Friday, August 26, 2016

Hillary's Speech on the Alt-Right

Yesterday Hillary gave what was, in The Omnivore's opinion, a ground breaking speech on the Alt-Right. It was notable for a few reasons:

  1. It flat out called her opponent racist. That is a first in modern politics. There have been implications and stuff from surrogates--but this was blunt and impossible to misconstrue.
  2. It referenced a portion of Trump's support--what she described as a "fringe group" but tarred the candidate on the whole with them. Rather than being sleight of hand, though, it was done because of the way the candidate has refused to repudiate them.
  3. Hillary spoke up, again, accurately, for former GOP nominees and (later in another interview) GWB. The force with which she did this was jaw-dropping.

Quick Link: If you don't know what the Alt-Right is, it's the new way of being racist and cloaking it in the language of science (biology, sociology, psychology). It also has a serious element of Internet trolling behind it--but is perhaps more, rather than less vicious for that.

What Did We Learn?

To The Omnivore, the big takeaway here is that things have gotten so bad that (a) Hillary can make a speech like that and the GOP has to be roundly silent which means that (b) the GOP is still not willing to take the blame for him. In this case, silence really is consent. 

Thought experiment: If Trump hadn’t been nominated and one of the young rising stars of the very broad GOP bench had gotten it, how would we all feel right now? We’d be feeling like it was a new day. We’d be the party with the young talent, fresh ideas, etc. If, say, Marco Rubio were the nominee, instead of Trump (who is currently softening his thoughts on immigration) – yes, we’d be facing the same hostility from the MSM but we should be used to that by now.
This is possibly true but it ignores the paradox that Trump got where he is, not because of the Democrats but because it isn't a new day for the GOP and Marco Rubio was, in fact, soundly rejected. Soundly. Rejected.

It's not a brand new day because in 2012 every humiliating candidate (including Bachmann and, for a time, Trump led in polling) got their time at the top of the race until none but Romney were left. That problem didn't get better: it got worse. It wasn't the Alt-Right that stood against Romney--it was just the GOP Base. The very significant part-of-the-party GOP Base.

The Omnivore thinks that the above thinking is, in fact, missing the point: Yes, another candidate might well be winning right now. Yes, some of the candidates running were of at least decent if not high ('high') quality--but it assumes that the goal of the nomination is to win the presidency whatever the platform.

It isn't.

If Trump were somehow winning right now would these posters be feeling like it was a brand new day?

The answer: is YES.

Everyone Loves a Winner

On Earth 'N,' right now in another reality, Trump is running against Hillary but the polling is reversed. The Democrats are in despair, the party is in chaos: How could we have nominated this woman?? Wouldn't Sanders have been better? Anyone?? Lincoln Chaffee??

In that world, and make no mistake, #NeverTrump has largely come around to him. To be sure, some wouldn't--but in this world, if Trump were looking like a sure thing? He'd have endorsements from people who won't now. He'd have money flowing in. He'd (probably) have field offices (why? Because if he was winning he'd have a lot of easier to use money and the in-fighting at his campaign HQ would be less severe--he'd be getting consistent good advice).

The reason the GOP didn't get a happier, sunnier candidate is because they were in no way a happier, sunnier party. Trump is their candidate and for the past 8 years, the party as a whole has been an incubator for the Alt-Right with the full knowledge of what it stood for. If you don't think this is true, numerous examples are trivial to find. These people were valued for their vote--their contribution to victory--and the conservative media that spoke to them was seen as an ally, not an enemy.

A Final Note

Just today, Erick Erickson holds that the conservative media, while responsible for Trump, was created by the Mainstream Media because they didn't take conservatives position. While there are a lot of things wrong with this (one being that over time, at least, the conservative movement's "positions" became further and further out there) the part he won't look at is this: Even if we take his assertion at face value, that Conservative Media was necessary because the Mainstream wouldn't tell their story, does he not see that the story that Conservative Media decided to tell, once it had a platform, was a fantasy about Secret Muslim Tyrants, Courageous Tea Party Revolutionaries, and, of course, the rise of the brown/black horde?

Were they required to tell those stories? Or did it turn out that once they had an audience, that was the kind of stories the Right Wing media wanted to tell?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Shooting Trump Directly Into the Vein

The Omnivore listened to a podcast with J.D. Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy, a book about his reflections on growing up in poor white, hillbilly America. The interview was fascinating--but his discussion of the Trump phenomena was truly insightful: he described Trump as a drug--a "needle in the vein" that made people feel better.

Coming from him, where he had lived explicitly with towns destroyed by literal addiction (heroin, opiates), this was especially powerful. He described conversations with his Trump-voting father (he is a conservative and has zero love for Hillary Clinton--but he cannot stand Trump).

In those conversations, he would tell his father that Trump couldn't do the things he was promising--could not fix the problems his father's community was having. His father agreed--but didn't care. At least Trump was talking about them. At least Trump, although he claims to be a billionaire, sounds like a Queens tough guy. He projects as "one of the common people" in ways Hillary--born into far more poverty than Trump--does not.

A Second Interaction

About the same time, The Omnivore was talking with a relative on Facebook about Trump. The Omnivore was taking him to task for posting fake news (various bogus celebrity endorsements of Trump, for example) and was asking why he kept promoting things that were clearly false (along with matters of opinion, heavily slanted news, and, periodically, actually real anti-Hillary facts).

His cousin told The Omnivore that it "gave him comfort" to post those things. He understood that Trump was unlikely to be elected and that even if he was, he couldn't do all the things he said--but he felt so hopeless about the political future that posting those things was a kind of self-care.

The Omnivore doesn't really have any problem with that (some of those things are offensive--such as the white supremacist rhetoric--but that's why you have block and ignore functions). When he heard Vance talking more explicitly about Trump as a feel-good drug a couple of days later, it really hit home.

Gonna Have To Face It, You're Addicted To Trump

It has been noted through various mega-studies that Trump voters are not so much worse off as pessimistic. They tend to do a bit better than their peers in their neighborhoods (although: another predictor is this--the more diverse your neighborhood, the more likely you are to vote Trump) but they are anxious for the future and their children.

If Trump is a drug, what kind of drug is he?

The Mellow Kind?

For The Omnivore's cousin, there is a case to be made that Trump is the mellow kind of drug. The Omnivore's cousin is a Latino--a minority (although, living in South Florida, he's not that much of a minority). He's also quite well employed and highly educated: whatever problems he's having, the loss of manufacturing jobs aren't ruining his life.

So maybe for him Trump isn't a thumb in the eye of minorities--maybe he just sounds like the kind of hope one feels buying a lottery ticket? Sure, he might not pan out--but at least he's license to dream.

The PCP Kind.

Unfortunately, The Omnivore doesn't think this holds up. Trump's appeal, it appears, is implicitly aggressive. The same way that Trump paints himself as a counter-puncher, but opened his campaign with some frankly shocking words about Mexicans, to The Omnivore it seems that Trump inhabits a position on the Alt-Right (which is just a politically correct term for 'white supremacist') that provides enough "air cover" to give people who want to lash out their venue.

The things that The Omnivore's cousin was posting were not about how Great America Will Be Again--they were about how bad it is now. The culprits were usually black people, Hillary, or Obama (a second black person). The tone of these was, indeed, aggressive.

The Omnivore has noted that the conservative movement, such as it is, has degenerated into a con-game where outrage is used to raise money and that money is used to raise more money. It now looks from Trump's financial filings like he may be following in Carson's footprints along the same path. The Omnivore doesn't think the trail leads anywhere healthy.

Some Final Thoughts

Breitbart, the home of the guy now running Trump's campaign, is super-aggressive. It's what Fox News used to be. It's raw, it's angry. It isn't dumb. It isn't so deep in conspiracy theory that it can't hold a position as an actual news outlet--but it is very, very slanted and very, very angry.

After 2012, disgruntled Republicans, coming off a bitter (and unexpected) second loss, talked of Letting It Burn--that would be letting America burn--as the consequence of a second Obama election. No longer would they heroically try to save America--it was past that. It turned out that what they burned first was the Republican party and, looking, for now at least, like they will fail to win a general election (which is not unsurprising with The Human Torch as your candidate) they will do what they can to burn the electoral process itself.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The WTF Phase of the Election

It is very hard to know what to believe right now: All the available evidence shows the Trump campaign crashing like an Ebola patient whose treatment is limited to huffing glue. He's running next to no ads. He's fighting with the RNC. Seemingly dedicated to staying at the top of the news cycle every day, he consumes oxygen from newly released Clinton scandals by creating his own.

What are we to think?

  1. He's delusional. He isn't listening to anyone and it has caught up with him in a big way.
  2. He's got a plan. There are rumors and conspiracy theories of secret voters, skewed polls, and Hillary health scares. Maybe the FBI will break her on the Clinton Foundation? Maybe Wikileaks has the buried bodies? 
  3. He doesn't want to be president. There are rumors this thing got away from him and now he's intentionally planning to bail on it.
  4. He's a plant. His intent is to do as much long-term damage to the GOP as possible. Maybe because his golf-buddy Bill Clinton put him up to it?

The Evidence

There really isn't good evidence of any of these. Considering that Trump could be a Russian stooge and Wikileaks could well be a Russian front, maybe that winds up the best--but even in the event of Hillary dying or going to jail, the way Trump is running right now he might get beat by Tim Kaine. He'd almost definitely get beat by Joe Biden. It's not like minorities or women, now horrified with Trump would switch over to him because of a money-laundering scandal.

The idea that he's delusional--that he can't or won't change--is somewhat credible. He's said as much and he may have decided that if he can fill a gigantic stadium anywhere he goes, he can fill the voting booths. It's also not impossible that face, daily, with giant, passionate crowds, he just doesn't believe he's losing. Humans are prone to large-number errors . . .  so maybe?

The idea that he's a saboteur is crazy. We know he could pull of becoming a crazy-ass nominee of the GOP because he did--but to have that as your plan isn't possible. Simply put, the most this could be true is Trump saying "Hey, Bill, remember the birther thing I did in '12? Haha! That was a blast. I wonder if I could do that again with like . . . Mexicans, or something." 

Bill, takes a hit of the doobie he's smoking and says "Yeah. Those were good times. But why's it gotta be Mexicans?"

Trump, waiting for him to hand it over, says "GOP. Man. The fucking GOP."

If Trump really wanted to lose he wouldn't do it like this. He'd have folded for Cruz. Trump, from what we know of him, does NOT like losing. He's a winner--who wants to win.

What Now?

Things are happening so fast that The Omnivore hasn't been able to focus on just one thing. Today the first Florida polls came out that showed Hillary up by 5. If that's true, that's the ball-game. Right there (electorally speaking, there's still Wikileaks). This trend has finally had the damage sink in.

The Omnivore doesn't like to make predictions--but one thing seems clear: the pivot that Trump has telegraphed--to becoming a serious candidate--doesn't seem likely.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Crimes of Hillary (Part 1)

Trump only 'talks awful'—Hillary actually 'does awful'

A somewhat lengthy piece in The Observer (the paper owned by Trump's son-in-law) makes the case that while Trump says stupid things Hillary does criminal things. This kind of analysis is always fascinating to The Omnivore: what gets brought up first, second, third? Does the list include the murder of Vince Foster? Is any evidence litigated in the claim--or just talking points?

Let's look.

First: A Note on 'Conspiracy Theory'

The Omnivore holds that Conspiracy-Theory Thinking is one of the most toxic ingredients in the toxic soup of today's partisan, polarized politics. CTT is marked by individuals holding beliefs that (a) are generally verifiable and (b) have been debunked by people on their "own side." The hallmark of CTT is that when trying to defend a particular belief the holder has to resort to what 'they know' or what 'people say'--where "people" are sources that don't acknowledge the facts that both sides agree on.

The Observer is, despite being owned by Trump's son-in-law (and one of the 4 serious newspapers to endorse The Donald), a reasonably sober affair. Is this article a victim of CTT? We'll see.

Charge 1: Lying About Benghazi

The first thing that author Austin Bay gets into is the comparison / charge that while Trump's response to Khan was poor, Clinton's response to the Benghazi parents was far, far worse. She lied to the parents of the slain, blaming a video instead of a planned attack. When asked to comment on the RNC's speaker, one of the mothers of the dead, Clinton, after the boilerplate respect for her son's service, said:
She’s absolutely wrong. I and everybody in the administration, all the people she named, the president, the vice president, Susan Rice, we were scrambling to get information that was changing literally by the hour, and when we had information, we made it public. But then sometimes we had to go back and say we have new information that contradicts it.
Emails have shown that Hillary attributed the attack to a planned assault by actual terrorists.

Putting aside the fact that (a) not all Benghazi parents recall hearing the same thing and (b) there was some contradictory evidence about what motivated the attack (one of the Benghazi planners, for example, blamed the video in an interview he gave while still free), let us assume that Clinton did, in fact, tell the parents that a video was responsible instead of a planned strike--which they knew to be the case.

That would be a lie about "why their son(s) were killed."

Why lie? The reasoning is that it was an election year, the attack, if proven to be enabled by negligence on the part of the President (or, later, the Secretary of State who would run for president) would damage their case for re-election. By spinning the story of the attack as an impromptu provocation which no one could have seen coming, they would mitigate the blame.

Were this proven to be the case, it would make Hillary a liar. Liars are morally in the wrong.

Problem 1: Everybody Lies

Anyone who has watched the House TV show knows that everyone--and most of all politicians--lie all the time. Trump changes his story rapidly--sometimes within the same sentence. Bernie Sanders has been fact-checked spinning statements to their, erm, most favorable presentations. Ted Cruz said things about Donald Trump he obviously didn't believe (so did Marco Rubio). If lying is your red-line for supporting a candidate, you're out of luck.

Maybe Gary Johnson. Just don't ask him if he has a reasonable chance to win the presidency: He'll have to lie.

Problem 2: The Benghazi Conspiracies

No, the problem isn't the lying. That's the cover-story for Benghazi. The issue under the "lying" is (a) anger that the administration didn't fall on its sword in an election year and (b) that the group of people who care about Benghazi have been given a whole raft of things to believe that are not so. In the Benghazi constellation of conspiracy:
  1. Clinton ordered a stand-down on a rescue attempt, condemning the people to die.
  2. Clinton denied extra-protection that the consulate was begging for.
  3. Clinton's state department was doing something illicit there (running weapons to what would become ISIS in Syria) and has done lots of illegal things to cover that up.
The problem with these is that there have been at least 8 congressional inquiries into Benghazi and no evidence for these theories has been found. In fact, Kevin McCarthy put the investigation in context with Hillary's chance of winning an election. The theory that the entire persecution of Benghazi is political is overblown--but it actually has more merit than the theories that actually drive it.

Charge 2: Emails

The author points out, correctly, that Hillary lied about what FBI Director Comey said about her emails. She claimed in an interview that he backed her on her story. He didn't. He called her extremely careless with emails and pointed out that several of her claims (no classified intel, use of one device, etc.) were false.

He asserts that there is a national security question that the press is letting Hillary skate on.

Problem 1: Everybody Lies

The issue of what Hillary did with her emails is now an after-thought here: what he's really upset about is Hillary lying by asserting that Comey cleared her. While it would make the RNC's job easier if she fell on her sword and exited the race, it's not reasonable to expect her to do so. Was she baldfaced about it? Yes she was. Should that hurt her? It already has: most people think Hillary is pretty elastic with the truth. That's baked in to her numbers.

Problem 2: She WAS Cleared

If sending one classified email to an insecure server was a go-to-jail crime, other secretaries of state would be jailed. It isn't. Hillary did run her own server--something other Sec of States didn't do--but that, by itself, isn't a crime (and, notably, she had something like 113 classified emails out of more than 60k and very few (if any?) had classified markings in the header).

In other words, the actual criminal threshold--any email on any non-governmental system--either does apply to a lot of other people--or is just being applied to Hillary. It turns out? It didn't apply to Colin Powell and it didn't apply to Hillary either.

Comey scolded the hell out of her for her email use--but that was it. He found there wasn't reasonable cause for charges and didn't recommend them. Comey has zero problem speaking truth to power. He was considered a stand-up guy--heroic--by the right--until he did what he felt was best and not what they felt was best.

Problem 3: The Email Conspiracies

Of course if you ask people they will tell you that the reason Hillary had a private server was so that she could do all her illegal shit outside of the prying eyes of the government. In other words, the problem isn't what we--and Comey--saw: it's what we didn't see (because she deleted the emails and then wiped the server down with a cloth). The obvious problem with this is that Comey did investigate and find a bunch of emails. Including recovering deleted emails. The Omnivore remembers the toasting on conservative twitter when this came out: it was expected to make the wheels come off the Hillary campaign.

It didn't--there was no 'there' there. The classified emails we know about were a whole lot of nothing. There were no emails showing illegal operations whatsoever. 

Charge 3: A Compliant Liberal Press

After dusting off Benghazi and hitting on Email-Gate, Austin Bay gets to the meat of his complaint: a liberal media that aids and abets  Hillary's lying. He points out, correctly, The Omnivore thinks, that most reporters are Democrats. He claims that this is the cause of the media focusing on Khan and not on the Benghazi mom--or giving Hillary a pass on the emails.

This will never be satisfactorily resolved for either side--a case can be made that Hillary has received the most negative coverage--but whatever the (various) facts of the matter, it is certainly true that "The Media" has not been telling the Republican side of the story for a while. Whether this is because the Republican side of the story is bullshit is up to the viewer.

Some Real Talk

Hillary has certainly lied. She has lied a lot. She has lied boldly. She has also told the truth--by some measures more than anyone else in the campaign. For Republicans reading this, it will be hard to remember that before she was a candidate she was broadly popular--a very high both-sides favorability rating and commonly picked as the most admired woman in the world for a record 20 year stretch. That seems impossible to believe now--but it's true. One of those inconvenient facts.

Keep in mind as well that that favorable rating came while Obama was in office--people were familiar with her.

When it was clear that she was running there was actual panic among the GOP. Remember that Kevin McCarthy bragged to Hannity that "Everyone said Hillary was unbeatable"--but then the Benghazi hearings. That was actually true: Hillary wasn't the candidate that anyone could beat. She was a super-candidate that united the party and drew big-money donors.

That changed with her announcement--but her 20 years in politics history hadn't changed--only the realization that she would follow Obama if she won. Those are facts. Here's another: The Clinton Foundation took money from a lot of bad regimes--a lot of bad people--and there are allegations that (a) it stole it and (b) that those people bought influence.

The Omnivore is pretty sure that people tried to buy influence with the money--but that's a hypothesis. It holds less water than the idea that Trump's position on Putin was set by Manafort (who has worked for Putin's regime). Both have connections--neither has absolute tangible proof.

In the end, you believe what you want to believe--but what you can prove? That's a very, very different matter.

Thursday, August 4, 2016


Twitter is . . . a-twit . . . with the latest poll numbers showing a Trump tumble in the polls. For example:
At least this is focused on state-polling. Before we go deeper, let's look at the top-level facts.

  1. There are four states that matter right now: FL, OH, PA, and NC. Trump really, really wants to win the first three and hold the fourth. 
  2. PA Polling (-11) isn't good--but turn-out models matter (and we won't know the real mix of turn-out until election day). PA has had a surge in R voter registrations which may or may not be reflected in the specific polls.
  3. The national polling numbers get a lot of play--but until the state polls reflect the trends, they don't mean so much. Right now we could could be looking at a re-alignment--or just a convention bump that will diminish over August.

That Said

Getting hammered in the polls certainly isn't good for Trump. For one thing, he's made his polling a centerpiece of the argument for him. For another, the specifics of the polls--that he should stop fighting with the Khans, for example--do make it look like his mouth is getting him into trouble. The Omnivore wants to look at this:
This is the "Median Electoral Vote Estimator" from the Princeton Election Consortium (PEC). It uses a specific methodology to generate a very accurate (historically) estimate what what will happen. The Omnivore calls your attention to three points:

  1. The horizontal red line is the Clinton-Wins line. As you can see all the days of aggregation fall above it. The black line is the computed median Electoral Vote--right now every day has Clinton winning. The standard deviation for all the polls is the gray zone within 95% chance. There's like a handful of days thus far that Trump had a chance. A small chance.
  2. The red and yellow "strike zones" are estimations of how far the Median EV count could move between now and the election. The 'elasticity' of the Median EV count is based in prior history of this election and prior elections. The red and yellow lines show 95% probability. So right now there's like an 80% chance of Clinton winning based on what we know--of course for her to lose, things need to trend in Trump's favor--but that could still happen.
  3. The black line is pretty stable. This calculation uses state-polling only. As such, it only reflects substantial changes across multiple key states--big swings in national polls don't show up at all. Buy this metric, the election fundamentals has yet to change much.
It is worth noting that the highly regarded Larry Sabato group has much the same concept and, also, has not changed as much as today's headlines would have you believe:

In our view, it is much more fruitful to focus on the electoral fundamentals and fixed elements of politics that predetermine most votes, especially partisanship, demographics, and strong forces shaping the political landscape. Polarization in this hyper-partisan era means that practically nine of 10 voters are committed, and the unknown is whether they can be motivated to cast a ballot. Presidential job approval, the state of the economy, war and peace, and a few other items reinforce partisanship and turnout, and influence the few truly swingable votes among hard independents.
They also note that big swings, in an era of almost no one taking polls,  may be due to a change in partisan response rates. In other words, if you are a Trump supporter and Trump's news is in the toilet and you get a call from a pesky pollster, you just hang up. If Hillary is "doing great" on Cable TV, you're smugly thrilled to answer the questions--and vice-versa.

This, if entirely true, means that elections are like a couple billion-dollar waste of money.

NOTE: We know this is not entirely true--there are surveys that keep the same group of people throughout an election and track their movement over time. These do show changes in candidate choice to, at least, some degree.

What This Means for Trump-watch

The key to seeing a categorical collapse of Trump would need to (a) appear in state voting (specifically those four key states) and (b) show movement at the top of--or preferably outside of--the normal EV-elasticity range. Secondly, it will probably need to show evidence to / after Labor Day (August is considered a dead-zone in electoral politics).

If we see that then, The Omnivore asserts that people will start thinking of their own political futures in terms of how much longer to "ride the Trump Train." Also keep an eye on on finger-pointing. If internal accusations reach the level of the press (finger pointing at people other than Trump from otherwise stalwart supporters) then it means that exits are being prepared.

We probably have 3 weeks of this before we get to a real "death-watch" condition.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Khantroversy

The story is not so much that Donald Trump is being rebuked for his comments about Kazir Khan but that (a) he had almost no reason to go after Khan in the first place and (b) he keeps doing it for no strategically apparent reason. For a DNC nominee's speech whose main case against Trump was that he was easily baited, he seems to be doing everything in his power to prove her right.

A few points of order:

  1. Kazir Khan's speech was not during prime time. The original viewers were probably few.
  2. A simple acknowledgement of his sacrifice and a statement of disagreement would have ended the controversy. Sure, Khan might have still been around but he wouldn't be dominating the news.
  3. Defenders of Trump pointed out that Khan struck first--but what actually happened was that Mr. Khan upbraided Trump and then Trump impugned the silent Mrs. Khan. The "He started it" defense only makes sense if Mrs. Khan is seen by Trump-supporters are merely an extension of Mr. Khan. Sad!

The Red Line That Is Easily Crossed

A bunch of GOP politicians have come out and said that Trump's language is (in some sense) unacceptable. Ryan has said that Trump does not represent the party: but Mr. Trump is the nominee for President and Ryan is still advocating voting for him in November. Essentially the condemnations from other Republican leaders are "Obama Red Lines" that, when crossed, get nothing but harsh language.

Of course what are they going to do? Sink the nominee? If Trump wins in November, being against him would meaning being either immediately or quickly out of office. If he loses badly, being against him puts you in the position of being blamed for the next 20 years of SCOTUS. It's a rock and a hard place.

Was Mr. Khan Being Used?

There are several basic pro-Trump responses to the wrath of Mr. Khan. These are:
  1. Khan was tricked into supporting Hillary. In this view the DNC found Mr. Khan and bamboozled him into smearing Trump. There is no evidence for this and it doesn't hold up with Mr. Khan speaking without notes of any sort.
  2. How Could He Defend The Killer of Benghazi?? At least two responses have either Gold Star families or active service members attacking Mr. Khan because of Hillary's role in Benghazi. Of course more than seven Congressional inquiries found her not to be at fault--but when has that ever stopped anyone?
  3. Mr. Khan is a Radical Muslim Plant--Or Something. There are a variety of smear-jobs going around claiming that Mr. Khan is in the tank for Hillary because he's sympathetic to terrorists. These seem about as credible as The Onion.
  4. He's a Useful Idiot. In this view, Mr. Khan is upset--rightfully so about his son being killed--but has gotten the wrong idea about Trump and, while he really believes Trump is a racist, he is simply being trotted out thanks to the DNC's scheming brilliance. He wasn't tricked--he's just "useful."
It is worth noting that the RNC had their own Survivor Mom on stage blaming Hillary for Benghazi and lying about the cause of it. They weren't above using families of the fallen--they just didn't do it quite as well (or the Media didn't let them).

So was he a pawn?

The evidence says "no." He's an articulate lawyer. He prepared his own remarks. He apparently does have a former relationship with DNC--but it is not clear it goes back before Trump. He also seems to have continued to be involved in the military well after the death of his son. In other words, he's the real deal.

The argument that Mr. Khan is wrong hinges on Trump being misunderstood about his take on Muslims. The idea is that if you take Trump perfectly literally he hasn't said anything bad about them at all--just that there are terrorists and we need to protect ourselves.

That may be true--but it is notable that about half of the defense of Mr. Trump is on the basis that he spoke carelessly. In other words, you can't have it both ways--if his tone and tenor seems to be anti-Muslim (and it does) then you can't defend him on the literal limits of his words without opening him up to even more devastating lines of attack.

Trump doesn't seem to hold Mexicans or Muslims in high regard in general: to suggest that he is carefully parsing his words on this doesn't fit with anything else Trump has said.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Phony World Of The Era of Trump

The Omnivore's experience on social media has been remarkably peaceful. Maybe even cloistered. With a FB feed that had mostly friend-friends (and was used mostly to publish Omnivore posts) and a Twitter account that followed a lot of people--but rarely got into the fray--it was without much drama.

Trump changed that.

The Omnivore's FB feed filled up with a few people posting "Conservative Memes and News" from a variety of sites that contained data ranging from complete falsehoods to heavily biased articles with a grain or two of real truth. Some of these were just opinion pieces (LIKE If You Hate Hillary) but others were out and out lies.

The Omnivore was amazed: do they really believe these things? If so, it would explain a lot. Or are they just passively aggressively spamming social media with bullshit because it signals they're "part of the tribe?" Are they trolling? The Omnivore wasn't sure.

The Bet: Two Points On A Line

Fortunately, The Omnivore knew how to find out. A wager is the proper response to someone taking an absurdly stupid (if provable) position. For one FB friend, when he posted racial crime data that was made up by a white supremacist (and re-tweeted by Donald Trump), The Omnivore challenged him: if you can prove those stats are real to The Omnivore's satisfaction, he'll vote Trump in November.

But if he can prove it's faked to the poster's satisfaction, they have to vote for anyone but Trump. This would all be proven with a quasi-legal "Ballot Selfie" showing the person and their marked ballot.

If nothing could be proven to anyone's satisfaction, it would be a "push." Nothing happens.

This is about the safest bet you could ever take--you have to be convinced you propagated a lie to lose. If it's inconclusive? No harm.

But the guy wouldn't take the bet. He'd challenge me to "prove him wrong"--but he wouldn't put anything on the line. He'd point to some other stuff he posted and claim it was "the same" (it wasn't) and therefore I'd "already lost" (the other stuff was FBI stats used to miss the point of Black Lives Matter). He's shift the goal-posts.

But he wouldn't bet.

The other FB friend posted a lot of this stuff. He clearly had it in for Hillary and Obama. When The Omnivore asked him, fundamentally, why he didn't like Obama, he copy-pasted a wall of text that accused Obama of issuing a slew of Executive Orders that let him take over America.

These were actually EO's issued by John F. Kennedy and they were around planning and such in the case of a nuclear attack--but this guy's go-to reason to dislike Obama was based on pure fiction. Obama hadn't issued them--they'd been around for decades.

When The Omnivore asked him if he believed this, he gave The Omnivore a link to the White House's web page and said it was all there. When The Omnivore told him it wasn't, he claimed it was.

So . . . The Omnivore bet him. Same bet. He'd have to be satisfied he'd told a lie.

He wouldn't take it. He wouldn't even answer after a while (this is a guy who had no problem pushing for answers to his questions).

Point Three: Twitter

Today on Twitter, The Omnivore accidentally wound up in a conversation with a Trump voter. The Trump voter had posted this:

US Spartan (a name that would become ironic later) was asserting that Saul Alinsky, the boogeyman community organizer of the right, had written a plan that Obama and Hillary were now following. The piece is full of anachronisms (Healthcare as a focal point, for example) and exists nowhere but that meme--but it's a good way to try to connect Hillary and Obama to an attempt to overthrow America.

Did The American Spartan believe this? The Omnivore offered a bet. These are some excerpts.

In the end, he "muted" The Omnivore and his friend blocked The Omnivore. The Omnivore is pretty sure that's not what a Spartan would have done (and not what someone who was bragging about crybabies blocking him either).

What's Going On Here?

When the Mainstream Media refused to grant the Republicans the narrative spin they wanted, they declared the Mainstream Media to be liars. Their base took it literally, believing that only conservative news sources could be trusted for anything. This lack of faith in fact-checking, authoritative records, or journalistic technique leads to a sense that all things are basically "equally true."

The Omnivore concludes that for these Republicans the world looks like a place full of lies. Nothing can be known for sure--everything is up for grabs. If I had shown SamSparta8 the page on the fake Alinsky quotes he would have just said it was liberal lies. If I'd pointed out that stuff like the Healthcare line doesn't make sense for the 1960's, he'd have no sense of history.

This is a guy for whom memes are facts--or, if not 'facts' at least close enough that he feels okay sending them out there.

But he knows, deep down, it isn't true. When cornered he ran--not much of a Spartan after all. Perhaps he knows that he can't tell? Or that when he does look closely he turns out to be wrong? The Omnivore isn't sure.