Monthly Archives: August 2016

RT @jonlovett: Shame to see an American politician in a foreign country apologizing for America and refusing to stand in front of the Ameri…

RT @BenjySarlin: Trump probably got what he wanted from this. Looked like a normal diplomatic meeting from the outside.

RT @johnastoehr: Dear media: This cannot be a win for Trump if he did not discuss the wall w/ Mexican president. Not acting crazy is not ac…

I’m hearing that cable pundits are saying the election has been “reset”. No way.

RT @CarlosLozadaWP: Trump on Mexico, June 2015: “They are not our friend, believe me.”
Trump to Mexican president, August 2016: “I call you…

RT @benpershing: So he flew down to Mexico and they did NOT discuss who pays for the wall

RT @joshtpm: So I guess we’re paying for the wall

RT @rudepundit: Seriously, what comes through here is just how cowardly Trump and Pena Nieto are. Neither was willing to criticize the othe…

RT @wpjenna: Trump’s goals: 1) End illegal immigration 2) Secure border 3) Dismantle drug cartels 4) Improve NAFTA 5) Keep manufacturing in…

Trump sounds very tired. I hope he is well enough to make his speech tonight.

RT @EliStokols: Trump: “We recognize and respect the right of either country to build a physical barrier or wall.”

RT @igorbobic: Trump: “The US, first, second, and third generation Mexicans are just beyond reproach. Spectacular, spectacular, hard workin…

“As you know, I love the United States. Very much.” — Donald Trump

*facepalm*

RT @mmurraypolitics: Pena Nieto with his harshest hit at Trump so far –> The Mexicans in the United States are honest and hard-working peo…

There’s no way this was written in between Nieto’s meeting with Trump and now. He just goes on and on and on….

RT @chrislhayes: Peña Nieto raises an issue of very long-standing concern to Mexican leaders, which is the flow of guns from the US to Mexi…

RT @tomtomorrow: Trump always looks so annoyed when waiting for someone else to finish speaking.

RT @chrislhayes: Now he’s leaning into this a bit.Politely but unmistakably rebutting Trump’s rhetoric about border, and movement of people…

RT @mmurraypolitics: Pena Nieto contradicting Trump on trade: I do not believe that trade is a zero-sum endeavor (translated)

RT @jamiedupree: Mexican President: “Mr. Trump and I had an open and constructive discussion…the purpose was to get to know each other”

Why bother asking Conway any questions? She’s obviously not in the loop, or a liar.

RT @Hadas_Gold: I have a real question. How does kellyanne conway have time to do all this TV while also campaign managing?

Trump is aware he is losing and going to Mexico is like a hail-Mary pass. I just don’t think he’s facing the right way.

RT @charlotteirene8:
White people: “Black people should protest peacefully!”
*Black person sits quietly during national anthem*
White people: “Not like THAT!”

Breaking: Big Victory For Voter Rights — No Voter ID In Upcoming NC Elections

NC voter ID law will NOT be enforced in fall election after the U.S. Supreme Court denies stay request (in a 4-4 split — obviously, had Scalia lived, it would have been a loss for voting rights advocates, but he didn’t so……)

The stay was a request by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and state officials to delay a permanent injunction blocking provisions in a 2013 voting law. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down several parts of the law last month, saying they were approved by legislators with intentional bias against black voters more likely to support Democrats.

The Supreme Court decision means voters won’t have to show one of several qualifying photo IDs when casting ballots in the presidential battleground state. Early voting also reverts to 17 days.

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Media False Equivalence Watch – Example No. 35442

I’m really tired of hearing from the media that “both candidates” are wildly unpopular.  Historically unpopular.

I don’t have historical figures of previous presidential candidates for comparison, so I will assume that the assertion is technically accurate.

But look at this:

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Since May 2015, Trump’s unfavorable has never gone BELOW 60% and this favorable has never gone ABOVE 40%.

In that same period of time, Clinton’s favorable AND unfavorable rating has never dipped/rose into Trump territory.

In other words, she has NEVER been as unfavorable as Trump at his BEST, and he has NEVER been as favorable as Clinton at her WORST.

Yet the press would have you think they are both equally unpopular.  Just not so.

Trump’s South Of The Border Gambit

All eyes on Trump today.

It’s a day when he is set to give his big immigration speech, which should help to clarify his muddled position.  He used to be for the wall and mass deportation, but in the past few days, he’s hinted at NOT mass deporting 11 million “illegals” (as he calls them) — which is impossible anyway.  He has suggested touchback provisions (they leave and then come right back, except we leave the “bad ones” out) or something else… everything has been suggested except what the majority of Americans are in favor of… a path to citizenship (or amnesty).  His on-TV surrogates insist — with no credibility — that Trump is not changing from his hardline position, even as he indicates that he is indeed softening.  The whole thing is an exercise in ambiguity, just enough to satisfy his base but also appear to appease people with Trumpian doubts.

That speech is tonight.

But the BIG news — one that his advisers are saying is a potential “gamechanger” — is Trump’s visit to Mexico today.  This was prepared within the last 24 hours.  President Peña Nieto of Mexico had invited both campaigns to visit.  Trump took up the offer.

I, along with many others, consider this to be high risk, high reward.  And to be honest, I’m not sure what is going on.  Trump and Nieto will meet privately and talk.  Both will say something about their meeting…. and…. that’s it?

What do is a “win” here for Trump?  Unless he comes back with a check for $200 billion earmarked for “the wall”, I don’t see what he has to gain.  Maybe some in the Trump campaign thinks it raises his stature, particularly on a day when he is giving a speech on immigration.  I don’t see how though.  Trump has been bashing Mexico for over a year. I mean, here’s the statement that literally launched Trump’s campaign — 218 words into his first speech:

“When Mexico sends their people …  They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Trump later added:

“What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”

So, it seems, visiting Mexico would lower his stature if you believe in Trump.

Maybe the Trump campaign thinks it is like a “Nixon goes to China” thing.  Except Trump isn’t Nixon and Mexico is (unlike China in the 1970s) an ally and trade partner.  And Trump’s advisers are certainly no Kissingers.  But Trump DOES think Mexico is the enemy.

It’s just hard to see what Trump gets out of this.

More importantly, you have to wonder about Nieto’s motives.  He probably didn’t think it would work out this way.  He invited both candidates; he expected only Clinton would respond (if anybody).  That plan backfired — that’s my guess.

Still, is is happening. Nieto is very unpopular in Mexico.  Polling at 23% favorability, he is in the midst of a plagiarism and corruption scandal.  Meeting with Trump, who is also hated by Mexicans for obvious reasons, seems to be a stupid move, UNLESS Nieto has something up his sleeve.  Peña Nieto has every reason to play the tough guy and earn Trump’s wrath. Everyone in Mexico hates Trump, so standing up to him, or even embarrassing him, would be a political win.

But the same might be true of Trump. His base would certainly go wild at the prospect of Trump having a beef with the president of Mexico. The last thing they want is a cordial get together that suggests some kind of future rapprochement. And if Trump plays it right, a meeting that could be spun as an insult to America might even help him with swing voters.

Then again, maybe Trump desperately wants Peña Nieto’s respect, and wants this meeting to demonstrate that he’s not just a bomb thrower who can’t be trusted with international relations.

Because the whole endeavor is fraught with unpredictability, Josh Marshall has what seems like the most sensible take — “Can Trump Be This Stupid? Not A Trick Question”:

It’s a general rule of politics not to enter into unpredictable situations or cede control of an event or happening to someone who wants to hurt you. President Nieto definitely does not want Donald Trump to become President. He probably assumes he won’t become president, simply by reading the polls. President Nieto is himself quite unpopular at the moment. But no one is more unpopular than Donald Trump. Trump is reviled. Toadying to Trump would be extremely bad politics; standing up to him, good politics…

Remember that the central force of Trump’s political brand is dominance politics. Trump commands, people obey. Trump strikes, victims suffer. It will be extremely difficult for him to manage anything like this in the Mexican capital. He comes with a weak hand, no leverage and the look of a loser. All Peña Nieto needs to say is no.

Again, when you’re in a campaign under constant scrutiny you do your best to control every situation, reduce the risk of unpredictable, embarrassing or damaging events. You try not to cede control to others. You especially try not to cede near total control to someone who has every interest in the world in harming you. The maximal version of that ‘big thing you’re not supposed to do’ is precisely what it looks like Trump is doing.

Trump’s Razor helps here. It’s tempting to assume that there’s some angle Trump has here, some plan or understanding with Peña Nieto to make this not as silly a decision as it appears to be. I’m tempted because how could they think this was a good idea? Trump’s Razor tells us to resist this temptation. “The stupidest scenario possible that can be reconciled with the available facts.” I think that’s what we have here. It’s as stupid as it looks. Who knows? Maybe Trump will handle this deftly and it’ll be a huge success. But Trump’s Razor has yet to fail me. So I’m going to stick with it.

It is hard to know what Trump’s thinking is, or if there is any thinking at all. [UPDATE: He is apparently not bringing along his press corps, which is both unprecedented and unusual for a presidential candidate going abroad. Makes the whole trip even stranger]

If I were Peña Nieto, I would meet Trump at the airport, and with the Mexican press pool there, hand Trump one of his Mexico-made Trump shirts, shake his hand, and walk away.

In the meantime, we need to build that wall to keep Trump down there.

Anyway, you look at it — Trump wins this news cycle… perhaps he will wish otherwise.

UPDATE:  Conservative fan fiction

Tweet from former Mexican ambassador to China:

UPDATE #2:  Viewing the outrage in Mexico about this meeting, Josh Marshall is having additional thoughts.

It would be one thing if Pena Nieto had some grand and tightly organized plan to humiliate Trump. But the evidence of the last 24 hours suggests he’s winging it perhaps every bit as much as Trump himself. Having two clumsy political actors together on the same literal and figurative stage in a highly volatile situation is not one geared to good outcomes. It seems to me like you have a good chance that neither player has much of any idea what he’s doing, and Pena Nieto is already under the gun because of the furious reaction to the news that started last night.

This confrontation of panic, confusion and poor planning is magnified by a less noted factor. Organizing a foreign trip for a President or would-be president is a highly complicated affair, especially when you figure in security needs. It never gets done on a day’s notice. We’re now hearing that the US Embassy in Mexico City strongly counseled against the idea. Those folks tend to be quite apolitical and logistics focused. We can’t rule out the possibility that Trump’s entourage shows up at the wrong palace or isn’t able to make it back to Arizona in time for the speech.

Also, Trump is not bringing the press along.

I think, at the end of the day, the actual visit might just turn out to be a big nothingburger.  We won’t know what happened or what was said, allowing both Peña Nieto and Trump to spin what happened today (and its purpose) to each’s political advantage: messages that will be crushed in the next news cycle.

I say when Trump goes to Mexico, THAT’S when we build the wall!

Quite possibly Trump.

WaPo reporting that Trump is considering last-minute meeting in Mexico with country’s prez, but I think someone is being punked.

RT @MotherJones: “He’s such a hypocrite”: ex-models for Donald Trump’s agency say they worked in the US illegally https://t.co/sJhePW7wyQ

And all this time I thought he was talking about the NORTHERN BORDER

Good Article In NY Times About Debate Prep

The first debate is when this campaign becomes a thing.  Unlike the endless cycle of “scandals” now, the debates can really move the needle.  High stakes stuff.

The NY Times looked at the candidates’ debate prep so far.  Some highlights:

Her team is also getting advice from psychology experts to help create a personality profile of Mr. Trump to gauge how he may respond to attacks and deal with a woman as his sole adversary on the debate stage.

They are undertaking a forensic-style analysis of Mr. Trump’s performances in the Republican primary debates, cataloging strengths and weaknesses as well as trigger points that caused him to lash out in less-than-presidential ways.

As Mrs. Clinton pores over this voluminous research with her debate team, most recently for several hours on Friday, and her aides continue searching for someone who can rattle her as a Trump stand-in during mock debates, Mr. Trump is taking the opposite tack. Though he spent hours with his debate team the last two Sundays, the sessions were more freewheeling than focused, and he can barely conceal his disdain for laborious and theatrical practice sessions.

Tellingly, I suspect both would govern this way as well.  Clinton would get informed; Trump would wing it.

“I believe you can prep too much for those things,” Mr. Trump said in an interview last week. “It can be dangerous. You can sound scripted or phony — like you’re trying to be someone you’re not.”

Preparation of the issues won’t make you sound scripted and phony.  Being scripted and phony will make you sound scripted and phony.

Mrs. Clinton, a deeply competitive debater, wants to crush Mr. Trump on live television, but not with an avalanche of policy details; she is searching for ways to bait him into making blunders. Mr. Trump, a supremely confident communicator, wants viewers to see him as a truth-telling political outsider and trusts that he can box in Mrs. Clinton on her ethics and honesty.

Except he doesn’t tell the truth and he’s not very transparent himself (tax returns, tax returns, tax returns…..)

Mr. Trump’s certitude — “I know how to handle Hillary,” he said — reflects his belief that the debates will be won or lost not on policy points and mastery of details, which are Mrs. Clinton’s strengths, but on the authenticity, boldness and leadership that the nominees demonstrate onstage. Mr. Trump is certain that he holds advantages here, saying Mrs. Clinton is likely to come across as a typical politician spouting rehearsed lines.

You can be sure that Trump will be using lines from his stump speech.

Now here’s the most interesting part:

The Clinton camp believes that Mr. Trump is most insecure about his intelligence, his net worth and his image as a successful businessman, and those are the areas they are working with Mrs. Clinton to target.

Mr. Schwartz, in an interview, declined to comment about any conversations with the Clinton campaign, but he said Mr. Trump would be vulnerable if Mrs. Clinton proved to be calm, deliberate and relentless in attacking Mr. Trump’s character, volatility and readiness to be commander in chief.

I don’t know if this is a bluff or not.  I think Clinton should attack now and then, but mostly she should explain her policies (while pointing out that he has none).  That seems to me to be the best tactic.

PPP Poll Trolls Trump Voters

A new national PPP poll of likely voters puts Hillary Clinton 5 points ahead of Trump nationally, about on par with other polls of late (especially ones that follow likely, as opposed to registered, voters).

But deep down in their survey results, it seemed they planted an interesting question to Trump supports:

PPP_Release_National_83016.pdf

Well done, PPP.

UPDATE:  Speaking of the PPP poll, Trump retweeted an obvious fake tweet.

PPP

Two Little Bits of Non-Election Good News

What with Gene Wilder’s death bumming everybody out, and the constant harangue of a senseless election, here’s a couple of political things to brighten your day:

(1)  Governor LePage of Maine is considering resigning

Gov. Paul LePage raised the possibility Tuesday that he may not finish his second term, amid mounting pressure from Democrats and members of his own party to amend for his recent actions.

“I’m looking at all options,” the Republican governor said while appearing on WVOM, a Bangor talk radio station. “I think some things I’ve been asked to do are beyond my ability. I’m not going to say that I’m not going to finish it. I’m not saying that I am going to finish it.”

He later said, “If I’ve lost my ability to help Maine people, maybe it’s time to move on.”

LePage also apologized repeatedly to Rep. Drew Gattine and his family for leaving a threatening voicemail last week.

He said he plans to invite the Westbrook representative to a face-to-face meeting to talk further.

“When I was called a racist I just lost it, and there’s no excuse,” the governor said. “It’s unacceptable. It’s totally my fault.”

Don’t let the door hit you… etc etc.

UPDATE…. a tweet today:

(2)  ISIS is floundering in red tape

What appear to be internal documents from the administration of the so-called Islamic State, obtained exclusively by The Daily Beast, show the terrorist organization under strain from financial misappropriation, embezzlement, alleged infiltration by anti-ISIS spies, and bureaucratic infighting.

These documents, originally captured by a Syrian rebel group near Damascus, are stamped by official ISIS “ministries.” They show the dollar salaries ISIS paid to its jihadist fighters, at least as of a year ago, in addition to other income earmarked for those fighters’ dependents.

The information contained in the documents confirms what various ISIS defectors and deserters have disclosed previously to The Daily Beast about the inner workings of the organization.

They also yield more proof of the extraordinary amount of red tape (and somewhat comedic human frustration) involved as ISIS leaders try to regulate everything from the requisition of weapons and ammunition to the allowance of vacation time.

The entire file was shared by Maher al-Hamdan, a media spokesman for the Ahmad Abdo Brigade. This  Syrian rebel group receives ammunition and financial support from the Military Operations Command in Amman, Jordan, meaning it is backed by the United States and other Western and Arab countries party to the “Friends of Syria” coalition.

Some examples:

Consider how the unsigned letter ends: “Note: the security brothers have grievances as regards salaries during their work in the area.”

Another confiscated document in the Ahmad Abdo tranche reveals just what kind of remuneration the “brothers” were used to receiving, as of last summer when the caliphate’s economy was more bullish than it is now.

On Aug. 25, 2015, a salary table for a “mujahid” (holy warrior) salary is produced with relevant fields filled in. This particular jihadist is called Abu Muslim al-Muhajir and he belongs to the Fath Qaryatain Battalion of ISIS, in the Damascus province. His salary is listed as $50 per month, and he receives another $50 as subsidy for his one wife. This appears the extent of al-Muhajir’s dependents, but the fields left empty show that the ISIS “Islamic welfare state,” as one defector The Daily Beast put it, also encompasses one’s parents and sabaya—that is, sex slaves—as well as their children, should they have any. “Soldiers’ bonuses,” “Eid recompense,” “Fighter’s petty cash,” and “Other petty expenses” are also clearly justifiable forms of disbursement for the average mujahid.

A similarly named Abu Sulaiman al-Muhajir, a fighter in Damascus, seeks a weeklong holiday from ISIS to be spent in the eastern provinces of Deir Ezzor and Raqqa. He is granted permission, although the form takes care to observe: “All brothers should be precise about dates, otherwise, they will be questioned according the sharia law.”

And:

Finally, we see evidence that all is not well in the realm of takfirijurisprudence. Overlapping or intersecting fiefs of ISIS law enforcement appear to have led to frequent and annoying communications cock-ups and attendant complaints among the jihadist civil service.

Dr. Abu Sham, a judge’s clerk, finds himself forced to write to Abu al-Abbas al-Jazrawi, the vice emir of ISIS’s Department of Justice, to explain why there are so many prisoners in one ISIS-run jail in the Damascus province.

“Well, three-fourths of these prisoners were detained only for a few hours,” Dr. Sham states, a bit defensively. “Last month, [nobody] was detained for a period of one week except the last 3 persons mentioned at the end of the list. By the time of writing this letter to you, there is no one in the prison.”

As in with many administrators of overburdened state agencies, Dr. Sham seems to be the put-upon victim of a clerical oversight: “The main problem about the paper that was sent from the Diwan [department] is that it didn’t mention the release dates. As from next time we will add the release dates so this confusion won’t be repeated again.”

The idea of ISIS being buried in paperwork is pretty amusing to me.

No no. Probably said “black guy”. Like a bodyguard or something.

RT @SethMacFarlane: Hats off to University Of Chicago for ditching “safe spaces” in favor of the free exchange of ideas and discourse
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RT @Acosta: Senior Trump adv on immigration speech: Secure border first. Then have conversation on what to do with undocumented “years from…

Trump on Kaepernick: “Maybe He Should Find A Country That Works Better For Him”. With you as a nominee, Donald, maybe we all should.

Nobody did hysterical (meaning “out of control”) or threw shade like #GeneWilder. A genius, and such a gentle soul. With Gilda now, I hope.

RT @NateSilver538: I try not to pick fights on Twitter anymore but if I did I’d be all over the absurdity of trying to turn Weinergate into a horse-race story

RIP Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder, who regularly stole the show in such comedic gems as “The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Stir Crazy,” died today at his home in Stamford, Conn. His nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said he died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.

He had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989.

He had been looking frail recently

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Here’s a long biography doc:

The Abedin/Weiner news is just plain sad. The man clearly has a problem. I hope the best for both of them and their child.

Record LOW levels, that is

I Feel Like An Octogenarian At A Rave

The thing about this election is that nothing stays.  It seems like there are two or three breaking stories every day.  And every story, had it popped up two or three decades ago, would be occupying the national conscience for a month or so.  Now, it is like the entire country has the attention span of a moth.

And even things that should’t be election news becomes election news.  Anthony Weiner does some bad sexting again.  Which only affects him and his wife.  Except his wife is Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide.  And that affects the economy how?  That affects national security how? (I know, I know. Trump made that leap, but that doesn’t mean the entire media establishment needs to)

I guess the good news is that when bad news comes out against Clinton — like the drip drip drip of her emails — I can relax in the knowledge that it is going to be less than 24 hours before Trump says or does something stupid and steps on his own attack.

But the dynamics are just plain weird.  WEIRD.

VMAs? Do people watch music videos anymore? Do people even make them anymore?

I hope U.S. soldiers fight and die for better reasons than “so you can stand up at the National Anthem at the ballpark.”

RT @SciencePorn: SETI researchers have detected a “strong signal” in the constellation Hercules https://t.co/sH2yejw8gi

RT @WillMcAvoyACN: I’m amazed at the number of people who only care about veterans when it comes time for someone else to stand during the National Anthem