Saturday, July 23, 2016

KAINE IS OKAY, BUT HE WON'T HELP CLINTON WIN OVER WHITE MEN

I'm not going to dance in the streets because Virginia senator Tim Kaine is Hillary Clinton's VP pick, but there's a lot to like about him -- his years as a civil rights lawyer fighting housing discrimination; his opposition to the NRA and seriousness about curbing gun violence; his support for the Iran deal and boycott of Benjamin Netanyahu's thoroughly political speech to Congress; his comfort with a diverse America (he attends a predominantly black church and he and his wife send their kids to predominantly black public schools, and he speaks fluent Spanish); and so on.

He's a Catholic and says he's personally opposed to abortion, but fellow Catholic Joe Biden has said the same thing, and that hasn't been a problem in the Obama years. I lived for years in a state governed by Mario Cuomo, yet another Catholic who proclaimed personal opposition to abortion, and his commitment to choice was rock solid. Kaine has 100% ratings from Planned Parenthood and NARAL.

On the other hand, I don't trust Kaine's equivocation on TPP:
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) reportedly told Hillary Clinton he would oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership before she selected him as her running mate -- but as recently as Thursday, the Virginia senator was praising the massive trade deal.

The Huffington Post reported Friday night that Kaine told Clinton he would oppose the trade deal between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations. According to the report, Kaine said he agreed with Clinton ... that the TPP did not meet certain standards on wages and national security.

But one day prior, the pro-trade senator still had warm words for the Pacific trade pact.

"I am having discussions with a lot of groups around Virginia about the treaty itself. I see much in it to like,” Kaine said Thursday during a series of roundtable events in suburban northern Virginia. “I think it's an upgrade of labor standards, I think it's an upgrade of environmental standards. I think it's an upgrade of intellectual property protections."
And the pro-bank talk is not encouraging:
... a bipartisan letter that Kaine signed on Monday urg[ed] the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to “carefully tailor its rulemaking” regarding community banks and credit unions so as not to “unduly burden” these institutions with regulations aimed at commercial banks.
Politico notes that even Elizabeth Warren "has supported targeted regulatory changes that would benefit a narrower group of smaller lenders" -- though presumably not Capital One, the tenth-largest bank in America, which is based in Virginia and is, as Politico notes, clearly on the mind of Kaine (and his Virginia Senate colleague, Mark Warner, who also signed the letter).

But a deregulatory free-for-all is inevitable if Donald Trump becomes president and leaves all the boring stuff in the hands of Reaganite Koch puppet Mike Pence working hand in glove with the likes of Ayn Rand fanboy Paul Ryan. We can work to push Clinton-Kaine to the left on this issue, and they're already on the left on so many other issues. With the Republicans, there's no hope.

And yet Trump is faking populism on this issue:



This is a big reason why the conventional wisdom about Kaine is dead wrong:
As a staunch Catholic with blue-collar roots, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., he is likely to give Mrs. Clinton a needed boost among white men....
The Clintonites think demography is destiny. So does the mainstream media. They think she'll do better with Middle American white men because she's picked a Middle American white man.

That's not how it works. As the GOP and Fox News have proven, white male heartlanders respond to coastal elites, women, and sometimes non-whites if they say what the white male heartlanders want to hear. New York billionaire Donald Trump is the obvious example, but heartlanders respond well to Fox's East Coast-centric talent pool (Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro). They love Sheriff David Clarke, a black gun nut and Black Lives Matter foe, who spoke at Trump's convention and is a frequent Fox guest. They admire Clarence Thomas and (until recently) Ted Cruz. They love Sarah Palin and Joni Ernst.

And they responded to New York-born, Vermont-based, Jewish agnostic socialist Bernie Sanders this year. That's the problem: Working-class whites are in an anti-elite frame of mind right now, and Clinton just picked someone who's easy to dismiss as a friend of the elites.

And even before the year of Trump and Sanders, Kaine didn't have great appeal to white males. Here's the exit poll result on that from his 2012 Senate race against George "Macaca" Allen:



Allen is the son of a revered football coach, so he started with a reservoir of goodwill among men. Allen, like Trump, has a history of ethnically insensitive remarks. Yes, Kaine beat Allen, but Allen clobbered Kaine among white men, 63%-37%. (And Kaine didn't fare much better among white women.)

Kaine is, as The New York Times says, "a self-effacing senator in a sharp-elbows era." That's going to appeal to white men? This year?

Nope. Clinton can certainly win the election with Kaine, but he won't help her with that demographic.

Friday, July 22, 2016

THE RETURN OF THE REPRESSED

Donald Trump made a long speech last night without getting into any petty beefs, and restraining himself must have been just killing him, because here's what he's up to this morning:
Donald Trump would not accept Ted Cruz's endorsement even if he offered it to him, the Republican nominee said Friday....

"He's fine. I don't want his endorsement. If he gives it, I will not accept it, just so you understand. I will not accept it," Trump said. "It won't matter. Honestly, he should have done it. Because nobody cares. And he would have been in better shape for four years from now. I don't see him winning anyway, frankly. But if he did, it's fine."

"Although maybe I'll set up a super PAC if he decides to run. Are you allowed to set up a super PAC, Mike, if you are the president to fight somebody?" Trump asked his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, at a campaign event in Cleveland.
More:
A day after accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for president, Donald Trump rehashed a conspiracy theory that claims the man who killed President John F. Kennedy once cavorted with Ted Cruz’s father.

“I don't know his father. I met him once. I think he's a lovely guy,” Trump said at a morning-after rally in Cleveland. “All I did is point out the fact that on the cover of the National Enquirer there was a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast.”
Still more:
"I didn't start anything with the wife," Trump said, referring to a pro-Cruz super PAC that in March circulated a photo ahead of the Utah caucuses of his wife Melania posing nude for GQ in 2000. "Really successful. She didn't need to marry me. She was making a lot of money, believe me. I had to work hard to get her to marry me. It wasn't that easy. It's true. You think I'm kidding. So they released this picture, which was, you know, to the people of the state of Utah. I love Utah. I love the people of Utah. But that's not where you want to necessarily send a risqué picture. Everybody in Utah got a picture. And I don't think they showed that it was GQ I don't even think they showed. They took the GQ off. They cut all the stuff off.

Trump continued, "And I'm saying it just to clear it up. I didn't do anything."
I think the Clinton campaign should run ads that are just clips like that last bit -- raw, unedited, unhinged Trump fixating on personal slights. The only commentary would be: "This man wants to be president of the United States." Really, Clintonites, just do it.

****

UPDATE: No, really:

DID THAT TERRIBLE SPEECH WORK? POSSIBLY.

I gave up on the Trump speech when it was well after eleven in the East and there still seemed to be ten or fifteen minutes to go, judging from the advance draft, which lacked the bloat added by all the ad-libbed "Believe me"s. The pounding, hectoring tone of a speech that was poorly delivered had worn me out. I took the risk that I wouldn't miss anything important, that he wouldn't wrap it up by deviating from the script and saying, "VOTE FOR ME OR YOU'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!" That was the message in any case.

And for much of America it was probably effective.

Am I saying it was a speech that made viewers forget what a terrible convention the GOP put on? No, because I don't think this was a terrible convention for the GOP. I understand the conventional wisdom about the first three days, and I'm not denying that Team Trump had a few faceplants. Not checking Melania's speech for plagiarism was a rookie error, compounded by the decision to keep the story in the headlines for days. The Ted Cruz speech was a humiliation, even if the Trumpites turned the humiliation right back on Cruz.

But these are things ordinary undecided Americans don't care about. They're about process. They matter to political insiders and politics mavens. They don't matter to Joe Sixpack in the heartland. So, no, I don't think this convention was a "dumpster fire," a phrase I'm as tired of now as I was of "clown car" during the Republican primaries. Maybe the GOP field was a clown car. But we got John Wayne Gacy as the nominee.

And just to finish what I started in that last paragraph: No, I don't think allowing Cruz to go on so he could be booed was an act of sinister brilliance on the Trumpites' part -- or maybe it was, but again, ordinary voters don't care.

Ordinary voters care about their own lives, and the lives of members of their tribes. They have anxieties, sometimes half formed, about the state of the country and the world.

It isn't just that Trump's speech successfully tapped into the anxieties of many Americans -- it's that the entire convention did, in between all the things that were so fascinating to political insiders. And while the four days of speeches, up to and including Trump's own, didn't provide solutions beyond "Donald Trump will magically fix everything because he's all-powerful," they did offer up a scapegoat for all the world's ills: Hillary Clinton, the worst person in the world.

I'm not supposed to worry about this because the presidential electoral is supposedly etched in stone: Yes, older whites always vote Republican, and whites are a majority, but they're a dwindling majority; Barack Obama built a coalition that can't lose a presidential election anymore. But Obama's coalition never stopped liking him; his approval/disapproval numbers always hovered within a few points of 50-50, and those who approved of him really admired him. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has a 40%/58% favorable/unfavorable rating right now, according to the average at Huffington Post's Pollster. To win in November, she needs the votes of a lot of people who simply don't like her and don't trust her. So why are we so certain the Obama coalition will turn out for her?

In the Obama years, we've seen dogma-driven Republicans expand their near-monopoly on white people's votes from the South to supposedly blue parts of the North -- see the governors' mansions in Maine, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. I know -- they won because the Democrats' presidential electorate doen't show up in off years. But which electorate will show up for Hillary Clinton if she doesn't get her disapproval ratings down?

If she wins, it will be because Trump isn't trying very hard to appeal to voters outside his base. He's gone out of his way to insult Hispanics and Muslims. Despite his painstaking enunciation of the acronym "LGBTQ" in last night's speech, he's unlikely to win over many voters from that community, for all his post-Orlando pandering -- not after he picked a running mate who signed a discriminatory "religious freedom" bill as governor. And he didn't even try to pander last night to African-American voters -- he doubled and tripled down on rhetoric that was unconditionally pro-police, on a day when we watched a cop shoot an unarmed black mental health worker lying on the pavement with his hands raised in the air in a gesture of surrender and self-abnegation.

Insiders think Trump's speech was a missed opportunity:
After reading the speech, Paul Begala, a longtime Democratic strategist and speechwriter, called the missing personal details “an enormous mistake.”

“The American people,” he said, “need to know their president’s mythic arc.”
But from his TV show and books and media gossip, Americans think they already know Trump's "mythic arc." He rode in from Queens and remade the Manhattan skyline! He can make deals better than anyone on earth! Everything he touches turns to gold! And he gets the most beautiful women!

This is why all the media talk about the convention's incompetence is irrelevant: If you plan to vote for Trump or even think you might, you probably believe he's extraordinarily capable by definition. You probably come from a community where there isn't a building nearly as tall as Trump Tower, and there's no one nearly as rich as Trump. You have no idea that there are many developers who are more successful than Trump in New York, many buildings much taller, many fat cats much richer. He's as good as it gets!

So is all this working? Up to a point, yes:
Donald Trump is enjoying a mid-convention bump in the polls, surging to within striking distance of Hillary Clinton in a national survey released Thursday.

The Reuters-Ipsos rolling national poll, which includes data collected from three of the four days of the Republican National Convention, shows Clinton leading Trump by 4 points, 40 percent to 36 percent.

That’s a far closer race than the same poll found only one week ago, when Clinton led by 15 points, 46.5 to 31.5.
Ruters-Ipsos was one of Clinton's best polls, and now Trump is within shouting distance in this poll. Other polls show an even tighter race.

I agree -- it probably won't be enough, given how many people Trump has offended. But I was hearing that this convention was so awful Clinton might get a bump from both conventions. That won't happen.

I agree with the poll prediction Chris Hayes made yesterday afternoon:



After that, I think Trump will probably fade -- but barely. He's what a lot of Americans want, and they vote.

Or Hillary Clinton could blow this. The polls could be underestimating Trump's popularity as they underestimated Brexit's popularity.

It's going to be scarily close. So please miss me with the phrase "dumpster fire."

Thursday, July 21, 2016

AILES IS OUT -- DOES HE THINK HE MIGHT BE ALLOWED BACK IN?

Roger Ailes is out:
21st Century Fox today announced that Roger Ailes, Chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, and Chairman of Fox Television Stations, has resigned from his role effective immediately.
But he's not severing all ties to Fox:
Ailes will become an adviser to Murdoch, who at 85 becomes chairman and acting CEO for Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.
NPR's David Folkenflik adds:



In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter a couple of days ago, Susan Estrich, Ailes's lawyer (who, by the way, has written publicly about being a rape survivor), suggested that negotiating for some sort of continuing role was important to Ailes:
... what does he want from an exit agreement?

Well, who knows? And as you know, exit agreements can take all kinds of different forms, including agreements that provide for continuing roles. So there’s a lot of negotiations going on.

Meaning he would stay on in some kind of consultancy?

Or something like that. I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen here, but somebody was telling me that’s how things worked out in the London situation.

Are you referring to the hacking probe?

Yeah, yeah. A reporter told me that. I didn’t even know the way the Murdochs handled [that]. [Rebekah Brooks] couldn’t keep her position, but they kept her on as a consultant or whatever it is.
Brooks was the editor of Murdoch's News of the World when it was learned that reporters for the tabloid regularly engaged in phone hacking and other offenses. She was forced to step down, but then she was cleared of all charges in 2014 -- and Murdoch brought her back in 2015, appointing her CEO of News UK.

Ailes is in his seventies and in poor health. But this is his life's work. Do you think he seriously believes he might be able to get out from under the sexual harassment allegations in the not-too-distant future? If he somehow managed to do it, is it possible Murdoch (who seems determined to retain control of his empire for life) would bring him back?

The rehiring of Brooks "was described as 'unthinkable' and 'unfathomable' by company insiders," according to The Guardian, but it happened. Would Murdoch appall us again? Or is that impossible, but Ailes holds out hope nevertheless?

Let's root for Gretchen Carlson. I really want her case to stick.

SCORCHING-HOT TAKE: AEI "SCHOLAR" TRIES TO HANG TRUMP'S NATO THREAT AROUND THE NECK OF ... OBAMA

Donald Trump couldn't stand the thought that Republicans other than himself have had three days in the spotlight without him, so he ran off to The New York Times and gave an interview in which he threatened to let the world blow up:
Donald J. Trump, on the eve of accepting the Republican nomination for president, explicitly raised new questions on Wednesday about his commitment to automatically defending NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance.

Asked about Russia’s threatening activities, which have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing if those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”
As Jeffrey Goldberg wrote:
These sorts of equivocating, mercenary statements -- unprecedented in the history of Republican foreign policymaking -- represent an invitation to Putin to intervene more destructively in non-NATO countries such as Ukraine and Moldova, and also represent an invitation to intervene directly in NATO countries -- the Baltic states, first and foremost.
Kevin Drum put it more pithily: "Donald Trump Just Invited Russia to Attack Eastern Europe."

Trump wants to destabilize NATO and doesn't care if World War III starts. Hillary Clinton wants to appoint left-centrist judges to the Supreme Court. Verdict from the vast majority of Very Serious Republicans: "The choice is clear! Hillary's too dangerous!"

But my favorite hot take on this is from American Enterprise Institute "scholar" Danielle Pletka. She hears Trump's words and is angry at -- wait for it -- President Obama:
Four more years: Trump channels Obama

In a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump ended a staggering repudiation of 75 years of American foreign policy thusly, “We are going to take care of this country first,” he said, “before we worry about everyone else in the world.”

Sounds familiar, no? This is the logical extension of the Obama credo “nation building here at home”, a signature of his first presidential campaign. Indeed, the entire interview read like a replay of the last eight years. Putin and Erdogan are good fellows, and America, according to both Obama and Trump, are in no moral position to tell them what to do. Like Obama’s suggestion that our allies are “free riders” on American largesse, so too Donald Trump believes that NATO allies only merit fulfillment of crucial obligations if they’ve “fulfilled their obligations to us.”
Yes, you know how "the Obama credo 'nation building here at home'" has led to a complete rejection of engagement in the world on the part of the Obama administration ... if you don't count the bin Laden killing, or the drone wars, or the intervention in Libya, or the continuation of the war in Afghanistan past the end of his term, or ...

And Obama does want allies to play a greater role in their own defense -- but he's not threatening to reject treaty obligations as a result.

More from Pletka:
The reality is that increasingly, there are two parties in America, and they are not the Democratic and Republican parties. They are the isolationist party and the internationalist party; Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump are the party of retrenchment, aiming to build physical or figurative walls around the nation, grow the government, turn the economy inward, and disdain the complex and messy world outside.

It remains to be seen whether Hillary Clinton, in light of her party’s leftward lurch, will be the internationalist she has fashioned herself to be over recent years..
Obama is an "isolation," and Clinton might be. Someone please inform the Berners and Steiniacs.
Either way, those who believe in American leadership in the world face no easy choices in 2016.
Um, Danielle? Two people can win the presidency this year. One of them is Donald Trump. This is the easiest presidential choice of our lifetime.

This piece was brought to my attention on Twitter by AEI president Arthur Brooks, who oversees this toxic waste dump and then, in his spare time, gets The New York Times to publish piffle ("What Your Vacation Says About You"; "We Need Optimists"; "Looking for the Perfect Gift? Social Science Can Help") under his byline. Two takeaways: The Times has terrible taste in people named Brooks, and right-wingers will blame Democrats for anything.

WILL THE CRUZ NON-ENDORSEMENT REALLY CHANGE ANY VOTES IN NOVEMBER?

Yes, it was fun to watch the drama last night. All evening, as commentators portentously declared that we'd have to wait and see whether Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump in his speech, I assumed that the fix was in, the endorsement was in place, and we were being fed a lot of phony suspense. And then:
Cruz told delegates and voters to "vote your conscience" in November and never specifically said that people should cast their ballots for the Republican nominee....

"To those listening, please, don’t stay home in November. If you love our country, and love your children as much as I know you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution," Cruz said.
Boos. Chaos. Heidi Cruz needing a security excort as she left the hall, to angry cries of "Goldman Sachs!" It was fun.

But will it matter? The overwhelming majority of Republicans already say they're going to vote Trump -- he and Hillary Clinton have consolidated their party bases to approximately the same extent. Yes, there are GOP holdouts -- but is there anyone who would have voted Trump and now plans not to, emboldened by the Cruz speech? Does anyone actually like Ted Cruz that much?

I know he won a lot of votes in the primaries -- but he doesn't command personal loyalty the way Trump does. He just embodies a set of ideas many Republicans hold dear, after hearing them articulated every day for years on Fox and talk radio and religious-right broadcasts. It's not about him. How many divisions does Ted Cruz have? Who sees him as a leader?

If anything, we're hearing that Hillary Clinton thinks she can peel off some moderate Republicans. How many right-centrist Republican women in the Philadelphia suburbs are going to rally to the words of culture warrior Ted Cruz?

Beyond that, last night was about party loyalty, or the lack thereof -- and the thing about most of the voters who haven't mind up their minds yet in this election is that they have no party loyalty, by definition. They're swing voters. They don't care about parties. They don't particularly like the parties. Last night's Great Betrayal is irrelevant to their concerns as voters.

So I think Cruzghazi will be completely irrelevant to the outcome in November. But it was a hoot, and it does give the press an opportunity to describe the Trump campaign as chaotic and disorganized. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to matter to undecided voters either. It's just inside baseball. It should matter, because it speaks to what Trump says would be his main strength as a president:



Not only did Trump allow this debacle to happen, he's so disorganized that he can't even manage the post-debacle spin. Josh Marshall is certain Trump was blindsided:
The first thing to say about this is that there is simply no way Trump's and Priebus's convention managers okayed that speech. No way. The fact that they allowed him on stage to give that speech will go down as one of the greatest organizational pratfalls in convention history. Whether Cruz got them to agree not to review the speech or whether he substituted another speech, I don't know. But something very wrong went down there.
But The Washington Post says Trump knew the endorsement wasn't coming, although the speech was a mystery:
Cruz had told Trump on Monday that he was not going to endorse him, chief Cruz strategist Jason Johnson said.

However, the senator from Texas did not share the text of his speech in advance of its delivery with the Trump campaign or Republican officials, according to a senior convention official familiar with the program. Text of the address was delivered to party officials shortly before its delivery.
However, The New York Times says the Trump team did read the speech and allowed Cruz to go on anyway, because Trump thought it might be changed at the eleventh hour:
Mr. Trump had invited Mr. Cruz to speak even though he had doubts that peace was possible after their brutal race....

Mr. Trump called Mr. Cruz on Monday and asked for his endorsement, according to a senior aide to Mr. Cruz who requested anonymity to relay private conversations. Mr. Cruz indicated to Mr. Trump that he would not offer an endorsement, the aide said.

Trump advisers said on Wednesday night that Mr. Trump had been unhappy with the text of Mr. Cruz’s speech but held out for the remote possibility that Mr. Cruz would make a last-minute endorsement.
Whereas Donald Trump Jr. says that the Trump team did get the speech in advance and knew an endorsement wasn't going to happen, even at the last minute, but Cruz was allowed to speak because Donald Sr. is such a swell guy:
The Manhattan billionaire’s son told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the Trump campaign saw Cruz’s speech ahead of time and knew what the Texas senator would say. The GOP nominee allowed Cruz to speak, Trump Jr. said, in the interest of party unity, even though he knew the remarks would be far from an endorsement.

“We knew [an endorsement] wasn't coming. My father wanted all the guys who wanted to be there, he wanted to give them a platform,” Trump Jr. said. “I think he wants to show that he’s about unity, so he knew that was happening and he was a better man about it.”
Get your story straight! Idiots.

Trump incompetence ought to be a bigger issue in this race, but at least 40% of voters are so dazzled by Trump's wealth and gilt and buildings and golf courses and wives that they just can't conceive of Trump as a bumbler. That's something the Clinton campaign has to work on. But it's an uphill fight.

Meanwhile, what does this do to Ted Cruz? It's obvious that he thinks Trump will lose this year. It's obvious that he's positioning himself for 2020. But does this really help him win the next nomination? In the following exchange, I think Josh Barro has a point:



And I think, after all this bumbling, Trump will lose by 2, because there's so much anti-Hillary animosity out there, and because the GOP has, if anything, strengthened its Team White People brand in the Obama years, winning lots of non-presidential victories in the Midwest the way it's won them in the South in recent decades. If it's a narrow loss for Trump, Republicans are going to look for scapegoats -- they'll blame the media and "voter fraud" and probably George Soros and Saul Alinsky -- but they'll also blame Cruz. So I don't see how this helps him. I think the next GOP nominee will be either Tom Cotton or Donald Trump Jr.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

WHY RON FOURNIER WROTE THIS COLUMN TODAY AND NOT A WEEK FROM NOW

When I saw the headline of Ron Fournier's latest -- "Why the Republican Convention Is So Mean" -- I thought, Wow, even the king of Both Sides Do It realizes that the GOP has reached new depths of awfulness.

Then I saw Fournier's subtitle:
Both parties are trying to convince undecided voters that their candidate is the lesser of two evils.
Yup. You and I think the GOP has gone completely insane -- dangerously insane -- but the problem, according to Fournier, is in both parties:
This is an unusually negative convention -- a low-blow infomercial focused far more on why Americans should vote against Clinton than why they should vote for Donald Trump....

Why is the convention so negative? For the same reasons next weeks’ Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia likely will be an anti-Trump orgy.

* The 2016 electorate includes an unusually large number of undecided voters.

*Most of those voters hate both candidates.

*Both campaigns think their path to victory is to win almost by default -- to make their rival the most feared alternative....

Clinton faces a similar challenge. Her strategy depends on persuading Americans to vote against Trump because he is temperamentally ill-suited for the job, a liar and a bully who enriched himself by gaming the legal system and taking advantage of other people.

She has a credible case, but Democrats could go too far.

Shouts of “fascist” from the convention floor, for example, would be the Philadelphia analogue of “Lock her up!” Smug dismissals of Trump’s populist approach and policies might be viewed by undecided voters as an indictment of them.

Trump's advisers privately hope that Clinton and her fellow Democrats overreach on the issue of racial division, specifically by yielding the convention stage to black activists whose appearance could be construed as anti-police...
Do you see what Fournier does there? He invokes things that have actually happened during the Republican convention, then says they're equivalent to things he thinks Clinton and her supporters will do at the Democratic convention. Voila! Instant false equivalence!

In order to make this case in an honest manner, Fournier should have waited till next week. After a couple of days of the Democratic convention, we'd know whether it was as negative as the Republican convention. But Fournier knows it probably won't be, so he's making his Both Sides Do It case now, while it still seems plausible to gullible readers.

No one is going to shout "fascist" from the floor of the Democratic convention, unless the whole convention is time-warped back to 1972. There aren't likely to be "smug dismissals of Trump’s populist approach and policies" (what policies?), though there ought to be speakers who call out Trump as a phony friend of the common man. And I don't know what Fournier means by "black activists whose appearance could be construed as anti-police" -- to the right, anyone who ever acknowledges police misconduct is "construed as anti-police," even if it's done in the mildest and most responsible terms. Trust me, no one at the convention is going to call police "the enemy," a term applied to Black Lives Matter by Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke, a Republican convention speaker.

In short, the Democratic convention is going to be nothing like this:
In the past 48 hours, the Trump campaign and the GOP have:

* Invited a C-list actor who called Hillary Clinton a “cunt” on Twitter to speak on stage.

* Invited another C-list actor to speak on stage, only to have him run to the cameras to call President Barack Obama a Muslim.

* Invited Ben Carson to speak on stage, where he called Clinton an agent of Lucifer.

* Encouraged a party-wide consensus that their presidential election opponent should be in jail.

* Blamed Hillary Clinton for the deaths of Americans in Benghazi.

* Plagiarized a speech Michelle Obama wrote eight years ago, then lied about it.

* Shrugged it off when a Trump adviser and party delegate called for Hillary Clinton to be shot -- executed -- for treason.
Will mean things be said about Trump at the Democratic convention? Sure, though no one's going to say he should be jailed or killed. Will positive things be said about Hillary Clinton? Absolutely -- and by people she's not related to. That alone will make the Democratic convention different from the Republican convention. Also, Democrats will talk about policy ideas intended to make life better for ordinary Americans -- something that still hasn't happened at the Republican convention.

Shorter Fournier: Both sides do it -- or at least one side is going to do it just the way the other side is already doing it, I swear to you.

Reality: One side is doing it. The other side won't.

TRUMP PROPOSAL: TRAVELGATE, BUT FOR EVERY AGENCY

Gosh, this doesn't sound extreme at all:
If he wins the presidency, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama and could ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers, Trump ally, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday....

“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.
Remember, the administration of Bill Clinton fired seven people -- seven -- in the White House Travel Office in 1993, employees the president was legally entitled to fire. But because the move was seen as an attempt to give jobs to cronies, this became a massive pseudo-scandal that led to investigations by the FBI, the Justice Department, the General Accounting Office, the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, the Whitewater Independent Counsel's office, and the White House itself. The books were closed on the final investigation only after seven years. Trump apparently wants to do this across all agencies. I guess if you're going to do something like this, do it in a big and brazen way, and boast about it. Or just be a Republican. Nothing will happen to you.

More:
... Trump's transition advisers fear that Obama may convert these appointees to civil servants, who have more job security than officials who have been politically appointed. This would allow officials to keep their jobs in a new, possibly Republican, administration, Christie said....

"One of the things I have suggested to Donald is that we have to immediately ask the Republican Congress to change the civil service laws. Because if they do, it will make it a lot easier to fire those people," Christie said.

He said firing civil servants was "cumbersome" and "time-consuming."
Civil service, schmivil service. We want an all-crony government, dammit!

Oh, and:
Christie added that the Trump team wants to let businesspeople serve in government part time without having to give up their jobs in the private sector.
As Vox's Dylan Matthews notes:
... the problems with this idea are pretty clear. Regulatory capture -- in which regulatory structures are dominated by people sympathetic to or with ties to the industry they’re regulating -- is a major problem in federal agencies, particularly with financial and environmental regulators, and most analysts place some of the blame on the ease with which, say, oil company employees can get jobs regulating the oil sector and then go right back to oil companies after their time in government is over. The Christie/Trump proposal would allow that kind of revolving-door to take place without actual revolving. Regulators could be working for the companies they’re regulating as they’re regulating them.
According to a mass delusion in the mainstream media, Donald Trump is a new kind of Republican, one who isn't trying to custom-tailor laws and regulations on behalf of big business. But here you go -- this is the plan. No continuity, ideological purity, and maximal cronyism.

THE ATTEMPT TO CRIMINALIZE HILLARY CLINTON WITH A MOCK TRIAL IS VERY ZEITGEISTY

Vox's Dylan Matthews is alarmed, with good reason:
Chris Christie delivered easily the most chilling speech of the Republican National Convention. He didn’t just attack Hillary Clinton. He led the crowd in a mock prosecution of Hillary Clinton.

Christie’s conceit -- a prosecutor inviting a mob to condemn the accused on count after count -- resembled a show trial more than anything else, free of any and all protections for the defendant.

Obviously it wasn’t a real trial of any kind. But the implication was nonetheless clear: Clinton deserves to be dragged to court for what she’s done when what she’s done is pursue policy options that Chris Christie doesn’t like.

... what made Christie’s speech genuinely scary was that it was a distillation of the Republican convention so far, not an aberration from it. Both nights featured the crowd breaking into frequent, raucous chants of, "Lock her up!" Former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn repeatedly stopped his own speech to echo the crowd’s call to imprison Clinton.

... The jailing of political opponents is something that happens in dictatorships and banana republics. It is not something an advanced democracy can accept as a normal demand.
See also McKay Coppins:


And I'll stand by my response:



This is frightening, but it's certainly au courant. We're in a moment when a lot of people, even in democracies, simply don't think their enemies should be allowed to walk around free.

Some of this is on the left -- I don't want to go all Jonathan Chait on you, but there are people, especially on some campuses, who don't think even idea-based right-wing speech should have a hearing.

But much more of it is on the right. Christie's speech came on the day when Breitbart editor and pprofessional attention whore Milo Yiannopoulos was permanently suspended from Twitter for encouraging his hatemongering followers to harass Leslie Jones, a black actress who's in the new Ghostbusters. That movie, with four female leads, has inspired a large group of man-babies to proclaim that it simply shouldn't exist. The boys can't merely choose to stay away from it; instead, its estrogen level is described as a threat to their very lives.

Gamergaters want to drive women out of the gaming industry. A coalition of white male science fiction writers and fans wants to prevent pro-diversity writers from being nominated for Hugo Awards. And on and on.

This is how a lot of our fellow citizens think right now: If you don't share my opinion, you should be banished from the face of the earth. The GOP may not be the party of youth, but the RNC lynch mob seems very contemporary.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

THERE'LL BE A TURD-SHAPED GAP IN THE UNIVERSE WHERE AILES'S FOX NEWS USED TO BE

I had my doubts, but it really looks as if Roger Ailes will be out of a job soon:
Fox News CEO Roger Ailes is in talks with 21st Century Fox that will likely lead to his departure following allegations of sexual harassment.

However, contrary to some news reports on Tuesday, "there is no deal," Ailes' attorney Susan Estrich said.

"When there is an agreement, if there is an agreement, 21st Century Fox will make an announcement," Estrich said.

According to a source with direct knowledge of the conversations, the negotiations could conclude as early as Tuesday night, but may take longer.
I don't know what will happen then. Fox News is a moneymaker for Rupert Murdoch -- and it's still going strong:
On night one of the Republican National Convention, Fox News Channel was the clear ratings winner on TV, drawing substantially more viewers than any other TV network, including NBC, CBS and ABC.
Ailes is a smart TV guy. He knows what his audience wants and knows how to build brand loyalty. His channel's programming is raw sewage, but he keeps just enough of a check on it that the political and media elite regard it as a within-the pale property (whose success his competitors envy). It's not clear whether anyone else can maintain that toxic balance.
The biggest problem Fox News faces is that Ailes has no heir apparent. The television executives CNNMoney spoke with speculate that 21st Century Fox will bring in someone from Sky, its British broadcaster. But while Brits may be able to run American news organizations, these executives said, it is much more difficult for a Brit to manage an American political organization -- which is what Fox News is, these sources said....


It's hard to see how any replacement, even an American replacement, could fill those shoes. Within Fox News, one name that has come up as a possible replacement is Bill Shine, the Senior Executive Vice President of Programming, who oversees primetime. But while Shine has strong relationships with the network's top talent, industry insiders say 21st Century Fox doesn't believe he's up to the task of replacing Ailes.

Without strong and certain leadership, media executives believe, the network could lose its most high-profile talent.
Yes -- Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren have clauses in their contracts that say they can leave if Ailes does. So does Bill O'Reilly, who's talking about retiring. And Megyn Kelly's contract expires next year, though she might be happier to stay if Ailes leaves (she now says he sexually harassed her).

Rupert Murdoch has clearly given more control over Fox to his sons Lachlan and James. They're not conservative like their father. They might not want an Ailesian Fox News.

And yet the ratings are good, and rabid conservatism -- of a Trumpian variety, at least -- inspires a large chunk of the American public.

So what will happen?

I think Fox will gradually become less right-wing. I think Kelly will get the show she wants, and it won't look like anything on Fox now:
Kelly has also expressed ambitions for a more high-profile gig, something she's likened to a blend between Charlie Rose and Oprah.
And I suspect the old Fox audience will drift away, while a new audience might be slow to tune in.

Where will the hardcore Foxites go? I wonder if Donald Trump will really try to construct his own cable news channel, a plan Vanity Fair recently said he's been hatching.

Trump's pal Ailes might be free to run the channel. (My favorite part of this story: In dealing with Gretchen Carlson's harassment lawsuit and with Fox, "Ailes has ... received advice on strategy from Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, sources say.")

But I can't imagine a TV channel run by Trump being anything but a hot mess, even if some people watch it. It will be sleazy and ridiculous and low-rent. And if Ailes wants to make it professional in ways Trump doesn't like, he'll be out of a job again. Also, Ailes is aging and frail -- he might not want the gig, assuming the channel ever materializes. And he might be constrained by a non-compete clause in any case.

So what will America be like if nothing with the poisonousness and reach of Fox is on the air?

I just can't imagine. But I can't wait to find out.

THE UPCOMING CHUTZPAH OF THE GOP'S PLAGIARISM PUSHBACK

A paragraph of Melania Trump's speech last night was clearly plagiarized from Michelle Obama's 2008 convention speech:



It's being argued that the Trump campaign is compounding the unforced error by denying the obvious. Campaign chief Paul Manafort blames Hillary Clinton ("This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down"). Chris Christie says the speech was only 7% plagiarized ("93 percent of the speech is completely different than Michelle Obama's speech").

But now it's not just the Trumpites. Sean Spicer of the Republican National Committee is arguing that you should disregard a sequence of exact or near-exact copies of sentences because similar sentiments have been expressed in vaguely similar words by others, including a "My Little Pony" character:



The seemingly excessive Trump pushback seems like a mistake made by an overaggressive and inexperienced campaign. So why are seasoned pros at the RNC also joining in to compound the error?

I'm not sure, but it might work for them.

You know the classic definition of "chutzpah"? The kid who kills his parents and then asks the judge for mercy because he's an orphan?

This could be similar. If the story remains in the news cycle, Trumpites and party officials will later blame Democrats and the "liberal media" for keeping it in the headlines -- even though they're helping to keep it newsworthy by fighting so hard against it, rather than quietly issuing an acknowledgment of the error, then possibly firing a scapegoat or two late on a Friday afternoon. Something terrible will happen in the world soon, and Republicans will say something like: "Democrats care more about analyzing speeches made by Donald Trump's wife than they do about [global terrorism/murdered police officers/etc.]."

Of course, the blunder could just be so embarrassing that the story can't bounce that way. And, of course, Donald Trump could spend twenty minutes talking about this in his acceptance speech on Thursday, which will be so preposterous that he'll undermine any GOP pushback now. But Republicans are usually good at flooding the zone with messaging and thus controlling how issues are talked about, so this could work out for them -- although it would work out a lot better for them if their candidate wasn't a lunatic with impulse-control problems.



ALL FEAR, NO HOPE

I didn't watch all of the Republican convention's first night, but this jibes with what I saw:
There was little from anyone other than Trump’s wife, Melania, that offered a soft portrait of the presumptive nominee and suggested a party ... looking to expand its coalition. Instead, the focus on Clinton was used as a way to bind the GOP’s base.

Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani offered testimony on behalf of Trump as a good and decent man maligned by the news media and the Clinton campaign, but the heart of his speech was an emotional charge against Islamist terrorists, an attack on President Obama and a warning that the United States would, under Trump, go after them with a vengeance. When he turned to Clinton, a former secretary of state, he accused her of a “dereliction of duty” that had left the Middle East in greater chaos. “Who would want Hillary Clinton to protect us? I wouldn’t,” he added.

The evening included an emotional speech from Pat Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, who was among those killed during an attack on a diplomatic consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012. “I blame Hillary personally for the death of my son,” she said. Pointing to a sign that said “Hillary for Prison,” she said, “She ought to be in stripes.”

Smith was not the only person to talk about Benghazi or to suggest that the former secretary of state should be in prison, which is something that is commonly heard at Trump rallies and other Republican events. Near the end of the evening, the remaining delegates chanted, “Lock her up! Lock her up!” They were joined by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn from the podium.
Did all this stir up fight-or-flight hormones in the TV audience? Probably. Is that how you win a presidential election? I don't think so.

You win a presidential election by offering hope -- yes, sometimes after stirring up fear, but there needs to be hope at the end. Last night, it wasn't there. The praise for Donald Trump as a man who'll solve our problems was formulaic. All the passion -- in Rudy Giuliani's case, passion verging on operatic hysteria -- went into railing against the horrors of life in America today and the moral depravity of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

This wasn't a party "looking to expand its coalition" -- or if it was, it was trying to do it the way you try to win an argument on the Internet, by digging in your heels and making your case in an increasingly uncompromising way, with no effort to concede points or bridge differences. When does that kind of argumentation ever really change anyone's mind?

Now, this doesn't mean that the convention will necessarily turn out to be a failure for the Republicans. Eventually we'll get Trump's speech -- and, regrettably, that may give some swing voters hope. Unlike the speakers last night, Trump is a happy warrior -- he's nasty and negative, but most of the time you can tell he's enjoying himself. And too many Americans think he could be the light at the end of the tunnel, the guy who can solve our problems, because he's rich and he tells us incessantly how great he is at everything.

On the other hand, he's probably going to deliver a Teleprompter address, said to be modeled on Richard Nixon's 1968 convention speech. I don't know why he'd see that as a model -- to have a successful convention in 1968, all you had to do was be better than the Democrats, which was an extremely low bar that year. And even after that, Nixon won the popular vote by less than a percentage point.

I think Trump will give a stiff speech from a Teleprompter; it could be reasonably effective, though he probably won't seem to be enjoying himself. Or he'll wing it, which will be fun for him, but probably not so much fun for non-fans who may never have previously watched one of his long, rambling free-form improvisations.

But we'll see. Meanwhile, all the talk this morning is about Melania Trump's speech, a paragraph of which was plagiarized from Michelle Obama's 2008 convention speech.

I don't think this will have a huge impact in the long run, but it looks incompetent, in a way ordinary people can understand. Everyone has had to write papers for school -- term papers, college papers -- and we all know that plagiarism is wrong, even if we've done it. Plagiarism, it seems to me, is more surprising to outsiders than to professional writers or political pros. If you're a paid speechwriter, how hard is it not to steal? And steal from Michelle Obama, whom you despise and whose husband you think is the Antichrist?

I think at least 45% of Americans still think Donald Trump is competent. This undercuts that impression -- not enough, alas, but it doesn't help him.

Monday, July 18, 2016

WHY CAN'T THE GOP FACTIONS JUST SETTLE THIS OVER DRINKS LIKE TIP AND RONNIE?

The Republican establishment is now firmly on the side of Donald Trump, which wants the convention to go smoothly for him. So it treated dissenting Republicans the way the GOP Congress treats Democrats:
Chaos broke out at the Republican National Convention Monday after Republican leaders successfully blocked a recorded roll call vote on the convention rules.

Critics of Donald Trump had attempted to force a roll call vote by all 2,472 of the convention delegates on the proposed rules, which were written last week by a convention committee.

The groups objected to the proposed rules because they require pledged delegates to vote in accordance with the results of their state’s primaries and caucuses -- a structure that virtually guarantees Trump will claim the party’s presidential nomination.

The “never Trump” movement delegates believed they had the signatures they needed to force the recorded vote. Earlier Monday, they’d submitted to the convention secretary what they said were signatures from a majority of delegates from 9 different states or territories: Colorado, Washington state, Utah, Minnesota, Wyoming, Maine, Iowa, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Majorities from 7 states or territories were thought to be enough to force the roll-call vote. But after a voice vote on the convention rules, the presiding official -- Rep. Steve Womack -- declared the rules approved and attempted to move on.

Chaos erupted on the convention floor, with Trump critics screaming for a recorded vote while Trump supporters chanted “U-S-A” and pro-Trump slogans.
Now, what do we hear every time congressional Republicans shut down their Democratic colleagues and the president? We hear that it's the fault of both sides. We hear that everything would be happy and friendly and convivial if President Obama would just sit down over drinks on a regular basis with Republican leaders, the way Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill used to. But he won't, because he's too "aloof" or "diffident," or some other word that means "uppity."

Me, I think it's because "my way or the highway" Republicans have become extremely skilled at shutting down any opposition. But what do I know? I'm just a schmuck blogger. The smart insiders say that the responsibility is shared equally between the two parties.

So I guess when establishment Republicans act the very same way toward dissenters from their own party, and shut them down just as ruthlessly, that must be both sides' fault, too -- right? It couldn't possibly be because shutting opponents down is simply what the Republican establishment does. Right?

And this was fairly ruthless:
Womack stated that initially, 9 states had filed petitions, but three withdrew, leaving the motion under the 7 states required for a roll call vote. Therefore, he says, a roll call vote cannot happen.

... It's not clear at this point which three states allegedly withdrew their petitions for a roll call vote, or why. Additionally, the initial reports were that 11 states had filed petitions, not 9. Who knows what pressure was applied by Priebus and/or the Trump campaign to kill the roll call vote, but it appears for now to be well and truly dead.
By the way, if you want a preview of what a Trump presidency would be like, this is it. Assuming his fellow Republicans don't object, Trump will get whatever he wants -- a wall, a Muslim ban, legalized torture, whatever. Don't expect checks and balances to constrain him once he's working in partnership with a GOP Congress and a federal bench he and a GOP Senate get to restock.

AILES OUT? I'LL BELIEVE IT WHEN I SEE IT

Gabriel Sherman, who's been writing about Fox News and Roger Ailes for years, has what seems to be a bombshell today:
Roger Ailes's tenure as the head of Fox News may be coming to an end. Rupert Murdoch and sons Lachlan and James -- co-chairmen and CEO, respectively, of parent company 21st Century Fox -- have settled on removing the 76-year-old executive, say two sources briefed on a sexual-harassment investigation of Ailes being conducted by New York law firm Paul, Weiss. After reviewing the initial findings of the probe, James Murdoch is said to be arguing that Ailes should be presented with a choice this week to resign or face being fired. Lachlan is more aligned with their father, who thinks that no action should be taken until after the GOP convention this week. Another source confirms that all three are in agreement that Ailes needs to go.
I want to believe this. You have no idea how much I want to believe it. I hate what Ailes has done to this country.

But I don't believe it, because Sherman's reporting on Fox, remarkable as it's been, previously led us to expect a comeuppance for Ailes that never materialized.

Back in June 2015, Sherman wrote this:
Roger Ailes’s Demotion Signals Power Shift Within Murdoch Empire

... Yesterday, 21st Century Fox announced that Ailes would be reporting to Lachlan and James Murdoch. For Ailes, it was a stinging smack-down and effectively a demotion.

Just five days earlier, Ailes released what now appears to be a rogue statement to his own Fox Business channel declaring that he would be unaffected by the announcement that Lachlan and James will take control of Fox as part of Rupert's succession plan. "Roger Ailes will continue to run the news network, reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch," Fox Business reported. According to a well-placed source, Ailes directed Fox Business executive Bill Shine to tell anchor Stuart Varney to read the statement on air. "Ailes told Shine to write the announcement of the move for Varney to say," the source said. "In it, Ailes inserted language that he would report to Rupert."

This was, apparently, news to Rupert. And now the Murdochs are correcting the record. "Roger will report to Lachlan and James," a 21st Century Fox spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter.
As I wrote a few weeks later:
... that was supposed to be a huge problem for Ailes because he'd feuded with both Lachlan and James, and because James is reportedly much more liberal than his father.

The takeover happened on July 1 -- but six days earlier, Ailes signed a new contract that will keep him as head of Fox News into 2018. A press release said he'd "jointly report" to Rupert, James, and Lachlan Murdoch -- and, as a CNNMoney story noted, "in practice, that may mean Rupert will continue to call the shots when it comes to Fox."
The result was that nothing really changed at Fox -- Ailes kept running the place exactly the way he always had.

My guess is that Sherman gets all this from James, Lachlan, or both, or allies of theirs, and that these are attempts to use the media to let Ailes know he's not wanted. The younger Murdochs may actually believe Ailes will quit to avoid the humiliation of being fired -- but they may have thought he'd quit after last summer's humiliation, and that didn't happen. Instead, he fought back and won.

I think Big Daddy Rupert still wants Ailes around. So maybe this story is true, but I think it's more likely that Ailes will hang on for now, after his inevitable pushback and a round or two of official denials of Sherman's story from Fox.

But I really, really hope I'm wrong.

WHAT GAVIN LONG HAS IN COMMON WITH CHARLES MANSON

The right wants to stress this aspect of Baton Rouge cop killer Gavin Long's life -- and it's true that the anger at police violence was the final step leading up to his massacre:
Baton Rouge Shooter Gavin Eugene Long Was Nation Of Islam Member, Railed Against ‘Crackers’ On YouTube Channel

... Videos on Long’s account show that he was a former Nation of Islam member. He also ranted against “crackers” and made references to Alton Sterling, the black man killed by police in Baton Rouge on July 5.

... Long, who was reportedly carrying a rifle and wearing all-black attire when he confronted police, posted several videos within recent weeks discussing various police-involved shootings.

“If I would have been there with Alton -- clap,” Long says in a video posted on July 14.
But he got there by a circuitous route. He spent a long time obsessed with self-help and self-improvement, and wanted -- in an almost Trump-like way -- to sell his alleged greatness to other seekers of human perfection:
The suspect in the fatal shooting of three Baton Rouge cops maintained a robust social media presence and a website called Convos With Cosmo in which he describes himself as a "freedom strategist, mental game coach, nutritionist, author and spiritual advisor."

... The website also references to a second portal promoting his life-coach business and includes Amazon links to three self-published books under the brand "The Cosmo Way."
Long called himself Cosmo Ausar Setepenra. Under the name Cosmo Setepenra, he self-published The Cosmo Way: A W(H)olistic Guide for the Total Transformation of Melanated People (volumes 1 and 2) and The Laws of the Cosmos: Wisely Follow or Blindly Suffer -- The Definitive Law Guide To Spiritual Success. On the Amazon page for The Laws of the Cosmos, he wrote this:
You are about to embark on an amazing journey toward self-awareness, self-actualization and self-empowerment. The knowledge within these pages can transform your life. I know, because it transformed mine.

As a young man I had a spiritual revelation and traveled to Africa—my ancestral homeland. My spiritual journey took me across the continent where I was taught by native spiritual practitioners and elder holistic healers. In Africa I was spiritually directed to gather the laws of the universe. They are the principles that govern every aspect of life. The universe exists in perfect harmony by virtue of these laws. They control and dictate what science calls energy, and what religions call God. If you understand the laws that govern Y.O.U. (Your Own Universe), you can manipulate, shape, and mold them to your liking. I have compiled these 124 Universal Laws and their use in The Laws of The Cosmos.

These laws are the rules to The Game of Life. Mastering them will help you succeed in all aspects of life. The Laws of The Cosmos is a credible, and authentic source of wisdom and guidance that anyone can use to create whatever it is they desire to have or become.
The rules are, well, a bit wacky:



He claimed to have traveled in Africa and to have learned from a number of African and Afrocentric teachers:



He said his adopted first name, Cosmo, meant "relating to the world or the universe." Ausar is an alternate form of the name of the Egyptian god Osiris. Setepenra (or Setepenre) was a daughter of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti.

But that's not the only source of Long's worldview. He was obsessed with being an "alpha" -- a term common in the "men's rights" and pickup artist cultures, and familiar to those (now rampant in Trump world) who use "cuck" as a slur against those who are allegedly too "beta" to stick up for themselves. Being an "alpha" was very important to him:
Several of his posts on his website include misogynistic themes about being an “alpha male.” ...
Uniting the Entrepreneur and the Alpha Male as One= “The ALPHA PRENEUR”. Convos With Cosmo is the worlds foremost authority on “Alpha Preneurism”. It is an Open Conversation on what it means to be an Alpha Preneur (an ALPHA male/female ENTREPRENEUR). I examine Alphahood in an Educational and Entertaining way….EDUTAINMENT. However, I do so in a NO nonsense approach; Were waging war against Bitchassness, Beta-Males, Complainers and Blamers, Purposeless and Pussy Whipped Men. And anything else that would keep a Man from walking in his complete and full masculinity. Mission Statement: For the absolute annihilation and reformation away from Bitchassness behavior; And for the complete and total reclamation of Alphahood.
The righrt wants to link Long to Black Lives Matter, but Long specifically rejected protest -- BLM's main tactic -- as inappropriate for an alpha male:
He called protesting “emotional” and “for the women.”
Long seemed susceptible to pretty much anything that seemed to offer the Secret Key to the Universe:
Long officially filed paperwork in Jackson County, Missouri, last year declaring himself Cosmo Ausar Setepenra, a "sovereign citizen" of the United Washitaw De Dugdahmoundyah Mu'ur nation, a loosely affiliated network of mostly African Americans who claim to be Native American and don't believe the U.S. government has jurisdiction over them.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported on this group in 1999:
It was the night of the "high waters" on the Louisiana bayou when the "empress of the Washitaw" was born. A levee on the Mississippi had broken, and a swirling, stinking flood was raging outside as she burst from her mother's womb onto the cold, cement floor of a public courthouse. Within seconds, the empress says, there was a sign.

"I was born in my placenta," Her Highness explains. "I kicked out of it on my own, and then [the placenta] rolled up on my head like a crown."

And so, on that stormy night 72 years ago, Verdiacee Turner -- the woman who would one day call herself Empress Verdiacee "Tiari" Washitaw-Turner Goston El-Bey -- came into this world.

She didn't know it then, but after stints as a civil rights activist, a small-town mayor, an accused embezzler and an amateur historian, she would, she says, finally find her rightful place as supreme ruler of the ancient, 30 million-acre empire known as Washitaw De Dugdahmoundyah -- the Washitaw Moorish Nation....

Using something called the Sanctuary Christian Resource Center as an agent, Washitaw Nation has sold a cornucopia of dubious common-law products -- including "driver's licenses" and "registrations" that have turned up in Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Pennsylvania.
The story gets wilder from there, and it seems to be a story of someone who concocted a scam out of dubious cosmology -- and, years later, sold the notion to, among other people, another person who claimed to have uncovered hidden esoteric secrets, Gavin Long.

The specifics are quite different, but Long, to me, seems similar to Charles Manson, who also turned to self-help:
In his book, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, author Jeff Guinn credits [Dale] Carnegie training with transforming Manson from “a low-level pimp” to the “frighteningly effective sociopath” who created a cult of killers in the late 1960s. Manson took classes in “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” based on Carnegie’s iconic book, while doing time for car theft in a California federal prison in 1957. ”It was critical in shaping how he manipulated people,” says Guinn, noting that the young convict told people he’d enrolled to get strangers to open up to him.

Manson became especially obsessed with Chapter Seven, on how to get cooperation, and often practiced key lines in his cell, a former prison mate told Guinn. Carnegie’s advice -- ”Let the other fellow feel that the idea is his” -- became vital in helping him recruit and control a band composed mostly of young women. Former “Family” members Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten (who was denied her 20th bid for parole last month) both say Manson mastered the technique: Not only did he often solicit and praise his followers’ advice, he was careful to frame every killing as a Family decision.
Manson, like Long, pretended to understand truths known only to a few. Both men fell for the homegrown Nietzscheanism of self-help, which encouraged them to believe that they could be superior human beings who could have followers at their feet. Both of them eventually turned to mass murder not so much out of deeply rooted political anger than because it reinforced their sense of their own superiority to other people.

The right-wing view of Long isn't wrong exactly. But it's not the whole story.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A BATTLE FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY'S SOUL, IF BY "SOUL" YOU MEAN "BUREAUCRATIC UNDERPINNINGS"

I see that Republican forces hostile to the New GOP Order intend to make a stand at the convention this week:
Anti-Donald Trump delegates are hoping to stir up trouble for the RNC and wreak havoc on the Republican National Convention next week, The Washington Post reports.

A group of delegates opposed to their party's presumptive nominee is plotting a variety of ways to upend the convention as the nation's focus turns to Cleveland on Monday.
So I guess this is the "battle for the soul of the party" I've heard so much about -- or at least it's a preview of what's to come after November, assuming Trump is defeated. I've been reading the Sunday New York Times, which has three pieces on that upcoming battle. First, in the news section, there's this from political reporters Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin:
As Republicans stream into Cleveland to nominate Donald J. Trump for president, they confront a party divided and deeply imperiled by his racially divisive campaign. He has called for cracking down on Muslims and undocumented immigrants, stoked fears of crime and terrorism and repeatedly declared that the United States is in a war for its very survival.

But amid gloom about Republican prospects in November, Mr. Trump may have endangered the party in a more lasting way: by forging a coalition of white voters driven primarily by themes of hard-right nationalism and cultural identity.

... Mr. Trump’s candidacy may force [Republicans] into making a fateful choice: whether to fully embrace the Trump model and become, effectively, a party of white identity politics, or to pursue a broader political coalition by repudiating Mr. Trump’s ideas....

In order to build a winning party again, some Republican leaders say, the party will have to disavow Mr. Trump’s exclusionary message, even at the price of driving away voters at the core of the Republican base -- perhaps a third or more of the party.
In the opinion pages, Peter Wehner, who's served in many Republican administrations, tells us he's one of those Republicans who disavow exclusionary politics:
... while Trumpism is on the ascendancy right now, my expectation is that it will soon be politically and morally discredited, including in the eyes of most Republicans.

... The party many of us will fight for is a conservative one that appeals to rather than alienates nonwhites, that doesn’t view decency as a sign of weakness or confuse bullying and bluster with strength, and that aims to channel aspirations rather than stoke resentments and organize hatreds.
Wehner also asserts that knee-jerk anti-government sentiments are harmful to the party and the country:
A friend of mine pointed out to me that part of the problem is that we are drenched in distaste for the actual practice of politics, and there’s an unstated sense among conservative activists in particular that the activity of governing is somehow illegitimate.

Instead of arguing for the dignity and necessity of politics -- instead of making the case for why the give and take, the debate and compromise, are both necessary and appropriate -- activists and their counterparts in government disparaged it. This helps explain how Mr. Trump seized on deeply anti-political feelings and used them to his advantage.... That can work only with people who disdain the government and the activity of governing.
Also in the opinion section, Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam offer a detaled blueprint for a post-Trump GOP, which includes the following:
... Republican leaders [should] become more selective in their hawkishness, more comfortable with five simple words: Invading Iraq was a mistake.

... Republicans trying to demonstrate that they have learned something from the Trump trauma should consider embracing a new tax pledge. The party will still back tax cuts for the middle class and revenue-neutral tax reforms. But there should be no new income tax cuts for households earning $250,000 or more.

... more can be done to reassure the voters who depend on Medicare and Social Security -- and now Medicaid and Obamacare -- that their interests will be protected when the programs are reformed.

This might mean instituting a minimum Social Security benefit.... It definitely means recognizing that Obamacare’s coverage expansion is here to stay, and reassuring voters that any reform of health care reform will maintain the coverage of working-class Americans who were previously slipping through cracks.
Wow, that's a lot of responsible thoughtfulness.

So, um, is any of that driving the upcoming rebellion at the convention? What are the rebels' demands?
Ultimately, this group of delegates -- increasingly resigned to the nomination of Donald Trump -- is hoping to extract concessions from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on the structure of the national party....

Four to six "minority reports" are being drafted....

One proposal would have awarded more convention delegates to states with Republican governors, senators and lawmakers. Another would ban corporate lobbyists from serving on the Republican National Committee, the central body that oversees the party. The panel also soundly rejected a proposal to require the RNC to release the names of delegates serving on the convention committees.

That move especially angered rank-and-file Republicans paying close attention to the proceedings. Despite assurances to the contrary, RNC officials refused to release names and contact information of delegates serving on convention committees before last week, a move designed to make it more difficult for anti-Trump delegates to find one another and start plotting....

Other delegates hope to force a roll call vote of the states -- an hours-long process that would put the votes of every single delegate on the record (with cameras rolling) -- potentially embarrassing Trump if he barely wins more than half of the votes.
That's it? That's the rebellion?

Where's the principled rejection of Trump's racism? Where's the effort "to channel aspirations rather than stoke resentments and organize hatreds"? Where's the affirmation of the value of governing? And where are Douthat and Salam's reformicon ideas -- say, the ban on tax cuts for high earners?

Apart from the notion that corporate lobbyists shouldn't serve on the RNC (which I applaud), there's no policy in this rebellion at all. It's just about process.

You could argue that that's because the big policy fights will take place after the election. But I think it's because the Trumpites and the anti-Trumpites have never been particularly far apart. The anti-Trumpites have been perfectly comfortable for years with an ultrahawkish party that makes the rich richer and feeds the lily-white base racial resentment of nonwhites -- the only problem with Trump's approach is that he's so blatant about all the white solidarity, and occasionally ambiguous about his desire to exterminate the enemy and coddle billionaires.

There isn't going to battle for the soul of the Republican Party after November. The party's just going to be what it was prior to Trump, which was already most of the way to Trumpism, except with a veneer of deniability. The only battle will be over how many coats of veneer should be reapplied now that Trump has stripped them off -- if any.