Sunday, June 19, 2016

IF--the unlikely upside if Hillary loses

Is it already too late to write about the possibility of Donald Trump winning the presidency? Trump has had some miserable weeks where he's said stupid shit for the whole country to hear and process. But before that happened, he and Hillary were nearly tied in the conglomerate poll average. At that time I started thinking about the benefits of a Trump presidency.

OK, I came up with one advantage. It would signal the end of the Clinton era. We wouldn't have to worry about Hillary running for another office, or listening to the infuriating reports of all the sleazy things she and Bill have done over the years. There has been a fair amount of sleaze. Off the top of my head, I can recall: cattle futures trading, travel office firings, Bill's sexual escapades, Bill lying about his sexual escapades, questionable pardons, private email server for personal secrecy reasons, and Clinton foundation payola.

Not too many other Democrats have a list that long. I started wondering whether I would have preferred Hillary to sit out this presidency race and instead go into a quiet retirement. Unfortunately, I still think she might have been the best candidate available this time. The likely alternative, if Hillary hadn't run, would have been Elizabeth Warren, who isn't exactly my favorite.

I'm still hoping that there are centrists in the Democratic Party and one of them will run for president at the next opportunity. But it isn't very likely. The centrists like Ron Wyden have been sidelined for so many years that few know about them. If anything, the party is split between progressives like Nancy Pelosi and even-further-left progressives like Bernie Sanders. Ugh. In a situation like this, Hillary is better, which a very sad commentary indeed.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

50 Shades of Trump

All orange!!!!

OK, that cliche is taken care of. On to the real topic.

Everyone is trying to sort out who Trump really is and what to do about him. I've read scads of interesting thoughts, and my browser tabs overfloweth. I must cram them all into one post, so here goes.

Theory 1. From Reason, a libertarian site, comes a rant about Trump being a demogogue and racist. Lots of good, pithy phrases here, such as "politics built on entirely on grievance," with no plan for governance.

Theory 2. From a left-leaning heavyweight thinker, a clear assessment of the biggest danger than Trump--his vindictiveness when he has the US Department of Justice under his control. Can Trump do this in the US of A where we have due process? Yes. He can make life miserable for the honest federal prosecutors, they quit, and he replaces them with his flunkies, who then sue or prosecute Trump's targets du jour. It's a nightmare. (If you're in a hurry when you read it, skip down to where he starts talking about the Department of Justice.)

Theory 3. Trump must lose and Trumpism must be defeated. This is from RedState. According to this author, Trump is a thoroughly awful person who lies, has no core principles, and is "capricious and dangerous." It's imperative to defeat him, but it has be done by someone who deserves the presidency and can lead the mistaken followers of Trump to a better path and a worthy path. Who can do that? Hahahaha, that's where the surprise is.

Theory 4. Also from RedState. The Supreme Court isn't enough of a reason to vote for Trump. Don't do it!!!!! Trump will cut deals with the Dems and true conservatism will be defeated again. No, conservatives must prevent Trump's nomination.

Theory 5. From Jonathan Chait, a riveting excoriation of Trump's lies and turn-abouts. Trump is so scary because he exempts himself from the norms of society when it comes to truth, his own past statements, and his vendettas against others.

Theory 6. This is not so much a theory as an interesting piece from HotAir. I visited the site to get their take on Trump. It wasn't particularly friendly. In this post, they fault Trump for his ego and compare it to Obama's ego.

Theory 7. Trump is a long-shot, but with this handy checklist, you can tell in advance if Trump will win. Written with a funny edge.

Theory 8. From the Daily Caller, Trump is "the cleansing forest fire... the great calamity we need" to clean the charlatans out of the conservative movement, including Trump himself. Still, the big question is; "Conservatives can decry the 'fascism' and 'demagoguery' of Trump all they want, but they need to understand why someone like that can run off with their party." Too bad the article doesn't even begin to answer that question.

Theory 9. I couldn't find much support for Trump in the mainstream conservative sites, so I ended up at this no-name site. Here, the theory is that Trump pushes back in just the way that the silent majority has prayed for. He's blunt, he tells it like it is, there are no boring policy papers that never pan out anyway, and he's a winner.

Theory 10. This one is very different. It looks at the polls of Trump versus Sanders, and notes that a poorly-known Democrat does pretty well against Trump. That doesn't bode well for Trump if he hopes to get Dems to cross over and vote for him. They don't seem overly disposed to do that.

Theory 11: Trump is less scary than another four years of Dems and their PC, agenda-controlling, intolerant white-male bashing.


Extras. I need a place to store this link. So here is Theory X: Trump is a conman and Trump University was one of his biggest cons. Still being litigated. Trump (as always) says the judge is unfair and also Mexican. The Trump "University" hard-sell playbook here.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Round-up on US healthcare costs

Today I was contemplating the ever-present problem of healthcare costs in the US. Why does it cost so much here? This article answered that question pretty well. However, it did sugarcoat a big problem:
"... the rest of the system consists, in essence, of a vast number of independent, entrepreneurial providers of health care services and marketers of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies who are free to set their fees and prices as they see fit."
What wasn't said here is that those 'entrepreneurial providers' have a big incentive to gouge as much as they can get away with. That would have been a clearer way to say it.

The next article is much plainer in its explanation, which is great. The comments are also helpful. The highlight here is on how the "I want it now" mentality escalates costs. This is also true.

Neither article dealt much with alternatives, or what a different but still workable system would look like. I would really like a national conference on this. We should look at all the systems in other countries, and pick one out and adopt it. That would mean junking our current system, and I guess I'm ready to do that.

The last article suggests that we adopt the system from Singapore. After reading about it, I have strong doubts that it would work here. Let me know if you share my doubts and why.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Devastating: Victim statement in the Stanford rape

A fair amount has been written about the convicted rapist in this case, and how his sentence was too short. Not enough has been written about the very powerful victim's statement. Yes, this is only from one side, but she is extremely detailed, compelling, and extremely logical.

The statement starts here after five paragraphs. Here's a powerful excerpt:
"The night after it happened he said he never planned to take me back to his dorm. He said he didn’t know why we were behind a dumpster. He got up to leave because he wasn’t feeling well when he was suddenly chased and attacked...
So one year later, as predicted, a new dialogue emerged. Brock had a strange new story, ... with kissing and dancing and hand holding and lovingly tumbling onto the ground, and most importantly in this new story, there was suddenly consent. One year after the incident, he remembered, oh yeah, by the way she actually said yes, to everything, so.
He said he had asked if I wanted to dance. Apparently I said yes. He’d asked if I wanted to go to his dorm, I said yes. Then he asked if he could finger me and I said yes. Most guys don’t ask, Can I finger you?..."
The statement is long, but worth reading to the end. As I said, devastating. 


Extra. More details on sentencing and the perpetrator's withdrawal from Stanford.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Short: Accusation about paid protesters

I don't have much time to write this. However, I want to get it on my blog. I've seen commenters say that the protesters against Trump, including the violent protesters, are paid by the DNC and/or left-wing groups.

To this accusation, I say WHERE IS YOUR PROOF? By that, I mean where is the strong evidence? Most commenters have no evidence. Some say that this is just like Wisconsin, where union protesters were bussed in and paid (I haven't verified it one way or another, but it sounds plausible). Or maybe it's just like all protests--they are all staged and managed!

Here are three articles on the protests in San Jose:

  • New York Times - protests were individually and locally organized.
  • Washington Times - assumption that the San Jose protests were organized by with little evidence provided.
  • Washington Free Beacon - following the money given to progressive organizations, implying that it buys violence.
So what evidence is there? From what I've seen, some progressive organizations pay organizers (as do conservative political groups).Some are involved in organizing protests. However I found no evidence that these paid organizers were involved in protest against Trump in Chicago or San Jose. 

So, if someone is going to claim violence was paid for, they better bring on the evidence, particularly the money trail. 


Predicting Trump's victory a year ago

OK, the headline is a bit of an exaggeration. The historian/researcher, Norm Ornstein, didn't predict Trump would be the nominee, but was well ahead of the curve in seeing the potential. In this article, Ornstein reports:
"Going back to last April and May [of 2015], every poll of Republicans showed 60-70 per cent support for outsiders and insurgent candidates and 20 per cent or less for establishment figures."
So, if Ornstein was right about this, maybe he has a good sense of what is wrong in the GOP. To paraphrase him from elsewhere in the article: GOP politicians made pie-in-the-sky promises, their constituents believed them, and the constituents are now driven by anger and disgust at those conventional GOP pols. Thus we have Trump.

In a different article (which centers mostly on Reince Priebus, national chairman of the GOP), we may see a hint of how Trump capitalized on this rage:
"He explained the genesis of his heterodox views. 'I'm not sure I got there through deep analysis,' he said. 'My views are what everybody else’s views are. When I give speeches, sometimes I’ll sign autographs and I’ll get to talk to people and learn a lot about the party... When I made my [announcement] speech at Trump Tower, the June 16 speech, I didn’t know about the Gang of Eight. … I just knew instinctively that our borders are a mess.'"
So perhaps Trump mostly channels the anger he hears from the Republican base. If so, by what means does he hear it? It is through careful discussions, focus groups, polling, broad reading in the media? [That's just a joke. I strongly doubt that Trump is methodical like that.] More likely it's through a hodge-podge of twitter, talk radio, and God knows what else. 

So what we have again is a politician making promises to the GOP base. Will Trump succeed where the others didn't? I'd like to say there isn't a chance in the world, but the world has been topsy-turvy for a while now. So perhaps I shouldn't predict anything. 


Update 7/19/16. Norm Ornstein has some more predictions in this article. I hope I remember to check them in a year or so. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Skewed news on violent protests

What do you imagine when you see headlines like this?
  • Protesters chase and attack Trump supporters after San Jose rally
  • Violence erupts at Trump's San Jose rally as protesters fight The Donald's supporters in ugly street brawls
I wanted to find out how accurate these reports were, and whether a few incidents were exaggerated to make it sound like a lot of violence had taken place. I focused on news stories with video so I could see for myself what occurred, with the caveat that the video wouldn't show me everything, including what happened beforehand and what the motivations were. 

The first video I saw showed anti-Trump protesters engaging with Trump supporters in fist fights. I can't tell who threw the first punch, but both sides seem to be eager to punch the other. There are also people trying to calm the situation down, and also a large number of people taking video. This doesn't look like an attack on peaceful Trump supporters by an overwhelming number of violent opponents. 

I looked at other video also, such as the woman covered with egg. She's smiling, reaching out, and waving as she's hit with other (light) thrown objects. She is far-outnumbered by anti-Trump supporters, but they don't appear to be trying to punch or beat her. Then, at the end, you get to see why she isn't fearful. There are several burly men that escort her back inside the building. My guess is that they're security guards for the rally. This woman probably went out an exit that was surrounded by anti-Trump protesters with the goal of goading them into violence. But the presence of the security detail and partial restraint by the crowd prevented violence (other than throwing eggs) at that location. Again, some actions were wrong, but not a lot else to condemn there. 

Finally, I found a report that covered a large number of incidents, including individuals or couplse harassed with punches and thrown bottles as they left the rally. Their cars were also damaged by protesters who followed them into a parking garage. 
  • A man with a green polo shirt and blood on his right ear. (He's shown pushing a protester, but was it someone who tried to punch him?)
  • A man in red shirt chased and tackled before he ran to safety at police. 
  • A man with white t-shirt tore and his chest exposed and mouth bloody. (A separate video here shows this man reaching out to punch someone. He was looking to fight and he got it.)
  • A woman in a print shirt had her sign grabbed from her.
  • The smiling woman wearing a dark blue Trump shirt hit with eggs.
  • A man is a blue button-down shirt and woman in a white shirt yelled at and their car damaged as they drove away.
  • A man in a blue and white stripped polo shirt with his wife had bottles thrown at them and he was punched (but wasn't bloody).
  • From a different video, a man in white button-down shirt walking with protesters when swings and punches him, knocking him to the sidewalk. (This Daily Mail article has many additional pictures and videos.)
My conclusion was that there was unwarranted violence on the part of some of the anti-Trump protesters, However, the violence was more on the level of a bar brawl than a full riot. There were no pictures of anyone incapacitated by a beating and taken away on a stretcher. Property damage, though there was some, as minor, especially compared to the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore.

It's good to know what the real level of violence was, because some conservatives or their media outlets are going to distort this. We can count on that.


One final thought. Obama has been accused of being the most divisive president ever. However, Trump seems to inspire much more division. Will conservatives notice this?

Extras. Videos: Trump supporter with lots of footage, Part 1 and Part 2Eye witnesses with competing commentary. Long loud argument, no punches, one theft. General footage with play by play, then blaming it all on--well, guess who.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Debunking idiots who believe conspiracy theories

Sigh. I know I spend too much time on the internet, and sometimes get enraged (or merely involved) with gullible people who have fallen for various conspiracy theories. There are theories about CFR (Council for Foreign Relations), PNAC (Project for the New American Century), 9/11 truthers, and, of course, lizard people.

A crazy commenter, Stonehillady, got me thinking about how the World Trade Center towers fell. In turn, I found a great site that explains it very well, while pointing out the flaws in the half-baked conspiracy theories.

Here's one: how many pounds of thermite would be needed to bring down the Twin Towers? I read it somewhere (can't find it now), and the load would have taken something like nine trucks full of thermite. Then the charges would have had to be placed and wired, and who knows what else. And it was all set up to coincide with terrorists flying planes into the towers. Amazing planning that must have been! Literally incredible and unbelievable.

So, if you don't believe the thermite hypothesis (hint: don't believe it), here is a fairly thorough explanation of why the towers collapsed. I can't give a particularly short version of the explanation, except to say it was a combination of the construction, impact of the plane, fire, and buckling of the supports under those conditions. Read the whole thing if you're interested. I learned a lot.