Let the madness end

Like most of the rest of the world, I am being emotionally held hostage by the presidential elections, so I hope you’ll forgive me if things aren’t very active around here today. I should be writing a piece for pay, but I can’t even focus well enough to do that and there’s potentially some money at stake.

One thing I did want to say for any readers who aren’t living out the last days of the Roman Republic in the US: as much as I’m sure many of you want this election to end, rest assured that the vast majority of us want exactly the same thing:


Now that is a great model of democracy in action. We should all be very proud anxious and nervous.

Donny T and the Anti-War Movement

Over at Medium, because it’s been a while, I considered the possibility that pro-Trump self-professed anti-war folks might be on to something. I remain unconvinced:

Hey, maybe you’re thinking that doesn’t sound so bad! Bombing the shit out of ISIS? Cool! But ISIS hasn’t segregated itself. Bombing the shit out of them entails bombing the shit out of a big chunk of the Middle East, and there are lots of people living there who aren’t in ISIS. Bombing the shit out of them would not be so cool! Maybe you’re already thinking that the United States is already bombing the shit out of those people, and I agree, we are! But it seems odd, to me, for Anti-War Donald Trump to propose continuing a current war, and even odder to find that Anti-War Donald Trump seems to feel like we’re not bombing enough shit out of them, and that he wants to bomb even more shit out of them than we already are.

But there are a couple of other things we should note here. First, Anti-War Donald Trump is talking here about deliberately bombing oil infrastructure, which would likely leave people dying from both the bombs themselves and the ensuing environmental catastrophe. Second, Anti-War Donald Trump uses one of his go-to applause lines in that video, the one about “taking the oil.” AWDT loves that one — he uses it in referring to Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Unfortunately, we call that kind of thing “pillaging,” and it’s a war crime.

An anti-war war crime! What a time to be alive.

Like most things, my conclusion here is that it comes down to Us vs. Them. Trump wants to kill a lot of Them, but he’s the loudest voice in the race about not killing any of Us in the process. Ergo, there’s some strain of people who consider themselves anti-war, but don’t really pay much attention when lots of Them die at American hands, who see Trump as similarly anti-war. He’s not–and neither are they for that matter.


Trump and Islamophobia

I have a new piece up at LobeLog on the Trump phenomenon and its ties with the wave of right-wing, populist-based Islamophobia we’ve seen growing throughout Europe and in the US. Research does show a correlation between increases in anti-Muslim incidents and the 2016 campaign:

This uptick in anti-Muslim activity seems to correlate with the onset of the 2016 campaign cycle. A study released in May by Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative found that incidents of anti-Muslim violence began increasing in March 2015, which roughly coincided with the start of the primary campaign process. That study noted the degree to which anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim rhetoric played a role in the Republican primary in general, and focused on one candidate in particular: former reality TV star and current Republican nominee Donald Trump. As the Bridge Initiative study noted, Trump’s candidacy has combined a high level of Islamophobic rhetoric with a degree of free media coverage almost unprecedented in modern American politics, enabling his message to reach millions of people both in the U.S. and overseas. In a number of anti-Muslim incidents, the attackers have identified themselves as Trump supporters.

A series of surveys of American attitudes toward Muslims and Islam, authored by University of Maryland scholar Shibley Telhami and discussed at a Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland also held on October 20, seems to bolster the idea of a connection between the Trump campaign, and Republican Party politics in general, and the increase in Islamophobia in the U.S. The three surveys, taken in November 2015, May 2016, and June 2016 (shortly after the Orlando nightclub shooting) actually showed an overall increase in favorable American attitudes toward Muslims (from 53% to 58% to 62%) and favorable attitudes toward Islam (from 37% to 42% to 44%), even after the Orlando attack. But that shift was entirely driven by self-identified Democratic and independent voters. Self-identified Republicans, and particularly Trump supporters, saw their mostly negative views of Muslims and Islam remain constant or even grow slightly more negative.

Trump didn’t create anti-Muslim paranoia, obviously, but he’s certainly brought it further into the political mainstream, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Though more Americans have moved away from Islamophobia than toward it since Trump began his campaign, that figure has been inflated by the fact that Trump and Islamophobia are now identified with one another, so people who oppose Trump naturally gravitate in the opposite direction. When Trump is no longer around to serve as the bogeyman of the anti-Muslim cause, we should actually expect to see some people slide back toward more Islamophobic views.


It’s Trump Time in Tehran

I have very little interest in watching a Fox News personality tongue-bathe the most absurd presidential candidate this country has ever seen, so I may be skipping tonight’s debate. On the other hand, there’s a very good chance that a whole lot of Iranians will be seeing it, and frankly I think this is entirely justified:

Once upon a time, anti-Western regimes produced propaganda depicting U.S. leaders as amoral, greedy, and violent. Now, the real thing is available for streaming.

The second presidential debate on Oct. 9, featuring Donald Trump denying allegations of sexual assault and threatening to jail Hillary Clinton, was the first U.S. debate ever broadcast live on television in Iran. Evidently, they were so happy with that demonstration of the virtues of liberal democracy that they’re going big for Wednesday night’s showdown in Vegas: airing the debate on three channels so it will be available in Persian, Arabic, and English.

Many said it was impossible, but the United States is now the world’s strongest argument against democracy. We did it! Congratulations everybody!


He’s a TV star all over the world

(For what it’s worth, the Iranian government, with its penchant for throwing innocent people in prison just because it can, continues to be the world’s strongest argument against Iran.)


Nothing has changed


Yesterday, Donald Trump was a bully. Today, Donald Trump is a bully. Tomorrow, Donald Trump will be a bully.

Yesterday, Donald Trump was a racist. In 1989, Donald Trump was a racist. In 2014, Donald Trump was a racist. Today, Donald Trump is a racist. Tomorrow, Donald Trump will be a racist.

Yesterday, Donald Trump was a creepy misogynist. In 2005, Donald Trump was a creepy misogynist. Today, Donald Trump is a creepy misogynist. Tomorrow, Donald Trump will be a creepy misogynist.

Yesterday, Donald Trump was manifestly unfit to be President of the United States. Today, Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be President of the United States. Tomorrow, Donald Trump will be manifestly unfit to be President of the United States.

We learned nothing about Donald Trump today that we didn’t already know. We sure got a refresher today, but really, nothing has changed.

Say, you know something else that hasn’t changed?

The Republican Party nominated Donald Trump to run for president. They can profess to be Mad at him as loudly as they want, they can cancel political events with him, they can pretend he doesn’t exist, they can even hold meetings (and make sure the press knows about them) to discuss whether and how they can kick Donald Trump off the ticket. But none of that changes the simple, basic fact that, knowing who Donald Trump is, was, and always will be, the Republican Party and its electorate anointed him their leader. The Republican Party, and every single Republican elected official and candidate who countenanced Donald Trump’s candidacy, should have to live with the consequences of that.


Fact-free checkers

I watched last night’s VP debate despite my deep personal desire to, you know, not do that, and while I don’t really think there’s much of anything substantive to say about the debate itself (Pence won because, despite lying virtually non-stop from beginning to end, his performance was not as unpleasant to watch as the seemingly jittery Kaine), something came up in the fact-checking afterward that should be getting more attention.

Full disclosure: I think the advent of fact-checking journalism is one of the worst things that’s happened to the media in my lifetime. Not only does it absolve regular journalists from having to check facts, thereby enabling them to safely retreat into safe, lazy, “shape of the world: views differ” stenography, but you have to deal with the added problem that the fact checkers are frequently terrible at checking facts.

So it was last night, specifically with respect to an exchange that Kaine and Pence had around the Iran nuclear deal:

KAINE: Do you know that we had 175,000 troops deployed in the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do you know that Iran was racing toward a nuclear weapon and Russia was expanding its stockpile?

Under Secretary Clinton’s leadership, she was part of the national team, public safety team that went after and revived the dormant hunt against bin Laden and wiped him off the face of the Earth. She worked to deal with the Russians to reduce their chemical weapons stockpile. She worked a tough negotiation with nations around the world to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot.

PENCE: Eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program?

KAINE: Absolutely, without firing a shot. And instead of 175,000 American troops deployed overseas, we now have 15,000.

Now, as Ali Gharib writes at LobeLog, the sentence I’ve bolded above should be rated “false.” But the reason it should be rated “false” is because, according to every available intelligence report, Iran didn’t have an active nuclear weapons program to “eliminate.” Whatever nuclear weapons program it may have had was halted in 2003, and even work on “dual use” technologies seems to have stopped around 2009. But here, per Gharib, is how the fact checkers at ABC and The New York Times handled the exchange: Continue reading

The messenger matters

A few days ago CATO’s Emma Ashford wrote a piece for Foreign Policy called “Gary Johnson’s ‘Aleppo Moments’ Don’t Undo a Smart, Libertarian Foreign-Policy Platform.” And, I mean, of course they do, but I appreciate the argument she’s trying to make here:

The big tragedy here is that the foreign-policy approach offered by the Johnson-Weld campaign is not only a compelling alternative to the current orthodoxy, but is increasingly popular among Americans. A more restrained approach to foreign policy would see the United States involved in fewer unnecessary conflicts around the world, and a much stronger emphasis on diplomacy and other nonmilitary solutions to global problems. In contrast to Clinton’s liberal interventionist approach, it would avoid getting bogged down in civil wars like Libya and Syria. In contrast to Trump’s curiously aggressive isolationism, a restrained foreign policy sees trade as a positive, security-enhancing factor.

Polling throughout the election campaign suggests that many of these ideas resonate with voters. In one recent Chicago Council survey, only 27 percent of Americans believed that the United States does too little around the world, while 41 percent of respondents think the United States does too much. More than half of respondents think that other countries should solve their own problems rather than relying on the United States.


“I may not know where Jamaica is, but I do know that you’re JAMAICAN ME CRAZY WITH ALL THESE QUESTIONS HA HA GET IT”

This is something I didn’t consider when explaining that Johnson’s abject ignorance about the world beyond America’s borders doesn’t matter because, you know, he and I have nearly the same chance of being elected president next month. It is true that American voters might respond to a restrained foreign policy, though we should never underestimate the American public’s ability to psyche itself up for war. At the very least it would be wonderful if a competent, thoughtful candidate who was able to really articulate that position were given a chance to articulate it to voters. But Johnson was never going to be that candidate. Ashford is right on when she writes this: Continue reading