Archive for the ‘Connecting the Dots’ Category.

Post-Truth: What to Do About It

I finished Post-Truth by Lee McIntyre and he came up with some recommendations which I will pass on here and then recommendedWeaponized Lies:  How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era by Daniel J. Levitin.  The second book is really about teaching critical thinking and I will say a little more in a few moments.

Mr. McIntyre gave us a trip through postmodernism that describes how Republicans have taken this philosophical point of view and applied it to truthiness (Colbert).  Now I happen to think this whole approach is ridiculous when applied to the physical world, but here are the tenants:

  1. They believe that objective truth is a philosophical hoax, the alternative, perspectivism, states that there is no one objective way the world is, only perspectives on what the world is like.
  2. That any profession of truth is nothing more than a reflection of the political ideology of the person who is making it.

You can see how reality is defined by how you feel about something and who has the power to make you feel that way is the embodiment of the post-truth Republicans.  This is unmitigated nonsense and the reason we know that is because reality finally bites back when you get it wrong.  But it is a powerful tool that is wielded by the Right to make people doubt science, which was used on tobacco, vaccines, intelligent design versus evolution, and of course global warming.  How reality bites back is the anti-vaccine group that were getting their equal time on the media to present a “balanced approach” until we had that outbreak of measles that was once an eradicated disease and it dawn on the news media that they were aiding and abetting real damage with pseudo science as an alternative viewpoint. You know, all opinions are equal until they very much are not.

People who think like this don’t really understand science as they think the scientific method is just another partisan look at things.  Science does not engage values, only facts, proven, repeatable, and verified facts.  “The strength of science is that it embraces an attitude of constantly checking one’s beliefs against the empirical evidence, and changing those beliefs as one learns what the facts are.” That would be the antithesis to Republican ideological thinking where the world must conform their ideology.

I think of science like an engineer.  You try to find out how something works.  Then you test the crap out of it, then you build a model that accurately predicts future behavior.  If it fails in any of these things, it gets canned.  That is why the global warming thing is so unfathomable to me.  The models are predicting exactly what is happening and we are ignoring them, why?  Rhetorical (ideology) is the answer).

Okay, how do we defeat brain-dead thinking and turn this ship around.  Is truth dead?  Note that 70% of Trump’s campaign statements were judged by PolitFact to be false and two-thirds of voters polled during the campaign said that trump was not trustworthy, yet he won the election.  Do people not care anymore?  Certainly as you continue to deny reality by voting your feelings, eventually you are going to get burned.  Coral Gables, Florida, in wonderful Red country, will be underwater in the next 20-30 years.  Much of Miami will be flooded. Maybe then global warming denial will fade out.  I have always said it is about the money.  When they feel the pinch, reality comes cascading in.

It turns out there are some things we can do, again based on research.  First we can teach our kids to think critically.  Mr. McIntrye gives an example of a teacher, Scott Bedley, in Irvine California, who is teaching his class how to spot fake news.  He gives them a rubric (I like to think algorithm) to test the claims.  He gives them five or six stories and the contest is on to find the fake news and they love it.  But think about.  Once the kids have been exposed to critical thinking in a fun way, it stays with them for life (Mr. Bedly has created a wonderful monster as they now fact check everything he says).  Should that not be a required in all schools?  Oh, and my apologies to conservatives.  It is not partisan if in fact most of what they find are conservative claims that are false.  That is the world we live in.  I will get more into this in a book Mr. McIntyre recommended (see above) for the rest of us in a future blog.

But here is what Mr. McIntyre recommended:

  • One must always fight back against lies.  If you let them lie there without rebuttal to be polite or not to dignify their nonsense, they will be believed the longer they are out there.
  • Confront fake news and lies so the purveyor can’t go from ignorance to willful ignorance.
  • Start fighting false equivalence in our news and fair and balance means both sides have an equal viewpoint.  Vaccine nuts are killing people and putting our children at risk.  Global warming will (and has with more powerful storms) kill people.  Intelligent design dumbs down our kids and makes them handicapped in a world where science and math are more and more important. If you don’t understand the basis of science, you will be lost in a world defined by science.
  • And here is the big one:  It turns out that even with people in the grips of partisan bias, confirmation bias, social conformity, and avoiding cognitive dissonance, when they see something enough, they actually do change.  Couple that with the bullet above, reality will hit them right smack in the face, and what we get is that if you don’t engage and disagree, politely, you are confirming their post-truth beliefs.  We have to take them on, all of them.

Okay, I will leave you with one last thing today from the introduction to Weaponized Lies about how we got here:

First, the language we use has begun to obscure the relationship between facts and fantasy [we need to call fake news lies as an example].  Second, this is a dangerous by-product of a lack of education in our country that has now affected an entire generation of citizens.

…There are not two sides to a story when one side is a lie.  Journalists – and the rest of us – must sop giving equal time to things that don’t have a fact based opposing view.

What weaponizes the lies is not the media nor Facebook.  The danger is in the intensity of that belief – the unquestioning overconfidence that it is true. Critical thinking trains us to take a step back, to evaluate facts and form evidence based conclusions,

…The most important component of the best critical thinking that is lacking in our society today is humility.  It is a simple yet profound notion:  If we realize we don’t know everything, we can learn.  If we think we know everything, learning is impossible.

Are your ears burning Senator Inhofe (Dunning-Kruger Effect)? He is the epitomy of ingnorance and being too ignorant to even understand how ignorant he is. It is why ideology is so dangerous especially when we introduce faith-based thinking into the real world.  More after I have read more and thought about it.


I was watching Fareed Zakaria on Sunday (Global GPS on CNN) and he recommended his book of the week (poor man does not know it takes me forever to read a book because I have to highlight everything). It was Post-Truth from the MIT’s Essential Knowledge Series. And now I am recommending it to you. If you are trying to figure out how so many people have so many things wrong, and when presented with the actual facts, reject them, here is the whole story, some of which impeaches all of us.

I have argued ad infinitum about using facts, data, and science to determine our policies and effective ways forward. For me it is so hard to understand why this is hard. I like to think that when I am presented with data that shows there is a better way, I am not bound by ideology to reject that idea and move forward. I would like to think that my training as an engineer and then as a project manager has taught me to solve problems by listening, engaging other’s, and being focused on the solution, not an ideology that only allows a certain way to see the world. What I found reading this little tome was I need to be on guard from myself. But I get ahead of myself.

The book is about why we have always had the tendency to believe what we want to believe (Motivated Reasoning and Confirmation Bias) and reject things that impact our view of ourselves as wise and smart (Avoiding cognitive dissonance), but why facts and science today are really under a total attack. The author takes us back to big tobacco and how they attacked and raised false questions about the cancer and tobacco connection and how that set up the play book for what we see today with global warming.

There is a great quote from Newt Gingrich about truth is what the majority of people feel about something, not the actual facts. This came up when a reporter challenged him on Trump’s statements about rising crime everywhere when in fact it was the lowest it has been in 40 years. Gingrich countered with that is not how people feel, and that is the real truth.

“As a political candidate, I’ll go with how people feel and let you go with the theoreticians.”

Think about that. Do we build more prisons because people feel there is more crime, but have no one to put in them? People feel, because of the tactics of false information and false equivalency arguments, that global warming is not a problem, and that is the truth even as the ocean rises and cities are inundated? That is where we are. When a poll is taken to decide if global warming exists, we have lost our way.

So we have a whole industry on the right built around the model of the tobacco companies’ tactics, a media feeling they have to present both sides (false equivalency) to be fair, and a well-funded lobby industry that casts doubt on science and data because it is in either their ideological or monetary interests to do so, and the result is a truly dumbed down population that elected a man who blatantly lies and no one cares. Now the author goes into great detail about how all this happend, but the best part is to recognize why we all are susceptible to believing what we want to and checking our critical brain at the door. I will summarize some of those processes:

  • Avoiding psychic discomfort (Cognitive Dissonance) – Nobody wants to face the reality that they got something totally wrong. We then live in enclaves that reinforce our beliefs. “When we feel psychic discomfort we are motivated to find a non-ego-threatening way to reduce it, which can lead to the irrational tendency to accommodate our beliefs and to our feeling instead of the other way around.”
  • Confirmation Bias – We seek out only “facts” that confirm what we want to believe, and ignore all others.
  • Social Conformity – See above, we want to conform to what others are telling us to not be the odd man out
  • Backfire Effect  – This one is interesting.  When you present evidence that a politically expedient belief is wrong, that evidence is rejected and they double down.  It causes some (conservatives) to increase the strength of their mistaken belief.  I have seen this one on global warming all the time. Studies to date were unable to show a back-fire effect with liberal partisans, but they still had the same tendency to hold on to their belief, but it did not strengthen that mistaken belief.
  • Dunning-Kruger Effect – Simply stated, too stupid to know they are stupid effect.  Or said another way, “the greatest inflation in one’s assessment of one’s own ability comes from the lowest performers” (interesting study on LSAT testing).
  • Negativity Bias – Conservatives have been tested to be more prone to believe threatening falsehoods than liberals do.  This is my belief that conservative have been shown to be more fearful people and research shows that the fear-based amygdala tends to be larger in conservatives than in liberals

So we are challenged because we believe what we want to believe, we gather evidence selectively to support that view, and then our psyche is tied to being right.  There are a couple of things we can see today that multiply this, social media and news stovepipes that focus on one point of view.  We know that when people meet in groups of divergent points of view to solve a problem, they do much better than a single person because their ideas are examined and challenged.  In our increasing economic unequal society everyone is being pushed into homogeneous groups which affects our ability to challenge our thinking, and hear differing points of view (or understand and experience empathy).

The author makes a couple of statements that are probably true, but my own biases resists it.  The first is that MSNBC was just as biased as Fox.  I take this on because we were living in a time when the conservatives had taken over mainstream media by false equivalency, intimidation, and there had to be sanity thrown back into the system by the left when they were being out shouted on other channels.  The he said/she said news interview disadvantage reasonable discourse. One does have to remember that facts really do have a liberal bias, so what may seen as bias was simply ending the false equivalence.

The second thing the author alleged is that when comedy (Jon Stewart) became the main source of news for many people, it had a bias that ridiculed news and made fake news more believable.  I simply think this is nonsense.  Jon Stewart kept me sane as we lived through the insanity of the Iraq war and the manipulation of the media.  He was the first to pick off lying politicians by doing the research and showing the video.  He made it harder for either side to lie and showed mainstream news the way.  The fact that it was more about conservative lying and hypocrisy than liberal is because, while both are guilty, conservatives have taken it to a new height.

I still have a lot to read, but you get the gist and that if we want to be a more science, data, and research based society, we have to recognize our own biases and fight them.  I try.  But there is also that feeling that is supported by what we see everyday, you point out the fake news and the lies and it makes no difference.  Back to Newt Gingrich and echoed by Kellyanne Conway (feelings are more important than facts and presenting alternative facts is quite acceptable), we have a large population who can’t see the forest for the trees. I don’t know yet how to fight that, but maybe if I finish the book I will.

Fireworks as a Distraction

When I came back from my tour in Southeast Asia, fireworks made me nervous. Those last night in Syria appear to be a show for PR and nothing else. I don’t think it made anyone nervous. I know something of air warfare, at least back in the day, and the first thing you do is take out their defenses, you know Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) and Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA). Then you have the freedom to hit targets and do real damage. I don’t think we hit one defense system. What does that tell you? Damage this morning was noted as minimal and some analysts in the Middle East say that we actually handed a win to Assad, the Russians, and the Iranians. See, America is all about smoke and mirrors.

So what was the point? What did we accomplish? Well, for the weak-minded President DFF’s base, we keep our word about red lines. See, he is tough. But did we just make things worse? And the answer to that question is what is a viable strategy for Syria. I hate Assad right up there with the best of them, but we have to have a plan of what comes after if we really want to up the ante as apparently John Bolton wanted to do. Note we have no Secretary of State or major ambassadors in most of the countries over there, so all we got is a hammer. Remember shock and awe in Iraq that got us here?

So if I am going to criticize, what would I offer as what should our strategy be? That depends. I would start strategy meetings about what should be our policy and what is the blow-back with people who know the area (and some of our allies). Should we confront Russia now or can we hope that, a la Afghanistan, they get worn out? How about Iran? If we don’t want a larger conflagration, what does our appeasement (pin pricks for show) get us? So there has to be a larger strategy here than if you use chemicals, we will hit you, but if you kill millions using conventional weapons, then okey dokey. Oh, and we care about all the innocent children killed, but we don’t accept immigrants from your area. So sad…

I think we need a strategy that makes sense, sell it to Congress to get authorization, and then have contingency plans in place so we can react immediately if that is what our plan requires. If we think Assad will eventually fall, and Russia will be drawn into warfare between the Sunnis and Shiites (that is still what this is about), maybe we do nothing but try to provide humanitarian assistance as the most efficacious way forward. If we think Russia and Iran might use Syria as a launching point to support weakening Saudi Arabia and the Sunnis, which could then result in an all out war, then maybe it is time now to confront both. Russia just seems to be emboldened with our failure to take any action.

Whatever the policy is, it needs to be an informed one that we share with the American people so they are not lulled to sleep by a fireworks display that does nothing. But of course, expecting a rational policy with real costs and benefits out of this administration is a pipe dream. This administration is all about the PR game, not the best interest of the country. So President DFF looked tough and talked tough, and maybe made things a lot worse, but who cares if his base is molified and it distracted from his domestic problems? That was really what all that was about last night.

Friday’s Things

You could start your morning with one of the best summaries of the collapse of the Republican Party and Paul Ryan with Will Wilkerson’s NYT article. His description of how establishment politics, and Ryan’s economic politics in general, were totally ineffectual for the heartland, and that led to the rise of Trump.

Mr. Trump spotted opportunity in the injured dignity of the Republican base and the feckless irrelevance of the establishment’s agenda. He told Republicans shaken by the reality and risk of downward mobility that they were the only Americans who counted, and that they had been cheated and betrayed.

He promised never to cut their Social Security or Medicare, and expressed admiration for single-payer health care. He took their side against immigrant rapists, murderous jihadis, plundering trade deals, dangerous city people and disloyal, condescending elites of all parties and persuasions. He promised to use his billionaire superpowers to rig the economy to their advantage. It didn’t matter that he is a transparently corrupt, bigoted, sexually abusive, compulsive liar. He offered the dignity of recognition, promised to fight, and won.

Or you could flick over to Paul Krugman, who described the reality of who and what Paul Ryan represented (flimflam man) and how we got there, as with so many disasters we have encountered in recent times, false equivalency:

Even now, in this age of Trump, there are a substantial number of opinion leaders — especially, but not only, in the news media — whose careers, whose professional brands, rest on the notion that they stand above the political fray. For such people, asserting that both sides have a point, that there are serious, honest people on both left and right, practically defines their identity.

…And let me say that the same bothsidesism that turned Ryan into a fiscal hero played a crucial role in the election of Donald Trump. How did the most corrupt presidential candidate in American history eke out an Electoral College victory? There were many factors, any one of which could have turned the tide in a close election. But it wouldn’t have been close if much of the news media hadn’t engaged in an orgy of false equivalence.

Or you could read about Jim Comey’s new book about what a lying sack of sh*t President DFF is, but we already knew that especially from his comeback, “untruthful slime ball.” Or you could look at his attack and new panel to investigate the Post Office. Or you could ponder Syria the the non-attack to teach them a lesson. Or you could ponder our new foray into the TPP when the reality of a trade war dawns on President DFF. Or you could read about the investigation of Cohen’s office and what and where the investigation might go. Timothy Egan has a great fun piece on the wasted money our taxes are paying for under the drain the swampy DFF’s administration. Roger Cohen gives another great piece about the parallels of Hitler and President DFF (I wrote the other day of Madeleine Albright’s article on the same topic).

But in all this noise and cacophony, what is getting done? Where is the great discussion about the real problems that face us and rational approaches to our future? It is all getting lost in the chaos of Trump and the nation has slid to a stop. That is the real damage as we wait on the debate for the way forward. Take Syria. So we strike, after that what? Withdraw? What is the end game and what is the strategy? Take economic inequality. How do we create better jobs and more equitably share the profits so we all prosper? Bring back coal jobs that aren’t coming back? Take the TPP, again what is our strategy? The TPP did many fine things, but also lowered environmental standards and made economic inequality grow. Think President DFF has a plan? Think he cares about those things? Take global warming. Oh, why do I bother.

We are now living in a global economy and there is no going back. Our problems are large and looming and we are lost in the chaos of the china broken in the china shop by the bull called Trump. Republicans are in disarray because their ideology has failed and the guy who promised win-lose and white nationalism is just making things worse. Democrats under Hillary (the establishment), while better, did not really face the problems we have realistically with the same old patches to a failing economic system (if you live in fly over country). Move to the coast and code was not realistic. So where is out discussion of the way forward?

No we are chasing smoke and mirrors right now thrown up by the chaos that is President DFF and his defenders, but sooner or later, we really do have to face our problems like burgeoning debt. Oh, dare I say it, we need smart programs and pay for them. No more party of free rides from flow down. Where is the discussion of that? I have offered my vision, but we have to transition and that begins when we actually debate these things with real facts and data, not ideological objections. That is what we are missing and as much as I enjoy watching the noose tighten around President DFF and the Republican’s necks, just putting Democrats back in power, while reinstating the rule of law, does not answer the big questions that we need to debate. Until then I will be waiting.

*Just a note. I will not be waiting. I will be discussing them here and all three readers can get a glimpse of what we must face. There is a new book out there that I think is an important read if you want to get ahead of me, Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism by Robert Kuttner. Really the question is how do we change capitalism so democracy can survive and flourish not just for a few, but for all of us.

The Fantasy is Over

That fantasy is the one where some of our citizens believe the Republicans, or in this case, traditional conservatives have anything to offer this country. Specifically, that we get a free ride by just cutting taxes for the wealthy. When Paul Ryan, who, make no mistake, was one of the biggest con men of all times, decided to step down, it was obvious that conservative ideology was dead. That ideology was self-discipline taken to fantasy levels. Nothing wrong with self-discipline until you get into the blame game. It was the view from Ayn Rand that as E.J. Dione put it this morning:

She identified with society’s winners and regarded ordinary citizens as moochers and burdens on the creative and the entrepreneurial.

Although Ryan gave warm speeches about compassion, his biggest fear was not that the poor might go without food or health care but, as he once said, that the “safety net” might “become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.”

…If the wealthy did best when given positive incentives in the form of more money, the less fortunate needed to be prodded by less generous social policies into taking responsibility for their own fate.

Ryan was always about two things, tax cuts for the wealthy and slashing the safety net to pay for them. Oh, and he complained bitterly about the deficit. But note he just worked hard to get that tax cut for the wealthy, while crashing the budget. His budgets, which the press corps used to swoon over (“wonky conservatism”) because he used big words, charts, and graphs, never added up without massive cuts to social programs, always with the magic asterisk for growth from tax cuts that never ever happen.

The self-discipline thing is what is at the bottom of every Republican’s little brain, you too would be rich if you just worked hard you lazy scum, which anecdotally you can find examples, but in the broader society is false. Their total approach has always been to make that proposition, just exercise self-discipline, almost impossible for the disadvantaged through tax cuts for the wealth and cutting government programs that actually might help level the playing field.

Now with Ryan claiming he accomplished what he could and leaving the House, we are left with this from WaPo writer Karen Tumulty:

Ryan’s announcement Wednesday that he will not run for reelection represents a bright distress flare illuminating the seriousness of the predicament into which President Trump has plunged his party.

No Karen, President DFF just shined a light on the hollowness of their ideas. Make no mistake, Republicans did this to themselves. It is becoming clear that there is not a conservative intelligencia that has anything to offer anyone today. Ryan shot his wad, said he could not also gut the safety net because of those immoral Democrats (and many of his fellow Republicans who got an earful when they tried to end Obamacare), and there was nothing left to do. I have argued before and I will argue again, they have no economic strategy except cut taxes, cut government, and cut regulations. In todays complex world and growing economic inequality, these ideas are a disaster for most of us.

What Ryan’s withdrawal signifies is that the fantasy at the core of Republican ideology that tac cuts for the rich works for all Americans is finally dead, and we are left with the crazies, conspiracy theorists, nativists, and racists. My what a Grand Old Party. Make no mistake, Trump was simply the final destination that the Republicans have been on for a long, long time. Once you eschew facts, science, and data to inform your ideological beliefs, reality bites back. If you are not growing and changing with new insights, you are losing ground*. To see Ryan, Republicans, and Evangelicals fall all over Trump is to see the hypocrisy and degeneracy of their beliefs.  They have no morals.

For the Democrats sake, and I think a lot of young New Democrats (Progressives) get it, the strategy is to take into account how past policies have increased economic inequality while leaving too many people behind. You don’t throw off capitalism, you harness it for all of us (just the opposite of what Ryan believes, you throw off harnesses). We have data from the Northern European countries that shows that a strong safety net (and paying taxes to support it) actually increases social mobility and innovation because people are willing to take more chances and change. It also brings more people into the competitive mix.

In that vein we can’t just blow off the survivors of the rust belt as stupid and foolish as they are for voting for President DFF. We have to have a plan to help them transition. Most people can’t or won’t move and it is government’s job to help them find their economic way forward, to become self-sufficient again. President DFF did just that with a giant con, that their jobs would be coming back. With the looming collapse of the Republicans, who have nothing to offer anyone but a fantasy about coal and re-industrializing the rust belt, it is becoming clear, Democrats and especially Progressives have to offer a new way forward. That includes responsible taxes to pay for what we need.

All that is assuming President DFF doesn’t do something really stupid to end democracy as we know it. That may be coming as Republicans show they have no stomach for impeachment and will take no action to restrain him. Like I said, they got nothing.

*This applies to many religions too. It turns out that like economic ideology, the law of god has to be updated from time to time as we find out how wrong the sand people were.

Let’s Not Lose the Thread

The part about President DFF being a con artist, sexual abuser, bully, and general low-life is not news. Well it was back in 2016, but we have so many walking brain dead people that it fell on deaf ears (or missing brains). The FBI search of Michael Cohen’s office and home is to follow crimes, probably authorized by the Con-in-Chief, but they relate to “bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations related to payoffs made to women, including a porn actress, who say they had affairs with the president before he took office and were paid off and intimidated into silence.” The thread we must not lose is the connection to the Russians.

We are starting to see how President DFF works and it may be the same way the Russians work. The real investigation is did the Russians snare President DFF with loans from oligarchs (really a money laundering operation) and then use that leverage to gain his support. Let’s face it, by all evidence, he is their boy, attacks on Syria aside. On the Syria thing, where are the attacks, and like the last time, does Russia get a pass and everyone knows what is going to be hit before he puts on his show?

No, while Manafort and others wait prosecution on sleazy money laundering and illegal lobbying, and a little bit of the swamp gets exposed, the real investigation is where Manafort played in President DFF’s election and what collusion went on with the Russians. Manafort has not flipped, so behind the scenes Mueller is following the money trail. And that, I think is where the real story is. President DFF has always been a con artist, capitalizing on bravado, threats, litigation, and bankruptcy to further his “empire”. Now none of that is supposition, but based on following his “glorious” real estate business and how he stiffed his contractors and workers.

And in the end it was never about making money off properties by their income, but borrowing for the next venture, in a way a giant Ponzi scheme (Not proven, but will be if we ever see his tax returns). And in that giant Ponzi scheme was the crack the Russians could exploit. Again not proven yet, but coming. We do know that starting back in the late 90s, banks cut off President DFF and his family’s supply of loans and they turned to the Russians for fresh cash. At that point I think the Russians were looking to launder money and had as the intelligence community calls them, a useful idiot on the hook. From there, I think it just got deeper. Again, not proven yet, but there are certainly bread crumbs.

So the trick here is to find the money trail, connect it to President DFF and then all the rest follows, the rest being collusion with the Russians during the campaign, his failure to take a true hard stand against the Russian aggressions, and then of course, obstruction of justice which at this point is obvious. As an aside, it is interesting to note that the NRA was also played as useful idiots, as they laundered money for the Russians in support of Trump. Greed and lust for power creates multitudes of useful idiots.

So that is the real thread in all this. We already know President DFF is a total sleaze and should be nowhere near the Presidency, but the idiots in Red States, having their brains eaten by Fox News and Right wing radio, put him in power. The real question is whether Republicans, when the real Constitution Crisis comes, will do anything. I don’t believe they will. With Paul Ryan now out of the Congressional race, November could be a land slide for Democrats who will do something about him. What that says my friends, is that we are entering really, really dangerous times when desperate men will do desperate things.

I would like to add one aside here. Some people truly terrified by Trump have suggested violence to solve this problem. It is the lesson of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Trump was elected by our democratic process, albeit swayed by the Russians and a misguided FBI Direction James Comey. That in itself should require us to have a new election, but there is no process for that. To remove him by any other means than those afforded to us by our Constitutional system is to destroy the Constitution itself, or as Mark Antony said in Julius Caesar, “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”

Who Said it Best

Sometimes someone says something that is so on point that no comment is necessary. Here is Madeleine Albright on the danger Fascism and President DFF:

Instead of mobilizing international coalitions to take on world problems, he [President DFF] touts the doctrine of “every nation for itself” and has led America into isolated positions on trade, climate change and Middle East peace. Instead of engaging in creative diplomacy, he has insulted United States neighbors and allies, walked away from key international agreements, mocked multilateral organizations and stripped the State Department of its resources and role. Instead of standing up for the values of a free society, Mr. Trump, with his oft-vented scorn for democracy’s building blocks, has strengthened the hands of dictators. No longer need they fear United States criticism regarding human rights or civil liberties. On the contrary, they can and do point to Mr. Trump’s own words to justify their repressive actions.

At one time or another, Mr. Trump has attacked the judiciary, ridiculed the media, defended torture, condoned police brutality, urged supporters to rough up hecklers and — jokingly or not — equated mere policy disagreements with treason. He tried to undermine faith in America’s electoral process through a bogus advisory commission on voter integrity. He routinely vilifies federal law enforcement institutions. He libels immigrants and the countries from which they come. His words are so often at odds with the truth that they can appear ignorant, yet are in fact calculated to exacerbate religious, social and racial divisions. Overseas, rather than stand up to bullies, Mr. Trump appears to like bullies, and they are delighted to have him represent the American brand. If one were to draft a script chronicling fascism’s resurrection, the abdication of America’s moral leadership would make a credible first scene.

Equally alarming is the chance that Mr. Trump will set in motion events that neither he nor anyone else can control. His policy toward North Korea changes by the day and might quickly return to saber-rattling should Pyongyang prove stubborn before or during talks. His threat to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement could unravel a pact that has made the world safer and could undermine America’s reputation for trustworthiness at a critical moment. His support of protectionist tariffs invites retaliation from major trading partners — creating unnecessary conflicts and putting at risk millions of export-dependent jobs. The recent purge of his national security team raises new questions about the quality of advice he will receive. John Bolton starts work in the White House on Monday.

…To me, greatness goes a little deeper than how much marble we put in our hotel lobbies and whether we have a Soviet-style military parade. America at its best is a place where people from a multitude of backgrounds work together to safeguard the rights and enrich the lives of all. That’s the example we have always aspired to set and the model people around the world hunger to see. And no politician, not even one in the Oval Office, should be allowed to tarnish that dream.

The fact the Middle America and Red States in general don’t get this just boggles my mind.

More Things

Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, who was clearly there to dismantle the agency and make it a lap dog of corporations, oh, and don’t forget denying science, is in hot water over his ethical failures, and the latest, trying to fire or sideline those that have tried to call out his lapses. Now think about this. He was the elected Attorney General from Oklahoma. You know, the guy who enforces the laws. Now you understand the teacher strike there. The teachers do not want to be part of a government system that produces mindless morons like Pruitt or the people who put him in power. They want their kids to be able to think. Now Oklahoma is Redder than Red so any parallels you want to draw about voting for Trump, failed conservatism, and dumber than a brick are more than appropriate.

Here in River City (Sacramento) the Stephon Clark protests go on. As I wrote before, this is a tragedy, the cops executed this guy, and nothing is going to happen because the laws favor the police. And I can kind of understand the black communities anger, as much as any white dude can. But what they are doing is counterproductive. Sure Martin Luther King Marched, but he was fighting for equality and voter rights. He was trying to be lawful in a morally and ethical way and yet let police demonstrate their brutality and hatred.

The Sacramento demonstrators, sadly made up of mostly just the black community, are disrupting the community demanding the police officers be charged which, of course, they are not going to be. Totally wrong focus that highlights them against us mentality that then alienates the community. The proof, very, very sadly, is in a story that noted that a nurse fired for her racist comments saying Stephon Clark got what he deserved, had raise $25,000 on GoFundMe. African-Americans have real grievances and they are a special case, there is systematic racism, but to win this battle, they have got to quit making it about them as a special case. Strange how that works.

Michelle Goldberg wrote a really interesting piece this morning about QAnon, which I had never heard of, but where apparently the Trump faithful including Roseanne Barr get their fantasies about Trump. Apparently it is a site created to push the fantasy that all the chaos and incompetence you see is really all part of a brilliant secret plan to make things better with all the secret programs going on:

You don’t create a wild fantasy about your leader being a covert genius unless you understand that to most people, he looks like something quite different. You don’t need an occult story about how your side is secretly winning if it’s actually winning. Publicly, many right-wing politicians and pundits disdain the Mueller investigation and pretend to believe that Trump’s ties to Russia are negligible. But among part of the Trump base, the effort to explain them away appears to be creating psychic strain.

“You cannot possibly imagine the size of this,” said a Q dispatch last month. “Trust the plan. Trust there are more good than bad.” Q almost certainly doesn’t know any state secrets, but he, she, or they understand that some fervent Trump supporters require more reassurance than they’re willing to admit. Their desperate conviction that they will be proven right about Trump betrays a secret fear that they will be proven wrong.

It is amazing what people will do to not think and try to support what they want to believe. Had they been in charge, we would still think the sun revolved around the earth and voodoo medicine works.

Now and finally in the category of lying sack of shit, here is a summary of fact checks from President DFF’s statements yesterday. You will note that most of this is either a racist rant (be afraid, they will rape your women) to absolute lies about a myriad of issues:

“You remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower when I opened, everyone said oh he is so tough and I used the word rape. And yesterday, it came out where, this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before.”

Now this is such an unmitigated lie and attempt at racial fear mongering.  Implicit here is Mexicans coming across the border will rape your white women.  Of course that is a lie, but similar to what Southern politicians did back in the 60s in regard to black men.  Then he tried to make it about the Caravan, except there is no known rapes among or by the Caravan people, and let’s just clear the air here.  Those people in the Caravan are coming to the border to turn themselves in and ask for political asylum.  They faced rape, murder, and the children being abducted in their home country due to drug gangs whose livelihood we support by our need for drugs, so they did what any loving parent would do.  He turns them into rapists and murders.  What a pig.

He then repeated the lie about chain immigration:

 “If you have a baby on our land congratulations, that baby is a United States citizen. We are the only ones…So this guy because he is here can get the Mother and the Father and the Grandmother and the cousins and the brother.”

This is another blatant lie.  In theory it would work, but each link in the chain takes years, sometimes decades to approve and get in the country.  The waiting list for a typical family is over 12 years.  It does not happen, another strawman. Here are some more from the NYT:

“They used to call it tax reform. And for 40 years, they couldn’t pass anything and they didn’t know why.”

False. Tax cuts were passed under Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Read more here.

“We had a trade deficit of almost $500 billion last year with China.”

This is exaggerated. The American trade deficit with China was closer to $400 billion in 2017. Read more here.

“In many places, like California, the same person votes many times. You probably heard about that. They always like to say, ‘Oh, that’s a conspiracy theory.’ Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people, and it’s very hard because the state guards their records.”

This is false. There have been no credible allegations of fraudulent voting at anything close to this scale during the 2016 election. Read more here.

“We have very weak laws because of the Democrats,” the president said, adding, “We had very, very weak laws. We have the worst laws — you ever think catch-and-release, which we’re terminating very quickly.

False. Mr. Trump is referring to a practice, not a law, where detained immigrants are released until court proceedings because of legal and logistical constraints. It has occurred under Republican and Democratic administrations alike, including under Mr. Trump. Read more here.

Conclusion:  President DFF is a lying sack of shit and the people who believe in him are deluded morons.  How is that for direct?  See Michelle Goldman above for how they delude themselves with a secret agenda even though he looks like a moron, walks like a moron, and talks like a moron.  If you want to be afraid, he is the one you should be afraid of.  Have a great weekend.  Carpe Diem.

Living in a Land of Self-Created Chaos and Fear

One might want to know why we are sending troops to the border, or starting a trade war, or creating a DACA crisis, or ping-ponging on Syria policy, or gutting highly successful EPA programs to cut carbon emissions, or threatening to veto the budget and then not doing it, or going to nuke Korea and then talk, or sanction Russia, and then invite der leader here, or why go to war with states over emission standards, or… Well you get the idea.

Yesterday I wrote about straw men, which I called false crises so that then takes all our time and effort to address, when there was no crisis to begin with. Note that the economy and employment were all trending up before President DFF became president and now we have seen wild swings in the stock market and a looming trade war. People appointed to run different parts of the government appear to have one and only one agenda, dismantle that agency. Chaos ensues, and nothing positive changes. Ethics, which remember how he wanted to drain the swamp, be damned.  See Scott Pruitt slurping at the trough,

Do we have one smart well thought out policy from the DFF’s administration? Rhetorical. And anyone competent is abandoning ship. Did you see the new nominee for Interior? Hates the endangered species act. Let’s kill all the animals. Oh, where is Shakespeare today? Lawyers are fine, but tree huggers die.  I think people wanted change, not chaos. I think that might be the way they vote in November. But note that even if that happens it will take years to repair the damage as the DFF drives the intelligence and experience capital out of government.

But I think there must be some method in the madness. And of course there is. Over the years I have read so many analyses of what makes people think bizarre thoughts and selectively picks their facts to support those bizarre thoughts. Why do seemingly intelligent people make such bizarre and stupid choices?  Why do you (I) marry your (my) first wife.  There was a need there that drives us to do something stupid and to see the world as we want to instead of how it is.

Thomas Edsall did a summary of that this morning in the NYT and if you slug through it, basically liberals are outgoing and do not fear change (or by extension of being outgoing, do not fear change), and conservatives are just the opposite.  I have described that more simply as fearfulness.  Conservatives are more fearful and therefore they “conserve”.  When the world is changing around them, they reinvent reality to maintain the status quo, no matter how unfair, flawed or ineffective. Their fear drives their selfishness and their lack of gratitude for their favored position.

But this all leads to an effect with conservatives, authoritism (intolerance is another way to think about authoritism).  Remember those early discussions years ago about  the partisan divide could be described in the models of a family.  Conservatism is based on a strict father model, while liberalism is more centered on a nurturing parent model.  Well, that is just authoritism and defining the world in strict boundaries that do not change with time.

I go back to the root cause, as I assume it.  Conservatives have two things going on.  They lack empathy, and they are fearful.  Both I think are innate.  It can be changed by experience and upbringing, especially if you are raised in a diverse culture.  But that is not the trends we see developing in increasing economic inequality.  And with that increasing economic inequality comes a world reality that is rapidly changing.  Conservatives not only fear that change, but reinvent reality to say the status quo is just fine.

Remember when I asked you if there was method to their madness?  Of course there is, they are playing the fear card with the fearful.  Fear clouds your thinking. Keep the masses fearing ever-growing threats and you distract them from policies that do not improve their lot.  To me, that is why Red states vote Red even though it hurts their and their children’s future.

Look at how red states have gutted education, damning their children, while the facts show that the better educated coastal urban centers are doing just fine in the changing economy.  The are eating their young because of false political ideology.They are distracted from that reality by fear the hordes at the border, Democrats will rape and pillage, women who have rights might exert their right to be equal, and false facts like President DFF has fixed the economy when it was not broke, don’t let Democrats wreck it again (Bush doesn’t exist).

President DFF is terrified of the Mueller investigation and the looming trade war.  He is hearing his base is unhappy that he is not fulfilling his misbegotten promises.  And those he is fulfilling are not working as expected.  So it is time to gin up the fearful.  If Republicans desert the ship, he is toast.  So we are in for the DFF’s campaign for President, replayed.  But this time I don’t think it is going to play as well.

Remember, he and some Republicans had help from the Russians and FBI Director Comey which allowed him to squeak out the election.  That is not going to work this time.  It is always about the money and who, in the end, fattens your pot.  Conservative ideas have run their course and been outdated by an ever-changing world.  We are now getting a real world example of how failed they are and how corrupt is the Republican Party. November will matter.

It’s the Economy Stupid

Basically much of America is brain-dead. No, they are not like zombies, but definitely mesmerized by conservative propaganda. One writer gave us this yesterday about their favorite source of news:

Fox News continues to market itself as a legitimate news operation, but legitimate news operations don’t spew conspiracy theories, attack African American athletes, mimic President Trump’s fake facts and malicious attacks, ignore actual news when it is not favorable to Trump or fan the flames of xenophobia. It is increasingly difficult to understand why advertisers want their products associated with an outlet that does more to polarize Americans and wage war on objective reality than Fox.

But it makes no difference to point out all this, their eyes glaze over and we get the disruption defense. “President DFF is a different kind of leader and he leads with disruption. Change, ain’t it great?” But as I have opined here before, conservative ideas are failed ideas and once it hits them in their pocketbook, there will be a wake up call. Sadly with a brain-dead Middle America (See Roseanne for the classic example), all that talks, and maybe all that has ever talked is money. Well the money is about to talk.

In an op-ed by Robert Leonard about what is happening in Iowa, he pointed out how pocketbooks in Middle America are starting to feel the pinch from the Disruptor in Chief.

Donald Trump won over 60 percent of the 2016 vote in rural Iowa, where I live, and I haven’t heard much concern from Republicans over the president’s alleged infidelities with a porn actress, his ties to Russia or Jared Kushner’s real estate shenanigans.

Or, for that matter, much concern about the administration scandals about wife beaters, Saudi princes, Ben Carson’s table or Scott Pruitt’s soundproof room. Many people don’t even know these scandals exist — they generally don’t lead in Sean Hannity’s or Tucker Carlson’s world.

Sure, there is a little rumbling about the increased deficit, but not much. Besides, it’s the fault of Congress, in particular the Democrats.

But then it gets interesting:

But people here — Republicans and Democrats alike — are paying great attention to what President Trump is doing economically, especially since he started in on tariffs. We have a strong manufacturing base in our county; when tariffs on aluminum and steel were announced, local manufacturing leaders tried to be diplomatic, praising the Trump tax cuts but saying the steel and aluminum tariffs would hurt their businesses by driving costs up.

One smaller manufacturer — a Trump voter — told me that his costs to produce his product nearly doubled overnight, and that his business has already been hurt by the tariffs. Prices didn’t rise only after the tariffs were announced; they started rising when Mr. Trump floated the idea.

But it’s the farm economy that rural Iowans are paying particular attention to. When the president first proposed a 20 percent import tax on Mexico to pay for his wall, Iowans objected: Mexico is our second-largest export partner after Canada.

Mr. Trump has waffled on the renewable fuel standard before — ethanol is big around here — and Iowa’s entire congressional delegation and the governor’s office pressured him to renew it. We know he will waffle again, and potentially end it.

Most recently, when Mr. Trump imposed $60 billion in tariffs and sanctions against China, the Iowa Soybean Association said his action “poses an immediate and grave threat to their industry and Iowa agriculture.”

And guess what, the Chinese are now raising tariffs on pigs! Iowa is the largest pig raising state in the nation. They are so screwed. The author goes on to opine that this could just be the impetus to turn some Republican heads toward impeachment. I think there is a much larger lesson here.

First and foremost, how do you ignore all that was President DFF when he was a candidate and he said he was going to do exactly what he is doing? My answer here is that the devil is in the details and most Middle America conservatives don’t want to look in the details for fear of what they will find, hence the need for Fox News to either change the subject, or create whole new “facts” so reality can be ignored (in the short-term).

Second is to understand how empathy, or lack thereof, plays a major role in how Republicans are Republicans. They easily shut out the rest of the world, and even their fellow citizens if they are doing fine. Then they define the rest as part of the problem so they do not have to examine those pesky details. I find it interesting, as Mr. Leonard pointed out, they still blame Democrats when they hold everything in government. It is classic denial.

I think empathy or the lack thereof is innate. We are born that way. I think if you really want to understand the real politics behind Republicans and Democrats, it is about empathy. Democrats say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Republicans say, “I deserved what I have, and look at all those lazy slugs around me that want something for free.” There was an interesting piece the other day about the fact that maybe gratitude may be a virtue highly underrated. Well, in Republican land, grateful hell! I earned it! Or God chose me. If you are suffering either you deserve it or God did not anoint you. Explains a lot about Evangelical support of Trump and rejection of real Christian virtues

Maybe that explains the fearfulness studies that show that conservatives tend to be more fearful. There is them and there is us. Lack of empathy is critical to the them part, and a belief that you are in a state of grace and have earned everything you have, allows you to see everyone us as them. I have been struggling to understand my conservative friends fo years and this is what I have witnessed. The most interesting part of all this is that they can have empathy if they experience some of the injustice they deny first hand. But it is very selective and focused on their experience.

So are we lost because they are all born this way*, helped along by Fox and all the right wing noise that  fills their 24/7? Nope. Back to the start of this blog. It is about the money. And President DFF is on his way to wrecking the economy. And changing him out with Mike Pence won’t change much. So sooner or later they are going to vote their pocketbooks. Democrats have to give them a reason to select the other team. That means directly addressing some of Middle America’s economic woes with something better than zones of entrepreneurship. It means Democrats have to throw off the clothes they were robed in by Right Wing noise. We have to make them understand that we understand that if we are going to prosper, they have to prosper to.

No, we are not probably ever going to cure their lack of empathy for their fellowman. Some people are just selfish to the core. But if we can make them start to realize that we are all in this together, and cutting out winners and losers results in losers for all of us, then it really will be a new day. Hope on a Monday.

*There have been some studies that show that if we were a more integrated society and had more first hand experience with “others”, some of our prejudices evaporate. See conservatives who have gay children. It is that personal experience I described above. Liberals don’t seem to need this as much as conservatives do. In many ways we got this experience when we lived in a more egalitarian society rubbing elbows with “others”, and read widely (getting the experiences of a world we could only imagine). But our trends today are away from reading, and growing economic inequality, segregating and isolating us as a society. Then the inmate tendencies run wild.