B.J. Bethel

A view of the world from Ohio

Political purity and absolutism is the driving force behind Trump

This past August was the second anniversary of GamerGate. For the vast majority of busy Americans, fortunately unaware, this social and political tremor was the biggest waste of time in the short history of social media.

What started as a 10,000-word breakup letter on a blog (a record-breaker until Bill Simmons gets divorced), turned into an internet culture war between the progressive left and gamers, who found their cause adopted by the alternative right. Social media, which was already viewed by many as inducing sickness in people, may be the possible end of fact and surely the end of truth as humankind has grasped these concepts. Women threatened and forced from homes; online media eschewing the few journalistic principles  it held; GamerGate had something for no one.

I researched GamerGate for an article, and to call the experience maddening is an understatement. The nature of the entire “event,” which is how I will describe it given the lack of originality and eloquence in “dumpster fire,” served more as a microcosm of the Internet and the Millennial culture, and the general over-importance 20 somethings across generations have placed in their own social lives, and others interests in them. Overdramatic, profane, nonsensical, filled with both narcissism and adequacy issues simultaneously; there are no facts, and there certainly isn’t truth.

And if these words, these descriptions ring familiar, but not quite on the tip of your tongue, let me write the words for you – the 2016 presidential election. The ultimate losers of GamerGate weren’t the derided gamers, or anyone researching it, but the political and cultural center. Because GamerGate was a preview of the 2016 election – an instance in which decidedly liberal gamers were shoved by the progressive online media, social justice activists on Twitter and the larger corporate media into the arms of the alternative right and Breitbart.com – because they were the only ones that would have them.

A year and a half ago I posited the rise of Donald Trump was as much the fault of the Democratic party as the Republican party. The Democrats system of identity politics had come to turn on the party’s best interest; just as purity, conservative media and the corporate fundraising machine that led Republicans to lead Congress and the White House had turned on itself in the interest of profit and true conservatives; where Arlen Spector was a traitorous RINO, then John Boehner, then the Bushes and coming soon, Ted Cruz.

The case is simple: The Democrats should be cleaning up working and middle class voters, but liberals in high culture and politics have sneered at them for such a sustained period, the white fly-over vote is willing to pull the lever for Trump out of spite.

  • As despicable a candidate Donald Trump may be (if Simon and Garfunkel were to string folk songs together in the 20-Teens, they may ask “Where have you gone John Kasich?” or “Political Class over Troubled Water”) Ross Douthat in the New York Times wrote a timely column on Hillary Clinton’s “Samantha Bee” problem as a root cause in Trump’s appeal. Clinton called a quarter of the electorate deplorable, racist, beyond the pale and unrepresentable, and she is still called conservative by half her partyThat says plenty about how much of higher culture views the middle and working class. Is Clinton necessarily wrong? No, Trump has a large following of racists, maniacs, white nationalists, but also has a large following of people so desperate for a candidate to address the economic madness they’ve been handed for 40 years, they’ll take a flyer on whether or not he’s qualified for office because no one else has paid them attention. Other than Elizabeth Warren, Trump is the only national politician (if you can call him that) to address core working class economic woes.
  • The beginning was the SCOTUS Obergefell v. Ohio gay marriage ruling, and the reaction to ‘religious freedom’ laws passed by states in its wake. (Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, made no effort to stem what will soon be the largest challenge to the separation of church and state since Thomas Jefferson). Thanks to Kennedy, this left a myriad of panicked states to pass laws protecting what they saw as basic religious rights, and to a fill the major hole in the decision. Media and gay rights groups attacked the laws as unconscionable and bigoted – basically businesses would have the right to discriminate against gay people for religious reasons. But as far as law and people, it’s not that simple -LGBT rights are protected by federal law (decided through legislation and the court to be protected by The Constitution) – religious rights are protected in the 1st Amendment of The Constitution. Given religious views of homosexuality, it will come to “live and let live” by the activists on the left or what will be decades of legislation and courtroom culture wars that will accomplish little more than give earlier retirements to lawyers and further split the country. Religious people run the gamut when it comes to gay rights, gay marriage. Religious interpretations of gay rights are numerous. The left’s loudest minority (the hot take online newssourze columnist and Twitter addict) saw any objection or protection for religious reasons as outright prejudice with no middle. If you objected, you were a racist or bigot. For a country that’s 80 percent Christian, that’s quite a number to alienate, even if over half (which was the case in polls last year) favor gay marriage.
  • A best-selling book “So You’ve been Publicly Shamed” is out by former admitted Twitter shamer Jon Ronson, chronicling people who violated politically correct tropes on Twitter, or made a bad or off-color or flat out stupid joke, or photographed themselves disrespecting Arlington National Ceremony, as one example. We hear and read of the mobs harassing feminists involved in fighting GamerGate, but Gawker and other similar sites gleefully lit torches and handed out pitchforks to shame private people on social media, some with fewer than a couple dozen followers. The shaming over anti-PC tweets isn’t coming from puritanical Protestants.
  • North Carolina passed a gender bathroom law. The NCAA, NBA and other sports organizations, who normally run from politics faster than Michael Phelps swims the medley, started banning events from the state. If you are in North Carolina and ambivalent at the most, this doesn’t qualify as fair.

Among classes of the white, religious, conservative, working class, middle class – there was already angst, and while the righteousness of that angst varies, identity politics has beget an angry electorate that has reasons for being angry at both parties. Whether it was shipping their jobs overseas, labeled bigots for religious beliefs, or repeatedly being pushed aside for organized finance, corporate or political interest. If you feel elections don’t matter, they are all the same, things can’t get worse, why not vote for the toupee? Why not vote for the one person the smirking elite can’t stand on any level? What better way to get back at millionaire actors who think you are a backwoods hick for having a shotgun and a Bible. Bitter and clingy? If you watch TV and hear what the so-called liberals with their interests at heart say in private, they have reason.

A vote for Donald angers the correct people. What’s to lose? Nobody could be more insider-DC than Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders was a socialist, but a few dots connected here, and Clinton is a serial email deleter, ordered the terrorists to attack the Benghazi embassy, did a Goodfellas herself on Vince Foster and whatever is dreamed up. Not that the motivation is needed. Just go on Twitter and suggest poor people probably wouldn’t benefit much from free 100 GB internet from Google (yes, this was controversial).

And Democrat or Republican, they deserve it.

Is this real? Gamers largely were liberal – still are. 4chan, the merry pranksters of the internet, found itself on the opposite side of its own politics during GamerGate. Why? Because they were pushed away. The way Ted Cruz ate John Boehner who ate Arlen Specter, it’s the way Obama and Clinton are being eaten by the Bernie-istas and social justice Twitter. 4chan is leading the troll army for Trump and Trump appreciates it.

President Obama, the Clintons and Democrats as a whole understood the nature of national politics, the forgotten vast middle of the electorate, but the fringes of their party are now in danger of putting them in the same position as the Republicans. How did this work for the GOP? A constant purity contest, which is good for talk show hosts, pundits selling books and websites selling outrage – but it made the party unelectable to anyone outside its core base, or anyone differing on a single issue.

Right now the progressive movement isn’t pushing, but shoving, mainstream white voters to Trump. It’s not that social activists don’t have points or aren’t right in many cases, but there has to be room to agree to disagree, and there isn’t. Each leg of the identity stool is fighting the other. This is why, when The Atlantic printed a report that white American middle-aged men are the only group in the world with a rising mortality rate, liberal writer Joan Walsh jumped on Twitter to dispute the fact and said it was in fact white middle-aged women who were the victims of shortening lifespans – as if cities of working-class families had one gender in the relationship outliving the others (subsequent reporting showed working class middle-aged women and men are both facing higher mortality rates in the U.S., this trend will soon spread to rural citizens as a whole). Dying is now a political contest.

Trump is not a flash in the pan. Ross Perot’s third-party bid was a populist insurgency – it happens from time to time. Trump’s insurgency was more vast and changed the electoral map in ways Democrats and poll junkies have yet to decipher or understand.

He’s not an exception or even a symptom, but a reckoning on one hand an logical eventuality on the other. Whatever he is, both parties are responsible.

 

 

Crime may be at historical lows, but Trump’s law and order appeal is based on reality for rural areas

Tragedy in West Virginia. Twenty-seven overdoses in four hours –  one death. The overdoses occurred in the same area, within a couple miles of each other.

All of the overdoses happened within a mile and a half radius, which leads officials to believe they are from the same batch of heroin. The overdose victims ranged from 20 years old to 50, according to Merry.

This story is familiar in Dayton and its exurbs and the rural areas surrounding it. The drug was likely bought by all 27 victims from the same dealer, and laced with fentanyl, a narcotic more powerful than heroin. Fentanyl is what killed musician and star Prince. Where I work, a metro newspaper and major local news affiliate, this is news we report every weekend.

When dealers are running low on heroin (which is in epidemical demand), they cut heroin with fentanyl, and dealers seldom let customers know the product has been cut and could be fatal. Overdoses occur regularly, many causing death. Police departments, such as the Dayton Police Department in Ohio, have officers carrying NARCAN, a drug used to revive and save heroin ODs. This is standard equipment for officers, like a flashlight, handcuffs or a sidearm.

This is recent news to most, but this surge is far from a recent happening. Over a decade ago, law enforcement and hospitals in rural areas began seeing a switch from meth to heroin. Meth imported from Mexico was cheaper than meth produced by local dealers. At the same time new legislation made it more difficult to acquire opioids and other prescription pain medication. Heroin acts in the bloodstream like morphine. For those addicted to pain medication (many through bad practice by their own doctors), it was a natural switch that politicians and law enforcement didn’t anticipate. Now the United States is in the midst of the worst drug epidemic in at least 20 years, maybe ever.

Mike Burkholder of The Evening Leader and Wapakoneta Daily News wrote extensively about this problem nine years ago, but like many small town reports, it fell on deaf ears to others outside rural areas. It’s news to Washington DC, but almost everything from rural America is.

When Donald Trump speaks of law and order, he isn’t only speaking about immigration, inner city violence, he’s hitting a chord with rural working class and poor whites who have watched crime skyrocket due to the exploding epidemic in small towns. One exburb of Dayton had 80 heroin ODs through three months. They’ve occurred locally in Walmart and McDonalds bathrooms, in a Walgreens, and it’s eaten into the middle and upper middle class families.

Trump will probably not be president. But this problem will remain if Hillary Clinton doesn’t push aside the normal fight among progressive identity groups and take on the white working class and poor as the most serious part of her agenda. The Obama administration this week announced $17 million in funding to fight the heroin epidemic – it’s not nearly enough. It wouldn’t be nearly enough in Ohio. Promising more would outrage other groups that make up the Democratic voting base (poor and working class whites tend to vote Republican), who use academic language and old arguments about white privilege, which automatically fall apart when discussing the heroin epidemic. When a study was released early this year saying the mortality rate is only rising worldwide among one group of people – working class and poor American whites – progressive journalists were standing in line to either discount the findings as a whole or to twist them to fit their own gender or race politics, the same aggrandizement contest that has become a breeding ground on Twitter, and was the focus of garbage sites such as Gawker.

Hillary Clinton has long needed her Sister Souljah moment. To explain, Sister Souljah was a female rapper in the early 90s. She appeared at an MTV event with then candidate Bill Clinton, who loudly denounced her lyrics as violent against police and something he didn’t support. Hillary needs to make an honest reach to the rural white and working class, and do so in a loud fashion. Until this bloc is brought back into play for both parties, the vast disintegration of the political center will never get fixed. The GOP will continue to be at the beck and call of the Breitbart faction and the danger that runs from extremism continues.

Trump is probably losing the election – I say probably, because nothing is a certainty. But his candidacy hasn’t caused divisions and rank and furor in the country – it has revealed issues that have been long standing to those outside the corridor. Until the Democrats put aside the pecking order of their coalition, and start to work to truly unify the country, these problems will only get worse, and extremist fringes will continue to have a large voice.

The Democratic convention was a great start, with Ronald Reagan invoked (given the changes in the GOP, I’m sure the former Democrat and President would not have minded), and there are Republicans who would be more comfortable working with Democrats from the center than their own party on he right (John Kasich is the example). But invoking it, preaching optimism and unity, and focusing the country as one is one thing on the stump, and another thing in government.

This will be Hillary Clinton’s toughest challenge if she’s president.

Trump’s entire campaign is a massive, Friday news dump

Chris Zappone of Fairfax Media, home of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, wrote a remarkable article on the nature of Trump’s media strategy, where it came from, and why it’s effective.

If you study political science, media and propaganda or pay attention to Eastern European or Eurasian politics, the approach is familiar. It’s pure Putin at its core, embraced by his surrogates across the former WARSAW Pact, flooding the media cycle with stories that are good, bad, false, more false – it doesn’t matter. Media fact checkers can’t keep pace with the flood, as Zappone notes, and neither can other candidates. Zappone’s critique, based off a RAND research paper titled the “Firehose of Falsehood,” explains this strategy – a strategy Trump used his entire campaign, and was quickly evident the night of the first debate, when he stole the news cycle from a willing media, an entire political party, and over a dozen other candidates.

Immediately after the first Republican debate, Donald Trump was hardly the topic of conversation. His pugilistic back and forth with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly was noted, and negatively, but it didn’t rise to the level of historic ripostes of debates past (in terms of confrontations, it was no Jack Kennedy).

Afterward, Trump’s performance and his toe-to-toe with Kelly over his treatment toward female workers was note two or five depending on the source. John Kasich was the prominent moderate, the compassionate conservative, while the rest pushed their bona fides to the establishment conservatives. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie was the chatter from the punditry into the night.

Then the sun rose, the morning came, and the dawn of a new era of campaigning, elections and politics in the U.S.. Donald Trump began attacking Kelly in the middle of the night on his Twitter account. By the time morning news shows and the reporters were up, the story shifted from the other candidates and Trump’s alleged sexism to Trump vs. Kelly.

This would be the proceedings for the rest of the Republican primary. Trump would dominate the news cycle by the hour, just on whatever he tweeted at the moment. He would trash CNN for hours on the trail, then the network would give him minute upon minute of primetime at his whim.

Trump’s name recognition, his say-anything sound byte moments, followed by incessant Tweeting and a network of dummy social accounts and overseas trolls turning the wheels and opening the gates.

 

 

 

Masculinity is not a problem in law enforcement – nor anywhere else

Frank Rudy Cooper, Professor of Law at Suffolk University, writes in the TheConversation.com the issue with police violence in the United States is masculinity.

By masculinity, I simply mean popular assumptions about what is manly behavior. For instance, men do not wear dresses, do not ask for directions and do not dance. Or so we are told.

If one is a man, or just wants to perform masculinity, one will be drawn toward the behaviors that are popularly understood to be manly. An important tendency of masculine behavior in the United States is to confront disrespect with violence.

In policing, this has meant punishing the “noncrime” of “contempt of cop” (offending a police officer) with trumped up charges of law-breaking or physical violence.

Cooper takes some of the bite out of the headline (who knows who wrote it), instead saying “popular assumptions of masculinity and manly behavior,” but reading further, what he’s referring to is power dynamics not masculinity. In the context he writes, one could replace masculinity with femininity and it wouldn’t mean anything different.

The shooting of Philando Castille can be better explained through what author and polemicist Christopher Hitchens called the relationship between the dominator and the dominated. In Castille’s neighborhood, he was pulled over 52 times, half his citations were dismissed. This same type of over-policing, of Orwellian abuse of power through the micro-violation or non-violation isn’t a product of masculinity, it’s political and systemic, of domination. The case in Ferguson was similar, with citizens regularly given dozens of citations for innocuous violations, or no violations at all.

This is abuse of law, abuse of citizens, is where violence starts. It’s not a matter of masculinity but of policy. Of keeping a bankrupt locality alive so some people can keep retirements, health care and a salary. It’s incremental, as is outrage.

Cooper isn’t talking system, he’s talking one-on-one interactions with the police, which is where perceived notions of respect and manliness, as he would suggest, are the issue with police and violence. Disrespect is given by a black male, a while male cop sees this disrespect and reacts in the perceived masculine way, with aggression.

I have no degree in gender studies, but losing your cool isn’t considered masculine. Righteous anger is one thing, psychotic isn’t.

Movies and culture have changed perceptions on manliness, but not in a good way. The Tim Allen sitcom “Home Improvement” was derisively called Man Improvement. It was assumed for years stay-at-home fathers were depressed or angry or jealous at their spouses. These assumptions were false.

The traditional John Wayne model of the frontier man, rugged and individual, is a stereotype that wasn’t reflect in Wayne’s films. His characters were rugged and individualistic, but they also showed community, cooperation, cool under pressure, and the ultimate trait of masculinity – responsibility. Maybe stoic, but had heart and was self-sufficient and sufficient to others, most of all family. Christianity supplied a value system, and most importantly, someone (God) you need to answer to.

That definition fits many police, it also fits many men, and it’s a proper description of masculinity.

 

Dear Trump campaign: This isn’t Kiev, this is the United States

Donald Trump’s “Bad 72 Hours,” as put delicately by CNN, started with the presidential candidate’s criticism of Khiz Khan, a Muslim father whose soldier son earned the Medal of Honor after saving 10 of his fellow troops from a suicide bomber in 2004.”Why didn’t we hear from his wife?” Trump questioned, addressing the legitimate point of women’s rights among those practicing Islam. But Ghazala Khan wasn’t having it, and addressed the criticism in the Washington Post, saying she did not speak at the convention due to the emotion of the moment and the loss she continues to feel for her son.

This led to most of the GOP, the VFW, and everyone short of the Islamic State blasting Trump for his remarks toward a Gold Star family.

As this unfolded, numbers from the Republican National Convention were historic – for the first time in history, a candidate came out of his own convention with voters less likely to vote for him than before it started. Hillary Clinton experienced a significant bounce, and is now nine points ahead of Trump in one poll. Despite the ultimate outcome of the RNC, Trump experienced a brief bounce among independents that had him leading Clinton for the first time since May – that quickly disappeared, as the DNC recalled the days of the 1980s GOP – the Shining City on the Hill; numerous Republicans deploring Trump and pledging votes to Clinton; a former General and Afghanistan commander blasting Trump’s foreign policy; and homage’s to American exceptionalism, most notably in the speech given by First Lady Michelle Obama, who left the podium emotional.

The Trump campaign’s response to the fiasco of their own making is to threaten a Constitutional crisis – if they can’t win, they are going to burn it down.

I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged,” Trump said in a visit to Columbus, Ohio. A comment strongly rebuked by President Obama. The real double-down came when Trump staffer Roger Stone went on the podcast of Milo Yiannopolous, and accused both parties of hacking election machines.

This point is important. Milo is a moderator on Reddit for Trump supporters forum. He’s also a favorite among 4chan and disaffected GamerGaters who felt burned by liberals they supported when media groups like Buzzfeed and Gawker supposedly turned on them so ferociously over what should have been no more than a message board soap opera.

“I have no doubt that after the last election, when Karl Rove, who was George Bush’s campaign manager and a Romney partisan, insisted that ‘no no, your numbers have to be wrong,’ he said on Fox, ‘Romney definitely carried Ohio,’ and the reason he was so certain is because it was bought and paid for,” he claimed. “He knew the fix was supposed to be in. Therefore I can only conclude that sometimes things don’t stay bought, and perhaps Obama came in with a better offer.”

The Rove rigging Ohio story is important. One legend traveling the message boards and 4chan for years is Anonymous came in and saved the sanctity of the Ohio election by de-hacking voting machines and counts that were rigged by Rove and his dastardly fellow Republicans. This was why Rove’s memorable 2012 election night meltdown occurred.

I don’t believe for a moment anything in Ohio was rigged. I think the Anonymous story is akin to thousands of tall tales you’ll find across the internet, most of which have more grounding in truth. The Republicans lost Ohio because their polling was awful and their understanding of the electorate was worse. In no fashion did they see Obama having a second term, this was conventional wisdom in the party dating back to 2008 and Mitch McConnell’s declaration that the Senate and Congress’s main purpose was to deny Obama a second term.

Exit polls showed the Obama “coalition” showed up in the same form it did in 2008, and the incumbent president won easily. That’s closer to what actually happened then the story of Anonymous hackers saving the day or the Obama’s having a better cyberwarfare unit stashed in some RV somewhere.

This reasoning also turned out wrong. The electorate is whiter than researchers suspect because most of the calculations on demographics are taken from exit polls, which have been inaccurate. More scientific surveys had evangelicals shorted by as much as six percent of the total electorate. If the numbers are wrong, how did Obama win? He did better among white voters than the media or exit polls suggested.

So rather than buck up, offer a positive message and try to swing voters skeptical of Clinton and Democrats on trade, social issues and security, Trump and company now say the election will be rigged.

Campaign manager Paul Manafort and the rest of Trump’s staff, who I will now refer to as “Red Team Six,” are now working to delegitimizing the election two months before it happens. This doesn’t occur in U.S. politics, it occurs in third-world countries Manafort finds himself in, making boat loads of money from Moscow, and helping soften images of dictators and people who think of assassination the way U.S. politicians think of town hall meetings.

In other words, it’s a disgrace. Obama has rebuked Trump and called him unfit for office. He’s called on Republicans to disavow Trump and not vote for him. Republicans who earlier offered tepid endorsements have criticized Trump, but have yet to dump him to the curb, a telling sign.

This is now on the GOP, conservative media, the large billionaire donor base, and cowardly politicians. Trump is the manifestation of the conservative movement, starting with with talk radio, to the takeover of the tea party by the donor class and the conservative media establishment, to Ted Cruz and his efforts to crash the government. Republicans can fix much of their own damage by dumping Trump.

 

 

 

 

Don’t look for the media to keep barbarian Donald Trump from the gates

My column in the Sydney Morning Herald: Donald Trump is the Day of Reckoning for conservative media, which now cries to legitimate media to save them from their own candidate and their own creation – their base.

 

Putin on the Ritz – How the media finally seized on Trump’s concerning ties with Russia

Waiting for the national media to notice ties between Russia and the Trump campaign was long and frustrating – especially to those concerned over the dire ramifications,  but the grand unveiling of the Trump-Russo romance this week has taken over the media cycle. The DNC has said since June the Russians were responsible for their widely-reported attack on the Democrats email servers, but today the Clinton campaign took the next step and said the hack was done to benefit Donald Trump. This was a connection some took for granted, as Trump’s ties to the Russians are deep and are throughout his staff, and are little surprise to those who have watched the Russians behave on social media platforms. But it was a big step in the campaign of pointing out just who is behind the Trump campaign.

A few reporters have looked at Russia and its involvement in the 2016 election. Chris Zappone of Fairfax Media has regularly wrote and blogged on how Russian trolls and twitter accounts (often bots) had a distinct Trump flavor. How many Trump twitter supporters not only like the Donald, but are strangely up to speed on Russian domestic politics? Too many to not at least be curious, if not flat-out cynical. I’ve written about how this same group has a horrifying anti-Semitic streak.

Most of this was limited to the fantastic reporting of Franlkin Foer, Zappone, and others who picked up on the trends on social media such as myself.

Then the flood gates opened due to one morning TV rant – and an email.


Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s criticism of Donald Trump was light by today’s political standards. You could hardly call Kasich’s statements about Trump a major criticism according to the Donald’s own rhetorical standards

Kasich didn’t like Trump, that was clear. But surely, the Trump camp felt, the Governor would want to speak at the first major party convention in his state in 70 years, so the bait was simple – if you give an endorsement, you speak, probably in prime time, and if negotiated correctly, maybe a keynote. Kasich said no and to make his point more plain,  decided not to attend the convention. He spent the week in Cleveland, but at party functions around the city.

Whether Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort lost his mind on the morning of Monday, July 18, or if he planned a grand strategic maneuver to turn the party and Ohioans against Kasich, and put them in the Trump column, nobody knows but Manafort, Trump and a few others. The result was a morning appearance on MSNBC – of all networks – where he double-barrell blasted Kasich for not giving an endorsement and not appearing at the convention; calling Kasich “petulant”and an embarrassment to his state and party. This was the first negative word Trump’s campaign had said about Kasich since the primaries started – Trump himself spoke better of him than he did of other candidates, usually with respect to the governor, but criticized trade deals Kasich supported. The reason for this more polite approach was quite calculated.

What happened the next three days showed the campaign staff for the Governor of Ohio was smarter than the campaign staff for Donald Trump. More importantly, someone finally called the emperor on his lack of clothing.

Once Manafort took his first swing, Kasich strategist landed what Vladimir Putin, a judo practitioner, would know as an ippon. He left him flat on his back and beat.

“Manafort’s problem, after all those years on the lam with thugs and autocrats, he can’t recognize principle and integrity,” Kasich strategist John Weaver wrote Jonathan Martin of the New York Times. “He has brought great professionalism, direct from Kiev (Ukraine) to Trump world.”

A day later a source on the Kasich staff revealed that Trump and Manafort wanted the Ohio governor as their Vice President. Manafort and Trump’s son Donald Jr. went to Kasich strategist John Weaver with an offer he nor the governor could possibly refuse – to make him the most powerful vice president in history. This led to the now famous line of Don Jr. telling the Kasich strategist, the governor could run foreign and domestic policy, while Trump would be in charge of “making America great again.” Kasich said no.

Trump denied offering Kasich the VP slot in a very short tweet. His campaign then blasted Kasich, saying he was never considered and said his background “read like a dirty novel,” which was interesting since if Trump’s staff didn’t consider him for VP, why were they looking into his background?

Trump’s camp became suddenly bored talking about Kasich’s allegation that he was offered the VP spot after the Columbus Dispatch confirmed with four more sources in the governor’s campaign that the offer had been made.

When Ted Cruz left the RNC stage to boos and yells for not endorsing The Donald, a Trump chief staffer immediately ran to CNN and gave a ranting speech about how if Trump wins, he’s booting both Kasich and Cruz from the GOP.

As the Democratic National Convention starts tomorrow, Kasich told the Philadelphia Inquirer he doubts Trump can win Ohio. He called Trump a divider and said “Ohio was a snapshot of the country and wanted a positive way forward.”

Trump’s response was to say he may start a super-PAC – even as president – to fight Cruz and Kasich in whatever future political endeavors they choose.

Weaver’s comments took new meaning today. When he inferred Manafort had been “on the lam” with autocrats, the first thought was Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who Manafort had worked, before the Putin apparatchik was chased from the country after a rigged election and a popular revolt (Yanukovych now resides in exile under the warm, tender embrace of Putin).

Or Weaver knew what Franklin Foer tweeted and wrote in Slate today: Manafort once lost investment cash from a Russian billionaire oligarch and crime lord, and went into hiding for a sustained period, with some of his former business colleagues asking in cryptic emails if they knew his whereabouts.

If Paul Manafort wasn’t real, Martin Scorcese would have to invent him.

 

PREDICTIONS: The 2016 Republican National Convention – Read it here first

With a nation on edge and  on the verge of panic after over 40 percent of the new Star Wars movie was ordered re-shot, I’ve accepted the task of calming the hearts and minds by writing what will happen at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland – before it happens. You can read it here, read it now, and freely spend your week enjoying entertainment on your DVR, Betamax collection, or reading your favorite magazine or book.

JULY 18 – DAY ONE

  • The Republican National Convention opens with Roseanne Barr singing the National Anthem. Donald Trump wanted to set the tone for the Convention immediately.
  • Scott Baio, former teen heartthrob, Happy Days star, and reality television star, gives his speech decrying Hillary Clinton. He also answers the important question as to why the younger sister on “Charles in Charge” turned out to be hotter than the older sister.
  • General Michael Flynn takes the stage as a surprise, and is announced as both Secretary of State and Defense. He says it’s time for the United States to begin defending its own interests at home and abroad. He then makes a sudden leave to accept an award from Vladimir Putin at the “Russia Today” awards.
  • Ivanka Trump speaks, and plugs her new clothing line and goes on a tear about how she’s more attractive than all the Kardashian sisters. She thanks her supporters for their anti-Semitic harassment of award-winning journalist Julia Ioffe. She said she’s had a great time in Pittsburgh and can’t wait to come back when your father wins the Presidency.
  • Black Lives Matter’s plans for disruption and protest fall apart when it gets bored.

JULY 19 – DAY TWO

  • Dana White, the face and head of The Ultimate Fighting Championship, takes the podium. He goes on an F-word laden rant because that’s just how he talks. He promises Trump will have the same success combating the heroin and opiate problem in the Midwest as UFC has combatted doping in the UFC.
  • Alex Jones takes to stage to huge applause. He’s proud to announce changes to the Republican party platform – a responsibility he was given personally from Trump in order to make the party more inclusive. Jones promises to double spending on the Star Wars anti-ballistic missile system in order to combat George Pataki, and his hordes of Lizardoid, robotic space-traveling RINOS. Also he believes the the RNC is a false-flag operation, as is his own re-writing of the party platform.
  • Peter Thiel, billionaire, Trump delegate and Silicone Valley businessman takes the stage. He didn’t want to kill Gawker, “but felt he owed it to them.” He goes on a 45 minute rant about the show HBO “Silicone Valley,” and why it can’t get more than a dozen shows a season. He thinks he’s at a TED conference and starts encouraging to drop out of college.
  • Dana White comes back out, and says ESPN is full of crap, but nobody knows what he’s referring to.
  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who announced he wouldn’t be at the convention, makes a surprise appearance, which quickly ends after he clears the stage with a baseball bat.
  •  sting.rafter

JULY 20 – DAY 3

  • Former Congressional Head and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaks, imploring Trump’s 10-point plan – aka THE 10 POINTS TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. Each part has five separate points, broken into seven others, were are then outlines down to four more segments, each available for $150 on blu-ray if you want to watch Newt read it himself. The entire foreign policy section is based on Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn novels, as well as an early 1900s Girl Scout handbook. It’s also available on Powerpoint.
  • Bill Clinton shocks the crowd, walking on stage. He mistakingly thought Cleveland was still having a party from the Cavaliers championship and wanted to hang out with Halle Berry.
  • Alex Jones runs on stage naked and tackles Chris Christie.
  • Some major media are confused after seeing the speaker list: five different Trumps, an El Paso commissioner, etc., and thinks they may be accidentally flew to a Des Moines Tea Party gathering by mistake.
  • It has been announced Thiel has sold all his businesses and will work for a potential Trump administration as MEME CZAR.
  • Marco Rubio is on stage for his speech, but instead kicks the podium over and throws a bottle of Jack Daniels through the Jumbotron.
  • The count on Trump family members to speak has reached 15.
  • Before Mike Pence makes his speech accepting the nomination as VP, a spokesman for Cleveland’s Quicken Arena reminds delegates and convention goers that tickets are on sale for The Black Keys, The Monster Energy Drink Indoor MotoCross challenge; Truck-A-Saurus Rex and the NAPA monster truck nationals; the Greater Cleveland Annual Quilting Spectacular; Bill Goodman’s Gun and Knife Show; Funk 49 – the best James Gang/Joe Walsh/Eagles cover band east of the Mississippi; and a three-day all-night marathon of all seven games of the 2016 Finals as the Cleveland Orchestra plays Beethoven’s Ninth. Former Browns Ernest Byner, Brian Brenneman, Tim Couch, Erik Wilhelm and former coach Chris Palmer will be there signing autographs and posing for photos. Bernie Kosar has been named Mayor.

JULY 21 – DAY 4

  • Matt Foley, motivational speaker, opens the last day’s speaker list
  • LeBron James is spotted walking amongst the crowd, telling people not to “scratch my #$*#$(# floor.”
  • Senator Ted Cruz speaks, says Americans now have an opportunity of a lifetime – they can now get Time Shares through Trump Inc.
  • Cruz talks about the Trump steak he had for lunch and how delicious it was despite the botulism.
  • GOP party head Reince Preibus speaks, giving a delusional speech about supporting Ronald Reagan against Democrat Walter Mondale.
  • Several delegates report seeing visions of Richard Nixon’s ghost trying to fling itself from the top of the arena.
  • Donald Trump takes the stage to accept the nomination. He thanks the press for covering the event, especially since he plans on having them shot immediately after the confetti. He talks about himself for 45 minutes, before going on a strange rant about the toilet paper in the arena and using it to set up jokes about Hillary Clinton.
  • Trump says he will be the first president to also be his own Press Secretary.
  • He’s joined on stage by his family, including three Mexican orphans and four Syrian orphans he adopted just before the night of the last day of the convention.

 

Donald Trump’s other brand – his Anti-Semitic Twitter horde

Emile Zola – author of the most important article in the history of journalism – once wrote optimistically and inevitably, “The truth is on the march and nothing will stop it.”

Zola – whose own march toward truth likely led to his murder – wrote those words in response to the conviction of Alfred Dreyfuss, a French artillery officer, who was falsely convicted of treason based on his Jewish heritage. Dreyfuss was later exonerated after relentless effort from Zola, who brought the case to light in the French paper L’Aurore under the greatest headline written in any language, “J’accuse`”.

Marching loudly and profoundly behind the Donald Trump online is a streak of anti-Semitism that bounces from tweet to tweet.

The truth is out there – and so are the facts, if you are an inquiring journalist – but since Zola died in 1902, it has been buried beneath millions of murdered Jews. The pogroms in Russia and Europe to start the century, Hitler’s genocide four decades later that shaped the rest of the 1900s, and the lie that continues to spin around the world while the truth is too dizzy to put on its pants: whether it’s the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the Islamist jihadist, the “libertarian” connecting the dots from Hollywood to banking.

Trump’s latest harangue at his presumptive presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton, featured a ‘star of David’ symbol in a Twitter meme, which he quickly deleted and refurbished with a circle. As with anything on the internet, there is no deletion, and Trump was caught in a wave of controversy, which entangled his Jewish son-in-law

The controversy came simultaneously with former New Republic editor Franklin Foer’s devastating Slate article on Donald Trump’s connection to Vladimir Putin and other Russian interests. This followed Chris Zappone of Australia’s The Age, putting the pieces together on Russia fronting an information war for Trump in the election.

Much of that information is through Twitter and has two common threads – a relentless pro-Russia position (an obvious sign since the general Trump voter’s interest in Russian politics is most likely non existent) and the worst of anti-Semitism. Neither is coincidence.

Is Trump an anti-Semite himself? Hopefully not, but a presidential campaign doesn’t exist in the vacuum of the individual running for office, but is as much – if not more – about those who seek to have him elected. That Putin – who has been handing cash to France’s Nationalist Front (oh Zola, how we need you now), and running cash and other manpower to far-right campaigns across Europe in Hungary, Germany and other countries in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis, should be disconcerting enough. The situation is made worse with Trump, who lacks the self-awareness to even gauge his own mouth, let alone the dirty underpinnings of his own campaign or any bad actors that may hitch their wagon to his possible election.

World War III is happening on the internet to a certain extent, with Russians hacking the Democratic National Committee in search of opposition research on Trump. Nearly a century after Lenin’s death, the Motherland has finally found its perfect useful idiot, and that person is The Donald.
This is one tweet by one Trump fan, but is indicative of the racism that’s regularly on display and has been covered in the press. Scan further and you’ll see Holocaust denial, on top of anti-Semitism.

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In case there is doubt.

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This is the Culture of Trump, whether it’s the Tweets, the pushing and shoving at rallies, the Anti-Semitism from followers, or the odd and strange way his ‘American’ followers overwhelming and intrinsic interest in Russian domestic and international politics.

Julia Ioffe, the Jewish journalist who profiled Melania Trump, is an expert on Russia. After her profile, she began getting constant, random and threatening phone calls, some playing Hitler speeches, other’s somehow worse. This harassment she had experienced before – in Russia. Was the article overly critical? Not at all, but it let out that Melania Trump has a half-brother the family isn’t in contact with.

The attacks on Ioffe are scary, not just because of their Anti-Semitic overtones, the horrible threats she’s endured, but because of her high profile. If a writer who is noted as one of the best experts on a major country, writes for GQ and New York Times is subject to this kind of harassment, what of the little people? Trump has made the elimination of protection against journalists a major campaign point. He spent nearly an hour of his speech in Cincinnati on Wednesday, July 6 ranting against the media, including outlets like CNN which air him constantly and have given him free advertising – handy since his fundraising is nearly nonexistent.

Ioffe isn’t the only reporter to be criminally harassed and the target of the most vile of speech. Jeffrey Goldberg received an email from a Trump supporter, saying The Atlantic report would be “sent to an oven” upon the election of Trump. Ben Shapiro, a hard-right conservative and former writer for Breitbart, has not supported Trump and been the target of numerous anti-Semitic remarks. Jonathan Weismann of the New York Times has spent countless time dealing with the same bigoted remarks and retweeted countless threatening comments made toward him on Twitter.

Bryce Covert of Think Progress published an op-ed in the Times blasting Trump’s agenda, and has received the same anti-Semitic remarks. Covert’s case is surprisingly bad, as Covert never made any Jewish heritage public, and serial harassers had to dig up information on a grandmother to find the lineage.

What are Republicans to do? Their convention is fast approaching, some members of the party establishment – such as Sen. Lamar Alexander – have said Trump won’t necessarily emerge from the convention as the nominee, others have been pushing for the party to support Gary Johnson, a former governor and regular Libertarian candidate for president, who received an astounding 11 percent of the vote according to one poll.

 

Roger Cohen’s down with TPP, but not American jobs

Studying and opposing offshoring is part economics, part being uncool in the eyes of the foreign policy and economic establishment, and mostly “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray.

Whether it’s neo-Keynesian and Krugman-ite economists, foreign policy wonks who see trade as just a card to play in global politics, the idiotic free market arguments that see free trade as a matter of principal and not policy – it’s the same false arguments that were made during NAFTA have survived 25 years. The same arguments are replicated in favor of he Trans-Pacific Partnership, the potential “Garfield: Tale of Two  Kitties,” “Aloha,” or “Hyde Park on the Hudson) of trade deals.

That TPP is being addressed is due only to the insurgent campaigns of Bernie Sanders, and most in particular Donald Trump, who has won the delegate count for the Republican nomination on a platform based primarily on American primacy in economics and – like a true free-marketer would say – considering our own interests in the matters of world trade. Detractors call it populist, others would say working class.

If you discuss globalization or American manufacturing its the same reoccurring nightmare, where you keep going to school without your clothes, or you repeatedly fall off the same cliff. Article after article, pundit after pundit, it’s waking up to Sonny and Cher all over again:

  1. Globalization is good because interlinking countries and their economies lessens war. True in some cases, not true in others. Ask Europe how comfortable it feels knowing Putin controls the spigot on their gas and oil.
  2. Killing trade is bad because it makes our allies poorer. If only these concerns were shared for the flyover plebes, the working class types, the NASCAR fans those who would benefit from manufacturing jobs. Then your populist Trump-ian doomsday wouldn’t have occurred.
  3. Opening our markets to the world opens our companies to new customers. It’s a net gain. For who? The overarching theory on free trade in the 1990s was America’s working class would suffer job losses for a 15-20 year period before things stabilized, when other economies would see a growing working class with higher wages, and the losses would even out. This has not happened. Job losses continue in manufacturing sectors.

Roger Cohen of the New York Times declared in a commentary Thursday, June 2, 2016, “If TPP fails, China wins.” Cohen is referencing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between the United States and 11 Asian countries comprising 40 percent of the world’s economy. A trade agreement that has been negotiated in secret, has not been made public except in stolen extracts that have been leaked surreptitiously. An agreement many of our elected legislators haven’t seen, had access to, or had an opportunity to write. But corporate lawyers have had a large part in filing the details and putting the deals and negotiations together.

Cohen talks about America’s failing status in the world, how most countries have little regard for the United States – except Vietnam, which is one of the 11 countries involved in TPP. Not signing TPP would be a sign of de-committment to them and other countries, a signal that China will be the dominant faction in Asia, not the United States, and they’ll be dictating power in the region.

Cohen spends five paragraphs in an 800-word column agonizing over Vietnam’s image of the United States before he gets to what he’s really writing about.

But such long-term transformations, pulling hundreds of millions out of poverty in Asia, are not the stuff of an American election characterized by anger above all. Among the popular one-liners is this: International trade deals steal American jobs. Not one of the three surviving candidates backs the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Hillary Clinton was for it — and right — before she was against it — and wrong. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are simply against it, big time.

Those angry, selfish populists want to keep their jobs and stay employed. Actually, they want their jobs back. Manufacturing is disappearing as a matter of employment in the United States. If you go to a rust belt city, walk into a Walmart or Wendy’s, you won’t be greeted by a teenager, which was the case 10 years ago. Most likely it will be a former supervisor in his 40s or 50s, a single-mom who once had her child in a house but is now in an apartment with help from SNAP – the typical angry crowd, angry because they can’t afford anything. The one demographic in the world – working class American whites – which has seen its mortality rate rise in recent years.

Cohen admits the deal doesn’t adequately address currency manipulation or medical copyrights which could drastically change the prices of prescriptions. As far as jobs go, Cohen goes through an exercise of mental gymnastics and euphemism that a 5 year old wouldn’t take on its face.

The Obama administration has acknowledged that some manufacturing and low-skilled jobs will be lost, but argued this will be offset by job growth in higher-wage, export-reliant industries. The Peterson Institute for International Economics, in a report issued this year, found the accord would stimulate job “churn” but was “not likely to affect overall employment in the United States,” while delivering significant gains in real incomes and annual exports.

“Job churn,” a phrase George Orwell lived to see die, is Cohen and the Obama administration’s kind way of saying if you work in a blue collar job that involves making or building a product, there’s a good chance it will disappear. These jobs would supposedly be replaced by “higher-wage, export-reliant” industries, while somehow magically delivering higher incomes and exports.

This same argument was made in regard to NAFTA and the $8 billion it had brought in business to the state of Ohio, a heavy manufacturing state – or was. Dayton’s auto-heavy manufacturing base was the fuel for the local economy – not just the plants themselves, but the machine shops and small parts manufacturers they kept in business in small towns and suburbs throughout the western half of the state. The actuality was different – Ohio from 2000 to 2011 lost $22 billion in payrolls due to what the Dayton Daily News (who I work for) called a state whose jobs were “under siege.”

In Montgomery County alone, where Dayton is the county seat, payrolls dropped $3 billion – 27 percent. That’s over a quarter of personal income gone in 11 years. That job loss isn’t a churn, it’s catastrophic.

Cohen calls out Trump for calling TPP “the biggest betrayal in a long line of betrayals” of American workers, and not citing evidence outside currency manipulation, but the deal has largely been kept secret – which means its doubtful there’s good news in it except for those who put it together. I’m not a Trump supporter, but on this issue we have much common ground, and he’s right to be skeptical, especially given the NAFTA track record.

Cohen called on Congress to resist “populist ranting” and fears increased tension abroad if the deal isn’t ratified, but blows off growing tension at home over job losses and a country that operates currently with two separate economies. The one Cohen wants to service – the economy of Wall Street, Manhattan and D.C. – and the economy the rest of us are stuck with – rising health insurance, lower wages and higher debt.