Interesting Things I Read in the Last Few Days

The Trump meltdown (a.k.a. Pivot to center) continues apace. So many stories means so many bullets. Let’s do this!

Trump Campaign News

  • This might be the most Donald Trump story of all time. Remember when The Donald promised to save Ed McMahon’s House? “Like some of Trump’s other charitable pledges, this one generated an avalanche of publicity, only to mire in confusion and delay once the TV cameras moved on. Trump negotiated for months over the property without striking a deal, with McMahon and his family in limbo. Then another deep-pocketed investor stepped in and resolved McMahon’s predicament with no fanfare.” [Bloomberg]
  • I’m sure you’ve read about Stargate by now, but if not, here you go: First the Trump campaign tweeted an image of Hillary surrounded by money and a Star of David. Then they deleted it. Then they retweeted it with a circle instead of a star. Then they claimed the star was a sheriff’s star. Then they blamed Microsoft shapes. Then Trump went on the attack. Then David “KKK Grand Wizard” Duke announced that the original meaning of the image was unambiguous. And tonight? Tonight he claimed to be the victim of “racial profiling.” And all of it took place on the day that he could’ve and should’ve been attacking Hillary Clinton over the FBI’s findings about her email. Well done, Republicans! Well done.
  • And for the record, yes, Donald Trump has a long history tweeting things that come from the white supremacist subculture. And no, it doesn’t matter in the slightest if he is “a racist.” All that matters is that he is trafficking in language and images are racist. What’s in his heart is unknowable and irrelevant. [Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall]
  • But this is Trump, so that’s not the only insane thing he’s done in the last 48 hours. He’s also spent the last two days complementing Saddam Hussein, and then by extension, defending his defense of Hussein. “‘Saddam Hussein was a bad guy. Right? He was a bad guy, really bad guy,’ Trump offered as a disclaimer. ‘But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights—they didn’t talk, they were a terrorist, it was over.'” Ah yes…wasn’t it wonderful how Saddam gassed the people he declared ‘terrorists’ for their opposition to his regime? And wasn’t it just fantastic how he did that without resorting to niceties like the rule of law or due process? If only America could do away with those ridiculous aspects of our constitution that are designed to protect our natural rights…if only we could be more like Saddam’s Iraq! You know, the one we invaded so that we could put an end to his rape rooms and execution chambers? Well done, Republicans. Well done!
  • “Trump wants to torture people. He wants to kill the relatives of terrorists. He doesn’t want to read people their rights before summarily executing them. These are the things he’s promising that he can do for us. There was a time not too long ago that these kinds of actions were considered so loathsome and beyond the pale that they were used as justifications for invading Iraq and toppling the Baath regime there, but now one of our major party presidential candidates is offering to behave the same way.” [Martin Longman, with all the hyperlinks necessary to justify each of those claims]
  • “Eric Trump reportedly called up The Washington Post on Wednesday to profanely rant at the reporter spearheading coverage of the charitable contributions made (or not made) by his father, Donald Trump. But the younger Trump didn’t offer any evidence of those donations. ‘I’m just saying, Jesus Christ, why is this guy trying to f—ing kill us?’ Trump allegedly told the Post’s David A. Fahrenthold.” [TPM]
  • But wait….there’s more! Trump also accused Clinton of bribing the Attorney General of the United States. “That’s bribery folks. Bribery!
  • Almost but not quite finally… Trump released his fundraising numbers for June. Well, sort of.. Not only were they significantly smaller than Clinton’s numbers, but… “”The way the release is written makes it difficult to determine precisely how much Trump raised and for which committees and during which time period,” Rick Hasen, an election law expert and professor at the University of California at Irvine School of Law, told TPM. “So, we’ll have to wait for the official FEC report before we know for sure what the money figures actually look like.” Remember, the FEC report with the actual numbers will drop right smack in the middle of Trump’s convention. That should be fun!
  • We have the list of the state’s Trump plans to target this fall: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. The fact that they are publicly announcing the need to defend Arizona and Georgia while ignoring the parts of the Rust Belt that The Donald had promised to flip tells you everything you need to know about the.coming campaign. [Wall Street Journal]
  • And last but certainly not least…oes this sound familiar? “Anti-Donald Trump Forces See Convention Coup as Within Reach

Clinton Campaign News

  • This may be the best single-paragraph description I’ve ever read of the Clintons: “One way to read this is that Obama is unusually clean and the Clintons usually sketchy in their dealings. Another is that the Clintons were targets of an unusually intense smear campaign. The reality is a mix: The Clintons really were unfairly targeted in the early 1990s, but the experience has left them sufficiently jaded and paranoid that they think their own conduct is irrelevant to whether they’ll be targeted. That leads to carelessness, which in turn leads to more scandals, and on and on the cycle goes.” [Vox.com]
  • And this may be the best answer yet that the Clinton Campaign has had to Trump’s faux-populism: “He intentionally ran up huge amounts of debt on his companies — hundreds of millions of dollars — he borrowed at high interest rates, he defaulted on those loans, didn’t pay them back, and in the end he declared bankruptcy four times.” And remember, he has bragged about how he will do for us what he has done for himself! [Matt Yglesias – much more from the speech here via TPM]
  • As you read this article on Republican plans to spin up yet more investigations of the Clintons, remember: their attack on Bill in the 1990s made him more popular, not less, eventually leading to a historic victory in the midterms of his second administration. I know they think they just haven’t been able to present their case appropriately, but c’mon guys…you’ve been at this for A QUARTER CENTURY now. The problem isn’t that you haven’t presented your case; it’s that you have and it’s incredibly lame. We hear you. We see you. We didn’t like what you were doing then, and we don’t like it now! The problem isn’t us; it’s you! [TPM]
  • “Hillary Clinton just made her college affordability plan a whole lot bolder. She announced Wednesday that she will call for college tuition at public universities to be free for families making less than $125,000 per year — a dramatic departure from President Obama’s higher education policy that shows the impact Bernie Sanders’s candidacy has already had on the Democratic Party.” [Vox.com]
  • Paul Ryan wants to deny classified briefings to Clinton during the campaign, but he’s apparently fine with Trump getting them. Uh…good luck with that argument guys?
  • Bernie Sanders plans to endorse Hillary Clinton before the convention. Because of course he will. This was always obviously going to happen, and you should henceforth take with a grain of salt anything said by anyone who ever claimed otherwise.

Email and Drones in the News for $1000 Alex

  • The FBI Director announced what everyone who understood the facts of the case already knew: Although Clinton had done something painfully stupid, what she did was so obviously not illegal that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring an indictment against her. I’m honestly so sick of this story that I don’t have the patience to write at length about it. But in a nutshell: under the current classification system, it is a violation of security protocols for people inside the government to discuss the nation’s drone program even when that discussion is directly connected to news accounts of the program. So, for example, if the NYT publishes a story about it and the Secretary of State send a link to it in an email, THAT is a violation of the rules. This is so self-evidently stupid that I’e been opposed to it since I first learned of it when Bush was in office, and I said then what I say now – violating this rule says nothing about the person violating it and everything about the growth of the national security state, and I don’t care one whit that Condi Rice or Hillar Clinton violated it. But because no one actually cares about the actual issues involved here, and because everyone already thinks they know the facts of the case, no one seems to pay any attention to this. But since you are reading this, you likely are not one of those people, and in that case: here are the facts of the case, and I promise you, they are not what you think they are.
  • Here, for the record, is the key segment from Director Comey’s press conference: “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case…In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.” [FBI.gov]
  • My man Josh Marshall gets it: “The nonsense about this being an epic crime has mainly overwhelmed the simple facts of what happened which show Clinton in a very poor light. Not a disqualifying light. But just really bad judgment on a few fronts. All this said, this was 99.9% predictable and 100% obvious. It’s a mammoth press failure that for various reasons this reality was concealed from the public.” [TPM]
  • No, what General Petraeus did was not similar to what Hillary Clinton did. He knowingly and willfully provided classified documents to his mistress, and then tried to cover up his actions by lying to the FBI. So please just stop. [Bloomberg]
  • From one of the only political scientists I still regularly read: “we found little evidence that United States attorneys or the career prosecutors whom they supervise target opposition party defendants with weaker cases — no measurable difference was observed in conviction rates between parties. In fact, prosecutors seem to treat members of the president’s party more harshly in resolving cases, perhaps to avoid the appearance of favoritism in plea deals that typically involve recommendations for sentence reductions.” [Brendan Nyhan]
  • “Consider two “scandals.” The first is Benghazi. Hillary Clinton did nothing wrong. It was, essentially, a complete nothingburger. The second was Emailgate. In that one, Hillary unquestionably did things that were foolish at best and possibly criminal at worst. It was a genuine story. But Republicans treated them both exactly the same. It didn’t matter whether Hillary actually did something wrong or not. They went after her with their usual Whitewater/Travelgate/Vince Foster level of fury, convinced that if only they yelled loudly enough the country would finally see her unmasked as the villain she really is. And they’re still doing it…After eight years of Bill Clinton’s presidency and now four years of Hillary Clinton’s post-cabinet career, Republicans have been crying wolf about Hillary for more than a decade. It’s pretty obvious that they’re going to continue, and that they really don’t care whether she’s actually done anything wrong. I have a feeling the public may finally be getting tired of their games.” That, in a nutshell, is how well more than 1/3 of your friends and neighbors see the “scandals” surrounding the Clintons. Even if some of them have merit, the manner in which Republicans pursue them is to us worse than the “Scandals” themselves. You don’t need to agree with us, but if you want to understand us, you really do need to understand this. [Kevin Drum]

Fox News’ Roger Ailes Sued For Sexual Harrassment By Gretchen Carlson

  • Not that long ago she was one of the top anchors on the network. Now she’s suing Ailes for sexual harrassment, and boy does she have some disgusting and quite specific allegations to make. Read them in full if you like.
  • “In the hours since the lawsuit was announced, “at least ten” other women have contacted the law firm, wanting to speak about Ailes’ treatment, according to a spokesman for the firm.” [CNN]
  • Dear old white dudes: the world has changed, and you need to just stop. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the way things are now: reality is what it is and it ain’t going back. That is all.

Random Thoughts on American Politics

  • “Trump supporters were more likely to describe blacks negatively, relative to whites, when compared with people who backed fellow Republicans Ted Cruz and John Kasich or Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.” Sanders supporters, meanwhile, are the least likely to express racist views among all of the groups of supporters this election. [Reuters]
  • “we’re seeing white flight from the Republican Party. Of course, I should probably add that ANY flight from the GOP would be white, because that’s the demographic they have appealed to since the 1960’s. The folks at Bloomberg credit this flight of white college-educated voters to the candidacy of Donald Trump. But as a lot of us have been pointing out, his rise can only be understood by examining what Republicans have been up to since the Bush/Cheney era (or perhaps before that). So it might be helpful to take a more historical look at what brought us to this place.” [Political Animal]
  • “One could make the case that Clinton compromised more than necessary, or that he accomplished too little (those accomplishments include the Family and Medical Leave Act, a more generous Earned-Income Tax Credit and a higher top tax rate, and an economic boom that yielded across-the-board wage gains). The point is that Clinton made those compromises in the face of real pressure. That African-Americans remained his most loyal constituency throughout his presidency attests to Clinton’s success in maintaining his party’s trans-racial appeal even as he reassured dubious whites.” [New Republic]
  • “But politics in a democracy is inherently a team sport, and parties are the most important of the teams in the game. Team sports never offer the option of playing alongside only people you like. To effect sustained political change, you have to build broad coalitions. Broadening the coalition does not imply unwavering loyalism to every bad party decision…a party is more than its presidential nominee, more even than its organization and its organizational leadership. It’s a vast national network of men and women inspired by a shared ideal and impelled by common interests. Those networks are not easily built, and they are even less easily replaced. And if they are replaced, any new network would soon become as messy and inconsistent as the previous, because that’s the nature of political networks in a vast, complex, continent-spanning society.” Good god I find myself agreeing with David ‘Axis of Evil’ Frum. Then again, one of the reasons he was such an effective political operative is because he understood on a deep level just how and why American politics works as it does.
  • “Guess what? The Pentagon is still lying about how effective our anti-missile defenses are.” [Kevin Drum]

BREXIT News

  • “The answer to the disruptions of globalization is a strengthening of the social welfare state and a return to classic Keynesian principles, which the president evoked by quoting the Canadian-American liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith: So we need growth that is broad and that lifts everybody up, including tax policies that do right by working families, and robust safety nets for those who fall on hard times. As John Kenneth Galbraith once said: The “common denominator of progress” is our people. It’s not numbers. It’s not abstractions. It’s how are our people doing.” [New Republic]
  • Nigel Farage, Key Architect Of Brexit, Steps Down As Head Of Far-Right UKIP. When all of the supposed winners in a conflict are running from the field, you have to ask yourself…did they really win? Oh, and Farage, for his part, is apparently outraged that foreign nationals might not get to stay in the UK if BREXIT happens. Because of course he didn’t think it would apply to people like him, right? Only those “other people” would be asked to leave, yeah?
  • In a move that will surprise absolutely no one, the Tories have announced that they will move to slash corporate taxes to the lowest of any major economy as a response to the crisis that the BREXIT vote has caused. [Financial Times]
  • “there is no possible resolution to the Article 50 negotiations that pleases British voters and the other 27 European countries — without tanking the UK economy.” [Vox.com]
  • “This current divide must be especially sad for the Tories. The idea that Europe, the place where they buy their cheese, the place where they took their first five mistresses on minibreaks, the place where they cried at Hitler’s bunker, this collection of potential second homes, this was the place that tore them apart. And so we have a Conservative leadership election, a sort of X Factor for choosing the antichrist. Already, the cast looks like the episode of Come Dine With Me they show in hell before Top Gear comes on.” [The Guardian]

Random Bits and Bobs

  • “It was my first time in Scotland. Insurance people completely forbid drinking on set, but try that up there and you’ll get shot. I’m not saying Scottish people drink all the time, but if they drink, they drink. It’s not a sip of wine, it’s a quarter of a bottle of scotch. There were 1,000 extras for the battle scenes and they went at it for real. After each shot, the cries went up: “Doctor!” “Nurse!”” [How We Made Highlander – The Guardian]
  • Why is ISIS turning to global terrorism? Because it’s losing: “The key takeaway here, then, should not be that these attacks show ISIS is a growing threat. Selling the past week of attacks as a sign of reach and strength, rather than weakness and decline, is handing ISIS the narrative it wants. This perspective doesn’t make last week’s attacks any less of a tragedy. But being clear about the sources of ISIS’s turn to terrorism helps us limit its ability to profit from the murder of innocents.” [Vox.com]
  • “Built by Christians who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old, a 510-foot-long, $100 million “replica” of Noah’s Ark is set to open in a new Kentucky theme park later this week. “I believe this is going to be one of the greatest Christian outreaches of this era in history,” said Ham during the ceremony. “People are going to come from all over the world.” [io9.com]
  • “A woman accused of taking part in a 14-hour group beating that killed one of her half brothers and injured another during a church counseling session was convicted on Tuesday of manslaughter and assault but was acquitted of murder.” [AP]

There. Now you’re caught up!