Sanders Campaign Videos

My official favorite Sanders campaign video has been this one for a while now:

I believe that, even just from a purely emotional and rhetorical perspective, this video is extremely compelling—especially the way it transitions to contrasts (and quite brutal ones, in a way) with Trump.

That being said, I recently watched a video from the 2016 campaign, and it is very impressive in its narrative and moral quality. Not sure how I hadn’t seen it before, political YouTube junkie that I am:

Bernie Sanders took interest in the lives of the workers and wanted to hear their struggles. Politicians never came to Immokalee. He didn’t keep silent about what he witnessed here in Immokalee.

Udelia Chautla

You can read a piece written at the time on the situation in Immokalee. And here’s the post from 2008 from the Coalition of Immokalee workers, on Sanders’ visit. Ben Beckett was right to highlight this ad in his Jacobin piece (from July) about some ways in which the Sanders campaign is unique.

Since the Democratic debate is tonight, one might polemically contemplate that, at the time Sanders was doing things like visiting poor workers in Immokalee, Michael Bloomberg was overseeing and intensifying the stop and frisk program in New York City. As Sanders just said in a CNN town hall with Anderson Cooper,

As the mayor of the New York City, [Bloomberg] was very aggressive in pushing so-called stop and frisk. And what that meant, and it was very clear — no hiding this — that if you were black, if you are a Latino man, and you walk down the street, the police have the right to grab you for no reason, throw you up against the wall, search you. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of African-Americans and Latinos in New York City underwent that. And then, finally, after he left and Bill de Blasio became mayor, they did away with stop and frisk, and you know what? Crime rate continued to go down. So his policies humiliated and offended hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people and I think that is something that is worthy of discussion.

It’s nice to support a candidate whose opposition to the humiliation of suffering people is demonstrably backed up by his decades of support for their dignity.

Public Philosophy, and a short appreciation of Ben Burgis

There is a lot of “public philosophy” these days. The most widely-read public philosophy venue is probably The Stone at the New York Times, in which professional philosophers and a few others write short, accessible essays on issues of public interest. Other venues include various essays hosted by Aeon, the series of essays by Agnes Callard at The Point, the interviews that Robert Kuhn does for his Closer to Truth program, “Philosophy Phridays” at The Daily Ant, and many others. There are also publicly available academic sources of very high quality, like the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, and the open-access journal Philosophers’ Imprint. There is often useful public material posted on philosophy blogs, one of my personal favorites being the occasional “Philosophers On” posts at Daily Nous.

Here I’d like to briefly highlight the ongoing public work of philosopher Ben Burgis, author of the recent book, Give Them an Argument: Logic for the Left. In addition to that book, Burgis has used his skill-set to make uniquely philosophical contributions to current political controversies:

  • Here he is responding in Jacobin (he writes a lot for Jacobin) to many popular arguments against Medicare for All.
  • Here he is in Quillette criticizing psychologist Jordan Peterson’s understanding of Marxism and related ideas.
  • Here he is in Current Affairs responding to Ben Shapiro’s recent celebration of the Trump administration’s assassination of Qassem Soleimani.
  • Here are 47 videos and counting of Ben Burgis’ appearances on the podcast The Michael Brooks Show, in which he “debunks” selected arguments popular at the time of airing.

One thing I like about Burgis’ public work is how he’s not so much writing about philosophy for the public (a fine and noble thing to do), but rather using philosophy in his contributions to public debates. And along the way, he’ll often give short lessons in oft-neglected aspects of critical thinking—see, for instance, the discussion of how analogies work in the response to Shapiro (who NYT journalist Sabrina Tavernise once called the “cool kid’s philosopher, dissecting arguments with a lawyer’s skill and references to Aristotle”; I tend to agree with Nathan Robinson on the appropriateness of this label).

I hope that more philosophers begin to make public contributions of this kind. It’s commonplace to complain about the polarization and hostility of contemporary public discourse, but it’s just as worrying, in my view, that public discourse is also very muddled—people talk past each other because they understand their terms and concepts differently, they spend enormous energy refuting arguments and views that nobody holds, and they leave cogent arguments unanswered (even when they can be). These are just the sort of problems that a skilled philosopher might mitigate, even apart from any special knowledge of the technical matters involved in health care, foreign policy, or other issues.

Some important YouTube videos

Howard Stern’s interview with Hillary Clinton (divided into five parts on YouTube), here.

Rachel Martin’s interview with Joe Biden, here.

Joe Rogan talking to Glenn Villeneuve about being chased by wolves, here.

Justin Brierley interviewing Tom Holland and AC Grayling on whether “Christianity [gave] us our human values”, here.

Pete Seeger reading/performing Abiyoy on Reading Rainbow, here.

Noam Chomsky’s beard, here.

Elite soiree with known human rights abuser stained by accusation of human rights abuse

Mark Landler and Kate Kelly of the New York Times published a curiously-framed piece titled, “‘Davos in the Desert,’ a Saudi Prince’s Glittering Showcase, Is Stained by a Grisly Accusation.” The Saudi prince in question is Mohammed bin Salman. Many analysts, politicians, and others suspect bin Salman in the disappearance and probable murder of Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi. See here for a rundown of that story by Vox’s Alexia Underwood.

The Times piece recounts the sudden squeamishness of many world elites after the troubling and unresolved story of Khashoggi’s disappearance.

In my opinion, it’s curious that these elites did not think that their fun vacation was already stained. For relevant context, here are some pieces from two major human rights organizations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International:

Saudi Crown Prince Must Answer For Atrocities In Yemen” (March 18th, 2018)

Saudi Arabia should invest in human rights, not PR campaigns” (March 29th, 2018)

Mohammed Bin Salman Deserves Sanctions, Not the Red Carpet” (April 9th, 2018)

Saudi Arabia: Growing Crackdown on Women’s Rights Activists” (May 23rd, 2018)

For Saudi Women, Freedom to Drive Masks New Crackdown” (June 22nd, 2018)

One might also take a look at the overall human rights reports from HRW and AI covering recent years: see here and here.

This is just a smattering from two major human rights organizations. In light of such widely available public information, is there any reason to take seriously the alleged newfound discomfort from the elite interests attending “Davos in the Desert”? Perhaps more importantly, is there any reason for newspapers like the New York Times to frame a story about this discomfort as if it is authentic?

Presidential derangement syndrome: a brief history

If you pay attention to the sillier parts of political debate (that is, their largest and most dominant parts), you will have heard defenders of Donald Trump accuse his critics of something called “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Here is a recent example from Geraldo Rivera, in which he says, “I think that Trump derangement syndrome is a real thing.”

And here is a video of Fareed Zakaria taking the concept seriously on CNN.

The concept has a history. Here, for example, is an essay on The Economist‘s Lexington Blog from early in the Obama presidency. From the essay:

The economic crisis has transformed this cultural suspicion into a much more potent political force. It is true that Mr Obama’s solution to the recession—spending public money in order to stimulate demand and trying to prevent a run on the banks—is supported by most economists. Mr Bush would have done much the same thing. But it is nevertheless driving many Americans crazy. April 15th—the last day on which Americans can perform the melancholy duty of filing their tax returns—saw rallies (dubbed “tea parties” after the Boston one) in every state, 500 or so in all. The protesters, some of whom dressed in three-cornered hats and waved “Don’t tread on me” flags, repeated a litany of criticisms that has been mounting since Mr Obama won the election—that he is a big government socialist (or fascist) who wants to take people’s money away and crush their freedoms.

The essay notes that Obama Derangement Syndrome had an earlier parallel on the political left, and uses it to predict the future:

Bush-hatred eventually spread from a molten core of leftists to set the cultural tone of the country. But Obama-hatred could just as easily do the opposite and brand all conservatives as a bunch of Obama-hating cranks.

Indeed, nearly every commentator writing about the concept of presidential derangement syndrome locates its origin during the Bush era. As Ezra Klein writes,

In 2003, the conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer diagnosed a new affliction in some of George W. Bush’s fiercest critics. He described the condition as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.” He called it Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Here is the piece by Krauthammer. Incredibly, there is a subsection devoted to the concept in the Wikipedia entry for Bush’s public image, here. (Note how far we’ve fallen even from our already-fallen state: Trump Derangement Syndrome has its own devoted entry.)

It’s true that Krauthammer coined the terminology of presidential derangement syndrome. But readers may be interested to know that he certainly didn’t invent the concept. In 1997, Philip Weiss wrote an op-ed for the New York Times called, “The Clinton Crazies,” here. Says Weiss:

The Clinton crazies — I’d first heard the term used, with tongue only slightly in cheek, by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, a British journalist who is one of them — are of different types. There are haters like Nichols and Pat Matrisciana, a film maker, who have developed a monstrous view of Clinton as Satan’s nephew. Then there are the professional reporters of a conservative and sometimes conspiratorial bent who tend to portray the President as a figurehead for a corrupt political organization that has its roots in Arkansas. Evans-Pritchard, who writes for The Sunday Telegraph of London, is in this group. Martyrs are in another class: they tend to be Arkansans who feel they have been victimized by what they see as Clinton’s political machine, and they have been embraced by anti-Clinton warriors. Finally there are the freelance obsessives, the people for whom the Internet was invented, cerebral hobbyists who have glimpsed in the Clinton scandals a high moral drama that might shake society to its roots. Prominent in this group is Hugh H. Sprunt of Farmers Branch, Tex., who has made himself an expert in the matter of the death of Vincent Foster.

I am fairly confident that even Weiss can’t lay claim to truly inventing the attribution of president-specific mental illness to political opponents, but I’m not nearly the historian of presidential politics that I should be. I will run over to Twitter and tag all of the presidential historians I can find to see what they know. If anything else turns up, I’ll report it here in updates to the post.

Is there “political support” for raising the federal gun purchase age limit?

Noam Chomsky often makes the point that, in the mouths of American elites, the term “political support” usually means support by elite interests, regardless of public opinion. Here is just one example:

For decades, polls have shown that health care is at or near the top of public concerns — not surprisingly, given the disastrous failure of the health care system, with per capita costs twice as high as comparable societies and some of the worst outcomes. Polls also consistently show that large majorities want a nationalized system, called “single payer,” rather like the existing Medicare system for the elderly, which is far more efficient than the privatized systems or the one introduced by Obama. When any of this is mentioned, which is rare, it is called “politically impossible” or “lacking political support” — meaning that the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and others who benefit from the current system, object. We gained an interesting insight into the workings of American democracy from the fact that in 2008, unlike 2004, the Democratic candidates — first Edwards, then Clinton and Obama — came forward with proposals that at least begun to approach what the public has wanted for decades. Why? Not because of a shift in public attitudes, which have remained steady. Rather, [the] manufacturing industry has been suffering from the costly and inefficient privatized health care system, and the enormous privileges granted, by law, to the pharmaceutical industries. When a large sector of concentrated capital favors some program, it becomes “politically possible” and has “political support.” Just as revealing as the facts themselves is that they are not noticed.

Today, Donald Trump gives us another example in the context of gun control legislation.

Turning to public opinion, we find evidence that Americans pretty strongly (67%) favor raising the age limit, with only 26% opposing.