Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trump Inspires Terrorist Attack

Just two days after Donald Trump issued his Muslim travel ban the first terrorist attack of the Trump presidency occurred in the Americas. It happened in Quebec City, where six people were murdered. And despite Trump and his cronies telling us that Muslim immigrants are unspeakably dangerous, a Muslim didn't do it.

The suspect in the deadly attack on a Quebec City mosque was known in the city's activist circles as an online troll who was inspired by extreme right-wing French nationalists, stood up for U.S. President Donald Trump and was against immigration to Quebec – especially by Muslims.
Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, a student at Laval University, grew up on a quiet crescent in the Cap-Rouge suburb of Quebec City and lived in an apartment a few kilometres away.

It doesn't matter that it happened in Canada -- Trump used the attack on a Christmas celebration in Germany as part of his rationale for the Muslim ban.

Donald Trump is now in the same league as ISIS. He is spreading chaos and fear around the world, inspiring a terrorist attack in idyllic Quebec City, which hadn't had a murder in almost two years.

Yeah, Bissonnette is probably unhinged. As is Dylann Roof. And the guy who shot up the pizza joint in Washington looking for nonexistent pedophiles. And every whack-job Muslim who shoots up a mall or drives a truck through a crowd.

Trump apologists will blame Marine Le Pen, citing reports that Bissonnette was inspired after her visit. But Trump and Le Pen are two sides of the same coin. They, ISIS and Al Qaeda are all using the same playbook of fear, hatred and division.

The problem isn't Muslims. The problem isn't conservatives. The problem is demagogues of all stripes who seek to gain power by hyperventilating over the dangers of the other and inspiring hatred in marginal personalities who want to carry out the heinous acts those demagogues are implicitly or explicitly calling on them to perform.

Maybe Canada should institute a ban on Americans coming to Canada. Or build a wall along the 5,500-mile-long US-Canadian border. And make Donald Trump pay for it.

Trump's Symbiotic Relationship with Terrorists

From most reports Donald Trump's Muslim travel ban was crafted in the White House without any input from the Pentagon or the Justice and State departments. Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham blasted Trump and his ban with both barrels in a joint statement issued two days ago.

The ban was the baby of Steve Bannon, Trump's propaganda minister and political strategist. And there's been wide speculation about why Bannon made such a mess of it

There are two schools of thought: incompetence and malfeasance.

My first inclination was to blame the incompetence of the Trump administration. My second inclination was that the chaos was intentional and malicious, as elucidated by Kevin Drum:
In cases like this, the smart money is usually on incompetence, not malice. But this looks more like deliberate malice to me. Bannon wanted turmoil and condemnation. He wanted this executive order to get as much publicity as possible. He wanted the ACLU involved. He thinks this will be a PR win.
My third inclination is that the intent is far more sinister. Trump loves saying "I told you so." Every time there's an attack by a Muslim terrorist anywhere in the world he says he predicted it and that it proved him right about banning Muslims.

But terrorist attacks by Muslims have been going on for decades, pretty much non-stop since the state of Israel was created and Arab states have been exporting oil. Their grievances with the West started long before ISIS and Al Qaeda existed, since before Osama bin Laden was even born.

Perhaps Trump and Bannon intentionally crafted a faulty travel ban with the ulterior motive of having it be struck down. Then, when the inevitable terrorist attack happens, they can claim credit for "predicting" it, and whine that all those lives would have been saved if only the travel ban had been in place.

What makes this so sinister is that the Trump administration has absolutely no motivation to stop terrorist attacks. Every attack that occurs will actually strengthen his case for a ban and even more stringent restrictions on Muslims.

This is why Trump is creating so much chaos. The more chaotic the country is, the greater the demand for order. Trump is intentionally making a mess to provide the pretext for giving himself broad authoritarian powers to destroy the media, silence his opposition and crush dissent.

It's a classic fascist tactic.

Now, what happens if no Muslim refugee steps up and attacks Americans for Trump? Will one of those ratfucking New York FBI Trump supporters who torpedoed Hillary Clinton's candidacy entrap some refugee Muslim schlub with a phony sting operation?

Or does Trump actually need American blood to get what he wants? Will Trump's FBI mooks let an attack they know about go forward in order to sow fear and give Trump his pretext?

Or will they actively recruit and supply an attacker with weapons, with the justification that by killing a few innocent Americans today they will save thousands tomorrow?

As conspiracy theories go, it's a lot more compelling than John Podesta being involved with a pedophile ring that kept kids in the nonexistent basement of a pizza restaurant.

Or maybe the Russians will do it for Trump: Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov provides this sort of service to Vladimir Putin whenever he needs a fall guy. For example, a Chechen comes to the United States seeking asylum and blows up a public place.

Oh, wait: that already happened with the Boston Marathon bombing. (Lest you blame Obama for the bomber coming to the US, the Tsarnaevs first gained entry to the US in 2002 and obtained green cards in 2007, during the Bush administration.)

So here's my prediction: Trump's Muslim ban will falter because it was designed to. Trump supporters will be outraged. While it's in judicial limbo, some Muslim somewhere will hurt someone. Trump will crow that he predicted it and issue angry tweets demanding Congress pass a Muslim ban and give him special powers to fight terrorism.

Trump is intentionally inciting Muslims to hate the United States. He's giving them the pretext to commit terrorist acts, so that they will give him the pretext to turn the United States into a fascist dictatorship.

Trump, like so many other tyrants, has a symbiotic relationship with the terrorists: if they succeed, he succeeds. That is, unless congressional Republicans and the American people see through the lies, and hold Trump accountable for creating an atmosphere of chaos and hatred that spawns violence.

If any Americans are killed by terrorists on Trump's watch, their blood is on Trump's hands.

Call to Jihad

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Cracks Begin To Show

The Times has yet another (yawn) piece up about Steve Bannon and his Dick Cheney like influence in the White House. It's mostly more of the same but this tidbit was most interesting.

In theory, the move put Mr. Bannon, a former Navy surface warfare officer, admiral’s aide, investment banker, Hollywood producer and Breitbart News firebrand, on the same level as his friend, Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, a former Pentagon intelligence chief who was Mr. Trump’s top adviser on national security issues before a series of missteps reduced his influence.

Missteps? Say what?

But Mr. Flynn, a lifelong Democrat sacked as head of the Pentagon’s intelligence arm after clashing with Obama administration officials in 2014, has gotten on the nerves of Mr. Trump and other administration officials because of his sometimes overbearing demeanor, and has further diminished his internal standing by presiding over a chaotic and opaque N.S.C. transition process that prioritized the hiring of military officials over civilian experts recommended to him by his own team.

Ah, I see. I was fairly concerned about Flynn but not so much anymore. It looks like Bannon is going to be around to mind him which makes the whole thing even more of a mess.

Again, folks, the best way to combat a Bannon type is to ignore them and go about the business of registering voters in key counties in swing states. Let's take all this energy from the protests and turn it into votes in 2018!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

When Right Wing Bloggers/Commenters Run Things...

....they fuck them up because they don't know what they are doing. What an absolute cluster fuck the last 24 hours has been with President Trump's latest imperial decree. Nikto has chimed in already but I'd like to point out some facts.

1. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, no one has been killed in the United States in a terrorist attack by anyone who emigrated from or whose parents emigrated from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the seven countries targeted in the order’s 120-day visa ban, according to Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina.

What does "no one" mean? It means ZERO FUCKING PEOPLE. So, why is this considered a threat?

Because of the paranoid fever dreams of alternative facts land (aka Right Wing Blogs and Right Wing Blog Commenters).

2. 123 people have been killed in the United States by Muslim terrorists since the 2001 attacks — out of a total of more than 230,000 killings, by gang members, drug dealers, angry spouses, white supremacists, psychopaths, drunks and people of every description. So the order addresses, at most, one-1,870th of the problem of lethal violence in America. If the toll of Sept. 11 is included, jihadists still account for just over 1 percent of killings.

And where are those jihadists from?

Saudi Arabia. Egypt. And, of course, our own country.

Yet there are Trump Inc. business interests  in these countries so they get a pass. Wow...

3. The Muslim ban violates the US Constitution, specifically the due process clause of the 5th amendment. Did they get a fair hearing? Nope.

It's also in violation of US federal law itself. The 1965 law, the Immigration and Naturalization Act, clarifies that people should not experience preferences or discrimination on account of their "race, sex, nationality, place of birth or place of residence."

Man oh man, did our new president step in it big time. What a fucking buffoon.

I realize the facts listed above will fall on the deaf ears of those who know only hate, anger, and fear but they need to be aired anyway. We live in a country of immigrants and to haphazardly ban people from coming in based on nonsense is not what we stand for.

Not now.

Not ever.

Broccoli vs. Mustang Convertible

There have been all kinds of reasons cited for Trump's victory in November: Russian meddling, fake news, the FBI, sexism, racism, etc.

But the real question is why anyone would vote for Donald Trump in the first place. He's unqualified to be president at every level: in terms of competence, emotional stability, experience, even his physical health.

All the things people give as reasons for Trump's win are marginal: they just barely put him over the top. What provided his base of support in the first place?

After some consideration, I have discovered the answer: broccoli vs. the Mustang convertible.

Hillary Clinton -- and all the Republicans who ran against Trump in the primary -- was the mom who tells the kids to eat their broccoli.

She acknowledged real-world problems and offered real solutions.

Donald Trump was the divorced dad trying to win over the kids by promising them all Mustang convertibles.

He promised his core of true believers the moon and vowed to exact petty retribution for every imagined slight they've felt over the last eight years.

In the end, we really do need to eat our broccoli. And the divorced dad will never give us a Mustang convertible.

Sheer Incompetence

Donald Trump acted on one of his campaign threats on Friday: he instituted a ban on Muslims entering the United States:
The president’s order, enacted with the stroke of a pen at 4:42 p.m. Eastern on Friday, suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
One problem: legal residents of the United States who hold green cards were also banned.
On Saturday, a day after the order was issued, airports were marked by scenes of confusion and protest as officials tried to interpret the order, including how to handle green card holders.

Around the globe on Saturday, legal residents of the United States who hold valid green cards and approved visas were blocked from boarding planes overseas or detained for hours in American airports.
So, a day after Trump signed the executive order, Reince Priebus (I always want to call him Prince Rebus) had to walk back half of it:
Mr. Priebus appeared to change that position Sunday morning. “As far as green card holders, moving forward, it doesn’t affect them,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.
This is sheer incompetence. These clowns are so oblivious they didn't consider green card holders from those countries until after thousands of people got stuck in airports? Did any thought at all go into writing this executive order? How does Trump expect to run an entire country if he can't get this right?

Federal judges have already issued stays against Trump's order, preventing the deportation of some travelers returning home to the United States.

Now, I know there are bad people out there. But by hurting the good people with stupid and incompetent executive orders, Trump is only serving to alienate the good people and provide more ammunition to the real bad guys. A Trump presidency is a coup for ISIS recruitment.

To further illustrate how oblivious Trump is, he also wrote the following tweet: "Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world - a horrible mess!"

Guess who's responsible for the problem in Europe, Donny boy? Your buddy, Vladimir Putin. By propping up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, instead of helping Europe and Obama take Assad down and prolonging the Syrian civil war for years, Putin has created a huge refugee problem. Putin has strengthened ISIS forces by directly attacking Assad's non-ISIS foes -- who oppose ISIS -- destroying legitimate opposition to Assad and ensuring his survival.

If we want to stop the Syrian refugee problem, we need to take out the guy who's creating refugees: Bashar al-Assad. But Trump's puppet master Putin likes Assad, and Trump apparently does too, prompting Assad to say that Trump is a "natural ally."

Those tin-pot dictators like to stick together, don't they?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Definition of A Real Leader

To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength 

What The People Are Readng

You can always tell the mental state of the public by what they are reading. "1984" is flying off the digital shelves at Amazon as is Sinclari Lewis' book, "It Can Happen Here," which tells the story of a loudmouth populist who wins the presidency but ends up secretly being a fascists dictator (!).

I'm still wondering who is going to be the first in the alt right to cave and recognize that what they have feared for years from liberals is coming true right now with their guy. Were they just fucking posers all along, secretly dreaming of authoritarianism? Or are they just too childish to admit what they have wrought?

Friday, January 27, 2017

Yet Another Stomp Down The Hallway (Complete With Door Slam)

So, apparently Steve Bannon had yet another hissy fit yesterday and launched into a very played tirade against the media. Only he knows the truth and the media are all liars blah blah blah....stomp stomp stomp....fuck you dad!! (SLAM!!) Like most adolescents, he does this sort of thing to get a reaction and rile up supporters. His rant, like most right wing bloggers and commenters, smacks most of jealousy and insecurity more than anything else. Why do these guys view themselves as so inadequate?

Bannon's latest outburst made me realize something much larger. It's not just the media that they hate but the entertainment world in general. Why? They have a very deep envy of the elites and that's exactly why they vilify them on a daily basis. Because THEY aren't a part of it. Somewhere along the line in their lives they got dissed by someone who was more successful than they were and petty jealousy took over. They just want to be part of the "Hollywood Club."

So, every time a Meryl Streep or some media giant like the New York Times speaks the truth about the alt right, they not only get pissed about what was said but by who said it: the people who they are massively jealous of every day. My advice to people who get pissed off at Bannon and other right wing bloggers and commenters is to ignore them. That's what I do with teenagers who act up. They just want the attention because they then feel like they are important.

Oh, one more thing. The media and the public in general knows why Trump won. In the following order...

1. Russian Propaganda/Psi-Op
2. Voters as conduits of anger, hate and fear
3. Electoral math
4. Mistakes made by the Clinton Campaign
5. Weak, establishment type candidate who ran in a change/populist year.

The same people that voted for Barack Obama twice voted for Donald Trump. I wonder what Steve Bannon has to say about that.

I'm more interested to see how Bannon is going to take responsibility for what he does. Will he own it when his policies don't work? Or will he continue to blame the media/libtards/everyone else?

Why Trump Thinks His Inauguration Crowd Was Large

Donald Trump is still whining about the Park Service and the media, claiming that they underestimated his crowd. There's a reason why: Trump was looking at only the rich people and political insiders who had tickets close to the action.

Disagreement about the crowd size is literally a matter of viewpoint -- not different opinions, but different physical vantage points from where the crowd was viewed.

Photos from opposite ends of the National Mall show this quite clearly.

This is Obama's inauguration (from the New York Times), looking at the crowd from the Capitol, from behind where the president was standing. It's a huge crowd that you can see stretches all the way to the Washington Monument at the other end of the mall, more than a mile away.

This is Trump's inauguration from the same vantage point. His crowd doesn't go all the way to the Washington Monument, and has gaps in the middle.

They look pretty much the same, right? Obama's crowd was clearly larger, but it's hard to tell by how much from this viewpoint. The blank spots in Trump's crowd look small because they're at such a shallow angle.

But the fact is, Obama's crowd was so large that is literally impossible to see all it -- from this distance that many people look like so many ants.

You can see why Trump and his cronies insist that his crowd was large. It looked large from where they were standing. Obama's crowd dwarfed Trump's -- Obama's inauguration audience was literally ten times larger: 1.8 million compared to Trump's 160,000.

To see this you need to look at it from the opposite viewpoint: here's the scene from the other end of the National Mall for Obama's inauguration. The entire length of the mall -- a whole mile -- is mostly packed with people for Obama's inauguration.

And here's the scene from Trump's inauguration. There's literally nobody in Trump's crowd near the Washington Monument, while Obama's crowd is so large that it spills off the bottom.

The higher angle of this photo really shows how dense Obama's crowd was compared to Trump's, especially at the furthest reaches from the podium.

That "huge crowd" Trump saw right in front of him stretched only a few hundred yards away, with the most densely packed portion near the podium. Obama's crowd went for an entire mile, with the most densely packed portion of the crowd the furthest away the podium.

This is typical Trump (and typical Republican) behavior. He will point at some picture or reference some anecdote to "prove" his case, then he'll ignore everything else that contradicts him.

The real mystery is why the president of the free world is worried about such nonsense. There are lots of reasons why Obama's crowd was bigger: number one being that he was the first black president, and a lot of black Americans live in and near Washington DC. Clearly, many of them turned out for the historic occasion of Obama's inauguration, while they passed on the inauguration of the man who constantly dissed blacks during a presidential campaign that he ran like a KKK rally.

But that's not the only reason. Trump is really unpopular. Most people who voted for him did so unwillingly.  They knew he was a liar and a crook, but they voted for him anyway because a) they thought Hillary was a bigger liar and crook, b) they found him entertaining, c) they wanted to screw over "the elites" (who Trump turned around and nominated to his cabinet), and d) he is a man, and they think only men should be president.

To see how unpopular Trump is, compare his crowd to the crowd that turned out for the women's march the next day, in protest of Trump's inauguration:

This crowd was three times bigger than Trump's inauguration crowd (many people were in the street in this photo).

To make it worse, that same day Trump went to Langley to mend fences with the CIA after rejecting daily intelligence briefings prepared by the CIA and bashing intelligence agencies over their report on Russian interference in the US election. He gave a speech in front of the the Memorial Wall dedicated to CIA personnel who died in service of their country. 

But instead of remembering the fallen, Trump bragged about himself and whined about media lies, again insisting his crowd size was bigger than Obama's. Current and former CIA employees were not pleased.

The CIA conducts this kind of analysis on surveillance photos to determine what's going on in other countries all the time. They will look at these photos and they will make their own expert judgments about who is right and who is wrong.

A president cannot function without accurate intelligence. Trump rejects intelligence, dismisses facts and antagonizes the people who provide him with both.

George Bush ignored explicit intelligence warnings about Al Qaeda activities in the first nine months of his presidency. Trump has blamed Bush for 9/11.

Given all these factors, the American people should have no patience for Trump's excuses if there's another terrorist attack. Especially after we find out that it was called out in a report that Trump couldn't be bothered to read.

First Regrets

I have a friend named Bill who owns a manufacturing concern here in the Twin Cities. His hatred of Hillary Clinton was so all consuming that he voted for Trump. He tried a few times to defend him and has always voted Republican but after Trump's first week in office, Bill has finally started expressing regret. Why?

Beer, snacks and cars: How a 20% Mexico tariff could cost US shoppers

President Trump wants so slap a 20% tariff on goods coming from Mexico and use the money to pay for his wall. As any economist knows, this would be a disaster for our country and for Mexico.

Bill can't believe it. His main client has a plant down in Mexico. If there ever actually is a tariff, this client will lose millions of dollars and, thus, Bill will be out of business. I gave him a call yesterday to hear his comments on Trump's announcement.

"Crazy," he said. "What was I thinking? At least with Hillary, I had just another crooked politician. This...this is erratic."

I had explained to him many times during the campaign that this is what Trump was going to do. Bill didn't believe me. He thought Trump was just saying those things and wouldn't really follow through.

I suspect this will be the first of many regrets...:)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Peter Thiel Should Lose His American Citizenship

Peter Thiel is a billionaire who, like Elon Musk, made his money with PayPal. Originally from Germany, Thiel became a US citizen as a child.

Thiel is a gay, women's-rights-hating, Ayn-Rand-loving libertarian who secretly bankrolled Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker because they had outed him a few years before.

Thiel is also a creepy vampire-wannabe, mortally afraid of aging and dying. He wants to inject the blood of the young to preserve his own craven existence. It brings to mind visions of Erszebet Bathory, the infamous blood countess who bathed in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth.

Thiel is one of the few in Silicon Valley who supported Donald Trump's candidacy. He served on Trump's transition team.

It has now come to light that Thiel has New Zealand citizenship. He got it in 2011, apparently by buying someone off. He didn't meet the residency requirement of spending 1,350 days in the previous five years, because he spends most of his time in California.

Why does Thiel want to be a citizen of New Zealand? He says it's a "utopia," which seems odd. The politics of New Zealand are much more liberal than the United States -- New Zealand ticked off the United States in the 1980s with its nuclear-free zone policy. Maybe it's because they filmed the Lord of the Rings movies there.

I have a friend from New Zealand, and I went there to attend his wedding. It's a nice place, reminiscent of England or Wales, with rolling green hills dotted with sheep. But it's just another first-world country. And it's not a utopia -- too many earthquakes.

The real reason Thiel got New Zealand citizenship appears to be that he plans to flee there when the US economy melts down -- which is now much more likely given Trump's disastrous policies -- or the world is hit by a pandemic -- more likely because of Trump's anti-science, anti-vaccine policies -- or some other doomsday scenario -- like that idiot Donald Trump getting elected president and starting a nuclear war with China or North Korea.

A lot of rich Silicon Valley types have this mindset, according to one of Thiel's VC pals:
Saying you’re ‘buying a house in New Zealand’ is kind of a wink, wink, say no more. Once you’ve done the Masonic handshake, they’ll be, like, ‘Oh, you know, I have a broker who sells old ICBM silos, and they’re nuclear-hardened, and they kind of look like they would be interesting to live in.’
In his inauguration speech Donald Trump said, “the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America.” Clearly Peter Thiel does not have total allegiance to the United States.

There are people who have dual citizenship because they were born to American parents in another country: for example, Ted Cruz was born in Canada. This was an embarrassment to Cruz because so many Republicans had insisted that Obama wasn't an American because he had a Kenyan father, but Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban father. Both claims were bogus: both Cruz and Obama's mothers were American, so Cruz and Obama are Americans. In any case, you can't question the loyalty of people born into circumstances beyond their control.

So, even though Peter Thiel was born in Germany, I wouldn't have questioned his loyalty to the United States. Up until I found out he bought New Zealand citizenship.

When foreigners become naturalized American citizens they take an oath to this country:
"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."
By choosing to buy New Zealand citizenship and sell out America as an adult in his forties, Thiel is in violation of this oath. He plans to flee the United States to New Zealand in his private jet when the going gets tough.

Thiel should be stripped of his American citizenship, retroactive to 2011, when he became a New Zealand citizen. That would also mean that, as a foreigner, the money he spent to get Donald Trump elected was all illegal. And Thiel should go to jail.

But nothing will happen to Thiel. Because he's rich. And in Trump's America, the rich get whatever they want.

Our French Revolution

Last night I was at a baseball association meeting. My son plays high level baseball and I serve as the fundraising coordinator. The mother of one of my son's teammates from last year came up to me and wondered if she could help out with fundraising. We talked briefly about how she could support the organization and then I remembered a conversation we had last spring about the election.

She told me back in June that she had this feeling that Trump was going to win. She seemed gleeful about it. After talking with her for a bit, I realized that she was one of the folks not very connected to politics who went on pure emotion. She's wealthy, white and pissed off about the direction of our country. This is actually a more accurate demographic than the stereotype that's out there about the Trump voter (dumb, toothless, racist etc). At the time, I thought she was nuts but she ended up being right.

The question I'm pondering today is why was she right? How can such a large group of people be so irrational as to vote for Donald Trump? By any indication, he's a despicable person and a horrible image for our country. Yet he is going to keep behaving the way he does until he loses because up until this point, it's worked. People who support Trump are convinced that everything he does is great and the criticism against him is all lies.

When I brought up the Access Hollywood tape, she said that she didn't believe it was him and that it was all taken out of context. She called it a witch hunt! Even his own voice saying his own words didn't fucking matter. I realized in the that moment that we weren't fighting the last battle of the Civil War, as I previously thought.

We are experiencing our own French Revolution complete with massively high levels of irrational thought and behavior.

Consider Trump's assertions over voter fraud and his recent call for an investigation. Even proceeding down this path is crazy. He won. Hillary Clinton lost. The popular vote does not matter. Why seek to undermine your own election? Further, it was Donald Trump himself and his own lawyers who called Jill Stein's recount efforts crazy and worthless and sought to stop them. So, when she says it's rigged it's not true but when he does it is true? Republicans and Democrats alike have called his claims entirely baseless. All 50 secretaries of each state have stated unequivocally that there was no voter fraud in this election and for millions of illegals to vote around the country would be completely impossible. Trump has also misrepresented the studies he says that show there is voter fraud but that doesn't really matter. He believes it's true. His followers believe it's true. So, it's true.

This same kind of thinking was in full gear during the French Revolution. People were so angry at their leaders that they would believe anything. The only saving grace we have now is that Trump takes office with the lowest approval rating of any president. My thought is that patience is required right now. It does indeed seem that Trump is invincible. He can do whatever he wants. But let's remember that's what Al Capone thought as well. They tried many conventional ways to bring him down and in the end it was something small like tax evasion. This is what I think is going to happen with Trump. Interestingly, Vegas has Trump's odds of being impeached in the first six months at 4 to 1. I think that might be a little too good but who knows?

In the meantime, I'm still really bummed that so many people out there are that irrational. How can we bring them down to more grounded reason? The fate of our nation rests on our ability to be critical thinkers and accept reality for what it is. We can ill afford to behave so erratically when it comes to these serious issues. Leaders like Trump and his followers are why civilizations decline and fall apart. Oddly, I think some of Trump's followers want this. They want to tear down the whole playhouse merely because they don't like stuff.

Can we stop them? How?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Republican Brain Part Eight: Don't Get Defensive

The last time we looked inside Chris Mooney's insightful and amazing book, The Republican Brain, conservatives and how they respond to authority was viewed through the cognitive lens. After the results of the 2016 election, this has never been more important. In fact, all of Mooney's book should be read by Democrats who want to win in the midterms in 2018 and take back the presidency in 2020.

In the next section we will be looking at, "Don't Get Defensive," Mooney cautions that people tend to get defensive when we talk about psychology and neuroscience. Mental health is a very personal issue for most Americans and there is still a great stigma attached to it. Considering that conservatives brains are on display in this book, Mooney spends the next chapter considering the possible outrage over what he has said.

Mooney with an outline of the chapter and summary of what is to come. He wonders whether it's fair to lump all conservatives together. Certainly a libertarian is vastly different from a Christian conservative. And don't conservatives lump liberals together? Can liberals be just as close minded as conservatives? The answer, based on what we have seen so far, is no and it's, once again, because of neuroscience. But what about independents? There sure are plenty of them. Can someone also be converted from left to right or vice versa? Mooney states that the left-right conversion is fairly easy if one employs fear and distraction. So here is Mooney, poking holes into this own research.

Who's a conservative...really? The answers to this question certainly varies from country to country. England's conservatives are ideologically more akin to our moderate liberals. When people answer questions on surveys about their ideology, invariably it's in opposition to something. Given that the word "liberal" has been effectively demonized in the United States, many people claim to be more conservative than they actually are out of fear of being looked down upon. Yet, John Jost's research (here and here) shows that there is a consistency in terms of behavior and political conservatism, even across countries.

What do all conservatives share? This question can best be answered by looking at the common traits, psychologically speaking, that most conservatives share. They are not as open to the world as liberals and fear change. New experiences frighten them and they are resistant to progress. Recall William F Buckley when he declare that the National Review "stands athwart history yelling Stop!!" Mooney, in one has to be an epic foreshadowing, notes, "the change that conservatives seek is not progressive; rather it is in the direction of restoring something they perceive as prior and better."

Like making America great again? :)

Mooney goes on to correctly note that the earlier status quo may not be one that ever existed. As long as they think it did, that's what drives their policies and agenda.

Why aren't we psychoanalyzing liberals too? Well, we are. There are an equal number of studies that show that liberals are more prone to appeasement and indecision than are conservatives. Again, this is merely because of the way their brains are made. Like conservatives, liberals tend to allow emotions affect their decision making process and the result is indecision and appeasement. Mooney notes for us all to remember that belief systems address psychological needs, whatever the ideology may be.

What about the difference between economic and social conservatives? While there are some differences, it's important to note here that both employ the "work hard and you will get ahead" model. Most conservative Christians I know are also die hard capitalists. It doesn't matter that they accept Darwin's "Survival of the Fittest" economically but not spiritually. The root force is still there: pull yourself up by your bootstraps and don't rely on the government.

What about the cultural cognition model? Let's recall the basic traits of conservatives and liberals. Conservatives are generally hierarchical/individual types while liberals are egalitarian-communitarian types. Isn't there something in the liberal personality type that would lead them to reject the science of something like nuclear power or vaccines in the same way that conservatives reject climate change? Not quite, notes Mooney. Cultural cognition models do show us interesting things about liberal reaction to these issues but they still don't react in the same way as conservatives do. They may understate the research or spin it but they don't outright reject it.

What about leftist regimes? Well, they aren't really all that "left" when you think about it. Communist regimes say that they are egalitarian but they usually end up being authoritarian and thus share more in common with a conservative psychological framework.

What about left wing ideologues? Extremism is extremism, right? I hear this all the time. Both sides are just as bad, especially as you move out from the center. Yet the evidence does not support this assertion. Conservatives are far worse in terms of rigidity and inflexibility. Researcher John Jost conducted 13 separate studies and not a single one showed increased rigidity on the left. They ALL showed it on the right, however. In fact, when Jost run more studies, he found that the more extreme one was on the left hand side of the spectrum, the more open they were. Robert Altemeyer confirmed this when he went on a search for the Loch Ness Monster of political psychology-the left wing authoritarian. He found none but did find plenty of right wing authoritarians.

If you stop and think about it logically for a moment, all of this makes sense. Liberals' biggest fault is their penchant for being too flexible and changing their minds often. That is psychologically valid. So, how on earth could they be authoritarian?

Why not better distinguish conservatives from authoritarians? Consider the three basic groups of conservatives: libertarians, status quo folks, and out and out authoritarians. The reason Mooney doesn't distinguish between these three types are that each one still has that fear of uncertainty, rigidity and antipathy towards progress. This gibes with what I have always seen which is that even libertarians have closet authoritarians inside of them:)

What about centrists and independents? Let's take a look at the four types of independents.

Libertarians: Lean conservative.
Post Moderns: Young, hip, secular, pro-environment, not very liberal, in the classical sense, on economic issues
Disaffected: Financially stressed, hate politics (AKA Trump voters)
Bystanders: Young, not politically engaged

In looking at these four types, we can see that these folks aren't really centrist at all. Sure, they don't want to be labelled as a "Democrat" or a "Republican" but libertarians and disaffecteds are really conservatives and postmoderns are more liberal. Psychologically, Mooney's classification system still applies. The libertarians and the disaffecteds are less open to change with the post moderns more flexible and more open to new experiences.

What about political conversions? In the final section of this chapter, Mooney takes a look at the psychological triggers that cause these shifts. Too much authoritarianism may cause some conservatives to shy away from populous shifts within the GOP. Fear invariably causes liberals to become more conservative.

Linda Skitka of the University of Illinois in Chicago set up a study in which both liberals and conservatives were asked to stop and think about what they were proposing to check on fear as a motivating factor. Participants were asked to consider different groups of people who have AIDS and whether or not they should receive government assisted help for their disease. Some of the AIDS victims got through no fault of their own and others got it just because they were careless. Both liberals and conservatives said that the latter group should not get government help but after some considering, liberals' natural psychological tendencies kicked in and they said they should. Conservatives did not waiver. Yet, if liberals were asked to do another task, like listening to music while considering this decision, they behaved just like conservatives.

Mooney also notes a University of Arkansas study in which alcohol and political ideology were studies. Scott Eidelman and his team of researchers literally set up shop outside of a campus bar and found that when people drink, they become more conservative. This makes sense because booze disrupts cognitive reasoning and more emotional responses take over. In looking at the states that went for Trump last November, one can see higher incidences of alcohol, particularly in the Rust Belt, and drug abuse.  I'll have more on this later as I think it directly relates to how Democrats have to connect with disaffected voters who left them and went for Trump.

So, in looking at all these question, research shows we came back with the same answers. The conservative brain responds much differently than the liberal brain despite a critical look. The peer reviewed evidence holds up under scrutiny. But what about the actual physical makeup of the brain? Can we see actual differences between conservative brains and liberal brains? That's the topic of the next chapter. Are conservatives from the amygdala?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Is Trump Itching to Start a War with China?

During last year's presidential primary campaign Donald Trump blamed George W. Bush for 9/11 and excoriated Bush and VP Dick Cheney for lying in order to start a wasteful, stupid war with Iraq that Trump claims he never supported (even though he publicly agreed that Bush should attack Iraq, admittedly with some reluctance).

Now Trump seems bound and determined to start his own war. This time with China. And not just a trade war -- he seems to be aiming for a shooting war.

All through the presidential campaign Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Chinese goods. He blamed the Chinese for stealing American jobs. Though, in fact, American companies like Walmart were responsible for forcing suppliers to move their production to Asia, and companies like Apple were only too happy to do so, and also hide their profits overseas to avoid taxes.

Such tariffs would be against WTO agreements, and would cause Americans to pay much higher prices for the foreseeable future, since so many products are produced in China. It would also invite retaliation from China, closing markets for American exports, such as agricultural goods, which would hurt American farmers and manufacturers -- because we do export a fair amount to China as it is.

Days after the election, Trump called the president of Taiwan, breaking with a decades-long one-China policy. This was a huge insult to the Chinese, who have dogmatically insisted that Taiwan isn't its own country, but a "renegade province." China reacted negatively, of course.

And then, shortly after assuming the presidency, Trump vowed that the United States would prevent China from expanding into the Spratly Islands, imposing a blockade if necessary.

Such a blockade would be an act of war.

Trump's secretary of state nominee said as much during his confirmation hearings:
"The U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there," Spicer said when asked if Trump agreed with comments by his secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, on Jan. 11 that China should not be allowed access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea.

"It's a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we're going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country," he said.
What exactly are our interests there? Nobody lives there, because until China started building these islands from scratch they didn't exist. Over the last few years China has been dumping sediment from the seafloor onto coral reefs in the South China sea.

Peter Thiel, a huge Trump supporter, proposed "seasteads" as a way to try out his libertarian ideals: guys would just go out and build islands on the ocean to create free enterprise paradises. The only difference between Thiel's proposal and what China is doing is a matter of a few miles -- the Spratlys are 150 nautical miles from the Philippines, 50 miles short of the 200 required by international law.

I don't think that China should just be able to start creating new territories for itself in the back yard of the Philippines. But Philippines President Duterte just got done telling America to go to hell, saying that he's going to ally himself with the Chinese. He seems to be fine with what China's island building project. In other words, we don't have an ally or other interests to defend there any more. Other than the gas and petroleum deposits that just happen to be there, which is probably the only reason Rex Tillerson cares about it.

Trump also just killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have cemented our relations with the countries most affected by China's expansionary policies. Although Trump characterized the TPP as benefiting China, in reality it would have united the US and Asian nations against Chinese economic hegemony.

So, Trump seems to be willing to go to war with China over a few sand bars on the other side of the world, to defend the territories of a president who soundly rejects America as an ally and trade partners that Trump just rejected.

Compare that with Trump's remarks about NATO, which he claims is obsolete. We have treaties, troops and actual economic interests in Europe, an alliance that has endured for more than 60 years. An alliance that proved strong enough to bring down the Berlin Wall and destroy communism.

An alliance that Trump now wants to abandon to pursue "good deals" with Russia.

Any time Donald Trump says the word "deal" you know that means more money in his pocket: he's willing to sell out our democratic allies to a Russian dictator for a few shekels.

China has the largest army in the world. It has a sophisticated space program. It has advanced military technology such as drones. It has greater industrial capacity than the United States and four times the population. It has nuclear weapons. It has killer satellites. War with China could mean hundreds of thousands or millions dead, the destruction of our entire communications and power infrastructure from EMP attacks, global economic chaos, not to mention the destruction of our GPS and weather forecasting capabilities after the Chinese blow our satellites out of the sky.

Going to war against China absent a direction provocation against US territories (another Gulf of Tonkin deception won't cut it) would be a catastrophically stupid move. It would be make Bush's Iraq blunder look like a bar fight.

And right before threatening war with China Trump is blowing off all our NATO and Asian allies. Smart move. Our new president is such a great negotiator.

Trump appears to be under the delusion that he can team up with Russia to defeat China. But Trump seems to be playing the US and China against each other, the same way he used Syria and ISIS to play the Europeans against each other.

I can just imagine Putin egging Trump on: "Da, Meester Trahmp, I vill khev your beck against Cheenese."

And then Volodya will just sit back and watch China and the US destroy each other while he gobbles up eastern Europe. After all, Russia is north of the fallout zones in China and the US. It wouldn't be any worse than Chernobyl. The Russians are a hardy people, used to radioactive fallout.

The Five Best Jobs To Prepare A President

Someone asked me recently on Quora the following: What five jobs would best prepare a future President of the United States for the complexity of being the nation's chief executive? Here's my answer.

  1. Teacher. Being a teacher means you are dedicated to critical thinking and supporting such reasoning in the real world. Further, teachers have to manage a large body of people from different backgrounds with different learning styles. Classrooms are excellent examples of the American public.
  2. Neuroscience/Psychology Doctor. Future presidents need to understand how the human brain works in terms of politics. We are wired to allow too much emotion to drive our reasoning process. This scientific fact is covered extensively in Chris Mooney’s book, The Republican Brain. Understanding how to communicate to the general public with this research as a foundation is vital to the presidency.
  3. Governor. Leading a state is great practice for being president. Having the experience in a smaller body of governing first gives a potential candidate many tools with which to work and ultimately aids them in their agenda.
  4. Parent. Thought not a paying job, being a parent gives a person a unique perspective on lifespan development. Future presidents need to also understand that their decisions have an impact on the next generation.
  5. Auto mechanic. This may seem like an odd one but consider what a mechanic has to do all day. They have to work with a wide variety of vehicles that have different ages and designs. Somehow, they have to make them work again. Isn’t that what a president does every day?

Two Action Items For The Marchers

I was pleasantly surprised to see all of the marchers around the world on Saturday and Sunday getting out to protect the progress we have made over the last 8 years. I was mildly to moderately irritated that they didn't turn out to vote for Hillary Clinton but we have to deal with the hand that we have been dealt.

I have two action items for the marchers.

1. Getting out the vote in every single election year including the odd years. I want to see above 60% every year. We see that and we will see the end of the Right much faster than already scheduled.

2. Marches and events in rural counties in the Rust Belt started by local people. Bernie can help with this. The electoral college is a reality. Marches in big cities are great but we need that local strategy to win big.

My second action item has already happened with an event in Marcomb County Michigan attended by 5,000 people. Senators Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders were on hand to speak and rally in support of keeping the Affordable Care Act. And take a look at this...

Alaska? Wow!

I say continue to organize in these rural counties all across the US and get out the vote this year in the local elections. Lay the groundwork for 2018 by getting people registered to vote THIS year.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Well, To Be Fair...

Trump's Not Hitler: He's Kim Jong Un

Donald Trump's presidency is not off to a good start. It's been one lie after another. So many lies that his mouthpiece, Kellyanne Conway, had to invent a new euphemism for Trump's falsehoods: "alternative facts."

First off, after a dismal, rainy inauguration day, he got into a fight with the press over the size of the crowd. Barack Obama's inauguration attracted two or three times as many spectators as Trump's, yet Trump and his press secretary insisted that it wasn't so, making up all kinds of stupid excuses.

Trump then lied about his rocky relationship with the CIA and other intelligence agencies, claiming that the media made up the "feud." It was Trump himself who on Twitter compared the CIA to Nazis after their report on Russian meddling in the US election on Trump's behalf.

Trump and press secretary Sean Spicer also lied about the number of riders on the Washington metro, compared to Obama's inauguration.

Then there's the lie that his inauguration had the biggest audience ever, in the whole world, in all of history. Trump's TV audience was only 31 million compared to Obama's 38 million and Reagan's 42 million. Sorry, Donny boy: your TV ratings were lower than the black guy and the Gipper's.

Then, to make it even more embarrassing, the next day women across the United States staged huge protests against him. Crowds in Washington for the protest were estimated to be two or three times than Trump's inauguration audience, spilling into the streets all around the mall. In all, tens of millions of people demonstrated against Trump's presidency the day after he assumed office.

But the most curious lie was this:
Mr. Trump said that though he had been “hit by a couple of drops” of rain as he began his address on Inauguration Day, the sky soon cleared. “And the truth is, it stopped immediately, and then became sunny,” he said. “And I walked off, and it poured after I left. It poured.”

The truth is that it began to rain lightly almost exactly as Mr. Trump began to speak and continued to do so throughout his remarks, which lasted about 18 minutes, and after he finished.
Trump is implying that God smiled upon him and made the sun shine and the rain stop while he was speaking, as if Trump were the messiah come to deliver a sermon to the masses. He's making myths up about himself on the spot.

People have been comparing Trump to Hitler, but Trump is more like North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un: a raging megalomaniac with delusions of godhood.

The real question is this: do Trump and his surrogates actually believe the endless stream of nonsense they spew? Or are they consciously lying in order to inflame more distrust between his confused followers and the media, hoping that can keep his voters bamboozled for four more years? Or are they simply sowing more chaos to distract from more important issues, such as Trump's crooked dealings with foreign governments, the crooked dealings of his cabinet (like the guy who ran a tax avoidance fund in a foreign country), and the fact that Trump hasn't paid any taxes in the last 20 or 30 years?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Right Wing Commenter in Chief

President Trump spent his first day in office behaving much in the same way he did during the campaign. As AP recently noted...

The day left no doubt that Trump will govern, at least for now, as he campaigned: fixating on seemingly minor issues, letting no perceived slight slip by unchallenged, and, sometimes, creating his own set of facts.

Those own set of facts included questioning how many people attended his inauguration. I noted yesterday that his inauguration was sparsely attended compared to Barack Obama's from 8 years ago. Yet Trump and his angry band of followers want us to disregard our lyin' eyes and believe that the turnout was "Yuge."

What was actually huge was the turnout around the world AGAINST Trump and for women's rights. I seem to recall a whole lot of chiding about how sparsely attended anti gun rallies have been over the years. So, if size does matter to the alt right, what must they think of these crowds compared to the one for their guy on Friday?

It looks like we will continue to enjoy Trump's penchant for not being able to do to bed because someone on the internet is wrong. Most adolescent...

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Big Lie Begins

Donald Trump's inauguration address was filled with bleak images: "American carnage," "deprived of knowledge," "rusted-out factories," "trapped in poverty," yada yada.

Now, the United States has its problems. But it's a hell of a lot better off than it was eight years ago, when Barack Obama took office. We are so much better off today than we were after the economic carnage wrought by Bush, the Republicans and the very same billionaires, CEOs, Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers who Trump has put in his cabinet.

Though Republicans did everything they could to sabotage Obama, in the two short years Democrats had control of the presidency and Congress they made enough progress to put the country back on course again.

So now unemployment is low and wages are up. Inflation is still low, the federal budget deficit is down. Abortions are down, mostly due to readily available birth control. Violent crime is still falling, except for a few places like Chicago, where people with ready access to handguns use them for every petty dispute. An armed society, it turns out, is not a polite society.

So why is Trump trashing America, making it seem like a third-world hellhole?

Trump is setting expectations, creating the foundation for the Big Lie. By claiming that America is a vast sewage pit now, he's setting the stage for election campaigns in 2018 and 2020.

Even if Trump does absolutely nothing to improve the economy, and the unemployment rate, wages, abortion rates, crime rates, graduation rates, etc., stay exactly the same or even get worse, Trump will claim credit for turning the "dire situation" that Obama left us into an earthly paradise.

For example, Trump won't bring more jobs to America. Companies like Carrier are making plans to bring manufacturing back, but that's because they're hiring robots, not humans. It turns out that wages are rising in China and Mexico too, and automation is the only way to reduce costs.

Under Trump we're likely to see millions of truck and cab drivers lose their jobs to robots. Robots that don't have kids to feed.

And the crazy thing is, Trump supporters will believe him. They don't care at all about the reality of the economic situation, or abortion rates, or murder rates, or any of that.

In their minds the United States was a hellhole under Obama because he was a black liberal, and the only reason things will be better under Trump is because he's a white conservative.

Meanwhile, Republicans will make people sicker by eliminating health care and clean air regulations. They will make people poorer by overturning minimum wage and overtime regulations. They will cause more unplanned pregnancies, abortions, and miscarriages by defunding Planned Parenthood and making birth control harder to obtain.

Somehow conservatives think that prosperity will simply trickle down from Donald Trump. But the only thing trickling down from Donald Trump will be a golden shower.

Notice any differences?

The photo below is from yesterday's inaugural ceremony.

Here's the photo from Barack Obama's inaugural in 2009. 

Notice any differences?

Some "revolution."

American Carnage?

Yesterday during his inaugural address, President Trump spoke of "American carnage." As someone who exists within reality, I was trying to figure out what he meant. Then I saw this quote in today's Strib.

"This is history. I heard everything from this guy that I wanted. And I got to see Obama fly away"
--Keith McKinzie, a car salesman from Two Harbors, MN, attending the inauguration.

For folks like McKinzie, the last eight years have been dark. They've watched as liberal policies have run rampant, improving just about every sector of American life. They've seen a president (a black Muslim) with approval ratings in the high 50s. They've seen Americans happy, warm, accepting and open to new ideas. They've seen violence at it's lowest point in decades. They've seen people united in the face of anger, hate and fear.

They've seen a deep embrace of progress and it scares the living hell out of them.

This is the carnage of which Trump spoke. Progress. Change. Things that they don't like. People being responsible. Trump supporters like McKinzie want to be able to do whatever they want and not have some PC bitch telling 'em what to do. They want a consequence free environment in which they can steamroll over anyway who gets in their way. How perfect, then, is President Trump.

The media has been obsessing over how Democrats and smug elites need to pay more attention to rural, white voters and their needs. Essentially, what they are saying is that we have to accept their paranoid, fever dreams that America is falling apart (it's not, btw) and "the other" is all to blame. It's like they all believe in some sort of bizarre stereotype from the 1970s of inner cities.

I completely reject this vision of our country and refuse to placate hate filled nonsense. It bears no resemblance to reality. And it's going to be very interesting to see how they govern without recognizing what is actually happening.

The Borscht Republic

The term "banana republic" refers to Caribbean and Latin American dictatorships that were dominated by American business interests. With the blessing of the US government, companies would essentially install puppet governments servile to them.

Now the United States itself has suffered the same fate with the election of Donald Trump. But since we don't export bananas, we'll need a new term. I suggest "borscht republic," in honor of Trump's patron and benefactor, Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The FBI, NSA and the CIA say that Russians created thousands of fake news stories that slammed Hillary Clinton, as well as hacking the Democrats emails, in order to get Trump elected.

Donald Trump and his surrogates deny it. The information the intelligence agencies has is covert, so they don't want to release it for fear of exposing sources, blah blah blah. So far, it's a "they said-he said" argument.

But here's some evidence that the Russians tried to get Trump elected, in full view for all the world to see (from the New York Times):

In Danilovgrad, a town in Montenegro, Serbian supporters
made their views known on a billboard in November.

This billboard in Montenegro, Serbia, looks like a Donald Trump campaign sign, except that Vladimir Putin is his vice president instead of Mike Pence. Are they running for co-dictators of the world?

Now, you say, this doesn't mean anything. This sign was put up by some dumb Serbs.

Except it wasn't. The sign is in Russian and English. You can see for yourself if you run "Let's make the world great again together!" through Google Translate:
Russian: Давайте сделаем мир здорово снова вместе!
Serbian: Хајде да се свет велики поново заједно!
Google Translate isn't perfect, which you can see by its use of the word здорово (healthy) instead of великим (great). And it got the ending of здорово wrong -- it should end in -ым, not о. The Google Russian translation also uses the exact English word order, while the sign uses a more natural Russian word order -- though it isn't wrong, because word order in Russian is pretty flexible.

I can't comment on the quality of the Serbian translation -- I can tell it's Serbian, and understand the last four words because they're Russian cognates.

But from this you can tell that Serbian and Russian, while they have many words in common (including велики, which it got right in Serbian), are significantly different: Russian doesn't even use the letter j.

The question is, why would Serbians put a Russian sign up in their own country? If this was their heartfelt endorsement of Trump and Putin, why wouldn't the sign be in Serbian?

The only plausible answer is that the sign was produced by the Russians. If Trump had put it up, it would have been in Serbian, because -- one supposes -- he wouldn't want to insult the locals by getting their language wrong. The Russians don't care about such niceties, because they plan on taking eastern Europe back again.

Since the Russians put campaign signs up all over Europe for Trump, they clearly wanted Trump to be president. Wouldn't they engage in a little old-style KGB dezinformat hacking to make that happen, as insurance?

The CIA, the FBI and the NSA got it right on the Russian hacking. Trump can't admit it because it makes him look like Putin's puppet -- or a Russian collaborator.

Welcome to the borscht republic.

Friday, January 20, 2017

"We Have To Do A Good Job"

In the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump's victory last November, one of the first things he said was, "We have to do a good job." As he takes the oath of office today, I'm wondering if he will admit when he's not. I think that's the biggest concern on the mind of most Americans today. How long will his ego hold out in the face of reality? His words and actions up until now, as well as the words and actions of his supporters, say they are going to continue to ignore facts.

But he does have to do a good job, right? More than anything, he wants to be loved by everyone. He seems to have a deep need for affirmation. Being our first right wing blog commenter commander in chief, his insecurity runs as high as his bullying. He can't stand it when someone on the internet is wrong. He can't let things go. Perhaps he can turn that into doing a good job for the country. I'll be the first to admit when he does do a good job and would be happy to be wrong in my predictions for disaster.

Many of my liberal friends are feeling pretty hopeless right now. I share some of their feelings but the one thing I have that they don't right now is some relief. President Trump and his supporters have to be responsible now. They are in charge. Hillary Clinton lost. The Democrats, though gaining seats in both the House and the Senate, are not in charge of Congress. The onus is now on the GOP and their new leader to deliver. No longer can they blame liberals, progressives, Democrats, gun grabbers, the media, Barack Obama and all the other folks they say are destroying the US. It's on them. Are they up to the challenge? Can they govern without whining and blaming others?

Will the fucking own it?

Something tells me the answer is going to be a great salve for current liberal woes:)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Earth Is Running a Bad Fever

NASA, NOAA and the British Met Office report that 2016 was the hottest year on record:
Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016, trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.
What's particularly worrying is that the poles are heating up much faster than the rest of the world:
The heat extremes were especially pervasive in the Arctic, with temperatures in the fall running 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit above normal across large stretches of the Arctic Ocean. Sea ice in that region has been in precipitous decline for years, and Arctic communities are already wrestling with enormous problems, such as rapid coastal erosion, caused by the changing climate.
Because of CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels, the planet is on track to warm by 1 to 3 degrees Celsius, or 1.8 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. You don't think that sounds bad? How long would you live if you were running a five-degree fever?

A five-degree temperature increase will endanger our food and water supplies, flood coastal and river cities, ravage the countryside with ever more powerful tornadoes, and kill our forests with insect infestation and drought.

Donald Trump famously tweeted that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by China. Yes, the same China that is constantly choking under thick clouds of smog, forcing people to wear face masks whenever they go outside. The same China where hundreds of thousands of people die each year from burning coal.

Consider these factors:

For years oil companies have been trying without success to tap oil reserves in the Arctic. They've abandoned this project because the weather is just too cold and unpredictable.

Russia is the largest country in the world, but most of its land is in Siberia, It's basically unusable because it's just too damn cold. Russia has huge oil and gas reserves in Siberia, but has similar difficulties extracting them.

Shipping between the east coast of America and Asia requires going south through the Panama Canal. The bigger ships can't even fit through the canal, and have to go all the way around Tierra del Fuego, almost to Antarctica. That's almost 10,000 miles out of the way! If the North Pole was free of ice, the Northwest Passage would be open. Shipping would be much faster and cheaper.

If you're into conspiracy theories, isn't it much more likely that the oil companies and Russia are conspiring to make global warming worse, so that Alaska and Siberia can be easily developed, and open the Northwest Passage so they can ship oil quickly and cheaply to China, Korea and Japan?

Trump's nominee for secretary of state is the former CEO of  Exxon Mobile, and a pal of Vladimir Putin. Given the trillions of dollars these men stand to gain from a warming planet, can you really believe anything they say about global warming?