Monday, February 27, 2017

Nobody Knew

"Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated," Trump said, at the National Governors Association meeting.

What could that statement possibly mean?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Destroying America

Don Trump is too confused to know what he is doing in Washington, beyond being a cranky old man. But that's okay, as he is not the one running things. Steve Bannon spelled out the plan at CPAC this week. The Post:
Atop Trump’s agenda, Bannon said, was the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — meaning a system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president and his advisers believe stymie economic growth and infringe upon one’s sovereignty.

“If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction,” Bannon said. He posited that Trump’s announcement withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership was “one of the most pivotal moments in modern American history.” Bannon: Trump administration is in unending battle for ‘deconstruction of the administrative state’
So ... now they have told us exactly why they selected the nightmarishly worst people for every cabinet position. They want to destroy the government.

This is not okay. Good Americans complain because the government is slow, unresponsive, expensive. Politicians are self-centered and vain ... lots to complain about. But you can drink the water in most places, you can eat the food without getting poisoned. You can drive on the highways. You can walk in the park without fear. In America anyone can grow up to be President. You can say what you want, even if you're Milo Yiannopoulos. Some of us actually loved our country, and hoped to work together to make it better.

Do you think this is what the people in flyover land were hoping for, when they voted for Trump? Deconstruction?

RealClearPolitics quoted Bannon further:
Every business leader we've had in is saying not just taxes, but it is -- it is also the regulation. I think the consistent, if you look at these Cabinet appointees, they were selected for a reason and that is the deconstruction, the way the progressive left runs, is if they can't get it passed, they're just gonna put in some sort of regulation in -- in an agency.

That's all gonna be deconstructed and I think that that's why this regulatory thing is so important. Stephen Bannon: Core Of Trump's Platform Is "Deconstruction Of The Administrative State"
Trump signed an executive order requiring that agencies rescind two regulations for every one they initiate. This EO will be declared unconstitutional, but the concept is at the heart of the Bannon/Trump agenda. They want to neutralize the government so that it does not protect the country's resources, medicines, foods. It is easy to understand: regulations cost corporations money. I am not being cynical, that is the whole explanation.

By the way, Bannon doesn't know what "deconstructed" means. It's kind of a fancy word from literary criticism and semiotics. Bannon is using that word because it sounds so much more refined that "destroyed." Voters will cheer you on when you "deconstruct" their country, not so much when you destroy it.

You broke it, America, you bought it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Flynn: "Lock Her Up"

Boy, he really got that crowd fired up.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Cleric: Trump Reveals the Real Face of America

There is too much going on for me to write about all of it. Like, right now the court is hearing an appeal of the Muslim ban, Betsy DeVos has just squeaked by as education-hating Secretary of Education, Kellyanne is insisting that lies are truth, Elizabeth Warren is accused of disdain, Trump accuses the media of not wanting to report terrorism and they are producing facts showing they obsess over it, Yemen has asked us not to protect them, Trump is mad because he didn't know the executive order he signed put Bannon on the National Security Council, and also because Sean Spicer was played by a giiirrrlll ooh-ick on TV ... There's too much but now and then there is one that catches your eye, so let me point to an article in Al Jazeera.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that he was grateful to US President Donald Trump for revealing "the real face of America".

"We are thankful to this gentleman ... he showed the real face of America," Khamenei said in a speech to military officers in Tehran on Tuesday.

"[It was] what we have said for more than 30 years - that there is political, economic, moral and social corruption in the ruling system of the US. This gentleman came and brought it out into the open in the election and after the election."

He referred to the case of a young Iranian boy who was pictured in handcuffs at a US airport following Trump's ban on visas from Iran, among other countries.

"By what he does - handcuffing a five-year-old child - he shows the true meaning of American human rights," Khamenei said. Ayatollah Khamenei: Donald Trump shows real face of US
You might question Al Jazeera as a news source but it is the perfect source for this story. (And, actually, Al Jazeera is often a surprisingly good source of international news.)

So, for one, the Ayatollah's trolling us. Nothing will upset a real American more than somebody who thinks that Trump reveals our "true face." Most of us are just the opposite of him, or try.

But Ayatollah Khamenei isn't saying this for an American audience. He is talking to his own Persian people, and to his fellow Muslims. He is saying that Trump proves without doubt that America is just as corrupt as they have always thought we were. The image of a five-year-old boy in handcuffs is offensive to good Muslim people, just as it is offensive to good Americans of all faiths, and it is having an impact. Why did that happen, why was a little child put in shackles? Oh, no reason, America just doesn't like people from certain countries, like Iran. They scare us. So we take it out on a random five-year-old, take him away from his mother and handcuff him for hours.

As far as they know, we are all like that. Our elected President ordered that to be done, and it reflects on all of us. You think this doesn't motivate people to hate us? Do you think this actually makes us safer?

Here's something to chew on:
He ridiculed the idea of being grateful to former President Barack Obama, saying he was the one who placed "paralysing sanctions" on Iran and helped create the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group through his destabilising actions in Iraq and Syria.
Okay, readers, break into discussion groups and talk among yourselves. Topic: Ayatollah Khamenei and Don Trump are right, Barack Obama is the founder of ISIS, or not. Five minutes.

Trump is making the rest of the world resent us. He is a corrupt, small-time gangster but he is our figurehead and for someone in a distant country he might be the only American they are aware of -- they think we're all like that. He is making the world a more dangerous place for all Americans, and for innocent people around the world.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Opposition Party

This week Don Trump and his right-hand man, Steve Bannon, have decided to label the media as "the opposition party." This makes sense from their point of view, and in fact it may be a more profound observation than they realize.

I have said on this blog many times that when history is written about our era, the main topic will be the media. The newspapers and networks take sides, often without seeming to realize it, nudging our understanding to favor one conclusion or another. Simultaneously blogs and social media have given a media voice to every citizen and the roar from the bleachers has occasionally overpowered the commercial media but the almighty dollar wins in the end. The story of our times will be about who got to tell the story.

There have been plenty of times when I have thought of the media as "the opposition party." When our suburban county of a million good, decent people was attacked by a dozen or so rightwingers over a sex-ed class, the media turned their cameras on the small group and amplified their narrow-mindedness in a way that made it seem that they were a significant force in our bluest-of-blue community. What should have been a simple adjustment to a health curriculum became a "culture war," due entirely to the presence of the media. So I get that.

At any moment, in any place, there are an infinite number of things going on. We choose, as social beings, to focus our attention on the details that are relevant to us. And we interpret those details in whatever way serves our needs. A single thing may be a blessing, a threat, or we might ignore it. When something happens right in front of us we interpret it and deal with it.

Some things happen where we can't see them. We only hear about them. And that's where the media come in.

Have you ever seen something happen, and then read about it in the paper or seen it on TV? It's shocking, isn't it! The media have to boil an event down to a narrative, they have to make a story out of it, and that means they focus on certain facts and ignore others. That's just how it is, they do the same thing we do as individuals and groups, they make a story out of an infinite sea of information -- but they might not make the same story we would make if we had been present. We give up the ability to control our attention in exchange for some condensed information about events that we do not personally witness.

Part of living in the modern world is understanding the media. You cannot take a media representation as a truth, it is only a story. It may contain facts, and you need to know something about the source and the topic in order to evaluate that. If you are not sure about how to understand the original incident that is reported, you might want to look at alternative tellings of the story. Reading about an event or seeing it on TV is not the same as being there, and actually -- this is important -- "being there" is not the same for you as for some other person. I mean, you know this already, but it is important that two people can attend the same event and see it two entirely different ways. This phenomenon is magnified when one of the observers has a TV camera and sponsors who want the numbers to be big.

The media have loved Don Trump. He is everything that draws a big audience, flashy, brash, personable. He says the craziest things and expresses ideas that are so obviously wrong-headed that you just want to see what will happen next. Remember when Charlie Sheen went off the rails? Don Trump is like that all the time, and the TV cameras and newspapers love it. There is always a story, some crazy thing will come out of his mouth.

But the media, like the rest of the country, had an epiphany that Tuesday night when we watched the returns coming in, and those red states did not turn blue. It turns out that the requirements for reality TV and the requirements for being President of the United States of America are different. Who woulda thought? The media, pursuing their own business goals, pushed this charismatic lunatic out in front of us hundreds of times through the campaign. Jimmy Fallon patted his hair, Saturday Night Live made him the host, CNN cut into their regular programming to show his antics of the moment. MSNBC obsessed with him, even the "liberal" talk-shows talked about nothing else for months. They're just trying to sell soap, but people sitting at home forget that.

Don Trump is a media creation. He is an ordinary, vulgar, hometown gangster in real life, but you put a camera on him and he is every bit the equal to Snooki or Honey Boo Boo, or Dog the Bounty Hunter. He's good TV, the media lifted him and he rode that wave of attention right into the White House. But as President he is a buffoon. He doesn't know what he is talking about. He is a clown. The media still love him, the story sells a lot of soap, but the story line has changed. Where it was "Brash Millionaire Takes on the World" it is now "Ignorant Bigot Signs Executive Order Screwing Millions of Innocent People," "Thin-Skinned Old Man Argues Against Proof About How Big His Stuff Is." The media still love him, but now they are loving pointing out the character defects that they aggrandized in the past as lovable quirks.

So, yeah, the media have become the opposition party for him. We have a noble narrative of journalists investigating and checking public figures, but they don't really do that very much, or very well. These days they report tweets, if somebody doesn't call them with leaks. What we call "the media" are mostly huge corporate entities that serve their stockholders, and there is neither a mechanism or incentive for them to be truthful, honest, thorough, or fair. They aren't for you or against you, they sell soap.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

An Unpresidented First Day in Office

Yesterday's Women's March was amazing, millions of people all around the world, uniting in a common desire for peace and freedom and decency. Meanwhile our new president turns out to be a petty, greedy little pig whether he's campaigning or actually working in office. Pivot? Uh, no, he is not going to change. Today the front page of the Washington Post had an article headlined "Trump uses CIA visit to rip media." It has a different headline online. Here's how the story kicks off:
President Trump used his first full day in office to wage war on the media, accusing news organizations of lying about the size of his inauguration crowd as Saturday’s huge protests served notice that a vocal and resolute opposition would be a hallmark of his presidency.

With Americans taking to the streets in red and blue states alike to emphatically decry a president they consider reprehensible and, even, illegitimate, Trump visited the Central Intelligence Agency for a stream-of-consciousness airing of grievances — including against journalists, whom he called “the most dishonest human beings on Earth.” Trump wages war against the media as demonstrators protest his presidency
Reprehensible and, even, illegitimate.

You won't hear somebody like me saying how great the CIA is. I have a bit of a problem with our democratic government secretly disrupting economic and political processes in foreign countries, arming rebels and assassinating people. I know it happens and that's about it. Sometimes something comes out and it is usually ugly. Has the CIA ever gone into a country and brought food to hungry people? The idea kind of makes you laugh.

Still, this is Washingon DC and the people all around us work for the government, including the CIA. The agency works very closely with the president, forming strategic plans, conveying intelligence, they meet and it is not something the world knows about. The CIA and the president have to have a very close relationship built on trust.

So if Trump goes to visit them, you'd think he'd talk about that. He could mention the success of one of their missions, lament the sacrifices of agents, discuss trouble-spots around the world that he is counting on the CIA's help with, there are lots of ways he could have started his presidency forming an important alliance.

Instead, he complained about journalists, because they had published estimates of the size of his inauguration crowd that he did not like. His inauguration in fact was dismal. There were bleachers with nobody in them, streets lined with nobody. No self-respecting performer would perform for it. Celebrations were canceled. The streets were torn up by violent protestors, a couple hundred arrested.

And ironically, even as he spoke the streets of Washington and every other city in the US were jam-packed with people protesting his deplorable presidency. In DC alone the Woman's March drew many times more people than the inauguration. Half a million in LA, ten thousand in Portland, Maine. Ninety to a hundred thousand in St. Paul. Boise had five thousand people in the street. People streaming through the streets in Paris. Every city had it, people protesting the reprehensible orange man who has been inaugurated as president and the vile, vulgar things he stands for.

And rather than begin the work of running the country, rather than build a relationship with the CIA, the president complained to them that the press had miscounted his crowds. And then he sent his press secretary out for a surreal press conference. As CNN put it:
"This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period," Spicer said, contradicting all available data.
So there it is. They will tell you what to believe. There may be people who accept this. There must be a lot of them. A great proportion of America is going to be living in a kind of reality that they hear about from authorities, denying the evidence of their own experience. It is going to be difficult to deal with them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

No, It Is Real News

Trump is calling the story about the intelligence dossier on him "fake news," and that is interesting. It's incredible, actually.

The story is not that he hired prostitutes to urinate for him and is probably being blackmailed by the Russians -- that information is not verified. "Women Pee for Trump in Hotel Room" is not a headline in any newspaper. It might be true but journalists are not sure, so they are not publishing that as a news story.

The story is that top people in the government, both in Congress and the intelligence community, think the dossier is worrisome enough, it looks real enough, to brief the President of the United States -- the real President who is in office now -- as well as the President-elect and top members of Congress about it.

Take something like "Obama is the founder of ISIS," or "Hillary is a crook, lock her up." Those are lies. Obama is not the founder of ISIS, and Hillary has never been charged with breaking any law, even though every minute of her life has been dragged out in investigations and questioned.

Compare that to "Intelligence officials briefed the President and Congressional leaders about possible blackmail, sex tapes, and treason." This is a true statement. "Trump hired prositutes to pee for him" might not be true, I don't know. "Trump is being blackmailed by the Russians," again, I don't know, I don't think anybody is saying these things are true. In fact, every source I have seen has been very careful to say the statements are "unverified." Journalists have had this dossier since October at least, and they let it go right through the election with almost no mention -- certainly no mention of what the dossier said. David Corn had a story in October about some intelligence, and Harry Reid asked the FBI in a public statement to release "explosive information about close ties and co-ordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government - a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Mr Trump praises at every opportunity." But he didn't say anything about golden showers or blackmail -- he had seen this report by that time and still didn't spill its contents, even though American voters needed to know there was serious evidence that their Presidential candidate is a traitor.

The thing is, we don't know if Trump hired ladies to urinate in a hotel room for him, or whether the Russians actually have dirt on him, but we do know that the allegations looked like the real thing to people in the intelligence business who know what the real thing looks like. And that is news. It is not fake news, even if the story reports what was in the dossier, this is not Elvis Has Alien Twin, this is an actual document that has people in the top of government very worried.

In time, America is not going to react well when they find out that the FBI kept this secret while they went out to the TV cameras to say that Anthony Wiener has email they haven't seen yet, that might be connected to Hillary. If it turns out we elected a traitor and the insiders knew and helped sabotage his opponent, it will not be good.

Saturday, January 07, 2017


Here is the image of treason.

When cheaters win, they get to referee the rest of the game.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Speed, Computers, Security, Nobody Knows What's Going On, Get on with your life

Asked about sanctions against Russia for interfering with the US Presidential election, here is what President-elect Donald J. Trump said (with Don King standing beside him holding an American flag):
I think we ought to get on with our lives, I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what's going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind, the security we need.
And that is how it's going to be.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Tiniest-Handed Authoritarian of the Year

Trump has been going around doing rallies (which is weird in itself), and there is a point he brings up every time. He is Time magazine's Person of the Year this year, whatever. But here's the thing he complains about. He says they should call him "Man of the Year." His crowds go wild over this. He has brought it up at three different events so far.

We know why they don't call it "Man of the Year." It isn't Man of the Year because there is an upheaval going on, gender roles in our society are changing. Women are people now, they are working and participating in the economy, they are engaging in intellectual dialogue, they fight in wars. A hundred years ago they couldn't vote, and now the goal, among people who have thought about it, is equality. And the way ahead is hard but the goal seems reachable, besides being practical and good. To reach this goal some things have to change, some doors have to be unlocked.

Trump and his basket of deplorables call this "political correctness," they hate it that Time considers women to be equal to men, but Time can call it whatever they want. Nobody is forcing anybody to stop saying "Man," it just isn't part of the phrase "Person of the Year," which Time magazine owns. If Trump wants to be Man of the Year then he can buy Time and change the title. Nobody's stopping him. In the meantime, the people who currently own the magazine call it something different.

It's not political correctness, not somebody saying you can't say something because you might offend somebody. The NFL has a Man of the Year and nobody cares. Time has a Person of the Year because there are great women who sometimes deserve the award. And anyway, since 1986, that is, in the past thirty years, Angela Merkel last year was the only woman who has won the award. So political correctness is not really doing spectacularly well in this particular domain.

The rallying-point is that Trump and his followers do not want this kind of social change. He has made a point of dehumanizing women, especially when he was running against one; it is not even an undercurrent, it is what he stands for, with his shady modeling agencies and beauty pageants and his three wives and what's up with him and his daughter, for crying out loud?

There are two other alternatives for Time, right? They could have Man of the Year and Woman of the Year, and if they wanted to be progressive about it the Woman would be some scientist or powerful politician, but just as likely it would be a woman who is attractive, acts or sings, dresses fashionably, and makes moderately provocative social statements.

The other thing Time could do is just forget the Woman of the Year. Award a Man of the Year and that's all. How do you like the sound of that? I don't remember people complaining, but that's what they did up until 1999.

And that's what Trump wants to go back to, what his followers want. They believe America was great back then, when the concept of a Woman of the Year was not even a thought you had. You didn't miss it back then, you didn't go hey wait a minute, what about the women? It just didn't exist, there was no such thing, and that's how it was. If there was a great woman they called them Man of the Year, no problem. A couple of women got the Man of the Year award, and I suppose that was a little awkward but it was not a big deal and it didn't happen very often.

This "great again" concept is terrible, going backwards to ugliness. Hopefully we get through this phase of history without losing too much ground.