Posts by Nick Cassella

The World Is Leaving David Brooks Behind

The World Is Leaving David Brooks Behind

When David Brooks began to stipulate the “four levels of happiness,” I knew I was in for a night of groundless moral assumptions. Like his columns in The New York Times, Brooks overworked words like “soul” and “spirituality,” yet the elderly crowd at Seattle’s Temple de Hirsch lapped it up by nodding their gray (or bald) heads. Their welcoming of vague moral language allowed him the space to claim: Humans are “loving creatures, not thinking creatures” We need to aim for “spiritual achievements” in life Social media leads to “moral insecurity” The last bulls*** point there highlights a prominent theme that arose from Brooks’ speech: disparagement towards youth. And as a young man, it was very disheartening to hear—especially seeing as I grew up listening to Shields and Brooks on the PBS News Hour. Although I’ve come to disagree with many of his political philosophies, Brooks played an integral role in stoking my initial interest in politics. So it was difficult to hear him speak of my generation’s main social platforms (and my profession) in such discrediting tones. For baby boomers, I imagine it to be like when your grandparents told you that television was making you stupid—a criticism that came from nowhere but a lack of empathy and understanding. Following on from social media, Brooks bemoaned how we now “live in an individualist society.” (This coming from a man who subscribes to a political philosophy whose foundation rests upon the idolization of the individual.) This state of selfishness, he figured, meant that “millennials are on pace for the biggest mid-life crisis ever.” He never expanded upon this trite point, but it drew hearty laughter from the older crowd which filled the temple. So I suppose it achieved its purpose. Mercilessly, Brooks went onto complain about the dire state of free speech on college campuses and how my generation simply cannot stomach dissenting opinions.
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Daily Clips: March 22nd, 2016

Daily Clips: March 22nd, 2016

Trump backs tougher border security, waterboarding after Brussel’s attacks: This is how an authoritarian slowly strips away your rights all in the name of “protection.” Stop associating Adam Smith with free market economics:  In my final year at St Andrews University I spent the majority of my time studying Smith and his moral philosophy. My dissertation focused on his virtue of “prudence,” and I came to discover that Smith went at great pains to propose a moral philosophy which was not based solely upon self-interest. Yet here we are hundreds of years later and Adam Smith is far too often held up as a beacon of free-market ideology. And that’s simply based upon a bastardization of his work. Either his advocates didn’t read his Theory of Moral Sentiments (a work he thought superior to his more famous, The Wealth of Nations) or they’re just cherry-picking points they like. Either way, his free market advocates are wrong to invoke him. Nixon official confirms that drug was was created in order to criminalize black people: At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. ‘You want to know what this was really all about?’ he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. ‘The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of
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Daily Clips: March 21st, 2016

Daily Clips: March 21st, 2016

Tweet of the day: Given the stuff @GOP bigwigs are saying about @realDonaldTrump , they'd better succeed in stopping him, or face a really awkward fall. — David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) March 21, 2016 Centrist economic plans like Hillary Clinton’s may become a thing of the past:  Clinton’s economic plan has her “well-positioned to win both the primary and the general election, but her approach likely doesn’t represent the future policy course of the party.” US existing home sales tumble in warning sign for housing industry:  “The National Association of Realtors said on Monday existing home sales dropped 7.1 percent to an annual rate of 5.08 million units, the lowest level since November.” Illinois cuts off funding to its public universities: Ah, austerity. It always seems to hit those that actually need it. Since June of last year, Illinois has been struggling to agree to terms on a new budget deal. Consequently, “the state budget impasse, and the resultant lack of funding for all of Illinois institutions of higher education, could potentially cause damage to many other schools. For example, there are anecdotal reports that some university professors in Illinois are being approached by schools in other states, which are trying to lure them away.”

Daily Clips: March 18th, 2016

Daily Clips: March 18th, 2016

Governor blocks $2.85 minimum wage increase after giving staffers $73,405 raises:  Headlines like this demonstrate that trickle-down economics still has a grasp upon many important political figures. How else can you explain such idiocy? As you may remember, last month “Governor Bentley  signed a bill blocking Alabama cities from raising their minimum wages above the federal floor of $7.25 an hour.” Not only does such a preemption block the will of the people, it also blocks more money from going into his 46th ranked state economy . The grim reality of American politics:   The near-term future of politics and policy in America is a pretty grim one. Intimidated by the nihilist, nativist pressure from talk radio hosts and bloggers, Republican leaders in Congress are not all that likely to ignore their desires. That may mean continued stonewalling on a Supreme Court seat, leaving a 4-4 Court for a long time (though a Democratic Senate would likely do what it takes to confirm a Clinton nominee). A Trump loss—which he would surely blame on the enemy within—would not mean the demise of a Trump movement or the angry populism behind it, and the driving need by Republicans to recapture their party’s mojo in the midterm would probably have them fall back on the populist approach that worked in 2010 and 2014. So brace yourselves for a rocky road ahead, not just in 2016 but in 2017 and beyond. Tweet of the day: Excellent, from @NewYorker pic.twitter.com/lGCcUWsvYD — Joe Parkinson (@JoeWSJ) March 18, 2016

Daily Clips: March 17th, 2016

Daily Clips: March 17th, 2016

Are trade agreements good for Americans?  The New York Times poses this question in its “Room for Debate” segment with the economist Robert E. Scott and former US treasury official Jeffrey J. Schott—guess who argues for pro-trade? US job market tightening; manufacturing sector healing ‘The labor market is tight as a drum. If we continue to receive strong reports like this, then the Fed is going to have to put a June rate hike on the table,’ said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York. What if Trump had run as a Democrat? A scary thought, but an illuminating article. Planning to run as a Democrat, Trump would have avoided backing the “birther” movement, but could have made other inflammatory charges (for example, against Hillary Clinton) to get media attention. To build Democratic support, he could have staked out positions in favor of single-payer health care, more progressive taxes, and a massive infrastructure program, while denouncing trade agreements, the war in Iraq, and illegal immigration. With only a slight shift from his current stances, he could have presented himself as an economic populist with business know-how who gets along famously with unions and working people, and is both a ferocious nationalist and a skeptic about foreign wars. In short, he could have wrapped his protectionism and nativism in a package more appealing to the left. This paragraph gives us a glimpse into a possible shift we will see from Trump after he wraps up the Republican nomination. As with Hillary, we will see a sudden shift back to the center. It will be abrupt and many of us have no idea how he will try and appeal to independents. My guess? He’ll play to the left of Hillary on trade and on foreign policy (by that I mean less liberal interventionist), while also railing against the establishment class and elites. Tweet of the day: Click the link, it’s worth
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Daily Clips: March 16th, 2016

Daily Clips: March 16th, 2016

Obama chooses Merrick Garland for SCTOUS:  And so it begins. Today, Obama called the Republicans bluff and chose a “well-known moderate who has drawn bipartisan support over decades.” On top of this, he nominated a 63 year old Supreme Court nominee, which shows Obama is “offering Senate Republicans a compromise not only on ideology, but also on tenure.” To me, Garland seems to be shrewd political move by Obama. If I had to guess, he was not the president’s first choice. He’s a sacrificial lamb. A pawn in the political game. The Obama administration must be 95 percent certain the Republicans would not confirm this nomination, otherwise I highly doubt he’d have picked such a centrist. Nonetheless, I expect Obama to fight like him to get him confirmed. 10 things you need to know about judge Merrick Garland: Judge Garland was appointed to the DC Circuit in 1997 by President Bill Clinton. At age 63, Garland is the oldest person nominated for the Supreme Court since President Nixon appointed Justice Lewis Powell in 1971. Like President Obama, Garland is from Chicago and attended Harvard Law school where he graduated with high honors. Garland is a centrist. In 2003, he held that the federal judiciary lacks authority, “to assert habeas corpus jurisdiction at the behest of an alien held at a military base leased from another nation.” Effectively prohibiting Guantanamo detainees from presenting themselves in civilian court. (The Supreme Court later reversed this decision in Rasul v. Bush.) Judge Garland is relatively conservative towards criminal justice cases. According to SCOTUSBlog’s Thomas Goldstein, “Judge Garland rarely votes in favor of criminal defendants’ appeals of their convictions.” There have been only eight such cases in the 13 years Garland has spent as federal judge. Judge Garland is fairly strict on gun laws. In D.C. Garland formed a decision, which restricted gun ownership for those seeking handguns for self-defense. The Oklahoma
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Politician Loves The Free Market Until It Effects His Constituents

Politician Loves The Free Market Until It Effects His Constituents

Like many libertarians before him, Rand Paul is obsessed with the concept of liberty. When Paul Constant and I went to hear him  speak at Town Hall last year , we heard the then-presidential candidate refer to his supporters multiple times as “lovers of liberty.” (Note: if he was being honest, he’d admit that they were actually lovers of  negative liberty  which is concerned with freedom from interference, but that’s not quite as catchy or alliterative). Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a darling of non-interference like Rand Paul also worships The Free Market. A man who believes that there is no such thing as a free lunch unironically believes in an economic theory which allows one to just lie back and let an invisible hand sort out everything. From solving health care to setting interest rates , Paul has ceaselessly called upon the market to heal America’s societal ills. It is not only a great remedy to all of societies problems, it is the only one. All hail. A perfect example of Paul’s lazy reliance on the market came when Greta Van Susteren asked him  “What happens if Republicans are successful in repealing Obamacare?” Paul smugly replied, “We could try freedom for a while.” Brilliant. I guess promulgating a detailed position like that is all it takes to be identified as a “ rising star ” in the modern Republican Party. Why didn’t he do well in the presidential primary again? Snark aside, you’d expect that a disciple of the free market would be utterly devoted to its forces. Predictably, however, that is not the case for Dr. Rand. Check out his recent rant about Kentucky’s dying coal industry. Tonight @hillaryclinton said out loud what the national democrat party has been trying to do quietly for the past 8 years #DemTownHall — Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 14, 2016 I won't let her do it. I am running to fight for Kentucky and to stop the national democrats from killing more coal jobs. — Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 14, 2016 Where to begin? Let’s start with
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Daily Clips: March 15th, 2016

Daily Clips: March 15th, 2016

David Brooks talks about how youth today are “awash in moral judgment” : His columns seem to get worse by the week. This time, Brooks directs his moral repulsion towards young people and waxes lyrical about the good ol’ days (a common theme in his writing). Back when he was young “universal moral principles” supposedly ruled the land, but then came “The Closing of The American Mind” where “subjective personal values” usurped the natural order. Now, with the “omnipresence of social media” my generation has created a whole new “moral life..not built on the continuum of right and wrong; it’s built on the continuum of inclusion and exclusion.” If only we could revert back to Brooks’ days where the continuum of right and wrong prevailed; where blacks couldn’t go to the same school as white people, LGBT weren’t allowed to marry their lovers, and women knew their place in the kitchen! Americans have no idea marijuana is in the same legal category as heroin and LSD : Please, tell me again how weed is “practically legal.” Christian barber refuses to cut transgender Army veteran’s hair, citing religious views : I wonder where this lands on Brooks’ continuum of right and wrong? Tweet of the day: Seeing this, seems less likely Bernie's favorables wld collapse in general. Taxes, socialism, etc already in debate. pic.twitter.com/X5ZZkUNQO2 — Mike Konczal (@rortybomb) March 15, 2016

Daily Clips: March 14th, 2016

Daily Clips: March 14th, 2016

Tweet of the day: Marco Rubio sounds like a really, really nice guy. Christian values and all. Marco Rubio sounds like a great guy pic.twitter.com/UMaKVQbezf — Brian Gaar (@briangaar) March 14, 2016 The hard power of “soft” voter-ID laws:  “States are passing special measures to head off attacks on the constitutionality of strict voter-identification requirements. But such measures are often just as disenfranchising as the laws they shield.” Progressives also have an identity crisis on their hands:  “The strength of Bernie Sanders’s challenge to Hillary Clinton from the left, like the radicalization of American conservatism, is a symptom of the decay of a moderate brand of progressivism that rose in the 1990s when Bill Clinton was president and Tony Blair was Britain’s prime minister. Its ideology was rooted in a belief that capitalism would deliver the economic goods and could be balanced by a ‘competent public sector, providing services of quality to the citizen and social protection for those who are vulnerable.'”

Daily Clips: March 11th, 2016

Daily Clips: March 11th, 2016

Louisiana will tax its poor to fill budget hole caused by tax cuts for the rich: But I thought tax cuts for the rich would lead to an economic boom?! In order to fill the budget gap, the state is raising the sales tax by 25 percent. Unfortunately, such a policy maneuver puts an uneven burden on lower income households. Because the sales tax applies to consumption rather than income, the hike Louisiana lawmakers agreed to will be regressive : While people in the top 20 percent of the income distribution will pay 41 percent of the total cost of the tax hike according to the Louisiana Budget Project, the sales tax mechanism takes a bigger bite out of a poor family’s income than a rich one’s. Politicians are making poor people shoulder a load caused primarily by ex-Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) tax breaks for the rich. Trade and tribulation: Paul Krugman opens up his latest column by asking “Why did Bernie Sanders win a narrow victory in Michigan, when polls showed Hillary Clinton with a huge lead?” Study sees positive impact of raising New York’s minimum wage to $15 an hour The false promise of last year’s wage gains: A new report from Economic Policy Institute “suggest that an apparent boost in buying power was really just the product of a dip in inflation.” A seniro economist at EPI and the paper’s author, Elise Gould, argued “that while shifts such as lower oil prices certainly helped middle-and lower-income households stretch their paychecks further, locking in the benefits of such boosts would require that inflation rates remain near zero for a prolonged period—which is quite unlikely in the long run.” Kenneth Copeland says Ted Cruz has been “called and anointed” by God to be the next POTUS: This video is beyond creepy. Side point: Why do pastors always take such long pauses?