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We Are Devo

The more Trump’s campaign evolves, the more it stays the same.

Kevin Siers
© Kevin Siers

It didn’t take long after reorganizing his campaign and even sorta kinda apologizing for the stupid and hateful things he has said, that Trump put his foot firmly in his mouth again. “With one arrogant boast, Donald Trump stumbled into a perfect Hillary Clinton trap.” He boasted that if elected he would win 95% of the African-American vote in 2020, and asked blacks “What do you have to lose? You’re living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs.”

There are two problems with this boast. First, most African-Americans (not counting those who are in school or are retired) have jobs and are not living in poverty. But I guess Trump would not be aware of that. So while trying to appeal to blacks, Trump instead insulted them.

Even worse, there is plenty for blacks to lose, and by asking the question he gave Hillary Clinton’s campaign an opening to discuss the answer. They responded:

Donald Trump asks what the African American community has to lose by voting for him. The answer is everything, from a man who questions the citizenship of the first African American President, courts white supremacists, and has been sued for housing discrimination against communities of color. Trump painting the entire community as living in poverty with no jobs continues to show he is completely out of touch with the African-American community.

Donald Trump has a long and well-documented history of practicing discrimination and racism. Expect this to be pointed out repeatedly now.

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When Facts Don’t Matter

An important question I have been pondering is why people insist on supporting Donald Trump, even though there is plenty of evidence that he not only lies, lies about things that are easily verified to be false, and even contradict himself. From a progressive perspective, how do we get people to “wake up” and realize that they are being duped by a charlatan? Are we wasting our time?

A recent article can help shed some light on this matter. “Why facts don’t matter to Trump’s supporters” helps explain why people persist in misjudgments despite strong contrary evidence and why attempts to refute false information often backfire and cause people to hold onto their misperceptions even stronger.

The bottom line is that “arguing the facts doesn’t help — in fact it makes the situation worse.” This is called “confirmation bias” — our ability to ignore facts that challenge our beliefs while accepting arguments (even false ones) that confirm our views.

This is not confined to politics. In a study about consumer fraud, a study found that warning people about false claims made about consumer products actually made people believe the false claims even more. “It seems that people remember the assertion and forget whether it is a lie.”

But there is hope. Another study showed that people are more likely to accept information if it is presented unemotionally, and that people are even more willing to accept information if the factual presentation is accompanied by “affirmation” that asks them to recall an experience that made them feel good about themselves. Obviously, attacking someone is not a way to win their hearts or their minds.

Regardless of whether they are Trump supporters or parents who don’t want to have their children vaccinated, attacking them doesn’t help. In fact, it will usually backfire. Instead, in order to change someone’s mind, you need to follow some simple guidelines. Lucky for us there is help in the form of “The Debunking Handbook“. Here’s their introduction:

Debunking myths is problematic. Unless great care is taken, any effort to debunk misinformation can inadvertently reinforce the very myths one seeks to correct. To avoid these “back re effects”, an effective debunking requires three major elements. First, the refutation must focus on core facts rather than the myth to avoid the misinformation becoming more familiar. Second, any mention of a myth should be preceded by explicit warnings to notify the reader that the upcoming information is false. Finally, the refutation should include an alternative explanation that accounts for important qualities in the original misinformation.

So before you try to change someone’s mind, go read the handbook. It will help.

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The Art of the Swag

Jack Ohman
© Jack Ohman

If he can sell enough, Trump could make money off of his presidential run. And maybe that was the whole point in the first place.

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The Emperor Has No Balls

An anarchist collective named “INDECLINE” yesterday placed full-size naked statues of Donald Trump in public places in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Cleveland. The artist who created the 300 pound statues is mainly known for creating monsters for horror films and haunted houses. The title is a reference to a Hans Christian Anderson story about an overconfident ruler, and indeed the statue has no balls.

Trump No Balls

Unfortunately, the statue in New York City’s Union Square was taken down by early afternoon, but the best part is a statement by a NYC Parks Department spokesperson: “NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small.” More photos here, but remember, you can’t un-see them.

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Extreme Vetting?

On Monday, Trump again fell back on his old standby of spewing hatred at immigrants, and called for “extreme vetting” of foreigners before they are admitted to the US. “Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into our country. Only those who expect to flourish in our country and to embrace a tolerant American society should be issued visas.”

Of course, pretty much everything Trump said he would do is already being done to vet immigrants, which is why it takes up to two years to gain entry to this country.

In fact, according to Perry Rivkind, a Reagan appointee who was an associate commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and an INS district director, neither Trump nor his current wife could pass the stringent requirements to immigrate into this country.

Of course, Donald Trump is already an American citizen, so he wouldn’t need to immigrate here. But according to Rivkind, if Trump applied for a job with the US government, he would not have made it through the background checks and security clearance requirements for the job:

He would be rejected because of his statements. He’d never be accepted into any other position. I’m not sure he could get an appointment because he couldn’t pass a security check. He could not get into a U.S. government job based on his statements on Russia, his attacks on people. He couldn’t get any clearance. He couldn’t have access to classified material.

Rivkind’s duties included vetting job candidates at the Justice Department, and he says he turned people down for character flaws far less serious than Trump’s.

Rivkind also questions how Melania was able to obtain a work visa, especially since she only had a fledgling modeling career and had posed for nude photographs:

The vetting system for immigrants is so strict that the sexy photographs of Melania holding a gun, wearing a mask and posing in “sadomasochistic” poses should’ve been cause to put a review hold on her permanent status.

And then there is the question of her supposed college degree. If she has listed that on her immigration applications, it would have been grounds to revoke her immigration application and deny her residency.

The bottom line is that Trump says he wants “extreme vetting” of immigrants, but his wife is an example of someone who should not have been able to gain residency here. Maybe what we really need is “extreme vetting” of presidential candidates.

Ruben Bolling
© Ruben Bolling

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Election News Today

Electoral Vote has a bunch of must-read posts today.

The first one offers a likely explanation of why Trump suddenly rearranged his campaign and put Stephen Bannon in charge — someone who has no experience running a political campaign. It is because Trump needs money (perhaps not for the campaign, but for himself) and his largest (perhaps only major) donors are Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer. But their money came with strings attached; one of those strings was Bannon (and likely also Kellyanne Conway, the other big change to the campaign). Bottom line? “The Mercers basically own this campaign.”

Next up, The Hill sent reporters to find out what Republican politicians think of Trump’s appointment of Stephen Bannon as his campaign’s CEO. They are “close to apopletic” and “scared to death”. Bannon not only lies as much as Trump, but he is just as likely to attack Republicans as Democrats. For example, Bannon ran headlines claiming that Paul Ryan was losing in the primary, when in reality he won easily. The Republicans hate Bannon, and his appointment makes it even more likely that the GOP will abandon Trump.

Indeed, the next post is a list of articles and theories that Trump is actually not interested in becoming the next president. It was all fun when it was enhancing his brand during the primary, but now it is becoming clear that “the thrill is gone”. Trump is allergic to looking like a loser, so what can he do? In the end, Bannon will allow Trump to have some fun being Trump, and go down in glorious flames spending the rest of the campaign hurling insults and anyone and everyone. And after that, Trump can whine that he was the victim of the mean old GOP.

There are more posts, and they are all worth a read. The headlines alone are worth it: “Trump’s Casinos Owed $30 Million in Taxes, but Christie Forgave Most of It”, “Would Cutting Trump Loose Help Republicans Downballot?” and “Could the House Be in Play?”.

Kevin Siers
© Kevin Siers

UPDATE: I take most of what Michael Moore says with a huge grain of salt, but you might want to read his theory that Trump is sabotaging his own campaign.

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No Time for Overconfidence

FiveThirtyEight has a good article titled “Election Update: Why Clinton Doesn’t Have This Race Locked Up“. The point is the fact that Clinton has a lead now doesn’t mean that she will win the election.

One of the reasons is if people get complacent and stop donating money to Clinton. After all, having the money to fight back against Trump’s attacks is one reason why Clinton has been able to maintain her lead since the conventions. But there are other reasons:

Since 1952, there are three examples (out of 14 presidential elections) where the the difference between the two candidates changed more than Clinton’s current lead. For example, in 1976, the leading candidate held a 15% lead after the conventions, but lost 12.9% of that lead and won the election by only 2.1%. The following election, in 1980, saw one candidate lose by 9.7% even though after the conventions the two major candidates were tied. That change was largely caused by the Iran hostage crisis.

Which brings us to the major point — current events can cause a huge change in the result of an election. The Republicans have spent so much time and energy creating scandals around Hillary Clinton, is it so difficult to believe that they would try something like that to throw the election?

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Late Night Political Humor

[Jokes from Aug 3, 2016]

“In the last 24 hours, Donald Trump has refused to endorse Republican leaders up for re-election, accused John McCain of failing veterans, suggested Americans pull their 401(k)s out of the stock market, threw out a crying baby at a rally, fought with the father of a dead soldier, and suggested President Obama was responsible for the death of troops during George W Bush’s time in office. Said voters, ‘Yeah, but I’m not sure I trust Hillary Clinton.'” – Seth Meyers

“This week Trump attacked a Gold Star family, seemed happy about getting a Purple Heart as a gift — ‘cuz it was so much easier than EARNING one — and appeared to feud with a crying baby at a campaign rally. Things have gotten so bad that Trump’s allies are plotting an intervention. An intervention! ‘They love you Donald, and the first step to recovery is admitting that YOU’RE the problem.'” – Stephen Colbert

“Donald Trump is even picking fights with fellow Republicans. He refused to endorse Arizona Sen. John McCain, refused to endorse Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, even though both endorsed him. It’s like ‘The Real Housewives of Orange-Face County.'” – Jimmy Kimmel

“According to multiple reports, Donald Trump’s campaign staff is becoming extremely frustrated by his behavior and his unwillingness to stay on message during the campaign. I don’t blame them — who could have ever guessed he would do something like this? He’s usually so low-key.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“The head of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, is said to be absolutely furious. They say he has not been this angry since he found out his name was Reince Priebus.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“I’m guessing this is just wishful thinking, but senior GOP officials are exploring options if Trump drops out. In fact, top Republicans have been seen standing outside Mitt Romney’s house holding boom boxes.” – Stephen Colbert

“Top Republican fundraiser and Hewlett-Packard executive Meg Whitman released a statement saying that she will break with her party and support Hillary Clinton. She wanted to release the statement three days ago, but her printer kept jamming.” – Seth Meyers

“Hillary Clinton supporters had a fundraiser tonight at a cyber security convention in Las Vegas; all the proceeds will go toward teaching Hillary how to use her email account.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Remember a few months ago when future former President Barack Obama got Iran to release four American prisoners? Well, it turns out he forgot to tell us about a small shipping and handling fee. Because as the prisoners were freed, $400 million was flown to Iran on a plane loaded with cash. Don’t you hate it when you’re on an airplane and you get stuck sitting next to $400 million? You don’t know who gets the armrest.” – Stephen Colbert

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Politics as Performance Art?

Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

It would be a fantastic performance, except for the fact that he has a chance of becoming our next president. Even worse, that more than a third of all Americans have been fooled into taking him seriously and actually want him to be president.

And unfortunately, with his talk of how the election will be rigged, we will have to live with the aftermath of Trump even if (when?) he loses. It could be very bad.

UPDATE: Trump seems to be once more blaming his failures on his staff, reorganizing his campaign again. And the new “campaign CEO” is the executive chairman of Breitbart News, Steve Bannon, who thinks that Fox News is too liberal.

As always, Trump surrounds himself with sycophants, with Breitbart being a primary cheerleader for Trump’s agenda of nationalism, racism, and sexism. “Bannon has convinced Trump that rest of campaign needs to be bare-knuckles brawl, w/ full-bore populism/movement politics” and “brutal fights with Clinton”. If you thought Trump was ugly before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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Is Rudy Giuliani Losing It?

On Monday during a Trump campaign rally in Ohio, former NY Mayor Rudi Giuliani introduced VP candidate Mike Pence by saying “You know better than I do what a great governor he is of your state.” There’s just one problem — Pence is the governor of neighboring Indiana.

Even worse, while introducing Donald Trump, Giuliani claimed that during the presidency of George W. Bush, “Under those eight years, before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack inside the United States. They all started when Clinton and Obama got into office.”

What was 9/11, chopped liver? How the hell could Rudy Giuliani forget 9/11?

Plus there was the anthrax thing (the worst biological attack in US history), the al-Qaida shoe bomber, the DC sniper who shot 16 people, the attack on the El Al ticket counter at LAX, and the campus attack at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This is not the first time that Giuliani tried to claim that Bush kept us safe, which earned him a “Pants on Fire” from PolitiFact in 2010. Did he forget that too?

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The Other Shoe Drops

Criminal prosecutors in the Ukraine investigating corruption have found the name of Paul Manafort, the man running Trump’s campaign, 22 times (for a total of $12.7 million) on a secret ledger of people who were given large amounts of cash as bribes and paybacks.

This blog has mentioned previously that Manafort worked for Viktor Yanukovych, the leader of the Ukrainian pro-Russian political party who fled to Russia after he was deposed. Manafort also worked with Oleg Deripaska “a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin“.

In response, Manafort attacked the NY Times, but did not deny his connections to Russia.

Trump’s ex-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was pushed out by Manafort, tweeted a link to this story moments after it broke. Lewandowski still advises Trump personally and often speaks on the phone with him.

One thing is clear — in a normal election Manafort would never have been hired to run a presidential campaign. As a Fox News contributor put it “The fact that Trump has started receiving security briefings and that Manafort may have access to them is not a joke.”

A Republican strategist tweeted “If Manafort truly cares about Trump, he resigns by 8am tomorrow.” But a speechwriter for former president George W. Bush replied “Assuming it is Trump to whom Manafort ultimately answers. But that’s a question now, isn’t it?”

The former director of the Richard Nixon presidential library (and distinguished historian at NYU) asks “How demonstrably Putanist does Manafort have to be for the RNC to insist Trump dump him?”

Amazing how far the Republican Party has come, from celebrating Ronald Reagan for standing up to Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, to nominating Donald Trump, who kisses Putin’s ass.

It is undeniable that Trump has become cozy with Putin since hiring Manafort. Just last Thursday, Trump told CNBC (in the third person) “During his administration, Trump will be friendly with Putin”. Trump made excuses for Russia’s occupation of Crimea (formerly a part of the Ukraine) and even weakened language in the Republican plaform that called for military support for the Ukraine. Trump also suggested that as president he would not defend NATO allies if they were invaded by Russia. Trump has hired blatantly pro-Putin advisors. And there is growing evidence that Putin is trying to sway the outcome of the US election, as he has done in European elections.

As former CIA director Michael Morell flatly stated:

Putin was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.

Mr. Putin is a great leader, Mr. Trump says, ignoring that he has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests — endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.

And of course, because Trump has not released any of his tax returns, we have no idea of how much money Trump has taken from the Russians, either personally or as investments in his projects.

Mike Luckovich
© Mike Luckovich

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Late Night Political Humor

[Jokes from Aug 2, 2016]

“Donald Trump had yet another awkward moment today. Apparently there was a crying baby at one of his rallies, and Trump actually kicked it out, saying, ‘Get the baby out of here.’ It backfired when the Secret Service tried to remove Trump.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Eric Trump appeared on CBS ‘This Morning’ today and defended his father’s ongoing feud with the family of a veteran, saying, ‘What I think this country needs is a fighter.’ And to Donald Trump’s credit, he did bravely fight off all five of the Army’s attempts to draft him.” – Seth Meyers

“It is being reported that two senior aides were recently fired from the Donald Trump campaign. ‘Oh no, which two?!’ yelled Eric and Donald Jr.” – Seth Meyers

“Trump himself seems to be aware of the shifts in public opinion which is why it seems like he’s already building an excuse for a loss by saying the November election will probably be rigged. Former Democratic candidate Al Gore weighed in, saying, ‘Yeah, we wouldn’t want that to happen!'” – James Corden

“If Donald Trump was a teenager he definitely would be the kid who turns the Nintendo off the second he starts losing at Mario Kart.” – James Corden

“Yesterday Donald Trump said of The New York Times, ‘They don’t know how to write good.’ When told that it should be ‘well,’ Trump said, ‘Oh, sorry — WELL, they don’t know how to write good.'” – Seth Meyers

“Trump tweeted a photograph last night showing him feasting on Kentucky Fried Chicken with a knife and fork. And a spoon, even. What’s more relatable than a man in a suit eating fried chicken with utensils on board his private jumbo jet?” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Today Donald Trump came up with a new nickname for Hillary Clinton, ‘The Devil’. I like how he says ‘it’s true’, as if he traveled to Hell and confirmed it himself.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Calling your opponent the devil, that’s going to be tough to reel back in if he loses and has to make a concession speech. ‘Today I called the devil and congratulated her on her victory. I’m disappointed but we now unite behind our president the devil.'” – Jimmy Kimmel

“President Obama piled on this morning, saying in a press conference he feels Trump is unfit to be president. America’s first black president is begging you not to elect America’s first orange one.” – James Corden

“Hillary Clinton said this weekend that she’s going to be at all the presidential debates, despite Trump protesting the schedule. Hillary said that even if Trump doesn’t show, she’s changed her positions enough that she can just debate herself.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Vice President Joe Biden yesterday performed a same-sex wedding for a pair of longtime White House staffers. Said the staffers, ‘But we’re just friends!'” – Seth Meyers

“When asked about possibly running for future office despite his age, Vice President Joe Biden this weekend told interviewers that if he didn’t know how old he really was, he’d guess he’s 44. And if he didn’t know what time it was, he’d guess it’s Miller Time.” – Seth Meyers

“Doctors are telling the Rio athletes competing in water sports not to put their heads under water to avoid getting sick. So remember, if you’re swimming at the Olympics, swim above the water.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Athletes asked how they were supposed to swim with their heads in the air, and doctors were like, ‘Oh, no, don’t — you don’t breathe in the air. That’s even worse.'” – Jimmy Fallon

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Jim Jefferies on Hate and Terrorism

“Don’t be the asshole, America” should be our new slogan.

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Multiple Personality Tweets

A data scientist has analyzed the tweets coming from Donald Trump, and says that clearly many of the tweets are coming from someone other than Trump. Probably some staffer. People had already noticed that some of the tweets posted the the tweets were coming from two different phones: an Android phone by Samsung, and an iPhone. We already know that Trump uses a Samsung phone, so the iPhone tweets are likely the ones coming from his staff. In particular, the Android tweets are angrier and more negative. The Android tweets happen in the morning, while the iPhone tweets are mostly tweeted late at night.

You can see the whole analysis (in all its gory technical detail) here.

I find it hilarious that Trump’s twitter account is @realDonaldTrump, but many of the tweets are not actually written by him. But I guess someone who claims he wrote his books himself, but then admits that he doesn’t know what is in them because he only read them quickly, would also have no problems having a ghostwriter or two for Twitter.

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Having Your Back

You know those people who get to stand behind the candidate at political rallies? So they can be seen while the candidate speaks? Last week seems to have been a big ironic example of the fact that the campaigns themselves don’t have much control over who gets to stand there.

First, a local TV station noticed that standing behind Hillary Clinton at a rally near Orlando was the father of Orlando mass shooter Omar Mateen. While the father is cooperating with the investigation into the shooting and the rally was open to the public (Clinton had no knowledge that he attended until after the event) the optics look really bad.

So of course, at his next rally in Florida, Donald Trump said:

Wasn’t it terrible when the father of the animal that killed the wonderful people in Orlando was sitting with a big smile on his face right behind Hillary Clinton? How many of you people know me? A lot of you people know me. Right? When you get those seats, you sort of know the campaign.

Of course, Trump was suggesting a connection between the Clinton campaign and the shooting.

But here’s the irony. As Trump said those words, sitting right behind him with a big smile on his face was former congressman Mark Foley, who was forced to resign in 2006 when he was caught sending lewd emails and messages to teenage male House pages. When Trump asked who knew him, Foley raised his hand and waved in response. And after the event, Foley told NBC that Trump had been a friend of his for 30 years and was one of his biggest contributors.

What does that suggest to you?

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