Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Turnout Troofing

Yesterday the Times Upshot ran a piece by Nate Cohn analyzing the 2016 presidential election in terms of what looks to me like another take in the Legendary White Working Class family of takes, identifying the crucial factor in Trump's victory as that particular set of white-no-college voters who voted for Obama in 2008 and/or 2012 but for Trump in 2016, and who are said to have made this remarkable switch mostly out of racial resentment (I actually don't think that's as bizarre as it sounds, but the obvious question it raises, of why a white person who voted for Obama one year would turn around against Clinton out of racial resentment the next time, is one Cohn doesn't even discuss) and then out of disappointment with Obama and then lastly because they agree with Trump's policy prescriptions as they understand them.

Which Cohn does not take to mean that Democrats need to appeal more to racists, even though that's what his data makes it sound like, but that we should take positions more like those of imaginary Trump, in favor of lots of infrastructure spending, and trade protectionism, and relatively relaxed sexual views. The great Zandar of Kentucky, though, hears Cohn thinking it, and he doesn't like it:

What that means is that Cohn is strongly suggesting that in order to be competitive, Democrats have to make a sea change to attract voters that harbor no small amount of racial resentment. Trump was able to leverage that resentment into massive distrust of the Obama administration and Democrats in general.
The problem is that this will come at a cost, and the cost will be borne by black, Latinx, and Asian voters and candidates [and female candidates too, I'd add].  I've said before that this path is suicidal for the Dems and so far Trump is making it incredibly easy to make the Democrats be the party of inclusiveness in comparison by simple dint of Trump's overwhelmingly awful racism, if not open support of white supremacists.

Nor do I.

Both for the range of moral-emotional reasons that make me revolt against the thought of moving the party back into that ugly territory of accepting little homeopathic doses of racism once again, and for the obvious political-science reason that we can't win without the full-hearted support of black and brown people, and abandoning them (or allowing them to feel abandoned) in pursuit of these dubious Trump voters looking for Mr. Good-Dem is just really bad tactics, and probably bad strategy. It's not only wrong, it's dumb to think there are that many of those guys waiting to get picked up.

Which is where I want to go here, just looking at those numbers. Especially, how does Cohn know how many Obama-to-Trump switch voters there are? Before the party starts chasing them, how important a group is it, in fact?

Now, I have my own current theory of the 2016 election, which is that Sam Wang was more or less right, and Clinton had a 95% chance of winning, and it was just that one out of 20 times when enough things go wrong that the outside chance prevails. This doesn't mean I'm claiming that it was a well-run campaign, because I don't think it should have been anywhere near that close in the first place, and I especially can't see why Democrats didn't take the Senate in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, but it does mean I'm suspicious of anybody who insists that there's one overwhelming factor, whether it's Russians or all these sour-ass white guys, I just don't believe that's going to work.

I also have my own theory of American politics in general, which is that non-voters and unlikely voters play a decisive role that never gets enough attention from the pandits and apostles. Nearly half the population stays home in a national election in the US, and if they all came out it would certainly change things (this was Bernie's theory—he was just wrong in thinking he would bring them out). And one of the annoying things is the data is never presented in a way that makes it easy for me to figure out what the actual role of the nonvoter in a given election is going to be.

So I'm looking at some of the data Cohn is working with, as examined at Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia, which are of very large-scale surveys of eligible voter (as opposed to registered or likely voters or people who definitely did vote) from the American National Election Study, which found that 13% of Obama's voters in 2012 went to Trump in 2016 (6% of total vote)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What part of anti-fascist didn't you understand?

Image via New York Times.


Not long after retweeting (and then untweetting) an image of the Trump train evidently emulating the automobile of that murdering Nazi in Charlottesville to mow down the CNN mascot, Emperor Trump
showed up at Trump Tower to inform the press of a new executive order:
“I’ve just signed a new executive order to reform the nation’s badly broken infrastructure permitting process,” Trump announced, suggesting that his directive would streamline the process of approving constructions on highways.
But according to my source (the Mic Network), it was actually just rear-ending an order of 2015 from the Obama White House, revising the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard
ratcheting upwards the height requirements on federally funded infrastructures so that they might withstand the rising sea levels and more frequent, more extreme storms caused by climate change.
It's get to feel more and more as if Harry Lime is president, working to deregulate antibiotics so industry can be set free on the corpses of children. I have more and more difficulty understanding how we could have gotten here.

Anyhow, he couldn't refrain from making sure you know he didn't mean it yesterday when he came out, 48 hours too late, to name-check white supremacists and neo-Nazis as the guilty parties in Charlottesville horror. Now he's trotting out the whataboutism:
“What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say alt-right? Do they have a semblance of guilt?” Trump asked of the counter-protesters at the Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. “What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands? Do they have a problem? I think they do.”
I want to stop here, to take that question a little bit seriously. Is anybody wielding a double standard here? Are we howling about violence on one side and ignoring it on the other?

A couple of things: first, I think I've said this before, I'm an instinctual pacifist, I really hate violence, but I'm even more an instinctual cultural relativist, and I understand most societies throughout human history have tolerated a level of violence that's too much for me, and I have to be careful about judging, in particular about judging the oppressed. And then, like many of us, I'm brought up on the same stories of anti-fascist bravery, on the streets of Weimar Germany, in the battles of the Spanish Civil War, in the French maquis and the Warsaw uprising, in all the places in Southeast and East Asia where people battled Japanese occupation (not to even mention the whole history of anti-colonial resistance from the 13 Colonies to Vietnam), the romance and rightness of resistance.

The people who use the term "antifa" on themselves are nourished by the same stories, and as I understand the history of the word by a sense of mission of protecting people. When the European punk movement was infested by racist skinheads and Nazis in the 1980s and 90s, these are the people who came between them and the harmless apolitical fans. That story just resonates with me.

And in the Charlottesville story as I'm reading it, yes, there was a lot of fighting, and it would be crazy to try to prove it was the Nazis and white supremacists that started it every time (I'm believing stories that the law failed to keep them apart, though), but it's also the case that one side wears ski masks and carries sticks while the other side wears armor and carries assault rifles, and that guy hurtling his car through the crowd (an entirely peaceful part of the group) may have been much crazier than the rest, but he was in the same fascist spirit of being the overwhelming strongest, inside his huge and heavy machine, attacking the weak.

But the other thing is anti-fascists are in the right, just like the Lincoln Brigades and the maquisards and so forth. They're really fighting against evil! I can't see any way around this to moral equivalency. Fascism is bad, the Confederacy was bad, and opposing them is good, even if you're opposing them in a less than optimal way.

And also this:
“So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I notice that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is George Washington next week, and is Thomas Jefferson the week after?” the president asked. “You really have to ask yourself, ‘Where does it stop?’”
Once they start taking down statues of that gallant General Lee, they'll be taking down statues of everybody I like! He really doesn't understand that the Confederacy was a bad country, that deserved to lose the war. It's all a movie, or a Wrestlemania episode, and General Lee doesn't look like a heel, does he?


Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Thimk, damn it! No no, thimk harder!




This painting, hanging in the lobby of a Trader Joe’s supermarket in Manhattan,
purports to be a New York street scene. But look closely. How did those cars get 
up on that sidewalk bridge? Did they drive up the wall of the kiosk that’s
holding it up? Was the artist thinking? More likely he was only thimking
Like Donald Trump.

Once upon a time, back in the early 1960s, there was a big, prosperous, international company that specialized in making adding machines and typewriters. Its name was IBM, an abbreviation for International Business Machines.

Additionally, the company was futzing with things called computers — room-filling assortments of big, metal-boxed vacuum tubes, flashing and flickering while they spun tapes on which data was recorded. Data got put into the machines by feeding it cards in which holes were punched at various places. The machine would “read” the data on the cards, and manipulate it ways that would enable it to retrieve information it had already been fed, or do the work of dozens of calculators.

At that time, the company had a long-established one-word slogan. It was coined by the company’s founder, Thomas J. Watson, a remarkable character who also demanded, on pain of dismissal, that all his employees always wear white shirts with suits that were either blue or charcoal. I don’t recall what the dress code said about ties, but you had better bet it was pretty conservative.

By the late 1950s and early 1960s, the company was desperately hanging on to its slogan despite merciless parody. Typically, the letters THIN would fill a column, with a K either squeezed into the margins, or placed above the rest of the word with a carat. Another popular parody was meant to indicate that some unthinking sloganeer hadn’t proofread his work. “THIMK,” it said.

By the mid 1960s, parody was the least of the problems with the IBM slogan. Computers were being touted around the media as eerie devices that were going to take away everybody’s job. We’d all become unemployed drones, left without income by the terrible “thinking machines” that we’d be forced to serve.

In retrospect the touting was fairly accurate.  But IBM was not about to take that kind of reputation-wrecking rumor lying down. It launched an advertising campaign in which every headline began with the words, “IBM computers don’t think.” The ads would go on to list human-helping benefits of the machines, such as helping to find rare blood to save a life, or locating a lost ship at sea. I’m familiar with this obscure corner of history because I was the 23 year old kid who was writing most of the ads.

But if computers hewed to the company line and didn’t “think,” what was one to do with a slogan that said “Think” at the bottom of the ads? Well, we got rid of the slogan. And for good measure, we generally added to the text of the ads a thought that computers would “free up people to think.”

Pretty soon the THINK slogan suffered the same fate that Grover Norquist wishes on government. It shrank away until somebody drowned it in the bath tub of history.

Now, thanks to Donald Trump,  the United States is also in danger of drowning in the bath tub of history. We are being sucked threat-by-threat into a potential war with North Korea. We are srattling our sword at Venezuela. It may have been possible to fight massive wars on two fronts during WWII when we have a draft. With today’s all-volunteer army it is not. 

And never mind just two fronts. There's still Afghanistan. There's still Iraq. Iran, too, anybody?

Eric Prince and his private war company, Academi (formerly called Xe, and before that, Blackwater) cannot save us, although if he sells the Trump administration on paying him to conduct a war he may quite possibly bankrupt the nation. 

Yet Trump shoots off his mouth — at North Korea, at Venezuela, at Iran, at….well hell, maybe we can go to war with the entire world. 

While in principle I don’t mind Trump painting himself into a corner, he has also managed to paint the entire United States into the same corner to keep him company. And all the national forests and spectacular landscapes that he turns into coal mines, all the streams and drinking water he poisons, all the social safety nets he destroys in the name of…..whatever, will not save us.

Give him a chance and he’ll shoot off his mouth — via Twitter — about any thing that pops into his head. He’ll support racists until his frantic staff grabs his arm and twists it to make him stop. He’ll create internal chaos and disorganization throughout the government. He’ll insult and alienate potential allies. 


Can’t anybody in the White House think? Or even pretend to think? Of if that’s too much trouble, at least Thimk?


GONE FOR A FEW DAYS

I have some family business to attend to, so I'll be away from the blog for a few days. The relief crew will be here, so stop by.

Monday, August 14, 2017

TRUMP SURROGATES BLAME CHARLOTTESVILLE ON HILLARY CLINTON, BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY DO

Yesterday, Fox and Friends hosted Diamond and Silk, two black Trump surrogates who, of course, immediately blamed the racial violence in Charlottesville on Democrats:



"Neo-Nazi groups, the KKK, which was created by the Democrats, all of these other groups, they were all spewing hate and they were all creating violence, and all of them should be condemned and denounced. Period," Diamond told "Fox & Friends."

... "The president cannot be one-sided. He has to look at everything that's going on," Diamond said. "I didn't like the white nationalists, the KKK, the neo-Nazis, David Duke, but I also didn't like Black Lives Matter and Antifa."

When it comes to the Confederate statues, Diamond says to put them in a museum, noting that the Democrats founded the Ku Klux Klan.

"We can never let the Democrats forget what they did to out country when it comes to intimidating and manipulating people in order to dominate," she concluded.
This is a point also being made by Dinesh D'Souza, who -- alas for America -- had the good fortune to publish a book titled The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left mere weeks before Charlottesville blew up.



But to the best of my knowledge, even D'Souza hasn't named Hillary Clinton one of the villains of Charlottesville. Diamond and Silk have. Go to 2:52 in the video above.
DIAMOND: Can I just make another point? We had Hillary Clinton saying, "I'm going to start the resistance movement." See, those things are part of the problem, and it needs to be addressed. Because we shouldn't be resisting the administration, the president. We should all be living in harmony and getting along. And we're going to have to learn how to agree to disagree, especially when we have a disagreement in this country.
Yes, we're fighting in the streets because -- gasp -- a Democrat has expressed open disapproval of a Republican. Intolerable! Under those circumstances, plowing into a crowd of left-leaning demonstrators with murderous intent is practically self-defense!

Right-wingers greatly appreciate having their prejudices affirmed by black and brown conservatives. And they love being told that everything bad in the world is part of one many-tentacled liberal octopus.



CHARLOTTESVILLE: THE HIPPIE-BLAMING BEGINS

The message in the first half of this Wall Street Journal editorial is: We are condemning the neo-Nazi right, and only the neo-Nazi right, for the violence in Charlottesville on Saturday:
The particular pathology on display in Virginia was the white nationalist movement led today by the likes of Richard Spencer, David Duke and Brad Griffin. They alone are to blame for the violence that occurred when one of their own drove a car into peaceful protesters, killing a young woman and injuring 19 others....

Political conservatives even more than liberals need to renounce these racist impulses....
But the second half of the editorial makes clear that the Journal editorial board doesn't blame only the perpetrators:
The politics of white supremacy was a poison on the right for many decades, but the civil-rights movement rose to overcome it, and it finally did so in the mid-1960s with Martin Luther King Jr. ’s language of equal opportunity and color-blind justice.

That principle has since been abandoned, however, in favor of a new identity politics that again seeks to divide Americans by race, ethnicity, gender and even religion. “Diversity” is now the all-purpose justification for these divisions....

The problem is that the identity obsessives want to boil down everything in American life to these categories.... Down this road lies crude political tribalism....

A politics fixated on indelible differences will inevitably lead to resentments that extremists can exploit in ugly ways on the right and left. The extremists were on the right in Charlottesville, but there have been examples on the left in Berkeley, Oakland and numerous college campuses. When Democratic politicians can’t even say “all lives matter” without being denounced as bigots, American politics has a problem.
So the Journal ed board doesn't really believe that Spencer et al. "alone are to blame for the violence" in Charlottesville.

Rod Dreher's post on Charlottesville at the American Conservative also checks the "blame the perpetrators" box, but doesn't linger very long on their responsibility for the violence, because Dreher is in too much of a rush to blame the left:
Charlottesville is the kind of America that identity politics is calling into being. It’s time for straight talk about that.

On the Right, the story is fairly straightforward. Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and their ilk have to be condemned in no uncertain terms, and marginalized....

It is not enough for conservative politicians and thought leaders to condemn these incidents. In their rhetoric, they need to start criticizing the principles of identity politics, across the board.

... we on the Right have to start speaking out without fear against identity politics — and calling out people on the Left, especially those within institutions, for practicing it. The alt-right has correctly identified a hypocritical double standard in American culture. It’s one that allows liberals and their favored minority groups to practice toxic identity politics — on campus, in the media, in corporate America, on the streets — while denying the possibility to whites and males. By speaking out against left-wing identity politics, and by explaining, over and over, why identity politics are wrong and destructive, conservatives strengthen their position in chastising white nationalists on the Right.
So the alt-rightists are awful -- but hey, they have a legitimate grievance, don't they?

Erick Erickson, writing for FoxNews.com, skips the pro forma condemnation of the perpetrators and just blames the left:
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As the left-wing social justice warriors have created mobs across America intent on destroying lives for daring to engage in wrong-think, an equal and opposite white supremacist movement has risen up. Both would silence the other side for wrong-think. Both work at the extremes of American politics....

White supremacists, white nationalists, or alt-right are a group of people who have decided to embrace left-wing tactics and strategies to advance the noxious idea that the white race is superior to others....

The regressive ideas of the white supremacists in Charlottesville have no place in America any more than the censorious totalitarianism on display last week at Google.
I'm sure Heather Heyer's family would be happy if she could trade places with James Damore.

Blaming the hippies for right-wing violence is a venerable conservative tradition. Recently, on the New York Times op-ed page, Bret Stephens cited a 1993 Wall Street Journal editorial titled "No Guardrails," which is widely admired on the right. That editorial (scroll down here to read it unpaywalled) blamed 1960s left-wing culture for the murder of an abortion doctor:
The gunning down of abortion doctor David Gunn in Florida last week shows us how small the barrier has become that separates civilized from uncivilized behavior in American life. In our time, the United States suffers every day of the week because there are now so many marginalized people among us who don't understand the rules, who don't think that rules of personal or civil conduct apply to them, who have no notion of self-control....

We think it is possible to identify the date when the U.S., or more precisely when many people within it, began to tip off the emotional tracks. A lot of people won't like this date, because it makes their political culture culpable for what has happened. The date is August 1968, when the Democratic National Convention found itself sharing Chicago with the street fighters of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

The real blame here does not lie with the mobs who fought bloody battles with the hysterical Chicago police. The larger responsibility falls on the intellectuals--university professors, politicians and journalistic commentators--who said then that the acts committed by the protesters were justified or explainable. That was the beginning. After Chicago, the justifications never really stopped. America had a new culture, for political action and personal living....

Michael Griffin and Dr. David Gunn are merely two names on a long list of confrontations and personal catastrophe going back 25 years.
Yes, 1960s leftists killed Dr. Gunn. Personal responsibility? No thanks -- we're conservatives.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

TRUMP'S POLITICAL CALCULUS: CONDEMNING WHITE RACISM ISN'T WORTH THE COST

President Trump won't specifically condemn white nationalist violence, a choice Jeff Greenfield finds not only morally outrageous but baffling even as an act of profound political cynicism:
... think about it: Would any halfway rational political mind think that in condemning neo-Nazis and Klansmen, you would risk losing any part of your broader base? That crowd of losers in Charlottesville was tiny—no more than a few hundred people. Is there anything more than a small fragment of Trump’s supporters who genuinely sympathize with the white hoods and swastikas?
But let's turn the question on its head: Is there anyone in Trump's base who's going to abandon him because he won't condemn the neo-Nazis?

By now I assume we've all stopped doing what we were doing in late 2015 and throughout most of 2016: We know now that when Trump says or does something deeply offensive, it's unreasonable to assume that it will ruin his political career. Insult women, slander Gold Star parents, attack John McCain for his POW years -- no problem. Everyone in the base may not share those opinions, but none of it is ever a dealbreaker. So why should Trump condemn white racial hatred when part of his base clearly shares that racial hatred (and a much larger portion of the base than Greenfield believes), while the rest of the base literally cannot be offended by anything Trump says?

I think Trump would lose support if he condemned white racism, even among supporters who don't regard themselves as racist. It's been said many times that all Trump supporters may not be racist, but they're all tolerant of racism; I'd go further and say that they may not all be racist, but they would think less of Trump if he weren't being condemned for racist and offensive remarks. They love him because he angers people they hate, and because he won't back down when we challenge him. So, yes, he would risk losing a considerable part of his broader base if he condemned white racism. To his base, that would be seen as "politically correct." They continue to support Trump precisely because he isn't "PC." Of course he's not going to run that risk.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

BREITBART SPIN ON CHARLOTTESVILLE: WHY ARE LIBERALS SO MEAN TO TRUMP?

Protests in Charlottesville have turned violent. Here's the most disturbing incident:
A driver appeared to intentionally ram into a group of counterprotestors at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, leaving at least 10 injured. Police say the injuries range in severity from life-threatening to minor. It is unclear if the driver of the car has been apprehended.



The right-wing media has now been forced to acknowledge what's going on in Charlottesville ... and the response at Breitbart is: Waaaah! You're being unfair to Trump!
1:10 p.m. ET – Some reactions from Twitter, predictably smearing President Trump and his advisers:



... 2:05 p.m. ET – Laura Ingraham points out that media is finding a convenient scapegoat to bash President Trump:



... 2:45 p.m. ET – Celebrities also use the opportunity to bash Trump. According to Gossip Cop:
Alyssa Milano, who deemed Friday night’s protest an example of “Trump’s America.” Mark Ruffalo cracked, “Got the ole fashioned Nazi feeling don’t it?” Katie Couric called it “a chilling scene.” And Piper Perabo told followers, “I just donated to @naacp & Charlottesville Pride @cvillepride. I am outraged at what happened last night. Counter protest march link below.”

Andy Richter ripped the participants as “human race traitors,” while Rosie O’Donnell said it was evidence of “THE TRUMP EFFECT.” She added, “#25thAmendmentNow #stopTRUMP.” ...
Gosh, I can't imagine why people would be linking this to Trump:



A link to Trump? Baffling!
During a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke said the event is in line with President Trump’s “promises.”

“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back,” Duke said. “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”



Why are so liberals so mean to the poor, innocent president?

MOST OF THE RIGHT-WING MEDIA SEEMS EMBARRASSED BY THE CHARLOTTESVILLE NEO-NAZIS

This happened last night:
Chanting “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” several hundred white nationalists and white supremacists carrying torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus Friday night.

... the march lasted 15 to 20 minutes before ending in skirmishes when the marchers were met by a small group of counterprotesters at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson, the university’s founder.

A short brawl erupted after at least one of the counterprotesters apparently deployed a chemical spray, which affected the eyes of a dozen or so marchers. It left them floundering and seeking medical assistance....

The march came on the eve of the Unite the Right rally, a gathering of groups from around the country whose members have said they are being persecuted for being white and that white history in America is being erased.

The Saturday rally is being held at noon at Emancipation Park, formerly Lee Park, home to a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that the city of Charlottesville voted to remove earlier this year.
It's being reported elsewhere that the white nationalists attacked the counterprotesters with "swung torches, pepper spray and lighter fluid."

The protesters carried torches, which is both chilling and absurd (absurd because they're tiki torches).



Among their chants was "Blood and soil."



Other chants: “You will not replace us” and “Jew will not replace us.”

You might assume this is huge news in right-wing media. It isn't, at least so far. It's nowhere on Breitbart's front page (though the front page does feature stories such as "Starbucks Attracts Refugees with Latent TB"). Daily Caller? Nothing. Infowars? Nothing, although Infowars and its news spinoff Newswars both feature an AP story about the League of the South's perpetual calls for Southern secession.

Below the top block of stories (about North Korea), Fox News has the front-page headline "VIRGINIA ON GUARD: White Nationalist Rally Prompts Safety Precautions." The story, which is fairly neutral, focuses on today's planned protests (and Governor Terry McAuliffe's call for everyone to stay away from the protest site); there are a couple of paragraphs about what happened last night. At Drudge the demonstration is a sidebar (Venezuela is Drudge's top story), and Drudge also features the secession story, which is above the story about last night's demonstration.

Maybe it's early yet -- none of these folks are serious 24/7 newsgatherers. Maybe they haven't lined up their talking points yet. (How do we blame this on liberals?)

But they're not jumping on the story. They seem rather embarrassed by it.

Understandably, I think -- it gives the game away. They've spent so much time telling us that liberal accusations of racism are hype that they don't want to expose evidence that they're not hype. They've put so much effort into telling us that defenders of Confederate monuments wish only to preserve "heritage" and "history" that they inevitably want to downplay a demonstration that links support of Confederate monuments to white nationalism.

We'll see how the coverage evolves on the right. Meanwhile, here's my favorite comment, from a thread about Charlotttesville at Reddit's r/The_Donald:



Yeah, bummer.

Friday, August 11, 2017

TRUMP MAY BE ALL TALK, AND TRUMP FANS DON'T CARE

I've been away from the Internet for a few hours, and I come back to this:
President Donald Trump on Friday said he would not rule out a "military option" in Venezuela as the ruling regime there consolidates power.

"We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary," Trump told reporters at his New Jersey golf club on Friday.

The president did not answer a question about whether American troops would lead a potential operation.

"We don't talk about it. But a military operation, a military option, is certainly something we could pursue," he responded.
Thankfully:




Trump loves the tough talk. He's loved saying "fire and fury" and "lock and load." (Our last president was such a weak-kneed quisling he wouldn't even use alliteration!) And his fans love it. Not just the proletarians: Wesley Pruden of The Washington Times has an opinion piece titled "Donald Trump’s Plain Speech to Kim Jong-un, Delivered Hot and Loud." (Oooh, hot and loud -- do you need a cigarette, Wesley?)

Do the fans care if Trump follows through? They apparently aren't bothered by the fact that Mexico will never pay for the wall -- they just wanted to hear Trump say it. They want Trump to perform toughness. They don't seem to care if he is tough. Trump makes liberals squeal -- that's what they see, and that's what they care about. As far as they're concerned, based on only this, Trump has already won.

DAVID BROOKS: YOU SAY "HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT" AS IF IT'S A BAD THING!

David Brooks thinks Google shouldn't have fired James Damore, because SCIENCE:
In his memo, Damore cites a series of studies, making the case, for example, that men tend to be more interested in things and women more interested in people. (Interest is not the same as ability.) Several scientists in the field have backed up his summary of the data.
But wasn't the memo offensive to women? Oh, yeah, that's true:
We should all have a lot of sympathy for ... the women in tech who felt the memo made their lives harder. Picture yourself in a hostile male-dominated environment, getting interrupted at meetings, being ignored, having your abilities doubted, and along comes some guy arguing that women are on average less status hungry and more vulnerable to stress. Of course you’d object.
So Brooks acknowledges that the Damore memo made the work environment more hostile. But that okay, isn't it?

No, it isn't. The memo told women that either (a) they're not qualified to do tech work or (b) they're freaks within their gender. To Brooks, that's not a serious workplace problem.

Does Brooks go to an office every day and stay there for eight hours, day in and day out? When was the last time he did that routinely? If he doesn't do that, and hasn't for years, I don't think he's capable of understanding what creating a hostile work environment means.

Beyond that, he decries the moral fervor of what he describes as the "mob" that expressed outrage at Damore:
The mob that hounded Damore was like the mobs we’ve seen on a lot of college campuses. We all have our theories about why these moral crazes are suddenly so common. I’d say that radical uncertainty about morality, meaning and life in general is producing intense anxiety. Some people embrace moral absolutism in a desperate effort to find solid ground. They feel a rare and comforting sense of moral certainty when they are purging an evil person who has violated one of their sacred taboos.
And so Brooks's response to this controversy is...?
There are many actors in the whole Google/diversity drama, but I’d say the one who’s behaved the worst is the C.E.O., Sundar Pichai....

Either Pichai is unprepared to understand the research (unlikely), is not capable of handling complex data flows (a bad trait in a C.E.O.) or was simply too afraid to stand up to a mob.

Regardless which weakness applies, this episode suggests he should seek a nonleadership position.
Brooks is urging Pichai to resign as CEO. In fact, the headline on this column is "Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s C.E.O."

Which is totally not "moral absolutism" aimed at "purging an evil person." Right?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

TRUMP WANTS THE ENTIRE REPUBLICAN PARTY TO RUN AS SMOOTHLY AS HIS WHITE HOUSE

Let's kick back and watch the red-on-red warfare:
President Trump lashed out on Wednesday at the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, who suggested this week that the president harbored “excessive expectations” about the pace of congressional progress.

“Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, as he and lawmakers took time away from Washington during the August recess. “After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?”
This was followed by another tweet written by the vacationing Trump:



Trump doesn't seem to believe that a president and his aides are supposed to help craft legislation. He wrote this tweet as if he was ordering takeout.

In The Weekly Standard, Michael Warren contends that all this is a sign Trump wants to leave the GOP:
President Donald Trump is inching closer to abandoning the Republican party....

Trump has been building the case against his fellow Republicans for some time, but it came to a head late last month as Obamacare repeal began its path in the Senate. “Republicans in the Senate will NEVER win if they don’t go to a 51 vote majority NOW. They look like fools and are just wasting time,” he tweeted on July 29. “If the Senate Democrats ever got the chance, they would switch to a 51 majority vote in first minute. They are laughing at R’s. MAKE CHANGE!” Then, a few days later, he blamed the “all-time & very dangerous low” relations with Russia on Congress, “the same people that can’t even give us HCare!”

Trump’s short-term target was the filibuster and its most important defender, Mitch McConnell. But the beginnings of the broader argument against the GOP are all right there, in 140 characters at a time. Republicans are fools, they’re impotent, and everyone’s laughing at them.
But a D.C. insider quoted in The Washington Post makes the obvious point that this is Trump we're talking about, so we shouldn't be imagining there's a well-crafted plan:
“Discerning a particular strategy or goal from these tweets is hard,” said Doug Heye, a Republican consultant and former Capitol Hill staffer. “It just doesn’t help enact any part of his agenda, and it sends a further troubling sign to Capitol Hill Republicans already wary of the White House.”
What Trump is doing is what he does in his White House, and possibly what he did in his business: He's failing to do any hard work himself, he's berating anyone who doesn't get done what he wants accomplished, and he doesn't care how much chaos this generates as long as the result is that he's surrounded by people who promise to do whatever he demands without ever annoying him. (Nearly everyone annoys him eventually, if only because it's often literally impossible to do what he wants, especially when he won't lift a finger to help. So the cycle never ends.)

Hey, Mitch, you wanted this guy to be president? Reap the whirlwind.

The odd thing about that Weekly Standard story is that the latter half essentially contradicts the first half. Warren says that Trump is getting ready to abandon the GOP -- but the GOP is becoming Trumpier:
All of this is complicated by the fact that the unelected party infrastructure is aligning itself more with Trump. The Republican National Committee chair, Ronna Romney McDaniel, has taken to chastising elected Republicans critical of Trump, such as Jeff Flake, by pointing to those GOP candidates who lost in 2016 after publicly distancing themselves from the presidential nominee. “There is a cautionary tale there because voters want you to support the president in his agenda,” McDaniel said this week. And McDaniel’s latest hire, as national spokesperson for the RNC? Former CNN contributor and reliably pro-Trump talking head Kayleigh McEnany.

Speaking of the continued Trumpification of the GOP infrastructure, it’s worth noting that a PAC supporting Jeff Flake’s rival in next year’s Arizona Senate GOP primary just received a big donation from the conservative, and increasingly pro-Trump, donor Robert Mercer.
Trump isn't leaving the GOP -- he and his allies are trying to purge or marginalize people who've displeased Trump, including McConnell. The goal isn't to break free of the party -- it's to prevent Trump from being annoyed. The party will become more Trump-like, and Trump won't leave -- he'll just compel others to leave.

TRUMP PROBABLY WON'T TRY TO POSTPONE ANY ELECTIONS, BUT HE'D HAVE SOME BACKING IF HE DID

I'm fairly certain we don't have to worry about this:
... how far would Republicans be willing to follow the president to stop what they perceive as rampant [voter] fraud? Our recent survey suggests that the answer is quite far: About half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 presidential election until the country can fix this problem....

We focus on the 650 respondents who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.

... respondents were asked whether Trump won the popular vote, whether millions of illegal immigrants voted, and how often voter fraud occurs....

Then the survey asked ... about postponing the 2020 election.

... 52 percent said that they would support postponing the 2020 election [if Trump supported the postponement], and 56 percent said they would do so if both Trump and Republicans in Congress were behind this.
My first thought: I'm amazed the numbers are as low as they are. I would have thought they'd be in the 70s or 80s.

Republicans are about a third of the electorate. If Trump were to call for an election postponement, this poll suggests that only one-sixth of the country would back him up (plus, in all likelihood, a tiny fraction of Democrats and independents). That's fairly reassuring.

Moreover, I don't expect Trump to make this recommendation, because he regularly reassures himself that bad poll numbers are "fake news," while good poll numbers are the truth, however dubious they are. Just today he retweeted a completely untrustworthy Twitter poll created by an account that also dabbles in right-wing memes and follows mostly right-wing partisans, alt-rightist, and various Trumps:



I'm hoping that Trump will refrain from urging the suspension of democratic elections just because he'll believe he can win even if he's losing. (After 2016, I suppose you can't blame him for thinking that way.)

On the other hand, we don't know what the numbers would be like if there were a concerted push in the right-wing media for a postponement. Would Fox et al. go that far? That seems to be a line that hasn't been crossed yet. Let's hope it stays that way.

I don't think the line will be crossed -- but if Democrats do well in 2018 and/or 2020, let's not forget that the right will work very hard to delegitimize the results along these lines. If only half of Republicans buy the voter-fraud line, I'd say we're safe. But there'll still be a disturbing number of election truthers, even if they can't really discredit the results.