Saturday, July 23, 2016

No False Equivalence for the Washington Post

You know it's one of my big pet peeves. When the press in a struggle to be 'even handed' can't criticize the Republicans without an equal criticism of the Democrats even if the examples are hardly similar.

That might seem fair to them but it's sort of like a teacher being fair to students by treating bullies and victims equally. Telling them both to cut it out.

The Beltway belief in false equivalence goes so far that some reporters don't even vote-thinking that this somehow proves their objectivity.

Anyway, no one can accuse the Washington Post of false equivalence this time. Not on Trump. They aren't even waiting for the DNC to say Trump is not up to the job and doesn't belong within 10 miles of the Oval Office.

Good for them.

"DONALD J. TRUMP, until now a Republican problem, this week became a challenge the nation must confront and overcome. The real estate tycoon is uniquely unqualified to serve as president, in experience and temperament. He is mounting a campaign of snarl and sneer, not substance. To the extent he has views, they are wrong in their diagnosis of America’s problems and dangerous in their proposed solutions. Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together. His contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew."

"Any one of these characteristics would be disqualifying; together, they make Mr. Trump a peril. We recognize that this is not the usual moment to make such a statement. In an ordinary election year, we would acknowledge the Republican nominee, move on to the Democratic convention and spend the following months, like other voters, evaluating the candidates’ performance in debates, on the stump and in position papers. This year we will follow the campaign as always, offering honest views on all the candidates. But we cannot salute the Republican nominee or pretend that we might endorse him this fall. A Trump presidency would be dangerous for the nation and the world."

I appreciate them acknowledging this is not a normal election where it's just a question of who's views on taxes or regulations you like better. Trump is a threat to our democracy. Full stop.

"Most alarming is Mr. Trump’s contempt for the Constitution and the unwritten democratic norms upon which our system depends. He doesn’t know what is in the nation’s founding document. When asked by a member of Congress about Article I, which enumerates congressional powers, the candidate responded, “I am going to abide by the Constitution whether it’s number 1, number 2, number 12, number 9.” The charter has seven articles.

"Worse, he doesn’t seem to care about its limitations on executive power. He has threatened that those who criticize him will suffer when he is president. He has vowed to torture suspected terrorists and bomb their innocent relatives, no matter the illegality of either act. He has vowed toconstrict the independent press. He went after a judge whose rulings angered him, exacerbating his contempt for the independence of the judiciary by insisting that the judge should be disqualified because of his Mexican heritage. Mr. Trump has encouraged and celebrated violence at his rallies. The U.S. democratic system is strong and has proved resilient when it has been tested before. We have faith in it. But to elect Mr. Trump would be to knowingly subject it to threat."

The Paul Ryan-Mitch McConnell case for Trump is: elect him and don't worry he can't blow things up too much as the Constitution is strong.

But as the Post says you don't knowingly subject it to threat. Maybe your watch is water proof. That's no reason to submerge it in a pool for hours. 

As Jesus Christ says, 'Though shalt not tempt the Lord, thy God.'

You don't tempt fate irresponsibly.

Timothy B. Lee has a theory on why Peter Thiel really supports Donald Trump.

It sounds pretty persuasive to me. Thiel is a libertarian maximalist who wants to destroy the government.

I should also point out that he surely agrees with Trump on strengthening libel laws against the media and generally weakening democracy. Thiel actually believes that women shouldn't be allowed to vote.

Many of Trump’s supporters are under the impression that Trump is a successful businessman who will bring his management expertise to Washington. But Thiel can’t possibly believe this.

"It’s not just that Trump has a long string of business failures, from Atlantic City casinos to Trump steaks. Thiel himself described Trump as "symptomatic of everything that is wrong with New York City" just two years ago — he’s under no illusions that Trump is a great businessman."

"So what’s going on? I think the most likely explanation is that Thiel has become so disillusioned with the American political system that he thinks it would benefit from the political earthquake of a Trump presidency. It’s not that Trump would directly fix what’s wrong with the American government. Rather, it’s that major changes only happen during a crisis — and a Trump presidency makes crises dramatically more likely."

"You can see signs of this kind of apocalyptic thinking in Thiel’s other recent projects."

"PayPal, the company that made Thiel rich, was an (ultimately unsuccessful) effort to create an alternative financial system that operated beyond the control of governments and big banks. PayPal’s larger vision was quickly crushed by regulators, who forced PayPal to become a conventional payment service that worked with big banks instead of disrupting them."

"In 2008, Thiel provided seed funding for the Seasteading Institute, a nonprofit organization devoted to building a new society from scratch on the high seas."

In that society, women could not vote and probably workers can't unionize and there will be no minorities.

"I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible," Thiel wrote in a 2009 essay explaining the ideas behind Seasteading. He evidently believed it would be easier to build a new society from the bottom up than to fix the problems with the American political system."

See, Peter Thiel and the Washington Post agree: both think that Trump is a clear and present threat to our system of government. just that Thiel thinks that's a good thing.


  1. Mike,

    I was happy to see this from #NeverTrump die hard Hillary Hater Susan Wright on Tim Kaine:

  2. Some GOP Senators have praised Kaine pick as well.

  3. By the way Tom. I made the good decision of of sending this tweet to Brad Delong. He liked it and I've had huge amount of traffic to this post today.

    Best of all: you're buddy Jason Smith is no following me

    1. MIKE!!! Great news!! Congratulations!.... only I don't know which Tweet you're talking about. Which tweet???

      Years ago a co-worker of mine had an amateur economics blog that he hosted on his home server, and one day he noticed that the hits were through the roof ... to the point of overwhelming his server... he wondered what the hell was going on and figured out in short order that Brad DeLong hand linked to a post he did on the Santa Barbara real estate market (sorry I don't have a link). So I can imagine how much traffic the 3rd most popular econ blog in the English speaking world can drive to your site. That's really awesome! Good news about Jason Smith too!

  4. No, I tweeted this post to Delong. I linked this post you're reading now to Delong's twitter account.

    I don't know if you get how Twitter works. LOL

    1. Lol... not really. I do have an account, but my instinct is to keep my distance from it. I don't follow anybody except a few they made me follow when I signed up.

      I know you can tweet links... but did you ask any text to (140 characters) that DeLong especially liked, or was it just the link?

    2. "ask any text" was supposed to be "add any text"

    3. Usually I add text to my links-whatever it's about. Then I tag some of my friends on Twitter.

      I simply tagged him as well this time. What did I say this time? I had to look it up to remember. I send a lot of links!

      "In face of Trump threat, Washington Post ditches false equivalence and gets real "

  5. Now Jason Smith is following me. I have to tweet my posts to Delong more often

  6. Yes. Delong linked to me a few times in the past.

    But this time I had the idea to sent it to him on Twitter.

    He's a nice guy that way. If he likes something you wrote, he'll do you that solid

  7. Mike, I think you're really going to like this: My favorite author at (Jason Taylor... the one I'm always praising over there more than anyone else) came out with a piece today about Tim Kaine as Hillary's VP choice, which is very favorable:

    That's really good don't you think? Taylor doesn't like Hillary (he says so explicitly in the piece). He's also said in past pieces that he's not a fan of the "far right" (but oddly, he still seems to really like Ted Cruz), but Taylor is a responsible American, and tells it like it is: A Hillary / Caine ticket is a much much better choice than the alternative highlighted in this past week's GOP "hate orgy" convention (Taylor's words in the piece, not mine).

    Wow, I'm sure there's lots I would disagree with Taylor about, but I appreciate so much about him and his articles: I wish the Republican party was dominated by people like him: I'd have a lot more optimism about the state of the American electorate.

    1. Jason Taylor has a follow up piece, still singing the praises of Hillary's VP pick in Tim Kaine:

      "If the VP pick is the test to measure the decision making capabilities of a candidate, the scales just tipped. Secretary Clinton arguably just made the most brilliant electorally political choice of a running mate since JFK picked Johnson. Meanwhile, the GOP couldn’t get the primary winner and governor of swing state Ohio to show up to their convention held in his home state; once again proving they aren’t called the stupid party for nothing."

      (actually this is a guest post under Taylor's name by @BobbyJohnsNC)

    2. Even I kind of respect Ted Cruz now. At least he didn't humiliate himself like Rubio, Christie, Ryan, McConnell, and the other goobers

    3. I thiink like Taylor says, at every level you have this huge contrast between how Trump does things and how Hillary does.

      Trump totally botched his pick. Pence was probably the right pick for him but then it leaks that he wanted to drop him.

      Then Trump 'introduces' Pence by talking about himself for almost half an hour and leaving before Pence begins speaking.

      Stupid party is right

    4. ... and then they diss Pence again by organizing the convention crowd to boo Ted Cruz (thus sucking all the oxygen out of the news cycle for Pence's follow on speech) even though Ted stuck to the script that the Trump campaign pre-approved (of course the RNC and Trump lied about this later, saying he went off script).

      So they KNEW what Ted would say, and they pre-planned to sabotage him with news-cycle dominating booing, thus overshadowing Pence once again.

      I agree, Stupid party/campaign/candidate is right!

    5. BTW, at dinner yesterday I overheard my crazy half bro delve into politics just once: "What do you make of Ted Cruz? Well I think we know that Ted Cruz is in it just for Ted Cruz now!!" ... I gotta assume that was Limbaugh's position, because I think he adopts whole-heartedly whatever it is that Limbaugh says.

      And I know at least one RedState author (Susan Wright) thinks Limbaugh disgraced himself with his reaction to Cruz's speech:

      I do thank Ted for doing his part to expose yet another no-no phrase on the growing tPC (Trump-PC) list of no-no phrases and trigger words:

      "Vote your conscience."

    6. ... I just had another idea for a T-shirt or bumper sticker that could have broad appeal from #NeverTrump right winger across the spectrum to left winger: A picture of Cruz speaking at the convention with the anti-tPC phrase "Vote your conscience!" on it: guaranteed to send your average Branch Trumpidian scurrying for his safe space with heart palpitations and PTSD.

  8. Yes. Hillary herself is on this idea. She was talking again today about Ted Cruz was right and 'vote your conscience.'

    Thanks for reminding me about Rush. I have to check out what he said about Cruz.

  9. Rush has a piece called 'Incredible 13 year old analyzes Cruz'

    He also talks about the Bernie of Busters' planned 'fart in' at the DNC next week. LOL

  10. BTW, I have to say that the accompanying illustration to Jason Taylor's 2nd piece on Tim Caine is one BEA-U-TIFUL (if somewhat unrealistic) electoral map, don't you agree?

    One that it looks like he generated with a website app somehow... (I admit, it's VERY optimistic looking for Dems, but I'd still like to know where he got it from or how he generated it: i.e. what assumptions give you a map like that???).

    1. Maybe it's a map of how the 2016 election would go assuming demographics from 2036 or 2040. If true, that means maybe George W. Bush's prediction will come true: that W was the last Republican president.

      Another piece by Susan Wright BTW, who also recently took Ann Coulter to task for her reaction to Cruz:
      Ann Coulter Hits a New Level of Loathsome With an Attack on Ted Cruz

  11. BTW Mike, thanks for highlighting this piece by WaPo. I saw that earlier today and thought it was great: a much needed move by a small piece of the media (although I have to say: WaPo articles come to the fore for me more than just about any other in my Google News feed).

    On another subject, in an alternative universe where America had a responsible right of center party, I could definitely see them choosing as their candidate a non-traditional ticket, and I think it would be perfectly valid. In other words in a year in which the incumbent Dem prez is finishing his second term with 50% approval (vs 47% disapproval (according to Fox)) and a candidate like HRC closely associated with the outgoing admin, and a lot of "the country is on the wrong track" sentiment where prior appeals to conservative orthodoxy over the last few decades have reached dead ends (see Noah Smith's latest piece on the collapse of all three pillars of traditional conservatism), I actually think it could very well be **GOOD** for the country for the GOP to nominate a business man or military man, or some other non-traditional candidate. Say for example they had selected a highly successful actual billionaire like Mark Cuban, Bill Gates or Elon Musk.

    I'm not saying such a person would necessarily make a good president: I realize the fallacy in thinking that being a successful CEO, chairman of the board, innovative tech giant or even a successful military general or admiral does NOT necessary transition well to being able to run the country well, however, there's a number of plausible "Why not take a chance on us??" candidates the GOP could have selected that would offer a healthy choice to the public. I know, I know, not with the current GOP electorate, but I'm fantasizing a bit here, so cut me some slack!

    My point is I wouldn't be nearly as freaked out if the GOP had selected a non-traditional candidate from the business, tech or military spheres ***IF*** such a person exhibited signs of actually being competent ***AND*** principled. Trump exhibits neither attribute. I mean somebody with well thought out ideas, with a since of real civility and class, and some humility, and a proven ***HONORABLE*** track record in their prior career(s). Again, this does not describe Trump in the least.

    Instead what the GOP did was say "Hey take a chance on this guy who acts and sounds like an unstable lunatic, who **ONLY** feels comfortable shooting from the hip, has extremely limited diplomatic skills, is thin skinned, vindictive, ***MASSIVELY*** dishonest, blah blah blah... and all the rest!"

    The GOP MUST be punished for such a wildly irresponsible choice! That's not at all a reasonable chance to ask the rest of the nation to take!!! They want us to roll five dies and take a chance that they all come up a with a 1. You've got to ask no more than a 50% gamble. You've got to offer somebody who doesn't sound like a fascist or seem like they might start an unnecessary war, unscrupulously scapegoat minorities, hold an all consuming ego-driven vindictive grudge, plunge the nation and global economy into global economy into economic chaos, or abandon the field to flattering Tyrants like Putin or worse.

    Would you be frightened of Mark Cuban, Warren Buffet, Admiral Mullen, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Bob Gates, Colon Powel or David Patraeus endangering civilization as we know it, even if they did have some significantly unconventional ideas about how we ought to change things up in Washington? I don't think I would. I think I'd be sleeping a lot easier at night.

  12. Mike, I have to say it's a little disheartening to see the steady incremental erosion of Clinton's advantage over at 538:
    That steep decline came in the wake of the FBI report on her emails... the more shallow sloped narrowing afterwards has just been relentless... and I'm not sure why. I suppose it could the the GOP convention bump (if it exists)... but I would have thought that would have been more dramatic. I guess I should be glad it wasn't.

    Still it's depressing to look at that every day, and every day Clinton's advantage erodes away just a little bit more. I figured her choice of Kaine might have reversed that a bit since in the MSM he's mostly received good reviews, and Clinton has as well for choosing him.

    I'm not sure what forces are at play here. There's that wikileaks DNC emails thing that came out early this morning, but I'm not seeing that covered heavily in the MSM. I haven't looked at the details of it yet (It was too depressing to think about), but I'm hoping if anything that reflects more poorly on the DNC rather than Clinton herself.

    Could it be the weekly terrorist or lone spree shooter attacks that seem unrelenting now? (The Munich shooter is a weird story: a loner, an Iranian (not the typical Sunni ISIS terrorist), born in Germany, who supposedly yelled "Allah Akbar" but who also said something about foreigners in Germany and Turks, and who admired other young spree shooters (not necessarily Islamic terrorists)... I'm not sure what to make of it yet.

    Of course any subtleties involved in the case are of no concern for the GOP and (especially) the Trump campaign.

    It's not such a clean story if it turns out he's primarily motivated by anti-social psychological issues (like the Auroa shooter or the Sandy Hook shooter), or if he was motivated by anti-immigrant feelings (like the Norwegian killer some years back... Anders whatever his name was).

    I have to say Bill Maher had a good show on Friday. Bill repeatedly emphasized during all segments of the show the #1 scary thing about Trump's speech IMO: the "Only **I** can fix the world" message of Trump's, with zero reference to any specifics. One of his guests labeled that the "Cheeto Jesus" syndrome (exactly the phrase Erickson's websites use), which peaked Bill's interest because he hadn't heard the "Cheeto Jesus" reference to Trump before (maybe Bill should invite Leon Wolf on? Or maybe Erickson himself?... or ideally Jason Taylor or Ben Howe).

    Also the following by Sam Harris ended up in my youtube feed, which was pretty good:

    Sam is a big critic of the left's PCism, but he's pretty unequivocally pro-Hillary in that recording (even though he's FAR from a unabashed Hillary fan). For all his struggles against what (according to him) are out of control anti-classical liberal elements on the left, it's nice to hear him so clearly state that Trump is obviously unqualified and uniquely dangerous (traits that Clinton just does not have, by any stretch of the imagination).

    Harris also is asked about this on a recent Dave Rubin interview (which is unfortunately over 2 hrs long):
    (only part of this long two part interview focuses on Trump).

    Harris is very critical of the left's reaction to Trump though as well... something I haven't yet fully listened too. He thinks in some ways the left is very dishonest about Trump. However, it's curious to me what he'll say since he makes no bones about Trump being utterly unacceptable and profoundly dangerous to the world... so it'll be curious to see in what way he thinks the left besmirches itself in going after Trump. When I have time I want to hear the whole interview.... I'll summarize it for you if you're interested after I do (at least the Trump related bits).

    1. Harris says that the body politic needs to have a better "immune system" against malignant invaders such as Trump. He said that ideally a Trump-like invader should be quickly surrounded and engulfed by the political equivalent to white blood cells and quickly removed in a system with a healthy political immune system. ... I loved that analogy!

    2. But here's the sad part:

      Even Bill Maher immediately jumped to "terrorist in Munich" before all the facts were in, and this only helped Trump.

      One of his guests on the panel, ex Georgia GOP congressman Jack Kingston, who had previously been anti-Trump but is now on the "trump train" (a surprise to Bill), summed it up this way (paraphrasing) after Bill shows clips contrasting the calm but resolute response of Clinton vs the fear mongering "WE NEED TO DECLARE WAR NOW!!!" insanity of Trump to the Nice truck attack:

      "Bill, people are tired of calm measured responses to these attacks, they need more what Trump is offering!"

      (said with a calm, measured, sonorous friendly Georgia accent)

      A couple of other guests looked at him in disbelieve with jaws agape. All I could think was stomach churning cynical "company man" a la Hugh Hewitt.

      Also, when the panel was asked to evaluate Hillary's choice of Tim Caine for VP, again Mr. sweet Georgia peach-iced-tea former congressman offered up (paraphrasing):

      "So boring. That'll be the boredom ticket"

      To which Bill's "special" female guest (on the far right: the one that comes out last), a Hispanic "Hillary surrogate" wisely responded (paraphrasing):

      "What??? Are you joking? This isn't a reality show! We need capable people at times like these, not empty rhetoric with a healthy dose of flash and pizazz! No thanks to your so-called "excitement" candidate!"

      Well, I'm glad to say that Georgia boy, charming as he was, got nothing but forceful and logically sound rebuttals to all his company-man intellectually dishonest pretzel logic infused cynical pro-Trump rah-rah-ism from the all the rest of the guests on the panel and from Bill himself.

      It occurred to me that this same friendly and soothing Georgia voice could be harnessed to justify any evil in the world (including Nazism), and it's friendly agreeable tone would just serve to further heighten the surreal aspects of such a nightmare circumstance. Imagine a slow friendly, afternoon on the back porch sipping lemonade, voice saying something like:

      "Now hold on, president Trump promises he just needs special emergency powers until this crisis is resolved, (which should be no more than a few weeks, six months or maybe a year to two or three tops), so people shouldn't be so alarmed about his proposal to dissolve congress, suspect the supreme court and have the military pledge an oath of loyalty directly to him rather than the constitution. When has Mr. Trump ever broken a promise before??"