Trump’s speech

Read lots of good stuff after Trump’s speech and I’ve been meaning to post my favorites.  I love Jamelle Bouie’s succinct take that Trump is basically a scam artist:

The point is not to give the public an accurate sense of its safety. The point is to paint a picture of disorder and violence, to scare Americans into flocking under Trump’s banner. And to that end, he has crafted a demagogic speech of lies, misrepresentations, and plain, unadulterated bullshit.

Consider this, another “fact” from Trump’s address: “Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records, ordered deported from our country, are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens.”

This is the first of Trump’s dubious assertions of immigrant crime. And it’s nonsense, a “fact” without provenance beyond the nativist and white supremacist websites that form the fetid swamps of the internet…

The whole speech was a trash heap of falsehoods. At one point, Trump claimed that Obama had almost doubled the national debt. It actually increased from $11.1 trillion to $19.2 trillion. He described an America of record unemployment and disadvantage. Even granting the decline in labor force participation, there are more Americans working now than at any point in the past 10 years, with two years of the strongest private sector job growth since the 1990s. He attacked the administration’s Iran deal for giving the nation “$150 billion” (false). He accused Obama and Hillary Clinton of opening the United States to “massive refugee flows” (false) and suggested there’s no screening of refugees (also false)…

Scam. This gets to the essential truth of Trump’s speech. The world as described by Trump doesn’t exist. The Trump as described by Trump doesn’t exist. As a businessman, Donald Trump’s career is defined by failure, fraud, and mismanagement. He has little knowledge of domestic and foreign affairs and shows little interest in the basic work of running a campaign, much less serving as president. Remove family members and employees from the mix, and there’s no one in Trump’s orbit—not ghostwriters, not business associates, not former contractors—who will attest to any of the qualities he claimed onstage tonight. The prototypical Trump story isn’t the success of some municipal project; it is theft: from small businesses, from ordinary investors, from desperate students. [emphases mine]

Ezra Klein’s take was, of course, spot-on and hits on many similar points, though with a different frame:

Donald Trump is not a candidate the American people would turn to in normal times. He’s too inexperienced, too eccentric, too volatile, too risky. Voting Trump is burning down the house to collect the insurance money — you don’t do it unless things are really, really bad.

Here is Trump’s problem: Things are not really, really bad. In fact, things are doing much better than when President Obama came into office…

So Trump needs to convince voters that things are bad, even if they’re not. He needs to make Americans afraid again. And tonight, he tried…

As Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter for Obama, wrote on Twitter, this was Trump’s “Nightmare in America” speech. The address had one goal, and one goal only: to persuade Americans that their country is a dangerous, besieged hellscape, and only Donald Trump can fix it.

Here’s the part I really love:

Perhaps the night’s ugliest moment came when he spoke of Sarah Root, a college student killed by a drunk driver who was also an unauthorized immigrant. “I’ve met Sarah’s beautiful family,” Trump said. “But to this administration, their amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting. One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.”

For the record, almost 10,000 people were killed in America by drunk drivers in 2010 — the overwhelming majority of them by American citizens. Trump had neither answers for nor interest in their deaths.

And it is when you tug on these threads that Trump’s speech unspools and its grossness, and uselessness, becomes clear.

And, finally, Yglesias on the intellectual barrenness of Trump’s “law and order” focus:

Donald Trump devoted all of one sentence to his solution for what he cited as the biggest problem facing the nation in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination:

I will work with, and appoint, the best prosecutors and law enforcement officials in the country to get the job done.

 That’s it.

For a candidate who just delivered an entire high-profile speech on the supposedly sky-high crime rates in the US, he doesn’t seem to have very many ideas about fixing them…

On the economy and foreign policy, Trump at least has a handful of terrible ideas. On crime, he has none whatsoever. He sort of vaguely implies that Black Lives Matter protests are causing crime, but even if that’s true, Trump isn’t (I hope) going to eliminate the First Amendment, so he can’t stop people from criticizing the police if they want to…

Trump is too lazy to be president

Law and order is Trump’s signature theme. Crime is out of control. And here, again, is his plan in its entirety:

I will work with, and appoint, the best prosecutors and law enforcement officials in the country to get the job done.

An easy excuse for Trump would be to say that he doesn’t have anything more substantive to say because crime control is overwhelmingly a state and local matter in the United States. That’s true, but it’s also inadequate…

The reason Trump doesn’t have anything to say about any of this is that he’s too lazy to look into it and come up with anything. And that’s why even his one lame idea — hire the best people and work with them — can’t be counted on. The president really does have to do a lot of hiring of people and a lot of managing of the interagency and intergovernmental process, and, like a lot of presidential stuff, it can all get a little tedious.

Trump can’t be bothered. And it’s frightening. Much more frightening than anything happening recently with the crime rate.

 

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Why you don’t really know your own mind

One of the things you learn in studying attitudes and public opinion is just how little most people understand what they believe.  Public opinion polls can be great with simple questions, “who will you vote for?” “do you approve of President Obama?” etc., but when we start asking questions like “why do you oppose Obamacare?” “why do you support Donald Trump?” “what should we do about the civil war in Syria?” the answers get pretty meaningless?  Why– because people are pretty horrible at really understanding what they believe.  This Alex Rosenberg essay in the NYT offers the most compelling explanation for why this is that I have yet seen.  Really fascinating stuff:

Introspection, “the mind’s eye,” assures us with the greatest confidence that it is the best, in some cases the only authority on how the mind works, because we all think it has direct, first person access to itself. We’re all very confident that we just know what’s going on in our own minds, from the inside, so to speak…

In fact, controlled experiments in cognitive science, neuroimaging and social psychology have repeatedly shown how wrong we can be about our real motivations, the justification of firmly held beliefs and the accuracy of our sensory equipment. This trend began even before the work of psychologists such as Benjamin Libet, who showed that the conscious feeling of willing an act actually occurs after the brain process that brings about the act — a result replicated and refined hundreds of times since his original discovery in the 1980s…

Despite these assurances from philosophy, empirical science has continued to build up an impressive body of evidence showing that introspection and consciousness are not reliable bases for self-knowledge. As sources of knowledge even about themselves, let alone anything else human, both are frequently and profoundly mistaken… [emphases mine]

After a certain point in the evolutionary past, organisms began needing to predict whether others posed threats in order to protect themselves, and later needed to coordinate to attain outcomes not achievable alone. This environment strongly selected for mind reading. Had variation in cognitive abilities not hit on this adaptation, puny creatures like us would never have survived in the face of savanna megafauna.

 Mind reading, even in our own hands, is a very imperfect tool: We have to go on others’ behavior (including verbal behavior). We can’t really tell with much precision exactly what others believe or want, because we can’t get inside their heads. So our predictions are often pretty vague and frequently false. Like other Darwinian adaptations, mind reading is an imperfect, “quick and dirty” solution to a “design problem.” It was just good enough that, equipped with this theory of mind, we managed to gradually climb to the top of the food chain. We were able to do so in large part because once mind reading was in place human language, which requires it, became possible…
Most important, there is compelling evidence that our own self-awareness is actually just this same mind reading ability, turned around and employed on our own mind, with all the fallibility, speculation, and lack of direct evidence that bedevils mind reading as a tool for guessing at the thought and behavior of others…
Of course we have a lot more sensory data — images and silent speech instead of visual experience and heard speech — to go on in trying to figure out our own desires and beliefs than what other people’s behavior reveals about what is going on in their minds. That’s part of what makes for the illusion that we know our own minds so much better. But the difference is only the amount of data, not its quality or source. We never have direct access to our thoughts. As Peter Carruthers first argued, self-consciousness is just mind reading turned inward.
Personally, I find this concept pretty mind-blowing.  This is definitely going to impact how I think about my own mind and what I think I know.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Evolution is happening faster than we thought.

2) Kristof asks, “is Trump a racist?”  Yeah, not a hard question.  And there’s way more to this than just his campaign statements:

My view is that “racist” can be a loaded word, a conversation stopper more than a clarifier, and that we should be careful not to use it simply as an epithet. Moreover, Muslims and Latinos can be of any race, so some of those statements technically reflect not so much racism as bigotry. It’s also true that with any single statement, it is possible that Trump misspoke or was misconstrued.

And yet.

Here we have a man who for more than four decades has been repeatedly associated with racial discrimination or bigoted comments about minorities, some of them made on television for all to see. While any one episode may be ambiguous, what emerges over more than four decades is a narrative arc, a consistent pattern — and I don’t see what else to call it but racism.

3) Jeffrey Goldberg on the Republican cowards who could have done something to stop Trump, but didn’t.

4) How humans have actually co-evolved with the bacteria in our gut.

5) Yes, high-quality pre-K is awesome.  Too much pre-K, though, is kids standing in line and transitioning all day long.  That needs to change.

6) Robert Frank on the value of finding a job you love (I heartily agree).  I’m reading Frank’s Success and Luck right now and it’s quite good.

There is, of course, no guarantee that you’ll become the best at what you choose to do, or that even if you do you’ll find practical ways to extend your reach enough to earn a big paycheck. But by choosing to concentrate on a task you love, you’ll enjoy the considerable proportion of your life that you spend at work, which is much more than billions of others can say.

Again, you’ll have bills to pay, so salary matters. But social science findings establish clearly that once you have met your basic obligations, it’s possible to live a very satisfying life even if you don’t earn a lot of money.

The bottom line: Resist the soul-crushing job’s promise of extra money and savor the more satisfying conditions you’ll find in one that pays a little less.

7) Katy Chatel writes about how she is raising her child “outside gender assumptions and stereotypes.”  Well, yes, there’s something to that, but somehow pretending that gender in our society doesn’t exist makes for a complicated childhood.  How nice for her to make a political statement with her child’s life.

8) Derek Thompson on how the political vocabularies of Democrats and Republicans have diverged.

9) A nice Op-Ed on Colorado’s successful battle against teen pregnancy.  LARC’s for teens, damn it!  Seriously, you want one single policy change that will dramatically reduce teen pregnancy, poverty, and abortion (hey, bipartisan!) this is it.  This so needs to expand everywhere.

10) Former Reagan adviser, Bruce Bartlett, on how the GOP has become the party of hate.

11) Jeffrey Goldberg on how Trump is doing all he can to help Putin.  Seriously:

The Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, has chosen this week to unmask himself as a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, [emphases mine] a KGB-trained dictator who seeks to rebuild the Soviet empire by undermining the free nations of Europe, marginalizing NATO, and ending America’s reign as the world’s sole superpower.

I am not suggesting that Donald Trump is employed by Putin—though his campaign manager, Paul Manafort,was for many years on the payroll of the Putin-backed former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. I am arguing that Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests; that his critique of American democracy is in accord with the Kremlin’s critique of American democracy; and that he shares numerous ideological and dispositional proclivities with Putin—for one thing, an obsession with the sort of “strength” often associated with dictators. Trump is making it clear that, as president, he would allow Russia to advance its hegemonic interests across Europe and the Middle East. His election would immediately trigger a wave of global instability—much worse than anything we are seeing today—because America’s allies understand that Trump would likely dismantle the post-World War II U.S.-created international order. Many of these countries, feeling abandoned, would likely pursue nuclear weapons programs on their own, leading to a nightmare of proliferation.

12) New research finds that those who read Harry Potter (not just watching the movies) are less supportive of Trump.  Presumably, readers are making some Trump-Voldemort connections or learning the values of tolerance that Trump disdains.  After a quick look at the study, I think it reasonably likely they are missing a confound that has nothing to do with HP books in particular, but the types of person who reads HP books.  I’d feel far more confident in these results if there were any other questions on reading habits (fiction reading, YA fiction reading, etc.).

13) New research suggests no benefit of redshirting kids for kindergarten.

14) Great, great post from Ezra Klein laying out all the reasons Donald Trump makes him genuinely (and, appropriately) afraid.  A good one to bookmark.  If my dad starts leaning Trump under the influence of my not-wicked, but very conservative, stepmother, this is what I’m pulling out.  (For now, my dad– a genuine independent– sees Trump for the bully and blowhard he is).

15) Really enjoyed When Breath Becomes Air.  Not exactly light beach-reading for last week, though.  So sad.

16) Mann and Ornstein with a must-read on how Donald Trump is absolutely the culmination of the GOP’s increasingly radical, anti-government philosophy.

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