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July 21, 2016


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And here I was beginning to doubt my decision to keep reading this stuff for entertainment. Not really in *favor* of shipping guns to fascists and oligarchs to potentially provoke WWIII, but could be convinced by the right white paper. Then there's the inflated sense of agency! "Could be convinced", as though anyone would ask, or listen!

Funnier than an issue of Foreign Affairs. My *sides*.

The troll is back! Please, go on, sir!

Trump is kind of Putin's dream candidate, yes.

Doug M.

The decline in NATO's deterrence extends beyond this election. How can the leaders in Europe know that 2020 or 2024 won't produce a more electable Republican nominee even more committed to isolationism than Trump.

It's pretty amazing, isn't it? Arms to Ukraine is the one thing the Trumpistas choose to fight over. (Tro-o-oll from Michi-gan, come out and play-ay-ay!)

Not coincidently, Paul Krugman in the NYT and Anne Applebaum in the Wapo came out today with columns saying the same thing I did.

So now people really are talking!

And one of them also thinks selling arms to Ukraine is probably a bad idea, although he's (uncharacteristically) uncertain about that! Cowardly troll, you can get a heart! We love you. Please, come back.

The most interesting thing I'm seeing this year is the current shape of the nexus where the fringe left cycles around and meets the unfortunately-not-so-fringe right.

I didn't expect it to go through Vladimir Putin, but I think it does! He's the link between the Greenwald/Snowden/Wikileaks axis, the foreign policy counter-imperialists who believe everything they read on RT.com, and Donald Trump. His trolls and shills are trying hard get enough Bernie people to split off from the Dem coalition to get Trump in.

The behavior of Wikileaks over the past week really crystallized it for me. Their two big things were the DNC data dump apparently obtained by Russian hackers that they didn't even bother to scrub for credit-card numbers (thus serving as a threat directed at future Democratic donors: give money to Hillary Clinton and get your identity stolen); and a moral crusade for Gamergate bully Milo Yiannopoulos's right to conduct racist harassment campaigns on Twitter.

They're an extreme-right cybercrime and trolling organization, possibly in cahoots with Putin, and Bernie Sanders dead-enders are still treating them as allies in their increasingly obscure beef with the DNC (which is now apparently about how somebody suggested to somebody else that they might pick on Bernie Sanders for being an atheist, though they didn't actually do it. Frog-march Debbie Wassermann Schultz to e-mail jail!)

I really wonder how the hard men and women in the intelligence services of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania see Mr. Trump. As an existential threat to their nations? Hm.

It wouldn't be the craziest thing a small country's covert arm has done.

While I agree that the fingerprints of a state-directed operation are all over this leak, using a Sanders loyalist split to cause a Trump victory is silly, because the double Sanders loyalists seem to be preferentially concentrated in bright blue areas.

If Trump has a chance, given his appeal with nonwhites is in some cases statistically indistinguishable from zero, it's with a tighty-whitey strategy. How Russia might stoke that, I have no idea.

What might a Baltic security service do that would meet a reasonable risk-return ratio?

Moral scandal near the top would be safest.

A moral scandal that could actually take down Trump would be really hard to imagine at this point. He is absolutely right when he says he could murder people in the street on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight and not lose votes.

With the Democrats, they may not be able to get swing states with a Berniebro strategy, but they can cause Democrats In Disarray(TM) to dominate the coverage in Philadelphia, if the Democratic convention turns out to actually be more chaotic than the Republican one. DWS's speaking slot has already been hastily rescinded over the Wikileaks dump and it sounds like Bernie himself might be going off reservation again.

...OK, Bernie is insisting that while he's pissed at the DNC he's still on Team Hillary, so that's good.

Noel: "What might a Baltic security service do that would meet a reasonable risk-return ratio?"

Avoiding attribution would be key so they'd want to limit themselves to a non-attribution IO campaign (ex: disinformation campaigns, cyber espionage, disruption of fundraising, targeting pro-Trump online media, social engineering using illegal tactics...)

If I were red teaming this, I'd focus my efforts on disrupting fundraising and creating disinformation due to the unsophisticated techniques and limited resources required.

It's getting creepier. The fingerprints seem to be in ink: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/clinton-campaign--and-some-cyber-experts--say-russia-is-behind-email-release/2016/07/24/5b5428e6-51a8-11e6-bbf5-957ad17b4385_story.html?tid=pm_politics_pop_b

The Economist a few weeks ago alluded to how the Russian government might be able to swing the election:


“But his quick offer to meet the Russian president reminded many Americans, uncomfortably, of the murky espionage scandal that played so large a role in the defeat of Hillary Clinton. In October top-secret files had appeared on the internet, allegedly extracted by hackers from Mrs Clinton’s private e-mail server when she was secretary of state, identifying individuals as American intelligence assets in Russia and Ukraine; one, an Israeli-Russian businessman, was soon afterwards found dead at a Geneva hotel. Mrs Clinton continues to deny any knowledge of the leaked documents. Her husband, ex-President Bill Clinton, sparked fresh headlines with an intemperate interview in March in which he charged that ‘Kremlin dirty tricks’ helped to swing the 2016 election.”

Julian Assange insists that the big bombshell that will guarantee Hillary's arrest is still to come.

"If Trump has a chance, given his appeal with nonwhites is in some cases statistically indistinguishable from zero, it's with a tighty-whitey strategy. How Russia might stoke that, I have no idea."

A blizzard of small scandals, I imagine. The same playbook the Republicans have been using since 1992, but at high speed. Dig into the hacked email files, throw absolutely everything against the wall that sounds like it might be interpretable as irregular, and see what sticks. Even if nothing in particular sticks, the already-extant impression among white people of Hillary Clinton as a somehow criminal and scandal-ridden nominee just deepens. Eventually Trump looks like the better option to the magic 67% of whites, and Trump becomes President.

Oh, this one is easy, MMcI. Pick one of the Donald's sons, whichever is best known for loutishness towards women, so that it's very plausible. Use New York v. Strauss-Kahn as a template. Everyone in the world knows our election calendar at this point. Ideally, cast (if that is the appropriate word) a Russian national, just for the misdirection.

I hadn't thought of going against the sons, as a strategy for dirty tricksters. That'd introduce an element of novelty, at least.

Anyway, the heavy concentration of Bernie-or-Busters in blue states doesn't particularly comfort me; the same thing was surely true of Naderites in 2000. In the really close states you can swing it with only a few thousand votes.

And it's looking like they're going to be making scenes in Philadelphia that the TV bobbleheads will seize on as signs that the Democrats are a deeply divided party and Hillary is losing her grip. Assange pushes a button and it's DEMOCRATS IN CHAOS.

The sons are near the top of the campaign.

Meanwhile, the protestors are the fringe of a fringe. According to Pew and the American Trends Panel, 90% of voters who consistently backed Sanders through the spring are supporting Clinton, and 88% of flip-floppers.

I believe that's substantially higher than the percentage of Clinton voters for Obama at the same point in 2008.

I'm not even sure the extreme positions are all that new. I remember Clinton dead-enders being utter jerks until her appointment as Secretary of State. Some of them you could tell really wanted to call Obama "boy".

Oh hell yes. I know some of the more rational Bernie supporters who are feeling the worst about committing to Clinton are '08 Obama supporters who are still nursing hard feelings over the '08 primary campaign: the Michigan and Florida delegates, "hard-working white people", PUMAs touting birtherism and the mythical whitey tape, etc.

And I suspect that a few of the particularly deranged Bernie-or-Busters actually were 2008 PUMAs, for whom Hillary joining the Obama administration was the last straw. Kind of like the way that they're now turning against Bernie.

I just heard about his California delegates booing him en masse when he told them they had to elect Clinton--it sounds as if there are going to be a *lot* of dead-enders bent on national suicide at the Dem convention.

What really worries me is that the number of undecideds has been increasing, not decreasing, at the expense of Clinton. That says to me that a lot of Bernie supporters who once said they'd vote for Clinton are now changing their minds, in response to manufactured outrages about Clinton rigging the primaries.

On the other hand, I'm seeing some for whom Trump's convention speech was really the hair-on-fire moment, posting things like "yes, Hillary is a criminal who stole the election from Bernie, but we still have to vote for her."

Hearing reports that the Bernie delegates are heckling the whole convention nonstop. This is going to be the only story.

I think we just lost.


Now it's Tigger time!

(there is a character who is in dire need of a new name.)

FB friend-of-a-friend posted last night that Hillary would get 49 states plus DC!!! An attempt at reality-checking led to angry fulmination followed by deletion of the thread.

Better than arguing with despair, though.

Doug M.

A Trump Presidency could be rather good for the Democratic Party at the state and local level. His political flexibility also suggests some popular Democratic priorities may slip through that otherwise wouldn't with a traditionally partisan figure of either party. Viewing him as an unmitigated political negative for the interests of the left is desirable during the general election but it's not realistic.

Nach Hitler, uns!

Dave, the issue is not what's good for the Democratic Party. You could not have missed me loudly proclaiming that were the choice between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, I would be enthusiastically in favor of electing Ted Cruz.

There's a very large missed point here. Your comment is odd.

Perhaps it isn't addressed to the blog owner? But then why put it here?

Matt: exactly. This is not goddamned normal politics, not even for our polarized age.

I think it's entirely possible that the outcome of a Trump Presidency would just be normal politics with a particularly clownish figurehead, and the system would shake him out or work around him somehow, with the ultimate benefit maybe even redounding to his opposition.

I don't think the probability of it being something else entirely is low enough to be worth dismissing. As I've said before, even if Trump's win probability is <50% this feels like Russian roulette.

I thought George W. Bush would be normal politics. You know, the guy's obviously an incompetent stuffed shirt; wait it out and we'll kneecap him in 2002 and get him out in 2004. The system works. But then Osama bin Laden threw a spanner in the works. Stuff like that happens. We might not get another 9/11, but in the current environment, smaller events that could serve as the equivalent of a Reichstag fire happen every few months.

Noel, I was addressing my comment in reply to Matt's electoral pessimism.

How is this not normal politics?
I ask non-rhetorically. Donald Trump seems like a lower class appeal (blunt, bragging, exaggerative language) to the same ideological axis as Pat Buchanan or Newt Gingrich.

Matt, if George W Bush is your ideal of normal politics for the GOP than I would suggest that normal politics is dead.

Uh ... I've explained elsewhere, Dave. But I shouldn't have to. You know, you're comment may be the most stunning I've read in a while. It's ... well. It's not ideology ... you know, honestly, you've depressed me. This should not, by now, need any explaining.

But if you really want the whole nine yards:


Read the whole goddamned thing in its terrible glory.

Christ, Dave, that's a depressing comment.

Noel, sorry to depress you. I read the Atlantic's running tally of Trump and I had a strong sense that Sarah Palin prepared the way for Trump. In other words Trump is not sui generis but the latest development in a process that included Palin, Cain, Carson, and various Senate/House candidates. If this isn't already normal politics then on the GOP side be prepared for more abnormal politics.

After having Trump the white working class is going to be prepared to vent its despair and pessimism into more unhinged vessels. I'd not be surprised if the GOP nominee in 2020 is a YouTube personality or talk radio host.

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