Tag Archives: 2016 Presidential Election

Principles

I apologize, I’ve been remiss in posting. Believe me, it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve started about a dozen posts over the past six weeks and every time, without fail, I’ve deleted them. They’ve all seemed inadequate to the task when compared to the absurdity of current events.

And not that I would put myself in the same company as our political press, but I do understand why they all fawned over Trump’s address to Congress. It was like this collective sigh of relief that they could write about something normal for a change. Familiar ground at last! Terra firma. Was the speech good or bad? Whew! As opposed to today’s headlines, which went something like,

wiretap

I mean, my God.

None of this is normal.

Recently I was in New York City at a music club. A guy at the table behind me was talking in one of those loud, overheated voices men use when they’re trying to impress their dates. It was hard not to hear him, and when it became clear he had worked for the Trump campaign, you’d better believe I listened in. He said,

“most of us in Andrew’s office are pretty liberal Democrats….”

(Andrew being Cuomo, the governor of New York, I am guessing). But when the Trump campaign came along a bunch of them saw an opportunity because,

“…Stephen (Miller?) came in and said how if the Democrats aren’t going to be the party of working people, we might as well be….”

… as if the Trumpers give a shit about working people? Really? And so all of these folks who worked for the Democratic governor of New York were now finding roles in the Trump administration, principles be damned.

But our Boy Wonder is no dummy, even he could see what a shit show the White House is, so he was going try to find something in the AG’s office. And how you can call yourself a liberal Democrat while working under Jeff Sessions is a complete puzzler to me.

I heard all of this on the earie, as they say, and it was all I could do to keep from turning around and asking Boy Wonder WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? I mean, kids today, amiright?

Folks, this stuff matters. This isn’t just your resume we’re talking about. There are actual, real-life consequences to the policies that Trump is pursuing. Real people are being affected here. There’s the migrant deported to Mexico who committed suicide hours later, the grandmother deported while her son in law is in Afghanistan. Or the trauma inflicted on this family:

Immigration agents tailed a man as he dropped off his daughter at a Los Angeles school last week. They pulled him over and took him away — all while his 13-year-old sobbed in the back seat.

It’s been just six weeks, and this is the kind of stuff happening already. There’s more: I know people who expect to lose their Obamacare coverage who have been forced to make real life changes as a result: career decisions, life partner decisions, you name it. So the idea that someone would be so cynical as to think, “I’m a liberal Democrat but I’m going to work for Trump because I’ve got my career to think about” is repulsive to me.

And it seems to be going around. A lot of people want to know how Stephen Miller became such a horrible person. Friends want to know how the educated, liberal Jewish Julia Hahn came to write for Breitbart News and ultimately get hired by Steve Bannon as a White House staffer. It’s quite a conundrum:

After college, Hahn moved to Washington, D.C., hoping, she told friends, to “get a job in media.” She didn’t seem to care what kind. At around this time, a Chicago classmate who worked at a think tank saw Hahn at a party; Hahn said that she was a producer for Laura Ingraham, a fixture of far-right talk radio. “I asked, ‘Oh, is that what your politics are?’ ” the classmate recalled. “She went, ‘Nah, I’m apolitical.’ I thought, O.K., there are two possibilities. Either she’s dissembling because she doesn’t feel comfortable being outed as a hyperconservative or she actually is just a pure social climber.”

[…]

“Seeing her writing for Breitbart—and writing some of the most aggressive, white-nationalist stuff on the site—was quite a shock,” Eliza Brown, one of Hahn’s Chicago classmates, said. “My friends and I talked about it a lot, along the lines of ‘Was this festering in her all along?’ ‘Can you ever truly know anyone?’ ” She continued, “Not to wax too poetic about academia, but part of the idea of learning the canon is that it will, ultimately, make you a better person.”

Is this some new thing, people not having any principles? Is it some generational thing? And looking at the shit show that the Trump regime has become after just six weeks, who thinks a Trump administration job will be anything but a liability on their resume in coming years?

I don’t get it, I really don’t. But whatever. The important message, if there is one, is that this shit matters. Everything you do matters. Even if you aren’t Boy Wonder, even if you’re a normal person going about your day, what you do matters. Do it with integrity, honesty and humility or don’t bother getting out of bed in the morning.

That is all.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, Donald Trump

Man-Baby

Your weekly reminder that this person will have the nuclear launch codes in two weeks.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, Donald Trump

Inherent Bias

The Atlantic has an amazing story about the entrenched biases that affect peoples’ perceptions of the world, and how they are affected by political allegiance. Aptly titled “It’s Not About the Economy,” author Alana Semuels uses the northern Indiana town of Elkhart to illustrate how in this post-truth era, political tribalism affects our views more than economic realities:

Elkhart’s unemployment rate, which had reached a high of 22 percent in March of 2009, is now at 3.9 percent. Hiring signs dot the doors of the Wal-Mart, the McDonald’s, and the Long John Silver’s. The RV industry makes 65 percent of its vehicles in Elkhart, and the industry is producing a record number of vehicles, which is creating a lot of jobs in this frosty town in northern Indiana.

Despite this good economic and jobs news, Elkhart voters don’t credit President Obama or the Democrats. Not only do they think the economy improved in spite of, not because of, Obama, they also blame Obama for things he didn’t do, or don’t give him credit for things that he did. It basically boils down to this: people in Elkhart, IN don’t like Democrats, period, and nothing will change that:

These biases are only increasing as the country becomes increasingly polarized. As people become increasingly loyal to their parties, they are unlikely to give leaders from the other party credit for much of anything positive. Both sides are instead more likely to believe narratives that suggest that the other party has only made things worse.

“People’s predispositions affect their factual beliefs about the world,” said Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College who has researched why people believe what they do about politics. “What we want to be true influences what we believe to be true.”

Indeed, as the economy began improving, Elkhart voters grew less likely to support Democratic candidates for president. Obama won 44 percent of the vote in Elkhart County in 2008, 36 percent in 2012, and Clinton received just 31 percent in 2016.

Thanks, hate radio and Fox News! Really, this has to be the Fox Effect, more than anything. (And yes, it works the other way, too. Democrats generally won’t credit Republicans with doing anything right, either. Although we do embrace conservative policies, and hullo, who ever thought Democrats would fight to the death to support a Republican healthcare plan?)

Check out these reasons why people in Elkhart don’t like President Obama:

Ed Neufeldt, whose daughter and two son-in-laws now work in the RV industry after losing their jobs in it during the recession, told me he thought Obama was responsible for improving the economy in Elkhart, but that he still didn’t like the president because of his stance on abortion.

Okay, I can buy that. I don’t agree with it, but at least it’s an actual policy disagreement. For the record, Ed Neufelt was the only person Semuels spoke with who credited Obama with improving the economy. But he found another reason not to like him. Funny how that works.

And then there’s this:

Brandon Stanley owns a bar in Elkhart. He says he’s optimistic that the economy is improving now that Republicans have regained power, but emphasizes that there are still a host of economic problems that haven’t been solved in Elkhart. As for the shrinking unemployment rate in Elkhart, “they changed how they report unemployment numbers,” he told me, so they’re not believable.

Ah, the “damn lies” contingent. When the facts are in opposition to your preconceived political bias, the facts must be wrong. For the record, I remember a version of this among liberals during the Bush years: yes, unemployment numbers were at a certain rate, the popular talking point went, but it didn’t reflect those who had “given up looking for a job.” I’m quite certain I repeated that line myself, and it may or may not have been true at the time. I now hear that same line repeated by Republicans in regards to current unemployment numbers. And thanks to the internet, it’s really easy to find links bolstering whatever argument you want to make.

Now let’s meet another Elkhart resident with some really good reasons for hating Obama:

Andi Ermes, 39, offered a number of reasons for disliking Obama. She said Obama didn’t attend the Army-Navy football game, even though other presidents had. Obama has actually attended more Army-Navy games than George H.W. Bush. She said that he had taken too many vacations. He has taken fewer vacation days than George W. Bush. She also said that he refused to wear a flag pin on his lapel. While it is true that Obama did not wear a flag on his lapel at points during the 2007 campaign, it was back on his suit by 2008. Ermes told me the news sources she consumes most are Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and a local conservative radio show hosted by Casey Hendrickson.

What did I say about hate radio and Fox News? This is particularly stupid because, really, who gives a shit if someone wears a flag pin or not? And it just goes to show, there’s nothing a Democrat can do to earn the votes of the brainwashed. Just as there was literally nothing Donald Trump could do that would lose the allegiance of these same brainwashed folks. As long as you have that “R” behind your name and spout the same stupid approved points, you are golden with these folks.

I’m not sure what the solution to this is. It all seems part of a larger social and demographic unraveling. I also wonder how uniquely American this is. Other countries have the internet, fake news, partisan news media and biased columnists. Has the poison of hyperpartisanship affected Canada, Australia and the UK? Do people blindly not accept facts that challenge their preconceived worldviews in France and India and China?

If living in a cocoon of ignorance is more palatable than moving one’s biases one inch to the right or left, we are all truly doomed.

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Filed under 2016 Election, 2016 Presidential Election, economy, unemployment

Putin Hates Hillary Memory Hole

Donald Trump’s Twitter feed notwithstanding, U.S. intelligence long ago confirmed that Russia hacked DNC computers, RNC computers, etc. This is not up for debate, nor has it ever been up for debate. The tiny bit of daylight between the CIA and the FBI is the motive behind the hacking: was it to help sway the election to Trump, as the CIA believes, or was it just to undermine Americans’ faith in a democratic institution, as the FBI maintains?

As I’ve said before, it’s obvious the goal was to help Trump. When everyone is hacked but only the Democrats’ emails are released to Russian propaganda tool WikiLeaks, you have to be pretty dumb to think anything else was going on. Whether the Kremlin actually thought it would work or not is another matter. Clearly, they were trying to help Trump, and if Hillary Clinton still won, hers would be a damaged win. A damaged President Hillary Clinton would be almost as good as a President Trump. Remember: pre-election day, everyone assumed Hillary was going to win.

Furthermore we have history. Vladimir Putin hates Hillary Clinton for many reasons, chief among them being he viewed her as a threat to his hold on power. From the 2011 memory hole:

MOSCOW — Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin accused Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday of inciting unrest in Russia, as he grappled with the prospect of large-scale political protest for the first time in his more than decade-long rule.

In a rare personal accusation, Mr. Putin said Mrs. Clinton had sent “a signal” to “some actors in our country” after Sunday’s parliamentary elections, which were condemned as fraudulent by both international and Russian observers. Anger over the elections prompted a demonstration in which thousands chanted “Putin is a thief” and “Russia without Putin,” a development that has deeply unnerved the Kremlin.

Speaking to political allies as he announced the formation of his presidential campaign, Mr. Putin said that hundreds of millions of dollars in “foreign money” was being used to influence Russian politics, and that Mrs. Clinton had personally spurred protesters to action. The comments indicate a breakdown in the Obama administration’s sputtering effort to “reset” the relationship between the United States and Russia.

Gee, can’t imagine why he wouldn’t want Hillary to be president of the United States, can you?

And then there’s this from 2010:

TBILISI, Georgia—U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday assured Georgia that it remains a key U.S. partner, using tough language to call for Russia to end its “occupation” of separatist territories in the Caucasus nation, while shying from criticism of President Mikheil Saakashvili’s democratic credentials.

Fears had been growing here that Georgia was lower on the U.S.’s list of priorities than it was during the presidency of George W. Bush, as the Obama administration pursues a “reset” policy on Russian relations aimed at easing tensions and strengthening economic ties.

“We continue to call for Russia to abide by the August 2008 cease-fire commitment…including ending the occupation and withdrawing Russian troops from South Ossetia and Abkhazia to their preconflict positions,” Mrs. Clinton said at a joint news conference with Mr. Saakashvili. “The United States is steadfast in its commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The far-left never tired of portraying Hillary Clinton as a warmonger, but the truth is she was hawkish in her dealings with Vladimir Putin, an oppressive oligarch who deserved to be treated with caution. The result was that Putin worked to swing the election to his BFF Donald Trump, or at least inflict as much damaged on Hillary as possible. Mission accomplished.

What I don’t understand is why the moderate GOPers, who always claimed President Obama was “soft on Russia,” fell in line behind Donald Trump. I’m thinking of folks like Marco Rubio and Tennessee’s own Bob Corker, who called Obama’s actions weak on Russia. And yet they fell in line behind Trump, whose campaign’s ties to the Kremlin were no secret, and who had long praised Putin. I don’t get it.

As the Washington Post reported a few days before the election,

“Putin has kind of got it in for Hillary,” said Clifford Kupchan, chairman of the consulting firm Eurasia Group and a Russia expert who attended private meetings with Putin during the Clinton years. “The statements after the Duma riots were like kerosene on a fire, and it really made Putin angry.”

This was before the election, when a Hillary Clinton win seemed all but assured. But Putin’s man squeaked by on a technicality, and now we’re all suffering the consequences.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, Hillary Clinton, Russia

The Kremlin’s Candidate

The U.S. Senate has been told that the Kremlin hacked the DNC and worked with WikiLeaks for the express purpose of helping Donald Trump win the election:

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

While this is the current headline, let me be blunt: this is not news. I wrote about this over the summer, here. I’m just a dumb housewife in Tennessee but even I can read a damn newspaper. When you read that the Russians hacked everyone, but only the DNC’s emails got sent to WikiLeaks, it’s pretty obvious that they were trying to help one team, and it sure wasn’t Hillary’s. As I wrote then:

[…] it’s far more worrisome that Putin is trying to help get Donald Trump elected than that Debbie Wasserman Schultz tried to help elect Hillary Clinton.

But did we have that conversation? Noooo. We had to get all emo over Debbie Wasserman Schultz. That was super-fun. Once again I have to give my thanks to the BernieBrats who allowed themselves to be the useful tools of Putin’s takeover of American democracy. Thanks, heaps! You guys took all the oxygen out of the room with your endless haranguing over shit that didn’t matter. Please eat a bag of dicks while you enjoy Goldman Sachs veteran Gary Cohn running the National Economic Council. {Speeches, arrgle barrgle, Wall Street puppets, arrgle barrgle …. }

Yeah, I’m still bitter and angry and I will be for the rest of my life. C’est la vie. What IS news in this latest development is that the Republican leadership knew about this well before the election and decided to not do anything because they wanted “their guy” to win:

By mid-September, White House officials had decided it was time to take that step, but they worried that doing so unilaterally and without bipartisan congressional backing just weeks before the election would make Obama vulnerable to charges that he was using intelligence for political purposes.

Instead, officials devised a plan to seek bipartisan support from top lawmakers and set up a secret meeting with the Gang of 12 — a group that includes House and Senate leaders, as well as the chairmen and ranking members of both chambers’ committees on intelligence and homeland security.

Obama dispatched Monaco, FBI Director James B. Comey and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to make the pitch for a “show of solidarity and bipartisan unity” against Russian interference in the election, according to a senior administration official.

Specifically, the White House wanted congressional leaders to sign off on a bipartisan statement urging state and local officials to take federal help in protecting their voting-registration and balloting machines from Russian cyber-intrusions.

James Comey, well now, that’s a familiar name. He knew all of this and released his anti-Clinton letter one week before the election anyway? That’s downright treasonous. But I digress:

According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

Some of the Republicans in the briefing also seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election, a move that they argued would only rattle public confidence and play into Moscow’s hands.

McConnell’s office did not respond to a request for comment. After the election, Trump chose McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, as his nominee for transportation secretary.

Someone remind me, which party’s candidate was characterized as untrustworthy and corrupt? Yet the Senate Majority Leader getting an obvious payback for turning a blind eye to foreign interference in our election doesn’t stink to high heaven? Even a little bit?

You kids today won’t believe this but those of us of a certain age remember a time when the Russians were considered our enemy. Before 9/11 this was a message we heard constantly from Republicans, including (especially) the sainted Ronald Reagan. It was the justification for our nuclear arsenal and the ill-fated “Star Wars” missile defense program. Us Cold War babies remember how the villains in every James Bond film weren’t Muslim terrorists, they were Soviet KGB agents. This was the world I grew up in.

Back in those days, of course, the Russians were Commie pinko Reds. Today’s Russia doesn’t have party bosses and the like; it has an authoritarian oligarch named Vladimir Putin, who has passed laws criminalizing LGBT people and has murdered his political opponents.

So the idea that Sen. Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan would be OK with the Kremlin picking our next president because it would mean “their team” would win (and McConnell’s wife would get a cabinet post) is somewhat shocking. My, how times have changed.

This is Republican patriotism?

Also, as always, let’s ask what would have happened if “Kenyan, Muslim” Obama had done anything close to this. Impeachment, of course.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, CIA, FBI

She’s Shocked To Find Gambling In This Establishment

What in Donald Trump’s history made this woman think he gives a crap about people like her?

WASHINGTON (AP) — When Donald Trump named his Treasury secretary, Teena Colebrook felt her heart sink.

She had voted for the president-elect on the belief that he would knock the moneyed elites from their perch in Washington, D.C. And she knew Trump’s pick for Treasury — Steven Mnuchin — all too well.

OneWest, a bank formerly owned by a group of investors headed by Mnuchin, had foreclosed on her Los Angeles-area home in the aftermath of the Great Recession, stripping her of the two units she rented as a primary source of income.

“I just wish that I had not voted,” said Colebrook, 59. “I have no faith in our government anymore at all. They all promise you the world at the end of a stick and take it away once they get in.”

Oh, the poor dear. It’s almost as if she’s blithely unaware that there was another person she could have voted for. Someone who wouldn’t have nominated a man nicknamed “The Foreclosure King” to be Treasury Secretary. But that person gave speeches to Goldman Sachs on women entrepreneurs so, arrgle barrgle {static on the line what’s that you’re saying sorry I can’t hear you CLICK}.

Here’s a neat trick for wading through the bullshit for the next election: look at what people do, not what they say. This election we had one candidate who talked a good game but whose past was littered with dirty deeds, like using eminent domain to toss an elderly woman from her home, filing vindictive lawsuits, not paying taxes, being secretive, and not paying contractors. We had another candidate who also said the right things and whose past was filled with demonstrated actions backing them up: fighting for family leave, universal healthcare coverage, and fighting for women’s rights around the world. But again … there were some emails and arrgle barrgle …

Dumbass Americans, I can’t even feel sorry for you. I just can’t.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election

America, You Break My Heart

Meet Your New First Lady

Meet Your New First Lady

I don’t think I can stomach all of the think pieces about “economic anxiety” and “demographics” and “the anti-establishment vote” and all the other bullshit punditry we’re going to see over the next few days.

No. Just shut up. Shut up about all of that. Here are the facts:

1- Republicans control all three branches of government now. The last time that happened we got two wars, a record high budget deficit, a crashed economy, and a government so inept that it let one of this country’s greatest cities drown. So congratulations, America. You bought it, you own it.

2- It’s not a vote against the “establishment” when you send the same assholes back to Congress. See item 1.

Seriously, shut up about that. I saw a Trump supporter on TV last night say she wanted to “drain the swamp.” It’s not “draining the swamp” when virtually the same swampthings are headed back to D.C., except now with an authoritarian Putin wannabe at the helm. You’ve basically turbo-charged the swamp.

I mean, come on. They sent John fucking McCain back to Washington, you guys. John McCain was first elected to Congress in 1982. He’s been in Congress for 34 years. You don’t get more establishment than that.

3- Racsim is a real thing and it’s stronger than you know. Please stop denying the deep, rotting undercurrent of racism in this country just because we got two terms of a black president. Here’s a fact: America’s first president to follow its first African-American president was sued for discrimination and endorsed by White Nationalists. Last night’s vote was a vote about white fear. Own it.

Republican racism is now mainstream, has been for a long time. When Chief Justice John Roberts gutted the Voting Rights Act, states like North Carolina wasted no time enacting new policies that targeted people of color. This was craven, political opportunism, and it targeted voters of color. It targeted black people. That is the literal definition of racism.

4- Third parties were spoilers. Again. They always are, people. What have I been saying? We have a two-party system. That’s reality. Don’t like it? Move to fucking Britain where they have a Parliament. We don’t have one, so learn to count. Option one is the Republican candidate. Option two is the Democratic candidate. That’s it, folks. There is no third option.

I’m talking to every single one of you people intelligent enough to see that a President Trump would be a disaster. Yes, you folks on both the right and left: if you failed to vote for the only viable alternative to Trump, then you can go fuck yourselves. Yes, fuck you Susan Sarandon, Viggo Mortensen, Sen. Lindsey Graham, friends of this blog, and my own financial advisor down in Brentwood, Tennessee, who said he was voting for Gary Johnson because he wanted to “shake things up.” You voted for these people, even though Gary Johnson is a blubbering idiot who knows nothing, and even though Jill Stein, aka Tofu Palin, is an equally incompetent nincompoop who pops up every four years like a bad case of herpes. And in so doing, you elected Donald Trump. If you cast your vote for these people, you own the results.

I especially want to give a stiff middle finger to the folks who voted for Gary Johnson or Evan McMullin and voted to send their Republican Congress critters back to Washington (See Item 2). You basically cancelled out your “vote against the establishment” by empowering this idiot with a full Republican majority.

4- The Fourth Estate is dead. The American institution known as the news media has failed. It failed by promoting candidate Trump, promoting a bullshit Clinton email story, and filling the airwaves with behind-the-curtain “process stories.” Instead of informing the American people, they talked about the horse race (is feature not bug, I know, I know). Sorry, Steve Kornacki, but when MSNBC put you in front of your little map to do your mathematical jujitsu, it was a waste of everyone’s time. We don’t need to know the finer points of electoral math, demographic shifts, and turnout comparisons to 2008 and 2012. We need to know what it means if a President Trump renegs on our NATO obligations. We need to know what will happen if our trade agreements are suddenly null and void.

And another thing: news media, you spread fear and promote racism. You know you do. It can’t be a coincidence that Scott Michael Greene’s name has virtually disappeared from the papers; if he’d been Abdullah Mohammed we’d still be talking about him.

5- Evangelical Christianity, now with extra hypocrisy. Seriously, nothing screams religion is dead louder than a guy as morally repulsive as Donald Trump grabbing the vote of the Jesus people. You are completely dead to me.

6- Our system is broken. For the second time in the modern era, it appears the Democrat won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote. And it went so well last time, didn’t it? (Again, see Item 1.) This is the kind of thing that would have had Donald Trump calling for revolution and lawyers and Second Amendment Solutions had the shoe been on the other foot. So no, Republicans, you do not have a mandate, what you have is a broken system you were able to manipulate.

I really fear for this country. I fear for my students, who have names like Ahmed and Mohammed, who are black and Muslim and come from war-torn places like Syria. I fear for the people I know who are Hispanic. I fear for my gay-married friends. The few bright spots — legal cannabis in California, Massachusetts and Nevada — cannot overcome the seriously bad news that yesterday brought. Because what America did yesterday was endorse hate, racism, bigotry, and intolerance. We said that it’s okay to hate your neighbor. And that is not my America.

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Filed under 2016 Election, 2016 Presidential Election, racism, right-wing hate

Real? Or Not Real?

[UPDATE]:

Samantha Bee is on the case.

Frequently when walking our youngest dog Willie we have to play a game I call “Real? Or not real?”

Willie is the most skittish pup I’ve ever met (especially since he’s a ginormous, scary-looking pit bull/Lab mix). He’s a real marshmallow inside though, and is terrified of new things that appear in his space. Once it was a shopping cart that had somehow landed at the end of our street; he wouldn’t get within 15 feet of it for a week. Another time it was a beat-up VW Bug parked on the street that had never been there before. Balloons in front of an open house are extremely suspect, as are the Halloween decorations my neighbors have put up in their yards: those ghosts and witches hanging from trees that catch the breeze are too real for Willie. He’s sure they’re monsters come to life.

So, on our walks I often have to spend 5 or 10 minutes playing “real, or not real?” We get as close to the offending inanimate object as possible, I touch it, let him sniff my hand, we eventually get closer, repeat the touch and sniff, until finally he feels safe enough to sniff it on his own. Once he realizes it’s not real and not dangerous, he’s okay. Sometimes it takes more than one round of “real or not real” for him to walk past the object without fear. He’s still not convinced those Halloween decorations aren’t real. I understand why he thinks that; some of them look pretty real to me, too.

I bring all of this up because we have our own little version of “real, or not real” playing out on social media, influencing our national discourse and possibly our elections. I’ve noticed it with Donald Trump’s campaign, or at least people supporting his campaign, and if you spend any time on social media, you’ve probably seen it too: hundreds, maybe thousands, of fake Twitter accounts, many of which look and behave impossibly real, spreading the Trump message du jour, ginning up outrage where none probably exists, and driving the news narrative for the next 48 hours, days, or weeks.

How can you tell who is real and who is fake? It’s not easy. I’ve learned to spot a few clues: people with either absurdly few followers (and who aren’t following anyone), or non-famous people with tens of thousands of followers are big giveaways. Bio photos of young women with “Hollywood” looks are another clue: the hair and makeup are professionally done, the pose is staged, the outfit is professionally styled, etc. This tells me the bio photo was skimmed from a stock house or long-defunct ad campaign. Many of them have the word “Deplorable” in their handles now, a way of reinforcing the false outrage that Hillary calling them Deplorable was just the most offensive, terrible thing ever.

I don’t know where these fake people have come from; frankly, I’ve come to suspect a lot are tied to White Nationalists groups, as these folks seem to have figured out how to use social media as a manipulation tool. I find the whole thing absurd, and fascinating, and frightening.

Here’s an example: Meet Melissa, (now called Deplorable Melissa)

deplorable-melissa

Something seemed fishy to me about this lovely young woman; maybe it was the Pinned Tweet (they all have Pinned Tweets). Maybe it was that her Twitter feed consists almost entirely of re-Tweets. Maybe it was the professionally done hair and makeup, the “head-shot” pose. This looked like a photo skimmed from an old Revlon ad. So I did a reverse image search. I didn’t get any hits from ads, but I did get several links to suspended Twitter accounts. And one of the earliest suspended accounts had this photo as its bio image:

april-2016

Notice the background, the type of backdrop typically found at an entertainment industry red carpet event. The logo appears to be for something called “Sassy Sweet,” a name so generic it returned dozens of hits, from a line of hair care products to a franchise for little girl’s parties.

So, is Deplorable Melissa a real person? I don’t know, but I’m going to guess not. Over time her bio pic has been cropped and recropped, lost a background, her account has been suspended, she doesn’t Tweet anything original. I’m going to guess this photo was skimmed from Facebook or an old magazine. I could be wrong. There are people far smarter than me, with far better tools, who could figure this out in 5 minutes.

What I do know is, fakery on social media is being used by political campaigns to dupe the media and general public into thinking a message or idea has more support than it actually does.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “So, Beale, basically you’re telling us that stuff on the internet is fake? What next, water is wet?”

Yes, I get that. My point is that in this case, the “not real” is becoming “real,” simply by virtue of its existence. Get enough of these fake Twitter accounts Tweeting and re-Tweeting whatever the VRWC wants people to get hot and bothered about, and it quickly filters from the “not real” to the “real.” Case in point: the “rigged election” meme. It started with Donald Trump repeating “it’s rigged! Rigged, I tell you!” at every campaign event. It was then repeated by hundreds of fake bots and Twitter accounts, ended up on some timelines of real people, and before you know it, they start re-Tweeting it too. Suddenly the idea that election is rigged appears to have substantial support among actual voters.

Did any significant number of people out there seriously believe the election is rigged until the idea was planted in their heads? Doubtful.

And now the news media, which uses socials media as its assignment editor, is reporting on Trump supporters talking about a rigged election. This is the idea which has now been inserted into the national narrative: the process has been tainted, the election now has a pall of illegitimacy surrounding it, you can’t trust the institution. All of these ideas simply weren’t there in any significant way until very recently (hell, I remember the idea of electronic voting machines being hackable was considered a lefty fringe thing a few years ago). Now we have real people like this guy in Cincinnati saying Hillary Clinton “needs to be taken out if she gets in the government” and, “if I have to be a patriot, I will.” Secretaries of State around the country, including Tennessee’s own Trey Hargett — a Republican! — must deny the “rigged” claims.

We now have the news cycle driven by the “rigged election” meme. This is allowed to happen because our political news coverage is almost entirely driven by process stories, with very little time or effort devoted to substance. So the political press can report on the “rigged” story and whose campaign it’s most likely to hurt and what the longterm impacts of such a claim might be, etc. etc. But has anyone bothered to ask if any actual vote rigging has occurred? I read on Twitter that all across the country, “illegal immigrants” are voting and dead people are voting. It’s happening everywhere, you guys! I know ‘cuz I saw it on Facebook!

Except it’s not happening. It’s not even real. Absent any evidence of actual “rigging,” all of this seems to have been cooked up in Donald Trump’s tiny little brain. It’s “not real,” but now Secretaries of State all around the country must prove a negative. And it’s not the first time Trump’s done this, either. Carey Wedler at theAntiMedia.org wrote about Trump’s Twitter fakery during the primary. It’s a fascinating read, all the more interesting because the person who figured it out is an anti-Trump conservative activist. As Wedler wrote then:

Compared to planting pundits and making threats, using fake Twitter followers may seem benign, but the intention remains the same as more extreme forms of media manipulation: to force narratives on the public in the hopes of amassing power and influence.

So, next time a meme picks up steam in the public discourse, it may help to play our little game of “real, or not real?” Where did it originate — before Jake Tapper and Chris Cilizza and Lou Dobbs started talking about it? Was it cooked up in a campaign kitchen and delivered to the public by a bunch of fake bots? If so then it’s not real, you guys.

Unreal.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, Donald Trump, media, Social Media

OMG I Knew It

If Trump TV becomes reality I am literally giving up on humanity and moving into a yurt in the desert somewhere:

The Republican presidential nominee’s interest in harnessing his political gains and populist appeal for a slice of the cable TV market has long been rumored. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been in contact with Aryeh Bourkoff, founder of investment bank LionTree, about starting a TV network if he’s defeated in the presidential election in November, the FT reported.

Three days ago I wrote that I didn’t want to see anyone associated with the Trump campaign “falling upwards” after this disgusting campaign. That includes giving anyone associated with it their own TV show or, God forbid, an entire cable TV network. Fuck you, Aryeh Bourkoff and LionTree. I’ve never heard of you but anyone even considering doing business with the Trump organization at this point deserves what’s coming their way. Don’t you know everything Donald Trump touches turns to shit? That he has the original touch of merde?

And what fool thinks there’s a market for a hate channel? TLC didn’t exactly win big with Sarah Palin, did it? We already have WhitePrideTV on the internet, do we really need it on cable? Please.

I’m starting to think this was the grift all along.

Meanwhile, let the parodies begin:

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, Donald Trump, media, Media

Right Under Our Noses

Miss Washington 2013 spoke out way back in June about Donald Trump’s behavior. Why was she ignored?

“Miss USA Class of 2013: Do y’all remember that one time we had to do our on stage introductions, but this one guy treated us like cattle and made us do it again because we didn’t look him in the eyes? Do you also remember when he then proceeded to have us lined up so he could get a closer look at his property? Oh I forgot to mention that guy will be in the running to become the next President of the United States. I love the idea of having a misogynist as the President. … #HeWillProbablySueMe #iHaveWorseStoriesSoComeAtMeBro #Drumpf”

From a Yahoo News item in June about Searles’ post:

Other contestants sounded off on their experiences with the real estate mogul. Paromita Mitra, Miss Mississippi USA 2013, admitted, “I literally have nightmares about that process,” while Shannon McAnally called Searles’s account “so extremely true and scary.” Anna Horne noted, “Scares me so much.”

[…]

But perhaps the most inflammatory accusation hurled at Trump is one from Searles, in which she insinuates he sexually assaulted her. “He probably doesn’t want me telling the story about that time he continually grabbed my ass and invited me to his hotel room,” she wrote in the comments section.

This was June 2016, weeks before Trump officially claimed the Republican Party’s prize. So, these accusations aren’t “decades old,” and people aren’t “just now coming forward,” 26 days before the election. Women have been shouting from the rooftops, and nobody in the political press was listening, until the Access Hollywood tape surfaced.

By the way, if you haven’t watched Michelle Obama’s amazing speech from New Hampshire, please do so now. What she said is spot-on: forget the idea of Donald Trump winning; if Donald Trump doesn’t lose this election in an epic landslide, it will send the message that there are no consequences for being a racist, bigoted, sexist pig.

There have to be consequences for being a shitty human being. There have to be consequences for working to elect a shitty human being (Kellyanne Conway, I’m looking at you.) Nobody involved in the Trump campaign should be allowed to fall upwards after this disgraceful campaign. It needs to be that bad. Otherwise, we have normalized despicable behavior. We have empowered it. We’ve said, “Sure, you can defend sexually assaulting women and degrading an entire nation of people as rapists because here’s a lucrative TV contract, we think people want to hear more from you.”

And Mike Pence? Don’t even think about 2020. Anyone who is “proud to stand next to Donald Trump” should be relegated to the dung heap of politics.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election