defrog: (onoes)
Well, we’re getting close to the end now. And it’s looking likely that Hillary is going to win this by an electoral landslide, if not a pop-vote one.

Which is good news for Hillary fans, certainly. And it’s arguably good news for America in the sense that the White House will be occupied by someone who is not an egotistical vindictive blowhard / dream candidate for every racist sexist xenophobe organization in the country.

There’s just one catch: it won't be the end of all the ugly savage batshit animosity we’ve endured in this election. Whether Trump wins or loses, his influence is going to continue long after November 8.


On average, just over 43% of the voting public is still supporting Trump, regardless of every outrageous thing he’s said so far, let alone the fact that he has offered no real concrete plan to execute any of his ideas.

To an extent, that’s because they either think the media is making up or exaggerating his statements, or they hate Hillary so much that the only thing Trump could do to put them off at this stage is be caught on tape actually having sex with Hillary backstage at one of the debates. (And they’d still probably assume it was fake.) But I think it’s also because many Trump supporters see him as a champion of glorious political incorrectness who is vindicating every non-PC thought that crosses their minds. They have similar worldviews regarding Muslims, immigrants, black people and fat chix, and they wish they could get away with saying stuff like that at work without being shouted down by the office gay feminazi agenda task force or whoever.

I would also add that this is happening in the broader context of America devolving into a cynical “fuck everyone and everything” outlook that is pervasive in American pop culture today. It’s not ubiquitous, but I encounter it all the time in TV shows and Facebook memes – this worldview that everything is generally terrible and stupid except for “my” clique of people, who are “normal” and okay – everyone else can get fucked, fuck those motherfuckers, get the fuck away from me.

The parameters can be defined many different ways – maybe that ire is targeted at fat people, or handicapped people, or stupid people, or religious people, or poor people, or rich people, or hipsters, or people who shop at Wal-mart, or guys with man-buns, or whatever. But it basically comes down to dividing everyone into people you like or don’t like, and then saying it’s okay to pick on and make fun of the latter group because fuck ‘em, really.

This isn’t defined strictly by where you sit on the political spectrum – some liberals do this too, they just have different targets. It’s a human nature thing, really, not a political thing.

That said, it’s fair to say that the GOP has made it a point to exploit that worldview for political purposes and incorporate it into its platform (albeit more nicely worded). Trump has taken that basic strategy and dialed it up to 11, and the results speak for themselves. Many Trump supporters love his anti-PC schtick because they find it empowering and liberating. They want to be able to establish their superiority by expressing their hatred and disdain for people they look down on – fat girls and retards and foreigners and people who Don’t Belong, etc. They want a society where they can mock and bully the undesirables and have social mores back them up – just like the old days when America was "great".

Put simply, they want the right to act like a dick. (Or am I being divisive here?)

To be clear, I’m not saying this is why they’re voting for Trump. I’m saying it’s why his politically incorrect schtick isn't costing him the support he already has. Intentionally or not, Trump has successfully tapped into that mentality.

And here's the thing: that mentality won’t magically vanish if he loses. Those divisions will remain, in no small part because those divisions already existed. I would argue that Trump hasn’t divided America so much as amplified those divisions by ripping off the mask of civility we’ve used to either ignore them or at least keep them from becoming insurmountable barriers to moving forward as a country and a civilization. (And to be fair, Trump didn’t set this garbage fire all by himself – the GOP wrote the instruction manual and Fox News. Breitbart and Rush Limbaugh etc supplied the fuel.)

So with all that in mind, it’s easy to understand why some people are worried that Trump has been talking about this massive global conspiracy to keep him from winning, that the election is totally rigged and he will not accept a loss under those conditions, however imaginary.

Personally, I’m not sure Trump is really serious about that. I think he’s just salving his ego and creating a pre-emptive excuse if he does lose so he can say, “Hey, not my fault.” For all his talk about “I’ll decide at the time”, I think when the results are in he’ll shift the blame, make his excuses and go on to start his new TV channel or whatever. According to some people that’s been his exit strategy for awhile now. Maybe that was his plan all along. Who knows for sure?

The question is whether his base is going to leave it at that. If they’ve really bought into The Donald’s Grand Global Conspiracy meme that the Gawdamn World Liberal Media Crime League has rigged the system and the media against “real” Americans, how likely are they to simply accept a Hillary presidency?

Not likely at all.

Mind you, I doubt we will see full-scale pitchforks-and-torches riots across the country (to say nothing of muskets). We’re more likely see some outbreaks of personalized, opportunistic vandalism and violence directed at Trump’s enemies list, or another one of the Bundy Boys’ armed-standoff stunts (because hey, it’s not like you can go to jail for that).

All of which will be awful and wrong, but it’ll be nothing even close to a full-scale revolution or general breakdown of law and order that some people imagine.

But we will see extremely loud, hysterical resistance to an Imaginary Hillary Dictatorship. Hillary’s reward for winning the election will be the chance to govern a country where 43% of the population is convinced she’s an evil criminal mastermind backed by a global conspiracy who stole the election and should be in jail for crimes only they know for a fact she has committed.

And it’s a fair bet that the GOP opposition in Congress (whether they hold control of the House and Senate or not) will milk that sentiment for everything it’s worth because why wouldn't they? They’ve been milking the Evil Hillary meme for 30-odd years – why stop now when most of their base is doing the same thing?

That’s what we have to look forward to for the next eight years. That’s the best case scenario. Even if Hillary wins, Donald Trump will continue to encourage America to rip itself apart in a fury of paranoia of distrust and impeachment hearings and racist sexist bullying – he’ll just do it from the studios of Trump TV instead of the White House. We can only hope that the marks don't take it so seriously that a few of them decide to do a McVeigh. 

BONUS TRACK: See this interesting BBC take on Trump’s rigged election meme. One takeaway: it wouldn’t be the first time a POTUS has been declared an illegitimate winner. But every POTUS since at least Bill Clinton has been accused by the opposition of being a fraudulent POTUS. Makes me wonder if we will ever return to a point where the losing party will gracefully accept the results and move on.

Things fall apart,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
I’ve been failing in my blogging duties, I realize. I have good reasons. One of them is a lack of time – it’s been a busy and transitional month at work, and family time has also been busier than usual.

Also, I find I don’t have much to say about the hot button issues I might normally blog about, if only because I’ve already made similar comments elsewhere and I find I’m just repeating myself. Either that or my response just seems so obvious that it doesn’t seem worth the effort to post anything about it.

Burkini bans in France? Stupid and bigoted.

Taco trucks on every corner? Best pro-immigration argument EVER. (I’ll bet good money Marco Gutiérrez wishes he’d used a different example – like “rape trucks” or something.)

Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the national anthem? Good for him because guess what – you get to do that in a free country.

Hillary’s “basket of deplorables”? Apparently it's okay to say what everyone is thinking if yr Trump but not if yr HRC.

Whatever Donald Trump said this week? Of course it’s ludicrous, but what else could I add to it? I’ve already endorsed Hillary Clinton – it’s not like I need additional “evidence” at this stage to prove Trump isn’t qualified to be POTUS.

Okay, there is The Donald’s Birther Reversal, which is about as stunning a display of CHOOTZ-spa as you could ask for in a presidential election. But there’s not a whole lot to say there, since it’s essentially another example of the constantly shifting alternate reality Trump entertains in his head. It takes a special kind of mentality for someone to go on national television and claim he personally solved that mystery for America five years ago, and by the way yr welcome, when he’s actually been milking the birther conspiracy with the old “I don’t know, nobody knows, why don’t we know?” routine for those last five years (and it’s not like we don’t have documented evidence of him doing this), and expect everyone to believe him.

Which is why for my money, it’s really just more proof that Trump and other conservative politicians and pundits never seriously cared about Obama’s birth certificate – it was just another handful of rhetorical mud to give The American People™ to throw. It didn’t matter if it stuck – it just mattered that you could get the rubes to throw it at him.

So … that’s me caught up, I think.

We blog econo,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
One thing Donald Trump and Bernie Bros have in common is their unshakable belief that the election is rigged against them. This is one of the great unsung traditions of democracy, of course – when yr candidate loses, accuse the other side of cheating because WHAT OTHER EXPLANATION COULD THERE POSSIBLY BE?

However, it’s one thing when voters do it. It’s another when the candidate does it. The former has the luxury of being sore losers. The latter doesn’t. And it’s another thing again when a candidate does it well ahead of the actual election, effectively warning his supporters, “If I lose, it’ll be because the election was rigged against me.”

Which D. Trump did.

And it’s comments like this – as well as the adamant belief of some Bernie Sanders fans that Hillary literally stole the nomination and thus is not a legitimate candidate – that get me to wonder if we’re not seeing the end of democracy as we know it.

To explain:

American democracy has always generally been a model for a peaceful transition of power. That’s actually kind of the point. You may hate that the opposition won, but yr not going to try and change the result with a coup de tat like they do in other parts of the world. Even in 2000 when George W Bush was effectively handed the election by the Supreme Court, as angry as liberals were about that, they weren’t furious enough to resort to violence as a remedy.

Occasionally some idiot resorts to assassination to eliminate a specific POTUS or candidate, but that doesn’t result in a handover of power from one party to another. (Put simply, assassinating President Obama results in President Biden, not President Romney.)

So generally, we accept the results of a given election, as much as we may hate them. The question is how much longer we will continue to do so.

Consider the following:
  • Trump’s campaign hinges on milking anger and frustration and providing scapegoats in the form of foreigners, Muslims and – notably – the liberal opposition
  • Some of his supporters have a tendency to express that anger and frustration in the form of opportunistic violence (a tendency that Trump hasn't exactly gone out of his way to discourage)
  • Others who stick to verbal expressions have expressed their feelings about Hillary Clinton in the form of chants such as “hang the bitch” and “kill the bitch” – to include his own advisors (albeit without using the “B” word)
  • Many Republicans – even ones that don’t support Trump specifically – are already convinced that voter fraud is a widespread problem that favors Democrats, which is why they’ve been pushing voter ID laws in as many states as possible
  • A number of those laws were recently weakened or overturned in court decisions.
So with all of those factors currently in play, it’s only natural to wonder how the Trump Mob is going to react if Hillary wins – especially given Trump’s recent Second Amendment crack.

A couple of quick points:

1. I feel obligated to point out at this stage that lots of people assumed the Republican convention would be a bloodbath thanks to the Trump Mob. It wasn’t.

2. I also think the 2A “joke” has been blown out of proportion in the sense that I don’t believe Trump was actively or intentionally calling for someone to shoot his opponent.

Similarly, on the rigged-election meme, I don’t think Trump is intentionally calling for revolution, assassination or any kind of violent remedy should he lose. I think he’s more interested in making sure everyone understands the only possible way he can lose is if Hillary cheats, because DONALD TRUMP NEVER LOSES.

However, as this article at The Atlantic points out, it’s not about what Trump meant, it’s about what his fans thought he meant – especially in the context described above – how much they take it to heart, and how far they’re prepared to run with it.

(I'll also add that while I doubt Trump gives a second thought about how his rhetoric is being processed, I do think whatever violence breaks out will be on him, no matter what his intentions were. He may have no control over the mob he’s created, but that doesn’t absolve him of responsibility for its actions.) 

That’s just the Trump camp. Elsewhere, we are seeing that a growing number of voters are becoming polarized to the point where they believe the opposition has become clear and present danger to the country, making compromise or possibly even co-existence impossible. I hear this from conservatives and liberals alike, and boy are they angry about it.

To be clear, most of them aren’t talking about armed revolution, and the ones who are don’t have the numbers to come anywhere close to succeeding. But it seems to me we are heading in a direction where people eventually decide, “What the hell is the point of democracy if my side doesn't win?”

It may take us decades to get to that point. It might take until November. I don’t know. But it’s clear there’s a serious breakdown of trust in the current electoral process – it’s not rigged, but people think it is because they don’t understand how it works. Everyone thinks it’s a simple matter of whoever gets the most votes wins – it’s not, and hasn’t been for a very long time. But people don’t know that. And making matters worse is the process that does exist is starting to buckle under the strain of political polarization among the voting public.

If something isn’t done to correct this – either by reforming the process, simplifying it or even just educating people on how and why it works the way it does – the problem is going to get worse. Democracy works when people trust the system. When that trust is replaced with sufficient anger, suspicion and paranoia … well, at the very least you get D. Trump as a POTUS nominee telling his Very Very Angry supporters to assume a Hillary victory is illegitimate – and refuse to let her get away with it.

If we’re lucky, D. Trump’s numbers will keep dwindling until all he has left is a handful of die-hards. On the other hand, in a room full of dynamite it only takes one dingbat with a match to set it off.

Revolution ballroom,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Well, we’re down to the final two for POTUS 2016, and the election so far has gone exactly as I predicted … except that Donald Trump actually won the GOP nomination and Bernie Sanders made Hillary break a sweat.

Apart from that, I totally nailed it.

It’s amusing to think many of us thought this election would be predictable, and that we had another Bush/Clinton fight to look forward to, and how boring is that, it’s the same old thing, would it kill them to mix it up a little or find someone who isn’t a member of a political family dynasty to run, etc.

Like the man said: be careful what you wish for.

Anyway. Here we are.

And now everyone wants to know who I’ll be voting for because almost everyone I know is unhappy with either choice and seems convinced that no matter who wins America is doomed doomed doomed because their guy didn’t survive the primaries.

As usual, I’m incapable of giving a straight answer without overexplaining my viewpoint, so I’m going to write this in a tl;dr Q&A format. Sorry.

Blah blah blah oh you probably know already ... )

Anyway, I’ll revisit this question in a few months. In the meantime …

I’m with her,

This is dF
defrog: (mooseburgers)

By now you know that Donald Trump responded to Khizr Khan’s DNC speech in the usual Trump way: by attacking his wife and implying she wasn’t allowed to speak. Because, you know, that’s what radical Muslims do. Not saying he is one. Radical, I mean. I’m just saying, etc.

This in itself isn’t that notable – Trump has said worse thing about various people throughout this campaign with no noticeable negative effects on his popularity. For all the dithering from GOP players over this and the general notion that American combat veterans are the one sacred cow in the political arena you never ever go after, the fact is that Trump’s constituents don’t care

And if you think Trump is awful, you should see the people who speak on his behalf. Like these people who responded to Khan’s speech by circulating a conspiracy theory that Khizr Khan is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that his son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, was a double agent for al-Qaeda.

(Note that they’re not saying he is, they're just saying he COULD be and someone should investigate this because HELLO, MUSLIM.) 

And those who aren’t going for full-on conspiracies are taking Khan to task for not using his speech time to denounce the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. Which translates to many conservative ears as: “ISN’T IT INTERESTING YOU CHOSE NOT TO DO THAT? IF YOU ARE NOT WITH THE BROTHERHOOD WHY DID YOU NOT DENOUNCE THEM WHEN THE REAL ENEMY OF AMERICA IS ISLAM OF WHICH YOU ARE ONE?”

So no, I don't think this is going to damage him all that much as far as his support base is concerned. 

What’s more interesting is this: 

The job of POTUS generally involves a lot of public criticism – some of it fair, much of it not. It’s part of the job description. Trump does it to Obama all the time. But Trump’s response to Khizr Khan indicates that he won’t put up with any criticism he deems unfair (which so far seems to be all of it) and if he can’t discredit yr argument, he’ll discredit you and yr family. We don’t have to imagine how this might play with someone who will have the NSA, CIA and FBI at his disposal. After all, Trump wouldn't be the first paranoid, vindictive POTUS with an enemies list (which includes the press) and zero tolerance for criticism. 

So, you know, there's that to look forward to.

On my list,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
At least to Democrats who did not #FeelTheBern. For the Bernie die-hards and Republicans, not so much.

But I think even on a reasonably objective level, the Democratic Party has established itself as the official party of patriotic hope and aspirations – as sappy and unrealistic as those may be – compared to the GOP Doom Train that Donald Trump is currently driving. Indeed, it’s probably the success of the Donald Trump/GOP hate machine that inspired the DNC to take the “Yes We Can” optimist meme and dial it to 11.

And why not? Conventions aren’t about reality – they’re grand political spectacles for the party faithful with two basic goals: (1) nominate a POTUS candidate, and (2) motivate the party to get behind that candidate with a true sense of purpose. And the contrast between the two conventions couldn’t be more obvious.

Just ask conservatives who watched the DNC convention and said, “Holy crap, we just got our collective ass handed to us.”

That happens when yr party has basically sucked itself into a downward spiral of fear and loathing to the point where its base went with a nominee whose main message to America is: “This would be a much greater country if it wasn’t for THOSE people over there!”

Okay, sure, Democrats are essentially saying the same thing about the GOP. But they’re not proposing to deport or jail them – or at least none of the convention speakers did. (I confess I know a few people who would love to do to the GOP what Trump wants to do to the Mexicans, Muslims and ISIS – or so they say on Facebook. They may be kidding. If so, they’re kidding very loudly and angrily. But they’re not in charge of anything, so okay.)

And true, the Demo convention wasn’t all unity and free hugs – some Bernie fans just can’t let it go. But they didn't manage to derail the overall narrative of the convention – whatever you think is wrong with America, we have to work together to fix it.

Is it all horsepoop? Oh sure, probably. But it’s arguably more inspiring than “Build the wall!” and “Lock her up!”

Of course it helps too that Hillary Clinton has made history as the first female POTUS nominee, which is pretty inspiring in itself. It’s not a reason to vote for her, necessarily. But it’s a hell of a hook.

Will it make a difference in the outcome? No idea. It’s true that any swing voter looking at the two party options that have been presented to them the last couple of weeks will see one party that has its act together, and one that doesn’t. But the sad truth is that a large chunk of the voting public supports Trump’s Xenophobic Angry White Guy schtick to the point where he can insult the parents of a dead war hero and get away with it just because they’re Muslim.

Anyway, these days inspirational visions and solid ideas only get you so far in a POTUS election – it usually comes down to personality and performance. This year the choice is between an experienced grown-up and a buffoonish reality-TV insult comic – and both have a fairly equal shot at winning this thing.

Let’s just ponder that for a moment.

Together we’re heavy,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)
At least I hope so. This is one of those stories where it pays to wait and see what happens next before drawing conclusions from it. So naturally everyone is jumping to the conclusions they want for maximum political impact. Put another way, at this stage the leaked emails prove whatever conspiracy theory you want them to prove, and no future research into their contents is going to change yr conclusions.

So feel free to ignore the rest of this post, because what the hell do I know?

1. The going conspiracy theory is that Vlad Putin is somehow behind this with the goal of helping Trump win (i.e. the emails were allegedly stolen by Russian hackers, Donald Trump and Putin are BFFs, COINCIDENCE?!).

That theory is big on speculation and light on hard evidence (at least for now) – which isn’t stopping Hillary from running with it, and why not? It’s a great hook, especially during convention week, although personally, every time Hillary mentions Russia now I can't help thinking of Burn After Reading.

However, we do know that (1) the DNC’s email servers were in fact hacked, and (2) the evidence is piling up that Russian intelligence agencies were behind that.

What we don’t know for sure yet is whether the leaked emails acquired by Wikileaks from “Guccifer 2.0” came from that specific hack – or how reliable the documents are (for example, if it IS a Russian intel operation, could some of the juicier files have been edited or planted?). It’s already been suggested that Guccifer 2.0 himself may be a false flag to throw cyber-detectives off the scent.

What fun!

And we also don’t know for sure if Vlad Putin personally ordered the hack, or even knew about it. We probably never will.

2. Whether or not Wikileaks has been weaponized by Putin to sabotage Hillary’s campaign, we know for a fact that the timing was intentional because Julian Assange wants Hillary stopped in her corrupt Wall-Street-stained tracks. He’s made it no secret how he feels about her, and that he’s partly motivated by the fact that Hillary wants him arrested.

3. In any case, all the shock/horror of the DNC’s apparent attitude towards Sanders is so much shadenfreude to me. To paraphrase Rick Wilson: A political party playing political tricks against a candidate who is not a party member? INCONCEIVABLE!

For my money, the emails are an interesting look under the hood of a major political party that illustrates the truth that politics is a “whatever it takes” business and politicos play dirty to win. Believe it or not, this is how political parties work (to include the RNC, and yr kidding yrself if you think it doesn’t).

Yes, it IS sleazy and dishonest. Unfortunately, that’s how this game is played. And sorry, but at least some Sanders fans aren’t really in a position to take the high road on civilized, honest conduct in a presidential campaign.

4. While the emails do indicate that the head of the DNC was taking sides, there’s no evidence that some of their more nefarious plans (exploiting Sanders’ alleged atheism, for example) were ever executed, or that the DNC actively rigged votes or cheated, or otherwise had a definitive influence in the results. That doesn’t excuse the intent, of course. But so far I haven’t seen any particular smoking gun proving the DNC actively rigged anything (based on my definition of “smoking gun” and “rigged”, anyway). That may change later. But it’s been a few days now, and so far, all it really shows is that the DNC was not happy about a non-Democrat using the DNC to compete against an actual Democratic Party member and looked for ways to mitigate that – which, again, shouldn’t surprise anyone.

5. Of course Bernie Bros are using this bombshell to prove Hillary cheated and stole the election, therefore … what? She should quit and give it to Bernie? We should all vote for Trump who may be the most dangerous nominee to ever run for office but hey at least he’s honest about it?

I don’t blame Bernie fans for seeing it as one last chance to dump Hillary in favor of Sanders. But even Sanders said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Guys, drop it unless you'd rather have Donald Trump turn the country into a batshit xenophobic trash fire than let Hillary be in charge of it, in which case yr all idiots.”

So at this stage, I suspect at least some Bernie fans are at the same emotional space that birthers were after Obama was elected (and later re-elected): they no longer care about the election results, they just want everyone to admit that they were right about Hillary all along and would it kill you to say that in front of everyone and apologize to me?

6. So in the end, I’m a lot less concerned about the alleged conduct of the DNC (which is sleazy politics as usual and no reason to either drop Hillary or support Trump) and way more concerned by the possibility that a foreign govt (with the possibly unwitting help of Julian Assange) is engaging in a form of cyberwarfare to actively influence the outcome of a US presidential election. That’s the far bigger story here.

And while Trump might benefit from it, I doubt he or his alleged Russian business connections had anything directly to do with it.

On the other hand, if Hillary’s 30,000 missing emails suddenly turn up on Wikileaks, well yeah, you can say there’s a connection there.

You’ve got mail,

This is dF
defrog: (mooseburgers)
Yes, I know, some people will say that’s been true since the 1970s. But after the spectacle that was the GOP convention, I think it’s something you can actually prove scientifically.

Mind you, a lot of what’s been said about the convention spelling horrible, horrible doom for America is overblown, or at least unremarkable. Liberals say that about EVERY Repub convention, and it’s usually based on the slanted benchmark that whatever happens at the convention is horrible and offensive mainly to liberals who basically find the very existence of conservatives horrible and offensive.

Also, one thing that’s not being talked about much is the fact that the predictions of the GOP convention resulting in wholesale violence and gunplay – and that’s just between the Republicans themselves – pretty much never actually happened. So that’s good.

However, that seems to be about the only positive thing you can say about the convention. You’ve probably read/seen all the horror stories, but here are the things that stand out for me personally:

1. Am I conservative enough for you?

The GOP revised its official platform, and while a lot of it is the same basic positions they’ve always held, they've taken many of those positions – especially the ones regarding social issues, guns and Christianity – and dialed them up to 11. It’s like the party decided, “Fuck it, why even pretend to appeal to the moderates?” 

You can read the full text here, or select summaries here and here

But this is by far the biggest story of the convention. Donald Trump doesn’t particularly agree with every plank here, but much of it is tailored to his worldview (which is why they added a plank calling for wall on the Mexican border). And it doesn’t matter if Trump disagrees with some planks – if he wins, he’s not likely to veto any particular action they take on these things unless it gets in the way of his main priorities

Also, Mike Pence is much more on board with the platform than Trump, who allegedly intends to delegate the meat and potatoes work to Pence(Pence being the CEO to Trump’s Chairman Of The Board, I guess). 

So the GOP is officially the party of Trump and conservative extremism. There’s no real middle ground from this point on – and that’s regardless of whether Trump wins. 

2. For once in his life, Ted Cruz does something right

To be perfectly clear, I think Ted Cruz would make an even worse POTUS than Donald Trump, because he does agree with everything in the updated party platform. However, you have to respect him for refusing to coronate Trump – even if he did probably do it mainly to kickstart his 2020 campaign. Still, it took balls to go up there and refuse to say what yr expected to say at these things. 

On the other hand, integrity only gets you so far when the only difference between Cruz and Trump is that Cruz actually believes in his inflexible hardline conservative ideology and would work overtime to inflict it on the country. Most conservatives I know only hate Trump because he’s a loudmouth poseur. So let’s not pretend that a Cruz presidency would be an improvement, or at least more sane. It would be less like a WWF event, but that’s about it. 

3. The way things used to be

On a related note, it’s worth mentioning that conventions used to be a lot rowdier and more contested than this. We’ve grown used to conventions being a sort of coronation ceremony with a unified statement of purpose. But they didn’t used to be that way. And frankly, everyone was expecting this convention to be even more raucous than it turned out to be. 

So in that sense, the RNC convention was a throwback to old-school conventioneering than a decline into party madness. That said, as has been accurately pointed out, at least of the chaos could have been easily avoided with better planning (i.e. vetting speeches for plagiarizing yr political enemies, allowing a guy who genuinely hates you to speak and upstage yr VP’s speech, etc). 


The Hillary HateFest portion of the convention wasn’t unexpected, but it was decidedly over the top – at least to those of us who aren't conditioned to think of Hillary as a Feminista Criminal Mastermind. It’s one thing for one speaker to run with the “Lock her up!” meme – but for three of them to run with that and milk the crowd with it like a wrestler going for a cheap pop? That’s borderline incitement. And that’s before you get to the guy who said she should be shot for treason

Sure, you can argue that it’s just theatre and the GOP isn’t literally demanding that Hillary be jailed and/or shot. But (1) I’m reasonably sure that at least some of the people yelling “Lock her up!” weren’t kidding, and (2) whether they were or not, the overall message that the GOP is sending to both its base and the general public is that Hillary should be jailed/shot for crimes Republicans know for a fact she’s guilty of – despite some 30 years worth of investigations and no evidence of criminal wrongdoing – because there are tons of smoking guns in the alternate fantasy world they apparently live in. 

Or maybe they believe the smoking gun is Hillary herself: “She can’t POSSIBLY be innocent! She’s HILLARY F***ING CLINTON, for God’s sake! That’s proof enough for me!”

Which is ironic for a group of people who also go around saying “Blue Lives matter!” and demand restoration of law and order (which would imply due process, but why bother when you KNOW people are guilty? Like Hillary? Or black people who get shot by the police and therefore probably deserve it?). 

6. Dangerous creeps are everywhere

But then the “Lock her up!” meme slots in neatly with Trump’s overall message in his acceptance speech (which he shouted for 75 minutes): (1) America is in the worst shape it’s ever been (no matter what actual data tells you), and that’s because it is surrounded (and has been heavily infiltrated) by dangerous people, most of whom just happen to be non-white (and liberal!), and that’s entirely the fault of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and (2) only Donald Trump can save you! 

Or, as John Scalzi nicely summed it up

• We’re all doomed by crime, immigrants and minorities;
• It’s all Hillary Clinton’s fault, let’s jail and/or kill her;
• Trump is great, Trump is the supreme leader, all hail Trump, details to come.

Okay, Trump did try to be inclusive by pointing out how bad life is for black people economically (being shot by racist cops excluded, because that just doesn’t happen in America), and by saying that LGBTs shouldn’t be gunned down in nightclubs because of “hateful foreign ideology” (because certainly 
no one with hateful domestic ideology has ever supported the idea that LGBTs should be executed in the name of God). But again, the party that nominated him (to include his VP pick) has made it clear how they feel about homosex (it’s curable, for example), and while they may agree that mowing them down en masse is wrong, that’s about as far as they're willing to go in terms of outreach.

So that’s pretty much it – the GOP is officially the Loud Terrified Fucking Angry White Guy Party, and they’re out to fix America but good.

And again, that’s regardless of whether Donald wins. He’s got over 40% of the country on his side, and that’s not going to go away under a HillRod presidency. That's the opposition she'll be dealing with. If nothing else, the “Lock her up!” meme is a stark preview of the kind of cooperation she can expect from a GOP-led Congress. The motions for impeachment will probably start November 9th.


This is dF

defrog: (Default)
ITEM: Breitbart technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos has been banned from Twitter for tweeting racist abuse at Leslie Jones, who is currently starring in the Ghostbusters reboot, which has angered people like Yiannopoulos because they ruined a perfectly good movie by putting a bunch of girls in it to kowtow to the liberal Feminazi agenda or something.

So yeah, a few things here:

1. For the record, I haven’t seen the movie yet, and while I don’t think we needed a Ghostbusters reboot, I have no problem with the casting.

2. As usual John Scalzi saves me a lot of typing here regarding Yiannopoulos’ cries of censorship and liberal bias at Twitter. Basically, no and no.

3. Scalzi also raises a point that Leslie Jones has also mentioned – that Twitter needs to do more about this kind of thing, and not just when it happens to celebrities with lots of followers.

It’s true that trolls are a perennial problem anywhere on the internet, and yes, shutting them down doesn’t make them or their racist/sexist attitudes go away. But there’s a big difference between free speech and bullying – especially when it’s the kind of professional organized bullying that trolls like Yiannopoulos engage in. (For more on this, I recommend this piece by Laurie Penny, who has known Yiannopoulos for some time and attended his pro-Trump rally at the RNC Convention this week – poor woman.)

Social media has become so poisonous that companies like Twitter (and Facebook and all of them, really) do need to be more proactive in protecting users from abuse. It’s difficult for them to do that because their business model relies on keeping users, not kicking them off permanently. But it’s either that or people like Leslie Jones quitting. They can’t have it both ways for much longer – especially now that one of the biggest trolls in the country just accepted the GOP nomination for President.

Not with the banned,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
As a blogger I’m expected to express my opinion about #AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile, the Dallas shootings and the subsequent aftermath. And I’m way late on this, I know, but I’ve been busy.

And to be honest, there’s not much I can add to what I’ve posted before about #BlackLivesMatters. So much of the rhetoric on my Facebook feed and elsewhere is the same recycled talking points we’ve heard since Ferguson (which was, believe it or not, two years ago) – the #AllLivesMatter crowd are repeating themselves because they refuse to listen to what #BLM is trying to tell them, and #BLM are repeating themselves because #ALM isn’t listening.

You see the problem.

Anyway, here’s a few things to add to the “conversation”, such as it is, about the specific events last week.

1. One of the takeaways from Dallas is that when Micah Johnson started shooting, the cops did what they could to protect the protesters, and protesters did what they could to help the police. Also, considering that some of the protesters were openly armed, it says a lot that not a single cop shot anyone they saw carrying a gun. Both of these factoids do not slot in neatly with the stereotypical rhetoric that gets thrown around on TwitBook in related political memes.

2. All three incidents raise serious questions about Open Carry and the general belief of the NRA that everyone is entitled to carry guns openly because it makes us all safer.

For a start, Open Carry clearly didn’t make a difference in the outcome of the Dallas shooting, although it did make it more difficult for the police to determine who the actual shooter was (and that there was only one).

Also – and more to the point – both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were legally carrying firearms in Open Carry states. Yet the fact that they had guns alarmed police enough to use deadly force in the same way that white people with guns generally don’t alarm them. The NRA – which normally leaps at the chance to defend the right of everyone to carry a gun without being hassled by the police about it – hasn’t had a blessed thing to say about either case. And their own members are starting to call them on it (at least about Castile).

The NRA eventually released a statement about the Castile shooting (without mentioning his name), saying they don’t comment on ongoing investigations – which is possibly wise, but does come across as a blatant media-management trick to avoid saying something that people are going to use against you on Twitter for the rest of yr life.

3. There’s also the fact that the Dallas police took out Johnson with a suicide bomber robot. Which is a flashy way of describing what was the equivalent of a telepresence drone attack on a suspect, which raises all kinds of legal and ethical questions regarding due process, lethal force, militarization of the police, etc.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that the Dallas police were wrong to use a robot in this specific situation – and there is actually precedent for using weaponized robots, although not with the specific intention to kill. And if we agree that the police have a legal right to kill someone in a situation like this, it arguably doesn't matter if they use robot bombs, guns, 16-ton weights or their bare hands.

Still, we’re headed into unknown territory here, especially when you remember (1) the current advances being made in robot technology regarding automation and artificial intelligence, and (2) the continuing trend of police militarization, and what it means to give cops the ability to send in a robot or drone to deal with suspects.

4. Inevitably there are idiots who were hoping Dallas would spark some kind of race war – including this guy. Possibly. I’m not entirely sure what exactly Joe Walsh wants, and it’s possible he doesn’t, either, apart from something that will make BLM protesters and Obama – and thus (in his mind) America’s race problem – go away, or at least make them look as evil and terrible and violent as he imagines they are.

I’d like to think the Joe Walshes of America are in the minority, but he’s not without support. Even my Facebook feed, sadly, makes that clear – many white people I know see BLM (and Obama) as the cause of racial tension in America: “Hey, I’m not racist, THEY started it, everything was fine until they saying white lives don’t matter and started shooting white cops!”

And while that’s not the same as openly advocating a race war, it seems pretty obvious that Walsh et al would welcome any excuse to crack down on the entire movement – like, say, a couple of violent psychopaths killing cops. It seems likely they’re going to milk Dallas (and now Baton Rouge) as “evidence” BLM is a terrorist group like ISIS and was all along and needs to be neutralized before they take over the country and enslave all the white people, or whatever it is they think BLM wants.

Good thing they’re only a fringe minority that won’t be emboldened by the success of a major Presidential candidate whose campaign has been built on white xenophobic … oh, wait.

It’s all sad and stupid, really. If a race war does happen, historians 100 years from now will shake their heads sadly at how easy it was to start one.

It never ends,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)
The Twitbookverse is a-dither over the FBI’s decision to not press charges against Hillary Clinton for using her private email server when she was State Secretary.

And as you might imagine, I’m not impressed with the dithering, largely because just about all of it is coming from people who wanted to see her go to jail solely for political convenience.

Conservatives are upset because they’ve oh so badly wanted to put Hillary in jail since Whitewater, and liberals are upset because arresting Hillary is about the only way that Bernie Sanders is going to get the Democratic nomination at this point. I don’t know that either group really cares about what she did or why – they just care about a result that takes her out of the election.

I can’t prove that, of course. But as Josh Marshall at TPM has pointed out, it was always pretty obvious from all available public evidence that the only way the FBI would indict her was if they had some damning evidence that hadn’t been made public yet. They didn’t. So the result is only a surprise to people who had convinced themselves (with the help of select media echo chambers) that Hillary was guilty guilty guilty.

The consolation prize is Director Comey’s comments about her conduct. You can bet that’s going to be fed straight into the relevant political machines and milked for all it’s worth to “prove” that they were right all along and that HRC is a lying evil liar who lies about things that are untrue and Obama covered up her crimes and Wall Street owns and she endangered national security and dammit so much we don’t want her to be President WHY IS NO ONE LISTENING TO US WHAT ABOUT LORETTA LYNCH BENGHAZI AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!

Or they could just say that it proves she showed bad judgment, which is probably true. But that’s not against the law. And I doubt it will cost her that many votes anyway.

Then again, who can say when her opponent is a guy who can praise Saddam Hussein and still not blow the election?

Anyhow, when you add up every single Republican-led Congressional investigation that’s been thrown at her since the early 90s – millions of dollars wasted with absolutely nothing to show for it – I think it’s reasonable to conclude that whatever else you may think about Hillary, she hasn’t broken any laws or done anything bad enough that would disqualify her from being POTUS.

So clearly the GOP has only one option moving forward: start a NEW investigation.

This time I know it's for real,

This is dF

defrog: (onoes)
Not to harp on the Brexit, but I’m now being reminded why it’s usually a good idea to wait a few days before commenting on Big Stories like this. It takes awhile for everything to filter through and sink in – especially for scheduled stories that have an outcome you didn’t expect.

Anyway, here’s a few interesting updates to the previous post:

1. Evidently the “Leave” camp got a major assist from people who (1) had no idea what they were actually voting for, or what was at stake, and didn’t think to check until after they voted, and/or (2) thought it was a symbolic vote and never seriously believed that “Leave” would actually win.

But that’s what happens when you leave decisions on complex, nuanced issues to “ordinary decent people”.

In any case, it’s quite a spectacle seeing “Leave” voters now going on TV and saying, “Gee, maybe we were a bit hasty.”

2. Oddly, even Boris Johnson seems to be having a “Wait, we won?” moment. He hasn’t expressed actual regret, but his “victory” speech was a subdued “Well, look, there’s no hurry, I mean, we still like Europe, we just, you know, er …”

3. Between that and Nigel Farange backpedaling on campaign promises – and the fact that the referendum isn’t actually binding – I’m starting to wonder if maybe there’s a way out if this.

A petition for a second referendum – which would require Parliament to pass a rule saying that any Brexit referendum must achieve 75% voter turnout and a winning percentage of at least 60% – has already garnered 10x the signatures needed for Parliament to bring it up for discussion.

I have no idea if that would work. But as The Intercept has pointed out, the Brexit doesn’t actually start until the govt invokes Article 50 – and Johnson may actually have a chance to negotiate a deal with the EU to stay, but under different conditions. Indeed, Johnson only really supported Brexit partly to get rid of David Cameron but also to force the EU to renegotiate their membership deal. He could still do that.

The only sticking point is that it would require the political will to ignore a majority result (albeit a slim majority, and with a considerable amount of remorse on the winning side, though whether there’s enough to tip the scale the other way is anyone’s guess). It’s not clear if Johnson has that will. And it seems the Labour Party would rather ensure Britain’s post-EU business environment is as progressive as possible than try to hold a second referendum.

But it could happen. And given what happened to the pound’s exchange rate, it’s possible everyone is sufficiently spooked to reconsider.

EDITED TO ADD: See also this post from Charles Stross about the pending constitutional crisis that could arise from Scotland and Northern Ireland – both of which voted “Remain” by solid majorities – having the power to veto an attempted Brexit (and not just because Scotland is threatening independence again).

4. Then again, the damage has been done in terms of race relations. As I said before, not everyone who supported Brexit is a racist xenophobe, but the ones who are have been expressing themselves to local immigrants in more or less the way you’d expect. The UK has to live with this no matter what happens next. And that’s on Nigel Farange and Boris Johnson.

5. For people afraid that this is a sign that Donald Trump can leverage the same sentiments in the US to win the election, you can take heart in this article, which says that America’s racial voting demographics will make it much harder for Trump to win on angry white racist xenophobia alone. That doesn’t mean Trump can’t possibly win. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. He just isn’t likely to do it by getting enough white people angry and non-white foreigners.

6. Speaking of Trump, it’s worth passing on this collection of amazing words used to describe him when he traveled to Scotland and congratulated them on the Brexit (despite the fact that Scotland actually voted “remain”).

DISCLAIMER: I don’t approve of name-calling – I’m linking to these mainly for their spirited creativity.

NOTE: A lot of them could arguably apply to Farange and Johnson.

Developing …

London’s burning,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)

It’s official: the UK has decided to leave the EU. (Or, as Fox News calls it, “The UN”.)

I haven’t had much to say about the Brexit, mainly because – like a lot of people – I’d assumed it wouldn't actually happen. Well it has. So here’s my official blog post on it as required by the One World Bloggery Association:

1. One illustrative point: according to Google, around the time that the polls closed, its search engine saw a +250% spike in searches for “what happens if we leave the EU”.

NOW they ask.

2. And since they’re asking, Vox has a good summary here.

The Economist also has some worthwhile commentary on this.

The upshot is that the actual Brexit will take a couple of years, but the short-term impact of uncertainty will hurt the country’s economy, and the long-term impact could be even worse, depending on how the negotiations go and who’s in charge of them on the UK side.

Also, while I think the UK – or at least England – might survive the Brexit, ultimately there is no real upside – unless you believe what Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage say about how Britain’s economy will be awesome. Which the fact-checkers say you shouldn’t. But fact-checkers, what do THEY know, eh?

3. But then it was never really about the economy anyway. It’s pretty clear that for UKIP, it was mainly about immigrants. Basically, a lot of Brits are freaked out by the surge in migrants, and Boris and Nigel have exploited that xenophobia and convinced them that the answer to their problems is to leave the EU, kick out the foreigners and make Britain “Great” again.

4. Which may sound familiar to those of you living in America. Or Texas.

5. To be fair, not everyone who voted “Leave” is a xenophobic racist. Some people said they supported the Brexit because they felt the EU is undemocratic. I suspect at least some of them said that because it sounds better than “I hate foreigners”. But like most of the other claims the “Leave” campaign made, it’s not really true – not to the extent that it justifies leaving. The EU has many many problems, but it’s not the dictatorship Nigel Farange makes it out to be.

6. Meanwhile, it turns out at least some of the people who voted “Leave” only did it as some kind of half-assed protest and didn’t seriously think their side would win. Oops!

7. But for the most part, UKIP won the referendum by (1) exploiting prejudiced and ignorant attitudes towards foreigners, and (2) citing economic justifications that were based on blatantly false and easily debunked pretenses. It’s difficult to overstate the significance of this – just about all of the Leave camp’s claims about the EU were outright wrong, and it didn’t take a lot of effort to prove they were wrong, and people voted for them anyway.

This to me is more important than whether the worst-case Brexit scenarios actually happen. They may be overblown. We’ll find out eventually. What’s not overblown is that a blatant appeal to racist xenophobia paid off for the instigators. That speaks volumes about the current state of the UK. Even if the “Remain” side had been on the winning side of that thin margin, UKIP has already succeeded in letting every immigrant in the UK know how roughly half of the population feels about them.

The fact that D. Trump got himself the presidential nomination more or less the same way speaks volumes about the current state of America. Whether he wins or not, there are consequences, because a Hillary victory won’t change those attitudes towards foreigners.

BONUS TRACK: By the way, here’s some photos from 1975, the last time the UK had a referendum about leaving the EU. Notice how Margaret Thatcher is in favor of staying.

Anarchy in the UK,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
You know about Orlando. It is sad and tragic.

As usual, I’ve been waiting for enough info to filter in before posting any thoughts about it. And as usual, most of what I’ve seen is the same old talking points being recycled with the general objective of making sure the blame lies squarely with political enemies.

If you think I’m going to jump in the middle of that, you are insane.

But blogging duty calls, so here’s a few things you can exploit or ignore at yr leisure:

1. On a purely political level, it’s interesting that the shooting takes previously separate arguments about gun control, terrorism, Islam, LGBT rights and political correctness and mashes them all together into an even more incoherent mess than usual.

That said, it doesn’t seem to be changing the conversation much, with the exception that you now have people actually arguing over whether it counts as a terrorist attack or an anti-LGBT attack (as if it couldn’t conceivably be both). But again, most of that seems less about facts of the shooting and more about making sure The Right People get blamed for it.

2. While terrorist attacks in the US remain rare statistically, terrorist attacks in the US involving guns are happening more often, according to FiveThirtyEight.

This is worth emphasizing because in the early days of post-9/11 America, experts rejected the idea of terrorists using guns for terror attacks because it was too small-scale. Under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda wanted to make Epic Statements like 9/11.

With bin Laden dead and al-Qaeda having been effectively replaced by ISIS, that strategy has changed. The official ISIS line is: no attack is too small.

Gun attacks also come with the added value of exploiting a touchy and divisive subject: gun control. If one of the objectives of terrorism is to divide us as a nation, the gun control issue is a great way to do it. Combine that with other wedge issues (Islamaphobia, gay marriage and The Great Transgender Bathroom Panic of 2016) and you’ll have us at each other’s throats in no time. The very reactions we’re seeing to Orlando prove that.

So we’re likely to see more of this kind of thing, because it’s not like assault rifles are hard to get.

3. On the other hand, not all mass shootings are terrorism-related. In fact, most aren’t. Mass shootings have become more common in the US even if you exclude the terrorism-related ones.

We don’t know why this is, and one reason we don’t, according to Vocativ, is because the CDC doesn’t collect data on mass shootings to study the details and see if there’s any causes or correlations we can learn.

The reason why the CDC doesn’t do this is because, basically, Congress won’t let them. You can make a good guess as to why. This seems counterproductive to me. I mean, look, if you’re going to argue that the problem isn’t guns but people, you should at least be trying to figure out why people do this sort of thing and if there’s anything to be done about it before they do it. It’s the same old dodge – like when we say the problem is not guns but mentally ill people, and then do nothing to address mental health.

4. In any case, I’ve seen no real evidence that the Orlando shooting is going to lead to any meaningful changes in the debate that will shift the status quo. It might. But I would be surprised.

Same as it ever was,

This is dF

defrog: (mooseburgers)
ITEM: The Washington Post has become the latest in an ever-growing line of news media barred from attending Donald Trump’s rallies and press conferences after the paper gave him "incredibly inaccurate" coverage.

GLOSSARY: “Inaccurate” = “reporting what Trump said, not what he meant to say”.

Or something. It’s hard to know, exactly. It probably changes according to whatever mood Trump happens to be in at the time. Also, this is the same guy who claimed in his WaPo statement that WaPo is a propaganda tool for Amazon to protect its monopoly and avoid taxes. So, you know, accuracy is relative.

This isn’t the first time Trump has kicked reporters out of his campaign events or his press pool. It probably won’t be the last. The real question is whether it matters. And the answer probably depends on how far Trump would take this if he wins.

That depends who you ask, of course. The liberals are predicting apocalyptic visions of Nazi AmeriKKKa, though I suspect they’d be doing that if Jeb! was the nominee like he was supposed to be. Trump apologists – and in fact Trump himself – insist that Trump The POTUS will act differently from Trump The Candidate, so don’t worry, he’ll curb his more extreme side once he’s in office.

The latter opinion seems plausible when you remember that Trump is knowingly playing to a base that’s been built up on a rabid distrust of both Establishment politicians and the mainstream media. Banning reporters could just be a part of that schtick, and it’s always possible he’ll drop that shtick once he wins. He’s already said as much.

On the other hand, he has expressed an interest in amending libel laws making it easier to sue the hell out of newspapers who write “inaccurate” things about him. So who knows, really?

Supposing he does continue his media blacklist as POTUS, this raises an interesting question: is it really necessary to be in Trump’s physical presence in order to report what he says and does?

I mean, his speeches are already widely covered. I could probably “cover” his campaign from here in HK if I wanted to. The same would arguably true of President Trump’s career unless he imposes a full media blackout, which seems unlikely.

Also, I recall what Ana Marie Cox pointed out seven years ago: the White House Press Corps is arguably little more than a glorified steno pool who report whatever spin the POTUS or his media-trained Press Secretary hurls at their questions. No matter how much access they have to Trump, he’s not going to give them anything he doesn’t want to give. So why show up at all?

Still, I would agree that all this is beside the point. A POTUS who only grants access to media who doesn’t write “inaccurate” things about him (especially one whose definition of “inaccurate” seems pretty broad and arbitrary) isn’t exactly in the spirit of the First Amendment of the Constitution. And we already know what happens if you take Trump’s current attitude and run off the end of the Earth with it.

I don’t think Trump wants to take it nearly that far, mind you. But it’s clear he’s become frustrated that the media isn’t as credulous as it was when he started his campaign. That’s likely because (1) he’s no longer the loudest buffoon in a crowded field, but an actual presumptive nominee, and (2) journalists have finally gotten a handle on his interview style, so he’s no longer able to baffle them with his reality-TV bebop, as Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications scholar at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, told the LA Times:

“When the candidate’s style is a Joycean stream of consciousness, a reporter has trouble finding an anchor point to stop and interrogate him,” she told me. “But by now, they’ve begun to figure him out. They’ve worked out strategies to hold him accountable. They’re now deciding: I’m going to get an answer to one important question, no matter how long it takes.”

In other words, Trump can’t get away with just being “good television” anymore.

The honeymoon is over,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
I have a Facebook account. And via that account I am informed on a daily basis that Bernie Sanders is being robbed. Hillary and the DNC and the corporate media are actively cheating and rigging the system to steal the nomination from him because it's the ONLY POSSIBLE explanation for Bernie not winning.

I’ve touched on this before, but now that we’re heading into the last of the primaries and the AP is already calling it for Hillary, here’s a couple of recent links to add to that:

1. This segment from John Oliver brilliantly explains why so many people think the party nomination system is rigged.

Executive summary: the nomination process is complicated, inconsistent and confusing, and doesn’t conform to the “whoever gets the most votes wins” concept that most people think is how American democracy works even though technically it never actually has worked that way.

Put another way, yes, the system IS rigged, but only in the sense that the party leaders want some control over who gets nominated in case the yahoos nominate a complete boob like (and I’m just going to pull a name out of the air here) Donald Trump. Which only makes sense – political parties by definition are comprised of dedicated members who follow a specific ideology/platform and are in the business of winning elections. They're not going to let just anyone represent them in a White House race.

So basically, Bernie supporters are angry because the system doesn’t work the way they think it works (or should work), and they don’t understand why it works that way. And this is somehow Hillary’s fault.

Ironically, we’ve had this wake-up call before back in 2000, when George W Bush lost the pop vote but won the electoral vote (FLA’s hanging chads notwithstanding). Back then, people complained the electoral college was undemocratic – and primarily for the same reason (i.e. their candidate lost). Evidently we haven't learned much since then.

Mind you, I’m not saying people are wrong to criticize the electoral college or the primary process and call for more democratic versions of both. That’s a valid discussion, and John Oliver is right to point out that it’s time we had one.

I’m just saying the current system is not a deliberate conspiracy that that Hillary Clinton, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the New York Times whipped up out of thin air to keep Bernie Sanders out of the White House. It’s worked this way for a very long time – it’s just no one cared as long as they found the Establishment candidate acceptable. Now they don’t, and they're learning the hard way how political parties work.

2. Meanwhile, for the people passing around those memes claiming the numbers don’t add up to a Hillary win, FiveThirtyEight has run the real numbers. Their conclusion: really it doesn’t matter how you cut them or remix them or apply alternate processes to them – Hillary is winning because she’s getting more votes. It doesn’t get more democratic than that.

Stop yr sobbing,

This is dF 

defrog: (Default)
There is much a-dithering over the rise of Donald Trump as America’s new emperor. Much of it is reasonable. Some of it is overblown. And at least some of it seems to assume that Trump has basically already won the election.

Which he hasn’t. Yet. He might. It seems unlikely, but then so did his chances at getting anywhere near the nomination.

Anyway, the social media dithering over his success has inspired a few observations from here in the Team Def Citadel.

1. [personal profile] bedsitter23  has made a similar point elsewhere, but the great irony of Trump is that he’s more uniter than divider. For the first time in my lifetime, my conservative and liberal friends actually strongly agree on something: if our choices are Trump or Hillary, America is screwed. Their reasons may differ to the point of unintentional hilarity. But whoever wins a Trump/HRC, they will be united in their hatred for the sitting POTUS.

2. On the other hand, Gary Johnson is now suddenly polling 10% vs Trump and Hillary. So hey, if enough Cruz/Bernie fans coordinate their ragequitting, Johnson could win this.

(Okay, maybe not, but in this election, nothing is impossible at this stage.)

3. I hear over and over again that Trump doesn’t represent the REAL America or even the REAL Republican Party. And yet he is winning a lot of votes. He may not represent the “real” GOP, but he has a real constituency that is big enough to push him on top. As Trump might say, “Who’s doing the voting? Someone’s doing the voting, Don.”

4. Many people also say Trump isn’t qualified to be POTUS because he insults people, gives credence to conspiracy theories, demonizes groups of people as “the enemy” and expresses a lot of opinions and policy ideas that are based on false information that he may think is true but only because they’re reinforced inside the particular personal/political echo chamber he inhabits.

Fair comment. On the other hand, I see this on social media every day.

I’m not kidding. My FaceTwit feed is packed with memes and clickbait headlines full of conspiracies or stories designed to provoke righteous partisan outrage, most of which later turn out to be misleading or outright false, but people keep believing them because they don't trust any “objective” media telling them otherwise. If it doesn’t fit their worldview, it’s dismissed. No one remembers that Snopes link you posted debunking that story. (Some of them are convinced Snopes is financed by the opposition anyway.) 

I get this from both sides. Liberals, conservatives – almost all of them post stuff like this to some level. And both sides are drowning in tsunamis of misinformation, cynicism and snark that you can only get from a media landscape whose default mode is reality TV, celebrity gossip, infomercials, football and insult comedy.

In that kind of environment, who else is qualified to represent the American People™ of 2016?

So in that sense, maybe Trump is the POTUS we deserve.

6. And why not? George W Bush lowered the bar dramatically. It’s not like we didn't know he was a boob when he was running. And he served two terms.

Future history books (assuming history books still exist in the future) may peg Trump’s success as the point where the perceived qualifications for being POTUS dramatically shifted. People don't want intelligence, vision and statesmanship in a POTUS. They want a vaudeville entertainer. Trump may be a xenophobic, sexist racist fascist nincompoop, but hey, so was Archie Bunker and All In The Family was a great show, right?

I could be wrong. But dig this excerpt from a recent NYT article about Bernie fans who would rather take Trump over Hillary:

Victor Vizcarra, 48, of Los Angeles, said he would much prefer Mr. Trump to Mrs. Clinton. Though he said he disagreed with some of Mr. Trump’s policies, he added that he had watched “The Apprentice” and expected that a Trump presidency would be more exciting than a “boring” Clinton administration.

“A dark side of me wants to see what happens if Trump is in,” said Mr. Vizcarra, who works in information technology. “There is going to be some kind of change, and even if it’s like a Nazi-type change, people are so drama-filled. They want to see stuff like that happen. It’s like reality TV. You don’t want to just see everybody be happy with each other. You want to see someone fighting somebody.”

In other words, for many people the POTUS race has become just another reality television show. In which case, it’s no wonder Trump is doing so well.

The unreal world,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)

[Via Stupefaction]

Not that it’s going to get any better when it’s over. I think 2016 may be the year America entered into a permanent state of shrill political batshit paranoia where a “two party system” means “my side and the evil Nazi mother***er side”.

White noise,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
ITEM: The US Senate’s commerce committee is investigating whether Facebook is suppressing ideologically conservative news or stories from conservative organizations from its "trending topics" column.

The allegations originate from a story on Gizmodo citing anonymous Facebook “news curators” who say they were told to ignore certain stories and inject others into the column, regardless of how popular they were. Facebook denies this.

A few thoughts:

1. If Facebook is suppressing conservative content, you sure can’t tell from my newsfeed because I get an earful of batshit every day from that side of the aisle.

2. It’s reasonable to assume that Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) only really cares about this because of the alleged liberal bias. If news curators were ignoring liberal-leaning stories, I doubt he’d bother calling the committee to order over it. The same goes for any other conservatives who may be crying outrage over this.

3. Thune’s contention seems to be that because Facebook is a social media site and not a news organization, it’s subject to different considerations regarding political media bias, not least because Facebook itself states that the trending module only lists “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook” and is generally driven by algorithms, with minimal human input to confirm the algorithms are working.

4. The thing is, even if the allegations are true, there’s nothing illegal about it unless yr argument is that Facebook is guilty of misleading marketing. In terms of the First Amendment, free speech and fairness, there’s an eloquent argument out there that social media outlets – which are privately owned companies – can set whatever content policies they want, and are under no legal or constitutional obligation to be “fair”. Pretty much all online sites set content policies (to include policing trolls in the comments section). And technically there’s no law dictating that any media outlet has to be fair and balanced, so why should Facebook be any different in that regard?

Thune may be right that “Any attempt by a neutral and inclusive social media platform to censor or manipulate political discussion is an abuse of trust and inconsistent with the values of an open Internet.” On the other hand, “the values of an open Internet” doesn't mean every site on the internet has to give equal coverage to all issues. Furthermore, it’s disingenuous for him to complain about anything being “inconsistent with the values of an open Internet” since Republicans are currently ideologically opposed to net neutrality, which is very much an “open Internet” value.

5. The actual point of the Gizmodo story was that Facebook’s trending column is run pretty much like any other news media outlet – with a gatekeeper/editorial function that is subject to the personal biases of the editorial team. Those biases may be more or less balanced, or they may be along the lines of Breitbart or AddictingInfo. But they’re rarely 100% neutral.

It's also worth mentioning that, according to Gizmodo, Facebook’s editorial decisions on trending topics were based in part on whether the stories in question were (for instance) duplicate topics, hoaxes, poorly sourced, or a rumor going viral within its own particular echo chamber with no outside verification. For example, if a story breaks that Obama is planning a false flag terrorist attack to cancel the election and declare himself emperor, and it’s only being reported on World Net Daily and similar right-wing crackpot conspiracy sites who are basically just repeating what WND said, then it’s not necessarily a “trending” news story, depending on yr definition of “trending”.

However, this does raise a valid question: is trending by definition 100% organic? Should it be? Would it more useful if it is? If so, to who – you, or Facebook’s advertisers? (Let’s remind ourselves here that Facebook users are not customers – they are product for the actual customers – i.e. advertisers.)

If there’s any “scandal” here, maybe it’s that Facebook’s trending algorithms don't work that great without human monitoring. Personally I’d prefer more human curators than less. But then I’m old school and I’m an editor by trade, so I would say that, wouldn’t I?

(Also, I don't actually use the Facebook trending topics thing. So it doesn't matter to me how good Facebook’s algorithms are.) 

And it probably doesn't matter in general because from here on out, most people won't be arguing about algorithms. They’ll be arguing over Facebook’s Big Fat Unfair Liberal Conspiracy against poor oppressed conservatives. There's a trending topic for you.


This is dF

defrog: (Default)
DISCLAIMER: I’m not very familiar with the transgender issue in general (see Point 8, below). I mean, yes, I’m aware that transgenders exist and face discrimination issues, etc. But I don’t know a lot about gender identity or understand how it works. So if this disqualifies me from commenting on this, you can stop reading now.

1. Transgenders in the US comprise somewhere around 0.3% of the population. So the scale of the “problem” the NC HB2 bill claims to be addressing is pretty small. (Put another way, it’s not like there’s going to be some massive transgender invasion of America’s washrooms.)

2. As near as I can tell, the NC law applies only to publicly funded facilities (i.e. government buildings, public schools, etc). Private businesses (such as, oh, say, Target) can legally set their own policies on washroom usage if they want.

3. Even so, the Justice Department has decided the law violates Title IX (which bars discrimination in education based on sex) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bans employment discrimination.

4. Apparently that’s partly thanks to Antonin Scalia (albeit unintentionally).

5. For the life of me I have no idea what HB2 supporters think they’re accomplishing with this law. I’m not sure which washrooms transgenders were using before, but I’m pretty sure hardly anyone noticed or cared until a group of conservative lawyers decided to make it an issue.

Many (if not all) transgenders tend to look and dress like the gender they identify with (or so I assume), which means the law basically requires trans guys who look/dress like ladies to use the men’s room and vice versa. If yr the kind of person who gets freaked out easily by transgenders, I don’t see how making them 100x more noticeable in a washroom setting is supposed to make you feel more at ease.

And of course, plenty of people who are not transgender don’t always conform with the physical appearance or dress codes associated with a specific gender. I predict a lot of false alarms and general embarrassment for everyone involved.

6. One justification I’ve heard for HB2 is that straight guys and/or child molesters will use the law as an excuse to go into the ladies room and rape them and their children or something.

A few points here: (1) that’s never happened in any other city or state with the same transgender washroom provisions, (2) if it ever does happen, it would still be illegal under such laws and (3) the only guys infiltrating ladies’ rooms at the moment seem to be from right-wing conservative groups trying to make some half-assed point that technically it can be done.

7. Police forces in NC have already stated for the record that they really have no game plan for enforcing HB2. And even if they bothered to try, HB2 contains no enforcement provisions or penalties.

Yes, there are a few reports in circulation of cops arresting people in NC, but one of them is an outright fake and the other one not only didn’t happen in NC, it apparently happened at least six months before the NC law was passed. I’m sure we will start seeing some real incidents like this sooner or later. But I think they’ll be the exception to the rule, though I’m sure the magic of social media will blow them way the hell out of proportion – just like it does with everything else.

8. One key caveat: my above comments pertain mainly to washrooms. Locker rooms are a different matter, because some level of socially acceptable public nudity is involved, which lowers the privacy bar, and makes it more difficult for transgenders to blend in mainly unnoticed.

NOTE: This may not be the problem I imagine it might be. If any readers know otherwise, feel free to comment. And I'll stress here that I'm not personally afraid of encountering transgenders in the changing room. But I'll admit, I would be doing a double take and wondering if I'm in the wrong room, if you see what I'm saying. 

To my mind, that's not transphobia – that's the product of cultural mores about gender identities and roles that have been deeply embedded into our social and psychological DNA, which means that sharing locker room space with someone who is not the same biological gender is going to feel odd (at first), and it’s going to take at least several generations for cisgender people to get over that.

The same is true of transgenderism in general. Gender identity is a concept a lot of cisgender people don’t fully grasp (including me – I didn’t even know what “cisgender” meant until I did some research for this post).  That’s no reason not to pass anti-discrimination laws addressing it, of course. My point is that there’s a lot of cultural baggage for most people to overcome, and it will take a long time for them to achieve that.

I don’t think this can be understated, because some people think the way to help them overcome that baggage is to scream “FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING BIGOT!” at them until they just shut up. That’s counterproductive, IMO – a lot of “tranphobes” are really just people who just need to be better educated about transgenderism and given time to process it. Screaming insults at them won’t make them wiser or sympathetic. It will arguably make things worse.

Who’s the woman who’s the man,

This is dF


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