defrog: (Mocata)
We have a new type of rule now. Not one man rule or rule of aristocracy or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decisions. They are representatives of abstract forces who have reached power through surrender of self. The iron-willed dictator is a thing of the past. There will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers. The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident; inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine that they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which button to push." – William S Burroughs, Interzone

Well, not so fast there, Bill.

It’s not clear when William Burroughs wrote that – it appeared in Interzone in 1989, but that book includes a lot of earlier work by Burroughs, so it could have been written any time between the late 50s and ’89.

Anyway, it’s a quote that’s stuck with me over the years – partly because he recorded it for Dead City Radio, and also because it struck me as the perfect description of how the US govt and Western democracy work. It helped that a college history professor I greatly admired gave a similar assessment – that the real power in Washington lies with the vast bureaucratic mechanism of government itself overseen by career politicians and experts who understand how it works. The President is really just a figurehead who surrounds himself with the experts who understand how the machine runs and how it will process whatever decisions are made. That doesn’t mean the POTUS has no power – just very limited power compared to a Stalin or Hitler. (Whether this is a good thing depends of course on how concerned you are about the balance of power between the elected POTUS and the appointed bureaucrats, the transparency of the process, etc.)

Anyway, it was this quote I found myself remembering when I came across this article on Quartz (written in March before Trump’s nomination, BTW) about the return of authoritarianism – not just in America, where D.Trump has risen to power on a strikingly authoritarian platform, but in other countries that have elected leaders with similar authoritarian qualities in recent years.

Theresa May (UK), Vladimir Putin (Russia) and Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines) are the obvious ones that you hear about the most because of (respectively) Brexit, Trump and Duterte’s policy that if you see someone dealing drugs, you have permission to execute them on the spot. But there’s also Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey), Shinzo Abe (Japan), Narendra Modi (India) and Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel). Meanwhile, in France, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front has moved from the fringe to the mainstream,emboldened by Brexit and Trump’s victory. The same goes for Geert Wilders and his far-right PVV (Party For Freedom) in the Netherlands.

And even in countries where far-right populist parties aren’t leading the polls, their support is growing.  All of them are pushing the populist line that essentially aims to galvanize nationalist sentiment, kick out the foreigners (by which they mostly mean Muslims), selectively curtail civil liberties (particularly for their critics), and Make [Insert Country Name Here] Great Again.

It’s like Trump opened a franchise, although that would be giving him too much credit. Much of this – even the sentiments that his campaign successfully exploited – has been brewing for years and years. These politicians didn’t just show up out of nowhere and con people into buying xenophobic claptrap they didn’t know they needed. Those sentiments were already there.

The obvious question is: why? And the answer is a lot of complex and nuanced guesswork. You can read the Quartz article, this WaPo piece and this article here for an idea.

Personally, I would add that a lot of it comes down to the rise of fear, uncertainty and instability that many people feel as the world changes at a faster rate than people are prepared to deal with. There are specific things you can point to, like the wealth inequality gap, education quality, social upheavals of institutional norms that people haven't had time to process (gay marriage, transgender washrooms, etc), and the ability of both broadcast and social media to amplify all of these issues to wildly disproportionate levels of hysteria.

But on a macro level, I think it’s really down to people feeling afraid and uncertain about the future. I think this is also why we’re seeing a rise in fundamentalist ideologies – not just of the religious kind (Christian and Muslim), but also sociopolitical beliefs. Fundamentalism by definition does not tolerate any idea or opinion that contradicts its worldview. And I’ve written before about how this election more than any other in my lifetime has been characterized by political debates in which people on the other side of the sociopolitical aisle are branded not just misguided or wrong, but evil and dangerous criminals and traitors who will destroy the country and society as we know it unless they are stopped (preferably at the polls, although if that doesn’t work, well …).

In that kind of environment, it’s no wonder more voters are seeking some kind of strongman (at least a symbolic one) in charge to put everything in order the way they think it ought to be put (i.e. in their favor).

Having said that, I don’t think this necessarily signifies the return of Stalins and Hitlers – at least not to those extremes. As I’ve said before, Trump is no Hitler – at least not yet, and not as long as he stays confined by the constitutional framework, economic infrastructure and diverse media outlets that he has no control over. (Those of you tempted to bring up conspiracy theories about the corporate media being a willing tool of the Republican Wall street fat cat evil bastards who really run America, you go right ahead, but I will shake my head sadly at you and move on.)

If it helps, here are two things to keep in mind for perspective:

1. There’s a difference between an authoritarian state and a totalitarian state – both are dictatorships but the latter is the more extreme version where every aspect of society is controlled by the dictating power (see: Stalin, Hitler, Kim Jong-Un, etc).

2. Authoritarian leadership doesn’t equal an authoritarian state. The latter is a monopoly of political power that can be maintained even in a system that allows some form of democracy. So unless (and until) Trump restructures the political system to prevent anyone other than Trump (or the GOP) from controlling every branch of government (to include state level) permanently, the US cannot be called an authoritarian state. The same goes for other countries where authoritarian politicians have power or are closer to acquiring it.

So to come back to that Burroughs quote up there, I think it's true that there will be no more Stalins or Hitlers – in the traditional sense. Perhaps what we’re seeing now is a mutation of sorts – a new breed of iron-willed dictator who is able to dictate within the constitutional confines of a democratic system with a functional (if inefficient) bureaucracy without radically altering its structure. They don’t need to understand how the machine works – they just need to figure out how to get the machine to do what they want it to do without breaking it. It helps that in the last 50 years (or longer), the machine has already been stress-tested in terms of how far you can quietly erode freedoms and civil liberties (in the name of national security) within the constitutional parameters under which it operates.

Which, again, is probably giving Trump too much credit – it’s reasonably clear he’s in this for the ego boost rather than any actual power, and had no real plan for anything apart from winning the election. And I would argue that Trump isn’t an iron-willed dictator so much as a thin-skinned egotistical blowhard control freak.

Is there a difference? I think so, in the sense that the former generally wants ultimate power to transform the country to his/her ideological vision of purity and will do whatever it takes to achieve it. The latter wants power mainly to stroke his/her ego and make his/her life as easy as possible – if they can institute their policies without breaking the system, then great. If not, then it becomes a question of tradeoffs (as in: will abolishing Congress impact my stock options?).

I may be way off here, of course. I’m guessing like everyone else, and I’m drastically oversimplifying all this. My overall point is that I don’t think the rise of authoritarian leaders means that traditional dictators (i.e. Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, etc) are coming back into style.

What we may be seeing is a shift towards a quasi-authoritarian democracy under which people decide who gets to be dictator for the next term. Given the increased polarization and fundamentalist attitude of political parties, I think we're already at a point where a significant number of people will settle for nothing less than their favored political party achieving solid control over all three branches of govt and refusing to compromise an inch on any given policy idea or legislation. In short, they want a dictatorial govt that works in their favor – but they also want the mechanism in place to change dictators without resorting to a coup de tat (which would mean hard work and sacrifice).

To be sure, I’m reasonably certain those people who want an authoritarian version of democracy don’t think of it in those specific terms. And they are in the minority – for now. But their numbers are growing, and people like Trump are taking advantage of that. Put another way, the problem may not be Trump (or May, Erdoğan, Abe, Modi, Benjamin Netanyahu et al) so much as the voters that put them into positions of power in the first place.

Where this will lead to is anyone’s guess – again, I’m not convinced it will lead to Trump literally doing what Hitler did. But we are seeing a weakening of support for a loyal opposition that is essential for making democracy work. When you rebrand the loyal opposition en masse as the enemy of the state, yr asking for authoritarians to step in and fix them but good – maybe not in terms of purges and concentration camps, but certainly in terms of permanent disempowerment.

In which case perhaps democracy really will be a case of the winners getting the government they deserve – at the expense of everyone else.

We have met the enemy and he is us,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)

A few other random observations about the 2016 election:

1. This is probably the first election in my lifetime where it seemed people went to the polls with virtually no idea what either candidate actually planned to do if elected.

Yes, they knew where Trump and Hillary stood on various issues and each other. But that’s not the same thing as offering details on an actual plan for acting on those positions. Trump went to the wire offering close to zero concrete details on his big plans for the country (“Build The Wall™ and make Mexico pay for it” does not count – that’s a catch phrase, not a plan), while Hillary had detailed plans but no one was talking about them. Everyone was talking about her emails, her pneumonia and her vast global criminal organization that only conservatives can see. If it ever came up during the debates (and I admit I didn’t watch them), the media highlights never mentioned them.

I don’t remember ever encountering this before. I know lots of people who vote for trivial and self-centered reasons and don't pay attention to policy details, but at least some of them usually talk about the issues and what their candidate plans to do about them in detail, especially regarding the economy. Not this year.

2. Another strange detail about Trump’s victory is that he won in part (or perhaps mostly) because he and his supporters are under the impression that America is in the worst shape it’s ever been – or at the very least, it’s worse than it was before Obama took over the dump.

The thing is, by just about every traditional metric we typically use to judge the health of the country under a given administration, the US has actually done okay under Obama, especially when you consider the shape it was in when he first took office (i.e. two wars, an economic meltdown, double-digit unemployment and an escalating national deficit, among other things).

Almost eight years later, the economy is going well, Wall Street is thriving, unemployment is at historic lows, and annual deficits are declining. Even the crime rate is way down. To be sure, the national debt is up 121% since 2009. On the other hand, did anyone even talk about the debt this election?

Anyway, the point is that by the numbers, the country is in relatively good shape, and better than it was in January 2009 – and yet at street level, almost half the country seems convinced that it’s actually worse. That was the whole point of Trump’s MAGA campaign – America has become the worst place ever under Obama, and only Trump can fix it.

There’s a couple of conclusions to draw from this: (1) Trump supporters are completely delusional and living in an alternate reality America – which is possible if they get their new solely from Fox News, Infowars and World Net Daily – or (2) the traditional metrics don’t reflect the reality on the ground for ordinary people – which is also possible (regardless of which reality they inhabit). So it's possible the old metrics don't mean as much to voters as they used to. Someone should do a tl;dr research paper on this, maybe.

3. I mentioned this before, but one interesting fallout of the Trump win is that the GOP has finally given up all claims of being the Wholesome Family Values party.

Which was never a very credulous claim to begin with, I know. I only mention it because I came of voting age at a time when the Moral Majority – and after them, the Christian Coalition – emerged as a heavy right-wing political force in the GOP. Which meant that pretty much every POTUS candidate had to pass a CC litmus test. Consequently, from the mid-80s up to now the political wisdom was that it was impossible for anyone to be a GOP candidate unless they were a devout Christian who not only openly supported Wholesome Family Values (i.e. Christian heterosexual nuclear family with 2.4 kids, no divorces and no fornicating before or outside of marriage), but also lived them.

Donald Trump is of course damn near the opposite of that model. Most evangelicals voted for him anyway, and for a variety of reasons – one being that many seem convinced that there’s a difference between Loud Outrageous Angry Pussy Grab Trump and President Trump. One was just an act, the other is the “real” Trump, or at least a changed Trump.

Another, of course, is that social conservatives in general have not fared well in the culture wars, and with a SCOTUS seat up for grabs, some see Trump at their only shot at regaining lost legal ground, because they’re certainly not going to get that from Hillary.

Anyway, I think that from this point on, the GOP going to have a very hard time supporting Trump and criticizing every Demo candidate after this for not being a clean living Christian monogamist still married to his first wife (who is not a foreigner).

Or maybe not. Never underestimate the ability of politicians and their supporters to harp on the opposition’s shortcomings no matter how many of them they may have in common, and no matter how blindingly obvious this is to everyone outside of their hyperpartisan reality bubble.

4. For people wondering if the results would be different if Gary Johnson and Jill Stein had minded their own business, well, we may never know. The Wall Street Journal says probably not, though of course it depends on how Libertarian/Green voters would have voted in a strictly two-party race (with the caveat that they may well have voted for no one at all).

I would argue that at the very least they kept either from achieving an outright majority, which just muddies the waters further.

5. Also, for people wondering just how Hillary could have blown it against someone as clearly unqualified as Trump, well, everyone has an opinion on that. These stories from Politico and The Atlantic are as good a guess as any.

Of course, some people will tell you she lost because she wasn't Bernie Sanders (and by “some people” I mean “people who voted for Sanders in the primaries and know for a fact he would have won because OBVIOUSLY”).

Yeah. One reason they’re saying that is because polls back before the convention had Bernie at a higher spread over Trump than Clinton did. The thing is, I was never convinced that meant anything. For one thing, the spread wasn’t that big – just a few points more. That might have helped in an election this close, but the other thing is that Bernie was running mainly against Clinton. The GOP barely paid attention to him because they assumed he wouldn’t be their opponent in the general election. If he’d won, you can bet they (and Trump) would have trained their guns on him and let rip, starting with his Socialist Agenda.

Still, maybe he would have overcome that. By traditional metrics, Trump should have lost before the primaries, so maybe that would have worked in Sanders’ favor too. We’ll never know. But since I never really felt the Bern, I can afford to assume that Trump would still be POTUS.

6. Amusingly (or not), Donald Trump is so annoyed at the recount clamor that he’s taken the trouble to tell everyone via Twitter (where else?) that in fact he did win the popular vote – all those extra votes Hillary got were the result of illegal voters.

He didn’t mention how he happens to know this, but by a wild coincidence Infowars – of whom Trump is a fan – ran a story claiming that 3 million people who voted were noncitizens. Their source: one guy who said so without providing any evidence backing up his claim. WaPo has a good wrap-up of how bogus this claim is.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to notice the unintentional irony of Trump alleging voter fraud on a scale that you’d think would justify the very recount he’s annoyed with.

Okay, I'm done.

An explanation for everything,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)

Perhaps inevitably, we’re back in recount territory. Between Hillary’s pop vote lead now exceeding 2 million, and the fact that the polls all showed her in the lead (albeit barely) – and also supposedly Russians and/or Julian Assange hacked voting machines, maybe – HRC fans are desperately demanding a recount in key states. Even Jill Stein is doing it, and has been raising money to fund recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the latter of which is now underway.

Personally, I’d rather they didn’t, because it’s really just asking for trouble the same way that asking the Electoral College to switch their votes is asking for trouble.

For one thing, it always comes across as sour grapes when the losing side demands a recount and accuses the other side of cheating or hacking voting machines or whatever because HOW COULD WE HAVE POSSIBLY LOST OTHERWISE?

Sure, Stein and others are arguing that it’s not about changing the results so much as proving the results are accurate so that we can all trust the system. On the other hand, if the situation were reversed and Hillary won in the same manner, would Stein and her supporters care nearly as much about the integrity of the result? (And I ask that knowing full well that Stein and many of her supporters never liked HRC in the first place – but I’ll bet many of the people contributing to her fundraiser would much rather see HRC in the White House than Trump and are more interested in proving Hillary really did win the electoral vote and that the GOP cheated.)

To be sure, it’s probably time we had an audit of some kind on the electoral process, and I don’t mind if it uncovers some real issues that need fixing. We’ve been talking about this since at least 2000, but once the election’s over, everyone loses interest and moves on. If we're seriously going to audit the voting process, now is as good a time as any to do it. 

On the other hand, there’s no real evidence that any significant fraud took place, or that voting machines were tampered with – not to the extent that it would change the results. And we already know it’s mathematically possible to lose the pop vote but win the electoral vote without the other side cheating or gaming the system. So it’s hard to know what Stein is really trying to accomplish apart from giving HRC one last shot at the White House.

It should be noted too that the one person not calling for a recount is Hillary – which is probably political savviness on her part. She’s already conceded and resigned herself, and instructed her fans to do likewise – only an idiot would actively demand a recount after that. So I’m sure she knows what she’s in for if she demands a recount and wins (or still loses).

Anyway, it comes back to what I said before – at some point you just have to accept that you lost and move on, because the alternative is an endless cycle of distrust and retribution where both sides become less and less willing to accept the transition of power. And whatever Stein’s personal motives might be, I think support for a recount is mainly from people who want Hillary to be declared the winner – and I will bet good money they won’t accept the recount results if Trump still wins.

Also, if the recount does somehow hand it back to Hillary, you can’t expect Trump and his supporters to take that calmly. Because would you?

Here we go again,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)
Regarding the #NotMyPresident protests that Fox News is complaining about in the same way they didn’t complain about the “Obama is not legitimate” conspiracy theories:

Personally I’m not very critical of the anti-Trump protests in and of themselves, because I see them largely for what they are – a massive release of the fear, loathing and rage that has characterized this entire sad stupid election. It’s been a savagely emotional two years for everyone involved, and to lose when the polls all said otherwise (more or less) – and to do so yet again in a way where they won the pop vote but lost the electoral vote – is a hard pill for anyone to swallow.

And let’s be clear – Trump supporters aren’t really in a position to criticize the protests when (1) many of them refused to recognize Obama as POTUS because he’s gay Muslim foreigner, and (2) their own candidate said he would refuse to recognize the results if he lost. So let's not pretend that Trump fans would take an HRC victory calmly and agree to move on and unite the country instead of (say) grabbing their muskets, because they literally said they wouldn’t before the voting even started.

Also, it’s important to understand that a lot of this is driven by fear of what Trump and his fan base will or will not do to LGBTs, Muslims, immigrants and every other non-white-Christian-male demographic in America.

I get that. When I was a kid, I got bullied at school all the time (at one point it was for being gay, which I wasn’t, but people said I was, which was close enough for them). I had to go to school every day wondering what kind of shit I was going to be handed, if I was going to get teased or mocked or roughed up, or whatever. Some days were better than others, but that fear was constantly hanging over my head – not knowing what was coming or when or from who, but knowing that I would be forced to deal with it, that I wouldn’t like it, and that no one would back me up. And I had to go to school every day and face that.

That, I imagine, is how a lot of minorities in the US feel right now, only more so. The PEOTUS has given bullies a license to express themselves however they like – and they have been doing just that, and in the manner you’ve come to expect. So I can’t really fault anti-Trump protesters for taking to the streets to reject that philosophy. And it's a good sign that they are.

Having said that, I do think at some point they need to just accept the fact that Trump will be POTUS and prepare to deal with him and his minions on those terms.

Again, I get why that’s hard for them to do. At best they face a much more uncertain future than The Straight White Guys Of America – living in dread of what the Trump admin is going to try to do to them, or what their neighbors/work colleagues/strangers in food courts will do to make their lives sad and terrible.

But while I understand the emotional context of #NotMyPresident, I don’t support it in practice. For me, it’s very simple – the whole point of democracy is to create a peaceful transition of power. If you refuse to accept that transition, then yr headed down a road that leads to one coup de tat after another.

Note that there’s a major difference between refusing to accept the legitimacy of a POTUS and refusing to support any bad or dangerous ideas that POTUS may enact. You can both accept that Trump won AND oppose him on policy. What you can’t do is force him out and put Hillary in just because you want her there, no matter how dangerous you may sincerely think he’ll be.

Well, okay, technically yes you can, which is where people start talking about Hillary winning the pop vote and how the electoral college sucks and the electors should do their duty, become faithless electors and change their votes for Hillary.

Yes, legally they can do that. That doesn’t make it a good idea. Here are couple of reasons why:

1. If you were one of those people who criticized Trump and his posse for saying they would refuse to accept the legitimacy of a HRC victory, then it’s kind of hypocritical to refuse to accept a Trump win to the point of actively trying to change the official result in your favor.

2. Given how Trump supporters were convinced that Hillary would win by cheating – and were prepared to take action to save America – I’m pretty sure they’ll feel twice as strongly about that if the electors actively deny Trump the White House at this stage. If you think the pro-Trump racist groups act like violent jerks when they win, imagine what they’ll be like when they have their POTUS taken away from them.

For that matter, imagine the situation being reversed, where Hillary won the electoral vote only to have the electors give it to Trump.

So sooner or later, I think the Left is going to have to just bite the bullet and prepare to challenge the Trump admin enough to keep damage to a minimum. It will suck, yes. A raging civil war with street violence and possibly endless coups will suck a lot worse.

If it makes you feel any better, we’re already seeing hints that Trump was never serious about a lot of what he said, and only said it to exploit the far-right. He’s already denounced the so-called “alt-right” movement (notice the timing) and said he’s not going to bother putting Hillary in jail.

And suddenly every racist kook in America is starting to get the feeling they’ve just been played.

So there is that.

As I said in the last post, none of this necessarily means Trump will be a good POTUS after all. He’s still likely to do dumb and terrible things, and if he doesn’t personally, his appointees might, and certainly some of his supporters will (and already are). But if we’re lucky, Trump will turn out to be the ultimate huckster who – intentionally or otherwise – actually did us the favor of demonstrating to everyone that America still has a serious racism/bigotry problem that (it turns out) can’t be fixed by pretending that it doesn’t exist.

Interesting times, eh Jim?

The man who sold the world,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)
Well. Talk about a twist ending.

And yet one I had a strange feeling we were going to see. When the nominees were selected, I called the election for Trump. I was kind of joking, and yet I never really wrote him off because he was never supposed to make it past the silly season last year.

Consider the traditional litmus test that the GOP usually applies to its candidates: ideologically pure, conservative Christian, family values, 100% American, etc. Which means that it should have been impossible for a womanizing atheist playboy with several divorces under his belt (and is currently married to a foreigner) to get the Republican nomination, let alone one who also managed to alienate every minority voting bloc in the country and bragged about being able to see beauty contestants naked (and grab them by the pussy, perhaps) just because he could.

Yet here we are.

And a significant portion of America – i.e. every liberal in the country and not a few Republican establishment people (not to mention Tea Party conservatives aghast that the anti-establishment candidate they wanted isn’t a “real” conservative) – is duly freaking out.

There’s really nothing I can say to them, because no one listens to anything anymore that isn’t authorized by their hyperpartisan echo chamber. Reason is useless (otherwise we wouldn’t be in this mess).

So really I’m just typing this for my own peace of mind. If it resonates or helps you in any way, great. Also, I’ll split these up for what passes for clarity around here.

Given the general fear that America has suddenly become one big KKK/Nazi rally, let’s start with some perspective of just what happened.

1. As you no doubt know, Trump actually lost the pop vote – by something like 1.3 million votes.

2. Voter turnout was around 52% – which is apparently the lowest since 2000.

3. Trump got about 47% of the vote from that pool, which means – according to my bad math – only about 25% of eligible voter voted for him and his agenda. (And again, that number is around 1.3 million votes lower than what Hillary Clinton got.)

4. Of the people who voted for Trump, many voted for reasons that had little or nothing to do with Trump’s extreme views, especially the ones that the KKK are very fond of. Because, believe it or not, lots of people really will vote for a candidate for one personal pet reason and ignore everything else. I know lots of people who do exactly that. I know people who voted for Trump solely because their insurance premiums went up under Obamacare, or because they liked Mike Pence saying he supports the police (and they liked it mainly because one or more family members are in law enforcement). I also know people who don’t believe Trump is a racist sexist anti-Semitic xenophobe because they think the media makes it all up.

We can argue all day about whether a vote for Trump is a vote for racism whether you intended it to be or not. (John Scalzi argues that it is, though his point is not that voting for Trump proves yr a racist sexist anti-Semitic homophobe – it means that you voted for someone with arguably racist sexist anti-Semitic homophobic views and has the express approval of people who actually are racist sexist homophobes, and is installing at least some of them in his admin, and if they enact any racist sexist anti-Semitic homophobic policies, you have to own that because you enabled it by voting Trump.)

The point is that at the end of the day, Trump’s victory is not the racist sexist anti-Semitic homophobic mandate that liberals fear it is, or that the white nationalists hope it is.

Put another way, 75% of eligible American voters did NOT vote for Trump. Which means that, worst-case, only a quarter of the population actively supports his most extreme ideas. My off-the-cuff guess is that it’s actually far lower.

That ain’t a mandate, not even if you assume that the 48% who didn’t vote stayed home out of disinterest to what happens to minority groups.

And it’s potentially a way to keep Trump and the GOP in check. Trump may not do focus groups – but the GOP does. And for all the dithering over the GOP having rubber-stamp powers come January, even Mitch McConnell has already said that Trump may not necessarily get everything on his wish list. Remember they were expecting to deal with President Jeb or maybe President Rubio, not some reality-TV blowhard conspiracy theorist. (Remember also that GW Bush had a rubber-stamp Congress at his disposal too – and for all the damage that he did, the GOP somehow failed to turn America into the Nazi Christian Theocracy Dictatorship my liberal friends were convinced they would.)

None of this is to say Trump won't try to do (and succeed at doing) terrible and dumb things. At the very least, if he doesn't personally do them, his proposed cabinet might.

And none of this is to say that there’s no institutional racism problem in America. More than anyone, Trump has proven that there is. And that’s not to say that minorities targeted by Trump and his minions will be unaffected.

What I’m saying is that – mathematically, at least – the vast majority of the country is not on board with his batshit. I think that will matter in the coming months when policies start to get enacted, because Trump is not a dictator. His policies may please people who are racist sexist anti-Semitic xenophobes, but he can't force you to be one. You do have the ability to oppose and resist such policies, and the numbers are on yr side.

“But dEFROG!” you may shout, “Trump is a fascist! He’ll scrap the Constitution, make himself dictator and turn America into Nazi Germany! Literally!”

He might. It’s not impossible. I seriously doubt that he will, because – as I say – he doesn't have the numbers, and to be honest, I don’t think he’s that interested in it. A lot of his campaign platform is the bog-standard far-right wish list that, nasty as it is, is still designed to work within the structure of a constitutional capitalist democracy.

(Also, I feel I should point out that many of my liberal friends have said that about every Republican president since Reagan. So far, I’d say their fears of a literal fascist dictatorship are misplaced.)

I'll add that I fully realize I have the luxury of saying all this as a straight white guy who doesn’t even live in the US (though I do have friends and family there, so it’s not like I have no skin in the game, so to speak). But I think it’s important for racial and sexual minorities to know that the whole country hasn't turned against them suddenly – the bullies have temporarily taken control, and that’s not good, but it’s not as hopeless as it looks.

Not yet, anyway.

Hang in there,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
I am staying in a hotel that is outfitted with lots of TV screens in the public areas. They are all tuned into the US presidential election – it’s Election Day and the voting has just started. The big news story is that Donald Trump is having some kind of dramatic public meltdown over new allegations of sexual harassment.

I am taking a lift down to the lobby. The lift stops and an elegant looking woman gets on, accompanied by two bodyguards. She looks familiar but I can’t place her. She looks slightly troubled. I ask her if she’s okay – she says yes.

The lift descends and stops. When the doors open, a man tries to charge his way in past the bodyguards, hands clawing at the woman as he screams rabidly, “YOU FUCKING BITCH I’LL GET YOU FOR THIS! YOU’VE RUINED EVERYTHING! TWO YEARS DOWN THE FUCKING DRAIN! I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU!”

I get a good look at him. It’s Donald Trump. His face is a mask of orange rage and his hair is a wild mess. There’s a team of paparazzi behind him, documenting the whole thing on live television and Facebook. The bodyguards shove him back and the lift doors close.

That’s when I realize I just happen to be staying in the same hotel where Trump’s campaign team has holed up for the election.

I arrive in the lobby, which looks more like a shopping mall atrium with a network of escalators. I see Trump going up one of the escalators, talking to the press as they follow him. He says that he’s received word from the Federal Election Commission that his nomination has been revoked and that he has to hand in his American Flag lapel pin, which means he’s no longer eligible to run for office.

“I’m done, I’m out, nothing I can do,” he says, looking haggard and exhausted but also somewhat relieved. “Talk to Crooked Hillary’s friends in the FEC. It’s out of my hands. I told you this would happen.”

As he rises out of earshot, I look at the nearest TV screen. The media is naturally going crazy about this development, as it’s literally unprecedented in US presidential election history – so much so that no one is sure what it means or what the consequence is, especially since voting has already started.

Possible options offered by talking heads:
  1. Mike Pence will simply be bumped up on the ticket and inherit whatever votes Trump gets, although as Pence has no running mate, that could disqualify him
  2. The FEC decision will probably trigger a constitutional convention that the GOP-controlled Congress will use to prevent Hillary from taking office
  3. Or perhaps we’ll just have to do the whole thing over again and postpone the election to 2018, which would give Obama another two years in office, which has conservative pundits convinced he engineered the whole thing and hired those women to set Trump up. Liberal pundits respond that Trump probably staged the whole thing because he knew he was going to lose – being stripped of his candidacy by the FEC means no one can say he lost.
The only thing everyone is sure about is that Trump is finally out of the race.

And then I woke up – momentarily thinking, “Wow, so he’s finally out.”

Trumped,

This is dF
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.

Consider:

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: (devo mouse)
Speaking of Gary Johnson, he took a lot of flak for his Aleppo moment a few days ago.

It’s not hard to see why, but some people have said, well that’s it for Johnson, no one’s going to elect a guy who blanks on a question like that.

Personally, I don’t think it will hurt him that much, for a few reasons:

1. George W Bush couldn’t name three out of four foreign leaders he would be dealing with when he ran for POTUS the first time. He went on to serve two terms.

2. D. Trump knows less than Bush, or at least what he knows comes from an alternate universe. He won a major party nomination and he’s only a few points behind Hillary Clinton at the moment.

3. Johnson’s chances weren’t that great to begin with, although I understand he’s the first third-party candidate since Ross Perot to make the ballot in all 50 states. And one good thing about Aleppo is that a lot more people now know who Gary Johnson is. Any publicity is good publicity, they say.

But yeah, I don’t think it’s going to cost him an election he has a very slim chance of winning anyway. And most of his support is coming from people who hate Hillary and Donald so much that I doubt they care if he blanks on the occasional question. If there's one thing I've learned from past elections, it's that anything your candidate does or says is excusable, explainable or overblown by the biased media. 

Ask me something,

This is dF
defrog: (science!)
For those Americans who aren’t happy with the major party POTUS candidates, well, you can always go third-party.

And I don’t mean Gary Johnson.

Gabriel Green for President! 1960

[Via Slobber Drool Drip Has Risen From The Grave]

Change you want to believe in,

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: (Default)
And all of the speeches from Hillary, Bernie, Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep, etc.



Also applicable to select #BernieOrBust constituents, possibly. (Just swap "commie" for "Hillary".)

Hate so pure,

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). 

5. BENGHAZIPALOOZA!

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.

Unconventional,

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: (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

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