A conspiracy theory: is Trump trying to get fired?

Allahpundit notes that on a day when the GOP nominee for President could have railed against Hillary Clinton and a corrupt system, Donald Trump was ranting and raving about…this:

“A striking display of self-sabotage,” the Times writes of Trump’s rally in Cincinnati last night, at which he ranted about the Star of David kerfuffle from this weekend and his views on Saddam the Terrorist-Killer. Here’s a reality check: Hardly anyone besides political junkies has spent more than 20 seconds thinking about the imagery in Trump’s tweet, assuming they’ve heard about it at all, and lots of Americans doubtless agree that the Middle East would be better off with strongmen in charge in the name of suppressing Islamists. (That’s the story of the Egyptian revolution and counterrevolution, right?) Besides, Trump seems to have already reached his likely floor in national polling of 37-40 percent of the vote, the occasional freaky outlier from Reuters aside. There’s nowhere to go but up.

What was amazing to me about last night’s rally was how devoted to “fan service” this guy still seems to be despite the fact that we’re two months into the general election campaign and he’s trailing consistently. If ever there was a candidate who could afford to stop titillating his hardcore supporters by ranting about how unfair the media is and how cool it was that Saddam got to kill bad guys without trials and due process, it’s Trump. His cult of personality is locked in. Now’s the time to pander to swing voters by leaving his “politically incorrect” material aside and hammering Clinton steadily on her comprehensive rigging of “the system,” from free trade to her above-the-law status courtesy of her cronies in the DOJ. Instead he’s screwing around with this nonsense at his rallies, knowing full well that the media will pick it up and run with it as an excuse to change the subject from the FBI’s shady decision not to charge Clinton. It’s inexplicable that he’d forfeit an easy opportunity to keep the heat on her and win over some undecideds. Some anti-Trumpers on social media retreated into their favorite conspiracy theory, that Trump’s actively trying to lose, to explain why he’d do it but I think it’s more a product of his supreme hubristic confidence in his rhetorical abilities. He’s gotten this far ranting about whatever comes into his head at rallies. Why change now?

(Emphasis added)  I dunno.  I can’t shake the feeling that Trump never intended to make it this far, that he knows he can’t win, and he’s trying to get himself fired.

When you think about it, it would be the best thing that could possibly happen to him at this point.  He is not going to the win the election.  The polls have him consistently behind Hillary Clinton, and his increasingly erratic performance on the campaign trail isn’t endearing himself to many undecided voters.

His bankruptcies notwithstanding, Trump sees himself as a “winner,” and what would destroy that image more than losing a Presidential election to a deeply unpopular, flawed candidate like Hillary?  He’d never live it down.  Trump may not be an easily embarrassed man, but losing this very winnable election would be too much.

But what if he is forced off the Republican ticket before the election?  Then he’s not a loser but a martyr who tried to take on a rigged, corrupt political system, gave the insiders and money men a scare, but had victory cruelly stolen from him.  For the 30-35% of Americans who love him, his legacy would be secure.  He wouldn’t be President of the United States, but he’d get one heck of an ego boost.

And why else does Donald Trump do anything?

Iraq and ideological blindness

The long-awaited Chilcot report on Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War has finally been released, and the findings are damning:

The former civil servant said that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein posed “no imminent threat” when the U.S-led invasion was launched in March 2003, and that while military action against him “might have been necessary at some point,” the “strategy of containment” could have continued for some time.
Chilcot said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned of the risks of regional instability and the rise of terrorism before the invasion of Iraq, but pressed on regardless.
The UK failed to appreciate the complexity of governing Iraq, and did not devote enough forces to the task of securing the country in the wake of the invasion, he added.
“The people of Iraq have suffered greatly,” he said.
[…]
Britain’s Parliament approved the war — ostensibly to remove Saddam Hussein and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) — shortly before the invasion, although United Nations approval was not gained and millions marched in the streets in protest.
Hussein was removed and later executed. But the WMD threat was found to have been overblown and the promise to turn a dictatorship into a democracy was never delivered on.
Instead, the country descended into years of vicious sectarian conflict, with large areas seized by the terror group ISIS.
More than 250,000 people have died violent deaths since the 2003 invasion, according to the Iraq Body Count project, while millions of Iraqis have been made homeless in the conflict with ISIS.
(In a bizarre coincidence, the report was released shortly after you-know-who made a speech praising how Saddam Hussein dealt with “terrorists” in his country.   That’s 2016 for you, folks.)
Tony Blair and George W. Bush made their minds up early that deposing Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, and they turned a blind eye to any evidence suggesting otherwise.
The thing is, I did pretty much the same thing.  Longtime readers of this blog will remember that I supported the war, and in the lead-up to it, I was not willing to give a fair hearing to those who opposed it.  Like many bloggers, commentators and policymakers, I was living in a pro-invasion bubble.
As John Ziegler notes at Mediaite, the internet and an increasingly fractured media environment have made it easier for people to tune out opposing views:

In the cable era, television audiences fragmented into a 500-channel (or more) universe. The advent of the Internet further splintered the dissemination of information into thousands of outlets. Today, the very same media which used to unify us (at least with regard to communal experiences and a commonality of basic information), is now the force which most actively divides our country. As someone who lives in the Los Angeles market, where about half the radio and television stations do not even broadcast in English, I can personally attest to how dramatic this change has been.

Today, “Broadcasting” (other than the Super Bowl) no longer exists. It has been replaced by “Narrowcasting,” in which outlets are cynically designed to appeal to nothing but a tiny sliver of demographic for the purposes of maximizing advertising efficiency. This is destructive enough in the fantasy world of entertainment (no current TV show could even remotely claim to be well-known to a majority of Americans), but this has been absolutely catastrophic in the realm of news.

Almost all of our news outlets now can be easily identified as having a particular, and often very narrow, political bent and they act like nothing more than TV sit-coms desperately searching for a sellable demographic which will keep them afloat (see Breitbart.com & Donald Trump). This means that most “news” organizations are only interested in stories and truths that their audience will want to hear. Quite simply, nothing could be more antithetical to both the pursuit of truth (which is quite often very UN-popular) as well as the maintenance of a country which has enough “knowledge” in common so as to be able to function as remotely unified society.

[…]

Most of those who get their news only from Fox News, Matt Drudge,Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity & Breitbart.com think that Donald Trump is a savior who is certain to win and that Hillary Clinton is the anti-Christ. Almost everyone who only consumes the New York Times,Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, NPR & the Huffington Post are sure the opposite is true. President Obama’s approval rating is split about 50/50, but, isolated in our own information bubble, almost everyone is positive their view of him is 100% correct. Regardless of your politics, this phenomenon is a cancer on our country.

When you’re blind to anything that doesn’t fit your narrative, chances are you’re heading for trouble.  British opinion- and policy-makers who backed the “remain” side (as did I) during the recent referendum on EU membership made little effort to hide the contempt in which they held the proles who might disagree with them, and the result was a narrow majority voting to leave.   Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Erdely pressed on with her story about a brutal alleged rape at the University of Virgina even as flaws and inconsistencies became apparent, and the story collapsed only after it was published.

Iraq is in a class of its own, though.  While it’s too late for me to take back my support for the invasion, it’s not too late for me to read and listen to more people whose views differ from my own, and to keep in mind that no matter how strongly I feel about something, I could very well be horribly wrong.

Donald Trump would have banned him from studying in America

A Muslim student at Atlanta’s Emory University, caught up in the Dhaka terrorist attack was allowed to leave but refused to abandon his friends.  It cost him his life.

One of the victims of the Dhaka cafe shooting was a Muslim student who, despite being allowed to leave by the militants responsible, refused to desert his friends and fellow hostages.

Faraz Hossain, a Bangladeshi student at Emory University in the US, was killed alongside 19 others including Abinta Kabir, who was studying at the same US university.

His nephew Hishaan said Mr Hossain had been offered the chance to leave the cafe along with women wearing hijabs.

However, according to the New York Times, when the two women accompanying him in Western clothes were refused, he chose to stay behind and was subsequently killed.

Twenty people were killed in the attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in the Bangladeshi capital including seven Japanese aid workers, an Indian student and nine Italian businessmen and women.

[…]

The militants reportedly tortured and killed any hostage unable to recite a verse from the Qur’an.

The left says Islamist terrorists aren’t “really” Muslims – giving the faith a benefit of the doubt they’d never extend to any other religion, especially not Christianity – while the right says Islamist terrorists represent all Muslims, even the heroic Mr. Hossain and the overwhelming majority of ISIS’ victims.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle: ISIS and other Islamist organizations represent an extremist interpretation of the Islamic faith which considers non-Muslims infidels and other Muslims apostates.  While the likes of Trump try to set Muslims and non-Muslims against each other, most of us face a common enemy.

It couldn’t have happened to a nicer website

Turns out a site dedicated to encouraging people to have affairs was a total scam.  Who would have guessed?

The parent company of infidelity dating site Ashley Madison, hit by a devastating hack last year, is now the target of a U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation, the new executives seeking to revive its credibility told Reuters.

[…]

The two executives, hired in April, said the closely held company is spending millions to improve security and looking at payment options that offer more privacy.

But it faces a mountain of problems, including U.S. and Canadian class action lawsuits filed on behalf of customers whose personal information was posted online, and allegations that it used fake profiles to manipulate some customers. The site’s male-to-female user ratio is five to one, the executives said.

An Ernst & Young report commissioned by Avid and shared with Reuters confirmed that Avid used computer programs, dubbed fembots, that impersonated real women, striking up conversations with paying male customers.

Avid shut down the fake profiles in the United States, Canada and Australia in 2014, and by late 2015 in the rest of the world, but some U.S. users had message exchanges with foreign fembots until late in 2015, according to the report.

The Lee Harvey Oswald-ization of Omar Mateen

Some cold, hard facts: even as gay rights have become more widely accepted in the United States, and even after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, many conservative Christian Republicans continue to resort blatantly homophobic scaremongering and promote anti-GLBT policies – especially “bathroom bills” aimed at transgender people, a harsh solution to a problem that does not exist – as a wedge issue to fire up their base.

Another cold, hard fact: Omar Mateen, who brutally murdered 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, was not a conservative Christian Republican.

Mateen was a Muslim who told a 911 operator he was acting in the name of the Islamic State, and there are reports that he cheered on the September 11 attacks back when he was in high school.  Needless to say, his actions should not be used to tar all Muslims as terrorists, but Mateen was a self-professed Islamist.  Simple as that.

You’d never know that from reading this New York Times editorial, though, which denounces the GOP (not undeservedly) for its anti-gay politics while not mentioning Mateen’s own motivations.  Or from this widely shared political cartoon, which makes it look like some NRA-supporting white redneck  carried out the massacre.  Or from the twitter lefties trying to smack down any suggestion that Mateen’s belief system had someing to do with his actions.  (Sarah Palin’s map was directly responsible for the Gabby Giffords shooting, though!)

After President Kennedy was murdered, his widow allegedly said, “He didn’t even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights. it had to be some silly little Communist.”  And before long, a cottage industry of JFK assassination conspiracy theories sprung up, alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald was completely innocent or was a patsy for radical-right wing conspirators who wanted Kennedy gone.  Notably, very few of the conspiracy theories alleged that, say, Fidel Castro had a hand in the assassination – it was all about businessmen, the mafia and possibly Lyndon Johnson.

That’s how vaccine conspiracy lunatic Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. can still declare that a climate of “right-wing hate” caused the death of his uncle, even though the guy who did it actually attempted to assassinate extreme-right activist Gen. Edwin Walker with the very same gun eventually used to kill the President.

(By the way, if you continue to believe Oswald did not kill JFK, read Case Closed and get back to me.)

Lee Harvey Oswald’s actual politics have been airbrushed out of history, and we’re already starting to see the same thing with Mateen’s actual beliefs.  That doesn’t mean anti-gay conservatives and Christians shouldn’t be called out on their often-hateful rhetoric.  This shooter wasn’t one of them; the next one might very well be.

There were likely many factors contributing to Mateen’s murderous rampage, including easy access to high-powered weaponry (a subject that is to American conservatives what Islamism is to American liberals) and even his own conflicted sexuality.  But if he had professed to be a disciple of the Westboro Baptist Church, no one would be running interference for his religious extremism.

Identity politics Trumps all

On Twitter I’ve said almost everything I want to say about Donald Trump’s against the “Mexican” judge handling the Trump University fraud case.  (Did I mention that the Republican Party nominee for the most important job on earth is in the middle of a multi-million dollar fraud case?) But there are two more points to be made, which principled conservatives – if any can still be found – should take to heart:

First, it proves that Trump is lying (surprise!) when he says he’ll hire and listen to “the best people” when he becomes President, and his supporters are deluding themselves into thinking he’d even listen to their advice.

After Donald Trump makes his ignorant, factually incorrect comment of the day, his supporters rush to say that in office he’ll surround himself with smart people who will set him straight.   Trump himself keeps saying he’ll hire “good people” to work for him.

Well, either his presumably well-paid lawyers are hopelessly incompetent or he just isn’t listening to them, because there is no way any lawyer would advise his client to launch a public-relations war  – much less a blatantly racist public-relations war – against the judge presiding over his case.  I’ve had clients who’ve threatened to go to the local media to complain about the judge and the court system, and I’ve told them in no uncertain terms that they can go find a new lawyer after they do something like that.

None of my clients, to the best of my knowledge, have followed up on these threats.  This proves that my small solo legal practice in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, attracts a clientele smarter than Donald Trump.

Second, it shows that many Republicans actually believe what they’ve criticized the extreme left for believing: that your ethnicity is your destiny.

While I disagree with many of Justice Clarence Thomas’ opinions, I cringe when I hear people saying his judicial philosophy makes him some kind of race traitor.  I think it is grossly insulting to suggest that people of a certain race have to hold a particular set of opinions and way of looking at the world, and I tend to agree with conservatives when they fight against such divisive identity politics.

And along comes their standard-bearer for President of the United States, saying Judge Gonzalo Curiel (who put his own life in danger by prosecuting cases involving Mexican drug cartels) cannot rule fairly on his case because his parents were Mexican.  And a Muslim judge probably can’t be trusted, either.  So far he hasn’t ruled on which other ethnic groups are unfit to serve on the Bench, but I suspect it’s just a matter of time.

It is not just a gross insult to the American judicial system (which certainly has its problems, but an over-representation of minority judges is not one of them) but it shows that Trump supports and promotes identity politics of the worst kind.  And the Vichy Republicans rushing to support him are proving that maybe they were never serious about their own rhetoric, either.  Not when Team Elephant taking the White House is at stake.

In response they’ll say Hillary Clinton will be a bad President.  Maybe she will.  But there is no moral equivalence between her flaws and the way Trump is poisoning everything he touches.  Not even close.

 

Steele Injustice

Without taking a position on the Steele Auto Group’s plans to bulldoze houses to expand their Honda dealership, let me say that I’ll keep this loathsome bullying in mind when the time comes for me to buy a new car:

A Halifax man who runs a satire website has received a cease and desist letter from a lawyer representing a car dealership he mocked for their expansion plans.

Matt Brand — who writes at brandreview.ca — posted a piece this week about Halifax Honda, which has come under fire recently for expansion plans in the city’s north end that involve demolishing several residential properties.

Steele Group  Launches Hondas Not Homes Campaign was the tongue-in-cheek headline on the story. “In direct response to the Homes Not Hondas Campaign, the Steele Auto Group has countered by launching a campaign of their own: Hondas not Homes.”

Brand has since removed the story from his site.

[…]

The cease and desist missive, penned by Halifax lawyer Nancy Rubin, says that a small hashtag at the bottom of the article labelling it satire does not make it defensible.

“While you are free to express your opinions on matters of public interest, so long as they are based on true facts, the creation of an entirely false group page and fake quotes is indefensible,” Rubin said.

“Even if considered ‘satire,’ satire is not protected speech in and of itself.”

Rubin insisted Brand “disable any public representation that the Steele Group launched or in any way was affiliated with the ‘Hondas not Homes campaign.’ Further, the false quotes must be removed and links to the defamatory postings disabled.”

I practice family and criminal law, not libel and slander cases, but I doubt this relatively mild, obvious satire is really defamatory.  Anyone who thinks it’s a real story probably believes Marilyn Manson is going door to door trying to shock people, too.  But it doesn’t have to be: Steele is a large company pushing around one man because it can.  The process is the punishment.

But as McDonald’s and Barbra Streisand found out, you can win a battle like this but lose the public-opinion war badly.  I hadn’t heard of brandreview.ca nor the Homes Not Hondas Campaign before, but I certainly have now.  And I bet I’m not alone.