Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Man Who Never Laughed

It is said that Donald Trump doesn't laugh. Perhaps this is an urban legend, like the Tijuana rat someone mistook for a stray dog (I've known two separate people who swore that it happened to a friend of theirs). Or maybe, like the devil trying to quote scripture, whenever Trump tries to laugh it catches in his throat and he gags on it.

Trump has a smile, after a fashion, that looks more like a colicky baby than a mirthful human. But the search for a Trump laugh is the snipe hunt of politics.

Trump does find a kind of joy in being adulated. But, like a crack addict, no praise is strong enough nor lasts long enough to be truly satisfying. Then there are the long hours when everyone is trying to work and don't have the time to tell Trump how smart he is or how big his hands are.

So Trump spends an inordinate amount of time publicly praising himself. He'll tell anyone who'll listen, and everyone who tries to not listen, how smart he is, how he has the best brains, how he is a better general that any actual general, and how he has never made a mistake in his entire life and so never has had to apologize. And when something does go wrong it is always somebody else's fault.

Like laughter is contagious, Trump's mirthlessness is also catching. By accounts, Sean Spicer once had a pleasant sense of humor. But after just a month as Trump's chief spokesliar, Spicer has lost his ability to laugh. Spicer is now a bitter, paranoid shadow of a man, a Capt. Queeg determined to root out imagined traitors through his geometric logic.

Spicer even held a press briefing exclusively for alt-right outlets who spent the time showering Spicer with praise instead of questions.
Every other Trump spokesliar is equally humorless. All except Steve Bannon. He is know to laugh.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Fake News Show

You've seen the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, Full Frontal, and any Sean Spicer press conference, but unless you have a mania for weird British comedy panel shows you didn't see this visit to the world of fake news.

The Fake News Show was broadcast on the British commercial television network Channel 4 and is the perfect reaction to the alternate reality that the United States in 2017. It was billed as a one-off comedy special but here's hoping that was fake news and they continue shining lights on the faked "fake" news (aka: reality) and real fake news (aka: Fox News).

The link is to the YouTube copy of the show. Watch it and laugh.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Compare and Contrast

A Company of Cowards
If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. ~ Pres. Harry S Truman 
a paid attempt to bully and intimidate ~ Rep. Jason Chaffetz describing the constituents at a townhall meeting that he said were being mean to him.
Republican congressmen across the country are acting like timid school girls whining about how voters are nasty doo doo-headed meanies. Most are making up excuses to avoid appearing in public except at pay-to-play fundraisers.

Then there is Rep. Louis Gohmert who co-sponsored a bill last week to allow the mentally ill to purchase guns. Now, he is  afraid of crazy people shooting him and so he will no longer meet with voters.

Women As Chattel
We are two-legged wombs, that’s all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices. ~ The Handmaid's Tale
I understand that they feel like that is their body. I feel like it is a separate - what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ ~ Justin Humphrey, an Oklahoma legislator describing women of childbearing age.
Humphrey wrote legislation requiring women to have written consent from the father of a fetus before getting an abortion. The woman has to beg the man for permission to have an abortion.

In Wyoming, abortion legislature is sent to the Agriculture Committee because women are merely breeding stock.

Monday, February 20, 2017

When Facts Become Unnecessary

From The Prisoner
There was a time, historians call it the Age of Reason, when truth was an objective thing. If you were looking for the truth of a matter you would seek out things called facts and subject them to rigorous review. Prove the facts and you have glimpsed the truth.

Those days are gone. Today, we live in a time when the truth is whatever you believe at the moment. Facts are pesky details that only confuse. If you believe in something strongly enough then facts become useless.

Take, for example, the terrorist attack on Sweden last Friday night. In the past, a president seeking to know if such a thing had happened would have called his National Security Advisor (or, if he didn't have one, his Swedish masseuse) and ask about it.

Today, all you need is to believe that terrorist attacks are daily occurrences and you can be certain there was a terrorist attack in Sweden Friday night. There is no need to waste time confirming what you already believe to be true.

On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said that there were no Trump associate contacts with Russia even while acknowledging that Trump associate Michael Flynn had contacts with Russia to discuss sanctions.
To a mind stuck in the Age of Reason such contradictions would be seen as patently absurd. But we are past the limitations of reason. Because Reince believes both things to be true, they have become absolutely true and anyone who denies their truth is peddling "fake news."

We live in a brave new world where truth is fungible and facts meaningless.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Swedish Attack

It is possible, with sufficient repetition, to convince people that a square is, in fact, a circle. They are mere words and words can be molded until they clothe and disguise ideas. ~ Joseph Goebbels (paraphrased for clarity)
This morning, thousands and perhaps even yet millions of Americans awoke convinced that there was a major terror attack on Sweden Friday night. An attack that is being covered up by both the Swedish government and the global media. By this time next week, fully a third of the American people will believe in this mythical attack and that there is a vast liberal conspiracy to hide it.

I know what Sean Spicer is doing today. He's trying to come up with some semi-plausible explanation that isn't that Trump became confused while watching a weekend rebroadcast on Fox News of some old story.

Friday, February 17, 2017

'Enemies of the People'

All leaders of the Constitutional Democratic Party, a party filled with enemies of the people, are hereby to be considered outlaws, and are to be arrested immediately and brought before the revolutionary court. ~ Vladimir Lenin, 1917
It took four weeks for Donald Trump to go full dictatorship of the proletariat on the United States. The next step is for Trump to declare the media to be traitors of the motherland. The traditional Soviet Russia punishment was to strip them, their families, and their friends of their citizenship and imprison them in Siberian labor camps.

We can expect his rally tonight to be full of rabid calls for the execution of journalists.

The New Gestapo

Jews being deported from Warsaw to Auschwitz
Trump wants a deportation force. It's one of his masturbatory fantasies. But the FBI is too small and its agents are trained to, mostly, follow the law. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is willing but way too small to gather up the tens of millions of brown skinned folk Trump wants expelled.

No, Trump needs at least 100,000 souls who will blindly follow orders regardless of their legality or morality. And it would be really neat if they worn uniforms and carried big ass guns.
The third W├╝rzburg deportation
That is the source of the draft memo proposing mobilizing the National Guards of eleven states to initiate mass arrests and deportations.

It is not going to happen as described in the memo because it proposed leaving the Guard under the control of their state's governors. While the governors of Texas and Arizona would consider having soldiers kicking in doors and dragging families out of their homes the other nine governors would object to storm troopers rampaging through neighborhoods.

Still, it's a hint at what Trump is looking for.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Siberian President

Four weeks is not enough time to be certain about the next few years but treads are emerging.

Trump Spends More Time Watching TV Than Working
Trump channel surfs all the morning shows but insists his daily security briefings be limited to three subjects and not more than one page, total. His briefings are only 15 minutes long, this was demonstrated when he started his February 8 briefing at 10:30am and he was tweeting about Ivanka and Norstrom's at 10:51am.

At A Visceral Level Trump Realizes He Seems Goofy
At his press conference today, Trump declared he was "not ranting and raving." When someone feels compelled to announce that he is perfectly calm and not ranting you can be damn sure he has been ranting.

Trump Has A Fragile Ego
Have you ever met a smart person who feels compelled to repeatedly tell you how smart he is? Smart, self assured people don't need to toot their own horn. Trump, however, is always announcing to the world that he really is smart, like he thinks nobody is believing him.

Then there is his pretending that he had the biggest inaugural in history and, when evidence proved that false, insisting nonetheless beyond all levels of decorum. He continues to declare that his victory was the biggest landslide since Reagan.  When that lie is pointed out he squirms like a little boy caught stealing cookies.

His Inability to Move Past the Election Is Telling
"Having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true." So said Mr. Spock in Star Trek TOS. Trump loved wanting the presidency but now that he has it he is bored and depressed. This is why Trump can't move on from the election to the actual governing part of the presidency. Trump is sad the campaign ever ended.

Trump's Team of Backstabbers
Doris Kearns Goodwin titled her book on the Lincoln  cabinet "Team of Rivals." It takes a strong personality to corral a team of rivals into a functioning government. Trump has a weak personality in need of constant ego massage. And so the Trump administration leaks like a broken colander.

Whenever Kellyanne Conway says anything Reince Priebus or Sean Spicer leak something to embarrass her. Steve Bannon is circulating rumors that Priebus will be fired soon while Conway is hinting that Spicer is on thin ice. Admiral Robert Harward refused the job of National Security Advisor because Bannon insisted on picking Harward's team, meaning Harward would have had a staff specifically tasked with undercutting him.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Minion I Know - Peter Navarro

It seriously freaks me out that I actually know one of Trump's people. Please don't think less of me.

A quarter century ago UC Irvine economics professor Peter Navarro wanted to become mayor of San Diego. He decided to use the local environmental movement as his vehicle. This was odd because up until then he had zero interest in the environment.

He took over a growth management initiative campaign that I was also working on, and became its principle spokesman. As a spokesman he was mean, disruptive, bombastic, and condescending. Peter didn't just think he was the smartest man in the room, he was certain he was the smartest man in the universe.

There was one debate where he represented the campaign, I represented the Sierra Club, and local elected officials took the pro-growth side. Peter interrupted, insulted, and demeaned the politicians while never attempting to address the issues. I stayed on message. After the debate the politicians came up to me and thanked me, not for agreeing with them (I hadn't) but simply for being rational.

On another initiative Peter undercut our fundraising by contacting donors, claiming to represent the campaign and getting them to write checks to his personal PAC. On yet a third campaign he cleaved a labor union provision onto a completely unconnected growth management ballot initiative. He then used union volunteers to gather the signatures. Again this was curious because Peter hated labor unions.

The problem was, by law, initiatives had to be single issue. When a judge ruled Peter's ballot initiative illegal, Peter offered to delete the labor provisions thereby stabbing in the back the hundreds of union workers who had supported him.

As the mayoral election was approaching, Peter asked me to meet with him. By this time I was fairly important within the environmental community, chairing the Conservation Committee of the local Sierra Club chapter. At that meeting Peter issued a direct threat, support his run for mayor or he would destroy me.

I told him to fuck off. Peter then began a whisper campaign against me that damaged my reputation.

Come the election and it looked like Peter might win up until the final debate when his opponent, Susan Golding, goaded him into a meltdown that revealed Peter's pathology. Peter lost. He ran a few other times for other posts, always losing, then disappeared.

When Donald Trump started running I recognized him as Peter Navarro writ large. All the personality traits I had suffered through with Peter were apparent in Trump. Both men didn't want power to accomplish anything, they wanted power for the sake of power alone and the proof of their power would be the ability to hurt innocent people.

So I was not surprised when Trump picked Peter to head the National Trade Council. Hateful people attract each other. Peter is more than willing to start a disastrous trade war just to prove he finally, after all these years, has the power to destroy.

Now, because I really, really need this...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Real Fake News

A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. ~ Mark Twain
Trump is always attacking the media for "fake news" when most of the fakeness in the world comes from Trump and his minions. Sometimes there is a speck of truth.

Way Down In Bowling Green
Kellyanne Conway famously concocted a Bowling Green Massacre that never happened. Still, half of Trump faithful have convinced themselves there was a major terrorist massacre in a mid-sized town in central Kentucky. that the media conspired to cover up.

Oddly, in September, 2016 there was an actual incident that some people have called the "Bowling Green Massacre." On that date, the Ohio State football squad defeated the Bowling Green Falcons 77-10. A massacre, yes, but a bloodless one.

Atlanta's Burning
Press Secretary Sean Spicer loves pointing to the nonexistent attack on Atlanta as proof of the need for extreme vetting of Muslims. He did it repeatedly until someone confusedly asked if he meant Orlando.

There were two real attacks on Atlanta. In 1864, Gen. William Sherman attacked, conquered, and burned Atlanta to the ground. But, that was the Civil War, although white supremacists continue to whine about it. In 1996, Eric Rudolph exploded a bomb in Atlanta's Centennial Park killing one and wounding 111. Rudolph as a rightwing fanatic and an ideological shadow of Steve Bannon.

Murder Inc.
Trump says the US murder rate is the highest in 47 years. The only proof he has ever provided is to quote himself. The truth is the the murder rate was higher during the entire Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Bush I years. While the murder rate is higher than it was during most of the Obama Administration they are still historically low.

Methinks is watching too much Investigation Discovery.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Shoved Up Trump's Memory Hole

Trump's "Memory Hole" is getting stuffed.

Black History Month
When Sen. Elizabeth Warren read from a letter by the civil rights icon, Mitch McConnell shut her down to keep the truth out of the Congressional Record. Her colleagues rose to her defense the following day, reading the letter into the record nonetheless.

Truth and Lies
The most essential quality for leadership is not perfection but credibility. People must be able to trust you. ~ Rick Warren 
Kellyanne "Alternative Facts" Conway has come up with another one. Appearing on CNN (putting to lie Trump's claim his people were boycotting CNN), she said people should simply believe Trump when he tells the truth and ignore him when he lies. Of course, Kellyanne forgot to explain how to tell the difference. The best way is to assume everything he says is a lie until proven otherwise.

Wake Up Call
After a long day of coming up with a casus belli for Russia to invade Poland, Trump's national security advisor Mike Flynn was sleeping with visions of sugar plums and goosestepping soldiers marching in his head. At 3 am, the phone range. It was Boss Trump. Flynn bolted awake, fearing something horrible had happened. Nah. Trump just had a silly question that couldn't wait until a godly hour.

This one clearly got out because Flynn was laughing at Trump with anyone would would listen about how he blew off the President with his "don't ask me call an economist" line.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Wars and Rumors of War

Trump turned his bloodshot eye to international relations and the results were pretty much what you would expect.
And then there is the case of Seal Team Six. Trump wanted to open his box of toy soldiers and play with them. Right Now! So, not waiting for adequate intelligence, he sent the team into a Yemen meat grinder.

A hour long firefight resulting in four Seal casualties including one death. Dozens of innocent women and children were killed and Trump gave al-Qaeda a powerful new martyr for recruiting militants, an eight year-old girl. Thanks to Trump, this is the new face of terror.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

America's Rump Parliament

Republicans have taken a large step toward the creation of a one party state. Responding to a Democratic boycott of a couple of committees, Senate Republicans changes the rules so they no longer needed any Democrats to create a quorum.

Consider how much easier they have made their lives. They can prevent any uncomfortable questions of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch by simply locking the door, keeping Democrats out of the confirmation hearings.

The willingness to act as a Rump Parliament is just another part of the rapid unraveling of the American democracy.