24 August 2016

Don't get complacent!

"If we are not running scared until the day after the election, we are going to be making a grave mistake." -- President Obama

At the moment Hillary looks well positioned to beat Trump in a landslide.  As I write this, the RCP average shows her leading 41.6% to 37.3%  The latest poll in Virginia has her ahead 48% to 32%, a huge margin for what is still considered a swing state.  A new poll from South Carolina once again puts her a mere two points behind him.  Today's map on Electoral-Vote.com has her leading 343-195.  Rank-and-file Republicans are back to peering suspiciously into details of polls looking for things to "unskew" like in 2012.  This election may be a bigger blowout than 1964.  I believe it will be.  But Obama is right, for three reasons.

First, most of these polls that show Hillary well ahead also show high levels of support for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate.  He's at 8.9% in that RCP average, for example.  It's clear to anyone who follows Republican sites that most of Johnson's support consists of disaffected Republicans who just can't bring themselves to vote for their party's nominee.  But, the common pattern is that support for third candidates tends to fade as the actual election approaches and the reality sinks in that only the Big Two have a real chance, and the only thing that matters is which one of them wins.  If that pattern plays out again this year and most of Johnson's support comes home to Trump in the end, the race will become a lot scarier.  Hillary's RCP average lead over Trump in those four-candidate polls is only 4.6%, for example.  If most of Johnson's support migrates to Trump, he leads.  The same average in Ohio has Hillary's lead at a comfortable 4% -- but Johnson is at 9%.  In several other states, if Johnson's numbers are mostly added to Trump's, he takes the lead or gets within striking distance.

Yes, some of Jill Stein's voters are likely to move to Hillary in the same way, but they are far less numerous and thus less of a factor.  And yes, many argue that Trump is so uniquely repulsive that the NeverTrump Republicans will break the historic pattern and not return to him as the election nears.  I agree with that.  I think it's true.  But we can't count on it.

In many cases, polls of just the two main candidates show Hillary with a bigger lead than four-way polls.  I'm not sure what to make of this, but even those polls tend to show an unusually large number of undecideds.  It's plausible that many of those are NeverTrumps who dislike both candidates but in the end will decide they dislike their own party's candidate a little less.

The second reason is the possibility of some extraneous factor reshaping the race.  Putin clearly prefers Trump, for obvious reasons, and Russian intelligence has already made one crude effort to influence the race with its hacked-e-mail dump on the first day of our convention.  Another such attempt is quite possible.

But the scarier possibility along these lines is Dâ'ish (ISIL).  They have every reason to prefer a Trump Presidency.  His anti-Muslim rhetoric and likely actions would radicalize millions of Muslims against the West, to the benefit of groups like Dâ'ish.  His confused and incompetent foreign policy would make a hash of the network of explicit and tacit alliances which is now grinding Dâ'ish down on the ground and from the air.  And the way the war is now going, Dâ'ish is doomed.  Once their phony "state" is swept away, they face nothing but the prospect of being hunted down and killed by angry relatives of their victims and by Iraqi and Syrian internal-security forces.  They've got nothing to lose by rolling the dice.  If they think a major terrorist attack on US soil -- something big enough to one-up even September 11 -- could stampede frightened Americans into voting for Trump, they'll try it.

The third reason is, of course, the sheer magnitude of what's at stake.  If this utterly ignorant, erratic, belligerent man becomes Commander in Chief of the vast US military, the mortal danger to millions upon millions of innocent lives around the world is obvious.  Within the US, his vindictive nature and obsession with personal feuds would be armed with the powers of the Presidency, enabling him to torment and destroy anyone he bears a grudge against.  His promised policies would lead to trade wars, an economic crash, persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, and global isolation of our country.  Romney or McCain or even Bush did not present a threat remotely comparable to this.  Trump would be the most unfit leader of a superpower since Caligula.

Are you "running scared" yet?  I hope so.  We need to do everything possible to make sure this scenario doesn't materialize.  No matter how secure they seem, fight for every state and every seat as if we could lose.  We can't afford to do less.

21 August 2016

Link round-up for 21 August 2016

This dinner party should be interesting.

What's wrong with two German hockey players standing next to each other?

That's a big turtle.

Check it out -- our own Fab Four.

Maybe Joan of Arc really did hear voices.

Yes, it's a river -- under water.

Here's how we once imagined aliens.

How many Republicans does it take to change a light bulb?  And how would libertarians manage our highways?  Seriously, they really are nutbars.

This is what we're being asked to respect.  Oh, and this too.

Cartoonist Kate Allan describes how abandoning religion liberated her.

Here's how to make Google forget stuff about you (found via TYWKIWDBI).  Disclaimer:  I have not tried this myself.

"Because there isn't anything else to be."

On the eve of Hillary's election, the Christian Right reminds us that women aren't supposed to be leaders.

Least surprising scientific finding ever:  people who dislike atheists tend to be unintelligent.

Satanism comes out of the closet in Alaska.

Facebook is stupid.

Social trends among black and Latino youth have improved astoundingly compared to the 1990s, but another group is going backward.

Marilyn Monroe was more than just a pretty face.

Here's the truth about Aetna's withdrawal from Obamacare.

If you screw up a miracle, just blame the victim.

These are the biggest thieves in the US.

Here are 35 quotes from the founding fathers guaranteed to annoy wingnuts (found via Hal Barbour).

Yes, this kind of shit still happens.

Shades of Jack Chick?  Fundies are handing out creepy comic books across the US (found via Republic of Gilead).

The "Tea Party" was a scam -- and now it's dead.

Christie once did Trump a very expensive favor.

Religious nutballs are on the warpath against free expression again.

The fruits of faith -- forced marriage and three years of rape.

101955 Bennu just might cause a shitload of trouble 159 years from now (found via Lady, That's My Skull).

Young at heart?  The Earth's center is two years younger than the surface (found via TYWKIWDBI).

July 2016 was the hottest month on record.

Venus might have been habitable -- almost three billion years ago.

Robots will steal your job, but we can prepare (found via Ranch Chimp).

How many of these scientists do you know?

I am 55.  This is true.

Behold your roosting chickens (found via Dead Logic).

This person exists.

Rubio and Trump are no friends of gays.

Looks like Booman foresaw the election pretty well.

Here's what happened when an Indian-American tried to attend a Trump rally.

A lot of Republicans know they're in trouble.  The intra-wingnut warfare continues.  Trump is demoralized and lashing out.

Bernie's influence increases the grounds for optimism about Hillary's administration.

There's a good reason why Trump is ignoring the Olympics.

This guy should not be Governor of New York.

Here's some background on "the alt-right", the world of Trump's new henchman Steve Bannon.

In some states, ballot initiatives could shape the election.  Here are nine states that could deliver surprises.

Look how desperate this wingnut is to believe a Trump-friendly but obviously fake poll.

19 August 2016

From bad to worse, with better to come

The much-ballyhooed reshuffle of Trump's campaign -- bringing Breitbart.com's Stephen Bannon aboard as chief engineer of the Trump Train Wreck in place of Paul Manafort -- does not foreshadow a kinder, gentler, less-rabid candidacy.  Quite the contrary.  Trump has been chafing at demands that he "pivot" toward some minimal standard of civility and sanity for the general election.  Even by wingnut standards, Breitbart.com caters to a pretty out-there crowd, and has long been in the tank for Trump.  It's a marriage made in Hell.  Mainstream Republicans are aghast at Bannon's elevation, fearing it means the campaign will become even more extremist and vitriolic, and even more willing to lash out at less-deranged elements within the party.  Trump drew praise for a relatively-sane-sounding speech yesterday, but it may well prove to be a deceptive moment of calm before the storm returns with redoubled fury.

If so, it will strengthen the hand of those on the right who are calling for the party to write Trump off and redirect its financial support to down-ballot campaigns that still may be salvageable.  At the very least, it will mean more anger among old-line Republicans against the Trumpanzees after the magnitude of the election-day disaster has sunk in.  The pieces are falling into place for a post-election wingnut Dolchstoßlegende and civil war.

Jeff Greenfield observed yesterday that the Bannon hire is the culmination of a years-long right-wing strategy of demonizing and delegitimizing opponents, and predicted that Hillary as President will face more of the same histrionic obstructionism that has dogged Obama.  It's impossible to disagree with his description of how the wingnuts have behaved, but the problem with this kind of strategy is that its direction is hard to control.  Different factions within the right are demonizing and delegitimizing each other.  The counterrevolution devours its monstrous children.  Just watch them turn on each other with all-out fury after Hillary's landslide win in November.

Greenfield's piece is frightening, but remember this:  there's more of us than there is of them, and their hateful antics always end up alienating people outside their core constituencies.  Popular support for gay marriage has grown to a solid majority during the very period that the Christian Right went all-in to fight against it.  Obama's approval rating has risen during the last year as Trump came to personify the Republican alternative.  Many Americans have long viewed Muslims with suspicion, but after Khizr Khan gave this unpopular minority a human face, Trump's attack provoked a backlash which is defanging yet another wingnut bogeyman.  Yes, these people are scary, but they keep losing, largely because they're scary.  Once they start fighting among themselves in earnest, it's all over.

= = = = = = = = =

Today marks ten years that I've been doing this blog.  It's hard to believe it's lasted this long, but it's now even harder to imagine not doing it -- so I guess it will be around as long as I am, or until future technological advances replace blogging with some new medium as unimaginable now as blogging was a couple of decades ago.

On that note, one of my favorite videos, reflecting my sense of exuberance at how far we've come and what lies ahead:

16 August 2016

Post-Republican politics

The US needs a healthy two-party system.  We can't have one until we get rid of the Republicans. To suggest, as I did last week, that the Republican party might self-destruct in the wake of a massive defeat this November, raises the question of what would follow.

First off, when I say "self-destruct" I obviously don't mean that current Republican voters will all evaporate or become liberals.  What I mean is that the coalition making up the Republican party will become so fragmented, while its various groups continue to decline as a percentage of the population, that it ceases to be an effective political force.  A post-election explosion of recriminations between pro-Trump and anti-Trump Republicans, with each group trying to "purge" the other out of the party (as they are already threatening to do), will sharpen other conflicts which don't map onto the divide over Trump in any simple way.  The libertarians have a lot of differences with the flaming religious nutballs over issues like gays and marijuana.  The Deliverance-mutant Confederate-flag racists and the wealthier suburban element that votes Republican as a pocketbook issue don't much like each other either.  There's some overlap among these groups, but the conflicts are real.  Historically they've stuck together because each group knows it can't win national elections without the others.  What's changed with the Trump fiasco is that some groups are starting to define others as a liability they can no longer afford, because keeping them within the tent does more harm than good to the goal of winning.

It's easy to imagine the libertarian Republicans decamping to a Libertarian party that shifted more moderate to accommodate them, and/or the fundies shifting to the Constitution party or trying to set up a new party, if either or both of them lost the battle for control of the Republican party itself.  I don't know exactly what configuration will emerge.  What I see is a breakdown into several mutually-hostile groups (one of which will be the much-shrunken original Republican party), each one too small to compete with the Democrats nationally, perhaps in some cases becoming regional parties -- the fundies in the South, say, and the Libertarians in the inland west.  (They won't, of course, be intending to produce this result.  Each subgroup will imagine that it has the chance of becoming a new major party if it can just break free of the others.)  If this scenario happens, then in national politics the US will temporarily become a one-party state.

I say "temporarily" because, as we well know, there is a major division within the Democratic party as well, one which our recent primary brought sharply into view.  The party has what might be called the centrist, pro-business wing exemplified by the Clintons and Obama, and a more explicitly socialist, redistributionist wing represented by people like Sanders and Warren.  The two are held together, for now, by fear of the deranged Republicans -- polls show most Bernie supporters voting for Hillary, however reluctantly, and the same unification would have happened if Bernie had won the nomination.

But if the Republican party breaks up and is no longer a threat, I could see these two wings pulling apart and eventually becoming two separate parties -- call them the Centrists and Socialists (though obviously those won't be the actual names) -- and thus restoring a two-party system.  The Centrists would likely absorb some of the saner Republican voters and donors -- those who want a business-friendly environment but aren't very interested in bashing gays and abortion or in the ideological-purist craziness of the big-L Libertarians.  The Socialists, if they play it right, could attract some of the angry left-behind white voters now enthralled with Trump -- those of them that genuinely aren't racist, at least.

A two-party system like this would actually make the US more "normal", more like most other Western democracies.  The Centrists and Socialists would look fairly similar to the UK's Conservative and Labour parties, for example.  The UK also has medium-size single-issue or regional parties such as the UKIP (anti-EU) and the Scottish Nationalists, smaller than the big two but not utter minnows as the present US third parties are -- in a post-Republican US, the various fragments of the former Republican party would have a similar role.  The situation in France and Germany is like the UK.  The US is the odd one out in having one of its two major parties dominated by religious fundamentalists and in denial about basic science.

The scenario I've described would also restore the "normal" system we ourselves had before the Republican party went completely nuts (whenever you consider that to have been).  We would once again have two parties a sane person could consider voting for, and not feel too bad if the opposing party won -- as opposed to the present situation where every election is a desperate panicky struggle to keep the gibbering lunatics away from as many of the levers of power as possible, and the details of the Democratic alternative hardly matter.

A blog called The Big Empty recently envisaged a somewhat similar scenario.  No one can foresee the future in detail, but it's most probable that something like this is going to happen.  I can't see the current situation lasting indefinitely, and the current Republican party is probably beyond saving.  Trump just gave a face and a voice to the madness that has been roiling for years.

14 August 2016

Link round-up for 14 August 2016

Paul Wartenberg at You Might Notice a Trend could use a little help right now.

Twins!

Little fella likes bubbles.

Some people are too incompetent to be criminals.

What if Godzilla attacked Tokyo today?

Sometimes stupidity is useful (found via Republic of Gilead).

Texas has epic desert.

Here are some rich-people showers.

Check out the underwater art of Jason deCaires Taylor.

Bird brain?  Crows are startlingly intelligent.

This is how you touch your girlfriend, not your daughter.

Female Republican elected officials are a vanishing species.

Some cops get it. So does Bernie.

Life as a Trump spokesperson isn't easy.

A primitive and barbaric religion blames, shames, and silences rape victims (found via Republic of Gilead).

Another moralizing puritan has his true character exposed.

Faye Kane looks at aging and evolution -- and what the end might look like.

When rats flee a sinking ship, consider how they got there in the first place.

Rubio's war on women just gets worse and worse.

On unemployment, the record is clear.

The Christian Right is in steep decline these days (found via Republic of Gilead).

One of the worst things about religion is how it poisons sexuality.

The real problem with GMOs isn't GMOs, it's capitalism.

Tony Perkins is "disturbed" by the Navy naming a ship after Harvey Milk (found via Republic of Gilead).  Well, of course he is.

Trump's "Second Amendment" remark may have been worse than we think.

The slowness of the US economic recovery is due to austerity policies similar to those the EU has used to ruin southern Europe.

One more Syrian town is liberated from Dâ'ish (ISIL).

The US is getting fed up with Erdoğan's antics.

Alien invaders threaten the Florida coast.

Don't tell the fundies, but there are lesbian lizards.

The Piltdown hoax illustrates how science always works toward truth.

Trump is losing (found via Mock Paper Scissors), and he's going to keep losing, and he's barely even trying.  I'm not the only one who thinks he's endangering the whole party and the harder he falls, the better.  Here's how we'll know they've given up.

If you're a Bernie supporter not voting for Hillary, read this.  Bernie and his people have an important role to play (found via Crooks and Liars).  We can make change possible.

Trump has been caught lying about his wealth before.

South Carolina is liberal on a  few issues.

The Green party does serve a purpose.

Here are 173 reasons why Trump is not fit to be President (found via Field Negro).  And here's a list of the rape allegations against him.

Some in the media are waking up from both-siderism, while wingnuts sink into total self-delusion, including some weird fantasies about Hillary.  Trumpanzees have endless excuses for their man's bad polls, but no, the polls are not skewed, and even the claim that Hillary would be losing to a different Republican overlooks crucial realities.

Focus on this issue above all -- because it truly is terrifying.

[Image at top:  Palo Duro Canyon, Texas, found via Ranch Chimp]

12 August 2016

The stab in the back

With the ever-necessary caveat against complacency, this election is increasingly likely to be a blowout of Johnson/Goldwater proportions.  We've just gotten over the shock of Hillary leading in Georgia and a new poll comes out showing her only two points behind in South Carolina.  Some Republican insiders are now convinced that defeat is inevitable.

Well, this is what happens when you nominate a cross between Benito Mussolini and the Three Stooges for the Presidency.  And we still have three more months of Trump setting off self-immolating rhetorical explosions at the rate of one or two a week.  In any normal cycle, a candidate calling the sitting President the founder of ISIL would have been the shocker of the year; but compared with Trump's "Second Amendment people" dog-whistle, his feud with Khizr Khan, etc., etc., etc., it's almost yawn-inducing.  The only thing worse than three more months of this will be if he fails to wriggle out of debating Hillary.  I mean, just try to imagine the epic disaster that will be.

So Trump will very likely go down to a massive, landslide defeat.  What happens then?

Trump himself has already hinted at his own response by claiming the election might be rigged, but that has no credibility except in the eyes of those who are completely unhinged anyway.  A few wingnuts have gamely gone back to unskewing polls, but the majority seem to be accepting reality and getting down to the important business of slinging blame around.  So far, though, what I'm seeing of this is largely internecine.  There are the usual barbs at the "biased liberal media", but mostly the Trumpanzees are blaming the NeverTrumps for not supporting their man, while the NeverTrumps blame the Trumpanzees for nominating such a godawful candidate in the first place.  The trend will escalate as more and more prominent Republicans come out against Trump and, as today, even call for the RNC to pull funding from his campaign and redirect it to Congressional candidates who can still be saved.  The quixotic candidacy of Evan McMullin, supported by many NeverTrumps, may also be used to blame the "establishment" for the nominee's defeat.  All the elements of a Dolchstoßlegende are falling into place.

After the defeat -- especially if it's accompanied by losing the Senate, ensuring easy confirmation for Hillary's Supreme Court picks, and by large Republican losses at other levels -- the wingnuts will be altogether consumed by the rage and fear to which they've always been so prone anyway.  The demise of the Republican party has been predicted before, but this time I almost don't see how they can avoid it.  There's already tremendous anger and vitriol between the pro- and anti-Trump factions, and once the magnitude of the disaster (from a wingnut perspective) sinks in, it's going to mean civil war.

An ignominious end for what was once the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower -- but it's the end they've now written for themselves.

[Image at top:  Today's map at Electoral-Vote.com]

09 August 2016

Republican horror show

If Donald Trump were a centipede, he would still be running out of feet to stick in his mouth.  Every time we think he has sunk as low as he possibly can, he finds a way to outdo himself.  If you haven't yet heard about his "Second Amendment guys" outrage and his campaign's fumbling attempts to explain it away, follow those links.  I don't really feel up to commenting on this right now, but fellow bloggers Paul Wartenberg, Squatlo, Shaw Kenawe, and Comrade Misfit have taken that on, and no doubt many others will in the next few hours.

As Squatlo says, "This is so far beyond the pale someone should (at long last) yank a knot in his fucking chain. There has to be someone somewhere within the Republican Party willing to step up and demand he resign as his party's nominee."  Let me make a prediction:  it's not gonna happen.  Throughout this long, excruciating story, from the time Trump first emerged as a major contender for the nomination more than a year ago, the less-crazy element of the Republicans has been talking about the need to stop him.  But they have never been able to agree on how, or when -- or whom to support as a replacement candidate.  They have always ended up reacting feebly or not at all.  On the first day of their convention, the leadership actively suppressed a last-ditch effort to stymie Trump's nomination -- and even that would probably have failed anyway.

At every turn, anti-Trump Republicans have displayed cowardice, incompetence, and disarray.  They have stood by as this disgusting and preposterous man re-branded their party with his own ugly image, and they have done nothing.  They will continue to do nothing.

Two months ago, I said, "we're going to hang this millstone around the neck of the Republicans and conservatism forever. They will always be the party and movement that nominated Trump, the party and movement whose leaders mostly backed him even after it had long been clear what he was. The more tightly we can bind that millstone to them all, the better."  Republican leaders have decided, by default, to accept this millstone -- but they are only now discovering just how heavy it will become.

And remember, we still have three more months to go to before the election.  If there are further depths of outrageous behavior out there to be plumbed, Trump will reach them.

07 August 2016

Link round-up for 7 August 2016

Cigarettes are bad for your vacuum cleaner.

That's a really big.....whatever-it-is.

Get ready for after-school Satan clubs (link from Mendip).

The Tampa Bay Comic Con looks pretty cool.

Squid!

A neo-Nazi rally in South Buffalo, NY, drew a vast crowd of.....one.

"In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation." -- former CIA head Michael J. Morell, endorsing Hillary.

Why not pray just in case God exists (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Know what the Gish gallop is, so you can spot it when they use it.

If you're a Christian and support Trump, click here.

Here are seven ways to shut down people who ask you when you're having kids.

Sorry, wingnuts, job growth is still going strong.

North Carolina's voting restrictions were flagrantly racist.  These laws are blowing up in the wingnuts' faces all over the country.  But they're still at it on the local level.

Some people shouldn't be police.

Arab-Americans once voted heavily Republican -- but things have changed. Now they're blowing it with Asian-Americans too (link from Pinku-Sensei).

Dion Harrell suffered the nightmare of wrongful conviction even after leaving prison.

Bloggers Margaret and Helen have harsh words for Trump (found via Crooks and Liars).

Monsters walk among us.

Does anybody actually live like this?  In my experience, employers discourage overtime because of the expense, and I've never been expected to keep in touch while off the clock.  But even the standard workday is bad for people.

RedState has the harrowing story of thuggery at the Republican convention.  Now George Will faces punishment for heresy.

Christianity in the US has already declined to the point that was once projected for 2050.

The issues that matter most to black voters differ from what many white Democrats think (found via Margin of Error).

The wingnuts are getting so unhinged that Green Eagle needed multiple wrapups this week just to keep up.

Mike Pence is a scary guy in his own right.

European atheists challenge religious bullying.

After the Brexit vote, it turns out the majority of Scots still don't want to leave the UK.

Ireland's collapsing Catholic Church faces yet another conflict over homosexuality.

Turin's new mayor promotes vegetarianism.

US marijuana legalization is helping Mexico beat the drug gangs.

Tokyo has elected its first woman governor.

Peter Thiel wants to be an immortal vampire (found via Mendip).  Don't worry, if it turns out "young" blood really rejuvenates people, we'll quickly learn to synthesize the compounds responsible so we don't need to use actual blood.

"Tabby's Star" (formerly KIC 8462852), already a suspected site of large-scale alien engineering, is rapidly getting dimmer, and we don't understand why.

Only one candidate is right about vaccines.

Republican leaders are aghast at Trump's feud with the Khan family (and here's more Trump dumbth*), but the party is trapped in its nightmare.  He can restrain himself briefly but then just blows up even worse.  If he debates Hillary it will be a fiascoWhen she wins, how will he react?

Bernie supporters considering Johnson, please read this.  There are only two optionsDon't believe the lies.  Especially this one.

How bad a week did Trump have?  This bad.

TPM has a new electoral scoreboard.

You Might Notice a Trend looks at the four possible election scenarios, and what needs to happen to leach the poison from US politics.

Squatlo has a hypothetical question for Trumpanzees.

Kaveh Mousavi's life in a sexist culture makes him appreciate Hillary all the more.

Should we put a man with these mental issues in charge of 7,200 nuclear weapons?

In their hearts, they know he's right.

".....now that your built-to-spec monster has gone Westworld on your ass, it is my sincerest hope that it rips your tiny, tiny Conservative hearts out and stomps them to fucking aspic before it finally self-destructs and collapses under the weight of its own stupid."  There's more where that came from.

========================================
*Thanks to commenter Ryan for pointing out that the original source for this quote was a satire.  With Trump it can be hard to tell sometimes.

04 August 2016

The campaign in cartoons

This year's campaign has provided rich fodder for cartoonists (not least because the Republican nominee is himself perilously close to being a cartoon).  Here are some of my favorites.













And on a pleasanter note.....






01 August 2016

Donald Trump and Khizr Khan

Though Khizr Khan's speech at the Democratic convention was one of the shortest, it's already emerging as one of the most consequential.  Not only because of Khan's eloquent and heartfelt words -- though I've watched the speech several times and continue to be impressed by its power -- but because Trump has demonstrated more flagrantly than ever that he doesn't know how to respond effectively when he feels provoked.

We've all read about his repugnant comments -- insinuating that Khan did not write his own speech, that Ghazala Khan stayed silent out of Islamic deference (she has already replied, devastatingly), utter disregard for the parents' pain at their loss and for their son's courage.  It's not difficult to imagine how a decent person, or even a cynical but intelligent self-interested politician, could have responded:

He could have said along the lines of "I would think every American should be proud your son saved lives in sacrifice of his own." Given Trump's political stance, he could have easily gone with "I understand you're upset about my wanting to block Muslims from coming to America as immigrants, but I'm looking at a bigger picture of stopping terrorists who come from radical Islamic regions and I'd like to think we can all work towards something that would be reasonable and fair." THAT would have fit exactly into Trump's messaging and he could have trudged on as uncaring as before.

But of course it's just not in Trump's nature to behave that way.  Indeed, it's "Trump's nature" that is being cast into sharper and uglier relief than ever.  TPM's Josh Marshall has, I think, an excellent assessment of the man.  "There are smart terrible people and dumb terrible people", and Trump is clearly one of the latter.  Even a heartless narcissist, if he has brains, can learn out of self-interest to fake the empathy he does not feel.  Trump doesn't have the brains to do so or even to understand that it would benefit him to do so.

Now he's created another embarrassing crisis for his party, as the two most powerful Republican officials in the country have felt compelled to speak up for the Khan family (though they failed to repudiate their endorsements of him personally), while the VFW -- an institution normally respected by conservatives, surely -- has condemned him.  The deranged wingnut element which has come to predominate on the right, on the other hand, has begun barraging the Khans with absurd smears, which echo around inside the wingnut alternate-reality bubble to the point that, incredibly, rank-and-file Trumpanzees actually believe their man is winning this argument.  (Well, there are others who share his disdain for the Khans.)

This is not the first episode of Trump's tone-deaf outrageous remarks blowing up in his own campaign's face, and it won't be the last, but it will likely be among the most damaging.

But the significance of Khan's speech may even extend beyond this election.  I'm convinced that a big part of the reason why society has become so much more accepting of gays is that fact that, with more and more having come "out of the closet", far more people now know at least one or two gay people personally, which makes it much harder to demonize the whole group as faceless, alien bogeymen.  Khizr Khan, by appearing before a vast TV and internet audience as a Muslim that mainstream Americans can like, respect, and sympathize with, has taken a step towards doing the same for Muslims generally -- toward making it impossible to demonize all Muslims as being like the murderous fanatics of Dâ'ish and al-Qâ'idah.  The wingnuts may soon be losing another bogeyman -- and a movement based on cultivating paranoia and hysteria cannot survive without its bogeymen.

31 July 2016

Link round-up for 31 July 2016

30 August 2016 is Laugh at Gullible Idiots Day.  Mark your calendars.

Biggest snake ever.

A Trumpanzee gets pwned by the President of Estonia.

Down with suffocating regulation!

Lou Engle wants you to pay thousands to learn to mumble a lot, stop eating, and pretend that this is somehow like being in the Air Force.

Go sleep with the sharks.

Martin Molin invents the world's most complicated musical instrument.

Republicans have changedEven in just eight years.

Utah has a living organism which is 80,000 years old and weighs 6,500 tons.

Green Eagle reads the wingnutosphere so you don't have to.

A family throws a surprise party with a difference.

A kiss triggers a Bible-thumping freak in Florida.  Then there's this guy in Britain (both found via Republic of Gilead).

The US Navy will name a ship after gay-rights pioneer Harvey Milk.

Republican ideology has driven Asian-Americans toward the Democrats.

These people will vote.  Will you?

Fundie gay-bashers can't nuance Orlando.

No elderly person should vote Republican.

Angry at Russian hackers trying to sabotage the Democrats?  Here's something else to worry about.

Genetic engineering is our best weapon against viruses.

This map shows all the surviving prehistoric stone relics in the British Isles (found via Mendip).

Escaping the EU will allow the UK to rebuild ties with a far more dynamic and modern international network.

The bigots win one in Romania, but I'm betting it's temporary.

Iranian men help protest their country's female dress code.

A top Sunni cleric fumes that atheists and their "seductive reasoning" are winning over young Muslims.

Dâ'ish (ISIL) burns women alive for refusing sex slavery.

Kuwait last week reached 129° Fahrenheit, an Asian record (found via Politics Plus).

Here are the margins by which people in other G20 countries prefer Hillary (note the one exception).

"Herstory" is made, and the next generation is watching.

Crazy Eddie explains why the Trump/Putin/e-mail hack scandal may have legs.  And just imagine if the sides had been reversed.

Assange gives the game away.

Even Erick Erickson respects the power of Khizr Khan's DNC speech, while other conservatives rebuke Ann Coulter for her ugly insult (found via Hackwhackers).  Khan implores Republican leaders to repudiate Trump.

Don't waste your vote -- don't betray Bernie.

Donald Trump, dealmaker.  And here's the perfect Trump campaign sign.

Romney may endorse the Libertarian ticket, which could impact the election (see comment 6).

This is just one of the countless regular guys Trump has ripped off.

Driftglass looks at the conventions.  Republicans bemoan the DNC's success on Twitter.  In a role reversal, Democrats become the security party, while it's Hillary and not Trump who passes the Commander-in-Chief test.

[Image at top found via PM Carpenter.]

28 July 2016

PUMA II -- Will the AfterBerners become Trumpanzees?

Short answer:  Some will, but probably not enough to matter.

The antics at the convention, especially on the first day, have gotten some Democrats worried.  Bernie himself is not at fault for this -- since the end of his campaign he's striven mightily to re-unify the party, even getting booed for it on Monday by some of his own supporters (which raises the question of whether they can still be called "Bernie supporters" at all).  Yet the eruptions in Philadelphia continue.  The Russian e-mail dump has fueled the anger, as Putin obviously intended it to do.

However, the crucial words in the paragraph above are "at the convention".  What we're seeing in and around the convention is not representative of the millions who voted for Bernie across the country.  It's only the most fervent and committed who invest the time and expense to go to the event.  Most people are not so ideological, and vote on a more pragmatic basis.  Polling is already showing that 90% of those who "consistently backed" Bernie during the primaries will vote for Hillary over Trump.  This makes it clear that the bitter-enders at the convention are not typical of Bernie voters more generally.  Most of the latter are normal Democrats who are unifying behind the nominee -- just as I and most Hillary supporters would have done if Bernie had won.

Trump himself has expressed hope that many AfterBerners will gravitate to him, based on some similarities in positions, largely opposition to job-destroying trade deals (and frankly, Hillary and Kaine need to make their own new stances against the TPP a lot stronger and more convincing than they have so far).  But in the end I think Trump's negatives in other areas -- notably the explicit bigotry fueling his campaign -- will prove too repulsive.  It's already been noted that the Philadelphia tempest showcased the almost-all-white bitter-enders booing at a largely black and Latino series of speakers.  The optics of this aren't good, not for real Democrats.

Letting Trump win would mean throwing a lot of people under the bus.  Hard-core ideologists will be willing to do that for the sake of their own inner feelings of purity.  Most Democrats won't.

Even the Russian e-mail dump doesn't actually show efforts to "rig" the nomination process -- it merely shows that the party establishment favored Hillary, something everybody has known all along.  Those who are looking for reasons to be angry will find them, whether they exist or not.  Others will soon realize there is no "there" there -- and will choose not to fall for a blatant and clumsy effort at manipulation by a foreign fascist regime.

There's also the "Trumpanzee lite" option -- voting for a third candidate or not voting at all.  Over the next three months I expect to see some blog posts from bitter-enders chewing over such an option, or justifying it.  Again, though, this kind of thing is a self-indulgence of people who are highly ideological, which most voters are not.  Most voters realize that a non-vote or wasted vote is just half as effective at stopping Trump as a vote for Hillary is, and has no practical effect (or significance) beyond that.  During most campaigns, poll numbers for third candidates run high for months, only to collapse to around one percent or less in the actual voting as people focus on what the practical outcome will be.  I expect Stein's (and Johnson's) numbers to follow the same pattern this time.

The best analog for the current division is the PUMA movement in 2008 -- pro-Hillary bitter-enders who declared they would refuse to vote for Obama.  I understand how they felt, because I was one of them.  In the end, though, the number of PUMAs who voted for McCain or didn't vote was not large enough to throw the election or even change the margin much.  I expect the same will be the case this November, and even more so.  Trump is a vastly repulsive and frightening figure, as McCain never was.

A key role will be played by Bernie himself, who will continue to emphasize that letting Trump win would mean the total destruction of everything he's spent the last year fighting for.  In doing so, it's he -- not the bitter-enders -- who is carrying on the revolution.

27 July 2016

An oddity

For at least a week now, my stats counter has been showing around a thousand hits per day from Russia.  I really doubt I have so many actual readers there (if I do, none has ever left a comment or other indication of it), but after this week's Russian e-mail dump apparently trying to influence the US election, I'm getting paranoid enough to wonder if Russian hackers consider even minor blogs that post about politics to be worthy of their attentions.  Has anyone else out there noticed anything like this in their stats?  Any ideas what it signifies?

25 July 2016

The Siberian candidate? (updated)

This election just keeps getting weirder.  Trump's admiration for brutal foreign dictators in general and for Vladimir Putin in particular has long been a matter of concern.  But today's events suggest there may be more to it than just admiration.

Everyone who's looked into it seems to agree that the big public dump of hacked DNC e-mails was an act of the Russian regime -- and Trump himself appeared to endorse this view late today.  The Russian intent seems to have been to make it harder for Bernie Sanders's supporters to reconcile themselves to Hillary's candidacy, something that would weaken her against Trump.  That is, the Putin regime dared to interfere in the US election process in an effort to help Trump win.

Such blatant foreign intervention in a US election would be, as far as I know, unprecedented.  But the motive isn't hard to see.  Trump not only admires Putin but has advocated weakening the US commitment to its NATO allies in Europe and support for Ukraine's self-defense -- a course which would leave Europe far more vulnerable to the expansion of Russian influence.  And now some observers are reporting that Trump may even be financially beholden to Russia and thus himself under Russian influence.  This posting by anti-Trump conservative writer Max Twain sets forth the case succinctly (with some obligatory Hillary-bashing thrown in); for more detail, see this post at TPM (found via Progressive Eruptions).  Sarah Jones argues that Putin may fear Hillary as President, with good reason, creating an additional motive for interference.

As always, we need to be cautious about early reports which may turn out to be wrong or exaggerated.  But if all this is substantiated, it looks like a game-changer.  Aren't Trump's most vocal supporters the exact kind of people who would be most repelled by the thought of a foreign government having too much influence over a US President?  Some of them, of course, will just refuse to believe anything negative about Trump regardless of the evidence.  But not all of them.

Update:  US intelligence now has "high confidence" that the Russian government was behind the DNC e-mail hack -- and Obama points out that "on a regular basis, they try to influence elections in Europe".  Green Eagle points out how high the stakes could be.