Monday, September 25, 2017

Lock Him Up!

President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has used a private email account to conduct and discuss official White House business dozens of times, his lawyer confirmed Sunday.

Kushner used the private account through his first nine months in government service, even as the president continued to criticize his opponent in the 2016 presidential election, Democrat Hillary Clinton, for her use of a private email account for government business. Kushner several times used his account to exchange news stories and minor reactions or updates with other administration officials.
Uh huh. Right. And I've got this office building at 666 Fifth Avenue with a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge for sale.

His lawyer also had this to say: "All non-personal emails were forwarded to his official address." Question: are the Russian collusion emails personal or non-personal?

So, is Trump going to call for Jeff Sessions to investigate and ultimately prosecute his son-in-law for doing the same thing Hillary Clinton did?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Trump Cozies Up To The City Mice

And I am going to LMAO re-attach it and laugh it off again when Trump supporters wonder WTF?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Barber's Story

I've been going to the same barber for about 15 years. It's a classic, old style barber shop where I can get what little hair I have left cut for $16. I always pay $20 with the extra going to the gal that's been taking care of my mostly bald head for all that time. Her and her dad own the shop which they bought from her brother a few years back.

Their family is very well known in my town. So is the barber shop. People come in just to hang out, even if they don't need a hair cut. Most of the patrons are Trump fans as I pointed out recently. They all are really pissed off at the world and constantly complain about people who achieve success being "elites." They ALL believe that Trump is going to bring them great riches somehow and bring our country back to the good ol' days...whenever that was. Even though I live in a suburb of Minneapolis, it's still has a very small town attitude.

The dad is a consummate asshole. He verbally abuses his daughter constantly. He is always bitching about women, the blacks, and the people trying to bring this country down which is pretty much everyone who doesn't agree with him and do what he says. His an angry, hateful old man who is clearly afraid of the world moving on without him.

The dad doesn't get along with his son either. He bought the shop from him but there were a lot of bad feelings over that. The son developed some health problems and was living on assistance from the state. The son was always kind of an asshole too. It's not surprising, really, because of his father. The son actually cut my hair a few times. I stopped going to him because he too complained all the time. It was always someone else's fault that he had all the problems he had. The son bitched about freeloaders until he sort of became one and then he shut up about people living on welfare.

Oh yeah. One more thing. The son owned a lot of guns. I say "owned" because last week he shot himself in the head with one of them.

Most of the 33,000 gun deaths in this country are from suicides. Most of those suicides are older, white men who have very serious mental illnesses and do nothing about them. This family is so dysfunctional that any mention of mental health would have been met with howls of derision from dear ol' dad. The son just repressed everything for years until it became so bad that he wanted to end it all. I wonder how similar this story is to all the others. I wonder how many of these suicides could have been prevented if these folks weren't wrapped up in that culture of denial that exists in the Gun Cult. Somehow, suicides are OK because it's an individual making a choice. What about all the people they leave behind?

I got my hair cut today and saw his sister. She's basically a zombie. She misses her brother so much and is racking her brain to try to figure out if there was anything she could have done differently. Her dad has become more abusive. Clearly, he's blaming himself and is too much an asshole to admit how his behavior partly caused this.

Welcome to Trump's America. It's a nation filled with gun toting, abusive racists whose emotional intelligence level is so low that they can't figure out that they are their own worst enemies.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Definition Reminder

Internet Troll 


In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll's amusement.

Good News Roundup

It's been a while since I pointed out some of the good news recently. Here are a few great ones.

This week's issue of the Christian Science Monitor (print edition) shows that US homelessness is on the decline. Since 2007, homelessness has dropped 15 percent, particularly among veterans. It has been a strategic goal for the federal government, starting under George W. Bush, that homelessness be reduced. Barack Obama continued this goal. Nonprofits have also greatly aided in this effort and heavy reductions have been seen in states like Connecticut, Delaware and even New York.

In Costa Rica...

Costa Rica Wants to Become World's First Country to Eliminate Single-Use Plastics

Yay, Costa Rica!!

In Senegal...

And in Australia...

Australia Produces Enough Renewable Energy to Power 70% of Homes

Canada's Leader and Our Leader

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Fire Sale On Make America Great Again Hats-Literally!

As every single non Trump supporter predicted, fans of our dear leader have turned on him for not being pure. Check it out.

Trump Backers Burn MAGA Hats in DACA Protest

When it comes to betrayal, sometimes nothing is as therapeutic as fire and a trending hashtag. At least, that's what some supporters of President Donald Trump found as they processed and protested his apparent decision to work with Democratic leaders on border security and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has shielded nearly hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.

Awwww...such a shame...look at all those pissed off Twitter users. I wonder if they are real people or merely Russian trollbots

Friday, September 15, 2017

Is this the I Told You So Moment?

Well, we finally learned what it takes for Trump to alienate his base: a deal with Democrats on DACA, allowing people dragged into the US as kids and raised as Americans to stay here:
With chants of “build the wall,” warnings of rapists coming from Mexico and an unforgiving promise to deport millions, Donald Trump forged a fundamental bond with millions of frustrated Americans who helped him take over the Republican Party and win the White House.

But now the same issue of immigration is straining Trump’s ties to hard-line conservatives. Trump’s agreement this week with Democratic leaders on a more moderate approach to immigration legislation has sparked bitter talk of betrayal among some of his staunchest defenders on the right — and forced many of them to rethink their loyalties amid confusion over what the president favors.
Anne Coulter responded with this: "If we’re not getting a wall, I’d prefer President Pence." And this: "At this point, who DOESN'T want Trump impeached?"

Now, we don't know if Trump is actually going to go through with this deal with the Democrats. Because, face it: he's a lying hypocrite and con man who doesn't know what he's doing, and rarely does what he promises.

But if he does go back on his stupid wall promise (stupid because boats!) and restore DACA, no one should be surprised. Trump has been screwing over his fellow Republicans, like John McCain, Chris Christie, Jeff Sessions, etc., etc., since before he was elected.

This looks like the "I told you so moment" that so many pundits warned Trump supporters of when he started his run for president: his multiple bankruptcies showed what a bad businessman and incompetent deal maker he was. When he skated away from the bankruptcies and left investors and bankers holding the bag for his incompetence it showed what a backstabbing scumbag he was. He doesn't pay the people who build his hotels and golf courses. His bragging about his sexual assaults and voyeurism showed the man had no morals, no conscience and no self awareness. Or maybe it's the syphilis and senile dementia finally taking hold of Trump's addled brain.

Trump is in this for himself only: he doesn't give a damn about the wall, DACA, Islamic terrorism, hurricane victims in Florida and Texas, America, or anyone or anything other than himself and his money, his businesses and his "ratings."

If Trump thinks his "ratings" will be higher if he dumps the wall and makes DACA permanent, he'll do it. He'll stab all those white nationalists who love him so much in the back in a heartbeat and cozy up with fellow New Yorker Chuck Schumer.

Last month Roger Stone threatened civil war if Trump were impeached:
One of Donald Trump's closest advisers has warned a bloody civil war would erupt if the US President was impeached.

Roger Stone predicted "an insurrection like you've never seen" if politicians sought to remove the US leader from the White House and claimed any politician who voted to topple him "would be endangering their own life".
That was before Trump got cozy with the Democrats, angering people like Anne Coulter.

What does Stone think Trump's murderous supporters (Stone's very own assessment) will do if Trump goes back on his promises? Will they, like Anne Coulter, settle for impeachment and Mike Pence? Or will they endanger Trump's life, as Stone threatened? Or are we to believe that they'll always love Trump, even if he blows off the white nationalist agenda and signs a DACA amnesty?

So, alt-right: do you now believe that Donald Trump is a lying, scum-sucking, backstabbing, senile weasel who can't be trusted further than you can throw him? Which ain't far, considering what a porker he is.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

This Seems Like a Bribe...

The more we hear about Michael Flynn, the more corrupt he seems. He took $25,000 as a "consulting fee" from a company that was trying to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East with Russian involvement:
As a top official on President Donald Trump’s transition team, former Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn actively promoted a private-sector scheme to build dozens of nuclear reactors across the Middle East known informally in the transition as the “Marshall Plan.” But he did not publicly disclose that backers of the plan had paid him at least $25,000.

Flynn communicated during the transition with the backers of the for-profit plan, billed as a way of strengthening ties between the U.S. and Arab allies looking to develop nuclear power capability. Meanwhile, the Trump adviser expressed his support for the plan with people inside the transition — and discussed its merits with others beyond Trump Tower, according to sources within and close to the Trump team at that time.
The Trump administration is constantly rattling sabers over North Korea's and Iran's nuclear programs, and Flynn was advocating putting more nuclear plants over there?

Flynn disclosed the payment two days before he was fired. During that same period he "consulted" for the Turkish government, publishing an op-ed against a Turkish cleric living in the United States whom the dictator of Turkey wants extradited. He also took money from the Russians before he signed up with Trump.

In Trump's age of political incorrectness, let's call a spade a spade: those weren't consulting fees. Those were bribes. As a public official working for the Republican candidate and then the president-elect, Flynn took money from multiple foreign governments and companies involved in foreign countries in exchange for exerting influence on Donald Trump and the United States government.

These payments represent a clear conflict of interest for any public official, especially for a national security advisor who is privy to very sensitive information. How did Flynn get appointed with so many inappropriate foreign entanglements?

The Trump administration looks more and more crooked with each passing day.

Fighting Populism With Populism

In a recent interview, Steve Bannon spoke of how he "gets" liberals.

“The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

Well, that all depends. If the Democrats get a populist candidate of color, there are far more people of color now than white people in this country. But Bannon isn't all wrong and, since he has so graciously given us his strategy, we should take advantage of that.

Rather than talk about the immigration issue in terms of race, for example, Democrats should talk as straight as Trump to those swing state voters who voted twice for Obama and then pulled the lever for Trump. I'd begin by asking them why they are too lazy to work jobs that only the undocumented workers want. Then, I'd tell them quite plainly that any jobs they thought they might have aren't coming back because of robotics. So, if they want to get a decent paying job, they should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and go back to technical school. The job they should aim for is fixing the self serve check out lanes at Wal Mart and Target. I'd probably throw in the fact that coal is dead and they should look to getting into renewables.

Plain and straight talk. Just like the guy they voted for...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Climate Change Has Already Made Florida Uninhabitable

Millions of people have flocked to Florida for retirement. They are drawn to the warm winters. In 2015 19.1% of the population was 65 or older.

The problem is that summer in Florida is hell. Without air conditioning people die, especially the elderly. After Hurricane Irma millions of people were (and some still are) without electricity. And now they are dying from the heat:
Six people are dead and more than 100 have been evacuated to hospitals from a nursing home that had no air conditioning following Hurricane Irma, the police said Wednesday.

The nursing home, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, had electricity but suffered a “prolonged power failure” to the transformer that powered the air conditioning, the administrator said in a statement provided to NBC 6, a local television station. “Unfortunately, early this morning several patients experienced distress and there were three fatalities,” the statement said.

Two more died during the evacuation to a nearby hospital, city officials said. A sixth person also died, officials said, though it was not immediately clear when that happened.
You need artificial life support to survive Florida summers. Climate change is turning Florida into Venus lite, with crazily strong wind storms and unbearable temperatures. And it's only going to get worse.

As greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels continues to warm the planet, temperatures are only going to rise further. Hurricanes and tornadoes are going to be more severe as the ocean gets hotter and the capacity of the atmosphere to hold water vapor increases.

It also appears that the operators of the nursing home are guilty of malfeasance: they're required to have emergency power for their air conditioners. And instead of evacuating residents when they were clearly in distress (the home is right next to a hospital with air conditioning), they let them die.

Like the nursing home operators, the Trump administration is guilty of malfeasance for pulling out of the Paris climate accord and rolling back Obama-era pollution rules.

Scott Pruitt, Trump's EPA administrator, says it's insensitive to talk about climate change during a hurricane season that climate change has intensified to catastrophic levels, giving us Harvey and Irma. That's like saying it's insensitive to talk about radical Islam after an ISIS terrorist attack.

The oil industry has convinced themselves and their Republican toadies that climate change is a good thing: all that oil in northern Alaska and Russia can finally be drilled and the Northwest Passage will be opened up, making shipping oil to Asia so much more profitable. Ever notice how everything the Trump administration does seems to benefit Russia one way or another?

Trump better be careful. If the heat kills all the geezers in the South the Republicans will lose control of Southern legislatures, Congress and the presidency.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Worried About Education? Start With Fake News

Right wing bloggers (and really, conservatives in general) have a fixation on our country's education system. They think that it's all one giant, liberal indoctrination. That basically means they want it to be one, giant conservative indoctrination machine. Remember, it's always a safe bet that if the right is bitching about _____________, they are actually trying to do _______________.

Conservatives who whine about the education system should be happy, though. They have successfully undermined both the education system and the liberal elites in the media...with the help of Russia, of course. Students today think that most regular sources of news (CNN, New York Times etc) lie and are all fake news. Yet, they believe what they read on Twitter.

So, Pepto Bismol-colored water pouring from faucets, a tornado spiraling alongside a rainbow and the president of the Philippines urging citizens to kill drug dealers-all declared FAKE by students today. But the gorilla named Harumbe getting 15,000 write in votes, that was all real. Why?

Because they read it on Twitter.

Between the tacit support of treason (Russia's support of Trump) and the continue attacks on sources of information out of juvenile spite, it's clear that these people are an acute and very present threat to our national security.

And they need to be stopped.

You Are Going To Pay For It

Meet Melvin Redick. He's from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and he hates liberals, especially that bitch Hillary Clinton. He wants you to go to the #DCLeaks web site and learn more. He has a cute picture of himself with a backwards baseball cap and his face painted daughter. What a model American!

One problem, though.

He doesn't exist.

Melvin Redick is one of thousands of fake social media profiles created by Russian troll farms in order to tip the election to Donald Trump. A few days ago, Facebook disclosed that they had shut down several hundred accounts that they believe were created by a Russian company linked to the Kremlin and used to buy $100,000 in ads pushing divisive issues during and after the American election campaign. How many more are out there like Melvin Ridick's?

I realize that there are millions of Trump supporters out there who are like pigs in slop right now. Liberals are pissed. Heads are all 'splodey and stuff. Yay, us! But you need to understand something right now and it's very, very important that you do.

If you think all this Russian stuff is liberal elitist claptrap, you are supporting treason. And you are going to pay for it.

Big Time.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Americans First!

An article in the Christian Science Monitor illustrates the false equivalence that Donald Trump drew between George Washington and Robert E. Lee:
In the heat of the debate over Confederate monuments, the names of two generals – Robert E. Lee and George Washington – were linked.

"Is it George Washington next week?" Donald Trump asked, amid the furor over the removal of a statue of Lee.

John Dowd, an outside attorney to President Trump, then circulated an email stating: "You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington, there literally is no difference between the two men.”
This is, of course, a bald-faced lie, as historian Jonathan Horn explains:
On the eve of the Civil War, Lee's letters are pretty clear. He thinks secession was illegal, he thinks George Washington would agree, and he opposes it.

In April 1861, Lee is called to the city of Washington by an emissary for Abraham Lincoln who tries to get Lee to crush secession. As Lee remembers the story, the emissary tries everything to get him to say yes and says, "the country looks to you as the representative of the Washington family."

Yet he makes this decision to turn down that command, and he says he can't go to war against the state he calls home, Virginia. He explains this decision to his mentor in the Union Army who says, Lee, you've made the greatest mistake in your life.

But Lee believes that he has to follow his native state, where his first loyalty is due.
[Washington] had come to view to himself as an American first. The best evidence for this is his Farewell Address, which instructs Americans to put the union above any local allegiance. 
Lee thought he was a Virginian first and American second, while Washington was an American first and foremost, and everything else second.

I am with Washington. It is literally un-American to be anything else before being an American. I hear so many conservatives say things like, "I am a Christian first, a conservative second and an American third," or "I'm a father first, a Republican second and an American third." These roles are not exclusive and cannot be ranked.

It irks me every time I see conservatives wearing American flag pins while proclaiming they're so proud of their state, whose flag incorporates the design of the Confederate flag, or has hundreds of monuments to Confederate traitors.

I think it is preposterous to have "dual citizenship," like the Russians who come to the United States and stay at Trump resorts to have their anchor babies. You know, anchor babies? That thing Republicans always accuse Hispanics of? The Chinese have also been doing it for a long time.

I have no problem with the birth citizenship rule that makes this possible. And I have no problem with people speaking their native language at home, preferring ethnic food over the fattening fare that passes for American cuisine, or wearing headscarves or even hijabs. As long as they are Americans first and everything else second.

People like Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire who supported Trump for president and bought himself New Zealand citizenship, aren't real Americans. Thiel is planning to bail on this country as soon as it's convenient. Thiel, and any American who actively obtains citizenship in other countries, should be required to renounce their American citizenship, since they clearly have divided loyalties.

People who obtain citizenship by virtue of having been born in a place, as Ted Cruz did in Canada or Russian anchor babies do in the United States, should required to choose their country of citizenship when they come of age.

This is what "America First" should really mean: you are an American before all else -- New Yorker, Texan, Christian, Muslim, atheist, Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal, black, white, Hispanic. You should place the welfare of the United States -- the whole of it -- above your state, ethnicity, religion or political party.

And yes, America should come before religious institutions. If you're a Catholic before you're an American, move to Italy. If you're a Jew before you're an American, move to Israel. If you're a Mormon before you're an American, go start your own country on Mars.

Religion should be completely separate from country. That's not to say that morality and religious sensibilities should not inform our political process. But as soon as religious institutions and dogma get involved in politics, it's always a disaster as one religion jockeys to gain temporal power over the others.

Today it's Christianity vs. Islam, but in the past it was Protestant vs. Catholic (as recently as 1960), and if we let Christianity dominate it'll be no time before the temporary truce between protestants and Catholics is over. Baptists will start calling Catholics satanists all over again. Oh wait, they're still doing that.

Like Washington, we should be Americans first and everything else second.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Trump's Dumpster Fire Nominations

Donald Trump is the most unqualified and incompetent person to sit in the Oval Office in at least a century. Is it any wonder that the few people he's managed to appoint to his administration are equally incompetent and unqualified?

Two appointments are especially egregious, both made in the last few days.

The first is Jim Bridenstine, a congressman from Oklahoma. Trump has picked him to be the head of NASA. The Frank of Bridenstine is a politician, not a scientist, engineer, or even a manager. The senators from Florida, the state that is perhaps most affected by this pick, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson (Republican and Democrat), denounced the choice:
Rubio said he and Nelson “share the same concerns” and worry Bridenstine’s “political baggage” would weigh him down in a GOP-led Senate that has grown increasingly resistant to Trump. NASA can’t afford that, Rubio said.

“I just think it could be devastating for the space program. Obviously, being from Florida, I’m very sensitive to anything that slows up NASA and its mission,” Rubio told POLITICO.

“It’s the one federal mission which has largely been free of politics and it’s at a critical juncture in its history,” Rubio said. “I would hate to see an administrator held up -- on [grounds of] partisanship, political arguments, past votes, or statements made in the past -- because the agency can’t afford it and it can’t afford the controversy.”
Trump and Clovis
Trump then nominated Sam Clovis, Trump's Iowa campaign manager and a talk show host, to be chief scientist of the USDA. The law requires the post to be filled by a scientist or educator.

But Clovis has no background in agriculture, veterinary, economics or any kind of science whatsoever. His degree is in "public administration," whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.

In Trump's eyes, Clovis' main qualification appears to be his weight: Trump probably figures a guy that fat must like to eat, so he put Clovis in charge of the food.

The common thread for these nominees? Neither believes that burning fossil fuels causes climate change. But a large part of both agencies' mandate is monitoring the effects of climate change on weather and crop production.

This continues a trend in the Trump administration of appointing people uniquely unsuited to the jobs they're supposed to be doing, much like Trump himself.

In addition to picking bad people, Trump is way behind in making nominations. There are 596 positions requiring Senate confirmation, and Trump has only filled 117. He has formally nominated 106 positions. There are 43 more awaiting formal nomination.

That leaves 330 positions with no nomination: Trump has only filled 20% of the positions in his administration seven months in. This is probably a good thing. Since Trump will only pick the worst people to run these agencies, the fewer appointments he makes the less damage he can do.

At this same point in their presidencies, Obama had 310 appointments confirmed, Bush II had 294, Clinton had 252, and Bush I had 208. Trump is having a hell of a time finding good help.

But some posts cannot go unfilled without causing major problems.

One of the most glaring vacancies is the ambassador to South Korea. Obama told Trump that his number one foreign policy problem was going to be North Korea and its missile and nuclear programs. Our North Korea strategy depends on South Korea, a key ally and host to 35,000 American troops, forming the front line against North Korea.

But Trump has insulted South Korea by not appointing an ambassador, threatening to cancel our free trade agreement with them, and claiming that the south has been appeasing the north.

Meanwhile, Trump has been making hollow threat after hollow threat against North Korea. He now looks like an impotent blowhard every time Kim Jong-un launches another missile and detonates another nuclear bomb.

Trump is a bragging idiot who does not know when to shut up: the first thing out of his mouth was a threat to nuke North Korea if they even said anything bad to us. So then they launched a missile over Japan and detonated their largest ever nuke. Trump did nothing.

Kim crossed Trump's red line, spat on it, jumped all over, shot a missile over it and blew up a nuclear bomb on it. And Trump just sputtered impotently. Kim knows that Trump will not start a war and Kim enjoys making Trump will like a fool every day: North Korea's nuclear missile program is now a fait accompli; it will now demand a seat at the table with the United States, China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Britain, France, and all the other nuclear powers.

This is not Trump's -- or Obama's -- fault: it started with Reagan's invasion of Grenada, which put small dictatorships on notice. Then Bush I invaded Iraq, and Iraq's WMD programs were dismantled. Then George W. Bush made the axis of evil speech, telling Iraq, Iran and North Korea he was going to destroy them. Bush then invaded Iraq. Saddam was captured and killed. Libya gave up its nuclear program. And then Qaddafi was overthrown and killed.

W's tough talk and foolish invasions literally forced North Korea and Iran to develop nuclear technology to avoid similar fates.

But this shows how utterly worthless Trump's bombast is in the real world of foreign policy. He starts out with the biggest, most dire threats. When North Korea blows him off and he does nothing, there's no way to escalate the rhetoric. He's blown his entire wad, right off the bat, appearing to all the world like the impotent old man he is.

This is why Trump cannot find a suitable nominee for the South Korean ambassador. This is why he picks hacks and idiots like Clovis and Bridenstine to staff his administration: no competent person wants to be tainted by having worked in the Trump administration.

Besides, they all know Trump will just blame them every time he screws up, and he'll fire them.

What sane, competent, honest public servant would want to serve in the dumpster fire that is the Trump administration?

Monday, September 04, 2017

Back To School

I've been in school for the past three weeks but the rest of the nation will officially be back tomorrow. That means it's time for articles like this.

Silicon Valley Courts Brand-Name Teachers, Raising Ethics Issues

I like the attention to 21st century skills and the connection to students. I don't like the fact that her classroom seems to be about her and not the students. And the "ooo-ahh-isn't-technology-making-us-smarter" thing is really played. Let's please stop that now.

Who gives a shit that her room looks like Starbuck's? The article's main thrust is that education has become corporation driven and that's a problem. I don't think that it is. What is a problem if the classroom is about the instructor and it becomes a cult of personality thing. It's not HER classroom.

It belongs to the students.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

America First is America Alone

North Korea just tested a hydrogen bomb, and how does Donald Trump respond? He blasts South Korea and threatens to withdraw from a free trade agreement with them. The south has been our ally and hosted our troops for more than sixty years, forming a solid bulwark against North Korea.

Trump seems dead set on alienating us from every ally we have: South Korea, Germany, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Canada, you name it.

Trump thinks he can treat other countries like some punk real estate developer in Manhattan. He thinks that he can bully South Korea now that North Korea is threatening to hit them, Japan, LA and Chicago with ICBMs.

"Give me what I want or I'll let North Korea invade you," Trump is saying.

There's a difference between being a tough negotiator and being a dick. A good negotiator makes sure both sides get a win. A dick just cares about getting what he wants. Trump is a dick.

The United States used to be the most dependable and stalwart ally a country could have. Israel, Europe, Japan and South Korea knew that we would always have their back, no matter who was president and what political party was in power.

Not anymore. Trump has insulted all our allies, one way or another. Even Israel has got to be questioning the United States' loyalty to them in light of Trump cozying up to Nazis and white supremacists who chant anti-Semitic and Hitlerian slogans (Jews will not replace us!/Blood and Soil!/Blut und Boden!) while carrying torches and giving the Nazi salute.

Our allies have got to be thinking, Well, Donald, you ain't the only game in town. After canceling the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal -- which would have formed a block of trade partners against Chinese domination -- Trump is forcing countries like South Korea into the arms of the Chinese.

North Korea's only ally is China. Trump has been blustering impotently, incoherently and ineffectively against North Korea for months now, and has done absolutely nothing to check their development of WMDs. Now he's bullying South Korea over trade when the north is lobbing nuclear-tipped missiles.

What's going through the minds of South Koreans now? Trump is unhinged and incompetent, stabbing us in the back when we need the United States the most. Maybe we can get a better deal with the Chinese. They have some modicum of control over Kim Jong Un. If we cut a deal with them maybe they'll rein in the north...

Trump has irreparably damaged our country's reputation. We are no longer an ally that can be counted on in a pinch. We elected a moron whose childish urges and petty hatreds have been translated into a disastrous foreign policy.

The rest of world is watching the United States have a meltdown over white supremacists during one of the most serious nuclear crises in half a century. Its president is childish, narcissistic, inattentive buffoon whose aides have to constantly clean up the bullshit that spills out every time he gets up on stage or tweets.

His own cabinet members don't even try to defend him anymore. They are constantly forced to contradict the idiotic things he says to salvage our relationships with our allies.

Trump seems to be intent on handing over American power to the Russians and the Chinese. In short order we'll have no trade pacts with any other country and all our troops will be disinvited from Germany, Japan, and South Korea as those countries make accommodations with the Russians and the Chinese, cutting us out.

Steve Bannon must be thrilled that Trump is carrying out his America First agenda, albeit out of utter malfeasance. But it won't end well for us: America First means America Alone.

Saturday, September 02, 2017


It was a mild breath of fresh air to see our VP act like a human being in response to the devastation down in Houston. Trump is down there today hoping for a do over. As I was watching Pence, I puzzled at why the GOP in Congress doesn't want to cut bait from Trump and just have Pence. After all, they could impeach Trump whenever they want to, right? Then they would have a true conservative.

Then it hit me.

A President Pence would mean that they would lose all those people that voted for Obama twice and then Trump in those key districts in the Rust Belt. There are just aren't enough conservative votes out there for Republicans to win anymore. They need Democrats to bring them over the top.

What does that say about their party?

Quote of the Day

A gentleman by the name of Larry Scott had this to say in a recent comment on an answer on Quora.

Outstanding answer. What actually blows me away is how anyone who is sane, and I mean legally sane, could look at these two and come up with the conclusion reached by the Trumpians. However, as the election grows more and more distant, and the more we learn about Trump voters and their motivations, it becomes clear that they do not prescribe to any particular norms of political thinking, no particular ideology or philosophical bent. Instead it was more like a collective juvenile rant, in much the same way we’ve all seen a “child gone wild” and screaming in a supermarket shopping cart when told they couldn’t have some particular whatever.

Sounds a little familiar....I love it!!

Say You Are Vladimir Putin...

Friday, September 01, 2017

Another Day, Another Egregious Cop Story

With the advent of police body cams, dash cams and cell phones there seems to be another story of egregious police behavior every day. Today's tale of outrage involves a cop assaulting a middle-aged blonde white woman who's just doing her job.  

By all accounts, the head nurse at the University of Utah Hospital’s burn unit was professional and restrained when she told a Salt Lake City police detective he wasn’t allowed to draw blood from a badly injured patient.

The detective didn’t have a warrant, first off. And the patient wasn’t conscious, so he couldn’t give consent. Without that, the detective was barred from collecting blood samples — not just by hospital policy, but by basic constitutional law.

Still, Detective Jeff Payne insisted that he be let in to take the blood, saying the nurse would be arrested and charged if she refused.

Nurse Alex Wubbels politely stood her ground. She got her supervisor on the phone so Payne could hear the decision loud and clear. “Sir,” said the supervisor, “you’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.”

Payne snapped. He seized hold of the nurse, shoved her out of the building and cuffed her hands behind her back. A bewildered Wubbels screamed “help me” and “you’re assaulting me” as the detective forced her into an unmarked car and accused her of interfering with an investigation.
And the guy whose blood he wanted to draw wasn't a suspect: he was a victim who had been sedated by medics when a fleeing suspect rammed his vehicle (the suspect died).

The attitude this cop displayed is responsible for a lot of police abuse. These cops seem to think they're gods and can do whatever they hell they want because they've got a badge and a gun. If you disobey or contradict or run away from them they're gonna arrest you, or beat you or shoot you.

These kinds of cops don't get what "public servant" means. That nurse pays that cop's salary: he works for her.

What's worse, he was just following orders:
A neighboring police department sent Payne, a trained police phlebotomist, to collect blood from the patient and check for illicit substances, as the Tribune reported. The goal was reportedly to protect the trucker, who was not suspected of a crime. His lieutenant ordered him to arrest Wubbels if she refused to let him draw a sample, according to the Tribune.
The rot goes all the way to the top of some of these departments: it's not just a few bad cops out on the street. These cops don't know current Utah law, or even the basic laws of evidence and police procedure that any American who watches television knows by heart.

Both the cop and his lieutenant should be on the street this instant, out of a job. They can't treat people they work for like this. But they're still employed (this happened more than a month ago).

And the rationale for the blood draw makes utterly no sense: the perp was dead and couldn't claim the victim was at fault for the crash. What were they protecting him from? He was innocent of any crime, so if they did find drugs in his system that would only open him up to charges for driving under the influence. Why did they want to add insult to his injuries?

Blacks and other minorities have been putting up with this kind of police abuse for centuries. On the plus side, this case provides incontrovertible evidence that not all bad cops are racist: they're just really terrible, power-crazed scumbags who think they can run roughshod over anyone who dares talk back to them. (Though one might argue that this cop was sexist -- would he have treated a white male doctor the same way?)

Now, I am not condemning all cops, just the ones that pull this crap. Being a cop is a very hard job. They see a lot of bad people doing bad things, and that's got to take a toll on their faith in humanity, as well as their psyche. It's not a job I could do, and I'm glad people are out there doing it.

But that's no excuse for cops like Payne and his lieutenant. They are clearly not up to the task: these clowns should have been fired immediately and lost their pensions. Examples have be set.

And not just to extract retribution: bad cops cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year in settlements to victims.

This incident and others like it put the lie to what that Georgia cop said about only killing black people: anyone can be a victim of incompetent and arrogant cops. A woman standing in the alley behind her house, a nurse just doing her job, and, yes, black men minding their own business driving down the street.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Trump's Wall is Just Another Con: Because Boats

Donald Trump is still at war with Republicans who he should be treating as allies, attacking men like Arizona senator Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham. Trump is also trying to blackmail the Senate, threatening to shut down the government unless they fund his border wall.

Now, in the best Trumpian tradition, I am announcing that I have a secret plan to finance the border wall. But instead of promising to reveal it "next week," as Trump always does but never gets around to, I will reveal it later in this post.

Flake is opposed to the border wall for personal as well as economic and moral reasons. But there's a much better reason to oppose the wall: it's a senseless waste of money that won't accomplish its stated goal.

The main reason? Most illegal immigrants just overstay their visas: they don't sneak over the border.
In each year from 2007 to 2014, more people joined the ranks of the illegal by remaining in the United States after their temporary visitor permits expired than by creeping across the Mexican border, according to a report by researchers at the Center for Migration Studies.
To further illustrate how oblivious Trump is, consider this: last year Europe was inundated by illegal immigrants arriving from Syria by boat.

Doesn't Donnie know Mexicans have boats too? Here's a story from 2010 about how illegal immigrants use boats to enter California from Mexico.  Here's a story from last Saturday about people using a boat to enter the United States from Haiti. Here's a story from Breitbart in 2014 about pangas bringing illegal immigrants by sea to San Diego. And of course there was the Mariel boat lift in the 1980s...

Yet in Trump's first budget he cut Coast Guard funding by a billion dollars. Doesn't Trump understand that the Coast Guard stops boats entering the United States illegally? A later budget restored the cut, but because the Guard's budget is already drastically insufficient, they can't even do their job as it is:
The White House has dropped plans for a 14 percent cut to the Coast Guard, instead promising a budget that “sustains current funding levels.” The bad news is that “current funding levels” are already too low. The Coast Guard has to give almost 600 drug shipments a pass each year because they don’t have the ships or planes to catch them — and that’s their top-priority mission. Elsewhere, the Coast Guard has cut corners on everything from patrolling the Pacific, to maintaining its bases and to working with the Navy, the Coast Guard Commandant told reporters today.
From this you could deduce that Trump is just plain stupid. And you would be correct. But the real reason is Trump wants the wall is to con his supporters. The wall riles up the racists, haters and white separatists who call him the "god emperor." It plays well at his Nuremberg-style rallies. In his mind, it boosts his ratings, and ratings are everything.

If Trump's voters want the border wall, let them pay for it.

Now for my secret plan: instead of making Mexico or American taxpayers pay for Trump's vanity project: let the people who want the wall pay for it. If Trump wants to spend $20 billion on his "beautiful" wall, that's only $307 for each of the 65 million fools who voted for him. Why waste federal dollars on something most people don't want?

Trump could create a non-profit "Beautiful Wall" foundation. What could possibly go wrong?

The thing is, it doesn't matter to Trump that the wall will be an expensive failure. Many of his businesses have been expensive failures: the casinos, Trump University, Trump Shuttle, the United States Football League, and so on.

But all those things boosted his notoriety, and a splashy failure is good for business if your business is just selling the Trump name. Especially when he's always able to leave someone else holding the bag for his mistakes.

The Mexican border is 2,000 miles long. Trump has already admitted he's not really going to build a wall along its entirety, but just a short segment to feed raw meat to the animals.

Now, the coastline of the lower 48 states is 6,000 miles long, half of that on the states closest to Mexico, the Caribbean and South America -- Texas, California, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. There are tens of thousands of square miles of open sea around those coastlines, making it very difficult for a thinly spread Coast Guard to intercept all the smugglers.

If the wall was 100% effective -- and it won't be, because people will just tunnel under and climb over it -- drug smugglers and illegal immigrants will just switch to other means: cars, boats, planes, and overstaying visas.

To stop illegal immigration you need to remove the incentive to come to the United States illegally. But Trump's preferred method -- making life miserable for illegals -- doesn't work very well. Because life for many immigrants is even worse at home.

If it were more attractive to stay in Mexico and South and Central America -- if people had jobs that paid better, drug gangs were defanged, government corruption was rooted out -- the people living in those countries would stay home. And a lot of the immigrants that Trump wants to deport would voluntarily go home to their families.

If we fixed American drug policy to make illicit drugs unprofitable, drug gangs would stop smuggling drugs over the border.

The United States should pursue a set of "everbody wins" policies for trade, immigration, cross-border employment, illegal drugs, etc., with Mexico and Latin America. NAFTA should be renegotiated to make life better by raising the wages for the citizens of our trading partners, so they can afford to buy our products, and they're no longer the lowest cost producers, making our workers more competitive.

But that's impossible under Trump: the only thing he understands is him winning personally, and that means everybody else -- even his own allies in the Republican Party -- have to lose.

Cop at Traffic Stop: "We only shoot black people"

You would think this was a Saturday Night Live sketch, but video shows this really happened in Georgia in July, 2016:
A white Cobb County police lieutenant has been moved to administrative duty for telling a white woman during a traffic stop, “Remember, we only shoot black people.”

The footage shows the officer speaking through the car window to a female passenger in a vehicle who had been stopped for suspected DUI.

Channel 2 Action News reported that its request for body camera footage of the traffic stop prompted an internal investigation of Lt. Greg Abbott, who has been on the Cobb force for 28 years.

The woman tells Abbott that she is afraid to reach for her cellphone because “I’ve just seen way too many videos of cops ... ”

At that point, Abbott cuts her off.

“But you’re not black. Remember, we only shoot black people,” the police veteran of nearly three decades can be heard saying. “Yeah. We only kill black people, right? All the videos you’ve seen, have you seen the black people get killed?”
It's clear from the cop's tone of voice that he's just telling her what he thinks she wants to hear, appealing to her racism: You're safe, he's saying. You're white, and cops don't shoot white women.

Except they do. Just last month a Minneapolis cop shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a white woman, behind her house when she was in her pajamas. Authorities say that it'll take until the end of the year to decide whether to charge the cop.

So that Georgia woman was right to be afraid of the cops shooting her: they even kill middle-aged blonde white women when they're afraid or surprised.

Because they don't know who's got a gun when they stop a car or someone approaches them from behind. As long as cops are afraid of being ambushed by some nut packing heat, innocent people are going to die needlessly at the hands of the cops.

You can blame a lot of this on incompetent, or racist or trigger-happy cops -- but the biggest share of the blame should be placed on the NRA and Republican office holders who keep pushing the fallacy that more guns make us safer.

The prevalence of guns makes the cops feel like someone's going to shoot them at every traffic stop or when they're parked in their cruiser having a coffee break.

Justine -- and a lot of innocent black men -- died so that gun nuts can have their toys and feed their power fantasies.

The Limits of Power

With Donald Trump's pardon of Joe Arpaio for a federal contempt of court conviction, Trump is threatening to destroy the power of the judicial branch of government. He seems to think that his power to pardon is absolute:
In his Saturday morning tweets, the President referenced the fact that he holds presidential pardoning powers, saying, "While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us. FAKE NEWS."
Sorry to break it to Donnie, but he ain't all powerful. Realistically, he can't pardon himself. And he can't pardon someone in exchange for a bribe -- that in itself would be a crime.

And, more to the point, he can't pardon anyone for crimes charged under state law:
The Constitution gives the president “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”  
Since Trump has never actually read the Constitution, he doesn't seem to realize that. But Robert Mueller does:
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on its investigation into Paul Manafort and his financial transactions, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The cooperation is the latest indication that the federal probe into President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is intensifying. It also could potentially provide Mueller with additional leverage to get Manafort to cooperate in the larger investigation into Trump’s campaign, as Trump does not have pardon power over state crimes.
With all of Trump's questionable financial dealings with Russian oligarchs, Trump himself is likely open to prosecution in New York, New Jersey and Florida for money laundering with his real estate and casino transactions.

And remember, the FBI took down Al Capone for tax fraud. Perhaps Trump's reluctance to release his tax returns is that if all the states where he does business could see the entirety of his financial manipulations they could convict him of tax evasion.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Does Texas Want to Secede Now?

The flooding in Texas is horrible. It's unprecedented, everyone is saying.

But it was predicted. Climate scientists have been predicting this kind of catastrophe for decades. And it's only going to get worse.

People are praising the citizens of Houston for being civic minded, checking on their neighbors, helping each other out. Yes, helping people you know and live near is praiseworthy.

But so is helping people who live in other states. Every Republican member of congress from Texas is hell-bent on repealing Obama's health care law, taking away health care from people who live in New York and California. Yet now they are all demanding that New York and California -- through the Federal government -- literally bail them out of this horrific flood, right this very minute.

I have no problem with that. We should help Texas get through this terrible disaster. But things have got to change.

People have to stop denying the truth of climate change and sea level rise. They have to stop burning so much fossil fuel. They have to drive more efficient cars and use more wind and solar power.

They have to acknowledge that oil and gas extraction has caused the coast to subside in Texas and Louisiana, and has made flooding and storm surge worse. Houston has been overbuilt -- they have paved over the entire area, making it impossible for rain to seep into the water table normally.

People who live in houses that have been flooded two or three times have to move -- and that's according to a Texas Republican. This is the third year running that Houston has had a 500-year flood. This timely article was written six months ago:

Following historic floods across the Greater Houston area last spring, county and city entities have worked on a number of projects to address flood mitigation and water rescue challenges in the Tomball and Magnolia areas.

Local officials said the April 2016 and Memorial Day 2015 floods were 500-year events—meaning affected areas have a 0.2 percent chance of flooding in a given year, according to the Harris County Flood Control District.

“[It was] unprecedented to have two 500-year storms back to back,” Tomball Public Works Director David Esquivel said. “With that being said, I don’t know if there’s any one entity that’s going to design for that kind of storm event.”
Americans across the country should be helping Texas. And Texas should want to return the favor and help the rest of the country in two or three years after they've recovered and something bad has happened to us.

During Barack Obama's presidency many Texans wanted to leave the Union. They thought Obama was going to impose martial law. They didn't want their own citizens to have access to health care. Those same citizens that they're now pulling out of their flooding houses.

Why do Texans work so hard to save their neighbors in a disaster, but kick them to the curb every other day of the year?

The United States works because we're a huge country. We're extremely diverse -- when one sector of the economy tanks, or there's a massive hurricane on the Gulf Coast, or a crop-killing drought in California, or six feet of snow gets dumped on Boston, or dozens of tornadoes clobber Missouri and Arkansas, the rest of us can pick up the slack.

The separatist mind-set of the white supremacists and Texas nationalists weakens the Union. There was a saying once, it's hard to remember how it goes with all the crap Donald Trump keeps throwing around (now he's threatening to shut down the government unless he gets his useless wall). What was that saying?

Oh, yeah. "United we stand, divided we fall."

Sunday, August 27, 2017

It's Not a Coincidence Anymore...

The confluence of three recent stories shows that climate change is really happening, in a very big way.

The first was a study that showed that for decades, the research of Exxon's own climate scientists, indicated that the climate was warming, but Exxon publicly stated that it wasn't. Exxon misled the public about climate change, sowing doubt that it was happening. In recent years, however, Exxon has admitted the severity of the problem.

The second was a report that a Russian tanker went across the Arctic from Europe to Asia in record time, thanks to thinning sea ice at the pole:
Sailors have for centuries sought a navigable Northwest Passage: a shorter, faster route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that transits the Arctic. Historically, thick ice made the journey impossible. In the last century, specialized ice-breaking vessels made the trip plausible, but prohibitively expensive, and then only during the summer, when the ice was thinnest. 
But rapid changes to the climate have significantly altered the region’s ice, and Sovcomflot said in a statement that it believed the ship could make the journey “year-round in the difficult ice conditions.”
The third is, of course, Hurricane Harvey. Though this hurricane wasn't caused by climate change, higher temperatures in the ocean and the atmosphere have increased the amount of water vapor that storms pick up. That in turn has caused a drastic increase in the amount of rainfall.

Houston has been hit by terrible flooding, with some areas being inundated by two feet of rain in 24 hours. Some parts of Texas may get as much as five feet of rain over the course of the storm.

The United States hasn't been hit by many hurricanes in the last decade, but Mexico hasn't been so lucky. Asia, however, has been hammered by some of the biggest cyclones in history in recent years.

Things are shaking out just like the climate forecasters predicted: places like Texas and California have been hit by terrible years-long droughts, then they get walloped by torrential thousand-year downpours. Sea level rise is hitting the south Atlantic coast particularly hard.

The Gulf states -- Florida, Texas, Louisiana -- have been home to the loudest climate change deniers, yet they stand the most to lose.

Will they will stop lying about it now? Will they instead admit the truth and blame all the rest of of us for climate change because we burn the oil they extract, and we drive the gas-guzzlers they have fought so hard to keep inefficient so they can sell more oil?

One thing we know for sure is that they will demand we rescue them, yet again. They'll insist we rebuild their houses and businesses in the same flood-prone areas that have been hammered again and again by every storm that comes along.

This does point out another reason why the Keystone XL pipeline shouldn't be built: does it really make sense to build a pipeline to a place that's prone to such massive flooding? They're just going to load it on oil tankers and send it to Asia anyway.

Best not to put all our eggs in one basket.

Better In Than Out?

I came across a reader letter today in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune that struck me as very interesting. The gist of it was that Trump is better for the liberal agenda in office than out of it. Every time he tries to work with Congress in pursuing the conservative agenda, he gets in his own way with something. Whether it's his child like behavior, another thread pulled in the Russian scandal or some other buffoonish gaff, nothing is getting done in Washington in terms of what the GOP wants. Isn't that a good thing?

I thought it about it for a while and realized there needs to be a cost benefit analysis performed. On the one had, the reader is right. Trump is the GOP's worst enemy in terms of policy change. Yet, the damage he is doing to our hegemony in the world is significant. Which is worse?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

This is How Little Congress Trusts Trump's Judgment

U.S. President Donald Trump would be required to notify U.S. lawmakers before creating a joint U.S.-Russia cyber security unit -- an idea that has drawn criticism across the political spectrum -- under legislation advancing in Congress.

The proposal, if it became law, would be the latest in a series of maneuvers by Congress that either limit the president’s authority on Russia matters or rebuke his desire to warm relations with Moscow.

A provision contained within the annual Intelligence Authorization Act and passed by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee 14-1 would require the Trump administration to provide Congress with a report describing what intelligence would be shared with Russia, any counterintelligence concerns and how those concerns would be addressed.
It is crazy when lawmakers are forced to write preemptive legislation to prevent from Trump from catastrophically stupid blunders.

Trump Pardons Ex-Sheriff, World Shrugs

Since the stated goal of Trump and his supporters is to make liberals' heads explode, why give them what they want?

Consider Trump's recent pardoning of Joe Arpaio, the ex-sheriff of Maricopa county in Arizona. It was done with the specific and most adolescent intent of getting a rise out of liberals. So, the best thing to do is ignore it and counter with questions of how the president and his supporters are fulfilling their promises to the American people. Where's tax reform? Health care? What up with the wall?

Arpaio isn't sheriff anymore. He's 85 years old and not in the best of shape. Honestly, how much of an influence is he going to have on anything? Pardoning him really makes no difference in the grand scheme of things.

The best thing that the two thirds of the nation that does not support Trump can do is ignore him when he does stuff like this.

An Open Letter to a Trump Supporter

Dear Trump Supporter,

What do you stand for?

I ask this because, as someone who has voted for both Democrats and Republicans over the years, I still don't know. Actually, that's not true. I do know one thing you stand for and that's watching liberals' heads explode. Even that, though, isn't really standing for something. It's still being against something, in this case, liberals.

Being angry and yelling against _______________ seems to be what you are all about. You hate the media, Hollywood, elitists, globalists, immigrants (illegal or otherwise), multiculturalists, scientists, LGBTQ folks, career politicians, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, socialists, news outlets that don't agree with you/Trump, and all citizens of the United States that offer any criticism or the tiniest amount of contrary view to your tribe. Of course, this is what your dear leader is all about (being against a whole bunch of stuff) so it makes sense that you feel the same. But what does that say about you?

If someone's raison d'etre is to be against everything and stand for nothing, I think that's the very definition of cowardice.

So, take a stand. Pick a position and support it. I challenge you to do so without mentioning liberals, the media, the elite, the political class and all the other "ghouls" that you continually blame for our nation's problems. Stop bitching and do something. Consistent whining wears on people over time and you need to show the nation how you will lead, especially now that you control all three branches of government. I ask you again...

What do you stand for?

Friday, August 25, 2017

How Many Statues of Union Generals Are There?

Recently the alt-right has been stirring the pot over the removal of Confederate monuments. There has also been a lot of discussion about renaming schools, roads and public buildings named after Confederates. And there are a lot of Confederate monuments: literally thousands, scattered mostly across the South, but also in states like New York, Idaho and Montana.

But how many statues are there of Union generals? Does anyone even know the names of any Union generals besides Ulysses S. Grant? Even I wouldn't remember him, except that he was also president and showed up in the Wild, Wild West TV show in the 1960s.

Sure, lots of things are named after Abraham Lincoln, but you can't really count them because he was president. Ditto for Grant. But the other generals who actually won the Civil War? Unless you're a Civil War reenactor or a history buff, most Americans have no idea who those other generals were.

Look at this list of Union Civil War commemorations. Most entries are for places named after Union figures, and most states have only a few. A lot of them are in the South. The Civil War is not a thing for most Northerners.

But every Southern state has dozens, and some hundreds, of Confederate memorials. Monuments to losers who betrayed their country and got their own people killed to perpetuate a corrupt and immoral system of slavery that benefited a tiny minority of wealthy elites.

The majority of Northerners view the Civil War as ancient history. We know we won, it's over and done. It was a bad time in our history that we shouldn't forget, but shouldn't belabor either. Let a century and a half of bygones be bygones.

White supremacists in the South have been unwilling to do that. They have spent the last century rewriting history by erecting monuments to the people who lost the war that tore this country in half, killing more than half a million Americans. They've whitewashed that treachery, reframing the root cause as "states rights" instead of slavery and white supremacy. They have tried to ennoble a bunch of immoral skinflints who thought they were better than the people they abducted from another continent, who they didn't want to pay for working their fingers to the bone in the fields.

If Donald Trump doesn't want to "destroy history" by tearing down statues to Confederate traitors, fine. Then he should erect a statue of Lincoln, or Harriet Tubman, or Sojourner Truth, or a Union general, or an unknown Union soldier or slave right beside every one of those Confederate memorials. Then hang a sign around the neck of the Confederate traitor with a body count of the hundreds or thousands who died because that man betrayed the United States of America.

If Trump wants to remember our history, he should erect a memorial in every place a crazed white mob lynched an innocent black man, or lynched a white man for helping blacks, or lynched Union loyalists during the Civil War. That would mean building another five or ten thousand monuments to the victims of racism and treachery.

But, no, that would be too divisive. It would stir up unpleasant memories. We don't want to wage the Civil War again.

Better to just move the Confederate memorials out of our parks and squares. Remove the Confederate flags from our state capitols. Put those symbols of a bygone age in dusty museums where the sins of our forefathers can be viewed dispassionately, without pride or shame.

At The Barbershop

I learned a lot at the barbershop today from the barber and some of the patrons. First, all black quarterbacks are bad because all they want to do is run around. Second, Fox News is the only station that tells it like it is. Third, Donald Trump is going to go down in history as the greatest president of all time. Fourth, ALL lives matter. Fifth, Colin Kaepernick should be banished from the Earth.

Honestly, it was like watching a cartoon...

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Trump's "Don't Lose" Plan for Afghanistan is a Loser

This morning we talked about how easy it will be for the Taliban, the Russians and Breitbart to get Trump to flip-flop on Afghanistan once things start to look ugly and people are blaming Trump. But let's look at Trump's plan (what little there is), and see if it holds water.

First of all, it's the same as Bush's and Obama's plan: don't lose. Rex Tillerson, Trump's putative secretary of state, admitted this in an unusually candid press conference. Addressing the Taliban, Tillerson said, “You will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you.”

Now, this is probably true. It's always been true.

The war in Afghanistan will not end unless there is an all-out invasion, waged not by one country, but a huge international coalition with troops from NATO and Muslim countries, removal of the Taliban from Pakistan, a peace treaty agreed by all Afghan parties, Pakistan and India, followed by massive post-war intervention at every level of society, assistance from all the surrounding countries and a commitment to keep thousands of international peacekeeping troops (mostly Muslim) there for fifty or a hundred years, similar to what we did in Germany, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea.

Despite all his bragging about what a great deal maker he is, Trump is totally incapable of negotiating something that big and complex, much less understanding it. Instead he announced that he has given up on nation building. He's only going to kill terrorists. He's going to give our soldiers free reign to do whatever the hell they want in Afghanistan.

This will increase the number of civilian deaths and Afghan military casualties due to friendly fire. But every time we kill a civilian or a government soldier we make their families into Taliban sympathizers. Every time we kill an Afghan family, we motivate another Afghan soldier to shoot Americans eating lunch in the mess hall.

Trump's screw-'em-all attitude gave us the atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, which was likely the turning point in the Iraq War. In that debacle Americans tortured Iraqis in humiliating ways -- and took pictures of the torture, laughing the whole time. After Blackwater's slaughter of Iraqi civilians in Nissour Square there was no way that Iraq would trust our forces to stay in the country. George W. Bush could not convince the Iraqis to renew the status of forces agreement, and agreed to remove all American troops from Iraq by 2011.

Republicans blamed Obama for not trying hard enough to keep our troops in Iraq, but after Nissour Square the Iraqis refused to give American troops immunity to prosecution for civilian deaths. At home it was clear that the American people were tired of our troops dying in Iraq getting stuck between Iraqi Sunni and Shiite factions who keep trying to kill each other. So Obama did what Trump was screaming for him to do: pull out of Iraq.

Trump rightly criticizes Pakistan for giving Taliban terrorists refuge across the border in Pakistan. I have said for 16 years that this war will go on forever until Pakistan stops supporting the Taliban. The problem is that Pakistan has neither the will nor the ability to root out those terrorists. And it's not just because they're cowards and incompetent. They want Afghanistan in chaos. They have been playing both sides of this war since the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

Back then it was the United States and Pakistan backing the conservative Islamic revolutionaries of the proto-Taliban and Osama bin Laden's proto-Al Qaeda organization. We fought to take down a modern secular government backed by Trump's pals, the Russians. Women used to wear miniskirts in Kabul before we started meddling there. With our help Afghanistan collapsed into the Middle Ages.

Pakistan is starting to align with China against the United States. China wants rare earth metals in Afghanistan to supply their manufacturing. Instead of getting Asian countries to side with us against the Chinese, Trump canceled the Trans-Pacific trade pact, driving them into China's orbit.

But the biggest mistake Trump made in his speech was to brag about how he's going to get India to "help" in Afghanistan. Trump doesn't seem to understand that the main reason Pakistan has been letting the Taliban run riot in Afghanistan for almost 40 years is that they're afraid India will gain a foothold there.

Now Trump stupidly announces that he's going to actively pursue Pakistan's worst nightmare: handing Afghanistan over to its arch-enemy, India, and surrounding Pakistan with a sea of Indian allies.

Trump must think this is a smart negotiating tactic that will trick Pakistan into kowtowing to us. They almost certainly see this as a total betrayal by the United States. But they can't be surprised. They've seen how incompetent Trump has been dealing with the people in his own political party: as a political negotiator he has proven to be an idiot who talks big and can't get anything done because he can't pay attention, has no knowledge of the issues, has no follow through and keeps screwing over his allies.

Then Trump threatens to cancel foreign and military aid to Pakistan, making us seem that much less reliable, giving them no reason at all to stick with us. He is driving Pakistan further into China's orbit.

On other fronts, Trump is weakening the United States by alienating our NATO allies, who have been a big part of the war in Afghanistan. Trump has spent the last year trashing NATO, bullying Australia and lashing out at Canada over NAFTA, threatening to cancel it.

Given Trump's self-admitted reluctant embrace of the mission in Afghanistan, how much political capital will our NATO allies invest in helping Trump in a war that he hesitated for seven months to continue, which his most rabid supporters don't want him to fight at all? Will they let him go hang when he asks for more help, or will they demand something outrageous in exchange?

Trump can't stay on message for two days, much less two years. When Afghanistan starts going to hell (again), and Trump starts taking heat for dead American soldiers, corrupt Afghan politicians, and Afghan allies who hold boys as sex slaves, does anyone believe he won't cut and run, like he has every other time the going gets tough?

I outlined the only path to success in Afghanistan above, but no one is interested in doing the right thing: everyone has their own agenda to undercut their enemies, including Trump.

In the end Trump's plan isn't even a half measure, it's a recipe for failure. Worse, instead of just failing, it will almost certainly backfire, worsening the conflict and drawing other combatants into the war, perhaps Russia, Iran and India. In the end Trump himself is almost certain to bail on it.

Then, as now, Trump will start blaming everyone else for his mistakes, issue snarky Twitter rants, and demand resignations. You can't run a war that way. Or a country.

What Did Charlottesville Teach the Taliban about Trump?

Monday Trump announced his bold new Afghanistan plan: it was the same as Obama's plan and Bush's plan, which he had roundly criticized. But with less nation building and more killing. Trump threatened and bragged, the way he always does.

But he did one thing that he rarely does: admit that he changed his mind.
My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts. But all my life, I have heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. In other words, when you are president of the United States. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle. After many meetings over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David with my cabinet and generals to complete our strategy. I arrived at three fundamental conclusion about America's core interests in Afghanistan.
Now, imagine that you're the Taliban. You've watched Donald Trump for seven months, whining, bragging, complaining, tweeting. He calls reality "fake news." He attacks Mitch McConnell for not getting legislation passed, but without whom Trump cannot get any legislation passed. He praises the GOP's health care plan, then calls it mean. He promises a giant wall on day one and seven months on there's nothing there.

And then Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan march in Charlottesville, killing a woman and hurting 19 others, and -- speaking from his gut -- he says that many sides were responsible for the violence. Two days later Trump condemns the violence in a statement his aides forced him to read. The next day he backslides and says there were some very fine people on the Nazis' side. Then he whines about how no one likes his perfect words, none of which he meant or believed.

What does that teach the Taliban? That Trump is not loyal to the people or the institutions of the United States, or even his own allies. He flip-flops. He cannot stick to the script. He brags and whines, and talks tough but has no follow through or ability to get the job done. He has an overweening pride, but he's morally weak and cannot abide criticism. He's flabby and physically weak: the Taliban spend their lives fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan; Trump can't even walk up a hill in Italy.

Given all these character weaknesses a PSYOP campaign against Trump could defeat the United States in Afghanistan. Trump's flaws are so obvious that even the Taliban can see how to manipulate him. Maybe it'll be the Russians, who have already been helping the Taliban, to use the same tactics they used to elect Trump to defeat him in Afghanistan. Or maybe it'll be Breitbart and Bannon, who know even more about Trump's weaknesses.

It's easy: plant fake news on various outlets, such as Fox News, to convince Trump that his gut was right. As Trump showed last week, he cannot maintain discipline for very long.

Trump won't say how many troops he's sending to Afghanistan. They're not supposed to fight, just train Afghans. But they're still exposed: dozens of Americans have already been killed by Taliban infiltrators posing as Afghan army.

How will it play to Trump when Fox News starts reporting that Afghan soldiers are murdering Americans who are there to help Afghans? How long will it take Trump to turn on our Afghan allies, as he turned on Mitch McConnell, Jeff Flake and other Republican senators he absolutely needs to pass his agenda?

How long will it take Trump to repudiate his own decision to stay in Afghanistan, which he himself admitted goes against his gut, once people start blaming Trump for the same things Trump blamed Bush and Obama for? Bannon and the Trump groupies will shout "Trump was right in the first place!" and "Let Trump be Trump! Out of Afghanistan!"

What will happen when Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller start leaking dirt on the people who convinced Trump to stay on in Afghanistan? Will Trump start rage-tweeting about his generals and his chief of staff, undercutting them in exactly the same way he undercut Mitch McConnell?

How long will Trump stick to the plan when Breitbart starts quoting polls that say Trump is losing support among his base because of his decision to stay in Afghanistan?

To the Taliban -- and pretty much everyone -- Trump appears weak and stupid, flighty and inconstant. Disloyal and undisciplined.

The United States has the most powerful military in the world (even though we can't seem to stop our destroyers from getting rammed by cargo ships). But we have the weakest commander in chief this nation has ever seen.

Monday, August 21, 2017

This Flag Belongs Only in a Museum

The only place a Confederate Battle Flag should be displayed is in a museum: like this one, which is in the Minnesota Historical Society.

This flag was captured at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The First Minnesota Regiment suffered an 80% casualty rate to win it.
Virginia has asked for return of the flag for more than 100 years — and each time Minnesota has refused to return the hard-won symbol of victory. A president demanded return of Confederate flags, Congress passed a resolution ordering return of the flags, Virginians even threatened suit to get their flag back. And the answer has been the same: No.

In 1961, Virginia asked for the flag back to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Civil War, according to a Roanoke Times article. Minnesota said no.

In 1998, Virginia Civil War re-enactors asked for the flag and eventually threatened legal action. A Minnesota historian said: “Blood has been shed for that flag. . Who are we to return it?” And Minnesota Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III said that despite a 1905 order that Civil War relics be returned, Virginia had no right to it.

In 2000, when Virginia legislators requested the Southern Cross flag once again, Gov. Jesse Ventura said: “Why? We won. … We took it. That makes it our heritage.”

In 2002, the U.S. Army’s chief of military history even decided the wool flag should be housed in a Virginia military history museum. But the flag remained in Minnesota.

In 2003, Virginia officials — including Democratic Gov. Mark Warner — demanded the flag. Gov. Tim Pawlenty said in response: “They’re not getting it. … We believe it’s rightfully ours, and we’re not giving it back to Virginia.” 
When you get Pawlenty, Ventura and Humphrey to band against you, there's no doubt that you're in the wrong.

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