Friday, September 15, 2017

Links (2 of 2)

I lost 1-2 of the links I planned to show. Drat. But I also found others.

Final love letter to a spacecraft. The Cassini exploratory probe finished its life and mission, which was to send us data about Saturn and its moons. The craft was remotely instructed to crash into Saturn to be sure that it wouldn't contaminate the moons where native life might be possible.

Americans and their white president. A tour-de-force essay by Ta-nehisi Coates. He writes that whites of all kinds, not just working class, gave support to a candidate who reflected bigotry. The essay shows one way to view race relations, but I don't agree with it's the whole story. It's still significant that a black president was elected twice, and with more support than Trump got. Coates does present some chilling facts, however, such as a white felon running in the presidential primary against Obama, and getting a surprising number of votes. The Obama presidency has been difficult for many blacks because they've had to endure heightened disrespect.

More about North Korea. North Koreans have been completely immersed in the propaganda that their only purpose is to serve. That complicates both war and diplomacy. A high-ranking ex-officer suggests a naval blockade to change the dynamic. The comment section is a must-read.

Did voter fraud change this Senate election? That's a good question raised here. There are known weaknesses in New Hampshire election law. The numbers of people using out-of-state IDs were high enough in this very close election. This is plausible, but not enough evidence to say it happened.

US spending. Where the federal spending goes. I'm always looking for this info, so here's a link to a handy graph.

Driverless car crash. This summary and analysis points to the technology not being able to handle complex situations. The driver, however, was lulled into depending on the system. That would happen so easily.

Susan Rice, target of conservative smears. A lot of ugly accusations swirled around her as conservatives tried to win the news cycle when lots of Russia news was coming out. Now she's been cleared, but that information is mostly buried. Blowhard conservatives won't even remember that they defamed her. Amnesia is rampant there.

Migration issues confront Canada. Perhaps for the first time, Canada is dealing with mass migration that is poorly controlled. Will it be too much for this generous, empathetic nation?

Image: bloomberg.com

Monday, September 11, 2017

For and against the Southern Poverty Law Center

What I remember of the Southern Poverty Law Center is that they had a large and scrupulously maintained database of US hate organizations and individuals, so they were always a good resource for reporters, and even for police and the FBI. Their database also made them invaluable to civil actions against hate groups, several of which were sued into bankruptcy.

I hadn't thought much about the SPLC until a conservative commenter with an anything-goes attitude toward argumentation claimed that the SPLC is itself a hate group. The basis for her dubious claim is that the shooter at the Family Research Council in DC used information from SPLC to target an anti-gay group.

I saw several other claims that SPLC is horrible, and decided to look into it. It appeared that most of the claims against SPLC were due its labeling of anti-gay groups as hate groups. The anti-gay groups and their conservative supporters bristled under the label, believing they were unfairly classed in with the KKK and neo-Nazis. Does this smack of claiming their kind of hate is 'a good kind of hate?'

I read what SPLC had to say about one of these anti-gay groups. The SPLC says that it doesn't label groups as hate groups simply for having labeling homosexuality as wrong or sinful. It had the criteria that the group spread lies, false reports or false research, advocate violence, etc. I noted that SPLC doesn't list the Catholic Church as a hate group, so a group can have religious objections to gays without getting the hated 'hate' label. Fair enough. I decided to contribute for the first time in my life. I felt good about it--that I was making up for lost time and supporting a good organization.

That was starting maybe a year ago, and I contributed 4-5 months ago. Now I'm seeing many more attacks on SPLC. Some of the latest:
  • SPLC doesn't spend much on legal actions, but has a pile of money in offshore accounts.
  • The latest BIG slam is that it mislabels groups and then corporate America cuts off the groups' lifeblood of donations. The Ruth Institute has been cut off in that way, and it has raised a huge amount of attention. (Great PR opportunity!!!!!) I've read 1, 2, 3 articles about the Ruth Institute, the first several weeks ago (no link now) so I was already with familiar with SPLC's rationale for listing it as a hate group. The leader of the Ruth Institute has a long history with anti-gay groups such as the National Organization for Marriage.
My theory is that SPLC is getting notice because of the Charlottesville incidents. Its database provides a lot of information about the white nationalists groups involved, and that makes it look like a strong, helpful, civil-minded organization. Now, if you're a conservative with a chip on your shoulder, you don't like SPLC getting any credit, so you want to attack their credibility. So trot out the old complaints and any current complaints you can find. Call them a far-left group or whatever. The weak-minded will repeat it. For me, I've looked into their explanation for the criteria for listing a hate group, and it's solid. If you support a conservative group labeled as such, maybe you should ask them to cut out the lies and hate, and clear the air on what they actually support. That's my recommendation. Belly-aching that someone is calling you names that you don't deserve doesn't cut it.

A mild message from the progenitor of the Ruth Institute
Image: usnews.com

Extras. SPLC has good reporting on many of the rallies where greater or lesser amounts of violence has broken out. That's helpful too. However, if they are indeed sitting on a pile of money, I may not contribute again. I'll give to other organizations, and give verbal support and clicks to SPLC.

SPLC reports: The rift between the militias and alt-right groups. Many militias want to be open to blacks, particularly military veterans. They share some views with alt-right groups, but not white supremacy. That's why militias will often provide neutral security and stand between alt-right groups and counterprotesters. They support free speech rights, but think a lot of the slogans are rubbish and therefore won't be into the shouting wars and other skirmishes. This is what I've gleaned from reading. Possibly it's wrong.

The killer of two on a Portland train claimed he was protecting free speech. I hope this is wrong and fails as a defense strategy. The killer was outnumbered by three men defending Muslims. Will he claim he feared for his life?

More reporting from in and around Portland. Campus allegations and counter-allegations, protests and counter-protests.

Links (1 of 2)

My tabs overfloweth.

Decoding anonymous sources. A good guide from Lawfare. How to interpret what reporters write, indicating how many sources they have and where they are. A good news organization follows these unwritten rules. Bad organizations pretend they follow the rules, but actually make up sources, use known unreliable sources, misleadingly edit and quote, and don't fire reporters and editors who don't follow good standards.

Now, one of those sources. Seymour Hersh is implicated in the Seth Rich-to-Wikileaks story. He claims it's just a rumor. I should dedicate a post to the Seth Rich story, but I'm too lazy. Briefly, Rich was a low-level staffer at the DNC or Hillary campaign and was killed in his DC neighborhood. Cue the conspiracy theories. Fox News got ahead of itself and coerced a contributor to say stuff he didn't actually believe, prompting him to sue. Seymour Hersh is involved because he is supposedly the source of some of that info. There's a tape of Hersh talking about the case. Strangely the tape begins and ends abruptly. I have suspicions that Hersh contradicts or says it's mostly his speculation. I haven't trusted edited tapes since Shirley Sherrod as smeared. Nonetheless, Hersh isn't saying what he knows. He ought to clear it up since the concern about a conspiracy is important here.

Sheriffs as the supreme law. Here is another right-wing idea to counter big, bad government. The concept is that the sheriff, being locally elected and accountable, is the supreme authority in a county, and doesn't have to enforce national laws. Remember Bull Connor and this doesn't seem so good. Joe Arpaio is supposedly an advocate for this idea. Luckily, he lost his last bid for reelection.

Another worrisome tactic to watch. Using Freedom-of-Information requests to undermine and sue small local school districts. Tactic supported by Steve Bannon. The goal is mirky, but maybe it's hidden in the settlements.

Russian election interference (another example). Something to watch. Fake accounts on Facebook bought ad time from Facebook. The purchase was automated, so even Facebook didn't know it was happening. Parking this timeline of Russia interference denial here. Hoping I can find it again.

Image: bostonglobe.com

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Antifa and the MSM

I don't remember what month I first heard of Antifa, which is a loosely organized anti-fascist organization. I do remember how I heard of it. It was mentioned by some right-wing commenters. They implied Antifa were leftists, so I looked up what Antifa was. I thought it was probably some imaginary conspiracy group, like the elitist pedophile ring Hillary runs.

It turns out that Antifa isn't a figment of a nutjob's imagination. It's real, and my usual news sources (Google News with occasionally visits to American Conservative, National Review, Fox News, and Breitbart) had failed me.

I'm not sure why the MSM had barely reported on Antifa until August. It's not that Antifa didn't make appearances. They were involved in the Berkeley riots, and I was certainly aware of those. They were also involved in property destruction on Inauguration Day, and various other demonstrations.

However, the MSM wasn't mentioning that Antifa was a group, and wasn't emphasizing how protesters were violent and coordinated in dress and action. Was the MSM giving cover to Antifa? We probably won't find out unless reporters and/or editors talk about either their lack of knowledge or their suppression of information.

I've been able to confirm the lack of coverage by the MSM through a Google search. From December 2016 to March 2017, the top mentions of Antifa USA are by (in order): Al-Jazeera,  The Guardian, the BBC, The Nation, and Hot Press. In contrast, the top mentions of Antifa USA today are by: USA Today, Facebook, Wikipedia, CNN, The Daily Wire, and The Atlantic. It's definitely a failure by the MSM that the media sources of right-wingers are faster on the information than the MSM is.

It's not that Antifa was totally unknown in the MSM. Here's an article from the New York Times dated 2/2/17 that reports on Antifa. Yet Antifa wasn't referenced in this WaPo article. I recall arguments about whether the violent protesters were students or not, whether they were outsiders who took an opportunity to vandalize. News organizations didn't seem to know... or perhaps a few reporters did, but the information didn't percolate up to the top editor and anchors.

Right wing media perhaps wanted to pretend the violence was by typical leftists, not a violent fringe. Left wing media perhaps wanted to pretend that it wasn't an organized group of violent anti-fascist protesters. Nor were there organized, violent groups who tried to close down Trump rallies. Those anti-Trumpers were individuals who were concerned about Trump's rhetoric, not an organized violent fringe.

Now Antifa is too well known. The MSM still isn't investigating its ties with BLM organizations. They don't delve too far into their communist views, or how they fight violently even when confronting non-violent opponents, or how they're happy to destroy corporate property. Conservative media is pretending Soros, Antifa, and BLM are all one and all violent. Who can you trust? No one.

By the way, this may be the closest thing to the Antifa motto:
You fight them by writing letters and making phone calls so you don’t have to fight them with fists. You fight them with fists so you don’t have to fight them with knives. You fight them with knives so you don’t have to fight them with guns. You fight them with guns so you don’t have to fight them with tanks.
They do seem to emphasize the fighting. Let's enjoy some violence for a noble cause... or close enough.

Image: redspark.nu

Extras. According to this video, a lot of Antifa are sociology majors who want to be heroes but don't know much about fighting. That fits with what I've seen. Antifa disrupt a peaceful rally in Berkeley.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Interesting links again

How to lose your job at Google. Write a memo about how Google is mishandling diversity issues and has an intolerant leftist bias. While the author did make some blanket statements that I consider erroneous and patronizing, he emphasized evaluating people as individuals, and was against group discrimination. He seems to have lost his job because views he expressed outraged too many within the company. Simply put, his views didn't line up with a dogma of many, and he lost his job because of it.

Signs of war in Korea. The military choices in Korea aren't great. If the US decides on a military offensive against N. Korea, typically there would be a build-up of military resources and a withdrawal of civilians. Of course, that signals a military step to N. Korea, and they might strike because of it. It seems to me that an unannounced, substantial attack would be more effective. However, a deadly response from N. Korea has to be expected. I don't see any military response with minimal casualties. A write-up of the possibilities and their disadvantages.

Rational approach to Russia. I'm suspicious of most American opinions about Russia. Political blogs are awash with Russian shills and bots commenting. Partisan politics has overshadowed clear thinking. So I wondered what the Germany policies toward Russia are. Here's a summary.

New strategy in Afghanistan. Actually, somewhat the same strategy, but with some more troops and maybe stronger tactics. Afghanistan will not be fit to defend itself anytime in the foreseeable future, so it makes sense to try to minimize the terrorists Afghanistan would harbor. Trump talked of winning and peace, but reality is that the military mission is successful with much less than that--such as the avoidance of Afghanistan becoming a major terrorist training and safe zone.

An archive of Trump's lies. This might be handy. However, I wonder whether the Washington Post would be archiving the lies of Hillary Clinton as carefully.

Image: washingtonpost.com

Late additions. List of Arpaio outrages in honor of his pardon by President Trump. This is only a partial list. I visit my parents in Phoenix, and remember Arpaio having a peaceful speaker arrested at an evening meeting because he didn't like her viewpoint. Arbitrary arrests didn't even make the outrage list.

Description of Hurricane Harvey. The aspects that caused it to flood so much of east Texas.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Links, video, and interesting info about Charlottesville

Maybe I was somewhat obsessed about trying to uncover the truth about Charlottesville. Instead reading accounts, I wanted to watch video, preferably unedited, meaning unmanipulated. I wanted to see what I could for myself.

I've watched maybe 10 hours of video, and also read a few additional accounts. Here are some of the things I've learned.

Image: ktvn.com

Not quite so bad a person. A student from University of Nevada participated in the torch march, and some pictures of him went viral. Yes, he looks like an enthusiastic Nazi youth. What he says is more complicated than that. He believes in value of all cultures, so he's against segregation, elimination, and the idea of white supremacy. Yes, he marched with some people who felt that way, but he wasn't chanting any slogans he didn't agree with, so he was silent for 'blood and soil.' Somehow, though, he doesn't regret marching with a bunch of people who do believe those things. There was an unsuccessful petition to throw him out of the university, but they refused to on the basis of his right to free speech.

Links to many accounts from the LA Times. Another article with many links, focusing on the alt-right view. Helpful map here.

Alt-right manifesto. This story hasn't gotten much play. Richard Spencer wrote the bullet-point list of concerns with the help of a half-dozen prominent colleagues. Race is the highest concern. Second is the 'Jewish question' which alt-righters often abbreviate to 'JQ.'

A neo-Confederate group musters before the rally. Then they march to the park, fighting with counter-protesters once along the way. Over 40 minutes of video. Hunter Wallace, who is taking the video, writes that "wave after wave attempt[ed] to charge the park." His video belies this, showing one attack. At 40:00, he and some other protesters easily walk past 'peaceniks' on the perimeter to enter another portion of the park, showing that at least one major part of the perimeter was peaceful. A written account by another protest leader, from California.

In contrast, video of skirmishes. This might have been the entrance corner where a lot of skirmishes occurred and hand-thrown missiles were regularly flying. Strangely, there were no barricades dividing protesters from counter-protesters in this section of the park.

Armed neutral parties. The work of dividing protesters and counter-protesters who loathed each other and wanted to fight fell to some militia groups, such as the Oath Keepers, 3 Percenters, and a workers' militia called the Redneck Revolt. Militias get involved as a buffer and to protect free speech, but disagree with many of the political positions and especially disdain the chanting and goading.

How did the permit happened. Of course Charlottesville didn't want the rally to take place. An earlier rally of 50 KKK and 1000 counter-protesters showed the potential dangers. However, a judge ruled otherwise. We may continue hearing about Charlottesville for several years as limits on rallies and the use of emergency declarations are litigated.

Image: vidmax.com

Extras. Guide to the symbols and the cast of characters. A 22-minute documentary on one of the organizers. Skip the middle if you're pressed for time. One alt-right leader decided to opt out because the rally was too racist. Finally, a nurse who is also a neo-Confederate and Jewish talks about the rally. She thinks Nazis are weird, but really hates the counter-protesters for being Marxists, and is not at all sorry about the death. How many were Marxists? Probably a bunch, but it would be helpful to know approximately. However, if you're throwing your lot with Nazis because you don't like Marxists, is that a good choice?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What the Charlottesville Nazis were saying

The Daily Stormer is no longer available by regular browser. However, pages on the internet get cached sometimes, and the Stormer was popular enough to get cached quite often over the weekend.

Go to cachedview.com, or following my links.

Let's see my selection of the lovely conversation at the Daily Stormer. (Note: I didn't grab the timestamps on everything.)

[Friday 8/11/17]
I’m getting reports of large groups arriving and having trouble with their AirBnB reservations.

Azzmador’s Texas crew is staying in a hotel in one of the surrounding towns.

REMEMBER: At the event, keep your weapons in your car if you brought one. Do not bring it to the event. We do not want a shootout.

Right Wing Motorcycle Squadratti are in #Charlottesville and out of control!! on #HandsomeThursday

If you click to enlarge that picture, you’ll notice that both the cameraman on the left and the guy in the light blue shirt appear to be kikes. VICE is a full-kike operation.

4:00 PM:

SWITCH TO PRIVATE CHANNELS ONLY FROM HERE ON OUT

5:19 PM:

The argument from the kike Mayor and his Negroid Black Panther sidekick is that they said there would only be 400 people and there are going to be a whole helluva lot more than that.

Word on the ground from Daily Stormer staff is that the permit to hold the rally in Lee Park has been officially issued! Looks like we won out!

This is last night! [Torchlit march on UVa] The time and place didn’t get posted here because it was a secret arrangement, I apologize to those that missed it.

20 PEOPLE STOOD AGAINST HUNDREDS OF FASCISTS!

THIS IS HAPPENING NOW!

NO ONE IS STANDING IN OUR WAY!

CHARLOTTESVILLE BELONGS TO US!

AMERICA BELONGS TO US!

People are being bussed in to the park now.

Antifa are on Twitter panicking, some saying they won’t even bother to attend given that their numbers will be so few.

The thing that is going to be in the most danger here is your car, so try to park in a lot that’s being observed, or just take a taxi or an Uber to the event (if you’re not riding on the bus).

[Saturday 8/12/17]
10:40 AM:

The chanting war begins.

“You’re fags, go home you have no testosterone” VS “No racists, no KKK, no fascists USA.”

11:00 AM:

Azzmador has unveiled his banner.

“Gas the kikes, race war now!”

12:11 PM

ANTIFA GETTING THEIR ASSES KICKED EVERYWHERE.

12:31 PM:

FUCK YOU FAGGOTS!

You heard that right. They're chanting "Fuck you faggots." 

GET TO MCINTIRE PARK NOW AND FIND AZZMADOR, CANTWELL OR SACCO VANDAL! STAY IN THE GROUP! DO NOT SEPARATE ONCE YOU ARE BEHIND ONE OF THESE THREE MEN! 

3:46 PM:

Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us.

He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate… on both sides!

So he implied the antifa are haters.

There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all.

He said he loves us all.

Also refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him.

No condemnation at all.

When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room.

Really, really good.

God bless him.

Same dickhead Virginia state cops who attacked our rally just crashed a fucking helicopter.

Police chief quadroon such a bitch. I have defended cops. Then they betray us and attack us in what amounted to an ambush.

There it is. Reporting straight from the the good people on the right who care so much about the statue of General Lee.

Monday, August 14, 2017

White supremacists show their nature at Charlottesville

Note: Many of my sources were from the Daily Stormer site. It has now been kicked off by its hosting ISP, and is having trouble finding a new host. It may have to switch to a Russian host. The Daily Stormer links may not be available again at all, or they may return. 

Being an American is not boring. It can be deeply embarrassing, even mortifying sometimes. It can be inspiring. It is not dull. There are so many moral aspects to being a thinking citizen in the US, and some of these aspects were on display this past weekend.

Many groups involved in white supremacy coordinated to sponsor a large rally in Charlottesville, VA, the location of a large state university. I hope I can find the list of the organizers, which I read somewhere in the many articles I read in the past 72 hours.

Maybe I'll start the list of sources where I started--a blog called Occidental Dissent. Some things I noticed: the reference to the confederate flag, how-to information on getting ready for rallies, including comments on how to arm yourself. The list of other alt-right blogs. The blogger is taking donations to fund his participation at rallies, and had collected $675 from 9 donors so far. Then there was the link to The Daily Stormer.

Operational Security is a chilling read. It's describes how to cover your tracks. Use a burner phone for all rally-related communications, and don't put anything personal on it. Don't use hate speech on the phone since it may be used against you and the movement. (The author doesn't follow his own advice since The Daily Stormer is full of hate speech.) If you get involved in 'something heavy,' like homicide, flee the country or flee your identity. Wow. This sounds like advice for people with peaceful intent, doesn't it?

The incidents - Torch march on the UVa campus

The white groups planned a march across the campus on Friday night. I don't know whether they didn't publicize their plan, but there wasn't much organized counter-protest. Again, it must of been chilling to witness hundreds of white supremacists carrying torches, marching, chanting, like being in Germany when the Nazis were gaining strength. There were many people who drawn out to witness, but few organized to resist or counter the message. The white groups  declared a huge victory. They jeered at the few protesters, surrounded them, eventually attacked them and ran them off. This was the huge victory that the groups boasted about.

Anti fascists are surrounded by hundreds of fascists at Jefferson statue. No police.

Incident - Scheduled rally 

The main rally was scheduled for Saturday noon at a park where a statue of Robert E. Lee is currently located, but may be removed due to its association with the Confederacy and history of racial bias. The city tried to revoke the permit for the rally, but a federal judge ruled that they must allow it.

However, the crowds turning out, both the white supremacists and the counter protesters, turned out in large numbers and were clearly poised for skirmishes. My speculation (there hasn't been clear reporting) was that the number of counter-protesters was very large partly in reaction to the torch-light rally the night before.

There were also very large numbers of people taking video, some with professional camera equipment. The videos show how many people were recording events. This is wonderful for history--that so many want to witness and capture the events.

Another thing I notice from the videos. Many of the white groups have similar clothing. Many are carrying shields and wearing helmets and other protective gear. They are dressed for confrontation. That kind of organization and preparation were less common among the counter protesters.

The state and local government, based on the conditions that were volatile and unsafe, cancelled the rally. I support this, but I imagine that the city and state will be sued. Already some of the white protest groups are whining that their free speech rights were restricted and the police didn't protect them as they should have. I have no sympathy for them because they were clearly preparing for violence.

Incident - Car ramming protesters, killing one 

A man who earlier in the day joined a white supremacist group called Vanguard America, drove his car at high speed into a large group of counter protesters. One of them died, many others were severely injured. He tried to escape at high speed from the scene, but was observed by many people out on the streets and was caught almost immediately.

The response from the Daily Stormer was particularly repugnant. Someone said the guy was anti-Trump (wrong). Then someone said he acted in self-defense because he was pelted with bricks (wrong). Another said no one of importance was hurt. Another that the driver was Jewish because his mother's surname is 'Bloom.' The fatality was called a fat, childless slut. That is just so lovely. These are people who are hateful and hurtful with no respect for truth or any principles other than tribalism.

There is so much more I could write about, and some of that will be in the extra section.

Image: mysanantonio.com

Extras. The live thread from the Daily Stormer is chilling--the triumphalism, the complaints that the police didn't protect them in their quest to provoke fights, their pretended innocence, their hate for so many others with the least bit of difference, their whining after a death that their free speech (a news conference that next day) wasn't protected from huge outraged crowds. The comment thread. A pretty good timeline.

The propaganda machine for the alt-right has been fairly successful. Too many think that the leftist counter protesters are the problem, including this soon-to-be-former GOP official. Unfortunately, our idiot president is also one of those who have drunk the Kool-Aid of right-wing propaganda. He spoke about the murder and mayhem with no conviction, and with weasel words about 'many sides' being wrong, as though it was expedient for him to gloss over the involvement of white supremacists. Trump deserves the flack he caught: this from the Weekly Standard, this much blunter, harsher, and painfully true piece from the Washington Post. The alt-right were happy with Trump's vagueness, and with his grudging slightly strong statement two days later.

One of the first on-the-ground accounts I read. Several others. How this may be pivotal for the white supremacy movement. At a white supremacy rally in Seattle one day later, a huge police presence prevented violence, not to say this was possible in Charlottesville.

Update 8/15/17. Trump has returned to saying that there were 'bad people' on many sides, or both sides. He seems to have a clearer sense now that there were neo-Nazis there. However, he seems to think the right-wing hate groups weren't a majority of the right-wing people there. (My sense is that a majority did identify as white rights supporters at best, and often KKK or neo-Nazi.) Trump seems to understand that there were good people among the counter protesters, but he focuses on the bad ones. The press seems not to acknowledge at all the violent groups among the counter protesters. In this, Trump is more accurate than the press. So Trump underplays the bad actors among the right, overplays the bad actors among the left, and seems not to know at all about the Nazi-like march on Friday night.

Update 8/16/17. It's important to see what The Daily Stormer was writing and showing about the Charlottesville rallies. I took a screen shot which provides information that isn't available now. Here is the screen shot: (Click to enlarge.)


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Cleaning the White House

I'm a bit late on this story, though it's still relevant and may be relevant for a while to come. Like Kelly, Trump's new chief of staff, McMaster was generally considered a wise choice, and not a known crazy.

Unfortunately, some Trump supporters like crazy. McMaster is therefore having some problems and riling up some folks. He's been trying to clear out some of the crazy that was appointed to the National Security staff, and there's pushback. So far, the pushback has been ineffectual. Trump has indicated support for McMaster, and hasn't tweeted catty comments as he did with Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General.

Bannon, who is a patron to many of these crazies (as part of his position as the near-alt-right), has been keeping his head down and avoiding the volleys. It's interesting to see which parts of the conservative media are on which side.

One right wing favorite wrote a memo about how there's a shadow government in the US, and it's not being displaced as it ought to be. The author has now been displaced, to the howls of some. There are complaint about 'the deep state' and Obama holdovers, both of which are probably traitors. It's a damn shame that this chance to finally clean up those damn socialists is slipping away. If America isn't great again, it's because of those traitors that got to stay on.

Image: thepeoplescube.com


Extra. Not particularly connected, but a taste of Russian 'news.' It would be a horrible template for news here.

Update 8/14/17. I was right about relevance. Here's a pair of articles about the feud and ideological differences between Bannon and McMaster, include lies peddled on (wait for it) Alex Jones' show.

Monday, August 7, 2017

A bundle of important stories

Conservative media fabrication revealed. This should be so big. Fox News fell for a peddled fake story about (murdered) Seth Rich and Wikileaks. Now there's a suit, and the papers filed contain a wealth of evidence about how the lies got on the air.

CNN skews its reporting. "Federal investigators ... seized on Trump and his associates' financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward... The web of financial ties could offer a more concrete path toward potential prosecution than the broader and murkier questions of collusion..." This is supposed to be an investigation, not a fishing expedition bent on prosecution. CNN seems to have forgotten that.

Sessions skews his condemnation of leaks. Great story with analysis of a logical trick that Sessions uses. He probably does it knowingly.

Lies are the family business. Donald jr. lied about a meeting with a Russian lawyer. Well, lied at first and then told the truth. It turns out Donald sr. lied about it too. Is anyone surprised?

Stats about the cost of tax deduction. This is important hard information. What costs the government more: mortgage interest deduction, 401K's, or the earned income tax credit? It didn't know, and I was a bit surprised.

Trump the wimp. Putin is disrespecting America, and what is Donald doing about it? Why?

Image: thecoldplayer.deviantart.com

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Quick summary: Repeal FAIL

This is an important issue, but I don't have a bunch of time to spend on it. The Senate failed to repeal and replace Obamacare. McConnell proposed, negotiated, twisted arms, and pulled bills from votes. It was a big embarrassment, so McConnell and the Senate made a last ditch effort TO DO SOMETHING (never a good situation).

McConnell had the Senate voting on bills or amendments within an hour or so of when their text was released. So much for 'a deliberative body' or not 'ramming it down their throats.' John McCain, with stitches on his left eyebrow and newly diagnosed with brain cancer, flew in from Arizona as a necessary vote to start debate-athon.

Two days later, McCain was one of three GOP senators who killed the effort. Maybe it was doomed anyhow. The conservatives vowed that they needed a fuller repeal, with more taxes gone. They folded pretty quickly. The moderates wanted assurances that Medicaid funding wouldn't disappear--this is a higher priority to senators as state-wide representatives, as I mentioned before.

McConnell promised his colleagues that the bill would go to conference, and their concerns would be addressed in the future. Paul Ryan didn't promise that. What is the promise of a politician like McConnell?

A lot of senators who were leery voted for the measure based on these assurances, but McCain didn't, and that was the killing stroke.

Image: kitv.com

Extras. What next? Maybe some bipartisan negotiation.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Trump update: Bad week, then getting better

I was very worried last week. There were lots of reports that Trump was trying to work out how to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel assigned to investigate Russian interference in the election and possible ties to the Trump campaign. Trump was also bad-mouthing his Attorney General essentially for not being corrupt enough to shut down the Russia investigation.

This week, it's much calmer, most likely due to John Kelly becoming White House chief of staff on 7/28/17. This whole week as been such a contrast... and such a relief.

Last week, Trump was floating the idea of replacing Session using his power to make recess appointments. A bunch of senators were telling him not to do that--telling him through the public media so we could all listen to the warnings.

Trump also added a kink to the week with a tweet declaring transgender people couldn't serve in the military 'in any capacity.' Where did that come from? Probably a mish-mash of things Trump heard, and he decided that particular day was a good day to pretend he could act by fiat. Fiat hasn't actually worked. So far, the military has ignored him. His declaration may die just like his declaration that Obama wiretapped him died. "It's just another Trump eruption. Pay no attention." Really, it's pretty stupid to announce an important new policy via twitter, and not to have any plans for implementing the policy. But Trump is that stupid.

But back to Kelly. I have a guess that Kelly saw the craziness of July 24-27, and concluded he had to do something about it. That 'something' was calling Trump and volunteering to be chief of staff and clean up the whole mess. Plenty of credit to Kelly for stepping up. A bit of credit to Trump for saying yes. I hope this works. Reminder--this is my speculation on what happened.

Image: michaelpramirez.com

Extra. The small worries about Kelly taking this job. Kelly got Trump to stop bashing Sessions. Idiotic opinion piece on how Trump should resist firing Mueller, but should fire Sessions and Rosenstein.

Monday, July 31, 2017

So many stories

I didn't publish this when I first started writing, and now there's been a flurry of stories to follow. Someday I may catch up on my writing, but not yet. However, I'm posting this belated piece today. 


Has Obamacare failed? This article shows pretty clearly that the answer depends on where you live. Some places, yes. Some places, the market is still doing well.

What to do in Afghanistan. Trump likes his top national security adviser McMaster, but disagrees with his plan for Afghanistan. So what will happen?

Voter fraud claims turn nasty. Imagine someone claimed you shouldn't be on the voter rolls. Let's say they lied about you, said you didn't live at your address, etc. Unfortunately, this happened statewide. Read about it.

Which states can't meet pension obligations? That's a good question. This article has one of the best graphs I've ever seen to show the answer. My state (Mass) - so-so. Not as bad as I feared.

Conservatives for riots? This article discusses how an associate of video sting con artist James O'Keefe tried to bribe a progressive organizer to arrange riots for Trump's inauguration. Sounds very sinister. Then I realized that she was probably trying to do a video sting, not actually trying to arrange false flag riots.

List of lies. Donald's. I don't want to go through the whole list, but it's good that somebody compiled one. I'm glad it wasn't me.

The 10-Day Diet. How to lose a bad choice for communications chief in 10 days. But before he's completely forgotten, read this hilarious piece about him calling up a reporter and forgetting to say the magic words "off the record" or "background." Some communications chief.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Short: The cynicism of the GOP

This issue is too important not to have its own post. The Washington Post pointedly tells how very cynical the GOP is in its push to do something-anything about ACA. Mitch McConnell wants the Senate to start considering an ACA repeal, and they don't even have the text of the bill. They don't have the text of proposed amendments. He made promises on an earlier bill that certain parts, if enacted, will never be implemented.

On Thursday night, McConnell finally released the text of the bill most likely to pass. He's trying to talk senators into passing it--promising that it will fail in the House, and ultimately a different version will be available. This is amazing, and probably a bait-and-switch, or bait-and-not-switch-as-promised. Four senators, including John McCain, threatened not to vote for the measure "unless there was a guarantee the House wouldn't pass the Senate bill." PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don't give us what we vote for! Please, someone else kill this, but not me!

I can't believe that a senator has to pray that his vote isn't final. He has to hope someone else will block the bill, and he can get away with a yes vote that he despises. I'm not sure how many senators are planning to vote yes and hope no. They are hoping that their bill won't be passed by the House. But will they feel betrayed if the House turns around and passes the bill they just voted for? This is exactly what I expect will happen. What a cynical game they are playing, the culmination of 7 years of cynical bombast.

Image result for mcconnell promises on skinny repeal cartoon

Extra. A good summary.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Do we need a Megan's Law for bathrooms?

I read how Texas is considering a law governing how transgender people can use public bathrooms. It occurred to me that Texas isn't debating this law because there was a horrific case of a transgender person horribly raping and/or killing a girl in a bathroom. This didn't happen to little Rachel or Gloria or Brittany, so there's no Rachel's Law. Nope.

Instead, Texas is considering this law because... um, why? Because they want to show that they hate the idea of transgender people, and they want to poke them in the eye. Or maybe they want to show that they are holier than thou, and that transgender nonsense is not tolerated in Texas.

This is so fake. I can assure you that transgender people are using the appropriate bathrooms in Texas without incident. They aren't raping anyone, they aren't exposing their genitals to the shock and disgust of other patrons. They are just going into the stalls, locking the doors, and answering nature's call. Just like the rest of the human species. Sheesh, give the paranoia a rest. Give the excuses to bash liberals a rest.

Do we need a Megan's Law for bathrooms? No, we don't. We don't need any laws. Just let people pick their bathrooms, and keep out of the way.

Image: twitter/@lmcgaughey

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Another roundup of links

What to do about North Korea. This is very tricky, until you realize that the answer from history is obvious. Sometime last year I spent many hours listening to a podcast detailing the history of nuclear strategy. From that I learned that you don't go crazy and make a pre-emptive strike. You sit down and sanely wait things out. That's how the least number of people will die--hopefully none will die. A friend from South Korea was relieved to find an American who gets it. Here's a great article that explains most of the situation, and it only takes minutes to read. As someone who has spent hours and days reflecting, I endorse the article. As my friend says, a pre-emptive strike would mean the destruction of all of Korea. I vote for a waiting stance, and hoping no one fires the first missile.

Black Lives Matter. A good but painful article by Jamelle Bouie on the acquittal of a police officer who shot a black man. Bouie explains that there is fear, and fear will be considered a valid reason. Makes me wonder if there's any way out.

Meme goes viral and then the shit really hits the fan. Trump tweeted out a tasteless meme of himself beating up a CNN logo. A freelance journalist identified the original creator. The journalist is pelted with violent threats. There's pushback against CNN for threatening to out the creator and extorting an apology from him. (I'm sure about the ethics of CNN threatening to out him, but his apology reads like actual, honest, well-deserved contrition.) Finally, there is the Daily Stormer, laughing at the journalist and all the threats leveled at him. Basically, they act like threats are completely justified. That should be enough of this slimy underbelly of American culture.

Real assessment of fake news - retractions. Finally, a believable story of what CNN and other MSM have gotten wrong in the Russia megastory. It should come with a reminder of what they got right, like Flynn lying, Sessions lying, Russia hacking here, there, there, and there...

Voter fraud that looks for real. Here's a report on voter fraud in Virginia. Unfortunately, it's written for outrage instead of clarity. However, it looks like Virginia has had several thousand illegal votes in the past seven years, perhaps more.

How to punk Trump. This is a guide for Putin on how to fool our foolish president. I'm not overly worried because Donald doesn't stand by his promises, so any promises he foolishly makes to Putin won't matter.

Important ACA factoid. This is an important nugget. The medical risk profile of people in the individual market isn't getting worse. That means healthier people aren't being driven out--if this report is true. No death spiral yet. We will have to see how it pans out.

Image: speedwealthy.com


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Short: Blame Obama for Russian interference?

When I first heard this talking point, I thought the Trump camp had gone nuts. Why would anyone blame Obama when Trump was the one complimenting Putin and jokingly asking him to do more hacking please? Trump was the guy who was defending the Russkies, saying that it could have been any hacker, implying it would be presumptuous and wrong to punish the Russians. So it was Trump giving comfort to the Russians, certainly not Obama.

Somehow, though, this idea was a very popular talking point, at least among the right-wing parrots commenting on the political blogs I read. Of course they aren't a good source for information, or true information, at least.

So I found this article on the topic fairly detailed, but perhaps a bit one-sided. Yes, it mentions that the US was trying to work with Russia on some major issues, like the Iran nuclear agreement, but doesn't probe whether a more robust response to Russian behavior would have scuttled those important initiatives. I have to wonder about the choices that were made, but I certainly can't conclude based on the available info that Obama was wrong.

Image: pinterest.com


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Fraud about voter fraud

From this article, I learned that I need to watch out for the GOP commission that is investigating voter fraud. Why? Because the head of the commission, Kris Kobach of Kansas, has already investigated voter fraud and found very little of it, but he hasn't publicized that finding.

It doesn't make sense to hide the info that voter fraud isn't common... unless you really like the narrative that it is common. Trump likes the narrative. Apparently, Kobach is fine with the narrative too because he's not pushing back against it. Maybe Kobach hopes he can find major fraud elsewhere, even if he didn't find it in Kansas. Personally, I'm not convinced that California, for example, does a good job policing its voter rolls. I tried to sign up to vote in California a few years ago, and probably would have been successful if I didn't bail at the last minute of the online process. No, I'm not going to commit the fraud of registering to vote in California just to find out if it's possible. Maybe California has tightened up, but I haven't seen any evidence of that, or any reports of what they do to investigate ineligible voters. To be clear, I have looked for evidence, but haven't found any published information about California's efforts to prevent voter fraud.

So maybe the commission investigating voter fraud will find a bit of fraud, or a moderate amount, or maybe even a huge amount (doubtful). So far, though, it's barely started, and it's already sputtering. Its first request for cooperation from the states was horribly mismanaged. The commission asked for private info such as birth dates and partial Social Security numbers without ensuring confidentiality. In fact, it was planning to have the information publicly available. They have got to be kidding--putting everyone's name, address, and birth date up in public. That's an immediate FAIL I have to wonder how professional this commission is going to be, and my hopes aren't high.

Image: youtube/Licitus Veritas Invictus

Extra. I didn't know that there has already been a nation-wide effort to investigate and punish illegal voting. The results: about 60 convictions in 4 years. Not millions, not thousands, not even hundreds. Pretty paltry. I hope this commission finds nearly the same number of illegal votes and is honest enough to report it without hyperbole.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Replacing Obamacare is harder than they thought

No surprise about the complexity of the task. The House just barely passed an Obamacare repeal-and-replacement. Now the Senate is trying to do it, and having even more trouble. While the House has some moderate Republicans, every moderate Republican in the Senate has a critical vote. Three defections to 'no' will scuttle the ACA replacement, so the margins in the Senate are even tighter. Also, each senator represents the whole state, not just the more conservative parts of it. It could be that senators need to be more concerned with Medicaid recipients than their colleagues in the House.

It's fascinating to read in this article what different senators want. Rand Paul and Ben Sasse (he of anti-Trump fame) would support a straight repeal. Is that position for real? Don't they worry about the ensuing chaos if there is no replacement plan?

Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, someone I wouldn't expect to be a moderate, is holding off on supporting the bill if it removes too much money from Medicaid. Louisiana isn't one of the richest states, so it probably has a fair number of people who have gotten their healthcare through the Medicaid expansion. Cassidy seems loathe to throw them back into healthcare limbo. Some senators, like Rand Paul, don't have such quibbles.

These negotiations will be interesting to watch. A pro-Trump PAC already targeted a senator leaning toward 'no' and already had to drop their pressure tactics. Whether the senators will be able to come together, compromise, and satisfy enough of them is an open question. A cool graphic in this article shows that more senators are concerned with the bill not covering enough versus those concerned with that it won't repeal enough. It leads me to expect a more moderate bill passing the Senate. But we shall see. Failure is certainly possible: only three senators need to decide to be stubborn to sink this bill.

Image: cbsnews.com

Friday, June 30, 2017

Last outpost of crazy: Mars child trafficking

Alex Jones may be the most despicable person in the US. He has his "Sandy Hook hoax" nonsense, which inspires his followers to harass bereaved families. He had his Pizzagate nonsense. Some of his latest nonsense is the idea that children are being kidnapped, sent to Mars, put into slavery, frightened to produce adrenaline, slaughtered, and dismembered for their body parts.

To be fair, this isn't Alex Jones' theory. Just the theory of one of his guests, and Jones can't be held responsible for giving this nutjob bandwidth... are can he?

Jones contributes to the idea. Jones mentions blackouts of probes whenever they go close to Mars. NASA has lots of secrets, etc. But Jones also says "I'm not sure about ...." as though that inoculates him. The scumbag newscaster and his scumbag crazy stories have forced NASA to waste time in denials of this ludicrous fairy tale. Of course, some fools will go on believing it, and nothing will dissuade them, ever. Thank you, Alex Jones, for another false story that will never die.

Image: johndenugent.com

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Catching up on even more links

Russian operations. This article states the case that there is some evidence, a bit of evidence, of collusion. So the claim that there's nothing, that this is all a witch hunt, that's not true. As for what Russia has been doing, and the worrisome things Trump has said regarding Russia, here's a round-up.

American political shooter. Here's some background on the man who shot at the Republicans from Congress as they practiced baseball. He fell for propaganda that Trump is destroying the country. Luckily, I haven't seen anyone proclaiming that the shooting was a good thing.

GOP talking points. It's been clear from the political threads I follow that there is a new set of talking points. Comey is a leaker and maybe the leaker. Mueller is no longer a good, honest, decent guy well-respected by both Dems and Repubs. Now he's a chum of the disgraced Comey, a partisan, and shouldn't be allowed to investigate anything. We didn't hear this a month ago when he was appointed, but now it's imperative to bash him. The funniest thing--you can read the talking points!

Image: daybydaycartoon.com

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Great Kansas Experiment ended

The great experiment in cutting taxes to spur growth has ended. Kansas governor Sam Brownback massively cut taxes in 2012. The state legislature just raised them back up over his veto.

Many GOP elected officials realized what Brownback refused to acknowledge--the experiment failed. Even though Republicans are still the majority in Kansas (and Kansas is by tradition is a Republican state through the decades), they overrode the governor to raise taxes to pay for services and stop piling up debt.

Cutting taxes isn't like cutting wheat.
Image:farmfutures.com

Monday, June 12, 2017

Spin cycle

There is lots of spin in news. Any impeachment speculation that doesn't include a huge dose of "it's not going to happen with the GOP in charge of the House" is spin and completely unrealistic.

This example of spin I normally wouldn't have seen, but I was reading an article with an interesting headline, but that ended up with almost zero content. (Arrggghhh, the horribly low standards for news writing and reporting.) Here is what caught my eye:

Image: insider.foxnews.com

So I'll deconstruct this.

10A - A very important issue of diplomacy going south among the Gulf states. Real news.

2P - Reasonable to cover and analyze Comey's testimony.

8P - Fake news flogging of the trumped up Fast + Furious scandal.

9P - Spin to make conservatives feel superior.

Notice what makes the prime time. Thank you Fox News!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

More links - even more interesting

Unmasking unmasking. Republicans are trying to shift the attention on Russian election interference to the unmasking of names in intelligence documents. It turns out that the House Intelligence Committee asked for some unmasking itself. Perhaps unmasking names isn't as bad as they're pretending it is.

Clinton Emails. I had an argument with another Bloomberg commenter on whether we should assume Hillary's server was hacked, even in the absence of leaks of her emails. The commenter provided a link to a video clip of a former intelligence officials saying that he'd have no respect for foreign intelligence agencies if they hadn't hacked her emails. (Sorry, I can't find the link. It was a respectable news channel.) I don't think this is compelling enough evidence to say the realistic people must assume her emails were hacked. Fox News (not a respectable organization) claimed that it received info about known hacks. But I guess they backed down on that. This New York Times article discusses some reasons to strongly suspect it happened.

But a final bit of speculation: it was a very close election. If foreign intelligence agencies has hacked her server and had emails, and didn't want to see Clinton as president, isn't it likely that they would have leaked the emails before the election? Consider whether some not-so-Clinton-friendly countries like Russia, Israel, or Saudi Arabia had those emails. Would they not have tried to tip the election? If indeed she'd been hacked, I'm rather surprised that information hasn't clearly surfaced.

Trump is trying to hire... but will people serve? That's a good question tackled by this must-read article. There's a telling anecdote of an interview for a high position.

Unwarranted suspicion. The investigation of contacts between Trump advisers and Russians was started because of malice on the part of John Brennan, the former CIA director. The investigation was totally fake. Don't you believe me????? (I often don't believe the Washington Times.)

Trump war room. With Trump's return from his first foreign visits, he may be setting up a war room to fight back against the mounting Russia news blizzard. How they might fight back: Deny Russian contacts happened. Then claim what did happen is perfectly fine. Or get the supposedly recused chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to jump back in and run interference again. Or coordinate/non-coordinate with a group to run commercials attacking former FBI directory Comey.

Unfortunately, I doubt that they'll decide to be transparent on all Russia contacts. Cover-up and obfuscation seem to be the go-to strategies of politicians -- see Hillary and her email server. Also, a very readable speculation on Trump's mood and how it permeates everything.

Impeachment. A conservative gets that impeachment would be a fiasco. For the record, I don't see impeachment happening, due to the prez being a Republican and Republican control of the House. Duh! How the hell would it happen?

Don't cry for Robert E. Lee. The Atlantic has an illuminating article on the myth of Lee versus the reality. He wasn't exactly the reluctant defender of slavery. A good read as statues are being removed.

Paris climate accords. Trump, true to his rhetoric, pulled the US out of the non-binding accords. The effect is to make the US look greedy and rather irresponsible, and everyone else look more like grown-ups. Go, team, go!

Signs of more instability in the Mideast? Several major Mideast countries, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. What's going on? Even more infighting in that region, it appears. There are Muslims fighting the West, Sunnis and Shia fighting, Kurds being suppressed, and maybe now Sunnis fighting other Sunnis. What a mess. Here's a reflection: perhaps Obama was partly successfully in controlling the chaos. But he's gone now, and Trump's policies will give rein to more chaos. Update 6/12/17. An article explaining the Qatar situation. Another good article. More updates 7/16/17. Report that the United Arab Emirates probably hacked Qatar and placed false information to start this action. Trump doesn't understand this and isn't listening to the smarter cabinet secretaries. Secret alliance documents. Interesting, but the news story is somewhat muddy. Analysis that the Saudis are overplaying their hand.

Former libertarian turns supporter of welfare state. I guess he stopped fighting the wave and started communing and learning how the wave thinks. The wave wants the welfare state that
is embodied by Social Security and Medicare. However, most GOP lawmakers haven't read between the lines, or won't be saying out loud that entitlements have won, even in the GOP. Because of this, legislative paralysis wins.

How to get caught leaking. Interesting background on the first leaker arrested in the very leaky start of the Trump administration. Possibly memorable trivia, but maybe throw-away trivia.

Rhetoric games. A National Review columnist notices one of the most common rhetorical tricks: 'Hey, what about this [outrage/blunder/hypocrisy]?'

The Swamp
Image: tulane,edu

Sunday, May 21, 2017

So many links

I have too many links to do justice to each of them, so I'll just blast out a post and save them for posterity.

The obligation to listen. Great story by Andrew Sullivan reminding us that we need to consider all opinions. Each opinion tells us something important. I firmly believe it's wrong to summarily dismiss the heartfelt beliefs of other people.

Not repealed yet. In March it looked like the GOP wouldn't figure out how to compromise and pass a replacement for Obamacare. This article reminds us that the Senate still has to work on it. I think they will get it done, and I suspect it will follow the House model.

Fired by Trump. Lawfare is an excellent resource. One article on Sally Yates testimony about warning about Michael Flynn. Two companion articles about the relationship of Trump and the fired FBI director James Comey. One from the New York Times, the other from Lawfare. The Times article is the easier read.

Oh, the irony of Trump calling anyone else a 'nutjob.' Even more irony that he's saying it to visiting Russian ministers. It's amazing that Trump believed he could make the Russia investigation go away. What a fool he is.

Report on Russian hacking. I'll be reading the unclassified version of the report about the Russians hacking the DNC. It's on my list and pinned to my browser tab. I'll get to it, I promise.

Questionable intelligence. I'm not sure I believe this claim: "We just got a huge sign that the US intelligence community believes the Trump dossier." Saving it just in case it's true. I'm still very dubious.

Russian Good Times. Finally, I just have to laugh about the Russian Times complaining about the journalism of anyone else. I'm saving a closer read for later, but I just had to check if there is a comments section. Yes, there is, and what a window into hell it is. I'm sharing it below.

Image: rt.com