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?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Are humans contributing only 3% of CO2 in the atmosphere?

This is why rational people accept the scientific consensus on issues like this (scientific issues), rather than believe bloggers, politicians, corporate CEOs, or entertainers when they spout off about things they know nothing about.

Naturally, that's assuming that you care about the truth of your beliefs,... but I did say "rational people," remember.

And I definitely include this blogger, when it comes to issues of scientific fact, rather than opinion. I'm not a scientist myself - any kind of scientist, let alone a climatologist. I'm strictly a layman. I'm just smart enough to accept the scientific consensus where there is one (because it's obvious that the scientific method works, and I have a general idea of why it works, too).

I've had idiots accuse me of believing Al Gore. Well, Gore is a smart man, no doubt, but he's not a climatologist. I don't believe Al Gore. Al Gore and I both accept the scientific consensus, that's all. (Well, I did note that he was a smart man.)

You see, I don't get my science from politicians. I don't even get my science from individual scientists. Picking and choosing which scientist to believe would be no different from just picking and choosing what you wanted to believe.

Scientists are only human, and you can't get all human beings to agree on anything. Even with a worldwide consensus, you could undoubtedly find some scientist who disagreed - maybe even within the appropriate field of study, too. That means nothing. A consensus doesn't mean unanimity.

So of course I accept the worldwide scientific consensus on issues like global warming, evolution, the age of the earth, and other matters that are only 'controversial' outside of science, not among the people who actually know what they're talking about.

But don't use me as an authority. Again, I'm no scientist. I have an educated layman's understanding of science, at best. Indeed, even if I were a scientist, it would be impossible to become an expert in every single field of science.

Luckily, that's not necessary. It's easy enough to determine the worldwide scientific consensus, where there is one. And where there isn't, the proper action is to reserve judgment.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Keith Olbermann: The Resistance

That's just an unbelievable level of hypocrisy from Donald Trump, isn't it? I mean, it would be complete hypocrisy coming from any Republican, after how they've behaved in recent years, but especially from Trump.

But then, he has good reason to think that many Americans are idiots, doesn't he? After all, almost as many of us voted for him as for Hillary Clinton. Of course, there's no such thing as facts anymore, right? To the faith-based, reality is whatever they want it to be.

I'm still sick to my stomach about the election, still deeply ashamed of my country. And so far, Trump is proving to be just as bad as I expected. But I can't argue for sanity anymore. Not yet, at least. I have no optimism left.

PS. Did you notice that America's unemployment rate has dropped (again) to 4.6%? It's at the lowest level since the last time a Republican collapsed our economy. How could so many of my fellow Americans be such complete idiots?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Scathing Atheist: is it fear of death?

Like all Scathing Atheist podcasts, this isn't safe for work. Well, depending on where you work, I suppose...

But it's an interesting question. Is it fear of death that causes otherwise intelligent people to cling to ancient myths? Or is it the narrative?
You're confronted with two worldviews. In one, you're a chemical anomaly that occupies an insignificant portion of a cosmic pebble for an insignificant fraction of time. You're going to spend that time engaged in activities that have no cosmic significance. ...

And then along comes this competing narrative. In this one, sure, you still have to do mundane shit to comport with your secret identity, but even when it seems to the casual observer like you're just looking for a parking space, you're really communing with the divine. Right, you spend your days playing a critical role in the cosmic battle between good and evil. ...

It may look like you're singing a hymn. But when you strip away the mortal facade, you're battling demons! You're locked in combat with the Devil himself, warring alongside God in the only battle that's ever mattered. Now, even an atheist has to admit that's more appealing than pond scum that learned to wipe, isn't it?

As I say, it's an interesting question. Of course, religion existed long before they invented Heaven. And it existed before human beings imagined some cosmic significance to their everyday lives. At least, not every early religion included that feature. But back then, we knew almost nothing about how the world worked.

Primitive myths probably weren't so primitive when they were invented. They were serious attempts to explain reality (combined with entertainment and the desire to enhance their political, social, and economic status, of course).

But they are primitive today. They're so primitive that apologists have to jump through hoops to try to rationalize away the problems with that. They're so primitive that reading the Bible - actually reading it, rather than having portions of it spoon-fed to you - is a good way create another atheist.

I suspect that there are lots of reasons why people cling to whatever religion they were taught children, but this is probably an important one. We love a good narrative, don't we? Especially when we get to play a starring role in it?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Really Bad Day in Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead

Yeah, these screenshots don't do the game justice. Sorry, but I didn't take any screenshots while I was playing, because I didn't know I was going to post this.

I haven't been blogging about games or books lately, although I've still been reading and gaming just as much as ever (if not more so). But I'm sick to death of politics, after what bigots and idiots (and bigoted idiots) did to our country last week, and I thought I'd post my first day of a new play of Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead.

I've blogged about this game many times before. It's one of my all-time favorite games - which is really something, given that it's free, developed entirely by volunteers. Note that I'm playing 0.C Cooper, which is still the latest stable  (i.e. non-experimental) version of the game. But it has tons of content.

Cataclysm is a turn-based zombie-survival game. I set the options to my own preferences (no joke monsters, no skill rust, no NPC's - which tend to be annoying as hell - and extra character points), then usually pick the hardest starting scenario in the game.

Ironically, if I survive, that makes my character even more powerful. But I don't play long enough for that to matter much. I like the early game the best, when I'm struggling to survive. When survival seems assured, I stop playing or start a new character. But hey, those are just my own preferences. They don't have to be yours.

When the day began, I was drunk to the point of incapacitation, depressed, dying of an infection, and sick with the flu. I was naked, wearing only a wet towel, inside a city infested with the undead. And the house was on fire.

There was actually a zombie in the room with me, only a couple of steps away. [That's a first for me. I've never started this scenario with a zombie in the same room!] The door was only a couple of steps to my north, but my afflictions and the pain I was suffering had slowed my movements drastically. I would have died in the next few minutes, but for a chair which slowed the zombie just enough that I could get through that door and close it behind me.

[The hardest part of this "Really Bad Day" start is how slow you are. Until you heal up, you can't outrun anything (and you certainly can't out-fight anything, even if you weren't naked and completely unarmed). Luckily, zombies are mindless. They'll walk into lava if it's on a direct path to you. In this case, the lucky placement of that chair made the difference - and only just barely, even then - between death and at least a few more minutes of life.]

Zombies can break down doors, but it takes awhile. With the house on fire, the roof would collapse before that would happen. And speaking of which, I needed to get out of that house ASAP. The fire had started in the wall to my left, that same wall I'd just come through. Unfortunately, that was the same direction I needed to go.

I found myself in a large room - a combination living room, dining room, and kitchen - and there was no possible exit to the east. There were bedrooms to the north, but I could hear zombies behind the doors in that direction. So that left only west, through the smoke, as a possible escape route.

Luckily, the main door to the house was in that direction. However, I could see a second fire burning in the northwest corner of the living room. I had to get out fast, before the roof caved in. There was just no time for anything else.

So I plunged into the smoke, taking further damage (thus, slowing me down even more) and increasing my coughing. Admittedly, at this point, there was enough noise from the burning house that a little coughing wouldn't make much difference. But it would make it just that much harder to hide, assuming that I managed to escape at all.

When I opened the door and stepped outside, I ended up on a little patio at the northwest corner of the house, which was itself at the northwest corner of town. Walls on the south and east sheltered me from sight, and there wasn't anything but an empty field in view.

Of course, it was snowing, and I was naked, but you can't have everything, right?

Map: I started in a house in the northwest of that north town, then entered the two houses just north of that. Once I broke contact, I looped around counter-clockwise, west of that tiny subway station town, then southeast to the town with an office tower (T), ending up in a house at the northeast side of that south town, south of the mansion (M), west of the prison in the forest.

I walked west along that wall until I could see around the corner to my left. There was a pack of wolves to my southwest - and zombies closer yet (apparently drawn to the noise of the burning house). One of the zombies was huge, and another was... well, I don't know what it was. It was humanoid, but snow-white in color and with no eyes or nose, just a perfectly round mouth in a blank face.

[Note that, as many times as I've played Cataclysm, that's a monster I've only ever seen once before - and I avoided it then, too. So all I knew is that it was very, very scary-looking.]

Clearly, I couldn't go west. Maybe the wolves and the zombies and that... weird-looking horror would all fight among themselves, but I couldn't risk it, not as slow as I was moving! So I backed up, then moved north along the wall there, staying as close as the smoke would let me get.

There were zombies nearby to the east, and since I wasn't able to hug the wall and peer around it, they quickly spotted me. A grabber zombie, with long arms, was the closest, but there was a van in the street just a few steps to my north, and it wasn't smart enough to go around the van to get at me.

But when I went along the van to the north, with the grabber zombie mindlessly ripping apart the vehicle in a frenzied rage to get at me, I discovered another zombie, which shrieked loudly when it saw me, coming from the northeast. I don't know if that one had a few brain cells left, or not, but it came around the van to attack me. So I just entered the side door of the van and escaped out the back, still heading north.

The shrieker zombie saw me, but I went through a car the same way I'd gone through the van [and out the trunk, somehow], which put me just a few steps from the southwest corner of another house.

The door was to the east, but it was almost certainly locked. And there were more zombies in that direction, anyway. So I stumbled my way to the nearest window and smashed it with my bare hands. Then I leaped through the broken glass, cutting myself on the sharp edges, just ahead of that shrieker zombie, which had been delayed - but not very long - by my previous tactics.

That window wouldn't delay it very long, either - not even long enough for me to pick up a piece of the broken window to use as a weapon. But there was a bedroom door to my north, and I was able to make it there and shut the door behind me.

Luckily, there weren't any zombies inside, but there wasn't anything useful, either. Another door to the east led to a hallway, and I checked the rooms which led off from that: another bedroom, a kitchen, and a pantry. But I couldn't find any clothes or medicine. (I was hoping for a well-stocked bathroom medicine chest, but the bathroom wasn't in this part of the house.)

Before leaving, I quickly drank a coke and ate a cheeseburger I found in the kitchen. That was the only way I could carry anything, except in my hands (which I needed for smashing windows). But there was another house very, very close to the east of this one - close enough that I could probably cross the gap without anything seeing me. Things were looking up!

Of course, I was still naked (and drunk, depressed, infected, and sick), and it was still snowing. But it's funny how adrenaline and the prospect of being eaten alive can take your mind off the inconsequentials. :)

This time, I smashed a window on the north side of the house. (I was on the edge of town, so nothing but empty fields were in view in that direction.) I entered into a bedroom, and although I could hear zombies in the south part of the house, the bedroom door was closed.

There was another bedroom to the east, and I finally found some clothes there: winter boots and gloves, a hoodie, and a raincoat that actually fit. (That last was very welcome. It was early spring, and I knew that the snow would turn to rain as the day went on. Nothing like being wet to put the capper on a really bad day...)

OK, I was still naked below the waist. And if you want to talk shrinkage, try being freezing cold, sick, and seriously injured, while being chased by zombies. Luckily, there wasn't anyone to see my embarrassment. (I don't think the zombies cared, one way or the other.)

After that, I snuck back out the window and headed north, only to discover a giant, pink crab-like monster fighting a zombie dressed in tattered military gear. I didn't wait to see how that turned out (though the zombie was clearly out-classed), so I turned around and ran - or hobbled, really - west. There was a science lab and a hazardous waste sarcophagus to the north, but neither would have done me any good, even if I could have gotten to them.

So I went west, into the open field, then south when I was far enough outside of town. After awhile, I came back east to loot a house on the outskirts - and finally found a pair of pants! - but there wasn't much else inside, not even enough to fill up the pockets of my hoodie.

There were a bunch of non-animate dead bodies outside the house - they looked like scientists - and some weird blob-like creatures. There were lots of zombies further east and southeast, so I turned around and headed west again. I had to skirt a large hotel and a megastore that were absolutely packed with zombies, and then squeeze between a couple of slime pits filled with more of those weird blob-creatures.

But eventually, I found a gas station, where I could grab some snacks. I ate what I could, since I couldn't carry very much, but it was very close to the forest, and I had to sneak out the back to avoid a bear which had become enraged.

As it turned out, there were lots and lots of bears around - and moose, too. There was only one direction I could go - southeast - and even that was quite difficult. In the distance, directly to my east, there was a subway stop, surrounded by a few buildings, but I couldn't even get close to it. Face it, I couldn't have outrun a bear or a moose even if I'd been healthy. As it was, I was just very, very glad to avoid their attention.

The next day, I moved into this mansion.

Eventually, I came upon another town that was directly south of the first one. I got inside a house on the northwest side of town and found a few more clothes (it was still very cold outside), but then a bunch of zombies spotted me through the window.

I couldn't outrun them, but I had a head start, so I jumped out a south window, then ran around to the back and entered the house again from the west (where I'd initially smashed a window to get inside). I closed an interior door behind me and slipped out a north window, leaving the zombies happily smashing their way through the house.

Luckily, zombies are mindless. If you use your brain - and you're not surprised in the middle of nowhere, without many options - you can usually confuse them and lose them. Of course, in town, there are a lot of zombies, so you might just run from one bunch of mindless predators to another.

Again, I had only one direction I could go - this time, north. So I skirted the north side of town (too many zombies to loot any of the buildings there) and ended up in a house on the northeast corner, with a mansion off to my north and a prison to the east.

This time, nothing spotted me, and I was able to close the drapes on every window. Better yet, I found a well-equipped first aid kit in the bathroom, so I was able to treat my infected wound. [The infection is fatal if left untreated for too long.]  It was mid-afternoon, so I'd sobered up by then, too.

But I was still sick with the flu (although I'd found some cough medicine, at least), and I had nothing to kill the pain, not even aspirin. I hadn't found a knife or a backpack or a flashlight. I'd picked up a rock, which I wielded as my only weapon. Not that I was in any shape for a fight, anyway.

Still, I'd found a few snacks and a bottle of lemonade. And nothing was trying to eat me right this minute. There were even a few magazines inside - Cosmopolitan and Sports Afield, to be precise. But it was pouring rain and too dark to read, and when I tried out the bed, I couldn't sleep either.

So I explored a couple of nearby homes and found a backpack! Finally, I could carry stuff. I didn't find much else, but I made a crude knife out of a stick, a sharp stone, and a piece of string (not for fighting, but for crafting).

Finally, I went back and tried to sleep again, but I was too sick. I kept throwing up, which just made me hungry and thirsty again. When it got dark, I cleared out a nearby grocery store, finding a shopping cart with wobbly wheels to carry everything. Still no medicine, unfortunately.

I tried exploring a couple more houses, too, and I almost died stumbling into a dark basement filled with zombies (still no flashlight, either). Luckily, the zombies weren't smart enough to do anything but stumble around in the dark themselves, and they made enough noise to mask my own movements. So I escaped with deep scratches and torn clothes.

I headed back to the house I'd found (still zombie-free) and tried to sleep again. After a few tries, and numerous fits of vomiting, I finally got to sleep, and when I woke in the morning, I was no longer sick. I'd survived one really bad day in the zombie apocalypse.

Note: I'm not sure if I'll continue with this or not, but the rest of my game-related posts can be found here.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Scathing Atheist: President Trump

"Apparently, the majority of voters don't care what's true."

Amen! I don't even want to think about the election. I'm still so disgusted with my country, so disgusted with my species, that I don't think I'll ever regain the relative optimism I once had.

I never thought we'd be this fucking screwed up! Never in my life did I imagine that America would be this ignorant, this gullible, and this dumb. I've never expected perfection, but I certainly expected better than this!

But I was wrong.

Anyway, I sure as hell don't feel like picking at this bleeding scab anymore. But this expresses what I feel quite well, so I thought I'd post it. (He's actually more optimistic than I am. But then, at my age, I won't live to see a sane Supreme Court again.)

Friday, November 11, 2016

I'm ashamed of my country

I'm still in shock after the election Tuesday. I've been pinching myself black and blue, but I can't seem to wake up from this nightmare.

But no, I can't joke about this. For the first time in my life, I'm ashamed to be an American. I am deeply, deeply ashamed of America, and I don't see how I'll ever again think of America the way I used to. I don't see how I'll recover from this.

Even worse, I don't see how we'll recover from this.

In 1972, at the height of the Vietnam War, I visited the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. When I came downstairs afterwards, the lower floor of the museum was covered with displays comparing America - specifically, Richard Nixon's carpet bombing of Cambodia - with Nazi Germany.

That was definitely a surreal experience! But I wasn't ashamed of my country. I opposed Nixon. I was one of the protestors wearing black arm bands when Nixon came to Lincoln in 1971.

(We weren't very sophisticated back then. Everyone wearing a black arm band was directed to seats as far from the Coliseum stage as possible, while Nixon's political operatives chose his enthusiastic fans to sit in front of the cameras.)

When the George W. Bush administration proved to be torturing prisoners of war, I was shocked, horrified, and very, very angry. But I wasn't ashamed of my country. I was embarrassed, yes. But when individual Americans went bad, when our government did something even that profoundly evil, that wasn't America. I knew we were better than that.

Well, I was wrong. On Tuesday, we elected a man who not only promises to start torturing prisoners again, he brags about how he's going to do much worse kinds of torture. And note that this is the same man who said that we should kill the families of terrorists. (Yeah, that would really dissuade you from terrorism, if they murdered your family, huh?)

We are a nation of immigrants who elected a man who deliberately incites anger, suspicion, and hysterical fear of immigrants. (His own wife is an immigrant - two of his three wives, in fact. Trump's own mother was an immigrant, and all four of his grandparents were born in Europe. But they weren't brown people, I guess...)

We are a nation founded on the revolutionary idea of freedom of religion and the strict separation between church and state who elected a man who has proposed a religious litmus test for immigrants and the profiling of American citizens on the basis of their religion. How profoundly un-American!

But that's unconstitutional, you say? Who says? The Supreme Court decides what's constitutional or not, and the Republican Party is already 'saving' a Supreme Court pick for Donald Trump. (That isn't the only way they've been destroying America's centuries-long system of government, either. Far from it!)

In addition, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83 years old. The far-right Republican justices are all only in their 60's, while Stephen Breyer is 78 and Anthony Kennedy, a Republican who has been sane occasionally, is 80.

That's not a coincidence. Recent Republican presidents have made a point of choosing very young justices, so that they can cause damage to America for generations.

Remember, it was the five Republicans on the court, opposed by the four Democrats, who opened up our political system to the highest bidder. It was the five Republicans on the court, opposed by the four Democrats, who gutted the Voting Rights Act, too. This election means that the Supreme Court is lost to sanity for the rest of my life, certainly.

It's done. I'll never live to see a sane Supreme Court again. Voter suppression? We haven't seen anything yet. Legalized bribery of our politicians? Well, it's hard to see how that can get any worse, but it's certainly not going to get any better.

How about state-supported Christian churches? Justice Clarence Thomas already argues for that, freedom of religion be damned. Freedom of speech? Trump himself wants to revise libel laws so that he can punish anyone who criticizes him. How bad can it get? I guess we'll see.

Is this the beginning of the end for America? No, it's not that. The beginning of the end actually started 40-50 years ago, when the Republican Party first adopted its "Southern strategy" of deliberately wooing white racists. At the time, Republicans were no more racist, on average, than Democrats - just the reverse, probably.

But after the Democratic Party stood up for what was right, Republican politicians were willing to do what was wrong, but politically advantageous. (They still are.) They were willing to use racism, and it worked remarkably well. It worked too well, in fact. It worked so well that they kept using it, and that has drastically changed the Republican Party itself.

During the Reagan years, Republican political operative Lee Atwater figured out how to describe economics in racial terms, thus getting white working class voters to support tax cuts for the rich and otherwise vote against their own best interests, by using racism.

Later, he explained how it worked:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

And it did work. It worked great, so the Republican Party kept using it. What do we hear just all the time from the right-wing? That black people vote Democratic because the Democratic Party takes your tax dollars and bribes them with free stuff. How racist is that?

And yeah, the fact that the Republican Party has deliberately used racism for political advantage for decades now couldn't have anything to do with black people switching political parties, right? LOL

Not surprisingly, racists tend to be gullible cowards and have other bad qualities, too. So the Republican Party started taking advantage of that as well, pushing fear and hatred while using of sexism, religious bigotry, and xenophobia. The Republican Party is faith-based and anti-science for the same reason.

Note that the GOP is anti-abortion because of racism. The religious right became politically active not because of abortion, which they didn't care about, but because they wanted tax breaks for their racially segregated schools. They adopted the issue of abortion because it proved to be more popular, politically.

Whatever works, right? That has been the motto of the Republican Party for the past half-century. Whatever it does to America, if it helps elect Republicans, they're going to do it. And it works. It keeps working!

When our first black president was elected - before he'd even taken office - Republican leaders in Congress met and agreed to do nothing he wanted, no matter what it was. Even when he adopted the Republican health care plan, they instantly turned against it. Their own plan!

This was at a time when America was fighting in two wars - unnecessary wars, started by the Republicans (one against a completely innocent country) - and while George W. Bush's second economic collapse, the worst collapse since the Great Depression, still looked to have no bottom. Republican leaders didn't care about that. They wanted America to suffer, because they figured that would help them politically.

And we rewarded them for that. Oh, they didn't regain the presidency in 2012. It didn't work as well as they'd hoped. But they did very, very well in 2010 and 2014, and that encouraged them to keep doing it. Heck, that let them keep doing it. We could have stopped this at any time, but we didn't.

Let me repeat that: We could have stopped this at any time. If racism, sexism, and xenophobia had stopped working for them, the Republican Party would have stopped using this political tactic. We let this happen to us.

Barack Obama stopped the Bush collapse in its tracks, and he got our economy growing again, but he received no credit for it. President Obama saved the American auto industry, but he got no credit for that. Heck, he even killed Osama bin Laden - you know, the guy who actually attacked us on 9/11 - after the Republicans had given up even trying, but he got no credit for that, either - not in the face of relentless criticism, stonewalling, and racist innuendo from the GOP.

And, of course, they've used that same strategy against Hillary Clinton (not explicitly racist, but that's still a part of it) with their non-stop lies for the past twenty years or more.

We let this happen. Oh, sure, I've opposed it, to the extent that I could. I've seen it happen my entire life, and I've fought it. Other people - lots more influential than me - have, too. But it continued to work. The Republican Party's Southern strategy, expanded and enlarged and buffed to a brilliant shine, is still working.

Hell, Vladimir Putin, the Russian dictator, interfered in our presidential election, and we gave him everything he wanted. The Republican Party gave him everything he wanted! Why? Well, if you're willing to use racism for political advantage, what won't you use?

And we rewarded them for that. We pretended that Hillary's emails were important, because Republican Party pundits, politicians, and political operatives repeated that lie over and over again. And we were stupid enough to believe it.

George W. Bush was the worst president in U.S. history - an absolute disaster for our country in every way imaginable. But eight years later, after absolutely nothing they claimed about Barack Obama has come true, we've just handed control of all three branches of the U.S. government back to a Republican Party which has gotten even crazier and crazier since then.

Honestly, I'm as depressed as I've ever been in my entire life. I'm sick to my stomach over this. I can barely even stand to think about it. This is the first day I've been able to blog about it, and I don't know if I can continue after this.

I'm ashamed to be an American. It's not as though I ever really bought into that "American exceptionalism" bullshit, but I certainly thought we were better than this.

But I was wrong. I admit it.

And now we're facing a worldwide - a species-wide - disaster while America will be led by a man who called global warming a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. We're facing a future with a crazy, dumb, and hopelessly ignorant narcissist in control of our entire nuclear stockpile.

And we've shown the Republican Party - again - that racism works, that bigotry works, that pushing fear and hatred on gullible, ignorant, cowardly Americans works.

Do you really think that they'll stop now? Remember, we could have stopped this at any time in the past 40 years or so. But we didn't. We let it work. We let it keep working. So why won't they keep using it?

Despite the close polls, I was relatively optimistic before the election. I remained confident in America. I knew that racism had worked very, very well for the GOP - for decades - but I was convinced that this year would be the tipping point. I knew that we were better than that.

Well, again, I was wrong. Yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but enough people voted for Trump, threw away their vote on idiotic third-party candidates, or couldn't be bother to vote at all,... and the worst has happened. I'm ashamed of my country, to have such dumb people in it, such ignorant people, such gullible people. I'm ashamed to be an American.

And I don't see how that's going to change. Sure, there will be other elections, but the Supreme Court is lost for my lifetime, and it will be harder and harder to oust a political party which is willing to do anything for its own advantage. The Republican Party has shown that it's willing to do whatever it takes to stay in power.

That 'Southern strategy' just keeps working. It's no longer just racism, not at all. And it's certainly not restricted to the South. But it works all the better for that. Over the past half-century, the Republican Party created and nurtured a monster. We could have stopped it at any time. But we didn't. And now it's too late.

I'm ashamed to be an American.

Monday, November 7, 2016

John Oliver: multilevel marketing

Herbal supplements are a big enough scam as it is. Combine them with a pyramid scheme, and you really have something designed to separate the marks from their money, don't you think?

Inside another Trump hate rally

Josh Marshall describes another manic and febrile Trump rally:
I wasn't able to get to a computer during and after the incident last night at the Trump rally in Reno. We've got the basic news details here. Suffice it to say that we now know it was essentially a chummed up misunderstanding which escalated into a beating by a number of Trump supporters, then later physical harassment of a CNN journalist by the same group of supporters and finally the creation of a nonsensical fantasy among Trump supporters that Trump had bravely survived a mythical 'assassination attempt'.

The essential details are these. Not long after Trump claimed that a surge in Latino voting in Nevada was evidence of voter fraud, a man named Austyn Crites (later self-identified as a registered Republican who opposes Donald Trump) was in the arena, relatively near the front of the audience. There was some commotion. Trump noticed the commotion, accused Crites of "being from the Hillary Clinton campaign."

From the stage he asked Crites, "How much are you being paid? Fifteen hundred dollars?" and then called for security to "take him out."

(The idea that the Clinton campaign sends people to Trump rallies to instigate violent disruptions is an urban legend growing out of the latest James O'Keefe tape dump. There is zero evidence to support this. It is a sort of mass psychology version of projection.)

At this point Crites was apparently in the process of pulling out a sign of some sort which someone nearby thought was a gun. That person yelled "gun!" This tripped off a melee in which Trump supporters beat Crites fairly severely. Secret Service agents, seeing the melee and possibly hearing the cry of "gun", rushed Trump off the stage and took Crites into custody. ...

As I said, it was determined very quickly that nothing had happened. No attempt. No nothing. But this didn't stop the campaign from pushing out a storyline about an "assassination attempt" and a tale of Trump's bravery in immediately returning to the stage.

Next a CNN journalist went out from the press pen into the area where the incident had occurred to find out what happened. He was promptly verbally abused and physically assaulted, though seemingly to no great physical harm, mainly just shoved around.

Things got darker still when Trump arrived a short time later in Colorado. In Denver, Trump was introduced by Father Andre Y-Sebastian Mahanna, a Maronite Catholic priest who said Trump had just survived "an attempt of murder against Mr Trump."

He then blamed the press for incitement the non-existent assassination attempt.

The Trump campaign allowed this to happen and made no effort to correct the record. This was followed by another warm up speaker who joked about Clinton being a 'bitch.'

By the end of the evening, Trump was fine. Crites was released little more than an hour after the incident - another clear sign that he had never been any threat to Trump. But core Trump supporters, immune from accounts of what had happened, been reported and verified, were off and running with a new fable about how Trump survived an attempted assassination. As I saw David Frum note in passing this morning, it is amazing the degree to which abusers are able to transmute their abuse into victimization, creating a grievance perpetual production machine. This is what the Trump campaign is.

Insane, isn't it? How does this man have any chance at all of becoming President of the United States?

Why hasn't the entire Republican Party been thrown into the dust-bin of history by now? Republicans politicians are already saying that they won't confirm a Hillary Clinton Supreme Court nomination, whoever it is.

And this is after refusing to even hold hearings on President Obama's pick, with the unprecedented - and downright ludicrous - excuse that the next president should get that opportunity (only if he's a Republican, apparently).

And this is with Republicans also promising non-stop 'investigations' of Hillary Clinton's emails, just as they did with their endless Benghazi hearings, because they're fine with destroying America's system of government for political gain.

And yes, the Republican Party is very likely to hold on to the Senate - and, thanks to gerrymandering, virtually certain to continue controlling the House of Representatives - even if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency (which isn't guaranteed in itself, thanks to morons on both the right and the left).

How can this be happening in my country? Comparisons with the fascist regimes of the 1930s are not out of line here (not even when it comes to the antisemitism). Did sane Germans wonder what was happening to their country when they witnessed manic and febrile Nazi Party rallies?

We all know how that turned out.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

If Congress was your co-worker

It's not just the presidency. Voting is critical for other reasons, too.

In a democracy, we get the kind of government we (collectively) deserve. It's never going to be perfect, but it can always be better.

It can always be worse, too, if rational people don't step up to be counted.

Friday, November 4, 2016

GOP threatens to paralyze a Clinton presidency

The Republican Party just gets crazier and crazier, doesn't it? In saner times, a political party would be punished at the polls for that.

What has happened to my country?

Donald Trump: no ordinary politician

What can I say, except that I fear for my country?

Why I'm Voting for Hillary Clinton

Steve Shives is absolutely right, and although I might pick out slightly different issues, I have absolutely no problem with his overall conclusion.

Either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is going to be our next President of the United States. One or the other. That's just a fact. And if you do anything else other than vote for Clinton, you'll be helping Trump. That, too, is simply a fact.

But even if that wasn't true, I'd vote for Clinton. If any of the Republican candidates had won the nomination, I'd vote for Clinton. If any of the third-party candidates were anything but potential spoilers helping Trump, if any of them had an actual chance of winning the election, I'd vote for Clinton. There's just no question about any of that.

She probably wouldn't be my first choice, if I could pick anyone in America I wanted to be president. But that's just the thing. That's not how democracies work. You have to compromise with other people in a democracy. And that's not a bug; it's a feature.

Incidentally, here's that article at Mother Jones, along with the chart about "Who Lies More," which was developed from the fact-checking of PolitiFact:

None of us are surprised at the top liars on that list, I assume. (I only wish that Louis Gohmert, the dumbest man in Congress, had been included.)

But I have to be.... um, what's the opposite of "impressed"? ... at Michele Bachmann, who doesn't just lie the vast majority of the time, but lies at a "Pants on Fire" level of dishonesty more than one in four times she opens her mouth.

At that, she tells the truth more often than Donald Trump, apparently. Not very often, true, but he seems to find it impossible to say anything that's completely true. Of course, we already knew that, didn't we?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal


This was today's comic from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  I thought it was hilarious, so I wanted to post it, but there have been a number of great cartoons there recently.

They might not all fit as well here, but I thought I'd include a couple more. You can always click on the link to see them full-size.



Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The God Distraction: The Word of God

This is excellent, although I still miss his humorous Mr. Deity videos. But this is the fourth video (including the introduction), so far, in his "God Distraction" series. This video is complete in itself, though.

Incidentally, The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel is one of the books Steve Shives has read "from his atheist perspective" (here). I highly recommend that series, and the others he's done, too.

As for me, I'd still like to get back to reading the Bible again,... sometime. But I don't know if that's going to happen. There's just never enough time for everything, and I guess I'm not as interested in blogging as I used to be.

Black Trump supporter ejected from rally

I must admit that it's hard to imagine any black person being a Trump supporter. Or any woman. Or any human being, for that matter.

But people are strange. Some human beings do support Donald Trump, as bizarre as that seems to me.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween

Happy Worship Demons Day, everyone! Heh, heh. It's funny, isn't it, how even children know that Halloween is just make-believe, but loony religious nuts haven't figured it out yet?

Now I've got to get started on that candy, or there might be some left for the kids when they ring the doorbell tonight. :)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The crackpot and the crack-up

The GOP just gets crazier and crazier and crazier, doesn't it? But these are the people the GOP base wants running their party.

Mainstream Republicans created this monster by deliberately wooing white racists and then using racism, sexism, and xenophobia to nurture the beast. Nothing was too much, as long as there was some political benefit to be made from it.

And now? They can't control the monster they created, but they're afraid of denouncing it, too. They're not just evil, they're also cowardly. Losing even one election isn't a sacrifice they're willing to make, so they'll sacrifice our country, instead.

Yes, this stuff is funny, but it won't be funny if Trump actually wins. And it won't be funny if lunatic Republicans actually do start shooting people the day after the election.

They're crazy enough to brag about it. Are they crazy enough to do it? Let's hope not. But so far, I've seen no limit to the crazy.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Catholic hospital horror stories

Samantha Bee is a comedian, and Full Frontal is a comedy show, but there's nothing funny about this interview, not even slightly.

And there's nothing funny about the following three interviews, either (here, here, and here). They're important, and I urge you to watch them, but they're not funny. Not even slightly.

There is some humor in the following segment, which Samantha Bee aired on her show, but not very damned much. This is a serious issue - a dangerous issue for many women.

The Catholic Church is busy buying up hospitals all across America, so that they can force their own religious beliefs on everyone else - and especially on women. But hey, as Sam says, who knows more about women's vaginas that celibate old men who don't have one and have never even touched one, right?

It's even worse than that, though. The church points to those hospitals as proof of their own charitable work. Yeah, they have the gall to claim that forcing their own religion on other people is evidence that they're doing good in our country. Disgusting, isn't it?

But they actually do good, sometimes. I've been to the Catholic hospital here. If you're a man, and you don't want a vasectomy, they do good work. But if you're a woman in pain, or even dying, you'd better hope it has nothing to do with sex or childbirth!

Of course, even if you want routine contraceptive care, you'd better hope the church doesn't have a monopoly on health care in your area (yet). Catholics themselves ignore their own church when it comes to contraception, and the church knows it. So they'll force compliance - even on non-Catholics - whenever they can.

I find the whole thing infuriating, and I'm not even at risk from it. But if you don't stand up for other people, they'll have no reason to stand up for you. We're one people, and we're all in this together.

All about that base - Star Wars parody

You know, I'm really not a huge fan of Star Wars. So why do I keep coming across these musical parodies?

This one doesn't have Princess Leia, but it's still a lot of fun, don't you think?

Hamilton parody - Hillary Rodham Clinton

It's not SNL, but this is pretty funny, don't you think?

This is The Key of Awesome. (I tend to like the early videos the best - the ones at the bottom of that list - but maybe that's just me.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Rigged polls

Josh Marshall calls this the "Universal Derp Implosion." He's not wrong:
Donald Trump is giving a raging, rambling speech with accusations against everyone and everything. But there's one thing he flagged that everyone needs to understand the details about.

Here's what he said ...
Wikileaks also shows how John Podesta rigged the polls by oversampling democrats, a voter suppression technique. That's happening to me all the time. When the polls are even, when they leave them alone and do them properly, I'm leading. But you see these polls where they're polling democrats. How is Trump doing? Oh, he's down. They're polling democrats. The system is corrupt, rigged and broken. And we're going to change it. [ Cheers and applause ] ...

There are several levels of nonsense here. Let me try to run through them.

You'll note for starters that that the email is from 2008 and Podesta is neither the sender nor the recipient. But that's just a footnote. More importantly, what Tom Matzzie is talking about is the campaign/DNC's own polls. Campaigns do extensive, very high quality polling to understand the state of the race and devise strategies for winning. These are not public polls. So they can't affect media polls and they can't have anything to do with voter suppression.

Now you may be asking, why would the Democrats skew their own internal polls? Well, they're not.

The biggest thing here is what the word 'oversampling' means. Both public and private pollsters will often over-sample a particular demographic group to get statistically significant data on that group. So let's stay you have a likely voter poll with 800 respondents. The number of African-Americans in that sample is maybe going to be 100 people, maybe less. 800 people is a decent sample for statistical significance. 100 is not. So if you're trying to draw conclusions about African-American voters, levels of approval, degree of opposition or support of a candidate, demographic breakdowns, etc. you need to get an 'over-sample' to get solid numbers.

Whether it's public or private pollsters, the 'over-sample' is never included in the 'topline' number. So if you get 4 times the number of African-American voters as you got in a regular sample, those numbers don't all go into the mix for the total poll. They're segmented out. The whole thing basically amounts to zooming in on one group to find out more about them. To do so, to zoom in, you need to 'over-sample' their group as what amounts to a break-out portion of the poll.

What it all comes down to is that you're talking about a polling concept the Trumpers don't seem to understand (or are relying on supporters not understanding), about polls that are by definition secret (campaign polls aren't shared) and about an election eight years ago.

So, either Donald Trump and all of his campaign staff are too ignorant to know what "oversampling" means, and too dumb to know the difference between internal campaign polls and public polls, or they think that his supporters are, so they're deliberately lying to them.

I don't know which it is, but it's definitely one or the other.

Of course, Trump has been flailing about all over the place, desperate to excuse what's likely to be a big loss next month, even if he can't prevent it. Being a "loser" is more than Trump's pathetic little ego can stand.

I say likely loss, because polls mean nothing. Voting means everything. If we're so lazy that we don't vote, or so dumb that we throw away our vote on a third-party candidate with zero chance of winning, we may actually get President Trump for the next four years.

That can happen. The polls aren't showing that it can't. Indeed, most of the battleground states are very close. And the Republican Party has been working hard to suppress the vote. If we don't care enough about America to vote for Hillary Clinton - and for Democrats up and down the line - we could be looking back at President Bush with nostalgia.

I'm reasonably optimistic, but it's not over until it's over.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Ten years of Right Wing Watch

People for the American Way is currently celebrating ten years of Right Wing Watch, where they keep an eye on what the right-wing is saying (and working towards). So they've recently released a couple of lists of highlights from the past decade.

This video clip is from their "10 Years of Pat Robertson: Our Very Favorite Robertson Moments of the Decade." But they've also released a list of their favorite posts in general over the past ten years. That's pretty crazy, too!

Most of them include brief video clips of a minute or two. I subscribe to their YouTube channel, so that's normally where I see these.

And let me tell you, the amount of crazy in America is astonishing! Demon-haunted clothing isn't even particularly exceptional. Most of the video clips they post are equally crazy. Check it out and see for yourself.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Hillary Clinton at the Al Smith Dinner

This is Hillary Clinton's speech at the 2016 Al Smith Dinner. These are supposed to be humorous, and both presidential candidates made fun of each other.

But Donald Trump was booed when he became nasty. In a roast, you're not supposed to cross the line from funny to inappropriate. (Of course, that line is subjective. I doubt if he was booed by any of his supporters.)

I thought that Clinton did a good job here. She was no Barack Obama, who could make a living as a comedian (if he had good writers, at least), but she was funny. And by and large, her jabs against Trump were clever and biting. "But Donald Trump really is as healthy as a horse - you know, the one Vladimir Putin rides around on."

Note that Trump made a point of smiling throughout her speech. (You can judge for yourself how hard that was for him.) Clearly, one of his managers warned him not to behave as he did at the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner, where he was visibly steamed at Seth Meyers' jokes. Indeed, his reaction became a joke, itself.

Clearly, no one warned Rudy Giuliani, though. Heh, heh. Did you see his face? But then, he's not running for anything, so he doesn't have to pretend.

Politically, Clinton did well here, too, I'd say. This is a Catholic Charities fundraiser, and you could certainly tell that from her speech. But she made some serious points at the end which we can all agree with (though I wouldn't necessarily agree with everything she said).

Friday, October 14, 2016

Can you hear the stormtroopers marching?

Yeah, there's an avalanche of crazy coming from the Trump campaign. Nevertheless, IMHO, this hasn't received nearly enough attention:
There's a new conspiracy theory rapidly gaining traction among Trump supporters about the origin of the 'Access Hollywood' Trump tape which triggered days of new allegations about Donald Trump's alleged history of sexual abuse. The conspiracy theory is rapidly taking on an explicitly anti-Semitic character. As far as I can see it has not been pushed by the Trump campaign itself, at least not publicly. But it's catching fire with numerous supporters and surrogates - most notably Jerry Falwell Jr, a key Trump supporter among evangelicals and President of Liberty University, the school founded by his father.

The claim is also being pushed by Breitbart and David Duke in various neo-Nazi web forums. Notably, in recent months Breitbart, with which the Trump campaign has now effectively merged, has itself more openly embraced anti-Semitism.

You can see the details of the story in our write up here. The claim is that Dan Senor, a prominent GOP political operative, who is Jewish and married to former television reporter Campbell Brown, is behind the tape disclosure and part of a plot of "GOP elites" to destroy Donald Trump. In other words, in this conspiracy theory, Senor is now cast as the Jewish "traitor" working for the conspiracy of political elites, international financiers and the media who Trumped railed against today in his speech.

I've written before about the radicalizing tendencies of the Trump campaign. Avowed anti-Semitic supporters are brought into the mainstream. Trump bellows about conspiracies of traitorous elites and global financiers - charges which don't mention Jews explicitly but which closely follow the themes, vocabulary and villains of traditional anti-Semitic agitation. Then rabid Trump supporters who may not previously have thought in anti-Semitic terms or may have held only latent hostility toward Jews get swept into embracing and propagating anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and political agitation.

Frightening, isn't it? I've seen this antisemitism online, though admittedly not as frequently as general racism and... absolutely hysterical misogyny. Of course, I don't frequent neo-Nazi websites, either. What I see is just what leaks out from them.

Still, it's very clear that Donald Trump is preparing his supporters for a loss next month. And being Trump, none of it is going to be his fault. He's been talking about rigged elections for a long time, and about how the media are against him. But now, mainstream Republicans are part of the 'conspiracy' that's assaulting poor, defenseless Donald Trump.

His supporters are going to be looking for scapegoats. After all, Trump is a 'winner,' right? Just ask him. And winners can't lose a fair fight. Between Muslims, Jews, African-Americans, Hispanics, women, the media, Democrats, and now mainstream Republicans, there are a lot of people on Trump's enemies list. Who knows what to expect?

At best, after the election, Trump is going to milk his diehard supporters for every dime he can get from them, and the Republican Party will face even deeper divisions. Worse would be if his armed supporters try 'Second Amendment remedies,' which Trump has already encouraged. (We've seen other Republican politicians encourage violence, too, and also armed loons trying to intimidate the opposition.)

None of that would be as bad as Donald Trump actually becoming president, but it's not going to be good, regardless. I hope that Trump is absolutely humiliated in this election. That's the only possible way that he might crawl back into his hole (though it might be doubtful even then).

And I hope that the entire Republican Party faces a devastating defeat up and down the line. That's the only way they'll be willing to repudiate the dangerous, un-American 'Southern strategy' they've been using for the past few decades. Unfortunately, that does not look likely. (I don't understand it, I really don't.)

At any rate, this neo-Nazi stuff from Trump supporters is scary as hell - even for me, and as a straight white man, I probably have the least to worry about. We're at a critical point in American history.

Well, maybe we always are, I don't know. I hope I'm worrying for nothing.

The monster isn't Trump

Science fiction author John Scalzi puts this a lot better than I ever have:
At this point there is no doubt that Donald Trump is the single worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, almost certainly the worst since the Civil War, and arguably the worst in the history of this nation. He is boastful and ignorant and petty, disdainful of the Constitution, a racist and a sexist, the enabler of the worst elements of society, either the willing tool of, or the useful idiot for, Vladimir Putin, an admirer of despots, an insecure braggart, a sexual assaulter, a man who refuses to honor contracts, and a bore.

He is, in sum, just about the biggest asshole in all of the United States of America. He’s lucky that Syrian dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad is out there keeping him from taking the global title, not that he wouldn’t try for that, too, should he become president. It’s appalling that he is the standard bearer for one of the two major political parties in the United States. It’s appalling that he is a candidate for the presidency at all.

But note well: Donald Trump is not a black swan, an unforeseen event erupting upon an unsuspecting Republican Party. He is the end result of conscious and deliberate choices by the GOP, going back decades, to demonize its opponents, to polarize and obstruct, to pursue policies that enfeeble the political weal and to yoke the bigot and the ignorant to their wagon and to drive them by dangling carrots that they only ever intended to feed to the rich. Trump’s road to the candidacy was laid down and paved by the Southern Strategy, by Lee Atwater and Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove, by Fox News and the Tea Party, and by the smirking cynicism of three generations of GOP operatives, who have been fracking the white middle and working classes for years, crushing their fortunes with their social and economic policies, never imagining it would cause an earthquake.

Well, surprise! Here’s Donald Trump. He is the actual and physical embodiment of every single thing the GOP has trained its base to want and to be over the last forty years — ignorant, bigoted and money-grubbing, disdainful of facts and frightened of everything because of it, an angry drunk buzzed off of wood-grain patriotism, threatening brown people and leering at women. He was planned. He was intended. He was expected. He was wanted.

But not, I think, in the exact form of Donald Trump. The GOP were busily genetically engineering the perfect host for their message, someone smooth and telegenic and possibly just ethnic enough to make people hesitant to point out the latent but real racism inherent in its social policies, while making the GOP’s white base feel like they were making a progressive choice, and with that person installed, further pursuing its agenda of slouching toward oligarchy, with just enough anti-abortion and pro-gun glitter tossed into the sky to distract the religious and the paranoid. Someone the GOP made. Someone they could control.

But they don’t control Trump, which they are currently learning to their great misery. And the reason the GOP doesn’t control Trump is that they no longer control their base. The GOP trained their base election cycle after election cycle to be disdainful of government and to mistrust authority, which ultimately is an odd thing for a political party whose very rationale for existence is rooted in the concept of governmental authority to do. The GOP created a monster, but the monster isn’t Trump. The monster is the GOP’s base. Trump is the guy who stole their monster from them, for his own purposes.

I can't add anything to that - Scalzi is exactly right - so I'll just repeat two sentences: "Donald Trump is not a black swan, an unforeseen event erupting upon an unsuspecting Republican Party. He is the end result of conscious and deliberate choices by the GOP, going back decades, to demonize its opponents, to polarize and obstruct, to pursue policies that enfeeble the political weal and to yoke the bigot and the ignorant to their wagon and to drive them by dangling carrots that they only ever intended to feed to the rich."

GOP policies and actions created their base, nurtured their base, and turned it into a monster deliberately. For decades, it's worked well for them. But the monster is proving to be harder and harder to control. That's the nature of monsters, I guess.

At this point, we can only hope that the monster destroys the Republican Party before the Republican Party destroys America. And maybe the next conservative party in our country can try to put America first. Political ambition is all well and good, but when you're willing to do anything to gain political power, you've got a problem.

Well, we've got a problem. And it's not just Donald Trump, though he's the embodiment of it right now. This monster isn't going away - not quietly, at least - no matter what happens in the election. Our actions live on long after we stop acting. What the Republican Party did to us isn't going to stop causing damage to America, not in the foreseeable future.

There's no easy fix, either. We did this to ourselves. If we'd been smarter people, better people, we would have repudiated the Republican Party's strategy decades ago. Instead, it kept working for them. It worked very well for them. And in many states, with many, many people, it's still working.

PS. My thanks to Jim Harris for the link.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Michelle Obama on Trump's sexual assault bragging

The sound quality isn't great in this video clip, but it's a powerful statement from Michelle Obama about how Trump's bragging affects her. She's clearly speaking from the heart.

PS. Here's a longer excerpt from her speech (just under ten minutes long). The sound quality still isn't perfect, but it's a great speech.

Trump supporters

This contains scenes from the documentary 13th (which is apparently available on Netflix). So much for the good old days, huh?

When it comes to the Donald Trump campaign, we could go back even further than that, though, and show scenes from 1930's Germany. (There's a reason why antisemitism has been growing in America recently, as bigots crawl out from under their rocks.)

Thanks to PZ Myers at Pharyngula for the link.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Wow! It gets even worse!

If this were fiction, if the Trump campaign had been merely an author's wild imagination, I would have found it too implausible to maintain my suspension of disbelief. That's how crazy things have gotten in America these days.

And it just gets worse and worse. Did you think that Trump bragging about how he could freely commit sexual assault, as a rich celebrity, was as bad as it could get? (And note, that is the problem with 'Pussygate'. It wasn't the language. It wasn't the "locker room banter." Donald Trump bragged about how he could force himself on women, with no consequences.)

To my mind, the latest news is even more alarming, though it probably won't have the same political impact. There's clear evidence that Donald Trump is getting his propaganda - his false propaganda - from Vladimir Putin's propaganda machine:
At a rally in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, Trump spoke while holding a document in his hand. He told the assembled crowd that it was an email from Blumenthal, whom he called “sleazy Sidney.”

“This just came out a little while ago,’’ Trump said. “I have to tell you this.” And then he read the words from my article.

“He’s now admitting they could have done something about Benghazi,’’ Trump said, dropping the document to the floor. “This just came out a little while ago.”

The crowd booed and chanted, “Lock her up!”

The problem is, that wasn't true. And it was false in at least two ways, ways which clearly identify the source of the claim. The entire article at Newsweek is fascinating, but I'll try to present the gist of it in excerpts here:
An email from Blumenthal—a confidant of Hillary Clinton and a man, second only to George Soros, at the center of conservative conspiracy theories—turned up in the recent document dump by WikiLeaks. At a time when American intelligence believes Russian hackers are trying to interfere with the presidential election, records have been fed recently to WikiLeaks out of multiple organizations of the Democratic Party, raising concerns that the self-proclaimed whistleblower group has become a tool of Putin’s government. ...

The evidence emerged thanks to the incompetence of Sputnik, the Russian online news and radio service established by the government-controlled news agency, Rossiya Segodnya.

The documents that WikiLeaks has unloaded recently have been emails out of the account of John Podesta, the chairman of Clinton’s election campaign. Almost as soon as the pilfered documents emerged, Sputnik was all over them and rapidly found (or probably already knew about before the WikiLeaks dump) a purportedly incriminating email from Blumenthal. ...

The Russians were quoting two sentences from a 10,000-word piece I wrote for Newsweek, which Blumenthal had emailed to Podesta. There was no mistaking that Blumenthal was citing Newsweek—the magazine’s name and citations for photographs appeared throughout the attached article. The Russians had carefully selected the “of course” paragraph, which mentions there were legitimate points of criticism regarding Clinton and Benghazi, all of which had been acknowledged in nine reports about the attack and by the former secretary of state herself. But that was hardly the point of the story, “Benghazi Biopsy: A Comprehensive Guide to One of America’s Worst Political Outrages.” The piece is about the obscene politicization of the assault that killed four Americans, and the article slammed the Republican Benghazi committee, which was engaged in a political show trial disguised as a congressional investigation—the 10th inquiry into the tragedy. ...

Of course, this might be seen as just an opportunity to laugh at the incompetence of the Russian hackers and government press—once they realized their error, Sputnik took the article down. But then things got even more bizarre.

This false story was reported only by the Russian-controlled agency (a reference appeared in a Turkish publication, but it was nothing but a link to the Sputnik article). So how did Donald Trump end up advancing the same falsehood put out by Putin’s mouthpiece? ...

This is not funny. It is terrifying. The Russians engage in a sloppy disinformation effort and, before the day is out, the Republican nominee for president is standing on a stage reciting the manufactured story as truth. How did this happen? Who in the Trump campaign was feeding him falsehoods straight from the Kremlin? (The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.)

The Russians have been obtaining American emails and now are presenting complete misrepresentations of them—falsifying them—in hopes of setting off a cascade of events that might change the outcome of the presidential election. The big question, of course, is why are the Russians working so hard to damage Clinton and, in the process, aid Donald Trump? That is a topic for another time.

For now, though, Americans should be outraged. This totalitarian regime, engaged in what are arguably war crimes in Syria to protect its government puppet, is working to upend a democracy to the benefit of an American candidate who uttered positive comments just Sunday about the Kremlin's campaign on behalf of Bashar al-Assad.

I don't know if it's clear from these excerpts (I didn't want to copy the entire article), but there were at least two separate errors in Sputnik's - and Trump's - claims. The first was simply misinterpreting a couple of lines from that earlier article for political advantage.

That was just propaganda, and it's possible that the Russian government and Donald Trump would both make that error deliberately, since both apparently want to damage the Clinton campaign. It's possible, in other words, that it was merely coincidence that both would use the same factually-incorrect propaganda, picking out the same lines from that article and making the same false claim about them.

But Sputnik was sloppy. They attributed that misleading excerpt to Sidney Blumenthal, but it was actually Kurt Eichenwald - the author of this latest Newsweek article setting the record straight - who actually wrote it. And Donald Trump made that error, too. He had to have gotten this from Sputnik.

PZ Myers shows why such "plagiarized errors" are so revealing:
The example often given is of how we can catch students cheating on a test: if two students turn in an exam with identical correct answers, it could just mean they both studied very hard and mastered the material well; if they have identical wrong answers, right down to the spelling mistakes, that tells you that someone has been slavishly copying someone else. For more examples of how the concept is actually used [in evolutionary biology], check out Plagiarized Errors and Molecular Genetics by Edward Max.

The nice thing about the plagiarized error concept is that it allows one to trace the history of the error. In the recent debate, Trump made an unusual error of attribution — he quoted Kurt Eichenwald (incorrectly, as it turns out, ignoring his conclusion) and claimed that it was a quote from Sydney Blumenthal. It was an odd combination of specific errors, and that makes one wonder where Trump could have gotten the same set of mistakes. It turns out that there is only one other media source that makes the same combination of errors, misattributing Eichenwald’s words to Blumenthal, and distorting the meaning of the piece in the same strange way, and that tells us exactly what source Trump plagiarized.

It came from “Sputnik, the Russian online news and radio service established by the government controlled news agency, Rossiya Segodnya“. Russian propaganda sources are feeding misinformation to the Trump campaign.

Incidentally, Josh Marshall at TPM has an interesting idea about this, though it certainly doesn't make Donald Trump look any better.
So how did a Russian propaganda goof or intentional error show up in the GOP nominee's speech?

Good question.

But here's the thing. This isn't the first time this has happened. It's happened a number of times with Trump and his top level surrogates. Indeed, I examined the issue back in August.

We might speculate that there's some kind of mole in the Trump operation. Less conspiratorially, we might speculate that one of Trump's advisors with extensive ties to Russia is feeding Trump this stuff. The second option at least seems plausible. But there's actually a simpler explanation and it's one not based on speculation at all but things we know to be facts.

News from Russian propaganda sources are pervasive in the alt-right/neo-Nazi web. As a secondary matter we know from Adrian Chen's work that there are a decent number of faux 'pro-Trump' accounts on Twitter that are actually run from troll farms operated by Russian intelligence services. By whichever path, Russian propaganda is ubiquitous on the alt-right/racist web - particularly on Twitter, Reddit, 4chan and similar sites.

It happens that we know the Trump world is awash in the alt-right/neo-Nazi web. After all, that's where all the retweeting of #WhiteGenocide accounts and the like comes from. So anything is possible. Perhaps there's a more complex explanation. But the simplest one is that it's organic. Russian propaganda stories from outlets like RT, Sputniknews and other similar sites spread freely on the alt-right/white supremacist web. And that's where the Trump camp lives. So it's entirely plausible that that's why material that appears only on these Russian propaganda sites shows up so frequently in Trump's speeches.

In other words, don't worry. The Trump campaign isn't infiltrated by Russian intelligence (probably). They're just awash in neo-Nazi and white supremacist propaganda. See my piece from August for more details.

Yes, it's possible that the Trump campaign isn't being directed by Vladimir Putin (even though Putin is clearly doing everything he can to help Donald Trump). That's comforting, isn't it?

It's possible that Putin isn't even feeding Trump misinformation - not directly, at least. Maybe it's just that Donald Trump is getting his information from neo-Nazis and white supremacists who are getting their propaganda from Vladimir Putin. What a relief, huh? LOL

Oh, for the simpler times of yesterday, when I thought that the worst thing about the Republican candidate for President of the United States was his bragging about committing sexual assault.

Well, just wait until tomorrow, huh? I don't know how Donald Trump can go any lower, but I've thought that many times before and he always exceeds my expectations.