Here's the front page of the LA Times this morning. I have to say I'm impressed. Donald Trump gets a huge headline in the lead spot for spending—what? Two days? Maybe three? Anyway, two or three days without doing anything egregiously idiotic. It's like the way we lavish praise on a two-year-old for not throwing his food all over the kitchen.

According to the story itself, Trump gave a good speech! He ran some TV ads! He visited Baton Rouge for 49 seconds! The first was plainly aimed at his white base, not at the African-Americans it was putatively meant for. The second is the bare minimum that any presidential campaign is expected to do. And the third was transparent hucksterism. Still, he managed to avoid imploding the entire time. Good boy, Donald!

They Hate Us, They Really Hate Us

So I'm reading a Jay Nordlinger piece over at The Corner, and he's pretty unhappy with both Donald Trump and his new campaign guru, Steve Bannon. I'm nodding along as Nordlinger refers to some of the crude hatred that Bannon spews, when I come to this:

It occurred to me that the two phrases already mentioned — “turn on the hate” and “burn this bitch down” — are perfect mottos for the new GOP: the Trump GOP.

I thought of what Roger Scruton said to Mona Charen and me, in a podcast last year:

“I think that, in the end, there is something that unites all conservatives, which is that they are pursuing something they love. My view is that the Left is united by hatred, but we are united by love: love of our country, love of institutions, love of the law, love of family, and so on. And what makes us conservatives is the desire to protect those things, and we’re up against people who want to destroy them, and it’s very simple.”

Seriously? You think lefties are motivated by hatred of our country, hatred of our institutions, hatred of the law, hatred of the family, "and so on"? I know that liberals and conservatives don't see eye to eye on this stuff, but you've at least talked to a few liberals now and then, haven't you? The ones I know don't feel anything close to this way. It's true that there are some aspects of country/institutions/law/family that we'd like to change, but then again, that's true of conservatives too. Right?

Anyway, if this is truly what you believe, then it's a little hard for me to see much daylight between you and Trump. What's your real beef with him, Jay?

Friday Cat Blogging - 19 August 2016

Here is Hopper posing for a glamor shot on a gray-and-white blanket that matches her coloring. We call this look "Blue Squeal." She's not the most cooperative model in the world.

Hilbert deserves the same treatment, of course, but that will have to wait until I get hold of a Shamu-colored blanket.

From the New York Times on Thursday:

Pressed by the F.B.I. about her email practices at the State Department, Hillary Clinton told investigators that former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell had advised her to use a personal email account. The account is included in the notes the Federal Bureau of Investigation handed over to Congress on Tuesday, relaying in detail the three-and-a-half-hour interview with Mrs. Clinton in early July that led to the decision by James B. Comey, the bureau’s director, not to pursue criminal charges against her.

Well, that didn't take long. Should we assume that basically everything in the FBI file is going to be steadily leaked to the press? Magic 8-Ball says "Signs point to yes."

And I don't even know which side leaked this. Democrats who figured it justified Hillary's behavior? Republicans trying to make it look like Hillary is passing the buck? Hard to say. At this point, though, Congress might as well just release the entire package. Whatever's in it, we're better off getting the whole thing instead of periodic leaks strategically taken out of context to make Hillary look either good or bad.

Jon Chait argues that although Hillary Clinton obviously isn't the monster that conservatives paint her as, she really does have some ethical problems that she needs to deal with:

The most enduring aftereffect of her extended primary fight with Sanders was to import Republican attacks on her character into liberal messaging. Sanders emphasized real issues like collecting speaking fees from Goldman Sachs rather than fake issues like the murder of Vince Foster, but the impact was the same — it reintroduced Clinton, to a generation that had never voted for her or her husband, as a shadowy, duplicitous insider. Endorsing all sorts of liberal programs Congress will never pass and letting Sanders’s supporters write the party platform hardly solves this problem.

The risk that Clinton’s tainted image will defeat her is small but real enough to merit concern. The much larger risk is that her lax approach to rule-following and ethical conflicts will sink her presidency.

A little appreciated facet of Obama's presidency is that it was almost entirely scandal free. This didn't stop Republicans from trying to invent scandals, of course, as the endless Benghazi witch hunt proves. But none of the Obama "scandals" ever caught on. There are two potential reasons for this:

  1. They were all ridiculous.
  2. Obama has such a clean reputation that they just didn't stick.

If you think the answer is #1, then I admire your optimistic view of Washington and the political press corps and wish you the best of luck in your future political analysis.

The real answer, plainly, is #2. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been the target of dozens of equally invented scandals. In Clinton's case, the press follows them endlessly. In Obama's case they don't. Why? Because in Obama's case they don't fit a narrative. Obama has a reputation as a wonky guy who runs a tight ship and doesn't play games. Because of this, invented nonsense will get a few days or weeks of coverage, but that's usually it.

Clinton, needless to say, has a reputation that's just the opposite. Mostly this is undeserved, but not entirely. That doesn't really matter, though. What matters is that she has the reputation she does, and that means scandals fit the press narrative of who she is. So when Republicans launch attacks on her, it doesn't much matter if there's any substance to them. The press will play along endlessly.

This means that Chait is right: if Hillary wants to avoid a failed presidency, she needs to be squeaky clean. That won't stop the attacks, but at least it will blunt them. Conversely, if there's even one scandal that has some real truth to it, it will dog her for her entire presidency. I hope she gets this.

Welcome to the Dark Side

Scientists report that they might have discovered a fifth basic force of nature:

Researchers at UC Irvine say they’ve found evidence for a fifth force — one carried by a particle that they’re calling “boson X.”...Tait said that their discovery might be a doorway to eventually creating a model that more accurately describes the universe....“This could actually be the dark force,” Tait said.

Boson X? Please. This is obviously the long-sought midichloriton. Get it together, scientists.

POSTSCRIPT: Why yes, I am having a little trouble finding things to blog about this morning. Why do you ask?

Paul Manafort has resigned as chairman of Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Is this because of his shady Ukraine dealings? Because Trump brought on Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway to run the campaign? Because he didn't want to be associated with an epic loss in November? Because he wanted to spend more time with his family?

There's no telling. But here's the good news: He's now free to sign up with CNN as an election analyst! I can't wait.

Donald Trump Has a Few Regrets

Donald Trump said today that there were a few things he regretted saying in the heat of the campaign. However, he didn't say what he regretted, and everyone immediately suggested that reporters should ask him for specifics. The list below is just off the top of my head, but here are a few things he might admit that he regrets:

  1. Saying I opposed the Iraq War, even though it was a lie.
  2. Implying that I opposed withdrawing from Iraq, even though it was a lie.
  3. Attacking a Muslim family that lost their son in Iraq.
  4. Suggesting that we should register all Muslims in the US.
  5. Saying that Ted Cruz's father was involved in the JFK assassination.
  6. Calling Hillary Clinton the "founder" of ISIS.
  7. Saying that I might break our NATO guarantee by not defending the Baltics.
  8. Trying to renege on a $1 million donation to a vets charity until the Washington Post embarrassed me into it.
  9. Saying the real unemployment rate was 44 percent, which I knew was a lie.
  10. Saying that my companies offered child care to their employees, which was another lie.
  11. Confirming a story that I sent my personal jet to ferry soldiers stuck at Camp Lejeune, yet another lie.
  12. Continually claiming that neighbors of the San Bernardino shooters saw bombs in their apartment, also a lie.
  13. Claiming that I saw a video of Iran unloading pallets of cash.
  14. Claiming that I saw thousands of Muslims celebrating on 9/11, even though I didn't.
  15. Tweeting that 81 percent of white homicide victims are killed by blacks.
  16. Saying that the Obama administration was deliberately sending Syrian refugees to red states, which was a lie.
  17. Saying that Carly Fiorina is ugly.
  18. Repeatedly claiming that America has the highest tax rate in the world, a huge lie.
  19. Telling Anderson Cooper that I still don't really know if Barack Obama was born in the US.
  20. Claiming that more than 300,000 veterans have died waiting for VA care.
  21. Saying that vaccines cause autism, which is a disturbing and genuinely damaging lie.
  22. Denying that I suggested Japan should get nuclear weapons, even though I said exactly that to Chris Wallace of Fox News.
  23. Calling Hillary Clinton a liar when she said—accurately—that I had suggested Japan should get nuclear weapons.
  24. Claiming that judge Gonzalo Curiel was biased against me because of his Hispanic heritage.
  25. Promising that I would tell all Trump properties to allow guns on their premises.
  26. Slyly implying that maybe President Obama is actually sympathetic to ISIS.
  27. Not releasing my income tax returns even though I promised to, and then lying about this being due to an IRS audit.
  28. Saying that John McCain was no kind of war hero because he got captured.
  29. Mocking a disabled reporter in front of a huge crowd.
  30. Claiming in a debate that I never called Marco Rubio "Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator" even though that's exactly what I called him.
  31. Being a cheapskate who never donates any money to charity.
  32. Saying that I support torturing enemy combatants.
  33. Suggesting that maybe somebody ought to assassinate Hillary Clinton.

I'm sure there are plenty of big insults and lies not on this list. I don't have the memory of a 20-year-old anymore. But this should be enough to get everyone started.

Yet More Phony "Charity" From Donald Trump

We already know that Donald Trump is a cheapskate whose unwillingness to help others is truly off the charts. We also know that he's an epic blowhard who likes to pretend that he's a brilliant businessman and generous philanthropist. What happens when you put those two things together?

Answer: You host a show in which you flamboyantly claim to personally donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity, but when the cameras are off you donate nothing. That's what Trump did on Celebrity Apprentice, and his phony philanthropy became even more pronounced in 2012. But why?

After The Post’s close look at Trump’s promises­ on the show, a mystery remained: What happened in 2012 to make Trump so much more generous on the air?

In the tax records of the Trump Foundation — which Trump used to pay off most of those new promises — there is no record of a donation from Trump himself in 2012....But, in 2012, the Trump Foundation’s records show a large gift from NBC, the network that aired the show. That was more than enough to cover all the foundation’s gifts to “Celebrity Apprentice” contestants’ charities, both before 2012 and since.

....Did NBC give Trump’s foundation money, so that Trump could appear to be more generous on-camera? An NBC spokeswoman declined to comment.

Does Trump ever keep any of his promises? Magic 8-Ball says "Very doubtful."

Driverless Taxis Are Coming to Pittsburgh

Uber is planning to beta test driverless Volvo taxis in Pittsburgh. Atrios, as always, is skeptical because Uber is planning to keep human "safety drivers" in the cars for a while until all the bugs are worked out. But this seems to me like nothing more than the standard way progress works. Eventually the Volvos will log enough miles to be sure the cars are safe, and Uber will apply for a permit to operate them totally autonomously. Another few million miles and they'll be approved for permanent use. How else would you do it?

That aside, there are some interesting tidbits in the Bloomberg article:

On a recent weekday test drive, the safety drivers were still an essential part of the experience, as Uber’s autonomous car briefly turned un-autonomous, while crossing the Allegheny River. A chime sounded, a signal to the driver to take the wheel. A second ding a few seconds later indicated that the car was back under computer control. “Bridges are really hard,” Krikorian says. “And there are like 500 bridges in Pittsburgh.”

Wait. Why are bridges hard?

Bridges are hard in part because of the way that Uber’s system works. Over the past year and a half, the company has been creating extremely detailed maps that include not just roads and lane markings, but also buildings, potholes, parked cars, fire hydrants, traffic lights, trees, and anything else on Pittsburgh's streets. As the car moves, it collects data, and then using a large, liquid-cooled computer in the trunk, it compares what it sees with the preexisting maps to identify (and avoid) pedestrians, cyclists, stray dogs, and anything else. Bridges, unlike normal streets, offer few environmental cues—there are no buildings, for instance—making it hard for the car to figure out exactly where it is. Uber cars have Global Positioning System sensors, but those are only accurate within about 10 feet; Uber’s systems strive for accuracy down to the inch.

A large liquid-cooled computer in the trunk! That actually sounds like a bit of a problem for a taxi, but I guess they'll stay away from airports for the time being.