Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category.

Thoughts On Political Machines

In his testimony last week, Brett Kavanaugh went on about shadowy left-wing forces trying to take him down.

The irony is that Hillary Clinton spoke of a “vast right-wing conspiracy“. A conspiracy implies secrecy, and frankly the right wing was never too quiet about their hatred of the Clintons. It was more of a vast right-wing machine or network.

There are the Koch Brothers, who fund many think tanks and advocacy groups, including the Cato Institute, the Mercatus Institute and ALEC. There is Richard Mellon Scaife, who, like the Kochs, got his start as a hardscrabble newborn in a rich family. One of the largest banks in the country is The Bank of New York Mellon; he is part of the Mellon family. (Seriously, what is it with conservatives who are born into wealthy families, and then turn around and lecture the rest of the world about self-reliance?) And there is Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer. (She has a very large forehead; I guess her head needs to be bigger to contain all the resentment she feels for having a wealthy father.)

Brett Kavanaugh himself spent a large part of his career as a right-wing operative. He worked with Ken Starr. He was part of the Florida mis-count. He drafted many of George W Bush’s signing statements (also see here). Like debt, signing statements are one of those things conservatives are only bothered about when a Democrat does them.

I think that Kavanaugh is committing a fallacy that a lot of conservatives commit: Because there is a right-wing machine, there MUST be a left-wing machine; because conservatives are willing to lie to get power, liberals MUST be doing the same thing. Kind of like how many drunks like Kavanaugh think that because they can’t function without a lot of booze that everybody else must need it as much as they do.

A lot of conservatives honestly think that nobody ever really disagrees with them. Anybody expressing a contrary view must be paid off. George Soros seems to be a favorite. It was funny after all the marches last year that a lot of people were joking that they never got their check.

Kavanaugh said the allegations against him are all lies and are motivated by anger about the 2016 election. It’s funny how there were no allegations about Neil Gorsuch. I guess George Soros was on vacation that month. If there was any nomination that people would go to any lengths to stop, it would be Gorsuch’s. His seat was stolen from Merrick Garland. You could say it was stolen from all the people who voted for Obama. Some people vote for President because of the judicial branch.

So there is no left-wing machine to match the one on the right. But what if there were? They spend billions to spread their lies, they gerrymander, they accept help from the Russians; all that effort, yet they still don’t get the percentage of votes commensurate with the disparity in funding. Trump won by 85,000 votes in about three states.

Maybe we the people should build a left-wing machine. I think we would crush them.


Postscript:
Kavanaugh complained that the Ford charges were sprung on him at the last minute. Kavanaugh was nominated by a president who did not receive a majority vote, but acts like he is god-emperor. Most people did not vote for Trump. Most people do not like him. Most people do not want him to be president. Kavanaugh was sprung on us.

Big Jim doesn’t like whiners who think they are big tough guys.

 “Two angels and two devils” by Paolo Uccello (1397 – 1475),  assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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“Both Sides” On Steroids

I know Driftglass has the market cornered on pointing out the “both sides” nonsense. But Tyler Cowen has a column on Bloomberg that takes it to the next level.

The title is “Fear Climate Change — and Our Response to It“. The subtitle is “Global warming will be expensive, and humanity’s irrational reaction may make it even more so”.

Humanity has not had an irrational reaction to climate change. Conservatives have manipulated people, distorted the debate, and have been standing in the way of action for decades. James Hansen testified in front of Congress about climate change in 1988. That means that all the free-marketeers who don’t want the government telling them what to do have had three decades to come up with solutions. To this day, conservatives like to make jokes about Al Gore, a guy who has not been in office since January, 2001, more than 17 years ago.

He talks about Brexit, which was brought to us by conservatives. They lied about how easy it would be, and they have been mucking up the negotiations since the vote. He writes, “It would have been better if the British had responded to their country’s problems in a less extreme way, or simply learned to live with the problems they had.” No, it would have been better if conservatives did not lie as easy as they breathe. “The British” do not all want Brexit. Even many who voted to leave now realize they were lied to and that it will be a disaster.

He mentions Trump, and then goes on to write about how our discourse “has become less rational and technocratic”, and “the harsh, non-sympathetic tone of the debate will further corrode American politics”.

Then he wraps up complaining about how much it will cost to do something about climate change. It would cost less if there was not a network of groups devoted to denying climate change and lying to people about the strength of the scientific consensus. Those groups are funded by conservatives, the Koch Brothers in particular.

One of the organizations funded by the Koch Brothers in the Mercatus Center, a think tank at George Mason University run by Tyler Cowen. They claim that they do not let their funding dictate their findings, but they did agree the Koch organization have a say in academic appointments at George Mason University. Mercatus likes to go back and forth about whether or not they are part of George Mason University depending on what they want. When they want some prestige, they are part of GMU, which is a public university. But if you file a state freedom of information request, then they are not.

Their annual reports simply list who is in charge, and give no information on who funds them.

This is “both sides” in steroids. It’s not the GOP that is causing problems; it’s “we”, “the world”. I guess Upton Sinclair was right: It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary and donations from his inherited-wealth benefactors depend upon his not understanding it.

That version of the quote is The Tyler Cowen Special Edition.

Big Jim knows that while both sides spin, one side is far worse than the other.

“Chaos” by Hilma af Klint (1862-1944), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Thoughts On The North Korea Summit

So Trump is in Singapore to talk to Kim Jong Un. He acted like a jerk at the G7 meeting, and left the leaders of countries that have been our allies for decades so he can get his photo-op with a fellow dictator.

(Hasn’t it occurred to Trump’s supporters that there would have been less bad blood at G7 if he had showed up on time and not left early? All the people who claim to hate “snowflakes” and “political correctness” would probably get upset if someone overturned THEIR apple cart.)

Trump seems to display a “fixed” mindset. He says he is good with people, yet he made a bad impression at the G7 and acts like a toddler. He thinks he only hires the best people and is good at sizing people up, yet there has been a LOT of turnover on his staff. Why does a guy who loves to brag about how he knows so much about business and hiring the right people need a SECOND chief of staff to put his house in order? He thinks he is great at business, yet his casinos went bankrupt. How can you lose in an industry that inspired the phrase, “Never bet against the house”?

I don’t think the Kim Il Sung dynasty is stupid. And I think they might be more stable than people think. We have been hearing for years that the people are starving and the KIS dynasty was going to collapse any day now. We are starting the second decade of “any day now”. Perhaps the welfare of the average North Korean and the viability of the KIS regime are not as strongly correlated as people think. This is a government with few friends and little money, yet for decades they have been making progress on developing rockets and nuclear warheads, some of the most advanced technology known to man. These are not people to be underestimated. Or sized up by “feelings” in less than a minute.

I don’t think NK will give up their nukes. They have put a lot of time and effort into them. Their nukes are all they really have going for them. Saddam had no nukes, Gaddafi agreed to stop making them. Both of them are no longer with us. If I were Kim Jong Un, I would go for a third option: Keep the nukes. Nuclear weapons give a country prestige and respect. And they make you less vulnerable to invasion.

Agreeing to stop testing is not much of a concession, since the mountain that they use to test their weapons has collapsed (see here and here).

KJU has already stated he will not give up his nukes. I think he just wants a photo-op; to be seen as an equal and a peer to a US President. This is just speculation on my part, but I think he might not want or need anything else. Or honestly expect anything else. Trump just took a dump on the G7, he has complained about NAFTA, he did not pledge support for NATO, he backed out of the Paris climate accord, he is trying to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal and he has flip-flopped on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I think KJU knows any promise out of Trump’s mouth will be null and void the minute the wind blowing through Trump’s empty head changes direction.

Even if something substantive between Trump and KJU comes out of this, so what? South Korea, Japan and China will have to deal with any literal or metaphorical fallout from NK more than the USA. What if they do not like any agreement Trump and KJU come to (assuming they do)? Plus, this is a guy who has ruined relations with Japan and the countries of NATO, countries the USA has gotten along with for decades. If Trump were such a great dealmaker, a skilled genius and as good with people as he thinks, he should be able to make new friends while keeping the old ones. I will be impressed at Trump’s finesse with dictators when he can talk to the Prime Minister of Australia for longer than 30 minutes without hanging up.

There was an article in Politico recenly about how the reality of Trump’s dealmaking skills is worse than his professed image. I am leery of guys who go on and on about how great they are at negotiating or sales or making deals. They are usually obtuse jerks. I knew a guy in Chicago like that who asked me to do something for him. About 30 times. For at least two dozen, he repeated the question verbatim less than a second after I said no. I really hate it when people disregard what I say. Being persistent is not the same as being obtuse. There is a certain type of moron who thinks that being a jerk makes them look tough. Do they think they are impressing people? That they inspire fear?

If someone thinks you are a jerk, then you are just a jerk. Not a jerk who is tough, not a jerk who is clever, not a jerk who is a wise master teaching life lessons. Just a jerk.

Trump has been doing some of this with NK. It’s on. It’s off. It’s on and let’s pretend I never said it’s off. I know some MBA jerks love that stuff, but to most people it makes you look insane and out of control. Would you take a job from someone who was on-again off-again like that? Would you date or marry someone like that? They think people will be intimidated or impressed by these antics, but they are too obtuse to see that they just turn people off.

I think a lot of countries will avoid dealing with Trump and the USA. Not because they are afraid of him, but just because they are tired of his stupid games.

There was an interesting article in the Washington Post with a quote from The Art of the Deal about not wanting to seem too desperate to make a deal. I think Trump is pretty desperate for a deal. He does not have his border wall, he could not get Obamacare repealed, and as Richard N. Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations pointed out, Trump cannot mess up the second summit in a row, lest he make it obvious that he is the problem.

Trump brags that he does not need to prepare (even though he does). I bet that the NK delegation has been studying Trump intently. I always got the impression that a godo strategy in negotiation is to keep your cards close to your vest. KJU is a lot better at that than Trump. NK is a black box, and maybe the sanctions are hurting a lot, but KJU seems like a methodical guy. Trump is like a toddler in a china shop (no pun intended).

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

A guy who brags that he never prepares and is oblivious to the effects he has on other people is going to sit across a table from a guy who has accomplished a task that the world has tried to prevent him from doing. Who do you think will come out ahead in this?

Big Jim does not like people who have no curiosity about themselves or the world.

Passage from The Art of War by Sun Tzu translated by Lionel Giles.

“Carnival of Mexican Life. Dictatorship” by Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez (08 December 1886 -24 November 1957); image from the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Thoughts On Assange

Recently, some on the internet were upset that the Ecuadorian embassy in London cut off Assange’s internet access. A lot of “freedom crusaders” went nuts. We would all live in tyranny if Assange was cut off from the internet.

First off, why do some people think that being a jerk makes them a freedom fighter? Or that “freedom” means that the rest of the world should roll over and give them what they want?

Ecuador made him a citizen in December, 2017. Even still, that does not give him carte blanche. He has a history of trying to get into parts of the embassy that are off-limits to him, yet he thinks that he can just go where he wants. Do any American citizens think they can just walk into an American embassy and start making demands?

He is a guest of Ecuador. He is there as long as they tolerate him. When you are accused of crimes by multiple countries and still wanted by the country that you are in (the UK wants to talk to him about skipping bail) and you have a reputation for sticking your nose in other countries’ elections and claiming objectivity while only telling one side of the story, maybe you should avoid angering your hosts. Shut up and do not make waves. Why should they put up with any shenanigans?

I do not think he is too bright. He said he did not want to go to trial in Sweden because he was afraid the US would extradite him. Why couldn’t the US just extradite him from the UK? He was in prison for about a week and had to wear an electronic bracelet. I do not understand why he was not afraid of the US trying to start extradition procedures while he was in the UK. I think the US is a closer ally to the UK than Sweden. And if he was so afraid of the US getting him by illegal means, again I do not understand why they could not just grab him any time they wanted.

And if he is such a brave fighter for freedom, then why not face the music in the US? Either you are willing to fight for your beliefs or you are not.

He did a Reddit AMA, but posted answers on Twitter. And dodged a lot of questions.

I think one reason that Assange got asylum is because former President Rafael Correa wanted to stick it to the West. At least a bit. It doesn’t matter whether the people in charge are right or left; a lot of small countries do not like the big countries pushing them around. So while Assange thinks he is sticking it to the man, another government is using him as their pawn. 0wned.

A few weeks ago I looked at some of Wikileaks’ tweets over the past year. There were not too many about Russia. I suppose that it is possible that nobody in Russia sends them documents, but I find it hard to believe that nobody in a country with a president-for-life is unhappy with the status quo. Like the XX Committee, I think he is working for Russia (also see here).

They did have a few tweets about Saudi Arabia. A few about Europe. A lot about the US. A lot about elections being fixed, yet nothing about Putin, who seems to run with no opposition. They cannot seem to decide if Trump is dismantling the “deep state” or continuing it. They do not seem to be eager to see Trump’s tax returns.

A lot of glibertarian dudebros have had internet drives to pay for Assange’s defense. Are any of them willing to pay some of the extra costs that Ecuador has incurred because of Assange? One estimate is that he is costing Ecuador $60,000/month. The per capita GDP of the US is about $60,000/year. In the UK it is $30,000/year. In Ecuador it is $11,000/year. People in rich countries like the USA ask questions like, “Why are we letting people starve when we have money to build all these weapons?” I wonder what questions people ask about Assange in a country that has one-sixth the money. Assange isn’t really willing to pay the price for his beliefs, but he has no problem letting a third-world country foot his bills. Let’s find someone else to stick up for freedom.

Big Jim does not like self-centered glibertarian dudebros. Or dudbros.

La Virgen alada del Apocalípsis (“Winged Virgin of the Apocalypse“) by Miguel de Santiago (17th century), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Thoughts On Saudi Arabia

Recently, Saudi “reformer” Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman began remaking the country in his image. Recently he detained some members of the royal family, government workers and businessmen in an “anti-corruption” purge.

First off, if the guy fighting corruption is the same guy who is running the country because his dad gave it to him, then you have to explain how you define “corruption”.

Many of the detained were close to the previous king, Abdullah. So one effect of this “anti-corruption” purge is to make MBS stronger. It looks like MBS got help from Jared Kushner in identifying political enemies (see links here, here and here). Perhaps “corrupt” means “not doing what Pretty Boy wants.” Two powerful families cracking down on enemies sounds like corruption to me.

I think it’s kind of ironic that a lot of the detainees got out by paying fines. Granted, people pay fines instead of going to trial in a lot of countries, but paying money to get out of a corruption charges sounds kind of like corruption.

One of the detained was Al-Waleed bin Talal, who just coincidentally has been critical of Donald Trump. To be honest, I always thought AWbT was a bit odd. He always claimed he made his fortune without his family giving him any favors. That may be true, but I think “on my own” for a member of royalty doesn’t mean the same thing it does for me.

Another thing that was weird was his obsession with being listed on Forbes’ list of billionaires. If you want people to invest in you, show them financial statements for Kingdom Holding Company.

That said, detaining AWbT seemed like an odd thing to do. MbS says he wants Saudi Arabia to be more open and equal, and give women more rights. AWbT has pushed for gender equality for a long time and hired the first female pilot. MbS says he wants Saudi Arabia to be less dependent on oil. Kingdom Holding Company’s “Investments” page lists the following categories:

  • Finance Services & Investments
  • Real Estate
  • Hotels
  • Aviation
  • Petrochemicals
  • Entertainment
  • Private Equity & International Investments
  • Health Care
  • Education
  • Consumer and Retail
  • Social Media and Technology.

Granted, “Petrochemicals” is in there, but it looks like AWbT knows about diversification. Isn’t that what MbS says he wants?

A lot of Westerners who worked with AWbT were afraid to come to his defense because they did not want to anger the Saudi government. Well played, MbS.

I want stability in the world, but is MbS the man for the job? Is anyone in the Saudi royal family up to the task? An article in The Intercept goes over the differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Depsite having fewer resources and allies, Iran is more successful at accomplishing its goals than Saudi Arabia, which is odd given that SA has more money, more oil, and the cachet of having Mecca and Medina. The article points out that maybe the Iranians are just smarter than the Saudis.

Let’s not forget that it is not Iran that is funding the radicalization of Sunnis the world over; it is Saudi Arabia. It is not Shiites bombing Sufi tombs in Pakistan; it is extremists being fed Wahabbi doctrine. The Iranians might not be wack jobs if the West had left their elected prime minister in place.

Big Jim doesn’t like religious extremists.

Section from a Qur’an, Iraq or Turkey, second half of 13th century, available at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Delayed Thoughts On the Election

So far the pivot from jerk to adult has still not happened. Cheeto Jesus, the Siberian Candidate, is president. It’s late, but here are some thoughts on the election and its aftermath.

Although a lot of the GOP tried to distance themselves from Trump (until he won the election), I have a feeling that some big shots in the GOP are taking some notes about this election. The last time they won outright was 2004, with another guy who was proud to be stupid. So why not stick with what works for them?

To be frank, I was surprised that he won. I kept refreshing several news sites throughout the night.

To be fair, HRC did not run as good of a campaign as she could have. They spent way too much time on Nebraska trying to get that one electoral vote, and spent little time or energy on or in Wisconsin and Michigan. I am not saying that they should not have spent any time on Nebraska; it is a bad idea to write off entire states. But don’t ignore your strengths.

But there were many external factors that worked against HRC.

One is all the laws restricting voting rights (see this page and this page). Pretty much all of them were instituted by Republicans, and were structured to restrict the voting rights of demographic groups that are more likely to vote for Democrats.

One is the obsession with emails. To be honest, I have no idea what she could have done differently about this. A lot of people in the GOP had the “creationist mindset”: They have their conclusion, and they just needed some facts to back it up. Representative Jason Chaffetz plans to keep investigating HRC’s emails, because “we have to get to the truth”.  She has been investigated for years by people who wanted to find something to use to nail her to the wall, and they still found nothing. Here’s an idea: Maybe she didn’t do anything wrong. Maybe it’s time to admit your assumptions were incorrect. Maybe you have gotten to the truth, but you just refuse to accept it.

I do think the media bears some blame. For all the talk of a “liberal media”, they give Republicans a lot of leeway. They let Trump define himself and HRC. They went with what Trump said, and ignored what HRC said, ignored reality. Trump said she has no plans to increase jobs, but she did. Part of it was increased spending on infrastructure, which is something he talked about in his inaugural address. Trump said that HRC is a lapdog for Wall Street because she gave a speech to Goldman Sachs, but his campaign and now his administration have more Wall Street people on it than she did. He said she is shady and corrupt because she won’t release information about the Clinton Foundation. The fact is, she said she and Bill would shut down the foundation if she won the election. And we are still waiting to see his tax returns (link at White House site still good as of 2014-01-30 ).

I think the FBI director deserves some of the blame. He has been out to get the Clintons for years, and he got his chance. Note to future Democratic presidents: Do not put Republicans in important posts; it could bite you in the back later, and the rest of the GOP will still hate you. As I stated, it should surprise nobody that nothing came of the re-opening of the investigation. And if anybody tells you the FBI was not trying to influence the election, they are either lying or stupid. But apparently, the FBI only talks about investigations of Hillary Clinton, and nobody else. Plus, it’s odd that when they found out the DNC was hacked, they only made one call to a help desk, instead of calling then-DNC chief and incumbent Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The investigation into HRC’s emails, however, went on full-speed ahead.

I think the real reason that the GOP is all worked up about HRC’s email server: It’s the only one the Russians could not get into.

And then there is Russia. I do think Russia “hacked the election” (which does not mean they actually hacked the voting machines themselves). Many of the people working on Trump’s campaign (and now administration) have been to Russia and/or have business ties to Russia (like Paul Mantafort, Carter Page and Michael Flynn; see this graphic of Trump/Mantafort ties to Russia). One of Trump’s sons said that Russians have invested in many Trump properties. Trump has given contradictory statements as to whether or not he has met with Putin.

I don’t know if Trump himself has any direct ties to Putin. But even during the campaign, he seemed to have this odd need/desire for some sort of approval from Putin. Until we see his taxes, we might not get the full story. I don’t know if there is a “pee-pee tape”, but I do suspect the Russians have some sort of financial leverage over Trump. Perhaps he owes them a lot of money. Perhaps he is helping oligarchs launder money (see this page and this page).

The question is not really whether Trump has any financial stake in Russia. The question is how much of a financial stake does Russia have in Trump.

One reason I think it is financial leverage is that I don’t think Trump cares if people think he is a pervert, or an amazingly small-minded and thin-skinned individual. But I do think he wants to be seen as a business and financial genius.

The “pee-pee tape” is a reference to a dossier by a former MI6 agent about Trump’s relationship with Russia which  mentioned golden showers. After it came out, Trump tweeted about it a few times:

  • Totally made up facts by sleazebag political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans – FAKE NEWS! Russia says nothing exists. Probably… (tweet here)
  • Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING! (tweet here)
  • Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is “A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.” Very unfair! (tweet here)

Notice that in two of them, he said that the Russian government says there is no tape. First off, Putin is a former KGB agent, and has a lot of former KGB agents (and possibly current GRU and FSB agents as well). I am not going to take their word on anything. I wouldn’t ask those guys if water is wet. Secondly, if you are accused of being too close to the Russian government or of being in a position to be blackmailed by them, using their denial as your argument makes it look like the accusations are true.

After Trump announced he was nominating Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, he said Tillerson’s relationship with Russia is a selling point.  Believe it or not, I am not against having a good relationship with Russia. But it seems like Trump wants to please the Russian government, and kind of hates everybody else. Even most of his own constituents.

Someone on twitter pointed out that Trump has been consistent about only two things: How great he is, and how great Russia and Putin are. He seems to hate every other country on the planet. Even the one he will be running.

Trump says Russia will respect the USA more with him in charge. I doubt that. People generally do not respect lapdogs.

According to not-failing Bloomberg, Trump tweeted: “Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think it is bad! We have enough problems around the world without yet another one.” Nobody is saying a good relationship with Russia is a bad thing. It’s just that their leadership is full of liars and thieves who cannot be trusted. Another point: What does Trump mean by a “good relationship with Russia”? If by that he means Russians controlling our government, then, no, I do not want a good relationship with them. Also, if a good relationship with Russia comes at the cost of alienating the USA from every other country, then it is not worth it.

To me, a good relationship with Russia is necessary because you should keep your friends close, and authoritarian, interventionists closer. The US intelligence community has thought for a while that Russia has been meddling in the EU for some time, supporting parties that want to break up the EU. There is a movement to make California an independent country. It opened “California Culture Center” in Moscow (see this page and this page).
“It was opened by the President of Yes California Independence Campaign, Louis Marinelli, and the President of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, Alexander Ionov.” That is according to the website of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia. News flash, dipstick: If you are encouraging part of a nation to declare independence, you are not “anti-globalist”. Don’t complain about corporations pushing you around if you want to break up other countries.

If the EU is broken up, and the US starts breaking up, who wins? That’s right, Russia. They become more powerful relative to everybody else. If you don’t like Brussels or Washington telling you what to do, but you have no problem with Moscow telling you what to do, you are an idiot.

Russia was behind the DNC hack, the Podesta hack, and a lot of the fake news (or more accurately: lies and propaganda). I also think that they are in cahoots with Wikileaks (see this page and this page).

It took a Google search, but there is a page that lists leaks by country. (I get a feeling of plausible deniability here.) There are a LOT of leaks about the US (over 9,500 at the time of this writing), and about 57 on Russia, 5 more for the “Russian Federation“. I am not one of those foam-finger, #1, USA-is-never-wrong guys, but don’t tell me that Russia has a better human rights record than we do.

Julian Assange had a show on RT. I don’t take Assange at his word that he has no ties to Russia. He has said that if he had dirt on the GOP he would release it, yet amazingly he seems to have a lot of documents tied to Democrats. He has insisted that nobody has sent him anything about the GOP. But that’s the paradox with Wikileaks, isn’t it? You just have to take his word for it.

Wikileaks has made a few weird moves, like getting personal info about ALL verified twitter users and putting it online. They also threatened legal action against MSNBC for talking about possible links between Russia and Wikileaks (see this page and this page). They could solve this by being more transparent.

Granted, sometimes people put themselves at risk by sending documents to Wikileaks. So maybe Wikileaks really has no idea who sends them stuff. Which means they really cannot say with any certainty whether or not the Russian government is the group that got/stole the info they are releasing. Yet somehow Assange is 1000% certain. Okay.

Assange saw the Panama Papers as an attack on Putin (many of Putin’s associates were implicated), yet ignored the grief it caused David Cameron and Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson (the then-Prime Minisiter of Iceland who resigned because of revelations in the Panama Papers).

When Wikileaks started, Assange wrote: “Our primary targets are those highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia and Central Eurasia.” So what changed?

Wikileaks does seem to like some people more than others. They have also released info about private citizens (see this page and this page). Not a group to be trusted.

I think Assange’s paranoia has turned Wikileaks from a force for good to a Russian mouthpiece. I am not clear why he was so afraid that Sweden would extradite him to the US. The US has an extradition treaty with the UK. I think if the US wanted the UK to send Assange over, they would have. And even if Sweden decides to drop the charges, he is still a fugitve from British justice. That is one problem he caused himself.

Let’s not forget, Trump advisor Roger Stone has stated he has a “back channel” to Julian Assange through a mutual friend (see this page, this page and this page). This is a guy who worked for Nixon during the dirty campaign of 1972, and has a tatoo of Nixon’s face on his back. Need I say more?

Also, some have said that this election was decided by the “white working class”. I don’t know if that is true, since a lot of people who should know better voted for Trump.

There has been some hand-wringing amongst Democrats about how to connect with the white working class. I think this is kind of funny. The Democratic Party has always been the party that stands with unions. Has the Democratic Party abandoned the white working class, or did the WWC abandon the DP? Yes, there is a lot more corporate influence in the DP than there was 30 or 40 years ago, but there is WAY more in the Republican Party. And the exodus of the WWC to the GOP started with Reagan. If the WWC votes for the party that is out to destroy unions, then there is not much you can do for them.

Some, like Bill Black and Thomas Frank, thinks liberals have driven the WWC out of the DP because a lot of liberals are “too smug”. Generally I like what those two have to say, but they are off their rocker on this point. The migration started with Reagan, who was elected when I was 9. Before many of today’s hipsters were born. Nobody is forcing these people to vote for the GOP. Nobody is forcing them to watch Fox News, or listen to the liars on talk radio. If someone keeps voting against their own economic self-interest for 30 years, it’s their own fault.

I have also seen articles telling us city folk that we need to understand rural communities and the WWC. Screw you. No I don’t. A lot of them are bigoted. I can tell you based on the questions and comments I get from these people and that I read and hear about, they (Trump voters) have no desire to understand me at all. They are intent on misunderstanding everyone but them. Why are they still asking, “If evolution is happening, why don’t cats give birth to dogs?” Tell me if you have heard this one: “You’re not really an atheist. You really believe in god, you’re just mad at him.” They might hear, but they refuse to understand.

Also: The popular vote. Which Trump lost. I have read that this point does not matter. I think it does. If it did not, why did he make his claim that there were millions of illegal votes? (I have heard of three people being arrested for voter fraud, all for Trump.) Trump seems to think that life is all about ratings and approval. He uses that as justification for his policies. The fact is that most people did not want him in office. Most people do not support his policies. He does not have any sort of mandate.

We on the left need to be more vocal, more forceful. When a GOP president or governor squeeks by, they act like God made them king. What a Democrat barely makes it in, the GOP uses that slim margin as a reason to obstruct. Perhaps we should obstruct. Be jerks if need be. Just don’t believe in nonsense, and don’t refuse to change your mind when the facts change.

First image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use. Painting “La femme et le pantin” (The Woman and the Puppet) by Angel Zárraga (1886–1946).  Second image  from Wikiart, assumed allowed under Fair Use. Painting “Hourglass” by Romul Nutiu.

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New Page: Things Trump Says He Knows

I have a new page on my site: Things Trump Says He Knows.

I think Trump knows about manipulating people, lying and being a jerk.

He claims to be an expert in more topics than I think any human could possibly be an expert in. So instead of documenting all his lies, I will start a list of things that Trump claims to know, especially things he claims to know “a lot” about.

He made this claim a few times during the campaign, and he made it in his first speech to the CIA.

I say right now: I reserve the right to stop updating this page. Because Trump thinks he knows a lot about a lot of subjects. He thinks he knows so much, I just might say, “Trump, please stop knowing so much, I can’t spend all my time updating that page.” I’m sure we will get tired of him knowing things.

Just like he said his campaign would get tired of winning. And the CIA would get tired of “so much backing”. But someone else can make a page listing all the things he says we will get tired of.

Image  from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use. Painting “Witches’ Sabbath” by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, or just Goya (1746-1828). Goya should have his own website. He’s really a wonderful artist, very artistic in his art. Nothing to do with Trump.

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Up Yours, Miami

Recently, Fidel Castro died. Presumably peacefully, in his sleep. Not in a jail cell.

And the Cuban community in Miami celebrated. The people who insisted on keeping the embargo long after it was obvious it was not hurting the Castro regime. Being against the embargo was not the same as being for Castro. There is nothing pro-Communist in saying a particular policy isn’t working.

I would just like to tell those people to go jump off a cliff.

I really hate it when people from communist countries come here, rave about freedom, and then shout down anyone who disagrees with them. And what has their intransigence gotten them? Most Americans were against it for the past decade (pdf file here, article here). I don’t think we should cling to ineffective policies just to avoid hurting the fee-fees of a vocal minority.

Many refugees dismiss anti-embargo arguments by saying that “You don’t know what it’s like to live under Castro”. No, but neither do many of the non-Cubans who were for it. If my lack of experience living under Castro invalidates my opinion, then it invalidates the opinion of pro-embargo non-Cubans. But somehow I don’t think they get dismissed.

Besides, it’s a federal policy. I vote for the senators, representatives and presidents who make and implement the policy, and my taxes go toward it.

Basically, it has been completely ineffective. Yes, the Cuban government seems to be moving away from Communism, but they are doing it on their schedule. They managed to survive even after the downfall of the USSR, and the loss of patronage from the USSR. The funny thing is, while the USSR was subsidizing Cuba, the USA was selling the USSR wheat; so in a way, the USA was actually helping Cuba indirectly. But I guess some people care more about form than substance.

I don’t have my finger on the pulse of the Cuban community, but in all seriousness, is Cuba the only oppressive regime they are about? China oppresses a LOT of people. Do they want the USA to embargo China? If it’s the right thing to do, then the size of the country shouldn’t matter, right? If don’t care about oppression when it’s not happening to you, then don’t come crying to me.

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use. Painting by Cuban artist Armando Menocal.

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The Wicked Witch Is Dead

I actually jumped for joy when I read that Scalia is dead.

This is the best thing to happen to this country since Lee surrendered to Grant.

Some people are saying we should be respectful. Express condolences to his family.

Screw that.

Liberals have been nicer. Do we have anything to show for it?

As far as “respect”: A man who was disrespectful towards others in life deserves none in death. I hated the man before he died. Frankly it would be illogical not to be glad he’s dead.

As far as condolences to his family, from what I have read they have the same nasty views he did.

Someone on Twitter thought it was shameful for people to say bad things about Scalia since he had a family, and asked if we would say the same hateful things about our own fathers. I replied that since my father is a drunk who treated my mother like garbage, yes I do. Call a spade a spade.

One reason I really hated Scalia is that he claimed to believe in a religion whose founder told his followers to protect the poor and the powerless, yet he sided with the rich and the powerful every time. For a long time, Catholics in this country were discriminated against. Catholics were the other. Yet Scalia had no problem pulling the ladder up after himself. [1]

And I am tired of people saying how smart he was.

Scalia thought that there was more support for creationism than evolution. First off, this is not true. There is much more support for evolution. The Discovery Institute has had 20 years to make their case and publish some research. So far nothing. Anyone who says that evolution (or climate change) is not settled science frankly is not paying attention to science. (Yet, in true Taxicab Fallacy style, they have no problem enjoying the fruits of the scientific method.)

I am reminded of that episode of John Oliver‘s show where he starts moderating a debate on climate change. The denier says that the science is under debate. John Oliver says it is not, that at least 97% of climate scientists say that climate change is happening and that humans are causing it. He says in order to show the true scientific consensus he brings in a bunch of people wearing lab coats. As he said, this “debate” should not be happening. And the same is true for evolution.

Secondly, I think that goes against the position of the Catholic Church  [2].

I suppose it takes a lot of intellectual talent and effort to spend your life saying that up is down, night is day and black is white. But if you go through your life being wrong about a lot of things, and using your intellect to justify things that are not true, then you are really very stupid.

And now, the strict constructionists are not only telling us we should not politicize his death, but that Obama should not appoint the next justice. Where does the constitution say he has to wait? And would they tell a Republican president to wait?

Lastly, some nutjobs are saying that Obama had Scalia killed. They think it’s just “too convenient” that Scalia died. But let’s remember Scalia was

  1.  A nasty, spiteful person
  2.  79 years old
  3. Fat.

He’s lucky he lasted as long as he did.

[1] Sidenote: There are some things in the Bible that sound pretty good: Be nice to everyone, give to the poor, don’t pray in public. Yet many Christians act the exact opposite. Is there some grand conspiracy going on here? Atheists get the joke Bible that tells you to be nice, but once you convert you get the real Bible, the Jerk Bible.

[2] From the page cited:
Concerning biological evolution, the Church does not have an official position on whether various life forms developed over the course of time. However, it says that, if they did develop, then they did so under the impetus and guidance of God, and their ultimate creation must be ascribed to him.
So I guess they are not really affirming or denying evolution. Sort of like how they have no position on the Shroud of Turin. The Catholic hierarchy may not be smart, but they can be shrewd.

Cartoon image from the always-bizarre Uncyclopedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use and perhaps even Unfair Use (but who knows what the second one?).

Dancing skeletons from a 1493 woodcut by Michael Wolgemut, assumed allowed under Fair Use. Europeans considered many things up for grabs in that decade.

Image of crowd of scientists taken from Google search. It is a screen cap of John Oliver’s show on HBO, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Thoughts On the 2016 Election

I do not think I will be supporting Bernie Sanders.

I agree with him more than Hillary about Wall Street’s influence on society. But he seems pretty weak on other topics. He’s in his 70s, he has been in Congress since 1991, and he still has a hard time talking about foreign policy. I think Hillary Clinton responded to Black Lives Matter better than he did.

Hillary’s general preparedness really struck me when she had her marathon testimony in front of the Benghazi committee. You had all these Republicans losing their minds, and she stayed firm. This is the crowd Bernie will be dealing with. She has been dealing with right-wing nut jobs since 1992. And the right-wing noise machine has only gotten bigger in the past few years.

He has also said he will not campaign for downticket candidates. That is colossally stupid. He will need allies in Congress, and he is refusing to build any sort of coalition. He thinks he can just go directly to the people. That hasn’t worked for Obama. What is to stop Republicans in Congress from going to the people as well? He is going to need people on his side, and giving Democrats the finger is not going to help him.

He has bad-mouthed the Democratic Pary for years (see this page and this page). As someone who has voted consistently for the Democratic Party, I frankly feel insulted by the idea that this guy now wants my vote after bad-mouthing my choices for decades. You hate us until you want something? I don’t think so.

I hope Hillary gets the nomination. If she does, I think she will win.

I do not think any of the Republicans could win. The past two Republican presidents that rank and file Republican voters loved were Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. (Despite what they all say now, they loved W when he was running and in office. It was only after it was obvious he was the worse president ever that they decided retroactively he was never a “real conservative”.)

What they had in common is they had the support of both the big business wing of the party and the social conservative wing. I do not see any of the current candidates who get support from both of those groups. In fact, I think it might be a long long long time before we see a Republican who gets support from both of those groups.

Image from some museum in the Unwanted Kingdom, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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