Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tough Act

Donald Trump told Bill O’Reilly that he wants the cops to get tough with criminals.

“They are right now not tough. I mean, I could tell you this very long and quite boring story but when I was in Chicago, I got to meet a couple of very top police. I said, ‘How do you stop this? How do you stop this? If you were put in charge,’ to a specific person, ‘Do you think you could stop it?’ He said, ‘Mr. Trump, I would be able to stop it in one week.’ And I believed him 100 percent.”

Further efforts to clarify what exactly this “specific person” would do and what “tough police tactics” are did not get far.

“You have to have a warrant to arrest people,” O’Reilly said. “You can’t beat them up.”

Trump replied that he didn’t ask for an exact plan because he’s “not the mayor of Chicago.”

How about if they all wore brown shirts?  It’s worked before.

Safe Bets

Politico wonders why Donald Trump is campaigning in states he will win such as Texas and Mississippi and states he will most assuredly lose such as Connecticut.

“I have never known a general election campaign in my adult life, a Republican campaign, to spend time in Mississippi outside of raising money,” said Austin Barbour, a Mississippi-based Republican operative. “Donald Trump’s going to win Mississippi by at least double digits.”

But Trump is behind, several polls show, in North Carolina, a state that has gone Republican in eight of the past nine presidential elections. Georgia, which hasn’t voted Democratic since 1992, is competitive, with the latest poll showing a tied race. And more traditional battleground states have moved away from Trump: Ohio, which polls showed was a tied race last month, is now tilting in Hillary Clinton’s direction. Meanwhile, he is up in Mississippi by double digits, one recent survey shows.

“Going and doing a big event, that takes a lot of valuable time, that’s another stop you could make in Pensacola, Florida,” Barbour said. “Georgia’s close this year, North Carolina, there’s lots of places … It’s a confusing strategy. You only have a certain number of days.”

Either someone in the campaign headquarters is thinking that if you win a state by double digits that somehow matters in the electoral college vote.  Which it doesn’t.  It’s winner-take-all, even if it’s by 500 votes (see Florida 2000) except in Maine and Nebraska.

My guess is that by campaigning in safe places like Texas and Mississippi, Mr. Trump is guaranteed both white and adoring audiences, which he thrives on.  Then again, he campaigned in Austin, Texas, which is an oasis of liberals in a sea of right-wingers, and also in Connecticut, which is so not Trump territory; both places a waste of time.

Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to point and laugh.

“I Know A Bigot When I See A Bigot”

Charles Blow does not mince words in an appearance on CNN.  Via Mother Jones:

While discussing Donald Trump’s attempts to convince African Americans to back his presidential bid—a pitch the candidate recently summarized as “What the hell do you have to lose?”—New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow took a moment on Monday to explain to Bruce Levell, a Trump delegate from Georgia, the bigotry at the center of the real estate magnate’s campaign and why supporting Trump implicitly validates such hatred.

“Donald Trump is a bigot, there’s no other way to get around it,” Blow said. “Anybody who accepts that, supports it. Anybody supports it is promoting it and that makes you a part of the bigotry itself. You have to decide whether or not you want to be part of the bigotry that is Donald Trump. You have to decide whether you want to be part of the sexism and misogyny that is Donald Trump.”

Levell responded by accusing Hillary Clinton’s campaign of creating the “false facade” that Trump is a racist.

“I’m not part of the Clinton campaign,” Blow interjected. “I’m a black man in America and I know a bigot when I see a bigot.”

Can’t argue with that, and don’t even try.

Earthquake in Italy

Via the New York Times:

Strong earthquakes struck central Italy early Wednesday, killing several people, trapping many others under debris and setting off tremors that awakened sleeping residents in Rome nearly 100 miles to the southwest.

The first, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake, struck at 3:36 a.m. near the town of Accumoli, in the province of Rieti.

The mayor of Accumoli, Stefano Petrucci, reported that six people had been killed there. And at least two people were reported to have been killed in Pescara del Tronto in the province of Ascoli Piceno, according to the authorities.

Severe damage was reported in Amatrice, where Mayor Sergio Pirozzi said, “Half the town no longer exists.”

Mr. Pirozzi said that the number of victims was uncertain and that rescue teams were digging through the rubble of crumbled buildings, “hoping that most people were alive,” but he said that the historic center had been destroyed.

Earthquake in Italy 08-24-16

My sister has a stepdaughter and family in Florence, which is outside of the zone.  I’ll post when I hear from them.

Short Takes

President Obama tells Baton Rouge “You are not alone.”

Clinton continues big lead over Trump.

New Zika outbreak found in St. Petersburg.

Federal court upholds cut in Ohio early voting.

Tropical Update: Invest 99L is moving west.

The Tigers beat the Twins 8-3.

R.I.P. Steven Hill, 94, actor best remembered as D.A. Adam Schiff for ten seasons on Law & Order.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Once A Marxist

In the spam filter last night: “Hello, I’m Sgt. Frank Pickle, I am with the US Army in the NATO Special Training Mission–Afghanistan, which delivers training and professional development support to the national security forces of Republic of Benin.  My tour will be ending pretty soon and I think It’s time that I begin to search for a soul mate, a confidant and a friend.”

My reply: “And I am Captain Spaulding, the African explorer.”

Correcting The Record

Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager for Donald Trump, defended her candidate against the charge that he insults people.

CONWAY: […] I don’t like when people hurl personal insults. That will never change. That’s not my style. I’m a mother of four small children. And it would be a terrible example for me to feel otherwise –

STEPHANOPOULOS: You think Mr. Trump’s going to change on that?

CONWAY: Well, but he doesn’t hurl personal insults.

Oh, really? Would you like a typewritten list?

Juvenile Detention

I don’t care a whole lot for Joe Scarborough and his snarky sanctimony, and Mika Brzezinski is the dictionary definition of a concern troll, but for Donald Trump to go after both of them with some kind of innuendo about their personal lives and each other is what you’d expect from a middle-school taunt-fest, not from someone vying for the presidency.

Maybe this will explain that.

One Colorado 12-year-old is spending his summer vacation helping Donald Trump get elected by running the campaign’s field office in one of the state’s most populous counties.

The Trump campaign’s field office in Jefferson County, which includes the greater Denver area, is largely run by Weston Imer, 12. While his mother, Laurel Imer, is listed as the office’s official field coordinator, she told KDVR that allowing her son to organize volunteers as co-chair of the county office has been a great learning experience.

“You have a responsibility to your children to teach them,” she told the station.

Imer said that last year he was bullied at school, but now he’s planning on a future White House run of his own.

“Watch for me – 2040,” he told KDVR. “Barron Trump, if you’re watching, in 2040 I’ll take you as my running mate.”

Wouldn’t this qualify as a form of child abuse?

Second Thoughts

There are some one-time Trump supporters who have finally had enough.  Via the Toronto Star:

“He doesn’t act like a presidential candidate and some days he hardly acts like an adult,” said Nick Lucasti, 19, an engineering student in Indiana. “The constant name-calling and slander are not necessary.”

Lucasti had once liked Trump’s outspokenness and promise to improve border security. After the Republican convention a month ago, he decided he could no longer tolerate the businessman’s refusal to moderate his remarks or make his vague pledges more specific and realistic.

“For a while I thought he was very metaphorical — his ‘wall’ was really just a metaphor for him wanting to secure the borders,” said Lucasti, now undecided. “After months of watching him, though, I now know for sure that this guy honestly wants to build a concrete wall hundreds of miles long. Just ridiculous.”

It is impossible to know how many supporters have become defectors. Swing-state polls, though, show a decline in his share of the vote as Clinton’s has increased sharply. In must-win Pennsylvania, he has fallen from 44 per cent in July to 40 per cent today. In New Hampshire, he has gone from 42 per cent to 36 per cent.

“He has been crushed in the last couple weeks,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “He’s losing people from every possible demographic.”

And he is struggling with the right far more than Democratic nominee Clinton is struggling with the left. Clinton has the support of about 90 per cent of Democrats, Trump about 80 per cent of Republicans.

“A lot of the summer has not been used well,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

The Star interviewed 10 people who have recently ditched Trump or wavered. They cited a wide variety of complaints: his vice-presidential choice of religious conservative Mike Pence, his insistence that Barack Obama is “the founder” of Daesh, also known as ISIS and ISIL, even his rejection of a debate with Bernie Sanders. By far the most common concern, though, was his behaviour.

“There was just something off about him,” said Alabama finance student Frank Smyser, 21, who ditched Trump a month ago in favour of Libertarian Gary Johnson.

Or, “it’s all fun and games until someone blows up a country.”

It was one thing to vote for Trump during the primary when you were picking for a candidate, but now when it means that the name on the ballot could be the one in the White House… wait, he said what?

Nice People

Just the sort of people who will be helping Donald Trump reach out to minorities.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s paid campaign staffers have declared on their personal social media accounts that Muslims are unfit to be U.S. citizens, mocked how Mexicans talk, called for Secretary of State John Kerry to be hanged and stated their readiness for a possible civil war, according to a review by The Associated Press of their postings.

The AP examined the social media feeds of more than 50 current and former campaign employees who helped propel Trump through the primary elections. The campaign has employed a mix of veteran political operatives and outsiders. Most come across as dedicated, enthusiastic partisans, but at least seven expressed views that were overtly racially charged, supportive of violent actions or broadly hostile to Muslims.

A graphic designer for Trump’s advance team approvingly posted video of a black man eating fried chicken and criticizing fellow blacks for ignorance, irresponsibility and having too many children. A Trump field organizer in Virginia declared that Muslims were seeking to impose Sharia law in America and that “those who understand Islam for what it is are gearing up for the fight.”

The AP’s findings come at a time when Trump is showing new interest in appealing to minority voters, insisting he will be fair in dealing with the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally and explicitly pitching himself to African-Americans, saying “what do you have to lose?”

Wingnuts need jobs too, y’know.

Short Takes

Virginia re-enfranchises 13,000 ex-felons.

White House fires back at critics for LA flood response.

Lots more of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails to be released.

What’s up with Trump’s immigration policy?

N.C. trooper fatally shoots deaf man after traffic stop.

Tropical Update: Invest 99L could be interesting to South Florida.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Don’t Feed The Troll

Good advice from David Sax in the Guardian on how to deal with Donald Trump the troll.

By being the world’s most effective button-pusher, Donald Trump has brought the tactics of trolling out into the real world, where they are much more difficult to combat. And that is the single biggest problem with him running a presidential campaign like an online flame war. The tools that work to snuff trolls out online – muting, blocking and deleting accounts – don’t exist in the real world, particularly when the individual in question is guaranteed around-the-clock news coverage up until election day.

“He is now the Republican nominee,” says Reagle. “You can ban someone in an online community, but you can’t ban Trump.”

We might not be able to ban Trump, but experts agree that there are tactical ways to mitigate his impact. The question is, how can we use them?

Do not engage

“We’ve found that engaging with trolls will get them the very attention they want. Any engagement is really adding fuel to their fire,” says Jan Reischek, senior vice-president of ICUC Americas. This means that Clinton and her supporters should never resort to trolling behavior themselves, no matter what Trump says. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz fell for this, reacting to Trump’s name calling with sneers that only emboldened Trump. “I worry about Elizabeth Warren,” says Powazek, referring to the Democratic Massachusetts senator that Trump has insultingly called “Pochahontas”, and who consistently fights with him on Twitter. “She’s out there fighting fire with fire, but tactically it’s a mistake, because it allows him to set the tone of the debate, and the debate is in the mud. If you fight fire with fire on that, everyone burns.”

Instead, Democrats need to act more like New Jersey senator Corey Booker, who responded on television to a Trump insult by professing his love and concern for Trump’s mental sanity. “Treat him like a seven-year-old having a tantrum and focus on the substantive issues,” says Powazek.

Keep it factual, not personal

Deprive Trump of the emotional reactions he thrives off by focusing on policy and facts, two areas that are his proven weaknesses. Bog him down in specifics, and hold his feet to the fire on statements he makes on complicated issues like defense and fiscal policy, where his trolling tactics are of no use. Bill Eddy says this is the most effective way for dealing with high-conflict personalities. “Respond with information as assertively as the other side is responding aggressively. Aggressive tries to destroy the other party, but assertive stands up for yourself. It’s not personal.”

Defuse the anger

Trolls live to stoke rage. That is all they can do. Friendliness is their kryptonite. Clinton should muster every diplomatic skill she picked up at the state department and keep every public interaction friendly, no matter how much she despises Trump. “You have to ignore the living hell out of it,” says West.

This is obviously easier said than done, especially for the media, which may take issue with Trump’s message and tactics, but is nonetheless compelled to cover the presidential nominee.

It’s harder than you think, but it can be done.  Yell at the TV, then get out there and vote.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Reading

An abbreviated version while I’m on vacation…

That Should Work — James Fallows on Donald Trump’s latest appeal to African-American voters.

Donald Trump’s comments [Friday] night in Dimondale, Michigan, have already received a lot of attention. They’re worth noting as part of his campaign’s evolution, and worth watching in the video below, for these reasons:

  • They come after, not before, the latest “pivot” to a more compassionate, more general-election-minded tone in the campaign. This is the nice Trump.
  • They resemble appeals with a long and sometimes honorable history. Some black conservatives, and more whites, have argued over the decades that the taken-for-granted status of black support for Democratic candidates leaves the African-American vote, well, taken for granted. The most heartfelt and appealing version of the argument that black voters should consider voting Republican came from the late Jack Kemp, due to his sunny bearing and his own bona fides from a career in the very integrated world of sports. It was different from the version Trump presented here.
  • Trump ostensibly made his argument to black voters, asking “what do you have to lose?” But if you watch the clip you’ll see that in context he is talking about black people, to an audience that was mainly white. (Audience composition is something you can control, or at least foresee and influence, if you’re running a national campaign. Where you hold the event, where you drum up attendance, whom you seat in the prominent on-camera places behind the candidate and in the front of the crowd—these all have an effect and can be tuned.)
  • Most remarkable was a tone that amounted to treating black America as a problem, rather than as a group that has some problems. The tension between statement and insinuation was similar to Trump’s inaugural statement last year about Mexicans: “they’re sending rapists.” He wasn’t explicitly saying, “Mexicans are rapists.” But the tone and insinuation were those you would never use about a group you cared about, or respected.

    Listen to the passage starting at time 1:05 of the clip below. To me the unavoidable tone is the same: What is wrong with “you people”?

  • Trump rounds out this appeal by saying that if he’s elected, he’ll get 95% black support for his re-election. “I guarantee it!” This will probably end up being classified in the “sarcastic” bin, given that not even Barack Obama got that large a share of the black vote in his re-election run. He got about 93% in 2012; Trump right now is running between 1% and 3% black support, depending on the polls.

Update Trump has said similar things, more clearly, on Fox News. It’s worth reading the report on  Think Progress. “Total catastrophe” is one of the terms he uses to describe the achievements and situation of black Americans.

Unruly Mob — James Folta in The New Yorker explains why the Mafia is in decline.


After extensive investigation, our specialized team, the F.B.I. New-Media Task Force, has determined that organized-crime syndicates are being increasingly hampered by an inability to communicate effectively through text messages and e-mails. Agents have found that the Mafia and other large criminal groups are having difficulty planning crimes as a result of overly long strings of messages that are derailed by unrelated jokes and GIFs. Our investigators are pleased to report that this pattern has led to a decrease in crime and an increase in criminal organizations’ cellular overage charges.

The bulk of this investigation involved the interception and analysis of Mafia members’ text messages. It was observed that poor texting habits led to many issues. For instance, unrecognized abbreviations often had to be explained (LOL = Lots of Larceny, CSP = Cement Shoes Please, BHK = Break His Knees, etc.). Mobsters who own different brands of phones were inadvertently left out of group texts, and as a result crimes were understaffed and failed. Winking emojis that were meant to subtly imply something illegal were often interpreted as flirtatious, and vice versa.

Combing through Mafia conversations has revealed an organization that is overly chatty, unable to make basic criminal decisions in fewer than fifty logistical messages. Consider this transcript from a group text chain labelled “Legitimate Businessmen”:

Joey Three Snaps: did you get it?
Hambone Harry: yah, where can I can hand it off?
Joey Three Snaps: Tito’s?
Hambone Harry: eh I don’t feel like that, had mexican last night
Gus Gus: we don’t have to eat for this meeting
Joey Three Snaps: wat do you feel like?
Hambone Harry: not Tito’s
Gus Gus: guys what about just Starbucks
Joey Three Snaps: nah I need to eat
Gus Gus: they have muffins n stuff
Hambone Harry: guys come on, pick something
Gus Gus: sidebar: where’s a good place to start with don delillo?

This particular text conversation continues for another sixty-four minutes until its participants decide to abandon the plan altogether, and to start with “White Noise.” We believe that, in this instance, inept texting combined with numerous long-winded tangents about what constitutes a “low-key date spot” prevented or delayed a serious crime.

E-mails provided another source of disorganization for criminals. We uncovered chains so long that mobsters were unable to locate vital information (the names of targets, bribery amounts, restaurant recommendations, etc.) among all the correspondence. Hundreds of unrelated comments, tips about how to slice garlic, and “Sad Mobcat Memes” (see attached appendix) time and again brought e-mail communication to an effective halt.

An undercover agent recorded this telling exchange during a game of medium-stakes poker:

[Unintelligible] God, this is getting really bad. We’re trying to plan a weekend trip to, uh, talk to that upstate judge, but Manny only just now, on Friday morning, replied that we can take his car. [Unintelligible] then Donny e-mailed that actually he had a thing with his cousin that he forgot about so he had to bail, and then Gerald chimed in that he’s feeling drained this week, so now we don’t have enough guys to make this happen before the trial. I’ve been suggesting a Doodle but—[cell-phone alert sound] O.K., jeez, I guess now we’re trying again for next weekend. For Christ’s sake, I said I couldn’t get away then.

This same undercover agent was able to increase confusion in group communications by interjecting flaky R.S.V.P.s, links to provocative Op-Eds, and the question “new phone, who’s on this thread?” This tactic proved so successful that we are now urging other F.B.I. agents to take similar steps to infiltrate criminal communication networks (Operation Rolling Tangent).

If this trend continues, we believe that we will be closer than ever to effectively stamping out organized crime. The New-Media Task Force will be holding briefing meetings to provide more detailed information. If you are interested in attending, please reply-all to this memo with the times that you are not available next week. We will be sending out coördinating e-mails as soon as enough agents respond.

Doonesbury — Such babies.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016