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Portland Meetup Reminder

[ 25 ] July 20, 2016 |

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Hey Portlandia,

Quick reminder that there is an LGM meetup on Thursday evening. We are going to have dinner at 6:30 at Cha! Cha! Cha!, a Mexican restaurant at 5225 N. Lombard. We will then move at 7:30 to the Chill n’ Fill bar next door at 5215 N. Lombard, which has beer, cider, and wine on tap. If you are interested in the dinner and didn’t mention it in comments, do so in order to get an approximately correct reservation. Or just show up for drinks.

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Beware Russians Bearing Aircraft Carriers…

[ 11 ] July 20, 2016 |
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Line Drawing, Carrier Ulyanovsk. By К.Е.Сергеев – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18570396

My latest at the Diplomat examines the question of whether India should consider taking up Russia’s offer to build a nuclear aircraft carrier:

As Franz reported last week, Russia has officially offered to construct a multirole nuclear aircraft carrier to fulfill India’s tender for INS Vishal. And although Franz notes that India will likely not avail itself of the Russian offer, it’s worth looking at some reasons why (and why not) it might make sense to go Russian.

 

Good News in Human Rights

[ 29 ] July 20, 2016 |

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El Salvador’s terrible 1993 law granting amnesty to everyone involved in the government’s horrible terror campaigns of the 1980s was recently overturned by a court, giving some hope of bringing the guilty to justice.

Unfortunately, Ronald Reagan is dead or maybe he could be brought to trial for war crimes too.

Mystery science theater 2016

[ 49 ] July 20, 2016 |

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After reading Shakezula’s post regarding Meredith McIver’s self-defenestration in re Melania Trump’s speech I was curious about what sort of person would be employed to “write” this sort of text. I don’t claim to have ninja-like Google skills but . . . does Meredith McIver actually, you know, exist? I can’t find any real evidence that she does. Perhaps others can.

Why the Police Need Unions

[ 196 ] July 20, 2016 |

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You can disagree with the police unions’ political positions. You don’t have to support their ideas or their positions. You don’t have to respect the police. But I refuse to accept arguments from the left that the police should not have unions. Jeff Spross has more on why the police need unions.

Cops are workers, too. They are workers put in an almost impossible position. And they need a union to stand up for them.

Go down the standard list of proposed police reforms — more accountability for bad cops, body cameras, demilitarization, more federal monitoring, civilian oversight, transparency, and so on. They’re all worthy, but what they all have in common is getting police to behave better within the role of “police” as we already conceive of it; namely, as the state’s enforcers of law and order, whose primary tools are the threat of violence and the ability to throw people into cages.

What these reforms don’t deal with is the possibility that our society has rendered this role an impossible one to pull off in any sort of successful, functional, or healthy manner.

Cops must deal with everything from gang violence to drug addiction to mental illness to domestic abuse to helping single parents to broken taillights and speeding cars. They respond so often with violence and incarceration because those are the tools we train them to use. They are no more immune to racism than any other human institution in American society. And of course the well-being of cops themselves often resembles what you’d find in veterans from a war zone.

Meanwhile, America’s long history of racism has left many black American communities deeply damaged. And poverty and crime go hand in hand. So when cops are shoved into the role of what is often privileged white society’s sole institutional interaction with black Americans’ world, and left with nothing but violence and incarceration as their tools, of course racism still permeates the way they operate.

Our society has pulled out of supplying the resources, the institutions, and the personnel that could support cops in handling this societal breakdown. “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” said an exhausted David Brown, Dallas’ police chief, in the aftermath of the killing of five cops at a protest march. “Policing was never meant to solve all of those problems.”

Can anyone be surprised when police unions bristle and revolt at reforms aimed at drawing even greater virtue out of cops in the course of performing very difficult tasks? Cops wield an immense amount of power in our society. But that abstract privilege does not change the lived experience of being a cop, which is what the police and the unions that represent them draw upon when deciding how to defend themselves. We can’t just keep trying to make the police better-armed saints in the very places where the injustices of U.S. society collide the hardest. Nor can we assume that combating racism is merely a matter of enlightening individual cops or their departmental culture.

Getting rid of police unions will do precisely nothing to solve any problem with the police the left has. All it will do is make the lives of the police worse and make these problems harder to solve. If you believe that unionbusting is the answer, you need to examine where you are coming from on this. And you need to answer the question of how this will solve the problems of police brutality and racist violence.

Trump – Doing it by the numbers

[ 31 ] July 20, 2016 |

In which a series of completely predictable events once again demonstrate why Camp T-Rump is perfectly at home in the GOP.

Step 1: Scream LIES, DAMNED LIES AND PERSECUTION BY [HATED LIBERAL PERSON/ORGANIZATION/CONCEPT OF CHOICE]!

Step 2: Admit that mistakes were made by mistake.

A longtime employee of the Trump Organization took responsibility for lifting two passages, from a 2008 speech by Michelle Obama, for Melania Trump’s address on Monday at the Republican National Convention, saying that it was an innocent mistake.

Step 3: Declare victory!

“Good news is Melania’s speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!” Mr. Trump wrote in one Twitter post.

Bonus from the article: Evidence the Grey Lady still gets feisty from time to time.

The employee, Meredith McIver, who has worked on some of Mr. Trump’s books, appears to be the first person to publicly apologize for an error at any point during the Trump campaign.

Palm Oil Horrors

[ 2 ] July 20, 2016 |

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Because I would do literally anything other than watch 1 second of the Republican National Convention, I’m going to assume that at least some of you hold the same policy. So if you want to learn more about the terrible things going on in the world and why we need to fight it, here’s a new animation on the abuses in the palm oil industry, which is in many of the food products you buy everyday.

A Serious Man

[ 73 ] July 20, 2016 |

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I mean, what could possibly go wrong with a Trump presidency?

One day this past May, Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a senior adviser to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who left the presidential race just a few weeks before. As a candidate, Kasich declared in March that Trump was “really not prepared to be president of the United States,” and the following month he took the highly unusual step of coordinating with his rival Senator Ted Cruz in an effort to deny Trump the nomination. But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?

When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?

“Making America great again” was the casual reply.

Don’t worry, it’s not like the vice president will be an ultra-reactionary governor or something.

A Narcissism Supreme

[ 136 ] July 20, 2016 |

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Naderism in 2000 was a terrible idea that had horrible consequences. But it did occur in a context in which the Democratic Party had legitimately moved to the right, and in which the Republican candidate was running as a moderate (a con that should have been easy to see through contemporaneously, but never mind for now.) Replicating Nader’s tactics in an election in 2016, with the Democratic Party well to the left of where it was in 2000 and the Republican Party not only well to the right of where it was in 2016 but openly running someone both considerably more reactionary and even more cartoonishly unqualified than George W. Bush is indefensible and not even understandable. And let’s be clear: Jill Stein is at this point a reprehensible public figure willing to risk inflicting harm on many of the most vulnerable citizens for what is at best a pointless exercise in ego gratification.

Which won’t stop her defenders from embarrassing themselves. Cornel West has the latest entry in the “if I say neoliberal enough times it will justify my efforts to elect Donald Trump, who I concede is a neofascist” genre:

We were looking to include them within the platform, so at least it was on paper. Now, of course, putting it on paper is different than putting it in practice. A declaration is different from the execution. But we lost over and over again, because the Clinton people lined up and voted against it. That’s why I, of course, abstained, initially, at the move from writing the draft, and then we took it to the platform committee in Orlando. I was also a member of the platform committee. And I had to abstain again, because—even though they didn’t allow for abstention; it was just no or yes. But there’s no way, based on moral grounds, those based on my own moral conscience, that I could support that platform.

So, to review, Bernie Sanders, the runner-up, was given an unusual amount of influence in drafting the party platform, and in part because of this the result was the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party. But because the runner-up did not win on each and every issue, West is now OK with President Trump. But refusing to take yes for an answer ever is at the core of what it means to be a leftier-than-thou voter-as-atomistic consumer.

And once my dear brother moved into his endorsement, his strong endorsement of the neoliberal disaster that Sister Hillary represents, there was no way that I could stay with Bernie Sanders any longer, had to break with the two-party system. The duopoly has to come to an end. I was hoping we could bring the neoliberal era to a close, because a year ago, populist, Bernie Sanders; neofascist with Trump, or neoliberalism limps on with Hillary Clinton. Right now the Democratic Party still run by big corporations, big lobbyists and so forth, from AIPAC to a host of other lobbyists of big money, and it looks like they want to hold on for dear life. And it’s a sad thing to see, because the country is having a nervous breakdown. And you just hope that there can be enough people with compassion and courage to hold onto justice, keep the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Edward Said and Dorothy Day alive.

So much nonsense here. There’s the invocation of MLK to justify tactics the opposite of the ones that made King a successful activist. There’s a vast overestimation of the stakes of the primary fight between Clinton and Sanders. There’s the not-a-dime’s-worth-of-difference assumption being made while comparing a moderate liberal to a “neofascist.” But, as always, what I particularly enjoy about this is West pretending that he’s just now decided to break with the “two-party duopoly,” when in fact he did exactly the same thing in 2000 — breaking after the primaries (even though in 2000 there was even less at stake ideologically,) supporting Ralph Nader using speeches nearly identical to those he used to support Bill Bradley. He’s left the Democratic Party more often than Adam Bellow.

It goes without saying that West has nothing to say about environmental policy, the Supreme Court, the tens of millions of people who would lose health insurance, or any of the other potentially disastrous material consequences of a Trump victory. He concludes with this succession of words next to each other:

And so, this idea that somehow we’ve got to opt for a neoliberal disaster as the only option vis-à-vis the neofascist catastrophe, as a blues man, I appreciate you playing that blues, said I can deal with catastrophe, not by panicking and being driven by fear, but I can look the catastrophe in the face and still tell the truth and still go down swinging with a smile and, most importantly, love, Coltrane’s love—and for me, Jesus’s love—at the center of how we proceed.

It must be said that it’s rather easier to not be driven by fear of a Trump presidency when you’re a very wealthy person with a well-compensated and not-terribly-demanding job. Trying to dignify this nonsense — which isn’t even coherent enough to rise to heighten-the-contradictions — by invoking Coltrane, the blues, and Jesus Christ really takes the pomposity up to 11, though.

How Could Such A Lazy, Inept Campaign Win? Well…

[ 157 ] July 20, 2016 |

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While a minor example, Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech is an illustration of an inept, understaffed campaign run by a lazy con artist:

Plagiarism offers a window into a different aspect of Trump, one that isn’t integral to his appeal. Trump is a phony. And a lazy one at that. He refuses to put in the work, and if he becomes president the consequences are likely to be disastrous and unpredictable.

Just ask his wife who stood up on a nationally broadcast primetime telecast to vouch for his integrity and decency, and turns out to have been set up for humiliation because Trump couldn’t be bothered to build the kind of professional presidential campaign that would equip Melania Trump with a decent speech.

Once upon a time, Donald Trump was a real estate developer. Then he launched an airline, launched some casinos, turns out to have mismanaged his interest rate risk, and ended up losing nearly all of it.

He emerged from bankruptcy insufficiently creditworthy to get the kind of bank loans he would need to keep doing major real estate projects. But one of the quirks of his old failed businesses was his habit of slapping the name TRUMP on everything, so he had a much stronger brand nationally and globally than other objectively more successful New York real estate guys.

So he started licensing the brand hither and yon.

Steaks, wine, water, a fake university — even the food at the Trump Café is bad. Alongside the Trump University scam he had a second scam called the Trump Institute where the lessons were plagiarized. He also runs golf courses and they seem to be a scam too. He opened his first Scottish course amid great fanfare and many broken promises.

This could all be wicked fun, like a Mamet play from back when Mamet was still in possession of some measure of his talent. But there’s nothing funny about Trump’s political success:

But what is going to last beyond Election Day — whether Trump wins or loses — is the conviction, shared by a deep swath of the American population, that all unauthorized immigrants are (potentially dangerous) criminals; that Muslims, no matter where they were born, are not to be trusted; that it is important to declare that the lives of police officers matter but that to declare that the lives of the African-Americans those officers stop matter is an unacceptably radical and potentially terroristic act.

Those attitudes were on full and ugly display on night one of the convention. They were at the heart of the message of the first night of the Republican National Convention: “Make America Safe Again.” If Donald Trump wins in November, those principles will be enshrined in policy. But whether he wins or loses, they have been established as acceptable things to say in political discourse, and everyday life, to an extent that was not the case when he launched his campaign a year ago.

The Upshot has Hillary Clinton with a 76% chance to win, Wang between 65-80%, 538 62%. I would guess this range underestimates Clinton’s chances, because the models can’t account for Trump’s unusually unprofessional campaign. But, as Paul had said more than once, even something like a 10%-20% chance of a catastrophe is still pretty terrifying.

Does the party of Trump have a future?

[ 229 ] July 20, 2016 |

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Jeet Heer points out that the GOP is now the party of Trump:

Trump likes to claim that his campaign isn’t just about himself, but is now a “movement” beyond his control. This is accurate. While Trump has displayed remarkable political instincts in figuring out what GOP voters wanted in their heart of hearts, he hasn’t created those voters. To borrow a distinction from the philosopher Sidney Hook, Trump is not an event-making man so much an eventful one: a man who caught the rising tide of a moment.

The rising tide that Trump caught was a wave of anger within a GOP base that is infuriated by the direction America is heading in and by the way party elites promise to reverse trends like Obamacare, but never do. Among these angry GOP voters, it’s an article of faith that Democratic presidents have no legitimacy, that the Clintons are corrupt and Obama is a foreigner. What makes the base implacably petulant is the fact that these illegitimate politicians keep winning elections. And the best explanation for why they win is that the GOP elite is craven, that they were unwilling to challenge Obama on his supposed foreign birth or to jail the Clintons for their corruption. . .

Trump’s approach to politics has become squarely mainstream in his party. The Trumpification of the GOP is not likely to go away soon. It’s rooted in some fundamental demographic facts that the party has been struggling with for decades: that it’s increasingly a party of old white people in a nation that is becoming more diverse. Even if Trump loses by a blowout in November, the party is likely to become even more Trumpified because the #NeverTrump people will have left the party—or at least become inactive—while the politicians and activists who are most responsive to his message will have stayed on. That’s how Barry Goldwater conservatism continued to be a force after his epic defeat of 1964, and it’s likely to replicate itself with Trumpism. Like it or not, the GOP will be the Party of Trump for many years to come.

This seems to me correct: the National Review types who view Trump as some sort of momentary cultural aberration — a product of a nation perversely besotted by reality TV celebrities or what have you — are delusional. Indeed, Trump’s takeover of the GOP is overwhelmingly ideological, rather than a product of slick marketing and/or personal charisma. Trump himself is a horrible politician in every technical sense of the word, as illustrated by the farcical mess in Cleveland this week. He is an amateurish buffoon, a walking series of punch lines, an ignoramus of staggering proportions — it’s doubtful he could pass a high school civics exam — and so obviously unqualified by any conceivable metric for the presidency that his nomination continues to feel like a surreal joke.

But for the moment the joke’s on America. Which leads to the question of where all this is going, historically speaking

In this regard, it’s important not to over-emphasize what happens in November. Whether Trump gets blown out, loses a reasonably close election, or actually wins will be in large part a product of idiosyncratic factors such as the identity of his opponent, salient current events, etc., that won’t be repeated in future presidential elections, let alone in other national and local contests. Heer’s allusion to Goldwater in 1964 is a reminder that a blowout presidential loss provides an opportunity to draw exactly the wrong conclusion about the long term significance of a single presidential election.

So, does a movement that at the moment is largely driven by resentful old white people have a long term electoral future? The relevant demographics would suggest that it doesn’t, at least not in regard to presidential politics.

There is, however, a very big on the other hand, which is precisely that Trump has gotten this far despite being by all conventional measures a complete joke of a candidate. What happens when a real politician decides to try to step into the Donald’s oversized clown shoes?

Now the counter to this I suppose is that a large part of Trump’s appeal may be related to the fact that he’s not a politician at all. So perhaps Paul Ryan et. al. can’t just hijack Trump’s remarkably successful exploitation of ethno-nationalist rage and fear, while adding conventional features such as a campaign infrastructure and a candidate who knows what an administrative agency is. But it’s still a disturbing possibility that Trumpism without Trump himself could be considerably more dangerous to the country.

So the Republican party is now the party of Trump, but does that party have a real future in presidential and/or national politics? Or will the GOP go the way of the Whigs before some other rough beast slouches toward Washington to be born?

Famine, War and Death are running a bit late

[ 88 ] July 19, 2016 |

Due to the condition of Republican delegates from its home state, this bear is going to play it safe and shit in the woods.

But Pestilence is on the scene at the RNCLE.

At least a dozen California GOP staff members at the Republican National Convention have been quarantined in their hotel rooms after becoming ill with what appears to be a highly contagious norovirus, also known as the cruise-ship virus, according to officials from both the California GOP and local health agencies.

[…]

The 550-member delegation was warned of the outbreak by state GOP officials in an email at 2:40 a.m. Tuesday. They were advised to avoid shaking hands with others, to wash hands frequently, to avoid sharing food and to not use the delegation buses to the convention if they have any symptoms — all difficult rules to follow at a political convention.

The Greatest Shit Show on Earth!

The delegation is housed at the Kalahari Resort, an African-themed hotel connected to the nation’s largest water park in Sandusky, Ohio, 60 miles from the convention in Cleveland.

Oh dear. The conspiracy theory dopes who are already shrieking about white genocide and The Purge (get it?) are going to explode.

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