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The real significance of the (first) Trump tape

[ 68 ] October 9, 2016 |


The LA Times does a daily poll tracking the presidential general election. This poll has had a very strong house effect in Trump’s favor for the entire campaign, and it’s been a big outlier from just about every other poll, so I think it’s predictive value is probably close to nil.

But I think the latest edition, which was taken yesterday, is interesting for another reason, which it’s the first general election poll done after Friday’s tape imbroglio, and it was taken even as many high-ranking Republicans (although as Scott points out none of the party leadership) abandoned Trump.

What this poll at least suggests is that, among the electorate, collapsing support for Trump among GOP elites may well have no discernible effect whatsoever. And really, this makes sense: if you were willing to vote for Trump before Friday, despite everything, why would this tape (and indeed whatever bombshells the Clinton campaign has got in the hopper, which I assume include some stuff that’s even more damning) change your mind?

At best I can see the tape and whatever else is in the pipeline costing Trump a percentage point or two among his softest/least likely to vote support, which would of course be very significant in a close election, which this isn’t. And I suppose this kind of stuff makes the odds of some sort of last-minute turnaround longer.

But the real significance, I think, is that it’s causing an open rupture between many GOP elites and some candidates on the one hand, and the vast, vast majority of GOP voters on the other. In other words, this fiasco could well cost the GOP dearly down ballot, while Trump still gets 45.8% of the vote or whatever.

In this way, the whole affair is a perfect encapsulation of the Frankenstein’s Monster aspect of the Trump phenomenon. The modern GOP created him, and now the party (in the sense of The Party Decides thesis) wants to escape him, but it can’t and it won’t.


Wow, it may actually be happening

[ 110 ] October 8, 2016 |


McCain bails.

Tic Tac joins Skittles in denouncing Donald Trump

[ 24 ] October 8, 2016 |

It’s true.

The crucial M&M vote remains up in the air.


[ 154 ] October 8, 2016 |


Senator Ted Cruz in a reflective moment

Here’s a good summary from Tim Alberta of NR on what yesterday’s latest unpleasantness means for the GOP and its various standard-bearers after November 8:

It’s not just the party leadership in Washington that’s showing no appetite for taking on Trump. A whole host of Republican senators, including nearly all of those facing reelection next month, issued statements Friday night expressing outrage at the nominee’s remarks. They came from: Arizona’s John McCain; North Carolina’s Richard Burr; Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey; New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte; and Ohio’s Rob Portman, among others. But not one of these senators announced any kind of opposition to Trump — whether by withdrawing their support or by calling on him to step down as the nominee. . .

Where this will prove stubbornly problematic for the GOP is in its efforts to distance itself from Trump on November 9, over the ensuing four years, and perhaps much longer. In Congress and on the campaign trail, Republicans will attempt to turn the page on an ugly chapter in their party’s history, and they will do so by arguing that they had nothing to do with Trump’s ascent. They will claim that he was never their first choice, that he wasn’t a conservative, and that they only supported him because it was a binary choice between him and Hillary Clinton. But it won’t be an easy pitch, given how many of them have been on record excusing and enabling his behavior — and how many more have refused obvious opportunities to abandon ship, including the tape incident of October 7.

That’s a short part of a long and devastating pol by pol indictment (The specific bits about Cruz, Rubio, and Pence constitute 180-proof schadenfreude for progressives, so please surf responsibly).

What’s particularly fascinating to me about yesterday is the specific question of why the video has caused such an outcry, and especially why that outcry has caused something like a full-scale panic among GOP elites. The video reveals absolutely nothing new about Trump, after all. His lifelong misogyny and taste for harassing (and probably much worse) behavior towards women was already approximately as well documented as Brangelina’s marriage.

I mean what’s worse, these comments, or boasting publicly on several occasions that you would like to rape your own daughter? (I’m assuming that Ivanka would not consider such congress to be consensual).

So why now? What makes this the proverbial straw, if it is that? For crying out loud, Trump made two other PUBLIC STATEMENTS YESTERDAY that, to my mind at least, were every bit as horrifying and disqualifying as these eleven-year-old private comments. What is it about this that seems for the moment at least to represent some sort of tipping point?

“I apologize if anyone was offended”

[ 160 ] October 7, 2016 |


Really, what more can be said at this point?

Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone — saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it” — according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.

The video captures Trump talking with Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” on a bus with Access Hollywood written across the side. They were arriving on the set of “Days of Our Lives” to tape a segment about Trump’s upcoming cameo on the soap opera.

The tape obtained by the Post includes audio of Bush and Trump’s conversation inside the bus, as well as audio and video once they emerge from it to begin shooting the segment.

In that audio, Trump discusses a failed attempt to seduce a woman, whose full name is not given in the video.

“I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Trump is heard saying. It was unclear when the events he was describing took place. The tape was recorded several months after he married his third wife, Melania.

“Whoa,” another voice said.

“I did try and f— her. She was married,” Trump says.

Trump continues: “And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’”

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump says. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”

At that point in the audio, Trump and Bush appear to notice Arianne Zucker, the actress who is waiting to escort them into the soap opera set.

“Your girl’s hot as s—, in the purple,” says Bush, who’s now a co-host of NBC’s “Today” show.

“Whoa!” Trump says. “Whoa!”

“I’ve gotta use some tic tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says.“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

“And when you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.

“Grab them by the p—y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

A spokeswoman for NBC Universal, which produces and distributes “Access Hollywood,” declined comment.

“This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close,” Trump said in a statement. “I apologize if anyone was offended.”

I guess I’ll just add that David Farenthold is doing more real journalism right now than several cable news networks combined.


Why are so many NFL and top college coaches so horrible and down/distance/time management?

[ 61 ] October 7, 2016 |


This isn’t one of the most pressing public issues of the moment, but it’s one that I find fascinating. NFL and big time college football coaches are at the top of their profession, and are paid millions of dollars per year to do their jobs. You would think that decisions such as whether to punt or not would have been routinized by them to the point where they wouldn’t make absurdly obvious mistakes in this regard (although of course there would still be difficult decisions at the margin).

Here’s a classic example from this past weekend:

Tampa Bay is trailing 27-7. They have a fourth and six at the Denver 46 yard line, with 7:30 remaining in the game. To this point, Denver has possessed the ball for 16:10 out of the 22:30 of second half game time. Tampa Bay needs at least three TDs to have a chance to win. Dirk Koetter decides to punt.

Now here are a couple of common rationalizations that get made for this kind of thing:

(1) Koetter knows his team has almost no chance so he’s just trying to get out of Dodge without more injuries.

Now this might be a defensible decision (Tampa Bay’s chances of winning are very slim at this point even if he doesn’t do stupid stuff like punt in this situation), except he’s not making that decision, because when Tampa Bay did the ball back, in an even more hopeless situation at their own 19 with four minutes left, he sent Jameis Winston out there again to get chewed up by the Denver pass rush.

(2) Since they have almost no chance anyway what difference does it make?

Well the difference it makes is that you’re moving your chances of winning from 4% to 1% (or whatever), which is actually a huge difference in percentage terms, if not absolute terms. It’s like saying that it doesn’t matter if you make a horrible bet on a hand in poker in which you’re way behind, because you’re likely to lose anyway. What sort of sense does that make?

. . . a couple of other common ones mentioned in comments:

(3) Coaches don’t just try to avoid losing, they try to avoid losing while making unconventional decisions, since they will be blamed for both the loss and the unconventional decision making. This argument has a lot of force I think, but the interesting thing here is that the conventional wisdom about when to punt has shifted markedly over the past decade or so, and coaches like Koetter and many others are still way behind it.

(4) Coaches will sometimes try to maximize the odds of avoiding a blowout over the odds of actually winning, when the latter are very small. I dunno . . . maybe. But does anybody really care whether you lose by three TDs or four (or five?). Also, it’s unclear whether people are defending this purported strategy or just describing it.

Anyway, what explains the commonplace use of massively suboptimal strategies in regard to down and distance decisions by people at the top of their profession? I’m sure there are a lot of factors, but it’s very strange in an era where it’s extremely easy to demonstrate that many of these decisions make no sense.

A painful case

[ 180 ] October 7, 2016 |


As I’ve mentioned before, I certainly hope the mental health services at the University of Chicago are first rate:

When Sally Haslanger, a prominent feminist philosophy professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, returned to her Cambridge office in August after a summer abroad, she found a padded envelope with no return address waiting for her.

She opened the package while sorting through her other junk mail and stuck her hand inside to feel what was there.
“Then I thought, ‘Oh shit,’” Haslanger said. “‘This is shit. I’m one of the other people who got the shit!’”

MIT’s Environmental Health and Safety team confirmed that the substance was feces, according to a university police report. But Haslanger wasn’t as confounded as one might expect a well-respected philosopher to be when faced with a mysterious package of poop. That’s because three other philosophers also received shit in the mail last summer.

In July, Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins, a philosophy professor at the University of British Columbia, emailed Haslanger, who’s a friend, to say she had received feces in the mail — creatively described by the mystery sender as “foam sculptures,” according to the attached customs declaration.

The same month, J. David Velleman, a philosophy professor at New York University, stuck his hand into an envelope of shit delivered to his office door.

After this story was published, a fourth philosophy professor, Carolyn Jennings, emailed BuzzFeed News photos of the unmarked package of feces she received in July.

All four philosophy professors were embroiled in a 2014 academic brawl over what they perceived as an abuse of power within their field. Now, they say someone is sending them shit in an attempt to shut them up.
The question is, who? And why now?

Jennings’, Haslanger’s, and Velleman’s packages were stamped but had neither a return address nor postmark. However, Jenkins’ package contained tracking information, which traces back to a USPS facility in Chicago. Brian Leiter, a renowned philosopher and law professor at the University of Chicago, is the colleague with whom the four had a high-profile squabble two years ago. The return address is one digit off from Leiter’s office at the University of Chicago, and the sender is listed as “Peter Aduren,” a pseudonym that some believe is used by Leiter.
Leiter emphatically denied sending excrement to anyone.

“I have no insight into why crazy people would do crazy things like mail shit to people,” he said via email.

Although he has no insight into why crazy people do crazy things, he thinks he knows who is responsible:

Several months ago, I learned, via the Chair of the Philosophy Department at British Columbia, that my old pal Carrie Jenkins had received an “offensive” package, and that the return address consisted in a mangled version of my Law School’s address and a pseudonym attributed to me by a law blogger who had championed the idea that “law school is a scam” and whom I had mercilessly criticized for years.

The “law blogger” is me. Leiter previously suggested I or my criticisms of the law school establishment might have something to do with the murder of Dan Markel. The day before he did so “someone” had fed this charming theory to a newspaper, which he then proceeded to quote. Note Leiter’s faux amazement that a reporter so quickly “dug this [“this” being a couple of comments buried deep in a two-year old comment thread on my ITLSS blog] up from the bowels of cyberspace.”

The pseudonym in question is “Peter Aduren,” which Leiter used in the course of cyber-stalking and harassing various people on various occasions. Leiter has never actually denied that he did this, although he has labored mightily to produce the impression that he has denied it (Whether that counts as a “lie” is something I’ll leave to the analytic philosophers).

Moving right along:

I was not going to write about this misconduct at all, since publicity tends to encourage lunatics. But since it continues, it’s worth flagging it as a warning to potential victims. It also turns out one recipient told a reporter that receiving the package was a case of being “threatened for speaking out about what [she] perceives as abuses of power within the discipline.” I confess I laughed when I heard that, since it attributes far too sophisticated motives to the malevolent actor(s). Alas, what this is really about is what happens when one vile cyber-cesspool–the “law school is a scam” crowd–hears about another cyber-controversy (the one about the PGR) involving their nemesis, namely, me.

It is of course extremely unlikely that the perpetrator of this pathetic and disturbing publicity stunt is from the world of arguments about the behavior of contemporary American law schools, since the number of people from that world who even know who Haslanger, Jenkins, Velleman, and Jennings are can be estimated as one (1).

Now that I put it that way, I realize it isn’t unlikely at all. But since publicity tends to encourage lunatics, it would probably be best not to give this latest little outburst any more of it than necessary.

Is Hurricane Matthew a Cat 4 storm that’s going to devastate the east coast of Florida?

[ 136 ] October 6, 2016 |


Or just a hyped-up government conspiracy to add to hysteria about so-called global warming?

Views differ.

Money for nothing

[ 164 ] October 2, 2016 |

moe greene

(1) There’s a sure-fire way to build a small fortune in this great country of ours, which is to start with a much larger one. Donald Trump is a guy who has a real genius for self-promotion, and is apparently awful at literally everything else (real estate development, marriage, learning things, Twitter etc.). I would put the odds of him having negative net worth at present as significantly above zero.

(2) I think at this point Trump is almost certainly getting high on his own supply: he’s getting intoxicated by the cult of personality that he’s built at these white trash Triumph of the Will extravaganzas, so he now really believes his own nonsense about biased polls and millions of hidden voters. He’s a poor man’s Mitt Romney in other words. (It’s like rain on your wedding day).

(3) It’s amazing how football coaches who are paid millions of dollars a year are incredibly bad at clock management. Every single weekend there’s a bunch of stuff like this:

Stanford has the ball at the Washington 43, fourth and very long, 30 seconds left and clock running at the end of the half. If Washington doesn’t call time out, Stanford can let it run all the way down until there’s time for one play, and then run a Hail Mary, which from the other team’s 43 has a very non-trivial chance of working. So the smart thing for Washington to do is to call time immediately, since Stanford will almost certainly punt if they do rather than risk turning the ball over close to midfield with time left.

Chris Petersen, Washington’s coach who is paid millions of dollars a year, doesn’t think to do this — but it doesn’t matter because David Shaw, who is paid millions of dollars a year by Stanford, just lets the clock run down while lining up in punt formation, and then actually punts with 10 seconds to go and the clock still running! (Again something like this, which is the equivalent of hitting on 20 in blackjack, happens several times every weekend in both big time college football and the NFL, although the worst examples tend to be in the former).

It’s 3 AM. Do you know where your Republican presidential nominee is?

[ 372 ] September 30, 2016 |


If you guessed tweeting up a storm about how Alice Machado is a “disgusting” slut, while trafficking in crazy conspiracy theories about how Hillary turned her into a US citizen so she could make him look bad, you win a lifetime supply of free tuition to Trump University.

One of the more impressive things about this is that Trump likes to make a big deal about how he doesn’t drink, so this is all being done while sober, assuming being drunk on 180-proof narcissistic rage doesn’t count.

You know who else the elites thought they could control?

[ 99 ] September 29, 2016 |


If you’re into schadenfreude (why do the Germans always come up with the best words for the most reprehensible things I wonder?) consider the present position of the GOP elites in re Littlefingers:

Early last week, if you squinted hard enough it was possible to see the Republican Party beginning to unite behind presidential nominee Donald Trump. It was not overwhelming support, nor was it the full-throated endorsement a partisan might want for the party’s nominee. It was more tepid, trending towards lukewarm. . .

Then came Monday night, and a Trump performance that ranked as likely the worst ever turned in by a major party nominee in a presidential debate. All of a sudden, you could not find anyone besides Rush Limbaugh and congressional back-benchers like Marsha Blackburn to defend the GOP’s standard bearer.

For example, RNC chairman Reince Priebus — who ahead of the debate tried his hardest to put a positive face on the pile of rotted orange peels in a suit that his party nominated by suggesting that 14 season finales of his reality show “The Apprentice” had prepared Trump for the debate — has been missing in action since Monday. His Twitter feed, which he has regularly used to slam Clinton, has been almost entirely silent.

GOP congressional leaders have said as little as possible. Paul Ryan, whose relationship with Trump has been tenuous, tried to have it both ways. He called the nominee’s performance “a unique Donald Trump response to the status quo” — but also suggested he should actually, you know, prepare for the next debate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell said Trump did “just fine,” which is what a Southerner says when he means the exact opposite.

The Republican leitership remains on the horns of an exquisite dilemma. If Trump appeared to have a good shot at winning they would of course be throwing their purported principles overboard faster than Usain Bolt being chased by a grizzly bear. Lesser of Two Evils, he can grow into the office, he doesn’t really mean any of that super-racist stuff, and so forth. Heck, Ted Cruz was already there a few days ago (what a thoroughly disgusting character he is — and don’t be surprised if he’s your 2020 nominee).

Conversely, if Trump looked like a sure loser they’d be “distancing” themselves in whatever way they would calculate was best suited to avoiding a downballot blowout, so that they could claim subsequently that they never really supported him anyway, that his nomination was some sort of one-off freak Orange Swan event, etc. (Paul Ryan has been preparing to pull this stunt for months, and he’s going to get away with it, just watch).

But instead they’re getting middled. Trump is probably going to lose, but it’s still far from a forgone conclusion. This is, from the GOP elites’ perspective, the worst possible situation in terms of their own unctuous groveling v. frantic ass-covering calculus.

It’s a lot of fun to watch if you’re into that sort of thing (Except for the whole “Trump could still win” downside, which is admittedly harshing my schadenfreude mellow).

Mission accomplished

[ 162 ] September 28, 2016 |


Donald Trump has told a crowd of 7,500 that he was holding back during the first presidential debate with Hillary Clinton because he did not want to embarrass her.

He insisted that every poll showed him winning the debates but cited only internet surveys to prove this; every scientific poll taken in the aftermath of the debate showed a majority of viewers believing the Democratic nominee had won.

The Republican nominee’s unhappiness with coverage of his widely panned performance showed. Three times in the course of a rally in Florida, Trump called out “the corrupt corporate media” and gestured towards his supporters to turn towards the press pen to boo, hiss and even, in one instance, shout “go to hell”.

I get a feeling we’re going to see the real Donald Trump in the next debate, as opposed to the guy on Monday night, who so easily could have been confused for Edmund Burke.

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