Thursday, October 20, 2016

Adam Savage

I loved Mythbusters. It was one of the best shows on TV, ever. In one of the original intro sequences, Adam had a sound byte where he'd say "I reject your reality and substitute my own." That's what blows me away about my Trump friends. Of my friends who support Trump, I would not characterize any of them as dumb. I tend to not hang out with dumb people. And yet, so many of them actively reject any fact that would require them to re-evaluate their support for Donald Trump. This is far beyond confirmation bias; it's the active, conscious embrace of manufactured data points that these people know are inaccurate, along with the rejection of any fact that paints Trump in a negative light. Some examples of Trump-fan logic:

  1. All 12 of the women claiming he sexually assaulted them are lying. Even though he's on tape saying he likes to sexually assault women in the exact manner these women are claiming he did it to them. 
  2. Hillary Clinton has rigged the FBI. She was never charged with a crime, but [blah blah emails blah blah] so she should be in jail even though she's never been charged with, let alone convicted of, an actual crime.
  3. We don't know the results yet and we have no evidence to prove it, but this election is totally rigged. Unless Trump wins. If he wins, it's completely legit. If she wins, totally rigged.
  4. Nothing says family values like a 3rd wife.
  5. He's a bigot who has made derogatory comments about black people, Hispanics, the disabled, fat women, flat chested women, POWs, veterans with PTSD, but what's important are the issues, and please don't list tolerance and character among those issues.  
  6. I know nothing about business, but his name is on a building, therefore he is a good business man. Please stop pointing out to me that he has all these bankruptcies and debts to foreign governments and that he somehow lost money running FOUR DIFFERENT Atlantic City casinos, I told you, I don't understand business but he's a total genius at it. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

keeping up with Donnie

Today, more women came forward and accused Donald Trump of sexual assault. His record of degrading comments about women, and objectifying women, is a mile long, and a video recently surfaced where he bragged about assaulting them, including details of how he does it. But Donnie responded in his typical way: deny everything, attack the accusers, then paint himself as the victim.

In this case, he's gone a step further, threatening to sue the New York Times for libel. Donnie threatens newspapers a lot when they write unflattering stories, but he rarely follows through. He hasn't actually sued a publication since 1984. Even the threat though, should be alarming from a presidential candidate.

  • Freedom of the press is at the core of who we are as a nation. This is not the first time he has threatened the media and tried to manipulate it in his favor 
  • Law school 101: the truth is the ultimate defense. It's not libel if it's true.
  • Libel also requires that it defame his character. Trump has already defamed his own character on this issue, in his own words and actions, countless times
Also, people who hate the media and don't trust it (as if it's one organization) don't create reality shows about themselves. They don't seek out television and radio appearances like a heroin addict looking for his next hit. They don't negotiate deals with NBC to sell the TV rights for a beauty pageant for $50,000,000. Donnie loves the media as long as he can control it. 

Friday, October 07, 2016

Trump Card

As painful as it is to watch all of the non-substantive coverage in this election cycle, I'm still doing it. I figure someone has to, because I know so many friends and family and colleagues who have, understandably, tuned out at this point. I get it. But I want you to know, I am making the sacrifice to see this debacle through to the finish.

Image result for ugly trump image

For the record, I gave up on talking sense to the Trump fans long ago. The people who are still supporting him at this point fall into one of two categories. They are either truly ignorant lemmings who are following a pied piper because they don't know any better, or they are smart enough to know that he is a racist, sexist, bigoted ego maniac and that doesn't bother them. Either way, they're a lost cause.

What does concern me is election day logistics. This November, half the states have new voting laws on the books. Many require new or different forms of ID. Many of these laws blatantly target black voters (not because they're black, your racist friends will tell you, but really just because black people happen to vote for Democrats), as the North Carolina legislature thoughtfully documented for us in its e-mails before writing such laws. "Can we get a breakdown, by race, of which voters don't have drivers licenses?" Yep, totally trying to target voter fraud with that one.

We also have Donald Trump saying repeatedly that the election is rigged if he loses, but totally legit if he wins. Even his own supporters can't explain this one. He's also called for his supporters to go to the polls as "observers." This is easily the most dangerous part of his campaign, well, next to the part where he might win and get access to our nuclear weapons. Statistically, we have no voter fraud in this country. George W. Bush had his Justice Department investigate it for years, desperately hoping to find evidence that blacks and Hispanics are cheating at the ballot box. There is none. Even Faux News agrees. So there is no need for amateur "observers" to be at polling places. These people will be there to intimidate, make no mistake about it. That's illegal, but they'll do it anyway.

All this talk of rigged elections, the new voter ID laws, the ludicrous notion that Trump's "observers" can somehow validate the election result by watching people vote, is scary stuff. Combine that with ass hat's like Kentucky's governor who are calling for revolution and saying that conservatives may need to shed some blood to survive a Clinton Presidency. Yes, he actually said that. If you don't think ultra conservative wackos are mad enough to take up arms, you're wrong.

These people are angry enough to come out of their prepper bunkers and rally together sufficiently to make Donald Trump an actual nominee for the Republican party. That's no small feat, because most reasonable Republicans know Trump is an ass and a snake oil salesman. And we know the die hard Trumpies are well armed, these are the people who like to wear machine guns to their rallies. These are the idiots who believed the NRA when it told them that Obama had a secret plan to take their guns in 2008. Then when that didn't happen they believed the NRA when it said he had a double super secret plan to do it in 2012. And they will absolutely believe the NRA this time when it says that Obama's triple super secret plan was to stall for time until Hillary could get elected and take their guns. These people are not rational, they are paranoid. They don't understand why America is different today than it was on the Andy Griffith show. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The importance of dialog

Today, an interfaith service will be held for the 5 Dallas law enforcement officers who were tragically killed last week. Sadly, there is also news this morning about what may be the first "copy-cat" ambush of police subsequent to the Dallas incident - 5 men were arrested in Washington D.C. this morning after shooting at law enforcement who were responding to a report of shots fired. These incidents, combined with the citizens who are peacefully protesting nation-wide about extra-judicial killings, represent an extremely disturbing state of affairs. I truly do not feel it's an exaggeration to say that our police and our citizens are at war with each other. 

What's equally tragic is that this scenario is being reported on and discussed by so many people using the same dichotomous lens of false alternatives that America applies to so many issues we face today. It's A or B. You either blindly support everything the cops do, or if not then you clearly hate cops. You either understand the plight of the African American community in this, or you're a racist. We must reject this framework, and anyone who adopts it. 

Some people are already doing that, and we must celebrate them. I've seen David Brown, the Dallas police chief, articulate the complexities of this issue extremely well (here's just one example). He knows first hand - his son died after initiating a shoot out with police. I saw Congressman Elijah Cummings spell out the importance of dialog, compassion, and understanding very well in an interview with CBS. Congressman Cummings lives in downtown Baltimore, which has seen its own share of unrest related to this issue. Senator Marco Rubio has made some very articulate points about the valid concerns on both sides of this issue. We have to reject the urge view this as one side being right and the other side being wrong. Both sides are right in some respects and wrong in others, and there is a continuum of perspectives between the two sides that must also be part of the dialog. 

This issue is far more complicated than just police procedures, cop demographics, how to engage with citizens, how to de-escalate, but, in 2015, police killed 1146 people in the US. 50% of those had a gun. 20% were unarmed. 50 of those deaths occurred when the person was already in custody. 45 of the deaths were by Taser, 31 of them were run over by a cop car (1019 were killed when shot by police). These numbers are tracked by individuals and news organizations because, nationally "killed as a result of interaction with police" isn't something that police departments or the FBI tracks in any kind of consistent, reliable way. Some police departments do self-report statistics, others don't. There's a damn wiki-style site where you can submit a news article about a "killed by police" incident in your town and, once it's verified, it gets added to a public database. We're a country that tracks the number of people who died in car crashes, with and without their seat belts on, but we don't track the number of citizens whose lives were taken, rightly or wrongly, as a result of interaction with the cops. 

This is also about education, poverty, race, the war on drugs, the demands we place on our police officers, the gun culture, the "f- the police" culture, human biases, and I'm sure a dozen other things that I don't even know about. 

Progress on this issue will only come from dialog. If you're a police officer, or know one, now is the time to reach to someone who feels threatened by police, who feels he/she can't trust the police, and try to understand why. If you don't trust the police, or you think they're all racist and out to kill black people, you need to talk to a cop, because they're not. We have to stop painting all police officers and all African Americans as if they're uniform groups, because neither one is, at all. And we have to keep talking. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

So what happens now?

I tried to warn you people. While remaining a registered Republican, I have complained for years that the party is on the wrong track, that it has strayed from its founding principles. I voted for Barack Obama twice, and endured constant criticism for supporting him. This is not because I think he's an amazing president - I don't - but rather he's "above average and far better than McCain or Romney." He didn't propose that we build a wall with Mexico and make them pay for it. He didn't propose banning all Muslims from entering the US. He didn't pick Sarah Palin, an absolute moron, as his running mate. He didn't try to divide the country by characterizing anyone on public assistance as a "taker who feels entitled." He has tried to end Bush's endless wars and his unjust, indefinite detentions and torture scheme. Those unfunded wars are a bigger impact on our national budget than all the food stamp programs that modern Republicans love to vilify. Obama probably doesn't even make a top 10 list of great Presidents in terms of his leadership or accomplishments, and I'm fine with that. He was still a good president. He represented us well, he didn't shag any interns, we're in fewer wars and a better economic position than when he took office, and those things are good enough for me.

It's sad that we've come to this standard, but that's where we are. The obscene amounts of money that pour into the election cycle these days, and the amount of influence that those corporations and donors expect in return, has driven both parties to whore themselves out to the highest bidder. Politicians seek not to advance the interests of our nation, but to advance their own egos and improve the status of their party. The Republican debacle this cycle is easier to make fun of because it contained so many buffoons, but don't kid yourself. Hillary is in bed with every Wall Street bank and Silicon Valley firm who wishes to shape the next 4 years in ways that further their own interests. Bernie may be a kook, but I will vehemently defend his principles of not taking Super PAC money. and refusing to accept corporate donations. The fact that he's come so far while staying true to those principles is extremely impressive, and he deserves more credit for that than he's getting.

But now look what's happened. All you moderate Republicans who refused to speak up, and to call out your idiot bigot friends for being idiot bigots have gone and landed us a Trump nomination. I refuse to believe that a majority of registered Republicans like Trump. It's just not possible. I do believe, however, that enough reasonable/rational Republicans stayed home and didn't vote in their state primaries. I do believe that the GOP leaders at the national level refuse to address the elephant in the room, that Trump has been spitting out hateful, ignorant, racist, xenophobic language for some time now. Not borderline, not "open to interpretation," and not "entertainment" as he tries to paint it after the fact, but downright hateful speech. Props to Mitt Romney for coming back on the scene to say "this guy doesn't represent me and doesn't represent my party," but that was too little, too late. The big shot Republicans who did speak our against Trump frequently pointed to Ted Cruz as an acceptable alternative which, again, is complete bullshit. No rational, educated person looks at Ted Cruz and says "yeah, he'd make a good leader of the free world."

So what happens now? Does someone else get nominated at the convention; someone who's not been on the ballot in any primaries? What if Sanders doesn't get the Democrat nod? His supporters aren't going to back Clinton because they hate her. So then the election will be won by whichever candidate fewer people find completely repulsive. I think in a Trump v Clinton election, we'd see even WORSE turnout than we have lately, because so many Americans will refuse to vote for either of them. There are a lot of moderates and independents like me who, under other circumstances, would switch hit and vote for someone from "the other" party, yet, in a Trump v Clinton race will not vote for either. I believe that, in that scenario, Trump wins. His supporters are angrier than hers, and he's won these last 7 races by > 50% because his supporters show up at the polls. To be clear, turnout in the last 7 states was unbelievably low, but the people who did show up and vote cast their ballots for Trump by a wide margin. He beat expectations in Indiana by 15% or more - he was forecast to get 40% and took over 55% of votes cast. I believe that many of Hillary's supporters would not vote because they'd assume that Trump can't possibly win so they don't need to vote.

Kentucky just saw this in our Governor's race - turnout was abysmal because so many people assumed that Jack Conway would walk away with it since Bevin can't form a complete sentence. Then Bevin won, and now our state is sponsoring Noah's @#$% Ark while he's cutting funding to our biggest universities in between criticizing his predecessor for things like no-bid contracts (which Bevin has already awarded $4M in less than 6 months in office). Yeah, I'm pretty pissed about that outcome. I don't blame Bevin's supporters, but I do hope they realize that he doesn't have any claim to a mandate - he won because of who didn't vote as much as who did.

Here's a look back at the Republican platform from 1952. They spend a lot of time complaining about what the Democrats have done, including FDR, but take a look at their principles:

  • "We shall have positive peace-building objectives wherever this will serve the enlightened self-interest of our Nation and help to frustrate the enemy's designs against us.

  • In Western Europe [replace with Middle East] we shall use our friendly influence, without meddling or imperialistic attitudes, for ending the political and economic divisions which alone prevent that vital area from being strong on its own right."
  • With foresight, the Korean War [replace with Iraq/Afghan wars] would never have happened
  • Pro environment
  • Pro union
  • Pro civil rights, womens' rights, native American rights
  • Statehood for Puerto Rico
  • Spending on infrastructure projects (water rights were the big issue at the time)
You get the idea. It's a criticism of the Democrats for doing exactly what the GOP is doing today. It's a platform that couldn't win two votes if they proposed it this summer. That's a shame. So if you're a Republican thinking about becoming an independent or switching parties, I think now would be a great time to do that. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

We DO know Ted Cruz

One of the more bizarre narratives about Obama in 2008 was "we don't know anything about him." The implication was that somehow Obama emerged from the ether in 2007 had no friends, family or acquaintances, and therefor should be viewed with a high level of suspicion and skepticism. I had a number of otherwise-intelligent friends and family members who bought into this one, and it always baffled me because it was so easily refuted with this thing called Google. We knew where he grew up, where he went to college, what his views were ... but people will embrace any excuse to not like a guy who was otherwise highly qualified for the job and far more modern than the ignorant, blow-hard Republican they really wanted to vote for.

Fast forward to this year and Trumpageddon. I continue to chuckle anytime I think about the predicament into which the GOP has placed itself. They let the angry-white-man sentiment fester and ferment for decades now; supplying a new "boogeyman" or at least a "boogey issue" every election cycle for Merle Haggard's base to blame for their woes on; a clever misdirection from the fact that it was the Wall Street bankers + Washington elite (often one and the same) who were bending them over all along. It's the immigrants (a classic - that one is as old as when the first French guy showed up after the Mayflower landed). It's the poor people, those freeloaders. It's the people who want you to use polite words like "disabled" rather than "crippled." It's the environmentalists - their pesky rules about clean air and water are killing the coal industry! It's the drug dealers, if we'd just lock 'em all up things would get better (been trying that for 50 years, how's that working out?). It's the Muslims - their religion is "weird" compared to Christianity, so they are all terrorists, right? Yet rather than educating its members, dispelling these ignorant, xenophobic sentiments, the GOP decided to use them to their advantage. They did everything short of publicly embracing them. And it worked. They got a whole class of people so worked up and angry that they were ready to take action, fight, start a revolution.

Then Trump shows up and says if you guys need an ignorant, angry megaphone, I'm you're man. And that, too, worked spectacularly well. That's all he's doing. He's tapping into the anger and frustration that exists in the GOP, and he's doing a phenomenal job of it; a better job than a milk toast elite like Romney could ever do, which really shouldn't be surprising. WTF does Romney have to complain about? While he's commuting between his 3 homes on his private jet? Enjoying his investment based income stream on which he pays half the tax rate the rest of us do? Romney is a nice guy with a beautiful family. He's polite, he's been successful in business, and he's still on his first wife. How on Earth could he empathize with the angry masses?

Sure, Trump has a private jet too. And a lot of money. But he's totally Ebenezer Scrooge! I mean he's really the perfect modern day example of the Dickens character. He hates himself. He's failed at several of his ventures. He's so shallow, he's on his third wife, and people judge him for that. He treats women like objects, and apparently that's not ok anymore, and he's mad about that. He misses the old days when women and minorities knew their place in society, as accessories to the emperor, he's mad that he has to be all nice and equal about things now. He's the perfect mouthpiece for the angry white man whose prominence in society has fallen as women and minorities have gained ground. If you don't see how "Make America Great Again" is code for "bring back the good old days," you're blind. There are many groups in America who are seeing greater levels of equality and fairness for the first time, and in relative terms, they'd tell you things have never been better (though we still have a lot of room for progress). One of those groups is NOT straight white guys.

Thankfully, the angry Trump fans don't represent a majority of the GOP. There are reasonable voices that are saying "we can't really make him our nominee, right?" So then you have to look at Kasich and Cruz, two complete tools. And unlike Obama, there's no chance you can look at either of them (or Trump) and say "we don't know this guy." We know exactly who they are, all three of them. Anyone who has ever worked with Ted Cruz says he's an ass. Take a look at what John Boehner had to say about him just yesterday:

"Lucifer in the flesh,” the former speaker said. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life."

Of the 99 colleagues he has in the Senate, he has struggled to earn just 2 endorsements. So this guy is the "better alternative to Trump?" In what universe?

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Scalia Vacancy

There is an opening on the Supreme Court. Scalia was as close as a supreme court justice gets to being a right wing nut, which means the 8 justices he leaves are split right down the middle between liberal and conservative. Filling the vacancy his death has created is a really big deal, and it's made even bigger by the fact that this is an election year with a cast of clowns running for the oval office.

Enter my pal, my man, Kentucky's senior Senator, Mitch McConnell. Mitch barely let Scalia's body go cold before offering his two cents on a replacement appointment -  "The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice," he said. "Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president." This, like so much that Mitch says, makes no sense at all. It's the President's job to appoint justices and the Senate's job to "interview" them and either confirm or reject them. This is true regardless of which party controls the oval office OR the Senate. Everyone involved in the process is an elected official, meaning the American people DID have a say in this when they re-elected Obama, and when they turned the Senate over to a GOP majority. To suggest that the people only have a say if we wait until after the November Democalypse is an insult to the intelligence of the electorate, and it's also dead wrong.

Here's where McConnell is doubly wrong - his strategy is even worse than his logic on this one. The Supreme Court is halfway through it's docket of cases for this term. Some of those cases have almost certainly been voted on, and some of those votes would've resulted in a 5-4 verdict where Scalia voted with the majority. But the decisions in those cases haven't been published yet; the opinions are still being written. It's common for justices to CHANGE their votes during this process. It ain't official until the fat lady sings. So we've almost certainly got cases in the pipeline that will be retried (resulting in a 4-4 tie, if Scalia isn't replaced), or handed back to the lower courts (which Obama has done a champion job of stacking with Democrats). There's no constitutional law on this specific scenario. For example, technically the court could publish an opinion where a dead justice voted with the majority. It's never happened, and the current chief justice, John Roberts, is known for seeing himself as a steward of the court's image/prestige. I think the's failed pretty hard core on that one, but still it seems unlikely that he'd release any key decisions where Scalia has issued some scathing opinion that belittles the half of the country who disagrees with him. 

So, Mitch, not only is it your job to hold hearings, should Obama nominate someone, but you'd be a fool not to do it. Mitch is of course assuming that the GOP will retain the Senate and also take the White House in November, thus his desire to wait. This is because he, like the rest of the GOP, is stuck in their own echo chamber. Those of us who are swing voters have yet to see someone emerge on the GOP side for whom we'd vote - they're all a bunch of scrappy mud-slinging egotists who have demonstrated a profound level of ignorance on topics like equality, immigration, and foreign policy.