Small Town Values – Taking Cold Showers

Photo by @randyolson – Garden City, Kansas – Beef Empire Days – This photo is about small town values on parade but also about the railroad tracks under these children’s feet. Those railroad tracks used to take corn out for sale all over the world… now it’s bringing corn into Garden City for the feedlots that ring the area. Which means they are also importing water from other parts of the world in the form of feed corn. If America's appetite for beef waned or even switched to bison we would save water on the plains and enhance our own food security. Scarcity of water, fragile infrastructure, small dust bowls, the family farm crisis, Big Ag, and global urbanization leave some behind with few options. Small towns are disintegrating around their residents. There is rampant meth and opioid addiction in some of these places. If your hot water heater breaks, there isn’t anyone in your entire county that can fix it. I am from the Midwest, and the pain rural folks have gone through showed up this election. I saw this frustration first-hand working on the Ogallala aquifer story that ran in the August 2016 issue of National Geographic, but I never thought the level of frustration of these communities would manifest itself in this way. @natgeocreative @thephotosociety

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Small towns are disintegrating around their residents. There is rampant meth and opioid addiction in some of these places. If your hot water heater breaks, there isn’t anyone in your entire county that can fix it. I am from the Midwest, and the pain rural folks have gone through showed up this election.

I saw this photo and its caption just before the November election. I bookmarked it hoping to write about it someday. Today is that day. As 45 unveils his Executive Order on H1-Bs today, I bring your attention to the highlighted line in the above excerpt. Just imagine the potential of the market demand in the area of water heater repair. Why isn’t anyone in the entire county trained to fix it? It’s not a job that needs a graduate school education. In fact, it is one of those jobs that trade schools specialize in and these jobs cannot be outsourced. So why aren’t “native-born Americans” fixing water heaters? Is that the pain that the author refers to in the next line? People bathing in cold water turning up to the election booths to vote for Trump.

It’s easy to blame immigrants who often play an important role in the economy i.e. doing the jobs the native population isn’t willing to do much less qualified to do. There are job-training and re-training programs for citizens but the current administration is even slashing funding for those.

Ideally, native-born Americans would be setting up water heater repair businesses and competing to fix them in a county where no such repairperson currently exists. If the native-born aren’t interested in those jobs, maybe some immigrant from a neighboring poorer country will move there and do that job. But what you have now is reluctance to do that job yourself plus resentment for newcomers based on factors that few in the media will dare to speak out aloud. These folks in Garden City, Kansas with “small town values” finding joy in children’s parades while suffering from meth & opioid addiction and apparently cold showers. I wonder what those “small town values” really are about? *thinking face emoji*

Voting for a Racist is the New Normal

“America is already great because America is good”
– Hillary Clinton

Two weeks ago, that statement was dealt a severe blow as Donald Trump became President-Elect of the United States. Just like many others in my circle, it landed like a hard blow and made me question my beliefs and assumptions about this country. I’ve lived here for little over 16 years now or rather in two Bush terms and two Obama terms and never have I felt more despair in terms of this country’s future and ideals. To be honest, I’ve not yet completely recovered much less heed to any advice of being open to the “other side”. It’s almost like America woke up suddenly and said, it’s a white country and you just live in it.

The more I read about this election especially after a grueling and anger-inducing 16 months of campaigning, the more I believe that white America stood up and stamped its authority over this country of immigrants. We often ask each other that how could anyone vote for Trump after what he said and has done throughout the course of his campaign and his earlier life? He and his supporters offended Mexicans and other immigrants, African Americans and other minorities, Jews, disabled people, and even women. He was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women and a dozen women came forward confirming that he indeed had. He called Mexicans rapists and criminals and implied black neighborhoods have an infestation of crime. He mocked disabled reporters.

Well, maybe…just maybe they voted for him just because of those things and not in spite of them. Perhaps he was so generous in his hatred of various sections of the society that people focused on the things they hated too and ignored the rest. This may just be a form of cognitive deafness if you may. A Muslim woman who hates Mexicans, or a feminist who hates Muslim, or a Latino who is sexist, or, well, you get the picture.

Pundits are already spinning narratives on why Clinton lost but don’t pay heed to those. The race angle only makes sense. I don’t say this lightly since I do (still) believe America tries the most in attempting to address the scourge of supremacy of one race or religion over the other. Except in this election, Republicans actively sought to support the candidate who dispensed with the dog whistle and actively courted white supremacists and anti-Semites.

The Republican base had been clamoring for a more overtly radical and less politically-correct candidate since the GOP chose to nominate moderates like McCain and Romney. Instead this time when the base won out and they got the brash loud-mouthed lout, they came out in droves to support the nominee. Data shows Trump won a lot more Romney voters in red counties or at least enough to counter the increased Latino voters in Democratic counties. In my opinion, Clinton’s only electoral folly was that she appealed to the better angels of the GOP’s nature only to find out that there were none. The moderate and #NeverTrump-ers either went back to the Republican fold or simply were too few to matter. A majority of whites, whether they were college educated or not, voted for Trump.

The Rust Belt is not evolving as rapidly as the other parts of the country in coming to terms with the new economy. Resentment against declining job opportunities and resistance to training for the newer jobs [1] was redirected to the presence of immigrants. Fear in those parts worked much better than hope. People did not vote for Trump in spite of his despicable views but because of it. He forced them to dig up their primal fears and baser instincts of resentment and victimhood based on a false sense of racial superiority. Other moderates hadn’t made those fears explicit yet.

Subtle hints didn’t work, obvious hints didn’t work; ultimately you just had to say it out loud and repeatedly for those people to get it. No amount of talking to them about ‘economic anxieties’ is going to matter. I’ve lived for 8 years in one of the more conservative towns in the country where college-educated white conservatives consider a space space under a Republican administration and a Democrat administration. The fear is real. No one was talking about reaching across to the liberals once Obama got elected in a far bigger mandate. They just got down to work and decided to beat liberals and in 2010, they laid the groundwork of doing just that.

However, to end on a slightly positive note, it turns out that just over 100,000 voters in three Rust Belt states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) decided the election in which 130 million people voted in a country that has more than 320 million people. Of course, it was the Democrats much vaunted blue wall that cracked; however the signs have been there for a while now. So if there’s any reason to hope it’s that the majority of this country doesn’t subscribe to those views. As votes are still being counted, Clinton continues to increase her lead in the popular vote and may end up with at least 2 million votes or around a 2% margin. That’s a point and a half over Al Gore who also won the popular vote while losing the presidency. That’s progress; rest is just electoral college reality.

  1. We see this as part of our professional jobs []

Motivations behind Brexit

The United Kingdom decisively voted (52-48) to leave the EU and has now caused massive economic uncertainity at the least. However, the underlying sentiment that drove natives to vote for ‘Leave’ was immigration. Like in America, they “wanted their country back” whatever that meant. In fact, it was nothing but approaching the tipping point of hetrogentity.

Europe has often prided itself on its liberal culture and attitude but just a whiff of immigration in recent years from the so-called undesiable parts of the world shatters that fragile image. Given its colonial past, Europe has never been friendly to other cultures and been accepted in some circles due to its economic benefits. A slight downtick in economic fortunes and like in the U.S., the native rush to blame immigration when in fact, it’s the one of the successes of globalization. Several dog whistles such as “cultural identity” have been used to justify tempering free mobility of people but that’s just a facade of shifting blame for declining economic fortunes on to people you know won’t fight back.

Heck, some people even thought when they’re voting for ‘Leave’, it meant that immigrants would’ve to leave UK. Naturally, the vote has led to several public displays of bigotry and prejudice. The sentiments always existed on the underbelly but it can only be manifested when the bigots feel empowered by people in power to freely express their racism.

It has happened in the U.S. for generations and its an on-going battle every year but so far saner heads have prevailed. UK just let the crazies take control and underestimated the power of hate to get the vote out. People point to the Scandanavian countries as places of bliss in terms of tolerance. I say, give it a few years, let in a few brown people, and then we’ll talk.

[image source: Freestocks at Flickr]

White Californians were much more likely to emphasize GPA when they perceived black people as their competition. However, when they compared themselves to Asian applicants and were told that Asian students are overrepresented on college campuses, white Californians deemphasized the importance of GPA.

Source: Vox. Ha! You can’t use the merit-based excuse when you’re squeezed from the top by stereotypical Asian-Americans raised by tiger moms.

The Need for the Perfect Candidate

February 8th, 2016 - Hudson, New Hampshire

Increasingly, voters in America, more so for the Democrats than for Republicans, are asking for the perfect candidate in terms of what they say and what they promise to do when elected. At times, what they promise to do may not even be realistically possible but I’ve already tweeted about that. This is more about demanding something from the candidate that he or she isn’t.

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A good set of solutions informed by data, research and human rights principles that may work in improving social injustice and build trust between the police and the communities they’re expected to serve.

America for White People?

Pat Buchanan believes America is for white people. As Russell Peters said it best, soon we all are going to be beige; run all you want, one day we’re going to hump you.

Pat Buchanan’s Outdated Racist Terms

Pat Buchanan’s racism consists of using outdated slurs. Why is this guy still on TV?

Fair and Balanced Survey Questions

Some consider survey methodology an imperfect science or even at times a lying science. The latter is true primarily because of such dishonest practices by Fox News. I’m sure they tell themselves, it is not interviewer bias but merely making surveys fair and balanced.

Bin Laden = Rush Limbaugh

If you really think about it, Bin Laden is like the Rush Limbaugh of the Arabs. How? Both hate moderates and rant against them. Except Limbaugh names names.

Arab Types on board

A US citizen was booted from a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to New York after he complained there were “Arab types” on board, Turkish news media reported [source].

[via] Ah! The world comes a full circle. And how deliciously. It seems as if the Bush stupidity and paranoia is infectious. The bugger wasn’t even accurately stupid (Turks aren’t Arabs). Totally ROTFL!

Minorities in the White House

Now that a black man (ok! half-black) has made it to the White House, how soon will it be before other minorities make it as well? If nothing else, don’t expect an atheist anytime soon.

Egg Tossing at Obama

Barack Obama is rocking all college campuses in the United States. Except perhaps BYU (in Utah) and my university, Texas A&M. Located in conservative heartland of Texas, most student ‘conservatives’ are morons at best and an insult to the conservative movement. The student newspaper, The Battalion is a prime example of a bad student newspaper and lacks journalism ethics. No wonder it was major news in national circles when the local newspaper, The Eagle endorsed Obama. The comments on that editorial make Rediff Comments look innocent and erudite. I have mostly kept away from student activities here primarily due to such attitudes.

The most recent incident was shocking given the political climate and goes to show the rank immaturity of the conservative student body. The MSC Plaza hosted this despicable egg-tossing Anti-Obama Carnival. I find one of the images that of a black football player standing in front of the poster quite arresting. Mind you, this is a town that worships football players most of them black and you would think this would dispel many myths. There have been other Democratic nominees but none has generated this much hate as Barack Obama. I wish the students at Texas A&M would grow up to see the world that lies beyond your farmland. No wonder 23% of you think that Obama is a Muslim in spite of his much-publicized pastor scandal.

Update: To the university’s credit, we received the following message from the President late last evening:

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Why the Bradley Effect might be dead

The Bradley Effect in U.S. politics is attributed to the inflated polling numbers for non-White candidates. The effect was brought to light in the 1982 California gubernatorial race when Tom Bradley lost the race in spite of being significantly ahead in voter polls. It is based on the assumption that voters inaccurately tell pollsters that they are undecided or likely to vote for non-white candidates but end up voting for their opponents on election day. They ‘lie’ to the pollsters to appear politically correct or do not want to be seen as racist for not voting for a minority candidate. By various accounts, this effect is said to be nearly 7 percent i.e. if Barack Obama was 7 percentage points ahead then he would actually be dead even with John McCain (remember Clinton’s ‘white working class Americans’?). Hence all the skepticism for his wide lead. But is the Bradley Effect really that significant and still persistent in today’s political scene.

Barack Obama has been campaigning for President almost non-stop for almost 2 years now and everyone in this country has heard of him or heard him speak, or seen him. Thanks to the 50-state Democratic Primary, Obama has visited virtually every corner of this vast country and people have had a chance to listen to him and judge him on the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. His win in all-white previously-Republican Iowa was symptomatic of change. His near-omnipresence on the media spotlight changed perceptions better or for worse like the attitude expressed by the person below:

“One thing you have to remember is that Obama, he’s half white and he was raised by his white mother. So his views are more white than black really.” Ms. Mendive looked tentative. “Well, that’s true.” Ms. Vance said she was so used to looking at Mr. Obama, “I don’t see the color of his face anymore [source].”

Another aspect for the weak Bradley Effect on Obama’s candidature may have been his bi-racial ethnicity. He was the ‘typical’ black candidate and although the Rev.Wright, Louis Farrakhan, Ayer scandals tried painting him as an angry Black Panther, his cool demeanor, eloquent speeches, and articulate policy stances made it difficult for his rivals to paint him as in the mold of an prejudiced version of the average black man. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight looked at the primary polls and the actual results and found that Obama in fact overperformed by 3.3 points on election day.

Much has changed in the U.S. since the Civil Rights movement and an entire generation has now come of age when racial segregation was never an institutional barrier. Of course, much remains to be done and you still see signs of discrimination but the youth having grown up with their minority peers are less likely to be racist. Obama’s strategy of focusing on the youth vote and emphasizing voter registration may have put paid to the hopes of his rivals hoping for the Bradley Effect.

Finally, the Bradley Effect may exist in certain parts of the country like the Deep South or the Appalachian states but these states are hardly battleground states and vote Republican anyway. The national polls may exaggerate the impact of the effect since it does not account for the disproportionate number of voters who are least likely to exhibit such tendencies. In fact, on the national level there appears to be no evidence of the Bradley Effect; in fact the effect has waned since the mid-1990s [PDF link] and there appears to be no effect right now.

And of course, when the economy is down in the dumps, people are less concerned about voting on their racial prejudices and more concerned on who will protect their jobs and boost the economy. McCain has floundered all over the place and any other Republican candidate probably would have handled it better but an economy in trouble has traditional benefited Democrats. And people seem to care less if the Democratic candidate is black.

Will they deport Henry Cejudo’s mom?

Olympian UndocumentedAlthough we have had an overindulgence of sappy Olympics background stories, this one is genuine. Henry Cejudo, 21 son of an undocumented migrant or like some like to call them, illegal aliens has just won the gold for the U.S. in the 55-kilogram wrestling event. His immediate reaction – “The United States is the land of opportunity. It’s the best country in the world and I’m just glad to represent it.” His mother worked two jobs to feed a family of six children on her own and Henry himself worked hard as a kid to put food on the family table.

Although his family and friends were in the stands during the final, his mom couldn’t make it understandably considering the country that his son won a gold medal for wouldn’t take her in (although the official reason is she is taking care of her grandchildren). While not condoning illegal immigration, Cejudo’s story reflects the majority of such immigrants who cross the border due to economic hardship and to avail of the opportunities that their native country did not accord them. Nativists would like us to believe that people like Cejudo are criminals and are a threat to the American society. I wonder if Bob Costas will cover this American dream story in tonight’s Olympic telecast.

But the important question here is will Lou Dobbs and his ilk now demand deportation of an Olympic gold medalist’s mom?

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