Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year (ya think?)

A Message of Unity, Healing, and a Vision for the Future from the President-Elect

Sore winners should stick to a more uplifting tone, if not in words, at least of oneself in all one's glorious spectacle surrounded by the court of jesters. (Don King may soon be appointed Trump Special Counsel to Black and Bootstrapping, a self-help initiative just released in its draft stage by Steve Bannon). 

Love the jacket, Don. I'm not sure, but think flag protocol would call for displaying an American copy alongside the Russian one (but maybe this is just when official government business is being done). More like this:

Despite Bill Maher's sarcastic (about Trump) and disrespectful (about Jesus) Tweet,

, Americans should recognize what  may be a prototypical remaking of the archaic Presidential press conference. This way, reporters in awe of the palatial backdrop and the sideshow may be distracted enough to follow up on tough questions, like, what is it about Russians, computers, hacking,...etc., and so forth? and be totally unable to distill the import of brain shit-shots like this from the boss-to-be:
“I think we ought to get on with our lives, I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind the security we need. 
Another sticky issue Commander Tweety may be trying to avoid are is the one of his bigly businesses vs. the Emolument Clause (Article II, Section I, U. S. Constitution). Not a problem, says Commander T.:

"It's not a big deal — you people are making it a big deal, the business, they all knew I had big business all over the place,..."
Feel better already? Not quite yet? Maybe this will help. Happy New Year!

It was Unthinkable!

"At this moment [in October of 2016], the idea that a campaign so saturated in open bigotry, misogyny, chaos, and possible corruption could win a national election was ludicrous. This was America."

--Ta-Nehisi Coates, 'My President was Black,' in The Atlantic, January/February 2017, p.58.

Theme for 2017 - Trump Shoving the Working Class in Front of and Oncoming Traing (Pat Bagley Cartoon)

Pat Bagley's year-end cartoon for the Salt Lake Tribune could be the poster for 2017. It shows Donald Trump shoving the working class -- Americans who most directly voted against their own best interests -- in front of an oncoming train piloted by the GOP.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

It's NOT About Ideology

In occasional online "conversations" with Trump voters, I am frequently accused of being intolerant of people with an "ideology" different from mine. I infer from this that many Trump voters overestimate themselves as much as they overestimate Trump, since my opposition to Trump is far more pragmatic than it is ideological.

Candidate Trump was shockingly unqualified for the job of President of the United States. He had zero governmental experience. His statements made it clear he had little comprehension of the duties of the presidency or the limitations on the powers of that position. He was born rich and had a history of stiffing suppliers and employees, indicating no understanding of the lives or concerns of ordinary Americans. Many of his assertions were unambiguously racist and misogynistic. His years(!) of virulent Birtherism caused many to doubt his sanity.

These facts -- and they are plain and simple facts -- SHOULD disqualify any candidate, regardless of party or position.

I am not claiming that I support, or am even remotely comfortable with Trump's ideology, whatever that is. The fact is he's never clarified his core principles, or even whether he has any other than crude self-promotion. We can't evaluate his actions as an elected official or as a political activist, because he's never been either. His relationship with his own party is tense and complex, because they know he can't be counted on to toe the party line.  The few rhetorical specifics he's given us are markedly Racist, Nationalistic, and Protectionist, a hodgepodge that is difficult to classify. What ideology does Trump have? In what ideological perspective is it acceptable to elect a candidate so definitively unqualified for so powerful a position?

Having an ideology means you can articulate a few core principles and can explain how those principles lead you to the position you take for or against a particular piece of legislation, policy, or program. Merely having an Identity, calling yourself liberal or conservative or something else, is not an ideology if you leave it up to others to tell you how your Identity should vote. Following the herd is an instinct; ideology requires thought.

Lukovich Cartoon 29 Dec 2016

Trump is about to drop the ball.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Confessions of a Lapsed Republican

People who know me today might be surprised to learn that I voted for Ronald Reagan. Twice. I was (past tense) a registered Republican. Once I even flipped the Republican lever, back in the day when some mechanical voting machines had a switch for voting a straight party line.

Why was I Republican during a good portion of the 1970s and 80s? It isn't much of an oversimplification to say that my worldview placed a high value on balanced budgets and keeping government bureaucracy lean. Government was an unfortunate necessity, but a necessity nevertheless. On social issues I was quite liberal, something that has always seemed to me to be no more nor less then the logical entailment of believing "that government is best which governs the least." Small government requires public respect for a wide range of private choices. Some today would say that I was never a true Republican because of that, and they might be right. But the fact is that being socially liberal while fiscally conservative USED TO BE one of the standard flavors of conservatism. There USED TO BE room for me and people like me in the Republican party.

Even in the 70s, when I was young and idealistic, I was aware that I was associating with some unsavory Republican characters. There had always been theocrats and imperialists and nationalists who wanted "to get the U.S. out of the U.N." Some of those were willing to subordinate fiscal responsibility to their goals in the culture war, but I wasn't too worried about them. I had faith that the American "system" would keep those people in check. After all, the Constitution explicitly guarantees all citizens equal protection of the laws and prohibits any official religious discrimination. The executive or legislative branches might pander to extremists from time to time, but the courts would eventually correct such excesses. I actually thought social issues would tend to sort themselves out in favor of individual freedom as long as government just focused on doing its duty as minimally and efficiently as possible.

Have I changed since then? Yes, but only a little. I certainly know a lot more now about America's problems and system of government than I did as a twenty-something. I am no longer blissfully ignorant of the darker aspects of American culture that can rightly be called intolerance and backwardness. Most importantly, I came to see social issues as requiring protection from all branches of government, not just the judicial. Yet my core values have changed hardly at all. I still think a balanced budget and lean bureaucracy are critically important. I still feel that a commitment to small government means little or no interference in private choices, including choices about such things as abortion and marriage. And I still see people who think such social issues are more important than basic economics are radical revolutionaries rather than true conservatives.

While I changed slowly and marginally, the Republican party changed rapidly and greatly. In my political awareness this started with the Reagan administration. I responded viscerally to Reagan's rhetoric of small government and balanced budgets, and supported him enthusiastically. But the stark difference between words and actions became too great to ignore. Reagan drove the budget deficit through the roof. He appointed archfiend Antonin Scalia, willing to place his own ideology ahead of logic and precedent, to the Supreme Court. The party used the Religious Right as puppets to manage the votes of social conservatives, and at times the puppets became the puppet masters. What the Reagan years taught me was that Republicans are lying when they talk about fiscal responsibility and that we can NOT rely on the courts to protect civil liberties from legislators and executives.

Those were harsh enough lessons in reality, but that was just the 1980s! Things only got worse from there. Bush Senior was abandoned by his own party for trying to rein in some of the Reaganomic excesses and for not being enough of a culture warrior. Paleoconservative and failed presidential candidate Pat Buchanan gave his infamous "culture war" speech at the 1992 GOP convention, proclaiming the supremacy of "traditional Judeo-Christian values." A lower life-form named Newt Gingrich codified the Republican policy of total obstructionism. The party paraded Bill Clinton's private sexual peccadilloes before the public in a grandly staged impeachment opera. The Religious Right established itself as a major political power. People who were socially liberal but fiscally conservative left the party almost entirely. No matter. We were easily replaced by the less socially conscious.

One of the things I find so terrifying about the Republican party is that every time they seem to have sunk as low as possible, to have abandoned core principles as far as possible, new depths are revealed. Reagan's betrayal of fiscal conservatives and the Gingrich-led march into obstructionist madness now seem trivial. The new century dawned and Bush Junior lied to America and the United Nations about Weapons of Mass Destruction, destroyed the credibility of the U.S. internationally, undertook a hugely expensive war, ignored warnings about mortgage lenders, and then left the economy in ruins. His V.P. Dick Cheney infamously said, "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter."

The Obama years SEEMED to signal a major change in American culture, an attainment of at least some social maturity. Progress on social issues that had developed from the 1960s onward IN SPITE of Republican opposition seemed to be cemented in place. Simple demographics, regardless of parties or ideologies, had made America more diverse and less religious. Women and minorities were more visible in positions of power. Laws limiting abortion were being passed by legislatures but also were being chipped away at in the courts. We took a step toward universal healthcare. Same-sex marriage became the law of the land. An African-american had been elected, not once but twice, as President of the United States. The financial disaster left by the Bush administration was slowly but steadily being cleaned up. The budget deficit and unemployment were both declining.

The country seemed poised to continue along the Obama path, and Republicans were in no position to prevent it. The rapid rightward match of the party had left internal factional divisions that were hard to work around. In 2012 they actually flirted with the idea of running Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum for president, then had to compromise on the bland and indecipherable Mitt Romney, who could not unseat Obama. By early 2016 the party seemed near to collapse. They could not field a single candidate from their own establishment that had even the remotest chance of standing up to Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. Without a winning presidential candidate, the party was likely to lose big in congress and in statehouses. The party's self-description seemed nearly complete.

To save themselves from themselves, the party acquiesced to Donald Trump, an inexperienced know-nothing whose race-baiting demagoguery seemed to energize a large portion of the voting base. Republicans of a more practical temperament (there still are a few such people in the party) were understandably skeptical. But there were simply no alternatives. It was Trump or death for the GOP, and with dreary predictability the party put its own well-being ahead of that of the nation.

For the moment, at least, this strategy seems to have been wildly successful. The Republican party controls many statehouses and governorships, both houses of Congress, and at least in theory the presidency. The party now has power that is at least equal to that which it had during the best of the Reagan years. The only fly in the ointment, most likely, is Trump himself, who is something of a loose canon. The party will have to play hardball with its own candidate to gain a degree of control over him.

The situation appears grim to me. Trump's picks for his administration, if confirmed, will implement an unprecedented degree of plutocracy and corporatocracy. His stated intentions for taxes and spending terrify economists on both the Left and Right. The lesson of Trump's win by appealing to the most anti-social and anti-modern aspects of American culture has been lost on no one, and attempts to reverse recent gains on any number of social issues seem likely. This is one of those moments when I would say the party has sunk as low as it possibly could. But mark my words: I've been wrong every other time I've said that.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Don's Gift of Economic Smoke and Mirrors

This Eco 101 lesson by economist Joseph Stiglitz shows how the scattershot program to help make America's economy Great Again-devised and enhanced upon for and during the Orange Meister's campaign-is likely to produce the opposite of the intended effect.
As a result, an even more chaotic course of action maybe be seized upon by the just-wing-it leader, and that cannot be a good thing.

 From Project Syndicate


Bad News for America’s Workers

NEW YORK – As US President-elect Donald Trump fills his cabinet, what have we learned about the likely direction and impact of his administration’s economic policy?
To be sure, enormous uncertainties remain. As in many other areas, Trump’s promises and statements on economic policy have been inconsistent. While he routinely accuses others of lying, many of his economic assertions and promises – indeed, his entire view of governance – seem worthy of Nazi Germany’s “big lie” propagandists.
The Year Ahead 2017 Cover Image
Trump will take charge of an economy on a strongly upward trend, with third-quarter GDP growing at an impressive annual rate of 3.2% and unemployment at 4.6% in November. By contrast, when President Barack Obama took over in 2009, he inherited from George W. Bush an economy sinking into a deep recession. And, like Bush, Trump is yet another Republican president who will assume office despite losing the popular vote, only to pretend that he has a mandate to undertake extremist policies.
The only way Trump will square his promises of higher infrastructure and defense spending with large tax cuts and deficit reduction is a heavy dose of what used to be called voodoo economics. Decades of “cutting the fat” in government has left little to cut: federal government employment as a percentage of the population is lower today than it was in the era of small government under President Ronald Reagan some 30 years ago.
With so many former military officers serving in Trump’s cabinet or as advisers, even as Trump cozies up to Russian President Vladimir Putin and anchors an informal alliance of dictators and authoritarians around the world, it is likely that the US will spend more money on weapons that don’t work to use against enemies that don’t exist. If Trump’s health secretary succeeds in undoing the careful balancing act that underlies Obamacare, either costs will rise or services will deteriorate – most likely both.
During the campaign, Trump promised to get tough on executives who outsource American jobs. He is now holding up the news that the home heating and air conditioning manufacturer Carrier will keep some 800 jobs in my home state of Indiana as proof that his approach works. Yet the deal will cost taxpayers $7 million, and still allow Carrier to outsource 1,300 jobs to Mexico. This is not a sound industrial or economic policy, and it will do nothing to help raise wages or create good jobs across the country. It is an open invitation for a shakedown of the government by corporate executives seeking handouts.
Similarly, the increase in infrastructure spending is likely to be accomplished through tax credits, which will help hedge funds, but not America’s balance sheet: such programs’ long track record shows that they deliver little value for money. The cost to the public will be especially high in an era when the government can borrow at near-zero interest rates. If these private-public partnerships are like those elsewhere, the government will assume the risks, and the hedge funds will assume the profits.
The debate just eight years ago about “shovel-ready” infrastructure seems to be a distant memory. If Trump chooses shovel-ready projects, the long-term impact on productivity will be minimal; if he chooses real infrastructure, the short-term impact on economic growth will be minimal. And back-loaded stimulus has its own problems, unless it is managed extremely carefully.
If Trump’s pick for US Treasury Secretary, the Goldman Sachs and hedge-fund veteran Steven Mnuchin, is like others from his industry, the expertise he will bring to the job will be in tax avoidance, not constructing a well-designed tax system. The “good” news is that tax reform was inevitable, and was likely to be undertaken by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and his staff – giving the rich the less progressive, more capital-friendly tax system that Republicans have long sought. With the abolition of the estate tax, the Republicans would finally realize their long-held ambition of creating a dynastic plutocracy – a far cry from the “equality of opportunity” maxim the party once trumpeted.
Large tax cuts and large expenditure increases inevitably lead to large deficits. Reconciling this with Trump’s promise to reduce the deficit will probably entail a return to Reagan-era magical thinking: despite decades of proof to the contrary, this time the stimulus to the economy brought by tax cuts for the rich will be so large that tax revenues will actually increase.
This story doesn’t end well for Trump’s angry, displaced Rust Belt voters. Unhinged budgetary policies will induce the US Federal Reserve to normalize interest rates faster. Some see incipient inflation (given the low unemployment rate); some believe the long period of ultra-low interest rates has distorted capital markets; and some want to “replenish their ammunition,” so that the Fed can lower interest rates should the economy slow down again.
Trump has argued that the Fed should raise interest rates. The Fed, which took the first step toward normalization in early December, will almost certainly deliver – and Trump will soon regret what he wished for. There’s a good chance that the monetary contraction will outweigh the fiscal stimulus, curbing the Obama growth spurt currently underway. Higher interest rates will undercut construction jobs and increase the value of the dollar, leading to larger trade deficits and fewer manufacturing jobs – just the opposite of what Trump promised. Meanwhile, his tax policies will be of limited benefit to middle-class and working families – and will be more than offset by cutbacks in health care, education, and social programs.
If Trump starts a trade war – by, say, following through on his vow to impose a 45% tariff on imports from China and to build a wall on the US border with Mexico – the economic impact will be even more severe. Trump’s cabinet of billionaires could continue to buy their Gucci handbags and $10,000 Ivanka bracelets, but ordinary Americans’ cost of living would increase substantially; and without components from Mexico and elsewhere, manufacturing jobs would become even scarcer.
To be sure, a few new jobs will be created, mainly in the lobbying shops along K Street in Washington, DC, as Trump refills the swamp that he promised to drain. Indeed, America’s bog of legal corruption is likely to reach a depth not seen since President Warren G. Harding’s administration in the 1920s.
And there really is no silver lining to the cloud that now hangs over the US and the world. As bad as his administration will be for America’s economy and workers, its policies on climate change, human rights, the media, and ensuring peace and security are likely to be no less damaging for everyone else.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Take the Fork in the Road, Please

After the occurrence of some significant event—in this case, the election of a megalomaniacal and unpredictable billionaire celebrity to the U. S. Presidency—it is human nature to look back in time to see how it could have been predicted and prevented; or at least discover that someone or something else had foretold it (which is much simpler—there always are signposts to the future pointing the way to the present, signposts the time traveler had forgotten reading along the way, or missed entirely—and made sure those oversights should be avoided the next go-round. Or signs that were just ignored, pooh-poohed as "that's just crazy," or, "that couldn't happen here." Keep in mind, there could be hundreds or thousand of such examples, some more specific like direct, pre-election polling; others more general, like explanations of the social psyche or political-economics as explained by academicians, literary sages, or cultural critics. Either way (and to cliche´-up this whole thing ) hindsight is 20-20, and simple—and fun! As big picture person myself, I like the following warning signs (billboards maybe?) of the climate that led to election of DJT.

Pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty, in his 1998 Achieving Our Country (Harvard Press, first paperback edition, 1999), writes

The point of his book The Endangered American Dream [Edward N. Luttwak] is that members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized– are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
At that point, something will crack. The non-suburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots....For once such a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen...
Or this keenly descriptive state of the political and economic state of affairs that had made the state of Kansas look like a microcosm of the rest of America (or the Arab states) and an easy touch for demagoguery. From Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? (Metropolitan Books Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2004) five years later:

The Wall Street Journal ran an essay about a place “where hatred trumps bread,” where a manipulative ruling class has for decades exploited an impoverished people while simultaneously fostering in them a culture of victimization that steers this people’s fury back persistently toward a shadowy, cosmopolitan Other. In this tragic land unassuageable cultural grievances are elevated inexplicably over solid material ones, and basic economic self-interest is eclipsed by juicy myths of national authenticity and righteousness wronged.  
The essay was supposed to be a description of the Arab states in their conflict with Israel, but when I read it I thought immediately of dear old Kansas and the role that locales like Shawnee play in conservatism’s populist myth. 
Using the backlighting of the past, the present has come more into focus. But viewing forms from that perspective can be as illusory as the figures in Plato's cave, however, so for the future, do we wag a lantern and watch the figures ahead sway left and right, in and out of focus, or do we direct an LED-brilliant flashlight beam toward—what?

White Fright (Bagley Cartoon)

Pat Bagley's Cartoon, Salt Lake Tribune, 23 Dec 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Season for Giving

Last minute suggestions from The Baffler for your favorite mousekecabineteer

We Warned you about Giving This Fool the Nuclear Codes!

Top Ten Reasons for Voting for Donald Trump

Based on "conversations" with Trump voters, these are the Top Ten reasons motivating their action. There are more reasons, but they quickly get repetitive and corollary after these ten.

  1. President Obama is Black.
  2. Hillary Clinton is female.
  3. Straight, white, Protestant males are no longer just automatically in charge.
  4. My feelings are hurt because people who know more than I do about history, economics, and public policy don't agree with me.
  5. All the good manufacturing jobs left my town, so I'm going to keep sending back to Washington the same kind of union-busting, big-corporation fatcats who enabled this in the first place.
  6. Trump will stop the brown people who are swarming over the border to go on Welfare and take our jobs.
  7. Obama/Clinton took/are taking/will take our guns.
  8. God wants Trump to make America Christian again.
  9. Trump will undo the evil Obama order allowing men to enter women's restrooms to commit heinous acts.
  10. The government should be run like a business.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The America We Knew and Loved is Gone

(Quoted in the Business Insider

Santa's Gifts (Political Cartoon)

Chan Lowe
Tribune Content Agency
Dec 21, 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016

Disaster Not Averted

The Electoral College has confirmed Donald J. Trump as President-Elect of the United States! Neither the American voters nor the women and men of the Electoral College could work up the gonadal fortitude to say no to a race-baiting demagogue. We are screwed, and perhaps we deserve it.

I am reminded of a song based on H.P. Lovecraft's horror stories about Cthulhu. Cthulhu is the ultimate evil, sleeping beneath the sea through countless eons. His rising brings unimaginable destruction to the world. The first stanza is:

Death to the world! Cthulhu's come
Let Earth abhor this thing.
Let every mind prepare for doom,
As anguish and woe he'll bring. (And anguish and woe he'll bring.)
As anguish and woe he'll bring. (Anguish and woe he'll bring.)
As anguish, as anguish and woe he'll bring.

I find this oddly applicable to today.  Full lyrics available at the website of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

It's put to voice and music, in an appropriately minor key, at

Women's Marches 21 Jan

On Saturday, January 21st, a series of Women's Marches will take place to raise awareness of the rights and concerns of women and minorities. These efforts are being organized in response to Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric, which "insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us - immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault." Participation is open to "any person, regardless of gender or gender identity, who believes women’s rights are human rights."

The march on D.C. is calling itself the Women's March on Washington (WMW). Many sister marches are using similar names. Sister marches are now expected in cities around the U.S., and some other countries as well. Many of the marches are already well organized, with routes, schedules, permits, and travel coordination. A few are still working on the basics.

Much of the information interested participants need is available on Facebook pages and a few websites. 

The Facebook page of the Women's March on Washington is:

The website for the Women's March on Washington is:

That website has links to sister marches that will be taking place in cities around the country and the world. The list of links is at:

I'm putting permanent links to these on my blog page at  

All of this assumes, of course, that a majority of the Electoral College will vote for Trump today (19 Dec), and that the vote will be confirmed by Congress on January 6th. Both of these now seem unavoidable.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Cabinet Picks (Zyglis Cartoon 18 Dec 2016)

Adam Zyglis
The Buffalo News
Dec 18, 2016

Electing a Fascist (Non Sequitur 18 Dec 2016)

Nails it! Wiley Miller's Non Sequitur cartoon of 18 Dec. 

More Sludge in the Swamp

Those who voted for Trump might recall his campaign promises to "drain the swamp" in Washington and give ordinary Americans a voice. Those of us who voted against him certainly recall thinking those claims sounded ridiculous, considering the source. Trump's cabinet picks demonstrate how much of a lie those campaign promises were.

Markos Moulitsas summed it up well in his op-ed in The Hill:

Trump is nominating primarily lobbyists, Wall Street cronies, and the ultra-wealthy to helm Cabinet departments, and in so doing, he is just pouring more sludge into the “swamp.” . . . . Number of working-class people in his administration? Zero.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The American Kakistocracy

Kakistocracy, meaning "government by the worst people," is not a new word, but it certainly has become more common since His Orangeness became a serious presidential candidate. That kakistrocracy is what we would get with Trump was obvious to more alert Americans in general, and certainly to the editors of the Atlantic, who called him "the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency."

The word came to mind this morning while reading a New York Daily News article about the drop off in education of the incoming administration. Advanced degrees by themselves are, of course, no guarantee of job performance, but the difference in education levels between many members of the outgoing Obama administration and incoming Trump administration is quite stark. Beyond under-education, Trump seems to have selected a number of foxes to guard various hen-houses. Wall Street insiders, creationist theocrats, and anti-government ideologues will now have powerful influence over business, the economy, education, housing, insurance, and other vital areas.

A number of other terms could apply. Certainly we have had for some time an oligarchy, rule by the few. Now more than ever we have a plutocracy, rule by the wealthy. If we have not had before, then we certainly have now a kleptocracy, "government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed."

It is very tempting to claim we also now live in an idiocracy, but I think the term is misleading. If Trump and his administration were actual idiots we'd have less to fear. They may be under-educated and may allow their ideologies to blind them to basic facts, but they're not stupid. They have agendas and at least some idea of how to achieve them.

Kakistocracy indeed.

Fear of kakistocracy is why most Americans could never consider Trump to be a credible candidate, let alone vote for him. Those of us among that group will be dismayed, but not surprised, as the events of the next four years overtake us. We may at times feel vindicated by one or another disaster, although we won't really enjoy it, as we'll have to live with the consequences as much as anybody else does. As for the 63 million rubes who happily gave in to a race-baiting demagogue, I can't even begin to guess how the next four years will seem to them,

Friday, December 16, 2016

Pizzagate and Birthers

The alleged "Pizzagate" assailant, Edgar Maddison Welch, pleaded not guilty today. The poor fellow fell for fake news asserting that Hillary Clinton and other Democratic Party officials were involved in a child sex-trafficking ring located in tunnels beneath a D.C. pizza restaurant. Supposedly, Mr. Welch took it upon himself to "investigate" the matter, put guns and ammunition in his car, drove across state lines, brandished a weapon to frighten customers and employees out of the restaurant, discharged his firearm inside the building, searched for tunnels or hidden rooms, then quietly surrendered to police when he found none. No news yet on whether he'll get a psychiatric evaluation, although I strongly suspect he'll be found competent to stand trial.

Meanwhile, in Maricopa County, Arizona, semi-famous or infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio is once again calling into question the birth certificate of President Obama. While carefully denying any claims about the President's place of birth, and less carefully denying any claims about the original birth certificate, Arpaio and associates claim the electronic copy of the birth certificate that is commonly bandied about on the internet is a forgery, and leave the rest to innuendo. This is, of course, the result of a lengthy "investigation" of sorts.

See the parallels?

Certainly Sheriff Arpaio and friends are more qualified than Mr. Welch, who apparently has no law enforcement experience. But purview? The birth certificate of the President of the United States is no more within the purview of an Arizona county sheriff than a child sex-trafficking ring in D.C. is within the purview of a private citizen in North Carolina.

Both of these incidents are symbolic of the current political climate. In our post-factual universe, individual opinions, whether well founded or not, are often valued as equal to or even superior to the careful analyses of trained experts working with testable facts. In both cases, people with limited access to information assumed that they somehow knew more than did officials with proper investigative powers and direct knowledge of the situation. They felt their ideological position gave them a special insight that others lacked, so they bypassed official channels and took "investigations" upon themselves. Both were goaded into action by the false or at least baseless information endlessly echoed inside the information bubble within which they choose to enclose themselves. And in the long run, both accomplished nothing, except maybe tiring themselves out and exposing themselves to ridicule and possible prosecution.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Sheriff Arpaio still Obsessing over Obama's Birth Certificate

Crazy and stupid go hand in hand  when a county Sheriff, during the last month of President Obama's term, is still fanning the flames of conspiracy theories about the President's birth certificate. Even Donald Trump, once an assertive birther, has eaten his words. But in Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and several associates have been working for years on an unofficial "investigation." They are very clear that they are NOT making any claim about the President's place of birth. They're also NOT making any claim about the original birth certificate, which is safely locked away in Hawaii. What they ARE saying is that the electronic copy of the birth certificate that is commonly exchanged on the internet is a forgery.

This might have been more interesting if they had announced their results far earlier in the Obama administration, or if the whole presentation didn't sound more like an episode of "Ancient Aliens" or "Finding Bigfoot" than a scientific analysis. 

The hour-long news conference can be seen on Youtube, and a few news sources, like The Hill, have taken notice. 

Creationist(s) in the White House?

Anthony Scaramucci, a member of Trump's "transition team," actually says, on national television, that the planet Earth is 5,500 years old (among other things). The remark is near 6 mins 25 secs.

Bad Hombre!

Washington Post: Women's March on D.C. now has Permit.

Washington Post: Scientists Prepare for the Trumpocene!

Eric Flom Cartoon 14 Dec 2016

What the rednecks are gonna get