The Trump Rules

So, I’m sure you’re aware that Donald Trump made a joke about murdering Hillary Clinton yesterday. Then, he walked it back and lied about what he’d said, pretending that he’d merely suggested that “second amendment people” could vote as a bloc and defeat Clinton…somehow…after she’d already been elected…or something.

The only exceptional thing about this is how unexceptional it is. For any other candidate, talking about murdering their opponent would be the end of the road. For Trump though? He’s held to a lower standard by the media. He’s allowed to lie and lie and lie at historic levels and no one cares. Again, if Clinton were anywhere near as dishonest as Trump, she’d likely have dropped out of the race by now. For some reason, we accept a lower standard of integrity from Trump.

I remember the 2008 election when Obama was derisively referred to as “the first affirmative action president” as though he didn’t deserve his victory. But Obama was put through the ringer the same as anyone else and it was clear that trying to belittle him with references to “affirmative action” was just thinly-veiled racism.

But The Donald? This guy is being held to a lower standard than any candidate we’ve seen in my lifetime. He isn’t being held accountable for what he says because, well, “that’s just Trump, he says what he thinks.” Which is true, sure, but what he says is idiotic at best and monstrous at worst.

I doubt that Trump’s calling for the death of Hillary Clinton will make more than a few ripples and I expect it to be largely forgotten in a few weeks. It’s Trump, after all. We expect less of him, and boy howdy, does he ever deliver.

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The Worst (I’m Already So Tired of Trump)

What can I say about Donald Trump that hasn’t already been said? Let’s find out!

I’ll start with the obvious: By any reasonable measure, Donald Trump is the worst person to have ever been nominated by a major party in the United States, and he will be the worst person to be elected on the off chance he doesn’t completely implode over the next six months. Now, simply being a bad person, the kind of guy who’d get violent with his wife over a bad day at the hair restoration joint, doesn’t disqualify you from the office.

Trump’s campaign promises have been…interesting…to say the least. His most recent speech did a marvelous job of pinpointing a very legitimate point of pain for many Americans.

Yesterday, she even tried to attack me and my many businesses. But here is the bottom line: I started off in Brooklyn New York, not so long ago, with a small loan and built a business worth over 10 billion dollars. I have always had a talent for building businesses and, importantly, creating jobs. That is a talent our country desperately needs.

I am running for President to end the unfairness and to put you, the American worker, first.

We are going to put America First, and we are going to Make America Great again.

This election will decide whether we are ruled by the people, or by the politicians.

That kind of populist nationalism resonates, but is there any real reason to believe he actually believes what he’s saying? Campaign Trump is the same guy who gave an awkward speech at a religious university betraying a complete lack of familiarity with the subject of faith. He’s the one who talked about defaulting on the national debt. He wants racial profiling. He wants to make Mexico pay for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. If you’re going to take him at his word on the good things he says, you have to take the nutty stuff too.

But why should you take him at his word? Not only is Campaign Trump wildly at odds with pre-Campaign Trump, he’s also a profoundly dishonest person. Compare Trump’s record on the fact checking sites against Hillary Clinton’s. The TL/DR: While Clinton is often less than 100% accurate, Trump’s in a league of his own when it comes to pulling facts out of his ass. He lies. He lies constantly. There are those who would call this “masterful rhetoric,” but it’s just plain, garden variety lying.

I suggest that a better way to get a measure of Donald Trump is to look at what he’s done, as opposed to what he’s saying he wants to do now that he’s trying to get people to vote for him. His actions may be dishonest, but at least they’re his actions, right?

There are basically two hallmarks of how Donald Trump does business. He gets people to pay for things that he doesn’t deliver, and he gets people to do work for him or provide services without paying for them. Trump University gets a lot of attention, and rightly so. It was a scam dressed up as an educational program designed to get people to empty their wallets in exchange for getting the “instructors” to stop bugging them about emptying their wallets. Trump resorts? Ask the investors. Just Google “Trump” and “investors” and “sue.”

Then there’s the matter of not paying people. He brags about his multiple bankruptcies as “good business,” but understand them for they are: They’re screw people he owes money to out of the money he owes them. When you’re broke and can’t feed yourself, bankruptcy is a good way out. When you have boatloads of cash and just don’t feel like paying? You’re being a dick. Of course, he doesn’t just screw banks, he screws the working man too! He just flat out bilks contractors out of the money they’re owed on the principle that he can. It’s true, but again, he’s being a dick.

So, you know, all that populist stuff he’s spouting about being on the side of the American worker? It’s all crap. He routinely screws the American worker and he brags about it. He’s proud of it. That’s what’s made him the man he is today.

Trump’s got a race problem, too. Even if you discount all of the blatantly racist stuff he’s encouraging on the campaign trail, his problem goes way back and it runs in the family. Vice.com, of all sites, has the most in-depth look at the allegations that Donald’s father, Fred, was a Klansman. It’s worth a read, and I never thought I’d say that about Vice. The short version is that a man named Fred Trump was arrested at a Klan rally in New York in 1927, but wasn’t charged. The papers identify this Fred Trump as living at the same location as Donald Trump’s father did. They also say that all the arrested were wearing Klan robes. I’ll let you draw the conclusions.

In 1972, Donald himself was at the center of a federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination on his part. I know it’s a long time ago, but if you read the article, you’ll recognize the Donald Trump we see today. When attacked, he attacks back, even if there’s no basis in it. It’s a weird sort of “anti-truth.” If you punched me in the face, it would be a lie if you said “I did not punch you in the face.” The anti-truth version would be “No, YOU punched ME in the face.” There’s the bluster, the “win at all cost” tactics, and then, of course, he settled the suit because, well, duh, he was being racist as hell. If you can stand going to the Huffington Post, there’s a pretty good list of additional examples of racism by The Donald.

It’s not hard to see why Trump is the darling of the alt-right. He favors a sort of populist, borderline racist version of nationalism. He wants to make America great again, and that means white and Christian if you can hear that particular dog-whistle pitch. He hates “political correctness,” which is to say, he hates that people want him to treat other people with respect. Most importantly, he’s about winning by any means available, regardless of the principles involved. Even when he’s wrong (and my oh my is he wrong about a lot things), he has to win. That’s alt-right ideology in a nutshell, isn’t it?

So, really, what it boils down to is this: Can Trump continue to keep the rabid support of the racist, sexist, nationalist fringe who identify so strongly with him while at the same time convincing enough of the rest of America that he’s really just a populist outsider who has America’s best interests at heart? That’s a hell of a tightrope, isn’t it? Even if he somehow manages to keep it together, is that coalition enough to win the general election? In firing up his base, he’s shit all over women and non-whites. Those are huge demographics to write off.

If he does make it to November (and there’s a non-zero chance he won’t), I think election night will go badly for him. A lot can happen between now and then, but he’s been Donald Trump for a long, long time now, and Donald Trump is, at the core, an asshole. We’ve elected jerks before, but never anyone like Donald Trump. For once, the hyperbole is correct: Donald Trump is the worst.

 

 

 

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And Then There Were Two*

Donald Trump v. Hillary Clinton, a no holds barred cage match to the death**.

This should be fun. Clinton is very much “the devil you know.” She’s the closest thing the Democrats have to Bob Dole in the sense that her candidacy feels as though it’s a result of it being her turn as much as anything. I like Bernie Sanders, but I’d wager that a stronger Democratic candidate would have put him away a long time ago. She’s been in the public eye for decades, but it’s hard to remember any time she’s every received much positive press. It’s hard to point to much in the way of achievements. She’s rightly perceived as elitist and she’s much more comfortable discussing the minutiae of policy than she is delivering a rousing stump speech.

On a broader scale, she gives every indication of being the next in an unbroken line of Reagan-ish presidents. She’s hawkish on defense, fiscally conservative, pro-Wall Street, but generally liberal on social issues. A Clinton presidency would likely look a great deal like a Reagan, Bush, Obama, or, um, Clinton presidency. Probably more like her husband’s terms than any other, not because she isn’t her own person, but because there would be an endless sideshow of fake scandals in the press***. If you like the way things are going now, and have gone for the last 35 years, then a Hillary Clinton presidency looks appealing.

Donald Trump offers a much greater opportunity for amusement. Like Clinton, one gets the impression that a strong opponent would have swept the floor with him. Instead, he squared up against Ted Cruz, whose “I’m Just Like Donald Trump But Not Donald Trump” marketing plan didn’t have any more appeal than the “I’m Ted Cruz” plan.

Trump’s campaign strategy of “saying whatever he thinks people want to hear” has been stunningly effective. There’s no compelling reason to believe that he actually believes anything he’s saying. Remember the jab against Cruz, suggesting that Cruz’ father was linked to Lee Harvey Oswald? Trump flat-out admitted that he didn’t actually believe it; he was just saying it because he thought it would be effective. Some people call that a clever use of “rhetoric,” but c’mon, he’s just lying. That’s what he does.

It’s hard to imagine what a Trump presidency would look like because he has no track record, he dishonest about his beliefs, and there’s little indication either party would work with him. It might just be a ridiculous side show, or it might be a complete train wreck. Sure, Hillary Clinton has been party to war crimes but at least she has the good grace to evade questions about them. Trump has stated that he admires war crimes and wants to commit more. His supporters have suggested that he’s only saying this to get votes, but even if that’s true, that’s hardly a reason to vote for him.

As for the campaign, it’s going to be really weird. Clinton is relatively easy to attack and, while you’d think someone like Trump would be, the fact is that it’s very hard to pin someone down when they’re not constrained by facts. Clinton can attack his terrible record as a businessman and he’ll just say something like “Hillary’s just a loser. I’m the richest, most handsome, most successful businessman in the history of the United states and she knows it.” It’s crap, but it’s really, really hard to deal with in a debate setting, especially when the moderators have been cowed into non-participation in the name of “neutrality.”

We just haven’t seen a candidate like Donald Trump before. Even Ross Perot had beliefs and scruples (not to mention the fact that he was a genuinely successful businessman). My gut feeling is that Trump’s negatives are so enormous, even greater than Clintons, that even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would get 40% of the vote against him. That’s a tough starting point. Maybe he can expand his support, maybe he can attack Clinton effectively enough to drag her down with him. There’s not precedent for this so anyone who claims to know how it’s going to play out has a better crystal ball than I do.

I’ll tell you this though: It’s going to be very, very amusing to watch.

* Barring a miraculous comeback by Bernie Sanders. I’m not holding my breath.

** Of one’s or the other’s political career, I expect.

*** While the real scandals are swept under the rug.

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We Report, You Decide

John C. Wright said this.

George R. R. Martin responded with this.

I’ll leave you to your own judgements and say nothing beyond the fact that I find the exchange telling.

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Hugo Awards 2016: Geez, not this shit again

Welp, it happened again: The Rabid Puppies, the folks who want to destroy the Hugo Awards, nearly swept the nominations again this year. Not that anyone expected their defeat last year to discourage them. They seem to revel in the whole “If we can’t have what we want, at least we can ruin it for everyone else” thing, so of course they’re back for another go.

At least they avoided being completely tedious and changed their tactics a little this year. Instead of attacking the politicization of the Hugo Awards by nominate tepid right-wing polemics, they mixed things up and nominated some worthy works as well. I’m sure this is some devious mind game or clever stratagem, but it’s not really worth the effort to untangle it.

The Puppies are upset that their preferred flavor of sci-fi seldom wins Hugos. The reason they don’t win is obvious: In a popularity contest, the most popular work is going to win and the stuff the Puppies like is not the most popular. If 60% of the voters prefer one type of book, while 40% prefer another, will the less popular type win 40% of the awards? No, it will win none of the awards because  60% > 40% every time. Obvious, right? That sucks for the fans of the less popular style, but that’s the tyranny of math.

Last year, they gamed the nomination process to sweep the several categories, and the Hugo voters gamed the awards process to ensure that every Rabid Puppy nominee finished below “No Award.” This strikes me as just and the only possible way to preserve the integrity of the awards. The downside is that giving out “No Award” year after year isn’t a lot of fun.

I’ve read suggestions that this year’s troll-fest was a direct response to the Hugo voters’ failure to reward the Puppies to force the voters to give them trophies even if the voters didn’t actually believe they were deserved. No, really, that’s the argument (although it was phrased slightly differently.) The desire, then, is to receive an award, regardless of merit. The sort of thing that Puppy authors might call “affirmative action.”

Fortunately, I have a solution which I think every reasonable person will agree is wise and just: If what the Puppies really want is recognition, then simply reward every Puppy candidate with a “participant” award. You know, the kind they give to grade school children when you don’t want anyone to feel bad. This way, the Chuck Tingles and John C. Wrights of the world can have their recognition without having to try to abuse the nomination process. Then, simply discard any nominations which match the slate proposed by the Rabid Puppies. Problem solved…for a little while at least…maybe.

 

 

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ESPN’s coddling of Curt Schilling ends badly

Parker Molloy wrote a much better recap of the events surrounding Curt Schilling’s dismissal from ESPN than I ever could, so if you want the long version, I strongly suggest you read the whole thing here. She breaks it down in great detail, but I’ll sum up here for those of you who didn’t follow my advice. Curt Schilling, who’s been warned multiple times for posting inflammatory and offensive things on Twitter was let go for failing to heed those warnings and retweeting a genuinely stupid meme*.

ESPN’s reason for firing Schilling is both transparent and obvious. In Molloy’s words:

“As for ESPN, someone in Bristol must have calculated that the benefits of Schilling’s baseball knowledge no longer exceeded the financial and public relations costs that would be incurred by keeping him on the air. There are clearly many other announcers just as (if not more) capable than he is, so it will be little skin off ESPN’s back.”

ESPN is a business. I’m sure they’ll stick up for all manner of asshole so long as said asshole doesn’t cost them money. Principles are great and all, but this was a business decision and as such it’s not hard to understand.

It’s too bad, because he was a great pitcher and a very solid addition to the ESPN team. This wasn’t an on-air performance issue; Schilling had been warned not to keep making an ass of himself on Twitter. He ignored the warnings, so they did the obvious thing and booted him.

The frustrating thing is that Schilling doesn’t seem to get it. He’s playing the victim because that’s his default pose. He started his post concerning his firing with this little gem:

“Let’s make one thing clear right up front. If you get offended by ANYTHING in this post, that’s your fault, all yours.”

Right. That’s code for “I’m about to be a total dick and I’m going to try to preemptively prevent you from holding me responsible for it.” We’re off to a really bad starts. He doubles down in the very next sentence:

“And for you people too dense to understand this one very important thing. My opinion, 100% mine, and only mine. I don’t represent anyone here, on facebook, on twitter, anywhere.”

This is a man who has no business working in any field where he faces the public. If he cannot understand that, as a public face of ESPN, he has to manage his public persona better than he has, then he’s going to struggle. It’s going to feel to him like the world is against him because he can’t understand the requirements of his job.

Of course, there are people, perpetual victims all, who are determined to twist this event to fit their narrative. They want this to be about political correctness bringing down a man whose only crime was to be too honest. They want this to be about trying to squelch free speech, or social justice warriors run amok, or some other bullshit.

It’s worth noting, too, that ESPN suspended Keith Law from Twitter for defending the theory of evolution. He was doing so in response to one of Schilling’s characteristically bizarre tweets. They suspend their employees for making statements that they feel might damage their business. Pushing the narrative that ESPN has succumbed to political correctness is dishonest.

Curt Schilling, as an on-air ESPN employee, couldn’t understand that his public statements reflected on his employer. ESPN gave him plenty of chances, probably too many, and he couldn’t change his behavior. This was a business decision, this was justified, and Curt Schilling brought this on himself. Trying to make this a fairy tale of political correctness is either dumb or dishonest.

Probably both.

EDIT: Of course Ted Cruz would come out on Schilling’s side. He even cited “unchecked political correctness” because that phrase plays well with his handful of supporters and honesty has never been a Cruz hallmark. Glenn Beck, demonstrating his keen grasp of his own imagination, said that, if bathroom bills “save one little girl from being molested by a heterosexual pervert, we should do it.”

I’m not sure which of these three is most soiled by association with the other two.

 

* No, I’m not going to link directly to it. It’s in Molloy’s piece. Go read it.

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The derp in here has gone up a couple of degrees

So, some scientists and pro-science types have decided to start using a hashtag, #StandWithScience for their crowd funding campaign. This being the internet, you can probably guess what happened. It took about 10 seconds for the perpetual adolescent crowd to start using it for their own purposes. Nothing new in that.

What is fun, though, is that these dipshits are so incredibly bad at it. Client change science isn’t particularly controversial among scientists, so watching The Usual Suspects, the folks with the credibility and intellectual horsepower of an unusually dense 8 year old, try to mock the idea is really, really funny, albeit not for the reasons they probably meant. It’s like watching someone spray paint “Your dumb! Hur hur hur!” on a statue of Einstein.

They’ve somehow managed to bring racism, sexism, and Milo into it, so you know the kind of people we’re dealing with here. It’s probably not something I should be proud of, but it’s a hoot to watch them fail…again.

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Vox’s Jason Blum Gets It All Kinds of Wrong

Vox published an odd piece by Jason Blum in which he makes the case that piracy is the primary reason why Hollywood isn’t making art house films, ergo piracy must be stopped in order for Hollywood to continue to make good films. He makes the case, but he doesn’t make it particularly well or at all convincingly.

Let’s start with one thing he got right:

“Every year, millions of piracy “transactions” take place, accounting for incalculable lost revenue to those who actually paid to make and distribute those films.”

That is technically correct, in the sense that the lost revenue cannot be calculated. The music industry keeps trying to make this argument, but the numbers don’t work. They have yet to make a convincing case for a demonstrable amount of lost revenue. You can’t just say that a pirated video is the same thing as a lost admission to a theater. If that person wasn’t going to go in the first place, you’ve lost literally no revenue. If seeing a pirated version gets them to go see the legitimate version, or buy merchandise, or see the sequel, then you’ve gained revenue. Yes, there is evidence that piracy may actually increase revenue.

I’m not going to make that argument, though. I don’t think the numbers are anywhere near solid enough to say, without reservation, that piracy increases revenue. It does, however, suggest that the argument that piracy is killing the industry is not very solid.

Another problem with Blum’s piece is that he suggests that piracy will selectively kill off the more prestigious films (the good ones) while leaving the blockbusters (the bad ones) untouched. This is an odd argument to make. The assumption behind it is that the art films are just a gift that the studios give us, a gift that will likely lose money, and they won’t be able to give us nice things anymore if piracy continues.

If anyone believes that studios make art house films out of the goodness of their hearts and not with the intent of making bags of money or winning loads of awards, please raise your hands. Didn’t think I’d see any. In fairness, Blum does address this issue, but never addresses the problem that these films would be uniquely vulnerable to the loss of revenue due to piracy.

None of this addresses the real problem: You can’t stop piracy.

I’m not saying that piracy is moral, or legal, or anything remotely positive. I’m saying that, from a strictly technical standpoint, there’s fuck-all you can do about it and all the shouting in the world isn’t going to make any difference. As long as there are computers, there will be piracy. That is the fact of the matter.

Any system which can play a file can copy what is being played back. That is true of all digital media. If you can watch a movie on it, you can pirate a movie on it. Same technology.

Here’s my advice to the industry: Stop focusing on the things you cannot change. I understand that it is frustrating to see people rip off your work. It’s wrong of them to do it, but you literally cannot stop them from doing it*. Focus on the things you can control. Live presentation, tie-ins with talent, merchandise, and commercial use of the property and things still within control of the rights-holders. Use the thing you can’t control, the digital media, as an advertisement for the things you can.

The current model won’t stand up over the long term. Even if the overall revenue keeps growing, and it likely will, there will be people who benefit from the changes in the way commerce works, and there will be those who can’t adapt. I feel from the folks who can’t make the changes, because it feels like something’s been taken from them. That, for better or worse, is the nature of change, and trying to act as though you can stop change isn’t going to end well for anyone.

* I can hear the complaint already: “That’s like saying ‘lie back and enjoy it’ to rape victims!’ No, no it isn’t like that. Now, if you want to compare it to trying to stop someone from taking your picture when you’re out in public? That’s a reasonable analogy. It’s nothing like violent crime.

 

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Apparently, NASA has something in common with the Wu Tang Clan

1

You’re just trolling along, spouting truth-free nonsense about about climate change on Bill Nye’s Facebook, not a care in the world, when suddenly…

smackdown

NASA shows up to kick the ever-lovin’ shit out of your positions.

I can’t stand Facebook, but this has to be one of the most beautiful moments in the history of the site. Sure, it’s just one man, but it’s one man whose story will serve as a cautionary tale for “the uninformed and conspiracy theorists.”

Is this a good use of NASA’s time and resources? Yes. Yes it is.

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Encryption on WordPress?

About damn time.

Good things are starting to happen on the encryption front. This is important. The problem with expensive and/or difficult encryption is that it won’t be universally adopted. At the extreme in of the spectrum, that means that anyone using encryption is instantly flagged as a Person of Interest. That kind of defeats the purpose, ya know? In the slightly less bad version, it restricts secure certs to those who can afford them. Neither situation is optimal.

What the internet wants and needs, obviously, is for everyone to use encryption. That means that  no one stands out from the crowd and it’s accessible to everyone. This should be about as controversial as saying “everyone should have locks on their front door.”

I get so negative because, well, it’s easy to be negative. There’s so much that’s bad that it’s easy to default to point my fingers and yelling “Hey, look at this asshole, he’s an asshole.” It’s nice to get to write about something good.

 

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