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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Playing with Fire

Trump's moves against the ACA are not astounding--nor even surprising--but they are risky. How so (other than the obvious?).

1. The Obvious

The obvious issue with what the president is doing is the "law" that whichever party "owns" health care "loses." This is a way of saying that every attempt to make anything other than minor adjustments to health care will be either a huge "net loss" or, at least, a very, very potential net-loss with voters.

In other words: with the best intentions and the clearest plans, going into this mess is super risky.

Does Trump sound like a guy with clear intentions or any sort of plan?

2. The First Problem: What Does Trump Want?

The view from The Omnivore's window is that Trump wants to get rid of Obama's administration by any means necessary. There's a fair argument that his base expects him to do this and approves--and that Republicans in general expect this and approve.

However, if we're talking about just "keeping his campaign promises" he did pledge to replace Obamacare with something better--for, like, everyone. Assuming that he will eventually put something better together is, to put it mildly, a hell of a stretch right now.

So what does he expect this to do, exactly? The charitable answer is that hacking up the ACA will "force congress to move." Move where? Move to what? No one is sure. But this is still the charitable take.

Now, it's charitable--but it's also stupid. Trump's party controls congress. If congress is to "move" it has to be done by the Republicans. Where do they want to go? No one can agree--just damaging what's there won't necessarily make the "repeal everything" guys side with the "keep some aspects" guys and vice versa.

It's the worst of both worlds.

Ahh--but what if what he wants to do is get the Democrats to sign on to a repeal-most-of-the-ACA plan in order to keep some recipients covered?

Then--maybe it would be smart--right?

3. Wrong. It Would Be Catastrophically Stupid

The idea that Trump is going to force bipartisan agreement on health care with the wave of his pen is, perhaps, one of the worse ideas going. If there is bipartisan agreement on health care it will be either on Democratic terms--or because a very, very risky bet paid off.

Why? Well, for one thing, The Democrats are pretty willing to have a big messy health care fight in the middle of the GOP trying to do Tax reform and deal with Iran, and so on. If you benefit from the other guys looking like more of a mess then you applaud the bigger mess.

The second thing is that in order for this to work properly it has to be a This-for-That. That is: Trump gets something he wants--the Wall funded? And the Democrats get something they want--Americans with real coverage.

But this poses the question: Does that mean that Republicans don't care if people have coverage? Well, yes--that was the point. They did agree that "something" should be done with health care--but no one agreed on what that would/could be. Certainly their voters want to keep some of the protections--yes? And while the GOP would like to repeal O-Care's 880MM taxes on the rich, if they come out and say "Yes, we care more about that than poor people going to the doctor," that's going to be a disaster.

So they have to say that what Trump is doing will improve health care--that it's a step in the right direction--and that the Democrats are stopping it from going further.

That's why this is a bad bet: There are arguments to be made (that the CSR payments are illegal since the bill does not appropriate the money--it just spends it)--that the restrictions saying care has to be pretty darn solid limit options--especially for the healthy who want only catastrophic care--if even that.

But no one is prepared to really make these arguments outside of op-ed pages. The fact is that Trump just took credit for collapse and chaos and it will be hard to get any other message past the Mainstream Media. As a result--and this was the same with the Government Shutdown--the participants on the GOP side have their story to tell--but they are relying on the Mainstream Media carrying a lot of that water for them (less today than in the past--but still).

That isn't going to happen when POTUS is undermining it daily.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

They Might Be Bigots

Political Correctness, thinks the Trump-Voter is ruining American. We can't disagree about anything without being labeled racist or a bigot. Is this true? The Omnivore went to the least racist Trump-Voter who will talk to him (there are, of course plenty of Trump-Voters The Omnivore knows who embrace racist propaganda--even while thinking, provably incorrectly, that it's real-facts--and there are a few Trump-Voters The Omnivore doesn't talk to about it because, well, those conversations don't go well).

But here was the example: Serving Gays.

The Question: "How has PC damaged your life?" The answer--and this was not surprising--was that some guy was forced to bake a cake for a gay wedding.

In other words: It hasn't. Not really. At least not In Real Life. Sure--on the Internet you get called names--but on the Internet, everyone gets called names.

The Conversation

"Tell The Omnivore More," said The Omnivore, knowing full well that hearing more would not make anything better. This is what emerged:

  1. A person of religious conviction who feels gay marriage is immoral should not be forced to bake a cake for gays.
  2. A person of religious conviction who feels gay people are immoral should not be forced to serve gays in their establishment.
  3. A person of religious conviction who believes gays are immoral is not a bigot.
  4. A person who refuses to serve blacks in their establishment because of religious convictions cannot exist.
  5. A person who refuses to serve blacks in their establishment is a racist.
Huh?

Enter This Guy. Brian Klawiter runs a Diesel Engine repair and servicing shop in Grandville Michigan. He posted on Facebook--and reaffirms in his video that he runs his shop in a Christian fashion:
I am a Christian. My company will be run in a way that reflects that. Dishonesty, thievery, immoral behavior, etc. will not be welcomed at MY place of business. (I would not hesitate to refuse service to an openly gay person or persons. Homosexuality is wrong, period. If you want to argue this fact with me then I will put your vehicle together with all bolts and no nuts and you can see how that works.)
Is he a, you know, bigot? The answer, according to the Trump-Supporter is no. He is just religious. His religion says gays are immoral so he won't serve them. Same with thieves or murders--he's not a bigot--he's just religious.

Wait, Why Is That Any Different Than Discriminating Against Black People?

The Omnivore wanted to know too. The answer, he was told, was that the bible didn't say anything bad about black people--but it did say homosexuality was immoral. When it was pointed out that Christianity had long been used to justify slavery and racism (the curse of Ham, God's alleged separation of the races, the primacy of certain tribes or people), he was told:
  1. The reason it was illegal to discriminate against black people (but not gays) was because of the religious difference (FACT-CHECK: False. The reason is that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment was interpreted during the Civil Rights movement to apply to black people. Various other specific acts created protected classes on the basis of gender, for employment, handicapped people, veterans, etc.--none of this was specifically based on religion).
  2. The religious prohibition on fixing a gay man's car was the same as baking a cake for a gay wedding (FACT-CHECK: False. The religious prohibition against participating in a creative way in a gay wedding is based on the fact that marriage is a sacrament and participating in a sacrament in a way that is immoral would be a sin. Fixing a gay man's car is not a sacrament. In fact, religious doctrine usually distinguishes the immorality of gay sex from lying, cheating, and stealing--we as Christians are called on to love each other as we are all sinners and gay people aren't victimizing others in the way thieves are).
  3. That since no specific verse could be found saying "black people" that The Omnivore's history was clearly incorrect. (FACT-CHECK: The Omnivore Suspects She Really Did Know Better But Just Wouldn't Admit It.)
The point here is that there are probably a lot of people who believe that a religious objection to gays--or that, say relentlessly using gender-pronouns not wanted by a transgender person, or whatever is "just your opinion, man." It should not--morally cannot--be condemned because of some religious exception to being branded a bigot.

The Omnivore is here to tell you: that is some bullshit.

There Is No Religious 'Exception' To Bigotry

What is happening here is a combination of misinformation (not understanding the religious objection to forced participation in SSM), ignorance of history (not understanding how The Church participated in the institutions of slavery and racism in America), and  good, old fashioned, denial ("I can't be a racist/bigot--then I'd be bad.)

No--the fact is that racists and bigots have long justified their positions with everything from religion to biology to bogus crime stats. There's always a reason. Black people were hanged--before scores of well-dressed onlookers, for the bogus charge of raping a white woman. If you'd asked any of them, they'd have told you, kids in tow, that justice was done.


However, this doesn't really help with the clearly extant problem here: What do we tell all these people who think they're unfairly being accused of being racist/bigoted while, at the same time, thinking they should be able to refuse service to gay people if their religion finds the gay lifestyle immoral?

To be clear: This issue has many different permutations. There is the guy who constantly calls a transgendered co-worker by her previous gendered name/pronoun because he's "committed to Truth and Facts and doesn't want to be made to tell lies." There's the person who has no problem with black people--but 'knows' the science shows they're statistically less intelligent and genetically more prone to criminality (carrying the "warrior gene") so, you know, he wouldn't want his daughter dating one--the kids would be dumbed down!

There are more--there are all kinds of these people who feel that because they have a position that is "based on fact/logic/science/religion/morality" they ought to be allowed to hold it--in public--and if they get called a racist or bigot for that, they are being subjected to intolerance and oppression--that their free speech is being silenced.

How do we handle people who honestly don't believe they're bigots while maintaining they should be allowed to discriminate against vulnerable people for reasons that are flimsy at best and dishonest at worst?

First: Identify the Bad Actors

Nazis--literal Nazis--rallying under the 'Free Speech' banner are not honest champions of the first amendment (in their ethnostate they would, of course, restrict free speech as soon as possible). This doesn't mean they don't get to exercise their free speech--but neither should they be given a pass on being bigots when doing it.

The guy in the linked story above makes a joke about how he'll put your car together wrong to show you how bad being gay is. He also equates gay people with thieves and liars. This is not backed up by any actual religious doctrine and, in fact, is counter to a lot of it (if, in fact, being gay is largely biological then it is even more absurd). He shouldn't get a pass for that--if he is going to joke about gay people while refusing them service in a non-religious context, while equating their consensual actions with actions that nonconsensually harm other people? He's a bigot and he doesn't get a pass.

In these cases, the religious or ethical front is an excuse for a set of personal beliefs and prejudices that the person knows better than to express.

Second: Correct Misinformation

There is almost no way to do this without being seen as an asshole--but you gotta do it anyway. Patiently and relentlessly explain how religion indeed has been used to justify racism. How biology doesn't back up the claims most racists say it does. How the objection to being forced, legally, to commit a sin doesn't hold up when being asked to repair a car--and so on. 

This may not change minds (being told your facts are wrong usually doesn't change anything) but it still has to be done.

This may cause a change in behavior down the line, to other observers, or, who knows? You might win the argument (miracle!).

Third: Understand That A Great Deal Of People Are Certain They're Not Bigots

A great deal of the friction that we feel in society today is that it is rapidly becoming socially unacceptable to actively discriminate against people who have low social capital (transgendered people, gays, etc.). This used to be okay--and it was, The Omnivore asserts, quite comfortable for the people who weren't subjected to it.

Don't 'get' the whole transgendered person thing? The Omnivore is sympathetic. The idea of "the surgery" squicks you out? The Omnivore doesn't condemn you at all. Think they shouldn't serve because of bogus reasons around "troop readiness" or because "it's bad for the poor transgendered people and we should save them from themselves"? Well, The Omnivore has news for you--your facts are bad--and you're lying to yourself.

Unfortunately where we are as a society is that this shift is rapid--it is uncomfortable--and the conflicts are unavoidable.

The Omnivore can handle the diesel engine guy not liking gays. That's fine--but refusing to serve them is a societal cancer. The religious right trying to prevent transgendered people from serving is a battle that's unavoidable. It'll get cloaked in socially acceptable terms--but the core of it is intolerance and bigotry--

So the rule is: If they're not hurting anyone in a direct and obvious fashion (gay marriage making "your marriage worth less" is absolute bullshit, David--and you know it) then you don't get to take action against them or close doors on them in the public square without being a bigot.

If that's the rule--then make the cut-off calling for action--not holding the belief. People get to hold beliefs. All kinds. Some may be offensive--but they're still just beliefs.

Hold the line at the calls to action.

Oh--and just so you know--that anti-gay diesel repair guy? He supports the practice of "rolling coal" (creating special modifications on your truck's diesel engine to blow black smoke out of it in copious amounts to anger environmentalists) and, he voted for Trump.

The Omnivore is Jack's complete lack of surprise.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Sleeping Giants

The Omnivore has talked about these guys before: An anonymous group waging a one-account Twitter war against Breitbart.  Their method is relentless and effective: They politely inform advertisers their articles are appearing on Breitbart and suggest that they remove them as Breitbart "promotes racism." It works--a lot. Daily, the followers of the account do the same--tweeting at the corporate accounts with screenshot of their ad--sometimes with one of Breitbart's more egregious articles--often just the ad, maybe with the BB header.

Here's what one of Breitbart's editors said--wondering why more people in the media weren't taking their side:
Marlow seems, you know, concerned that the rest of the media isn't complaining about this. They're, you know, afraid it could spread.

This quote alone might be enough to get The Omnivore to do the unthinkable and buy a Sleeping Giant's shirt.

Why Is The Omnivore Okay With Stiffing Free Speech?

Doesn't The Omnivore believe in free speech? Yes. But isn't that a lie? A reader of The Omnivore thinks she can sniff out the lie because The Omnivore supports the Sleeping Giants approach. So, its time to do some education.

Ladies and gentlemen--and other non-gentlemen readers--behold --

Exhibit A:

BWHAHAAHAHAAH-AHAHAHAHA!!
Yup--Breitbart, champion of no-consequences-for-muh-freeze-peach, launched their own digitally successful (at least in the trending sense) against Kellogg's. Is someone going to try to sell the bullshit that it's okay to boycott Kellogg's because they're not a media company? Anyone? The Omnivore is here to tell you: if they'd driven Kellogg's out of business they would still be grave-dancing.

Net-Net: Live by the boycott, die by the boycott (not that what Sleeping Giants is doing is a boycott--but still).

Exhibit B:

This is Milo Yiannopoulos--a provocateur, self-promoter, and con-artist. He was a common byline writer with Breitbart during its rise. He isn't a great thinker--he's just really good at pissing off liberals. When you hire someone like him you want to alienate the "right people." It worked--but it also alienated advertisers--who might want some of those "right people" to buy their stuff.

But Omnivore, you say, Milo was fired long ago--ancient history. Right? Not so--he was let go due to exposure of what sounded like a defense of pedophilia--not for doing is best to create offensive media spectacles. If that was all he was doing, he'd still be at it.

Net-Net: Hire bomb-throwers, make a lot of money--but please look up the origins of "hoist by his own petard."

Exhibit C:


This is one of many Breitbart articles that are, well, kinda racist--or misogynist or what have you. Might advertisers object to being associated with this stuff? Sure they would. Everyone agrees with that.

But Omnivore, you say, smirkily, you're just cherry-picking. That article is from some distant past and has no relevance today. That's what you say--okay, let's do the easiest thing possible--let's find some racist comments from tonight. How? Oh, that's easy--look for a home-page ad about black people and then go to some of the most liked comments.




The Omnivore is sure there's a lot more--but how long you gonna spend down there.

But Omnivore, you say, thinking you've got him--that's the comments--that's not the articles. Breitbart isn't responsible for what people write. Why would an advertiser object to what comments people leave??

The Omnivore will educate you: The problem here is not what's in Bannon's heart--it's what in his media property. If his articles are attracting racists like [ you know ] attracts flies, perhaps the charge that Breitbart is promoting racism has some valid grounding. Breitbart could certainly clean up its comments section--or even close it.

But it won't. Those are Bannon's people. He knows it. We know it. Advertisers know it.

Read that again: Advertisers know it. They know they can find a story about race, go to the comments, and see "monkey." Easy peasy. That's enough for them to pull their ad right there.

Net-Net: Out-and-proud racism might be getting more popular in America--but it isn't popular yet.

Conclusions

What The Omnivore is relentlessly hammering home is:

  1. Breitbart is a special case in the media. They have a ton of traffic--but their brand is inflammatory and controversial. That is not guaranteed to be a sustainable business model--"inflammatory" and "controversial" are seen, by ordinary companies as brand damage.
  2. Breitbart is actively trying to piss people off. Absolutely trying--just the "right people." That's also a formula for losing the average advertiser. Sure--every media outlet either makes mistakes that upset people--or publish the overly-honest story revealing their liberal prejudices--but they do not make that part of their business model if they want to be mainstream and attract mainstream advertisers.
  3. The charge that Breitbart is promoting at least a kind of racism is, at least arguable. You can spin conspiracy theories about liberal posters sabotaging them--or say that the comments people are just .00000000000001% of the population and that it's a weird kind of racist who reads/comments--whatever. What you can't deny is that those comments are there. If that's enough for an advertiser--and it is a legitimate line to draw--then you're done on the first count.
In short, no one is coming to Breitbart's defense because this is a situation of their own making. They have worked hard to get to the point where their brand was pretty toxic to run-of-the-mill advertisers--and eventually someone 'called them on it.'

Rather than being against free speech, this is EXACTLY what free speech is: Breitbart can publish offensive articles and draw racist comments--they can engage in boycotts and then whine about it if they lose ad revenue. They can do all that stuff--and no one is stopping them or censoring them

It's just that some people don't want to associate with them over it. That isn't a problem--after all, as conservatives have long held, the answer to bad speech is more / better speech: like this.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Fruit of the Victim Tree

In October of 2016 White evangelical protestants--formerly the most stalwart against having a political leader who behaved immorally in his personal lives became the group most willing to overlook that. It wasn't by a small margin either--it was by a whopping 42 points. Indeed, most religious organizations became more tolerant of having a leader who engaged in moral transgressions--while the religiously unaffiliated dropped three points. Why?

The Omnivore Is Gonna Explain It To You: Victimology

There is a pervasive and immoral belief among the religious that Christians are rapidly becoming--or have become--the most persecuted religion in America. This mirrors the notion that white people are under attack and all other races are privileged over them.

Huh?

That's right--with every president being protestant (save for a Catholic here or there--which was a big deal at the time)--with the levers of power at all levels held by the faithful--what is going on? Are Christians being persecuted--and if they were, why would it suddenly be okay to have a leader who commits immoral acts in his or her personal life??

It doesn't make any sense.

It Makes Plenty Of Sense

It is no mystery what drove Evangelicals into the heart of Trump-Country: they feel they are losing a culture war and want someone who will fight for them. Trump is a fighter. Trump will fight. Fight what? Political Correctness--Trump will fight it with a right of iron and a left of steel--and if one doesn't get 'em, the other one will.

Trump with his three wives and naked FLOTUS shoots--with his grab-them-by-the-pussy school-bully bravado will fight like a fighting fighter. The Evangelicals believed--because he is a great con-man--that he would be their fighting fighter.

He would stand up for the little man--the forgotten man--forced to bake a cake for the homosexuals. He would stand up for the forgotten owners of the mom-and-pop pizza place mercilessly savaged on Yelp--and allegedly receiving threatening phone calls--for refusing to cater a sodomite wedding.

Yes, Trump, they believed would fight--for Christian values, by throwing transgendered people--sexual deviants--out of the stalwart armed forces. He would fight against the rising tide of homosexuality ushered in by Obama with its gay-marriage and homos in uniform.

Trump would make America a place where it was safe to say "Nigger" again.

:: RECORD SCRATCH ::

Wait--what?

Let's look at a poll of over five thousand people by the University of Virginia, after the Charlottesville Unite The Right rally found that:
  • 14% of all respondents both 1) agreed that white people are under attack and 2) disagreed with the statement that nonwhites are under attack.
  • Nearly one-third of respondents (31%) strongly or somewhat agreed that the country needs to “protect and preserve its White European heritage.”
  • 6% of respondents said they strongly or somewhat supported the alt-right.
  • White nationalism got 8%.  The Neo-Nazis got 4%
Of more interest to The Omnivore, however, was this:

'Political correctness' threatens our liberty as Americans to speak our minds.
  • 52% of Republicans Strongly Agree while only 26% of Democrats do
  • For Evangelical Christians that was 62% Strongly (40%) or somewhat (26%) agree.
  • For white people it was 38% (the highest) and those with no college (35%--the highest)
For Marriage should only be allowed between people of the same race, we got:
  • 12% for Democrats (8% Strongly and 4% Somewhat) and 23% Republicans (13% Strongly, 10% Somewhat)
  • For Tea-Party people it was the strongest correlation at 38%: 25% of Tea Partiers agreed strongly, while 13% agreed somewhat.
  • Evangelicals ranked the highest with 21% agreeing (13% Strong, 8% somewhat)

So What Does All This Mean?

What you are seeing here is the same mechanism which makes it "okay" to be a white supremacist. Or "okay" to be a Nazi--or whatever. In this case the majority or at least those of a racially or ethnically privileged group (such as, uh, aryans) are told they are beset by the forces of evil in the form of Judaism or Social Justice Warriors--or whatever--and specific grievances are, if not wholly manufactured, seized upon and magnified--they are weaponized against the faithful or against the angry--and it takes amorphous anger and discontent and it directs it in the direction of those who want to use it--usually to enrich themselves (either monetarily or politically, or whatever).

The faithful, in this case, the Evangelicals, are of the persuasion that they are being beaten into submission by a government machine run by libertines and sodomites and athiests--who will use the obscene power of the courts against places of worship and against Christian values--to exterminate them from the culture.

This is the same way that white people who are feeling stuck or forgotten or frustrated are shown a tiny slice of outrage inducing black people with "Obama Phones" (a program started under Bush) and can be convinced to become Neo Nazis:
Yeah, It Makes Perfect Sense
People who are convinced they are being victimized--that they are under attack--will look to just about anything to defend them.

If the first thing they have to throw overboard is their ethics and morals? Well, a surprisingly large number of people  will do just that.

But Wait, Didn't That Guy Have To Bake The Cake?

Last The Omnivore heard, he did. And The Omnivore does agree--threatening phone calls to a pizza joint or forced cake-making are indeed injustices. That wedding photographer who was successfully sued too--she's got a valid complaint. A Jewish photographer shouldn't be forced to photoshoot a Nazi wedding.

But you know what? Today we don't have Nazi weddings--not as a big thing anyway--and they certainly don't hire Jewish photographers to shoot them (well, maybe in the other sense of the word "shoot"). But if based on these cases--the very specific cases--the very few specific cases that you know about because your media FED them to you--you jettison your morals?

If it becomes okay to vote for a president who will protect that baker even though he has the morals of an ally cat? You know what happens next?

NEXT--YOU GET FUCKING NAZI WEDDINGS

Do you understand that? Those moral positions were there for a reason. A good reason--and the gatekeepers of the moral standards? They're not supposed to sell them out for a 'W.' They're not supposed to say it's "okay" to vote for a guy who reflects exactly zero moral values because we think he'll burn our enemies--that's what we call playing with fire.

These evangelical leaders? They ought to know that when you play with fire, real often? You get burned.

Watch Trump extract fulsome praise from assorted sycophantic religious leaders on the national day of prayer wherein he rescinded DACA. How much can you stomach?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Who Wants to #MAGA?




These are (allegedly) some of the ads that Russia's Troll-Farm was pushing on Facebook to try to influence the election. These ads were supposed to make "persuadable voters" vote for Donald Trump--apparently it worked.

Question One: Who Would Be 'Persuaded' By This?

What kinds of people would look at this and think "Yeah--that's the America I want."? Well, we have some clues. For example, a test was done where subjects were shown one of two pictures:
They were then asked about their feelings on housing assistance programs. The image of the black man greatly impacted responses among Trump supporters. Not only were they less supportive of housing assistance programs--but they also expressed higher levels of anger that people were getting assistance.

That's interesting. What else do we know about strong Trump supporters? Well, we know how they answered this Morning Consult poll question:

A poll of the various types of Trump Supporters identified five distinct categories--butthe two largest groups (American Preservationists and Staunch Conservatives), Muslim Bans and Racial Identity was pretty important:


In other words: the ads speak to people who are ideologically against Muslims and speak to a sense of a "white America."

Question 2: How Did Russia Know This?

If you were going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to influence an election, how would you know who to show these ads to? Does Facebook have a "Advertise to American Preservationists" option?

No--it does not. The Omnivore has advertised on Facebook to try to figure out how they see the world and that wasn't an option.

No, the secret is probably in Data Mining. Organizations like Trump's Cambridge Analytics were able to sift through Social Media and identify persuadable voters based on a variety of contextual clues in their profiles. This data was, apparently, ground-breaking and frighteningly accurate.

Could the Russians have gotten their hands on something like this and used it to target ads?

We'll probably never know for certain.

Friday, September 8, 2017

PTSD - the Pelosi, Trump, Schumer Deal

No--The Omnivore didn't make up that acronym--congressional Republicans were doing the gallows humor thing first.

The Omnivore has read on Twitter that it just passed the house.

What Is It?

Basically a deal to provide Hurricane Relief funding, raise the debt ceiling (for 3 months), and fund the government (for 3 months) and nothing else. It was the deal that the Democrats cut with Trump, angering and flummoxing Ryan and McConnell who were in the same room.

Why Is It Bad?

The PTSD is bad for the GOP because (A) a bunch of their members want to use the Debt Ceiling as leverage to pass otherwise unpopular legislation (force Dems to choose between America's credit rating and funding Planned Parenthood) and (B) because it only puts the problem off for 3 months meaning we'll be back here again in December--the last thing the GOP wants.

For Democrats, it's all good.

Why Did Trump DO It?

Nobody knows. Axios has a list of theories that boil down to:

  1. Revenge - He is fed up with McConnell and Ryan and stuck it to them.
  2. Frustration - Trump wants a win--any win. This was a win.
  3. Likes Schumer - A theory that he likes Schumer (?)
  4. Personal Brand - He can do whatever he wants. Doing what the Dems want will make him popular.
Here's what The Omnivore thinks: The nightmare for the GOP is that Trump has determined that following their agenda will lead to one loss after another. He may not know why that is--but he's figured it out. So he flips over and bathes in good press coverage.

The good press coverage--which he definitely likes (perhaps craves) is due to two sources: The fact that the press likes the Democrats and the fact that he is actually doing things rather than running around like a rat in a procedural maze with no way out.

If that's the case, how would we know exactly?

The Big Lie At The Heart of the GOP

The GOP ceased to be a national governance party some time ago. This is most-visible in the health-care debacle wherein, no only could they not repeal the a health care plan (the ACA) that members of the GOP had said with a straight face was worse than slavery--but they didn't have a clue as to what to replace it with.

We can see this with NAFTA--Trump wanted to tear it up, until he was shown a map illustrating that it helped his voters. The same for the Iran-deal--he was against it . . . but Trump presumably learned / was told that while the deal legitimately grates, it also is our best chance of stopping Iran from going nuclear. Hence: he didn't tear it up.

And so on (if Trump had kept the TPP he'd have leverage against China with regards to North Korea--he disarmed himself because the base doesn't understand the TPP and is against anything Obama does on that principle alone).

Basically it comes down to this: There is no actionable policy that the GOP could hand to Trump. They want to slash corporate tax-rates? Well and good--but do that without blowing a trillion-dollar hole in the budget and what do you do?

(They had a plan to tax money going into 401k accounts--which would, of course, wreck middle-class retirement savings).

They could cut Social Security? Maybe Military spending? No. They tell you they can cut foreign aid and Sesame Street--but that's a lie. Cutting that stuff won't come close to covering the gap.

In fact, it's a lie that our corporations pay one of the highest tax-rates in the world. Our corporate tax rates are high--but our corporations find tons of ways not to pay.

Basically--there is nothing--nothing material--that the GOP can hand to Trump as a viable policy. The Wall? Southern-border politicians (Republicans) generally don't want it. It's a solution to a problem that doesn't actually exist (the GOP base just thinks it does).

So Trump did the only thing that could give him a serious actionable win: he went with the Democrats.

The Nightmare Scenario

What if--WHAT IF--Trump really is the media-obsessed narcissist he's painted as? What if he just wants to be loved? What if he determines that the way to be loved is to join with the Democrats. Partially, yes, because of the liberal media--but mostly because the GOP doesn't actually have any real ideas?

What then?

Well, the fact of the matter is that Trump isn't going to be much of a Democratic hero. He has already crossed the moral event horizon with white supremacists to be fully accepted. But he definitely can win cycles by taking action that is backed by the Democrats--and they have enough unity to provide a powerful voting bloc when he wants them.

The thing to look for is what happens with the next crisis. Can the GOP get its house together in order to present an actionable course of legislation? Or will it just be more signaling and churn?

Monday, September 4, 2017

On the Liberal Media

The Omnivore is constantly accused of not believing the media has a liberal bias by frustrated Trump supporters who are desperate to try to dismiss whatever "the media" is saying right now about Trump.

When The Omnivore dismisses the "bias is the same as outright lying," it creates an unpleasant frisson--if what the media is saying isn't lies--then where does that leave us? Well, glad you asked. Right here:
"The country is in the grips of a lying media narrative--and that is why Trump is seen as 'Tearing The Country' Apart. Until that changes, the polls won't change."

The first stage is Trump-Support is poll-denialism. It's the first stop (He won the election! No one thought that was possible) on the road to "I don't have to engage with stuff I don't like"-ville. The problem is, that doesn't get  you very far.

  1. General Election polling was pretty much dead on.
  2. State polling was off--but Trump only won by <100k votes across 3 states.
  3. 538, the gold-standard of analysis, gave Trump a 1-in-3 chance of winning. That's quite a lot and could represent the actual chances.
In other words, while not perfect, the polls were, you know, accurate within their required zones.

So then we get to "It's the media's fault." The Omnivore was presented with this study--by Harvard--which shows the overwhelmingly negative press-coverage of Trump. A conservative analysis of this reaches the obvious conclusion:
The study found that in Trump's first 100 days in office, the tone of the news coverage of the president has been a whopping 80 percent negative to 20 percent positive.
CNN and NBC struck a 93 percent negative tone on their Trump stories, with only 7 percent positive. CBS was third in the anti-Trump race, with a 91 to 9 ratio. And the pro-Trump Fox News? That network was 52 percent negative to 48 percent positive.

"Because of the way the press covered Obama, they lost so much credibility," Bevan said. "And because they did not take these things seriously, the IRS Scandal, Fast and Furious, you could go down the list of where they turned the other cheek. … And now where they're giving Trump the third degree on everything, that makes the contrast all that much greater.
"So you have a certain segment of the public, the people who voted for Trump, who literally do not trust what the media says."
And the divide between rigidly defined political tribes, one courted by the media, the other dismissed by it, grows even wider.
"It's not good for journalism, and it's not good for the country," said Bevan.
Agreed. But I don't see it changing any time soon. Do you?
The points,  to summarize:

  1. The Coverage of Trump is Overwhelmingly Negative.
  2. The Coverage of Obama Was 60-40 Positive.
  3. Trump voters, therefore do not trust the media.
  4. This is the media's fault--and bad for the country.

So, Is This Right? Or Is It Bullshit?

It will not come as a shock to you that The Omnivore thinks this is bullshit. But the question is: why is it bullshit? Let's look.

Point 1: The Media Also Made Trump

Here's another Harvard study (since apparently Trump Supporters will believe those?)

There's plenty to read in there--but the takeaway is that: The media hammered Clinton on her scandals and covered Trump's issues. Sure--they were, often, aghast--but they covered it. They delivered his message. 

The Omnivore knows--The media was trying to nominate Trump so Clinton could beat him. That's the excuse. Solid gold thinking right there. It's also nonsense. If they were doing that, they wouldn't have focused on her scandals. Here are the dueling word clouds:

Can you tell which is which?

Relentless Omnivore Hammering: You will not like this--or want to hear it--but The Media was not in a plot to elect Trump and did not shower Clinton with favorable coverage. Quite the opposite. If you don't believe this, show your work--use stats, not anecdotes.

Point 2: All That Negative Coverage? Let's Look!

So the assertion is that the coverage was negative. Well, sure--what, exactly, was covered? Here's the breakdown:

In the first 100 days, the top story was Immigration.

The Immigration Coverage  - 17%
Trump rolled out his--uh--Muslim Ban. Now, whatever you may think of the merits, it was (a) a mess and (b) a self-inflicted wound. Firstly, the topic itself was fraught. Trump was arguing it wasn't a Muslim Ban while Giuliani was on TV claiming it was and that he'd been asked how to make it legal! Secondly, they made a last minute and utterly indefensible decision to ban Green Card holders. Their roll-out ensured chaos at major airports.

What was to like about that? What % of the coverage should have been positive? That Obama did something somewhat similar--but in an orderly fashion for a specific and defensible reason--without having a surrogate come out and claim you were a big liar? Uh-huh. That's 17% negative.

Health Care - 12%
The health care coverage covered the beginning of the collapse of Republican's failure to repeal / replace Obamacare. Here's a shot of Google News from that time-frame:

Now, you can argue that this was biased journalism--but given that the final disposition (thus far, anyway) was one of the most egregious face-plants in legislative history, that is a ridiculously heavy lift. In fact, looking at these headlines--not a one of them seems unreasonable.

What was the positive coverage that you could see generated?

Russia  - 6%
Russia interfered with our election. They seem to have been pro-Trump. Trump has more or less refused to acknowledge this or, indeed, take any action against it. Did he collude? We don't know--but we do know that Don Jr. was super-happy (lovin' it) to get some tasty opposition research from the Russians. We know that Trump himself seems to have misled on that front.

We know that a bunch of senior members of the team--Sessions, Flynn, etc. met with Russians, lied about it, and suffered consequences. 

We know that Trump fired Jim Comey because of Russia--which begat Mueller.

In short, the Russian story, even if Trump is cleared, is an incredible fuck-up. What positive coverage would you, Trump-supporter suggest? Cover it less? Fox news devoted half the time of coverage as other outlets. So there you go.

We Are Now At 35% Negative Coverage

Let us assume that Trump had a honeymoon period where he was owed, say, 60-40 positive coverage like Obama got. If we then shift the numbers from his three biggest stories to the negative column we get 25%-75% positive-negative coverage.

Of course Trump isn't a normal president--he had 6% coverage of his family: that's FLOTUS living out of the White House at great expense. It's Trump appointing his children and children-in-law to actual positions in the White House. 

There is also the 3% coverage of fitness for office. The Omnivore doesn't know if any other president had those questions--but given his refusal to show his Tax Returns or divest himself from his business--both self-inflicted--it is probably fair to say that he earned at least some if not all of that coverage.

At this point we are in the 80% of negative coverage.

So what's the bias-level? Stories are about 10% more negative than they might otherwise be? That sounds about right. Maybe the coverage of Trump should have been 20-80 if he was given his full honeymoon period. Of course he ran a divisive campaign, threatened to lock up his political opponent to baying crowds, and lost the popular vote by a historic margin.

So he may have done more to damage his honeymoon than one might think.

The Net-Net Here

What Trump Supporters don't want to face is that Trump isn't just getting bad coverage--he has had an appallingly bad first 100 days. He has repeatedly engaged in behavior that is designed to get him bad-coverage (and that's not just "fighting with the press"--it's things like refusing to release his Tax Returns).

If you want to impose a fighting-with-the-press penalty of +5% negative coverage there's hardly any bias at all.

If you think there is, it's incumbent on you to show it.

Postscript: In showing how Trump "should have been covered" The Omnivore was given a Daily Signal article: Trump's Unconventionally Successful First 100 Days.
  1. Gorsuch
  2. Repealing Obama Regulations That will Save 18Bn
  3. The 100-Day-Mark-Is Kinda Bogus Anyway
Gorsuch - McConnell got this done by nuking the filibuster after refusing Garland a hearing. This isn't much of a success for Trump (although it is a success).

Repealing Regulations - The 18bn Annually number is iffy to start with--but how much fanfare do you demand for signing counter-EOs? 

The 100-Day Mark - This is evidence you're giving up.