Saturday, October 31, 2020


 Guest Post rant,
 by a cranky old guy who has lost patience for the bullshit.

Ralph Bowman is hard for me to categorize.  He is a retired teacher, sort of a socialist, a union guy, a guy with liberal instincts who grew up in multi-ethnic poor neighborhoods in Los Angeles. I have had to clean up his language, since sometimes he talks the way kids talked about other ethnic groups back when he was a kid. Sometimes he sounds to me like Walt Whitman. Sometimes like Allen Ginzberg. Sometimes like Archie Bunker.

Things make him angry and frustrated and he sends me incautious comments. I consider them a document, a primary source.

This isn't analysis or reflection. This is a suitable-for-publication version of his original rant about woke-ness and Blacks and trust fund White people who screwed up the BLM movement by making a Halloween party out of it. They dressed up in costumes, burned stuff because they could, then slipped back to their safety-netted-lives and let things get even worse for the Black people. That angers him. Or as he would more typically put it in comments to me, it pisses him off.

Ralph lives with his wife in an assisted living community in Grants Pass, Oregon, a place that is a hotbed of red state rural conservatives and marijuana growers. He is surrounded by Trump voters he considers brainwashed by Fox. He is frustrated and angry with liberal dilettantes.  

Ralph Bowman's comment

"Woke" is the new N-word, a problem word. I resent this word, an easy definition for a complex set of ideas. It's demeaning. Cute. Not clever.

Blacks use the word "woke" to keep them focused on the injustices. "Stay woke."

Handy word for liberal Whites, shorthand for moral superiority, shorthand for White educated, and bleeding heart, and tree huggers. "Woke" is used to aggrandize the insights of the comfortable about the plight of the underclass they aren't in and the sexual diversity they are sometimes in. I visualize a person with large eyes and an open mouth who deserves a pie in the face. That would wake them up. 

The White Awoke justice warrior is morally superior, educated, an enviro organic tofu eating', tit suckin' trust fund baby who used to burn incense in a lotus position, but now thinks they are changing the world with their daily vlog, sponsored by some whole-something cereal, gluten free and non GMO, costs extra but OK. Woke is a fad word, their fad, like "intersectionality."

Woke people are so good, sympathizing like they do with the underclass, making donation gifts, hoping for weak laws that will pacify them, changing the world by marching around with signs filled with platitudes, and then slipping into the back of the crowd before the cops arrive so they can run home and check their stock dividends. They aren't involved but oh, boy are they intellectually aware. Some wake up to woke-hood with fantasies of revolution, ready to be arrested, gassed, or shot with rubber bullets, willing to be chained to pipelines, offering services at food banks, willing to teach prisoners.

Dump this "woke." Quit playing. Change real things. Be angry, not good. Start jamming the levers of power. 

"Woke." Republicans use it as a weapon to demean the snowflake Democrats. Democrats use it against the un-woke deplorables. 

"Can't we all get along?" No. Times haven't changed much since Rodney King, cops still hammering away on Black people and nothing that happens in the universities makes it any better, just worse.

Woke. Fuck woke.

                                                       -----     -----     -----

Meanwhile, as the campaign winds up President Trump has engaged with a new enemy, one that traditionally has a deep well of credibility with the public: doctors.

"Our doctors make more money when somebody dies from COVID. You know that, right? Doctors are very smart people. So what they do is, they say, 'Im sorry, but you know, everybody dies of COVID.' But in Germany and other places if you have a heart attack, or you have cancer, you're terminally ill, you catch COVID, they say you died of cancer, you died of heart attack. With us, when in doubt, choose COVID."

Doctor groups have protested.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Sarah Spansail for Medford City Council

 Vote Sarah Spansail. 

A Medford Ward One voter needs to be strategic. 

First things first: Sarah Spansail is intelligent, reasonable, qualified, and interested in being your Ward One Medford City Council person. Sometimes kooks or unqualified people run for local offices (more about that in a minute), and it is hard for voters to tell the wheat from the chaff in local elections where the information about candidates is scarce. 

Spansail is "wheat." She is a good one. 

She has been involved in a variety of committees and civic organizations, she has a particular interest in housing and homelessness (issues of special interest in Medford), and she has the interest and capacity to do this volunteer job. She has a website where you can learn more about her, and I urge you to visit it.

The fact that she has a website up and running tells readers that she is taking this very seriously. She has enough respect for her future constituents to provide a fleshed out introduction of herself, with photos, her positions on local and national issues, and list of endorsements. 

There is a reason to be strategic here. This is a three-person race. Sarah is young, female, and liberal in orientation. These seats are nonpartisan, and my experience in local government is that the issues that come in front of City Councils are, in fact, local and not aligned with national and state partisan issues. But she has that perspective. She is a wife and mother of young children. She represents a generation that is generally underrepresented on civic boards. 

Yikes, again. One of her opponents is Curt Ankerberg, so we have the familiar and tiresome "Curt Ankerberg problem." 

Curt is the guy who runs and is defeated time after time for local office. He was trained as an accountant but got in trouble with his regulatory board. Curt earned the name Curt Angry-Bird, for his wild, nasty, threatening comments on social media and in letters to others.

Curt writes this blog signed comments, anonymous comments, and comments he attributes to other people that reflect whatever mental health issues seem to consume him now. His comments for publication are vulgar, sex-oriented accusations of the themes of sex with children, male sexual impotence, homosexual sex, and adultery. Some comments imagine with pleasure the suicides of others. Some are accusations of misuse of money. Some make trouble by trying to pass off his own comments by attributing other people's names to them. His writing style is easy to identify. Readers of this blog sometimes see them up, briefly, before I remove them.

This is a three person race.
The third candidate, Jeff Thomas, recently switched his Party to Republican, I suspect so he would have better credibility with politically conservative people in Ward One. Otherwise people looking for a conservative mindset might make the disastrous choice of voting for Ankerberg, who combines his Republicanism with a toxic personality. Good for Jeff for switching parties.

However, we saw with the Republican primary contest between the very strong candidate, Jessica Gomez, and the angry vulgar Ankerberg, that Republican voters were reluctant to support a newly-hatched Republican. She barely beat him.The same thing might happen here. Jeff Thomas will get some votes, but Ankerberg might actually get a plurality. Ankerberg is famous, after all, even if he is famous for his misbehaviors and obsessions, not for anything good.

What to do? Concentrate votes on a single, electable candidate, Sarah Spansail. If there is a split between the two candidates who are reasonable in orientation and whose profiles might look generally similar, and if Republican reluctance to vote for a new Republican holds true, then, possibly, Curt Ankerberg will get some combination of the accidental vote and the kook vote of people who actually want to throw City government into chaos. A split up vote might elect Ankerberg.

Sarah would represent Ward One well.

But whatever you do, don't confuse Curt Ankerberg for anyone else or vote for him. There is enough hate and crazy in the world without electing some of it into local government.

"Listen, don't believe these polls."

      "The Trump vote is always being undercounted. Pollsters- when they actually call the Trump voter, the Trump voter is very suspicious of the 'Deep State' calling them and asking them who they're voting for."

     Michael Moore, liberal filmmaker, who warned of a Trump win in 2016

Michael Moore warned America. Trump could win, he told us. That was back in 2016, when on Election Day morning most pundits and political observers were confident Hillary would win easily and big. After all, the polls.

I also warned Democrats. "Prediction Trump" was my blog post headline that morning. Moore got famous for his prediction.  I didn't.

I agree the polls are wrong.  I also agree that this race is much, much closer than it looks, and that in the swing states it is well within the margin of error that would allow legal challenges to tip the election to Trump.  Here is what I see:

There is an enthusiasm gap.  I see it. I feel it myself. I voted for Biden but I consider his presidency to be a matter of kicking the can down the road before the real presidency begins, when someone articulates a forceful vision of how Democrats are going to deal with the big issues facing the country. Biden's OK. A local political banner shop in purple Jackson County in southern Oregon carries Biden stuff, not because it sells, but because the shopping mall landlord for their pop-up store required it so the mall wouldn't look partisan.  The Biden stuff doesn't sell much; Trump stuff does. MAGA hats, tee shirts, big banners. Look at me, I support Trump! Some of the banners are intended to offend: I'm pro-Trump. Get over it! 

 I see cars and trucks with big Trump flags and banners. Never a Biden sign. Oh, I see "coexist" strips and old signs in support of peace, women, LGBT, and animal rights. I see old Hillary signs. Democrats aren't afraid to advertise, but I see hardly any Biden signs and certainly no big in-your-face banners. The enthusiastic voter is with Trump. As Moore put it on Facebook: " The enthusiasm level for the 60 million in Trump’s base is OFF THE CHARTS! For Joe, not so much."

People lie to pollsters. Not everyone, of course, but a few, and they lie in the direction of not admitting their intention to vote for Trump. It happened four years ago, too. Pundits say the undecided voters split heavily for Trump. Wrong. They weren't undecided. They did not want to admit to being transgressive.

It isn't a contradiction to say that there are in-your-face Trump voters and shy Trump voters. They are alike. Both groups feel their support for Trump is controversial. One group is defiant about it, the other doesn't want to make trouble.

Trump is the naughty candidate. Trump is the candidate who is honest, not polite. Trump says cruel things. He says aloud that police should bump the heads of criminals. That isn't "right" but it is an attitude a lot of people feel. He doesn't like or trust Muslims. People know that in America we aren't supposed to discriminate against people based on religion, but Trump does it. Trump isn't embarrassed about his little prejudices. He lies boldly about being the least racist person and dares people to prove him wrong. He is being defiant, not descriptive. 
The Archie Bunker character is not just noteworthy and remembered for his prejudices; he is also remembered for voicing them boldly.

Hillary said aloud 4 years ago that Americans were a little bit racist and a little misogynistic and she was right. A lot of people have secret thoughts about women, men, Jews, Mormons, Blacks, homosexuals, Mexicans, Chinese, Muslims, seniors, immigrants generally, and more. We know prejudice is wrong. We are told to be conscious of them, and to stifle them because that is forbidden thinking. Americans are being constantly scolded by our internal and external judgements on ourselves. A lot of people resent the scolding.

This isn't just a White male problem. Everybody is something. Just because a person is subject of prejudice and resents the stereotype and prejudice one sometimes receives, doesn't mean such people don't simultaneously have the negative prejudices about a multitude of identities, including their own. Biden will not win anywhere near all the votes of people he "should" win, i.e. the victims of prejudice.

White liberals wonder how Black rap artists like Lil Wayne, Ice Cube, and 50 Cent can support Trump, notwithstanding Trump's insults and opposition to Black leaders advocating racial justice, and his transparent effort to suppress Black votes. Trump is OK with naughty, and rap artists celebrate the transgressive, the impolite, the in-your-face. Nobody tells them how to behave. They are like the White men with pick-up trucks, flipping a middle finger to convention. 

Support for Biden-Harris is safe and polite. Black voters did not turn out for Hillary and Biden has not given them a good reason to turn out for him, either. If voters want a middle finger candidate, it is Trump.

Will Trump win? Maybe not
. He has given seniors a reason to be unhappy with him and they vote, but the election is far, far closer than Democrats think. It is close enough that the story this time next week will be about supposedly fraudulent mailed ballots, about Democrats trying to steal the election, about the righteous indignation of Republicans who will believe Trump when he says he won once all the forgeries and disputable ballots are discarded. 

Some people who don't usually vote will turn out this year. And those undecided voters aren't undecided.

Michael Moore is right.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Trump: "a wretched human being."

     “He panders to racists and prevents sensible immigration reform in a nation built on immigration labor and intellect. He tweets conspiracy theories. He’s cavalier about COVID-19 and had led poorly through the pandemic. He seeks to dismantle the Affordable Care Act without proposing a replacement. He denies climate change.”

     Notwithstanding that, "Vote for Donald Trump."

             Spokane, Washington Editorial

Vote for the jerk? Really? Yes, they really said that.

There are editorials on both sides of the upcoming election. The editorial in the Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review tells us what this election is really about for a lot of people.

 The simple, biggest choice in this election is Republican vs. Democrat, the red team versus the blue team, two brands. Coke vs. Pepsi. Red Sox vs. Yankees. Ducks vs. Beavers. The fact that Trump essentially reversed the ideological policies of Ronald Reagan on immigration, on Russia, on foreign wars, on NATO, on trade, and yet GOP voters followed the party label rather than the principles, shows how powerful the brand name is. As this blog noted a week ago, in the simplest and most obvious of observations, Republicans vote for Republicans because they are Republicans.

There is a second potential frame, the one Biden is promoting, bad character vs. good character. This is a fight for the "soul of the nation," Biden says. Trump shows ample evidence of bad character, and even his supporters see it. Trump isn't trying to be a choir boy in response. Instead he is trying to make the issue a wash to defang the issue. Biden is corrupt! Hunter! Hunter!

A third frame is the one Trump is using in his closing argument. He is the jobs candidate and the one who says America can power through the COVID epidemic by going about our lives, taking the hit to the old, weak, and soon-to-die-anyway, and by hurrying up the vaccine. Trump says we have already "turned the corner" while Biden, the cowardly mask-wearing weenie, hides out and has a defeatist policy of job-killing social distance tyranny and economic depression. Vote Trump for a strong economy.

The Spokane editorial reminds readers that there is a perfectly satisfactory way for Republican-oriented voters both to contemplate Trump's tweets, dishonesty, authoritarianism, dog whistle racism, irreligiousness, and overall "wretched" character, and still vote for him. It's because those character flaws aren't flaws.

The editorial posits that "the policies that Joe Biden and his progressive supporters would impose on the nation would be worse." Biden would be the "doddering doting uncle who would hand out gifts the nation can't afford in order to win people's love." We cannot vote for that, so "economic policy and principle should prevail."

The editorial brings us back to basics. For many, the election is actually about the potential for re-distribution of wealth. At every level of the economic spectrum, people fear their tax money will be given to the undeserving. The secure and wealthy don't want it given to the middle class in the form progressive taxes and expensive benefits like Medicare for All and affordable college. Working people--the non-college white men that are the centerpiece of Trump's base--don't want it given to people they perceive to work less hard than them, or to get jobs and promotions they better deserve.  Women are getting men's jobs. Black people seem to get preferences, as are Latinos. Immigrants get hired to work under the table. Everyone sees someone they consider undeserving. Trump does not need to reference redistribution to Blacks. He can mention suburbs and Cory Booker invading it. People who want to get it, get it. People who want not to hear it, can ignore it. 

Mitt Romney made the argument of "makers" and ""takers, the latter being the 47% who will sponge off hard working productive Americans. Circumspect Romney said this the polite way, the Republican way. Trump said it the George Wallace way. Romney got more votes than Trump in the Upper Midwest swing states, but he ran against Obama, who had saved the auto industry, and Trump ran against Hillary and her emails. Romney ran as a normal, regular Republican. Trump's message realigns 
the GOPs core constituency, exchanging Archie Bunker for the suburban housewife.

It is easy to overthink messaging. This blog has spent five years doing that. This editorial reminds us that there is one big underlying issue out there. The Democratic brand is associated with income and benefit distribution downward. Democrats are the "share" Party. The Republican brand is associated with the struggle to make sure that you get your full share and other people don't get money that belongs to you. They are the "don't get fleeced" Party. 

If income redistribution is the issue, then Trump being a cruel, selfish, dishonest, intemperate dog whistler about low IQ Blacks and looting taking place under cover of Black Lives Matter protests isn't all that bad. It takes someone like that to keep people from taking your money.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Midwestern Values: Sleepy Joe isn't Woke

"America needs Michigan"

Biden represents a position in the culture war.

Joe Biden says "malarky." He rides a train. He puts ashes on his forehead on Ash Wednesday.  

He was the one potential Democratic nominee who didn't have to prove that he wasn't on the leading edge of anything, especially woke politically correctness.

A lot of Democrats want Biden to change. They want him to commit himself to expanding the size of the Supreme Court, to supporting Medicare For All, to pushing harder and faster against fossil fuels, and generally to bend more left. Democrats worry that Trump's blows are landing when he says Biden is "hiding in the basement"  by doing virtual rather than in-person campaigning.  

Jeff Daniels narrates
Biden is continuing to do what he has done all along, a light schedule with small, virtual events. He is nearly invisible compared to Trump. This isn't an accident; it is craft. Biden wants this to be a referendum on Trump. America doesn't know much about Biden, but we know enough. He isn't Trump, he's an old war horse Democrat, and he is available. Either people want four more years of Trump, or not.

Rich Lowry of National Review posited that if Trump wins re-election it will have nothing to do with Trump's plans for a second term, because he appears to have none. It will be because the marginal voters in America wanted to send a big middle finger gesture to the American left, as if to say You guys have gone crazy. It would be a rejection of Democratic flirting with socialism, a rejection of open borders, a rejection of protests turned into arson and looting, but most especially a rejection of puritanical intolerance and moral scolding by the left. People don't like having their thoughts and actions defined as racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, and deplorable.They don't consider themselves to be the beneficiary of systemic racism and damned if they feel themselves to be guilty of thought crimes. They think the left has gone crazy with the culture war.

Biden doesn't look or talk like an avant-garde scourge of the woke left. He looks like the loving granddad who doesn't exactly understand what the grandkids in their twenties and thirties are so upset about. Biden is the family man, the practicing Catholic, the son in a large Irish working-class family, and he is settled in his way of thinking. Some people consider that a gigantic liability. It is also an asset. 

The actor, musician and playwright Jeff Daniels narrates a two-minute video endorsement of Joe Biden. It is a special message to the swing state of Michigan, although it will work for voters all over the Upper Midwest. It is a message of praise of Michigan's work ethic, values, people. The message defines Biden as the man of good values, good Michigan values. 
Trump and Stormy Daniels

The Trump campaign has spent a billion dollars trying to shoehorn his Democratic opposition into a caricature of the dangerous, socialist, extreme, coastal elite, Hollywood-hobnobbing, anti-religion, abortion-loving, rioter-defending enemy of the good people in Trump's base. Democrats chose the candidate where that won't fly. Joe Biden may be Sleepy, but he isn't woke. 

Daniels describes himself as a native Michigan boy who makes Michigan his home now. 

"People talk a lot about 'Midwestern values'. Here in Michigan we live those values, things like decency, honesty, and respect. But we're hurting in Michigan right now, in our factories, on our farms, in our hearts."

"Here in Michigan, we don’t believe in paying off porn stars to keep their mouths shut about who we really are,” he says, “And we don’t think much of a man who disrespects women. In fact, we don’t think he’s much of a man at all.”

I doubt if this video will win any votes or move the electoral needle. The real meaning of this ad is that it could be produced at all and not seem utterly artificial and just another phony political ad. It is, of course, a political ad, but its use to us is that it is saying something that doesn't need saying. We already knew Joe Biden was an old fashioned guy, trying to look hip by wearing aviator sunglasses. He looks the part of old fashioned midwestern values because he is who he is.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Does Social Media Win Elections?

Maybe. There is a lot of coordinated activity by both campaigns.

It's one more thing for Democrats to worry about.

Democrats worry that the most popular Facebook posts are all from Fox-type conservative posters, including Tucker Carlson and Candice Owens. Some of this blogs readers will know exactly who they are, others won't, which reveals the niche-silo quality of social media. 

In the olden days--twenty years ago--if something was making a big media splash most people got wind of it because it was happening on media noticed by everyone, TV, newspapers, magazines. In today's social media context, something big might be going on and you are in the center of it, considering it a central part of the national debate. Or, you might be completely clueless about it. Some are sharing information about whether Biden could win Texas. Other people are talking about Hunter Biden.
Example of ad by The Lincoln Project

Political scientists want to measure and understand whether social media actually changes minds and votes. Sandford Borins is one. He just retired as a professor of political science and management at the University of Toronto, and he has appeared here as a Guest Post author, most frequently in some version of his classic framing of political messaging archetypes: Hero, Knave, and Fool.

A conclusion I have made after five years of closely watching political presentations is that most voters, and certainly the marginal voters who are uncertain about whether to vote or for whom, base their decision on simple conclusions about a candidate's essential role in the political drama. Are they the good guy or the bad guy?

Sandford Borins' writing can be accessed directly at his own website,

Guest Post by Sandford Borins

"Does Social Media Predict Elections?"

Just as students of public opinion use polling to predict elections, students of online politics use activity counts (viewcounts, likes, comments, retweets, etc.) to predict elections. The fundamental theorem of online politics is that more activity is better, and the candidate with more activity is likely to win the election.

A recent article in The New York Times by technology writer Kevin Roose notes that Trump’s campaign has experienced much more activity on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube than Biden’s. Trump has had 207 million views of his videos on YouTube in the last 30 days compared to 29 million for Biden’s. In contrast, in the public opinion polls, Biden has maintained a steady 10-point lead. What does this inconsistency signify?

First, a bit of background. A decade ago, candidates posted all their broadcast ads on YouTube and didn’t make much use of other social media. YouTube viewcounts were thus a meaningful indicator of candidate popularity. I found that in the 2015 Canadian election the Liberals had a much higher total viewcount than either the Conservatives or NDP and that in the 2016 US presidential election the total viewcount for Clinton’s ads was slightly ahead of Trump’s until FBI Director James Comey’s announcement of a second investigation of Clinton’s emails in the last week of the campaign. During the last week, Trump’s ads posted on YouTube received four times as many views as Clinton’s (4 million to 1 million), reflecting the shift in voter preferences that would lead to Trump’s narrow victory.

Now, social media campaigns are much more elaborate. While official campaigns and PACs run ads on broadcast media and repeat them on YouTube, they and their surrogates are constantly sending out ads on social media to targeted voters. So YouTube viewcounts are less likely to be an accurate predictor of voter preferences. An academic studying online campaigning would need a major grant to follow all this activity. That’s no longer me. But I have been following the campaigns on YouTube and have some observations.

An exhaustive study would include the YouTube channels of both the official campaigns and major associated PACs. In Trump’s case, Future45, his major PAC in 2016, still maintains a channel but hasn’t been posting. The most effective PAC working on Biden’s behalf is The Lincoln Project, led by disaffected Republicans. (See Paige William’s profile in The New Yorker).

The Lincoln Project has 687,000 subscribers and has posted 240 videos on its YouTube channel. Almost all are attacks on Trump, his inner circle, or key Republican senators running for re-election. Because The Lincoln Project is doing the attacking, the official Biden campaign can set a more positive tone. In the last month, the Lincoln Project’s videos have had 38 million views, so they are obviously amplifying Biden’s message.In previous analyses of campaign ads, I’ve referred to three fables: hero, knave, and fool. To this point, attacks on Trump have emphasized his bigotry, racism, sexism, and authoritarianism, all subsumed under the category of knave. In many of its ads, the Lincoln Project has taken a different tack, portraying Trump as a fool. Don the Con argues that he has been ripped off by his own campaign chiefs, who have spent a billion dollars in funds with no evident results. Rats mocks him because he is losing the election and his henchmen and women are leaving the sinking ship and blaming him. The ads activating the “fool” fable are often placed on media Trump is known to watch and use unseen female narration to twist the knife.

The Lincoln Project’s ads are viewed extremely favorably by their audiences, with 99 percent of the votes being likes rather than dislikes.

Joe Biden’s official YouTube channel has 426,000 subscribers and has posted 700 videos. The tone of most is upbeat, focusing on Biden’s program, record, and empathetic personality. Many are narrated by citizens who support Biden. A considerable number of clips from the debates and his speeches have been posted. The recent ad that has received the most attention is ‘Go from There,” an ad that extols Biden as a unifier not a divider, narrated by the actor Sam Elliott. In a week it has received 1.5 million views. Biden’s videos generally receive more likes than dislikes, but nothing like the near unanimity of The Lincoln Project’s.

The Trump campaign’s YouTube channel has 1.5 million subscribers and carries 3400 videos. The number of videos is so large because it is continually posting short clips from Trump’s speeches. The name most often seen on the titles of Trump campaign videos is Joe Biden, as the dominant message is an attack on Biden. Using my trichotomy of knave, fool, and hero, few ads are heroic references to Trump, and the vast majority are split between Biden as fool (confused to the point of senility, dupe of the socialist left wing of the Democratic Party, particularly Kamala Harris) or as knave (enabler of Hunter’s alleged influence-peddling with foreign governments, supporter of higher taxes).

Some of the campaign’s videos are achieving viewcounts of over 5 million almost instantly. The most recent of these include “Do You Trust Joe Biden with your Money?”, “Did Something Happen to Joe Biden?”, and “Joe Biden: All Talk, No Action,” all of which were posted on October 25. The first activates the knave fable regarding taxes, the second the fool fable by zeroing on Biden’s stuttering or verbal gaffes, and the third is a contrast ad aimed at Blacks narrated by the former athlete Herschel Walker. Assuming they are real rather than fabricated, these viewcounts are impressive. These ads have a total of 50,000 to 100,000 likes and dislikes, in a ratio of approximately 2 to 1. So they are not being watched only by Trump supporters.

To return to the question with which I began, why is Trump dominating the social media campaign so strongly when Biden is leading so steadily in the public opinion polls? Here are some hypotheses.

First, thinking of The Lincoln Project as an extension of the Biden campaign reduces the extent of the Trump campaign’s online dominance.

Second, in the 2016 campaign and during his presidency, Trump built up a large, enthusiastic, and committed base. The viewcounts for the 2020 campaign reflect the ongoing support of the base. Even if it is being chipped away, as the public opinion polls suggest, it is still large enough to deliver the viewcounts.Third, the Biden campaign has enjoyed a huge advantage in funding and has been running many more television ads, particularly in swing states, as a recent analysis in The New York Times shows. Perhaps the Trump campaign, unable to compete on television ads, is disseminating its ads on social media, which is less expensive.

Third, the Biden campaign has enjoyed a huge advantage in funding and has been running many more television ads, particularly in swing states, as a recent analysis in The New York Times shows. Perhaps the Trump campaign, unable to compete on television ads, is disseminating its ads on social media, which is less expensive.

Fourth, I am somewhat suspicious of ads that get millions of views the day they are released and the next day their viewcounts stop increasing. The normal viewcount trajectory isn’t like that: it climbs more gradually before it peaks. Maybe the Trump campaign is fabricating views.

That’s what strikes me today. For the rest of the week leading to the election, I will keep watching the YouTube battle.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Death of a salesman

     “We are coming around, we’re rounding the turn, we have the vaccines, we have everything. Even without the vaccines, we’re rounding the turn. It’s going to be over.

          Donald Trump, selling.

     "He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back — that's an earthquake. And then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you're finished."

     Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

Trump isn't finished. He
 is still selling.

Trump is an optimist who loves selling the sizzle, not the steak, and it has worked for him. He and his campaign have a new position. "We're not going to control the pandemic," his Chief of Staff said. COVID got away from us, and millions of us will get it, but it's all right because it really isn't that bad. Go live your life. 

We do not yet know whether voters in the swing states will buy a second time from this guy. They have a choice between the shopworn candidate with the dreary message, or the salesman with spots on his hat.

I refer to Biden as shopworn and his message dreary, but mean no disrespect. I voted for him. He is old and familiar. Democrats chose him because they could not settle on a New and Improved version of him, so they took the old tried-and-true. Biden reflects the emotions I feel when taking some generally reliable medicine for a common malady: Tums for heartburn, Benadryl for the pollen allergies. I don't expect a miracle. There is nothing fun or surprising about the product, and I won't feel great afterwards, just relief at best, and back to however I felt before. 

I have an entirely different feeling when buying a new car. A car purchase combines the feeling of getting rid of some old problem car and then the anticipation of new and improved.  It is fun to buy a new car. A back up camera! Lumbar support! The new car smell! Sizzle.

Trump has more sizzle than ever for some Americans. He is even more feisty than many had hoped. He is a fighter, their fighter. Men in pickup trucks with flags and banners are shouting a big "F--- You" to the weenies in their masks and Priuses and their brainwashed belief in the mainstream media. 

Trump is telling them what they want to hear about COVID--and what they believe. They agree with Trump that COVID isn't all that dangerous, except to people who were about to die anyway, and that the numbers of COVID deaths are phony. Trump told Laura Ingraham "Only 6% of the people died from COVID" because the rest "died from other reasons." That sounds about right to many people, including some people who comment on this blog. Even if Twitter takes down Trump's tweet that repeated that statistic because it spread mis-information--and Twitter did just that-- what Trump said and tweeted seems true in spirit. Few people personally know someone who had died from COVID. How bad could it be?

Meanwhile Biden, with his supporters in their masks and fuel efficient cars and grandmothers to worry about, says to listen to Dr. Fauci. Fauci says the virus is getting away from us, and the number of new cases grew from 50,000 to 65,000, and now 85,000 and hospitals are filling up, and that we need to be way better about masks and social distancing. Biden isn't sizzle. He is buzzkill. Biden is talking about car repairs. It is sensible but dreary.

Even the good news for the Biden campaign is no fun. Apparently hell has frozen over. The Manchester, New Hampshire Union Leader, the famously very conservative newspaper that makes Democrats furious and made Ed Muskie cry, just endorsed Joe Biden. He isn't the candidate we want, they said, but "he is the candidate we need." Faint praise, but praise. They don't believe the salesman with a mud-specked hat anymore.

Trump has a message on COVID: to power through it, take our hits, and make America great again. We are rounding the turn. Hope and change. Happy days are here again.

Trump has mud on his hat. The infections are ramping up at exactly the wrong time. People have noticed, and it's an earthquake. But his story is the better one, if only it were true. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

"Good chance COVID could kill me."

Government can't make you love your neighbor. Can it make you not kill him with your cough?

Ideas in conflict: Freedom, liberty, and self reliance at a time of a communicable disease.

Today's post is an expansion of a comment Portland Community College Computer Sciences professor Michael Trigoboff posted yesterday.  I invited this guest post because I am busy observing the harvest of a legal, permitted, and taxed cannabis grow. Mid and late October is a busy period for this industry in Southern Oregon.

Observing up close
COVID reflects the political attitudes toward social cooperation versus freedom and self reliance. In areas of sexuality and political thought, the political left is laissez-faire, but in areas of cooperation in close spaces, the political left favors more control. The air is shared and therefore "socialized," be it from factory pollution or COVID virus droplets.

Church-attending Christians are more closely aligned with Trump, but COVID scrambles the attitudes of people toward empathy for others. "Love your neighbor" and the Golden Rule direct people to consider the feelings of others and conform one's actions to do as you would want done to yourself. Most people would not want others to infect them with a virus with unknown long term health effects and potential death. In the case of COVID, the alignments are switched, with personal freedom trumping empathy, and the Golden Rule considered here an expression of tyranny.

On COVID, as with guns, the political right is the self-defense Party.  They are also the tough love Party, and if you get sick don't expect sympathy. The death of Herman Cain two weeks after the Trump rally in Tulsa occasioned little mention and no sympathy from the Trump campaign or Fox News, where Cain had been a frequent guest. 

Trump motivates Republican voters with images of frightful invasions: scary MS-13, scary caravans including secret terrorists, scary BLM protesters, scary Muslims, and in the campaign scary socialists--no, communists!!--running for President and Vice President. Democrats have downplayed each of these threats. Yet on COVID, the polarity is reversed, with Democrats talking about death counts and Republicans doing partisan signaling by going mask-free and unafraid of remote threats.

Republicans are thinking like Utilitarians, not like Christians.

Guest Post by Michael Trigoboff

Peter Sage’s post about responses to COVID described two possible approaches to the pandemic:

Golden Rule: attempt to save every life by shutting down all activities that could spread the virus without regard to economic or social costs.

Utilitarian: Allow younger people, who are less likely to die from COVID, to resume activities. Older and more vulnerable people should socially isolate while the rest of society avoids the harm of widespread closures. Herd immunity should eventually shut down the spread of the virus.

Jonathan Haidt’s research on Moral Foundations tells us that there are fundamental differences between how liberals and conservatives evaluate issues like this. Liberals concentrate on avoiding harm; they would favor the Golden Rule approach. Conservatives pay attention to avoiding harm, but factor in a number of other considerations as well; they would favor the Utilitarian approach.

Liberals and conservatives are basically two different kinds of people, and no amount of discussion will turn one kind into the other kind.

We are currently polarized along this axis, and the polarization is intractable because neither side seems to realize that the folks on the other side are fundamentally different from them and their viewpoints are just as valid. The way out would be to stop demonizing each other, to recognize the differences, and to compromise. We are a long way from that, unfortunately.

I am 74 years old and currently recovering a month after coronary bypass surgery. If I were infected with COVID, there’s a really good chance that it would kill me. Since March, all of my socializing and teaching activities have been via Zoom. I only leave the house for doctors’ appointments.

Nevertheless, being of a somewhat conservative orientation, I tend to sympathize with the Utilitarian approach advocated by the Great Barrington Declaration. It does not make sense to me to shut down the social and economic lives of younger, healthier people and make them all live the way I need to. I will need to live this way regardless which policy is chosen, and the younger, healthier people deserve to have a chance to live something like more normal lives.

There is, however, a counter-argument to the Utilitarian approach: a significant number of younger people do suffer serious long-term consequences and even death from COVID. The death toll among all age groups resulting from the Utilitarian approach might prove to be unacceptably high.

Finally, many young people live in multi-generational households. Easing the restrictions on the those young people could put the older people who live with them at extreme risk.

And we do not yet know whether herd immunity is even possible. No one knows how long the immunity resulting from the infection lasts, or how strong it is. If herd immunity is not possible, the Utilitarian approach would result in many more deaths than its supporters assume.

I do not know what the right answer is. I am keeping an open mind.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

COVID triage. It's seniors' turn to die

      "A man can die but once. We owe God a death, and let it go which way it will, he that dies this year is quit for the next."

              Henry IV, Part 2  William Shakespeare

The USA has a policy of sacrificing old, sick people in order to spare the young and the economy. We just don't want to admit it.

Let me be clear. I am not happy about this. I am 71 years old.  I am on the hit list. I am not advocating. I am describing.

A Great Barrington Declaration is circulating and adding signatures. It advocates a change in US policies away from mass virus suppression and toward "Focused Protection." The Declaration says that it is both impossible and morally wrong to burden the entire country with the effort to stop the spread of the virus. COVID is probably not very dangerous for most Americans, it says, so the entire effort should be to protect the people that COVID actually endangers, the old and the sick. The cost of attempting to protect everyone is too great and the net result is more harm than good. Yes, people are going to get hurt, but fewer people are hurt if we stop trying to protect people who don't need protection and focus on those who do.

The ethic of Utilitarianism is well known among students who have taken a college course in philosophy. Jeremy Bentham, 1748-1832, put the idea of Utilitarianism into coherent form. How to weigh the various moral consequences of any action? The best answer, he said, is summarized by a phrase: Do the greatest good for the greatest number.

The Great Barrington Declaration takes note of the reality that the social distancing rules have costs. Protecting seniors and the sick mean millions of schoolchildren are missing school and therefore education essential to their futures. It means millions of people who want to work cannot. It is disrupting landlord/tenant relations. It is pushing people into poverty, with all of poverty's current and long term consequences. It is exacerbating the problems of inequality, since many of the people least able to adjust to the new regimen are people already experiencing inequality, the working poor and their children.

Meanwhile, the people who could best be able to deal with social distancing and economic slowdowns are most likely to be out of the workforce, people getting pension and Social Security checks. They can shelter and protect themselves.

The Utilitarian idea focuses on the whole. By contrast, the Golden Rule ethic focuses on individual feelings, asking people how they would want to be treated, and few people would ask to be injured. The Golden Rule may work for guiding ones behavior toward family and neighbor, but for a national leader, it causes one to "err" on the side of compassion and avoiding direct injury.The Golden Rule is the ethical basis underlying policy of mass reduction of COVID spread, and the position advanced by Democrats. Look at the dead and injured. Think of them and their families. Don't hurt more people.

In actual practice, Americans have given up on mass suppression of COVID. Trump was certainly motivated by his re-election and maintaining a facade of COVID being harmless to protect the strong economy, but the result is that he backed into a Utilitarian policy of triage that sacrifices the old and sick for the benefit of the young, the healthy, and the economy.

He had choices. A mass COVID suppression program could have worked, with early and consistent buy-in from national leadership, with mask wearing, social distancing, shut-downs of social gatherings including church services and schools, plus testing and aggressive contact tracing. All those actions needed to have been affirmed as patriotic at the highest levels of government. There needed to be bipartisan buy-in. That didn't happen. A mass stop-the-spread policy cannot work if 35-40% of people think it is foolish and an affront to liberty and personal choice and a partisan signal of defeat to the opposite Party.

Trump is hinting at the actual policy with his I-feel-great comments and his unapologetic events that risk virus spread. White House behavior is body language messaging. "Don't let the virus dominate you," Trump says, in word and deed. But he is not laying out the actual policy because he is offering the fig leaf of it being non-fatal, there being therapies, and an imminent vaccine.

The simple reality is that as more people get virus, some percentage of extra people will die, concentrated among the old and unwell. It is politically unappealing to focus on the deaths, not the benefit to the people who continue to go to school and to work. Seniors vote, and there are a lot of seniors in Florida and Arizona, two states that Trump must win to be re-elected. If it were openly acknowledged that a half million seniors needed to die a just a few years early for the good of their fellow Americans, then people would be facing an ugly reality. 

Americans eat meat, but they avert their eyes to the actions that take place in slaughterhouses. Some work gets done because people focus on the sirloin, not the death and dismemberment of the cow.

Trump says our COVID policy is about the injury from China, and about freedom and resisting Democratic governors, and not being over-cautious since great therapies and a vaccine are coming soon, and besides Dr. Fauci is probably a Democrat and there are second opinions that differ from his. Republican seniors in Florida and Arizona have that fig leaf to hold onto.

The reality is that the floodgates are opening and we hit a new high of infections yesterday. It is too late to stop mass spread. If Biden loses the election it will be because people realized that they disliked the COVID-related shutdown more than they hated Trump's tweets, and that if Biden were president it would mean more months of inconvenience, but if Trump were elected things would go back to normal.

"Normal" means that young people go to school, that workers go back to work, and that old people get sick and die, just like always.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Personal Journey from Goldwater to Biden

One person, one vote.

Each person gets to the decision on how to vote based on ones own tastes, personality, personal history, and policy interests. 

Today's blog post is a bit of autobiography from John Flenniken, a regular reader of this blog. He is about 75, he taught chemistry in a Portland High School in the 1970s and then, better to support a family, left teaching to work for the electric power utility Pacific Power and Light.

Guest Post by John Flenniken

"The Republican Party Changed"

Here is a personal dive into why my military and police family voted Republican, but now I do not.   

I grew up in a military family. You might call me an Army brat. My mother was convinced there would be another great war within 20 years. In her thinking, I needed to start first grade at five (born October 1st) so that I’d have two years of college under my belt by 1964 when she predicted the next war would start--just in time for the Vietnam War it turns out. My mother thought those two years of college would put me into military service as officer material if drafted, and maybe I could avoid actual firefights. She was also convinced that Democratic presidents (i.e. Wilson and FDR) had lead the nation into war, and Democrats would again.  

My mother, recently widowed, felt the military was poorly served by Democrats.  As was the family custom, we all voted Republican. My mother's brother became a Portland police officer at this time, and, yes, he was very Republican.
 I grew up supporting Republicans because that is what I heard at the kitchen table. 

I worked on the Goldwater campaign in college. So what changed?  Well, to be direct I didn’t change--the Republicans did. The tipping point for me was Richard M. Nixon. Then and now, I consider myself a conservative of the Oregon stripe. I supported Governors Tom McCall, Victor Atiyeh and Mark Hatfield. But watching the Watergate Hearings it became clear to me there was criminality in the Nixon White House. Coupled with the OPEC Oil embargo, Nixon became someone who was crooked, and who mismanaged the government. Jimmy Carter looked like a good alternative to me.

There were new family influences on me, too. My wife, raised in a Democratic family, voted a Democratic social cause ticket, and back in the 1960s and 1970s she protested the Vietnam War. That made family holidays “interesting” but gradually I came to agree with my wife and in-laws. 

I kept hoping that America could be better and do better and my attitudes evolved in that direction during the1970s.  Carter had tried to turn the US from fossil fuels and towards conservation and renewable energy, which made sense to me, even though the average citizen was not happy going fifty-five miles an hour to save fuel. The political gridlock caused by oil and car companies lobbying made embracing a new direction impossible. I began to think Republicans were trying to divide the country rather then unite it, to enhance their own agenda.   

There were economic incentives, too. As a teacher, my salary was negotiated, and compared to today's salary and wages, it was poverty-level. I applied for summer work with the USDA/Soil Conservation Service/Snow Surveys and earned supplemental wages and as a GS-9 field engineer. I seriously thought about making the SCS a career, but all that ended with Reagan’s Grace Commission Report. Temporary work was available but now there was no prospect for longterm government service. Federal government jobs were being reviewed and, where possible, privatized.

I had a young family and I was pinched by the fact that wages did not keep pace with costs.  I became a strong union leader in the Portland School District’s salary negotiations. Those of us in the union had to bargain hard to get meager salary increases. I saw the writing on the wall. It was time for me quit teaching and find a job in the private sector.  PPL offered me a job if I would move to Wyoming. We agreed. Renting out my house in Portland, we relocated to Rock Springs, Wyoming. As it turned out Sweetwater County, Wyoming is the only Democratic area in the state.  

Suffering through the Reagan - Bush years was really hard. The economy was not working for people just starting out. The term “stagflation” described low wage growth and high inflation destroying those gains.  Bill Clinton’s administration did create an economy the “floated all boats.”  I liked the economy under Clinton, but of course I found myself apologizing for Bill Clinton's mess with Monica. Then, i was crossing my fingers hoping that Democratic presidents could regain the peace and prosperity of the Clinton years, voting first for Obama and then Hillary Clinton.

In 2016 we got Donald J. Trump, a newly minted and recast Republican. When my wife's and my dismay and grief over the 2016 election waned, anger took it’s place, as the authoritarian tendencies of Donald Trump became apparent. I had thought, briefly, that a New York real estate developer would be more conservative and less socially disruptive and divisive. Well, wrong again. He was worse. 

I do not expect that on November 3rd we will learn the election outcome.  I do expect there will be disruptions and legal challenges.  As Michael Steele, former Republican Party Chairman, still a Republican, said in The Lincoln Project political appeal ad, the choice is clear. A vote for Biden/Harris is a vote for America.  A vote for Trump is a vote for chaos. 

I agree. Trump is all about encouraging and profiting from chaos. Remember, my earliest political lessons were the value of authority and order in my military family.  I still value that, which is why Trump seems to me to be so wrong for America.

Still there’s hope this year!  Other unlikely people seem to be tiring of Trump's chaos. My Kansas cousin, for the first time in family history, voted a straight Democratic ticket. 


Debate: Trump was not a jerk

He wasn't an insufferable bully. Trump learned, took advice, and adjusted. 

That Trump could be re-elected. The problem is that "normal" Trump made for a boring debate.  

I returned e-mails during the debate and ate dinner. I write a political blog and watching the debate was work, so I stayed with it.

Last night we saw a reality that helps explain Trump's success, but also why Trump risks being a one-term president. The Trump Show is exhausting. It has devoted fans but it also turns people off.

Normally Trump is a whirling dervish of political theater, appealing to the resentments of his supporters, presenting bravado salesmanship of a can-do great America, with a great economy, the corner turned on COVID, jobs returned, all great again in America. Meanwhile liberals and Democrats are aghast. Some people want to cheer; some people want to tear their hair out. The people who cheer love the fact that those terrible liberal socialist woke coastal-elite baby-killing Democrats want to tear their hair out.

Last night we didn't get the Trump Show. We got something approximating a presidential debate. The CNN people are thrilled with explaining all Trump's lies and exaggerations and the Fox people are celebrating Trump's self discipline. The pundits and journalists have big exciting headlines, but they are trying too hard. They are pretending the debate really mattered.

It doesn't. Nobody cares.

People have already figured out how they feel about Trump, and Democratic and Republican ads are locking in those two views.  Republicans say Trump is great and Biden is corrupt. Democrats say Trump messed things up and Biden is decent. Insofar as the debate matters even a little, the question was whether Biden would prove inept beside Trump. Biden was OK. He seemed tongue tied at times and we saw him stutter. Democrats who had watched Obama the night before could not help notice the contrast between the fluent and eloquent Obama and the Biden who could only articulate a position with clarity when he was looking at the camera and doing a set piece. Biden is no Obama.

But this isn't an election about Biden. It is about whether people can stand four more years of Trump's behavior.

Biden is good enough. So was the Trump we saw last night, appearing more or less presidential, actively defending his record the way a president and candidate would. But that Trump was not convincing as the "new Trump" and in any case the normal, presidential Trump isn't all that interesting. That's the problem for Trump. To be interesting enough to change people's minds about him, he would need to be the old, outrageous Trump. 

Would a low information/low engagement undecided voter watch much of it, hoping to get a measure of each man?  I suspect not. Even political bloggers like me could barely stick with it.