Race for the bottom of the slime barrel!

I was horrified years ago when Fox News emerged as the shambling, dishonest, sleazy voice of conservative thought — I mean, I thought the National Review was a racist organ, but at least they put on bow ties and talked in elevated accents and pretended to be decent human beings, and William F. Buckley Jr. was clearly an intelligent man with odious views. Fox News decided that intelligence was irrelevant and that the odious views were what sold. And the Republican Party embraced it all and decided to jettison intelligence along with decency (although one could argue that they led the way with Reagan).

Brace yourself. It gets worse. Fox News is now passé. It is insufficiently contemptible for the next crop of conservative politicians.

They are all jumping to…Breitbart.

Trump is going to cash in on his electoral defeat by forming an alliance with Breitbart, creating an abomination called Trump TV so far. That may change, since the Trump name is so tainted that it isn’t being used on any of his new hotels.

And if you thought Trump was bad, wait until you get a load of the next generation of far right conservatives. Curt Schilling is considering a political career, and hitching his star to Breitbart. After all, if the primary qualifications for running for office as a Republican are a loud mouth, racism, and ignorance, he’s a perfect match.

Another guy who is trying to rehabilitate his political career by diving into the raging dumpster fire is Dinesh D’Souza. So presidential.

Obama’s dad dumped him at birth & his mom got rid of him at age 10–did they know something we didn’t when we signed up for this guy?

Just wait. After the 2020 elections, when Breitbart is branded as a loser and gets discarded like Fox News, the Republicans will go looking for an even more repulsive vehicle for their views, and we’ll see the rise of Aryan Nation TV. Then, in 2024, when that one goes bust as a medium for getting Republicans elected, they’ll have to go even lower. I don’t know what form that horror will take, though. Maybe they’ll join forces with the Catholic Church.

We can no longer be surprised by the Republican party

There was a time when I could hate-read David Brooks, back when I was young and virile and mighty and barbarously savage and could stomach a bit of hackery, but those days are long gone and now I rely on his chief eviscerator, Driftglass, to do the dirty work of rending his pious bullshit. His latest does a fine job of exposing the Republican party’s evasive strategy: always pretend the bad actor was not a true member of the party, and constantly reinvent itself in name only while promoting the same old bad behavior. Brooks is their most experienced actor at pretending to be shocked, shocked I tell you at the shenanigans he previously endorsed but have now been revealed to be criminal failures.

Driftglass also mentions the other curious phenomenon that has so wrecked our country: conservatives ruin everything they touch, and when they are caught at it, they fall upwards into the loving arms of the media, where they then get to spend the rest of their careers papering over their abuses…and bringing in the next crop of crooked conservatives to help them in their propaganda. If you ever wonder how the press got so awful in this country, you can start by blaming Watergate.

Bonus points for citing this Charles Pierce piece. We shouldn’t be surprised that Trump is thinking about refusing to abide by the results of the election. This is exactly what the Republicans have been doing for decades. He’s just more brash and less slithery than your standard Republican con artist.

It also leads to a scary prospect. I think Trump will lose, and lose hard…which just means that all those godawful idiotic Trump surrogates will be promoted to higher positions at Fox News and CNN and all the other outlets, and will never ever go away.

The worst thing from last night’s debate was…

…Donald Trump’s declaration that our national misery and embarrassment won’t end on 8 November. He could lose in a landslide, and his ego will not allow him to accept it — expect the election night to be full of Trumpians declaring that everything is “rigged”. Expect him to go on a rhetorical rampage the day after. Expect his rabid followers to riot. Expect him to show up on inauguration day demanding to be sworn in, and to appear on every freakish far right wing radio show for years to come complaining about how the election was stolen.

I really just want him to go away.

The lies were pretty bad, too. Yes, he did say that he thought Japan should defend itself with nukes…to Chris Wallace, despite denying it last night. He babbled about ending abortion, claiming that a woman could demand one the day before her due date, and that a beautiful baby would be torn limb from limb…which sounds exactly like the kind of grisly lie pro-life kooks love to make up. There is no such thing as a ninth month abortion.

There was also the expected word salad served up every time actual policy was discussed. Here’s what he said to defend his claim that Aleppo has fallen to Assad forces.

Well, Aleppo is a disaster. It’s a humanitarian nightmare. But it has fallen from any standpoint. I mean, what do you need, a signed document? Take a look at Aleppo. It is so sad when you see what’s happened. And a lot of this is because of Hillary Clinton. Because what has happened is by fighting Assad, who turned out to be a lot tougher than she thought, and now she is going to say, “Oh, he loves Assad.” He’s just much tougher and much smarter than her and Obama. And everyone thought he was gone two years ago, three years ago. He aligned with Russia. He now also aligned with Iran, who we made very powerful. We gave them $150 billion back. We give them $1.7 billion in cash. I mean cash, bundles of cash as big as this stage. We gave them $1.7 billion.

Now they have aligned, he has aligned with Russia and with Iran. They don’t want ISIS. But they have other things because we’re backing, we’re backing rebels. We don’t know who the rebels are. We’re giving them lots of money, lots of everything. We don’t know who the rebels are. And when and if, and it’s not going to happen because you have Russia and you have Iran now. But if they ever did overthrow Assad, you might end up as bad as Assad is, and he is a bad guy.

But you may very well end up with worse than Assad. If she did nothing, we’d be in much better shape. And this is what has caused the great migration where she has taken in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who probably in many cases, not probably, who are definitely in many cases ISIS-aligned. And we now have them in our country and wait until you see this is going to be the great Trojan Horse.

And wait until you see what happens in the coming years. Lots of luck, Hillary. Thanks a lot for doing a great job.

That…doesn’t…answer…the question. It doesn’t even make sense. The only thing it confirms is that Trump is an ignoramus.

Lots of luck, Republicans. Thanks a lot for doing a great job. I hope your party does a Joffrey and dies purple-faced and bleeding, but quickly and definitively, at least.

Oh, no…not another debate

Is there any point? Isn’t this whole thing over now?

Anyway, tonight the competent, experience woman is going to have to share the stage with the ignorant, egocentric man, and give him unearned equal time. The topics that Hillary Clinton will discuss have been announced:

  • Debt and entitlements
  • Immigration
  • Economy
  • Supreme Court
  • Foreign hot spots
  • Fitness to be President

Note that I said these are what Clinton will discuss. Trump will be off in argle-bargle land, ranting about how great he is and how his enemies will face his wrath and vengeance. One thing I’ve noticed about these debates, though, is that they don’t discuss…science. I think the politicians are afraid of the subject.

But here’s something brilliant: Gaius Publius explains how every one of those topics could be turned into specific questions about climate change. All it would take is some intelligence and willingness to dig a little deeper on the part of the moderator…

Oh, crap. The moderator is Chris Wallace? Fuck it, he’s a schmuck.

The honest-to-god truth finally comes out

I woke up this morning to learn that Donald Trump has totally destroyed the credibility of all of those WOMEN who have been accusing him of sexual harassment and assault. He has proof that WOMEN have been lying.

And that proof is a MAN.

Case closed. Donald Trump has a witness who as an 18 year old British BOY was flying first class on a domestic American flight, and HE had his eyes locked on the WOMAN who claims Trump was pawing at her, and HE swears it was actually the WOMAN who was pawing HIM.

HE has no evidence that HE was even there, but you should believe HIM because HE said so, and HE also said HE has a photographic memory, and also was clearly witnessing the scene through eyes made of cells containing Y chromosomes, and perceiving it with a MALE brain.

The person who was being pawed and might be expected to retain a more vivid recollection than a random passenger on the flight was, well, a WOMAN, and bitchez be lyin’, am I right, fellas?

Of course, Anthony Gilberthorpe also claims to have procured rent-boys for the Thatcher cabinet, that he was engaged to a beautiful American woman who doesn’t exist (is this like the Canadian girlfriend trope, only for the British it’s their American fiance?), and he fed a story that he had AIDS to the newspapers so he could sue them for defamation. HE is not exactly a source with a great reputation for probity, but HE says what the Trump Campaign wants to hear, and HE is a MAN, which adds +10 to all reliability rolls.

That Trump accepts this MAN as a credible source, by the way, adds another oily, repulsive sheen to his trusted television surrogates, Corey Lewandowski, Kayleigh McEnany, Jeffrey Lord, and Scottie Nell Hughes. That isn’t the reek of cadaverine and hydrogen sulfide coming from those people, it is the scent of sanctity and the aroma of veracity, soon to be bottled and sold under the Trump™ brand as the perfume, Honestly.

Two expressions I’ve come to detest

As the Trump campaign steadily sinks deeper into the swamp of racism, misogyny, and anti-semitism, there are a couple of phrases I hear over and over, in multiple variations, and it just needs to stop.

“We didn’t know he was this bad”. I usually hear this one from Republicans. It’s a lie. We’ve all known that he was a colossal boor since at least the 1990s, and he hasn’t gotten worse — this is the same jerk we’ve known for about 30 years. There is absolutely no surprise in his behavior or his record, but people have just always looked the other way. You probably know assholes like this right now, and we’ve always just rolled our eyes, shaken our head, and walked away.

“And now he’s running for President of the United States,” usually said by Democrats with a note of horror. The high office he is running for should not make the slightest difference. Would this be acceptable if he were merely a real estate tycoon, or a ditch digger? Is there some kind of invisible class line such that if you’re below it, it’s expected that you will call women pigs, but once you’re above it, only then does it become rude?

What prompts my irritation is that a friend of mine, a woman, a feminist, and a prominent atheist, has been receiving a flood of hateful comments on facebook that aren’t really that different from what Trump says. We all take this for granted as the normal state of affairs. But I have to wonder…these petty vulgarians have friends — I should say enablers — who retain their associations with them even as they call women “ugly”, “fat”, and “pieces of shit”. They are not shunned. They have their own little communities of hatred. They thrive. They get healthy sums of money from their patreon accounts. They have turned the atheist movement into an embarrassing crap heap.

What I’m learning from Trump is that we can’t expect to see them condemned until a) they’ve been at it for 30 years, or b) they decide to run for president. And until then, the only people we’re going to scorn are the ones who dare to call them out before either of those eventualities are reached.

Nice legal burn

The New York Times has responded to Donald Trump’s lawsuit threats. It’s a very nice letter. I get the impression that legal training is all about teaching you when and how to politely say “go fuck yourself”.

Re: Demand for retraction

Dear Mr Kasowitz:

I write in response to your letter of October 12, 2016 to Dean Baquet concerning your client Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States. You write concerning our article “Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately ” and label the article as “libel per se.” You ask that we “remove it from [our] website, and issue a full and immediate retraction and apology.” We decline to do so.

The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a “piece of ass.” Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.

But there is a larger and much more important point here. The women quoted in our story spoke out on an issue of national importance — indeed, an issue that Mr. Trump himself discussed with the whole nation watching during Sunday night’s presidential debate. Our reporters diligently worked to confirm the women’s accounts. They provided readers with Mr. Trump’s response, including his forceful denial of the women’s reports. It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices. We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.


David E. McCraw

It’s also interesting because some of us are being hit with legal threats that could also be answered in almost exactly the same way (the “national importance” bit would have to go, I probably wouldn’t suggest that there would be a “disservice to democracy”, and obviously it all would sound much more authoritative coming out of the mouth of a lawyer), so it’s good to see my opinion affirmed so eloquently.

The descent of a lie

It’s not often that ideas in evolutionary theory become directly applicable to politics, but now we have a case of plagiarized errors in the Trump campaign. “Plagiarized errors” is the idea that the propagation of mistakes is often more revealing of the history of a lineage than the functional parts of an organism. The example often give is of how we can catch students cheating on a test: if two students turn in an exam with identical correct answers, it could just mean they both studied very hard and mastered the material well; if they have identical wrong answers, right down to the spelling mistakes, that tells you that someone has been slavishly copying someone else. For more examples of how the concept is actually used, check out Plagiarized Errors and Molecular Genetics by Edward Max.

The nice thing about the plagiarized error concept is that it allows one to trace the history of the error. In the recent debate, Trump made an unusual error of attribution — he quoted Kurt Eichenwald (incorrectly, as it turns out, ignoring his conclusion) and claimed that it was a quote from Sydney Blumenthal. It was an odd combination of specific errors, and that makes one wonder where Trump could have gotten the same set of mistakes. It turns out that there is only one other media source that makes the same combination of errors, misattributing Eichenwald’s words to Blumenthal, and distorting the meaning of the piece in the same strange way, and that tells us exactly what source Trump plagiarized.

It came from “Sputnik, the Russian online news and radio service established by the government controlled news agency, Rossiya Segodnya“. Russian propaganda sources are feeding misinformation to the Trump campaign.

As Eichenwald explains the distortions and errors in the Russian piece:

The Russians were quoting two sentences from a 10,000 word piece I wrote for Newsweek, which Blumenthal had emailed to Podesta. There was no mistaking that Blumenthal was citing Newsweek—the magazine’s name and citations for photographs appeared throughout the attached article. The Russians had carefully selected the “of course” paragraph, which mentions there were legitimate points of criticism regarding Clinton and Benghazi, all of which had been acknowledged in nine reports about the terror attack and by the former Secretary of State herself. But that was hardly the point of the story, “Benghazi Biopsy: A Comprehensive Guide to One of America’s Worst Political Outrages.” The piece is about the obscene politicization of the assault that killed four Americans, and the article slammed the Republican Benghazi committee which was engaged in a political show trial disguised as a Congressional investigation—the tenth inquiry into the tragedy.

And then, to his surprise, Trump makes exactly the same set of mistakes.

At a rally in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, Trump spoke while holding a document in his hand. He told the assembled crowd that it was an email from Blumenthal, whom he called “sleazy Sidney.”

“This just came out a little while ago,’’ Trump said. “I have to tell you this.” And then he read the words from my article.

“He’s now admitting they could have done something about Benghazi,’’ Trump said, dropping the document to the floor. “This just came out a little while ago.”

Further, Trump did this on the same day that the Sputnik article emerged — it wasn’t as if this lie had time to percolate out into right wing media. The Trump campaign is being fed stories by the Russian media, or at the most benign, is reading Russian propaganda looking for dirt to dish on Clinton.

This is not funny. It is terrifying. The Russians engage in a sloppy disinformation effort and, before the day is out, the Republican nominee for president is standing on a stage reciting the manufactured story as truth. How did this happen? Who in the Trump campaign was feeding him falsehoods straight from the Kremlin? (The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment).

This is just weird. The Republicans, of Red Scare fame, with anti-Communist hatred imbedded deep in the brains, are now fielding a presidential candidate who admires Vladimir Putin and who glibly recites Russian propaganda as fact. And we don’t just have a Manchurian candidate, we have a Manchurian electorate that sees no problem with this.

The sad thing is that we have great difficulty getting the concept of plagiarized errors in evolution through to creationists, so I suspect the fanatical followers of Donald Trump won’t be able to comprehend the application of the concept to political propaganda, either.

I envy you your locker room

I’m suddenly seeing all these people talking about their locker rooms, and how it wasn’t anything like the locker rooms Donald Trump is talking about. They didn’t talk about women, or how they want to grab them, or other such crudities — they just wanted to take their shower and get out. I believe them. Personally, that’s how I dealt with being afflicted with the shower ritual in high school.

But I was not so lucky in my environment. The locker room I experienced was a hell hole of machismo, strutting athletes, point-by-point explicit ranking of the anatomical bits of women at school, and lots of bragging about sexual conquests. I didn’t have a nice locker room experience.

There was a reason for that. It was Coach. This locker room was run by a swaggering, bullet-headed lunk with no boundaries — he’d stroll through as we were taking showers and comment on boys’ penises. He’d ask for details of Friday night make-out sessions, and would laugh if you “scored”, and tell you which girls were “sluts”. He set the tone. He approved of the worst of behaviors, and mocked you if were a “nice boy”…which made you a “fag”.

Does this remind you of someone?

We have a presidential candidate who reminds me a lot of Coach. I see a nation acting like a tribe of monkeys, with many people following the lead of the coarse vulgarian and becoming worse themselves. That’s what people do.

I could do without the daily reminder of those years of misery from the media.