Senator Al Franken was just on This Week with Martha Radditz, talking about the Russian hack into our elections and the Trump Campaign’s strange relationship with said. In discussing the hack itself, Franken pointed out that one means of hacking the system was to “mess with Google’s algorithms” to make reports from Russian state-controlled RT or Sputnik show up higher in the rankings.
What he’s referring to, if I understand him correctly, isn’t “messing with” Google’s search ranking algorithms directly. Instead, he’s referring to what most of us call “black hat search engine optimization“: the intentional manipulation of the way setearch engines work to get an illegitimate source to the top of the search results.
Regardless, it seems like our discussion of Russian hacking, collusion with US interests and the rest is greatly confused by not knowing what the “hack” actually was. Right now, we have an idea of Russian hacking, allegations of Trump Camp collusion, discoveries of conversations between principals in this story, potential perjury of our nation’s Attorney General… anything but hard fact on which to base a reasonable decision.
With any other type of crime, there’s a dead body, a missing item, a victim. There is physical proof that something happened, if not what happened or who did it. And for better or worse, our sense of the importance and severity of the crime reflects the physical proof of the act. Here, we have nothing.
It’s hard to imagine the American public continuing to be interested in this story long-term without a lot firmer proof of what went wrong in the first place. What exactly did the Russian hack of our elections look like?
The rolling window of “Trump could have done this better” excuses for the Trump White House’s dick-tripping incompetence is getting tiresome. Three weeks in, and I think everybody could use a vacation, but let’s please not entertain these “simple answers” as the logical choice when describing what we’ve seen so far. Most recently, we now have this Politico puff piece on the putative “gold standard” of White House Chiefs of Staff, James Baker, in which Baker firmly chides Trump on how to be more Republican.
It is a fact that Trump’s Muslim Ban could easily have been implemented with more care and consequently less resistance. The president has pretty wide latitude in deciding who comes in or out of this country. This has been the case since the 70’s. Yes, he can cut off immigration from one, a group or all nations for whatever time he chooses, at least in theory.
Doing so would cause quite a bit of panic no matter the timing, leading to inevitable law suits. Liberals like myself would absolutely argue the constitutionality of ban like Trump’s. It wouldn’t be smooth sailing however they did it. But it could have been done.
It’s also true that, as a rule, Republicans aren’t that into Russia. That certainly describes the attitude of the Reagan White House in which Baker served. American foreign policy has, since early in the Cold War, been built largely on the lead Republicans set. And that lead was very anti-Russia. Even after Glasnost, very few Republicans I’ve ever known have thought highly of or trusted Russia.
A different relationship with Russia, even in present context, doesn’t sound like a terrible idea. A more trusting relationship with Russia is not objectively worse than a less trusting one.
But for chrissakes, come on! Let’s please stop listening to people patiently tell us that what we’re seeing isn’t real.
Trump’s Muslim ban was not badly-planned. It was meant to cause chaos and panic. It was meant to trap the foreign-born at airports. It was meant to put the “enemies” of Trump’s agenda “on notice.” And those enemies were the foreign-born. That was the point. That’s why Trump said the ban was “going very well. You can see it at the airports.” The “news junkie” president did not fail to notice the chaos roiling the airports.
Trump’s ties to Russia aren’t accidental and neither are those shared by an incredible number of his lieutenants. Calls between his National Security Advisor Flynn and the Russian Ambassador before, during and after the election were not innocent even if they contained no relevant information. Throwing him under the bus will change nothing fundamental about the situation in the White House. It is a persistent fact of this administration that they have openly and not-so-openly had ties to the very same nation that our intelligence agencies confirm were responsible for the hacking of our nation’s democratic institutions.
Baker presumably expects these ties to be disappeared by a simple, grandfatherly “tut-tut.” He gravely intones about the need for sanctions against Russia in a way that clearly says “that’s the Republican Way.”
“Come along now, son,” he seems to say, “Let’s get you a flag pin and some photo time at West Point.”
Don’t let Republicans weave this narrative. Everybody in the party wants their Conservative Christmas, and they’ll wait till the tanks roll on Bowling Green to get it. They’ll say anything to stall, to cover, to explain away. Some of them might even believe it. But you can see what is happening. There is nothing subtle about Trump, there is nothing accidental about the chaos he’s created and there is absolutely nothing sincere in Republican pleas for patience.
This, after all, might be the very last election Republicans ever win. Jim Baker’s just trying to get the most out of it.
The thing about being a billionaire real estate mogul (real or perceptual) is that there really aren’t any consequences to pissing people off. There are no consequences when you antagonize the media; there are no consequences when you join the WWE and shear someone’s hair off; there are no consequences to a walk-on role in porn. In the end, it’s just one guy signing a deal with another guy. Over and over again. The media and the public play absolutely no role.
Presidents don’t have such luxuries. Presidents make decisions every day, all of which have consequences. Sometimes for the entire world. Presidents need to communicate with their constituents and they need a robust media – even one that thinks of them as an asshole – to do it. Perhaps most critically, presidents have already entered a contract with a population that turns on their perception of you. That perception can turn on a dime, and it’ll never come back.
I’m not foolish enough to believe a 70 year old man who hasn’t figured these things out yet, ever will. In fact, I fully expect this presidency will be an exercise in head-bashing stupidity. More lawsuits, more insults and more sneering on Twitter. More affronts to our civil liberties, our culture and our values. More cogs in the Federal machine on lock-down while they await the coming Tangerine Rapture.
But I hope the rest of us know what we’re heading into, for the next four years. No more excuses about “pivots” or aides who will reign him in. What we have seen for the last week is what we can expect from here on out. You ready?
I have a good friend whose name you surely know if you live in the Rochester area: Evan Dawson. I met him when he worked for 13WHAM as a reporter on their nightly news, and he’s now moved on to host his radio show, Connections with Evan Dawson all week on WXXI radio. I mention him because, as you may also know, he wrote a book called Summer in a Glass about Upstate New York’s wine region and the men and women who shape that industry’s fate.
It is a book rich with poetic turns of phrase; it is a book filled with impressions of the country, the people, the history. Very clearly, Evan has a deep and abiding respect for the industry and the products of its labour. It’s a great book and you should definitely read it.
Flash back to a grown-ass adult trying to buy a goddamned bag of weed in the same state: sitting in the cigarette-reeking back of some asshole 20-something’s mini Toyota pickup truck – not the “back seat,” just a subwoofer he never bothered to plug in – waiting patiently among the food wrappers, old clothing and personal hygiene implements for an overpriced bag of agricultural product no more harmful than the stuff Evan waxes poetic about in his book.
With apologies to Evan, we live in a state that doesn’t just allow you to make wine, beer and now hard alcohol: it fetishizes those things as though they were some noble thing. “Uncork New York,” as they say. Every festival in Rochester has a wine tent. There are stores throughout the Finger Lakes that don’t even sell wine, just all the wine accessories you could possibly want including tee shirts, bottle openers, earrings. Evan’s is, as you might suspect, hardly the only written document on the subject.
Matter of fact, there is a comfort care home down the road from me that can’t house more than five people; they’re having a wine tasting in a couple weeks. A home for five people, all of whom must certainly have been told to stop drinking alcohol thirty years ago, and they’re having a wine tasting.
I don’t begrudge the alcohol industry’s success in New York State. Hell, I even used to write a column for (585) Magazine called Over Drinks, dedicated to the topic. But as silly as it’s ever been for weed to be illegal when alcohol is legal, that goes doubly and trebly for a state that makes such a farcically big deal out of hootch. There are those who want or need marijuana for medical use, recreational use and research, but even attempts to make medical weed available have stalled.
If any state in the union ought to have promotions all summer long for it’s Marijuana Region, it is a state as hilly and sunny as New York. We have conditions to make beautiful, award-winning ganja to suit every palate and preference. Setivas. Indikas. Candy bars and sodas. And sure! Why not a weed-themed New York State tee shirt?
“New York State of Mind,” or “We Came, We Saw, We Smoked,” or “My Parents Went to Weed Country, and I Had to Buy This Shirt Online Because They Forgot.” Just as suggestions. Perhaps there could be a “Toke New York” campaign with billboards on the 90?
Either way, while half a dozen other states have a referendum on the ballot this November to legalize weed, our silly-ass pols sit in Albany trying to figure out which universities are going to get weed in pill form. And then get a drink of wine with dinner. Because thank you, New York.
I had to flag this one for a bit of extra attention. Alex Jones is hopping mad that Julian Assange and his information-freedom-fighter-turned-electoral-troll site Wikileaks didn’t deliver on the October surprise he was hoping for:
Radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones expressed his vocal and extremely specific disappointment with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s failure to deliver his promised “October surprise” on Tuesday.
Now, to be clear: Alex Jones is one wackadoodle fuck nugget. But even so, his voice has been greatly amplified by the current Republican nominee to the presidency. A nominee that, yes, your Republican party – the Party of Lincoln, if you can still stand to use that term – nominated. Whatever individual Republicans voted or did not vote for, the current Republican nominee stands on the shoulders of every other elected and nominated candidate that came before him.
And since this is not the first, but rather one in a series of calls for third-party, international groups to disrupt this election, it’s worth asking what Republicans at large actually want from US elections, anymore?
We’ve spent 7 long years subjected to accusations that President and US Citizen Barack Obama was a secret Muslim and a Manchurian Candidate for Sharia Law. And most Republicans I know have at least entertained some of this kind of bat-shit rhetoric. Now, we see Republicans openly, publically calling for Russia to hack the DNC, playing footsie with Putin and now getting angry over Assange’s apparent failure to decide a nominally-democratic election undemocratically.
Can you guys get your shit straight and get back to me?
It’s clear that, however they’ve come up with it, the Trump campaign has opted to completely overwhelm the media with bat-shit stories of every variety. TwoTrumpkins interrupted soft-ball interviews for bullshit reasons. Little Donny burst out into holocaust song. Donald Trump and his campaign “can’t seem to get on message” about Trump’s birtherism or his redemption therefrom. But he’s making a major announcement about it, anyway.. no, he’s not. He’s just promoting his new hotel.
Journalists literally cannot keep up. The media does not know what question to ask or whether they really want to ask it. Trump puts out so much bullshit that Matt Lauer didn’t even have to do his job to get him to say more crazy shit.. and no one seems to care.
The Trump media DDoS is real and it’s a strategy. For once, the media is probably advised not to follow every story too closely. It’s as if Joseph Goebbels has decided to try his hand at Dadaism.
Like I’m sure most of my audience, I spent last night watching the Town Hall style debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The so-called “Commander-in-Chief Town Hall” onboard the Intrepid in front of a gaggle of military men and women, along with their commanders. I’ll take this opportunity to share my thoughts on the night.
Frankly, the event was such a complete shit-show, especially where Trump was concerned, that it would be neigh-on impossible to mention all of it. At least, not without help from other news sources. So I guess you might say this is my list of Most Awful Moments, if you have to call it anything.
I honestly cannot tell what NBC is covering, anymore. They’re so pleased with themselves with the Williamsian theme music and lush lighting effects, it could be a Macy’s Day Parade, a sporting event or a critical portion of the democratic process. They all come out looking more-or-less the same. Speaking of which,…
Matt Lauer has his perfect job: getting up early in the morning to discuss lizards at the San Diego Zoo, “recipes” featuring pre-made cake mix, and laser hair removal. Why NBC insists on putting him in serious situations that he’s grossly unprepared for is beyond me. But please, NBC: you have a bullpen of fine reporters both male and female. You needn’t settle for the fluff.
* Side note: you could be doing much better with the Macy’s Day Parade, too. Keep that morning show shit in it’s place.
A lot has been made of Lauer’s lack of follow-up. But I think looking at the way the night went overall is more instructive. Trump was asked open-ended questions about his fitness to serve, about ISIS, about our military generals. He was pressed to explain his position on “taking the oil” (more on that in a sec). He was pressed to explain why he wants to keep his strategy vis vis ISIS a “secret.” No one subject dominated the night for Trump. In fact, Lauer was happy to move on even when as people have said, he should have pressed for details. Hillary was asked about..
Lauer’s first question to Hillary Clinton was about the email server. In fact, the first third of Hillary’s part was spent on the email including at least one question from the audience. You could perhaps make the argument that information security is national security. And you would be right. But when focused, ostensibly, on foreign affairs in 2016 with only a half hour per candidate.. is that really the first question you ask?
Again, it is instructive to notice the layout of Lauer’s questions: after grilling Clinton on what is truthfully a trivial matter of security for almost half the time he had with her, Lauer breezes from topic to topic with Trump. Clearly, Matt Lauer set his agenda from the very first question.
It is clear now that the email server is an issue for which Clinton needs to answer in real time in front of a national audience. It’s an issue with which she clearly has a problem doing just that. But then…
She did a shit job answering for her email debacle. And even if the “debacle” part was manufactured by her opposition, by now, we can officially call it a debacle. Because she had no real answers that weren’t focused on exonerating herself legally. That’s fine in a court of law – it may even be fine with a reasonable military person, all of whom have a lot of experience with security in their own jobs – but it’s not a persuasive argument for good judgement.
I think she came back pretty strong on veterans affairs and foreign policy. But the best moment was when she shut down that flake Lauer when she was trying to answer a complex question about the Middle East. If you’re going to sacrifice ten minutes on email, don’t expect to just gloss over Middle East foreign policy, dummy. And I think she came off well for the thinking person who wants to be treated like an adult and given the facts. Hillary has them in spades.
To the extent that Mrs. Clinton was allowed to discuss anything other than being Emailer-in-Chief, I think she did the best with what she had to work with. And then there’s..
Seriously, ignoring the avowed racists like the Klan who support him, how can any thinking person consider this guy qualified to be President of the United States?
Matt Lauer managed to not press Trump on any but the most preposterous of his claims – including when Trump offered to list things that make President Obama equivalent to Vladimir Putin. He just sorta let that slide by.
No, accusing the sitting Commander-in-Chief of being a dictator doesn’t require any follow up. A person on the Today Show, demonstrating the wonders of her new skin cream? That needs follow up. Not this. Not a line of argument that would get a military man shoved in the brig.
But the most amazing, telling part of that exchange is when Matt Lauer asks if Putin would “change his mind.” You tell me, but I get the sense Trump thinks Lauer is asking about Putin’s mind where Donald Trump is concerned, not the litany of aforementioned crimes in Crimea and elsewhere. Check about 1:19 in this video:
“Possibly! It’s possible. I don’t know, Matt. And it’s not going to have any impact. If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him.”
Stand by your man, Donald. But the question was not about you.
Perhaps the problem for Lauer is the same one that has vexed so many other reporters: Trump is so completely full of shit that it’s hard to know where to begin. Because literally not a single answer of Trump’s was substantive. They were the same angry tone poems he’s been reciting all election season long. Word painting in blood. But not a single policy declaration.
There was one decent Lauer moment when even he couldn’t buy into the Trump Horseshit Roadshow. Trump has insisted for months that describing his broad-strokes strategy will be versus ISIS is somehow equivalent to giving an enemy general his battle plans. That’s just farce and even Lauer had enough backbone to question it. I think we all remember the little asshole in elementary school who would insist, “I know, but I’m not going to tell you!” Right up there with “my dad’s a lawyer” and “my girlfriend is from Canada.”
Wow. Did Trump just shit in the mouth of every general in the US Military?
I know that Trump’s brand of “negotiating” is to employ bully tactics. I know that he stakes outrageous claims specifically so he can walk back to a place where he wins. But just as often these days, I get the distinct impression that what’s really going on is that Trump fucks up, and then begins his strongman routine to cover for it.
Standing in the middle of a room full of servicemen and talking shit about their commanders is a mistake. Forget whatever they might say among themselves, it’s just something you don’t do. But returning to Trump’s tone poems if revanchism, it’s simply not a part of his campaign or his brand that he can live without. And insisting that we’re losing in the world necessarily means saying nasty things about the leadership of the military. You can’t get around it.
He says he’ll listen to “his” generals, but insists that “Obama’s generals” are decimated and in ruins. What does that mean? Is he aware that military brass are not political positions that he can just fill at a whim?
Take the Oil. Please!
Out of all the weird shit that Trump has said for lo, this many months, one of the weirdest was the idea that we could “take the oil” from Iraq. I really want to believe that even Trump supporters can see this nonsensical claptrap for what it is. But alas! I have no such hopes.
Take the oil. How, exactly? Even Matt Lauer wanted to know, and it was pretty obvious from the beginning: Matt Lauer didn’t really want to know shit. If you could just pull all the oil out of the ground at once, don’t you think someone would have thought about that before now? We’d have barrels of crude stacked up behind every Hess station in town. But you can’t because…
Jesus. I might as well be talking to my four year old. You just can’t, OK?
As a freelance web developer, I’m always in search of the next gig. There’s never quite so much work that I’m not always thinking of where my next meal will come from. And in the summer time, things tend to be pretty dry. No one is hiring. No one is looking to build things.
But all things being equal, this is about as bad a summer as I’ve seen in a long while. And I’m reasonably certain I know why. As a business owner, the idea of hiring someone when I have absolutely no idea what the future holds seems like lunacy. Even building new websites when I don’t know what happens in the fall seems like maybe saddling your business with the last straw. And if you actually hire someone? Well, you might be volunteering to pay their UI come January.
Because I don’t think there’s anyone in the business world (save for Trump himself) that doesn’t think Wall Street’s going to lose it’s shit if Trump manages to become President of the United States. Even if you support him – even if you’re the sunniest optimist about Trump’s America – you can’t expect that his election won’t be a huge disruption to our economy.
Every Middle Eastern businessman or shop owner knows his business if not his happy home is on the line. Every other business attached to his or hers is also in jeopardy: suppliers, contractors, craft service companies, everybody. Same goes for every Latino in business. And businesses not owned by a ethnic group regularly demonized by the Trump still need to worry about the next flap of Trump’s enormous butterfly wings.
So buckle up, America. It’s about to be a very lean several months. If not years.
I am very worried about a Trump Presidency. I know the polls don’t really show it. I know it’s not the sentiment reflected back to us by our televisions. But I’m worried, nonetheless.
I’m not worried about racists. We know what part of the political spectrum concentrates its power with the Southern Strategy. Racist who vote at all will vote predictably.
I’m not worried about Brexit America. Not exactly, anyway: I genuinely think there is some unique and perplexing thing about British citizens who time and time again said they didn’t think their vote would matter. Or perhaps it is we that are the perplexing ones. Either way, in America, if you don’t think your vote counts you generally don’t vote at all.
What worries me is that even among the staunchest of liberals in my father’s generation, I hear a common sentiment. That sentiment is that “in the 60’s, it was about all of us. Peace and love. But I guess now it’s just about black lives mattering.” I do hear it. And I hear it often.
Never mind that the fight for civil rights far predates and postdates the Flower Power movement. Set aside the fact that the 60’s entire claim to fame basically boils down to That Time Privileged White Kids Cared About Social Justice. Baby Boomers seem to think that every stride Black America has made since Hendrix was because they bought the same albums and smoked the same pot.
And now that the rallying cry doesn’t include them, they seem put out. “All Lives Matter!” they cry. Because the one thing you can’t do to a Baby Boomer is uninvite them to the protest.
For how many of our parents’ generation does a vote for Trump represent the Great Shrug of Baby Boomer indifference? Like a sullen Randian character, do Boomers simply reject the politics of the day? Do they throw off any pretensions of liberalism, conservatism or even stewardship and simply vote “Crazier than You?” Maybe I really am worried about a Brexit. Even a Boomer sit-out might be enough to sway the election. Everybody in the Liberal wing of the Boomer gen just sits down, smokes their medical marijuana and says, “I’ve done enough.”
Will the Great Shrug be a vote to reanimate Barney Fife? Donna Reed? Sammy Davis, Jr? Will the Great Shrug be the collective sigh that pines for the days when television told you what to believe and cameras never interfered with the message? Because the sentiment in my parents’ generation feels a lot like technoshock: the moment when you stop understanding what your technology is telling you. That moment when the world moves beyond what you can cope with.
I can sympathise with anyone who can’t handle Hillary Clinton. I’m not anti-Hil, but I certainly would have preferred a better choice than between the Orange Menace and yet another sample of the Bush/Clinton/Bush years. But I smell something nasty in the wind. I hope I’m wrong.
Now that Corey Lewandowski has formally been charged with what was pretty obviously a crime from the start, it’s time once again to discuss the Trump Campaign’s constant stream of violence. Unlike previous bouts of violence at Trump Rallies, which took place in the crowds, this one confirms that there is something inherently violent about the Trump Machine as he runs it. Still, I’m sure there’s plenty of people who will cling firmly to their plausible deniability, encapsulated in the following meme:
Now, I don’t want to move too fast for the mouth-breathers that support Trump. But consider this: if you intentionally go to a place where you have a better-than-average chance of getting the shit beat out of you, you’re probably something of an asshole. If you go to a place where you have a better-than-average chance of getting a crack in against someone with whom you have a disagreement, you’re almost certainly an asshole. And much though I certainly do love watching people wreck themselves on “World’s Dumbest,” and so on, if you go to a place where you have a better-than-average chance of watching someone you don’t like getting the shit beat out of them, you’re… well, something less than noble, anyway.
The bottom line is this: people who are looking for trouble know where to go. It’s not a Bernie rally, it’s not a Clinton rally, it’s not a Ted Cruz rally, it’s not a John Kasich rally. People who are looking for trouble are going to Trump rallies. Their political affiliations – if such they really have – are meaningless. And now that Trump’s own “campaign manager” has been placed under arrest for the crime of assault, we have positive affirmation that this is exactly what Trump wants.
Not all the Founding Fathers were Deists. Or Christians. And by the way? Deists and Christians typically stand on the opposite sides of the room at parties…
The Constitution itself lists no rights whatsoever. The Bill of Rights does that.
Not only does the Constitution not do anything so presumptuous as “grant” rights, but in reality, it only requires of the government certain duties.
The last clause of the Constitution says that anything not addressed there is considered to be up to the people. If it’s not in the Constitution, that means you absolutely have that right.
Nobody but your Creator gave you any rights. It’s right there in the fucking Declaration of Independence, the document upon which the Constitution was based.
The last clause of the Constitution basically says, “Anything not addressed here is for the people and their states to decide.” If it’s not in the Constitution, that actually means that yes you do have that right.
But according to Haglund, government could not acknowledge a basic human right to health care because only God could grant those rights.“Well, no. This country was founded on a document called the Constitution,” she said. “And it also believed — a lot of our founders were deists, you know, some of them were Christians — and they believed that man was born with rights from God, that government doesn’t create rights.”“Because if they create rights, they can also take them away,” Haglund added.
I’m calling it now: the Republican Party should immediately broker a convention and nominate Mitt Romney as the Bringer of Death to the Party. Who could be better than an empty suit, nominated by empty suits, as a naked attempt to subvert the will of a racist bully body they abhor?
But the 2012 GOP nominee is nevertheless leaving the door open — just a crack — to the possibility of being drafted by his party at a contested convention in July. “I don’t think anyone in our party should say, ‘Oh no, even if the people in the party wanted me to be the president, I would say no to it,'” Romney said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “No one’s going to say that.”