Saturday, October 28, 2017

Deleting Trolls and Bots

This blog has always been known as a place for open discussion, allowing conservatives and liberals to exchange views since 2004. Some on our side think we have been too permissive, and there have been a couple of times over the years when I have had to block people who were slanderous or were just spamming inarticulately -- sometimes conservatives, sometimes liberals. Usually I warn them a few times then block the IP. After a few weeks I usually unblock it and give them a chance to behave themselves, and that has usually worked okay.

Lately there has been a new kind of problem. Trump supporters are putting all their eggs in the "lock her up" basket. Though it has been a full year since the election, they are still ratcheting up the hate for Hillary Clinton. Having started the campaign of personal annihilation in the 1990s the vast rightwing conspiracy has a good start; almost everyone has a "bad feeling" about the woman after decades of fruitless hearings and accusations, the feeling there must be "something wrong" or people wouldn't keep saying those things. Nobody really knows what exactly might be wrong, but there must be something, y'know?

Repetition does not make a statement true. People are focusing on Hillary because their life is a pitiful comic book and the nuances of reality are too much for them. They paint her as a serial murderer, child molestor, embezzler, traitor, criminal, liar, everyone associated with her gets their reputation slimed. It is bizarre to see that people are unable to manage their intellect in an educated country, but there you go, there are lots of dumb and unhappy people out there.

It is good for group cohesiveness to have a common enemy, and Hillary has been consigned to serve in that function. The whole thing is just weird to watch. It has nothing to do with her, herself, she is just a name for Republicans to direct their hate toward.

The Internet allows everyone to have a public voice, and there are two problems with that. One is that the anonymity of the net lets people express fantasies and opinions they would never say out loud if they were going to be held accountable. Hence: trolls. These thousands of losers live to undermine serious discussion and offend for the sake of offending. The second problem is bots. It turns out it is easier to program a troll-bot than a bot that will assemble valid facts and link them together to produce a valid argument. So bots turn out to be trolls, too, except they are not human, they are just programs that generate hateful text and post it in public forums.

This blog has been overrun lately by trolls and/or bots. Our comments section is overflowing with hundreds of posts that simply copy-and-paste rightwing propaganda or string together phrases like "Clinton crime syndicate" and "shocking new scandal" and try to link ridiculous accusations to the Democrat candidate from last year's election.

The Republican Party does not have an identity of its own now. They used to be clever at implying they had an economic theory, a diplomatic strategy, a moral compass, but the rise of Trump and the subservience of the GOP to his depravity has torn the cover off all that. Now all they have left is to rally behind their mob-mentality hatred for Hillary Clinton. It is sad to see American history come down to this, but times change and I suppose it was inevitable. The Democrats have challenges too but the Republicans have both houses of Congress and the Presidency and all they can do is investigate Hillary some more.

It turns out they have no plan for governing. Literally the only thing Trump has done is to reverse anything associated with Obama. But he has to do it with executive orders, because the Republicans in Congress are unable to pass any bills. And then half the time the courts throw out his executive orders because they are unconsitutional. The Republicans really don't have a vision, an agenda other than opposing the black guy and the shrill woman; they are living in a dream world -- today Corey Lewandowski said on Fox News, "What we should be focusing on is the continued lies of the Clinton administration." And that's the Republicans' plan. No really, that's what he said.

That does not mean that this blog has to be part of it. I am going to start deleting stuff. If you are conservative and want to make a point you are welcome to talk here. If you are just flame-throwing I am not going to tolerate it. As the indictments start to flow I expect the fake news will intensify, and we are going to brace ourselves and start blocking the nonsense. I don't want to spend every minute of my day deleting posts and if a troll or bot (it is hard to tell the difference) keeps being a problem I will block them altogether.

If you want to express a conversative viewpoint we don't mind that but please keep to something believable. I do not have any set of "rules," I am just going to delete what I don't like. It might not be fair but hee hee hoo haw hee hee ho ho... If that bothers you then go somewhere else. I will start with the previous post.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"Casual Cruelty" -- Oof!

Some Republicans with nothing to lose are starting to speak their mind about our failing President.

Today Senator Bob Corker, who has nothing to lose since he announced that he is retiring after this term, said on national television that Trump was “debasing” the United States and that the President struggled with the truth. Tuesday Corker had said Trump was “absolutely not” a role model for the children in America. “I don’t know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard and debases our country,” Corker said on CNN, suggesting that he is going to call for hearings to investigate the ways Trump “purposely has been breaking down relationships around the world.” He added, “It’s unfortunate that our nation finds itself in this place.”

Yesterday Republican Senator John McCain, who also probably has nothing to lose since he has been diagnosed with a deadly form of brain cancer, commented on the Vietnam War with a swipe at Trump: "One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never, ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest income level of America, and the highest income level found a doctor that would say they had a bone spur. That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve." You get the bone spur thing, right?

This week, George W. Bush, of all people, came out and said, “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.” He went on, “We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty.” He said, “At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together.” And man, I never thought I would agree with him! Bush said, “[W]e need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.”

Today Jeff Flake, Senator from my home state of Arizona, gave a speech on the Senate floor where he said he is not going to run in the next election. Now that he has nothing to lose, Flake...
offered a blistering take on Republican acquiescence in the age of Trump, which Flake said represented a compromise in moral authority.

“Without fear of the consequences and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal,” said Flake, who has seen his approval ratings in Arizona plummet after his attacks on Trump.

Despite those poll numbers, Flake said it would be irresponsible to not criticize Trump for his behavior.

Trump’s actions “are not normal,” he said, adding that the president’s “reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has been excused.”

Flake said he was “rising today” to say “enough.”

“We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes the normal,” he said. “We have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner.”

Flake also criticized Republicans who believe that “anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect.”

“Silence can equal complicity,” he said. Flake, Corker push Trump criticism to new level
Look, I'm not saying these guys are good people. Not one of them had the moral courage to speak out until the risk was gone. GWB was a terrible President but amazingly the new guy actually makes him look not so bad. McCain kept his mouth shut even when Trump attacked him ruthlessly, until he got sick. Corker, same thing, he zipped his lip until he had announced his departure, and even then he was circumspect up to a point, though he got a few barbs in. Now he and Trump are slinging mud at each other on Twitter every day. And Flake, same thing, he would not confront Trump if there was a chance it would come back to bite him. Flake was likely to lose the next election anyway, so dropping out saves face plus he can throw some shade on Trump like those guys in high school who yelled "Hold me back! Hold me back!" instead of actually getting into a fight.

The Republicans who remain in the political game are still afraid to speak out against the big bully Trump, who is the most disastrous President ever. You just know they can't stand him, but they have not got the courage of their convictions. It is fascinating in a way to see what they really think about what's going on, and it is even more fascinating to see what unmitigated cowards they all are.

Sunday, October 08, 2017


As you know, a rich Hollywood producer who is a supporter of liberal causes, Harvey Weinstein, has turned out to be a longtime sexual predator. Conservatives are making a big deal out of this, they have taken control of the message and made sure Weinstein's behavior smears liberals such as Hillary Clinton who have been associated with him, as if they condoned or were part of his sexual crimes. (Yesterday WTOP hit a new low in carrying this message, you would have thought Hillary herself was abusing young actresses.)

@paulkrugman posted a good observation about the fallout from this on Twitter yesterday.

The Weinstein affair is giving us an object lesson in right-wing projection. I keep seeing outraged demands for liberal condemnation 1/

"Will liberals condemn Weinstein the way they condemned Ailes and O'Reilly?" they ask, presuming that the answer is no. But actually ... 2/

Everywhere I look the answer is, in fact, yes. What we should ask is: "Did cons condemn Ailes/O'Reilly the way they condemn Weinstein?" 3/

And the answer, mainly, is no. Excusing evil behavior by people on your side is what THEY do; they're just projecting it onto libs 4/

And they're outraged in advance over the false assumption that liberals are just like them 5/
Weinstein appears to be the worst kind of person in his abuse and exploitation of women. He is like Ailes and O'Reilly and other conservatives who have turned out to have treated women terribly. I have not seen any liberal person say otherwise. The stories that have come out are revolting, and it's been going on for years.

Weinstein is a donor, a wealthy guy who supports causes and contributes to campaigns. He hasn't run for office, he isn't the liberals' candidate. Many politicians are giving his donations back, or sending the money to charities, nobody is calling this "rightwing fake news" or trying to justify it. The guy might be rich, charming, and take policy positions we agree with, but there is no excuse for some of the disgusting things he has done to traumatize women. Donors play an important role in politics -- too important, most of us think -- but we don't vote for them.

Projection in modern political discourse is where you accuse the other side of doing what you yourself are doing, and Krugman has this point about projection right. The conservative way is identity politics, us against them, you stand up for your side and oppose everything the other side wants. That's why they have to undo every Obama success, not because our healthcare system is bad or the Iran deal is bad or transgender people have caused any problem or anything else, but if Obama supported something they are obligated to oppose it. That is how the Republican Party came to be known as "the party of No" during the Obama presidency; if he was for it, they were against it, even if it was their idea originally.

And they assume everyone is like that. But actually, that's the difference between liberalism and conservatism. Liberalism is not fighting for your own group, against another group; liberals argue for inclusiveness, equality for all, and that includes people who are unlike themselves. Take for instance this week's news articles about Jeff Sessions promoting "freedom of religion." By this, he means the Christian religion that he himself practices. He would laugh at the idea of freedom for Islam or some other religion, that Sharia should be protected under the Constitution the same as the Ten Commandments. Liberals though believe in freedom for all religions, even ones that they are uncomfortable with.

The paradox is that this makes liberal views vulnerable; for instance, we end up giving freedom of speech to people who want to take our freedom of speech away. White liberals will take up issues like oppression of blacks, exploitation of migrant farm workers, discrimination against LGBT people, even if they are not part of those groups. White conservatives take up issues that are good for white people. They think everybody is taking sides based on their own identity, and watch for examples that can support that conclusion, but the core difference between conservatives and liberals is the difference between defending your own group and defending the rights of all.

Looking back, liberals did not defend Anthony Weiner's behavior -- I remember hoping it was not true but it was true and we accepted that and he is getting his punishment and nobody is calling it a false flag operation or defending him for doing stupid and bad things. I liked Anthony Weiner, he was bold and articulate, funny and on-point, and guess what, he was doing stuff on the Internet that disqualifies him from representing his party and leading people. Weinstein too, I never heard of the guy before but apparently he took the Hollywood "casting couch" thing to the nth degree, he is a creep who is going to pay the price in his career if not in criminal court. Liberals are not obligated to apologize for him -- I am sure most people he dealt with politically had no idea what was going on. He said the right things in public, donated money to the right candidates and causes, and he was a merciless sexual predator when he got a woman alone. Those women were afraid of him, afraid of his wealth and power and what he could do to destroy them professionally; they were afraid to speak out, so only his victims and a few of his immediate business associates had any idea until very recently.

The current President of the United States is known to be a sexual predator, as well, the Republicans knew that before they elected him. This is a different story altogether, because this is their candidate, the representative of their view. Their support of him reveals the GOP's talk of morality and judgment of others on the basis of their sexuality for what it is. They make excuses for Trump, accept his violations as boys-being-boys, and line up with him against "political correctness," which tries to tell men they can't grab women's pussies in this day and age and kiss them without consent, even if you are famous and they let you.

And also, because it is sure to come up, let me quote Monica Lewinsky here, regarding her affair with Bill Clinton: "Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship. Any “abuse” came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position."

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Beyond Deplorable

The President's comments this weekend about Puerto Rico are breathtaking. He has been insulting the mayor of San Juan, who is begging for help as the island is immersed in what is probably the worst disaster ever to hit the United States. Millions of people are suffering, there is no water or electricity or gasoline, cholera is starting to break out. Thousands of people are still unaccounted for. Many are dying. The President clearly does not understand the situation, and yet he is going out of his way to deliberately make it worse.

It is hard to read the news since Maria hit -- well for most of the week there was no news, Puerto Rico was a black hole in the information space, with no telephones, no radio transmitters, no way in and out. Now there is some word from there, some video from San Juan, but the smaller towns are still unknowable. As news begins to leak out, the scenery is horrific. Hurricane Maria has devastated the entire island. The pain is hard to imagine, you want to jump in your car and go there to help, but you can't.

They speak Spanish there, and you know how he feels about Hispanics. Today Trump said, "Such poor leadership ability by the mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help." Because you know how lazy those people are. He said, "The mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump." Because, you know, it's all about him. He tweeted this from the golf course. "They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort," Trump said. Because, you know, those lazy bad-hombre-sort-of-like-Mexicans are just sitting in their cars for nine hours a day waiting to buy gasoline instead of putting their houses back on their foundations with non-electric tools.

And what is this? He outdid himself on Twitter:
To the people of Puerto Rico:
Do not believe the #FakeNews!
What in the world can that mean? He is tweeting to an island of millions of people who do not even have electricity. They do not have news. They do not care about the news. This is not a political game to them. They are the news. Their own houses are destroyed, they are drinking sewage, their cars are out of gas, there is no food. By "fake news," does the President mean "real news?" Yes, of course he does. He means, don't believe it when you read that we are not rescuing you. This communication fails on so many levels, it is hard to imagine that it is not something out of a satirical dystopian novel. He really does not understand what is going on.

This morning Trump called the people of Puerto Rico "politically motivated ingrates" and tweeted: "people are now starting to recognize the amazing work that has been done by FEMA and our great Military. All buildings now inspected". The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, told CNN "I'm not aware of such inspections, there are areas of Puerto Rico where we really haven't gotten contact." Just yesterday, Mother Jones reporters visited the 19,000-person town of Ciales, 45 minutes from San Juan, and found that not a single federal worker had been there.

You knew he would let them down. His Presidential campaign first got real attention with his comment about Mexico sending their rapists and bad hombres to our country. His biggest selling point has been his distaste for foreigners and people who are different from him -- women, LGBT people, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, just about anybody. That's what his supporters like about him, that's what "MAGA" is all about. If something bad happens to those non-real-Americans, they deserve it. People in Puerto Rico speak Spanish but they are American citizens. This is where your attitude about Americans should come into play, not your attitude about Hispanics. Or imagine caring about people just because they're people, and helping them because you can, and they need it. Or because it is your responsibility.

These new comments leave "deplorable" in the dust. This is depraved. If this is how one of America's two major political parties feels then this country is much worse off than I ever imagined. How can someone see what is happening in Puerto Rico and not feel empathy and a sense of panic? How can you not want to help? You and I can't do anything about it beyond maybe donating, but he's the President of the United States, he can literally save the day. This was a huge hurricane, we saw it approaching for days, and there was no federal preparation. It hit, the island was decimated, and the President went golfing. He picked a fight with protesting athletes. He didn't say anything about Puerto Rico or do anything for days.

Since the election everyone has known he will fail when he faces his first real crisis -- it has been a cliche to say that. But nobody -- even those with the lowest opinions of him -- believed that, given a catastrophe with millions of Americans' lives destroyed, he would actively, intentionally try to make the situation worse. We thought he'd be incompetent, but it never occurred to anyone that he would taunt those who were dying and begging for help, that he would go off and golf and pick a fight with some black guys protesting police violence when a huge number of American lives are in jeopardy.

There is one little piece of irony here. Puerto Ricans are Americans, so when they move to the continental US they are not "immigrants" and Trump can't ban them. And they are coming to Florida by the tens of thousands, fleeing the disaster. Trump won Florida in 2016 with only 49 percent of the vote -- in that state the winner gets all the electoral college delegates. You can bet these Puerto Ricans aren't going to support him next time around. It could make the difference.