The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

How Trump is leading, and how he will fail

Dan McLaughlin, writing for the conservative Federalist, examines the 2016 Republican primary race in terms of military strategist John Boyd's philosophies:

Boyd’s core insight was about the interactive and disruptive nature of speed on human decision-making: success in conflict can be rapid and dramatic if one can “operate inside the OODA Loop” of the opponent. Operating inside the opponent’s OODA Loop means presenting him with a constantly shifting battlefield that keeps him off-balance and disoriented so he is unable to process information and make and implement sound decisions before the situation changes again.

So, what does this all have to do with Donald Trump? Quite a lot. Few candidates in recent political memory have been so effective at altering the reality around them in a way that crashes their opponents’ OODA Loops.

As a major-party nominee, moreover, Trump would lack the ambiguity he has deployed against Republicans, and in a two- or even three-candidate race, he could not exploit the collective action problems and Hobbesian scramble for free media that have enabled his rise. Indeed, few of the factors that have allowed Trump to trigger fear in his Republican opponents would even apply in a general election, and Clinton’s team would have plenty of time to prepare a counter to the things he has been doing so far.

That’s not to say that Trump’s celebrity and attention-grabbing power would present no opportunity to win (he would only be the nominee if he’d already figured out how to solve the low-turnout proclivities of his natural base), but ultimately, he could not deploy the same approach without major adaptations. Trump would have to prove himself flexible and open-minded enough to the dynamic general election system to attract the necessary 70 million voters. His ability to do so remains very much unproven.

I don't always read the Federalist, but this analysis made a lot of sense to me. It's a long read—and worth it.

Wired is unhappy with the GOP

Last night, the GOP candidates for president debated technology a little, and they just had no idea what they were talking about—or they dissembled. Take your pick:

It’s not exactly clear what Trump means by “closing areas where we are at war with somebody,” and we’re not exactly sure Trump knows what he means, either. Our best guess is that he’s saying it’s possible for the US to shut down Internet access in countries like Syria. That’s problematic, not only because it would shut off millions of innocent people from the Internet, but also because the US simply doesn’t control the Internet in countries like Syria, and neither do US companies.

There were other missteps throughout the night, like Governor John Kasich’s claim that the San Bernardino shooters’ communications couldn’t be monitored “because their phone was encrypted.” He’s right that their phones contained encryption, but so does mine, and yours, and, in all likelihood, so does Kasich’s, because most smartphones today are encrypted.

And don't even get me started on that clown Fiorina...

Categorically unqualified but still the master persuader

Scott Adams and James Fallows have some overlapping thoughts on Donald Trump after the GOP debate last night.

First Adams, who has a pretty good outline of how to detect a lack of thinking about the election:

1. If you are comparing Plan A to Plan B, you might be doing a good job of thinking. But if you are comparing Plan A to an imaginary situation in which there are no tradeoffs in life, you are not thinking.

2. If you see quotes taken out of context, and you form an opinion anyway, that’s probably not thinking. If you believe you need no further context because there is only one imaginable explanation for the meaning of the quotes, you might have a poor imagination. Sometimes a poor imagination feels a lot like knowledge, but it’s closer to the opposite.

He posits another six tests before summarizing his hypothesis about why Trump is doing so well.

Fallows believes Trump "fundamentally disqualif[ied]" to be president, of course, but he was more concerned that CNN deliberately fed into the fears the GOP are trying to whip up:

[T]he GOP’s overall goal was to replicate the tone on Fox News, and vice versa, which in both cases is essentially: risk, risk, risk; fear, fear, fear; ISIS, ISIS, ISIS; alien, alien, alien. All of this is toward the end of demonstrating Obama’s weakness and failure. Unfortunately, it is also at direct odds with U.S. strategic interests. A resilient nation seeks to minimize the effects of such terrorist attacks that, in a society that retains any liberties, still lamentably occur. A nation that wants to magnify the effects of terrorism yells “The attackers are everywhere!” “We’re all going to die!!!” Because they consider it useful against the “feckless” Obama, the latter has been the 2016 GOP approach (as Jeet Heer wrote on Tuesday night). It could box them into strategically foolish policies if they took office.

Ramp-up-the-fear was also the result of CNN’s approach tonight. Much more than half of the show was about ISIS / ISIL, Syria, and refugees. Here’s a promise: whoever becomes the next president will and should spend much less than half of his or her time on ISIS and Syria. The presidential topics that are not directly about ISIS—China, Russia, Mexico, the economic and political tensions in Europe, the entirety of Latin America and Africa, Iran, India, Pakistan, Japan, the South China Sea—any one of these, on its own, has a chance to occupy more of the next president’s time and attention than ISIS. Together they very certainly will. Not to mention: trade deals, the economy, job creation, budgets and deficits, medical care, and a thousand other issues.

But ISIS-centrism, which at the moment is shorthand for fear, is the way Wolf Blitzer set up the meat of the debate.

CNN ceased being relevant years ago, which is sad, because for a decade or longer they were the most relevant network.

We're not well-served by most of the big networks anymore. (NPR is a notable exception, but they have perhaps two million listeners out of 70 million eligible voters.) On the one hand, saying people disagree with you because they have lousy data is an adolescent mindset most of the time; but on the other hand, in some cases, like those whose only information about the Republican party came from CNN last night, it may be true.

I'm not looking forward to the 2016 election.

Yes, it could be Trump

Both Krugman and Marshall came to the same conclusion today, and I, to quote Tom Lehrer, begin to feel like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis:

Without Jeb, Marco Rubio is the guy Republicans really need to nominate. But he just hasn't shown the sort of strength or political acumen that's required for the task. In a way that doesn't surprise me. I've always found the guy unimpressive and green. But the GOP is in a position where if "Marco Rubio" didn't exist they'd have to invent him.

That is one of the many things that makes the current Trump-Cruz phony war so compelling. Trump is baiting Cruz into the same smackdown he's used to eat up Bush, Walker, Fiorina and others. But Cruz won't take the bait. Like two zen masters facing off in a martial arts classic or perhaps two wizards do battle in The Lord of the Rings, we have an epic confrontation between two master who have trained for decades in the arts of assholery and bullying. But their powers equally matched, it is a stand off.

I just have to hope that Trump's overall polling numbers (he's the choice of 41% of Republicans, which translates to less than 20% of the total electorate) stay steady. We've all seen what happens when right-wing demagogues get into power.

Killing Trump's candidacy

Waiting for the cable guy and for a couple of conference calls to start gives me a moment to consider some troubling things about the modern U.S.

The more I watch Donald Trump's effects on people, the more credence I'm giving cartoonist Scott Adams' Master Wizard hypothesis, and thinking about how to give Trump a few "linguistic kill shots" of our own.

I'm not endorsing Adams' views on anything, except that the way he frames his blog entries, he tends to make predictions that hold up, within a certain range of bullshit. He claims not to support Trump so much as be impressed with Trump's ability to cause the emotional reactions in others he (Trump) wants. In other words, Adams sees Trump as a master demagogue, and explains how and why.

I think there might be something to Adams' analysis. We need to stop treating Trump like a politician—because he's not. He's a dangerous person, impervious to (and dismissive of) reasoned debate. And we, the sane, who know what happens when demagogues achieve power, need to stop him.

So I'm working on some ways of reframing the Trump candidacy that might work. Stay tuned.

 

Trump is not Hitler

That's just ahistorical and wrong, according to Josh Marshall. No, Trump is more like Mussolini:

Mussolini's speeches have a mix of chest-puffing, hands at the waist swagger, hints of humor, hands to the crowd to calm themselves no matter how excited they are. Frankly, they're almost operatic in nature. The mix of violent rhetoric with folksy hypotheticals and humorous jabs unites the two quite nicely.

The problem of course is that Trump has trended in an increasingly racist and xenophobic direction as his campaign has gone on. But that was never really Mussolini's thing. The Nazi fetishization of race was basically foreign to fascist ideology. And Italian fascism was not at all anti-Semitic ... except after 1938. That's when Mussolini moved into full alliance with Nazi Germany....

In other words, Mussolini's embrace of racism and anti-Semitism appears to have been cynical and opportunistic. But this works as an analog to Trump since I continue to believe that Trump's embrace of racism, anti-Mexican immigrant bigotry and Islamophobia is largely opportunistic. My only hesitation in calling it cynical is that I think Trump may be the type who once he finds something convenient to say then starts to believe it.

Regardless, Trump is a dangerous demagogue who is harming American political discourse the same way Goldwater did.

Three things to read today

First, the New Republic's Jeet Heer reminds us that Donald Trump is a bullshitter, not a liar, and is that much more dangerous for it:

The triumph of bullshit has consequences far beyond the political realm, making society as a whole more credulous and willing to accept all sorts of irrational beliefs. A newly published article in the academic journal Judgment and Decision Making
links “bullshit receptivity” to other forms of impaired thinking: “Those more receptive to bullshit are less reflective, lower in cognitive ability (i.e., verbal and fluid intelligence, numeracy), are more prone to ontological confusions and conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine.” 

It’s no accident that Trump himself is receptive to bullshit ideas promulgated by the likes of anti-vaxxers. A President Trump, based on his own bullshit receptivity and his own bullshit contagiousness, would lead a country that is far more conspiratorial, far more confused, and far less able to grapple with problems in a rational way. Trump’s America would truly be a nation swimming in bullshit.

Next, a heartwarming story of how LifeLock allowed a man to set up an account to stalk his ex-wife, and then did nothing when she complained:

Not only did the company not respond to her queries about the situation, she tells the Republic that LifeLock actively tried to block her access to the account — in order to protect the privacy of her ex-husband.

While she was able to block her ex from having access to the service, he was still able to close the account because he was the one who had paid for it. Rather than help her by providing the requested documents or keeping the account open, LifeLock advised that she open an entirely new account.

Finally, from Cranky Flier, the account of the last airplane to roll off an assembly line in California, ending a 102-year-old industry there:

As aircraft manufacturing dried up around the state, Long Beach became the last holdout. When Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas, the entire Douglas commercial line was terminated in short order except for the MD-95. That became the Boeing 717 and made it all the way to May 23, 2006. On that day, the last two were rolled across Lakewood Blvd on the east side of the airport and delivered to AirTran and Midwest. Commercial aircraft production in the state died that day.

But on the west side of the field, the military C-17 soldiered on. The C-17 is a beast of an airplane. It’s a massive military transport that is essential for the US military. The problem is that the military has all the C-17s it needs. Production peaked at 16 a year in 2009, but that has been ramping down every year since. The aircraft was marketed to foreign countries and orders did roll in — enough to keep the production going for longer than expected — but the end has finally arrived.

The last airplane to be delivered took off from Long Beach around midday on Sunday.

There's a video of the plane taking off, too. (C-17s are pretty damned impressive.)

Things to read

A couple of articles floated through my awareness today:

Happy reading.

 

More meetings, less reading

More things I haven't read yet:

And a customer technician spent 90 minutes over two days worth of conference calls denying that something obviously his responsibility was not, in fact, his responsibility, until a network tech from his own company said it was.

Is Ben Carson running a scam?

TPM's Josh Marshall isn't saying so exactly, but there does seem to be something off about the good doctor's campaign:

Hucksters and cheats can be found everywhere. But particularly on the right there is a significant layer of people in the business of fleecing outraged and/or low-information conservatives of their money. Some of it you see with those advertisements for buying gold on Fox News. ... But the big thing on the right are various fundraising groups that exist largely to fundraise. So for instance, you'll have Americans Against RINOs which sends out a ton of direct mail, raises lots of money from conservatives who've just had it up to here with RINOs like Boehner and McCain and McConnell selling the country out to Obama. But instead of that money going to fight the RINOs, most of the money goes back into raising more money.

So where's the money going? Well, the direct mail business is very lucrative. And usually you'll find that Americans Against RINOs has a tight relationship with AAR Direct Mail Inc which is making a pretty penny servicing Americans Against RINOs. You get the idea. Obviously there are crooked charities that run this way. But it's a prevalent model on the right.

Do I think Carson's going to grab all the money and run off to Venezuela if he gets the nomination? No. I'm sure he's pretty into this right now. But "Ben Carson" clearly comes out of this world. And his operation still seems mired in it.

So, Marshall is saying, essentially, Ben Carson is the modern version of "Springtime for Hitler." It would be funny if it weren't so scary.