Friday, January 20, 2017

How to destroy the White House press corps, Russian-style

Interesting, isn't it? My thanks to Keith Olbermann.

Moving in

OK, I had a few extra political cartoons I didn't want to skip. Donald Trump may be a turd sandwich for America, but he's a godsend to political cartoonists and comedians.

The inauguration

Yeah, the inauguration of Donald Trump doesn't bear thinking about. But we can still laugh, right? And what better way to document a clown than with cartoons?

Monday, January 16, 2017

The case for not being crybabies

This is another great editorial by Josh Marshall at TPM. An excerpt:
On top of this, in the last couple days there's been a medium post circulating from a Russian journalist warning his American colleagues of what to expect under Trump. One key paragraph reads ...
You're Always Losing. This man owns you. He understands perfectly well that he is the news. You can’t ignore him. You’re always playing by his rules — which he can change at any time without any notice. You can’t — in Putin’s case — campaign to vote him out of office. Your readership is dwindling because ad budgets are shrinking — while his ratings are soaring, and if you want to keep your publication afloat, you’ll have to report on everything that man says as soon as he says it, without any analysis or fact-checking, because 1) his fans will not care if he lies to their faces; 2) while you’re busy picking his lies apart, he’ll spit out another mountain of bullshit and you’ll be buried under it.

Let me say first the piece is quite good. It's worth reading. But as a prediction of what awaits the American press, I think it is way, way off the mark and the kind of pusillanimous, defeatist attitude we've seen in this cattle call of Trump outrages listed above. Presidents don't validate what is and isn't news. If you're expecting them to, you're doing it wrong. Almost nothing that is truly important about the work of a free press is damaged by moving the press office across the street.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that these things are not important or that all these threats aren't a very bad sign. It is vastly preferable to have a President who believes in or at least respects American and democratic values. But let's get real: we don't or won't as of Friday. Trump is a would-be authoritarian and a bully. He's surrounded by mediocrities who owe all to him and feel validated by enabling his endless transgressions. Of course, he's doing these things. We know Trump's MO. He will bully people until they're cowed and humiliated and obedient. He'll threaten to kick the reporters out of the White House and then either cut a 'deal' or make some big to-do about 'allowing' the reporters to stay. These are all threats and mind games meant not so much to cow the press as make them think Trump is continually taking things away from them and that they need to make him stop.

They don't need to. That access isn't necessary to do their jobs. And bargaining over baubles of access which are of little consequence is not compatible with doing their job. Access can provide insight and understanding. But it's almost never where the good stuff comes from. Journalists unearth factual information and report it. If Trump wants to turn America into a strong man state, journalists should cover that story rather than begging Trump not to be who he is. America isn't Russia. And I don't think he can change us into Russia. So unless and until we see publications shut down and journalists arrested or disappeared, let's have a little more confidence in our values and our history and our country. ...

The truth is that his threats against the press to date are ones it is best to laugh at. If Trump should take some un- or extra-constitutional actions, we will deal with that when it happens. I doubt he will or can. But I won't obsess about it in advance. Journalists should be unbowed and aggressive and with a sense of humor until something happens to prevent them from doing so. Trump is a punk and a bully. People who don't surrender up their dignity to him unhinge him.

Much the same applies to the endless chatter about 'conflicts of interest' and the insufficiency of his plan to separate himself from his businesses. Why are we still saying Trump isn't doing enough to avoid conflicts of interest? He's made clear he wants to profit off his presidency. Let's accept that. That is what he wants to do. If you're a journalist, start documenting the details. If you're an activist or politician start mobilizing against his corruption.

Trump is the most unpopular incoming President in American history. We only have data on this going back a few decades. But there's little reason to think any President in previous decades or centuries has been this unpopular. Indeed, he's getting less popular as he approaches his inauguration. People need to have a bit more confidence in themselves, their values and their country. As soon as you realize that the Trump wants to profit from the presidency and that the Republicans are focused and helping him do so, all the questions become easier to answer and the path forward more clear. His threats against the press are the same. He's threatening to take away things the press doesn't truly need in order to instill a relationship of dominance.

There's nothing more undignified and enervating than fretting about whether the President-Elect will brand real news 'fake news' or worrying whether his more authoritarian supporters can be convinced to believe - pleaded with, instructed to, prevailed upon - actual factual information. The answer to attacks on journalism is always more journalism. And the truth is that Trump's threats are cheap stunts and bluffs, threatening to take away things journalists don't need.

Well put! And I agree with Marshall,... with a few minor caveats.

First, I don't have confidence in our country anymore. I lost that in November. Maybe it will return. I certainly hope so, because we can't accomplish anything without a certain amount of optimism, of confidence in our fellow countrymen.

But at this point,... no, I'm sorry, but it's gone. I'm deeply ashamed to be an American. And as Trump lurches closer and closer to inauguration day, it's not getting any better. Maybe if everyone boycotted the inauguration - or even every Democrat...

But that's just not going to happen, is it? It's going to take a lot to re-establish my confidence in America.

And second, I agree with him completely when it comes to journalists. But we're not just talking about journalists here. We're talking about profit-driven media companies. Our media are in business to make money. Period. And by and large, they've shown that they're hopeless cowards.

As far as I can see, they continue to demonstrate that. There are exceptions, of course. And there are certainly good journalists who work for those cowardly media companies. But the media in general? They're in business for the money, and anything which threatens - or even seems to threaten - that money terrifies them. (Not to mention that they're owned and controlled by wealthy people who will likely make out like bandits as Trump bankrupts the rest of America.)

Were you impressed with our media companies during the George W. Bush years? I wasn't.

This might be related to my first problem, my loss of confidence in America. I hope so, because that means I could be wrong. And I hope I'm wrong.

But even if I'm not, there is one ray of hope. As Marshall points out, Donald Trump's poll numbers are terrible. He does seem to be the most unpopular incoming president in U.S. history. (And rightly so. For one thing, he continues to demonstrate that he's controlled by Russia! Well, if he has any control at all...)

And our cowardly, profit-driven media are far more likely to be cowed by a popular president than by an unpopular one. As long as they see a profit in... being journalists, they'll do so. Trump's petty bullying might not have much effect, in that case.

Of course (not to be too optimistic here), his remaining supporters tend to be rabid fans. Raw numbers don't matter very much, if one side is active, angry, and unrelenting, while the other side isn't as committed. Look at how gun nuts have gotten their way in pretty much everything, despite their relatively-small numbers. They just care so much more.

All in all, Josh Marshall is right. I fully agree with him. But,... I can't be optimistic going forward, even that much. I hope I'm wrong. It would be a nice change of pace to be pleasantly surprised, wouldn't it?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Donald Trump's war with... America

I can barely stand to even look at this stuff anymore. What has happened to my country?

Donald Trump brought cheerleaders to his press conference - and props that couldn't have looked less real. What, no Trump Steaks?

And he praises himself for avoiding impeachment. He seems to think he deserves credit for that. Is the bar really that low?

His cabinet picks are as bad as he is, and he hasn't even gotten to the Supreme Court yet.

Note that Republicans wouldn't allow Barack Obama to pick a Supreme Court justice with nearly a year left in his second term. They said that the people should decide. Well, the people had decided when they elected Obama. Twice.

But OK, if the people should decide, then Hillary Clinton should pick the next justice, because she received nearly three million more votes than Trump did. She might not have become president, but the people chose Hillary.

Of course, those Republicans were lying about that, and they continue to lie. I can't imagine why America still believes them. That just blows my mind - and crushes my heart.

Well, it's full employment for political comedians, at least - until the concentration camps get built, anyway.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

It must be true if Russia says it, huh?

Well, that settles the matter, doesn't it? I mean, would Vladimir Putin lie about being a blackmailer? LOL

In case he removes or edits that tweet, Donald Trump said: Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is "A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE." Very unfair!

This is in response to the latest report that Russia has "compromising personal and financial information" about Trump (i.e. blackmail material).

Keep in mind that this hasn't been verified by U.S. intelligence. It apparently comes from a former British intelligence operative whom our people consider "credible." It's something U.S. intelligence is taking seriously (at least, until Trump is inaugurated and takes control of U.S. intelligence agencies, himself).

This isn't just the fact that Vladimir Putin interfered with the recent election in an attempt to get Donald Trump elected president (or, at least, Hillary Clinton defeated). That is a matter that's been verified by U.S. intelligence. We know that Russia did that.

Of course, we knew that even before the election. It didn't seem to matter to Trump supporters - or to Americans who either threw away their vote on a ridiculous third party candidate or couldn't be bothered to vote at all.

So what if we elect the president Vladimir Putin wants, right? No doubt he just wants to make America great again, huh? LOL

This latest allegation goes much further than that. I suppose it's a reason for swinging the election Trump's way, if they have blackmail material against him. But it's hard for me to imagine them needing a better reason that the damage Donald Trump, and his Republican colleagues, will do to America (even worse than what George W. Bush did to us, don't you think?).

Still, I thought it was... well, "funny" implies humor, so I'm not sure if I want to use that word. It's very easy to laugh at Donald Trump, of course. But nothing about him becoming president is funny.

So, let me just say that Trump's tweet is... noteworthy. Yeah, Russia denies everything. Well, that settles that, huh? If you can't trust Vladimir Putin's regime, who can you trust?

No doubt if they were blackmailers, they'd willingly own up to that, right? Or would you expect them to lie as readily as Donald Trump does?

Friday, January 6, 2017

What did Trump know and when did he stop knowing it?

Jebus! It's going to be a long four years.

I'm still waiting for that 'IRS audit' to be over, so Trump can release his tax returns. LOL

But when it comes to Donald Trump, this cartoon sums it up:

Only the start

These are all to a theme. See if you can figure it out. :)

Welcome to 2017. Nice start, huh? My own congressional representative (for my sins, apparently) is Jeff Fortenberry, who voted in favor of gutting the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

If you're curious about your own Republican representative attempting to gut the ethics office in a secret vote behind closed doors, check out this list. Or call his office. They'd be glad to hear from you. :)

In the election, we heard a lot of claims from the GOP that Hillary Clinton was 'corrupt.' But afterwards, they first thing they do is attempt to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

Keep in mind that this independent office was established by Democrats, in the very brief period in which they controlled the House after the 2008 election, in response to the corruption we'd seen during the Bush years (and the clear lack of interest in Congress in policing itself).

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My New Year's resolution

My New Year's resolution is to keep laughing. The alternative, after all, is to cry.

Still, I don't know how long I can keep this resolution. How black can things get and still let me laugh?

Monday, January 2, 2017

The perfect story in your head

Happy New Year, everyone, and my apologies for the state of this blog. I've been slacking off for some time, but the election really ended things. And it's not going to get any better, I'm sure. (Right from the start, I pledged that I wouldn't let this become a chore, and I'm holding to that.)

But today, I thought I'd post a comment I made somewhere else. It's already written, after all. :)

There's a woman who writes a monthly column in my local newspaper pushing Christianity (Everyday Faith). Michelle DeRusha seems like a very nice woman, just entirely faith-based.

She's the woman who claims to have been an atheist before God came to her in church one Sunday. Yes, as an 'atheist,' she never missed church - the church she'd been raised in since infancy, of course. And as an 'atheist,' she had to take her kid to Sunday School every week, right? (I'll note that being a "former atheist" is very popular among Christians these days.)

Anyway, there's lots of Christian propaganda in my local newspaper, and never any opposing views. So I supply one. Heh, heh. I don't subscribe to the paper, online or otherwise, so I don't normally comment there. But I usually post a comment every month to DeRusha's column.

In her latest post, "God is the author of the story," she explains how she built up a "perfect story" in her head and was disappointed when reality didn't match God's plan.
You see, I had written a perfect story in my head -- a fairy tale, complete with a knight(ess) in shining armor and the quintessential happy ending. I had it all worked out: the poignant meeting at the airport, the excitement of the kids when they saw their bedrooms, their new backpacks, the cute stuffed animals propped just so on brand-new sheets, the friendship we would forge -- dinners together, laughter, conversation, pass the lamb stew!

The problem was, I had forgotten one critical detail: God, not me, is the author of this story. And long before I knew a single detail about the Yazidi people, long before “sponsorship” and “refugee” and “resettlement” were part of my daily vocabulary, he had already begun to write it. He had plans for each one of us in this story. My disappointment arose from the fact that my plans didn’t match his. The truth is, they rarely do.

This is so typical of DeRusha. She's a very nice woman who goes the extra mile to do good things, but wraps up everything in a God wrapper. Even when she recognizes that she built a fantasy story in her head, a "fairy tale" that was disproved by reality, she refuses to learn the real lesson from that and remains entirely faith-based.

Anyway, I thought I'd post my (long) comment to that column here. Why not? As I say, it's already written. And I'm certainly not swamping you with posts these days, huh?
"God, not me, is the author of this story."

Actually, you're more the author of this story than 'God' is. There's no evidence that a god even exists outside of your imagination, let alone your particular God, let alone that you have any idea of what a god might be doing.

Do you see what you did? You imagined a fantasy in your head. That fantasy didn't match reality, so you were disappointed.

You've imagined a fantasy about 'God,' too. But reality doesn't enter into it. Thus, you have no check on your imagination. You can - and do - just imagine whatever you want to imagine.

You think you'll
meet 'God' after you die, but that's a fantasy that can never be disproved while you're alive. When you're disappointed, you imagine that it was all 'God's' plan, and that can never be disproved, either. Thus, when it comes to 'God,' your fantasy is never challenged by reality.

You know exactly what 'God' wants, unless something bad or unexplainable happens, in which case, 'God' has a reason that we mere mortals can't understand. Thus, when it comes to the fantasy you've imagined in your head, it can never be disproved. Even when it's wrong.

This is why science advances, but religion never does. A scientist may imagine a beautiful hypothesis, a lovely idea - brilliant, inspiring, perfect in every way. But if it doesn't match up to reality, it has to be discarded.

Science stays grounded in reality, rather than in the imagination of some pleasant fantasy, because it's evidence-based. The most beautiful idea in the world can't be accepted without evidence. And although any individual - scientist or otherwise - might be reluctant to find evidence that disproves his own beloved ideas, science relies on other scientists for that. No one, after all, is reluctant to disprove someone else's beloved idea.

Religion doesn't have that. In religion, your fantasies are immune to reality. If you disagree with your church, you can just find a different church or start your own. That's why science comes to a worldwide consensus about what's true and what isn't, while religious believers can't agree about anything.

I find your columns very interesting, because you often get halfway to the truth, but then refuse to take that extra step. This column is a perfect example of that. You recognize that you built up a fantasy in your head, a story that ended up not matching reality. Unfortunately for you, for this story, reality showed you that your fantasy was wrong. So you were unhappy.

But that fantasy about 'God,' that story which you've also imagined in your head, can't ever be disproven by reality, even in theory. Even if you were wrong, you'd never know it. And that's the case with every faith-based believer of every competing religion, too. You all just believe what you want to believe, such that even those of you who supposedly follow the same holy instruction manual can't agree about much of anything.

Thus, all of you can keep your pretty fantasies. Every religion in the world, every interpretation of every holy book, every 'personal relationship' with a god, every story about who your god is, what he wants, what he does,... it's all immune to reality, as long as it doesn't claim something which can be tested by science. (Even then, how many faith-based people reject evolution, or global warming, or the actual age of the Earth? They're not willing to give up their fantasies even when they have been shown to be wrong.)

Unlike you, I care about the truth of my beliefs. I want to believe as many true things as possible and as few false things as possible. So I'm evidence-based, not faith-based. I want to have good reasons backing up my beliefs, and if I'm wrong, I want to know that, so I can change my beliefs. That's why real-world evidence is so critical. Science has shown us that. Science has progressed so rapidly and so greatly for just that reason.

Yes, in your story, this was all God's story. Unfortunately, your story is fiction. At least, there's zero reason to believe that it's anything else.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The global warming hoax

This "global warming hoax" bullshit is just the ignorant persuading the ignorant. I'm not a climatologist. So I don't pretend to know more about climatology than the worldwide community of climatologists does.

I've had global warming deniers comment here. None of them have been climatologists, yet they typically claim - claim - that they can prove that all those actual climatologists are wrong about climatology.

I always ask them why they're not 'proving' their claims in research journals then, instead of commenting at random blogs. I'm ignorant about climatology. I'm not embarrassed to say that, not in the least. You can't be an expert in every field of knowledge. I'm not a scientist at all, and I've never taken a single class in climatology.

Luckily, I know enough about science and the scientific method to trust the worldwide consensus of scientists working within their own field of expertise, rather than random people making claims about things they don't understand. Could scientists be wrong? Of course. But that's not the way to bet.

Conspiracy theories are popular, though. I suppose some people get a rush from believing them. But anyone can claim anything, so why should I believe conspiracy enthusiasts? Just because it's fun? Sorry, but I care about the truth of my beliefs.

Is Donald Trump the Republican Party's new Christ?

The Republican Party's hypocrisy never fails to amaze me. Can you imagine if the Democrats had said anything even close to this?

Right-wing heads would have exploded. Fox 'News' would have covered the scandal 24/7, and there would be an orchestrated campaign of outrage lasting for years and years - certainly for Barack Obama's entire two terms. We'd never hear the end of it.

But that's not even the worst of it. The Republican Party establishment hated Donald Trump. But not now that he's won, because that's all they care about. Republicans would praise Satan himself if they thought they could benefit politically from it.

All of those Republicans who rightly called Donald Trump a scam artist and a clown, ignorant and unfit to be elected to any position, let alone to the White House, are now falling all over themselves to praise their new "king."

But hey, this is the party which deliberately used - and still uses - racism for political advantage. If you're willing to do that much harm to our country, just for your own political ambition, what won't you do?

As we've seen this past year, there's no limit to how low Republicans will go. All praise Donald Trump, the King of kings, the Lord, our Savior, huh? :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Donald Trump vs America

What have we done to ourselves? I'm still sick to my stomach that my fellow Americans were this dumb. Dumb enough to elect Donald Trump to the presidency? I didn't think anyone would be that dumb.

But they were. You were, if you did anything else but vote for Hillary Clinton. I can barely stand to even think about this. I guess I need time. Certainly, I need humor, if I have to keep watching this train wreck.

Luckily, there's Seth Meyers. Here he is again. This is even worse than the last one, if you care about America. But it is funny. (So why am I still crying?)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Normalizing fascism

Here's a fascinating article in Raw Story:
How to report on a fascist?

How to cover the rise of a political leader who’s left a paper trail of anti-constitutionalism, racism and the encouragement of violence? Does the press take the position that its subject acts outside the norms of society? Or does it take the position that someone who wins a fair election is by definition “normal,” because his leadership reflects the will of the people?

These are the questions that confronted the U.S. press after the ascendance of fascist leaders in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

The article begins by talking about how Benito Mussolini was a "darling" of the American press. Later, they called Adolph Hitler "the German Mussolini," which wasn't meant to be a negative term.
Hitler also had the advantage that his Nazi party enjoyed stunning leaps at the polls from the mid ‘20’s to early ‘30’s, going from a fringe party to winning a dominant share of parliamentary seats in free elections in 1932.

But the main way that the press defanged Hitler was by portraying him as something of a joke. He was a “nonsensical” screecher of “wild words” whose appearance, according to Newsweek, “suggests Charlie Chaplin.” His “countenance is a caricature.” He was as “voluble” as he was “insecure,” stated Cosmopolitan.

When Hitler’s party won influence in Parliament, and even after he was made chancellor of Germany in 1933 – about a year and a half before seizing dictatorial power – many American press outlets judged that he would either be outplayed by more traditional politicians or that he would have to become more moderate. Sure, he had a following, but his followers were “impressionable voters” duped by “radical doctrines and quack remedies,” claimed the Washington Post. Now that Hitler actually had to operate within a government the “sober” politicians would “submerge” this movement, according to The New York Times and Christian Science Monitor. A “keen sense of dramatic instinct” was not enough. When it came to time to govern, his lack of “gravity” and “profundity of thought” would be exposed.

In fact, The New York Times wrote after Hitler’s appointment to the chancellorship that success would only “let him expose to the German public his own futility.” Journalists wondered whether Hitler now regretted leaving the rally for the cabinet meeting, where he would have to assume some responsibility.

Yes, the American press tended to condemn Hitler’s well-documented anti-Semitism in the early 1930s. But there were plenty of exceptions. Some papers downplayed reports of violence against Germany’s Jewish citizens as propaganda like that which proliferated during the foregoing World War. Many, even those who categorically condemned the violence, repeatedly declared it to be at an end, showing a tendency to look for a return to normalcy.

Journalists were aware that they could only criticize the German regime so much and maintain their access. When a CBS broadcaster’s son was beaten up by brownshirts for not saluting the F├╝hrer, he didn’t report it. When the Chicago Daily News’ Edgar Mowrer wrote that Germany was becoming “an insane asylum” in 1933, the Germans pressured the State Department to rein in American reporters. Allen Dulles, who eventually became director of the CIA, told Mowrer he was “taking the German situation too seriously.” Mowrer’s publisher then transferred him out of Germany in fear of his life.

Remind you of anyone?

21st Century America is not 1930's Germany. But if we won't learn from history, we won't learn. Did we fight the Nazis only to become them?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Trump's Carrier deal

The hypocrisy of Republicans is always astounding, isn't it?

And note that there's even more to it than this. Carrier is getting $7 million from Indiana taxpayers, too. In other works, not only is Trump not punishing Carrier for moving jobs to Mexico, as he claimed he would, the company is actually being rewarded.

Given that only 730 of those jobs were saved, that works out to nearly $10,000 per job, paid by Indiana taxpayers. Yeah, any company would go for that, I suspect, Trump or no Trump. But I thought Republicans were against bailouts.

The whole thing is bullshit from beginning to end. Well, you knew that, right? It's Trump. But he's still taking credit for bullshit like this, and it's still helping him politically. My fellow Americans haven't gotten any smarter since the election, either, have they?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Normalizing the alt-right

"If it looks like a duck and talks like a duck and steps like a goose, it's a Nazi." Heh, heh.

Seth Meyers is absolutely right to point out that "alt-right" is a label Nazis and white supremacists gave themselves. When you use it, you're legitimatizing racism. But our media are so desperate to appear neutral that they bend over backward being nice to the worst people in America.

Admittedly, those people have just taken control of all three branches of the federal government. So maybe there's an instinct for self-preservation operating here, as well.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Trump's big lie

Samantha Bee puts this very well, too - as always. Not that it does us any good. We knew all this before the election, but Americans decided to be idiots, anyway.

PS. Remember, there's a public record of everyone who votes. If large-scale in-person voter fraud happened (i.e. as opposed to the Kremlin hacking our election computers), nothing would be easier than to demonstrate that.

And this lie has been around for a long, long time. The George W. Bush administration spent eight long years desperately searching for voter fraud, without success. And Republicans at the state level have searched feverishly - and fruitlessly - ever since.

Of course, GOP politicians know that it's not true. But reality is whatever you want to believe - or can convince others to believe - right? Facts don't exist?

Donald Trump's fact-free world

To the faith-based, facts don't exist. Thus, it never mattered when Donald Trump lied. And it doesn't matter when he lies now. After all, reality is whatever you want it to be, right?

For Trump supporters, if you believe that millions of people voted illegally, then that becomes your reality, even though it's simply not true. I mean, our actual reality has a well-known liberal bias, right?

This isn't just Donald Trump. Far from it. In recent decades, the entire Republican Party has become faith-based in ways that simply deny reality. Global warming is a "hoax." Evolution - the foundation of modern biology - doesn't exist. Republicans reject science whenever they don't want to believe it.

And remember Ben Carson, Dr. Knowlittle, our next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development? Because of a completely fictional story in the Bible, he's decided that the pyramids - which are nearly solid stone - were used to store grain. Even crazier, he thinks that the scientific explanation for the pyramids is that aliens built them!

This is what happens when you cease to care about what's true and what isn't. This is what happens when you decide that "facts" are whatever you want them to be. This is what happens when you're faith-based, rather than evidence-based.

And now we've got a president-elect packing high governmental positions with crazy people, along with similarly loony politicians who'll soon control all three branches of the U.S. government, who simply don't care if their beliefs are true or not, because they reject the very concept of "facts."

What has happened to my America?