Don’t Tell Me How Stupid People Are

I hate polls that demonstrate that some astronomical number of people are foolish. For example, there’s a  a new poll from The Economist/YouGov that says:

  1. Forty-nine percent of Republicans believe it is definitely or probably true that “leaked email from some of Hillary Clinton’s campaign staffers contained code words for pedophilia, human trafficking and satanic ritual abuse.”
  2. Fifty-two percent of Republicans believe that President was definitely or probably born in Kenya.
  3. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans believe either than the climate is not changing (16%) or that it is changing but human activity isn’t a participating cause (43%).

The implication here, once you realize that Trump received just shy of 63 million votes, is that about 31 million people believe that Hillary Clinton is involved in satanic child abuse and pedophilia, that about 33 million people think Obama was born in another country, and that 37 million people are deeply misinformed or in denial about climate change. And these are just the Republicans. There are many independents and even a substantial number of Democrats who believe these asinine things.

It’s a wonder that more people don’t gargle Drano and die because it seems like a sensible thing to do.

I hate these polls because because I find it demoralizing to be reminded about the critical thinking skills of so many of my fellow citizens.

I’d rather not know the details. I’d like to imagine that reason and real information might play some decisive roll in politics. But it doesn’t feel that way right now, and polls like this aren’t helping.

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Daniel Katz: Carl Paladino Must Go! Now.

Daniel Katz describes Carl Paladino’s many inappropriate remarks, crowned by his recent rant against President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett. Paladino insists his remarks were not racist, but the only way to believe that is not to read the words he wrote.

 

He is a racist, by any definition of the term. He is also sexist and homophobic.

 

And he is an enthusiastic backer of charter schools, some of which rent space from his company.

 

Katz notes that none of the charter school cheerleaders have said peep about Paladino. He and his reputation make it hard to regurgitate the line that charter schools are “the civil rights issue of our time.”

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See Ya Next Year

This will be my last post of 2016. So I hope you’ll forgive me for using it to write about a few personal reflections.

It was a little over a year ago that I started writing regularly on weekdays here at Political Animal. As some of you might remember, I spent most of my professional life as a counselor, therapist and nonprofit director. That isn’t the normal path that most people take to writing about politics. But I started doing so as a hobby about nine years ago. To make a long story short, I was as surprised as anyone else to find it turn into a whole new career at this late stage in life. I will forever be grateful to the folks here at the Washington Monthly for giving me this amazing opportunity.

My reason for taking up that hobby years ago was that I was curious about this guy – Barack Obama – who was running for president. He didn’t seem like anyone I had ever seen in politics before. So I started following his candidacy and then presidency to see what I could learn about him. The more I looked, the more it became clear that most of the media was missing the story – which only motivated me to write more.

To tell you the truth…when I took this gig here at Political Animal I never dreamed that I would find myself writing about a Trump administration as the next stage in our country’s journey. There have been times when I’ve wondered if I’ll be up for the challenge. But what I saw in the days immediately after the election is that writing about what is happening makes things all a bit more concrete and therefore, less depressing. That provides a totally different kind of motivation for writing than what kept me going during the Obama era. But it is in that frame of mind that I look forward to hanging out with all of you right here at Political Animal in the year ahead. I hope you’ll join me and that we’ll find a way to get through this one together.

As I get ready to say goodbye to 2016 and prepare for 2017, here’s the song that best captures my mood and perspective.

If you’ve already made a contribution to our year-end fundraiser here at the Washington Monthly, I am immensely grateful. If you haven’t, time is starting to run out. So please click on the banner below and do so right now.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Republicans Want To Drain the Swamp of Anyone Who Holds Wall Street Accountable

During the campaign, Donald Trump was very clear about the fact that he wanted to repeal Dodd-Frank – the legislation that provided Wall Street reforms after the Great Recession. His transition team has suggested that he plans to follow through on that promise. But in the rush to repeal Obamacare and provide tax cuts for the wealthy, that one hasn’t risen to the top of the priority list yet.

We also know that more than anything contained in that legislation, the Republicans are most intent on getting rid of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In it’s five years of existence, this is the institution that has overseen the enactment of stricter lending requirements in mortgage markets, created a rule to reduce the exploitation payday lenders, and brokered $11 billion in relief payments for 27 million consumers. Most recently the CFPB was responsible for uncovering the fact that Wells Fargo employees illegally opened millions of unauthorized accounts for their customers in order to meet aggressive sales goals.

That is apparently why Yuka Hayashi reports that there is an effort underway to pressure Trump into firing the head of the CFPB, Richard Cordray.

A battle is intensifying over the future of Richard Cordray, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as Republicans search for any past transgressions that would allow President-elect Donald Trump to fire him.

Mr. Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, is admired by consumer groups and disliked by many GOP lawmakers and financial-industry players for helping build the five-year-old agency into an aggressive financial regulator.

Republicans want Mr. Cordray ousted and replaced with someone who reflects their views. But the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law that created the CFPB states that the president may only remove its director for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.”

Apparently Cordray’s term isn’t over until July 2018 and it could take at least that long to move legislation to end Dodd-Frank. So Republicans have gone in search of some example of “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office” on the part of the CFPB director. You’re going to have to provide some special protection for your irony meter in order to process one of the things they’re considering.

One of the issues Mr. Cordray’s opponents are focusing on: past allegations of pay discrimination against women and minority employees at the CFPB and his alleged failure to take appropriate action.

Yes. You read that right. Republicans expect us to believe that suddenly they are outraged at the possibility of pay discrimination against women and minority employees.

But they are also looking at other options – like the cost of renovation to the CFPB headquarters and the bureau’s handling of alleged racial discrimination in auto lending. One of the people heading up this witch hunt investigation is Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R., Texas), who is a potential candidate for the job if they can figure out how to get rid of Cordray. In those efforts, they could get an assist from the courts.

Meanwhile, some point to a court case on the constitutionality of the bureau’s single-director structure, saying it makes sense to wait for resolution of that case, which is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Apparently the line Trump used about draining the swamp refers to getting rid of anyone who works to hold Wall Street accountable. Who knew?

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With Putin, the Danger Isn’t a Non-Response

The New York Times editorial board is pleased that President Obama has taken some retaliatory actions against Vladimir Putin, but I found part of their reasoning very interesting.

While it is definitely too late, and may also be too little, there should be no doubt about the correctness of President Obama’s decision to retaliate against Russia for hacking American computers and trying to influence the 2016 presidential election.

It would have been irresponsible for him to leave office next month and allow President Vladimir Putin to think that he could with impunity try to undermine American democracy. That would have been a particularly dangerous legacy given President-elect Donald Trump’s alarming affinity for Mr. Putin and stubborn refusal to accept the conclusion of American intelligence agencies that Russia’s cyberattacks were aimed at helping him and hurting Hillary Clinton.

According to the editors, it would be “dangerous” not to take strong actions against Russia because of the incoming president’s “alarming affinity for Mr. Putin” and his refusal to accept the conclusions of the Intelligence Community that Putin is responsible for ordering the hacking of Democratic organizations and the selective leaking of pilfered information to aid him in his bid for the Oval Office.

To be clear, I don’t disagree with this conclusion, but I think it minimizes what we’re dealing with in this situation. If it would be “dangerous” not to retaliate, that’s really a minor threat compared to Trump becoming president, no?

You might argue that it’s important to dissuade Russia from repeating their reckless act, or that a message needs to be sent to other would-be meddlers from other countries or transnational organizations. But the editors chose to casually link the importance here to Trump’s affinity for Putin.

If the danger really resides somehow in Trump’s closeness to Putin, then a non-response by Obama would be small potatoes compared to Trump taking the oath of office.

That’s how Putin evidently reads the situation since he’s opted not to respond in kind. Why stir up a bunch of anger when his man is about to replace Obama?

I wish the editors would make explicit what they’ve left implicit here.

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A Glimpse Inside The College Admissions Process

Time to get together the transcripts, the test scores and put the final touches on those personal essays. It’s college application season, again. To a lot of students, the process seems wrapped in a shroud of mystery. What exactly happens when you send your application out into the unknown only to… wait?

Well, here’s a glimpse behind the curtain at one school: Inside a tiny conference room at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, the admissions committee is preparing to review 23 applications.

They’ll spend about two minutes on each before deciding whether to accept or deny admission, or place the application on hold.

To speed things along, the committee uses a lot of jargon, like “L-B-B” for late blooming boy, and “R-J” for rejection.

If it sounds like they’re cutting corners, know that before the committee meets around the table, each application gets a close look from two of the members.

Then it’s condensed into a single one-page profile. The one for this student says he comes off just a bit arrogant in his essay and interview:

“Academically he has everything. I wonder if a counselor call might be enlightening?” asks one member of the committee.

“It sounds like maybe he could work on it and be cognizant of it. I mean, he’s strong academically,” says another.

A third member chimes in, chuckling, “I think his classmates could bring him down to reality.”

Ann McDermott is director of admissions at Holy Cross. “You have 13 people in a full committee room and 13 different perspectives so it can go any different way,” she says.

And you hear from a lot of applicants at schools around the country that the admissions process can be frustrating. Disappointed applicants complain that when it comes to discerning between hundreds of students who seem to have the grades, teacher recommendations and test scores, the process comes down to luck.

But is there a method to the madness? It, of course, varies from big state universities to small private colleges, like Holy Cross, which will admit 700 freshmen this fall.

McDermott says there’s no set formula. It’s both an art and a science. “We balance our feelings with some facts.”

Yes, feelings. That’s because sometimes the facts, like test scores and grades, don’t tell the whole story of the student. She offers some tips on application Dos and Don’ts for prospective applicants.

Tip 1: Engage

Visiting the campus, having a Skype or phone interview with an admissions counselor, or sitting in on a class shows admissions counselors you’re interested in that particular school. It also gives the school a chance to get to know you better.

“Just like a teacher in the classroom wants a student engaged, we want students engaged in the process with us. I think it makes for better discernment of what a good fit is for both them and for us,” says McDermott.

Tip 2: Don’t “phone-it-in”

When it comes to the application, admissions counselors say the biggest red flag is a sloppy, half-baked essay.

“Or over-thinking the topics so much that it becomes awkward and doesn’t convey the student as it should,” McDermott adds.

Tip 3: Take time to reflect

Taking time to think about the kind of college experience you want can help you narrow down your list to schools that suit your personal and career goals. While you’re making sure you’re a good fit for the school, make sure it’s also a good fit for you.

McDermott’s last thought: “I think [high school] students should spend a little of time thinking what they liked in high school, what they didn’t like, who they are, and not just going and rushing off and looking at schools and getting in the frenzy.”

[Cross-posted at On Campus: the WGBH News Higher Education Blog]

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Rhode Island: No-Excuses Charter Chain Gets Ok to Triple Enrollment

Rhode Island state officials gave their permission to triple the enrollment of politically connected no-excuses charter chain Achievement First.

 

As reported here previously, increasing the enrollment of these charters will drain students and millions of dollars from the public schools of Providence.

 

Thousands of children in the Providence public schools will suffer budget cuts so that a much smaller number may enroll in a dual system under private control.

 

The final decision is up to the mayor of Providence, who is also chair of the charter chainboard.

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