Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Our Fake President: Don't You Just Love Him?

Don't you just yawn when you hear the words, "Credibility"  or "It's unprecedented"  or "Our national reputation"  or "What the American people want" or a whole host of other words and phrases which allude to qualitative, subjective assessments of a sort of truth?

That Donald Trump has been vilified for his indifference to "facts" and evidence to support his arguments says less about him and more about the obtuseness of his critics, who don't seem to understand his audiences don't care about what these critics care about.  You have to be taught, usually in school, to construct an argument, to collect "evidence" to support what you assert. Trump dispenses with all that by simply stating a contention over and over until it becomes "truth."

So if Obamacare is a "disaster," if Hillary Clinton is a "crook" if the inner cities are a "disaster zone," if loss of manufacturing has happened because stupid Democrat government bureaucrats have been out negotiated by foreign competitors, then it's all true because he says it's true.

Of course, all those topics are complex, and almost matters of definition, so people can shrug off evidence to the contrary.

With something more concrete, like whether or not President Obama tapped Mr. Trump's phones, we have something even his most ardent supporters will know is either true or false. Now Mr. Spicer is "walking back" that claim, well, he didn't really mean wire tapping, just meant any sort of eavesdropping.

But it's finally stuck in the craw of even Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal. Stock market people, after all, have to deal in data and evidence and graphs and reality, or they lose money.

But it is now dawning on them what a Fake President looks like, and their metaphor--Trump clinging to the lie of wire tapping like a drunk clinging to an empty bottle of gin is telling. Of course, his prior birther claims, his claims about Muslims on top of roofs in Newark after 911, well, that was just hyperbole.  But, in the case of the WSJ, better late than never.

If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.
The latest example is Mr. Trump’s refusal to back off his Saturday morning tweet of three weeks ago that he had “found out that [Barack] Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory” on Election Day. He has offered no evidence for his claim, and a parade of intelligence officials, senior Republicans and Democrats have since said they have seen no such evidence.
Yet the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims. Sean Spicer—who doesn’t deserve this treatment—was dispatched last week to repeat an assertion by a Fox News commentator that perhaps the Obama Administration had subcontracted the wiretap to British intelligence.
That bungle led to a public denial from the British Government Communications Headquarters, and British news reports said the U.S. apologized. But then the White House claimed there was no apology. For the sake of grasping for any evidence to back up his original tweet, and the sin of pride in not admitting error, Mr. Trump had his spokesman repeat an unchecked TV claim that insulted an ally.
The wiretap tweet is also costing Mr. Trump politically as he hands his opponents a sword. Mr. Trump has a legitimate question about why the U.S. was listening to his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and who leaked news of his meeting with the Russian ambassador. But that question never gets a hearing because the near-daily repudiation of his false tweet is a bigger media story.
FBI director James Comey also took revenge on Monday by joining the queue of those saying the bureau has no evidence to back up the wiretap tweet. Mr. Comey even took the unusual step of confirming that the FBI is investigating ties between the Trump election campaign and Russia.
Mr. Comey said he could make such a public admission only in “unusual circumstances,” but why now? Could the wiretap tweet have made Mr. Comey angry because it implied the FBI was involved in illegal surveillance? Mr. Trump blundered in keeping Mr. Comey in the job after the election, but now the President can’t fire the man leading an investigation into his campaign even if he wants to.
All of this continues the pattern from the campaign that Mr. Trump is his own worst political enemy. He survived his many false claims as a candidate because his core supporters treated it as mere hyperbole and his opponent was untrustworthy Hillary Clinton. But now he’s President, and he needs support beyond the Breitbart cheering section that will excuse anything. As he is learning with the health-care bill, Mr. Trump needs partners in his own party to pass his agenda. He also needs friends abroad who are willing to trust him when he asks for support, not least in a crisis.
This week should be dominated by the smooth political sailing for Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee and the progress of health-care reform on Capitol Hill. These are historic events, and success will show he can deliver on his promises. But instead the week has been dominated by the news that he was repudiated by his own FBI director.
Two months into his Presidency, Gallup has Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 39%. No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn’t show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President.

The Wall Street Journal, March 22,2017.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Trumped Up: Is It Still A Lie If You Forgot What You Said?

David Leonhardt, fulminating in the New York Times just cannot let it go. He wants to preach to the choir about what a liar, liar pants-on-fire Donald Trump is.  I have to ask: To What End?  Is there anyone who voted against President Trump who does not already agree with this list?  Is there anyone who voted for President Trump who gives a good hot damn?

"He has lied about — among many other things — Obama’s birthplace, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Sept. 11, the Iraq War, ISIS, NATO, military veterans, Mexican immigrants, Muslim immigrants, anti-Semitic attacks, the unemployment rate, the murder rate, the Electoral College, voter fraud and his groping of women."

So, David, Get a grip:  When are you going to stop all this? When are you going to try to use these examples in a way which might help?

Let's get organized here:  Let's group these lies and examine which really matter and which do not and which ought to matter. Let's imagine we are about to launch Radio Free New Hampshire and we are planning our programming.  Let's organize these things into useful categories.  Let us Triage.

1. Lies which have no policy implications but simply reveal that Trump is not a serious man and you cannot take what he says seriously: 
           a/ Obamac's birthplace
           b/ John F. Kennedy's assassination by Marco Rubio's father  and the radical Cuban Costa Nostra
           c/ Groping of women: But then again Bill Clinton lied about sex. Everyone lies about sex.

2. Lies which suggest he views Muslims the way Bull Connor and George Wallace and Strom Thurman once viewed young Black males. 
         a/ Muslims were dancing on the rooftops after 9/11--he heard, or saw.
         b/ ISIS
         c/ Muslim immigrants
These lies are part of his fantasy world for which he actually tries to marshall some testimonials as a sort of trumped up--you should excuse the expression--evidence, case reports to bolster his general proposition that if one Muslim shoots a Christian, this is a war of the worlds.  But his ability to do Muslims harm is limited by the courts in a sane world, by Congress. (Of course look at Congress if you want any indication about how sane this world is right now.)
          This playground bully type of reaction actually thwarts his own effectiveness, e.g., if he wanted to ban Muslims from entering the country, he could have simply said people coming from failed states cannot enter the country because there is no practical way of screening them in a state without a functioning government--so Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria could have been excluded. By trying to play the Muslim card, he tripped over his own feet.


3. Lies about Mexican immigrants: Using that one case of a Mexican rapist has been sufficient for some of the people all the time, but eventually, you can't fool most of the people all the time with this one.  He'll use it to "build the wall" which will be expensive but symbolic and mostly ineffective at preventing the flow of undocumented immigrants, who will simply go underground; some literally will tunnel under the wall. But since they will be hiding, he'll be able to claim victory in stopping the flow. 
This is where any self respecting opposition should be able to strip the emperor of his clothes.

4. Lies to say that Obama and the Democrats failed to govern well:  The murder rate and the unemployment rate increased under the Democrats.  Every insurgency needs to say those in power have failed.( Read our Declaration of Independence.)

There is legitimate objection to the claims for "full employment" because many people have stopped looking for work. What we need to know is who these people are, who've stopped looking. Are these the marginal workers who will only work at low skilled jobs when they are undemanding and well paying? Maybe we shouldn't be worried about those who have given up because they really aren't workers anyway.
As for the murder rates--those have got to be pretty hard numbers. Either the number of dead bodies in the morgues has risen or it has not. The remedy for this is to say so. It is likely it has risen in isolated spots, like Chicago, but overall life in the US may be safer than in many decades.  Testimonials about murders are emotionally wringing but eventually most citizens can see through this claim.  

5. NATO:  He's got a point--NATO nations have not spent the way we have or the way we would like them to spend and we can see that as they have become dependent and we've enabled them to do this. On the other hand, how much sense does his order to increase our own military spending make, if he is so exercised about NATO? Why should they spend more if we are going to spend more anyway? 
Also in this category is Russia. Fact is, Russia, Germany, the Koch Brothers a whole slew of nations and corporations tried to influence our election and they all had the same problem--all they could do was try to persuade. 

If you want to worry about something foreign that really matters: Look at Israel and Netanyahu.  Did he not try to influence our election and our Congress? 

6. Iraq War:  Who cares what Trump  thought about going to war in Iraq back when?  The fact is, he changes his mind so often even today he can always find some statement which suggested he opposed it, after he first supported it. Same is true about transgender bathroom use and punishing women who've had abortions. All this shows is he hasn't thought about these issues, doesn't care to, and has the attention span of a gnat.

7. Voter Fraud: Another expostulation which does not matter in the rust belt. Oh, that's just Donald mouthing off again.  Nobody actually believes he believes that himself.
This is one of those whoppers which should be shoved down the throats of the rust belt I-want-my-job-back voters. 

8. Donald will get your jobs back.
As Sarah Palin would say: How's that working for ya?

But What Do We Do About Trump?

At the end of our monthly Hampton (NH) Democratic Club meeting, after all the usual business about how we should vote on the upcoming warrant issues for the town, to fund teachers and firefighters and school building, and plans for the summer lawn sale and for the picnic, and who we could get for speakers, one of the octagenarians raised his hand and squawked, "But what do we do about Trump?"

That of course, was the 800 pound gorilla in the room nobody had talked about, and this was the animating reason why we were all in that room in the first place.

A woman in the middle row stood up and said she loathed the President and she loathed all the people he had around him and she loathed the hate he had directed at Muslims and Mexicans, of which we have few or none here in New Hampshire, but she still thought it was awful.  Seized by the crest of that wave, I leapt to my feet and said I was sick of all the whining and wringing of hands and I wanted to do something, to foment revolution and I invited anyone who was interested to come meet at my house, and realized immediately I had not asked my wife about this, but then I thought, "Did Che Geuvara ask his wife or his mother?" 

About 10 people stood up and said they were with me, which was bracing, but as I looked from face to face, I asked myself: With me for what?

What could 10 townspeople from Hampton, New Hampshire do about the man who 60 million people had voted for?  A friend told me about driving to his home in Minnesota through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin and he saw an uninterrupted  sea of Trump signs and he was not at all surprised on November 8.

How many hundreds of counties had flipped from Obama to Trump across the rust belt? And why?

They had drunk the Kool Aid, just as the followers of Jim Jones had done.  They had bought into the fantasy, they had forsaken reality, the reality that immigrants are only rarely sadistic rapists, radical Islamic Terrorists, that no terrorists organization, not ISIS or Al Qaeda are a serious threat to the United States, that the worst they can do is unleash a flood of refugees which overwhelm the good will of liberal European nations.  They had drunk the Kool Aid of coal mine jobs coming back, of factories re opening because Trump told the capitalist owners to do that, of Obamacare as Disaster Care, of white working class, work a day men having been stabbed in the back by a mongrel Democratic Party that wanted to take their jobs and their self respect and give it to dark skinned immigrants, of white policemen shooting unarmed Black men in the back because the white policemen thought themselves in danger.

But the thing is:  You know while a sizable portion of Trump fans are unabashed racists, a sizable portion in the North and Midwest are not. The same people who voted for Obama, far as we can tell, voted for Trump. While his vote in the South may have come from the womb of the Ku Klux Klan, in the rust belt it may well have been a case of "I want my job back." 

These voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan may not have been put off by Trump's appeal to racists. They knew they weren't racists, but they knew they had seen their towns collapse after the factories closed.   Had it been between Bernie and Trump, they may well have gone for Bernie because he played the class war card better than even Trump. Trump made the enemy everyone outside our borders who stole our jobs. Bernie made the billionaires who sent the jobs overseas the enemy.

Looking at President Trump in Nashville, I could not keep my eyes from the two village idiots standing behind his left shoulder. At every Trump speech, there are always  two village idiots behind his left shoulder, a different pair of individuals but always the same. They look liked they had been drawn by Mad Magazine artists.  They grinned and shouted "USA" and "Lock Her UP" and I realized there is no way you could win these guys over. They are a lock for Trump and Rush and all who sail with them.

Well, maybe Bernie might appeal to them, if they ever lost faith in Trump.

But the thing is, this part of the citizenry, of the electorate, will never allow themselves to see Trump for what he is and is not.

So, if we cannot win these guys over, who are we going to convince? How do we approach the flippers in those rust belt counties that once went for Obama?
And if we can identify who our audience is, how do we reach them?

I imagine vast rallies like the Trump rallies, with Bernie or some charismatic speaker rousing the crowds to go out and carry the message forth, the way Trump did.

But who? And what is his message?

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Crazy Thing About Trump: He's Not 100% Crazy

President Trump says Alan Dershowitz says the Supreme Court will uphold his non Muslim Muslim ban and he's right about that. 
Of course, this comes after Mr. Trump reads "the statute" (as if there is only one relevant law) to the audience of grinning nitwits he gathered in Nashville.) 

But the thing which bothered me about both rulings, from the Ninth Circuit and now from Maryland, is the judges in both cases did not confine their opinions to the actual order, but they considered the order in the context of the man, of the things he said during his campaign, which seemed a little bizarre to me. Mr. Dershowitz says it bothered him, too. If the court starts looking beyond what the actual order says, to the motivations of the man who wrote it, where does that end?

A man can say he hates Negroes, and then he can issue an order which says that anyone living in Watts, or South West Washington, D.C., can be stopped and searched for concealed weapons because we've had trouble with violent crime in those areas and one would think if the order is applied equally to every citizen, black and white in those areas, the order would be legal.

The first Trump order said people from 6 countries would be denied visas to enter the United States but exceptions would be made for Christians. Well, that is an order to bar people because they come from a country where radical Islamic fundamentalists have issued threats to the United States and thus anyone in those countries may be a threat.  You can say it's not because they are Muslim, but because they live in those countries where the threat is high, where it may be difficult to distinguish enemy from friend.

But when you exempt Christians from that, you are saying, well they are above suspicion but Muslims are suspicious,  and so we are assuming Muslims are the enemy and Christians our friends.
The President has argued he doesn't suspect every Muslim--as is evident by the fact he did not exclude all Muslims from every country, just Muslims from countries which are failed states. When you look at these six failed states: Somalia, Sudan, Syria are all chaos, and Yemen is pretty close, although it may have made the list because Saudi Arabia is warring with Yemen and America will always genuflect before Saudi Arabia and Iran, well, you know they are cheating on the Nuclear deal, so we don't like them.

The President may still have the right to do that under the power to exclude foreigners  to protect the country, but applying a religious test may violate the First Amendment, but it may not. Congress may make no law to establish a religion, (First Amendment) but that doesn't say the President may make no rule. )And Muslims living in Sudan or Somolia may not be entitled to that Constitutional protection.

Apparently, Japanese living in California did not have protection from being incarcerated because they were members of a disfavored class during World War II.

There is the problem of whether it would be effective to ban Muslims getting on airplanes from Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, and Syria when you do not forbid Muslims from Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, who may be just as likely to be angry and intend to harm American citizens in the homeland.
When you look at 9/11 and the Boston bombings those guys hailed from Saudia Arabia and Chechneya, Kyrgyzstan,  so why not exclude Muslims from those places? You will always be dealing with exceptional cases.  And you are only banning people with passports from these countries, what about people from Somalia who have become U.S. Citizens but their children are now radicalized? 

What Trump's men are arguing is there is no way to actually evaluate anyone who is living in a failed state. These countries cannot vouch for these people. They just happen to be Muslim. It's not that Muslims are to be feared. It's that Somalis are to be feared. Or not that the whole lot of them is assumed to be guilty, but we have no way of distinguishing the bad ones from the good ones.

When you look at Sudan and Syria and all these boiling cauldrons, you might reasonably say--there is such tumult there, how can you ever really know what will come out of these environments? 

When you look at the "lost boys" of Sudan, the boy soldiers who have come out of those horror shows in Africa and now live in the USA and then commit violent crimes, one might look at what they came from and ask, "Is it not surprising that every last one of them does not murder, given what they experienced?"  Of course, these lost boys from Rawanda, and other African nations were not excluded. Why not?

I do not have the answers to these questions.
Certainly, President Trump does not have the answers.
But he is not clueless.
If we could actually talk about these problems without exploding into shouting matches about racism, we might actually achieve some agreement.
The problem is, Trump approached this in just the opposite fashion Obama did.
Obama was all about defusing, approaching things in an analytical way.
When you choose the emotional path, there is more heat than light.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Our Beautiful Wall

Watching our President speaking before the crowd in Nashville, I was, once again, fascinated by the two guys visible over his left shoulder. There seem to be two grinning half wits, who look as if they've been drawn by some Mad Magazine artist, always there, just above his left shoulder.  These two chanted "U-S-A" and "Lock Her UP," and were having a grand time. 

The President talked about his beautiful wall, which will keep out undesirables, already has, people have told him: bad immigrants are deciding to simply not even try because they know that wall is coming. And he talked about the world's most dishonest people--that would be the press. 

But then, later in the day I listened to NPR and they had a story about H-1B visas by which American high tech companies import bright young soft ware engineers from India, engineers from China, computer nerds from Europe, which sounds like a good thing--American companies sucking in talent from around the world to forge ahead.  But, it turns out, the way this visa program has been used is not as lovely as it sounds.

What happened all too frequently is American companies fired long term, older employees who had built their computer systems and replaced them with young nerds from India, the Far East and Europe who were 25-34 years old, and could be paid 1/2 what the older guys were getting. 

What Trump is arguing, in effect, is that it is ruthless, heartless to the core, to bring in people to create your company, to build it, and then, once they've reached a position where you have to pay them what they are worth, and for what they've built, you fire them and move on. It's just business, as they would say in the Godfather.  Trump doesn't like that sort of bottom line thinking. It's the same thinking that moves the bosses at the Carrier plant to plan to move the plant where they build air conditioners to Mexico; it's the core value of capitalism. The bosses work to please the stockholders, and if that means throwing aside the American workers, well they do what's best for the bottom line. Ayn Rand would say that's the right thing to do. Trump doesn't care about that principle. He says there's another value; The value of doing right by the worker. He sounds like a damned Commie to me. Like Bernie Sanders, at the very least. 

Whenever you hear industrialists saying they just cannot find people to do the work they need done you must always edit that in your brain to hear it as, "We just cannot find workers who will work for the exploitation wages we are willing to pay."

You can always find workers for the right price.

With the economy approaching full employment, we should be seeing wages in certain sectors soaring--but we are not. The bosses have looked for people who can do the same jobs for far lower wages, and to find these people, they look abroad.  In the case of the poor Indian engineer, he will work for what you pay a Starbucks clerk, because he is getting his ticket punched to live in the USA.

Intriguingly, President Trump said, "I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program...No exceptions." 
You gotta love Trump. He will end something "forever" as if he will be President forever.  And "no exceptions."  That means he means it. 
Of course, he is all for allowing Haitians and Romanians to work at his Mar-a-Lago resort for cheap labor.  His explanation is they couldn't find Americans to do those jobs.
Not for the wages he knew he could get some starving Haitians for, anyway.

But this all goes to show that Trump may actually do some good things along his path to perdition, as he stumbles along.

He might even find jobs for those two guys over his left shoulder. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Republicans and Personal Responsibility

The one thing the Right cannot tolerate are people who will not accept their just desserts for their own folly.

When the financial meltdown happened because, in part, wild bankers took crazy risks with other people's money and set their own banks afire, there were lots of Tea Party types screaming, "Let them burn!"

The Tea Party was organized around indignation over the Moral Peril of bailing out reckless bankers who were playing the game of private gain from public risk.

When Paul Ryan and Jim Jordan talk about health insurance they say, "Hey, if you are prudent and willing to spend the money you know you should spend on health insurance, fine, you win. If not, you lose and you die. It's your own fault."

That's fine for them to say and they are being consistent with their principles which say each man must be responsible for his own welfare and not expect hand outs from those of us who have been responsible.

It's the old grasshopper and the ants thing.

Anyone who has ever worked in an Emergency Room knows how hard it is to see a person come in, to see them suffering, and to send them away because they have not planned ahead. At that moment, faced with a man who is having a heart attack, who is writhing in pain sobbing "Help me!" it is hard to simply turn away. "Oh, you failed to plan."

Jim Jordan was a champion wrestler in college. He trained and built his body and mastered his techniques and he has no sympathy for the obese, slothful, the diabetic who lets his diabetes go.  That guy's a loser and deserves all the bad things coming to him.

But I bet he's never had to look that man or his wife in the eyes and say, "Hey, you lived for the moment. Well, now you're getting what you deserve."

Mr. Ryan doesn't want to make the young and the healthy support the old and the infirm. That's not fair.

It's those liberal Democrats who the undeserving, dissolute poor have wrapped around their fingers. It's the Democrats who said, "Look, people do not plan ahead. So we'll make them plan ahead--we'll force them to take a little out of each paycheck and we'll invest it so they can have social security and medical care when they get old."

The Democrats are the Party which looks at mankind and says, people are so caught up in the moment, they won't plan ahead, and we won't let their lack of planning become our problem 20 years later. 

The whole notion of Social Security is based on an appreciation of mankind's imperfections.  Medicare, too. These programs are based on the recognition that someone has to be the adult in the room and make the kids eat their spinach.

The Republicans are the parents with the rod in their hands. Go ahead, drop out of school, don't buy health insurance, don't save for retirement. When you come begging for health care and retirement don't bother.  We told you so.

What we have now is to see how that plays with the electorate.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Afghanistan Forever

Oh, joy, eternal war.
Well, at least it's not my sons fighting.
Without a Veil: Is She In Danger Now?

Teachers who dare educate girls are beheaded in front of the offending students.

But that's the other side, in Afghanistan.
Our side merely chains young boys to their bedposts in police stations, to hold them until night, for repetitive raping.
Women are chattel on the hoof, bought and sold.
Offended Her Husband

Muslims who are unrepentant murderers war with Muslims who simply enslave women and defile children. Muslims on both sides in Afghanistan say they get their ideas from their faith. That is Afghanistan, not Indonesia, where Muslims are nothing like this, except for the headscarves, or Dearborn, Michigan, where Muslims are just like other Americans. Muslims in Dearborn are no more like Muslims in Afghanistan than Christians in Portsmouth are like Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi.  
Taliban or Ally?  Who Can Tell?

Am I missing something? Why are American boys and girls, men and women in Afghanistan,  getting blown up, dismembered and traumatized?

Oh, we are denying safe haven to terrorists, are we? As if you could whack a mole in Afghanistan and he will not pop up in Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Egypt or Berlin?

The War on Drugs. The War on Terrorism. War without end, amen. 
Getting Ready for the Stoning

President Obama, our most thoughtful and articulate President since Lincoln noted:

"Make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.” 

He said this as he prepared to launch 30,000 American men and women to Afghanistan, where, as it turned out, they accomplished nothing positive.  They defeated no army, captured no capital, accepted no surrender, changed no society. There is almost nothing in common with the war against Hitler except both were violent and both wars fought the worst sorts of people. 

Violence is necessary to oppose evil; we must all agree to that. Where I part ways with Mr. Obama is where he chose to employ violence.  You would have to kill every last believer in Afghanistan to cauterize the source of violence there, because the source of violence there is belief, vile, unreasoning, self perpetuating belief.  Are we prepared to do that, to kill every last believer in Afghanistan?

She Offended Male Honor 

Let us not forget Islam may be a major source of violence in this century, but in prior centuries it was Christianity. Faith, unreasoning faith, used as the excuse for bad behavior and, often, Machiavellian designs.