Monday, October 31, 2016

James Comey Jumped the Shark on Clinton, but Closely Guards Trump from Russian Suspicion.

FBI Director James Comey was way out of line last July when he held a press conference to announce his personal opinion about NOT CHARGING HILLARY, and now he's flaunting DOJ policy, except where he protects Donald Trump. That's messed up.

Previously lionized dude fucked up big time, should resign. Now. Chances? Nil.

This is getting weird.
FBI Director James Comey argued privately that it was too close to Election Day for the United States government to name Russia as meddling in the U.S. election and ultimately ensured that the FBI's name was not on the document that the U.S. government put out, a former bureau official tells CNBC.
The official said some government insiders are perplexed as to why Comey would have election timing concerns with the Russian disclosure but not with the Huma Abedin email discovery disclosure he made Friday.
Huffington Post confirms that Comey took the position he did and why:
FBI Director James Comey privately argued against having his bureau sign onto a statement saying the Russian government was meddling in the U.S. election, CNBC first reported on Monday, citing “a former FBI official.”
A source familiar with the interagency discussions confirms to The Huffington Post that Comey declined to do so because, specifically, he was concerned the statement was coming too close to the election. The source who spoke to HuffPost is not a former FBI official and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
What are the chances the media will report this side of the story the way they did about OMG HILLARY NEW EMAILS!!? Not much of a chance.

Now it turns out Donald may have been in touch with the Russkies for longer than we think.
The researchers [originally looking into the DNC hack] quickly dismissed their initial fear that the logs represented a malware attack. The communication wasn’t the work of bots. The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank. [My boldface.]
Outgoing Democratic leader of the Senate Harry Reid puts a bow on it:
If Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is right, FBI Director James Comey is covering up downright treasonous activity from Donald Trump’s campaign so that the Republican can win.
In a public letter written to Comey on Sunday, Reid wrote that “in my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about the close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information.”
Wow. This is a hell of a way to run an election.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

I Worry About Trumpism. But Is the Republican Alternative Brownbackism?

Yes, Donald Trump has ignited a renewal -- or a revelation, if you will -- of white nationalism and misogyny at the core of the GOP. But should we wish they'd go back to the old GOP? 

Kansas under the Brownback Economic Miracle™.

Paul Krugman flagged this notion on his Twitter feed today, that if we're horrified at Trumpism, which many voters, especially women, are, then where would we want the Republicans to go, back to the policies of Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, who after taking over there propelled the state into a deep economic funk through his large tax cuts for the wealthy and spending cuts on infrastructure, education, and social services? I don't think so.

Krugman linked to a smart political blog called Lawyers, Guns, and Money where lead blogger, Scott Lemieux, posted this new data from the Philadelphia Fed:
The Philadelphia Fed released coincident indices today. Figure 1 shows state-by-state 3 month trends. Needless to say, the outlook for Kansas — that laboratory for supply side nostrums — is not auspicious.

While Alaska seems to be in the running for worst performing, in fact the 3 month (annualized) decline of 4.5% for Kansas is the worst in the 50 states.
As Lemieux points out, this is essentially the same approach that Paul Ryan takes in his A Better Way economic plan. Google it if you've got the stomach.

So, as we head into the sunset of another presidential election -- hoping Hillary pulls it off! -- we don't just have to worry whether or not Donald Trump has done lasting damage to the GOP, we also have to worry that a return to anything resembling the Old Guard will be quite nearly as bad.

Don't hope for the old Republican Party same as the new Republican Party to make a comeback. Just hope that they both collapse and a new other major political party (you can even call them Republicans!) replaces the limping, barely breathing mess that is the GOP today, even as it prepares for life with Hillary with crazy threats of INVESTIGATING HER FOR YEARS. Jason Chavettz (R-Utah), head of the House Oversight Committee has made just such a threat, and he has the support of House Speaker Paul Ryan in this effort.

The expression "good grief" is not nearly strong enough to convey how horrible such a reaction to a Hillary Clinton victory might be. So I'll just offer a HOLY FUCK! instead.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Can You Imagine Being a Republican Woman These Days? (I Guess Some of You Are...)

I find it hard, even as a man, to accept that some women choose to ally themselves with some who work constantly against their interests.

Ladies: Trump is a sexual predator, and Pence wants to own your bodies.

The War on Women is much the cliché by now, but that doesn't make it non-existent, and Mike Pence is the poster politician for a Republican who feels you women don't know what's good for you. As for Donald Trump, you'd have to be in a coma not to know that if you're a woman he's not the one you want out front on public policy.

Beyond that, the Republican Party has lost its collective mind this election cycle, and Republican women have been noticing. Michelle Goldberg of Slate has noticed:
Earlier this month, Michigan GOP leaders told Wendy Day, the state party’s grassroots vice-chair, that she had to endorse Donald Trump or resign. Day, a former staffer for Ted Cruz, refused to do either. In a letter to the state Republican chairwoman, she wrote, “It is important for our party to represent all of the voices in our party, not just the loudest.” On Oct. 17—10 days after the release of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about groping women—the chairwoman announced Day’s removal from the post she’d been elected to at a state convention last year.
Don't support Trump? You're out, as far as Republican leadership is concerned. Wendy Day reacted:
Day remains extremely conservative, and is definitely not voting for Hillary Clinton. Still, her sense of betrayal is leading her to cast off certain political habits of mind. Until very recently, she was a “Fox News junkie,” she says. “I used to go to Drudge Report twice a day, and I used to pay attention to Breitbart. I used to have a ton of Sean Hannity books in my house, and Laura Ingraham.” But now, “that’s all been torn down. I don’t have any books in my house by those people anymore. Not that I think they’re the enemy—I don’t. I just have realized that I created an echo chamber for myself, and it was time to not do that anymore.”
Good for her. Goldberg's article details a number of women who are leading lights in the GOP who've moved on because of the Republican embrace of Trump. A good article quite worth the read this cycle.

I'm not a conservative, but I have met conservatives who are thoughtful people, even as modern conservatism has, in my view, degenerated into something quite destructive to American society. The GOP, as the home of conservative thought, has perhaps reached the breaking point, at which it no longer resembles a set of beliefs to follow for a fruitful life. It's a set of horrible ideas and actions -- read inaction -- that have brought American political life to a crawl.

For women, that has given us Donald Trump, and, yes, don't forget Mike Pence. He may resemble the pastor of your church, but he's really the Indianian equivalent of Saudi Arabia's morality guard that comes around and whips you if your ankles are showing.

The Republican Party has left women. A wise woman these days should leave the Republican Party, at least until they've returned to their senses.

Bonus fun: This Samantha Bee video shows a woman with insight into today's Republican Party and where women might find a leader they can believe in:

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How Journalists Were Stumped by Trump's Constant Lying

Used to horse-race reporting or both-sides-do-it narratives, the media in 2016 weren't prepared for Donald Trump's baldfaced-lie approach to almost every issue.

The Donald opened his yap and spat out crap, and journalists choked on it.

No, I have neither pity nor understanding for how ill-prepared most journalists and media outlets were to cope with the unprecedented scope of Donald Trump's pathological lies. They could have taken a "Wait a minute, that's not right" approach to Trump's utterances from the beginning, but they didn't. Most of the campaign, most journalists used terms like "unproven," false statement," "controversial," "stretched the truth," when they questioned Trump's mendacity at all. Rarely did they call out his near constant prevarication for what it was: utter, contemptible tripe. Horseshit. Dishonesty. Lies. Nonsense. Baloney. Malarkey, for you Joe Biden fans.

Media Matters for America lays it bare for all to see:
Despite that cabaret of nonstop fabrications, media observers praised Trump’s debate performance even though they were built around lies and fabrications. The standard that journalists still to use for Trump was that if he looked and sounded presidential while lying during debate, he scored points.
That’s scary.
Read the whole Media Matters piece. When we look back at the 2016 campaign, what will stand out is what a terrible -- and untruthful -- candidate Donald Trump was. Hopefully, the media won't want to be gamed by a candidate like Trump again. America will be the better for it.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Why Wikileaks Hasn't Hurt Hillary? The Goldman Sachs Speeches Make Her Look Good.

Sure, there's some inane "political" back-and-forth among her staff in bunches of emails, but, er, ah, DUH! (Big reveal: she's a politician!)

Maybe they're holding back, but so far, huh?

Daniel Drezner in the WaPo gives Hillary's Sachs speeches the once-over and finds the private Hillary more direct and charming that the public one:
As WikiLeaks continues to dump John Podesta’s emails onto the world, there’s a cornucopia of information to digest. I decided to start by focusing on a key source of tension between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary: the transcripts of Clinton’s paid speeches at Goldman Sachs. These were supposed to contain information damaging to Clinton’s campaign.
After reading all three speeches … I don’t understand why Clinton didn’t make them public back in the spring.
Okay, I understand a little. Clinton’s Goldman Sachs transcripts are not speeches per se but rather structured conversations between Clinton and a Goldman Sachs interlocutor, as well as a Q&A with the audience. Clinton references the same Winston Churchill joke a bit much. She praises Chinese President Xi Jinping on occasion, mostly for his political skills and his apparent ability to rein in the People’s Liberation Army. Mostly, however, what comes through is Clinton’s comfort talking about the subtleties of international relations. The contrast with the current GOP nominee is rather striking.
Contrast indeed. Read on.

The Anatomy of a White Nationalist Party: How the GOP Has Transformed Itself, Perhaps Irretrievably

Trump didn't do this by himself (see Goldwater, Barry and Governors, Republican), but 2016 may have delivered a self-inflicted mortal wound to Republicans.

We saw this coming after 2012. Self-deportation happened, er, from the GOP.

Who doesn't remember the self-proclaimed Republican autopsy in 2012? And who doesn't remember its epic fail?

The 2012 Republican autopsy: Why did we lose? What should we change? Uh, never mind!

You don't get to the promised land by changing your mind and going to Hell instead. Essentially, that's what the Republican Party did. The party toyed with an "autopsy," tried to self-examine, and what did they do? From then right up until now, they decided the best course was to further alienate blacks, Latinos, Asians, Muslims, the entire LGBTQ community, and women. Good on ya!

A lot of damage has been done by Donald Trump and many Republicans in the run-up to 2016, but it didn't start there. Read Jamelle Bouie's piece in Slate to get the historical context. It's an eye-opener.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

WikiLeaks Continuing Fail: Clinton Is Polite to Bankers When She Is Face-to-Face with Them.

WikiLeaks releases transcripts of the Goldman Sachs speeches. The smoking gun is that she is polite without saying anything remotely controversial. Fire up the Fox News outrage!!

Hillary Clinton to Wall Street bankers: no wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

Excepts to other Clinton speeches have come out in the past week, but Saturday WikiLeaks apparently dropped the entire transcripts of all three (?) Goldman Sachs speeches, and analysis of them is starting to come out.

Betsy Woodruff offers a take on them, and although she tosses out a "Two-faced?" at the top of the column and hints throughout that there's a divergence between what she tells bankers and what she's offered on the campaign trail, I find the difference innocuous enough that I'm inclined to issue an official meh.

In the speeches she does 1) tell bankers that politicians will inevitably come to them for cash and they will inevitably cough some up, 2) encourage them to use their money to promote policy and changes in the country that they support, and 3) encourage wealthy people to run for office because their wealth may shield them from getting bought out in the process.

Yes, she's harder on them out on the campaign trail. However, on the campaign trail her rhetoric is aimed at getting people to understand that increased taxes on the rich are to benefit those down the income ladder that couldn't finance those benefits if they tried, and that the reduced income inequality that would lead from these tax increases would be a plus. Not Republican goals, but not controversial socialist/new world order dicta either.

That she doesn't openly declare in her Goldman Sachs speeches that "When I get into office my tax increases are going to fuck you up but good" is not surprising. That instead she says "Use your money as a force for good" while not deriding them for abusing derivatives is also not surprising.

Here's Woodruff:
 None of this is necessarily controversial. But it doesn’t exactly comport with Clinton’s campaign trail messaging. On the page of her campaign site about campaign finance reform, she rips the influence donors have on elected politicians.
The bottom line -- as I can make it out so far -- is she tells her supporters on the campaign trail she'll expect the wealthy to pay their fair share and tells Wall Streeters to be thoughtful and constructive with their donations. Sure, donations from Sheldon Adelson are not a force for good in the way, say, those from George Soros are. They're both ridiculously wealthy people, but they use their money for quite different things. Which kind of donation is Hillary encouraging Goldman Sachs people to make?

Nothing nefarious here, but Fox News will use it 24-hours non-stop to cover up new sexual-predator allegations against Trump. Which is worse? The Fox News behavior, I'll warrant.

Donald Trump Is a Sexual Predator, and 40% of Voters Support Him. Boy, Do We Have Work to Do.

It's quite likely Donald Trump will lose. The fact that he got close says volumes about the rot in American culture.

Trump sexual assault victim Summer Zervos.

One of the aspects of Muslim culture in the Middle East that has horrified me is its antiquated and despicable treatment of women. More's the pity that the West, including the U.S., has its own failings in this regard.

I remember around 1970 seeing a book called Our Bodies, Ourselves. It was a seminal book in the feminist movement and the product of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, and its purpose was for women to begin to influence the medical profession in order to improve the type of care women receive. It was time women began to own their bodies, a concept that today seems archaic. It was far from archaic, even in 1970.

Having grown up in the 50s and 60s, it was clear to me what place women were expected to take in American society. The cultural upheaval of the 60s inspired a different reality. Over the past nearly 5 decades, women have made a lot of progress, though the work is hardly finished.

I understood that Our Bodies, Ourselves announced that women should own their bodies, own their destinies. Having been a willing participant in the 60s counterculture, I was ready to embrace this vital cultural evolution, even as this "novel concept" of women's liberation was considerably intimidating. As a man, I was at least a little bit rattled.

Life with women was never going to be the same, that much I got.

Somewhere else a different world existed. Donald Trump lived in that world. It's apparent now that Trump spent his decades as an unrepentant sexual predator. There have been enough victims with similar stories coming forward that, as in the Bill Cosby case, we're reaching a critical mass. Donald Trump did this, and it will soon be beyond deniability.

As Dahlia Lithwick makes clear in her Slate article about Anita Hill's "moment," Trump is far less likely to skate past charges against him the way Clarence Thomas was able to. Another article in Slate is a moving tribute to Hillary Clinton while simultaneously an examination of college rape. Please read it. Key graph:
Here is what I’ve learned from watching Hillary since 1992: She refuses to be defined by what has happened to her, or by what other people have done. Again and again, she changes the subject back to what she wants to do, to what she can do, to the work at hand. She insists that what she does is who she is. And that gives her power no one has been able to take away, no matter how hard they’ve tried.
I hope all voters consider that, far from being an issue in the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump's sexual predation deserves to be a complete deal breaker. Not only should Donald Trump be shunned as a despicable violator of women's rights and women's dignity, America should use this moment to reexamine where we are in our quest to advance women's rights.

The fact that women's support for Donald Trump dropped significantly after his infamous Access Hollywood tape came out, while support among men and evangelicals barely budged if not increased, shows how far we've come and how far we still have to go. In our current hyperpartisan world, a stubborn 40% of voters refuse to abandon Trump.

Discussions on our college campuses and across the nation have been ongoing as Americans examine our rape culture. Who knew one of our presidential candidates would further that debate in such a vile and unexpected way?

First, vote against Donald Trump. Next, get ready to advance the cause of women's rights, women's dignity, and women's freedom from mistreatment in a 21st century world. It's truly the next battleground as we struggle to build a better world.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Surprise, Surprise: Trump Supporters More Affluent Than Clinton's

Apparently it's not the economy, stupid.

And we thought economic distress and jobs were the problem. So what is it then?

Taking a closer look at just who supports Donald Trump, Vox found that his supporters aren't dispossessed in the way most of us thought:
The press has gotten extremely comfortable with describing a Trump electorate that simply doesn’t exist. Cottle describes his supporters as “white voters living on the edges of the economy.” This is, in nearly every particular, wrong.
There is absolutely no evidence that Trump’s supporters, either in the primary or the general election, are disproportionately poor or working class. Exit polling from the primaries found that Trump voters made about as much as Ted Cruz voters, and significantly more than supporters of either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Trump voters, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver found, had a median household income of $72,000, a fair bit higher than the $62,000 median household income for non-Hispanic whites in America.
A major study from Gallup's Jonathan Rothwell confirmed this. Trump support was correlated with higher, not lower, income, both among the population as a whole and among white people. Trump supporters were less likely to be unemployed or to have dropped out of the labor force. Areas with more manufacturing, or higher exposure to imports from China, were less likely to think favorably of Trump.
The article goes on to point out that low-income white workers have generally supported Democratic candidates in the past. We should watch out what memes we fall for. Trump supporters obviously have different, non-economic agendas driving them.

What might they be? Race? Gender? Xenophobia? Nativism? Cultural issues in general? Maybe.

Stay classy, Trumpsters.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Donald's New Defense: Stop This or Women Will Start Accusing "Incompetent" Obama

Mmkay...All I needed was some straight talk. Thanks, Trump, now I know you're innocent!

How can these women say what they're saying? Everything you know
about me says I'm a teddy bear, right?

Hey, Donald, you had me at Carlos Slim. But this new argument, well, it just makes sense!

Holy crap. Stay classy, Trump.

Trump Jr.: If Woman Can't Cope with Harassment, They Should Stay out of the Workforce.

As Huffington Post said: tree, meet apple.

Open yap, hurt Dad. Thanks a lot, son. (Or maybe he thinks this helps. Hmm.)

Here, from Huffington Post:
Donald Trump Jr. offered some unsolicited career advice for women concerned about sexual harassment in the workplace: Just quit, already.
“If you can’t handle some of the basic stuff that’s become a problem in the workforce today, then you don’t belong in the workforce,” Donald Trump’s son told The Opie and Anthony Show in a 2013 interview that BuzzFeed just unearthed.
“You should go maybe teach kindergarten,” he said, apparently suggesting that teachers aren’t part of the workforce. “You can’t be negotiating billion-dollar deals if you can’t handle, like, you know.”
Gender-based harassment, both sexual and not, is against the law in the U.S. “It is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Where did Donald Trump Jr. acquire this mindset?

Donald Trump's Achilles' Heel? He's Donald Trump.

Trump grew up into the man he is. He makes a good demagogue, but he makes a lousy human being.

Here he looks pensive, almost contemplative. What if all he's doing is
plotting revenge? Apparently that's his go-to move.

There are two countervailing movements driving Donald Trump these days. One is the steady flow of news that paints Trump in a very negative light, almost terminally so. The other is his overpowering need to strike back. For a powerful man, he seems utterly powerless to resist his instinct for revenge.

It's not difficult to figure out why this is happening. He's been Donald Trump all these years. He really does do all those despicable things in business like use -- and lose -- other people's money, stiff his contractors, sue the bejesus out of people as a business tactic, and, well, you know the litany. In his personal life, he's acted the indecent part of the alpha male, acted it in spades. Even the smallest remark -- he gives permission to Howard Stern to call daughter Ivanka "a piece of ass" -- demonstrates that women are ONLY OBJECTS TO HIM.

(Aside: For alpha males it doesn't have to be that way. Paul Newman built an oeuvre of film to drool over, a hugely successful non-profit food industry for charity, a summer-camp program for children suffering from illness, and was married to the same woman all his life.)

In the end, there's so much to not like -- that's if you're not a poorly-educated white man who'd admire the Donald for his sexual conquests, no matter how vile -- about Trump that his central disqualifier isn't his odious character. It's that, in foreign policy, we fear that if roused by a foreign power he might instinctively decide "l'll fucking fuck you up!" We don't need that in a leader.

I don't need to go into all the other reasons -- like how he's riled up a portion of the country to despise and distrust institutions that we need to function -- why he's bad for the country. Hell, he's bad for the neighborhood.

Most of us, apparently, get that. Hopefully that's enough for us to get past November 8th with our country's dignity more or less intact. Still, we'll be left with some serious work to do.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Oh, Snap! Trump Apocalypse Watch: The Brits Weigh In

Just hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Oh myyy...

Trump's Breakthrough Insight: Reality Is Rigged.

Okay, Trump probably hasn't said that, but it's what you get when you add up what he does say is rigged.

What's the matter, Donald, why the sad face? Hint: reality.

Increasingly, Donald Trump has been emphasizing how everything is "rigged." Political system? Rigged. Economic system? Rigged. Mainstream media? Rigged.

We've got a new one now. Polling? Rigged. This latest one amounts to a tipping point because once you go there -- Romney and Ryan lived there in 2012 -- all kinds of things come into play. You tell your fervent supporters, and they believe you. For you, Donald, and your crew, have entered the ultimate confirmation bias zone: Anything against you is "bullshit." No wonder you're Great! Everything people are saying is wrong! Bigly!

An important component of this -- the irony that proves the rule, if you will -- is that were he winning, Trump wouldn't be claiming anything is rigged. So as his dreams crumble, as he loses his footing, he goes there, which is basically saying, "It's not my fault, it's everything and everybody else's fault."

Sorry, Donald, the system, though tilted from time to time, isn't rigged, not in the sense you mean. Bloomberg got it right:
But why hasn't the IRS leaked his tax documents? If members of Barack Obama's administration wanted to damage Trump's candidacy -- and they do, they really, really do -- why haven't they seeded the news media with juicy nuggets like his tax rate? His paucity of charitable donations? Perhaps his tax returns would even shed light on Trump's strange affection for Russia.
The IRS has been weaponized before. In 1971, President Richard Nixon told John Ehrlichman to turn the IRS loose on Democratic rivals, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy. "There's a lot of gold in them thar hills," Nixon said.
Yet the IRS under Obama has thus far leaked nothing on Trump. The ultimate irony, of course, is that Trump is counting on the agency being administered legally and fairly to protect his secrets -- even as he complains that everything is corrupt.
So, what do you think, class? Will Donald feature reality in the closing days of his campaign? I doubt it. We've come to realize that facts don't matter, as Trump lies considerably more that he tells the truth. In fact, Trump's telling the truth is truly a random event. When he's speaking in that stream-of-consciousness mode of his, he says, literally, whatever the fuck he thinks will support his cause at that precise moment in time. Moments later he can contradict himself, but it doesn't matter. The new statement is the truth, believe me.

Ultimately, Donald Trump is actually right: Reality is rigged. Funny thing is, he's doing the rigging. Sorry, but that only works in a closed-loop universe. When others get a say -- er, like the voters -- reality intervenes.

And that's why Donald Trump avoids it. Weird how that works.

Note. I'm really sorry for providing a link in this post to Alex Jones' InfoWars. Needed it to make my point. But still, sorry, so sorry. My advice is to erase your browser history and rinse your mouth out with vodka.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Has WikiLeaks Proven that Hillary Clinton's Speeches Were Cool After All?

There are other shoes to drop, to be sure, but what we've seen so far is that Hillary rolls like a politician and is pretty good at it. What a surprise!

Rolling Stone liked your first album a lot, but your recent tracks suck. What gives?

I can imagine why Julian Assange thought people would find his anti-Hillary leaks "substantial." They were somewhat, but not in the way he anticipated. The John Podesta emails, which contain or appear to contain sections of Clinton's lusted-after Wall Street speeches, were meant to damage her campaign, timed as they were to arrive on the Friday before the second debate. Sorry, Jules, so far it's the opposite.

Sure, the lazy MSM take some remarks out of context and, briefly, some things Hillary said -- like her public-stance/private-stance segment -- look untoward. However, few commentators have been able to spin them into meat sufficiently red enough to excite the rabid, right-wing masses. So, meh.

In surfing through Greg Dworkin's Daily Kos feature, Abbreviated Pundit Round-Up, this morning I spotted a link to a very illuminating Tweetstorm from @FamesJallows (an odd twist on the James Fallows, the brilliant Atlantic writier). He's a random guy as far as I've been able to discern, but he's a clear thinker and analyst, especially on the Hillary speeches:

(Sorry about the double-Tweet effect. I think I could have split them, but it's too much trouble now. Just read the top one as you go down.)

Those last two Tweets are essential: Hillary Clinton reveals that she gets how Congressional "sausage" is made and uses Lincoln's behind-the-scenes manipulations in getting the 13th Amendment passed by a resistant Congress as an example of public/private negotiations as a force for good.

This should demonstrate a good aspect of Clinton's character and political skills. She's ready to work with Congress on day one. Whether Congress will be is an open question (guess the answer...).

Note. To read the excerpt of the speech in question, go here. Now, the link is to an article by Aaron Blake of the Washington Post. The article itself, with its "Why Hillary Clinton’s Abraham Lincoln defense of her leaked Wall Street comments falls flat" headline, demonstrates how even relatively astute journalists can misread and then mischaracterize someone's remarks and thereby do real damage to the truth. Let's dig down a little here.

First, Hillary describes how Lincoln maneuvered to get the 13th Amendment through Congress, and then pivots to comparing that to how financiers and developers might go through a process, through maneuvers, to evaluate and further a project they might want to undertake.
CLINTON: I believe in evidence-based decision making. I want to know what the facts are. I mean, it's like when you guys go into some kind of a deal, you know, are you going to do that development or not, are you going to do that renovation or not, you know, you look at the numbers. You try to figure out what's going to work and what's not going to work.
Blake then criticizes that, incorrectly:
But it's one thing to use that kind of gamesmanship to pass an amendment outlawing slavery; it's another to use it when describing policies that affect big business. Clinton has already stood accused of being too cozy with Wall Street -- a characterization she disputes -- and she's now on-record telling the business community that, in order to get things done, sometimes you need to have a public position and a private position.
See what he did there? Clinton wasn't talking about trying to get something through Congress that would affect big business, she was describing a process in the business world that is similar to the sausage-making of the legislative process. A businessman might not show all his cards at the beginning of a negotiation -- in fact, doing so might doom him to failure. That's all she was doing, which was making a legislative process analogous to a business negotiation so that she'd be better understood. That's good speechifying, not an example of her being "too cozy with Wall Street."

I'm not suggesting that Blake was being disingenuous -- though he, too, is using words to prove his point -- I'm just showing how shoddy journalism can lead to a faulty argument, which in this case even made it past his editor. The paper should issue a correction, even perhaps an apology, but don't hold your breath.

All in all, Hillary Clinton comes out looking good here, and a journalist covering her does not. Remember this when others decontextualize remarks and then recharacterize them to make an invalid point, especially about Hillary Clinton. To be blunt, she's generally smarter than you -- and me, too, of course. Yes, she's a politician and occasionally exaggerates and stretches the truth, though it's pretty obvious to objective viewers she's much better than most.

Here, she looks good indeed.

Did Fox News Enable a Republican Party that Couldn't Govern?

We don't want to forget Rush Limbaugh's influence, either. He said he wanted Obama to fail. Helping the Republicans do nothing was the key to killing the Obama agenda.

Nope, no room for compromise, because then we might actually do something.

I get it now. Although the GOP -- and their Fox News and talk-radio enablers -- weren't able to completely stop the Obama agenda, especially after they retook the House and then the Senate, they were able to frustrate much of it. The president was crafty and worked through executive orders and the Supreme Court to advance principles the GOP Congress was dead set against, so he has a legacy that is increasingly substantial -- and popular -- as his final term winds down. But the countereffect of the Republican effort damaged their party in a way they may not have anticipated.

The Republican Party became the party that did nothing. DID. NOTHING.

When you do nothing -- as a fully defined and clearly stated strategy -- the result is not a head fake. It's what it ends up being: nothing. And that's fine if it's an unfortunate byproduct of attempting to stop Obama in his tracks. Your constituents might say, "Fuck yeah! Well done!" So, you've got your people behind you.

But, in the end, you've proven the other thing: You can't govern. Full stop. No sorta maybe. You can't govern, haven't governed.

2009 to the present, what have you done? Squat. Yay! Mission accomplished!

But are your people really happy? Well, sorta, maybe, at least happy enough to tell you to go fuck yourselves, we've found Trump and we're running with him all the way. Oh, er, did we say fuck you? Just to be sure, fuck you.

Now you've gone pretty Humpty Dumpty, so good luck finding the instructions for reassembling your party after the election. They may have ended up in the trash. You've got Fox News and Rush Limbaugh to thank for that. First they scrambled your brains with misinformation and made you feel comfortable in your bubble, and, then they enabled Donald Trump at your expense.

You thought Fox News was your ally, but no. Fox News made you their bitch and rode you to the top of the cable news world. In a not completely apparent way, Fox News looks to have begun to self-destruct, as well. It's wearisome keeping all those balls of misinformation constantly in the air, and sometimes they drop one or get really, really grumpy. If you've watched Sean Hannity, you know what I mean.

So there you are. You can't govern, you're like totally losing you asses this election cycle, and a woman you can't stand seeing elected is making you her bitch. Ouch! Schadenfreude.

Seriously, you need another autopsy. Will you do it right and follow where it leads this time? I doubt it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Can Trump's Narcissistic Personality Disorder Fuel an American Crisis?

A collective inferiority complex afflicting alienated whites drove them to Donald Trump for a dose of PRIDE. What happens when he loses?

For the record, this is Paul Krugman's T-shirt. I want one.

The first time I saw Donald Trump -- in the early 70s? -- he was bragging about a hotel he bought. I thought, "What a jerk!"

What he was displaying, I now know, was narcissism. It's never an appealing attribute, though it's often on display wherever powerful people exercise their power.

There's a balancing act to most of these displays. Steve Jobs was horribly narcissistic, but he managed to temper the public display of it by turning "Isn't it amazing how amazing I am?" into "Isn't it amazing how amazing iPhone is?" He basked in his products' glow and wore simple black shirts, apparently aware that if he didn't his narcissism would obscure his obvious creativity.

For contrast, think Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. These are major success stories untainted by narcissism. Barack Obama, for me, also comes to mind. He carries himself with grace and dignity because of his innate self-assurance. He knows he's cool but doesn't abuse the edge it gives him. He faced mindless resistance his whole time in office, and yet he prevailed and made his opponents look like clowns, while maintaining dignity.

Then we come to Donald Trump. He is narcissism unbound, untethered. The issues surrounding his megalomania are catching up with him and appear, now, finally, to be his great undoing. Thank heavens. As he unravels, he is lashing out at everything around him -- mostly the Clintons and the "traitor" GOP -- ever since The Tape dealt him a near-lethal blow.

Witness his debate performance where, at its lowest point, he vowed to jail Hillary Clinton. It was the biggest threat ever launched to our fragile democracy, but more on that another time.

We don't yet know exactly the outcome of all this, though the momentum has shifted noticeably. Trump is self-destructing. Ironically, that's the other side of narcissism. It consumes itself.

Unfortunately, along the way he's unleashed the hounds that lurked in the hinterlands of America's dispossessed. They have a cause, we know, but it it weren't for the fiercely racist component of their collective zeitgeist they could have found a hero in Barack Obama, who was poised to be their champion, but for them it was a bridge too far. More's the pity.

Instead they've hitched their wagons to Donald Trump, who has no roadmap to the promised land. So after Trump's demise, they'll stew and, yes, cling to their guns and religion. Why they follow false prophets like Trump shouldn't be surprising, but it is deeply distressing.

Trump, even as he devours himself, is not finished. He may attach himself to Breitbart and the alt-right, develop "Trump TV" and urge the dispossessed to coalesce around him. Hopefully he's flawed enough -- he won't think so! -- to be incapable of organizing that proverbial basket of deplorables into a threatening movement. Trump's ego demands he gather as many people as he can, to prove the game is rigged and only he can fix it. In truth he has spent his life rigging it to his benefit, but hey...

Will his beloved "poorly educated" follow him off the inevitable cliff and in doing so damage much of America? Will it only lead to the death of the GOP? We'll see.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Trump Apocalypse Watch: Will He Destroy the Religious Right?

In spite of The Tape, the religious right circled the wagons around Donald Trump (because of abortion, of course). Will it destroy them?

Evangelicals to Donald Trump: We wish we knew how to quit you!

Over the weekend, post-grab-her-by-the-pussy video, leaders of the religious right almost to a man, maintained their support of Donald Trump. Speculation now arises, post-failed-debate-rescue, that this continuing support may mark the moment evangelicals began to lose what remains of their dwindling influence:
Among his hardcore fans, Trump will survive these scandals; his supporters are now making that clear to his detractors. But his pious boosters can’t count on the same. Trump’s principal appeal to voters is his devotion to capitalism, not God. The religious right, meanwhile, pins itself to a claim of moral superiority. It always had more to lose.
Some evangelicals, like the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore, understand this, and have publicly criticized Trump’s convenient conversion. But their voices were never enough to sway the rank-and-file. The religious right was never as unique as it wanted everyone to believe, and now Trump has revealed the movement’s superiority to be the ruse it’s always been.
The religious right isn’t dead yet. But after this election becomes history, the movement will be forced to reckon with the consequences of its quest for power. Young adults, who overwhelmingly oppose Trump, are already leaving conservative churches, and the religious right’s Trump moment will surely only fuel this trend. If it had maintained a consistent public morality, maybe it could have retained some countercultural appeal. Now that its most visible leaders have sacrificed that authority, it has nothing left.

The Good News: Soon Donald Trump Will Be Out of Our Lives and Off Our TVs

A vote for Trump is a vote for more of him.

As a voter, the one thing you can do: delete his account.

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

All we need to know.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Yep, the Damage Pence Did to the GOP Campaign at the Debate Begins to Flow

Our "very presidential" winner of the VP debate got gamed, and the Clinton people were ready. I mean READY.

You don't have to like her, but you have to admire how ready to rumble she is.

Tim Kaine came off a bit nasty last night, handing Mike Pence what will turn out to be a very short-lived victory. The Clinton campaign just wanted some source material for attack ads, and, man, were they ready when Kaine got the goods for them:

OMG LOL! I can't wait for the next debate. Can you?

Pence "Won" the Debate Last Night, but He'll Lose It Tomorrow

Yeah, the VP debate was a muddled mess, but Tim Kaine did what he had to do, which was keep people thinking about Trump. Mission accomplished.

Kaine as attack dog was unseemly, but he was there to gnaw at Trump, not Pence.

Looking around the Web for opinions on last night's VP debate, a few things become clear: Tim Kaine wasn't pretty, and Mr. Clean Mike Pence showed he could lie better than Trump, if being congenial while nonsense comes out of your mouth makes you a winner. I suppose Ronald Reagan proved that.

I could paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen and say, "I knew Ronald Reagan, and, Governor, you're no Ronald Reagan."

So we could say "tie goes to the liar," and we'd be right. One thing's for sure, Mike Pence did come off as more "presidential" than Donald Trump. Unlike Trump, Pence can lie in his "quiet voice."

The best take on last night was a Tweet by Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson:

And that's why Trump lost the debate. Pence looking good made Trump look ungood. Also, to do that Pence had to forego defending Trump. "Aye aye, Captain. Er, what's your name again, sir?"

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, as usual, had a take on the debate that discovered the "other debate" many of us wouldn't notice in real time but might be our takeaway a day or two down the road:
...But the most salient point is that there were two debates happening on that stage tonight.
The two debates were so distinct that if I squinted and looked from one angle I could almost see a straight Kaine v Pence presidential debate happening, one in which Donald Trump didn't even exist. Pence is not a terribly impressive politician. But in this debate, when it came to hitting the standard GOP political and policy points, he held up pretty nicely. Kaine was solid too. But maybe my expectations were a bit higher for him. He struggled a bit in the first fifteen minutes. He interrupted a lot and felt a bit preprogrammed in the early part of the debate when he was talking about policy issues. But big picture - in this alternate universe Kaine v Pence face-off where Donald Trump didn't exist - Kaine and Pence were fairly evenly matched.
But there was this wholly separate debate happening at the same time that was entirely about Donald Trump. It was largely a Tim Kaine monologue.
Josh then points out that it was Mike Pence dodging Kaine's largely truthful attacks that will cost him down the road. Plus, it won't ingratiate him with the Trump campaign. Throwing Trump under the bus so you can look good makes a good strategy if you're thinking ahead to 2020. But right now, Trump probably feels he got pummeled, and Pence just sat around shaking his head and looking "presidential."

NBC News delivered a pretty good survey of reactions, mostly via Twitter. Many thought Pence won, nobody thought Trump did. Two examples, first from the left, and then one from the right:

A final important note on abortion and faith came from a Huffington Post article that I can't find just now. But I did find the video that accompanied it:

What a novel idea! Letting women make their own decisions! Of course, that's anathema to conservatives like Mike Pence. I hope a few women heard that part of the debate. Remember, all Tim Kaine wants is for women to make their own decisions when it comes to their bodies. Why? Though he's just as pro-life as Mike Pence, Tim Kaine believes public servants should honor the 1st Amendment and the rule of law,  so he's pro-choice in his public life. Besides, again, women should decide these issues of morality for themselves. That, among other things, is the essence of Roe v. Wade, which last time I looked was still the law of the land.

So, yes, Trump lost the VP debate last night, and Pence "looked" good. But statements like the above will come back to haunt post-debate.

Bonus! It turns out Mike Pence founded an entire university at the beginning of the debate. Kudos!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Bloomberg: Trump Can Only Win If Something Bad Happens

You know you suck when only a disaster could rekindle interest in your attributes. But can you explain how we need Donald Trump if something blows up?

Maybe his hat should read "Make America Blow Up Again."

You don't have to Google "trump worst week." Just go to Bloomberg to read what a wreckage the Trump presidential campaign has become. What caught me eye in the article was the expressed notion that there was perhaps a single turn that might save the Donald.
“Trump is in serious trouble, but there are still a couple of things working in his favor,” said Jack Pitney, a political-science professor at Claremont McKenna College. The electorate is more polarized than it’s been in over half a century, he said, and the race could still be upended by a terrorist incident, a foreign-policy debacle, or a Clinton scandal or health scare. “But in the absence of out-of-left-field events, it's hard to see how Trump fully recovers from last week.”
Get that? Of course there's always that chance of an October Surprise (though I think Trump may have vacuumed up most of the possibilities), but we can eliminate a "Clinton scandal" because most of the possible scenarios have already been manufactured and blown out of all proportion (yes, there was hardly any there there to begin with), and anybody can keel over and be forced to drop out.

That leaves only stuff blowing up or some crazy mass shooting left in Trump's bag of tricks. I can just see campaign meetings with people brainstorming, saying things like "What if someone blew up the Empire State Building? That should give us a bump in the polls!"

Holy crap. If you haven't been paying attention and you haven't heard all the weird shit coming out of Trump's mouth and Twitter account, maybe you should Google "trump worst week." But be careful. Google might ask back "Which worst week?"

With Clinton we already knew it takes a village. Now we know with Trump it takes a disaster.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

A Look at Trump's Deplorables: They Are Real, and Some Are Just Sad.

Looking at the totality of those aligned behind Trump reveals a wacky and sometimes vile world. Some, though, are people who fell through the cracks as an old America began to transition to the new.

Brownsville, PA, where the old America continues to shrink.

One cannot read this story in this morning's Washington Post without feeling sorry for its "protagonist," Melanie Austin. But my, how it tells a story of the brigades of Trump supporters.
In a living room in western Pennsylvania, the Republican National Convention was on TV, and Melanie Austin was getting impatient.
“Who’s that guy?” she said, watching some billionaire talk about prosperity and tolerance. “Prosperity and tolerance? Forget that sh--.”
She lit a cigarette. Her boyfriend, Kevin Lisovich, was next to her on the couch, drifting to sleep, a pillow over his head. On the ottoman was her cellphone, her notes on the speakers so far — “LOCK HER UP!!” she had written — and the anti-anxiety pills she kept in a silver vial on her keychain.
She was a 52-year-old woman who had worked 20 years for the railroad, had once been a Democrat and was now a Republican, and counted herself among the growing swath of people who occupied the fringes of American politics but were increasingly becoming part of the mainstream. Like millions of others, she believed that President Obama was a Muslim. And like so many she had gotten to know online through social media, she also believed that he was likely gay, that Michelle Obama could be a man, and that the Obama children were possibly kidnapped from a family now searching for them.
Wow. Read the whole story. It's sad and unsettling, mostly because it charts the path that an American could follow that would turn someone like Donald Trump into a hero when, by all accounts, most people should regard him as a cad.

Hillary Clinton was right to point out the "deplorable" nature of many of Trump's legions. Of course, better words could have been chosen. However, when this craziest of elections comes to its inevitable conclusion, I hope wiser minds write an obituary that addresses the worst of what has been revealed about America. Yes, we've suffered losses in higher-paid manufacturing jobs that non-college-educated men and women could, in the past, rely on. It's been hard on places like Brownsville, PA, as well as on farming communities across this nation that have abandoned the family farm in favor of agribusiness.

But that reckoning doesn't touch the hate and bile of the nativists, racists, homophobes, and misogynists who have always been a part of our American landscape since the days of our founding. It began with slavery, indentured servitude, and the exclusion of women from the body politic (and land ownership), and it hasn't ended. We have a lot to be held accountable for. Let that accounting begin now.

Note. The WaPo closed comments for this article. That was probably wise, but it says a lot about the volatility of our current politics, when we're afraid to unleash the hounds of public opinion around a story about a Donald Trump supporter. Heaven help us.