Better in Russian

I’ve heard this sort of speech a lot in the last 15 years and trust me, it doesn’t sound any better in Russian.

– Garry Kasparov, former Putin challenger and world chess champion
7-21-2016

America was not built on fear. It was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.

Tim Kaine, quoting Harry Truman
7-23-2016

This week’s featured posts are “You Have to Laugh“, where I (mostly) ignore the ominous implications of the Republican Convention and focus on the all the great comedy it inspired, and “The Big Lie in Trump’s Speech“, where I lay out the unspoken falsehoods that hold the speech together.

This week everybody was talking about the Republican Convention

It was hard to think about anything else this week. Both featured posts center on it, one on its humorous aspects and the other on the disturbing ones.

One of the more interesting perspectives on Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday night comes from Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion who (until he had to leave the country) was a leader in the movement against Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. In a WaPo op-ed, Kasparov writes:

I saw an Americanized version of the brutally effective propaganda of fear and hatred that Vladimir Putin blankets Russia with today. …

In both cases, the intent of the speaker is to elicit the visceral emotions of fear and disgust before relieving them with a cleansing anger that overwhelms everything else. Only the leader can make the fear and disgust go away. The leader will channel your hatred and frustration and make everything better. How, exactly? Well, that’s not important right now. …

It is painful to admit, but Putin was elected in a relatively fair election in 2000. He steadily dismantled Russia’s fragile democracy and succeeded in turning Russians against each other and against the world. It turns out you can go quite far in a democracy by convincing a majority that they are threatened by a minority, and that only you can protect them.


In that speech, Trump brought up his father, from whom he inherited his real estate empire:

My dad, Fred Trump, was the smartest and hardest working man I ever knew. I wonder sometimes what he’d say if he were here to see this tonight. It’s because of him that I learned, from my youngest age, to respect the dignity of work and the dignity of working people.

Folk-music legend Woody Guthrie was one of Fred’s tenants for two years. He had a different view of who Fred respected, writing (what look to be lyrics) in his notebooks about “Old Man Trump” and the “racial hatred he stirred up” by imposing a color line that kept blacks from becoming Guthrie’s neighbors. Years later, The Village Voice reported:

According to court records, four superintendents or rental agents confirmed that applications sent to the central office for acceptance or rejection were coded by race. Three doormen were told to discourage blacks who came seeking apartments when the manager was out, either by claiming no vacancies or hiking up the rents. A super said he was instructed to send black applicants to the central office but to accept white applications on site. Another rental agent said that Fred Trump had instructed him not to rent to blacks. Further, the agent said Trump wanted “to decrease the number of black tenants” already in the development “by encouraging them to locate housing elsewhere.”


Charles Pierce:

These were not people begging to govern. These were not even people begging to be governed. These were people begging to be ruled. For all the palaver about freedom and liberty, and all the appeals to the Founders and the American experiment, this whole convention was shot through with an overwhelming lust for authority.

This was a gathering of subjects thirsting for a king.


Trump appears to have gotten a small-to-medium-sized bounce out of the convention, which has (for the moment) put him narrowly in the lead in most polls. Between the conventions is often a skewed time to poll, so Nate Silver‘s NowCast (if the election were held today) model favors Trump, while his more sophisticated PollsPlus model still favors Clinton. Both currently project a close election.

and Tim Kaine

I admit it: I didn’t expect to like Tim Kaine. I’d never watched or listened to him, but his picture looks like some grey-haired vanilla white guy. (And speaking as a grey-haired vanilla white guy myself, I think we have enough representation in the halls of power.) As a senator, he has a generic-Democrat voting record, and when he wanders off the reservation, he tends to wander right rather than left.

I’d been hoping for somebody with better progressive credentials, like Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown. (I’d really been hoping for Al Franken, who I think would do the best job of getting under Trump’s skin.) Some new face who could energize young people would be great too, though (not being an excitable young person myself) I have a hard time figuring out who that would be.

Like Digby, I was willing to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt on having done the political calculation right: Maybe the first female president, like the first black president, needs a running mate who calms everybody down. Her people have done the focus groups and I haven’t, so maybe they know more than I do.

Then I watched Kaine’s introductory appearance with Clinton at Florida International University. My first impression is that Tim Kaine is one of the most likable politicians out there. He seems spontaneous, even when you know he has to be using a prepared text. He somehow manages to sound light without sacrificing seriousness. (Having done some public speaking myself, I envy that.) He can talk about his faith without either pandering or getting preachy. He can put forward a positive vision rather than just tear down Trump. His facility with Spanish — which comes from leaving law school for a year to be a missionary in Honduras — is a bonus in an election that depends so much on Hispanic turnout.

And then there’s a moment in his speech (around the 46-minute mark in the video) that really does look spontaneous. He’s talking about immigration reform, and is starting a story about watching new citizens get sworn in, when he asks for a show of hands from all the naturalized citizens in the audience. Apparently there are a lot of them because Kaine seems surprised: “Yeah. Wow. Thanks for choosing us!”

I was charmed. So often the immigration discussion happens in a judgmental frame: Are these people good enough to be Americans? Kaine turned that around by appreciating the compliment they pay us by wanting to join our country.

So I still expect to hear about issues where I disagree with him, and I’ve already heard a few. But I’m going to listen to what he has to say.


Jonathan Chait has an interesting perspective on Kaine, beginning with the idea that he was considered acceptably progressive eight years ago when he was on Obama’s VP short list.

The left does have reality-based reasons for its dismay. There are aspects of Kaine’s record and beliefs it has reason not to like. At the same time, the complaints about Kaine suffer from a certain myopia that seems to be symptomatic of the hothouse atmosphere that has developed on the left during the Obama era. Emphasis on doctrinal purity have blotted out broader assessments of personal fitness, the absence of ideological dissent overwhelming the presence of positive qualities. The prevailing definition of a perfect leader has become a perfect follower.

and the Democratic Convention

which starts tonight with speeches by Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama. Tuesday night’s headliners are Bill Clinton (who has spoken at every Democratic Convention since 1988) and Elizabeth Warren. Wednesday is basically the retirement party for President Obama and Vice President Biden, as well as Kaine’s acceptance speech. Naturally, Hillary will speak on the final night, Thursday.

I am hoping that the Democrats don’t fall into the trap of answering Trump’s 100%-negative convention with an all-negative convention of their own. (The Kaine speech I linked to above makes me hopeful.) I want to hear that Democrats are working on the real problems that face Americans, and that we’re even willing to tell you how we plan to attack those problems. It doesn’t need to be a seminar on public policy, but people need to hear that the Democrats have thought things through on a level deeper than “I’m going to build a wall.”

The tricky piece of messaging will be how to attack the Republican Congress, rather than just Trump. As I spelled out a few weeks ago: Obama is and for eight years has been a powerful voice for change in America; what maintains the status quo is the logjam in Congress.


The ever-present background story as the Convention begins is the leak of DNC emails, leading to the resignation of Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

There are 20,000 of these emails, and I have not even attempted to go through them myself. How serious you think the revelations are seems to depend on what you previously thought about the DNC and the Sanders campaign. Vox (which has generally supported Clinton over Sanders) finds no bombshell:

The emails seem to confirm Bernie supporters’ general impression that many DNC officials liked Hillary Clinton more than Sanders. What the emails don’t seem to prove, at least so far, is that they used DNC resources to help Clinton or hurt Sanders.

But more Bernie-leaning The Intercept has a harsher take on the story.

What makes the issue hard for me to judge (without more research than I’ve been willing to do so far) is that at some point the Sanders campaign began attacking the DNC fairly aggressively. So when internal DNC emails express anger at the Sanders campaign, it’s hard to tell whether the writers are angry at Bernie for running against Hillary, or for attacking the DNC. It would be understandable for people who feel under unfair attack to express anger among themselves against the source of those attacks. It would be still be wrong for them to take action on those feelings, but so far it’s not clear to me that they did.

On the fringes of the pro-Bernie left, there have long been conspiracy theories about vote fraud in the primaries and various other offenses far more serious than just rooting for Hillary when you’re supposed to be impartial. Nothing I’ve seen in the published snippets of the emails validates those claims, and it would be a shame if the DNC-email story perpetuates such talk.

On the Clinton side, there’s talk about a Russian role in the email hack, and accusations that Putin wants to influence the election in Trump’s favor. So far that’s also still mostly a conspiracy theory: You can tell a plausible story, and there is some evidence for each of the individual links, but the theory as a whole is still pretty speculative.

and you might also be interested in

One year in, the Iranian nuclear deal still looks pretty good from the American side. But Iranians who thought their economy would instantly rebound have been disappointed.



One of the featured posts focuses on political humor, but this piece didn’t quite fit and is too good to leave out: The Liberal Redneck tells us what he thinks about Black Lives Matter.

Responding to that sentiment with “All Lives Matter” would be sorta like telling Susan G. Komen to chill it with all the pink shit on account of all cancer sucks. That last part’s true, but it ain’t really the fucking point.


Things have taken a turn for the worse in Turkey, after President Erdogan survived a coup attempt last week. Erdogan has declared a three-month state of emergency, and struck back against a large swath of people he believes to be his enemies.

Some 60,000 bureaucrats, soldiers, policemen, prosecutors and academic staff have come under the government’s spotlight, many of them facing detention or suspension over alleged links to the Gülenist movement and the coup plotters.

Earlier on Wednesday, the government had imposed a work travel ban on academics, which, a senior Turkish official said, was a temporary measure as accomplices of the coup plotters in universities were a potential flight risk.

All 1,577 deans of public and private universities in Turkey submitted their resignations at the government’s urging. This came after 20,000 teachers and administrators were suspended from their jobs as a result of the coup, along with 6,000 soldiers and more than 2,700 judges and prosecutors, and dozens of senior generals accused of involvement in the coup.


Roger Ailes is out at Fox News, after Gretchen Carlson’s complaints of sexual harassment were echoed by other women who have worked at Fox, including current star Megyn Kelly. But don’t cry for Roger, he gets a $40 million dollar parachute.

And apparently the problem is bigger than just Ailes.

The investigation by Fox News’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, focused narrowly on Mr. Ailes. But in interviews with The New York Times, current and former employees described instances of harassment and intimidation that went beyond Mr. Ailes and suggested a broader problem in the workplace.

The Times spoke with about a dozen women who said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox News or the Fox Business Network, and half a dozen more who said they had witnessed it. Two of them cited Mr. Ailes and the rest cited other supervisors. …

They told of strikingly similar experiences at Fox News. Several said that inappropriate comments about a woman’s appearance and sex life were frequent. Managers tried to set up their employees on dates with superiors.

Here’s a longer article devoted to a single case: former Fox reporter Rudi Bakhtiar, who says she was fired after she complained.

Donald Trump’s comment is classic male chauvinism: “I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he’s helped them.” Dean Obeidallah of The Daily Beast responded:

Think about that comment for a moment. Trump is basically saying that since Ailes had helped these women with their careers, the alleged sexual harassment was okay because it was the price to pay for his help.

Larry Wilmore of The Nightly Show referred to this idea that you can harass women you’ve helped as “the Skeazy Pass”.


This is the third or fourth time I’ve seen a small businessman tell the same story about dealing with Trump. You’ve got to wonder how often this happened.

and let’s close with something awesome

The Late, Late Show‘s James Corden spends 15 minutes with the First Lady. When the Obamas return to private life, I’m going to miss Michelle.

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Comments

  • Anonymous  On July 25, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    They don’t pay you enough Doug! Thanks for the great work.
    Leslie

  • The Serapion Brotherhood  On July 25, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    “In 1927, Trump was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Jamaica, Queens; he was later released without charges.”

    That’s a quotation from Fred Trump’s WIkipedia article. Why isn’t anyone doing anything with this?

  • janinmi  On July 26, 2016 at 10:39 am

    I have a feeling that the Obamas won’t be invisible once the POTUS leaves office. We’ll be seeing plenty of them; there’s too much energy between M & B to contain. 🙂

  • Guest  On July 26, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    “What makes the issue hard for me to judge…is that at some point the Sanders campaign began attacking the DNC fairly aggressively.”

    Blaming the victim has been a Clinton playbook favorite for decades now, but I didn’t expect to see it here. Yes, what the DNC has done goes beyond “just rooting for Hillary when (they’re) supposed to be impartial.” FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, the progressive media watch dog) among others point out that claims of the DNC’s pro-Hillary bias being endemic and widespread were completely founded, reporting that DNC “worked to plant pro-Clinton stories, floated the idea of using Sanders’ secular Judaism against him in the South, and routinely ran PR spin for Clinton.”

    Matt Taibi confirms that the DNC “essentially acted as an arm of the Clinton campaign” and focuses in on the DNC/Clinton reaction to the Vogel and Arnsdorf Politico piece that exposed how the Hillary Victory Fund laundered money meant for down-ticket support back to the Clintons (remember the talking point that Bernie was forsaking the down-ticket candidates for his own selfish advance, and only Hillary was stepping up the fundraising plate?). But he also notes that likely none of it will register with the pro-Clinton crowd.

    On that front, FAIR points our a pattern that we shouldn’t be surprised to see again going forward. Adam Johnson at FAIR calls it the “Snowden Cycle” where an accusation is dismissed as the fever dream of a tinfoil hat wearing fringe, until the accusation is proven to be well founded, at which point the accusation is dismissed and common knowledge not worth any lingering attention. While such patterns hold, we shouldn’t expect much correction or constructive change from the DNC/Clinton camp.

    • weeklysift  On July 27, 2016 at 6:54 am

      I had read the pieces you quote when I wrote my comment. But whenever I drilled down into what people actually did and what effect it might have had on the election, I wasn’t that impressed.

      The Politico piece was one of the things I had in mind: It was largely an attack on the DNC — what was portrayed as scandalous in the article was that the money the state parties were supposed to get wound up at the DNC — so it’s not surprising they would react defensively. They were spinning for themselves, not necessarily for Clinton.

      One paragraph of the Politico article that I don’t think gets enough attention: “DNC spokesman Mark Paustenbach pointed out that the national party committee ‘offered to engage in the same joint fundraising efforts with all the major presidential candidates early in the cycle, and we welcome the efforts of the candidates to help raise money for the DNC and state parties now to ensure we can build out the infrastructure to win in November’.”

      Also this from a Vox article on the controversy: “‘If Bernie Sanders were in a different position and leading the race, he’d be poised to take advantage of this huge war chest that’s been amassed at the DNC,’ says Josh Stewart, deputy communications director at the Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group for money in politics. ‘If Sanders had won, this money would be his — and a lot would be from the Clinton machine that helped raise it’.”

      • Guest  On July 28, 2016 at 2:39 pm

        Under Taibi’s delineation, those inside the Clinton bubble won’t be able to see the DNC acting as a direct arm of the Clinton campaign as having any effect on the primary process. They should not be impressed by any of this, if anything they should be scratching their heads wondering what the fuss is about. His lamentations seem justified.

        The DNC running spin for themselves and “coincidentally” Clinton as well in response to the Politico piece didn’t strike me as the bigger scandal, the main issue there seemed to be that of the millions of dollars raised specifically for down-ticket candidates, less than 1% ended up going to those folks, while the DNC/Clinton campaign took the rest, presumably to sidestep contribution limits.

        To Josh Stewart’s “if things were different then things would be different” point, yes, Sanders would be getting money from the DNC if he was nominated, except of course for the millions of dollars they already funneled to the Clinton campaign for personnel, overhead, and advertising. Given the biased actions of the DNC throughout the primary season, and given the recent leaked revelations, it’s bizarre that you would point to a DNC spokesman boilerplate quote for attention without a trace of irony.

        Under our current system, you can easily make the case that the Clinton camp has been unethical or extremely careless, but while they’ve scoffed the spirit of the law, they’ve been careful to not venture into criminally illegal territory. That’s enough of a distinction for the Clinton crowd certainly, and hopefully it’s enough for independent voters in the general election. For those looking to break the stranglehold of big money elites on our elections and legislation, it’s yet another reminder of how much work we have ahead of us.

Trackbacks

  • […] Last week I characterized the idea that Vladimir Putin hacked the Democratic National Committee to help Donald Trump become president as “mostly a conspiracy theory” and “pretty speculative”. That theory got quite a bit more believable this week. […]

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