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The Vote Fraud Fraud: Another Way In Which Donald Trump is the Culmination of Longstanding Republican Trends

[ 108 ] October 18, 2016 |

Jamelle Bouie recently observed that Donald Trump’s preemptive claims that the election is being stolen from him “could be the catalyst for actual intimidation and violence, before and after Election Day.” How Trump and his supporters will react to his nearly certain pending defeat is pretty terrifying. And in one sense Trump is an unusually threatening figure — say what you will about McCain and Romney, they actually conceded, in the latter case despite having convinced himself that the polls were SKEWED and he was going to win.

But, in another way, Trump is just the logical extension of the party of Shelby County and Hans von Spakovsky. Talk up the vote fraud fraud enough — raising it up to a threat that not only justifies all kinds of vote suppression measures but effectively justifies reading the Section 2 of the 15th Amendment out of the Constitution — and it’s not surprising someone would follow the argument where it leads. Mark Joseph Stern:

It is interesting that Republicans have chosen to draw the line at Trump’s completely unfounded claims. For the past 16 years, the GOP has fervidly stoked Americans’ fears of voter fraud and repeatedly declared that Democrats were stealing elections without any basis in reality. Trump has merely escalated this rhetoric to a dangerous new level. Republicans are, of course, wise to condemn his wild conspiracies. But they cannot claim the moral high ground at this late date when the entire Republican Party had spent so long priming its base to believe every baseless word Trump utters about election fraud.

The modern movement to persuade Americans that Democrats rig elections began during the George W. Bush administration. Following the harrowingly close 2000 election, Republicans realized that the GOP would benefit from laws that limited Democrats’ access to the ballot—stringent voter ID measures, whose burdens fell disproportionately on minorities, a mostly Democratic constituency. But states needed an excuse to pass these laws, so Bush ordered the Justice Department to uncover and prosecute as many instances of voter fraud as it could find. In reality, there were only a handful of bona fide voter fraud cases throughout the country. But Bush notoriously fired United States attorneys who couldn’t find fraudulent voters to prosecute, signaling to Justice Department attorneys that their jobs depended on rooting out nonexistent fraud.

Between 2002 and 2006, the Bush administration’s crackdown led to a grand total of 86 convictions of voter fraud out of about 200 million ballots cast, a rate of 0.00004 percent.* A majority of the convicted voters had simply filled out registration forms inaccurately or misunderstood eligibility rules. Yet Republican politicians and lobbyists effectively repackaged these meager findings as proof that Democrats were corrupting the electoral system and possibly even unlawfully swinging elections. Over the next decade, state legislatures passed a raft of voting restrictions—including voter ID requirements and early voting cuts—along party lines. As a general rule, Republicans supported these measures and declared that they were necessary to prevent fraud, which they said—again, contrary to all available evidence—was pervasive. Democrats opposed them, recognizing that most voting restrictions had the practical effect of disenfranchising minorities, who tend to vote Democratic.

There’s another way, then, in which Republican claims of vote fraud are Trumpian — they’re pure projection.


The Mind-Bending Powers of Billy Bush

[ 113 ] October 18, 2016 |


Today in the American meritocracy, Billy Bush will have to make do with something in the order of a $10 million severance before finding his next sinecure. And why not — he’s capable of telepathically making Donald Trump talk about how much he enjoys sexually assaulting women:

Since then we haven’t heard much from Melania, but on Monday night she’s set to appear on CNN with Anderson Cooper to offer a full response to the recent string of sexual-assault allegations against her husband. And according to a clip, she’ll spend much of that interview making excuses for him.

“As you can see from the tape, the cameras were not on — it was only a mic,” she tells Cooper in one clip. “And I wonder if they even knew that the mic was on because they were kind of boy talk[ing], and he was led on, like egg[ed] on, from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.”

Donald Trump was never a sexist vulgarian until he had a softball interview with a random Bush scion. That seems plausible!

Judge Thwarts Trumpian Attack on Freedom of the Press

[ 73 ] October 18, 2016 |


Needless to say, this is appalling. Amy Goodman filmed pipeline company goons attacking protestors, and was brought up on charges for her efforts:

Goodman’s report created a rare crack in the consensus of silence. And, as Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi writes, the outrage it generated may well have influenced the Obama administration’s decision to halt work on the pipeline several days later. This was journalism that mattered.

Yet, on September 8, Goodman received the news that Morton County, North Dakota, had issued a warrant for her arrest. The charge: riot, a misdemeanor punishable by jail time and a fine.

It should be noted that this was not the original charge leveled against Goodman; initially, she was tagged with criminal trespassing, also a misdemeanor. But in what would seem to be a clear sign of charge-shopping, the prosecutor, Ladd Erickson, switched up the crimes she had allegedly committed just days before she was set to appear in court, because, he admitted in an e-mail to Goodman’s lawyer, there were “legal issues with proving the notice of trespassing requirements in the statute.”

When asked to explain the grounds for arresting a working journalist, Erickson told the Grand Forks Herald that he did not, in fact, consider Goodman a journalist. “She’s a protester, basically,” Erickson told the newspaper. “Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions.” And in The Bismarck Tribune he later added, “I think she put together a piece to influence the world on her agenda, basically. That’s fine, but it doesn’t immunize her from the laws of her state.”

It’s worth pausing here for a moment to contemplate the full and chilling absurdity of this statement: According to Erickson, a woman who appeared at a protest carrying a microphone emblazoned with the name Democracy Now! and trailing a video crew; who can be heard in the resulting video report identifying herself to a security guard as a reporter; and who then broadcast the video on the daily news program she has hosted for 20 years is not actually a journalist. She is not a journalist, because she harbors a strong perspective, and that perspective clashes with his own. By the same distorted logic, every muckraking news gatherer from Ida Tarbell and Upton Sinclair on through I.F. Stone, and, yes, today’s Matt Taibbi (whose work Erickson apparently admires) was not a journalist but an activist flirting with arrest.

Fortunately, for once the story has a happy ending:

A judge has refused to sign off on proposed riot charges against Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. In September, Goodman and her crew filmed an ongoing protest by thousands of American Indian activists against a planned North Dakota pipeline. A prosecutor first charged Goodman with criminal trespass, then attempted to upgrade the charges to participating in a riot.

Goodman went back to North Dakota Monday to appear in court; shortly before she was due there, a Democracy Now! producer reported that Judge John Grinsteiner had rejected the riot charge.

Projecting Your Political Preferences Onto People Is Not Taking Them Seriously

[ 264 ] October 17, 2016 |


Dylan Matthews’s big piece about Trump voters makes several important points.  Let’s start here:

Donald Trump’s supporters deserve to have their concerns taken seriously.

If the media and commentators in 2016 can agree on nothing else, it’s this. It’s a bit of an odd meme. I can remember literally no one in 2012 dwelling on the importance of taking the concerns of Mitt Romney voters seriously, even though they made up a considerably larger share of the population than Trump supporters. No one talks about taking the interests of Hillary Clinton supporters, a still larger group, seriously.

But Trump supporters, a smaller group backing a considerably more loathsome agenda, have received an unprecedented outpouring of sympathy, undertaken as a sort of passive-aggressive snipe at unnamed other commentators and politicians perceived to not be taking their concerns seriously.


I agree with a lot of this. The government should help people who are materially struggling. Globalization definitely left some segments of the population struggling, and they deserve help. White people, while still economically dominant over black and Latino Americans in basically every way possible, can suffer from poverty too.

 But there’s something striking about this line of commentary: It doesn’t take the stated concerns of Trump voters, and voters for similar far-right populists abroad, seriously in the slightest.

I wrote about this at the time, but towards the tail end of the Democratic primary a neat little pundit’s fallacy gained substantial currency. The white working class in states like West Virginia — including most typical representatives, who have a voting preference order something like Trump > Manchin > Sanders > Clinton > Obama — are straightforwardly calling for and willing in a general election to vote for MOAR SOCIALISM, and liberals only see white nationalism as playing a substantial role because they despise the working class. (Do, say, Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown and Tom Perez despise the working class and not want to support them materially through public policy? Or are they honorary not-liberals because they’re pro-labor and favor more egalitarian economic policies? Either way, these generalizations are wholly useless.)

But as Matthews says, projecting your ex ante views onto people is pretty much the opposite of taking them seriously. First of all, the data is clear that racial resentment is playing a major role in Trump’s support:

Even in the general election, while support for Trump is correlated most strongly with party ID, the second biggest factor, per the analysis of Hamilton College political scientist Philip Klinkner, was racial resentment. Economic pessimism and income level were statistically insignificant.

The message this research sends is very, very clear. There is a segment of the Republican Party that is opposed to racial equality. It has increased in numbers in reaction to the election of a black president. The result was that an anti–racial equality candidate won the Republican nomination.

Given that the US is one recession away from a Republican winning the presidency, this is a concerning development.

Of course, white nationalism cannot be neatly disentangled from factors like economic insecurity and concerns about status. White supremacy is not the only thing going on here. But while a major expansion of the welfare state is clearly necessary to deal with economic dislocation, it’s wishful thinking to think that it will make racial resentment disappear:

I actually agree that the current capitalist regime is failing. We need truly universal health care, universal child care, a universal child allowance or basic income, and programs to address deep poverty. Redistribution is a very good, necessary thing.

But we have a good case study we can examine to see if Western European–style welfare states can prevent far-right racist backlashes from popping up. It’s called Western Europe. And Sweden’s justly acclaimed welfare state did not prevent the rise of the viciously anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, which has its origins in the Swedish neo-fascist and white supremacist movements and is now the third-largest party in Swedish parliament.

Nor did Austria’s welfare state prevent the far-right Freedom Party — led by Jörg Haider, who praised Hitler for having a “proper employment policy” — from entering government in 1999. France’s crèches and best-in-the-world government health care didn’t prevent Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been repeatedly convicted of Holocaust denial, from reaching the runoff for the 2002 presidential elections. It has not stopped his successor and daughter Marine from leading polling for next year’s presidential elections. The Netherlands’ comprehensive welfare state has not prevented first Pim Fortuyn and then Geert Wilders from becoming major political forces, with the latter leading most polls for the next elections.

Nor has Germany’s strong, manufacturing-heavy and export-oriented economy, arguably the strongest in Europe, kept the far-right AfD party from gaining in recent local elections. It’s telling to note that while economically thriving Germany is facing a far-right menace, Spain, where unemployment is 20 percent (similar to the US in the Great Depression), has no far-right movement of much consequence.

An expansion of the welfare state is desirable because it’s the right thing to do. But to assume that doing so will immediately produce solidarity and social democratic governing coalitions is a mug’s game. And in addition to the comparative analysis, American political history makes this clear. The New Deal didn’t stop a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats from effectively controlling Congress from 1939-1964, peaking with Taft-Hartley, and effectively shielding the apartheid police states from federal intervention. The Great Society coalition fractured even more quickly. The most progressive Congress since the Great Society was absolutely drubbed the first time it faced an election. If doing the right thing was always good politics, then politics would be easy. But it’s hard. The fact that Trump’s road to the Republican nomination started with literally declaring the first African-American president to be un-American should probably be a hint.

Today In Things That Seem Overdetermined

[ 117 ] October 17, 2016 |


Peter Thiel remains all-in on Trump:

Peter Thiel, true to his reputation as the most contrarian soul in Silicon Valley, is doubling down on Donald J. Trump.

The only prominent supporter of the Republican candidate in the high-tech community, Mr. Thiel is making his first donation in support of Mr. Trump’s election. He will give $1.25 million through a combination of super PAC donations and funds given directly to the campaign, a person close to the investor said on Saturday.

What are the odds that someone who started a (successful) campaign to bankrupt a media company because it published accurate information and/or judgments he found unflattering about he and his friends and wants to repeal the 19th Amendment would donate to a misogynist authoritarian who threatens to sue media organizations who print accurate information he deems unflattering?

MLB/NFL Open Thread

[ 140 ] October 16, 2016 |
May 11, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona (17) in the dugout in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

May 11, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona (17) in the dugout in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

  • It’s been a pretty great postseason so far.  On last night’s game, like Schoenfield I generally hate IWs and think they’re substantially overused, and particularly almost always hate IWs to load the bases, but given the unique context of last night’s game and the opportunity to get Chapman out of the game, I think Roberts made the right decision — it just didn’t work out. I also agree that Baker’s decision in Game 5 to take Scherzer out after Pederson homered on a good pitch was questionable but not a Grady Little-level obvious blunder. He’s right to note how important that Justin Turner AB was.
  • Andrew Miller was an unusually consequential midseason pickup, and Tito has been using him masterfully.  If he takes the Tribe to the World Series I think that ends any question of whether he’s a Hall of Fame manager.
  • I’m curious about what office Curt Schilling is going to run for, exactly. Senate from Massachusetts or Rhode Island? Right. Is drivetime host of Boston’s most racist sports talk show an elected office? Does Trump have a yacht in international waters that needs a Grand Poobah? To be fair, he could probably be governor of Massachusetts if he got to run against Martha Coakley.
  • The Dak Prescott question. You can’t argue with the results so far — you name the metric, he’s been one of the best in the league, although I do wonder how sustainable it is if he can’t show more ability to stretch the field. But I agree that I’d stick with him as long as he keeps playing well. (Also, it’s waaaaaay to early to reach any conclusions, but I wonder if Elway is second-guessing himself a little for trading up for Lynch right now. At least he didn’t trade 40 1st-rounders for a guy who can’t beat out Case Keenum for the starting job.)
  • Speaking of ol’ 7-9 Fisher, he had a classic Thank You For Not Coaching 4th quarter last week. First, he kicked a field goal 4th-and-goal from the 5 with less than 7 minutes left that still left his team needing a touchdown to take the lead. And then, on the next drive he called for a fake punt from deep inside his own territory on 4th down. And not just a fake punt, but a fake punt so obviously telegraphed that the Bills defense clearly saw it coming and made appropriate adjustments before the play. Both decisions were terrible and worse collectively than either one was individually. And now the Bills need only beat the 49ers at home to be 4-2. I guess Greg Roman was the problem!
  • And, yet, ol’ 7-9 can’t even win last week’s TYFNC title, which must go to Mr. Todd Bowles. The Jets have had a brutal schedule and it’s not Bowles’s fault that Fitzpatrick has predictably turned into an Ivy League pumpkin. But the defense has also regressed and that decision was so bad that even “you just have to put the points on the board” types weren’t defending it.

There Will Never Be Peak Dreher, But…

[ 162 ] October 15, 2016 |

What can you even say?

I wouldn’t want my children around Donald Trump or Miley Cyrus. But Miley Cyrus is a far more dangerous figure to human dignity and the imago Dei.

If you think that having consensual sexual relations with someone of the same gender is “more dangerous” for human dignity than someone grabbing your genitalia without your consent, your moral compass needs a pretty serious overhaul.

…as DocAmazing observes, the most influential conservative talk show host in the country beat Rod to it.

America’s Last Liberal President (TM) Responds To Attica

[ 106 ] October 15, 2016 |


As most of you know, on September 13, 1971 New York state troopers executed a violent takeover of Attica Correctional Facility, killing 10 hostages and 33 prisoners and seriously injuring scores more. Richard Nixon, America’s Last Liberal President (TM), and his administration had been working with the governor of New York and encouraged a violent takeover rather than a negotiated settlement. When he first heard about the takeover, he told New York’s governor that “I back you to the hilt” and said that, like the massacre of protesters at Kent State, it would “have a salutary effect.”

Not that it’s much of a mitigating factor, but at the time of Nixon’s initial response the media was dutifully spreading the lies of the New York state government, who asserted that the hostages had been tortured and killed by the prisoners, “necessitating” the violent takeover. This lie, however, was quickly exposed. Monroe County medical examiner John Edland performed autopsies on the killed hostages and found they had all been killed by gunfire, which given that the prisoners didn’t have firearms settled the question of whether the hostages had been killed by the troopers or the prisoners. He also found that the alleged castration of a hostage did not happen. New York’s Republican authorities reacted in a familiar manner: by threatening Edland and portraying the conservative Republican as a radical hippie revolutionary bent on smashing the state. After two more medical examiners ignored implicit and implicit threats and also found the bodies of the hostages riddled with bullet holes and without their throats cut, the official narrative finally crumbled (although, of course, once a narrative takes hold it is difficult for mere facts to dislodge it.) Here was Nixon’s reaction upon hearing the news:


As you can see, the violent takeover was enthusiastically ordered by Saint Nelson Rockefeller, another Republican some liberals and left-of-liberals like to compare favorably to contemporary liberal Democrats for roughly the same reasons (and with the same factual basis) that sports broadcasters like to say stuff like “baseball is 90% pitching” and “you just. put. the. points. on. the. board. in. the. NATIONAL. FOOTBALL. LEAGUE!”

In conclusion, if only the liberal Richard Nixon rather than the neoliberal Barack Obama had been president the left might have actually gotten something out of the last 8 years.

All of the facts about Attica are from Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water. I will have a longer review published later this month, but it is a monumental accomplishment and you should read it.

Trevor Siemian, All-Pro

[ 89 ] October 14, 2016 |


It is it impossible for a mediocre NCAA quarterback to become a good pro? I suppose not, but it’s certainly massively unlikely. After his good second half against the Chiefs a lot of people were crowing that Trevor Siemian was the exception. I wasn’t ready to go along then and I’m certainly not now:

Quarterback grade: Trevor Siemian, 40.5

The book is out on Siemian

Teams are figuring out the Denver quarterback: Force him to throw deep. And chances are he still won’t. Even with the Broncos behind late in the game and needing multiple scores, Siemian still refused to throw anything other than underneath routes. On the day he completed only one of his nine attempts targeted 10-plus yards down the field. Those are abysmal numbers and the Chargers exploited it by squatting on underneath routes and giving Siemian nowhere to go.

There are capable starting NFL QBs, and there are QBs who throw nothing but checkdowns when trailing by multiple TDs in the 4th quarter, and there’s certainly no overlap in those categories. Maybe Siemian will develop a great deal quickly, but again I know how I’m betting. My basic take on the Broncos before the season started would be that their defense would still be really good but not as dominant as last year’s and their passing game wouldn’t be good enough to make up for that, and as of now I stand by it.

While Siemian may not be better than his predecessor Tim Tebow as a quarterback, though, at least nobody’s trying to pass him off as a professional baseball player:

In his ESPN Insider column today Law eviscerates Tebow-the-baseball player, calling him “an imposter pretending to have talent he does not possess.” Law says that Tebow’s bat speed is terrible, his foot speed is terrible and his routes to baseballs in the outfield are terrible. Law says “there’s absolutely no baseball justification for Tebow to be here.” He then lays into the Mets and Major League Baseball for craven opportunism for Tebow’s presence when, absent his fame, he’d be nowhere near the AFL, which normally caters to top prospects and organizational talent which at least has the pretense of a baseball future.

I’ve noted that, in many respects, ESPN has itself been craven in the promotion of Tebow’s baseball aspirations. He’s an ESPN employee, after all, and the farther he goes in baseball the better chance there is for ESPN to promote its talent and, perhaps, turn this whole baseball business into some shoulder programing in the form of a documentary or extended feature of some type. It’s good to see that at least one ESPN employee — one who knows a thing or three about prospects — isn’t having any of it.

Ah, the American meritocracy! Wasting a roster spot on your lowest minor league team in Tebow is silly, but trivial. Slots in the AFL, though, really should be going to people who are actual prospects. It’s a disgrace that the Mets are trotting him out there.

Son of Serial Sexual Harasser Says Women Should Suck Up Sexual Harassment

[ 142 ] October 14, 2016 |


I must call attention to an example of neoliberal dishonesty from Hillary Clinton:

Look, I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald.

I rate the first two claims “mostly false” and the last “extremely true”:

Donald Trump Jr., the embodiment of every stereotype about people named “Jr.”, said in 2013 that women who can’t handle harassment at work “should go maybe teach kindergarten.” He also opined that all-male golf courses are “cool” and that everybody is so uber-sensitive these days. How original!

The comments were uncovered by Buzzfeed News: Trump Jr. made them during a March 2013 episode of The Opie and Anthony Show, a year before one of the hosts was fired for going on an extended racist rant about black people. Trump Jr. said first that he had a hard time letting go of all-male golf courses: “If you have a guys’ place you have a guys’ place.”

Apparently, the orange doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Slightly Defective Robot Repeats Inane, Irrelevant Talking Points

[ 70 ] October 14, 2016 |


It says a great deal about the Republican Party in 2016 that Mike Pence is somehow the more competent and less misogynist politician on the ticket.

“we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight”

[ 162 ] October 13, 2016 |


Now this is how you call a bluff:

The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a “piece of ass.” Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.

It is indeed pretty hard for the publication of evidence of conduct you’ve boasted about to be libelous. The whole thing is great:

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