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James Patterson won’t be murdering Stephen King after all.

Patterson and King battle each other bestseller lists, so it’s perhaps not surprising that Patterson wrote a book (with co-author Derek Nikitas) titled The Murder of Stephen King.

Writing a novel imagining the attempted killing of an actual living person is inherently a dicey affair. Nicholson Baker faced much criticism for his 2004 novel Checkpoint, about a depressed loser who talks about plans to kill George W. Bush. The Patterson/Nikitas fabulation strikes a little too close to home since King has had a problem with fans who impinge on his privacy. Fear that a reader might do him harm underlies King’s 1987 Misery, where a novelist is held captive by a rabid fan.

My book is a positive portrayal of a fictional character, and, spoiler alert, the main character is not actually murdered,” Patterson wrote in a press release on Thursday. “Nevertheless, I do not want to cause Stephen King or his family any discomfort. Out of respect for them, I have decided not to publish The Murder of Stephen King.”

The news will likely put a damper on Jonathan Franzen’s proposed novel, The Slow Decapitation of Jonathan Safran Foer, and Joyce Carol Oates’s 700-page tome, Don DeLillo Gets Beaten to a Pulp.

September 26, 2016


No, Amazon didn’t “fix” the reviews of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine’s book Stronger Together.

Over the weekend, Amazon deleted hundreds of negative customer reviews of their campaign book. According to, Amazon deleted over 1,000 1-star reviews of the book, upping its average user review from 1.7 to 2.4. The story quickly ricocheted around the conservative blogosphere and was picked up by Drudge and featured on Fox News with the headline, “BIAS ALERT: Amazon ‘fixed’ reviews for Hillary Clinton’s book.” Sounds bad!

Except it isn’t, not really. Amazon has been deleting troll reviews of products for years. The deleted reviews of Stronger Together aren’t really about Stronger Together. Instead, they’re mostly a series of tired jokes about how Hillary Clinton likes to kill people and also is sick, and Amazon deletes reviews that aren’t about the product in question. While Amazon didn’t do much to stop fake reviews for its first 15 years of existence, the company stepped up its game starting in 2012, when it began aggressively deleting fake reviews. Over the past year, it has sued over fake reviews on at least two occasions. (Ironically, the publishing industry criticized Amazon for not doing enough to stop fake reviews until fairly recently.)

Clinton and Kaine’s book deserves to be savaged. It is a very bad book and there is absolutely no reason for it to exist. Sixteen dollars for a glorified platform is preposterous when you can get all of the information in the book—most of which means next to nothing—for free online. It begins vacuously (its first two sentences are: “It has been said that America is great because America is good. We agree.”) and doesn’t get better from there. But the idea that Amazon is protecting Clinton is silly, and that’s coming from an Amazon skeptic.

In any case, the trolls are still at it. As of this writing, the book is down to 1.4 stars, lower than it was before Amazon deleted the reviews. Many of those reviews will probably be deleted, but not to protect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

Asian-American voters really don’t like Donald Trump.

They are the fastest growing racial group in the United States and a growing voter demographic, with nearly 4 million voters in 2012. Nearly three-quarters of these voters favored President Barack Obama, and a spring 2016 survey of Asian American and Pacific Islander voters showed that they are leaning Democratic in both the presidential and state races, by a factor of 2 to 1 or even higher. 

While far from a monolithic voting bloc, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders care about immigration reform, access to health care, and affordable college. Forty percent of voters said that they would oppose a candidate who was anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim in their views.  

Cue Donald J. Trump. With over a month until the presidential election, his campaign just launched its new Asian Pacific American Advisory Committee. When asked about the seemingly last-minute nature of the campaign, a Trump official explained that the timing was planned to coincide with the first presidential debate. The GOP also released a video featuring Asian Americans (half-heartedly) sharing why they would vote for Trump. 

Following his steady record of flops with black and Latino voter outreach, it is unclear how Trump’s committee will convince Asian-American voters to choose someone who promises the opposite of what they hope for on several issues. The grab bag of elected leaders, judges, and professionals listed on the committee was not accompanied by any concrete policy platform, unlike the Clinton campaign’s specific platform for AAPI communities that puts immigration reform, affordable health care, and access to college front and center. 

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Kris Kobach is in trouble.

A federal judge has ordered the Kansas secretary of state to appear at a Friday hearing. The reason? He allegedly violated a court order in an ongoing voting-rights lawsuit, and now he has to convince the judge he isn’t in contempt of court.

From the Wichita Eagle:

Judge Julie Robinson scheduled the contempt hearing after a filing by the American Civil Liberties Union last week. The filing alleges that Kobach has failed to comply with the judge’s May order to register about 18,000 people who registered to vote at the Department of Motor Vehicles but did not provide proof of citizenship.

These voters were allowed to cast provisional ballots in the August primary, but Kobach has not added them to the state’s voter registration list.

This lawsuit centers on a stringent “voter fraud” law Kobach enthusiastically backed. Under the law, Kansans have to submit proof of citizenship in addition to completing the standard federal form for voter registration. But not everyone could provide the forms of ID that the state required, so the ACLU filed suit, arguing that the state had effectively disenfranchised valid voters.

It’s no surprise that Kobach is reluctant to comply with the court’s order: He’s an infamous nativist and a proud member of Donald Trump’s gallery of rogues. He even told the press in April that he helped draft the candidate’s infamous border wall plan. Even though study after study shows that voter fraud is nearly non-existent in the U.S., it’s still a useful political bugbear for Kobach, Trump, and their fellow ethno-nationalists.

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Donald Trump’s environmental team is a climate change nightmare.

On Monday, his campaign announced that climate skeptic Myron Ebell would head the transition of the EPA under a Trump presidency. This is just the most recent of many Trump appointments that make environmentalistsor anyone who cares about the Earthcringe.

Ebell is the director of energy and environment policy at the conservative think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute. In the past, Ebell has said that climate change is not caused by humans, that the Clean Power Plan is illegal, and that the Paris climate change agreement is unconstitutional.

This comes a week after it was reported that Forrest Lucas—co-founder of Lucas Oil—is on Trump’s short list for interior secretary. Lucas is considered a risky pick by environmentalists who aren’t keen on an oil exec calling the shots on land management. (Lucas also recently produced The Dog Lover, a film that says puppy mills aren’t so bad.)

Add these to names such as Mike McKenna, head of Trump’s Department of Energy transition team; Harold Hamm, oil tycoon and Trump energy adviser; and David Bernhardt, a former Interior Department solicitor under George W. Bush who is on the short list to lead Trump’s Department of Energy. You get a very conservative and oil-influenced team of policy makers.

The networks don’t want to fact-check the debates.

Hillary Clinton may have a reputation for being less than truthful, but Donald Trump is a liar. Last week Politico found that, over five hours of speaking time, Donald Trump lied every three minutes and fifteen seconds. Trump’s unprecedented untruthfulness has led many—particularly, it should be said, in Clinton’s camp—to call for moderators to fact-check the candidates in real time. There have also been calls for networks to deploy resources—a chyron, for instance—to fact-check the debates without interfering with them. But according to Politico, “None of the major networks has publicly committed to doing concurrent on-screen fact-checking during the debate, when the audience is highest.” This means that the decision to interject and correct will be moderator Lester Holt’s and his alone.

The networks have claimed that fact-checking the candidates would simply be too hard to do because they “would need to be nearly instantaneous to correlate with the answer the candidate is giving, leading to some high editorial and technical hurdles.” There is a grain of truth here: Fact-checking would have to be nearly instantaneous. But debates tend to stay on the same topic for several minutes at a time. Even a candidate who lies as frequently as Trump could probably be adequately fact-checked in something approaching real time—anyone who looks at Twitter during debates sees virtual real-time fact-checking.

NBC did not respond to Politico’s inquiries, so it’s possible that Holt is operating with different instructions—we’ll find out at 9 p.m. this evening. In any case, “editorial and technical hurdles” are not the reason that the networks are refusing to commit to fact-checking the debates. The networks aren’t fact-checking the debates because they don’t want to seem biased. Refusing to commit to on-air fact-checking is, hilariously, a commitment to supposed objectivity, which shows that it has nothing to do with journalistic standards and everything to do with not appearing partisan. Donald Trump will get away with lying to a hundred million Americans tonight so ABC, CBS, CNN, et al. can claim that they don’t have a liberal bias.

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Good news: FIFA has ended racism.

No, really. According to FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura, the Taskforce Against Racism and Discrimination has fulfilled its mandate and is henceforth “dissolved and no longer in operation.”

This is record time, and anti-racism organizations all over the world would do well to learn from FIFA. Two years ago, FIFA’s own head of the anti-racism initiative, Jeffrey Webb, confessed the organization wasn’t doing nearly enough to reach this very goal.

In the last couple years, we have seen swatikas etched into pitches, leading figures like the Italian FA president and coaches decry the presence of black players, and fans all over Europe making monkey chants and throwing bananas at players of color on the field.

This declaration means we can expect an end to all of these occurrences, although the international body, paradoxically, accomplished this great feat by doing nothing. Osasu Obayiuwana, a member of the task force, told the AP that they “never had a single meeting” under Constant Omari, who replaced Webb after he was charged with racketeering during the Department of Justice’s investigation into FIFA.

This end to racism is especially timely given that the next World Cup is in Russia, where incidents of racism happen in “every game” and were “guaranteed” to occur at the 2018 event. Soccer fans the world over can rest assured that if we see any bananas thrown at the next World Cup, it’s in good faith and simply out of concern to provide players of color with more potassium to see them at their best.

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Paul LePage released his Binder Full of Drug Dealers. (Spoiler alert: They are mostly white.)

Per The Bangor Daily News’s Michael Shepherd, Maine’s pugnacious governor released the document earlier this morning. And lo and behold, the contents do not match LePage’s incendiary rhetoric about non-white drug traffickers in the state.

You can read the full document online

It’s unclear what LePage thought he would gain from releasing this. It obviously debunks his claim that Maine’s drug problem stems from the presence of people of color, so it won’t quiet criticism from the press or his political opponents. Instead, it further reinforces his reputation for racist delusion. 

Nevertheless, he might not face any immediate repercussions. Though his approval rating sits at 38 percent, Maine Republicans blocked an attempt to officially sanction him earlier this month.  

The polls may be bad, but Hillary Clinton has a lot going for her in the first debate.

The presidential race is a dead heat. The left (and everyone who is terrified by the idea of a Trump presidency) is getting jumpy. The question of how Clinton will blow this thing has become embedded in the narrative, and that fear finally seems justified. FiveThirtyEight’s NowCast, which measures how the presidential race would shake out if the election were held today, gives Donald Trump a 54.9 percent chance of winning the presidency.

Trump would appear to have the upper hand going into the first debate. He’s surging in the polls, and his campaign has been playing the expectations game for weeks. Going into the first presidential debate, no candidate has ever had lower expectations than Donald Trump.

But Trump, as I wrote this morning, has every incentive to be boring on Monday night. His challenge is to convince undecided and third-party voters that he is not an insane person who will kill us all, which means that he will most likely play it safe and try to seem level-headed and reasonable.

But Trump is not the only person with low expectations. Clinton’s expectations, partly because of her middling performance in the campaign so far and partly because she has pneumonia, are also very low. Unlike Trump, Clinton is a very shrewd and talented debater. And unlike Trump, she has an incentive to be bold and forceful tonight. Clinton’s task is to seem human—to get across that she cares about voters and the issues that they face.

Trump’s team has been priming the press with the narrative that Clinton is cold and robotic, that she’s Marco Rubio 2.0. But that suggests they never watched her debates with Bernie Sanders, where she was both relatable and authoritative on policy issues.

So, Clinton should be on favorable terrain this evening. She will have to be careful tonight. But despite all of the doubt and the panic, she’s set up to do very well.


Which Donald Trump will show up to Monday night’s debate?

The first Clinton-Trump debate has been marketed by the networks as a mix between the Super Bowl, the Super Bowl halftime show, and Wrestlemania. They have promised viewers a bare-knuckle brawl, a once-in-a-lifetime showdown between two political heavyweights, who will ... talk at each other for 90 minutes! It’s rare that you have candidates who are near perfect contrasts: one establishment, one anti-establishment; one disciplined, one unpredictable; etc., etc. But the first debate is being sold like it belongs on pay-per-view for one reason: No one knows what the hell Donald Trump is going to do.

Trump is a chaotic candidate who represents a unique threat to American democracy (partly because he is so chaotic). In the lead-up to the debate, there has been some evidence that Trump would deploy the “madman” strategy that helped him win the Republican primary. Publicly inviting Gennifer Flowers to the debate (even if it was done insincerely) is in keeping with this strategy. Trump wants Clinton to think that anything is possible on Monday. And it is! I’d be surprised if Trump, say, dropped his pants and mooned Lester Holt, but anything short of that is on the table.

That said, Trump and his team have sent a lot of signals that he is going to be boring. He’s said he wants to play nice, for instance, and his campaign has been playing the expectations game, telling the media that he’s barely prepared. Undecided voters seem to be worried about his temperament, so Trump may try to convince them that he’s presidential material by not seeming like the completely unqualified candidate that he is. In this sense, Trump may try to pull a Romney, flummoxing Clinton by pretending to be a completely different candidate. This, I think, is the most likely starting point for Trump. His task is to seem calm and “presidential” for 90 minutes.

But we’re also talking about Donald Trump, who has shown no discipline for the last fifteen months. Why change now?

September 23, 2016

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Ted Cruz is humiliating himself because he thinks it will help him become president some day.

Two months ago, Cruz got revenge on Trump in Cleveland. But on Friday, he reversed course and, in a humiliating 700 word Facebook post, endorsed the man who called his wife ugly, said his dad was involved in the Kennedy assassination, and (probably) planted an adultery allegation in The National Enquirer. Why did Cruz reverse course?

Cruz wants to be president. He originally told Trump to get bent in Cleveland because he thought that would pay off in 2020: In mid-July, a Clinton landslide was very much in the realm of possibility and many conservative GOP donors were not interested in backing Trump. Cruz was making a long-term bet that the Republican candidate for president would lose for the third straight time and that Republicans would blame Trump—and Trumpism—for their defeat. Cruz, one of the few who stood tall, could stride in as the man who got it right, the one true conservative, Ronald Reagan’s heir.

A lot has changed since July. First, Cruz pissed off a lot of donors by going after Trump. That, in the short-term, shouldn’t matter much—Cruz isn’t up for reelection until 2018. But recently a Republican challenger has popped up: Rep. Michael McCaul. McCaul is very much an establishment Republican, but he still represents a threat to Cruz, even if Trump wins. (If Clinton wins, Cruz could also expect a challenger from the Atilla the Hun wing of the party.) By endorsing Trump—at the risk of making a fool of himself—Cruz is trying to head off any claim that he was insufficiently supportive of Trump that could hurt him in 2018, while making good with GOP donors, who he’ll need. Second, the race is closer now than it was. Trump could win! Cruz’s entire bet was made on the premise that a Trump loss was more or less inevitable. That’s not true anymore, so Cruz is hedging.

The ultimate goal, however, has not changed. Everything Ted Cruz does he does to one day become president. But losing his Senate seat does not help Cruz become president and neither does pissing off President Donald Trump. The terrain has changed, so Cruz has changed with it. And it probably wasn’t a very hard decision for him to make. Cruz’s anti-Trump stand was never about principle, it was about becoming president. Cruz’s humiliating endorsement about Trump is about making good with donors and keeping his Senate seat... so he can become president.