Friday, September 30, 2016

A Secret No More: White Racism Is the Current Core of the Republican Party

Donald Trump unleashed the hounds of racism and bigotry. How long and far will they run?

Alt-right white power folks flocked to Donald Trump. Now he has to feed them.

In the classic chicken-or-egg dilemma, it's hard to know if white supremacists were waiting for a Donald Trump to come along, or if Trump ran hard on hate and turned over the rocks in his path and found the vermin swarming to his support. Either way, white power is having a field day.
This week the Los Angeles Times reported on the surge of political activity among extremists, particularly white supremacists and the alt-right, noting that online hate groups are now dominated by pro-Trump conversation:
Andrew Anglin, editor of the Daily Stormer website and an emerging leader of a new generation of millennial extremists, said he had “zero interest” in the 2012 general election and viewed presidential politics as “pointless.” That is, until he heard Trump.
“Trump had me at ‘build a wall,’” Anglin said. “Virtually every alt-right Nazi I know is volunteering for the Trump campaign.”
In the same edition, the Times reported that hate crimes had risen sharply in the Los Angeles area over the past year. It wasn’t the worst year for hate-inspired violence in recent times (2001 and 2002 hold that record), and when you look at the numbers year over year, you can see that this current is always lurking underneath the surface. What’s unusual about the present moment is that we have a political leader who is unapologetically drawing it to the surface and giving it light to grow and flower.
Those paying attention -- as I have to politics for decades -- have always seen a tendency for the GOP to gather up the fringe to their causes. There's a reason the southern states are so solidly red. Simply put, racial bigots don't make good bed fellows with blacks, Latinos, and gays. There is no ready home for them in the Democratic Party.

Donald Trump, in his very first speech when he announced he was running for president, declared in advance that he was the enemy of the "brown." They were rapists and criminals. He has, in the past few days since his crushing defeat -- by a "girl" as Elizabeth Warren likes to point out -- in the debate with Hillary Clinton, lashed out at the very target Clinton was savvy enough to put in front of Trump's face, Alicia Marchado, the Latina beauty queen Trump so mistreated back when she had the audacity of putting on a few pounds after winning the Miss Universe contest.

First, we have to question why Trump would take the bait, but the answer is at our fingertips: Trump is hyper-defensive and explodes at the smallest criticism. Second, it's predictable that, after such a debate defeat, he'd want to fire up his racist, misogynist base to come to his rescue, especially with the polls, something he's also obsessed with.

If there's a miscalculation, it's not that his base is full of people who would chant "fuck the fat bitch!" No, the miscalculation is that the attack on Marchado is, for Clinton, a perfect trifecta: It's anti-women, anti-fat-people, and anti-immigrant. Hey Donald, somewhere out there are a bunch of women, a bunch of fat people, and a bunch of immigrants, many of whom are voters. To quote debate expert Rick Perry, "Oops."

I don't know what this portends for the future of the GOP. Here's what Harry Reid said in the Senate the other day:
The outgoing Democrat linked the actions of GOP lawmakers to Trump, arguing that the party had in fact created him.
"Everything that he's said, stood for, done in this bizarre campaign that he's run has come — filtered up from what's going on in the Republican Senate," Reid said. "Disagreeing with everything, anything that President Obama wanted. They filibustered things they agreed with just to slow things down."
Reid continued: "Trump is no anomaly. He is the monster the Republicans built. He is their Frankenstein monster. They own him. All you have to do to see that the Republicans are the party of Trump is to look at the way they've treated him."
The race is not over, and -- I hate to say it! -- Trump could still win, though he'd need a true deus ex machina to pull it off. But it's important to keep in mind as we work our way through this particular stretch of American history that this confluence of racial, misogynist bigotry and Donald Trump is no accident. It's the logical conclusion of the Republicans' letting their dumpster accumulate the hate all these decades. No wonder it's burst into flames.

Will it haunt them or carry them in the future? We'll see. But I'm not holding my breath for the day that racism has fled the GOP. Because, to be blunt, where else is it going to go?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Debate Conventional Wisdom: Trump Should Lie Less, and Clinton Should Smile More!

Let me get this straight. If Trump lies less, and Clinton doesn't smile enough, Trump wins!

Holy America Losing Its Mind, Batman!

Okay, now I get it. As long as the rules are clear.

Trump Campaign Manager: Trump Didn't Lie Because He Didn't Know What He Was Talking About.

Kellyanne Conway has a new tack with the Donald's falsehoods. How can he lie if he doesn't know what he's saying? Sounds good to me!

Just because representing Donald Trump is stressful doesn't mean you get a pass.

Kellyanne Conway goes on Morning Joe hoping to defend Donald Trump's lies, and she did, sorta. (Trump had tweeted that Holt couldn't be neutral because he was a registered Democrat. Turns out Holt's a registered Republican.)
MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski then jumped in to ask Conway again "why he lied about Lester Holt."
"He didn't lie," Conway responded.
"I think he did," Brzezinski hit back.
Conway then said that "a lie would mean that he knew the man's party registration."
Alrighty then. Of course he wasn't lying. He'd have to know the facts first! I want him for our president!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Why the Media Must Call Donald Trump a Liar

The news isn't that Trump's opinions are different from ours. It's that his facts are.

I know, name-calling is wrong, but this is one lying motherfucker.

After the birther fiasco perpetrated by Donald Trump -- where he called a press conference only to promote his new hotel, and himself -- the news media finally popped a fuse. It may be too little too late, but it's still welcome.

The outlet to really make a "Trump's a liar" splash was the New York Times. Here's the Times today:
All politicians bend the truth to fit their purposes, including Hillary Clinton. But Donald J. Trump has unleashed a blizzard of falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies in the general election, peppering his speeches, interviews and Twitter posts with untruths so frequent that they can seem flighty or random — even compulsive.
However, a closer examination, over the course of a week, revealed an unmistakable pattern: Virtually all of Mr. Trump’s falsehoods directly bolstered a powerful and self-aggrandizing narrative depicting him as a heroic savior for a nation menaced from every direction. Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist, described the practice as creating “an unreality bubble that he surrounds himself with.”
Good grief.

Slate has an article on why the Times decided call out Lyin' Donald Trump:
Were you part of the debate over whether to use the word lie in the paper?
Absolutely, and not only the discussion about using it, which I completely supported. Carolyn Ryan and Michael Barbaro, the editor and the reporter on the story, came to me and said, “We think this is the moment, and we want to write this.” I made the decision to make it the lead story, but they came to me and said, “Here’s the story we want to write,” and they described the story. Carolyn even said to me, “We want to put lie in the headline, are you comfortable with that,” and I said, “yeah, absolutely.”
You said you didn’t decide what was on the front page, and you—
Except in extraordinary cases. This was extraordinary.
Yes, the pure mendacity of Donald Trump is extraordinary.

PolitiFact has the graphs. WaPo Fact Checker has the count. Hillary Clinton drops a prebuttal on Trump at her website. Her hope, I'd imagine, is that moderators and reporters might study up on his lies. We can bet Hillary is working OT to memorize as many facts as possible in order to fact-check the Donald in real time.

It's going to be fascinating at the debate, just in the area of Trump's lies. Drinking game idea: a shot every time a Trump lie is challenged or debated. As Stephen Colbert might say: "Drunk in 30 minutes, or almost drunk in 30 minutes?"

Where do the candidates stand on "the truth?" Clinton is all for it, but Trump doesn't want fact-checking and has begun to warn the moderators, as in this Chicago Tribune article. The Trib falls solidly in favor of "the truth."
But the careful observer [of the review of Matt Lauer's town hall moderating] will note an important difference here. Many of those who criticized Lauer’s performance faulted him for failing to challenge Trump’s well-documented falsehoods in real time (in particular, his claim that he opposed the Iraq War). By contrast, Trump is telegraphing that his supporters will hammer the moderators if they do challenge his well-documented falsehoods in real time.
In other words, one side wants the moderators to hold the candidates accountable, and the other doesn’t. We can argue endlessly over whether those in the former camp are trying to game the debates so that Trump faces tougher questioning than Clinton. But the bottom line is that, given that it is simply true that Trump lies a lot more frequently, audaciously and egregiously than Clinton, and that it took many months before this was widely acknowledged in the press, most Clinton supporters would probably be just fine with equivalent treatment of both of their assertions at the debate, and if they aren’t, they should be.
Get the popcorn and the tequila ready. We're going to need it Monday.

Special Note for those who wonder if Trump can win (either the debate or the presidency): Read this column by Gail Collins:
What we have here is a candidate for president of the United States who makes stuff up all the time, but is either incapable of realizing that he’s telling a lie, or constitutionally unable to take blame for being untruthful.
Yet, according to the polls, Hillary Clinton’s biggest problem is that the public thinks she’s dishonest. Amazing.
Amazing indeed.

Bernie, Liz, Barack and Michelle, Even Papi Bush, Are for Hillary. Why Aren't You?

I'm not speaking to the "deplorables," of course, but to the hypothetical "you" who's either independent or yet to come home to the Democratic Party.

All the adults on the left want Hillary. Just sayin'.

(Let me say in front that my thesis is that there are enough people out there to elect Hillary Clinton, but there's a question about whether or not they'll show up, for a variety of reasons.)

I've looked at Hillary Clinton from all directions, and, frankly, I don't see what all the fuss is about. I discount the fake scandals, and you should, too.

Okay, I get that "the system is rigged." Of course it is. Candidates aren't chosen in proverbial smoke-filled rooms anymore, but they're still chosen through a system where elite politicians and financial backers have more clout than the rest of us.

It's that way in order to guard against nominating another really unelectable candidate like George McGovern. Yes, Bernie Sanders looked pretty electable, but then that's just speculation. It's not often a socialist from Vermont can make hay on a larger stage.

But the real germane point is that the DNC didn't conspire to stop Bernie. They were simply "Ready for Hillary." It was her turn. By the way, millions more thought so, too, than thought Bernie's the one.

But fine. In an odd twist, it was the GOP that taught us this cycle that the world could be turned on its head and SOMEONE COMPLETELY UNUSUAL COULD BE NOMINATED. How many Republicans are concerned about that?

Practically every one with a brain or a conscience. Okay, not that many, but still...

That's not our problem. Our problem is bringing the sane progressives back to the roost in time to avoid a Trump presidency.

So, I point out that Bernie Sanders, Liz Warren, the Obamas, apparently all the living ex-presidents, tons of diplomats and national security advisers, the list goes on, do support Hillary Clinton.

Forget Wall Street connections, forget the vote that advanced us toward the Iraq War, forget her "damn emails." Who do you want, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? The choice is clear, and, by the way, that IS the choice, unless you absolutely want to burn the house down, hoping to build another one.

Holy crap.

So, millennials, disaffected Democrats, Bernie folks who feel stung, Real Independents, and anybody who fancies themselves to be either on the left or just a thoughtful person: Vote for Hillary Clinton this cycle.

If you don't, that would be, er, deplorable. Or at least the outcome might be.

Bonus question: Just how far away politically, philosophically, practically, are you from Hillary Clinton? Hmm. I thought so. Ask the same question about Trump. See?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mike Pence Reminds Us How White He Is. (Pretty White...)

Black men continue to be gunned down by the cops, generally when they're unarmed and barely moving. That's messed up. To Mike Pence, we're overemphasizing race. Huh??

Okay, fine, pink. But pink is the new white. (Yeah, sometimes also orange...)

Talking Points Memo points to a suggestion by leading white man, Veep candidate Mike Pence, that we should 'set aside this talk' of racism around the recent police killings:
Just days after two black men were fatally shot by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina, vice presidential hopeful Mike Pence on Thursday urged an audience of evangelical leaders to "set aside talk" of institutional racism, the Associated Press reported.
Maybe this is a tag-team strategy. Trump reaches out to black people by reminding them their lives suck hard, and Mike Pence reaches out to white people by reminding people how white he is. Smart!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Stephen Colbert Interviews Michelle Obama. What Could Go Right? (Everything.)

Two stars in the firmament, Stephen Colbert and Michelle Obama. Talk about a natural act.

When he went from "Stephen Colbert" to Stephen Colbert, I worried. I shouldn't
have. As for Michelle Obama, she rocks our American culture, like a legit queen.

As we used to say, let's go to the tape:

White Working-Class Men: Finally Proof That Republicans Are Playing You

Donald Trump -- citing a poll showing non-college white men support him by a decent margin -- shouted out at a rally: "I love the poorly educated!"

Working-class white men have been voting against their own self-interests
for most of their lives. As Stephen Colbert might ask: funny, or almost funny?

 (Thanks to Paul Krugman and Vox...)

This is something I've been watching since the Reagan years, and wondering what part of "Most of the new wealth during the 80s went to the already wealthy" don't you people get? (I think it was the part of you that was busy thinking about how much you hate unions, with their negotiating higher wages for you, and all that stuff...)

Now, Vox puts it into a neat and tidy graph:

Holy crap. Read the complete story here.

And for more perspective, read this about how Paul Ryan  -- champion of the people! -- plans on screwing the working class some more.

Fucking what the fuck...

How Far We've Fallen: CNN Suggests Due Process Is "Optional" for U.S. Citizens

This is all about the Trump Effect: Muslims are somehow not American, maybe not even human. I remember something like that in Nazi Germany, don't you?


The chyron says it all, but here's more.

Update. Slate points out that CNN asked that question of Jeffrey Toobin, who answered fuck yeah. (Okay, he actually said yes, and pointed out the stinky can't-ever-fix-it situation at Guantanamo where we thought we didn't need due process...)

Donald Trump Lies and Lies, Media Figures This Out. Now, Are They Finally Willing to Say It?

The answer, it appears, is a resounding yes. But will it last?

Donald Trump: giving the finger to the truth?

The mainstream media has long ago adopted the facile reporting technique of following narratives rather than reporting and analyzing facts. It's easier to say "Clinton is distrusted by a majority of voters" rather than "Clinton is distrusted despite the fact that allegations against her for 30 years are largely unfounded." Also, it's more fun: Clinton! Emails! Vince Foster! Clinton Foundation! Goldman Sachs speeches!

It's the same only different with Donald Trump. The media has been overwhelmed and mesmerized by Donald Trump's steady stream of bizarre statements, the vast majority of which ignore the truth on most matters. But for the media, it's "Trump's so amazing! He says the most outrageous things, and people love it! Did you hear the last one?!!?"

Also a more fun narrative to follow. "When will people wise up? They don't seem to care! They love his rant!"

That appears to be ending. Trump may have played the press one too many times when he invited them to a "press conference" at his new DC hotel and then pumped the hotel before pivoting to a bunch of military types endorsing him. Then, at the end, he spent 30 seconds or so saying "Hillary started the birther movement and I finished it. Oh, Obama was born in the U.S. Bye!" He walked out with no press conference. Oh, and added two new lies (Hillary didn't start the birther thing and he didn't finish it. Obama was born in the U.S. but we already knew that.)

Press! Played! Press pissed.

The blunder -- it was a blunder -- may turn the press against Trump. Whether it's permanent, who knows?

Read this Daily Kos Abbreviated Pundit Round Up to see how widespread the change might be.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Donald Trump Hoodwinks the Press, Then Lies Openly about His Years of Pushing Birtherism

Yeah, of course everyone is saying Trump's supporters will follow him over a cliff, but somewhere -- most of America? -- someone is noticing the Donald's unending bullshit.

Donald Trump ran with the birther thing until today. Bygones!

Sorry, Donald Trump, you don't get to accuse, for years and years, Barack Obama of not being -- "I don't know, do you know, people are telling me, I'm hearing that he was born in Kenya, could be Muslim, we don't know, this is what I'm hearing, who knows?" -- an American citizen, then turn around at an event you characterized as a press conference and instead pitch your new DC hotel before having a ceremony featuring a bunch of military men and a gold-star wife endorsing you, and then spending about 30 seconds lying about Hillary starting the birther movement and you finishing it by forcing the president to release his birth certificate.

You don't get to do that, unless the American political press has completely gone off its rocker or its meds, which is, sadly, a distinct possibility.

This time it looks like the collective press is livid at being treated this way, with dozens of headlines proclaiming that you are falsely accusing Hillary Clinton of starting the birther movement, and falsely claiming you did a public service by forcing Obama to produce his birth certificate and "finishing it", thereby disproving Hillary's claim (that she never made), and that, with one expression that Obama was actually born in the United States you can now end the controversy forever. Nope, you can't do that this time.

We hope.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

People Don't Save Enough for Retirement. Expand Social Security, and They Will.

Funny how I'm not mentioning Denmark -- or dozens of advanced countries that have better retirement plans for their citizens. I'm mentioning a bedrock American plan. We have a problem, and we can solve it without reinventing the wheel. Why haven't we?

After your birth certificate, this is your first ID. And it keeps on ticking.

I got to thinking about this this morning because of an Atrios post about personal responsibility:
It's one of those things that frames any discussion of public policy in our glorious era of late capitalism. It comes up especially in discussions of retirement issues, but in plenty of other areas as well. Though it's randomly applied without any sort of consistency, expect of course to apply the concept extra hard to poorer people. I'm not especially sure why I should be responsible for making sure I have enough money saved up for retirement in order to not be homeless, but I'm not responsible for fixing the potholes (or hiring someone to fix the potholes) on my city street. The point is that there are some things that public collective action does well, or can do well, such as the provision of certain public services and goods and certain kinds of insurance. Having government do stuff doesn't remove my "personal responsibility" any more than having someone else manufacture my washing machine does. These are arbitrary distinctions. Except for defense contractors, no one is a complete government moocher in our society in any case. Pretty sure working most of my adult life and paying taxes as required shows a reasonable amount of personal responsibility. If the goal is to make sure most people of retirement age can be reasonably assured that they won't live a life of misery and poverty, and a program like Social Security is the best way to do that, then what the hell does personal responsibility have to do with it?
Exactly. The same can apply to health care. I can be expected to live my life, as a citizen, in a way that supports good health, but I shouldn't be expected to build the local hospital. But if I do have health problems -- as everyone does at some point -- we don't/shouldn't slice and dice what kind of care we deserve. If something like Medicare solves this problem for a subset of our citizenry, then why don't we apply it to all?

Am I missing something, or is it that some bastards just don't deserve it? Is that it? Is that how a "Christian" nation decides things? Hmm.

Note. How many Americans aren't saving enough for retirement? 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Trump Says Obama's a Disaster. Wages Up 5.2% in 2015, Best Year in Modern History

Also, ABC/Washington Post poll has Barack Obama's popularity at 58 percent. A disaster? Hmm.

Barack Obama has done well, is well liked. This is not good
for the GOP, but it's really good for Americans.

American wages went up more in 2015 than any year in modern history:
Middle-class Americans and the poor enjoyed their best year of economic improvement in decades in 2015, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, a spike that broke a years-long streak of disappointment for American workers but did not fully repair the damage inflicted by the Great Recession.
Real median household income was $56,500 in 2015, the bureau reported, up from $53,700 in 2014. That 5.2 percent increase was the largest, in percentage terms, recorded by the bureau since it began tracking median income statistics in the 1960s.
In addition, the poverty rate fell by 1.2 percentage points, the steepest decline since 1968.
Also in WaPo it's reported that the uninsured rate has dropped to the lowest levels since the Great Depression:
About 4 million Americans gained health insurance last year, decreasing the nation’s uninsured rate to 9.1 percent, the lowest level since before the Great Recession, according to new federal figures.
The figures, released Tuesday from a large annual Census Bureau survey, show that the gains were driven primarily by an expansion of coverage among people buying individual policies, rather than getting health benefits through a job. This includes, but is not limited to, the kind of coverage sold on the insurance exchanges that began in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act.
 Not bad for a president that Donald Trump has called "a disaster."

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Trump Foundation -- Empty of Trump's Own Money -- Is the Real Scandal.

Trump has figured out how to use his charity to enrich himself and make illegal campaign donations. But, hey, that's sexier than AIDS medicine for the masses!

"What, I'm expected to be charitable? That's lousy business!"

So the WaPo has been looking into the real scandal of this political season:
Donald Trump's charity is not like other charities.
For one thing — as The Washington Post explained Sunday — the money in the Donald J. Trump Foundation does not come from Trump himself. Tax records show that Trump hasn't donated any money to his foundation since 2008. Instead, he has retooled his personal charity so that it gives away other people's money — although Trump has kept his name on the foundation, and atop its checks.
For another, the Trump Foundation seems to have repeatedly defied the Internal Revenue Service rules that govern nonprofits. It gave a prohibited political gift to help Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi (R). It appears to have bought items for Trump — including a $12,000 football helmet and a $20,000 portrait of Trump — despite IRS rules against "self-dealing" by charity leaders.
And, in at least five cases, the Trump Foundation may have reported making a donation that didn't seem to exist.
Read the whole story. Then pass it on.

Count Me In. I Believe that Charter Schools -- By and Large -- Are a Bust (as in Should Be Busted).

Have you ever noticed how many charter-school proponents are fiercely anti-union? Could charter schools be a vehicle for chasing out unions? Methinks so.

Michelle Rhee came and went. Then we discovered fraud followed close behind.

Let's let Charles P. Pierce do the heavy lifting:
There is a never-ending stream of charter scandals coming from California. For example, a report released recently (by the ACLU SoCal and Public Advocates, a nonprofit law firm and advocacy group) found that more than 20 percent of all California charter schools have enrollment policies that violate state and federal law. A Mercury News investigation published in April revealed how the state's online charter schools run by Virginia-based K12 Inc., the largest for-profit charter operator in the country, have "a dismal record of academic achievement" but has won more than $310 million in state funding over the past dozen years.
Roll that number around in your head, especially if your kids go to a public school where they have to pass the hat for art supplies. That's $310 million in public money for lousy results. If the corporations and oligarchs financing education "reform" want to spend $310 million to run schools, they should spend their own damn money to do so.
But hey, school reform! As Atrios has said repeatedly, grifters gotta grift.
There's now a bill before Governor Jerry Brown that would tighten the public accountability standards for charter operators within the state. The evidence is now abundantly clear in a number of states: As it is presently constituted, the charter school movement is far better as an entry vehicle for fraud and corruption than it is for educating children. The fact that the charter industry is fighting to maintain its independent control over taxpayer funds is proof that the industry knows it, too.
Me hopes too.

The American People Say: Yes, We See the Trump "Baskets."

The polls say Americans of all stripes recognize Trump as a bigot. Even 37 percent of Republicans. There's a basket right there.

"So I'm a bigot. I'm still gonna win." What if he does?

Polls just this weekend reveal that large majorities of Americans -- and a significant minority of Republicans -- agree that Donald Trump is biased against women and minorities.
But the new Post/ABC News poll released over the weekend raises questions about whether Clinton’s remarks were really a political mistake. If Clinton’s goal was to force a public discussion of Trump’s bigotry and chauvinism, well, the Post poll finds that a large majority of Americans agree with her that Trump is biased against women and minorities, including among the voter groups that Trump needs to improve among in order to win.
The Post poll, which found Clinton leading Trump by five points among likely voters nationwide, also found that 60 percent of Americans believe Trump “is biased against women and minorities,” with 48 percent believing that strongly. According to the crosstabs, college educated whites believe this by 57-41, and college educated white women — a crucial demographic that the campaigns are fighting over — believe it by 61-39.
What’s more, majorities of college educated white men and non-college white women also believe this. Indeed, as James Downie puts it: “At this point, the only group of voters that doesn’t think Trump is biased is white men without a college degree.”
Speaking of James Downie, he chimes in:
 The demographic breakdown on that question looks even worse for Trump. 66 percent of women think he is biased. So do 75 percent of Hispanics and 77 percent of African Americans; 59 percent of independents answer in the affirmative, including 69 percent of female independents. Even 37 percent of self-described conservatives see him as biased — a strikingly high number in such a polarized electorate.
Who might be the bigots in Hillary's "basket of deporables?" Might they be white men without a college degree? Might they be bigoted against women and minorities? You want them on your softball team at work? You want to have a beer with them after the game?

I don't know, maybe you do. Maybe you're part of the 37 percent of Republicans that think Trump is bigoted and see that as a feature, not a bug. Or maybe you're in the other "basket," you know, the basket full of decent Republicans that will vote for Trump because he might start World War III, but he'll nominate good judges!

Heaven help us all and hope that Hillary Clinton at least got some of these people thinking.

Putin Is a Strong Leader of a Weakened State. What Does the Right See in Him?

Something almost unnoticed about the new Russia: It's no longer communist, just authoritarian.

The leader of an incredibly shrinking state. Heckuva job, Vladie!

Paul Krugman gets it right this morning:
There are good reasons to worry about Mr. Trump’s personal connections to the Putin regime (or to oligarchs close to that regime, which is effectively the same thing.) How crucial has Russian money been in sustaining Mr. Trump’s ramshackle business empire? There are hints that it may have been very important indeed, but given Mr. Trump’s secretiveness and his refusal to release his taxes, nobody really knows.
Beyond that, however, admiring Mr. Putin means admiring someone who has contempt for democracy and civil liberties. Or more accurately, it means admiring someone precisely because of that contempt.
When Mr. Trump and others praise Mr. Putin as a “strong leader,” they don’t mean that he has made Russia great again, because he hasn’t. He has accomplished little on the economic front, and his conquests, such as they are, are fairly pitiful. What he has done, however, is crush his domestic rivals: Oppose the Putin regime, and you’re likely to end up imprisoned or dead. Strong!
So, there you are. Now, a funny thing happened on the way to the bromance between Trump and Putin: Putin thinks Trump is a wimp. Didn't see that coming. Of course, these are unidentified sources within the Kremlin, easy to dismiss. Let's see if Putin truly tips his hand.

There Is a "Basket of Deplorables," and They Do Support Trump

Tons of polling demonstrate this "deplorable" phenomenon. Saying it might not be wise.

A fascist by any name is deplorable. (thanks @ilduce2016)

I wish Hillary Clinton didn't open up the "basket of deplorables" can of worms, but she did. As Charles Blow points out in today's NYTimes, there are things that are true that politicians shouldn't say:
What Clinton said was impolitic, but it was not incorrect. There are things a politician cannot say. Luckily, I’m not a politician.
Donald Trump is a deplorable candidate — to put it charitably — and anyone who helps him advance his racial, religious and ethnic bigotry is part of that bigotry. Period. Anyone who elevates a sexist is part of that sexism. The same goes for xenophobia. You can’t conveniently separate yourself from the detestable part of him because you sense in him the promise of cultural or economic advantage. That hair cannot be split.
Furthermore, one doesn’t have to actively hate to contribute to a culture that allows hate to flourish.
Donald Trump has gathered behind him a deplorable rabble. He's also gathered next to them a bunch of people that dislike him but feel he'll represent their ideologies and economic interests more than Clinton will, thus we have two "baskets." Hillary spoke of both, and the political media seized on only one because it sizzled. Typical -- the political media as vultures (more on that in another post).

Charles Blow gets to it:
It doesn’t matter how lovely your family, how honorable your work or service, how devout your faith — if you place ideological adherence or economic self interest above the moral imperative to condemn and denounce a demagogue, then you are deplorable.
If you analyze, as some political commentators have, what Hillary Clinton was both intending to convey and hoping to accomplice, you sense that she might have been making a bold gambit: peeling off a segment of Trumps supporters who would say, "Oh my God, she's right, do I want to stand with them?"

So the real basket of deplorables aren't coming her way but the better basket might yield some supporters who reflect on what she said and abandon Donald Trump.

As usual, in this day of journalists pushing their narratives -- OMG SHE SAID WHAT? -- instead of calmly analyzing the inherent truth of something when you allow it to exist in context, you get this political hysteria because THAT'S MUCH MORE FUN.

But it isn't, it's degrading, uninformative, and bad for the country. Hopefully, voters will somehow sort it out. Otherwise, the outcome the coming election will be deplorable indeed.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hillary Is Right about Trump Supporters, but the Press Can't Go There. Why?

Polls overwhelmingly show that Clinton's description of the Trump crowd fits with who they are and what they believe.

They may be for Trump, but they're not happy campers.

I find solace in not being a Donald Trump supporter. It turns out they're nothing like me, so that's good. Te-Nahisi Coates reports:
We know, for instance, some nearly 60 percent of Trump’s supporters hold “unfavorable views” of Islam, and 76 percent support a ban on Muslims entering the United States. We know that some 40 percent of Trump’s supporters believe blacks are more violent, more criminal, lazier, and ruder than whites. Two-thirds of Trump’s supporters believe the first black president in this country’s history is not American. These claim are not ancillary to Donald Trump’s candidacy, they are a driving force behind it.
But we knew that, and Hillary has been pressing this for days before her "basket of deplorables" statement, describing in several speeches what elements of Americans were coalescing behind Trump. They're not a pretty bunch. But Josh Marshall in TPM points out that, amid the outrage Trump and his surrogates have been voicing, no one is saying Hillary isn't speaking the truth:
As far as I know, this hasn't been mentioned. But it jumped out at me pretty immediately. As far as I can tell, none of the Trump campaign pushback to Clinton's "basket of deplorables" comments have said anything about the people Clinton was talking about not being racist, not being misogynist or by whatever definition not being 'haters.' It's not referenced once. Check out the statements after the jump.
Does that strike you as a bit odd. [sic]
Yes, it does, but it points out what Coates does, that the truth of the statement isn't the first thing political reporters do. First, they diagnose what the likely political outcome will be -- will it hurt Hillary, is this her 47 percent moment!? -- on the horserace. The truth of the statement is secondary or simply irrelevant.

Sad, but certainly the political reality of this sillier-than-average season.

Note. One of the views of Hillary's use of "half" and "basket of deplorables" is that her use of language was "inartful." What should she have called them, a clusterfuck of assholes? No matter the word choice, the truth is the truth.

Obama Looks Away from Yemen If Saudis Keep Oil Prices Down. Loser? Putin.

Does America lose its moral high ground? Sure, but millions of SUV drivers don't care. Patriots!

The Realpolitik of Barack Obama: We can win against Russia
without firing a shot, at the expense of the Yemeni Shiite rebels.

And what's the name of the game? Oil prices. We accept that the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" in regards to Saudi Arabia, and we 1) don't challenge the Saudis on their horrible domestic human rights record, and 2) let them have at the Houthi (Shiite) rebels in Yemen, which they've treated quite brutally.

The Realpolitik aspect of this appears uglier than it really is because how could we get the Saudis to change, anyway? Invade them? Act openly hostile to them and thus encourage them to raise oil prices in return? I suppose we could refuse to sell them jets, but that would just drive them to get MiGs from Russia. (Putin would love that and get higher oil prices in return. Snap!)

So we play footsies with Saudi kings.

It's similar to the devil's bargain we made with Egypt. We have been giving them military aid ever since the Camp David Accords that led Egypt to cease hostilities against Israel, an agreement that has remained largely inviolate to this day, even after the tumult of Tahrir Square and later events, first under the Muslim Brotherhood and then under the imposition of military rule. Egypt, with its gross violations of human rights, still receives military aid because they do our bidding on Israel's southern border.

Should we cut off aid to Egypt because they're not model citizens, risking a new conflagration? What American leader would want that? And what would we gain?

So, what happens to Russia? I showed this chart a few days ago:

Putin paid a price for his shenanigans in Ukraine and Crimea, even if the "optics" allow Republicans to say Obama is weak. For his part, Obama knows he's playing a winning hand against a corrupt and failing petrostate. Legacies are built on history, not hysteria.

Now compare the above to the effect of lower oil prices on Putin's Russia:

When oil's the game, Russia's fortunes will track oil prices. In the end, there's more benefits than suppressing Russia. Low energy prices help the world economy, at a time when there's little political will to use other means. Feel the extra dollars in your wallet? Me too.

Take a look at what constitutes a petrostate:

As fuel costs rise and fall, so do Russia's fortunes. Donald Trump may be having a bromance with Vladimir Putin, but the reality is that Barack Obama's been undermining Putin for years. Sure, Russia can annex Crimea, but at a cost to all else in Putin's domain. Putin can perpetrate his mischief in Syria to prop up Assad, but someone's paying for all that military equipment and ordinance. The U.S., sadly, can afford our pugilistic ways. In an era of crashing fuel prices, Russia cannot.

So what happens? Just yesterday, a cease-fire agreement was agreed to between the U.S and Russia in Syria, with the apparent approval of the Assad regime. If this succeeds, not only do we get true humanitarian aid into the decimated cities in the north, but we also bring it big time to ISIS, which, between joint U.S. and Russian air power and Turkish troops on the ground, run the risk of getting crushed and crushed quickly. So pray for that cease fire, slated to begin tomorrow, to hold.

Finally, consider this: No matter how much Donald Trump seeks to pump up Vladimir Putin, Putin still sits atop an ever-shrinking failed petrostate, with a GDP that falls into 14th place, just below Spain and Australia and barely above Mexico and Indonesia (source: IMF).

When was the last time you considered Mexico a superpower? Enough said.

(All charts courtesy Paul Krugman.)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Trump Lies on a Massive Scale. Why Is He Not Called Out? The Media is Overwhelmed.

I've watched some commentators, here and there, talk about their amazement of the scale of Trump's falsehoods. It's a steady stream.

Why does Trump lie? Maybe it's because the media has encouraged him to.

We know several facts about Donald Trump, one being that he lies nearly constantly. If his mouth is open, there's a better than even chance bullshit is coming out.

Another fact we know: If a mainstream media fact checker says Trump is lying, his fans respond with "Oh, that's the Washington Post, they're in the tank for the liberals. You can't trust them."

Donald Trump said it himself: He utilizes "truthful hyperbole." Stephen Colbert gave it a name: truthiness. While that's, on one level, hilarious, on another level, it's insane. Trump, however, doesn't care. He believes that if it isn't true, well, it ought to be. So, he stretches the truth. For Trump, truth is pliant.

Example: "58 percent of black youth are unemployed!" Er, Trump, that's if you include all black high-school students (by that measure, 50 percent of white youth is unemployed). Trump's answer? "No, it's true!"

Journalists are then a bit overwhelmed by his gall. Their jaw drops, they twitch a bit, then offer a wry smile and a shake of the head.

Deep in Donald Trump's heart he believes he's telling the truth because it's mostly true, or, well, it should be true. Why? Because it proves his point. Black youth are worse off, right?

He calls this truthful hyperbole. Psychologists call it pathological lying, but hey. Whatever. Trump thinks, hell, I'm up in the polls.

We get the liar we deserve. I'm frightened to death that we deserve Donald Trump.

There is hope, though. There's a steady -- hopefully growing! -- stream of journalists and media outlets that are bringing the Trump "big lies" to the fore. He delayed this moment by not employing Hitler's "Big Lie technique" (yes, Hitler came up with it in Mein Kampf) but by utilizing a steady stream of small to medium lies, leading Paul Krugman to declare Trump, in his column today, to be "The Big Liar."

Some, like Krugman, are hopeful that Matt Lauer's shameful performance at the Commander-in-Chief Forum may finally break the fever, as Krugman suggests.

Signs of that are here, here, here, and here.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Obama Weak! Putin Strong!

I count on Paul Krugman's wit and wisdom to let me know why and when to chill.

Putin and Russia decided we're so weak that he could run roughshod over us to invade Ukraine and annex the Crimea. And Trump knows it!

Weak Barack Obama got his friends together and slammed sanctions on Russia.

Who's winning this? Helpful tip for answering: We didn't fire a shot.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Trump Comes Out During Military Forum, Demonstrates He's a Performance Artist, Not a President

I supposed you watched the Commander-In-Chief Forum, like me. Hillary was good, Trump was not. We expected that. If you're for Trump, you're for his kind of bad.

Hillary, Matt, Donald (nuff said).

Josh Marshall of TPM -- my kind of really smart guy -- puts it together:
7. The last point is I think the big one. You couldn't watch Trump and be under any illusion that he has any idea what he's talking about about really anything. I think we can dispense with any idea that Trump is going to bone up on a handful of policy points and use them during the debates. He totally winged and it showed. Someone I respect greatly said on Twitter that watching the debate we should dispense with the idea that Clinton will mop the floor with Trump in the debate. I've never thought she'd mop the floor with him. But I thought my friend greatly misjudged Trump's performance. The exchange where Lauer kept asking him why he wouldn't discuss his ISIS plans and then asked why he had to ask the generals if he had a plan and then Trump said well, maybe I'll combine the two plans ... this is a case where people are selling Lauer a bit short. That made Trump look like a jackass. People know from a young age when someone is trying to bullshit their way out of question. Trump has no idea what he's going to do about ISIS. It was just nonsense and word salad. I think that was clear in a way that would transcend ideology.
8. Lauer's devoting a third of Clinton's time to emails was terrible. But on question after question Clinton - clearly by design - tried to bury everyone in policy detail and command of the issues. She was smothering us with experience and we were smothered. You can think she's a liar and a crook and the worst person in the world. But you couldn't watch that segment and not realize she knows basically all the relevant issues inside and out. She's prepared. Whether you support her or like her is another matter. But she's prepared. I think Trump came off as cocky and ignorant. And I don't mean to me - I know he's cocky and ignorant. My best guess is that people who are wary of Trump but open to supporting him will not be reassured by that performance.
Clinton's motherfucking bright. I don't like everything she stands for, but I'll be more hopeful if she's elected. Also, a bunch of Arabs, Iranians, Pakistanis, etc. are probably breathing easier. And that's a good thing.

For the Record: Mitt Romney Released Only Two Partial Tax Returns, 2010 and 2011.

Everyone says Romney finally released his tax returns. No, he didn't. Coward.

Mitt hemmed and hawed, then toss us a couple of bones.

I keep hearing the media say that Romney was "goaded" into releasing his tax returns. No, he wasn't. as I recall he released two partial filings, one for 2010 and the one for 2011. Mother Jones:
In 2012, Mother Jones pointed out that based on his two years of reports, the taxes Romney paid on his adjusted gross income didn't fully cover all his wealth. Two years later, what do we still not know?
How much does he actually make? In 2010 and 2011, tax filings revealed that Romney made around $22 million each year. The vast majority of his income came from Romney's capital gains and investment interests, and this amount presumably covered the reported total of $374,000 in speaking fees he received in 2010 and 2011. (The two years of tax filings he released did not specify exact sources of income.) Two years after the election, it's unclear how much Romney earns annually, and it's unknown exactly how much sits in his various accounts.
Get that? "The two years of tax filings he released did not specify exact sources of income." Real tax returns would tell all.

Mitt Romney skated. Why does everyone forget?

"Crooked" Hillary? Not So Much. Donald Trump? First Crime Was Illegal Discrimination in 1973.

His apartment superintedents ratted out Trump and his dad for refusing apartments to blacks.

The DOJ sued Trump, who settled with an agreement to be monitored.

Donald Trump was still in his twenties when the feds got wind of his illegal ways:
When an African American showed up to rent an apartment owned by a young real-estate scion named Donald Trump and his family, the building superintendent did what he claimed he’d been told to do. He allegedly attached a separate sheet of paper to the application, marked with the letter “C.”
“C” for “Colored.”
According to the Department of Justice, that was the crude code that ensured the rental would be denied.
Details of this secret system, as well as other practices that the Trump organization allegedly used to exclude black residents from its buildings in Brooklyn, Queens, and Norfolk, Virginia, in the 1970s, were recorded in a lawsuit brought by the DOJ against Trump and his father, Fred, in 1973 for alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act.
They countersued for $100 million ($500 million in today's dollars). Other than you can't sue the federal government (certainly couldn't for that), the Trump move was absurd on its face, but that has never stopped Donald Trump.

Fun fact: The Trump's lawyer was Roy Cohn, whose claim to fame was that he was Sen. Joesph McCarthy's chief counsel during the McCarthy era.

Clinton Foundation Provides Half the World's AIDS Drugs. Trump Foundation Bribes AGs.

The press is finally catching on: Clinton Foundation, good, Trump Foundation bad.

Donald Trump, hanging with FL AG Pam Bondi. Up to no good?

After pounding the Clinton Foundation for days over nothing, the NYTimes finally starts to act like a news operation:
While it hasn’t been proved that Mr. Trump or Ms. Bondi violated bribery law, there’s little doubt that they abused the public trust in 2013, when Ms. Bondi received a $25,000 campaign contribution from Mr. Trump four days after her office announced that Florida was “reviewing the allegations” in a lawsuit filed in New York against his Trump University. Attorneys general in New York and California are pursuing separate class-action suits alleging that Trump University bilked consumers of tens of thousands of dollars they each paid for a worthless real-estate investment course. In the end, Ms. Bondi’s office did not take any action against Trump University.
Mr. Trump’s contribution from his family foundation to Ms. Bondi violated federal tax law barring tax-exempt charities from engaging in political activity. The Washington Post reported last week that Mr. Trump paid a $2,500 penalty to the Internal Revenue Service for the violation.
News of the fine came as Mr. Trump has spent days accusing Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation of similar pay-to-play schemes. Confronted on Monday, Mr. Trump said oddly that he hadn’t spoken to Ms. Bondi. The Associated Press reported in June that an adviser to Ms. Bondi confirmed that Ms. Bondi had spoken to Mr. Trump and asked for the contribution.
I don't know, maybe I'm a knucklehead, but when an attorney general solicits a contribution, then quickly snuffs an investigation into the donor's doings, there's both smoke and fire. More of this, NYTimes, and less of asking the Clinton Foundation, which is regarded as one of the world's best foundations, to close its doors because of "optics." Just sayin'.

Daniel Dresner explains how this works. So does John Stoeher.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Clinton Email "Scandal" Unravels: FBI Report Shows Possibly No Classified Emails

The last three administrations handled State emails about the same. But only Hillary is attacked.

Colin Powell: I stored my State emails in this vial of Iraqi anthrax.

Okay, no, he didn't store his emails in a vial of Iraqi anthrax. He was more sensible. He deleted them all.
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, Powell responded to revelations that he used a personal email account, rather than a government one, when he was in charge of the State Department. Questions about his email use arose last week when it was disclosed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a personal email account during her tenure.
“I don’t have any to turn over. I did not keep a cache of them. I did not print them off. I do not have thousands of pages somewhere in my personal files,” Powell said. “A lot of the emails that came out of my personal account went into the State Department system. They were addressed to State Department employees and domain, but I don’t know if the servers in the State Department captured those or not.
“When I entered the State Department I found an antiquated system that had to be modernized and modernized quickly,” he said. “I started using [email] in order to get everybody to use it, so we could be a 21st-century institution and not a 19th-century [one]. But I retained none of those emails, and we are working with the State Department to see if there’s anything else they want to discuss with me about those emails.”
The emails he sent were all unclassified, mostly “benign,” he said, and probably not important even if they can be recovered.
This news story was in March of this year. And then the press badgered him endlessly. Wait. No they didn't.

Jump forward until this week when Monday the FBI released its investigation notes along with a lengthy memo. What did these show, according to Mother Jones' Kevin Drum?
Most people the FBI talked to used private email accounts all the time; did their best to keep classified information out of these channels; and didn't believe that any of the emails they sent included classified information. Other classification authorities have disagreed, as we all know by now, and the entire discussion gives you a taste of how subjective the classification process is. Basically, we have lots of experienced people who disagree about whether various things really ought to be classified.
I got a bit of pushback on this that boiled down to: "Classified is classified. It doesn't matter if you disagree. There are strict rules about how you can handle sensitive information, and you have to follow them whether you like it or not."
True enough. But this only applies to documents that are marked classified at the time they're sent. In this case we're talking about documents created by folks at State that hadn't been classified yet. This doesn't let the originators off the hook: they're supposed to know whether anything in their email is sensitive and take appropriate precautions. But it's still a judgment call, and it's quite possible that ten people will have ten different opinions.
In this case, the originators all believed they were phrasing things in such a way that they were safe to send over an unclassified email account. Years later, classification authorities disagreed in a number of cases. So who's right? There's no way for the public to know. We just know that a lot of high-level State employees made judgments that were apparently uncontroversial at the time but were eventually overruled by classification authorities.
Of course, this doesn't include the three emails that were marked classified in the body of the email. Here's what the FBI report had to say about those:
The emails contained no additional marketing, such as a header or footer, indicating they were classified. State confirmed through the FOIA review process that one of these three e-mail chains contains information which is currently classified at the CONFIDENTIAL level. State determined that the other two e-mail chains are currently UNCLASSIFIED.
So two of them aren't classified at all and shouldn't have been in the first place, while the third is obviously something trivial ("Confidential" is the lowest possible level of classification). If that's your case against Hillary—one trivial email over four years that shouldn't have been sent—then go to town with it. The rest of us will spend our time on stuff that matters.
I've pointed this out before, as Josh Marshall has about the Clinton Foundation. In fact, if you read Josh, you'll see that the real scandal are the bribes Donald Trump paid to the attorneys general of Texas and Florida to dissuade them from investigating Trump University. that's a real scandal. But it's not a Clinton scandal? So, bo-o-ring.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Clinton Foundation Provides Over Half the World's AIDS Medicine, but Hillary's a Bad Person!

If you've been wading through the recent "revelations" about the Clinton Foundation and Hillary's emails, it becomes even more apparent that the scandals there are few to none, and yet...

DC press corps to each other: Hillary won't hold a press conference,
so let's fuck her up but good. (You have a better explanation?)

It's hard to figure why the press just can't let up on Hillary Clinton even though most reporting actually proves she was doing it by the book or better with both her emails and the relationship between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation during her tenure there.
Thanks to the publishing of these investigations—most of which took many months of dogged effort to produce—we now have a tremendous amount of granular information about the Clinton Foundation’s relationship with the State Department and with the federal government generally. In virtually every case we know of, it’s clear that Hillary and her staff behaved appropriately.
Yet instead of accepting the evidence of their own investigations, much of the mainstream media expresses the attitude that these are still wide open questions. In its recent lead editorial calling for the Clintons to cut their ties to the Foundation immediately (the Clintons have said they’ll do so if she wins), The New York Times concedes that the latest batch of emails does not “so far” show that Hillary gave any special favors to Clinton donors while at state. On the cable shows, even the few journalists who acknowledge the lack of any evidence that Hillary and her staff did anything untoward feel the need to insist that the next batch of emails could prove otherwise.
Yes, there's that business with the private server, but the recent release of her FBI investigation docs shows that it wasn't the private server that defined the problems:
Career State Officials Were Among Those Who Sent Information Later Deemed Classified That Were Received By Clinton. According to the FBI’s memorandum, U.S. government employees “responsible for initiating classified e-mail chains included State Civil Service employees, Foreign Service employees, Senior Executive Service Employees, Presidential employees, and non-State elected officials.” Those emails were sent on unclassified systems either directly or indirectly to Clinton. Even if Clinton had not had a personal server, there would still have been a dispute over the classification of the materials.
First, experts say, there's no legal difference whether Clinton and her aides passed sensitive information using her private server or the official "" account that many now argue should have been used. Neither system is authorized for transmitting classified information. Second, prosecution of such violations is extremely rare. Lax security procedures are taken seriously, but they're generally seen as administrative matters.
I know that if your a Clinton skeptic, you answer might be, "Sure, but she had a private server!" What this makes clear, though, is that if she used a email address, these classified email chains would still have spent all their lives on unsecured systems, having originated from the unsecured email systems of, in many cases, career governmental officials.

Also, the way email was handled at State during her tenure was consistent with how it was handled in the prior two administrations:
Associated Press: "The Transmission Of Now-Classified Information Across Hillary Rodham Clinton's Private Email Is Consistent" With Past State Department Practice. As reported by the AP, information that may become classified later is frequently shared on unclassified State Department systems, a routine occurrence that predated the current administration. Not only was Clinton's "transmission of now-classified information" over an unclassified system "consistent" with agency practice, according to experts, concerns arise equally whether the retroactively classified information is "carried over the government system or a private server."

Got that? It has nothing particular to do with her private server, which, by all accounts, was pretty damned secure.

How secure? You say, "But Comey said we don't know if it was ever hacked!" But wait. It wasn't about the server, it was about the devices she used to access the server. The LA Times:
Agents, however, said it was difficult to determine whether accounts were compromised because they were not able to examine the 11 mobile devices used by Clinton during her time as secretary of State or some other computers and components. The devices were either destroyed or could not be tracked down.
Yes, older Blackberries were destroyed when no longer used. Nefarious or prudent?

Let's let Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Ian Millhiser have the last word:

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Right-Wing Bubble: What Do You Do When the News Feeds You Only Anger and Fear?

Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and other GOP leaders have a problem: Fox News and the emerging alt-right media say you don't belong here anymore.

First they came for your TV sets. Now they're coming for your government.

As a progressive liberal, I'm naturally alarmed at what's happening to our media. Both mainstream and radical right media aren't working they way they told you in civics class they were supposed to. The mainstream media are running on five cylinders, hampered by both-sides-do-it, critics-differ-on-shape-of-Earth, fair-and-balanced news reporting, and the radical right media are running on thirteen cylinders powered by the-sky-is-falling-we're-all-doomed 500-octane fear fuel.

While I think this election cycle will end with Hillary Clinton in the White House and fewer Republicans in Congress, even progressives have to fear what's happening to the Republican Party. They might not run things anymore. In fact, they might not even run their own party:
Over the last few years, as 'government shutdown' went from being a crazy ass thing Newt Gingrich did twenty years ago - never to be tried again - to the top item on the Republican policy agenda, you could hear more and more Republicans saying something like this: We thought it was this great thing that we had our own cable news network as an arm of the GOP or the conservative movement, echoing talking points, spinning the news. But at a certain point we realized Fox News wasn't working for us. We're working for Fox News.
For the Republican leadership in Washington this becomes a come-to-Jesus moment: It was all well and good that Rush Limbaugh served their purposes, but a couple of cycles back, they began to notice that it wasn't wise to cross Rush. They laughed it off and issued a "clarification" saying they agreed with Limbaugh anyway. After all, he was still their boy. But they did look bad when they fawned over him, afraid to take him on.

Now the GOP finds itself outside of its own bubble. What happens when Fox News' Sean Hannity turns on you?
The Fox News host and conservative personality was fed up with Republican leaders in Washington — and he wasn’t hiding it from the millions of listeners tuned into his radio program.
“If in 96 days Trump loses this election, I am pointing the finger directly at people like [House Speaker] Paul Ryan and [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and John McCain and John Kasich and Ted Cruz — if he won’t endorse — and Jeb Bush and everybody else that made promises they’re not keeping,” Hannity exclaimed, later threatening to endorse Ryan’s far-right primary challenger.
Yikes. Here's more from that Washington Monthly post I got the above quote from:
That has left conservatives who oppose Trump in a tricky position when trying to get their message to supporters. No longer can Ryan or Cruz turn to Hannity for a softball interview. They can’t work with Breitbart or rely on Drudge to help with their legislative agenda.

These Republicans have effectively been exiled from the conservative news media, leaving them with a problem.

“They don’t have any place to go. How else do you get your message out? You can’t do it in the mainstream. This is the way you reach conservatives,” Ziegler said. “We have taught conservatives for many years to trust nothing other than what they hear in conservative media. Yet the conservative media has now proven to be untrustworthy.”
So we on the left could snicker if there weren't some deadly side effects here. Fine, it's good to see the opposition in disarray. But what do we do when we want sanity to return? The right has quite nearly stopped looking to the mainstream media "because they're totally liberal liars." Oh my.
One of the chief problems, Sykes said, was that it had become impossible to prove to listeners that Trump was telling falsehoods because over the past several decades, the conservative news media had “basically eliminated any of the referees, the gatekeepers.”

“There’s nobody,” he lamented. “Let’s say that Donald Trump basically makes whatever you want to say, whatever claim he wants to make. And everybody knows it’s a falsehood. The big question of my audience, it is impossible for me to say that, ‘By the way, you know it’s false.’ And they’ll say, ‘Why? I saw it on Allen B. West.’ Or they’ll say, ‘I saw it on a Facebook page.’ And I’ll say, ‘The New York Times did a fact check.’ And they’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s The New York Times. That’s bulls—.’ There’s nobody — you can’t go to anybody and say, ‘Look, here are the facts.'”

“And I have to say that’s one of the disorienting realities of this political year. You can be in this alternative media reality and there’s no way to break through it,” Sykes continued.
I find this borne out when I read comment sections in mainstream media outlets like the Washington Post that basically say that "all liberals are liars." Where do they come up with such beliefs? Oh, yeah, right.

the bottom line is that the right has long preached an anti-intellectual, anti-science creed, insisting that what current scientists hold as the likely truth in climate science, for example, is not merely wrong but an out and out hoax. That was understandable as a political ploy, but carried too far -- and misinformation has been carried way, way too far by now -- it leads to whole demographic groups who are hopelessly misled on so many fronts. Undereducated, working-class whites think the blacks and the browns are stealing their future, and American seniors believe it's in their interest to put the conservatives in power even when it's they who want to cut their Social Security and Medicare. Meanwhile, conservative governors like Scott Walker and Sam Brownback are slashing education spending left and right. "But they're pro-life, so that's good!"

Yeah, they're so pro-life that a segment of middle-aged whites are dying early at alarming rates for hard-to-grasp reasons (blacks and Hispanics aren't impacted by that trend).

Willful ignorance and anti-intellectual misinformation campaigns may work for the right for a while, but at some point, when we reach "dumbest advanced country on the planet" status, we may not be an advanced country anymore. But, hell, that might not matter. Because Fox News will be telling us that everything is just fine now that the liberals have been crushed.

Wasn't there a movie about that?