Tag Archives: Tuesday Talk

Tuesday Talks: Trump’s Transition

John Buterbaugh and Patrick Wood chatted via Facebook regarding Trump’s transition and the future of the party system in America.

JOHN: Okay, we have to deal with the confusing situation that is Donald Trump’s presidency. Brought to you by Trump Industries. “If a politician does it, it’s corrupt. If I do it, it’s good business.” Let’s start off with his transition team. FiveThirtyEight is saying the nomination process is the fastest of all time. I think he’s rushing. I think he’s clogging the pipes for the swamp he’s trying to drain. Your thoughts on his transition and what his presidency might look like?

PATRICK: I can’t say conclusively what strategy he’s employing. I can say however that all his cabinet picks so far have been terrifying, and his potential picks for other positions are just as bad if not worse. This is a far-right cabinet.

JOHN: This is truly an awful Cabinet nomination process. You have alt-right Steve Bannon of Breitbart News as his Chief of Staff, an earshot from the presidency. He says he’s not a white nationalist, he’s a nationalist. Well, Steve, you’re white and a nationalist. And you say anti-Semitic things. So, stop splitting hairs. And you, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions? Were you frozen in an ice capsule in the 1950s with the strict instructions: “Do Not Open Until 2016”? Who jokes about supporting the KKK until he found out they smoked marijuana? Mnuchin as his Treasury Secretary will be a disaster. You don’t hire a Wall Street banker if you’re putting America first. You’re putting the top 1% first.

However, I am pleased that he is still strongly opposed to TPP. I am for free trade because China has things we don’t, and the U.S. has things they don’t. So, naturally we need to trade. However, you don’t sign onto a trade deal without knowing what the heck is in it. (I’m talking about you, Gary Johnson.) So, I’m hoping Trump is careful with trade. He also said that he wants to legalize medicinal marijuana and allow states to choose their policies, but he has a Attorney General nominee who wants to do the exact opposite.
Trump has not been consistent on most issues except trade. He has denounced trade deals since the 1980s. I think he’s biased though because he’s never had to outsource real-estate jobs. Most of his workers have to be on location pretty much.

PATRICK: It was interesting to see Trump move to left for a quick second after being elected, only to make these cabinet picks after. He is suddenly okay with parts of the ACA, is rethinking the mass deportations but then appoints a white nationalist as chief of staff, a racist as AG, and is thinking about putting Sarah Palin in as Interior Secretary. Can you imagine? That’s the department that heads the Bureau of Indian Affairs! I’d be hard pressed to name ANYONE who would be worse pick. This is one of most marginalized demographics in the US. To put Palin in charge would be an insult.

JOHN: Really I believe Trump thinks the presidency is about negotiating everything. He’s claimed to be a negotiator in everything he does. He took a really harsh tone in his campaign and really harsh positions. Now he’s backpedaled on a lot of his big talking points (thank God.) Now he’s starting to move toward the middle because he’s opening up the negotiation process. And also because he is starting to face reality. Trump realizes he has a loyal following that will never leave him. Period. He can do whatever he wants, and they won’t leave him. I’m not sure people took his promises literally — although saying he would not pursue prosecution of the Clintons (which he can’t do by himself anyway) might ruffle some feathers, even with his diehard supporters.

PATRICK: I’m glad to see he’s not pushing for it, though. Maybe democracy will survive in this country after all! This man really has undermined American democracy by threatening to jail his opponent and refusing to accept unfavorable election results. That’s not behavior befitting a U.S. president.

JOHN: Fox News comments seems to show they are letting the “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons” decision slide. Hillary losing is enough OR other people can prosecute Hillary. However, I don’t believe she will run for president again. I honestly don’t see Republicans trying to take her down anymore. They only seem to do that when she is in a political position or seeking one.

I’m starting to see a pattern though. He is taking these really ridiculous statements like saying he will imprison political opponents, but then he backpedaled on that with Hillary. It’s good negotiating. He takes an extreme position so that he negotiates to where he actually wanted to be in the first place. Although I don’t see how you could negotiate on Cabinet picks. The Republicans control the Senate. Trump has some leverage there. I’m not sure compromising would be in his cards.

PATRICK: This is true. He takes an absurd position and then is applauded when he moderates it slightly. He plays that game quite well.

JOHN: “We’re gonna build a wall” became “Some of it might be a fence.” There is already fencing! “We’re going to deport all 11 million immigrants” became “We won’t deport all of them.” Obama is already deporting more immigrants than Bush did. Trump will probably take credit for all immigration reform when a lot of it was already taking place under Bush and Obama. I will add, you can see fencing on the border with Mexico on Google Earth. 580 miles of it.

PATRICK: It’s almost sad how little difference there is with regard to the physical border among our politicians. They pretend differently, but Hillary voted for a “fence” twice, I believe.

JOHN: Yeah, I think a non-Hillary candidate will be great next time. Maybe Joe Biden. Common touch, straight talker, good salesman, loves people. Only baggage is the plagiarism incidents (during his campaign and during college) and the fact that he is a bit of a loose cannon. But hey, America should be used to that by now. Melania and Donald have shown us the light. “All the words you just used were taken from the dictionary. Isn’t everything plagiarism?” Anyway, what is the left-wing equivalent of Donald Trump’s strategy? Tax Donald Trump at 100% and settle on $25 million?

PATRICK: There was a fair bit of demagoguery coming from my preferred candidate Bernie Sanders to be completely fair. He would have had to come to the center from his original positions if he was to get anything done.

JOHN: Do you think the Democrats should use the same strategy? They keep negotiating with themselves it seems. They have only gone right in the past 10-15 years, allowing the Republicans to go so far to the right they need to extend the wall so that the Republicans can have more space. But Sanders was right to say he will never compromise on key social issues like sexism, xenophobia, etc. I can live in peace knowing that he is what he stood for. I can live with compromising on tax reform as long as we the people get a good deal. It’s so unsexy and it’s so numerical, who really cares?

PATRICK: It’s also certainly less important than “who gets to be treated with dignity and respect?”

JOHN: The president is a role model. People watch. It’s important that Trump realizes that. Not sure he will. I’m pretty sure he’s simply a megalomaniac sociopath bent on using the presidency for personal gain and to subjugate historically oppressed people. But I could be wrong. Zootopia is about that situation. Have you seen it?

PATRICK: I haven’t, unfortunately!

JOHN: It’s funny and timely. A kid’s movie explains the fear of people who are different and the political exploitation of that fear quite poignantly.

PATRICK: That’s certainly extremely relevant to what’s happening and what has happened.

JOHN: However, I don’t think Trump’s only appeal to his voters was the race-baiting. A lot of Trump supporters didn’t want “another career politician” or bought all the theories of Clinton criminality and decided Trump was better than electing a criminal.
He spoke simply and toughly. That plays well with people who speak simply and toughly. If you’re not college educated, you don’t need jargon and nuance in your life. You just need a simple job like everyone else.

PATRICK: Right. Neither candidate was a person of the people or the working class. Trump however was much better at talking like it. You don’t win elections by talking at length about intricate details of politics unfortunately. That’s lost on most people; it’s the flashy headlines and insults that people remember.

JOHN: Bernie Sanders was very much of the working class. But he didn’t really talk like it. He did every speech like a college lecture with passion, but it was still more professorial than conversational.

A Jewish carpenter who pays his taxes, includes people of all stripes, and wants to give to the poor. How did they not see him as Jesus? I suppose a prophet is never excepted in his hometown as they say, or home party as I say.

PATRICK: The DNC colluded against Jesus to prop up… struggling for an apt historical figure here.. perhaps King George?

JOHN: No, I’m thinking Biblical… King Herod.

PATRICK: The only advantage is the knowledge of statesmanship.

JOHN: Go on.

PATRICK: I said King George originally because there was a lot of distaste between the American commoners and the King. No secret. The King took a rather patronizing approach. But at least he had experience and knew something about statesmanship. But Americans then and now decided to flip everything on its head, to defy order and perhaps even conventional wisdom in the hope of attaining something GREAT and very new
In the name of avoiding taxes! And it sucked at first. Originally our leaders didn’t know what they were doing. We had to suffer through the Articles of Confederation (states’ rights!) Eventually we came to realize that “new” isn’t always good. Letting states coin their own currency was a mistake.

JOHN: You can’t do interstate commerce that way! Horrible idea.

PATRICK: And the best political system is one that protects and guarantees basic liberties for everyone including, especially, unpopular minority groups.

I think Hillary lost for five reasons
1. The Electoral College
2. She wasn’t exciting in the same vein as Obama — so this stifled favorable turnout at the polls
3. The opposition painted her effectively as a crook
4. Liberals overplayed their hand on campus safe spaces and transgender issues
5. The DNC is corrupt and was caught rigging the primary

In a way, this result was foreseeable. The DNC was always going to get caught. Hillary was winning mostly red states she had no shot at taking during the general election, and Bernie was polling better against Trump in the head-to-head polling.

JOHN: We need a palate cleanser and we need to fix the party. It keeps losing. It lost the presidency, Congress, and most state legislatures. How the hell are we supposed to reverse Citizens United with a party led by a supposedly populist billionaire running the show?

PATRICK: It doesn’t stand for anything. We need a popular extremist. A Bernie or a Warren. Someone fiery with solid, easy to understand convictions. I think Bernie would do well with working-class voters.

JOHN: How do you think Elizabeth Warren would do with them? I am not sure a liberal woman would be their cup of tea.

PATRICK: I actually agree. I hate to admit it, but our next champion may have to be male.
A lot of voters described Hillary as “shrill.” And honestly I think they just don’t like the female voice talking about leading the country.

JOHN: Hillary’s voice doesn’t strike me as totally unusual. It is a bit shrill and knowing Hillary says one thing and does another aggravates that view.

PATRICK: What do you think about Keith Ellison as chairman of the DNC? Do you feel that the Congressman’s religion makes it a better or worse choice? The DNC chair will be a response to Trump. And to a lesser extent, meant to address problems of corruption within the party.

JOHN: Politically? Possibly. Although I don’t think he’s a big name. He’s going to be more exposed as he becomes more famous naturally.

PATRICK: I think Howard Dean may have been too closely tied with Hillary to be a good pick.

JOHN: There needs to be some fresh faces — new blood. Also, Cory Booker needs to become a better speaker. I love him, but he is too loud all the time during his speeches to be the future of the party.

PATRICK: Good observation, I agree (and also share your affinity for him)
If that improves I think Cory could be wonderful. He has down to earth charm, youth, and is perceived as honest.

JOHN: Right. He is energetic, positive, and has no known baggage. But he is technically urban and he’s from a suburban state. He’s not the best face of rural voters.
There isn’t really a good representative for rural voters in the party other than Bernie. His state is among the most rural in the country.

PATRICK: I suppose this is all true, but most rural states go are deep red, beyond the reach of almost any Democrat.

JOHN: Right. But Wisconsin’s rural population was more Democratic than its suburban population. But then Trump changed that. Bernie would have won it. It’s important that we not take the Midwest for granted. The rural voters are more reachable in the Midwest.

PATRICK: I think that is an area where people actually do listen to both sides, before generally picking the one that seems most the most honest and the most like them.
Which one *would want* to have a beer with me?

JOHN: Ironically, Trump says he doesn’t drink alcohol; so, good luck drinking beer with him.

PATRICK: Haha!!

JOHN: I would say I would rather have a beer with Bush then Gore. Bush would be more easygoing I think. Gore is too stiff.

PATRICK: Stiffness is a major political liability. Candidates deemed robotic almost always lose.

JOHN: That killed Jeb Bush. He was too conscientious.

PATRICK: And many other people. Jeb appeared a little timid at the debates. And debates are about presentation more than substance. So Trump exuded strength, bullied Jeb with monosyllabic words, and won. It was over as soon as Jeb stuttered (which he did several times.)

JOHN: He also broke a rule the others wouldn’t — never speak ill of another Republican.

PATRICK: Trump broke every rule in the book. Originally wouldn’t even commit to running Republican.

JOHN: He briefly ran as a Reform Party candidate in 2000.

PATRICK: And he did the fake out quasi-runs in 2008 and 2012. Do you think we’ll be seeing Kanye in 2020?

JOHN: Dear God, Trump vs. Kanye. What an absolute disaster. Just what we need. More narcissists. Kanye is the hip-hop Trump.

PATRICK: This really seems like the end of civilization. Rome 2.0.

JOHN: Our hubris will be the end of us. Or at least the hubris of a handful of idiocrats will be the end of us.

PATRICK: This will be our fate if we don’t take all this as a wake-up call and respond appropriately in four years. The electoral college worked exactly as it was designed to
and then plunged the country into the alt-right abyss.

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Tuesday Talks: Drugs & Criminal Justice

On Tuesday, August 9, Greater Scheme contributors John Buterbaugh and Patrick Wood discussed drugs and criminal justice with guest contributor David Liggera.
JOHN BUTERBAUGH: Okay, so, we’re discussing Drugs & Criminal Justice today. David, why don’t you start off by touching on some of the issues you’re seeing and some potential solutions to those problems.
DAVID LIGGERA: I suppose the first example that comes to mind is Obama’s recent commuting of… 214 drug-related sentences? The idea that a minimum punishment exists for possession, and that it’s as byzantine as it is, is truly worrying.
JOHN: I think Obama commuting sentences is a good step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the problem is that there are so many more of these cases at the state level, and I haven’t heard of many instances of governors commuting drug-related sentences other than Terry McAuliffe in Virginia. His motivation was different though. He wasn’t trying to eliminate non-violent offenses from a felon’s record but rather he wanted to restore voting rights to people convicted of a crime, many of whom were African-American.
DAVID: That too – current drug laws seem to disproportionately affect minority populations. It really is worrying, especially with regards to voting rights. Does possession really warrant surrendering such essential civil liberties?
JOHN: Absolutely not. I mentioned in an article earlier that the War on Drugs was a deliberate attempt to discriminate against the black community. It’s simply destroyed their community rather than stop drug addiction. We need to focus on treating it as a public health issue, and we need to put the pressure on our elected leaders to change it.
PATRICK WOOD: I agree. The Drug War is deeply racist in its implementation and enforcement. Some of the evidence is extremely clear. For instance, whites and blacks use marijuana at very similar rates, yet black Americans are punished for it 3-4 times as often. Stiff penalties for drug use do very little to curb addiction. In fact, jail time lowers one’s employment prospects after release, which may lead to more drug use, or perhaps violent crime. I think all drugs should be decriminalized, if not legalized.
John is absolutely right, it’s time to treat drug use and drug addiction as a serious public health problem, not a criminal one.
JOHN: I wanted to ask either of you guys how there is such a high incarceration rate in America. There surely is no way all though inmates are in there for drug-related “crimes,” but is there? What am I missing here?

DAVID: Absolutely! I think such a change in public perception would be vital to bringing forth positive changes.

Don’t use this in a paper, but this page suggests that the prison population exploded in the 1980s, and that most offenders (60%) are nonviolent. (The Facts about American Prisons: Separating economic myths from economic truthsreason.com)
PATRICK: I think Ending the War on Drugs would decrease our inmate population by over a third. I believe about a third are currently there for drug-related offenses. Others may be there for something they did as a result of their inability to make a living in an honest way – a criminal record hampering employment opportunities.
JOHN: There are still 40% of them being violent offenders. Was law enforcement creating harsher sentences for less serious violent crimes? And would eliminating the drug offenders from our prisons knock us off from having the #1 highest incarceration rate in the world?
PATRICK: I imagine lowering the population by 33%+ would do so, absolutely.
JOHN: I think Patrick brings up a good point. The recidivism rate, or the rate at which people continue to commit undesirable behaviors, is an issue.
PATRICK: I think the Drug War actually induces people to engage in illegal activity they otherwise wouldn’t. The clearest example is someone who is a nonviolent hard drug user or seller who is mixed with violent inmates in prison and emerges without job prospects. S/he may turn to violent crime after release.
JOHN: If we use the data from PrisonStudies.org, it looks like the U.S. would drop down a few places but it would still be the industrialized nation with the highest incarceration rate. But that recidivism rate could be an indirect result of drugs and that would go down more if we help those on parole get a job and move on with their lives.
DAVID: Pretty much – I mean, compare our prisons to those in, say, Norway. We seem to focus much more on punitive methods (Ie, we’re going to punish you as hard as possible) rather than, well, more restorative methods. I agree with both of you, prisoners simply aren’t given tools to move toward another path.
JOHN: And the Netherlands has such low crimes they are taking prisoners in from Belgium, I think! Why don’t we do that? If we’re addicted to incarceration because it does provide jobs, why don’t we just import prisoners, like, I don’t know, from Guantanamo Bay? (And they were taking in prisoners from Belgium because they wanted to fill in prisons.)
PATRICK: Can I just butt in to say how sick it is that we have private prisons? This is a whole industry that wants/needs a high incarceration rate.
JOHN: But how do we challenge that? How do we get rid of that? It’s a big money deal. It’s quite a Goliath, and I feel like David without a stone.

PATRICK: Raising our voices is a start. And David beat Goliath. Progressive outrage over this system has even gotten Hillary Clinton, a centrist Democrat, to say it’s flawed.

DAVID: Admittedly, I don’t have a stone right now! And yes – I do think that public perception about private jails and drug sentencing is starting to change in a more progressive manner. It really just does seem like something that will just take some time to change.
JOHN: And what is the real difference between privatized prisons and public prisons? It sounds like taxpayers are still paying for the privatized ones. So, what? Is it like a 5% discount? Buy one prisoner, get one free? And I’m partly joking, but I think that’s fair because the whole system sounds like a real joke.

PATRICK: It is. And not only do we have people in prison for silly reasons, we have placed them in uncaring hands. The more the private company that owns and runs the prison skimps on providing for the inmates, the more money they make.

DAVID: It’s truly disgusting.

JOHN: Now I’d imagine at least one of you has seen Orange Is the New Black. What do you think of the show presenting an accurate picture of the system? Do you think it’s a truthful depiction or is it simply a show that aims to be entertaining? I know it’s based on a book about real events so…
PATRICK: Interesting you should mention that. In OITNB, Litchfield prison goes from public to private and the quality of living of the inmates goes from poor to abysmal.
DAVID: I’ve actually never seen it! I don’t watch much TV.
JOHN: I mean, I know for sure they took some liberties with the characters and all…
DAVID: I hate to say it, but it makes sense. Now every liberty and luxury the prisoners have is a hit to your bottom line.
PATRICK: I like that they included “Crazy Eyes”. A staggering percentage of gen pop in our prisons suffer from mental illness.
JOHN: And they probably don’t do enough to treat those people.
DAVID: Or anything at all, really.
JOHN: It really seems like an excuse not to take any responsibility for other human beings. And they just play it off as criminals being criminals and deserving everything they get
DAVID: Yep – gotta love the Just World fallacy.
JOHN: Are either of you familiar with Bryan Stevenson’s work? He just published Just Mercy — it looks really interesting.
DAVID: I am not!
PATRICK: Sadly I am not either.
JOHN: It’s a memoir about his experience defending an innocent man on death row. He touches on the issues with criminal justice. One example is that we don’t treat veterans with PTSD when they come back to the states and they up having either health or behavioral issues, get locked, become homeless, what have you. And it’s a greater cost to society to have people without homes. They had a housing first program in Utah that eliminated the costs of law enforcement and health interventions when they simply gave people homes.
PATRICK: Ah, yes, that was initiated when Jon Huntsman was governor. There are few Republicans I’d be happy seeing in the White House, but Huntsman might be one. It seems obvious in a way. I’m glad someone actually did it.
DAVID: It definitely was a step in the right direction!
JOHN: All right, I gotta go get dinner, guys. Let’s meet again next Tuesday.
PATRICK: Thank you for hosting this, John. This is a hugely important topic, and I’m optimistic positive change will arrive soon.