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Saturday, May 28, 2016

A congenial feedback loop 

by digby

That graphic is from the latest Pew Poll on where people get their news.I suspect the ramifications of this are going to be quite substantial. If you get your news from your social media feeds you end up getting only one side of the story.  Everyone has their own little Fox News:

A majority of U.S. adults – 62% – get news on social media, and 18% do so often, according to a new survey by Pew Research Center, conducted in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In 2012, based on a slightly different question, 49% of U.S. adults reported seeing news on social media.

But which social media sites have the largest portion of users getting news there? How many get news on multiple social media sites? And to what degree are these news consumers seeking online news out versus happening upon it while doing other things?

As part of an ongoing examination of social media and news, Pew Research Center analyzed the scope and characteristics of social media news consumers across nine social networking sites. This study is based on a survey conducted Jan. 12-Feb. 8, 2016, with 4,654 members of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel.

Reddit, Facebook and Twitter users most likely to get news on each site. News plays a varying role across the social networking sites studied. Two-thirds of Facebook users (66%) get news on the site, nearly six-in-ten Twitter users (59%) get news on Twitter, and seven-in-ten Reddit users get news on that platform. On Tumblr, the figure sits at 31%, while for the other five social networking sites it is true of only about one-fifth or less of their user bases.

We've seen the Fox effect for years so we already know where that can lead. I run across people all day long who are convinced of certain erroneous facts because they spend their time in a social media bubble.

There's a lot of twitter hate out there and I understand it completely. But it is the platform that at least leads a majority of its users to actual news sites:

The rub, of course, is that you're still in your silo and tend to get led to places that reinforce your silo's viewpoint. Still, it's at least a news site and maybe you'll see something else there that leads to a story you wouldn't have normally seen. 

I think social media and the internet in general have been a great boon to mankind. Aside from the connectivity they have opened up the information flow in myriad ways.  However, there is so much of it that you inevitably wind up finding ways to curate it and it's just easier, and frankly less stressful, to narrow it down to your own worldview. But that can lead to all kinds of destructive thinking like conspiracy theories and just plain wrong facts that get reinforced by your social cohort. It's not good. 


Write a check big man

by digby

He's claiming he doesn't have money to run a normal campaign now:
Donald Trump's campaign has alerted Senate Republicans that he won't have much money to spend fending off attacks from Hillary Clinton over the next couple months.

The notice came when Paul Manafort, Trump's senior advisor, met with a group of Senate Republican chiefs of staff for lunch last week, sources familiar with the meeting told the Washington Examiner. The admission suggests that Trump will be far more dependent on the GOP brass for money than he has led voters to believe, but it's consistent with his reliance on the Republican National Committee to provide a ground game in battleground states.

"They know that they're not going to have enough money to be on TV in June and probably most of July, until they actually accept the nomination and get RNC funds, so they plan to just use earned media to compete on the airwaves," one GOP source familiar with Manafort's comments told the Examiner.

That's a far cry from Trump's public insistence that he signed a fundraising agreement with the RNC in order to help the party, not himself. "The RNC really wanted to do it, and I want to show good spirit," he said last week. "'Cause I was very happy to continue to go along the way I was."

Stay abreast of the latest developments from nation's capital and beyond with curated News Alerts from the Washington Examiner news desk and delivered to your inbox.

Still, Trump allies have suggested that the RNC is going to take advantage of the real estate mogul. "I don't think the RNC is 100 percent committed," a GOP donor told CNN. "If Donald Trump's seven points down in October, they're going to put that money toward Senate races and House races."

Manafort seemed confident at the lunch with GOP staff, however. "He said that he thought Hillary Clinton was the ideal opponent — that he was the ultimate outsider and she was the ultimate insider," a Senate GOP chief-of-staff in attendance said.

Some smart Republicans rightly assume he's laying the groundwork to blame the RNC if he loses. Of course he is. The man has never taken personal responsibility for anything in his life.

Maybe the networks (other than Fox which is ... well, you know) ought to give some thought as to whether they should be aiding and abetting his plan. Or at least make a commitment to strict equal time. He should not be able to get wall to wall coverage as a way to save money. The news media has some responsibility here.

President Whining Bigot at your service

by digby

Seriously Republicans?  This is the best you could come up with?

During a campaign stop in San Diego on Friday, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump devoted a significant amount of time to attacking the federal judge overseeing the ongoing case against Trump University, suggesting the judge is a “hater” who is biased against him.

The case against the real estate mogul’s now-defunct company, which has been accused of scamming students who were misled into paying money for insight from business experts they thought were hand-picked by Trump, is scheduled to go to trial in San Diego federal court shortly after the presidential election. According to his lawyer, Trump is planning on testifying.

In what the Wall Street Journal characterized as an “extended tirade,” Trump spent 12 minutes of his 58-minute speech focused on the case and the California judge who will hear it.

“I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel,” Trump told the crowd. “I think Judge Curiel should be ashamed of himself.”

Trump told his supporters he believes Judge Curiel should be removed from the case, citing the fact that Curiel was appointed to the bench by President Obama. Trump also said he believes Curiel is "Mexican." The crowd -- which had previously shouted "build that wall" -- booed loudly.

In previous statements about the case, Trump has pointed to Curiel's Hispanic heritage to insinuate that he won't be able to approach the case impartially. Asked on Fox News what exactly Curiel's ethnicity has to do with the case against him, Trump responded, "I think it has to do perhaps with the fact that I'm very, very strong on the border, very, very strong at the border, and he has been extremely hostile to me."

Trump University -- which was not actually an accredited university and did not hand out degrees -- has several fraud cases proceeding against it.

I swear to God this campaign is the whiniest campaign I've ever heard.  Everything is so unfaaaiiir. So I have a right to act like a baby and whine and whine and throw tantrums and hold my breath until I turn blue because those meanies are being sooooo mean!!!

Boo fucking hoo.

Any endorser of Donald Trump is going to have this moron hung around their necks for the rest of the their careers. They did this with their eyes wide open.


Aristotle's ashes

by Tom Sullivan

Reports out of Greece this week not about refugees and economic chaos say archaeologists may have found in his home town of Stageira the tomb of the philosopher Aristotle. You know, the "golden mean" guy. Wonder what Aristotle would think of our orange mean guy? Or the rest of us, for that matter.

Keeping one's head has not been in fashion in America, oh, since September 11, 2001. Of late, those who do are – to both the right and left – clearly part of the comfortable establishment that has to go. Sorry, Ari.

Dahlia Lithwick covers the Supreme Court of the United States for Slate. A more establishment institution you will not find. (SCOTUS, I mean.) Maybe it is because she is Canadian, but Lithwick is a tad uncomfortable with the rhetoric of the presidential race. And because she leans left, she is more than a tad uncomfortable with the tone of from fellow lefties. "There's no heavier burden than a great potential!" Linus van Pelt once said. No one can disappoint you like your friends.

Regarding those litigating Hillary v. Bernie, Lithwick writes:

I have been taken up short by the number of comments and scoldings I have faced, from close friends and casual acquaintances alike, for voicing even a hint of support for one or the other in recent months. The tone hasn’t merely been dismissive and furious; the message beneath has almost universally been that I am a moron.

The 2016 campaign has been focused on rage. Donald Trump’s cunning redirection of his supporters’ economic and racial fury into electoral support has been well-documented. But the fury on the progressive end of the spectrum has been harder to pin down. Some of us on the left seem to be suffering from many of the same symptoms we deride in Trump supporters: outrage with the political process; over-identification with our anger and under-identification with our commonalities; and a pervasive sense that anyone who doesn’t agree with us suffers from debilitating false consciousness.

I’m not a psychologist and can’t speak to the outrage. But I think a lot about how we speak to one another, and I worry that my progressive friends and I are falling victim to some habits and ideas that have made it virtually impossible for the left and right to even engage—much less debate—serious issues anymore in this country. I see them in myself in alarming new ways when I find myself digging in on Bernie vs. Hillary. I wonder if now is the time to talk about it out loud.
Lithwick does, about the "tics and habits that poison and polarize ideological discourse." One she calls out is how some come to believe their pet issue is the only issue that matters. Anyone not solely dedicated to it is misguided at best. I've watched people leave organizing meetings with potential allies never to return — marginalizing themselves and their issues — because theirs was not front and center on the agenda all night. I've watched activists walk into congressional campaigns unwilling to lift a finger for actual campaign work (it's all grunt work), and then walk out because they were not drubbed on the shoulder the campaign's official expert on their pet issue and asked to write the white paper upon which the entire campaign would rise or fall.

That is precisely the trap into which Moral Mondays leader Reverend William J. Barber II refuses to fall. Preaching "fusion politics," he and North Carolina's NAACP have brought together a coalition of activists to focus their collective energies on rescuing the state from the T-party leadership that took control after the 2010 mid-terms. No one issue is the focus. No one leader, not even Barber, is the focus. The movement is a "people's assembly" of those concerned about everything from voting rights to LGBT issues to education to health care. By refusing to be divided into issue silos, the Forward Together movement has found lasting power in coalition rather than in anger.

Photo via HKonJ People's Assembly Coalition.

But like Lithwick, this year I have watched friends turn into an angry T-party of the left, with everything that implies. Lithwick writes, "If we are treating our friends and allies like we treat our enemies, we are not really a movement so much as a collective of grievances."

In Stageira, Aristotle's ashes must be turning over in his urn.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Night Soother: Trump wallaby edition

by digby

9NEWS political analyst Kelly Maher speaks for the Republican side and has admittedly struggled with Trump's rise to power in the party. He's now the GOP presidential candidate. She's gone from denial... to getting an emotional support wallaby.

Cruz control

by digby

Yes, he's still out there. And he's working the delegates:
Though Marco Rubio suggested on Thursday that he expects his delegates to be released for Donald Trump and even volunteered to speak on his behalf, Ted Cruz signaled on Friday that he would take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to Cleveland. And the fight for delegates and the party's platform is far from over, he said, despite Trump having clinched the required number to become the nominee.

"I am looking and listening to see what the candidates do," the Texas senator told Tulsa, Oklahoma, radio host Pat Campbell, who listened as Cruz spoke about the importance of electing a conservative to the White House.

When Campbell remarked that it sounded as though Trump did not meet his standards, Cruz replied, "I hope that he will."

Trump has no standards. But we'll see if Cruz can bear the weight of being among the few "true conservatives". He's going to make his stand inside women's bodies:

Before wrapping the interview, Campbell asked Cruz if he could promise to listeners to ensure Republicans in Cleveland do not "screw around with the party platform and remove the abortion plank, or alter it."

“You have my word. One of the reasons that we are continuing to work to elect conservatives to be delegates, even though Donald has the delegates to get the nomination, we intend to do everything we can to fight for conservative principles to prevent Washington forces from watering down the platform," Cruz said. "The platform is a manifestation of what we believe as a party, and I think it is important that it continue to reflect conservative values, free-market values, constitutional liberties, Judeo-Christian principles, the values that built this country, and that is exactly what I intend to fight for.”

Trump said in April that he would push for exceptions to the party's platform on abortion to include rape and incest.

That's the squishy middle of the road position now. Cruz will be there fighting to force 12 year olds to give birth to their own sisters. Because he's a highly moral person. And I would guess Trump will be happy to let him have that one.


The good old days

by digby

From Mother Jones:


Burning down the house

by digby

wrote about Trump's mess of a campaign this morning for Salon, but this piece by Ashley Parker and Maggie Haberman in the New York Times has more.

Asked for comment about his management style, and the current state of his campaign, Mr. Trump declined, criticizing the reporters writing this article. “You two wouldn’t know how to write a good story about me if you tried — dream on,” Mr. Trump said in an email relayed by his spokeswoman, Hope Hicks.

So far, Mr. Trump has shown little inclination to adjust to a political world. His penchant for setting up competition and infusing tension between his subordinates has carried over from his real estate company.

“He certainly does love playing people against each other, but in my experience he knew how to make me reach my potential,” said Sam Nunberg, who was fired from the campaign in 2015 after a series of clashes with the campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. “You become very committed in that environment.”

But, as was the case with Mr. Wiley’s dismissal, Mr. Trump is reliant on information he garners himself, and can be swayed by the last person he talked to.

I have worked for a few idiots who think they're geniuses. It's not pleasant. And they usually screw up the company.

Meanwhile, according to Politico the GOP at the state level is starting to get very, very nervous:

POLITICO surveyed nearly two dozen GOP chairmen, officials and operatives in key swing states who said the RNC hadn’t delivered on promises, imperiling their ability to launch the robust voter-turnout operation needed in the general election.

It’s a development that could spell trouble for Donald Trump, who trounced his primary competition despite the lack of a traditional field organization but is now relying on the national party for its infrastructure, and it has implications for the fragile Republican Senate majority, which is also depending on the RNC’s ground game.

In traditionally Republican states that could become competitive this election season, concern is mounting. Arizona’s state party chairman, Robert Graham, has only one RNC-paid staffer on hand — and had to fight with the national party to keep that person employed.

“That’s what we have,” Graham said in an interview.

On Thursday, the RNC released a memo saying it intended to double its field staff in battleground states. Top Senate campaign officials reacted with skepticism, saying that even with the boost promised, the GOP is still behind on the timeline. And in the battleground states, party operatives said they remain unclear the added commitment will bring the ground operations to levels promised in the fall.

Trump is firing seasoned presidential campaign operatives in favor of the little friends he made during the primaries and is telling everyone that he doesn't think he needs a ground operation and has no intention of spending 500 million on the general election campaign.

This is the businessman who's supposedly going to "make America great again." I guess if you think bankrupt casinos is a definition of greatness, he's your man.


The bogus businessman

by digby

Krugman has a good column today about the alleged business acumen of Donald Trump which seems to have convinced more Americans that he would be better for the economy than Clinton or Sanders. Krugman points out that Republicans inexplicably always fare better in polling on this issue despite the fact that the constantly crash the economy and leave a gigantic mess for Democrats to clean up.

But Trump should be vulnerable on this because of ... so many things, not the least of which is the media's inability to inform the public about his inane policy proposals. Krugman examines the "businessmen are gods" concept:
[I]f voters don’t know anything about Mr. Trump’s policies, why their favorable impression of his economic management skills?

The answer, I suspect, is that voters see Mr. Trump as a hugely successful businessman, and they believe that business success translates into economic expertise. They are, however, probably wrong about the first, and definitely wrong about the second: Even genuinely brilliant businesspeople are often clueless about economic policy.

An aside: In part this is surely a partisan thing. Over the years, polls have generally, although not universally, shown Republicans trusted over Democrats to manage the economy, even though the economy has consistently performed better under Democratic presidents. But Republicans are much better at promoting legends — for example, by constantly hyping economic and jobs growth under Ronald Reagan, even though the Reagan record was easily surpassed under Bill Clinton.

Back to Mr. Trump: One of the many peculiar things about his run for the White House is that it rests heavily on his claims of being a masterful businessman, yet it’s far from clear how good he really is at the “art of the deal.” Independent estimates suggest that he’s much less wealthy than he says he is, and probably has much lower income than he claims to have, too. But since he has broken with all precedents by refusing to release his tax returns, it’s impossible to resolve such disputes. (And maybe that’s why he won’t release those returns.)

Remember, too, that Mr. Trump is a clear case of someone born on third base who imagines that he hit a triple: He inherited a fortune, and it’s far from clear that he has expanded that fortune any more than he would have if he had simply parked the money in an index fund.

But leave questions about whether Mr. Trump is the business genius he claims to be on one side. Does business success carry with it the knowledge and instincts needed to make good economic policy? No, it doesn’t.

True, the historical record isn’t much of a guide, since only one modern president had a previous successful career in business. And maybe Herbert Hoover was an outlier.

But while we haven’t had many business leaders in the White House, we do know what kind of advice prominent businessmen give on economic policy. And it’s often startlingly bad, for two reasons. One is that wealthy, powerful people sometimes don’t know what they don’t know — and who’s going to tell them? The other is that a country is nothing like a corporation, and running a national economy is nothing like running a business.
This is a perennial problem with people consistently saying that the country should be run like a corporation or that its budget is somehow like the family budget. And members of both parties make the mistake of leading people to believe it.

Anyway, Krugman goes on to cite one of Trump's most egregious slip-ups and walk-backs --- the fact that he really believes that workers need to cut their wages to "compete".(Of course he does.)That's what "businessmen" always want to do to help boost their profits. But presidents don't have profits.

Not that Trump knows this. He doesn't seem to have a working knowledge of what the president actually does. He seems to think it's main duties are ordering torture and personally negotiating trade deals. But the people who worship him believe that he'll "make money for America" which will somehow benefit them and that's all that matters. It's a dangerous delusion.

Not a good reason

by digby

I can think of plenty of reasons why someone might not want to vote for Clinton in the fall but this isn't a good one:

Victor Vizcarra, 48, of Los Angeles, said he would much prefer Mr. Trump to Mrs. Clinton. Though he said he disagreed with some of Mr. Trump’s policies, Mr. Vizcarra said he had watched “The Apprentice” and expected that a Trump presidency would be more exciting than a “boring” Clinton administration.

“A dark side of me wants to see what happens if Trump is in,” said Mr. Vizcarra, who works in information technology. “There is going to be some kind of change, and even if it’s like a Nazi-type change. People are so drama-filled. They want to see stuff like that happen. It’s like reality TV. You don’t want to just see everybody be happy with each other. You want to see someone fighting somebody.”

You know who else's campaign wasn't boring?

This is, unfortunately, not the first time I've heard this. I think there are a not insignificant number of Americans who feel this way, whether consciously or unconsciously. And in a sense they're right. A Trump administration is likely to be very exciting. But not in a good way.


Trump's campaign is a mess

by digby

I wrote about it for Salon this morning:

Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination yesterday when a ragtag group of unbound delegates announced they were going to support him. All the networks ran with breaking news and trained their cameras on an empty podium for hours waiting for Trump to appear before the press and bak in his glory. It was a magical moment. True, everyone had known for weeks now that Trump was going to be the nominee since all of his rivals have dropped out of the race but why let that stand in the way of an opportunity to obsess over his every incoherent insult and rant? As they waited, the big topic of conversation among the TV chatterers was an interview by Howard Fineman with Trump's campaign chairman and chief strategist Paul Manafort. And it was admittedly a doozy.

When I wrote about Manafort earlier I concentrated on his long history of working with slash and burn political consultants and foreign tyrants. He is uniquely qualified to head up Trump's operation. But it's been a while since he's been involved in American politics and it was unclear if he had lost his touch.  The interview with Fineman raises more questions about that than it answers.

Fineman quotes Manafort saying that he thinks this election will be a cakewalk:
“He’s gonna win unless we — meaning people like me — screw it up. This is not a hard race.”
That's the kind of confidence one would expect of a Trump adviser.  But it's a little bit weird considering he also says "you don’t change Donald Trump. You don’t ‘manage’ him." That sounds like a contradiction in terms --- if they can't "manage" Trump then it's hard to see how this race isn't going to be a challenge since the man is a walking time bomb.

Manafort made some policy news by saying that Trump was likely going to "soften" his policy on banning Muslims explaining that this was just a negotiating stance.  The truth is that Trump himself has said that before.  But at this point, he has been on so many sides of every issue nobody can keep track so it means something when his chief strategist validates one of them.

It's also the case that if there's one issue which the GOP establishment particularly wants Trump to back away from it's the Muslim ban.  There are good reasons for this, of course. It's UnAmerican for one thing although that would not normally bother Republican officials. More likely it's that they actually recognize that Trump's idiotic, unworkable proposal is so inflammatory that it's going to get people killed.  Unfortunately, once they are back home campaigning they're going to hear from their Trump-loving constituents that this is one of their favorite policies. If these officials have any integrity, which is unlikely, they will try to educate their voters about how dangerous it is but I wouldn't hold my breath.

According to Manafort, Trump's other big crowd pleaser, "the wall", will be built come what may and he will not "soften" his stance on immigration.  He was spinning like a top --- or he really is out of touch ---  because he told Fineman that it's only in places like New York and California where the American Latinos are all radicals who care about such things. In Ohio and Florida they'll be happy to vote for Trump.

That is delusional. According to recent national polling by Latino decisions, he has an 87% unfavorable rating.  In Florida, he does better than he does nationally. Only 84% of Latinos view him unfavorably. In Nevada, a state which he dishonestly claims voted for him in huge numbers in the primary and uses a proof of his tremendous appeal among Latinos, he also has an 87% unfavorable rating. Manafort thinks they will be able to turn that round by talking to them about jobs, national security, terrorism and education because their concerns are the same as white families. Of course white families aren't concerned about having their friends and relatives rounded up and dumped in the Sonoran desert which Trump has indicated he thinks is a terrific idea. Latinos are certainly concerned about terrorism. But they may define it just a little bit differently than Trump does.

Manafort said that Trump was unlikely to choose a woman or a racial or ethnic minority for VP because that would be "pandering." That would be very wrong, needless to say. Unlike Trump tweeting out a picture of himself eating a "taco bowl" from the Trump Tower grill on Cinco de Mayo saying he "loves Hispanics".

But then the job of Vice President is going to be very, very important in a Trump administration according to Manafort, so they aren't going to take any chances:
He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do. He seems himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”
I guess nobody's told Trump that you don't get to write the job description yourself. I'm pretty sure the job of president is to be the one who makes all the big decisions. It's not the person who just calls Fox and Friends, negotiates the trade deals and bombs the shit out of ISIS. You don't get to pick what presidential duties you "want to do" and delegate the rest to your peons. Sure, some presidents like Reagan and George W Bush were less hands on than others but they didn't redefine the presidency as a Chairman of the board who picks and chooses the duties he spends his time on.

In the end, it probably doesn't matter what Manafort says anyway. The campaign is all over the place, with infighting and jockeying for position among the various players. This week Rick Wiley, the highly experienced political operative Manafort brought on board just six weeks ago was let go in a power struggle with a Florida campaign staffer, and friend of Manafort rival campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. According to Politico:
For weeks, Wiley made appointments and had discussions with Florida Republicans and appeared to be building a new campaign from scratch, sources say. They say he refused, at times, to return Giorno’s calls or take them. Giorno then began calling other Trump campaign officials to ask them whether Wiley had it out for her or for everyone. 
On Thursday, word leaked back to Trump. He phoned Giorno, concerned, sources said. “Tell me what’s wrong?” Trump asked her, according to one person familiar with the call. "Karen unloaded on Wiley,” the source said. “Mr. Trump is loyal. He believed her. … Rick picked a fight with the wrong person.” At that point, Trump ordered Wiley to stay away from Giorno and to neither call nor email her. “Donald is loyal. And she’s loyal,” a source said.

Donald Trump is running his presidential campaign like a junior high school cheerleading squad. And this is the man who claims his business savvy is what qualifies him for the presidency.

Paul Manafort assured Fineman, however, that we could all rest easy about Trump being ready for the big job:

“Does he know enough? Yes, because he knows he has more to learn. And he is constantly doing that.”

Trump doesn’t read briefing papers, but he is a magnet for information, Manafort said. “He reads the newspapers, and he talks on the phone and to office visitors in a never-ending stream. You’re sitting there in his office and you realize that he is constantly picking up stuff as he goes.”

“We have all this survey research, but he does his own soundings all the time, all day every day. And he’s more accurate,” Manafort said.

He watches all the shows and obsessively reads his twitter feed too.

It should be obvious by this time that Trump has absolutely no idea what he's doing and is making it up as he goes along. Paul Manafort is experienced at dealing with this sort of character, and seems quite comfortable doing it. But the campaign is a mess and that's because the candidate is a vainglorious buffoon who has no clue what he's doing and thinks he's a genius. I wouldn't bet on Manafort lasting through the duration.



You may already be there!

by Tom Sullivan

The future is fun! ... The future is fair! ... You may already have won! ... You may already be there!
— Firesign Theater, I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus, 1971
Oh, yeah. From the BBC:
One factory has "reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots", a government official told the South China Morning Post.

Xu Yulian, head of publicity for the Kunshan region, added: "More companies are likely to follow suit."

China is investing heavily in a robot workforce.
That would be Foxconn Technology Group, technology factory with the nets to prevent employees from committing suicide by jumping off the roof. Presumably, the robots won't and the riffed workers can find their own roofs to jump off. What an opportunity for savings. The BBC continues:
"We are applying robotics engineering and other innovative manufacturing technologies to replace repetitive tasks previously done by employees, and through training, also enable our employees to focus on higher value-added elements in the manufacturing process, such as research and development, process control and quality control.

"We will continue to harness automation and manpower in our manufacturing operations, and we expect to maintain our significant workforce in China."
Define significant. Meanwhile, here at home:
McRobots are not coming to a McDonald’s near you just yet, according to Steve Easterbrook, the company’s chief executive officer.

His comments came two days after one of the fast-food giant’s former US chief executives suggested that a minimum wage of $15 an hour could lead to McDonald’s replacing its workers with robots. Easterbrook was speaking at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting when he said that technology is not likely to lead to “job elimination” at McDonald’s.

“It’s a topic of discussion right now,” he said, when asked by one of the shareholders if the higher minimum wage would lead to shift to more automated services. McDonald’s is in a service business and “will always have an important human element”, Easterbrook said.
Whew! Dodged that bullet.
Two days before the shareholders’ annual meeting, former US boss Ed Rensi told Fox Business that “it’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficient, making $15 an hour bagging french fries”.
Efficiency is one of those boardroom fetishes, like shareholder value. When you hear it, update your resume, John Henry.

Selling fries is one thing. But "Pepper" is not so good interacting in an office environment. Still waiting for my jetpack.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fun Video by SketchShe for RedNoseDay

by Spocko

I’m a huge fan of Shae-Lee @ShaeLeeShack, Lana @LanaKington and Madison @madisonLloyd from the comedy group SketchShe.

They made this fun video last year for #RedNoseDay It’s them lipsyncing to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” across Luna Park in Sydney.

Red Nose Day is about helping lift children out of poverty. This video helped lift me out of gloominess. Watch it, it’s really fun.
Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. rings opening bell for RedNoseDay Nasdaq: WBA
This year the sponsors had some fun. This is Skip Bourdo, Walgreens Corporate Operations Vice President [Nasdaq: WBA] and Christy Gibb of the Comic Relief Board of Trustees ringing the Opening Bell at Nasdaq. I wonder if this years’ Red Nose Day partners from Mars Chocolate North America brought any snacks?

I think it is great when companies do this, it’s one way of showing that they care about their customers and their communities–while having fun doing it.
I often focus on serious issues, but I believe that most people in companies are decent and want to do the right thing. Sometimes they just need an excuse and a way to do it.

People in businesses often make decisions because they think one method is the only profitable one, but if you can show them that doing the right things is just as profitable, if not more so, they will go with it.

For the last 10 years my friends and I have reminded thousands of businesses they don’t want to associate their brand with the hateful and cruel comments of right wing talk show hosts. Those businesses agreed.
The people running businesses probably won't thank us for giving them a reason to disassociate themselves from hate and nastiness, but we know. You are welcome. Now embrace the fun! It’s what the people want!

For another fun video I also recommend SketchShe’s Hammertime video

Moral monsters

by digby

I wrote the other day about the GOP congressional majority's unwillingness to appropriate the necessary funds to combat the Zika virus. I called them monsters because that's what they are.

Now we have the head of the CDC begging for money from private sources in order to try to stem the number of babies that are born with horrific birth defects:

Dr. Tom Frieden has dealt with a number of epidemics during his seven-year tenure as director of the Centers for Disease Control. But the rapidly spreading Zika virus, the terrifying birth defects it causes and Congress’ inexplicable foot-dragging on funding anti-Zika efforts has him feeling downright desperate.

“Imagine that you’re standing by and you see someone drowning, and you have the ability to stop them from drowning, but you can’t,” Frieden told a packed room of reporters and potential donors at the National Press Club on Thursday. “Now multiply that by 1,000 or 100,000. That’s what it feels like to know how to change the course of an epidemic and not be able to do it.”

Frieden displayed an unusual level of vulnerability for a public official on Thursday as he begged for more private sector donations and implored a divided Congress to move faster to combat the “extraordinary and unusually urgent” crisis.

“I’m often asked how I feel as CDC director,” he said. “In the heat of the moment, you’re mostly concerned about getting the job done.... but for me, when faced with emergencies like this, the greatest emotion has been frustration.”

Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that can cause babies to be born with unusually small and deformed heads, is rapidly spreading through South and Central America and has already infected at least 1,500 people in the United States. Frieden said the need to stop Zika in its tracks in the U.S. is more urgent than ever right now, as the weather grows hotter and more mosquito-friendly. But the challenges of combatting Zika are enormous and unusual.

First, diagnosing Zika is difficult. Four out of five people affected display no symptoms and the virus only stays in a person’s blood or urine for one to two weeks. Second, the type of mosquito that transmits Zika is very difficult to control. Frieden said his researchers put a Zika-infected mosquito in a bottle coated with a strong insecticide, and the insect flew “happily” around the jar for hours.

“This is the cockroach of mosquitos,” he said. “It lives indoors and out, bites in the day and in the night. The eggs can last more than a year, and they can hatch in a drop of water.... When they take a blood meal, they’ll bite four or five people at once, so they’re capable of rapidly spreading infection.”

Frieden said the CDC needs funding to stop the epidemic in its tracks and protect pregnant women from becoming affected. The agency is trying to confront Zika in Puerto Rico, which because of its climate is particularly friendly to the mosquito, and to support women who choose not to get pregnant right now with effective modern contraceptives. The CDC also needs to develop retroactive tests so that pregnant women can discover whether they’ve been affected at any point in their gestation. But nearly four months after the CDC first asked for $1.9 billion in funding to deal with the epidemic, Congress just failed to pass a bill to give health officials the money they need and then left for a 10-day recess.

Frieden said his “jaw dropped” when he realized how long it would take Congress to move on the issue. “Three months in an epidemic is an eternity,” he said.

The cost for treating just one baby with microcephaly, the birth defect caused by Zika, is estimated to be about $10 million. More than 300 pregnant women in the U.S. and its territories are confirmed to have Zika. Democrats skewered their Republican colleagues Thursday for trying to be “fiscally responsible” during a public health emergency.

“We can nickel and dime this if we want, but we do so at our own peril,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).

Frieden said Congress doesn’t have time to bicker over funding right now.

“Memorial Day weekend heralds the start of mosquito season,” he said. “We have a narrow window of opportunity to scale up Zika prevention measures, and that window is closing.”

It's a nightmare.


"You can believe me or you can believe your lyin' eyes --- or else"

by digby

Jonathan Chait has written one of those pieces that when you finish it you go "ahhh, now I get it."  It's really, really great and a truly important insight. He teases out the relationship between the two most important aspects of Trump's personality: his fundamental disregard for truth or even reality --- and his frightening authoritarianism. They are two sides of the same coin.

Chait writes about Trump's penchant for lying about everything and doing it with impunity on both the big stuff and the small stuff like this:
Where he has broken truly unique ground is in his lies about relatively small, routine matters. As I’ve pointed out before — it’s become a small personal fixation — after Mitt Romney mocked the failure of Trump Steaks, Trump held a press conference in which he insisted Trump Steaks remained a going concern, despite the undeniable fact that the business no longer exists. (His campaign displayed store-bought steaks for the media, not even bothering to fully remove the labels of the store at which they purchased them.) The New York Times actually reported this week that Trump had displayed his steaks, without mentioning the blatant deception. Another such example is Trump’s prior habit of impersonating an imaginary p.r. representative while speaking to reporters. Obviously, the practice itself is strange enough, but the truly Trumpian touch is that he admitted to the ruse publicly, and then subsequently went back to denying it.
He also notes that Trump routinely describes his critics in the crudest and most insulting ways and then immediately changes his tune when that person changes hie or her tube and comes groveling. He uses the example of Rick Perry who he once said should take an IQ test before being allowed to debate and now says is a "good guy, good governor" now that he's come crawling for  role in the party. This is related to the lying in a very specific way.

The question is why?  it's tempting to say he's just a pathological liar which he may very well be.  But what Chait observes is that it serves an important purpose:
Donald Trump is a wildly promiscuous liar. He also has disturbing authoritarian tendencies. Trump’s many critics have seized upon both traits as his two major disqualifications for the presidency, yet both of them frustratingly defy easy quantification. All politicians lie some, and many of them lie a lot, and most presidents also push the limits of their authority in ways that can frighten their opponents. So what is so uniquely dangerous about Trump? Perhaps the answer is that both of these qualities are, in a sense, the same thing. His contempt for objective truth is the rejection of democratic accountability, an implicit demand that his supporters place undying faith in him. Because the only measure of truth he accepts is what he claims at any given moment, the power his supporters vest in him is unlimited.
His followers believe that it doesn't matter what Trump says because they trust him. They don't want to know the details they just know he's going to "take care" of everything. He demonstrates every day that he is unaccountable and that's what they love about him. They know he's lying but every time he blows off the lie or changes his tune or simply says "you can believe me or you can believe your lying eyes" he's demonstrating his dominance. He is saying that the truth is what he says it is.

Chait quotes this chilling passage from "1984" (which he rightfully notes was about totalitarianism not authoritarianism, but operates in similar ways)
The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford were guilty of the crimes they were charged with. He had never seen the photograph that disproved their guilt. It had never existed, he had invented it. He remembered remembering contrary things, but those were false memories, products of self-deception.
He concludes:
Truth and reason are weapons of the powerless against the powerful. There is no external doctrine he can be measured against, not even conservative dogma, which he embraces or discards at will and with no recognition of having done so. Trump’s version of truth is multiple truths, the only consistent element of which is Trump himself is always, by definition, correct. Trump’s mind is so difficult to grapple with because it is an authoritarian epistemology that lies outside the democratic norms that have shaped all of our collective experiences.
The only consistent element of truth is Trump himself who is always, by definition, correct. That's what we're dealing with.  And I'm not sure that our fast paced highly partisan social media is capable of dealing with it.  Our mainstream media certainly isn't. Still desperate to prove they are not biased (and still having old axes to grind) they are flummoxed by the sui generis political figure and simply treat him as business as usual. (Earlier today I watched mark Halperin on MSNBC say that Trump's "energy policy" is going to be a defining feature of the fall campaign. I burst out laughing.)

Read the whole Chait piece. I don't do it justice here. It's a very important insight which I hope the press corps reads and thinks about. You never know.

QOTD: The Prez

by digby

When asked at the G7 about whether world leaders have said anything about the upcoming election:

“I think it’s fair to say that they are surprised by the Republican nominee. They are not sure how seriously to take some of his pronouncements, but they’re rattled by him, and for good reason. Because a lot of the proposals that he’s made display either ignorance of world affairs or a cavalier attitude or an interest in getting tweets and headlines instead of actually thinking through what it is that is required to keep America safe and secure and prosperous and what is required to keep the world on an even keel.”
“The United States, as I said before, is at the heart of the international order,” he said.
Even countries that didn’t like the U.S., he explained, knew that the world was in trouble if Americans were not providing stability in the world. 
“The world pays attention to U.S. elections. They pay more attention to our elections sometimes than we pay to theirs,” he said.
Trump's response?
"He's a president who has allowed many of these countries to totally take advantage of him --- and us."
And people keep assuring me that Trump is some kind of an isolationist or a peacenik because he lied and said he didn't support the Iraq war and has been on both sides of the Libya question. This macho moron is supposedly more likely to keep America out of wars even though he says every single day "I will ISIS so hard and so fast that they won't know what happened". And then he'll "take the oil" because they deserve it.

I have said it before, but the day after the election of Donald Trump to the most powerful job in the world, everything will change. This is not business as usual. The US will be seen by much of the planet as a rogue superpower with a madman at the helm.

But be my guest and chatter on about emails. It's not as if there's much at stake.


Domination for Dummies

by digby

I wrote about Trump's attacks on GOP Governor Susana Martinez for Salon this morning:

After the 2012 GOP "autopsy" which strongly recommended that the Republican party take immediate action to try to mend its bad reputation with Latinos and women lest it be shut out of the White House for decades,  one of the people mentioned most often by GOP strategists as a natural choice for the national ticket was New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. She was considered a rising star in Republican circles, a Latina who had been able to win in a blue state that went for Barack Obama twice. She had given a barn-burner of a speech at the 2012 convention and was widely assumed to be one of the new faces of the Republican party in an era of changing demographics.

That was then. Today, the GOP is the party of Donald Trump and we know he doesn't listen to political experts and believes that whatever thoughts pass through his head are nuggets of sheer genius not to be questioned by mere mortals. He could not care less about that "autopsy" result because he thinks Mitt Romney lost because he's a "choker" who could have won easily if he just had bigger cojones. (We all know Trump's must be yuuuuge.) He is sure that he will win the Hispanic community over to his side despite portraying them as criminals and promising a mass deportation of their relatives. There's no need to even discuss what he thinks of women. The fact that 70% of them are repulsed by him speaks for itself.

If we didn't know him better we might have assumed that he would be looking at a Latina Republican Governor like Martinez as someone who could help him unify the party. He might even have tried to seduce her into joining him on the ticket to help him with women and Hispanics, the two demographics who are most hostile to him. It would take quite a demonstration of that Trump charm people keep insisting he has underneath his otherwise loathsome personality because Martinez is a Trump skeptic. This is unsurprising since she represents a border state full of Latinos and has logically questioned his daft proposal for a wall. When he came to Albuquerque this week for one of his rallies she said she was too busy to attend.

The Donald was not amused. In front of the ecstatic Republican New Mexico crowd he said this about Martinez:
We have to get your governor to get going. She's got to do a better job, ok? Your Governor has got to do a better job. She's not doing the job.  Hey, maybe I'll run for Governor of New Mexico, I'll get this place going. She's not doing the job. We've got to get her moving. Come on, let's go Governor. 
He's obviously very annoyed that she failed to join him at the rally and he's lashing out as is his wont. It may be that the white members of that Trump rally (which would be 99% of them) heard that nasty criticism as being a natural way of describing a Latino politician. But you can bet any Latinos who heard that didn't miss the implicit slur.   He's basically calling her lazy which carries with it some very ugly racial stereotypes.

Trump also criticized Martinez for being weak and accepting Syrian refugees saying they are being "relocated in large numbers to New Mexico" and fatuously insisting "if I was governor, that wouldn’t be happening. They say the governors have no choice, but if I’m governor, I have a choice, believe me.” (There's that tyrannical streak again.)

And he compounded the insults to the Latino community when he tweeted about the protests outside the rally making quite sure that his followers knew the ethnic identities of the protesters and once again alluded to his belief that Mexicans are criminal:

But it would be a mistake to see this  as a simple expression of his bigotry, although it is that. Susana Martinez is not just another Trump critic. She's the head of the Republican Governor's association, a group that is very important for campaign organizing and fundraising. Normally, one would assume that the presumptive nominee would be very conscious of this and go out of his way to at least be cordial. Instead he attacked her professionally, which is unusual for him. He normally gets very personal and crude.  (For instance he's taken to calling Hillary Clinton "that lowlife".)

This seems to be yet another case of Trump asserting his dominance.  Insiders have said that he expected the party to fall in line immediately, much as the executives of a company would fall in line after a merger.  He does not believe he should have to cajole or persuade Republican office holders to endorse him and believes it's weak to try. He believes the only way to get what he wants it to do it by force.

Trump is even more cocksure and egotistical now that he's won the nomination. He regales his crowds with the glorious legend of the 2016 Primary every day on the stump.  He reminds everyone of the ups and downs of the campaign, reminiscing about each victory and how he vanquished all 17 rivals single-handedly taking them on one after the other. He believes that the key to his political success is that he purposefully destroys everyone who gets in his way. When he talks about "respect" this is what he means by it.

This insult to Susana Martinez was not just a matter of pique. It was also a shot across the bow at people like John Kasich whose support and organization he needs if he wants to compete in Ohio. And it was definitely a strong hint to Paul Ryan that he's losing patience with him for refusing to bless his candidacy (despite reports to the contrary)  until Trump meets his demands. The Donald doesn't hold with that sort of behavior. In fact, he'd undoubtedly like to tell Ryan "you're fired" and get on with it but he's been informed that he doesn't have the authority. So instead he's going around the country stomping his feet, beating his chest and making loud noises in an attempt to show his dominance to get him and the rest of the party establishment holdouts in line.  Sadly, there's an excellent chance he'll succeed.

It's too bad for the Republicans that they ended up with Trump at the top of the ticket instead of Susana Martinez. Her message might have given the party a foundation on which to build for the future.  This is from her 2012 convention speech:
Growing up, I never imagined a girl from a border town could one day become a governor. 
But this is America 
Y, en America todo es posible. 
My parents taught me to never give up and to always believe that my future could be whatever I dreamt it to be. 
Success, they taught me, is built on the foundation of courage, hard-work and individual responsibility. 
Despite what some would have us believe, success is not built on resentment and fears.
Donald Trump disagrees. As far as he's concerned success is built on resentment and fear. Of him.
Trumpie the clown

by digby

This is a very nice piece of Trump analysis by Lance Mannion.  An excerpt:

Trump is a clown by design and with purpose. He clowns to show he’s in on the joke and to make a joke of the whole process. He clowns to bait his opponents into making fools of themselves in response. He clowns to distract the media from what he’s really up to, knowing they’ll report on the success of the act and not what he’s actually saying. He clowns to show he’s not taking himself or the election or politics seriously, which is, of course, just what the media want to hear because it’s what they believe, that it’s not a serious business, that nothing important’s at stake, that all politicians who aren’t knaves are fools and most of them are both so there’s no need to waste time on the work necessary to understand policy, they can sit back and enjoy writing about how they’re enjoying the show.  He clowns to let his fans know that none of it matters, that it’s all fun and games, that he’s letting them in on the joke, that they’re right to be cynical and distrusting of the supposedly smart and successful people who run the show and make them feel like fools and suckers in the process, that’s he’s making those supposedly smart and successful people look like the real fools and suckers.

He clowns because he’s good at it and it works.

The history of American politics is rife with examples of successful politicians who clowned their way into and through office. Huey Long being a prime example. Prohibition-era Chicago mayor Big Bill Thompson being another. Thompson, about as corrupt as a corrupt pol can be, once staged a “debate” with a pair of caged rats he named after two of his political rivals. Even some good guys have been clowns or had a touch of the clown about them. Fiorello LaGuardia, for example. For that matter, FDR wasn’t above a bit of clowning when the mischief got in him and he felt the situation called for it. Bill Clinton could do it too. Politics is a performance art. Good leaders have to entertain and amuse as well as engage and inspire. Trump entertains and amuses as a means of engaging and inspiring by clowning. Of course, what he inspires is anger, resentment, envy, and hate. But that doesn’t change the fact that his clowning has been a key to his success.

His weakness isn’t that he’s a clown.

His weakness is he’s a self-infatuated clown.

He loves his own act. He can’t get enough of himself.  And he loves that other people love the act too. He loves the laughter and applause because they confirm him in his own high self-regard. So he can’t resist playing to his audience, repeating the same jokes and patter over and over in order to elicit the same laughter and applause. The only way he can bring himself to vary the act is by trying to top himself. He has to take things further and farther, piling up the laughs, getting the crowd roaring, bringing down the house.  But in the end all he’s doing is repeating the same tried and true shtick to an audience who’s already proved they can’t get enough of the same old same old.. And he’s happy with that. He’s glad to stop there. He doesn’t take the risks necessary to winning over new fans. All he dares do is try to make his current fans laugh longer and clap louder.

This means he’s limiting his appeal to people who are already committed to voting for him and to other Republicans who are coming around because, after all, that’s all he is in political reality---just another Republican.

Many people getting a kick out of how Elizabeth Warren’s been needling him on Twitter think she’s doing a good job of getting under his skin. I’m not so sure. And I’m not sure getting under his skin is the object. From what I’ve seen of their exchanges, I think what she’s been doing is goading him into repeating himself. He thinks he’s getting the better of her. His fans agree. They’re laughing and clapping and cheering and crying for more. And he’s giving it to them. He can’t help himself.

This means he can’t make the presidential pivot.

I agree about Warren. She's drawing fire. And other Democrats are starting to do the same thing.  It's risky but it just might work.

And I also agree that Trump cannot make the presidential pivot.The question is whether it really matters. Lance makes some excellent points about how the media prism affects this and I think he's right.

And he notes that voters, being human beings, will retreat to their partisan corners and the Republicans will learn to love the clown. They already are, as I noted in my piece below. If that's true it means he can win. And even if he doesn't it means that the Republican Party will never be the same. Trump is them and they are Trump --- clowns, lacking in all integrity, not to be take seriously on any ideological basis. And whether he wins or not we know for sure that they are willing to endorse open bigotry, torture, summary execution, mass deportation, banning religion, surveillance of minorities, greater police power and an unleashing of the military with no restraint whenever the nation is "disrespected."

This is good to know.

Be sure to read Lance's whole piece.  Excellent as usual.

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