Friday, June 29, 2018

Trump Invites Putin to Join Hair Club for Dictators

After betraying South Korea, our ally of more than sixty years, for a roll in the hay with Little Rocket Man, Donald Trump is preparing to sell out our Eastern European allies with a "summit" with Vladimir Putin.

It's completely disgusting how Trump trashes our closest allies in Canada, Asia and Europe for photo ops with men who routinely murder journalists, political opponents and their relatives.

Trump is trying to sell the North Korea fiasco as a win, but it was a disastrous loss for democracy. The big fat man gave the little fat man everything he wanted. Trump accepted North Korea's claim for a "nuclear free Korean peninsula," which means the United States pulls our troops out of South Korea and abandons our pledge to shield the south with our nuclear weapons. It's only a matter of time before the north swallows up the south, the same way China gobbled up Hong Kong, ending democracy in the former British colony.

And that nuclear test site that Kim "decommissioned?" It collapsed, rendering it unusable, before Kim held a dog and pony show of dismantling it.

The only concrete thing we got out of the deal was three Americans that Kim had imprisoned. Which only teaches Little Rocket Man that kidnapping and extortion work on Donald Trump.

What will Trump give to Putin? Free reign in Ukraine? Revoke the NATO memberships of Poland and the Baltic states? And then the rest of the former Warsaw Pact nations? A pledge to pull our troops out of Germany? Or to pull the United States out of NATO altogether?

Trump is weakening the United States by severing political ties with our democratic allies, destroying the world trade system by imposing foolish tariffs that only hurt American companies and workers, and pulling out of international organizations like the UN Commission on Human Rights, leaving us with and less influence on the international stage.

There's a serious possibility that the international community will abandon the dollar as its reserve currency, something that was unthinkable until Trump blundered into office. That will make the dollar as useful as the ruble or the yuan.

When Trump met with the Russian ambassador he bragged about how he got rid of Comey. Will Trump tell Putin how he's dismantling the Supreme Court and eliminating the rule of law? Since this is right before the midterms, will he ask Putin to flood social media with pro-Trump propaganda like he did in 2016, and this time hack the computers that run the elections to ensure that Republicans win?

Or is Trump just inviting Putin to join his new Hair Club for Dictators?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Trump's Space Force Is a Horrendously Bad Idea

Donald Trump is an enormously ignorant man, and his idea for a "space force" is a perfect example of why this is so. He thinks we need a separate military department to plan for a war in space.

The problem is, you can't win a war in space: waging even a small-scale war in earth orbit will render space completely unusable to everyone. Blowing up several satellites in low-earth orbit (LEO, up to 1,200 miles altitude) will create a cloud of shrapnel that will eventually destroy everything at that altitude.

Most satellites are powered by solar panels, and because weight is at such a premium, satellites have paper-thin walls: they are extremely fragile.

Objects in LEO orbit at speeds of 17,000 miles per hour. At that speed, even the tiniest pieces of debris can destroy a satellite. A paint chip could blow out the space shuttle window. The kinetic energy of an object is equal to one half its mass times the velocity squared: at that speed, a one-ounce piece of metal has the explosive force of four or five sticks of dynamite.

In an attack on a satellite, the debris from the primary target's destruction will cause more collisions, destroying more satellites, making more debris, causing more collisions, until a chain reaction destroys everything in LEO.

In LEO atmospheric friction will eventually clear out the debris, but it will take years, if not decades, to clean up near-earth space.

Spy satellites and certain kinds of communications and weather satellites orbit in LEO, as do the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station (ISS). That would have to be evacuated and abandoned, wasting billions of dollars and decades of work.

A war in space would render us blind and deaf, unable to monitor Russian, Chinese, North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapon sites.

Worse, it would severely hinder our ability to predict the weather. Now, as storms are becoming more and more powerful because the earth's atmosphere is heating up and holding more water, we would lose the ability to track and predict hurricane tracks.

GPS Satellite
Because the United States military depends so heavily on GPS technology, GPS satellites would be a prime target for destruction. They are in medium earth orbit, about 12,500 miles up.

These satellites are delicate, two-ton machines made of computers, spidery antennas, glass panels, paper-thin aluminum and gold foil.

A war in medium earth orbit would destroy our constellation of GPS satellites. Americans dependent on Google Maps to get them where they're going would have to resort once again to paper maps. Younger generations, who have never learned to read a map, would be totally lost. Self-driving cars would become a pipedream.

A war in high earth orbit would destroy our geosynchronous satellites, including communications, TV and weather satellites. At an orbital radius of 26,192 miles, the debris field would be less dense since there's so much more volume, but it would never clear out because there's no atmospheric drag. Shrapnel from destroyed geosynchronous satellites would also have wildly eccentric orbits, colliding with satellites at any altitude.

A war in space would render space too dangerous for human space travel. With that much debris in orbit, sending people into space would be a total crap shoot.

There are currently 40,000 man-made objects in earth orbit, and the DoD's Joint Space Operations Center is tracking over 15,000. Blowing up even a few satellites would create a huge cloud of junk in orbit that would be very difficult to track and predict: with that much debris, there will be repeated collisions and orbits will change constantly.

Finally, weaponizing space would be the most catastrophically stupid idea conceived of by mankind because it is so immensely destructive. That's why the world banned nuclear weapons in space in 1963.

But you don't even need nuclear weapons. Objects traveling at orbital speeds have so much kinetic energy that any heavy object is the equivalent of a nuclear bomb. Most satellites and meteors burn up in the atmosphere because they are not aerodynamic.

But with the proper construction any piece or rock or metal in orbit properly nudged could survive the descent to the surface and destroy a city as thoroughly as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- with the added bonus of no radioactive fallout. (Read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress [1966] for an idea of what tossing rocks at Earth can do.)

This is also why intentionally bringing an asteroid to earth for purposes of mining is a spectacularly bad idea. One crazy dude could plop it right on earth and all humanity could be exterminated like the dinosaurs.

There are billions of stars in the universe, which means there are probably billions of earth-like planets out there. But we have seen no definitive signs of extraterrestrial life. This is the Fermi Paradox: where is everybody?

The most likely reason that we have detected no intelligent life out there is that by the time a civilization is technologically advanced enough to venture into space, the enabling technology is powerful enough for one moron to destroy that civilization, either through genetically engineered plagues, nuclear weapons, or orbital bombardment with dumb rocks.

In our case, that one moron may be Donald Trump.

We Can Pretend This Is Normal of We Can Do Something

If you want some solid evidence of how anger and hate filled Trumpists are, look no further than the death threats, eggings, angry emails, and calls that the WRONG Red Hen restaurant have received in the last few days. Aww...aren't they cute when they get all emotional and stuff?

I find it incredibly hypocritical to get lectured right now on civility from Trumpists. Pick any day of the year since Trump announced his candidacy and I can show you multiple examples of incredibly poor behavior. This is their modus operandi. They continually accuse their opponents of doing the same thing they do with the goal of muddying the waters and brainwashing people into thinking every one is "just as bad."

Well, the rest of us aren't. We may react to what Trumpists are doing but we aren't the origin of the problem. THEY are. And we need to keep calling them out on it. My co-blogger posted a piece yesterday in which he stated that everyone should be served everywhere. The problem with this approach is that it gives tacit approval to gestapo tactics and an authoritarian wanna be regime.

I think that Jason Sattler has it right, writing for the USA today. We can pretend this is normal or we can do something. I say we do something and forget about the hand wringing over how to handle Trump snowflakes and their feelings. Will they care if we treat them better? No, they won't. They will think we are weak.

Find a good balance between not stooping to Trump's level and coddling the Trumpists for fear of their votes. Don't let them be dicks! Call them on their bullshit. In short, do what the owner of the Red Hen did and ask them politely to leave. Tell them we have no place for their inhumanity in our society.

Saving A Seat for Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Monday, June 25, 2018

Is Turnabout Fair Play?

Republicans are bitching mightily about Sarah Huckabee Sanders being kicked out of a restaurant because she works as an apologist for a racist dickhead who intentionally inflicted pain on thousands of immigrant children to further his political goals.

But how is this any different from the baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple? Or the pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for a woman whose fetus had no heartbeat? The medication would induce a miscarriage for a fetus that was already essentially dead. Or the county clerks who refused to issue marriage licenses for gay couples?

All these refuseniks are in the wrong. If you're a pharmacist, it's your job to fill prescriptions that doctors have legally written. If you're a baker, it's your job to bake cakes for weddings that are legally licensed. If you're a restaurant owner, it's your job to sell meals to all comers.

If you can't in good conscience do the job you're being paid for, you should get a different job.

This is a dangerous path. Ultra-conservative Jews and Muslims will refuse to provide services to women because they can't shake their hands or even talk to them. County clerks will refuse to issue marriage certificates for mixed-race couples because "my faith demands that the races remain pure."

Restaurants will refuse to seat blacks because they're black. They're already calling the cops on blacks for the pettiest disagreements -- like the Waffle House that called the cops because black customers felt they had been overcharged 50 cents for a glass of orange juice.

Donald Trump is the prime instigator for all this crap. He is doing everything he can to divide this nation and set everyone at each others' throats. He thinks he can "win" by gaming the census, gerrymandering House districts and inflaming white resentment against any and all foreigners, including Canadians and Europeans.

So, no: it's wrong to refuse to seat Sarah Huckabee Sanders at your restaurant, even though dining out on high-calorie restaurant food is the last thing she should be doing.

Trump's Gargantuan Insider Trading Scam

To understand the true depths of the corruption of the Trump administration, you can't look at each story individually. You have to look at several of them at once to understand what's really going on.

Take these two stories:

Story Number One: Trump's Commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, profited by short-selling stock in a Russia-linked company that the New York Times was going to publish a story about, revealing the connections between Russia and Ross. Ross sold the stock three days after receiving a list of questions from the Times, which is insider trading.

Story Number Two: Today Harley Davidson announced that it would be moving jobs to Europe in response to tariffs imposed by the EU on their motorcycles, put in place in response to tariffs on steel and aluminum imposed by Donald Trump.

On the face of it these don't seem to have much to do with each other. You need to do a little analysis.

As on noon central time the Dow has dropped 400 points. The market has lost all the value gained so far this year.

During the campaign Trump said he loved trade wars. Trade wars are easy to win, he said.

This is manifestly false. Because we are the highest-cost provider, most American companies are going to lose market share. Workers are going to lose their jobs (as Harley Davidson showed). The cost of most goods will rise (like the 20% price increase in washing machines that has occurred since Trump imposed tariffs on them last year).

"Easy to win" means Trump can personally make money off the trade war. In 2006 Donald Trump said that he hoped the real estate market would tank so that he could go in and profit from other people's misery. In 2008 it did and millions of Americans lost everything.

That's how Story Number One explains Story Number Two. Donald Trump is starting a trade war in a blatant attempt to manipulate markets. Somewhere out there a Trump crony, perhaps one of his Russian buddies, is shorting stock. Others are lying low, waiting for stock prices to drop until they can snap it up at bargain basement prices.

Then, as he does with everything (North Korea, splitting up immigrant families), Trump will do a total 180 on trade and drop all the tariffs. The markets will rebound, share prices will skyrocket and everyone will start buying the stock that Trump's cronies bought at the bottom of the trough.

Trump is waging a gigantic insider trader scam that makes Ross's paltry scheme look like tiddlywinks.

I don't know how the money will get back to Trump -- he's got a lot of shell companies. We'll never really know until his impeachment hearing reveals his taxes.

But there's also another reason for starting this trade war. Trump wants to make his base angrier and angrier. Trump voters in Wisconsin will lose their jobs at Harley Davidson directly because of Trump's tariffs on European steel and aluminum.

But Trump will blame that on the EU. Trump is intentionally inciting anger against allies that have stood by us for decades. He's deserting our allies in Canada, Europe and Asia while nuzzling with dictators like Kim Jong Un, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin.

And Trump voters will swallow the lies that Trump and his official propaganda organ Fox News keep spewing because they love to hate.

A Textbook Case of Cognitive Dissonance

I wish that Chris Mooney would update his amazing book, The Republican Brain. He hasn't really talked about it much since Trump was elected but he should. It was stunningly prophetic. The emotional attachment that his supporters have to him have completely confirmed the neuroscience studies of the last 30 years.

This recent piece in the times illustrates just how bad the cognitive dissonance is with Trump voters. Here is the key quote.

“It makes me angry at them, which causes me to want to defend him to them more,” Ms. Anders said.

As Mooney noted countless times in his book, conservative brains shift all reasoning to the emotional parts of their brain when it comes to politics. Thus, when information come up that conflicts with their noggins, they get defensive and dig in deeper. Because of the massive amount of cognitive dissonance they are experiencing, they feel like they are being attacked.

So, the question becomes, how can we deal with this? Can we?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Note to Democrats: More People Like This, Please!!!

Where are all the deals?

Mr. President, where are all the deals you promised?

No deal on immigration. No deal on health care. No deal on gun control. No deal on spending cuts. No deal on Nafta. No deal on China trade. No deal on steel and aluminum imports. No deal on Middle East peace. No deal on the Qatar blockade. No deal on Syria. No deal on Russia. No deal on Iran. No deal on climate change. No deal on Pacific trade.

I thought you were awesome at this and we'd all be tired of winning.

Fox News v North Korean State TV

Without comment....

Friday, June 22, 2018

This Is Not America

Take a look at the cover of this week's Time Magazine.

Powerful, eh? This cover was made from this photo that went viral after it was taken on June 12th.

This image has become a symbol of the 2,000 children who have been separated from their parents as they enter our country seeking asylum from the violence in their home countries. The problem, according to Trumpists who are foaming at the mouth about this photo, is that this little girl wasn't actually taken from her mother. Their assertion is factually accurate. But so fucking what?

The simple fact that this is all they have as their defense demonstrates just how monstrous they have become. I saw a quote this week that was written last year that really sums up my thoughts these days.

I cannot have political debates with these people. Our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters.

Exactly right. Kevin Costner echoed this in a recent appearance on The View.

I agree. This is not the America I recognize. Does being against liberals, trolling them, and hating them supercede being a fucking human being?

Apparently it does because the out and out lying coming from the Trump administration and the hateful denial from his supporters make me want to vomit.

Mothers in the detention centers do not know how to find their children.

Judges and lawyers are wondering where the children of the refugees are.

At another hearing before a different judge, as one of my colleagues asked the agent on the stand about the whereabouts of my client’s child, the prosecutor objected to the relevance of the questions. The judge turned on the prosecutor, demanding to know why this wasn’t relevant. At one point, he slammed his hand on the desk, sending a pen flying. This type of emotional display is unheard of in federal court. I can’t understand this, the judge said. If someone at the jail takes your wallet, they give you a receipt. They take your kids, and you get nothing? Not even a slip of paper?

Children are starting to allege abuse in the places where they are being held.

Trump supporters and Trump apologists, you can't avoid this any longer. Your dear leader is a racist asshole and a horrible human being. If you support him, that means you are as well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Whataboutism and the Democrats did it first lie

What is whataboutism? Here's a handy definition...

Simply put, whataboutism refers to the bringing up of one issue in order to distract from the discussion of another. It does not apply to the comparison and analysis of two similar issues in terms such as why some are given more social prominence than others.

We are seeing this a lot in the last week with the Trump Administration policy at the border of our country with the wave of refugees seeking asylum in our country. Trump and his supporters keep bringing up a 1997 law and blaming the Democrats for this whole mess.

The problem is that everything they are saying is a fucking lie. There is no federal law mandating the parents and their children be separated. What is happening right now at the border is Trump policy-pure and simple.
Moreover, his supporters love it. What does that tell you about them?

Children in Cages

The Republican Child Torture Regime

There's been an outcry in recent weeks over the Trump administration's policy of separating immigrant children from their parents. Pictures of kids placed in cages by ICE agents have been plastered all over the media, making Republicans who have some semblance of conscience -- and a desire to be reelected -- reconsider their support of Trump's evil policies.

But this is just part of a long-standing Republican policy of using children as weapons.

Republicans claim to be pro-life and against abortion. They claim to value children above all else. But their actual policies show that they don't care about kids at all. They're constantly railing about welfare moms, trying to eliminate early childhood education programs like Headstart, children's health insurance programs like CHIP, children's nutrition programs like SNAP, and the entire budget of the Department of Education.

Republicans want to eliminate abortion not because they care about the children, but to force women to bear children as punishment for their "debauchery." Republicans think they're making women do the responsible thing by forcing them to have kids, but if you're poor and you've already got two kids, adding a third will just make you poorer and even less able to work.

The Republican trope for people on food stamps is a welfare queen with a half a dozen kids getting pregnant yet again to collect bigger checks. The responsible thing for a person in this position is to get an abortion. Yet that's the last thing Republicans want to let them do.

And at exactly the same time Republicans are making it harder and harder for women to get birth control. They push "abstinence education" which they know full well will fail -- if you look at the reddest counties in white America you'll find the highest rates of teen pregnancy.

But they want to punish girls who have sex, even though, nine of ten times, it's the boyfriend who is so eager to have sex in the first place.

Now, when immigrants come to the United States seeking asylum from abysmal conditions in their home countries, Republicans are taking their children away from them as punishment for "breaking the law."

But the fact is, being in the United States unlawfully is just a civil violation, not a crime. The punishment is deportation, not kidnapping your kids.

Furthermore, entering the United States illegally is not a serious crime, unless you lie or try to evade immigration officers. It's punishable by a $50 fine for a first offense.

That's a misdemeanor. It's like taking a woman's kids away from her for getting a parking ticket.

The people who are presenting themselves to immigration at the border and are being arrested, imprisoned and having their children taken from them are not criminals: they're refugees.

The apparent reason for this oppressive regime of retaliation against immigrants through their children is to incite fear in potential immigrants. Trump is trumpeting to the world, "Come to the United States and we'll steal your children!"

But if you think about it, there's another reason. Who's taking care of all those kids? Prison companies that began setting up large facilities along the border right after Trump's election. There's billions of dollars in contracts for housing and detaining immigrants awaiting hearings and deportation.

Taking their kids away from them means more profits for the prison companies.

And that's why they gave Donald Trump so much money during the campaign.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Depressing Drugs

Recently there's been a spate of high-profile celebrity suicides. Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade drew particular attention to the media's coverage of suicide.

But this is nothing new. In 2014 there was a similar fire drill when Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman committed suicide. That was when people started taking the opioid epidemic seriously.

This time, however, there's a different vibe: an article was just published in JAMA with the following statistic:
More than a third of Americans are estimated to be taking at least one prescription medication that carries the risk of depression, including suicidal symptoms, as a possible adverse effect—and they may have no idea—according to a study published this week in JAMA. 
The study is an observational one, meaning it can only identify associations and not whether common drugs are causing depression or suicide in people. Still, the researchers found some worrying links between the use of common medications and the potential for depression. Most notably, the researchers found that those taking three or more medications with depression risks had a greater chance of self-reporting depressive symptoms on a nine-question survey. Their rate of self-reported depressive symptoms was 15.3 percent, about double the rate reported by those taking just one drug with a risk of depression and about triple the rate of those taking no medications with risk of depression.
I can't say whether those drugs caused suicides and depression, but if you're taking three or more different drugs, you've got problems. When you add to those real problems the inevitable side effects and interactions between these often toxic drug cocktails, you are going to be miserable.

I've got some limited experience with this. About 20 years ago I was hurting. I'd been playing volleyball heavily for about 10 years, was hitting 40, and everything ached all the time due to overuse injuries. I stopped playing volleyball, but didn't get any better: everything still hurt.

So I went to the doctor and told him my story, and asked if there was some kind of physical therapy that could alleviate my aches and pain. In all seriousness he said, "You're suffering from clinical depression. I'm going to write you a prescription for Prozac."

I was skeptical, so I went home and thought about it for a while. I was unhappy because I couldn't do what I wanted to due to physical ailments, not because I had some underlying mental defect. "Screw it," I told myself. "I'm just going to do what I want." I threw out the prescription and just played volleyball. A little at first, and then more.

I endured the pain, sucked it up. Eventually it got better (endorphins, maybe?). Since then I've suffered through several injuries and surgeries, and now I'm getting arthritis and other afflictions of old age, but I keep soldiering on. I might be cranky because my hand always hurts, but I'm not depressed because I'm still doing what I want to do.

I do limit my playing time to four or five hours a week, and avoid overexertion: I've given up tournaments and leagues so that I don't have to play if I'm not feeling up to it. At some point I'll have to give up volleyball completely, and then I'll switch to biking or something less jarring.

I am sure that some drugs actually do cause depression. They often make people feel nauseated, prevent them from thinking clearly and have countless bad side effects like gas, lowered sex drive and the entire litany of disgusting ailments recited in those annoying drug commercials.

But the real problem with most drugs is that drugs do not cure the underlying problem. They just mask the symptoms. If you've got a strained rotator cuff or serious gastric reflux, Aleve and Prilosec will not fix your shoulder or eliminate your heartburn. The problems will just recur when you stop taking the drug.

Worse, taking the drug may hide real problems and eventually result in much more serious injury (a blown shoulder or esophageal rupture), which could have been avoided had the real problem been dealt with instead of brushed aside by doctors who are urged by management to crank through as many patients as quickly and cheaply as possible.

So, if eating pizza gives you heartburn, you should stop eating pizza instead of taking a drug to eliminate the heartburn eating pizza gives you. If playing volleyball four hours straight makes your knees hurt, only play for two hours.

People need to realize what's really going on with them and deal with the actual problem. If you have normal brain chemistry, no pill is going to fix all your problems and make you happier. Learn your limits.

Our national drug problem is an indictment of the health insurance industry, which always looks for the cheapest solution, and the pharmaceutical industry, which became drug pushers who steered people with normal aches and pains to highly addictive and extremely expensive opioids. It turns out boring old Advil and Tylenol are just as good as oxycodone for alleviating acute pain.

The sooner people understand that drugs do not cure your problems, the sooner this country will start healing. And stop committing suicide.

The Russian Iceberg

Remember the old saw about icebergs? "Only ten percent of an iceberg appears above the water."

The passengers of the R.M.S. Titanic might have initially thought that their unsinkable ship could survive a collision with the iceberg that sank it. The Titanic was huge, almost a thousand feet long, 175 feet tall and 90 feet wide. The iceberg was only 50 to 100 feet tall and 200 to 400 feet long.

But it was really 10 times bigger.

The same thing applies to scandals. Only ten percent of a scandal is ever known by the public. And the investigation into the Trump campaign's conspiracy with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton is slowly revealing the true size of the crime.

The first inkling we had that the Trump campaign was conspiring with Russian hackers was when Trump himself publicly called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's emails.

Then we learned Paul Manafort and Trump had the Republican platform plank supporting Ukraine removed, at Russia's behest. Then we learned that Manafort was getting secretly getting millions of dollars from Russian-owned Ukrainian politicians, and he was fired as Trump's campaign manager. Then we learned that Michael Flynn was taking money from the Russians. And then Trump fired James Comey to stop the Russia investigation, according to what Trump himself told NBC News and the Russian ambassador.

Practically every major figure in the Trump campaign had dealings with the Russians: Donald Jr., Carter Page, Jeff Sessions, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, etc., etc. And of course Donald Trump himself visited Russia at least twice, and has sold billions of dollars of real estate to Russian oligarchs and mobsters in New York and Florida, and was in bed with Russians in Canadian and Azerbaijani hotel deals.

The Trump strategy on the Russia investigation has always been to deny and delay. When news broke about the meeting at Trump Tower between the Trump campaign and several Russians offering dirt on Clinton the Trump administration issued three or four different stories all within a matter of hours. These lies were all dictated by Trump himself, we later learned in a filing by Trump's own lawyers.

Roger Stone is the latest to admit new revelations. He was in contact with Russian hacker Guccifer and Wikileaks way back. Now Stone admits he was in contact very early on with another Russian ("Henry Greenberg") who was offering him dirt on Clinton.

Stone claims that this guy wanted $2 million, but since "Trump doesn't pay for anything" Stone just laughed the guy out of the room. Yet a short while later Stone was talking to Guccifer and Wikileaks, and Don Jr. was meeting with a Russian hacker and an oligarch's mouthpiece.

Stone is releasing this information now to piggyback on the FBI inspector general's report: Greenberg had served as an FBI informant. But Russian informants like Greenberg are frequently double agents: they report back to Moscow about what the FBI knows. And the only "proof" we have that Greenberg wanted money is Stone's word.

Stone is infamous for the dirty tricks ("ratfucking") he played while working on Dick Nixon's presidential campaign. His credibility is nil.

But the Stone story makes it clear that we know maybe 10% of what went down during the election. That 10% is the few cell phone records, emails and tweets we've seen between the Russians and the Trump campaign, and the meetings they've copped to. Their more substantive contacts, the 90% below the water line, would have left no electronic trail.

So the question is: will the Russian iceberg sink the Trump administration? And will the Republican party go down with the R.M.S. Trump?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Sunday Reflection

Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 – When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Numbers 9:14 and 15:15-16 – “…you shall have one statute for both the resident alien and the native.”

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 – “For the Lord your God...loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Matthew 25:35-40 

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Thursday, June 14, 2018

North Korean Beaches

I've purposefully waited until all the dust settled from the Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore because the hype was masking reality. I also wanted to wait for our president to talk about it because his comments on matters such as this usually indicate what it was all really about. Now that sufficient time has passed, it's clear to me that it was about business development. Check out this video, specifically the two minute mark

Trump really isn't interested in countries like Canada or Germany where there isn't much growth opportunity. This is why he spent last week ripping on them. He's more interested in countries like North Korea where he sees a new Trump hotel. This is the main reason why he cozies up to dictators. Sure, he'd love it if he could be president for life but part of me thinks he just says this stuff to rile up liberals and distract them from his goal for more money. Considering he owes Russia a shit ton of cash, North Korean development could solve a lot of his problems.

I want it clear, though, that we shouldn't dismiss outright the praise he heaps on Kim in this video. The simple fact that Trump's followers are that enamored with him means we always have to be vigilant regarding a descent into the type of fascism we saw in the 1930's in Germany. 

It could happen here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The NRA-Russia Connection That Won't Go Away

The DC bureau of McClatchy has a report out that the ties between the NRA and Russia are far more numerous and deeper than originally thought.

Several prominent Russians, some in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle or high in the Russian Orthodox Church, now have been identified as having contact with National Rifle Association officials during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, according to photographs and an NRA source.

It gets better.

It is a crime, potentially punishable with prison time, to donate or use foreign money in U.S. election campaigns.

I've been saying for quite some time that gun people are fucking traitors. It looks like Bob Mueller is building a case against them now too. Maybe my dreams of these assholes ending up in Gitmo may soon be realized.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Trade War

Friday, June 08, 2018

Putin's Puppet Speaks!

"No collusion! No collusion!" is Donald Trump's rallying cry. But you wouldn't know that from what he said this morning:
“Russia should be in this meeting,” Mr. Trump said. “Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting? And I would recommend — and it’s up to them, but Russia should be in the meeting, it should be a part of it. You know, whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run and the G-7 — which used to be the G-8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”
And it's even worse when you hear Trump speak the words: he sounds just as aggrieved about Russia being excluded from the G-7 as he does about  Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

In case Trump doesn't remember, the reason that Russia was kicked out of the G-8 was that they invaded Ukraine, a country that had freed itself from the Soviet Union, occupying the Crimea. After that the Russians sent mercenary troops into eastern Ukraine, occupying even more of the country.

The Russians subsequently set up anti-aircraft batteries that shot down a Malaysian Airlines jet en route from Amsterdam, killing 298 people. That's a war crime.

This is why it's impossible to believe Trump's denials about colluding with Russia during the election. He's done nothing to curb their interference with social media, nothing to protect our electoral computer systems from Russian hacking, and he's constantly lobbying for sanctions against Russia to be lifted. After he fired James Comey Trump bragged to the Russian ambassador that the pressure from the Russia investigation was over because he fired "that nut job."

Now Trump wants Russia back in the G-8 so they can dictate the economic policy of the free world!

Meanwhile, Russia continues to work against the interests of the United States, supporting dictators in Iran (helping further Iran's nuclear interests) and Syria, where the Russians have been bombing civilians non-stop.

Worse, Trump's tariffs are angering our European allies and driving them into Putin's embrace. The Europeans are fools to have anything to do with that murderous dictator.

But now that the United States is run by a moron who thinks he can shoot the FBI director and not be indicted, why the hell not?

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Hey, You're Racist!

Now that the Philadelphia Eagles, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers have all stated that they will not come to the White House for any victory celebrations with President Trump, perhaps it's time for the president (and his supporters) to reflect upon the fact that they are fucking racist.

I realize that it is highly unlikely that they will see the errors of their ways but I have to try, right? Granted, actually listening to a liberal is an anathema to Trump and his supporters. It's just not in their nature to reflect, take advice, and change. They really, really need to, though, because they look like a bunch of fools right now and they will pay the price at the ballot box this fall.

As far as the sports teams go, they should just invite Barack Obama to their practice facility and give him a jersey. They could have a big party as well and invite the liberal media

Hee hee...

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

The President Can't Pardon Himself

Back when Dick Nixon was breaking the law and getting into all sorts of trouble, the Department of Justice issued this memo regarding whether or not the president can pardon himself. In short, he can't.

Mostly I think what's going on here is Trump is trying to muddy the waters because he knows what's coming. If I were a conservative, I'd bail out right now. You still have time to hold on to a little integrity if you do.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Dancing FBI Agent Shoots Bystander

Lest we forget why carrying a gun all the time is an idiotic idea, here's yet another demonstration of the foolishness of the concealed carry trope:

Guns should only be carried by on-duty officers of the law, or hunters in the woods. They should never be carried by people walking around the streets, and especially not by people drinking or frequenting bars.

And then there's the incident that occurred in Liege, Belgium last week: a man stabbed two armed cops, stole their guns, shot them both dead, then shot and killed a man sitting in a car, then went to a school and took a woman hostage. When other officers responded four of them were wounded before the attacker was killed.

For umpteenth time: guns are not protection. They will not stop someone from backstabbing you and stealing your gun. Stab/Kevlar vests are far better protection than guns, but as the Liege incident shows, they're not total protection.

Design changes could fix some of these problems: how on earth did this FBI agent shoot someone while picking up his weapon? What happened to the safety?

And if the cops in Belgium had better vests and guns that only authorized users could fire, perhaps the only death that day would have been the attacker.

Racism That Gets You Elected President

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Friday, June 01, 2018

The Silliness of Spelling Bees

The 91st Scripps National Spelling Bee concluded yesterday, when a 14-year-old boy from Texas named Karthik Nemmani correctly spelled the word koinonia.  That's a Greek word, meaning a body of religious believers. The girl who took second place misspelled the word bewusstseinlage, German for a feeling devoid of sensory components.

So if these are Greek and German words, why is this a billed as a test of English spelling?

English adopts words from other languages to describe new things that exist in another culture or religion or scientific discipline. Other languages do the same thing, which is why German and French newspapers are littered with tech-related English terms.

English spelling is not hard because we have so many of these foreign loanwords: most of them come from languages with phonetic spelling (like bewusstseinlage), or are phonetic transliterations (like koinonia or samurai). They are spelled the way they are pronounced, using the spelling and transliteration conventions of those languages.

On the other hand, spelling of native English words is hard because pronunciations have changed over the centuries (with remarkably predictable progression), but we have retained older spellings. English spelling is not arbitrary and chaotic -- there are logical historical and linguistic reasons for most of our "crazy" spellings.

For example, the word right used to be pronounced somewhat like the first syllable of the German word richtig (the ch is a voiceless velar fricative). Over time English either dropped the velar fricative (as in right and through) or replaced it with another sound (such as the f in laugh). The vowel shifted from a "long e" sound to a "long i" sound in the Great Vowel Shift.

English is a Germanic language, so it has common roots with German. But English changed drastically after the Norman invasion. For centuries Latin was the language of the Church and historians, and French was the language of the English court. Thus, thousands of Latin and French words flowed into the common tongue, making it a Germanic/Latinate amalgam. That's why the easiest way to improve your English spelling is to learn some German, French and Latin.

The spelling bee is really a contest of general linguistic knowledge, not English orthography. Perhaps that's why the majority of winners are either immigrants or the children of immigrants. Or are native-born Americans just getting dumber, fatter and lazier?