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OK this is all just a reality TV show right?

[ 104 ] December 8, 2016 |

I don’t think I ever really appreciated the psychological concept of denial until the last 30 days.  On some level, I’m still in denial that all this is actually happening.

Donald Trump will remain as an executive producer on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” even while serving as president of the United States.

That agreement, first reported by Variety and confirmed by sources at NBC and the Trump campaign, means the president will have an interest in a show aired by a media company that also reports on his presidency — a major conflict of interest for the network.

 “The Apprentice,” which Trump hosted for 14 seasons, was created by Mark Burnett and is owned and produced by MGM. The 15th season, hosted by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, will air on NBC starting January 2.

NBC Entertainment, NBC News and MGM all did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the decision to keep Trump as an executive producer.

It is unclear how much Trump will be paid per episode.

I’ve never seen The Apprentice in any of its forms.  Until the middle of last year Donald Trump was, for me, a bit of trivia from the 1980s, like an MTV veejay who I hadn’t thought about in a couple of decades.  I mean I still saw his name here and there, but I also still heard a Cyndi Lauper song once in awhile.  (No offense intended to Ms. Lauper, who I would in all seriousness much prefer as POTUS to Trump.)

2016 is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake.

 

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RIP Greg Lake

[ 67 ] December 8, 2016 |

Is this year ever going to end?

A scene from Alfonso Cuaron’s fantastic but ever-less fantastical film Children of Men:

 

President-elect attacks steelworker for criticizing him

[ 176 ] December 8, 2016 |

Donald Trump seems incapable of tolerating criticism from anyone, which is a disturbing personality trait in a soon-to-be president of the United States:

Chuck Jones uses a flip phone, so he didn’t see the tweet. His friend of 36 years called him Wednesday night and said: The president-elect is smearing you on Twitter.

  1. If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues

  2. Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!

Jones, a union leader in Indianapolis, represents the Carrier workers whose jobs Donald Trump has pledged to save. He said the sudden attention from the country’s next leader didn’t feel real.

“My first thought was, ‘Well, that’s not very nice,’ ” he told The Washington Post on Wednesday night. “Then, ‘Well, I might not sleep much tonight.’ ”

Jones, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1999, told The Post on Tuesday that he believed Trump had lied to the Carrier workers last week when he visited the Indianapolis plant. On a makeshift stage in a conference room, Trump had applauded United Technologies, Carrier’s parent company, for cutting a deal with him and agreeing to keep 1,100 jobs that were slated to move to Mexico in America’s heartland.

Jones said Trump got that figure wrong.

Carrier, he said, had agreed to preserve 800 production jobs in Indiana. (Carrier confirmed that number.) The union leader said Trump appeared to be taking credit for rescuing 350 engineering positions that were never scheduled to leave. Five hundred and fifty of his members, he said, were still losing their jobs. And the company was still collecting millions of dollars in tax breaks.

Trump’s orangeshirts are already punishing the insolence of anyone who dares to question their Leader:

Half an hour after Trump tweeted about Jones on Wednesday, the union leader’s phone began to ring and kept ringing, he said. One voice asked: What kind of car do you drive? Another said: We’re coming for you.

He wasn’t sure how these people found his number.

“Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones said later on MSNBC. “We know what car you drive. Things along those lines.”

Lovely.

That this despicable person is going to be president is a national disgrace.  The situation’s only saving grace is that Trump is going to be laughably easy to provoke into self-destructive behavior.  There’s a downside to that, however, which is that Trump may destroy the nation in the course of destroying himself.

The apotheosis of false equivalence

[ 218 ] December 7, 2016 |

Following up on Scott’s various posts on this extraordinarily important topic, a new Harvard Kennedy School study finds that Hillary Clinton received more negative press coverage over the entire course of the presidential campaign than Donald Trump:

Criticism dogged Hillary Clinton at every step of the general election. Her “bad press” outpaced her “good press” by 64 percent to 36 percent. She was criticized for everything from her speaking style to her use of emails.

As Clinton was being attacked in the press, Donald Trump was attacking the press, claiming that it was trying to “rig” the election in her favor. If that’s true, journalists had a peculiar way of going about it. Trump’s coverage during the general election was more negative than Clinton’s, running 77 percent negative to 23 percent positive. But over the full course of the election, it was Clinton, not Trump, who was more often the target of negative coverage (see Figure 1). Overall, the coverage of her candidacy was 62 percent negative to 38 percent positive, while his coverage was 56 percent negative to 44 percent positive.

Consider how utterly astonishing this finding ought to be, at least in any halfway sane world (obviously I’m positing a hypothetical here).  Donald Trump is, by an enormous margin, the least-qualified candidate to ever receive a major party nomination for president.  This is true even without reference to his extensive history of personal corruption, his lack of any apparent interest in public policy, his overt unapologetic racism, sexism, etc. etc.

It gets worse:

Even those numbers understate the level of negativity. Much of the candidates’ “good press” was in the context of the horserace—who is winning and who is losing and why. At any given moment in the campaign, one of the candidates has the momentum, which is a source of positive coverage. Figure 2 shows the tone of the nominees’ coverage on non-horserace topics, those that bear some relationship to the question of their fitness for office—their policy positions, personal qualities, leadership abilities, ethical standards, and the like. In Trump’s case, this coverage was 87 percent negative to 13 percent positive. Clinton’s ratio was identical—87 percent negative to 13 percent positive. “Just like Tweedledum and Tweedledee,” as Barry Goldwater said dismissively of America’s two parties in the 1960s.

How’s that for fair and balanced?

You can believe, as I do, that Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate in all sorts of ways, and that belief is still just completely irrelevant to evaluating this level of false equivalence.  It’s as if the sports media were to compare a far from optimal NFL quarterback — say, Trevor Siemian — to somebody who has never even played football, only to reach the conclusion that neither was a “good” quarterback.

Well now we’re going to get random person off the street quarterbacking our team for the next four years.  Actually worse than random person off the street — I would quite literally prefer a random person as POTUS to Donald Trump, and that’s true even if the random selection pool included infants, lunatics, and Jill Stein.

I guess it’s not brain surgery

[ 139 ] December 5, 2016 |

Appointing someone who admits to being completely unqualified for a job, and who also happens to be black, to that very job is exactly what one would expect a racist to do, since that’s a racist’s definition of “affirmative action” in action.

[Carson’s] critics say a career in medicine is not the right training for someone running a vast federal housing bureaucracy.

“He has a powerful personal story that could connect him to a lot of families that rely on HUD assistance,” Ms. Liu said. “He just needs to use that personal story to listen and empathize — and really learn about the latest innovations in the field.’’

To be fair, Carson’s boss is also going for the full on the job training route (I doubt Donald Trump could pass a ninth-grade civics test).

And then there’s this nifty bit of framing in the Paper of Record:

“There’s a lot of anxiety now, because this election was about the heartland versus the coastal elites; we’re going to need a HUD secretary who governs both,” Ms. Liu said.

That would be “Amy Liu, the director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the left-leaning Brookings Institution in Washington.”  With “leftists” like this who needs reactionaries?

Current popular vote totals:

Denizens of the Heartland:

62,745,360

Coastal Elites:

65,355,176

We’re going to need a bigger espresso maker.

The problem with math, Nate Silver edition

[ 53 ] December 3, 2016 |

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight has got a formula for predicting who gets into the college football playoff, and it’s pretty ridiculous.  For example, the formula predicts that if Alabama loses to Florida today, there’s a 58% chance that Alabama will miss the playoff.  The actual odds that Alabama misses the playoff are zero.

Alabama has been ranked #1 all year, they are universally considered the best team in college football this season, and if they were to lose to Florida they would have to be bumped from the playoff by at least one two-loss team.  There is no possible way that can happen. None.

How do I know this? Because I’m a college football fan and I know how this stuff works. I can’t put it into a formula, unless “Alabama is already in the playoff no matter what happens today” counts as a formula.

But Silver has his numbers and he straps themselves to them even when they make no sense, which I guess is what he gets paid for.  To be fair by sticking to his method he ended up being less wrong about the presidential election than everybody else so there’s that.  But if your formula tells you something that any half-informed fan can tell you has no resemblance to reality, then maybe you should tweak it somehow.  (I understand he’s working with very little data here but come on try harder).

Wayne Barrett on Trump

[ 69 ] December 3, 2016 |

TNR has a fascinating interview with Wayne Barrett, long-time Village Voice investigative reporter, and author of a 1992 book that depicted Donald’s Trump’s initial rise and all-too-temporary downfall in meticulous detail.  A few excerpts:

On the failure of the media, and specifically television journalism:

I was at Columbia Journalism School in 1968. It was the first year that they had a broadcast journalism program at the greatest journalism school in the world. Fred Friendly, who had been Edward R. Murrow’s producer, was hired to run it. And the concept of broadcast news, which was effectively written into law, was that if you get free airwaves, granted by the United States government—a trillion dollar asset at least—your only compensation is, you give us a little news. You give us a little fair news that meets journalistic standards. It wasn’t supposed to be a profit center. It was supposed to be a payback to the public for the free franchise. And now all it is is a profit center unguided by any journalistic principles. Guided purely by ratings and advertising. Television journalism proved in the course of this campaign that it has no ethic. It’s not like everybody who is on it is a bad guy. Some people are outstanding. But the industry as a whole has no ethic, owes us nothing. All it owes us is the same as what any other sitcom owes us, which is a product we are willing to consume.

On Donald Trump’s key role models:

What was it like having lunch with Roy Cohn?

Roy Cohn ate with his fingers. I kid you not. He brought a little glass inside of his coat pocket. He would pop little white pills when he thought you weren’t looking. He was the most satanic figure I ever met in my life. He was almost reptilian. I think he’s going to handle the swearing-in at the inauguration. They’re not going to bring a judge, they’re going to have Roy. And then Roy’s going to go back to the White House and fuck a 12-year-old. In the Oval Office.

I think Roy was the second-most important figure in Donald’s life, next to Fred. The point is that if you could meet the guy and say to yourself, “I want to be with this guy … ” Roy was already representing the heads of all five crime families in the city of New York. And the FBI affidavit said that the five crime families would meet in his law office because the feds couldn’t eavesdrop. It was lawyer-client. That’s where the bosses got together, in his office. The feds couldn’t do anything. That was an attraction to Donald.

So these were signs from the get-go, Donald was looking for the dark side. He was angling for the dark side.

On Trump’s likely relationship with Congress:

In your bookyou write about Trump’s talent for side-stepping bodies and extricating himself from damaging situations. What do you think that will portend for his relationships in government, whether they be in his cabinet or in Congress—people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell? 

I don’t think they’re going to get fleeced. Ryan’s going to get his dream. He can go into every poor person’s kitchen and take out whatever’s in the refrigerator. He’s been waiting for years to do this. Now he’s going to have two houses of Congress and a president who will just … “OK, you wanna do the budget? OK, that’s fine with me, you just do the budget, Paul. When it comes to poor people, you’re in charge.”

If you’re looking for potentially good news, there’s this:

There’s no check on his power except reality. That’s what I’m saying about Obamacare. He would like to figure out a way to do what he said on 60 Minutes. He doesn’t want 32 million people off of health benefits. He’s a realistic enough politician. And so Donald is restrained. Yes, he’s putting [Michael] Flynn and this crazy woman [K.T.] McFarlane in his cabinet—I mean complete warmongers. If Rudy Giuliani gets in, these are all people who you would think would put us on a pathway to war. But I don’t think Donald has any interest in war. He doesn’t own a munitions factory. It’s too late for Donald Jr. to start one.

I’m saying, not that Trump is a rational actor, but that reality will rationalize him. If he starts a war with Iran it can bring down his presidency. Let’s give him credit for one thing. He understood his own voters. He ran against endless international adventures at such great cost.

Your semi-regular reminder that millions of more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump

[ 169 ] December 1, 2016 |

Clinton’s popular vote margin is up to 2.51 million ballots.   She is now nearly two full percentage points ahead of Trump.

I keep seeing pieces (like this one in Vox) which assume that the popular vote count is basically done, and which proceed to analyze it on that basis.  It isn’t, and won’t be for another two weeks or so.  By that time Clinton is likely to have almost as many votes as Obama got in 2012, and will have won the popular vote by a margin exceeding that achieved by a whole bunch of winning candidates.

Imagine if people had known on election night, or even one or two days later, that Clinton had gotten three million more votes than Trump.  But because of our archaic voting processes this information has taken weeks to leak out, at which point the impact of what should be a shocking fact has been blunted by various psychological and practical factors.  Hence it’s important to keep reminding people that this happened.

. . . Dilan in comments seems to be making some sort of sore-loser stop-whining argument, which sounds like concern trolling to me (I don’t think it’s intended that way but that’s how it comes across).

If Clinton had won the electoral college but lost the popular vote by millions, there would be quite literally riots in the streets, with Trump himself egging them on, while the media would be agonizing about how “the system” could have failed so badly.

Reasonable moderate David Brooks laments how political polarization makes it impossible to elect someone like Barack Obama president

[ 74 ] November 30, 2016 |

It’s funny because it’s true.

If Obama offered a deal to raise taxes through tax reform while reducing entitlements, Brooks would write a sad column about how nobody was willing to raise taxes through tax reform while reducing entitlements. If Obama favored education reform, an infrastructure bank, and more high-skill immigration, Brooks would write a sad column about how nobody favored those things. When Obama supported market-oriented health-care reform, Brooks opposed it as an extravagant government takeover. Then later he wrote a sad column about how “we’d have had a very different debate if we knew the law was going to be a discrete government effort to subsidize health care for more poor people” rather than “an extravagant government grab to take over the nation’s health-care system.”

The effect of all this commentary was not to empower the moderate ideas Brooks favored, but to disempower them. Brooks was emblematic of the way the entire bipartisan centrist industry conducted itself throughout the Obama years. It was neither possible for Obama to co-opt the center, nor for Republicans to abandon it, because official centrists would simply relocate themselves to the midpoint of wherever the parties happened to stand. The well-documented reality that the parties were undergoing asymmetric polarization was one they refused to accept, because their jobs was to be bipartisan, and it is difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon not understanding it.

As Jon says, Brooks’s job is literally (OK not literally but almost) to be the oh so sad voice of reason located at the putative midpoint of the political spectrum, no matter where that spectrum happens to be.

Seven years from now he’ll probably have the sads that no one is advocating the reasonable moderate view that the blacks and the Mexicans should be deported to Madagascar.

The new Radical Republicans

[ 46 ] November 29, 2016 |

 

Thanks to Donald Trump’s eminently predictable parroting of every important dogma of the contemporary Republican party, total denial is about to become the official position of every branch of the US government in regard to the great environmental crisis of our time:

 

Priebus appeared on the latest Fox News Sunday to explain Trump’s apparent “major flips on policy this week in an interview with the New York Times,” as host Chris Wallace put it — including the apostasy of possibly having “an open mind” about “pulling out of the Paris climate agreement.”

Trump is appointing countless climate science deniers to key positions, which tells you vastly more about what he believes and what he’ll do than his latest semi-coherent ramblings. As I wrote last week, Trump’s repetition of the phrase “open mind” during his Times interview was meant to distract from his constant repetition of long-debunked denier talking points (and it worked).

Priebus confirmed Trump wasn’t being forthright with the Times, telling Wallace, “As far as this issue on climate change — the only thing he [Trump] was saying after being asked a few questions about it is, look, he’ll have an open mind about it but he has his default position, which most of it is a bunch of bunk, but he’ll have an open mind and listen to people.”

You can’t you have an “open mind” on climate if your default position is “most of it is a bunch of bunk.” What is there to “listen to” if you believe the decades of research by thousands of scientists embraced by every nation in the world is mostly bunk? That’s the definition of epistemic closure of the mind. No surprise, then, that FoxNews — a major promoter of denial — didn’t call Priebus out on this absurd statement.

Here’s a little thought experiment: if you were to transport the contemporary GOP back to, say, 1970, what would the Party Line be on the existence of, say, anthropogenic smog?  Since the human contribution to global warming is today as well established as the human contribution to smog was back then, my better than a guess is that the Line would be identical to the present Line on climate change.

In other words, we’d hear a lot about how there really isn’t a smog problem at all, and to the extent there is one it’s almost wholly a natural phenomenon (forest fires! volcanoes! ozone is a natural part of the atmosphere!), and didn’t you know they had terrible smog in 19th century London EVEN THOUGH THERE WERE NO CARS LOL, and anyway there were only 96 Stage Three smog alerts in the LA basin in 1969 after the 107 in 1968 so this supposed “crisis” is going away all on its own.  Just ask this scientician!

Clean Air Act vote, 1970:

Senate:  73-0

House:  374-1

In Chancery

London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting
in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in
the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of
the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus,
forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn
Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black
drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown
snowflakes--gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of
the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better;
splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one
another's umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing
their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other
foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke
(if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust
of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and
accumulating at compound interest.

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and
meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers
of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city.
Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping
into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and
hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales
of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient
Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog
in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper,
down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of
his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the
bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog
all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the
misty clouds.

Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as
the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman
and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their
time--as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling
look.

The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the
muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction,
appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old
corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln's Inn
Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in
his High Court of Chancery.

Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire
too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition which
this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners, holds
this day in the sight of heaven and earth.

Moral panic in the culture of fear

[ 62 ] November 28, 2016 |

This is big story right now on most of the mainstream national news sites, (although to its credit at least the Times isn’t treating it like the outbreak of World War III):

 

An Ohio State University student plowed a car into a campus crowd, then jumped out and started stabbing people with a butcher knife before being shot dead by police Monday morning, officials said.

Ten people were taken to hospitals after the ambush, but none of the injuries were considered life-threatening. The incident was initially reported as an “active shooter” situation, but the suspect did not shoot anyone.

A police officer was on the scene within a minute and killed the assailant, likely saving lives, university officials said. “He engaged the suspect and eliminated the threat,” OSU Police Chief Craig Stone said. [emphasis added]

This actually sounds quite a bit like something that happened down the street from me just last month, which I’m pretty sure you haven’t heard about unless you live in the Denver-Boulder area, and maybe not even then:

BOULDER — A man wielding a machete on the University of Colorado campus was shot and killed on Wednesday morning after ignoring orders to drop his weapon — becoming the third person killed by Boulder law enforcement officers this year.

CU and Boulder police defended the use of deadly force inside the Champions Center on the north side of Folsom Field. Officers shot the man inside a stairwell after responding to a report of a man inside the building armed with a machete.

“Given the weapon the suspect was armed with, given the statement already made to our initial victim and given the nature of how he was maneuvering through the Champions Center, we believe it was in the best interest of the university that it was a deadly-force situation,” CU campus Police Chief Melissa Zak said at a news conference.

At 9:15 a.m., a patient who was being treated at the sports medicine facility at the Champions Center encountered the suspect in the parking lot outside the building, Zak said.

The suspect made harassing statements and followed the patient, who was not identified, into the building, Zak said. Officers from CU and the Boulder Police Department arrived and confronted the suspect on a stairwell between the fourth and fifth floor of the Champions Center.

“They ordered the individual to drop the machete,” Zak said, “and he did not drop it, at which time an officer-involved shooting occurred.”

Obviously other people suffered injuries in this morning’s incident, although none of those injuries are apparently life-threatening, while the CU incident merely involved threatening behavior.  But it would be safe to say that in a country in which 45 people are murdered on an average day, neither of these incidents would seem especially noteworthy or of more than strictly local interest.

Hey, but what if we’re talking about a terrorist attack of some sort?

Officials said the former Marine shot and killed by police after entering a University of Colorado building wielding a machete displayed character “incongruent with Marine Corps’ expectations and standards,” but his friends said he was a “goofball” at heart who had overcome a rough upbringing to excel as a drill instructor. . .

Officials have not revealed any possible motive for the incident, but a source close to the investigation told the Daily Camera the suspect was a “religious zealot of some kind” and who had been overheard talking about “looking for sinners.”

The source said the suspect approached a woman sitting in her car in the parking lot outside the Champions Center and wrote a message referring to the Ten Commandments on the vehicle before he entered the sports-medicine facility.

In a video posted on his Facebook page, Simmons speaks out against the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

“Get the (expletive) over it,” Simmons said in the video. “They want the human population to stop focusing on all the money and the conflict, they want you to focus on the racism and that stuff.”

Looks like we’ve got another mentally disturbed white guy on our hands.  Not a story, in other words.

Meanwhile, Twitter has some thoughts on today’s incident:

You insisted Ohio take in Somali Muslims knowing the inevitable terrorism they’d bring Ohio State University is on you

Looks like Kasich will eat any and everything.
Idiot John Kasich shoves pancakes down his throat while shoving terrorists down Ohio’s.

John Kasich’s comments all about him. No mention of Somali Muslim Terrorist. Just “we may never know why”. I know why. Duh.

Thanks John Kasich for inviting 45,000 Somali terrorists to Ohio. We will R.E.M. her this at your next reelection

John Kasich speaking – STFU – You asked for this!

It is important not to normalize this or see it for anything other than what it is

[ 159 ] November 27, 2016 |

In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.

There’s a bunch of other beauties in this latest little tweet storm from ohjesusican’teventypeitrightnow.

This is an example of what Masha Gessen was talking about immediately after the election:

Rule #4: Be outraged. If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself.

This is going to get a lot worse.  This is his best behavior, when he’s in his conciliatory stage, and when he has yet to receive any formal power.

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