False Dichotomy

The BBC link reads:

Racist troll’ – or conservative free speech crusader?

If you read the post, and it’s worth reading as it’s contributed by the excellent Olivia Crellin, you’ll likely come to the same conclusion as I: “Both.”

I mean, Andie Pauly isn’t even trying to be anything but a troll. She’s making statements that are long on provocation and short on reason, truth, or honesty. She’s trying to get a reaction, not to make any particular point.

As someone with a passing familiarity with people who play characters online (hint: WTF Pancakes might not be my real name!), her bio reads like…well, let’s just say she blocks “beta males.” This isn’t someone trying to be taken seriously.

She’s racist. She’s sexist. She’s aggressively stupid. She is the perfect poster child for both racist trolls and conservative free speech crusaders.

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A Links List I Can Get Behind

There’s a good list of people to follow and interact at an unlikely site: sjwlist.com

I don’t know all of the names on the list, but the ones I do know are good ones: Laurie Penny, John Scalzi, Chris Kluwe, Alison Bechdel, Randi Lee Harper, Anita Sarkeesian, and Wil Wheaton. They’re all good, decent people who have interesting things to say about the world. The others may not be cut of the same cloth, but if the names I recognize are any indication, they’re likely to be good folks.

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Questions for the Candidates

It turns out that I’m not a credentialed journalist, or a journalist of any sort, or even a real person at all. That being the case, I’m not likely to be allowed the opportunity to ask the four remaining candidates any questions. That won’t stop me from formulating what I would ask them given the opportunity. Maybe someone else, you know, a real journalist, can pick these up and run with them.

Preferable with lie detectors. And maybe sodium pentothol*.

Bernie Sanders:

Your candidacy has been crippled by being less organized and prepared than that of Hillary Clinton. Was it ever your serious intent to challenge for the nomination, and if so, why were you so far behind in planning and organization? Why would we expect your presidency to be any different?

Ted Cruz:

In the event of a likely apocalypse, would you, as President, you would have the ability to forestall the event? Would you attempt to do so?

Hillary Clinton:

Wealth inequality is a vastly greater threat to the United States than terrorism. What is your plan to combat this problem, and why should we trust you to do so?

Donald Trump:

No small part of your support comes from people who believe that you cannot possibly mean the things you’re saying and that you’ll be much more reasonable if elected. What do you have to say to these people? Do you genuinely intend to make good on your campaign promises?

I’m genuinely interested in the (honest) answers to these questions. Will they ever be asked? I’m not holding my breath.

* WTF Pancakes does not endorse drugging presidential candidates. I’m just making a joke about trying to get the candidates to tell the truth instead of repeat stump speeches. I repeat: Please do not drug the candidates.

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Forgetting the Lessons of the Algerian War…Again

There’s a useful piece up on Salon about the reaction of the American right to the terror attacks in Belgium. The gist, and I’m paraphrasing, is that the goal of the attacks is not to harm the enemies of ISIS, it’s to drive a wedge between westerners and Muslims. By reacting to the attacks by blaming all Muslims, by promising murder and torture and police-enforced ghettos for all Muslims, the theory is that the Muslims who are not anti-Western will be driving into the fold.

This is the lesson of Algeria all over again. The radicals on either side have a common enemy in the moderates. Accommodation and integration are a threat to the hawks on both sides. The experience in Algeria remains the template for asymmetrical warfare. Terror succeeds not by winning on the battlefield, but by getting your enemies to destroy themselves in how they react.

It’s not true to suggest that doing something your enemies would like is always bad. If ISIS side “Oh, I sure hope you don’t give us a zillion dollars,” that doesn’t mean that giving them a zillion dollars would be good. But…c’mon. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are doing exactly what the terrorists hope they will do. They’re doing everything in their power to ensure that Muslims feel as though they aren’t welcome in the west and will never be anything other than “other.”

Yes, I know…they’re not the problem. They’re just symptoms. They wouldn’t be espousing this racist, bigoted, warmongering, un-American, and, most importantly, counter-productive nonsense if it didn’t win the hearts and minds of their constituencies. It’s their voters who are the problem.  But it’s not the voters who are going on television and reading directly from the ISIS script. That’s all on you, Donald and Ted.

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Dear Everyone-Who-Is-Afraid-Of-Trump: Ted Cruz Is Still Worse

Don’t get me wrong: Donald Trump is still a horrible person, a bigot who courts the vote of white supremacists, and proud know-nothing whose ego won’t allow him to learn. He is going to be a contender for the Worst Major Party Candidate In The History of the United States award.

Cruz is worse.

Here’s his response to the terror attacks in Belgium wherein he gets approximately everything wrong (I’ve added some helpful notes):

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, presidential candidate Ted Cruz responded to the horrific terrorist attacks in Brussels:

“Today radical Islamic terrorists targeted the men and women of Brussels as they went to work on a spring morning. In a series of coordinated attacks they murdered and maimed dozens of innocent commuters at subway stations and travelers at the airport. For the terrorists, the identities of the victims were irrelevant. They –we—are all part of an intolerable culture that they have vowed to destroy.

(There’s not a great deal of content here, but yeah, that’s not a completely unfair way to describe what went down.)

“For years, the west has tried to deny this enemy exists out of a combination of political correctness and fear.  We can no longer afford either. Our European allies are now seeing what comes of a toxic mix of migrants who have been infiltrated by terrorists and isolated, radical Muslim neighborhoods.

(Actually, for fifteen years now, we’ve been hearing about very little except for terror when it comes to foreign policy. Any time someone with brown skin kills more than one person, it’s a terror attack. Weirdly enough, when white people do it, like, when bombing a women’s health clinic, it’s not called terror.)

“We will do what we can to help them fight this scourge, and redouble our efforts to make sure it does not happen here. We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.

(What the actual fuck, Ted? Aside from the fact that the refugees are, by and large, people who are fleeing from al Qaeda and ISIS, the idea of singling out “Muslim neighborhoods” and securing them is creepy and very likely illegal.)

“We need to secure the southern border to prevent terrorist infiltration. And we need to execute a coherent campaign to utterly destroy ISIS. The days of the United States voluntarily surrendering to the enemy to show how progressive and enlightened we can be are at an end. Our country is at stake.”

(America’s southern borders have fuck-all to do with terrorist infiltration. The idea that a campaign to utterly destroy ISIS is possible is silly, and that’s without even addressing whether or not it’s a good idea. The United States has, to my knowledge, never voluntarily surrendered to anyone. I get that he’d like to nip “enlightenment” in the bud, as that would be the antithesis of what he stands for, but seriously…”Our country is at stake?” Don’t be an idiot. The United States is never going to be overrun by terrorists. He’s just trying to scare old people and to justify his own absurdly hateful positions by making straw men out of any other point of view.)

There’s been no small amount of digital ink spilled trying to suggest that Trump is a Clinton operative, destroying the Republican party from inside. I think it’s more likely that Cruz is a Trump plant. Think about it: The only way a doofus like Trump can be taken seriously is if the only other viable candidate is an even bigger doofus. He makes Trump look positively decent in comparison.

Well, ok…decent is overstating it. Trump still brags about wanting to commit war crimes. But seriously, why would anyone support the one guy who makes Trump look like literally the lesser of two evils?

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Carl’s Jr., Meet Idiocracy

Andy Pudzer, CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, doesn’t want employees to earn a living wage. So, if the government requires that he pay his employees decently, he’s going to consider getting rid of all of them. After visiting a fully-automated restaurant, he had this to say:

“I want to try it,” CEO Andy Puzder told Business Insider of his automated restaurant plans. “We could have a restaurant that’s focused on all-natural products and is much like an Eatsa, where you order on a kiosk, you pay with a credit or debit card, your order pops up, and you never see a person.”

That’s always been the endgame of capitalism, it’s just unusual to see someone being so open about it.

Now, if you’re curious as to what an automated Carl’s Jr. would look like, you’re in luck! Visionary Mike Judge included one the film Idiocracy. For a look at the increasingly likely future, skip ahead to the 3:00 mark:

Why come you got no tattoo? from John McClane on Vimeo.

Yep, that looks about right to me.

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I Get Mail! (Deep in the Heart of Texas edition)

John Cornyn (R-Tex) is one of those senators whose job is so safe he gets to say the really nutty stuff that politicians who have to actually run for re-election can’t get away with. This morning, he sent me this marvelous bit of fundraising duplicity:

Having served as Texas’ Attorney General, I have a unique understanding of how important it is to protect our conservative values from the bench. Many of the issues that our country will face in the upcoming years can only be solved through strong, conservative leadership — including a Supreme Court with justices who strictly interpret the Constitution and refuse to bow to executive overreach.

That’s why I’m counting on you to stand with me in the fight to give the American people a voice in this matter. Will you chip in just $5 right now to help me do that?

You made your opinion of Obama’s agenda loud and clear in 2014, when America put a Republican majority back in charge! In the past year, the GOP-led Senate has worked together to successfully roll back the overreach and excesses of the Obama administration.

I know firsthand the level of responsibility and influence our judges have in shaping our society. We can’t allow President Obama to sneak his Supreme Court nominee past the American people!

We need a trusted defender of the Constitution. Chip in $5 today to demand strong, conservative leadership on the bench.

Please, stand with me to ensure our nation has a say in selecting our next Supreme Court justice.

I removed the links to his “gimme gimme” site because screw this guy. Here’s the paragraph that gave me tingles:

You made your opinion of Obama’s agenda loud and clear in 2014, when America put a Republican majority back in charge! In the past year, the GOP-led Senate has worked together to successfully roll back the overreach and excesses of the Obama administration.

As such an amazing constitutional defender, I’m sure that Mr. Cornyn is aware of the fact that the constitution is pretty clear on the whole “who gets to nominate candidates to the Supreme Court” thing, and that the American people overwhelming re-elected that guy in 2012. The idea that the 2014 midterms were a referendum on the Supreme Court is as silly as it is unconstitutional.

Oh, and the claim that the GOP-led Senate worked together on anything is adorable. He might have noticed that his colleague, the junior Senator from his state, Ted Cruz, spent most of the last two years flinging poo at the other Republicans. President Obama is on the roll of his lifetime over the last two years in large part due to the Keystone cops routine of the GOP-led Senate.

Of course, I’m pretty sure that Senator Cornyn knows full well that his fundraising pitch is only going to work with the fact-challenged crowd, but I reckon his OK with that. That’s his constituency, so I’m sure they’ll continue to bury him in cash. It’s just kind of sad to watch.

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A Tale of Two Attack Ads

Now that the primary season is likely over, it’s time for the two presumptive nominees to start taking shots at each other. Let’s take a quick look at the opening salvos, shall we?

We’ll start with the anti-Trump ad:

Above: An anti-Trump ad that won’t win over the hearts of misogynists.

The content is solid, but the presentation is uninspired. Sure, the quotes from Trump are shockingly sexist and pig-ignorant, but the “serious women reading them against a white background” is saying “you must be offended by this” and I think there are better avenues to pursue. What about a Trump impersonator reading the quotes, with a cheerfully animated version of Trump on the screen acting out what he’s saying: Making fun of Megyn Kelly’s period, neglecting children, and fantasizing about blow-jobs? Paint Trump as a clueless doofus at best and a predator at worst. I’d give this one a C+. Good content, uninspired visuals.

Now for the fun one! The anti-Clinton ad:

Above: The cut-and-paste method of creating a “conversation” made famous by James O’Keefe

This is the polar opposite of the anti-Trump ad. The content is ridiculous it almost undermines the inspired visuals. Trump, of all people, is saying that we shouldn’t turn America into a punch line?

punchline

Above: Donald Trump not turning America into a punchline.

And facing down America’s tough opponents? This is the same guy who shit his pants at the thought of having to face Megyn Kelly in a debate on Fox friggin’ News. So, logically speaking, it’s an incredibly stupid ad. But, as we’ve discussed, this is an election cycle that he rewarded candidates saying incredibly stupid things. Sure, there’s not rational relationship between Clinton barking and Putin laughing, but it’s a funny sequence of images and I think the ad works on that level. I’d give this one a B+ for effectiveness despite being stupid.

Another interesting difference is that the anti-Clinton ad is apparently coming directly from the Trump campaign, whereas the anti-Trump one is coming from a third party. Traditionally, candidates like to have a little distance between themselves and their attack ads (see: Swift Boat Veterans For Sale). This little wrinkle may help reinforce the “Trump says what he really thinks” fantasy.

So, we’re off to a pretty good start. I know the gloves probably won’t come off until the summer, but if the early ads are any indication, this is going to be a memorable campaign.

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You Broke It, You Bought It (The Joy of Trump)

It’s looking like Trump is going to be the GOP candidate for President this year, isn’t it? Oh, are we ever going to have some fun with this!

The way I see it, he has exactly three cards in his deck:

  1. Pandering
  2. Bullying
  3. The aura of a “winner”

As it turns out, that’s a very appealing skill set in the Republican primaries. All of the candidates can pander, of course (on both sides of the fence), but Trump is easily the most transparent about it. Remember his speech at Liberty University? He reminds me of Kang and Kodos. He’ll just start throwing stuff out there and, if he gets a response, he’ll double down on it.

Pandering alone won’t get the job done, so the real secrets of Trump’s success lie elsewhere. He’s a bully. Ok, he’s really more of a dick, but “bully” will work for this discussion. When he’s called on his bullshit, he goes straight to personal attacks. The press, even Fox News, Breitbart, other Republican candidates, hell, even the Pope*. Now, logically, this is not a very convincing way to respond and you would be laughed out of a real debate for doing that.

Of course, this isn’t a real debate and that kind of aggression plays well with his intended audience. His supporters, by and large, support banning all Muslims from the U.S., they support torture, they support murdering civilians, and they don’t see anything contradictory about dishing it out and not being able to take it. He’s not a white supremacist; he’ll probably sue you if you call him one, but he sure as hell says all kind of white supremacist things and his words sure attract white supremacists, so you be the judge. His message and style are more an artifact of what his audience wants than anything intrinsic about Trump himself.

What is a Trump brad is being a “winner.” You can argue all day about whether or not he actually has been a winner up to this point, but the fact is that he’s perceived as one. The opportunity to defeat him was in New Hampshire. If he’d lost the first two primaries, that image would have been tarnished, perhaps fatally so. No one wants to support a pandering, bullying loser, at least when they don’t have anything else to offer.

But, of course, he didn’t lose. He’s on a roll now and he’s become the very definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy. He’s going to be Republican candidate for president. It’s no longer a question of whether or not it’s a good or bad thing; it’s a true thing.

Now it gets fun.

Trump’s most vehement supporters are wild about him because he’s tailor his campaign specifically for them. It’s worth noting, though, that most of Trump’s messaging is new. He’s never refrained from expressing his opinions, but there’s never been much consistency to them. This Trump-as-wannabe-strongman-war criminal is a new skin for him and it’s fair to ask if it’s just a mask for the Republican primaries. I don’t expect him to change the his personal style, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the message changes dramatically.

And if he wins, why would anyone think he’d actually act on what he’s claimed he was going to do? The wall on the Mexican border is an objectively stupid idea**, and Trump is not a stupid man. He just says stupid things because it gets him votes. He’ll likely say different stupid things in the general election because the rabid jingoism won’t play well with the different audience. When/if he takes office, we may, may find out what he actually believes. If anything.

 

 

* Interestingly, the fact that he both constantly plays the victim while launching attack after attack hasn’t hurt him with his fan club, but then, they do a lot of that themselves.

** Made obsolete by the invention of the “ladder.”

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I Hope President Obama Doesn’t Understand How Encryption Works

…because otherwise, he’s on the wrong side of the fence on this one.

The President appears to want there to be “strong encryption” that isn’t so strong that the government can’t break it. People have rightly pointed out that if the government has the keys, it isn’t “strong encryption.” And, let’s be honest here: If the government has the key, then they won’t be the only ones.

I’ve been frustrated by his attempt to find a middle ground before even beginning negotiations for a long time (“Let’s just take the right answer, single-payer, off the table  before we even talk about health care!”), and this is just more of the same. I admire the ability to compromise when appropriate. That’s how politics are supposed to work. But sometimes, like, oh, I dunno, in this case, there is not workable middle ground. You have to make a choice and take a stance.

Not to mention, it’s literally impossible to prevent unbreakable encryption. Math does not support the middle ground.

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