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21.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

25 or 6 to 4 Permalink to this item

More Team Ryan fundraising by dawn's early light. What the hell, wasn't there a "final deadline" on Wednesday? I guess they just want more money, honey.

This one in a whining vein, subject "Unbelievable, Thomas" (thank you for the comma), and sender "Media Bias Alert." After the cocked-up bullet list of sounds-vaguely-true-but-actually-we're-lying, artfully, this lament:

You’d think those stories would get non-stop coverage, right Thomas?

If it was a Republican -- absolutely. But not with Hillary Clinton.

Hillary gets a free pass from the media.

Nobody likes them. Everybody hates them. Guess they'll go eat worms. Please send more money. Here's what makes it slightly more interesting; it's quantified.

The ratio is 23:1 -- that’s how much negative coverage Republicans have received compared to Clinton.

My first thought was, are you sure that's not actually justified? Then, but 23:1? Then, where's the footnote on that? There is no footnote, of course, any more than there's a legitmate explanation for the supposed "special access to donors," context for how "open borders" is under discussion, or evidence for an actual quid pro quo at the FBI. An immediate gift of $25, $50, or $100 will give Team Ryan a "quick infusion of cash to help get the truth out about Hillary Clinton’s lies and corruption." (If this were the Democrats' fundraiser, they'd ask for $23, I bet. Reinforce the message.)

Doing my own homework, I see the number was provided by The Hill's "media reporter," Joe Concha, albeit in the pundits-blog branch. Back on October 17, he was measuring the size of the media response to Trump's gleeful claims of his triumps of sexual assault, as compared to the focus on the latest Wikileaks dump.

As noted, sex (and violence) sells, and the three major networks combined for "more than 23 minutes" on the former a week ago, and only a scant "1 minute and 7 seconds" on the latter, by his account. Didn't we want to know more about "derogatory comments by senior campaign officials about Catholics, Latinos and the NAACP, sympathy for Wall Street, advocation for open borders and blatant examples of media collusion with said campaign"?

That doesn't sound too much like "reporting," but ok. Let's check the arithmetic. "More than 23 minutes" must mean less than 23 minutes and 30 seconds, and 23:30 divided by 1:07 is 21, making the supposed precision look a bit dodgy. But still, 21 times! We should be outraged. Or something.

Tell me more about this Joe Concha media reporter, Mr. Wizard. Let's see, Newsmax has a piece about him being "media expert" and making news about 'Distrust' of the Media the Reason Fox is Most Trusted, a year ago March. Fox "most trusted" is almost as good a slug as "fair and balanced," but not exactly "reporting," let alone expertise. (Concha's analysis was that having the same people on air for a long time leads to trust.) In July, AdWeek reported (in their "Revolving Door" section, ironically) when he "[came] to The Hill from Mediaite, where he has been a columnist covering media, politics and television. He was previously a producer and writer at Fox News Channel."

In fact, his LinkedIn profile has his résumé fluffed as Head News Writer/Producer at Fox News for 3+ years, described in more detail as "Select and assign news stories to team of writers for three hours of live programming on morning news show. Also responsible for writing and producing daily sports report daily." [sic]

That should give him some expertise in locker-room talk. He does say he studied "Communications, Journalism" before going into sales for various things (and what happened in that second half of the 1990s?), and finally landing at Fox in 2008. Top skills are listed as "Press Releases," "Management," "Video," "Television," "Strategic Partnerships," "Sales," "Strategy."

We might... take him at his word, just as the media took Donald Trump at his words (and yes, is digging through the trove of hackery to find some interesting words from John Podesta and his correspondents). And give actual reporters a bit more time before we take Concha's word for the end of journalism as we knew it.

20.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Circular reasoning Permalink to this item

Senator Bernie Sanders sent out a fundraising message... using Speaker of the House Paul Ryan for the setup:

"I heard what Paul Ryan said about me: that if the Republicans lose the Senate, I will be the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

"That sounds like a very good idea to me. It means that we can establish priorities for working people, and not just the billionaire class. ..."

Ryan heard what Sanders said, and was so lit up... that he sent it to all his targets, under the subject "FWD Bernie's Email (Please Read)." Send money, stop the imminent takeover, people.

Sure, whatever.

Then Bernie sent out another message, quoting Ryan quoting him quoting Ryan. Keep sending more money and you can keep the cycle on "spin." Sanders offers the cheaper option: he's asking for $3. Ryan is... playing it coy. I had to click through the coded link (every contribution helps!) and enable a bunch of scripting to see that the recommended donation starts at $25. What the heck, if you're a billionaire, you can afford it.

19.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Today's campaign read Permalink to this item

Matt Taibbi on the campaign trail, in Wisconsin, where Donald Trump was uninvited by the Speaker of the House:

"The scene couldn't have been more poignant. Duped for a generation by a party that kowtowed to the wealthy while offering scraps to voters, then egged on to a doomed rebellion by a third-rate con man who wilted under pressure and was finally incinerated in a fireball of his own stupidity, people like this found themselves, in the end, represented by literally no one."

It's rambling, rollicking, a little crazy, more than a little profane, vulgar, and dark. How couldn't it be? It's just like the campaign this year. The Fury and Failure of Donald Trump.

And yeah, what a shame Hunter S. Thompson's not here to write about it, but Taibbi's holding his own.

18.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

In the eye of the beholder Permalink to this item

In other campaign news, the NRCC, Ryan for Congress, Inc., and Prosperity Action, Inc. (a.k.a. "Team Ryan") passes along the Terrifying Update that "Clinton Shifts Message as She Eyes Congressional Takeover" according to NBC News.

The Speaker of the House and all his PACs know jolly well that the gerrymandering fix of U.S. legislative districts is well and truly in, and there is no way the House will tip in 2016. But "big (terrifying) news" is deemed good for fundraising.

Bernie Sanders and "Friends" are using Paul Ryan and one of his "dire warnings" to raise money too:

"If we lose the Senate, do you know who becomes chair of the Senate Budget Committee? A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?"

What Bernie said: You heard the man. Let's take back the Senate. (That seems better than an even bet.)

Oodles of dark money Permalink to this item

Campaign fundraising is always looking for scary motivation, but this update from Russ Feingold's campaign for the U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin seems legit. The current incumbent, Ron Johnson, is a card-carrying member of the Republican obstruction brigade, and his is one of the seats most likely to be swept away in the tide of revulsion against you-know-who. The email says that "as of this weekend, there are now fifteen dark-money groups pouring millions into Wisconsin in a desperate attempt to keep Senator Johnson in Washington." And names them:

Produce pic

New prosperity, indeed, but that looks like it's the same thing on the list twice. The six-year-old NPF mission sounds like the boilerplate palaver about jobs good, reguation bad. (And is it just me, or do they have the same bad news headlines on all 17 pages of their "latest news" blog?) Not all of these ring a bell, but let your imagination run if need be. "Let American Work" sounds like an anti-union thing, eh? But who knows. Their website touts a poll in Wisconsin that showed the incumbent catching up to his challenger (and former Wis. Senator), and hopefully pointing out that (with the colored de/emphasis in the original)

"The majority (55.7% to 39.3%) is more likely to vote for a candidate for U.S. Senate who will move in a different direction rather than a candidate who will support and continue the policies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Independents prefer a different direction with conservative ideas 58.9% to 33.3%."

A different direction? Than the Republican-led Senate? In which Ron Johnson is a sitting member of the majority? Pretty much any direction qualifies as different from that. Under Mitch McConnell's and the rest of the Republican "leadership," the Senate has resolved to do essentially nothing. (But do give them credit for meeting that goal.)

The fundraising ends on a happy note, at least: "Wednesday night at midnight is the last reporting period before Election Day." The incessant appeals will soon cess. (And the the dark money will keep pooling.)

17.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Shooting from the hip Permalink to this item

Tim Macy, Chairman of Gun Owners of America, is given some editorial space on Viguerie's Conservative HQ, and deconstructs Hillary Clinton’s Five Point Plan to Destroy the Second Amendment. If you thought the 8 year jamboree of gun and ammunition sales driven by frothing pronouncements about the black man in the White House coming to get you was over, brace yourselves. I'm guessing you ain't seen nothing yet. GOA's market research estimates "80 to 100 million gun owners in America (about a third of the electorate)," and imagines one coordinated bloc "could put an end to the political aspirations of the current generation of Clintons." (But guess who's old enough to run for President already: the Next Generation!)

Backyard today

There is the Supreme Court, of course. Macy recognizes that the judicial activism of Heller might not withstand a post-Scalia court. "If Hillary wins, you can all but kiss the Court's recognition of that individual right goodbye." "Stacking the courts with anti-gunners" is of course just the beginning of his fantasy. (Pause for a moment to appreciate the projectile beauty of "anti-gunner" as an epithet.)

Scalia enjoys saintlike powers from beyond the grave. As an "originalist," every one of his opinions is of course, uh, original, and suitable for use as a stone-painted prop for Charlton Heston. But let's move on to that 5-point plan, shall we?

#1 Comprehensive Background Checks, a.k.a. "an unprecedented expansion of the police state";

#2 Gun Show Loophole which by the way doesn't exist people;

#3 The Online Loophole, which is also fake, and we have plenty of laws that bad guys with guns are already breaking so why do we need more;

#4 The Charleston loophole (You knew he'd show up, and the federal governments carte to "delay firearms sales" should make us all blanche); and last but not least,

#5 Bankrupting the Firearms Industry

That's rich, given the decade-long boom it has just enjoyed. Quick search turned up this market research report from IBISWorld (with the good stuff locked up behind a paywall) for the $16 billion industry with 4.7% growth from 2011-2016. Their free-for-all summary is that "after recent sales surge, demand will normalize as fears of gun control subside," but the Gun Owners of America aren't having any of that! Why be normal?

MarketWatch offers a different take (in one of those blasted clickbait listicles—but here, let me take the hit for you) in 10 things the gun industry won’t tell you

  1. “Owning our product may be hazardous to your health.”
  2. “Fear is good for our bottom line.”
  3. “Guns get special treatment under the law.”
  4. “We want your kids to play with guns.”
  5. “Gun control may work. We still think it’s a bad idea.”

Let's keep it a fair fight and leave it at five vs. five. Props to Macy for the creative writing casting Donald Trump as clumsy, but the only thing between you and the end of the Bill of Rights. "Trump, who only recently started using a teleprompter, could have spoken more clearly – but his underlying message was on the money." The beauty of those "underlying messages" (could there be a more perfect description of the Trumpian subtext?) is that they can confirm any bias you choose. And then in the wind-up, attempting understatement, but running into cold, hard irony, this:

The author of “The Art of the Deal” may speak inartfully at times...

Actually, Tony Schwartz has been speaking quite artfully of late. You should follow him on Twitter and see what I mean. Top of the stack this morning, let's take this out on a higher note:

I believe this campaign will profoundly change the dynamics between men and women -- and mostly for the better. Solace in the midst of hate.

— Tony Schwartz (@tonyschwartz) October 16, 2016

16.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The play's the thing Permalink to this item

Stephen Greenblatt's opinion piece for the NYT has aged a week, but is none the less timely for it. Shakespeare explains the 2016 election, in a famous play I've never seen, Richard III. The play has aged only a bit over 400 years, and sounds like it was written for the 2016 presidential campaign. Professor Greenblatt, general editor of The Norton Shakespeare, knows his stuff, and how to tell a story himself.

"From this psychopathology, the play suggests, emerged the character’s weird, obsessive determination to reach a goal that looked impossibly far off, a position for which he had no reasonable expectation, no proper qualification and absolutely no aptitude.

“Richard III,” which proved to be one of Shakespeare’s first great hits, explores how this loathsome, perverse monster actually attained the English throne. As the play conceives it, Richard’s villainy was readily apparent to everyone. There was no secret about his fathomless cynicism, cruelty and treacherousness, no glimpse of anything redeemable in him and no reason to believe that he could govern the country effectively."

Greenblatt goes on to describe the "diverse but equally self-destructive responses from those around him" and the characters that "sketch a whole country’s collective failure. Taken together, they itemize a nation of enablers."

It brought to mind the performance of Idaho's senior U.S. Senator, Mike Crapo in the closest thing we're having to a debate this year, Idaho Report's sit-down with Crapo and Democrat Jerry Sturgill, answering questions from Idaho Public TV's Melissa Davlin.

Crapo made big news a week ago by finally standing up to be counted, and urging Donald Trump to quit the race. Trump's decade-ago admission of habitual sexual assault seemed too much to bear for a decent man, and he was taking back his July 19 endorsement. (Staff short-handed? That is still on Crapo's campaign site, and his news feed hasn't been updated lately; there is no new statement to replace the old congratulations.)

Party branding covers a multitude of sins; it isn't as if Trump hasn't offered a parade of reasons to unendorse him. Trump's racist comments about the federal judge presiding over the Trump U. fraud case, for example, six weeks before Crapo's July endorsement. In early June, Crapo had been "circumspect" but went so far as to say then that Trump "should withdraw his remarks." As compared to the party's congressional leadership: "Speaker of the House Paul Ryan ... called the statement racist, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also has criticized Trump’s remarks. Both, however, say they will continue to back Trump’s campaign."

This Friday, Crapo said he hadn't made up his mind whether or not he'd vote for Trump, but for sure he wasn't going to vote for Hillary Clinton. Because...

"[I]f Hillary Clinton were [sic] elected to the White House—and I can tell you this: I cannot, and will not vote for Hillary Clinton. And if... the reason is, if she were [sic] elected to the White House, we would see the Supreme Court turn activist. We would literally, I believe, lose the ability to protect the foundation documents of our nation. We'd see, for example, the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms quickly be dramatically reduced. We would see an explosion [sic] of government. More spending. I believe, as I said, a much lesser support of individual rights. And frankly, a continuation of what I consider to be the international, or foreign policy appeasement policies that we have seen so far under her leadership as Secretary of State. And she too has 'issues', with regard to her personal situation with regard to for example the emails, the Wikileaks, Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation, and so forth."

O wad some gif' the Giftie gie us! Just as Obama did, Hillary Clinton will be coming to git yer guns. (It's a good thing you stockpiled so many!) She could nominate a "judicial activist" such as Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. You may remember that name, Senator? He's the man the current President has nominated, and whom you and your fellow Republican leaders [sic] of the Senate have deigned to ignore, along with your oaths of office, casually spitting on the "foundation documents of the nation" you pretend to uphold.

My image of the First Folio, opened to Hamlet

Is Crapo auditioning for Hamlet? His twisted hand-wringing brings him to a "no win situation," as Betsy Russell put it in the pundit's web extra after the debate. The good old boys in Idaho County did not cotton to his waffling flirtation with decency, and have sent some slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to his office in Boise:

"[W]ith your announcement that you would no longer support Mr. Trump, in our opinion, you have relinquished your right to be associated with the Party we represent. Effective immediately, the Idaho County Republican Central Committee will provide neither physical nor financial support to your effort to be re-elected. We will not distribute signs or other campaign literature on your behalf. Those of us who have put signs up for you, will remove those signs. You have lost our respect as a Republican and feel [sic] you are no longer worthy of the title of ‘Republican’ that we proudly wear."

OMG. We Will Remove Those Yard Signs. For those not from around here, it should be noted that Idaho County comprises 8,503 square miles stretching the width of the state and enjoying a population density of 1.9 persons per square mile. It's some beautiful country, that could only be improved by fewer Crapo yard signs. It runs from the bottom of Hells Canyon on the Oregon border to Lolo Pass and the peaks of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness on the Montana border. It includes the grandest canyons of the Salmon River, the Clearwater, the Selway and Lochsa, from Mexican Place to Dixie, Midasville to Buffalo Hump, Fabulous Florence to Elk City, He Devil to El Capitan. The political stylings of many of its 16,000 inhabitants are not as attractive as the scenery. But don't let them fool you: this land is your land. More than 7,000 of those 8,503 square miles—more than 80% of it—is public land.

Google Earth image

15.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

What a week! Permalink to this item

Thinking about how to recap the events, and whether to quote verbatim or "bleep" in some form, my first use of the f-bomb sprang to mind. I was in 2nd grade, walking home from school with Pat Baker, taking a break from our usual fare of singing Beatles tunes. (He eventually taught me that starting a fight is not always a good idea, but that's another story.) Across the minor arterial of our bucolic suburban village, a 5th grader of ill repute was also on his way home from school. I can't remember his given name, but his surname was "Foley" and it seemed to couple euphoniously with the noun form of that good old Anglo-Saxon verb we've all come to know and love and keep away from polite company.

Just some walnut leaves at the neighbors' place.

Imagine the sing-song four syllable chant floating across Hampton Road for as long as it amused a couple of 7-year-olds. For his part, Foley showed remarkable restraint and did not come over and beat the crap out of us. There would have been some chase involved for one thing, and he probably couldn't catch both of us, and the other one would certainly tell on him. Instead, he or some other busybody let my mom know what we'd been heard saying (and saying and saying) out loud in public. She had a Very Serious Talk with me, which hinged on the question: "do you know what That Word means?"

I did not. I kind of thought it was a brilliant linguistic innovation that Pat or I had come up with, inspired by pop song rhythm and harmony, and alliteration. Mom did not explain to me what it meant, but said that I Should Not Use That Word Again. I must have been mighty curious about this strangely powerful word I'd stumbled upon, but mostly I was just glad to escape any punishment whatsoever for something apparently quite serious. Not knowing what it meant made it easier to remove it from my verbal repertoire, too. Other than taunting an older boy I didn't like, what I would use it for, anyway?

In the 5+ decades since, I've found more than a few applications, none of which my mother would approve of, may she rest in peace. And I am glad she did not live long enough to experience the 2016 presidential campaign. It might have killed her.

It was just one week ago that we heard Donald Trump and Billy Bush on an unexpectedly hot mic making each other giggle by talking dirty and then saw them pop out of their bus-cum-locker room and act like "perfect gentlemen" with an attractive young woman. Then Trump said no, no, he never did that kind of thing, he was bragging a lie to impress. (Billy Bush was truly impressed.) And then a virtual parade of women have come forward to say yes, yes, he did do that kind of thing, actually. Trump's response: these women are all liars, and besides, unattractive.

In between last Friday and this Friday, the #NotOkay hashtag that Kelly Oxford started went viral. By the morning after the town hall debate, there were already 27 million tweets. Tens of millions of people summarizing the first time they were sexually assaulted on Twitter. It took a few days, but it even brought back to memory the one time I was sexually assaulted, as a naïve 17 year-old, delighted to have the guy who picked me up hitchhiking buy some beer and arrange a hotel room. Whoops.

But I digress. We all seem to be digressing. We thought we hit rock bottom a while ago, but it seems there's still further to go. Three more weeks, at least.

Jeanette worked at the farmers' market downtown today, a gal asked her for directions, and she pointed out the person who could help. The woman thanked her, and Jeanette cheerfully punctuated their friendly exchange by saying "You're welcome. I'm looking forward to the return of civility."

The man with the woman bristled, and walking away with his back to Jeanette, snarled "Drop the trash talk."

14.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Michelle Obama's speech Permalink to this item

Worth taking a 20 minutes or so to listen to. If I've ever heard a better campaign speech, I can't think of when that would have been. NPR has the video from C-Span embedded in their report. And the transcript. On the one hand:

"This is not something that we can ignore; not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a lewd conversation. This wasn't just 'locker room banter.' This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV. ...

"[T]o dismiss this as 'everyday locker room talk' is an insult to decent men everywhere."

And on the positive side, we do have a candidate with proven experience, tested by decades of the very worst that the opposition could throw at her.

Screen shot from the video

"[W]e know that Hillary is the right person for the job because we've seen her character and commitment not just in this campaign, but over the course of her entire life. The fact is that Hillary embodies so many of the values that we try so hard to teach our young people. We tell our young people "Work hard in school, get a good education." We encourage them to use that education to help others — which is exactly what Hillary did with her college and law degrees, advocating for kids with disabilities, fighting for children's health care as First Lady, affordable child care in the Senate.

"We teach our kids the value of being a team player, which is what Hillary exemplified when she lost the 2008 election and actually agreed to work for her opponent as our Secretary of State — earning sky-high approval ratings serving her country once again.

"We also teach our kids that you don't take shortcuts in life, and you strive for meaningful success in whatever job you do. Well, Hillary has been a lawyer, a law professor, First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, a U.S. senator, Secretary of State. And she has been successful in every role, gaining more experience and exposure to the presidency than any candidate in our lifetime — more than Barack, more than Bill. And, yes, she happens to be a woman."

Roll the closing soundtrack, Stevie Wonder, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered."

13.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Little Trump on a rampage Permalink to this item

Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic: Trump tries to intimidate Republicans into sticking with him. "His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, warned that she knows of GOP congressmen who perpetrated sexual assaults." The low-hanging fruits.

Just got to reading a piece in the Sunday NYT print edition, talking about how last Friday's attention-grabbing video with Billy Bush was finally the bridge too far, and Republicans were jumping ship, already dated by the bounce-back after the supposed "reset" of Sunday's town hall debate. "Mmm, political expediency tastes good," sniffed HuffPo.

Take off those shackles, and never say you're sorry! Snuffleupagus also pleased his supporters by stalking Hillary on the stage, even though he started whining that she invaded my territory! Did you see that?!

Can we at least agree that a general outing of unwanted rubbers and a return to that being considered depraved would be an improvement, yes?

Donald Trump threatens to sue the New York Times, which seems to be saying "knock yourself out."

"It would be a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices. ... We welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight."

I guess he'll have to sue NPR too, because they've made a convenient list of the accusations about Trump's alleged inappropriate sexual conduct.

Back in the halcyon era of the primary campaign, remember when Ben Carson told us there were two Donald Trumps? He was talking about the public bozo, and the private fellow who supposedly was really normal and presidential. Newt Gingrich is coming at it from a little different angle this week, talking to Fox Business, and feeling his ex-Speaker of the House oats. He says he "admires" Trump, (and tries to help as much as he can), but

"There's a Big Trump, and a Little Trump, and the Little Trump is frankly pathetic."

He got that right. None of his interlocutors bothered to ask why the hell do you admire Trump again? though. Instead he went on to characterize Clinton as "the establishment thug who's corrupt." If Little Trump and Big Trump all-in-one win the day (as Gingrich thinks he will, "just like Brexit"), we could find out a thing or two about thuggery and corruption.

And while Big Gingrich occasionally blurts out something candid, Little Gingrich's name is still appearing on fundraising emails for the NRCC blathering about "the liberal media" saying crazy things like Clinton won the debate. He wants to "wage an all-out ad blitz to bring the truth to the voters."

And I'm thinking... you can't handle the truth.

Update: The NYT's lawyer's letter. In part:

"The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one's reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host's request to discuss Mr. Trump's own daughter as a 'piece of ass.' Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump's unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself....

"We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight."

You won't believe what happens next Permalink to this item

Yesterday's Here & Now segment featuring Malcolm Nance: How hackable is the election? (Not so much whether or not someone is trying to hack it.) Glen Greenwald dismisses the whole "Putin plot" idea as diversionary, but as they say, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not coming to get you. What we're seeing is more than just phony conspiracy theories floated for political effect, however much of that is mixed in.

One of the top stories in the gray lady today (after the parade of beauty queens and unwanted touching) is about Donald Trump's "improbable ally" in Wikileaks, for example. The quote from Richard Clarke cited by H&N (8:30 in the 11 minute min. stream) is an important one:

"So they've already hacked and dumped real emails; they've established that they've got real emails. The second dump, which I expect will come in the next couple of weeks may have, salted in to thousands of real emails, forged or altered emails. How can you then prove that they're forged?"

The host, Jeremy Hobson notes that "the second dump did come," but I've lost count of dumps. At any rate, in troves of hundreds and thousands of email messages, it's absurdly easy to twiddle a few bits to suit whatever purpose you have in mind. Injecting some "black propaganda" (as Nance termed it) into the amplifier of social media will get the lie circling the globe before the truth can get its pants pulled up. Nance:

"...a real data stream of emails, or letters... and then you would change a word, a phrase or a sentence within them, and put it back into that stream to where once it was released, it could possibly be proven false, but it would already be out in the public realm..."

Back in the day, starting 30 years ago, I ran my own "private email server" on the HP workstation I used for my day job, the same as quite a few of my fellow engineers did. Figuring out how to stay ahead of spammers, how to decode attachments, and how to create web archives of group emails were part of my highly varied job, back when those sorts of things were being invented. (I resisted being swept into the corporate setup, by then using Microsoft Exchange, right through my last day in the cube farm.) Even without that experience, you don't have to dig very deep to see the stream of bytes that an email message comprises: "show original" on gmail, for example. Some messages have parts that are readable enough, some are incomprehensible for good reasons, and all are managed within attributes and protocols and encoding that are carefully defined and agreed upon and developed in a context of collegiality and assumed good faith.

It is indeed trivially simple to change a word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, whatever. Buried with tips for risotto and the daily banalities of this now ubiquitous medium, manipulation has certainly already occurred, and more is on the way. Just because you saw it on the internet doesn't make it true. Can you dig out "the original" and disprove an altered copy? Maybe you can, maybe you can't. In the meantime, it's all debatable, and whichever version you want to believe will be true enough for you, and the candidate you prefer.

12.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I was thrown off by the hypothetical question Permalink to this item

That was what Blake Farenthold tweeted by way of excuse for what he said in an MSNBC interview. Just to be clear, he does not and has never condoned rape or violence against women, but... you know, until Trump does something so bad that it's worse than Hillary, you know.

From the MSNBC Video

Chris Hughes' question was a bit clownish, but you'd think that it should've been a softball. "That's a clown question, bro," or "Of course not," right? Hughes was trying to help out getting his eyebrows as high as they go, and tilting his head incredulously.


All that and much, much more in James Hohmann's rundown (literally!) for the Washington Post, describing Republican politicians fall back in line behind Trump after defecting.

You know, spring forward, fall back? Fifty or a hundred years back. Maine's Governor Paul LePage is kicking out some jams, with a variation on the "we need a bull in the china shop" concept. Because...

“We’ve had eight years of a president, he’s an autocrat, he just does it on his own, he ignores Congress and every single day, we’re slipping into anarchy.”

“Sometimes, I wonder that our Constitution is not only broken, but we need [Trump] to show some authoritarian power in our country and bring back the rule of law.”

Trump will have the best laws, I'm sure. Really, really good laws. And order. And great word salad. He's already got some great supporters eh.

10.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

An actual billionaire responds Permalink to this item

The avuncular Warren Buffett came up in last night's debate. For nothing more than being one of Hillary's friends (and ok, he did predict she was going to win the presidency, two years ago this month). This:

"Many of her friends took bigger deductions Warren Buffett took a massive deduction."

Who knows what Trump had in mind, but Buffett is perfectly capable of responding for himself. He put out a succinct press release with Some Tax Facts for Donald Trump. Contrary to what Trump keeps saying, you can learn some things about a person by his tax returns, and Buffett says he's happy to share.

"My 2015 return shows adjusted gross income of $11,563,931. My deductions totaled $5,477,694, of which allowable charitable contributions were $3,469,179. All but $36,037 of the remainder was for state income taxes.

"The total charitable contributions I made during the year were $2,858,057,970, of which more than $2.85 billion were not taken as deductions and never will be. Tax law properly limits charitable deductions.

"My federal income tax for the year was $1,845,557. Returns for previous years are of a similar nature in respect to contributions, deductions and tax rates.

"I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when I was 13. (Though, being a slow starter, I owed only $7 in tax that year.) I have copies of all 72 of my returns and none uses a carryforward.

"Finally, I have been audited by the IRS multiple times and am currently being audited. I have no problem in releasing my tax information while under audit. Neither would Mr. Trump – at least he would have no legal problem."

Two billion, eight hundred fifty-eight million dollars and change in charity. In one year.

The change—$57,970—appears to be more than Donald Trump has given to charity in ten years, excepting the $million for veterans he was shamed into early this year, and his brazen and illegal self-dealing out of the Trump Foundation.

Surreality TV Permalink to this item

Hillary Clinton opened the "Town Hall" confab by stating the obvious truth that her opponent was not fit to be president. Trump returned fire by going after Bill Clinton's sordid sexual history (following up on the golden oldies pre-debate press conference he'd arranged—with maybe too demanding a schedule, judging by his weird sniffing during the debate).

The tag team moderation of Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz was muscular, to say the least. Cooper got right to the point still steaming from the weekend revelation of Donald Trump's "hot mic" moment with Billy Bush, bragging about his rich and famous sexual battery. There was a sort of apology, and the declaration of "just words" and "locker room banter" somehow excusing behavior that is inexcusable.

“You called what you said [on the tape released Friday] locker room banter. You described kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?” Anderson asked Trump.

Trump disagreed.

“No, I didn’t say that at all… this was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it. I apologize to my family,” Trump said and then proceeded to pivot to ISIS.

The Trump family on stage

Cooper's question was razor-sharp, and Trump's answer weaseling. He wants us to believe now that he was lying about his license to commit sexual assault? That it was just an empty brag, talk among "the guys," and somehow it was his family he needed to apologize to.

Hell, you can still be the head of your family, man, that's their problem, just don't talk to us about leading the country. Or your notion of what's appropriate conversation in a locker room. As Van Jones pointed out:

"The worst thing about it for me, going forward, is this idea that you can dismiss it as locker room talk. That is very dangerous. There is a culture that allows rape. There is a culture that allows sexual assault. And when you minimize it, 'Oh, that was just locker room talk,' no, you are describing sexual assaults. If I grab Donald Trump's crotch and tried to kiss him, I would go to jail. That's sexual assault. You're talking about criminal activity but you minimize it."

"That was just horrible." Oh, and the banana republic-style promise to put his opponent in jail; that breaks some new ground in U.S. politics. "And believe me, she has tremendous hate in her heart."

Imagine that: being judged by the Donald, at the gold-plated gates to some kitschy real estate heaven where you get a crotch-grab on the way in. By his insults ye shall know him.

Hate in the heart.

Clinton's opening salvo had struck a coronary nerve.

"I think it's clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is. Because we've seen this throughout the campaign. We have seen him insult women. We've seen him rate women on their appearance, ranking them from one to 10. We've seen him embarrass women on TV and on Twitter."

Trump was a plodding hulk of pivoting, unloading fussilades of bullying insults mixed with bragging, mixed with lies, mixed with threats, mixed with nothing of any actual substance whatsoever. The apology was flaccid and not covered by his spinning to other subjects. There was some precision clock ticking in his head, whining that "she just went about 25 seconds over her time" (Raddatz said "she did not"), but he couldn't remember that the moderators had brought up "the e-mails" only moments before he complained they hadn't. (He just wanted to say "e-mails." E-mails, e-mails, e-mails.")

From the second debate

His stage body language was readable enough by millions of women watching. What former U.S. Attorney Better Hansen Richardson said:

"I was reminded of a trailer for a cheap horror flick. Every time Hillary began to answer a question, a sinister looking Trump loomed large behind her, pacing and prowling and lurking. All that was missing was a shark fin and the theme song from 'Jaws.'"

This is a man who can't fashion a whole sentence, let alone a paragraph, and stay on a topic of importance for thirty seconds and he wants to be in charge of the United States of America? Because... he always wanted a trophy of some sort. But never mind the country, some of the Republican Party hostages have jumped out windows or the emergency exit at the back of the bus:

The BBC's "already out" list tallies Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Rep. Steve Knight (CA), Gov. Susana Martinez (NM), Gov. John Kasich (OH) and Rep. Mia Love (UT).

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had already disinvited Trump from a campaign event in Wisconsin, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) flapped his jaws, but fell short (as usual) of anything decisive. (His specialty is the "do nothing" alternative.) His longtime lieutenant and now head of the American Crossroads super PAC, Steven Law, went with a different metaphor:

“The Republican Party is caught in a theater fire; people are just running to different exits as fast as they can.”

Today, Speaker Ryan announced that it's every man (and woman) for himself (and herself), and yet... "he did not say he was withdrawing his endorsement," go figure.

For his part, Trump is vowing retaliation on the Republicans abandoning him, in keeping with his inimitable character. He will tweet the crap out of those “self-righteous hypocrites” and cheer their losing (at what, an election night Allesgeschadenfreudefest?).

After Raddatz asked Trump about what his running mate said about being prepared to use military force in Syria, Trump said "he and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree. I disagree." Which makes Mike Pence's contribution on Fox News even more special:

“Donald Trump stepped up and won the debate last night. He showed humility and he showed strength and he expressed genuine contrition.”

Yes, under the new standards of deranged partisanship and reality TV, this is what passes for "humility" and "genuine contrition." Mr. Trump, the Naugahyde of genuine emotion.

9.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

If you want to be you, be you Permalink to this item

There's that line about a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac (and there are no mysteries any more, it's Don Henley's Boys of Summer, extra poignant in early October after a warm afternoon faded to evening and the colored leaves swirled in the breeze), a little voice inside my head said "don't look back," comes to mind upon seeing a car ad featuring Yusuf Islam's song, from back when he was only and ever Cat Stevens, and Tea for Tillerman was a groovy piece of vinyl. If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out is now being used to sell 2017 Jeeps. Self-realization and actualization are all good, right? And if buying a car could get you closer to that, viva la revolución.

They actually showed some vinyl, and a needle being set down. This is not a message aimed at anyone under... 45? And a bumper sticker "I'm with America." Vegetarian grill, BBQ, long-haired hipped freak and gal with shaved head, Democrats and Republicans all together, buying cars. Yay.

7.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Is this thing on? Permalink to this item

It's not actually reassuring, but at least interesting to see how utterly flexible supposedly religious principles can be, when the need arises. Conservative HQ has recycled Jerry Fallwell Jr.'s op-ed stumping for Trump that ran in the Washington Post in mid-August. (CHQ styles him "Doctor", apparently confusing Junior's J.D. for Senior's three honorary "Doctorates"—are those hereditary?)

It's also a thing to evoke the world stage of the 1930s, with "Obama and Clinton are the Neville Chamberlains of our time." Is there any other casting that needs done?

"Thank God," Falwell wrote, "we now have the opportunity to elect a strong leader, one who is not afraid to call the enemy by its name and to take the battle to that enemy if necessary. ..."

Scraped off the intertubes

"I chose to personally support Donald Trump for president early on and referred to him as America’s blue-collar billionaire at the Republican National Convention because of his love for ordinary Americans and his kindness, generosity and bold leadership qualities. My family has grown to love all of the Trumps because they are wonderful people willing to sacrifice much for their country. The public perception of Trump that has been created by the media is simply false."

Alrighty then! Appearances (and pretty much all facts) have somehow deceived us, as to the color of Trump's collar, his glorious wealth (somewhat akin to manna from Heaven), and his kindness! Generosity! And bold leadership qualities. And he promised to protect Christians, so there's that.

For his part, our would-be kind and generous bold leader has adjusted his microphone complaint into a conspiracy theory: sound men (and women) don't seem to be fans, and somebody was "oscillating" him.

6.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A sorry spectacle through heavy lenses Permalink to this item

A couple hundred comments followed Gail Collins' take on the "Veepbate" (as one wag deemed it), Who’s Sorry Now? The Country, and I enjoyed the efforts of New York Times readers and the moderation. (When it comes to worthwhile things in comment threads, "all things in moderation.") One viewer bucked the more common pundit (and RNC) theme to say "I really liked Tim Kaine. He came across as honest and energetic with an almost naïve enthusiasm. Pence, on the other hand, came across as smug and sarcastic." (That lovely i-umlaut naïveté in the original, but then another commenter referred to "pendants and media folk.")

There was that classic reverse hook from Mike Pence, accusing the Clinton-Kaine campaign of running an "insult-driven campaign." SRSLY? Harry Thorn (great name, or pseudonym?) from Philadelphia:

For a year Mr. Trump has run the most insult driven campaign in modern history. For years his participation in politics has been insult driven. No other candidate is comparable. Pence was blatantly dishonest when he labelled Kaine’s campaign insult driven. Kaine should have replied, “Do you find those statements insulting? Then why do you support Mr. Trump? Those statements are only quotations from him.”

Why Mike the Apprentice supports Mr. Trump is not an unsolved mystery; you don't get ahead if you don't suck up to the boss, and for this brief and shining moment, Trump is the boss of the right wing, incredible as that may be. Pence is cool and calm enough to know that the shining star momentarily atop the party is going to flame out long before his own wagon runs out of gas. Denying facts readily in evidence is not a new thing, it's stock in political trade. Give Pence credit for putting a brave face on it. Perhaps the more impressive part of his performance was how he just ignored the most risible of the (true) accusations. If there's no answer for it, why even try? You don't get ahead in politics if you can't figure out some questions shouldn't be answered.

As for apologies, the presidents of my lifetime have had a checkered history. I was too young to be struck by how (or whether) JFK apologized for the Bay of Pigs fiasco, but learning a valuable lesson about groupthink meant never having to say "sorry" for the end of the world triggered by the Cuban missile crisis. LBJ apologized for his role in expanding America's war in Viet Nam by not running for a second term. Tricky Dick famously apologized by quitting, just before he would have been fired. Gerald Ford apologized for everything with his pardon of Nixon. Jimmy Carter apologized too much, the conservatives say, and he was certainly sorry that hostage rescue mission crash landed his re-election bid, but he's gone on to three and a half decades of decent service to humanity after his worst job in the world.

Ronald Reagan wasn't much for apologizing, but he was always affable. He did address us from the Oval Office to express his regrets about the Iran Contra scandal, starting with accepting responsibility (while off-handedly shucking the blame toward "activities taken without my knowledge"), and giving his "genuine and enduring gratitude" for the "report of such integrity and depth" describing the criminality in his adminstration. No one has juxtaposed his "heart and best intentions" against "facts and evidence" in the same way since. Yes, "it was trading arms for hostages." He was sorry. And oh, the connection to Nicaragua! They hadn't figured out where all the money went when he gave that speech, which makes me think of the $12 billion in shrink-wrapped hundred bills we recently delivered to Iraq. Did someone write down the 120,000,000 serial numbers before they pushed the pallets out of the cargo planes? (The minutes from a May 2004 CPA meeting reveal "a single disbursement of $500m in security funding labelled merely 'TBD', meaning 'to be determined'.")

George Herbert Walker Bush was very sorry about people reading his lips, and moreso for the economic downturn that kept him out of a second turn. He had quite a bit to apologize for in regard to Iran-Contra, which took public form as pardons for a half dozen defendants whose illegal acts he himself was witness to. It was good to be president, even if only for that one term, and to dismiss it all as the "criminalization of policy differences," a.k.a. breaking black letter law passed by Congress and signed by the President. "The Independent Counsel decided against seeking a Grand Jury subpoena for Bush because it viewed criminal prosecution unlikely, and did not want to present an appearance of retaliating for the [Secretary of Defense Caspar] Weinberger pardon." And Bush was sorry that he couldn't find time to be interviewed.

Bill Clinton was the empathetic apologizer in chief for a while, probably quite sorry about being the cause of Newt Gingrich's ascendancy, and being impeached and all. He apologized for the War on Drugs and its era of mass incarceration. He made Time magazine's Top 10 list (right after Kanye West's apology to Taylor Swift) for the dénouement of his dalliances and denials.

Moving on to a new era, George W. Bush was a Decider, not an Apologizer. There were some things other people had done that he was willing to apologize for, but when he was put on the spot, nothing of his own popped into his head. (Give him credit: he did say "I don't want to make it sound like I've made no mistakes—I'm confident I have." He was always confident.) Others were happy to help him out and make a list.)

Early in Barack Obama's first term, Karl Rove tried to make his supposed "apology tour" a meme, but it didn't sprout much for legs outside the right-wing bubble. Seven and a half years later, the Wall Street Journal is keeping Rove's hackery behind its paywall, and his own eponymous domain won't even serve up the "full article." Some things are best kept under rocks. "Mr. Obama told the French (the French!)," Rove spun up, with puddin-headed indignation. The Heritage Foundation picked up the theme with its own top ten list, but what the hell, the country went ahead and re-elected Obama anyway.

One thing we can count on this time around: Donald Trump will not apologize for any of his blustery, bullying insult-o-rama, for offering to pay the legal defenses of thugs in his audience who "get him outta here!" or anything else. Being Mike Pence means never having to say you're sorry for accepting the most ridiculous job in the world. The rest of his party appreciates his window dressing hiding their own shame. He'll stay tight-lipped in defense of the Trumpian cavalcade of deadly sins, being "Christian first" apparently capable of silencing a host of demons.

5.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

III% of almost nothing Permalink to this item

David Neiwert reports on SPLC that the so-called "3% of Idaho" is imploding after "a mountain of dubious financial dealings" came to light. So much of life boils down to "misappropriation of funds."

The list of what Brandon Curtiss bought with said funds was... am I using the word "pathetic" too much? Parts for his pickup truck so he could roll smoke? And for washing his truck? Gas and food at a truck stop, sure, a camping reservation, and the de rigeur storage unit. Payment for online personal-investigation services, that's obviously something he needs. And "a Walmart purchase," anything in particular? Last but not least, "an iTunes download." We're talking hundreds and hundreds of dollars, all told, probably not enough to sort out that last of his three bankruptcies.

At least it was more civil Permalink to this item

We decided to go second-hand on the Veep debate, as enthralling as it might have been; just pick up the highlights on the fake news/comedy and whatever trickled down to the web. I caught some late drive-time radio recap which seemed sufficient, compressing an hour and a half into five or ten minutes.

Politicians love to take credit for good news. (Did the sun come up today where you live? Thanks, Obama.) One of the comparisons Mike Pence brought up was how much better the economy did in his state when he was governor versus Tim Kaine's, ever so slightly disingenuous given their terms of office: Kaine 2007-2010, and Pence, 2013-now. Gee, was anything else going on during those years that might just possibly have been the cause of jobs going or coming?

Trumpence a bag was working the meme two months ago and went over the numbers back in the day. Robert Farley's prose is almost as dry as a vice-presidential debate, but it gets the job done:

"We have long cautioned our readers to be wary of claims about governors’ performance on job creation, because economists point out that job gains and losses, and unemployment rates, tend to track regional and national trends. And viewing them out of that context presents a distorted view."

Last night at Ft. Boise

For good measure, he points out that while Tim Kaine tried to raise taxes in Virginia, a $billion a year from auto insurance and sales, fees and registration, and increased fines for tickets to fund state infrastructure, boring old mass transit, highway construction and road projects, the state's Republican-led legislature said no. It would have been timely in the boom of 2007, but maybe not so much in the following years. Credit to Pence for including the word "tried" in what he said last night. Discredit for his context-free brag that "in the state of Indiana, we’ve cut unemployment in half; unemployment doubled when he was governor," as if those numbers reflected his skill or his opponent's lack of it.

Can't tell if he waited until after the debate or posted it in advance (the way the RNC did), but Richard Viguerie's over the moon about the show, and wants to know Is It Too Late To Replace Donald Trump With Mike Pence? Or hell, pretty much anybody. Other than Ted Cruz.

"Cancel the next two Presidential debates and rerun the Vice Presidential debate in place of the Presidential debate and the Republicans win in a walk."

But that's not the way it works, eh.

Update, if you just can't get enough of this stuff. Politico fact checks the debate and finds both sides wanting. Pence is working the "be very afraid of terrorists" angle, with long-disproven claims and old status. (The actual facts aren't scary enough?) And Kaine... took Trump's pro-strong man bluster too seriously. On immigration, Kaine overstated the deportation plan; it's only 11 million people Trump wants to deport, not 16 million, so there's that. Pence fabulated that Clinton-Kaine "want to continue the policies of open borders." And so on. Nothing could be further from the truth. Politico got as far as calling Pence's attack on the Clinton Foundation as "deeply misleading and arguably wrong" rather than the simpler "outright lie." And wow, that Associated Press blunder about "half her private meetings when she was Secretary of State" still has legs. Is Mike Pence really not paying attention, or is he that dishonest?

3.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Down in the dumps Permalink to this item

As we all try to wrap our minds around a "successful businessman" somehow cooking up a $BILLION in losses in one, inglorious year that then wiped out his taxes for two decades, Jane Mayer: Donald Trump, American Oligarch. Picking up on Anne Applebaum's August column for the Washington Post:

[T]he real problem wasn’t that Trump is sympathetic to Russian oligarchs, it was that “he is a Russian oligarch.” Trump, Applebaum explained, is “an oligarch in the Russian style—a rich man who aspires to combine business with politics and has an entirely cynical and instrumental attitude toward both.”

And we heap Trump's own candid assessment—"That makes me smart"—with his leading sycophants (or "psychophants" in this case) like Rudy Giuliani, "genius—absolute genius." Mitt Romney was skewered last time around for paying a measly 14.1% effective federal tax rate, and here's Trump at zero point zero times infinity.

For all those millions of voters who get a paycheck from an employer (or report self-employment income), payroll taxes alone exceed Mitt Romney's rate. Artfully disguised by half of it being the employer's responsibility, all wage income short of $118,500 (this year) gets a two by 7.65% whack, or if you're self-employed, both halves, which work out to 14.2% of the gross. If you earn enough to pay federal income tax too, that's all government gravy.

"Trump also has the Russian oligarch aesthetic: The gilt fixtures of his Trump Tower apartment rival those in the palatial “cottages” that have been built in the suburbs of Moscow." - Anne Applebaum. (And from April 1, but seeming all too real half a year later, Trump's plan for an Oval Office makeover.)

Assuming that we don't just do away with the whole federal government, what fat cats like Deadbeat Donald don't pay comes due to the rest of us. That means that you, gentle reader, are paying for the Federal Aviation Administration to look after Trump's campaign plane taxiing and taking off and landing, and for the Secret Service team ready to take a bullet for him, and for his share of Homeland Security, Defense, and so on. You didn't imagine you could afford the gold-plated lifestyle of the richly fatuous (and of course you have better taste than to want it), but here you are, paying for it all the same.

What's (very) good for Donald Trump could be very bad for U.S. markets. University of Michigan professor Justin Wolfers distills the debate night message that the markets are afraid of him. Oligarchy is good for oligarchs, but not for everyone else. This is the "big, ugly bubble" Trump was playing up in the first debate, in a nutshell: "Wall Street fears a Trump presidency. Stocks may lose 10 to 12 percent of their value if he wins the November election, and there may be a broader economic downturn." The inference and arithmetic may be fanciful, but in round numbers, the forecast of a Trump victory could be "a bit worse than 9/11, and roughly comparable to the onset of the Iraq War."

1.Oct.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The fizzle gang Permalink to this item

Alec MacGillis' piece ran in the Sept. 18 New York Times Magazine under the headline "The Gang That Failed," and online with a subtitle standing instead: How Republicans Lost Their Best Shot at the Hispanic Vote. I think it I would have read it differently under the latter, but as it was, I found it a useful new chapter in the ongoing post-mortem of Congress' descent to single-digit respect and effectiveness. Far-right Idaho's far-rightest Congressperson, Raúl Labrador has his picture on the cover, and a lead antagonist role. He could've been a contender, but ended up delivering what might as well have been the final knife in the back when he quit the group. The new nonworking principle: nothing is better than compromise. And one part that I hadn't picked up as the story first unfolded: denying spending on health care for immigrants was one of the major sticking points.

Some irony there for a country that is now sending "medical tourists" abroad, seeking healthcare at a more reasonable cost. Our healthcare spend runs twice the average of the 34 nation Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and more. Our inability to solve our own puzzle makes us jealous about letting anyone else join the system. The best we could come up with for reform—the Affordable Care Act—was a half-measure that desperately needed improvement, and instead left Republicans unhinged and overwhelmed with Obama Derangement Syndrome.

NYT graphic of Pew Research Center data

Immigration reform? Can't do it; Obamacare. Entitlement reform? Can't do it; Obamacare. Bipartisan agreement on the budget? Can't do it; Obamacare. Anything from the Senate? Fuhgedaboudit. Keeping the lights on? No; Obamacare. Ted Cruz went from reading Doctor Suess to the last best hope for the Republicans to save the party from Donald Trump, and failed as miserably at that as he has at most everything. You can re-parse Mitch McConnell's midterm political assessment into "not really as shocking" as the part that gets quoted verbatim if you like, but this:

"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

remains a cigar floating on the scum of Washington politics, a reminder both of the limited vision of partisans, and their failure at their "single most important thing." The failure to replace the leader did not keep them from failing at everything else. Glenn Kessler gave Obama and the Democrats calling McConnell out two Pinocchios back in 2012, just before Obama was re-elected, so there's that.

But about that Hispanic vote: it seems like ancient mythology to read the fact that George W. Bush won 44% of Latino voters in 2004. Eight years later, Romney won just 27%, and that election's post-mortem featured Bobby Jindal's memorable (and disregarded) exhortation: "We must stop being the stupid party." What percentage do you suppose Señor Trump will collect?

In regard to Idaho's contribution to the story, this:

Labrador’s exit provided some relief at first. “He’s a very emotional guy, and everybody was like, whew,” [Rep. Zoe] Lofgren [D-CA] says. “It was easier to have discussions that were productive with Labrador out, because people could focus and not go off on tangents.” The group also kept getting encouragement from Boehner. He surprised Lofgren by inviting her to a private meeting. “He said: ‘Keep this going. This is really important. This is the best chance we have.’”

But ultimately, Boehner lacked the will, or the ability to accomplish anything, in no small part because of clinging to the so-called "Hastert Rule," the "nothing is better than compromise" political principle that may live longer than the other scandals featured on its author's Wikipedia page. For his part, Hastert tried to disown the idea that the "majority of the majority" should be a requirement for moving anything in the House. His own proclivity for logrolling through earmarks was substantial, but those are dead, and his "Rule" has a life of its own.

Labrador's contribution is to sabotage anything that can't garner support from his far-right corner of the House. The inevitable result of that is a simple as the logic: nothing succeeds.

Oh, except for re-election. Between the gerrymandering and the all expenses paid, on-the-job fundraising opportunities, Congress has made its job security as certain as its pay raises. If Labrador's anti-government principles had any actual force, he would have vaporized out of his seat two terms ago in the cloud of contradiction. Instead, he keeps making the rounds of less respectable news outlets. The Washington Times, for example, telling us that the "Freedom Caucus" is on board the Trumpwagon, with this precious bit of measured resistance:

“But I do encourage Donald Trump to be a little bit more specific about how he is going to reduce the debt we’re not going to reduce the debt just by growing the economy,” Mr. Labrador said. “We have to do a lot more and we have to look at our entitlement spending—have to look at everything that we’re doing.”

Yes, I'm sure that a President Trump would come to be "a little bit more specific" than the tweetorama that candidate Trump has been delivering. Then we'll really start getting some stuff done.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007