America great by uniting with people who unapologetically believe in and promulgate lies. We can only keep our distance from them and demand that they do the same from us.

It’s cheap for Venezia to preach to us about “unity.” No one’s ever accused him of dancing in the streets after 9/11. Let that accusation sink in and then, as it does, try to “unify” with the people who spread it. I didn’t see Michael Venezia’s wanting to “unify” with Mark Denbeaux after the Seton Hall racial profiling report came out. And I don’t imagine Bloomfield is going to “unify” with Denbeaux now. Fair enough–but then don’t expect people like me to unify with Trump supporters. They are our enemies, not our fellow citizens.

The election is over. We don’t need any more cheap political rhetoric from our mayor or anyone else. We need Democratic leaders to tell it like it is–as Trump supposedly does, but more truthfully. We need them to face the fact that the Republic is in danger. It’s time to face that danger and call it by its proper name–rather than appeasing it with baby talk. I voted for Venezia and the entire Democratic line. They owe us more than this.


Worth reading, very much on target, and of broader scope than my post: Masha Gessen’s “Autocracy: Rules for Survival,” and David Cole’s “The Way to Stop Trump,” both from The New York Review of Books.

Character-Based Voting, 9/11 Celebrations: Some Election Day Re-Runs (Updated)

I thought I’d re-run my post on character-based voting from two years ago, in case anyone finds it of interest. I’m inclined to think it has clear application to the candidacy of Donald Trump. The thesis of the post plus the facts that have emerged about Trump over the past year or so rule out voting for him. Whatever you do tomorrow, there is no justification for voting for Trump.

I updated the post to include some facts about Trump, but stopped after December 2015. That was enough. I really don’t think you can justifiably vote for someone who lies about whether thousands of his fellow-citizens have been celebrating in the streets over a mass-murder terrorist attack on the country.

As I said the first time around, a year ago, Trump  lied about those “celebrations.” He didn’t just mis-state the facts. He didn’t just get the facts wrong. He didn’t just mis-remember this or that detail. He didn’t just exaggerate. He lied. Then he doubled down on the lies. He hasn’t disavowed his lies, he hasn’t stopped lying, he shows no sign of ever stopping, and he shows no consideration for the foreseeable consequences of this particular lie–that those who believe the lie will regard people of Muslim or even apparently or nominally Muslim or Arab background as traitors and enemies of the state who, in virtue of that fact, deserve mass deportation, mass incarceration, or for that matter, mass death.    Continue reading