Monday, April 24, 2017

WHY ARE WE SO SURE A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN WILL BE SEEN AS A TRUMP FACEPLANT?

There might be a government shutdown soon, and conventional wisdom says that this will be a disaster for the GOP, especially for Donald Trump, because America will realize it's all his fault. Here's Newsweek's Emily Cadei:
Republicans, Democrats and outside experts agree that there’s little political logic to the Trump White House’s threat to shut down the government this week because it insists that funding for a border wall be included in the budget. Yet that’s exactly the scenario the White House appears to be entertaining as it holds a hard line on funding negotiations. In the process, the president and his budget team may be setting up Republicans for a bigger defeat than if they’d just gone along with a slimmer than desired spending bill in the first place.

... As was the case with the two most recent government shutdowns—in 1995 and 2013—partisans are now playing a game of chicken, betting that the other side will cave and vote for a spending bill it doesn’t like, rather than be blamed for the dysfunction.

... Yet this time around, there’s an important difference. Unlike 1995 and 2013, when a Republican-led Congress and Democratic presidents were in the White House, Republicans now hold all levers of power. So it will be much more difficult to point the finger at the other side if the government does shut down.
Republican leaders in Congress don't want a shutdown, and are willing to compromise with Democrats to avoid one. But Trump wants to play hardball. The New Republic's Brian Beutler also thinks this is self-sabotage:
The White House has offered to pay out [Obamacare] subsidies only if the bill also funds the border wall. If Trump gets what he wants, everyone will be fine; if Trump doesn’t get what he wants, he will take insurance away from millions—and the government might shut down! Defeat me, he intones darkly, and I will pants myself.
But is that how the public is likely to apportion blame? First, let's not assume that most Americans know which party controls Congress. Recall that in 2014 Pew found that only 40% of Americans could correctly identify the majority party in both the House and the Senate. The fact that Democrats have any leverage at all (because of the filibuster in the Senate) confuses the issue for voters who know a little but not a lot.

It was obvious who the antagonists were in 2013 -- everyone knew that the president was a Democrat, and everyone knew that his enemies in Congress were Republicans. Well, Trump is known to be a Republican, even by low-information voters -- so if he doesn't get what he wants, and it's not because fellow Republicans are complaining (as with the original Obamacare replacement bill), then who gets the shutdown blame? It's likely to be Democrats, who'll very visibly be the Party of No.

Democrats feel they can risk this because Republicans had a great 2014 election cycle after shutting the government down in 2013. That could be the long-term result for Democrats -- but in the short term, they really could pay a price, and Trump might not. Recall the polling in 2013:
Perceptions of the way Republicans handled the budget negotiations grew steadily worse through the weeks of confrontation, rising from 63 percent disapproval on the eve of the 16-day shutdown, which began Oct. 1, to 77 percent disapproval by the time it ended. Nearly three in five Republicans disapprove of their party’s handling of the negotiations.
And even if Democrats don't get the majority of the blame, it's likely that both parties will suffer some short-term hit to their approval, as in 2013:
Congressional Democrats also sustained damage to their image. More than six in 10 respondents disapprove of how they handled budget negotiations, and unfavorable ratings of the party have risen to a record high of 49 percent.
In 2013, the president came out unscathed:
Still, President Obama’s overall ratings have held steady. Almost half of all Americans approve of the way he has handled his job, and an almost identical number disapprove.
I know, I know: Congressional Republicans were obviously the hotheads during the 2013 shutdown. Obama was the calm, even-tempered voice of reason. This time around, Trump is going to be angry and volatile and make it all about him.

But Americans might conclude that he's a legitimate president who deserves not to have his agenda blocked by the folks who lost. In which case, voters aren't going to think he pantsed himself.

Republican poll numbers recovered quickly after the 2013 shutdown because it was followed by the botched Obamacare rollout. Given Trump's ineptitude, Democrats might be similarly lucky.

If there's a shutdown, we have no idea how long it will last. We have no idea whether Trump will accept the compromises necessary to return the government to full functioning, especially if those compromises embarrass him, or block his precious wall. So predictions are hard. But if a shutdown happens, we shouldn't assume that Trump and the GOP will get all the blame.

TRUMP'S SUCCESS STILL HAS MANY MEDIA FATHERS. CLINTON IS A MEDIA ORPHAN.

Hot Air's Allahpundit flags one data point from a Washington Post/ABC poll released over the weekend:
Poll: Trump would beat Clinton in a rematch among 2016 voters

Good lord. It’s one thing to blow an election once, but to lose hypothetically to a guy with a 42 percent approval rating again? Is there no limit to the humiliation the Clintons will suffer at Trump’s hands?

... given the option of a do-over, virtually no Trump voters would switch their votes. Clinton voters, on the other hand...
While just 4 percent of Trump’s supporters say they would back someone else if there was a redo of the election, fully 15 percent of Clinton supporters say they would ditch her.

That 15 percent is split up between those who say they would vote for Trump (2 percent), Gary Johnson (4 percent), Jill Stein (2 percent), and either other candidates or not voting (7 percent).
Clinton loses, 43%-40%. But is this surprising? A lot of Trump's press coverage is critical, but there's still a large segment of the media, over on the right, that treats him as a conquering hero whose reign is glorious, and in the mainstream there's a lot of coverage that, despite some skepticism, is still awestruck. (Why is he so good at manipulating us? Who are his voters, and will we ever truly understand America if we don't interview all of them?)

But virtually no one in the media likes Hillary Clinton -- not on the right, not in the center, not on the left. Some of this is normal -- as a rule, failed presidential candidates don't get much respect. But most failed candidates are ignored. Clinton is being actively vilified. And even though her opponent is broadly unpopular, no one interviews her voters to plumb the depths of their souls. The negative coverage of Clinton implies that harboring good feelings for her is shameful. So to me it's remarkable that she lost in this poll by only 3.

****

Allahpundit notes one more weekend poll result, from a Wall Street Journal/NBC survey:
Not all the news is bad for liberals, though. Who’s winning the battle of ideas? NBC offers a clue:



The 57 percent who say government should do more is the highest number NBC has recorded in 20 years of polling, higher even than it was in 2007 at the height of Bush malaise following the Democratic takeover of Congress. And the trend towards more active government is found in all three partisan groups. Republicans are still strongly opposed to the idea at 28/69, but that’s up from 17/79 shortly before the GOP took back the House in 2010. The real sea change, though, has come among independents, who were net -22 in October 2010 on the idea of government doing more and are now ... net +22.
Why is this happening? Allahpundit has a couple of theories that can't both be true:
Is that mostly a reaction to the party in power, i.e. when a Democrat is president indies perceive government as being too big whereas when a Republican is president they perceive it as too static? Or is it part of the Trumpian drift towards making big government great again on the right?
I think Trump has made government action seem more acceptable to at least some on the right. I think white voters are seeing dysfunction in white communities and saying, "Now I believe in government assistance." (The media helps by covering drug addiction in white communities much more sympathetically than in non-white communities.) I think Bernie Sanders has made a strong case for government help aimed at the 99%. But I also think the Democratic Party deserves some credit -- Obamacare happened, and even though, yeah yeah yeah, it was a corporatist neoliberal pseudo-Republican fraud, it persuaded many Americans that health care should be available and affordable, and now even (some) Republican are forced to pay lip service to that idea. Score one for incrementalism.

Message to Democrats (and too-cool-for-the-Democratic-Party Sandersites): Stop fighting with one another and unite around an agenda of helping Americans. The agenda is likely to be Sandersite, but that shouldn't cause a conflict -- Hillary Clinton's platform was Sandersite. (Her problem with many Sanders voters was that they refused to believe she endorsed her own platform.) It won't happen, though -- some mainstream Democrats won't want to commit to every Sanders goal exactly the way he does, and so Democrats and Sandersites will, alas, keep fighting.

(Which leaves me wondering, after a French presidential election in which no establishment party made the final round: What happens in America if both parties are experiencing a crack-up, but the structure of our elections, unlike that of France, makes it next to impossible for any third party to win elections? Are we now going to alternate Republican presidents who can't get legislation passed even when their party controls Congress and Democratic presidents who have the same problem?)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

DONALD TRUMP: THE FOUND POETRY

I Never Thought

I never thought I had
the ability
to not watch
what is unpleasant,

if it's about me. Or
pleasant.

But when I see it's
such false reporting
and
such bad reporting
and
false reporting

that I've developed
an ability
that I never
thought I had.

I don't watch things
that are unpleasant.
I just
don't watch them.

--Donald Trump, interview with AP's Julie Pace, full transcript published April 23, 2017

LIZ SPAYD IS THE WORST

Liz Spayd, the public editor of The New York Times, is proud of the paper's outreach to Donald Trump's America, and she thinks you're a narrow-minded bubble-dweller if you have a problem with any aspect of it, regardless of the merits.
IN THE days following Donald Trump’s White House victory, The New York Times’s executive editor and its publisher signed an unusual joint letter to readers, promising in the wake of a startling election to report “without fear or favor, striving always to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences in the stories that we bring to you.”

An admirable goal, considering the hermetic bubble that The Times and other news media are often accused of living in, one that blocked the sightline to a swelling despair in Middle America.

Now, as the 100-day mark of the Trump administration approaches, it’s time to ask: Is The Times following through on its promise to put an outstretched hand toward Red America? And, just as crucially, are readers ready for it?
She proudly cites a new podcast that "often features voices from the heartland," and a story about an Ohio farmer whose two children died after developing heroin habits.

Do Times readers have a problem with this? She says they do -- and as evidence she points to criticism of the paper's decision to hire Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal as an opinion writer:
At this particular moment in history, that doesn’t always go down easy. A day of reckoning along that path came earlier this month, when editorial page editor James Bennet did his part to broaden reader horizons by naming conservative Bret Stephens to the prestigious — and mostly liberal — roster of Times columnists.

Stephens’s coronation produced a fiery revolt among readers and left-leaning critics.
I'm not sure what the hiring of Stephens has to do with whether the Times audience appreciates stories about struggling heartlanders -- not only is Stephens a right-wing Trump critic, he has a biography that marks him as far more cosmopolitan and elitist than even many Times readers:
Stephens was born in New York City, ... the son of Xenia and Charles J. Stephens, a former vice president of General Products, a chemical company in Mexico.... He was raised in Mexico City.... In his adolescence, he attended boarding school at Middlesex School in Massachusetts. Stephens received an undergraduate degree in political philosophy from the University of Chicago before earning a master's degree in comparative politics ... at the London School of Economics.

Stephens began his career at The Wall Street Journal as an op-ed editor in New York. He later worked as an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal Europe, in Brussels....

In 2006, he took over the "Global View" column after George Melloan's retirement. In 2009, he was named deputy editorial page editor....

From 2002 to 2004, he was editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post.... Stephens was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.... He is also a frequent contributor to Commentary magazine.
Salt of the earth, this guy.

Spayd is appalled at the narrow-mindedness of Stephens's critics:
They rummaged through his columns for proof that he is a climate change denier, a bigot or maybe a misogynist.
They rummaged! How dare they! What an appallingly narrow-minded thing to do -- judging an opinion writer on the opinions he's expressed!

Spayd wags her finger at Stephens's critics for several paragraphs. Then she writes:
After reading many of his past columns I, too, am wary about some of his more inflammatory language on climate change, Muslims, even campus rape. Are we to consider his more intemperate phrases “rhetorical flourishes,” or does he really mean them?
I'm reminded of the Monty Python sketch about the gangster siblings known as the Pirahna Brothers:
Interviewer: I've been told Dinsdale Piranha nailed your head to the floor.

Stig: No. Never. He was a smashing bloke. He used to buy his mother flowers and that. He was like a brother to me.

Interviewer: But the police have film of Dinsdale actually nailing your head to the floor.

Stig: (pause) Oh yeah, he did that....

Interviewer: I understand he also nailed your wife's head to a coffee table....

Stig: Well he did do that, yeah. He was a hard man. Vicious but fair.

*****

Spayd also scolds the Times audience for failing to appreciate an interview with a Harlan County coal miner featured in one of the paper's podcasts:
Another flash point in this debate came after a recent episode of The Daily, the highly popular podcast anchored by Michael Barbaro, a former Times political writer. The subject of the podcast was climate change and the guest was Mark Gray, who spent 38 years of his life working in the coal mines of southern Kentucky.

Gray has black lung, and you can hear him struggling to breathe as he defends the Appalachian coal industry against what he sees as efforts by environmentalists to shut it down. As the conversation continues, Gray asks Barbaro whether he has ever stepped foot in a coal plant. Thinking about that question, Barbaro chokes with emotion, and listeners hear several seconds of silence before the host speaks again.

It was a powerful 12 minutes of audio, sentimental and empathetic toward a Trump voter to a degree one might not expect from The Times. Too sentimental for some listeners, who took after Barbaro on social media, on blogs and in my inbox.

Here’s one complaint from Drew Magratten of New York City: “Barbaro lets a coal miner spout assertions about the economics of the industry and regulations unchallenged. I can almost hear the NYT’s East Coast liberal guilt guiding the kid-glove treatment of a white, blue collar man who proudly voted for Trump.”
To Spayd, this segment is beyond criticism, and any complaints are clearly efforts to silence non-liberal views. But listen to the segment, which begins at 8:46 of the podcast. Magratten is absolutely correct: Barbaro does let Mark Gray, who mined coal for 38 years in Harlan County, Kentucky, make "assertions about the economics of the industry and regulations unchallenged." Here's Gray explaining thew decline of coal in Harlan County:
BARBARO: What was the big turning point where it all started to seem to go down?

GRAY: The big turning point was when the Obama administration put out regulations on coal. They just put restrictions on coal so hard that the companies couldn't mine it, and it was either shut down or go broke, you know?
Here are the facts about coal mining in Harlan County:
Demand dropped after the railroads stopped using coal to drive locomotives, and factories switched to oil and natural gas for their needs.

Production in Harlan County fell throughout the 1950s, hitting a near 50-year low in 1960 of 1.3 million tons...

Employment in Kentucky's underground mines fell 70 percent from 1950 to 1965; in Harlan County, mining employment dropped from 13,619 to 2,433 in that time....

A Middle Eastern oil embargo caused a spike in coal demand during the 1970s and 80s, and mining employment rose to 4,419 in 1981, the most recent employment peak.

There were 1,780 people employed in mining in the county in 2009....
So employment in the industry was 13% of what it was in 1950 the year Obama took office. He didn't cause coal's decline in Harlan County.

Barbaro does object that Obama's regulations were never even put into effect. But Gray is adamant: It's all the fault of Obama's EPA. And there the matter rests.

Later, Gray insists that the government uniquely targeted coal for regulation:
GRAY: How many cars have you got out on the United States right now? How many cars have you got out here that you're throwing out carbon dioxide and throwing out the stuff that people are saying that's so dangerous? They picked on one thing, specific thing -- that was coal. They picked on coal. They didn't go ahead and pick on the oil companies, saying, "Oh, look, do this, do that" for oil. They didn't do that. Coal.
Well, they did do that, with fuel efficiency standards and restrictions on oil drilling and pipelines. But Gray just gets to say this. Later he gets to say that, yes, coal absolutely can make a comeback -- as if mining coal makes him an expert on energy economics. Is Barbaro, or Spayd for that matter, an expert on media economics? Do we all automatically develop this sort of expertise just by being grunts in our industries?

Of course he's proud of the work he did. Of course he defends his way of life. Of course he has hope for a renewal of what he recalls as a better past (even if the industry he praises is literally killing him). But none of this gives him insights into the bigger picture -- the science of climate change, the economics and politcs of energy. So why do I have to applaud the Times for this story?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

SO WHY DOES FOX NEWS HAVE OFFICIAL FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PRESS CREDENTIALS?

This, from The New York Times, is no surprise:
As Mr. Trump’s White House advisers jostle for position, the president has turned to another group of advisers — from family, real estate, media, finance and politics, and all outside the White House gates — many of whom he consults at least once a week.

The media mogul Rupert Murdoch is on the phone every week, encouraging Mr. Trump when he’s low and arguing that he focus on the economy rather than detouring to other issues.... Sean Hannity tells the president that keeping promises on core Republican issues is crucial.
This raises a question: Why does Fox News have press credentials in official Washington?

Remember this, from last month?
On Monday morning, the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery denied Breitbart’s request for permanent press credentials for Capitol Hill, stating that they needed “more answers” before considering the right-wing website’s request again. The committee discussed a request letter sent to them by Breitbart’s Larry Solov late Thursday that was said to show White House chief strategist Steve Bannon had severed ties from Breitbart as of November. Beyond the letter ... a committee member pointed out that beyond “us trusting Larry” there was no other evidence that Bannon had in fact completely cut himself off from the site he previously ran.... Other details and clarification the committee will seek from Breitbart ... [include] clarification on news reports that [Trump funder and transition team member] Rebekah Mercer is involved in Breitbart editorial decisions....
There were a couple of other reasons that Breitbart's permanent press credentials were denied, and temporary credentials were issued. Still -- it's a problem that the former head of Breitbart and its top funder are affiliated with the White House? So what about he boss at Fox and one of its top on-air hosts being unpaid advisers to the president of the United States?

Fox's alleged independence from the Republican Party has been a myth the political world has agreed to live by for years, even though the notion is preposterous. And now top people at Fox give regular advice to the president.

Fox is not a news organization. It's part of the GOP, and it should be treated that way.


IF BILL O'REILLY WERE NEW MEDIA, WE WOULD'VE NEVER GOTTEN RID OF HIM

As we all should have predicted, Milo Yiannopoulos's disappearance was brief and temporary -- he's got a comeback in the works:
Milo Yiannopoulos is plotting his comeback, allegedly to take place at UC Berkeley, whether university administrators like it or not.

"In light of recent controversies, I am planning a huge multiday event called Milo's Free Speech Week in Berkeley later this year. We will hold talks and rallies and throw massive parties, all in the name of free expression," Yiannopoulos said on his Facebook page Friday.

Yiannopoulos wouldn't say who is backing the effort, financially or otherwise....
This story is from The Hollywood Reporter, and I'm struck by the fact that the key question is "Which wingnut billionaire is bankrolling your comeback, Milo?" Of course, "Who's your sugar daddy?" is a key question throughout conservative politics. Are you a pet project of the Koch brothers? Of Sheldon Adelson? Of Robert and Rebekah Mercer? (Breitbart and the current president of the United States answer yes to that last one.)

All Yiannopoulos needs to stage a comeback is the Internet and an infusion of cash. That's the advantage he has over Bill O'Reilly. The Murdoch family wasn't O'Reilly's patron -- the Murdochs needed O'Reilly to continue generating a pile of advertising revenue, and now O'Reilly is an embarrasment because the Murdochs need to look like reasonably well-behaved corporate citizens if they want the British government to let them buy the portion of Sky TV that they doesn't already own.

A Net-based O'Reilly would have been impossible to uproot -- we'd have never been rid of him. So we'll probably never be rid of Yiannopoulos.

Friday, April 21, 2017

HISTORY IS WRITTEN BY FOR THE VICTORS

Charlie Pierce advances the radical notion that maybe Donald Trump is a good politician:
... one of the more interesting sidelights of what certainly will be a deluge of post-mortems regarding the 2016 presidential campaign is the widely held notion that Hillary Rodham Clinton was gifted with a uniquely easy opponent. This idea is central to the narrative that holds that HRC's campaign was a uniquely bad one, and she a uniquely bad candidate.

... The fact is that the current spate of Clinton-bashing completely ignores one undeniable fact: Donald Trump was a helluva candidate. In fact, for the cultural and political context within which that election took place, he might have been a perfect candidate.

... Trump took on a Republican field composed of what was alleged to be the best that party had to offer, the deepest part of its allegedly deep bench, and he utterly destroyed it....

That Trump never paid a price in the eyes of his voters for ... meretricious goonery is the best evidence there is that, in 2016, anyway, he was in every sense a formidable political force. And, let it not be forgotten that he brought with him a Republican Senate, a Republican House, and massive gains out in the states as well.
We're talking about this because of a new book, Shattered by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, which dissects the real and alleged failures of the Clinton campaign. From the left-center, Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times has given it a rave review; from further to the left, so has Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi. By contrast, Scott Lemieux puts it in the category of " 'random inside baseball campaign anecdotes that assume without argument that the degree of campaign infighting is the most important variable determining the outcome of elections' books," while The Washington Post's Steven Ginsburg questions the book's focus:
Does it really matter who was pissy at whom in Brooklyn when we still don’t know what role the Russians played in the election or why FBI Director James Comey publicly announced a reopening of the email investigation in late October? Those questions are largely left unexplored here, other than as targets of Clinton’s post-election ire.

Staying inside Clinton’s inner circle also keeps the story oddly away from Trump, who is absent from much of the book even though he was the dominant force throughout the election.
Clinton won the primaries despite competing against a much more natural politician with a compelling message, and she decisively won the general-election popular vote. But she's the failure, and maybe Trump is a genius.

Since we're judging Clinton, I want to post a brief insider-opinion clip from the past that was surfaced today as part of an unrelated argument. We all know what Attorney General Jeff Sessions said about the judge who blocked the Trump administration's second Muslim ban:
"I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power."
In response to that, Jim Newell posts this:



I want you to watch it not for its relevance to what Sessions said, but for its relevance to the question of campaign competence. Notice the date: August 10, 2008. You may recall that as a moment when Barack Obama was on a glide path to electoral victory. But here's what Cokie Roberts said as Obama vacationed in Hawaii, the state of his birth, jyst rior to the Democratic convention:
COKIE ROBERTS: He has certainly come nowhere near closing the deal, as we've talked about before. In this year that should be such a Democratic year given all the other indices, he is tied in the polls and stays tied in the polls. And going off this week to vacation in Hawaii does not make any sense whatsoever. I know his grandmother lives in Hawaii, and I know Hawaii is a state. But it has the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place. He should be in Myrtle Beache, you know, if he's going to take a vacation at this time. I just think, you know, this is not the time to do that.
Sure, this is ridiculous ("I know Hawaii is a state") -- but this is the thinking of the pundit/insider journalist class, the class to which Allen and Parnes belong, a class whose conclusions even the self-styled rebel Taibbi endorses. And this is the kind of thing that would have been said about Obama if he actually had lost in 2008. It would have been noted that Clinton defeated him in primaries all over the country -- in New York, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio. The rejection of the PUMAs would have been regarded as decisive. Or the Jeremiah Wright controversy. Or the "cling to guns and religion" controversy.

Instead, the reviews after the election said that Obama ran a "near-perfect campaign," or even a "perfect campaign." We don't know how the Obama campaign would have looked if, for instance, the financial implosion hadn't happened, or if John McCain had chosen a better VP candidate (although maybe the Palin pick was eight years ahead of its time).

All campaigns are flawed. The Clinton campaign might have been more flawed than most, but circumstances always make winners look like geniuses.

If you want my pet theory, it's simply that we elect the more charismatic, mediagenic candidate every four years, and we've done that in every election since at least 1976, if not earlier. (Johnson-Goldwater might be the last obvious exception to the rule.) I don't really agree with Charlie Pierce that Trump was a great candidate, but he was the more compelling one. And maybe that was enough. Maybe campaign savvy doesn't matter as much as we think.

TRUMP AS CIVICS TEACHER? UM, NO.

I think The Atlantic's Michelle Cottle is almost serious about this:
Let the betting pools begin: What will be the next policy issue that Donald Trump suddenly discovers is way more complicated than “anyone” ever imagined?

... It’s hard not to be unnerved by the level of on-the-job training Trump requires.

... That said, what if some good could come from Trump’s cluelessness? What if, as he slammed head first into the real-world complexity of the problems he so blithely vowed to fix, he tried to bring his voters along with him in his education—at least part of the way?

... it’s precisely because of his anti-establishment, know-nothing persona that Trump may well be uniquely suited to the delivering such lessons of politics and government.

... With Trump’s Policy-for-Dummies speaking style, the difficulties of even eye-glazing issues could be laid out without voters’ feeling patronized. Better still, Trump would be delivering the tutorials as information that he himself had only recently learned. (“As my good friend President Xi shared with me just last week ...”) Everyone would be in more or less the same boat, so no one would need to feel belittled.

... he’s almost childlike in his delight at learning something new—even when it’s something most adults would be too embarrassed to admit they hadn’t long known.
It's true -- he's very open about the fact that he's just learned a fact he should have known well before he ran for president, and that can seem surprising given the rest of the rhetoric, which largely focuses on his own omnipotence.

But this wouldn't work. Cottle writes:
For Trump, sharing with voters a bit of the intricacies of governing would have the added benefit of making him look like less of a loser when some debate or issue doesn’t go his way. When Trump boasts that all it takes to solve Problem XYZ is instinct and toughness, he looks all the worse when negotiations break down or Congress gives him the finger or he has to do a policy 180. (Of course China is isn’t a currency manipulator!) But if he could unpack his discovery that the situation is, in fact, much more complicated, then maybe everyone’s understanding of government could improve.
But Trump will never concede that he failed because a problem his administration tried to solve was difficult. He still has a compelling emotional need to be perceived as all-powerful. So he'd much rather blame other people when he fails.

As for turning his presidency into a civics tutorial, that would require Trump to actually remember what he learned when he lived through all these learning experiences. Do you think he can still tell you anything Xi Jinping told him in that famous ten-minute tutorial about China and Korea? Apart from "It's complicated," do you think he recalled any of it even two hours later?

I think Trump unabashedly recounts obvious facts -- health insurance is complicated, Abraham Lincoln was a Republican -- not because he's humble enough to confess earlier ignorance, but because he thinks the facts are obscure bits of insider knowledge to which he, as the ultimate insider, now has access. He thinks recounting them shows he's smarter and savvier than the people he's talking to. I think he literally believes that the reporters in the press pool didn't know the obvious facts until he told them.

Cottle is imagining a peculiar version of Undercover Boss, in which Trump, as a former citizen (and thus technically a taxpaying boss of officeholders, assuming he paid any taxes), now gets the job of president and sees that it's harder than it looks. But I can't imagine this ending with hugging and learning. Trump isn't being humble when he tells us what, to us, is blindingly obvious. He thinks he's being superior.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

PALIN-PALOOZA IN THE WHITE HOUSE -- WHOSE IDEA WAS THAT? I HAVE A GUESS.

I wasn't going to write about Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Kid Rock at the White House -- by now I'm bored with all of them -- but there was a lot of talk about the visit, so I think Trump gets to count it as a successful troll. He hasn't gotten any significant legislation passed in the first hundred days, but hey, he has this.

Now, whose idea do you suppose it was? My money's on this guy:



He made a documentary about her. She was reportedly his first pick for president. It must have been his idea.

Either this was planned before Bannon went into the doghouse or it's his way of trying to work himself back into Trump's good graces. I'm guessing he told Trump that the deplorables love Palin and Nugent and that CNN and The New York Times really, really hate them, but would feel compelled to cover them. And Trump went for it.

Of course, when the photos were being taken, Bannon was nowhere to be found, and Palin got her picture taken with Jared. That, I'm guessing, was Trump trolling Bannon. Can't be too nice to him, right? He's not even family.

"BILL O'REILLY IS A CENTRIST" IS THE KIND OF RESULT YOU GET WHEN RIGHT-WINGERS DO SCIENCE

You probably think the downfall of Bill O'Reilly was terrible for conservatism. Silly liberal! Breitbart's Joel Pollak wants you to know that this is just another lie from the lie-beral media:
Bill O’Reilly’s Secret: He Was a Centrist, Not a Conservative

The mainstream media are celebrating the ouster of Bill O’Reilly from Fox News, with CNN offering virtually wall-to-wall coverage. But they are overstating his political importance. MSNBC’s Chuck Todd called O’Reilly a “leader” in the conservative movement, which is more wishful thinking than reality.

In truth, the secret of O’Reilly’s success was that he was a centrist.
And we know this is true how exactly? Science!
Professor Tim Groseclose (formerly of UCLA, now of George Mason), who is the best authority on political leanings in the media, used data analysis in Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind in 2011 to show that not only were most media outlets left of center, but also that public opinion was further left than it would have been were it not for the media’s effect. On a scale of 0 to 100 — zero being most conservative, and 100 most liberal — the true center of the American public, absent media influence, was around 25, Groseclose argued. And O’Reilly, on the same objective scale, registered as exactly that: 25.
Except, um, O'Reilly wasn't measured on an "objective scale," as Groseclose admitted in his book:
The Political Quotient is a device that I construct to measure political views in a precise, objective, and quantitative way. A person’s PQ indicates the degree to which he is liberal. For instance, as I have calculated, the PQs of Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) are approximately 100. Meanwhile the PQs of noted conservatives Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) are approximately 0.

Two other people whose PQs are approximately 25 are Bill O’Reilly and Dennis Miller.
And, in fact, when you get to the book's endnotes, Groseclose admits that he pulled this rating for O'Reilly (and Miller) completely out of his ass:



(Groseclose also gave a 25 rating to Ben Stein, who's so centrist he blames Charles Darwin for the Holocaust.)

Which is not to say that Groseclose does much better when he relies on hard numbers rather than"my estimate ... based on anecdotal research." He labels Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi as maximally liberal. In fact, in 2012, the last year when both were in the House, National Journal ranked Pelosi the 66th most liberal House member and Frank the 79th. This was based on 118 votes in the House. Perhaps surprisingly, 79 members of the House were more conservative than Bachmann; that ranking makes more sense when you see some of the names ahead of Bachmann -- Mike Pence, Steve King, Todd Akin, Devin Nunes, Trey Gowdy, Darrell Issa, and Joe "You Lie" Wilson.

I don't trust Groseclose's methodology in any case. As Paul Waldman explained when the book was published, Groseclose's method of ascertaining media bias is convoluted and preposterous:
... Groseclose and [co-author Jeffrey] Milyo attempted to "measure media bias by estimating ideological scores for several major media outlets" based on the frequency with which various think tanks and advocacy organizations were cited approvingly by the media and by members of Congress over a 10-year period. In order to assess media "bias," Groseclose and Milyo assembled the ideological scores given to members of Congress by the liberal group Americans for Democratic Action; examined the floor speeches of selected members to catalog which think tanks and policy organizations were cited by those members; used those citations as the basis for an ideological score assigned to each think tank (organizations cited by liberal members were scored as more liberal, whereas organizations cited by conservative members were scored as more conservative); then performed a content analysis of newspapers and TV programs to catalog which think tanks and policy organizations were quoted. If a news organization quoted a think tank mentioned by conservative members of Congress, then it was said to have a conservative "bias." ...

In other words, the study rests on a presumption that can only be described as bizarre: If a member of Congress cites a think tank approvingly, and if that think tank is also cited by a news organization, then the news organization has a "bias" making it an ideological mirror of the member of Congress who cited the think tank. This, as Groseclose and Milyo define it, is what constitutes "media bias."
If you can't wrap your head around that, just look at some of the results Groseclose and his partner arrived at for think tanks and other organizations:
* National Rifle Association of America (NRA) scored a 45.9, making it "conservative" -- but just barely.

* RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization (motto: "OBJECTIVE ANALYSIS. EFFECTIVE SOLUTIONS.") with strong ties to the Defense Department, scored a 60.4, making it a "liberal" group.

* Council on Foreign Relations, whose tagline is "A Nonpartisan Resource for Information and Analysis" (its current president is a former Bush administration official; its board includes prominent Democrats and Republicans from the foreign policy establishment) scored a 60.2, making it a "liberal" group.

* American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), bête noire of the right, scored a 49.8, putting it just on the "conservative" side of the ledger.
Also:
Their odd categorizations led to some startling conclusions, including the result stating that The Wall Street Journal has more "liberal bias" than any news outlet they surveyed.
In other words, Groseclose and Milyo are incompetent hacks.

Want to know whether O'Reilly was a conservative? Let's go to a 2012 Pew survey:
The regular audiences for Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly continue to be dominated by conservatives: About seven-in-ten or more of each of these audiences describe their political views as conservative, compared with 35% of the general public. And while Republicans comprise just 24% of the public, they make up half or more of the regular audiences of these three news outlets.



Conservatives, do us a favor: Don't attempt science. This is what happens.

THEY TOOK THE GUNS AWAY? ISN'T THAT SUPPOSED TO BE IMPOSSIBLE?

The Washington Free Beacon reported this yesterday:
Socialist Venezuelan Leader Steps Up Arming of Supporters After Outlawing, Confiscating Civilian Guns

The socialist leader of Venezuela announced in a speech to regime loyalists his plan to arm hundreds of thousands of supporters after a years-long campaign to confiscate civilian-owned guns.

"A gun for every militiaman!" Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said to uniformed militia members outside the presidential palace, Fox News reported on Tuesday. The Bolivarian militias, created by Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez, already number in the hundreds of thousands and are being used to supplement the regime's armed forces. Maduro is boosting the number of armed supporters in hopes of keeping control over the country from what he labels "imperialist aggression."

The arming of Maduro's supporters comes five years after Venezuela's socialist regime outlawed the commercial sale and civilian ownership of firearms. Only the military, police, and groups like security companies can buy guns and only directly from one state-run arms company under the law passed in 2012, according to the BBC. The country recently doubled down on its gun ban through a combination of gun buybacks and confiscations in the summer of 2016.
Breitbart adds:
The law has prevented most civilians from keeping firearms, though they are readily available on the black market....
Wait -- I'm confused. Venezuelan citizens had guns, but the arming of these citizens was curtailed by new laws, buybacks, and now confiscations? Isn't that the exact opposite of what's supposed to happen when citizens own guns?

I thought the point of private gun ownership was that when the government tried to take the guns, citizens would automatically rise up against jackbooted tyranny. You mean that doesn't inevitably happen? You mean gun ownership doesn't inevitably protect citizens' freedom? Are you saying that, in the real world -- as opposed to gun owners' fantasy world -- a government confronted with an armed population can simply disarm that population, using a combination of persuasion and state power? And then arm itself until it has unquestionably superior firepower?

American gun advocates have been lying to us all this time. Who'd have thought?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

WITH NO HILLARY TO KICK AROUND, THE NEW YORK TIMES POLITICS DESK MAKES DO

Hillary Clinton's not around anymore to act as an everyday punching bag, so how will New York Times politics writers stay in fighting trim? Well, it looks as if they're found someone new to pound on:



Bonus points for that swipe at Chelsea Clinton -- anyone know if Peters has harrumphed in response to the suggestions that Donald Trump Jr. might run for mayor or governor of New York, where his father is wildly unpopular? -- but the new target of choice, at least today, is Jon Ossoff.

Also see Peters's colleague Glenn Thrush:
On Wednesday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” New York Times White House Correspondent Glenn Thrush reported, “my inbox this morning’s been flooded by Democrats who are sort of saying Ossoff was a terrible candidate.”

... Thrush added, “[H]e was not electric. He was more static electric. But I think, in general, that is an issue. Look, the other thing is, look how deep the bench was down there. There were a lot of people who wanted that seat. I think the larger issue that we’re dealing with here right now, is the fact that the Democrats just don’t have a lot of candidates, not just in Georgia, but around the country in general. There’s not a lot of people to kind of catch this Trump wave.”
Here's a clue to which Democrats -- or "Democrats" -- are badmouthing Ossoff:



Times alum Frank Rich, now at New York magazine, also puts the boot in:
This little race was fun while it lasted, and may have been the most successful jobs program (albeit for journalists) of the Trump presidency. But even if Ossoff had actually won it’s hard to see how this contest was a bellwether for 2018 or much else. Georgia’s sixth district, we keep being reminded, is “ruby red” and hasn’t sent a Democrat to the House since the state’s native son Jimmy Carter was president. But it is also a wealthy suburban Atlanta district in which Trump beat Clinton by barely a single percentage point (as opposed to Mitt Romney crushing Obama by 23 points in 2012). With a war chest of $8.3 million and facing a divided field that included 11 Republicans, Ossoff performed a shade better than Clinton (who received 47 per cent of the vote to Trump’s 48) but couldn’t put it away.
So no Democrat has won a House seat there since the disco era -- but Ossoff should have won a majority yesterday, since Hillary Clinton almost won the district. In other words: Ossoff and everyone who thought he would win outright yesterday were naive to think that was a posibility, and Ossoff was inept because winning should have been a gimme. Makes perfect sense!

In fact, as we learn from Rich's New York magazine colleague Ed Kilgore -- a veteran of Georgia politics -- this was a big deal:
Jon Ossoff won a higher percentage of the vote than any Democratic congressional or presidential candidate in the sixth since it was established as a north Atlanta suburban district in 1992.

What makes that a bit hard to grasp is that the second highest percentage was posted just last year by Hillary Clinton, who won 46.8 percent. More typical were Barack Obama’s 38 percent in 2012 and 40 percent in 2008. The last Democratic presidential candidate to carry Georgia as a whole, Bill Clinton in 1992, won just 29 percent in the sixth that year. No Democratic congressional candidate has topped 40 percent of the vote in this district since 1996.
But what about all that money Democrats spent?
... pro-Republican outside groups running attack ads against Ossoff, and the Republican candidates themselves, enjoyed heavy financial backing as well.... Two national GOP groups (the NRCC and Paul Ryan’s leadership PAC) spent a combined $3.9 million going after Ossoff. Karen Handel received $700,000 in ad support from the Ricketts family’s Ending Spending PAC. The Club for Growth spent a half-million attacking her and backing its endorsed candidate Bob Gray. Fourth-place finisher Dan Moody spent about $2 million of his own money. The GOP claim that Ossoff was trying to “buy” the election on an uncontested wave of money is more than misleading: there’s been plenty of money to go around.
Also see "How Ryan's Super PAC Stopped an Ossoff Upset" by David Drucker, at the Washington Examiner.
"If we had waited another couple of weeks, it would have been too late," said Corry Bliss, executive director of Congressional Leadership Fund, in an interview in which he shared the super PAC's strategy.

... Ossoff, boosted by a combination of President Trump's middling approval ratings, the collapse of the GOP healthcare bill, and millions of dollars of in unchallenged advertising on local television, was at 42.4 percent "and gaining" momentum.

Bliss said that CLF would have preferred to husband its resources for what it presumes could be a tough midterm election, as is often the case for the party that holds the White House. Instead, the group budgeted more than $3 million, since spent, on advertising and field operations, for a rescue mission.
Jeremy Peters calls Ossoff "unelectable," but FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten says the general election is a tossup. That's good. As Enten has noted, this isn't even a district where Democrats should be expected to win in a majority-shifting election cycle:
We know from past House elections that our best bet for measuring the political lean of a district is a weighted average of the last two presidential elections, with the most recent election weighted a bit more. By this weighted average, Georgia 6 is about 9.5 percentage points more Republican than the nation as a whole. (That is, if there were a tie in the national popular vote, a Republican would be expected to win Georgia 6 by 9.5 points.)

According to this measure, 47 Republican-held House seats are more Democratic-leaning than Georgia 6 is. Democrats need to pick up only 24 seats to win back the House, so even though this is the type of seat that Democrats probably want to be competitive in, taking Georgia 6 is not a necessity for taking back the House.
So stop sneering, current and former Times writers. Ossoff did fine. And even if he doesn't win in June, it's likely that Democrats in much more competitive districts will.

Meanwhile, if we want to find media voices critical of the GOP in this race, I guess we have to turn to ... Fox News. Here's Fox's Todd Starnes:
I’d like to know who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to run eleven Republicans in Georgia’s sixth congressional district race.

Instead of a decisive victory, Republican Karen Handel is now faced with a summer runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

It’s as if Republican leadership fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down.

When a political novice gets the most votes in a historically Republican district – there’s a big problem....

Does anyone at the RNC seem terribly concerned that Republicans are having a difficult time winning in Republican districts?
You don't get it, Todd. It was Democrats who screwed up in this race. Don't you read the liberal media?

PALIN, BREITBART, AND FOX SEEM TO BE STRUGGLING WITH THE CONCEPT OF LINEAR TIME

Breitbart's Ian Mason tells us today that Sarah Palin believes Elizabeth Warren stole her intellectual property:
Exclusive–Sarah Palin Shreds Liz Warren for Ripping Off Her ‘Fight Like a Girl’ Quote

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tweeted “fight like a girl” to her followers Tuesday. She later used the same phrase in an interview with National Public Radio promoting her new book.



The line may seem familiar. It was a popular catch-phrase of ... former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.... when Governor Palin learned of Warren cribbing her line, she told Breitbart News, “I don’t know. Coming from liberals who urge women to claim victimization, ‘Fight like a girl’ just doesn’t sound the same as when legit fighters for equality say it, mean it, live it, and will never give it up.”
The basis for Palin's claim? She used it in 2011, according to Mason:
In more than a mere tweet, the self-described “hockey mom” belted the phrase out in front of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin after thousands of public sector union members threatened to shut the state down....

... Palin used “fight like a girl” in the “Tea Party Spring” of 2011....
Fox News Insider follows up with a post titled "Sarah Palin Calls Out Elizabeth Warren for Stealing Her 'Fight Like a Girl' Line."
Palin was quick to point out that if the "fight like a girl" line seems familiar, it's because she said it first.

The former governor of Alaska used the line during a speech in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2011.
Really? Palin was the first person ever to say "Fight like a girl"? In 2011?

I don't think so. Here's a 2008 book by Lisa Bevere called Fight Like a Girl: The Power of Being a Woman. Here's a 2007 book by Megan Seely called Fight Like a Girl: How to Be a Fearless Feminist. Here's another 2007 book by Lori Hartman Gervasi called Fight Like a Girl...and Win: Defense Decisions for Women.

There have been several songs called "Fight Like a Girl," but one -- by Bomshel -- was released in 2009, two years before Palin went to Wisconsin.

The Fight Like a Girl Club and Fight Like a Girl Foundation support cancer awareness. They trademarked "Fight Like a Girl" in 2007.

And according to a 2007 New York Times story, "Fight Like a Girl" was also the slogan of a Toronto pillow-fighting league:
''We're not being all fluffy with ribbons and nighties,'' Ms. Zachariah said. She added: ''A lot of these fights are really brutal. Fighters have gotten nosebleeds. Boozy Suzy wrenched her elbow, and she was out for two months.''
But the phrase has been used as a rallying cry since the last century. In the 1990s, a Winnipeg zine publisher named Stefanie Moore created a poster called "I Fight Like a Girl," which is still quoted:



Two issues of a comic by Winnipeg's Tamara Rae Biebrich, titled Fight Like a Girl and inspired by Moore, were published in 1997.

So unless you coined the phrase in 2011 and took it back to the twentieth century using a time machine, you have no claim on this phrase, Sarah. Stop pretending you do.

MOTHER OF ALL FLOPS?

I should be writing about Bill O'Reilly or the Georgia special election, but I want to draw your attention to this New York Times story, which seems likely to get lost:
Since the United States dropped the “mother of all bombs” on an Islamic State cave complex in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, American military officials have been circumspect about the bomb’s damage....

The reluctance of the United States to discuss casualties and other damage from the 22,000-pound bomb concerns local officials in Nangarhar Province....

“I and other people have this concern — that why American forces are not letting anyone visit the scene of the bombing?” said Zabihullah Zmarai, a member of the council in Nangarhar Province who held a post-bombing news conference to announce his support. “The U.S. authorities should provide an answer to this question.”
The estimated death toll was 96, but an Afghan security official "provided no proof of the deaths or information on how officials reached the number of 96," according to the Times. And "There are ... reports that the American military has kept even Afghan forces from the bombing site."

ISIS radio in the region, which was wiped out in a pre-Trump drone attack last year but was subsequently reconstituted, was not damaged by the MOAB:
The Islamic State’s local radio outlet, which was unaffected by the bombing, continues to broadcast into Jalalabad, the urban center in the east. It broadcasts half-hour programs during the day and an evening program that often lasts more than an hour.

As early as the day after the bombing, it broadcast a call-in program in which voices of men who claimed to be fighters in the area who were not affected by the powerful bomb could be heard between rhyming Islamic chants.

“The media was expecting that this bomb would have killed all the Islamic State fighters or forced them to flee, but that is not the case,” the program’s anchor said. “After the big bomb, our warrior, brave youth became a shield in front of them.”
And local Afghan forces aren't making any more progress in the fight against ISIS as a result of the MOAB:
Naser Kamawal, another Nangarhar provincial council member, said the bomb did not seem to have succeeded in its mission. Afghan forces had not advanced past the areas they had cleared repeatedly long before the bombing.

“Why the bomb with such a big destruction had such few casualties?” Mr. Kamawal said. “If there was some 90 Islamic State militants, then why were our own Afghan forces not able to eliminate them in a military operation — what was the need for using such a big bomb?”
Well, we know what "the need for using such a big bomb" was: It was a public relations stunt aimed at juicing Donald Trump's polls, and maybe it was a warning to Kim Jong-un. Only after that was it part of any overall war-fighting strategy in the war zone where it was dropped.

Maybe the MOAB wasn't a flop. But we just don't know.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

HOW IS THE CONSERVATIVE MEDIA MAKING ITS READERS STUPIDER TODAY?

The Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly reports on an uptick in the U.S. murder rate:
The national murder rate rose again last year, with much of the deadly spike concentrated in just a handful of U.S. cities, according to a report released Tuesday.

A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law says Americans are “safer today than they have been at almost any time” in the past quarter-century, but projected an 8 percent increase in the nationwide murder rate.

The report’s authors calculated the estimates based on preliminary FBI data from the first half of 2016. When the FBI releases its full set of 2016 crime statistics later this year, the Brennan Center predicts, the national murder rate will be at 5.3 murders per 100,000 people, about the same as it was in 2008. The national murder rate peaked at 9.8 murders per 100,000 people in 1991, nearly double the estimated 2016 murder rate....

Three cities ― Baltimore, Chicago and Houston ― “account for around half of the increase in murder in major cities between 2014 and 2016,” the report says.
So: Murder is up, but still well below its peak in the early 1990s. And significant increases in a few cities are largely responsible for the uptick.

But why the increase? According to John Nolte at Ben Shapiro's Daily Wire, the problem is the evil Democrats:
Three DEMOCRAT-Run Cities Are Most Responsible For National Murder Rate Increase

... According to a new report, across the country, the murder rate rose 8% over last year, but this is primarily due to a handful of cities -- Chicago, Baltimore, and Houston. And all three of those cities have been run exclusively by Democrats for decades....

How bad do things have to get before the residents of these cities wake up to the fact that Democrats are utterly incapable of managing anything?
Really? Here are the numbers for Boston, which has had nothing but Democratic mayors for 87 years:



Boston's murder rate has bounced around since the late 1990s, and had an uptick last year, but crime and violent crime have declined significantly in the past generation.

What about New York? For twenty years it had non-Democratic mayors -- Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg -- but in 2013 the city elected Bill de Blasio, who was a Democrat and an opponent of stop-and-frisk. Many predicted that the city would become a crime-ridden hellscape.

Well?



I guess Democrats aren't completely useless.

And now let's turn to Joe Simonson from the right-leaning Heat Street, for his response to the Brennan Center report:
Trump Was Right: Murder and Violent Crime Spiked in 2016

Looks like President Trump wasn’t so crazy when he said crime is on the rise in America’s cities....
Trump was right? Not really. Since he began his presidential run, he got one murder statistic mostly right, according to PolitiFact, but that one concerned 2015, not 2016:
"We have an increase in murder within our cities, the biggest in 45 years."

— Donald Trump on Sunday, October 9th, 2016 in the second presidential debate
PolitiFact's explanation:
... Trump seems to be referring to a set of annual statistics released by the FBI. The most recent report came out in September.

Those statistics showed that the number of murders and non-negligent homicides rose nationally between 2014 and 2015 by 10.8 percent. When we checked the numbers, we confirmed that this increase does rank as the biggest year-to-year jump in murders since 1970-71, when the number rose by 11.1 percent. That was exactly 45 years ago.
The uptick was for the nation as a whole, not for cities, but PolitiFact let that slide.

But don't give Trump too much credit. Someone clearly worked with him to make sure he got that statistic more or less accurate for the debate. After that, he was on his own -- and he completely garbled it. On October 26, he said:
I don’t know if you know this because the press never talks about it, is the highest it’s been, think of this, in 45 years. Nobody knows that. The murder rate, highest it’s been in 45 years.
Wrong.

Two months ago, he said this:
"I'd say that in a speech and everybody was surprised because the press doesn't like to tell it like it is," Trump said during a meeting with US sheriffs at the White House. "It wasn't to their advantage to say that. The murder rate is the highest it's been in I guess 45-47 years."
Wrong again.



I think Trump literally doesn't know the difference between "biggest increase in 45 years" and "highest rate in 45 years." Nor do his fans. And Joe Simonson is helping to muddy the distinction. He and John Nolte are making their readers stupider. Which is really the point of the conservative media, right?



WHY DIDN'T CONSERVATIVES HATE BILL CLINTON FOR PLAYING GOLF?

I think Shaun King is basically right about this:
No President in American history has ever golfed more per week than Donald Trump. In his first 12 weeks in office Trump took a staggering 18 golf course trips. That's unheard of. In his first 12 weeks in office, President Obama didn't visit a single golf course. By the end of this year, it's likely that Trump will have golfed more than President Obama has in his entire presidency.

And that's strange. It's really strange. Because Donald Trump and other conservative pundits seemed to be deeply bothered by the times President Obama went out and golfed. It appeared to genuinely offend them. They obsessed over it....

More than ever, it's clear that conservatives never really had a problem with a golfing President, what they hated seeing was a black golfing President.

... referencing Obama golfing ... was a coded way to say, "How dare that uppity negro golf and enjoy leisure time why we work hard to make this country what it truly is?"
I spent much of the Obama era believing that right-wing anger at Obama wasn't very different from the anger directed at Bill Clinton when he was president, or the anger that would have been directed at Hillary Clinton if she'd been elected president. I thought conservatives had identical goals in mind -- destroying the Democrat and all allies by any means necessary -- and that they were just using whatever was at hand in order to do damage. Bill Clinton chased women. Barack Obama was an African immigrant's son. The attackers didn't change -- the biographies of their targets did.

But both Clinton and Obama played golf -- and only Obama was attacked for it. I can recall only one golf-related story that was used against Clinton:
[Vernon] Jordan first met Clinton during the lawyer's days at the Urban League. Southerners who love to work a room, both men love to eat, golf, tell stories--and flirt with women. Their mutual fondness for the ladies is a frequent, if crude, topic of conversation. Asked at a party earlier this year what it was he and Clinton talk about on the golf course, Jordan slyly replied: "We talk pu--y."
Vernon Jordan -- civil rights leader turned D.C. "fixer" -- is black.

But Clinton's golf generally went unremarked, even in the impeachment period, when he was not only the top target of right-wing hate but was loathed by the mainstream D.C. establishment. Why? Well, if Obama was despised for leisure-time amusements that were regarded as too high-class for him, Clinton was despised for acting too low-class. He liked junk food and unsophisticated women. He was white trash who didn't belong in Washington. ("He came in here and he trashed the place, and it's not his place," David Broder famously told Sally Quinn.)

Clinton was white. He was supposed to play golf. He wasn't supposed to play golf with a black man -- even a sophisticated D.C. operative -- and "talk pu--y."

Obama wasn't supposed to play golf. He was putting on airs when he did that. But of course, as far as the right was concerned, he was putting on airs every day when he woke up and was still president.

Monday, April 17, 2017

TRUMP'S NUMBERS: UP OR DOWN? (ANSWER: BASICALLY DOWN.)

A new Gallup poll says that Donald Trump's approval numbers are down since early February:
President Donald Trump's image among Americans as someone who keeps his promises has faded in the first two months of his presidency, falling from 62% in February to 45%. The public is also less likely to see him as a "strong and decisive leader," as someone who "can bring about the changes this country needs" or as "honest and trustworthy."
Kevin Drum has put the Gallup numbers in graph form and compared them to Trump's overall approval numbers. Drum writes:
Views of Trump Down, But Job Approval Is Up

According to Gallup, views of President Trump's have plummeted since February:



On the other hand, according to Pollster his approval rating has been improving for the past couple of weeks:



I guess a couple of high-profile bombings can do wonders even if people don't really trust you much anymore.
But note that the earlier Gallup survey was taken February 1 through February 5. Now look at the Pollster numbers. Trump's numbers have improved in the past two weeks, but compared to early February, they're worse. On February 5, according to Pollster, Trump's approval was 2 points higher (44.9) and disapproval was nearly 2 points lower (49.1). Trump was at -4.2 then; he's at -8 now. So he's still down.

Drum may be right, however, when he says that military action helps Trump. The Korea situation is being referred to as a "Cuban missile crisis in slow motion." What happened to presidential polling during the actual Cuban missile crisis? Gallup has the answer:
The "16 days in October" that have become known as the Cuban missile crisis began ... on Oct. 15, 1962, when U.S. spy planes documented that Soviet missile bases were under construction in Cuba. The American public was first informed of the discovery a week later, when President Kennedy made a televised address to the nation, outlining his plan for encircling Cuba with U.S. Navy ships to prevent any further missile buildup. Within hours following Kennedy's speech on Oct. 22, The Gallup Poll conducted a special reaction survey and found what Gallup analysts at the time called "overwhelming support" for the president's decision to impose a blockade on Cuba.

Of course, the crisis ended peacefully in late October, starting with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's agreement on Oct. 28 to withdraw Soviet missiles from Cuba -- a resolution generally seen as a victory for the United States. Gallup trends on President Kennedy's job approval rating suggest that the public responded positively to Kennedy's leadership during this crisis. Prior to the blockade, in a late September 1962 survey, 63% of Americans approved of his job performance. Gallup saw little change in this in the initial days of the missile crisis (JFK's job approval was 61% in a poll conducted Oct. 19-24). However, in November, that figure jumped to 74%, and it remained in this range for several months.
So Kennedy's numbers went up, though only after a few weeks -- and then they remained strong for months. But they gradually dropped, though they remained positive. Kennedy's approval rating was below 60% a year later, at the time of his death.



Other war-driven approval spikes have dropped more dramatically. Here are the numbers for George H.W. Bush ...



... and his son:



But can Trump juice his poll numbers with mostly tough talk? Mike Pence, in South Korea, is using phrases like "strength and resolve," but he's also saying, "we're going to redouble our efforts to bring diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea. Our hope is that we can resolve this issue peaceably."National security adviser H.R. McMaster is saying it's time for the U.S. “to take action, short of armed conflict, so we can avoid the worst.” Our Asian allies don't want a preemptive strike. And a top congressional Republicans thinks the tactic that's really likely to make a difference is one that's not going to be satisfyingly bellicose:
... a senior Republican member of Congress on Sunday suggested that, behind the scenes, the administration is working on a different option that would be much more confrontational.

In an appearance on CNN, House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) said that ... there are plans being put in place to hit 10 Chinese banks that do business in North Korea with crippling sanctions to cut off funding to the Kim regime....

Asked by host Jake Tapper if he knew of any plans within the Trump administration to implement such sanctions, Royce said, “I do” and added that he and his colleagues in Congress are exploring other economic penalties as well.
Upside of that, if it happens and it's successful: crisis contained. Downside: no huge presidential poll spike. Hard to imagine Trump making this choice, but he has been leaving most of the decision-making to his generals and his plutocrats, and he's been deferring to members of Congress and foreign allies. In this situation, the vast majority of those people want to avoid a nuclear conflagration, or at least the destruction of Seoul or Tokyo, even if they think the polling would be awesome. So we'll see.

NO, DONALD TRUMP IS NOT "THE KING OF COAL"

Hi -- I'm back. I thought this was one of the best weekends ever for this blog. Yastreblyansky, Tom, Crank, thank you.

This morning I see Club for Growth founder Stephen Moore wearing the cheerleader costume at The American Spectator:
Coal’s Colossal Comeback

President Trump is the king of coal.


Buried in an otherwise humdrum jobs report for March was the jaw-dropping pronouncement by the Labor Department that mining jobs in America were up by 11,000 in March. Since the low point in October 2016 and following years of painful layoffs in the mining industry, the mining sector has added 35,000 jobs.

What a turnaround. ‎It comes at a time when liberals have been saying that Donald Trump has been lying to the American people when he has said that he can bring coal jobs back. Well, so far he has brought them back.

There’s more good news for the coal industry. Earlier this month, Peabody Coal — America’s largest coal producer — moved out of bankruptcy, and its stock is actively trading again. Its market cap had sunk by almost 90 percent, during the Obama years. Arch Coal is also out of bankruptcy.

It turns out that elections do have consequences, after all.
Um, no, that's not right. As Jon Kemp of Reuters reported earlier this month, this isn't a Trump recovery for coal, and it's not much of a recovery in any case:
... [coal] production increased by almost 35 million tons in the third quarter of 2016, around 22 percent, according to the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

And production is likely to have increased further in the fourth quarter, when the figures are published next month.

The increase in output should start to boost employment, with at least some of the 33,000 employees and contractors laid off between 2014 and 2016 likely to be rehired.
So only some of the jobs lost since 2014 are likely to come back. And the uptick started at a time when nobody believed Trump could win, in July-September 2016.

Coal's low point wasn't due to Evil Hippie Obama forcing everyone at gunpoint to go solar:
Coal producers were hit by a perfect storm of warm weather and a huge oversupply of natural gas during 2015/16.

The three months between December 2015 and February 2016 were the warmest winter on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Electricity generation fell by 4 percent compared with the same period a year earlier as warm temperatures cut heating demand.

But natural gas production was more than 2 percent higher than the previous winter as a result of the shale revolution.
Then natural gas production dropped starting in the spring of 2016, and coal became more competitive in price in the summer of 2016 -- long before the election:
Natural gas production has been falling year-on-year since May 2016 and gas prices have been on an upward trend since March 2016.

Gas has become steadily more expensive than coal. The delivered cost of gas moved above coal in July 2016 and by January 2017 gas was almost twice as expensive.
So now there's a coal bump. But as The Washington Post's Steven Mufson has reported, coal's long-term prospect's aren't great, and even if there's a comeback for coal companies, many of the coal jobs aren't coming back:
Some coal companies will survive, and some could thrive. Metallurgical coal will be needed for steel both in India and China as well as in the United States, especially if there is a boost in infrastructure spending. And thermal coal will still be used to generate electricity for years, even if at lower rates.

But in order to show profits, they will have to trim output from the oldest, least efficient mines in Appalachia (where Trump garnered crucial votes in the election) and shift their focus to the Illinois Basin and the Powder River Basin in Wyoming.

Those big open pit mines need fewer workers - doing nothing to help Trump bring back jobs for "our great miners."

"A lot of people conflate two primary things: the coal industry and coal jobs," said Chiza B. Vitta, a coal analyst at Standard & Poor's. "Even if the coal industry were to do better, that doesn't translate into coal jobs. Over time the process has become more and more efficient and they're able to mine with fewer and fewer people working."
So expect to hear that coal is roaring back. It isn't. Expect to hear that Trump deserves the credit for all the job increases. He doesn't.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Take your tech and shove it!

This is where all the trouble began

Okay, before I begin, I need to confess.  More than a half century ago I turned in my press card and took a job in advertising. No excuses. I’m just telling it like it is. Or was.

My first advertising assignment was to write copy for IBM’s corporate campaign. The advertising was designed by my bosses — I swear this is the truth — to convince people that not only were computers incapable of thinking, but that they were also of incapable of taking jobs away. 

Don’t be afraid. It’ll flash
it’ll blink, but it won’t think.

Remember, this was back when a computer was a bunch of metal boxes that could nearly fill a banquet hall, and people were terrified of  those flashing, blinking, whirring “thinking machines.” I was instructed to tell people that computers would “electronically compare” millions of tiny bits of data and use this data to save lives and do other impossibly wonderful things for humanity, 

My first ever-published advertising headline said, “IBM computers don’t think, but they do help find rare blood to save a life.” (The ad had to do with computers browsing blood donor files to find, say, a pint of type AB Negative, so that an army of desperate clerks wouldn’t have to. Instead, I suppose, the clerks were free to anxiously wring their hands.)

Another of my ads revealed that “IBM computers don’t think, but they do help find lost ships at sea.” Yup, another info retrieval story. Notice, in both headlines — and in others that followed — computers never actually did anything. They just helped do the job, which was a task that still belonged to people. 

One ad even joyfully revealed that computers would “help make bank lines shorter,” a considerable benefit back when there was no such thing as automatic deposit or cash machines, and long payday bank lines could eat up an entire lunch hour. Alas, when I last went to a human-staffed teller window at my bank a few months ago, there was still a long line. But there were only two tellers in a bank that used to have over twenty  of them.

The other eighteen tellers? The copy used to say computers were freeing up people so they’d have more time to think. My guess is, they’re thinking, “How the hell am I going to find a new job?”

The TV spot that terrified
an ad agency biggie

Eventually, the campaign got on television and somebody, not I because I was too junior, was assigned to write a TV spot about computerized speech synthesis. (Hey Siri, did I spell “synthesis” right?) At any rate I was there when another proud copywriter unveiled his storyboard, which involved scientists staring at displays of wave forms on oscilloscope tubes, while other scientists spoke into microphones to generate the wave forms, while still other scientists studied how babies learn to speak. 

In the last few seconds,  somebody feeds a piece of film with nothing but a wave form on it into a computer, and the computer was supposed to cry, “Mama!”

The most senior account manager in the room was the first to try to murder the copywriter. “You crazy sonofabitch!” he yelled. “That’s going to scare the living crap out of people! Who hired this nincompoop?”

Needless to say, the commercial was never made, and the storyboard was buried in an unmarked grave.  

All this by way of bringing up a study reported on in an advertising trade journal called “Campaign,” under the headline, "IBM study finds most people are disappointed with digital brand experiences.”

Ya think?

IBM exec is shocked. Shocked!

You bet. In fact, “the results were ‘shocking,’” according to Robert Schwartz, Global Lead of Strategy and Design at IBM’s Interactive Experience Division.” I’ll pause for a moment in case you tried to say that name and title out loud and need to unclench your jaw and catch your breath. 

All set now?

Turns out — who’d-a thunk it? — that rather than spend half their lives pressing buttons or talking their way through phone trees to explain that the cable is out, and they’ve already unplugged the flippin’ cable box and then plugged it back in, and whatever else the machine tells freaked out people to do while they’re missing their favorite shows….turns out people would rather speak to a live human being.

Read between the lines and what you discover is that the “consumer experience” sucks whenever corporations throw people out of work and tell machines to answer the phone and deal with customers. 

Listen up, corporations. “Didn’t work as expected,” was the top reason “consumers are disappointed” with your damn habit of throwing people out of work and having machines answer the phone so that you can reduce your payroll. That’s quickly followed up by “Not convenient,” “Hard to use” and “Too confusing.”

Do the captains of America’s C-suites give a flying microchip? Not if the last incident with United Airlines is any indication. Corporations will try to get away with as much as they can, and let the customer get roasted in hell for eternity, as long as the company gets ever-increasing profits. 

Business doesn’t love you.
It loves profits. Period.

Industry will ignore you. It will have machines that can’t quite grasp your problem talk to you. It will beat the stuffing out of you on an airplane, or rip you off if you deposit at their bank, or chase you to the deep end of hell for the money you owe on your student loan….and the list goes on.

That’s why government regulation is so important, and why Donald Trump has done immeasurable damage to this nation — and continues to do it every time he underfunds, underpopulates, or undercuts a government regulatory agency.

Yes, we need capitalism. We also need vicious guard dogs. But both need to be kept on a tight leash.

Donald Trump, you see, is like a computer. He doesn’t think. But he does help destroy whatever used to be civil in civilization.


Over to you, Congress. Oh wait, I forgot.