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Archive for the ‘California Politics’ Category



It’s Official: Trump Is Nominated and Truth Is Dead

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

manafortThe second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland began with Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, notifying the American people that what they could plainly see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears simply was not so.

“There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech,” Manafort said, striving to deny the undeniable – that Trump’s wife Melania the night before had clearly plagiarized part of a similar 2008 speech by the wife of Barack Obama.

“I mean, she was speaking in front of 35 million people last night. She knew that,” he added. “To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy.”

In that are-you-going-to-believe-me-or-your-lying-eyes moment, Manafort (whose previous sleazy clients have included  “authoritarian leaders and scandal-plagued businessmen in Ukraine, Russia, the Philippines and more”) perfectly captured the twisted political values and deranged cultural zeitgeist that a few hours later led the Party of Lincoln formally to nominate Trump for president:  the triumph of lying, fraudulence and magical thinking over verifiable facts, reason and basic honesty.

It’s a distressing and despairing political trend that Calbuzz has tracked for six years, since we dubbed it the “death of truth.” 

Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president Tuesday night — and spend a moment pondering the meta-absurdity of those 10 words — and ushered in with him a dangerous new era of American politics:

Donald Trump is many things: an archetypal narcissist, a reckless provocateur, a vicious demagogue, a menacing bully and a ruthless thug. Most of all, he’s a pathological liar.

A few other glimpses of Day 2 of the Trump National Convention:

christienewBanana Boat: The caustic, corpulent and still un-indicted Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, emerged as the most incendiary speaker of the night, with his self-styled  “indictment” of Hillary Clinton for her roles in Libya, Nigeria, China, Syria, Iran, Russia, Cuba and in setting up her own in-home e-mail server.

After detailing political charges – since, of course, there were no criminal charges in any of  his examples – Christie got the audience to scream “GUILTY!” alternated with “LOCK HER UP!”

Our favorite Republican analyst Steve Schmidt gave the most accurate description of the delegates’ frenzied and frothing reaction to Christie: “It seems a little banana republican to me,” he said on MSNBC. “It’s something we’re not used to hearing in this country. We don’t lock up our political opponents.”

Of course, the mob on the convention floor already hates Clinton passionately – not unlike the way banana republican Manuel Noriega hated Panamanian democratic reformers. That, in fact, is the organizing principle of the convention thus far: Hillary Hatred, facilitated by a roster that sports the lowest percentage of black delegates – 0.7% — at a GOP convention in at least a century, with 18 blacks out of 2,472.

The irony of Christie – a former prosecutor – delivering an “indictment” of Clinton when his own top staffers have actually been indicted on criminal charges in his “Bridgegate” and related scandals, was no matter to the delegates.

It was pure, inside-the-hall rhetoric, designed to inflame the already-committed. Whether Christie did anything to persuade the 30% of undecided voters outside the hall that Clinton is more loathsome than Trump is doubtful. It was, instead, reminiscent of Patrick Buchanan’s 1992 “culture war” speech to the RNC in Houston – a screed that scared the bejesus out of viewers all across America.

donaldjrShocker: Junior praises Daddy. Donald Trump Jr. was more effective at speaking to viewers outside of the hall, with his stories about how the old man hung out with the workers on construction sites – as if the Donald ever knew a sheet-rocker by name – and instilled in his children respect for hard work and decency.

“For too long, our country has ignored its problems, punting them down the road for future generations to deal with,” Trump Jr. said. “In business, I was trained by my father to make the tough investments and decisions today to ensure a better future for tomorrow. We’ve actually started to believe that solving our great problems is an impossible task, and that’s why we need to elect a man who has a track record of accomplishing the impossible.”

There were no specifics about what Trump would actually do, except oppose everything Clinton stands for. But it was long on promises, to wit:

“For the first time, parents no longer think that their kids will be as well off as we were. We’ve lost the confidence in our leaders and the faith in our institutions,” the handsome young Trump said. “But remember one thing: we’re still Americans, we’re still one country, and we’re going to get it all back. We’re going to get it back better than ever before.”

And a chicken in every pot.

P.S. For those who want the inside story on Melania’s plagiarism, here’s the definitive-to-date New York Times’ account. Our best guess: Melania was the plagriarizer. She has no education to speak of and probably had no idea you can’t just borrow someone else’s writing or speeches, change a few words and call it your own. The campaign can’t throw her under the bus so no one will hear Donald say, “You’re fired!”

Day 1: Rudy’s Head Explodes, Melania Plagiarizes

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

melaniaspeechFirst came the Republican’s unity speaker: A woman who healed the wounds from a brutal convention floor flight by accusing Hillary Clinton of murdering her son.

Then the Donald Trump impersonator: Rudy Giuliani, three Red Bulls over the line, delivering a truly unhinged wild man masterpiece of fear mongering.

And finally the Slovenian eye candy: Mrs. Trump III, aka Melania, offering a luxurious laundry list of platitudes about her husband’s alleged humanity while reading a teleprompter more skillfully than he ever will.

Oops: plagiarized. From, um, Michelle Obama.

So it went on opening night of the Trump National Convention, as The Donald’s campaign towel boys produced a dystopian evening of fear and phobia in which speaker after speaker hurled right-wing red meat at the color-free faces on the floor of the Lebron James Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

It was a dark and stormy night: The unrelentingly somber and grim tone of the evening was broken only by the 15-minute homage to Trump’s purported “kindness, love and compassion” delivered in perfect broken English by his bride, clad in a cotton silk off-white Roksanda dress. You could look it up.’

Despite some scheduling screw-ups, the Trumpistas managed to get Melania into the heart of prime time, the 10-11 p.m. EDT hour that is the only segment of the convention being shown by the broadcast networks (it goes without saying that political junkies and other masochists can wallow in it endlessly on cable).

Otherwise the night would have been a complete disaster as the candidate’s lackeys mostly ignored the clear warning by Calbuzz that they need to be talking to independent-minded voters around the country, instead of focusing their energies on prompting rebel yells and building dog piles of the already converted inside the hall.

Except, even the one good move by campaign — using Melania to soften Trump’s misogyny, narcissism and mendacity — blew up into what GOP commentator Steve Schmidt called a “catastrophe” early Tuesday when it was revealed that parts of the speech she had claimed to have written (ha!) were lifted almost word for word from Ms. Obama’s 2008 convention address.

(Worse, according to some of our closest relatives, was the Trump campaign’s use of Queen’s “We are the Champions” — cue Freddy Mercury spinning in his grave — for Melania’s entrance and exit. Queen, btw, is just one of the groups that has told Trump to cease and desist using their works, others including the Rolling Stones, Adele, Neil Young, REM, Aerosmith and Twisted Sister.)

Here are three takeaways.

Pat-Smith-at-RNC-jpgThe exploited mother: Patricia Smith is the mother of the late Sean Smith, a computer tech who was one of the four Americans killed during the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA station in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.

Haunted horror wracking her face, she brought raw grief to the podium, not simply to blame Hillary Clinton for the policy and security failures that led to the debacle that cost her son his life — but essentially to accuse Trump’s Democratic rival of murder and say that Clinton “deserves to be in stripes.”

“For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton,” Smith said. “I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son.”

Smith’s speech, which had some delegates in tears, was factually wrong and seems unlikely to convince anyone outside the convention hall to vote for Trump. As a brutal political matter, however, it did achieve one goal of his campaign: after a chaotic floor flight over convention rules that had some Stop Trump types calling his troops “brown shirts,” it immediately united delegates in a unanimous cloud of unadulterated hatred for Clinton.

rudyscreenshotRudy Kazooty: Perhaps some staff assistant or convention drone mistakenly printed out former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s speech in ALL CAPS, but whatever happened, Rudy delivered his stemwinder at a volume and speed that could only be approximated by trying to imagine hooking up with a jet engine.

Eyes bulging and arms waving wildly, Rudy somehow managed to keep his head rotating all the way around on his neck like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist,” as he delivered lines like this:

“The vast majority of Americans today do not feel safe,” he screamed. “They fear for their children and they fear for themselves.” Um, except in California, we guess.

Repeatedly bellowing the words “ISLAMIC EXTREMIST TERRORISM!!!,” Giuliani offered a global political analysis that apes perfectly the narrative favored by ISIS, that the U.S. is involved in a clash-to-the-death-of-civilizations.

Although he presided as a mayor over a sanctuary city, Giuliani ripped Clinton for favoring “open borders” and all but accused her of wanting to import terrorists under the guise of accepting a few thousand carefully screened Syrian refugees.

In other words, he did a near perfect-pitch imitation of Trump.

melaniadonaldkissMelania my little Slovene flower: It’s a measure of how truly bad Trump’s Ivan the Terrible image is that the blathering heads of the MSM were falling all over each other to gush and grovel over Melania’s fourth-grade vocabulary level reading of every cheap sentiment Hallmark ever slapped on an Happy Anniversary Dear card.

The orangeade-visaged highrise builder and casino bilker, it seems, is “kind and fair,” with “a simple goodness of the heart” who she knows as “a man and as a father” and who will “never, ever let you down.”

Except.

As first noted by L.A. journalist Jarrett Hill, Melania’s lovey-dovey sentiments about Donald are extremely similar to those Michelle Obama expressed at a national nominating convention in 2008, towards the future president of the United States in 2008. Exactly similar, actually.

Melania—or more likely her speechwriters—appears to have lifted at least one crucial section of her speech from the one Michelle Obama gave at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Some phrases—such as “that your word is your bond” and “your willingness to work hard for them”—were lifted nearly word-for-word or exactly so, with the rest of the section seemingly specifically tailored to avoid detection.

Not since Joe Biden lifted Bobby Kennedy’s famous words and passed them off as his own at the 1987 California Democratic Party convention — and was caught by a younger Calbuzzer —  have we witnessed rank plagiarism at a major political event.

Yet in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer several hours before delivering her little talk, Melania told him she had written the speech by herself.

Oops again!

What Trump Must Do At The Trump Convention

Monday, July 18th, 2016

trumpangry1Tonight, the Calbuzz National Affairs Desk will sink into the couch cushions to witness the Trump National Convention just like real Amuricans, gaping at our electric televisions while fortified with Bugles, Cheez-Its and donut holes.

Also: alcoholic beverages.

Our Global Political Reporting and False Equivalence Team previously demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt why Donald Trump won’t beat Hillary Clinton; however, we are nothing if not objective and open-minded and so, on behalf of Democratic bed-wetters and Republican fantasists everywhere, will suspend our disbelief and pretend to admit the possibility that The Donald could win.

As the convention offers the ferret-headed buffoon from Queens his best chance to show that he should be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, there is only one overarching question that matters about this week’s conclave in Cleveland: Will Trump and his podium posse aim their speeches and rhetoric at the 2,470 wing-nut delegates and 2,302 alternates inside the Quicken Loans Arena — or will they speak to the millions of independent-minded, if skeptical, voters outside the hall?

“Trump needs to ride the fine line between continuing to inflame those outraged by Washington and reining in his nutty rhetoric to attract independents and new people,” a waiting-to-be-convinced, veteran national Republican strategist told us. “When the lights are on and the mics are on, the bottom line is you don’t know what Donald’s going to say.”

Asked what Trump’s basic message should be, our GOP message man summed it up this way: “Washington sucks, and I’m not completely loony.”

buchananMainstreaming Monica: If Trump’s jingoistic rallies and neofascist speeches form the template for the convention, he and his chosen speakers will seek to whip up and inspire his rabid delegates against a backdrop of presentations focused on Benghazi, Bill Clinton’s infidelities and the imaginary Mexican invasion of the U.S. of A.

In that case, the convention will become a festival of bloodthirsty, bone-chilling right-wing rhetoric, aimed at those already primed to vote for Trump. To wit, an inside strategy, much along the lines of Pat Buchanan’s infamous culture wars speech to the RNC in Houston in 1992. “There is a religious war going on in this country,” Buchanan thundered. “It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as was the Cold War itself, for this war is for the soul of America.”

Outsiders looking in were horrified. Buchanan did no favors for President George H.W. Bush, who went on to lose to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton — the avatar of evil and degeneracy, in Buchanan’s view.

The alternative to the inside strategy: leave the heavy-lift right-wing pandering, media battering and vicious Clinton-bashing to others (hello NRA apparatchik Chris Cox, racist ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, knuckle-dragging Senator Ted Cruz and Dana White, homophobic president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship) while using his kids and Slovenian supermodel qua third spouse Melania to soften his persona as a narcissistic knucklehead — and offering in his own speech (speeches?) at least a vague hint that he once spent five minutes thinking about public policy, by way of letting persuadable voters believe he thinks the election actually is about them, not just him.

dianne1Exhibit A: A classic example, and the best application ever witnessed by these veteran convention watchers of a candidate using the spotlight of intense media focus to reach beyond the hall to a broad mass of obtainable voters, was Dianne Feinstein’s 1990 speech to the California Democratic Party convention, during her successful bid for the party’s nomination for governor.

While the liberal delegates at the convention favored Attorney Gen. John Van de Kamp according to a survey by the Los Angeles Times, Feinstein used her speech to the delegates as a stage for performance art, which yielded a terrific television ad highlighting her independence from party orthodoxy, as recounted in the seminal, if solitary, DiFi biography, plenty of free parking.

“Sadly, today in California only a few feel safe or believe they are protected by a halting and decrepit system of justice, she said, quickly adding: “Yes I support the death penalty – it is an issue that cannot be fudged or hedged.”

As soon as she uttered the words “death penalty,” delegates began a chorus of boos and jeers that cascaded throughout the convention center in Los Angeles. TV news coverage of the convention played up the spectacle of Feinstein being booed by her own party – which played right into her hands.

“Bless you, bless you,” media adviser Hank Morris said, standing at the press table as the Democrats railed at his candidate. “They booed, exactly as they were supposed to.” Soon Morris and [Bill] Carrick had produced a new thirty-second spot out of the episode, which had been duly recorded by a video crew hired for the occasion, and aired to demonstrate Feinstein’s toughness and independence.

As Carrick later explained, “In terms of the audience outside the convention, it was basically a defining moment because Dianne amplified the independence that is the strength of her candidacy.”

hillary-clinton-thumbs-upFull disclosure: We’ll be stunned to the point of rolling off the sofa to see Trump or anyone else speaking in Cleveland booed by delegates to the Republican Neanderthal Convention for an independent thought, beyond every mention of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren or any other Democrat of note.

Rather, we expect a frenzied, nearly obscene chorus of fact-free attacks on the policies, character and accomplishments of Clinton et al, in hopes that, with constant repetition of untruths and slanders Trump and Co. will lower public assessments of the Democrats, while motivating fervent voters to lift the Donald onto a sedan chair and march him directly to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

As the late conservative icon William F. Buckley wrote of Trump in 2000: “When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America.”

melaniaP.S. Speaking of Miss America, one of the more fascinating convention themes to watch will be how Trump and his alleged handlers attempt to undo the severe political damage his male pig world view and comments (not to mention his selection as a running mate the evangelical theist and ultrasound fanatic Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana) have inflicted upon women voters, three in four of whom view him unfavorably.

The key will be the rhetorical stylings of the aforementioned and previously silent Melania, along with the spawn of prior Trump marriages — Donald Jr., Ivanka, Eric and (of course) Tiffany.

“In parading his family out there to actually speak, the goal is to leave people thinking, ‘he’s pretty nutty but if he’s raised those kids he must be okay,’” our Republican wise person told us.

“The women thing has to come from Melania — if she comes across as a gracious, delightful, insular, quiet, loving wife who just happens to be hotter than hell — and Ivanka – who has to be very well spoken, down to earth and delightful, despite being a little bit elitist.

“Then they might have women out there suddenly thinking, ‘That cool lady is married to that guy and that woman is his daughter, I’ll give him a second chance.’”

A Modest Proposal to Address Institutional Racism

Monday, July 11th, 2016

black-lives-matterAlton Sterling was not killed by the police. Philandro Castile was not killed by the police. They were killed by individual police officers, in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis.

But for many African-Americans, who witness the killing of one black man after another at the hands of individual police officers who are rarely convicted of crimes — with changes of venue or all-white juries — it feels as if the police have become their deadly adversary.

Which, combined with the ease of purchasing high-powered, semi-automatic weaponry, is a recipe for urban guerilla warfare against the police of the kind we saw in Dallas.

Bottom line: In order to stop the madness, the U.S. must begin to address the issue of crime and punishment of individual policemen who shoot and kill unarmed black people.

michajohnsonNothing can excuse Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, who murdered five Dallas police officers and wounded nine other people. He said he wanted to kill white people, especially white police officers. before he himself was killed by Dallas police. As they should have.

But do we understand what gave rise to Johnson’s blood-thirsty rage? Damn right, we do. If you have the stomach, check out Killed By Police, for a sickening list of people killed by officer-involved incidents – some of them justified, for sure – but many of them not.

White people – those who generally control the government, businesses and media in America – have a special obligation to ensure that our systems of policing and jurisprudence work for the benefit of all citizens equally. Sure, all lives matter,  but it’s black lives that are most threatened by the institutional racism that continues to hold a death grip on our nation.

What is to be done? For starters, Congress could pass legislation tomorrow mandating that no federal crime-fighting funds will be given to cities or counties that fail to create citizen review boards governing local police behavior, In the same way we have citizen control of the military, we should ensure citizen control of the urban military – the local police.

ar15Next, we should ban the sale, and eventually possession, of semi-automatic weapons, in the same way we have effectively* banned the sale and possession of automatic weapons since the 1930s. This would by itself vastly reduce the scale of mayhem perpetrated by assassins, murderers, terrorists and crazies. It would also require a HUGE political effort because the National Rifle Association would go the mattresses to stop such a move.

Finally, we have to change the way we think and talk about violence, whether it’s against civilians or authorities. Murder is murder. Let’s call it what it is.

* As the vigilant Noozeyeguy notes in comments, it is still possible, with restrictions, to own a machine gun, but regulations have virtually wiped them out from private hands.

Why Donald Trump Won’t Beat Hillary Clinton

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

clintontrumpAs Hillary Clinton made history Tuesday, let us recall that Calbuzz was first to report — in midsummer 2015 — that Donald Trump categorically manifests Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This was long before big thinkers, hotshot writers posing as online journalists and even Psychology Today jumped on The Donald clinical diagnosis bandwagon.

Back then, Actual Reporting led us to the authoritative Diagnosic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), where we verified that Trump – then still treated as a joke by most of the MSM – is dangerously and legitimately nuts.

You could look it up.

A cure for enuresis. Now that the bumptious, bullying and mob-linked developer has captured the Republican nomination, however, mental illness is only one of a series of towering obstacles he faces in the campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Sure, under fierce attack from his own party over his latest racist comments, a low-energy Trump managed to read a generic victory speech from a teleprompter on Tuesday night. And, sure, the Democratic presumptive nominee — the first woman to win a major party nomination for president — is a flawed candidate. And, as unlikely as it appears, legal action against her stemming from her stupid use of a private email server as Secretary of State, or a horrible domestic terrorist action, or any of a countless number of other unknowables in the next five months could suddenly change the political calculus.

But as it stands today, all the agonizing, brooding and bed-wetting about a potential triumph by the racist, demagogic misogynist among right-thinking people everywhere is gratuitous, for three key reasons.

Electoral CollegeElectoral arithmetic. Trump’s hair-on-fire act was just the thing for a wide-open Republican primary season packed with 16 rivals and a seething slice of the electorate dominated by choleric old white guys. But a general election is an entirely different production than a primary and The Donald has no second act.

Even if he were a generic Republican – minus the tissue-thin skin, the volcanic volatility, the massive disapproval among women and Latinos – it would be a Herculean uphill slog.

As every school child knows, Democrats have won 18 states and the District of Columbia in every one of the last six elections, giving them a base of 242 Electoral Votes in the race to 270; by contrast Republicans since 1992 have begun with a base of 13 states with a total of 102 EVs. And Trump’s mindless boasting about putting in play deep blue states like New York and California is pure fantasy.

The MSM is waking up. Major cable and broadcast news organizations let Trump stomp all over them during primary season (it must be said that the NYT, LAT and, especially, Washpost did a credible job of countering his madness aggressively with Actual Facts but they are still only, you know, newspapers).

In the last several weeks, however, the others appear finally to be standing up to his intimidation, as they did at the Trump Tower press conference when they pushed back against his lies about contributing to national veterans’  groups and, more importantly, in calling him to account for the sleazy Trump University scandal and his racist attacks against Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge in the case, whose judicial career began with appointment to the Superior Court of California by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzmuscle.

Big caveat: That said, the MSM before recent events was headed for the slippery slope of normalizing Trump, by creating a false equivalence between Clinton’s controversies, which actually exist on Planet Earth, and his multiple wing nut lunacies. Heather Digby Parton admirably makes the case on this point:

kkkBut the result of this “distortion toward the middle”…has the perverse effect of normalizing Trump and pathologizing Clinton in a way that equalizes them to Trump’s advantage.

There is no equivalence between them. He is an unqualified, unfit, unhinged authoritarian demagogue and she is a mainstream Democratic Party politician.  Let’s hope the press listens to some of these critics and does a serious gut check whenever they are tempted to “balance” the coverage in this election by going easy on Trump and hard on Clinton. It’s dangerous.

Here’s hoping the nation’s news hounds and hens keep behaving as they have in the past two weeks instead of before.

He truly is nuts. All kidding aside, Trump does exhibit every trait of serious personality disorder.

As terrifyingly entertaining as he can be to watch, sort of like thrillingly awaiting an inevitable fiery NASCAR crash, the affliction makes clear that the Republican ticket topper lacks even the slightest clue that a presidential election is supposed to be about the future of the nation’s people, not about him and his endless whining and insults about enemies real and imagined. It’s hard to believe a majority of voters, beyond his hard-core white nationalist base, will fail to notice this slight political defect.

Check it out, word for word from DSM-5:

DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

–Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance

–Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it

–Exaggerating your achievements and talents

–Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate

–Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people

–Requiring constant admiration

–Having a sense of entitlement

–Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations.

–Taking advantage of others to get what you want

–Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs or feelings of others

–Being envious of others and believing others envy you

–Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner.

trumpchuckyBottom line. What this means in practical political terms was described best, and with characteristic moderation and understatement, by our old friend Dan Balz. Still the best MSM political reporter in the business, Balz examined what Trump has done in the month plus since clinching his party’s nomination:

He’s wasted time, proved to be a sore winner and veered sharply off message. He’s put a higher premium on settling scores than finding a script that will appeal to a wider, general-election audience…

For Trump, this could have been a time for magnanimity and for beginning to show that he wants to reach beyond the loyal and passionate base of supporters that sustained him through the primaries. The electorate in the general election will be different and decidedly more diverse than the one that made him the GOP standard-bearer. So far, he’s shown no willingness to acknowledge that.

No willingness, indeed. And no psychological capacity, faculty or potential, either.