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The paranoid style, 2016

[ 218 ] October 17, 2016 |


“We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well.”

Richard Hofstadter

Here are some things that the current Republican nominee for president has asserted:

(1) That it’s unclear whether Barack Obama was born in the United States.

(2) That “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

(3) That Ted Cruz’s father Raphael met with Lee Harvey Oswald, and may have been part of a conspiracy that assassinated John F. Kennedy.

(4) That “Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special-interest friends, and her donors.”

(5) That President Obama founded ISIS. (When they first heard this claim a lot of people, including me, just assumed this claim had to be some sort of figurative claim — that he meant Obama “founded” ISIS by allowing a power vacuum to grow in Iraq and so forth. Actually Trump meant this claim to be taken completely literally. Only after days of incredulous criticism did he reverse course and claim he was being “sarcastic” [sic]).

(6) That the Department of Labor employment numbers are faked by the federal government, to make people believe the unemployment rate is nearly ten times lower than it actually is.

(7) That the Department of Justice colluded with Hillary Clinton to exonerate her when it investigated her use of a private e-mail server while she was the Secretary of State.

(8) That the American mainstream media are conspiring to deny him the presidency by rigging the election.

(9) That the 2016 presidential election is already being rigged “at many polling places.”

This is a far from exhaustive list, but I’m already tired.

Basically Trump is a Breitbart comments thread personified. (If he is elected, he will be a Breibart comments thread with nuclear weapons.)

The optimistic take at this point is that the Trump campaign is no longer primarily about winning the 2016 election, but rather is morphing into a Steve Bannon scheme to found Trump TV, which will become the media centerpiece of a fascistic ethno-nationalist mass political movement, which will continue to fight to seize complete control of the Republican party. That’s the optimistic take.

It’s an open question whether Trump himself has become paranoid in a clinical sense, or whether he is consciously or semi-consciously taking cynical advantage of Hofstadter termed the “paranoid style” in American political life. An open question, and ultimately not a very interesting one, since the social effects are the same either way.


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?

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 53

[ 45 ] October 16, 2016 |

This is the grave of Tip O’Neill.


Born in 1912 in Cambridge, O’Neill became involved in politics at a young age, campaigning for Al Smith in 1928. He ran for City Council while a senior at Boston College and suffered his only electoral defeat. In 1936, he was elected the Massachusetts House, starting a long career as a supporter of New Deal-style government programs. He ran for Congress in 1952 and served there until 1987. He was elected Speaker in 1977 after rising through the leadership through the preceding decade. That he called for Richard Nixon’s impeachment at an early point helped raise his profile in the nation. He did not have particularly good relations with Jimmy Carter, but when Reagan took over in 1981, pledged to work with the new president up to an extent, even while often opposing him publicly, which turned out often unfortunately for the people relying on Democratic opposition to the new president’s budget-slashing policies for the environment and working-class. He retired in 1987 and died in 1993.

As part of my mission to make this series even more trivial, I am also starting a new section to document whether an individual has been portrayed in a movie or TV show. O’Neill himself loved the limelight. He starred in an episode of Cheers in 1983 and also appeared as himself in the 1993 film Dave. It does not however seem that anyone has ever played him as a fictional character.

Today, Tip O’Neill working with Ronald Reagan is the wet dream of Broderites everywhere.

Tip O’Neill is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Harwich Port, Massachusetts.

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.


[ 11 ] October 16, 2016 |
"Overwhelming Majority" CIA Bestiary of Intelligence Writing

“Overwhelming Majority” CIA Bestiary of Intelligence Writing

Some thoughts on buzzwords at the Diplomat:

Buzzwords exist because they have utility and cease to exist when they are no longer of use to anyone. They are a form of the specialized vocabulary found in any profession, although the imprecision of the “national security analyst” community necessarily makes defense buzzwords less precise than they might be. The fuzziness of the community (and the associated buzzwords) stems from the fact that it extends across a wide range of organizations and specializations, from the military to the academy to the think tank family to the halls of Congress.

In the last 24 hours Trump has body shamed Clinton and claimed she’s using PEDs

[ 136 ] October 16, 2016 |


At this point he’s got to be trolling LGM. I expect a passionate defense of ketchup shortly.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire (CNN)Donald Trump suggested Saturday that his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, has been “getting pumped up” with performance-enhancing drugs and challenged Clinton to take a drug test before the final debate next week.

Trump argued that Clinton was more energetic during the beginning of their debate last Sunday, but lost her steam by the end of the debate. He offered no evidence to back up his wild claim.

“I think we should take a drug test prior to the debate,” Trump said during a rally here. “Because I don’t know what’s going on with her, but at the beginning of her last debate, she was all pumped up at the beginning, and at the end it was like, huff, take me down. She could barely reach her car.”

Trump appeared to be conflating the debate with last month’s 9/11 ceremony where Clinton struggled to get inside her van on her own due to a bout with pneumonia.

I do like “wild claim” however. It’s nice to see a little bit of a retreat from both sides do it, even if took a literal lunatic winning the GOP nomination for the media to stop Brodering.

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.

Nazi Bomb!

[ 78 ] October 15, 2016 |
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1995-042-37, Schwerer Bomber  V1.jpg

Messerschmitt Me 264 By Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1995-042-37 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de


Latest counter-factual at the National Interest:

In the early years of World War II, it looked as if Germany might have the luxury to spend its time developing a new generation of super-weapons. The Nazis haphazardly pursued the idea of building an atomic bomb, with an eye toward eventual conflict with the United States. However, the immediate demands of war, combined with Western Allied sabotage, undercut the program, leaving it at the basic research stage by war’s end.

But what if the Germans had devoted more attention to the program, or had lucked into more substantial breakthroughs?  What could the Nazis have done with an atomic weapon?

Is it realistic to hope that a non-trivial percentage of people who say they’re voting for Trump actually won’t?

[ 371 ] October 14, 2016 |


And by “people” I mostly mean “women.” (I’m not feeling very hopeful about the members of my gender at the moment).

I realize Trump is doing badly with women already, but this is just beyond sickening:


Kristin Anderson was deep in conversation with acquaintances at a crowded Manhattan nightspot and did not notice the figure to her right on a red velvet couch — until, she recalls, his fingers slid under her miniskirt, moved up her inner thigh, and touched her vagina through her underwear.

Anderson shoved the hand away, fled the couch and turned to take her first good look at the man who had touched her, she said.

She recognized him as Donald Trump: “He was so distinctive looking — with the hair and the eyebrows. I mean, nobody else has those eyebrows.”

At the time of the incident, which Anderson said took place in the early 1990s, she was in her early twenties, trying to make it as a model. She was paying the bills by working as a makeup artist and restaurant hostess. Trump was a big celebrity whose face was all over the tabloids and a regular presence on the New York club scene.

The episode, as Anderson described it, lasted no more than 30 seconds. Anderson said she and her companions were “very grossed out and weirded out” and thought, “Okay, Donald is gross. We all know he’s gross. Let’s just move on.”

Over the years, Anderson, now 46 and a photographer living in Southern California, has recounted the story to people she knew, casually at first.

One friend, Kelly Stedman, told The Washington Post that Anderson informed her about the encounter a few days after it happened.

“We were out at a girls’ brunch” at the Great Jones Cafe in Manhattan, Stedman said, recalling that when she and two other friends heard the story, they found themselves “laughing at how pathetic it was” on Trump’s part. . .

Anderson, who said she doesn’t support Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton, did not initially approach The Post. A reporter contacted her after hearing her story from a person who knew of it, and she spent several days trying to decide whether to go public.

Anderson’s decision to do so follows last week’s disclosure by The Washington Post of a 2005 video in which Trump boasted to “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush that his celebrity gave him the ability to grab women “by the p—y. You can do anything.”

Trump insisted that his comments were “just words” and dismissed them as “locker room banter.”

. . . and this afternoon Paul Ryan maintained his deeply principled stand of supporting Donald Trump’s presidential bid while very subtly signaling to sympathetic observers that he is not happy about it:

As new sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump emerged Friday afternoon, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was in Madison, Wisconsin, lecturing college students about why they should vote for Trump.

Ryan didn’t mention Trump’s name, but painted a dystopian picture of America under the rule of Hillary Clinton and her fellow Democrats. In short, Ryan believes America will be a terrible place unless Trump becomes president.

“What vision do Hillary Clinton and her party offer the people? They want an America that does not stand out,” Ryan said. “They want an America that is ordinary — there is kind of a gloom and grayness to things… we are ruled by our betters, by a cold and unfeeling bureaucracy that replaces original thinking.” . . .

The case Ryan made for Trump comes just days after the House Speaker reportedly told Republican caucus members he was done defending his party’s presidential nominee. That decision came in the wake of the October 7 release of a 2005 video of Trump bragging about sexual assault — remarks Ryan said “sickened” him.

But Ryan still hasn’t rescinded his endorsement of Trump. And as he spoke in Madison, news broke of yet another woman alleging Trump groped her. Trump’s camp insists all the women accusing Trump of sexual assault are lying, but many of their stories eerily sync up with behavior Trump bragged about on the 2005 video — forcible kissing and genital grabbing. Many of their accusations are corroborated by people they told about the incidents at the time they occurred.

. . . . also in the same speech from which the clip above is excerpted Trump mocked Hillary Clinton’s body:

[I]n the last couple of days, Trump has sunk to new depths. In a speech yesterday, he charged, “Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special-interest friends and her donors” — inflammatory anti-Semitic imagery reminiscent of Charles Coughlin. And then Friday, in possibly the most deranged misogynistic moment of the campaign, Trump insulted Hillary Clinton’s appearance, telling his audience, “when she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn’t impressed.”

Trump has spent decades reducing all women to their appearance. At the same time, his presidential campaign has forced upon him certain disciplines, one them being the need to conceal this habit. During the primary, he dismissed Carly Fiorina — “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” – but, when confronted, backed down with an unconvincing denial. The denial indicated Trump’s awareness that this was a line he could not cross, a side of himself he could not show.

But the recent spate of sexual-assault allegations returned Trump to his natural state, and he has spent days boasting that he would never force himself upon the women accusing him of doing so because they are not attractive enough. He then slipped almost naturally into a dismissal of his opponent. Denying his opponent’s charge that he evaluates all women by their looks has become too exhausting a pose to maintain, and, with his polls submerging, the payoff of forbearance has dwindled to too low a level. The mask has slipped, and Trump is thrusting himself before the country as the grossly bigoted misogynist his critics have always known him to be, a disgraceful excuse for a human being, a monster without restraint.

I’m pretty sure Paul Ryan disapproves very, very deeply of this as well.

This is your occasional reminder that the electoral college is an anachronistic piece of 18th century legal ordnance, lying around waiting to detonate unexpectedly

[ 138 ] October 14, 2016 |

18th century court

Could Washington State have another “faithless elector?” Democratic Elector Robert Satiacum, one of twelve Washington State electors, is conflicted and torn over 2016.

“I’m not going to be forced to go in there and pick out your poison. Not happening. Maybe this will start with something, we’ll all stand up and speak up,” he told KING 5. “This is more than a presidential election; the world is in crisis mode!”

A local activist and member of the Puyallup Tribe, Satiacum supported Bernie Sanders for president and still does.

“We had a great deal of hope with Bernie, because he said that. That we’re going to go back and redress the way we’re dealing with Native American people and their concerns and their needs,” he said. . .

While faithless electors have never altered the outcome of a modern day presidential election, it’s a risk that comes with a $1,000 fine and also [a] moral dilemma.

For various reasons this is never going to get fixed until something goes boom first.

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.

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