A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

29 July 2016

Now that the Democratic National Convention is over…

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I began watching the national political conventions in 1956, and for many years I watched them gavel-to-gavel. I almost attended the infamous 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. Once, conventions were interesting events where decisions were made. Now they’re four-day propaganda productions, the secular variants of evangelical tent revivals, choreographed to deliver the party line and coronate the annointed. Real decision-making and honest debate are avoided. Therefore, I watch a few speeches, yawn, read a few news reports, yawn, mow the lawn and read a good book. I have but a few observations:

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28 July 2016

Green Party trying to put Jill Stein on Montana ballot

Green Party members in Montana are collecting signatures to put Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein on the ballot in November. According to the GP’s ballot access page for Montana, the signature gatherers have until 17 August to collect 5,000 signatures of registered voters.

Ryan Moore of Bozeman is the Green’s statewide coordinator. There are regional coordinators in Helena, Billings, Missoula, Great Falls, and the Flathead. The email address for Missoula coordinator Dani Breck is missoula4bernie@gmail.com, which suggests that the resurgence of the Greens is in part a consequence of Bernie Sanders’ losing the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. Paul Daughtry is the coordinator for the Flathead.

The Green Party presidential candidate was on Montana’s general election ballot in 2000 and 2004. In 2000, the GP’s candidate was Ralph Nader, who returned to Montana’s 2004 and 2008 ballots as an independent candidate.

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If Montana’s Greens succeed in getting Jill Stein on the ballot, they’ll provide an opportunity for leftists and disgruntled Bernieites to cast a protest vote for a left wing candidate.

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Most Democratic Convention speeches are at 9th grade level

Most speeches at the Democratic convention are written at the ninth grade level. That’s the rough average of scores on the Flesch-Kincaid and other readability tests for the as delivered texts of the speeches that I’ve examined (www.checktext.org is a free online readability checker that includes Flesch-Kincaid and other readability tests).

A speech, of course, is more than just prose. It’s an oral argument and a theatrical performance. How persuasive it is depends not just on the facts and logic presented, but on the speaker’s skill in bring his words and arguments alive in a way that captures the attention and engages the emotions of his audience. Thus, applying a readability test to the text of a speech provides a measure, useful I think, of the speech’s verbal complexity, but it tells us nothing about the speech’s persuasiveness and emotional impact when the speaker delivers it. Spoken language, incidentally, should be simpler than written language.

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26–27 July 2016

Note to readers

We had to stand down yesterday and today, but intend to resume blogging tomorrow.

 

25 July 2016

Bill to allow bicycles in the Bob is political mischief

At the Flathead Beacon, Dillon Tabish reports that Utah’s Republican senators, Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, have introduced S.B. 3205, the Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Act, which would legalize the use of bicycles in the Bob Marshall and other designated wildernesses.

Tabish reports Sen. Jon Tester opposes the bill, but that neither Sen. Steve Daines nor Rep. Ryan Zinke has announced a position on the bill.

This political mischief is being pushed by thrill seekers and the people who manufacture and sell mountain bicycles (disclosure: I ride a mountain bicycle, but never in the mountains, forests, or cross-country). Behind them are others who hope to open designated wilderness to motorized transportation, and ultimately, to repeal the Wilderness Act and open the Bob and all public lands to natural resource extraction and commercial development such as luxury resorts for the one percent.

S.B. 3205 has little chance of passing, but it can’t be ignored. Thus, it diverts money and manpower from existing and future conservation campaigns.

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24 July 2016

Will 2016 be the year of campaigning dangerously?

Secret Service protection of the candidates probably will be exceptionally aggressive this election. In the last 104 years, three presidential candidates have been shot, one of them fatally, and another targeted by a person wielding a knife:

…read the rest

Notes on the eve of the Democratic National Convention

Wikileaks email release proves DNC and Debbie really were conspiring against Bernie Sanders. No surprise here. Hillary Clinton lost to Barack Obama in 2008, but she never stopped running for president — and her supporters from 2008, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz prominent among them, never stopped working for Hillary and against everyone else. Some members of the DNC unwisely put their anti-Sanders thoughts and schemes in emails. But most of the conspiring was done by telephone and in face-to-face conversations. Now, thanks to the DNC’s being hacked, probably by a Russian, the truth is out, and according to CNN, Debbie is out as a convention speaker.

Update. Now she’s also out as head of the DNC. If she wants to help Democrats, she’ll lock herself in her house in Florida, emerging only after the convention concludes to announce that she’s withdrawing as a candidate for re-election to Congress.

If Hillary become president, she will sign progressive legislation, but she probably won’t ask for it. I doubt she would veto it. Her choice of Tim Kaine for vice president instead of Elizabeth Warren has convinced some supporters of Sanders that she’s closing her door to progressive Democrats, but I don’t agree with that analysis. If progressives want progressive legislation, they must turn their attention to electing progressive Democrats to Congress and to state and local legislative and executive offices. Tim Kaine improves Hillary’s chances of winning the election. That’s a plus for progressive who understand their enlightened self-interest.

Useful links for Democrats following the convention:

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23 July 2016

Saturday roundup

Hillary’s VP. Sen. Tim Kaine was not my first choice for vice president on the Democratic ticket. I disagree with his support for the Trans Pacific Partnership and so-call free trade agreements, and dislike his willingness to coddle the big banks. But he clearly has the experience, intellect, and temperament to be president — and to be a very good president. In fact, I wish he were at the top of the ticket.

Kalispell City Airport. All flight operations at the Kalispell City Airport could be moved to Glacier Park International Airport, which has a longer runway, better navigational aids, and probably slightly better weather. The City of Kalispell should close the airport and donate the land to School District 5, which would then have a 100-year site for a replacement for Flathead High School.

When campgrounds become rural ghettos. Long time friends, now retired, who spend several months a year as campground hosts in state and national parks in Oregon and California, report that these campgrounds are overcrowded, and that even with whopping big camping fees of $33 a night, infrastructure is decaying. Years ago, campgrounds on public lands were quiet places. Sometimes I could car camp in remote places for a week and be the only one there. No reservations or fees were required. Now campsite must be reserved months in advance, there are double digit fees, and the adjacent campsite is always occupied, usually by a beer guzzling barbarian with a bone rattling boombox and enough Coleman gas lanterns to illuminate a football field. That’s why I now stay at the Hilton or sleep in my car at a local Walmart.

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22 July 2016

If you see someone walking the bypass — CALL THE COPS!

That’s the latest message from Mickey Lapp of the Kalispell Bypass Team. Every Friday, Lapp blasts out an email with an attachment updating the state of the project’s construction, and lets readers know what to expect during the coming week.

Today’s update includes a rubricated, italicized, and partially bolded, paragraph warning there is no public access to the areas under construction:

The public is reminded to stay clear of work areas and construction zones. There is NO public access through any construction area, work zone or trail system and the public is reminded NOT to walk, drive or ride through work areas or construction zones. If you witness trespassing through work areas or construction zones, please notify Flathead Law Enforcement officials immediately.

Wow. That’s laying down the law. Donald Trump could not have done it better.

There may be concerns about theft and vandalism, but I suspect the major concern is liability if someone walking the bypass sprains an ankle. On weekends, when the project is shut down, on some stretches under construction, for example, between Two and Three Mile Drives, the bypass provides a wide and smooth walking route that, frankly, is a lot safer than walking along a road with traffic.

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The bypass between Two and Three Mile Drives in early July. The road is closed, but the walking is easy.

Of course, one way of obviating the temptation to walk the bypass on a weekend would be for the construction company to work on the weekends and finish the project faster.

In the meantime, if you spot an outlaw walker strolling along the bypass this weekend, think twice before hitting 911 on speeddial and screaming “Help, help! There’s trespass on the bypass.” The constable tends to see red when he receives that kind of call.

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Brother Orangehair: the system is rigged and “I alone can fix it”

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A man on a white horse, a man with a messiah complex, last night shouted to the nation that he, Donald J. Trump, is the only man who can make America great again. The longer he spoke, the more distinct the adumbrations of jackboots clicking on cobblestones.

He promised to restore law and order, “build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration,” reduce taxes and regulations, repeal and replace Obamacare, “rescue kids from failing schools,” defeat the “barbarians of ISIS,” build roads and highways and bridges, “make America rich again,” and more.

In his most chilling and bizarre moment, he said:

Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders. He never had a chance.

But his supporters will join our movement, because we will fix his biggest issue: Trade deals that strip our country of jobs and the distribution of wealth in the country.

Millions of Democrats will join our movement, because we are going to fix the system so it works fairly and justly for each and every American.

Mein Gott! “I alone.” Can he actually believe that Bernie’s supporters will defect to the Republican party after witnessing its presidential nominee, in a epic, high decibel, rant, declare himself the savior, and not just the savior, but the one and only savior, of American civilization?

Thanks to Trump’s scaring the bejesus out of progressives, Hillary Clinton won a lot of votes last night.

TheWashington Post has a annotated transcript of the speech as delivered.

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21 July 2016

Ted’s payback, Newt’s fear mongering, Pence’s bland acceptance

Will Trump’s acceptance speech tonight echo Nixon’s in 1968? Trump’s tone and words might differ from Nixon’s, but Trump already is proclaiming himself the guardian of law ‘n order in a manner reminiscent of Nixon’s successful exploitation of that theme 48 years ago. Nixon’s speech (download PDF for printing) was masterful as well as diabolical.

Pence’s speech was received well, but as a vice presidential acceptance speech it paled in comparison to both Hubert Humphrey’s “But not Senator Goldwater” speech, (9.7 MB PDF) in 1964, and Al Gore’s “It is time for them to go” speech in 1992.

…read the rest

 

20 July 2016

Jon Tester joins Tim Kaine in kissing banks and dissing consumers

Sen. Time Kaine would make a better vice president than Mike Pence. But his stock at Flathead Memo dropped to the basement this afternoon after the Huffington Post reported that Kaine is kissing-up to the big banks and failing to protect consumers:

Kaine signed two letters on Monday urging federal regulators to go easy on banks ― one to help big banks dodge risk management rules, and another to help small banks avoid consumer protection standards.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

On the small bank side, Kaine pressed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray to exempt “community banks and credit unions” from new rules. Doing so would leave these institutions, which include banks with up to $10 billion in assets, more lightly regulated than they were before the financial crisis. The letter, sent on Monday, was signed by 69 other senators [including Jon Tester].

Small banks were not, for the most part, involved in the subprime mortgage crisis. But many commit other consumer protection abuses. These violations do not spark massive financial downturns, but they can be real problems for the households that get ripped off.

As Kaine joins the deregulatory fight, several other lawmakers are pushing the CFPB in the opposite direction. On Wednesday, 28 senators sent a letter to the agency urging them to toughen up their new rule against abusive payday lending. Kaine didn’t sign it.

Sen. Jeff Merkley did, as did Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and even Sen. Chuck Schumer.

If Clinton wants to attract the supporters of Bernie Sanders, choosing Tim Kaine as her vice president is the wrong way to do it.

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Flathead Memo predicts Hillary will tap Sen. Tim Kaine for VP

Hillary Clinton will announce her choice for vice president Friday or Saturday, probably in Miami, FL. I predict she’ll choose 58-year-old Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a former governor and lieutenant governor of that state, as well as a man with executive experience at the municipal government level.

There are other names in the mix, such as Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, 65, a former governor of Iowa, and retired admiral James Stavridis, a foreign policy expert who has never run for, let alone held, elective office.

I think she’s settled on Kaine, and that the discussion of other running mates amounts to misdirection, an attempt to keep the discussion, and suspense, going and to distract voters from the Republican convention.

Kaine would a good choice. His credentials are excellent, and he has the right temperament for the job. My preference, however, is 59-year-old Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

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19 July 2016

Last night in Cleveland, Rudy and Gen. Flynn howled at the moon

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The moon was full, the speakers were full of it, and boy, oh boy, oh boy, did attack dogs Rudy Giuliani and Gen. Michael Flynn howl like lunatics when they spoke to the Republican National Convention. It was an unreality show, the likes of which the party of Abe and Ike never has seen before and, one hopes, never will see again.

Giuliani railed against “Islamic terrorism,” his decibel level so high that 100 miles away in Toledo, the dead awoke. On Twitter, Dave Itzkoff inserted Rudy’s mug into Edward Munch’s Der Schrei der Natur, but still failed to do full justice to the occasion.

Flynn, the retired three-star whose trial balloon as Trump’s running mate thudded like lead on concrete, denounced Hillary Clinton as a crook, led the crowd in a chant of “Lock her up,” and made himself the leading nominee for this election’s Gen. James Mattoon Scott award.

Sen. Joni Ernst, the Iowa pig castrater, and retired national guard Lt. Colonel, claimed the FBI says ISIS is active in all 50 states. That’s probably true: the internet reaches everywhere.

Rep. Ryan Zinke, who spoke last, and who spoke to the most empty seats, did not corroborate her claim. Neither did he try to lead chants, a wise decision for which I commend him. Compared to Flynn, et al, he delivered rather bland comments, and of course reminded everyone that once he was a Navy SEAL, then withdrew to allow the pastor of the day, a blond woman in a red dress, to lead — and lead, and lead, and lead — the crowd in prayer.

The person for whom a prayer should be said this morning is Melania Trump, Donald’s wife. Not a native speaker of English, she trusted the people writing her speech. Unfortunately, they appear to have misappropriated some of the speech that Michelle Obama delivered to the Democratic National Convention eight years ago. Quite clearly, those speechwriters didn’t run the final draft through a plagiarism checker. I’d fire them.

 Updated at 15:17:26 MDT.  That Melania’s speech contained unattributed material from Michelle Obama’s speech now is beyond doubt. But who is responsible remains a mystery. Emerging reports point fingers at Mrs. Trump. The only thing that’s seems perfectly clear is that no one was smart enough to run the final draft through a plagiarism checker. And the Trump campaign’s response to the mess? “Plagiarism? What plagiarism? We didn’t plagiarize, we won’t plagiarize again, Hillary Clinton made us do it, and whatever the facts, the strong never apologize.”

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18 July 2016

First, Ryan Zinke saw the money — then, he saw the light

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No, not the Lord’s light. Heaven forbid that I would accuse him of that. He found the ultraviolet indoor tanning lights. In particular, he found that the Affordable Care Act imposes a 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning salons — and on 20 October 2015, 40 days after his re-election campaign received a $1,000 contribution from the American Suntanning Association’s PAC, he signed up as a co-sponsor of H.R. 2698, Rep. Tom Price’s (R-GA) Tanning Tax Repeal Act of 2015.

Zinke was one of approximately 30 recipients of four-figure donations from the ASTA PAC. The parent organization, the American Suntanning Association, was formed in 2012, reported JAMA Dermatol in May, 2013:

…as an all-tanning-salon-owner organization by a group of owners of tanning salon chains. The ASA is “… dedicated to increasing public awareness about the facts associated with moderate UV exposure …”. 2 Examination of their website reveals messages quite similar to those found on the ITA website.3 The ASA website claims that IT is beneficial for vitamin D production, satisfies a need for moderate, responsible UV exposure, and even suggests that IT is an affordable self-treatment for cosmetic skin diseases that can be used to replace dermatologist-monitored phototherapy.4 There is also a focus on the small business nature of the tanning salon industry, which may be intended to convince legislators that tanning salon regulations could hurt business owners. The ASA site does not disclose published research that suggests IT beds are an ineffective method of promoting vitamin D production, or that responsible exposure can be difficult as UV levels in beds tend to vary quite unpredictably.5 [Quote via HHS Public Access.]

Price’s bill died, but the tanning tax repeal was rolled into H.R. 3672, an attempt to use the budget reconciliation process to repeal the ACA. H.R. 3672 passed the House 240–181, with 13 not voting, on 6 January. Zinke voted for the bill, which President Obama vetoed two days later. On 2 February, the House’s attempt to override the veto failed, leaving the ACA and the tanning tax in place.

Will Zinke see the light on the tanning tax again? Probably. Will his campaign see more of the tanners’ greenbacks? I’ll be watching.

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Ryan Zinke burns campaign cash 2.6 times as fast as Denise Juneau

As of 30 June, Rep. Ryan Zinke’s re-election campaign had raised a lot of money — $3.7 million — and spent a lot of money — $2.6 million ($1.2 million on postage and printing), leaving him with $1.3 million in the bank.

His burn rate: 76 percent.

That’s 2.6 times the 29 percent burn rate for Denise Juneau’s campaign, which has raised $1.3 million, spent $330k, and has $810k in the bank.

…read the rest

 

16 July 2016

Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce reminds me of awful school lunches

And that’s not a good thing, not that she’ll ever know it, having died three years ago. She was a legend for Italian cooking, American style. But her tomato sauce, “…perhaps [her] most famous recipe…,” reports the New York Times, is nothing more than canned tomatoes boiled up with butter and fried onions (she removed the onions before inflicting the sauce on her pasta). For some reason, her recipe appeared on my Facebook feed this morning, triggering memories of school lunches I’d successfully repressed for almost 60 years.

We were served spaghetti in tomato sauce. The menu called it “Italian spaghetti.” I called it…well, I don’t use those words on this blog. What got slopped on my plate looked and tasted like worms in blood. I doubt it contained any butter. And it looked like worms in blood when I dumped it in the trash.

After that ordeal, decades passed before I discovered that spaghetti in tomato sauce could be tasty — and that discovery required years of experimenting in the kitchen. But eventually I learned what Hazan never did: meat, olives, and bell peppers, are what make spaghetti sauce great.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1.25 pounds lean ground beef, canned sliced mushrooms, and coarsely chopped sweet onion.
  • 1 large orange bell pepper, cut into thumbnail sized chunks.
  • 1 can large ripe olives, cut in two eyeball style.
  • 1 ounce freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
  • 1 jar of Tuscan tomato pasta sauce with roasted garlic.
  • Cayenne pepper and smoked paprika.

Here’s what you’ll do:

  1. After browning the beef, mushrooms, and onion, in super extra double ultra virgin olive oil, stir in the Tuscan sauce, adding a bit of water. Bring to a boil.
  2. Back off the heat a bit, add the cayenne and paprika — don’t be parsimonious with the cayenne — stir, then sprinkle in the shredded cheddar. Stir until the cheddar melts and blends with the sauce. Add the bell pepper and olives. Simmer for ten minutes or so, until the bell pepper is cooked to your preference.
  3. Apply a gene rous portion to freshly cooked capellini, anoint with parmesan cheese, and thank Divine Providence that you didn’t employ Marcella’s recipe.

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15 July 2016

The ballad of Pence and Trump

Tune: Loosely based on I’ve Got Sixpence, as I remember the melody. Mark Bowman’s performance is not quite as I remember the song. So, you’ll have to improvise. And, add verses.

 

Trump chose Mike Pence,
Indy Govie Mike Pence,
Trump chose Mike Pence,
To be his running mate.

Trump chose Mike for his flair,
For his white and shining hair,
And because he’ll help him make this country grate.

Chorus
He’s no liberal, believe me,
No touchy-feely wimp who'll deceive thee,
He’s a righteous man of God and liberty,
Who’s always trollin’ trollin’ home.

Mike’s a tea man,
A true believin’ tea man,
Mike’s a tea man,
He’s got ideology.

He believes in what’s right,
He’s sure he’s seen the light,
From fact his faith will always keep him free.

Mike’s no liberal,
No touchy-feely liberal,
Mike’s no liberal,
He makes the far right look almost far left.

He abominates the gays,
He says their wicked ways,
Will leave them of the grace of God bereft.

Trump chose Mike Pence,
Indy Govie Mike Pence,
Trump chose Mike Pence,
To make this country grate.

He’ll save us from sin,
But not the looney bin,
If Donald Prez becomes this county’s fate.

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Friday briefs: terror in France, changes at WFFF

Bastille Day murders. One man, one 20-ton rented refrigerator truck, 84 dead, more than 200 injured, at least 50 critically. Hard to stop, a large truck need not be filled with explosives to kill dozens. It just needs to be driven into a crowd by a madman soured on humanity. This will frighten people, for it’s not hard to imagine the tactic being employed again. Politically, I think it probably helps Donald Trump.

Changes at Water for [the] Flathead’s Future. Sandy Perry, whose energy and organizing acumen built a powerful movement opposing a proposed water bottling plant in Creston, near the Flathead River, has stepped down as WFFF’s leader. Deirdre Coit replaces her on an interim basis. Thus far, WFFF’s campaign against the water bottling plant has been close to a textbook example of how to organize.

On 1 August, the Department of Environmental Quality will hold a hearing on whether to issue a wastewater discharge permit for the bottling plant. On 5 August, WFFF will present to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation a major brief contending that:

…selling Flathead Valley’s water for consumption out of state does constitutes “out of state use” of that water. The DNRC’s assertion is that it does not constitute “out of state use” of that water. Give us your thoughts at www.waterforflatheadsfuture.org/contact-us.

WFFF’s legal theory, which strikes me as dubious, appears to be based on MCA 85-2-311, Section 4, which governs appropriating and transporting water for use outside the state. My understanding of the statute is that it’s designed to thwart schemes such as Ralph Parson’s grandiose North American Water and Power Alliance; the 1964 Udall-Dominy scheme, described in Cadillac Desert, to divert 10–15 million acre-feet of Columbia River water to the Colorado River basin (and thence to Los Angeles); or various proposals to divert part of the Yellowstone River to Denver. Water, remember, flows uphill to money and power, so the fear of an out-of-state raid on Montana’s water is not without historical basis.

Here, the question is whether 85-2-311 applies to 20-ounce bottles of groundwater that may be sold outside of Montana. After it’s pumped out of the ground, the water will be filtered, sterilized with ultraviolet C, and sealed in small plastic bottles. To my mind, that makes it a value added product like beer or soda pop, although healthier. No one has ever seriously argued, or perhaps even argued, that shipping suds brewed in Montana to markets outside Montana is an out-of-state use of water. WFFF gets an “A” for legal bootstrapping, but I won’t be surprised if a court gives the argument the boot.

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14 July 2016

Today’s must read report on identity politics

I don’t like Hillary Clinton, but I’m voting for her because it would not be in my enlightened self-interest to suffer Donald Trump as president. Among white men with a college degree, that puts me in a minority. Writing in today’s New York Times, Thomas Edsall reports:

…read the rest