Sep. 4th, 2017 04:48 pm
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Comes news today that President Trump plans to repeal Obama's protection of illegal aliens brought here as children, AKA "dreamers." Also comes news is that Trump will delay action on this for six months. I find this the most nakedly political, albeit heartless, action of the Trump presidency.

I start with the assumption that Trump really couldn't care less if these people stay or go. He's just not empathetic enough to get worked over people not likely to give him money. His whole tough on illegals stance was a pander to a section of the Republican base and an applause line at his rallies, not an actual policy desire.

By this point in his presidency, even an idiot could see that whatever action Trump took on the dreamers would be criticized by Congress. Kick 'em out, Trump's heartless. Let the stay, Trump is usurping authority. But my taking action and starting a countdown clock, Trump forces Congress to put up or shut up.

Even better, from Trump's point of view, he's set up a "Xanatos Gambit" (warning - link leads to TvTropes) in which no matter what Congress does, Trump wins. Congress does nothing - Trump pleases his base and Congress can't criticize. Congress acts - any bad consequences are on them and Trump gets to campaign against Congress.

Now, in truth, it's much easier to set up a Xanatos Gambit if you really don't give a damn what the outcome of an event is. Since Trump cares little about outcomes and much about being seen to win, expect more of these.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Thoughts on a Monday:

The Pardoning of Joe Arpaio

Sad, immoral, but not unexpected. Trump rewards personal loyalty above all else, and Arpaio has been nothing but loyal. The fact that 99% of the tin-pot dictators of the world also reward loyalty above all else is left for the consideration of the reader.


Two thoughts:

1) I'm sure Houston could have done something better to allow for floodwaters to drain. Having said that, I doubt anybody could have engineered their way out of the four or five feet of rainwater the city's going to get.

2) It's easy for people like me to pick up and evacuate if need be. Simply put, I have spare cash and a reliable vehicle. But if you don't have a several hundred dollars immediately to hand (Motel 6 costs $50+ per night) then you maybe can't leave.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
From somewhere else on the Internet, I give you this article about Donald Trump. Key takeaways:

1) Is Trump a racist? Probably, because he's not very smart and that's the default setting of not-smart people.

2) Does he really care about Confederate statues? No, but he's upset that people expect him to care about them (or anything other than himself) so he'll take a contrary opinion out of spite.

3) Trump's core beliefs are: "Give Donald Trump Your Money and Donald Trump Should Really Be on Television More." He is, in short, completely self-focused.

4) Trump's attraction to his allies is largely that of having the ability to not care about anybody else.

Go read the whole thing.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Over on his blog, Scott Adams insists I am in a mass hysteria bubble. Perhaps obviously, I disagree. Scott makes many statements, and herewith I take issue with two.

1) Scott says of Trump [choice 3 of 4]: A mentally unstable racist clown with conman skills (mostly just lying) eviscerated the Republican primary field and won the presidency. He keeps doing crazy, impulsive racist stuff. But for some reason, the economy is going well, jobs are looking good, North Korea blinked, ISIS is on the ropes, and the Supreme Court got a qualified judge. It was mostly luck.

I say, except for:
- The economy was doing well before Trump, and jobs were going up. In fact, Trump's signature job "save" at the Indiana Carrier plant proved to be a lie (plant's closing anyway).
- North Korea hasn't blinked. They were threatening this week to drop missiles near Guam.
- ISIS in Iraq was on the ropes before Trump. This "on the ropes" organization has also just this week staged attacks in Spain and Finland.
- The Supreme Court got a judge because Mitch McConnell blocked Obama's nominee.

2) Scott says of Trump (and this his Scott's preferred answer) [choice 4 of 4]: The guy who didn’t offer to be your moral leader didn’t offer any moral leadership, just law and order, applied equally. His critics cleverly and predictably framed it as being soft on Nazis.

I say, except for:
There was no violence on both sides. The right committed murder and assault, the left defended themselves.

Methinks I know who suffers from a mass hysteria bubble, and it ain't me.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I've been away from this blog for a while. Once you get out of the habit of posting, you're out of the habit. Herewith, various thoughts.

1) Writing: I have committed writing again, adding nearly 4,000 words to the mystery novel. Based on the comments at my critique session, they were generally good words. More (hopefully) to follow.

2) Marching Morons, Gun Division: Comes news that a Minneapolis cop shot a crime victim through the car door of his squad car. Moreover, the cop was in the passenger side and the victim was talking to his partner through the driver's side window. It seems like the cop had his gun out and finger on the trigger way too soon. Unfortunately, that's called "involuntary manslaughter."

3) Marching Morons, Politics Division: After months of assurances by Donald Trump that nobody from his campaign met with the Russians, we hear that his son, son-in-law and then campaign manager took a meeting with the Russians. Words fail me.

4) Marching Morons, health care division: the wealthy comedian Scott Adams has, in the wake of the failure of the Republican party to repeal Obamacare, been pedaling various solutions to American health care. Conspicuously they all seem to have been conceived in a vacuum, and are completely unaware of the fact that the rest of the world cracked this code a long time ago.
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Scott Adams, the gift that keeps on giving, dashed off a blog post on his lunch hour in which he solves the North Korea problem. Like much emanating from the Alt-Right at the moment, his idea is at best half-baked. Scott, like many of the alt-right, is completely unable to understand what the various groups want. So, he makes an assumption about what they want, then follows that assumption down a logical path. But because he hasn't walked in the other guy's shoes, his understanding of their goal is so far out that his proposal makes no sense.

In this particular case, Scott assumes that China wants a peaceful Korean peninsula. Well, they'd like and would take a peaceful region, but what they absolutely don't want is for North Korea to collapse. That would spark a massive refugee problem and other political and economic heartburn. China also doesn't want a well-armed and Western-sponsored nation on it's border. China likes buffer zones. As a bonus, North Korean antics distract the US, giving China a freer hand in the region. This means China can't and won't push too hard on North Korea.

Scott assumes the North Korean leadership is interested in personal financial gain, so his plan gives them time to move their money overseas to hide it. Maybe, but it's entirely possible that the Kim family are psychopaths who just want people to be scared of them. It's also possible that they think Communism is "right" and the current poverty is character-building. Lastly, something is keeping the army from just taking over. Perhaps if one removes the "threat" of invasion from the South, the army will see that as a green light to take over.

At any rate, the failure of the Alt-Right and Trump to understand this is part of a whole. Somebody once said that for every problem there was a solution that was simple, obvious and wrong. The Alt-Right has a platform full of such solutions.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I haven't said much on President Trump of late, but today brings two whoppers which I feel the need to address.

Whopper #1 - On the recent trip to Saudi Arabia, Trump announced a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Well, nope. Basically, he and/or his staff took (from the article) "a wishlist: an itemized list of things the Saudis might be interested in if the price of oil ever recovers, if they start more wars and things the US would like to sell the Saudis."

Whopper #2 - On the Sunday talk shows, Trump's administration was touting "we added 50,000 jobs in the coal sector." Well, nope. Again from the article: "there were only 51,000 coal-mining jobs in the entire U.S. in May. Last month, 400 coal jobs were added—not 7,000. It was the overall mining sector, which includes oil, gas, and metals mining in addition to coal, that added 7,000 jobs in the month and 50,000 since last 2016."

These are both bald-faced lies, delivered unto the US with a straight face.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Various Southern cities are taking down statues commemorating Confederate war heroes. These statues were largely erected by white Southerners from 1890 to 1920, and were explicitly intended to send a signal to the local black population that Whites Were In Charge. They were also intended to hide the fact that the Civil War was fought by the South to protect slavery.

In any event, the statues are finally coming down. Various groups of whites are protesting the removal, and some of them have been heard chanting "Russia is our friend" at these protests. One sees this "Russia is our friend" concept a lot among the Alt-Right and Trump supporters (for whatever difference there is between the two groups). The question is why? Why did we go from a Cold War fear of the Ruskies to "Russia is our friend?"

There are a variety of reasons for this. The simplest is that Russia is ethnically mostly white - even most of the non-Russian peoples in the country are "white" by American standards. The Russian government has obviously done a lot with Twitter-bots and other social media creations to pump themselves up. But I think the biggest reason is Putin.

The American right, and right-wings in general, have always been fond of authoritarians. After all, the original "right wing" were the (absolute monarch) King's supporters in the French Estates General. Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford were both quite okay with Nazi Germany, not changing their minds until very late in the game. As I noted elsewhere, The antebellum South was organized, directed and structured to the benefit of white men, preferably those of property.

This is why the Alt-Right and Trump supporters not only aren't upset with Trump's collusion with Russia, but confused as to why anybody else is upset. We should be working with Russia. (Actually, if and when Russia extracts their collective heads from their asses, they should be natural allies with the US.)

The problem with authoritarians is this - it really matters who's the kicker and who's the kick-ee. By their very nature, authoritarian regimes end up with everybody, even members of the secret police (and there's always a secret police) being scared of their shadows. Anybody can be turned in by anybody for anything, true or not. Authoritarian regimes end up collapsing, because loyalty trumps (pun intended) competency, and the collapse is messy and bloody.

But for a while, while your side is the kicker, authoritarianism feels good. Unfortunately, the good feelings never last.
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Here we go, blogging for the third day in a row. Alas, I'm talking about alternate realities, and not in a good way.

In most realities, the lead news story is that President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because 1) Comey did not show sufficient loyalty to Trump and/or 2) Trump wants to ice the Russia investigation. In the Faux News / alt-right "reality," the lead story is an allegation that Hilary Clinton asked a government to help one of the donors of the Clinton Foundation.

Now, mind you, the help requested was for a man running a microloan bank and his donations were to a not-for-profit foundation, not the Clintons personally. Despite this, Faux News was arguing that this is a "clear criminal violation." Sorry, Charlie, not so.

For the record - it is perfectly consistent to want Comey to be fired for interfering in an election and not want him to be fired to stop an investigation.
chris_gerrib: (Default)

Various thoughts, saved up throughout the week, and regurgitated here.


I have long been able to hold two thoughts of Syria, namely that Assad is a wart on the ass of prosperity and that US involvement in Syria, especially military involvement, would be counterproductive at best.  So I’m not fond of Trump’s cruise missile attack on the country.  It appears to be knee-jerk and ineffective, never a good combination.  As Camestros Felapton says, even if one argues that Assad is a cancer, surgically excising him requires a skilled surgeon.  Trump does not appear to be that surgeon.

Trump and the Alt-Right

I’ve not said much about Trump as of late.  There’s only so many ways I can say he’s a complete idiot leading a party of semi-complete idiots without becoming tiresome.  I will say it’s become amusing (for “walking to the gallows” values of amusing) to watch his alt-right fans do contortions about his latest action.  The alt-right, including noted military expert Scott Adams, had decided that Tuesday’s chemical attack was either a false flag or a total fake.

Seeing Trump respond as if it were real threw them for a loop.  I note that Adams has deduced that this is yet another example of Trump’s playing 4-D chess while us mere mortals are playing checkers.  Color me unconvinced.


From serious to trivial: last night, I dreamed I was sleeping, or rather trying to sleep, in all sorts of odd places.  In my dream, when my 80+ year-old great aunt asked me what I was doing, that was the thing that woke me up.


I did not read the new LiveJournal terms of service that was forced upon me.  Having been told that it makes clear LiveJournal is under Russian law, I shall be moving with deliberate speed Dreamhost.

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
From various news sources today, I see that General Michael Flynn has resigned as National Security Adviser. The proximate cause was that he was sharing information he shouldn't with Russia. He's the third senior Trump adviser to have to quit. (Paul Manafort and Carter Page were the other two.)

I follow the USMC Code of Events: once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is enemy action. Given that Trump can't seem to find a bad word to say about Russia, I think the Marines are onto something. I also note that the only surprise in Flynn's departure was that he actually quit as opposed to brazen it out.

Which leads to the title of the post. What can I say? Trump clearly has no clue when it comes to hiring people, little clue when it comes to running a government, and is in general desperately short of clues. I'd say he's fresh out of clues, but that implies that at one time he had a stock of them - which is not supported by evidence.

We're only three weeks into this roller-coaster ride, folks. Buckle up.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
More than a few liberals are screaming demanding that the Senate should block all of Trump's appointments. Although tempting, especially in a "payback is a bitch" way, I'm not in favor of that. Simply put, the quickest way to get rid of Trump is the 25th Amendment.

For that to work, the Vice President needs to get the votes of a majority of the Cabinet. Which means you need a Cabinet. Although I'm no fan of Rick "Goodhair" Perry as Secretary of Energy, he was a governor of a state, and I think he wouldn't be down with shooting protesters. I definitely think the Dems should hold up Trump's Supreme Court nominee, again on the "payback is a bitch" theme.

Here's my bottom line - politics requires people to play nice with each other for anything to happen. Violations of that need to be addressed.

ETA: but we're in the minority in the Senate, so we can't win every fight.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I considered titling this post "Scott Adams, the gift that keeps on giving." In this case, Mr. Adams has blessed me with content, specifically replying to Adam's post Is President Trump Doing Management Wrong? Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have thoughts, a reaction to Adam's argument that Trump is engaging in entrepreneurial management:

The United States of America is not a startup. It's a 200+ year old organization. What's at stake is not somebody's job or a profit margin, what's at stake are people's lives.

In this case, there are thousands of customs and border agents who have to enforce this rule at hundreds of ports of entry. You can babble about "entrepreneurial management" all you want to, but these thousands of people are trying to execute a policy on the fly. The average border agent isn't a lawyer, and will face dozens of exceptions. For example, what if the person has a green card? What if the person is a dual national (US and Syrian)? What if they are a dual national of Syria and Canada? What do you do if they were already on the plane when the order was signed? Does the order revoke previously-granted refugee status or only new refugees?

Scott - you used to be an IT professional. Would you roll out a new software package to thousands of end-users without getting some of them to test it? Would you roll out that package without training end-users or at least sending out a clearly-written cheat sheet? Would you buy the package without having the business unit managers at least look at it to see if it will work for them?

In this case, none of that was done. The Director of DHS, the man in charge of the people implementing the order, saw the order after it was signed and it went into immediate effect. All of those questions and I'm sure 20 others had to be decided on the fly by whoever pulled weekend duty at whatever port of entry they came up. In what universe is that a good idea?

Shorter: an entrepreneurial airline needs to make sure it's planes don't crash. That didn't happen here.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I was at the gym last week with my trainer, and between sets the conversation turned to Trump. The guy at the machine next to me said in regards to the violence in Chicago, "we should just declare martial law in those neighborhoods and go house to house removing guns."

Besides the obvious Constitutional problems, I'm hard-pressed to think of something that would be more effective at unifying that neighborhood; unifying them in shooting at our soldiers. I also suspect the guy would howl bloody murder should that be done in his neighborhood. So was the guy a Fascist?

I think not. As noted in the comment section over on Scott Adam's blog, there is a type of individual we can call an "armchair knee-jerk naive politician." Somebody who, in other words, is stupid enough to think that invading the South Side of Chicago would work or that it could be implemented.

Now, such people look a lot like Fascists, and they tend to support Fascists, because Fascists Get Stuff Done without bothering with process, but they are not actual Fascists. Fascism actually has some overarching ideals, but the Kneejerker doesn't.

I suspect Trump is a Kneejerker. I also suspect that at least some of his advisers are Fascists. We live in interesting times.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Vox Day, also known to this blog as Wily E. Coyote, SuperGenius at Large, has repeatedly stated that he is not a Nazi, despite what people say. This is technically true, but misses the larger point. Most people think all Fascists are Nazis. No, much like Xerox machines are a type of copier, Nazis are a type of Fascist. VD is a Fascist.

Fascism was invented in Italy by one Benito Mussolini. Hitler styled himself after Mussolini, which was why Italy, a country that had fought against Germany in WWI, fought with them in WWII. Fascism is not inherently antisemitic - that particular trait was a "feature" of Adolf Hitler's personality. Nor is Fascism massively expansionistic - Mussolini before 1939 only invaded two countries - Albania and Ethiopia - places that lacked an ability to fight back.

So what is Fascism? It is:
1) Authoritarian. There is a Strong Leader and we must follow him.

2) Hyper-patriotic. Not "our country right or wrong" but "our country is never wrong."

3) Intolerant of dissent. Peaceful protests or disagreements are seen as threats.

4) Objectively pro-wealthy. Mussolini and Hitler both enjoyed strong support from the wealthy and aristocratic classes in their countries, largely because they followed policies that enriched said classes. For example, both men abolished independent labor unions, replacing them with unions that were little more than clubs for workers to hang out in.

5) Militaristic. They may not want to use the military (see Mussolini) but damn it they want a big and shiny one.

6) Fearful. In a Fascist regime, there is always some group that is just around the corner and just about ready to overthrow the regime. Paradoxically, this group is also seen as very stupid and easily stopped. (In fairness, this "powerful but stupid" enemy is a useful tool in a lot of situations.)

7) Action without thought. We need to build a wall to keep out Mexicans is action, but doesn't look at the fact that most Mexicans drive or fly across the border.

8) Traditionalism. Whether it's a cult-like worship of the Founding Fathers or surrounding yourself with Roman symbols, Fascists look to the past, and usually to some idealized version thereof.

9) Racist. Although this is more visible in Nazi-ism, Fascists are racists in that they see their race (however they define it) as better than other races. In VD's case, he defines the "American" race as people who came over on the Mayflower.

In any event, if you find yourself calling somebody a Nazi, let me suggest substituting Fascist. It's more accurate and harder to dispute.

For another take, see Umberto Eco's 14 features of Fascism.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Go read the whole thing, but I'm just going to quote this bit:

The conservative-media entertainment complex, of which Trump is the culmination, has made an art form of concocting absurd, up-is-the-new-down propositions, repeating them with jackhammering relentlessness, magnifying them in the echo chamber of right-wing media, and finally reifying them into conventional wisdom among the conservative faithful. Large percentages of the Republican base regard lies about death panels or Obama’s citizenship as axiomatic truths.

We're in for a rocky ride, folks.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I just finished reading the novel Outlander. In it, a British woman from 1945, a recently-discharged Army nurse, is magically transported back to Scotland of 1743. Adventures ensue, she hooks up with a hunky Scottish guy, nearly gets burnt as a witch, then has the opportunity to go back to her time and her husband - and doesn't.

That was at about the 3/4ths point of the book, and that's where I set it down. Mine is obviously a minority viewpoint - the book and its seven sequels and various tie-ins hit all the bestseller lists and the series is now on TV, so a whole lot of somebodies liked the story.

In fairness, Outlander is well-written and unstinting on the Badde Olde Dayes, but I think the author (and her character) fall victim to nostalgia. Tying this into Brexit and Trump, supporters of both are audibly nostalgic for The Good Old Days that will be brought back.

Two problems. First, the Good Old Days weren't good! Well, unless you were a straight white Protestant male. Second, much of what made the Good Old Days good for those WASPs were things like strong unions, regulation, and in the case of the USA, the fact that the rest of the world had just gotten the snot bombed out of them, leaving the USA untouched. So, it's a nostalgia for a time that Never Was and can't be again.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Another polar vortex has settled over Chicago. (Funny, I don't remember those from my childhood. Back then, it was just cold.) Yesterday was consumed by locusts and today I have a meeting of uncertain duration in the afternoon. Well, I could be outside trying to dig a ditch, so I'll stop complaining.

In other news, my book The Mars Run is getting some well-deserved press.

Lastly, a political thought from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. He analyzes the Election That Was and has some good thoughts. Key point: The final tally puts Trump ahead by .8%, or 22,748 votes. That's a tiny margin. Any number of things could have shifted the balance. Spending the final week of the campaign talking about a new investigation of Clinton's emails was more than enough to tip the balance. But now look at the shift from 2012. The shift in the direction of the GOP was 7.7%. That is a huge shift over four years.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
As readers of this blog know, I found this current election very frustrating. First, had Clinton won narrowly with implications of Russian hackers providing help, the entire Republican establishment would be up in arms over it. But because a Republican did it, it's okay.

Second, this article, entitled Why Obamacare enrollees voted for Trump, also drives me nuts. Beneficiaries of Obamacare are convinced, or have convinced themselves, that Trump and the Republicans won't do what they say they will and take their benefits away. They're also convinced that, unlike themselves, "undeserving poor" are getting freebies that they aren't.

Having said all of this, all I can do is point out the truth.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Stuff I found of interest.

A) Jim Wright on Trump's cabinet: "So far we've got The Idle Rich, Billionaires and Bankers, a couple of Evil Doctors, the Soap Queen sister of a mercenary, a Grand Wizard, Mad Dog Mattis, and Caribou Barbie

It's less like Donald Trump building a cabinet ...

... and more like Lex Luthor assembling a League of Super Villains."

B) The title says it all: Democrats, skip the civil war.

C) On stopping gun violence: Ya gotta go after the shooters.

D) I've met the author and I've pre-ordered the book.


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