Month: September 2016

An American Lamentation (Two by “Huh?”)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

Americans often lament the fact of their essentially two-party political league, and the top of the Libertarian ticket, Gary Johnson, is capable of providing spectacular reminders of why we tend toward the binary. The former New Mexico governor and middle-tier celebrity stoner has managed to reduce a human atrocity to yet another icon of American stupidity, which really is no good legacy to build. Yet it is true, in the American discourse, “Aleppo” is … well, Matthew Kitchen tries to explain for NBC News:

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson struggled to name a single foreign leader when asked who his favorite was during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night.

“Any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that your respect and look up to. Anybody,” host Chris Matthews pushed during the event, causing Johnson to sigh loudly as his VP pick Bill Weld tried to jump in.

“I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment,” Johnson finally said, referring to his recent gaffe on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when he asked “What is Aleppo?” after he was questioned about how he would handle the conflict in the Syrian city.

So, yeah. Aleppo is … Gary Johnson being inexcusably stupid. (Look, dude, I mean, you’re, like, running for president, you know, like, aren’t you?)

And then there is Donald Trump.

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The Donald Trump Show (Troll Dumb)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a rally in Fredricksburg, Virginia, 20 August 2016. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)

Sometimes we think we notice something. Sometimes we know we see something. But even that setup is a bit overdone, because the truth is that proving the point often requires a lot of effort, and many of us live in a modern, twenty-first century America in which such effort is considered suspect. To the other, right now Donald Trump is making it easy.

Trump framed his campaign as a serious White House bid, one that could be his only shot at the presidency, while dismissing Clinton’s run as the most “unserious” campaign in American history.

The detail from Nolan McCaskill of Politico is just one small paragraph amid a litany of trumptastic absurdity, but it does remind that Donald Trump is the candidate of internet trolls.

Basic rubber-glue retort is a bizarre tactic in any allegedly adult conversation, but one that has been around pretty much the whole time, and the only really strange thing about the internet version is that it is so straightforward. There is a variation where one pretends to not understand the difference, for instance, and then there is straightforward rubber-glue; both require the retort to ignore the accuracy of the perceived insult such that if you catch one in a lie and call it out, whether the retort is to call you a liar or an asshole, the justification will be the same, that you insulted someone by calling them a liar, therefore they are returning the favor. That is to say, that you caught someone in a lie makes no difference; as far as this behavior is concerned, if one is offended by an accurate description of behavior―e.g., racist, sexist, bigoted, dishonest, &c.―the perception of offense is the only relevant aspect.

We’ve been seeing bits of the trolldom percolating up the discourse, and especially from the right wing.

Think of it this way, if the question was white supremacism, and the white supremacist retorted, “Yeah? Well … well, you’re just … just … just racist!” it wouldn’t be the familiar canard about how refusing racism is itself bigoted, or refusing racism is racist against the white race. This would be a racist calling you a racist because you called out racism. This isn’t calling you an asshole because you’re an asshole, per se. This is about calling you an asshole because calling white supremacism racist isn’t nice, and since you said something not nice the white supremacist gets to say something not nice in return.

Yes, it really is this … this … well, that’s the thing. We might say “infantile” but what did infants ever do to deserve the insult?

This is Donald Trump, and he expresses traditional American values. And I’m not joking about that; this is what the bullies always were, and it’s all they ever had, and now that they are losing their traditional privileges under law and custom, now that nobody else is nodding and winking along with them this is all they have left.

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Image note: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a rally in Fredricksburg, Virginia, 20 August 2016. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)

Gauthier, Brendan. “Pepe’s post-debate identity crisis: Online alt-right turns on Donald Trump after his presidential debate fiasco”. Salon. 27 September 2016.

McCaskill, Nolan D. “Trump calls out Clinton’s ‘unserious’ campaign”. Politico. 29 September 2016.

A Reflection on Confidence as Danger

Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a roundtable discussion with students and educators at the Kirkwood Community College Jones County Regional Center on 14 April 2015, in Monticello, Iowa. (Detail of photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

It is true that chatter such as Paul Waldman’s title―”The first debate was a defeat for Trump. Here’s why the second could be an outright massacre.”―and setup generally makes me uneasy for overconfidence in a volatile marketplace I instinctively distrust―

If the first step to fixing your problem is acknowledging you have a problem, Donald Trump is in some serious trouble. We’re ten days from his second debate with Hillary Clinton, and while most voters and virtually every sane observer agree that Trump did poorly in the first debate, a spate of reporting suggests that his campaign, and especially Trump himself, are in a state of deep denial about what happened and what he needs to do in order to have a different outcome next time.

But that’s not all. Because of the format of the second debate, Trump stands to do even worse than he did in the first debate, and Clinton could do even better.

―but the WaPo analysis is worth a read insofar as it offers a striking, freeze-frame glimpse into the existential condition of the campaign, including how the candidate’s “short attention span and staff chaos” left it to Rudy Giuliani and Roger Ailes to prepare the Republican nominee to face Hillary Clinton, Trump’s failure to grasp the significance of the fact that his base alone is inadequate to carry the vote, and an apparent detachment from or rejection of reality that includes pretending he won the debate with a performance so strong Mr. Giuliani could be heard asking, aloud, “Why would would we change if we won the debate?”

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Peace, and May It Live Forever

It probably embarrasses sufficiently to suggest that had I been paying attention―

Colombia’s center-right government and the Marxist FARC rebel group signed a peace deal on Monday to end a half-century war that killed a quarter of a million people and once took the Andean country to the brink of collapse.

After four years of peace talks in Cuba, President Juan Manuel Santos, 65, and rebel leader Timochenko―the nom de guerre for 57-year-old Rodrigo Londono―warmly shook hands on Colombian soil for the first time and signed the accord with a pen made from a bullet casing.

(Murphy and Acosta)

―this wouldn’t be such a surprise.

Alright, then: Congratulations. Good luck.

Something about holy shit goes here, or perhaps I overstate myself. That I did not expect this in my lifetime only suggests I never cared to attend closely enough that I could reasonably expect a thing about how it goes.

Still, I’m pretty certain we’re supposed to be impressed.

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Murphy, Helen and Luis Jaime Acosta. “Colombia, Marxist rebels sign accord ending 52-year war”. Reuters. 27 September 2016.

A Quote Worth Paying Attention To (Blame a Black Man Mix)

VIII. Adjustment.

“Given the current outrage from black communities around police violence against black citizens, police fabrications take on additional seriousness. Glad to see Sherry Hall is going to be charged. One would hope other cops will pay attention to her fate.”

Denise Oliver Velez

And this is what that means:

Officer Sherry Hall, of Jackson, Georgia, faces four charges alleging she shot herself and then blamed the incident on a nonexistent black man. (Detail of frame from CBS46, 2016.)An officer shot. A bullet stopped by body armor. A 10-day chase for an unidentified shooter.

A newly hired Jackson police officer told a compelling story about what happened late the night of Sept. 13. After only three months on the job, Sherry Hall found herself immersed in a high-profile shooting, pitting a white officer against a black man. At least, that was her account of what happened.

But she made the whole thing up, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

On Friday, Hall was charged with four felonies, including evidence tampering and giving false statements to investigators.

After her account began to unravel over the past two weeks, investigators were left with little to conclude other than she shot herself, but officials stopped short of saying so Friday.

(Atlanta Journal Constitution)

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Image note: Right ― Officer Sherry Hall, of Jackson, Georgia, faces four charges alleging she shot herself and then blamed the incident on a nonexistent black man. (Detail of frame from CBS46, via Daily Kos.)

“GBI: Cop lied about being shot by black man”. Atlanta Journal Constitution. 23 September 2016.

Oliver Velez, Denize. “White Georgia police officer will be arrested for claiming a black man shot her”. Daily Kos. 24 September 2016.

Trolley Ted

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks with press aboard his campaign plane, 5 September 2016, while flying over Ohio, as vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana looks on. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Let’s just go with Russell Berman of The Atlantic, framing his “Five Reasons Why Ted Cruz’s Endorsement of Donald Trump Is Stunning”:

Ted Cruz set aside his many differences with Donald Trump on Friday to endorse for president a man whom he once called a “serial philanderer,” a “pathological liar,” “utterly amoral,” and a “sniveling coward”; who insulted his wife’s looks; who insinuated Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy; who said he wouldn’t even accept his endorsement; and who for months mocked him mercilessly with a schoolyard taunt, “Lyin’ Ted.”

There is a bullet point narrative, curated by Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews over at Vox. “Ted Cruz unhinges his jaw and swallows his pride”, reads the headline, and, certes, one might contest that he swallowed anything, sneer cruzlike at any intersection of the Texas junior’s name and the concept of pride, or point out how the unhinging is a practiced move and, you know, (ahem!) insert obviousα joke here.

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The Donald Trump Show (Bow Down)

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Reality television star and Donald Trump aide Omarosa Manigault explains that the GOP presidential candidate's critics will soon bow down before him.  (Detail of frame from 'Frontline' via PBS, September, 2016.“Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”

Omarosa Manigault

And, yeah, you know? Now we know.

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Feldman, Josh. “Omarosa: ‘Every Critic, Every Detractor, Will Have to Bow Down to President Trump'”. Mediaite. 22 September 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Confiscate the Guns)

Donald Trump: "I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to. We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well and you have to be proactive and, you know, you really help people sort of change their mind automatically, you understand, you have to have, in my opinion, I see what's going on here, I see what's going on in Chicago, I think stop-and-frisk. In New York City it was so incredible, the way it worked. Now, we had a very good mayor, but New York City was incredible, the way that worked, so I think that could be one step you could do." (Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters, 2016)

“When Trump recently told African-American communities, ‘What do you have to lose?’ he neglected to mention the answer: Fourth Amendment rights.”

Steve Benen

Or, more specifically:

At a Fox News event this week, Donald Trump seemed to endorse taking “stop-and-frisk” policies to a national level to address urban crime. “I would do stop-and-frisk,” the Republican said. “I think you have to. We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well and you have to be proactive and, you know, you really help people sort of change their mind automatically.”

Of course, what Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that stop-and-frisk didn’t work “incredibly well” at all, and when challenged in the courts, the policy was ruled unconstitutional.

When Trump recently told African-American communities, “What do you have to lose?” he neglected to mention the answer: Fourth Amendment rights.

Nor is the punch line the whole of it. The msnbc producer continues:

Trump, who’s never demonstrated any real understanding of criminal-justice policy, apparently likes the idea of police being able to stop-and-frisk Americans―including those who’ve done nothing wrong and have been accused of no crimes―effectively at the discretion of individual officers. If the police find a gun, under Trump’s vision, it will be taken away.

In other words, the NRA’s favorite presidential candidate―the Republican who’s benefiting from millions of dollars in NRA campaign money and claims to be a great champion of the Second Amendment―is on board with a policy in which government officials approach random American pedestrians and confiscate their firearms without due process.

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Futility, or, Senator Mark Kirk

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), circa 2016, in uncredited photo via campaign website.

It was easy enough to feel at least a little badly for Mark Kirk, the incumbent U.S. Senator from Illinois whose seat is among the most vulnerable the GOP must defend this year, when the National Republican Senatorial Committee attacked his opponent, a legless veteran, for “not standing up for veterans”. There is, however, a limit to any sympathy, especially when the embattled Republican manages to do it to himself:

Sen. Mark Kirk’s campaign falsely asserted on its website that the Illinois Republican was a veteran of the Iraq war, a misstatement that comes six years after exaggerations over his military record nearly cost him his state’s Senate seat.

The Republican, now battling for a second term in a tight race in Illinois, stayed in the United States during the Iraq War when he served in the Navy Reserves. But on a public webpage on his official campaign website touting his record on veterans’ issues, Kirk was listed as a “veteran of the Iraq war.”

While Kirk campaign officials said it was a staff error, the issue resembles the controversy that nearly caused his 2010 Senate campaign to implode. Moreover, Kirk is now running for reelection against Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a military veteran who lost both of her legs during combat in Iraq.

(Raju)

This is important: Neither is this the first time Mr. Kirk’s name has circulated in this context during this cycle. Apparently, the Illinois Republican and his team just … what? Couldn’t resist the opportunity to try the lie again? Can’t be expected, in this hectic modern world, to guard against known exposure?

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Image note: U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), circa 2016, in uncredited photo via campaign website.

Raju, Manu. “Mark Kirk campaign site falsely calls senator ‘veteran’ of Iraq war”. CNN. 21 September 2016.

Yilek, Caitlin. “GOP tweet accuses double amputee Dem of ‘not standing up for veterans'”. The Hill. 8 March 2016.

Not the Name of My Next Band (Lester Holt and the Wicked Elements)

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt arrives at the 9th Annual California Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at the California Museum in Sacramento, 28 October 2015. (Photo by Jose Luis Villegas/The Sacramento Bee)

Acknowledging that the filters or priorities by which one notices anything else are entirely unto that individual, and thus a psychological mystery generally describing anyone’s particular expression, there are also days when, you know, whatever, because I sure as hell didn’t―

• The Perfect Christmas Morning

• Talk About Your Grandmother

• Achieving Erection

―put those elements in that order. Talk to Jason Linkins about that.

Nor am I volunteering to psychoanalyze the fact that he’s on about Lester Holt.

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Image note: NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt arrives at the 9th Annual California Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at the California Museum in Sacramento, 28 October 2015. (Photo by Jose Luis Villegas/The Sacramento Bee)

Commission on Presidential Debates. “Moderator Announces Topics for First Presidential Debate”. 19 September 2016.

Linkins, Jason. “First Presidential Debate To Focus On Vague Platitudes”. The Huffington Post. 20 September 2016.