RNC Day 1 Wrap-Up: Every Generation Thinks It’s the End Of the World


I mean, what the hell? 


So, what best summed up Day 1? Was it the hideous exploitation of the mother of a killed Benghazi soldier? The seemingly-endless recitation of that day? The parents of people murdered (or killed) by illegal immigrants? Or the constant cries that They are coming, that we’re all going to be killed? That the hordes are out there, and that America is hanging on the precipice?  That angry blacks will kill us all? That the thin line between anarchy and civilization is fraying, and we will certainly lose if Hillary wins?

I think that’s it, really: it’s the idea that America, or at least a very small sliver of it, is about to come to an end. It’s an angry yell, best personified by Rudy Guiliani, with his endless screaming rant, his screeching cry that everything is crumbling, all the hope we built up in the 90s and 2000s, apparently, and that those who hate us are slithering in. It’s all about our weakness and their strength, but that we can be just as strong, just as fierce, just as steel-forged.

You saw the theme go through the bloody tragedies from wich they squeezed out talking points, to Jeff Sessions who moved from economic insecurity to illegal immigration, smoothly and with full connective tissue, to the endless recitations of “no apologies”. To say that the night was apocalyptic is an understatement. It was all about the end.

And I think to an extent that sums up the appeal of Trump. It’s designed for people who feel that things are slipping away, and can’t possibly accept that it might be the nature of things. To be clear, the economic dislocation shouldn’tbe the nature of things. It’s a choice, and a bipartisan one, and a shame and crime. But that’s only part of it. Most of it is the idea of cultural loss, and that cultural loss can only be explained by the end of the world. And that’s what Trump gives them: the world that you knew isn’t dying. It’s being murdered. It’s being murdered by Them, and I can identify them, and no one else can. There’s a weakness in the earth, and a sniveling cosmopolitan elite who is allowing the rape and murder to happen (that Trump is the weakest-handed cosmopolitan is beside the point). He gives them the idea that strength can conquer these changes, and only the strongman can do it.

So yes: this was one of the more repulsive days in our modern political life. A broken woman was brought out for applause lines. The biggest cheers of the night were anytime someone mentioned the other candidate going to prison. The only thing that compared was when the candidate himself strode out in a cloud of light and smoke. It’s showmanship and sadism, it’s high fashion and masochism. It’s hateful apocolyptic rhetoric, it’s the mingling of low art, gore-soaked war stories, triumphalist architecture, and blood and soil racism.

And we’ve seen it before. Just not here.

RNC Live Blog Day 1: Strength Through Strength Day

I’ll be honest, guys: I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do this all night, much less all four nights. Still, let’s get going. We’ve got Benghazi survivors and people whose children were killed by illegal immigrants, and Scott Baio. It’ll be emotional, since it is the parents of dead people, which is awful. But, in terms of policy, it’s also irrelevant and insulting (people get killed all the time; the only way to prevent it is depopulation).

Already angry. OK, so love blogging is all below the jump.

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Day 1 Quote of the Day: Ted Cruz Might Be Lacking In Self-Awareness



America’s Sweetheart


Politico has a long interview with Ted Cruz, who raised more money than Donald Trump and had a much stronger ground game, but still lost. He has a theory, though, on why that’d happen.  And you’d never believe it, but it was a media-driven conspiracy against the most likeable man in America.

Cruz himself doesn’t exude bitterness or regret — he literally calls himself a “happy warrior” — but he has a deeply jaundiced view of the process that ended with him suspending his campaign after Trump’s big victory in the Indiana primary in May. He sees collusion, if not an outright conspiracy, between the reality TV candidate and the titans of cable news: Their goal, he told me, was to elevate a hard-to-elect Republican nominee while shoving aside more appealing candidates like himself.

First of all, Cruz can go jump for giving himself the same nickname as Hubert Humphery.  Secondly, if you are describing yourself as “the happy warrior” even though literally everyone you’ve ever worked with despises you, and your whole campaign is built on anger and lies, you might not be accurate. And third…I mean…

shoving aside more appealing candidates like himself

shoving aside more appealing candidates like himself

shoving aside more appealing candidates like himself

I think Ted Cruz might be overestimating the idea of himself as appealing. He’s loathed outside his family, and even that demographic is questionable. He’s a nasally, self-righteous hyper-conservative hateful regressive little prick, whose entire career has been self-serving nihilism. The more you get to know him, the more you hate him, and just a glance at his face makes you hate him from the jump.

Look, Donald Trump is literally the worst. But I don’t think that the imaginary liberal media cabal got together and said, “guys, America loves Ted Cruz. I mean, loves him. Like, enough that it’s a pretty sure thing he’ll win every state against Hillary Clinton. We have to act quickly!”

Ted Cruz will have his moment on Wednesday, and it will be glorious. It’ll make Donald Trump look humble. And Cruz will be back: he’s running in 2020 whether Trump wins or loses, I bet. There’s no limit to his ambition, and to his political skills, though they run against the natural limit of his personal and political appeal. Because no matter how many lies he tells, I doubt presented a greater one than the image of himself as being appealing.

1968 and 2016: Convention Violence and Anger in America


Peshtigo, 1871.


For the GOP insiders most concerned about violence in Cleveland, many cited protest groups tied to liberal causes, like the Black Lives Matter movement. Nearly a half-dozen Republicans mentioned the Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros, who is a prolific donor to liberal causes. But few thought violence would ensue from an effort to fight Trump’s nomination on the convention floor. “It’s simply too big of a target for the malcontents and violent left to miss,” said an Iowa Republican. “George Soros’ money will pay for thousands of disaffected screaming thugs. Think Seattle [1999], Chicago 1968. Riots and looting. They are the tools of the liberal left.” “I say this with no joy whatsoever,” a Republican in the host state of Ohio added, “but the far-left agitators in Cleveland will make the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago look like a fourth-grade slap fight.

Now, I don’t expect an “Iowa Republican” who thinks that George Soros is bussing anarchists to Cleveland to understand this, or for that matter an Ohio Republican, but it is worth noting that the violence in the 1968 convention did not come from the far-left. It came from the cops. There was provocation, sure, but it was the police that were rioting. As the Walker Report indicated, the refusal to allow permits, the wish to cordon American citizens away from where the powerful were meeting, led directly to the bloodshed.

I would hope that when covering the protests this week, the media remember that. There will almost certainly be Seattle-type violence (and that is the actual far left), but chances are high a lot of the violence will be coming directly from those sanctioned by the state to levy it, and who should take the responsibility seriously.

Or hell, it might come from all the armed lunatics gathering in an open carry state, many of whom feel that these far-left weirdoes and blacks are threatening America and conspiring to ruin Donald Trump’s chances. Would you be surprised if these patriots opened fire? If they saw, incredibly, an anarchist of a Black Panther with a gun, and had to protect themselves? Does any of this seem implausible? A firefight between on-edge police, right-wing militia types, angry protestors, and lone gunmen types like in Dallas and Baton Rouge?  This is Peshtigo in the hot summer of 1871. The sawdust is baking in the heat, and the firestorms are being born.

Cleveland is on Lake Erie, but the closet analogy is up the Great Lakes system, up Michigan, near Green Bay. This is Peshtigo in the hot summer of 1871. We’re on the edge on conflagration. Little fires burst every day. The skies are increasingly choked with soot. The sawdust is baking in the heat, and the devouring and murderous firestorms are being born.

Michael Hayden Tells His Side

Penguin Press

In the August/September issue of Reason, Brett Max Kaufman of the ACLU (and of the most alternately triumphant and nervous fanbase in sports) reviews Playing to the Edge, Michael Hayden’s apologia for the post-9/11 security state, and why he would do everything he was able to do to protect us.

But it is not a good sign when your memoir’s central metaphor breaks down in the foreword. Hayden’s conceit is that those who run intelligence have a duty to “us[e] all the tools and all the authorities available, much like how a good athlete takes advantage of the entire playing field right up to the sideline markers and endlines”—the edge. As he’s said elsewhere (he’s been on this kick for nearly a decade), “Playing back from the line protected me but didn’t protect America. I made it clear I would always play in fair territory, but that there would be chalk dust on my cleats.”

The first problem is that if you get chalk on your cleats, it means you’re out of bounds. (Or at least you are in football, Hayden’s obvious inspiration.) That this has apparently gone unremarked to Hayden over the years—even by Dan Rooney, the owner of Hayden’s hometown Pittsburgh Steelers and Hayden’s high school football coach, with whom he watches too many Super Bowls in this book to count—is notable in itself. That it goes entirely unexamined in the book’s numerous invocations of the image is, alas, characteristic.

Worse still is that “taking advantage of the entire playing field” is a pretty odd way to describe the main thing that good athletes do. Of course, spraying one down the right-field line or throwing it deep and wide can sometimes help the team. But they are hardly required to win the game. Hayden never bothers to explain why pushing it to the edge is a main point of his duty as a public servant. Like so much in the book, it is simply assumed that people of good faith will agree.

That’s sort of the whole ballgame: we know what’s best, and you don’t. There is a “trust” factor in intelligence that assumes a one-way relationship. While no state wants entirely transparent intelligence, it is assumed that America should have the same level of secrecy, and the same dom-sub relationship with our intelligence forces, as the most fly-bitten police state in the world. It’s an argument that sounds persuasive on the surface, but can and should be taken easily apart.

Brett, who is one of the best at crafting an argument that is both forceful and legally exacting (sort of a hyperlogical polemicist, employing the best of both world), is the right man to tear it apart.

After Weeks of Violence, What Is Legitimate Protest In The Age of Trump?


Oh beautiful, for spacious skies…


Sunday struggled awake to the news of another mass, targeted killing of police by a lone gunman, trained by the military and motivated by racial, anti-police anger. This time it was in Baton Rouge, one of those American cities that is a simmering racial flashpoint, as we’ve all learned in these last few hot, tense weeks.  It already feels like we’re living in a documentary about that terrible year, 2016, where everything sped up, where the divisions between white and black, between those who believed in the police and those who believed the police were just a tool of oppression, boiled over. Where economic anger, racial hatred, xenophobia, and several strands of populism

It already feels like we’re living in a documentary about that terrible year, 2016, where everything sped up, where the divisions between white and black, between those who believed in the police and those who believed the police were just a tool of oppression, boiled over. Where economic anger, racial hatred, xenophobia, and several strands of populism distorted our politics. Reading the news has the uneasy feeling of watching that documentary, that every day is part of the central montage of an uneasy summer. We’re watching the flash points scroll by in real time, all leading up to that violent week in Cleveland, where the least-qualified and most dangerous candidate in American history grabbed his nomination, against a backdrop of horrible violence.

Obviously, as Sunday gave way to Monday, that hasn’t happened yet. But everyone believes it is going to. The Cleveland police certainly do, as Reason reports. 

To prepare for that, Cleveland has reportedly purchased over three miles of “Blockader” steel barricades, plus over 3,000 feet worth of six foot-high barricades, over 2,000 sets of riot gear, and 10,000 sets of plastic handcuffs.

Almost half of downtown Cleveland, roughly 1.7 square miles, will be under major restrictions as the designated “event zone.” Within that area, according to the New York Times, everything from glass bottles and tennis balls to “large bags and backpacks, mace, loudspeakers, tents, coolers and canned goods” will be prohibited. The Washington Postnotes that it has provided a “standard kit” to its staff attending the RNC, including “helmets, gas masks and flak jackets,” but gas masks are among the items banned from the event zone.

That is, simply put, a police state. And maybe it is needed. There is no doubt that this year is a far angrier one than 2012, or even 2008, when the world was collapsing. We say every four years “this is the worst”, but things are qualitatively different this year. For one thing, you no longer have Barack Obama. For another, you have Donald Trump, and that leads to the question: what is legitimate protests in the face of a quasi-fascist, white nationalist campaign?

For many people, the only good form of protest is peaceful, maybe marching in the designated areas, maybe giving a speech to fellow freaks at some kind of jazz club, but preferably at home. Anything else — anything that smacks of violence, or even without humble acqueisence to the men in the riot gear, pushing back with their truncheons — is beyond the pale of reasonable discourse. This year, after the killings, the desire by the media and all the establishment for absolute calm will be even more severe. We’re too divided and too on edge, and the natural deference toward law and order will be a full-throated scream.

Even anti-Trump Democrats and liberals are hoping for nothing distracting in the streets, nothing to take away from the spectacle of watching Donald Trump become the candidate, hoping that the mere sight of that will jar people into awareness that this is really happening. And I’m in that camp as well. I’m hoping that the focus will be on the surreal nightmare that is the Trump candidacy, and not on juvenile anarchists thinking that smashing up a Starbucks is a counterstrike against Trump, or really against Trumpism (neither, by the way, is the naked woman protest, as the libertine Trump won’t exactly be scandalized. Still, highlighting female autonomy to the GOP is always a good idea).

But then, what is? This is a completely different candidacy than we’ve ever had, one that is explicitly trying to divide the nation into “us vs. them”, with “them” being everyone who isn’t white, Christian, and already a Trump voter. I don’t feel like we have a duty to treat this as politics as normal, to respect the process, and to assume that this convention is, well, conventional. I feel that the media, and the protestors, should do everything they can to highlight the grotesque nature of what is happening, and just how dangerous it is.

To me, I think that means following the letter of the rules, but not the spirit. Don’t bring in any restricted items, and don’t throw down the barricades, but protest everywhere. Make it so that people can’t go anywhere without seeing protestors, being strong and forceful, though not violent. Make every street corner an area for speeches. Make all of Cleveland one big bughouse square. Drown out the lunacy inside Quicken. Hold a mirror to the wild madness inside.

Because, to be clear, the violence that is spreading in America is reflected in the gaping, stupid mouth of Donald Trump. Elections matter, and he’s legitimized the howl. He’s the candidate of the authoritarian right. He’s the candidate of having armed goons and rabbled supporters brutalize anyone who dares question him. He’s the candidate of the truncheon and the flak jacket, of the newly-deputized posse, of the flurry of arms and legs pummeling the prone and terrified outsiders. He’s cranking the wheel on the projector, speeding up this documentary, to where all the images blur together. The people marching in the center of the frame move toward a lockstep while around them the film burns att he edges. It is his carnival, and the only response seems to be just as mad.

There are smart responses to Trumpism, and intelligent, helpful ways to protest this week. There are ways that can make everything worse, and heighten this unbearable tension. There are ways that can empower the candidate of “law and order” (his law, and his order). But when it comes down to it, there are no illegitmate ways to protest this candidacy. Its very existence is already a protest against reason and decency. It’s a savage axe-blow to the heart of the American experiment, and any reaction pouring from that supperating wound is justified.