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The Reviews Are In!

[ 83 ] August 18, 2016 |

sessions trump

And Donald Trump’s key target audience loves his new choice of campaign Grand Poobah:

Donald Trump’s campaign is under new management—and his white nationalist fanboys love it.

The campaign’s new chief executive, Stephen Bannon, joins from Breitbart News—where he helped mainstream the ideas of white nationalists and resuscitate the reputations of anti-immigrant fear-mongers.

White nationalists today invest a lot of energy worrying about growing Hispanic and Muslim populations in the U.S. Turns out, Breitbart News spends a lot of time worrying about those things, too. And in Bannon, they see a media-friendly, ethno-nationalist fellow traveler.

“Latterly, Breitbart emerged as a nationalist site and done great stuff on immigration in particular,” VDARE.com editor Peter Brimelow told The Daily Beast.

VDare is a white supremacist site. It’s named after Virginia Dare, the first white child born to British colonists in North America. Brimelow said he and Bannon met briefly last month and exchanged pleasantries about each other’s work.

“It’s irritating because VDARE.com is not used to competition,” Brimelow added. “I presume that is due to Bannon, so his appointment is great news.”

Brimelow isn’t the only prominent white nationalist to praise the Bannon hire. Richard Spencer, who heads the white supremacist think tank National Policy Institute, said he was also pleased. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart has given favorable coverage to the white supremacist Alt Right movement. And Spencer loves it.

In fairness, Breitbart has really been motivated by economic anxiety. And you can’t deny that Trump has landed one of the world’s preeminent documentary filmmakers.

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Peter Thiel Explains Why He Endorsed Donald Trump

[ 89 ] August 17, 2016 |

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Silicon Valley billionaire and vampire Peter Thiel, as most of you know, is trying to sue Gawker Media into oblivion. His recent New York Times op-ed, has a lot of problems, such as flat-out lying about proposed revenge porn legislation being nicknamed the “Gawker bill.” But the most important part is where he gives away the show:

As the competition for attention was rewarding ever more exploitation, Gawker was leading the way. The site routinely published thinly sourced, nasty articles that attacked and mocked people.

So, rich people should be on the lookout for ways to put media organizations out of business if these organizations write unflattering things about them. This is exactly why Thiel’s series of lawsuits — basically fishing until you get the right state judge, and get a judgment that can cause huge problems for the defendants and their organizations even if the judgment and/or award have no chance of surviving on appeal — is so disturbing.

And as (Gawker editor) Tom Scocca points out, it’s not just Thiel that thinks it’s highly objectionable that Gawker criticizes its social betters:

It would be naive in the extreme to think that this legal war will be a one-shot deal.

This Should Solve All Of Your Problems

[ 404 ] August 17, 2016 |

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Donald Trump is a terrible candidate and is losing very badly. Showing at least some recognition of his cratering poll numbers, he has tried another campaign shake-up. It involves promoting a Breitbart executive and the theory behind it is that Trump’s campaign so far has been too sober and disciplined. What could possibly go wrong?

If you are a liberal and are not Thomas Frank, you will recognize this as excellent news, because the bigger Trump loses the better. We are already starting to get into territory where Trump could threaten the Republican House majority:

First, a very broad but important point from Blizzard’s tweets: It is VERY hard for a House candidate — whether incumbent or challenger — to run significantly ahead or behind the top of the ticket in a presidential year. The presidential race is so all-encompassing for voters — and House members/candidates typically so little known — that how the top of the ticket goes heavily dictates the results of House races. That’s true even in cases where the House incumbent specifically tries to run away from the top of the ticket; voters tend not to differentiate all that much — if they are voting against the Republican at the top of the ticket, they usually do the same down-ballot. It’s why political waves occur — and why we call them waves.

Now to the specific numbers behind Blizzard’s math. His calculation is that the best an endangered incumbent can hope for is to run five points ahead of Trump. So, how many Republican seats might that include?

The Cook Political Report lists 45 Republican seats and 11 Democratic ones as potentially competitive in November. Let’s focus in on those 45 Republican seats.

Of the 45, 40 remain largely intact from the 2011 national redistricting process. (Florida engaged in a mid-decade redraw.) For those 40 seats, we can overlay the Cook Report’s Partisan Voting Index (PVI) in an attempt to compare apples to apples. (The PVI ranks every district against every other district based on presidential performance.) Of the 40 GOP-held districts, 36 have a PVI of R+5 or lower, meaning that they are five points (or less) more Republican at the presidential level than all of the other districts in the country.

If Republicans lost all 36 of those seats with a PVI of R +5 or lower — and Democrats held all 11 of their contested seats — Democrats have the House majority. By six seats. Twenty-seven of those 40 seats have a PVI of R+3 or lower. Win those 27 and Democrats need to pick up only three seats among the slightly more Republican-friendly districts to win the majority.

One reason that the Democrats retain an outside chance of taking the House is that there’s a tipping point where gerrymandering works against the party that did it. Gerrymandering, by dispersing your supporters and concentrating the supporters of your opponents, gives you a substantial advantage in a normal election, but leaves you more vulnerable in the case of a wave. Trump being a historically bad candidate could be exactly that kind of tsunami. Trump’s decision to Be More Trump can’t hurt.

Guns Don’t Kill People

[ 121 ] August 16, 2016 |

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Woo-hoo America!

Berks County DA John Adams also said at a Monday press conference that the couple had previously had “domestic disputes,” and that police were called to the home on July 18. No charges were filed; Megan Short told responding officers she was afraid of her husband, Adams said. They gave her instructions on how to get a protective order but she “declined” to proceed with the paperwork, The Morning Call reports.

Mark Short legally purchased a .38 caliber handgun the following day from a licensed dealer. Megan Short posted on social media sometime before the shooting that she planned to move out, and had already leased an apartment, where she planned to move August 6, investigators said.

The ability of people involved in “domestic disputes” to acquire handguns the very next day is the only thing standing between us and tyranny. Fortunately, I can’t see any way this would end bad…

Earlier this month, a Pennsylvania married couple and their three small children were found shot to death in their home. The Berks County District Attorney’s Office said Monday they believe Mark Short Sr. was the gunman, killing his wife Megan and their children before shooting himself.

Police were called to the Short family home in Sinking Spring, Penn., on August 6 after Megan failed to show up for a planned lunch date. She was found dead, along with Mark and their children 8-year-old Lianna, 5-year-old Mark Jr. and 2-year-old Willow. The family dog was also shot to death.

The DA said today the medical examiner has determined Mark Sr. died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A suicide note left on the dining room table also matched his handwriting. Short had lost his job as a loan officer shortly before the shooting, NBC Philadelphia reports.

A Vote Is An Endorsement

[ 215 ] August 16, 2016 |

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Having it all ways, with Kelly Ayotte:

Sen. Kelly Ayotte has often found herself in a familiar spot with Donald Trump: Keeping her distance.
But in this fiercely independent state, Ayotte is gambling that voters might reward her for rebuking her own party’s nominee. She has criticized Trump and will not endorse him — yet still plans to vote for the billionaire in November.

“I will take on my own party,” Ayotte told CNN in Nashua Monday. “I really believe that this is a big issue in this race — that I am the one candidate that will stand up to whomever is in the White House to do good things when we can work together — also when it’s wrong to stand up to them.”

If you’re voting for Trump you’re endorsing him, a point that needs to be made frequently in ads by Maggie Hassan.

Also, Ayotte voted with the party leadership 85% of the time in 2014 and 84% in 2013. A vote for her is a vote for the vast majority of the Ryan/McConnell agenda, which Donald Trump, the candidate Ayotte supports, would not veto.

In related news, Trump does indeed seem to be taking Republican Senate candidates down with him. Which, if you actually care about progressive policy outcomes, is a sufficient reason for (pace Thomas Frank) wanting Clinton to win by as large a margin as possible.

BREAKING! Donald Trump Is A Terrible Candidate

[ 185 ] August 16, 2016 |

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OHMYGOD SAVE US JOE BIDEN WE’RE DOOMED!

Donald Trump’s post-convention collapse has hurt him in the polls across the country. But it’s really hurt his numbers in some crucial swing states in particular — states that would be enough to give Hillary Clinton an Electoral College majority.

Now Trump is trailing in an average of post-convention poll results for every swing state from the past two cycles. That includes, of course, the traditional powerhouses of Florida and Ohio, where Clinton has taken single-digit leads.

But there are six states that have moved especially dramatically in Clinton’s direction.

Four of these — Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire — have pretty consistently supported Democratic presidential candidates for decades, and are returning to old form despite speculation that Trump could put them in play this year.

There are another two — Virginia and Colorado — that appear to have transformed. They were solid Republican states in presidential years as recently as 2004. But Barack Obama won them twice, and Clinton is now leading in both by very comfortable double-digit margins.

If those six swing state leads hold up, they’ll be enough to give Clinton the presidency even if the national race tightens enough to let Trump win the old standbys of Ohio and Florida.

It’s not strictly accurate to say that Trump has no chance. But a Clinton landslide is much more likely than a Trump win:

The possibility of a landslide victory for Mrs. Clinton — one larger than any since 1984 in the national popular vote — is larger than the chance that Mr. Trump will pull it out. According to The Upshot model, Mrs. Clinton has a better shot at winning the red state of South Carolina than Mr. Trump has at winning the presidency. In that sense, perhaps Mrs. Clinton’s position is more like having a double-digit lead at the beginning of the third quarter.

At this point, it’s probably fair to say that Mrs. Clinton’s lead is real and durable. Gallup data indicates that the post-convention bounce is largely over: Both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton’s favorability ratings have returned to where they were before the conventions.

Mrs. Clinton’s gains have proved relatively durable in part because they’ve come from Democratic-leaning voters who seem unlikely to defect to Mr. Trump. Recent polls have shown her with the support of up to 90 percent of Bernie Sanders’s supporters, and more than 90 percent of Democrats.

But don’t kid yourself — the people who think that Trump is sorta running to Clinton’s left are definitely the real base of the Democratic Party.

Notably Rare Exceptions

[ 92 ] August 15, 2016 |

Shorter verbatim Rudy Guiliani: ““Before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack inside the United States.”

The one, and only, useful thing Donald Trump has ever done for the republic is to break the piety about how George W. Bush KEPT US SAFE before Republican audiences. One advantage Trump had in the GOP primaries is that he didn’t even have to lie to go after the likes of Jeb!, although he always would if necessary.

This Meme Is Over An I Can Declare the Winner

[ 49 ] August 15, 2016 |

What’s the Matter With Thomas Frank?

[ 483 ] August 15, 2016 |

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Thomas Frank has done good work in the past, and he might in the future. But something about Barack Obama seems to have completely broken him as an analyst. Barack Obama has compiled what is, at worst, the fourth most progressive set of legislative achievements of any president in American history — despite the party having effective control of Congress for less than a year — and overall the Democratic Party is moving to the left by any possible metric. This doesn’t, needless to say, make the Obama/Reid/Pelosi Democrats beyond criticism. But Frank has spent years arguing as if it was not only still 1996 but as if they were moving to the right. Nothing — not the fact that Obama has a far more progressive set of accomplishments than Clinton or Carter, not the surprising success of Bernie Sanders’s campaign, not Hillary Clinton running on arguably the most progressive platform the party ever has — can give him even the slightest pause. In Frankworld, the Democrats are following up two terms of the Lieberman administration with an Al From/Zell Miller ticket running on DLC position papers. The classic expression of this view was his Salon interview with Steiniac Cornel West, in which the two didn’t merely agree that Barack Obama had accomplished nothing and refused to fight the Republicans on any issue but preemptively asserted that everyone on the American left agreed with them. He’s got a narrative, and he’s deeply committed to it although it’s transparently wrong, and doesn’t even consider the possibility that anyone could disagree with him. It’s very strange.

He does see one party moving to the left, though — the Republican Party. Is this insane? Yes. But his reaction to the Republican convention was that Hillary Clinton was DOOMED because Trump was going to win the liberal votes Clinton was ignoring. No, really:

The Republicans were trying to win the support of people like me! Not tactfully or convincingly or successfully, of course: they don’t know the language of liberalism and wouldn’t speak it if they did; and most of the liberals I know will never be swayed anyway. But they were trying nevertheless.

Donald Trump’s many overtures to supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders were just the beginning. He also deliberately echoed the language of Franklin Roosevelt, he denounced “big business” (not once but several times), and certain of his less bloodthirsty foreign policy proposals almost remind one of George McGovern’s campaign theme: “Come home, America.”

If you see 4 days of Trump’s Republican Party and its cynical, content-free, and oh white supremacist gestures to populism and think “George McGovern,” I really don’t know what to tell you. I mean, have you notice that the tea party has spent 8 years superficially denouncing “big business,” and the policy outgrowth of that is “cut capital gains taxes, repeal Dodd-Frank, try to nullify the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and eliminate the estate tax.” Frank has become the ultimate mark for the Republican scams he used to eviscerate so effectively. “Ivanka Trump promised something that sounded like universal day care.” The candidate’s daughter seems to favor something that no Republican of any influence supports and appears nowhere in the party platform? Yeah, I’m sure Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will get right on that! The Republican Party’s calls to deregulate Wall Street come with some gestures to reinstating Glass-Steagall? They want to “break up Wall Street”! Can Frank really think this sale to Harriet and Blah Blah Nyborg is going to stick? Has he seem how they were living? How can he delude himself?

Two weeks after he saw a wave of liberal defections to Trump, he’s upset that it’s not happening:

And so ends the great populist uprising of our time

Wait, we’re talking about Donald Trump? Are you shitting me? Look, even on trade he’s just saying he’ll “renegotiate” agreements. He’s not going to be hiring Erik to do the negotiating. And other than trade there’s nothing remotely “populist” in any progressive sense about the Trump campaign.

Two weeks ago, I wrote in this space about how the Trump phenomenon had reconfigured the conventional geometry of the two-party system. Trump was riding high in the polls at that moment, and there was reason to believe that his criticism of trade deals – one of several Trumpian causes long associated with the populist left – might play havoc with the Democrats’ happy centrist plans.

1)There was not, in fact, any reason to think that was happening, and 2)the Democratic plans are not “centirst” unless you’re using a metric other than the American political spectrum. I will even grant that on trade, the elite Democrats haven’t moved much to the left. But, really, this isn’t the only issue in the world. Expanding the minimum wage, expanding Social Security, protecting the expansion of Medicaid — this stuff matters! Frank doesn’t cite any other Trumpian cause associated with the “populist left” because there isn’t one (unless he’s talking about the racism of many 19th century populists.)

Now let us ponder the opposite scenario. In the intervening two weeks, Trump has destroyed himself more efficiently than any opposition campaign could ever have done. First, he heaped mounds of insults on the family of a US soldier killed in Iraq, then prominent journalists raised doubts about his mental state, and then (as if to confirm his doubters) he dropped a strong hint that gun enthusiasts might take action against Hillary Clinton should she appoint supreme court justices not to his liking.

His chances, as measured in the polls, went almost overnight from fairly decent to utter crap.

Yes, nobody could possibly have anticipated that Donald Trump would be a terrible candidate and run a terrible campaign. Just comes completely out of nowhere. But what concerns me is the palpable disappointment Frank seems to feel about the collapse of Trump. What person on the left could possibly be rooting for him to do well? Does Frank go on to praise Brexit? I think you know the answer.

And just as he has invented a fictional left-wing Donald Trump, he’s invented a fictional Hillary Clinton who’s running on a right-wing platform. “Headlines show Clinton triangulating to the right.” (Which ones?) “In her big speech in Michigan on Thursday she cast herself as the candidate who could bring bickering groups together and win policy victories through really comprehensive convenings.” Well, yes, of course, all politicians stay stuff like this — so what? But using this speech as evidence for Clinton’s pivot to the right is, to be generous, tendentious. Inter alia, the speech called for:

  • Massive new infrastructure development
  • Increasing the federal minimum wage
  • Ppposition to the TPP
  • Expanding Social Security
  • Attacked Trump’s tax credit for child care as a giveaway to the affluent, drawing a contrast with her much more progressive program.
  • Attacked Trump’s tax cuts for the rich while advocating tax increases
  • Strengthening unions

You can argue about how strongly committed she is to these views, but if you can’t ignore them if you’re assessing the direction of her campaign. The claim that she’s moving to the right is simply false. And the double standards he uses to evaluate Republican and Democratic politicians is absolutely embarrassing. The Republican candidate’s daughter makes a stray, unrepresentative gesture to a policy proposal? A MAJOR SHIFT TO THE LEFT! The Democratic candidate actually advances a series of progressive proposals? WHY DOES SHE HATE THE LEFT?

Things will change between now and November, of course. But what seems most plausible from the current standpoint is a landslide for Clinton, and with it the triumph of complacent neoliberal orthodoxy. She will have won her great victory, not as a champion of working people’s concerns, but as the greatest moderate of them all, as the leader of a stately campaign of sanity and national unity. The populist challenge of the past eight years, whether led by Trump or by Sanders, will have been beaten back resoundingly. Centrism will reign triumphant over the Democratic party for years to come.

Leaving aside the fact that his characterization of the Clinton campaign as “neoliberal” is the latest example of the word becoming a slur devoid of any actual content, Frank’s argument that it would be good for reform politics for Clinton to win narrowly or lose is ridiculous. The rare periods of progressive change in the United States have always been followed by what were, in context, big wins. If you want Clinton to govern to the left, you want her to win big. This is obvious. The idea that Trump getting trounced is bad for the American left makes no sense. But it’s the logical culmination of Frank’s alternate political universe, one that has long since abandoned any connection with reality.

These Things Are True

[ 98 ] August 14, 2016 |

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Down to every detail:

Minor correction here.

Maureen Dowd Is A National Embarrassment

[ 306 ] August 14, 2016 |

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Maureen Dowd, as not enough people remember, spent the 2000 campaign 1)writing columns that were frequently dishonest and all so dumb they should have been published in the original crayon that 2)aggressively advanced the Gush-Bore narrative of the race. The idea that George W. Bush was a harmless moderate was…profoundly and obviously wrong and the results were awful. Admittedly, she wasn’t the only one on this point — her colleague Frank Rich was just as bad. But he learned. Maureen Dowd, as always, learns nothing. And hence her latest column:

The Republicans have their candidate: It’s Hillary.

Anybody who thinks Hillary Clinton is fundamentally a Republican has absolutely no business getting paid to write about politics by anybody, let alone the most prestigious op-ed page in the country.

They can’t go with Donald Trump. He’s too volatile and unhinged.

The obvious problem with this is that the vast majority of Republicans who matter are, in fact, going with Trump.

The erstwhile Goldwater Girl

Here we have an ironclad indication that a column is not worth reading. For the record, for most of the 1964 campaign Hillary Clinton was 16. Reagan voted for FDR multiple times as an adult, but suggesting that as a presidential candidate he was a standard-issue New Deal Democrat would have been a firable offense. This is even dumber.

Hillary will keep the establishment safe. Who is more of an establishment figure, after all? Her husband was president, and he repealed Glass-Steagall, signed the Defense of Marriage Act and got rid of those pesky welfare queens.

All of these things are certainly worthy of substantial criticism. But leaving aside the fact that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton are, as best as this blog can determine, different people, there’s the much bigger problem that it ain’t 1996 anymore. The parties, entirely without Dowd noticing, have diverged massively. And norms that even in periods of divided government Congress and the president need to cut deals to get things done have been clubbed to death and thrown into the Potomac. The DOMA reference, in particular, gives away the show. What disabilities, precisely, can Clinton be expected to impose on LBGT people? Aren’t the facts that we have a national right to same-sex marriage because Democratic presidents nominated 4 Supreme Court justices and a Democratic Senate stopped a Republican president from getting his first choice, and Clinton’s justices will affirm this decision and Republican nominees in 2017 almost certainly would not, vastly more relevant than legislation that passed 20 years ago with massive bipartisan majorities?

Unlike Trump, she hasn’t been trashing leading Republicans. You know that her pals John McCain and Lindsey Graham are secretly rooting for her.

LOL at the idea that John McCain and especially Lindsey Graham are “leading Republicans” in 2016. And perhaps we should be asking why this rooting has to be secret. Trump is, in fact, the leading Republican.

The Democratic nominee put out an ad featuring Trump-bashing Michael Hayden, an N.S.A. and C.I.A. chief under W. who was deemed “incongruent” by the Senate when he testified about torture methods. And she earned an endorsement from John Negroponte, a Reagan hand linked to American-trained death squads in Latin America.

It is true that a bunch of neocons have endorsed Clinton. And the reasons for it is obvious: Clinton is not a nut, and people primarily concerned with foreign policy don’t necessarily have the strong commitment to upper-class tax cuts and forcing women to carry pregnancies to term that compels most Republicans to go along with Trump.

There are, of course, entirely legitimate reasons to be concerned about Clinton’s foreign policy, which will almost certainly be worse than Obama’s (although much better than Bush’s.) Politically, she should respond to the endorsement of people like Negroponte with “they endorse me; I don’t endorse them.” But the endorsements themselves don’t really tell you much of anything other than that Trump is unacceptable to many Republicans who don’t care about domestic policy.

Hillary is a safer bet in many ways for conservatives. Trump likes to say he is flexible. What if he returns to his liberal New York positions on gun control and abortion rights?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA oh my. Dowd is literally as clueless about how politics works as an otherwise unpublishable random Salon dudebro. Even assuming that Trump wanted to be liberal on these issues, how exactly would he do it? Sign the gun control legislation that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell wouldn’t pass? The Federalist Society hacks he nominates would vote to affirm Roe because he appointed them? Help me out here — I’m sure there’s an Aaron Sorkin script that explains how it all works.

Trump is far too incendiary in his manner of speaking, throwing around dangerous and self-destructive taunts about “Second Amendment people” taking out Hillary, or President Obama and Hillary being the founders of ISIS. And he still blindly follows his ego, failing to understand the fundamentals of a campaign. “I don’t know that we need to get out the vote,” he told Fox News Thursday. “I think people that really wanna vote are gonna get out and they’re gonna vote for Trump.”

Despite which, most Republican voters and most Republican politicians of actual influence support Trump. So how is this behavior un-Republican, exactly?

And now, the punchline:

And that’s how Republicans prefer their crazy — not like Trump, but like Cheney.

Clinton and Cheney — not a dime’s worth of difference!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — the fact that these witless and comprehensively ill-informed columns are not only published in the New York Times but used to be showered with awards is about as damning an indictment of America’s overpaid and underachieving elites as you could ask.

UPDATE: LOL:

Jon Papelbon 2016: A Richly Ironic Tale of When Bad Things Happen to Complete Assholes

[ 183 ] August 13, 2016 |

For reasons I cannot explain, the Washington Nationals elected not to release Jon Papelbon after he physically assaulted their best player over a trivial PLAYING THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY incident. He rewarded them by pitching himself out of the closer job and then demanding and receiving his release. Which led to this world-class Jon Papelbon anecdote:

Too bad the Nats didn’t cut him in a more timely manner so he could have appeared at the RNC!

There’s an obvious Doors joke here, but I will have to leave it to you because I remain firmly of the belief that evaluated properly as a pop singles band the Doors were perfectly fine.

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