Friday, September 16, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Yes, He Can

Here's the #1 stupid question of 2016: Can this guy get any worse?

Of course he can.  And every day he does.  If America can't see through this, can't understand what the job the President must do means to their lives every day, then this country is too far gone and ain't coming back.

In no particular order, Trump today: "has once again insinuated that Hillary Clinton be assassinated, telling a crowd of supporters in Miami on Friday night that he thinks Clinton’s bodyguards should disarm in order to “see what happens to her.”"

Unveiled a new tax policy worse than the last one, made an about-face on Cuba --too much to deal with!

Played the media into covering live Trump praising his soon to be opened new hotel in Washington and getting free air time for military supporters to praise him--all because he's been pushing the absurd birtherism for years and now has a new tune about it--thanks to him, we now know that Barack Obama was indeed born in the USA, since he punctured the rumor he wasn't which was started by Hillary Clinton.  Yet another complete lie that plays well with the rabid alt.right.

(Meanwhile at the White House: Calling this “the greatest day of my life,” a visibly moved Barack Obama held a news conference on Friday to thank Donald Trump for granting him U.S. citizenship.  Borowitz strikes again.  Complete with photo.)

Perhaps one good came of this--Trump burned the media so badly, they are maybe less likely to fall for his shit next time.  Or not.  Though there are signs of rebellion.

Trump lies and contradicts himself so often and outrageously that anybody with a memory sees it.  And maybe that's the problem.  Not only is Trump profoundly ADD, he's talking to a society that is structurally unable to retain a memory for 24 hours, let alone a few years.  Overwhelmed by saturation coverage of every news event, yesterday must be forgotten just to have enough brain capacity to take in today, or a couple of events from it.

So who remembers 2011 when Trump started questioning President Obama's integrity via the racist birther "questions," when (via WPost): Trump even claimed in 2011 to have sent a team of investigators to Hawaii, to discover whether Obama had really been born there, as he — and all the public records — attested.  “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding,” Trump said at one point.

There are three--count 'em--three lies there, that is every assertion he was making: 1. That there was any unanswered question about the when and where of Barack Obama's birth (2) That he sent a team of investigators, (3) that this non-existent team found anything, let alone stuff "they cannot believe."

And still, this guy has a path to the presidency in an election to be held in less than two months.

 The media can't get enough of him--good for ratings, good for hatings--but maybe voters are listening to other voices.  Like Hillary, who had yet another nice pivot from her illness story when she addressed an audience of black women: "As the world knows, I was a little under the weather recently," Clinton said. "The good news is my pneumonia finally got some Republicans interested in women's health."

Hillary also got an assist from another Obama--Michelle this time, who spoke from her experience as First Lady: “Because the president can hire the best advisers on earth, but let me tell you something: five advisers will give five different opinions. And the president and the president alone is always the one to make the final call.”

Michelle Obama also said what should be the watchwords of this campaign: "As I’ve said before, the presidency doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are. The same thing is true of a presidential campaign."

We know who Trump is.  The question is: who are we?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Hail and Farewell

A slew (as in slough of despond) of new polls show Trump benefiting from leaking support for Hillary and gains by third party candidates, especially Gary Johnson.  While not adding to Trump's actual numbers, these movements shove him closer or ahead in both battleground states and generally.  Polling for GOP senatorial and House candidates are likewise looking better for them.

So we got him just where we want him.

No sooner had Politico suggested Five Reasons why Trump has hit his high point and can falter, the Donald lit up #3 ("Trump is getting cocky again") by first trying to turn a church visit into slamming his opponent--which some church folks would consider sacrilegious--and then ridiculing the black female minister who stopped him.  Winning a lot of black votes there.  (Actually motivating black voters to go to the polls thinking about this, among other outrages.)

Trump then refused to say whether he believed President Obama was born in the U.S., followed by a prepared statement issued by his campaign that said that yes, he does believe this--but the statement, said the WPost, was otherwise riddled with falsehoods.

Trump, Jr. made a gaffe--by Chiat's definition--by telling the truth about why the Donald won't release his tax returns.  Because they would be politically damaging.

The Trump House?  Newsweek explains why Trump's international business dealings would cause nightmares of conflict of interest (at best), and Jonathan Chiat explains why Trump's announced "plan" for what he will do with his business interests if elected is somewhere between nonsense and a recipe for prime corruption.

Meanwhile, Hillary took a few days off and came back to the campaign healthy and renewed in purpose.  In what looks like the most brilliant move of her campaign so far, she turned the supposed issue of her illness into a story about the vulnerability of many voters who are one illness away from losing their income:

“I certainly feel lucky — when I am under the weather, I can afford to take a few days off. Millions of Americans can’t. They either go to work sick or they lose a paycheck,” Clinton said. “I have met so many people living on a razor’s edge, one illness away from losing their job.”

Clinton then articulated the principle behind her proposed expansions to social insurance, saying that losing one’s job due to sickness “goes against everything we stand for as Americans, because some things should not come down to luck.”

She'll probably have to repeat this several times though, before most of the media gets it.

Margaret Carlson suggests that things are already turning around for Hillary, partly because of her re-focus derived from her days off, and from the work of her surrogates in the meantime, Bill C. and especially President Obama, who drew some defining distinctions between the candidates in his speech in Philadelphia:

“You’ve got one candidate in this race who’s released decades worth of her tax returns,” Obama said. “The other candidate is the first in decades who refuses to release any at all.”

He compared Trump’s foundation unfavorably with the Clinton Foundation, which he said “has saved countless lives around the world” through its work."

“The other candidate’s foundation took money other people gave to his charity and then bought a six-foot-tall painting of himself,” Obama said, referring to a Washington Post report on the Trump Foundation’s activities. “He had the taste not to go for the ten-foot version.”

President Obama also scored Trump for his praise of Putin--since then made even more troublesome by the very likely Russian theft of Colin Powell's emails:

Trump has praised Putin for being a “strong leader,” Obama said, after the Russian president “invades smaller countries,” jails his political opponents, controls his country’s media and has driven its economy into recession.

“I have to do business with Russia,” Obama said. “That’s part of foreign policy. But I don’t go around saying that’s my role model.”

Which brings us to a quote that's a few days old but keeps getting better with age:“Trump has somehow combined the sensibility of Joe McCarthy with an ideology that would get him investigated by the McCarthy committee.” By a Republican strategist.

Nobody Blogs Anymore (But Me)

I did a post with this title over at Blue Voice.  Normally, for the convenience of my readers here, I'd reproduce it here.  But I've noticed that the photos are sized better at Blue Voice.  I suspect it's the format, the template.  Anyway, it's just a click away, if you're interested.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

November Surprise Preview: Stolen Goods

The news on Wednesday was clotted with "stories" derived from emails purportedly written by former Secretary of State and General Colin Powell.  Powell calling Trump a disgrace, complaining of Clinton campaign operatives trying to make him the fall guy, etc.  Very juicy.

There's one big problem, though.  These were not emails that Powell released to the world.  They were not released by the State Department or the FBI.  They weren't public documents of any kind.

They were stolen.

Once upon a time, for a couple of centuries actually, if you opened a letter that had been sent through the U.S. Mail, let alone published its contents, you would be guilty of a federal crime.  You would be investigated and prosecuted.  When the Post Office was a federal department--with its own Cabinet Secretary--the mail was taken very, very seriously.

I don't know what laws apply to cybercrime.  But the fact that private correspondence has been published without the knowledge or permission of its author must be illegal.

That doesn't seem to bother anybody, especially those writing about it.  They barely mention that they obtained this information in a different way than, say most of the Clinton emails, which were made public, partly because they were written by a public official.  Lines were crossed there as well, and we can expect them to be crossed again, as emails of purely personal content were and will be released, in violation of privacy, and obtained by theft.

The stories might say these emails were "hacked."  "Hacked" can mean different things.  In this case they were stolen, and that should be the word used to describe them.  Stolen property.

Aren't people who publish them also engaged in a crime?  Good question.  If not, why not?  Another good question.  I believe there are criminal sanctions for receiving stolen goods, especially knowing they were stolen.

And we all know these were stolen.

Nor are these official records of public agencies or public officials that have unreasonably been kept secret.  Colin Powell is no longer a public official.  He's a private citizen.  His constitutional rights have been violated.  Are being violated.

Here's another problem.  What assurances do we have that the emails that have been released haven't been altered?  That they aren't bogus?  Do the newspapers and media outlets that publish them, and write about them, know?  Have they checked?  How can they check?  Do they even know?  Do they care?

These emails are published as reflecting the words of Colin Powell.  But those who publish them have scant if any first hand knowledge that they are genuine.

So maybe after they are published, either the sender or receiver will check their copies and discover that words, sentences, entire emails have been altered or just plain faked.  That's another news story.

Unless it's the weekend before the election.  Somebody (likely a Russian agency) steals and alters emails, deliver them to their favorite dupes who gleefully deliver them to a favorite friendly newspaper or site, and moments after they are first published, they are everywhere.

If they are fake, there will be no time to check.  And because our news media seems entirely gullible right now, it's likely they'll be just as gullible then.  They will publish them without any idea of whether they are faked or not.  Although they will know that they are stolen.

If stealing and dumping the Powell emails was a dry run for this, it has to be judged a howling success.  Just too juicy to resist.

So I'd say that the chances that such an email dump right before the election--with sensational if faked content--just went way up.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: All His Deplorables in One Basket?

We have about another week of the silly season part one in this campaign, until the media fixates on debate handicapping and evaluation for the next month or so.  So to get it started off right we've got Hillary pilloried for telling the truth about Trump supporters, plus giving the media vapors when she comes down with   pneumonia.

Granted that the Clinton campaign handled Sunday's situation badly.  As someone said, is there anything that the Clinton campaign can't screw up?  But while some in the media felt it "shook up" the race, others argued pretty convincingly that it won't matter much, assuming she returns to health this week.  Also that it's not nearly a big deal on its own.

It was however inspiration for some biting satirical comment, by Alexandra Petri at WPost, who spoofs the alt.right diagnosis, and reliably by Andy Borowitz at the New Yorker, who suggests that an unconscious Clinton is still more qualified than Trump.

Meanwhile the Donald, perhaps heeding his female campaign manager, has refrained from dancing on Hillary's prone body in glee at her illness.  But the days are over when JFK refrained from campaigning while opponent Nixon recovered from a bad bang on his knee.  Hillary cancelled her events but Trump was on the stump, it was a Trump stump.  He chose to highlight Clinton's Friday fundraiser comment that half of his supporters were in a basket of deplorables, of racists etc.  He disagreed, and called for Clinton to retract the statement or quit the race.  Apparently he didn't catch Hillary a few days before apologizing for saying "half."  Cause really, who knows how many?

 Meanwhile, out in his crowd, one of his non-deplorables was beating up a protester.  One of his non-deplorable supporters, the governor of Kentucky, was heard from the Family Research Council podium calling for killing if Hillary wins.

Then on CNN Trump's vp Pence refused to call KKK candidate David Duke "deplorable."  Others did a quick fact check and said, well yes she's right.  Dana Milbank in his column Yes, half of Trump supporters are racist, wrote: Hillary Clinton may have been unwise to say half of Donald Trump’s supporters are racists and other “deplorables.” But she wasn’t wrong. If anything, when it comes to Trump’s racist support, she might have low-balled the number." 

Greg Sargent notes that according to the latest WPost/ABC poll, a majority of Americans pretty much agree with Hillary's assessment.  And they do in other polls as well.  Jonathan Chiat sums up in his column, Yes, Most Donald Trump Supporters Are Deplorable and Irredeemable:

Following the classic definition of a gaffe as a politician telling the truth, Hillary Clinton’s comment about Donald Trump’s supporters (“just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables.’ Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it”) was the purest and most classic example. The national media has spent a year and a quarter documenting in exquisite, redundant detail the rabid, anti-intellectual nationalistic bigotry of Trump’s hard-core fanbase. But it has taken Hillary Clinton’s affirmation to transform this by-now-banal observation into a scandal.

Back in February, Wall Street Journal editorial columnist Bret Stephens mourned that it had once been a slander that “Republicans were all closet bigots,” but “Not anymore. The candidacy of Donald Trump is the open sewer of American conservatism.” Stephens proceeded to argue that Trump’s carefully hedged disavowal of David Duke failed to dent his support — “If anything it has enhanced it.” Now that Clinton has made the similar point in milder terms, absolving a larger proportion of Trump’s supporters than Stephens did, and choosing the gentler metaphor of a basket rather than a sewer, The Wall Street Journal editorial page is scandalized that Clinton was caught “attributing hateful motives to tens of millions of Americans.” Americans! Hateful! In large numbers! How dare she!"

It seems hyping Clinton's "deplorable" comment is proving to be a tactical error.  As Josh Marshall remarked, "Mike Pence refusing to label David Duke as "deplorable" is a good example of why "Deplorable" was always far more of a double-edged sword than the Trump crew seemed to realize."

Whatever Trump does Tuesday, he'll no longer have the campaign to himself.  Hillary's ace surrogate is getting into it a little early--President Obama will speak on her behalf in Philadelphia.  With an approval rating now hitting 58% he is going to be her best advantage going down the stretch.