Tag: Donald Trump

Is the System Rigged? Define Rigged

Over the last few weeks, Donald Trump has been saying that the election is being “rigged” against him and is about to be stolen by the Democrats. He was asked about this during the last debate and indicated that he might not accept the election results. This had lead to two things: 1) the Democrats claiming his potential refusal to accept the result and claims of a rigged system are horrifying and dangerous; 2) Republicans citing examples of Democrats (notably Sanders and Warren) also claiming the system is rigged.

I wanted to unspool this a bit. Because a lot of words are being tossed around lightly that reference several inter-related issues that all fall the description of a “rigged” system.


Breaking Down the SCOTUS Debate

One of the worst exchanges in last night’s debate was about the Supreme Court. I was literally yelling at my television. I was going to break it down but Ann Althouse does it way more thoroughly than I ever could. You should read the whole thing but here’s one quote, when Clinton said her justices would be “on the side” of the American people.

I was already loudly arguing with her. The side? The Supreme Court isn’t supposed to take sides. She’s blatantly saying she wants a Court that doesn’t act like a court but gets on one side. Her Court is a Court that ought to have to recuse itself constantly.

This is absolutely right. John Roberts famously said that his job was to call balls and strikes, not favor either team. Clinton said the Court should “stand up” to the wealthy. But that’s wrong too. It should stand up to the wealthy if they’re violating the Constitution. Standing up to the wealthy or the powerful or the corrupt or whatever is what we have legislatures and executives for. All the Court is supposed to do is decide if their method of “standing up” to whomever is Constitutional or not. As the Bible says, judges should favor neither the wealthy nor the poor, but enforce the law.

Later she got into the Heller decision. She acknowledge that the Second Amendment protects an individual right but said that Heller was decided wrongly because it protects toddlers from being accidentally shot. That is, to put it mildly, total and complete bullshit. Cooke:

This is flatly incorrect. Heller, as anyone who has read it knows, revolved around the question of whether the government in Washington, D.C., could legally ban handguns entirely. It had nothing to do with “toddlers.” “Toddlers,” as Sean Davis correctly points out, are not mentioned in the majority opinion, and they are not mentioned in the dissent. Other than in an extremely indirect sense, “toddlers” had nothing to do with the legal question being considered.

Heller involved the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975, which forbade handguns and other arms. There were multiple plaintiffs but the namesake was a 66-year-old cop who wanted to keep a gun at home for self defense but was not allowed to. This, once again, exposes Clinton’s “I support the Second Amendment” claim as bullshit. If she is against Heller, she is in favor of gun bans Period.

Trump’s performance wasn’t quite as bad but wasn’t good either. He touted his list of 20 potential SCOTUS nominees (although I doubt he could name a single one of the cuff). He defended the Second Amendment in vague terms. But … and this is where his suckitude as candidate comes forth … he utterly failed to call Clinton out on her crap. He didn’t know Heller well enough to point out that she was lying. He didn’t know Citizens United well enough to point out that she wanted the Court to ban a film that was critical of her. They later tangled on abortion. I’m not pro-Life but, frankly, neither is Trump. And it showed as he was all over the place, failing to point out, for example, that Roe v. Wade allows abortion to be outlawed in the third trimester.

I highlight the exchange on SCOTUS because it is a perfect distillation of the debate and really, the entire campaign. Clinton is vulnerable everywhere. She’s a poor candidate, she often says things that are wrong, contradicts herself and leaves openings a mile wide for her opponent. This is why a junior Senator from Illinois was able to beat her. This is why a crackpot Senator from Vermont almost beat her. But … this is key … you have to actually know stuff to go after her. She sounds authoritative and knowledgeable. Exposing her as neither means getting the weeds a bit.

But Trump can’t be bothered to do his homework. He just wings it. And so on a subject that Clinton should know well but where she spewed a bunch of garbage and lied her ass off, he fought her to a draw at best.

I will continue to say this: just about any normal Republican would have crushed her in all three debates and would be crushing her now in the polls.

Debate Three


The winner of this debate was clearly Chris Wallace who kept the candidates on task and pressed them on several key issues (most notably pressing Hillary on her proposed Syrian no-fly zone that could spark a war with Russia). Trump was OK at first but then got more incoherent as the night went on. Clinton was terrible at addressing questions about Wikileaks, had an awful answer on the Supreme Court and kept trying to awkwardly pivot to her talking points.

Trump probably edges this one out but I don’t think it will make a difference at this point. The good news is that this is the last debate of this endless election season. And so … maybe we’re the real winners.

How I’ll Vote

Reason has their annual who we’ll vote for article out in which their writers and associated libertarians reveal who they plan to vote for in this election. I’ve indicated my intension before, but I’ll put it down in one place, answering the same questions the Reason people did.

Who are you voting for? Gary Johnson. He is by far the best candidate on the issues, by far the most qualified and by far the most likable. I realize people think this is a wasted vote; I do not think so. And Pennsylvania is unlikely to be close, in any case. If some combination of Johnson, McMullin and Stein deny Crump a majority, we can deny them a mandate.

Down ballot, I will be voting for Pat Toomey for Senate and Glenn Thompson for the House. Because I think the most important part of this election is having Republicans retain control of Congress.

(I also think the Republican Party may schism after this into a conservative party and a populist one. But that’s a subject for another post.)

Which major-party candidate do you find most alarming? Trump. Clinton is an unprincipled, corrupt, amoral power-grubber whose policies, such as they are, are awful. She’s taking a provocative stance with Russia, has a long history of supporting idiotic foreign adventures, wants to raise taxes and spending out the wazoo and would appoint bad justices to the Court.

But as I said in last month’s posts, in every way that Clinton is bad, Trump is worse. He’s for bigger government, more spending, more debt. He has demonstrated a vindictiveness and a callous disregard for Constitutional restraint. And if I hadn’t been convinced of his mental unfitness, the complete meltdown of the last few weeks would have done it. The only reason to vote for him is SCOTUS justices but a) I don’t think that’s worth the risk; b) I don’t trust him to not appoint outright fascists to the Court who will rubber stamp what he wants to do.

The gripping hand is that there will (hopefully) be a Republican Congress to keep Clinton’s worst instincts in check. They have amply demonstrated that they will not keep Trump in check. They have demonstrated an ability to keep a Democrat in check, having killed efforts at card check, a public option, minimum wage hikes, cap and trade and gun control while cutting spending $700 billion below what Obama wanted.

Who did you vote for in 2012? Gary Johnson. Although in that case, it was because I saw little reason to be apocalyptically alarmed by either candidate. How bad is it that I long for the days of Romney v. Obama?

What will you miss most about the Obama years? Having a President I didn’t despise. I disagreed with Obama constantly, but I felt like he was honest about what he thought, could make his case eloquently and never lost his cool. I never bought into the whole “he hates America!” hysteria. His personal life is pretty much beyond reproach (which was something I liked about Bush as well). Think about listening to Obama speak for the last eight years, then imagine hearing Clinton or Trump speak for the next eight minutes and you’ll see what I mean. In five years, a lot of conservatives will be looking back wistfully on the Obama years, longing for the days when the President was just wrong about everything, rather than being wrong about everything and a piece of shit.

Debate Two

Good God, is this what our Republic has come to? Watching these two jackasses bray was an awful 90 minutes. The first 20 were especially awful as we got into Trump’s tape and Clinton’s past behavior. But it’s not like it got better past that as Trump gave off incoherent word salads and Clinton recited coached, coherent, focused answers that advocated terrible terrible policies. For me, it was alternating, “What the fuck did he just say?” and “OMG, she’s advocating to make things even worse!”

I would say that Trump probably won mostly on style. His actual answers were all over the place but he did hit Clinton on a few points and made one or two good points of his own. Clinton mostly held serve but her answers on her e-mail server and her leaked speeches were just awful (mainly because there is no non-awful answer).

The main impact this will have on the race? Trump stays in. The flood of GOP rats fleeing the ship will stop. He will probably stabilize in the polls. So, yeah, we’ve got another month of this crap.

Good God. I’ve said this before. And maybe it’s the Vodka talking. But this is another of those times I really really wish Lee were still with us. He could at least find the humor in this. Right now … I really can’t.

Trump Grabs the GOP By The …

Oh, good grief:

Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone, saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.

Late Friday night, following sharp criticism by Republican leaders, Trump issued a short video statement saying, “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.” But he also called the revelation “a distraction from the issues we are facing today.” He said that his “foolish” words are much different than the words and actions of Bill Clinton, whom he accused of abusing women, and Hillary Clinton, whom he accused of having “bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.”

“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am,” Trump said.

In an apparent response to Republican critics asking him to drop out of the race, he said: “We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.”

You can click through for the video. It includes Trump bragging about trying to get together with a married woman (months after his third marriage), saying he can’t resist kissing hot woman and bragging that, as as celebrity, he can just “grab them by the pussy” and they don’t mind.

Now you could possible dismiss this as a dirty man talking shit with a younger man. His tone is certainly bantering in the audio. But, as Robby Soave points out, there’s a history here:

Some people might be tempted to write off Trump’s comments to Bush as empty boasts. They would be utter fools to do so. The New York Times, in fact, has just run an interview with a woman who says she was given the Trump treatment by the reality TV star. This is not an isolated incident: there is ample evidence that Trump has physically harmed women. And he has now admitted on tape that he feels license to mistreat them.

To be absolutely clear: there is nothing ambiguous about Trump’s stated (and demonstrated) approach to women: it’s battery, at a minimum.

Trump would be a dangerous enough human being if he were just a regular celebrity with a penchant for groping women. As it so happens, he might also become the next leader of the free world—a position he is manifestly unqualified to hold.

Soave is hardly a hysteric. He has done yeoman’s work deflating the campus rape hysteria and shining the light on injustice in campus kangaroo courts. He’s gotten it right again. The words might not hit you, but when you combine the words with Trump’s past behavior, they do not bode well for someone a few points away from being the most powerful person on Earth.

(Trump and his defenders are trying to deflect this onto Clinton, who has been accused of sexual assault and rape. But Clinton being a scumbag is not a defense of Trump being one too. I’ll agree that it’s hypocritical of people who overlooked Clinton’s misdeeds and Jack Kennedy’s misdeeds and Ted Kennedy’s homicide to suddenly clutch their pearls. But adding to that hypocrisy by defending Trump does not help.)

This is precisely what people like me have been warning about for the last 15 months. Every time Trump made a gaffe or said something idiotic, we complained. It wasn’t because of a devotion to political correctness. It was because these comments — on John McCain, on Clinton, on Mexicans, on the Khan family, on everything — betrayed a man who can’t control his mouth; who lacks basic decency and empathy. We knew it could get a lot worse.

And here’s the scary thing: it’s only October 7. We’re barely into the season for October surprises. So if this is what’s coming out now, imagine what we’re going to get later. It’s going to get even worse. It’s going to get a lot worse.

Several prominent Republicans, including the Governor of Utah, have withdrawn their support and asked Trump to step down. I am very dubious that this will happen. I also doubt that the GOP would stage a coup at the stage since it would split the party (and would be very hard to pull off. So while a last-minute Pence candidacy is tempting, I don’t think it’s going to happen. No, I think they’re stuck riding this train right off the cliff.

There’s always a possibility of more coming out with Clinton (there’s always more with the Clintons). This tape overshadowed the release of Clinton’s Wall Street speeches where she called for “open borders and open markets” as well as some more damaging information from her e-mails. In fact, the timing of the release is a bit too perfect. But right now, the GOP needs to abandon Trump and throw everything they have into saving the House and the Senate. Stop throwing good money after bad and focus on the fight you can win. Because as bad as a Clinton presidency may be, a Clinton presidency with a Democratic Congress would be worse.

Wednesday Quick Hits

A few stories that have been lurking in my tabs:

  • Donald Trump’s 1995 tax return was leaked last week and showed a nearly billion dollar loss that he could have used to offset profits for years and thus pay no tax. It’s perfectly legitimate to criticize Trump for losing a billion dollars and proclaiming himself to be a business genius. Criticizing the NOL rule, however, is insanity. Allowing businesses to carry losses into future years allows them to navigate sometimes uncertain business waters without going bankrupt. Criticizing the rule because of Trump is sheer wealth envy. Trump should be making this point.
  • You remember the Phoenix VA scandal? Well, the government responded to this disaster by … funding the VA more generously, firing no one and appointing a new manager who had a series of failures. Stunningly, this has not worked. Coyote Blog reminds us that this is how government works. Failure means you get more funding and more people. Success means budget cuts.
  • An Iowa prosecutor wants to hit a 14-year-old with kiddie porn charges for taking non-nude pictures of herself. This is insanity. And it will not stop until we start shitcanning prosecutors who abuse their power this way.
  • John Oliver had a good show on police accountability.

More to come …

Scientific American Drifts From Science

A few weeks ago, Scientific American sent twenty questions to the four Presidential candidates, asking for their policy positions on scientific issues. I think that’s a fine idea. The next President will control billions of dollars in federal funding for science, have to set priorities for our various department and agencies that do science and have to deal with scientific issues like disease, vaccines and climate change. These questions won’t reveal much about what the candidates think, but will reveal the kind of people they surround themselves with who actually write the answers. Are they surrounding themselves with real scientists or cranks? Big government lackeys or free market gurus? Earth-first idiots or global-warming-is-a-fraud crackpots?

Having read through the answers, it’s about what I would expect. It’s mostly pablum but gives you a general sense of their philosophies. Clinton thinks government can solve everything, Johnson is very in favor of free markets, Stein is a crackpot and Trump is kind of all over the place. All show some grasp of the issues but differ on their approaches. In terms of the quality of answers, I would rank them Johnson, Clinton, Trump, Stein, but … that is an entirely subjective rating. I rate Johnson high because I favor free markets and Stein low because she’s a crank who favors massive government intervention in everything.

Well, that wasn’t enough for Scientific American, who decided to “grade” the candidates on their answers. They rated Clinton highest (64 points), Stein (44 points), Johnson (30) and Trump (7). But their ratings having nothing to do with the actual science and everything to do with politics.

Both Trump and Johnson are hit for favoring free market approaches to climate change. Why? Because Scientific American doesn’t think the free market can handle climate change. Maybe it can’t, but that’s an opinion not a fact. It’s fine for pundits to have opinions but SA is presenting this as though it is some kind of objective analysis, which it clearly is not.

It get worse. They are heavily biased against Trump, frequently giving him zeros on issues where he’s not entirely wrong. They give him 0 points on education because he favors bringing more market forces to bear on education. Trump may be right or wrong on that (I think he’s right) but they bash him because ITT folded and Trump University was a scam. This has nothing to do with what Trump said. It’s bashing him for things he said outside of the forum and for issues unrelated to what he’s talking about. If you’re going to hit Trump for the failure of ITT (which he had nothing to do with), why not hit Clinton for taking millions in “for profit” college money? Clinton and Trump give basically the same answer on nuclear power, but Clinton gets two points and Trump gets one because reasons. On scientific integrity, they give Trump 0 points because … Politifact has rated a lot of his utterance as untrue. Look, I’ll be the first to call Trump a liar but this has nothing to do with his answers to this specific question. It’s ridiculous.

But it gets even worse. On nuclear power, they give Jill Stein 2/5 points. Jill Stein’s answer on nuclear power is one of the worst answers the entire debate. She plans to shut nuclear power down based on junk science and favors on-site storage based on junk science. Her proposal would almost certainly make climate change worse, not better. And if we’re going to judge candidates by what they’ve said elsewhere, she once claimed nuclear power plants were bombs. Stein is a complete crank on nuclear power. There is no way she should get any points on this. She also get 2/5 on food, even though she’s a complete crank on GMOs and farming.

Nowhere is this bias more visible than the question on vaccines. Trump is given 1/5 for occasionally engaging in anti-vaccine nonsense. But Stein is given 3/5 when her entire party is devoted to anti-vaccine nonsense; nonsense she has not seen fit to dispel. Seriously, Scientific American? Seriously?

I’m glad someone is asking the candidates questions about science policy. But Scientific American needs to just lay out the questions and answers and leave it that. We do not need this kind of biased analysis showing up in a supposedly scientific magazine. Write about it on Politico or Daily Kos or whatever.

You might wonder why this set me off. It’s because this is one of the biggest problems facing science today: the efforts by scientists and scientific publications to wed scientific facts to political opinions. This shows itself most thoroughly in the debate about global warming where disagreeing with left wing policy solutions to global warming is considered a form of “denial” on par with claiming the planet isn’t actually warming. The debate over global warming (and a host of other issues) would be light years easier if we separated those two; if we said “you can accept that global warming is real and not accept my solutions to it”. SA’s “grading” of the answers to the science debate is just the latest in the misguided philosophy of mistaking opinions about scientific issues for facts about scientific issues. And it needs to stop. These issues are way too important.

First Debate Thoughts

  • What did we do to deserve this?
  • Judged as as pure debate, Clinton “won” as far as that goes. You can tell because the conservative blogs are calling it a draw. She didn’t get rattled. She appeared almost human. Her answers were coherent if alarming. Trump held his own for thirty minutes. But, as I suspected, having a one-on-one debate meant his catch phrases began to wear thin after a while. His ignorance of policy and his tendency to shaft other people kept coming back up. Trump avoiding rising to Clinton’s bait a few times, but he did bite more than once and was on the defensive a lot. This is was clearly intentional from Clinton because the one thing we know about Trump is that he can. not. let. anything. go.
  • That said, I don’t know how much of a difference it will make. Trump has been exposed as a lair, a fraud and a policy ignoramus for months now. His core supporters simply do not care. They either despise Clinton more or cling to the strange belief that he will trash the system without also trashing the country. He could literally have spent the entire 90 minutes masturbating and they wouldn’t have cared.
  • I thought Holt did an OK job. He mainly let the candidates go at each other, which is a format I prefer. There’s been some criticism of him for not going after Clinton (bringing up Benghazi, etc.). There’s legitimacy in that. It seemed odd to press Trump on his support for the Iraq while ignoring the woman who voted for it. But … most of the things that put Trump on the defensive were brought up by Clinton. Trump punched back a few times, making Clinton talk about the e-mail scandal. But he spent so much time trying to weasel about his tax returns, his bankruptcies, his birtherism that he wasn’t able to push her on other issues.
  • I suspect Trump will do better in the next debate because Conway will make sure he stays on the offensive.
  • What was with the sniffing? Based on the internet speculation about Clinton, I’m going to assume that Trump has Ebola.
  • Trump has already surrendered much of the conservative agenda. Among other things, he called for massive investments in “infrastructure”, mandated paid parental leave, restricted trade and more gun control.
  • In fact, I challenge anyone to go through that debate transcript and find anything either candidate said about basic freedoms. The subjects of mass surveillance, the War on Drugs and mass incarceration weren’t touched on. Foreign wars were barely mentioned and the only in the past tense. Obamacare wasn’t really addressed. Regulation wasn’t really addressed. What this came down to was which candidate is most qualified to tighten the screws on our liberty.

Cruz Gives In

I’ve been in proposal land all week, but I thought I’d put up a quick thought. Ted Cruz just endorsed Donald Trump. So … what was that convention imbroglio in aide of? What exactly did he accomplish with his “vote your conscience” speech?

Kasich at least didn’t go to the convention. Neither did the Bushes. While they oppose Trump, they at least realized that you don’t go to the convention to make it about you. If Cruz has stuck with his conscience and voted for Johnson or McMullin or something, I might see that. But by endorsing Trump at this stage he’s revealed his convention stunt as just that: a stunt, designed to make him look good at the expense of his party. And that was not the first time or the second or the tenth time he has tried to make himself look good at the expense of the party.

It make you realize why many in the GOP who didn’t want Trump as the nominee didn’t want Cruz either.