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Category: General

Against the Voter-As-Consumer And Politics-As-Soap-Opera

[ 389 ] August 22, 2016 |


For reasons previously stated I disagree with several of the assumptions about the direction of the Democratic Party that underlie Adolph Reed’s essay on the 2016 election. But in this context, that’s not important — indeed, it makes his unsentimental argument about what voting can and can’t accomplish all the more powerful:

By contrast, Jill Stein and Greens typically proceed from a quite different view of electoral politics, one that has much more in common with bearing witness or taking a personal stand on principle than with seeing it as an essentially instrumental activity. The Greens’ approach generally, and Stein has shown that she is no exception, is that all that is necessary to make a substantial electoral impact is to have a strong and coherent progressive program and to lay it out in public. That view is fundamentally anti-political; it seeks to provide voters an opportunity to be righteous rather than to try to build deep alliances or even short-term coalitions. It’s naïve in the sense that its notion of organizing support reduces in effect to saying “It’s simple: if we all would just…” without stopping to consider why the simple solutions haven’t already been adopted. This is a politics that appeals to the technicistic inclinations of the professional-managerial strata, a politics, that is, in which class and other contradictions and their entailments disappear into what seems to be the universally smart program, and it has little prospect for reaching more broadly into the society. And Stein and her followers have demonstrated that this sort of politics is tone-deaf to what a Trump victory would mean, the many ways it could seriously deepen the hole we are already in. I get the point that Clinton and Trump are both evil, but voting isn’t about determining who goes to Heaven or choosing between good people and bad people. Indeed, that personalistic, ultimately soap-operatic take on electoral politics is what set so many people up to be suckered by Obama. (And does anyone really believe that a President Trump, who routinely spews multiple, contradictory lies in a single compound sentence, would actually block the Trans Pacific Partnership or retract the imperialist war machine?)

This opposition to voting as consumerism and politics as soap opera is beautifully put. One striking thing about the vast majority of the #NeverHillary crew is how quickly they retreat into “vote for Stein: it won’t make any difference whatsoever!” when challenged — they live in a deep blue state, Trump is going to lose anyway, Economics 101 tells you that your individual vote doesn’t matter, etc. It’s an argument that’s almost too lazy and self-regarding to refute itself. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of heighten-the-contradictions, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

I’ll let these grafs speak for themselves:

Often enough, the “never Hillary” stance is blinded by a demonization of Clinton that frankly seems irrational. In fact, it is difficult to imagine that it is often not at least tinted with sexism. From the standpoint of fealty to Wall Street and corporate interests, or for that matter imperialist bloodlust, she’s no worse than Obama, John Kerry, Al Gore, or Bill Clinton. Some of that tendency to demonize her reflects the high emotions generated during the campaign among some of the Sanders faithful, as well as perhaps a reaction to having their outsized dreams dashed. It is understandable that in the high intensity of the campaign activists could be swept up in exuberance about possibilities. But even though winning the nomination and then the presidency was the primary objective all along, from the very beginning it was a longshot because the deck was stacked against the insurgent campaign. That’s what challenging entrenched power means. Making the race as close as it became was an important victory, one that encourages optimism about movement-building possibilities. I fear, however, that some of the exuberance tended to slide into seeing the campaign as a messianic crusade, or to see it as a social movement itself. (That’s the reason I never much cared for the “political revolution” slogan; it too easily left room for the impression that struggling to advance the campaign was tantamount to making a revolution. It wasn’t; it wasn’t even close to generating a revolutionary movement. It did create conditions that, with considerable focus and effort, could facilitate the sustained political organizing and action necessary to influence the terms of national political debate.)

To the extent that for some people Bernie v. Hillary became a Manichaean morality play, it simply repeated the wrongheaded good guys/bad guys understanding of politics that has underlain feckless left electoralism for more than a generation. And this points up an important limitation of the critique of lesser evilism. There is a significant difference between, on the one hand, making pragmatic choices in given instances among a range of more or less undesirable options that are available and, on the other, defining, as a matter of course, what we want only in terms of what we think can get. The former is what we have to do in life generally, across the board, as an artifact of living in a society in which we as individuals cannot define the matrix of options solely to suit our preferences or desires. The latter bespeaks a defeatist orientation, a politics with no rudder and one that flies in the face of what it should mean to be a left. Lesser evilism, that is to say, is a structural problem not an individual one. It is a pathology of opinion-shaping institutions—unions and others—that refrain from attempting to intervene in shaping the matrix of options and the terms of political debate. Only if one accepts, as many Greens do, a civics-text version of democracy in which it is the actions of free-agent citizens that determine the political agenda is it possible to assume that individual electoral statements can have any impact on the drift of lesser evil politics. An analogy with environmentalism may sharpen this distinction. My scrupulous attention to closing the refrigerator door or turning off lights whenever I leave a room may permit me to feel righteous in my commitment to curtail environmental degradation. They have absolutely no substantive impact on the phenomenon, however. Worse, as Andrew Szasz has argued forcefully in Shopping Our Way to Safety, my righteous behavior, especially if I convince others to adopt it, can fuel the dangerous illusion that I am doing something meaningful and relax my sense of urgency to demand structural reform.


Pharma Gouging: This Time It’s Personal

[ 156 ] August 22, 2016 |


I have no way of knowing if an EpiPen has ever saved my live, because the counterfactual is eternally unknowable. But it may well have on multiple occasions. Even if you’re very conscientious, it’s very difficult to avoid triggering nut allergies, and I’ve averaged roughly an EpiPen use a year for a decade. So I can assure you that this is a big deal:

The extensive price hike for a vital, life-saving drug for many with allergies is causing concern among doctors, patients, and politicians—along with a guy responsible for an extensive price hike himself.

Mylan pharmaceutical, the maker of the EpiPen—a portable epinephrine injector that can potentially save someone having a life-threatening allergic reaction—is being accused of raising the price of the product from around $100 in 2008 to $500 today. In all, that’s an increase of over 400 percent.

This is especially worrying because Mylan has a near monopoly in the business, especially after one of its competitors issued a recall last year. Doctors have likened its brand dominance in schools to that of Kleenex. Many schools have emergency epinephrine in stock and there are states pushing for legislation to make that mandatory.


“The drug industry’s greed knows no bounds,” Sanders said. “The only explanation for Mylan raising the price by six times since 2009 is that the company values profits more than the lives of millions of Americans.”

NBC stated that while there isn’t a House committee investigation in the works, there is a lawsuit on the way.

“I’ve been looking at EpiPen for years,” said Ari Kresch, CEO of 1-800-LAW-FIRM. “It’s a very cheap drug but I haven’t been successful in getting any experts to tell me why the price has gone up as much as it has.”

The insurance I have until December at least has pretty good pharma coverage, so will the co-pay for an EpiPen is much higher than for any other prescription I’ve ever had to fill it’s not hard to afford on a middle-class salary.  But for people with worse insurance and/or more strained circumstances this could be a serious hardship, and I can see people taking the risk of going without one. It’s a serious problem.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 45

[ 28 ] August 21, 2016 |

This is the grave of Eli Whitney.

2016-05-07 11.40.35

Born in 1765 in Westborough, Massachusetts, Eli Whitney became one of the most important inventors in American history. He graduated from Yale in 1792, going late because his stepmother opposed it and he had to earn the money first, working as a teacher. He hoped to study law but continued to lack money so he went to Georgia to work as a private tutor. On the ship down to Georgia, he met the wife of the recently deceased Rhode Island Revolutionary War hero turned slaver Nathanael Greene. They became friends and invited him to her plantation. While there, Whitney invented the cotton gin, solving the long-term problem of cotton production, which was getting the seeds detached from the fibers, a labor-intensive operation making large-scale production unfeasible. He received the patent for his cotton gin in 1794. This led to an almost immediate rapid intensification of American slavery as cotton fever spread over the South and gave the slaveholding class a new profitable crop to crop after years of low-profit tobacco grown on depleted soils. Emancipation rhetoric ceased in places like Virginia and Americans rapidly sought to exterminate the Indians of the American South to clear their land for cotton, something nearly completed within 50 years.

The cotton gin did not make Whitney rich, which was often the case with successful inventions in early America because patent infringement was so common. But it did make Whitney famous. He received federal contracts to create arms with interchangeable parts as early as 1798. He did not invent this idea, but he significantly advanced it. The contract was not for the arms to be used in the United States, but rather to push the Americans’ rather obstinate definition of neutral rights, which in their minds meant selling whatever they wanted to whoever would buy it, including guns to both nations at war with each other. As he became rich on these contracts, he became ever more tightly connected with the Connecticut elite around Yale. He died of prostate cancer in New Haven in 1825.

Eli Whitney is buried in Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven, Connecticut.

The Shape of the NFL 2016

[ 163 ] August 21, 2016 |


A certain commenter from what is a swing state in presidential elections on involving Donald Trump and produces America’s best-named barleywine requested an NFL thread. As it happens, I’ve been enjoyment my August ritual of reading the Football Outsiders Almanac, which I assume you know is essential if you’re into that kind of thing. Not every writer can be Schatz or Tanier, but you’ll learn something from every chapter’s combination of careful statistical analysis and film review. Anyway, I won’t do a predictions post until September, but the projections are a good basis for discussion. The Seahawks have the highest mean win projection and playoff odds, closely followed by the Cardinals, Pats, Steelers, and Packers on the 10+ win level. Bascially, the teams that have excellent-to-great QBs and credible-to-excellent defenses. You will notice one obvious omission from this list — the defending Super Bowl champions. Their mean win projection is 8.2, tied with the Bills and Chargers. A couple of things should be noted about this. First, because of high variance and because injuries can lead to a catastrophic season like the Ravens and Cowboys had last year, the win projections are compressed: no team has a mean over 11 or under five, although there will almost certainly be multiple teams in both categories. So I would probably bet the Broncos over 8, and I’d also probably bet their win total over Buffalo or Los Angeles San Diego.

But are they a top contender? I agree with the projection and the analysis (Chief Justice Schatz assigned the chapter to himself) that they aren’t, and I would be surprised to see them in the conference finals. The case for the Broncos is straightforward: they won 12 games and the Super Bowl despite using a QB in the playoffs who shattered every previous minimum standard for QB play, and figure to have an easier schedule this year. But the case against them is equally straightforward. It starts with this: they didn’t really play at a 12 win level last year. They were a 9 or 10 win team that enjoyed an incredible run of luck (and, in the case of the Chiefs and Pats wins, massive opposition coaching blunders) in close games. To stay at an 11 or 12-win level they will need to improve substantially, and if they regress at all they’re headed towards .500. And while it’s tempting to think that their offense has to improve, it’s not true. Remember that “Manning” started only 9 games last year; their offense was weak (-8.7% DVOA) but not among the very worst in the league. There’s definitely room to fall. So should we expect the Bronocs to improve or regress overall?

Probably the latter. The first problem is that it would be unprecedented for the defense not to decline. Of the top 10 defenses since 1989, every single one declined the following year, and only the 2013 Seahawks remained the best defense in the league the following year. Basically, what happens to historic defenses is that 1)defense varies more year-to-year than offense and 2)in the cap era teams inevitably lose depth (as the Broncos have with Jackson and Trevathan.) It’s true that the Bronocs have kept their most crucial talent together and have an outstanding track record of evaluating and developing defensive talent under Elway, but you can say exactly the same thing about Seattle under Carroll and Schneider and they weren’t able to maintain their dominance of 2013. It’s more a question of how much Denver’s defense will decline than if.

Still, the defense is not the biggest reason the Broncos don’t project as a top-tier team. Both the projection formulas and Schatz’s subjective analysis sees the most likely outcome for the defense as being like the post-peak teams of Buddy Ryan’s Eagles and the Legion of Boom: not as great but still pretty great. And I agree. They still have formidable talent and one of the best defensive coordinators ever. Barring injury, it’s a terrific defense — probably not as good as last year, but really good.

The real problem for the Broncos is that the 2015 Broncos notwithstanding it’s nearly impossible to win in the NFL with weak QB play. As Schatz put it, while the question for the defense is where it will fall on the spectrum of good-to-great, on offense “the most likely outcomes range from bad to atrocious that is as low as the ceiling is high” and “the situation at quarter back is more well-defined; for example, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word ‘horrendous’ as ‘very bad or unpleasant.” Here are your potential Broncos starters, comprising one of the vert worst set of QBs in the league:

  • The Sanchize. The definition of a replacement-level QB, he was bad every year he was a starter in New York and while his raw numbers picked up a bit in Chip’s system, he was distinctly worse than Nick Foles, whose current job is doing Alex Smith’s laundry and being Andy Reid’s point man to ensure that every play in the 2-minute drill takes 40 seconds to the snap.
  • Paxton Lynch, straight outta Memphis. He will probably end up with most of the starts, and should: he has the best chance of eventually being a viable NFL QB in the long-term, and it’s not like Sanchez has a high ceiling. But it will be hard for him to go from the cupcakes he was playing last year to the NFL. There is some precedent for QBs from programs like this being viablish NFL starters immediately, in Flacco and Dalton, but they’re the exception rather than the rule and you certainly wouldn’t want to be counting on it. (And as for his good pre-season start, I have two words: “Sam Bradford.”)
  • Trevor Siemian. He finished his career at Northwestern with a 58.9 comp% and a 27-24 TD-INT ratio. He is, in other words, a non-prospect. I’m not sure I would trade Christian Hackenberg for him straight-up. The fact that there’s any discussion of him playing this year illustrates how dire the situation is.

So the best bet the Broncos have, by far, is a 22-year old coming from the AAC with good tools but serious questions about his accuracy and ability to read progressions at an NFL level. Even if the Broncos only slip a little on defense, that’s not a team you should bet on to be in the conference finals.

A Few Links this Sunday Morning

[ 211 ] August 21, 2016 |

  • It’s my opinion that if you have a bunch of garbage followers on twitter (you know who you are, brocialist-attractors) there’s probably a decent chance that you yourself are garbage. Similarly, if you’re someone like Trump who has the support of racists, it’s likely that you yourself are–at the very least–garbage.
  • Damien Walter read some of the Rabid Puppy Hugo Award entries and found them, well, let’s say, lacking. John C. Wright, ladies and gentlemen: “Rhadamanthus said, ‘There is a tension between the need for unity and the need for individuality created by the limitations of the rational universe. Chaos theory produces sufficient variation in events, that no one stratagem maximises win-loss ratios. Then again, classical causality mechanics forces sufficient uniformity upon events, that uniform solutions to precedented problems is required. The paradox is that the number or the degree of innovation and variation among win-loss ratios is itself subject to win-loss ratio analysis.” I’m not sure if he actually conveyed any information there besides “I (presumably) know this stuff.” Seriously, that is really really really awful writing. But that shouldn’t surprise me because his columns are soul-crushingly awful, too.
  • Trolls are terrible. News at 11.
  • “Enjoying something lots of other people like is uncool,” area man says. Speaking of which…who here is watching “Stranger Things?”
  • Lance Mannion on Trump and economic anxiety. Lance was challenged by one of my twitter followers. He asked–in short–why it was important to make Trump’s supporters so difficult to empathize with. I didn’t butt into the conversation, but if I had I would have said there are limits to my empathy. For instance, I have a hard time empathizing with people who are nakedly racist, misogynistic, homophobic and xenophobic (which so many Trump supporters are). And I would also say that my empathy begins and end with this: I vote for and support leadership and policies I know will benefit these assholes…even if they don’t know it. I feel that’s where my obligation to these people ends.

This Day in Labor History: August 21, 1791

[ 35 ] August 21, 2016 |


On August 21, 1791, the Haitian Revolution began. The largest and by far the most successful slave rebellion in world history, the Haitian Revolution transformed world history, foiling French imperial aims, leading to the expansion of the United States, placing fear into the hearts of slaveholders across the Western Hemisphere, and exposing the limits of the republican rhetoric of the Enlightenment. It’s also a story of the incredible bravery of the slaves themselves.

Immediately upon arrival in Hispaniola in 1492, Christopher Columbus instituted a forced labor system. This is the model Europeans sought from the very beginning. That island quickly became a center of colonial slavery, with populations brought over from Africa after indigenous peoples who the Spanish preferred to enslave died from disease. Between 1492 and 1494, one-third of the indigenous population died. Slaves always fought back, an important point not made often enough. As early as 1519, a slave rebellion took place there with both African and indigenous people rising up in revolt. Thousands of slaves started maroon communities during the colonial period, hidden from Spanish or French forces by the isolation of their camps deep within forests, mountains, and swamps.

In 1697, the French won the western half of Hispaniola from the Spanish. Soon it would become among the richest colonies in the world thanks to the sugar grown by slaves. It also became a huge coffee producer, producing 60% of the world’s coffee in 1789. But conditions for those slaves were utterly brutal. The enormous amounts of money in the sugar trade made it worse, because the labor costs to buy new slaves, while high for a Virginia tobacco farmer, was almost nothing for these sugar barons. They brought slaves from Africa and just worked them to death. These plantations were effectively death camps. Half of African slaves died within three years. Probably 1 million slaves died in Haiti during the period of French rule. If a slave ate some sugar cane, the slave would have to wear a tin muzzle while working.

There was a lot of discontent toward the French government in what was then known as Saint Dominigue by the 1780s. It was a tremendously wealthy colony. But the white population of about 40,000, influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, were chafing at the centralization projects of Paris, including heavy import taxes. There were about 30,000 free blacks in Haiti, of which about one-half were mulattoes. Finally and most importantly, there were the 500,000 slaves whose labor created the wealth in the colony. In May 1791, the free blacks started a revolt when the island’s whites refused to acknowledge the French revolutionary decision to grant citizenship to free people of color, but it was the August slave revolt that targeted white slave owners that really brought Haiti to independence.

The slave revolt began with a signal from voudou priest Dutty Boukman on August 14, giving slaves a week to prepare. Within a few weeks 100,000 slaves had revolted. Quickly though, the revolution’s leader became Toussaint L’Overture, an ex-slave who was likely the son of a tribal king from modern Benin who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery. L’Overture was freed in 1776 after his master allowed him to acquire an education. He became fairly wealthy himself. When the rebellion started in the north of the island, he was not involved, but he soon helped cement an alliance between the rebels and the Spanish in Santo Domingo. By 1792, L’Overture and his ex-slave troops controlled 1/3 of the nation. The French Revolution of course was happening at the same time. In 1794, the French abolished slavery throughout its colonies, but even earlier than this, L’Overture had invaded Santo Domingo in order to end slavery there. But by the time the rebellion ended, 100,000 of the island’s 500,000 slaves were dead, as well as 24,000 of the 40,000 whites. In 1801, he led troops to conquer Santo Domingo and ended slavery there when he succeeded.

The slave force had no hope to defeat the French in a decisive battle. But they did have a secret weapon: mosquitoes. When the French had first colonized the Caribbean, yellow fever did not exist there. But it soon migrated over from Africa. Europeans simply could not resist the diseases from these mosquitoes. In fact, effective European colonization of American tropics largely ended because of the migration of yellow fever. Malaria and especially yellow fever overwhelmed the French forces. The Haitians could just wait them out. Napoleon sent 43,000 troops to Haiti to retake the island and institute slavery. Those troops did capture L’Overture. He was sent back to France as a prisoner, where he died in 1803. But disease quickly ravaged those troops. Jean-Jacques Dessalines took over as the leader of the rebellion and defeated remnant French forces at Battle of Vertieres on November 18, 1803. This led Napoleon to come to terms and give up his dream of an American empire. He then sold his North American lands to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. Meanwhile, Dessalines declared the nation of Haiti on January 1, 1804. France was the first nation to recognize its independence, although France also ensured long-term Haitian poverty by demanding incredibly high reparations beginning in 1825, when French warships showed in Haiti and forced the government to agree, effectively dooming it to long-term poverty.

The United States found Haiti an anathema. It believed in republicanism–so long as it only applied to white people. A slave rebellion? Well, this became an object lesson for southern planters, for whom this was their worst nightmare. This was literally their greatest fear and they spent the next 74 years talking about how to prevent it. When the British helped slaves escape during the War of 1812, when Denmark Vesey got angry that his church was being repressed, when Nat Turner revolted, when slaves played drums in the forests at night, slavers dreamed of the slaves rising up to massacre them in their beds. Given southern domination of the American politics through most of its history but especially before the Civil War due to the 3/5 Compromise, they made sure Haiti remained a highly isolated and impoverished nation. The U.S. forced it into international isolation and refused to recognize Haiti until 1862.

Today, due to many factors, but largely to this international isolation and enforced extreme poverty in its early decades, Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world today. The French at the very least owe Haiti reparations today.

This is the 188th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Saturday Night Open Thread

[ 170 ] August 20, 2016 |

I had a red eye last night with the dreaded Chicago layover, meaning that sleep was even more disrupted than normal. I got nothing. Except for this.

It takes a lot to make me viscerally disgusted at this point in my life. But that’ll do.

Talk about whatever you want.

The Senate Will Really Miss Its Modern Cato

[ 92 ] August 20, 2016 |


Ron Johnson has some ideas about history education.

JOHNSON: We’ve got the internet ― you have so much information available. Why do you have to keep paying differently lecturers to teach the same course? You get one solid lecturer and put it up online and have everybody available to that knowledge for a whole lot cheaper? But that doesn’t play very well to tenured professors in the higher education cartel. So again, we need destructive technology for our higher education system.

WISPOLITICS: But online education is missing some facet of a good ―

JOHNSON: Of course, it’s a combination, but prior to my doing this crazy thing [of being in the Senate] … I was really involved on a volunteer basis in an education system in Oshkosh. And one of things we did in the Catholic school system was we had something called the “academic excellence initiative.” How do you teach more, better, easier?

One of the examples I always used ― if you want to teach the Civil War across the country, are you better off having, I don’t know, tens of thousands of history teachers that kind of know the subject, or would you be better off popping in 14 hours of Ken Burns Civil War tape and then have those teachers proctor based on that excellent video production already done? You keep duplicating that over all these different subject areas.

We shouldn’t have art in schools anyway because that’s for queers and communists, but if we do, let’s just show Bob Ross shows.

The Senate is really going to go downhill when Russ Feingold replaces Johnson.

Meanwhile at Mos Eisley Camp Trump

[ 88 ] August 20, 2016 |

One of Trump’s foreign policy advisors has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks, including Holocaust denial.

But that could not be so, says Joseph Go- er Schmitz:

“I do not recall ever even hearing of any ‘allegations of anti-Semitism against [me],’ which would be preposterously false and defamatory because, among other reason(s), I am quite proud of the Jewish heritage of my wife of 38 years,” he wrote in an email.

Later in a phone interview, he said his wife was not a practicing Jew but “ethnically Jewish” because her maternal grandmother was a Jew.

The fact that common or garden Repubs spout I <3 Israel drivel to counter accusations of anti-Semitism is more proof that Trump is a True Innovator.

Only 23 camillion days until we can start dreading what the GOP will unleash in 2020. (Cthulhu/Zombie Botha?)

Next: The WSJ Interviews Alex Jones for His Insights on the Election

[ 91 ] August 20, 2016 |



James Taranto–yes, that James Taranto–interviewed Scott Adams for The Wall Street Journal. Yes, the once-esteemed (by somebody, somewhere, I imagine) paper is now conducting interviews with has-been internet MRA weirdos and passing it off as journalism. How the righty have fallen!

Spoiler Alert: Adams still thinks Trump can win!


“The moment I realized there was something special was during the first debate,” he tells me over coffee in the kitchen of his spacious suburban home. “It was the Rosie O’Donnell moment.” Moderator Megyn Kelly had confronted Mr. Trump with the key premise of what Mr. Adams calls “a gotcha question of the highest order”: “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals.’ ”
Photo: Ken Fallin

“I asked myself: How would anybody else have answered?” Mr. Adams recalls. “If you denied it, it would look weak. If you embraced it—you really couldn’t. There was nothing you could say. He was completely painted into a corner by his past comments. No one could get out of that. And then he did what no one could do—he got out of it. He said: ‘Only Rosie O’Donnell.’ ”

If you watched the debate, you probably remember that it worked. Mr. Adams can explain why. Mr. Trump invoked a visual image, “your most powerful persuasion sense.” The image was well-known, “and it was a person, which is the best visual of all, because the brain is just attuned to faces and people. And he just drew all the energy out of the room, sucked all of it up, balled it all together, and just moved it over to this Rosie O’Donnell joke, and it just deflated the entire topic.”

Underneath it all, Trump is a super-sekrit genius because he makes nasty impromptu jokes about how ugly Rose O’Donnell is.


Was it mere luck? Mr. Adams considered the possibility but concluded after further observation that it was a matter of sophisticated technique. On his blog, he started analyzing Mr. Trump’s tactics through what he calls the “Master Persuader filter.”

Yes,  using “Master Persuader Filter” certainly is a sophisticated technique. It’s also Tenacious D’s worst song.

What seemed like madness to others, Mr. Adams recognized as method. Those cruel but seemingly random nicknames Mr. Trump gives his rivals? Mr. Adams calls them “linguistic kill shots” and says their purpose is not just to display dominance but to change the way voters think.

Now all I can think about is a bunch of kindergarteners running around using “linguistic kill shots” and suddenly elementary school seems like a much scarier place.


This Analysis Is A Game-Changer, On Steroids

[ 63 ] August 20, 2016 |


I talk a lot about how terrible Maureen Dowd is because I am an old person who still reads the version of the Sunday Times that is printed with ink on paper, so she’s harder to avoid. But to be Scrupulously Fair, she probably isn’t the most vapid and inept political analyst with a six-figure income and a rep as long as Mark Halperin remains in the business:

Back when Donald Trump was winning primaries, Mark Halperin, the famously well-compensated political journalist at Bloomberg, went on TV and said Trump is a terrific politician.

“He is one of the two most talented presidential candidates any of us have covered,” Halperin opined. “He just is.”

Trump’s skill, he explained, exceeds Barack Obama’s because, unlike Trump, Obama “had David Axelrod and David Plouffe and a squadron of people around him who knew what they were doing.” Trump flies solo, ergo every supporter he counts, every stadium he packs, is somehow more rightfully his.

Halperin has also defended Trump from accusations of racism on the grounds that “Mexico isn’t a race,” and posed for this notorious picture, so unspoken affinities may be affecting his analysis. But to this day, as Trump is losing to Hillary Clinton in every poll, it is still commonly suggested that Trump has mysterious political powers. No matter what he says, his supporters love it! If he’s losing, it might be because he’s “deliberately trying to avoid winning.”

The idea that Barack Obama is a less talented politician than Donald Trump because he hires talented, competent people to run his campaigns really CLOSES THE DEAL and throws the conventional wisdom UNDER THE BUS!

While we’re discussing inadvertently hilarious political “analysis,” I can’t resist telling you about the Mickey Kaus temp gig at Breitbart that Erik alluded to earlier. The most comic gold is to be found in his assessment of Bill Clinton’s speech at the DNC.

The introductory film on Bill doesn’t highlight the 1996 welfare reform bill. That seems a miscalculation. The people in the hall would hate it, but Dems are trying to appeal to people outside the hall, where I suspect welfare reform remains popular, and not just because many single moms improved their lot.

Mickey sure has his finger right on the political zeitgeist! It’s not just a minority of self-defined Real Leftists who think that in political time it’s always 1996. It’s these shrewd political instincts that allowed him to get 5% of the vote in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary! He should have gone all the way and suggest that Clinton appear holding a copy of Mickey’s book like Khizr Khan holding the Constitution, though.

OK. I forgot. Bill’s charming and sensible! I’d probably vote for him again. But he’s not running.

Bill>Trump>Hillary is an…interesting preference order.

7) Glosses over the crushing failure of Hillary’s health plan, and Hillary’s role the single biggest mistake of Bill’s first term (his failure to pull the plug on Hillarycare and shift to passing a welfare reform bill so Dems would not lose Congress in the 1994 mid-terms).

1)Yes, it is highly unusual that Bill Clinton would not dwell on his wife’s role in a failed health care initiative at a convention devoted to making the case that she should be president. 2)Hillary’s role in the failure of health care reform was, in fact, negligible. There are no magical actions Clinton could have taken that could have gotten Republican support or caused Daniel Patrick Moynihan to give a damn about health care reform. 3)Anybody who thinks that passing welfare “reform” in 1994 could have staved off a Republican midterm win that was the inevitable culmination of long-term partisan realignment doesn’t understand how politics works.

He also cherry-picked the good parts of his wife’s career, languishing in the early years of promise, fast-forwarding through the rest and completely failing to address the obvious problems (including cattle futures, the Rose law firm billing records, the Russian “reset,” the Libyan mistake, etc. That’s not what my old boss, Charlie Peters, would call “playing Notre Dame.” And it’s why Bill’s re-re-re-introduction of his wife wasn’t as effective as it needed to be.

Yes, it is highly unusual that a politician trying to make a case for electing someone would highlight the positive aspects of this person’s record. And, in particular, Clinton should have devoted more time to addressing trivial pseudo-scandals from 20 years ago. Clinton should have PLAYED NICK SABAN by just reading passages from Doug Henwood’s book for the whole speech. But he’s just not a gifted natural politician like Donald Trump.

UPDATE: Halperin’s Republican “report cards” were amazing.

Are Naked Trump Statues Evil?

[ 252 ] August 20, 2016 |


Personally, I was bummed that I was in Seattle yesterday and didn’t hear about the Naked Trump until it was already gone. My whole life, I’ve never been a trendsetter. What a tragedy. But am I a horrible person for thinking that the statues are amusing and serve a purpose? Are there sections of the left that simply have no sense of humor? What does solidarity even mean? I have no good answers to these questions.

The joke itself is in poor taste. It’s a tired and abusive trope that not only fails to push back on Trump’s political power, but also promotes the evilness that is fatphobia, body-­shaming, and transphobia itself.

Progressives in particular “going for the low hanging fruit”—attacking someone whose politics have dangerous implications on personal, oppressive grounds rather than political grounds—felt eerily familiar. It felt like the kind of personal attacks, in fact, that are often lobbed at his base; that they are “dumb,” “uneducated,” and “poor.” It felt like the classist and elitist remarks that are often used to ridicule the far right. It felt like a conversation amongst privileged white folks, where calling out the Right is more about positioning oneself as the “good white folks” than it is about actively resisting the political system that is, for one, killing Black and marginalized folks every day.

If Trump is so awful and progressives are so upstanding, then why would you rely on hurtful and damaging punch­lines to fight back against a man whose behavior terrifies even his own party? What could possibly be more important than sticking to your progressive values around fatness and body positivity and trans-­inclusivity in the face of his genuine offensiveness?

I roll my eyes. But maybe I am a reactionary, setting myself to be shot after the revolution. Really, there’s no way I don’t get shot after the revolution given the personal vendettas that leftist members always engage in, so whatever, I guess I should just laugh at naked Trump.

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