It’s 2017, and we really have to March for Science?

It’s 2017, and apparently we have to have a ‘March for Science.’ In 2017. I thought we had validated science back in the 1600s, when people like Copernicus and Galileo were making their discoveries.

The ‘science deniers,’ I should note, don’t mind taking advantage of the benefits of science. They use the Internet, and take anti-biotics, and go in for robot-assisted surgeries. It’s just when scientific conclusions (climate change, for example) conflict with their desires (more fossil fuels!) that they get all anti-science on us.

And for the people who think that the Earth was created 6000 years ago because that’s what it says in the Bible I ask, have you ever heard of the term ‘creation myth?’ Not everything was intended to be taken literally.

I’m tempted to go into Boston and march for science with the others who will be there. But I think I’ll skip it. I did the million women march with my sister and niece and friends, and that was a lot of fun. Felt energised. But on this dank rainy day, to have to march for the proposition that science is something which should be part of the consideration of public policy, or that science research should receive a federal funding assist? I don’t know, that feels like that should be beyond debate.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged | 1 Comment

This should be disturbing to anyone who cares about Justice even a little bit

I saw this last Sunday on 60 Minutes, and it should be of concern to anyone who cares even just a little bit about justice. Oh I know, a lot of the victims here are criminals. If they didn’t do this, they did something else, or so the thinking goes.

It’s a nice conceit that we’re different from ‘criminals,’ and that they deserve what they got. In some cases it’s even true. Yesterday Aaron Hernandez, the former Patriots tight end committed suicide at the Souza-Baranowski maximum security facility in Massachusetts. And really, I don’t care. Good riddance I thought. This is a guy who shot his former best friend in the eye — miracle of miracles the guy survived to testify against Hernandez in another murder trial — and later he shot two guys in a drive-by because one of them spilled a drink (by all accounts accidentally) on him in a club. Right after he signed a $34 million contract for four years with the Patriots.

So Aaron Hernandez is not like the rest of us, in almost any way. But oh so many so-called ‘criminals’ are. They may be a little less educated, a little more desperate, a little more inured to the violence all around them. But they don’t deserve this form of ‘justice’ depicted here.

Posted in Culture, Law, Politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

I’m feeling a little bit of Schadenfreude, not that it will last (or matter)

Do you know what the word ‘Schadenfreude‘ means my friends? That’s what I’m feeling this morning with the news that Fox News is cutting ties with Bill O’Reilly. It wasn’t the fact that he was a first class prick or even that he[1] paid out something like $13 million in settlements to 5 different women.

No, what finally got Fox News to throw in the towel was the “exodus of advertisers” that were no longer willing to associate themselves with the “O’Reilly Factor.”

Whatever it takes.

Not that it will matter much. Fox News is completely beyond redemption. In the land of Trump, they will continue to peddle their bald-faced lies as if it were some kind of truth completely without consequence. Another generation of people will grow up believing the craziest conspiracy theories, such as that Hillary Clinton ran a pedophile ring out of a pizza parlor in Washington D.C., or had her dear friend Vince Foster murdered.

[1] Well, it wasn’t O’Reilly himself who made the payments, but more likely Fox News.

Posted in Culture, Media, Politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Our Hypocrisy is not like theirs, Part 14

To my long-running series, “Our Hypocrisy is not like Theirs,” add this little item, which probably escaped most people’s notice because of the amount of BS emanating from Washington these days: there was a positive jobs report, and the Trump Administration embraced it.

This is, of course, in contrast to how Trump responded to all of the positive jobs reports under the Obama Presidency during the course of the campaign. And now Trump wants to take credit for it.


So, just to reiterate:

  1. During the campaign Trump was consistently attacking government-sponsored economic data as being “fake data.” Now he embraces it.
  2. Trump wants to take credit, after 50 days, for the positive economic news that is riding on Obama’s coat-tails (since there is normally a delay of some months between executive action and an impact on the economy.)

When confronted with the contradiction, Sean Spicer just laughs about it, since it’s impossible to defend. And the reporters just laugh with him.

As Politico noted about this story, Trump has set the bar so low that no one even cares. Trump “spent months routinely maligning the work of career civil servants for no good reason. And now that it’s convenient for him to accept their work, he’s going to start accepting it. But there’s no apology and no admission of error — and it’s not even a big story. Just another day at the office.”

Posted in Media, Politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Difference between Fake News on the Left and Fake News on the Right

A lot has been made of the term “fake news.” There was a lot of it during the past Presidential election, and the Trump administration has taken to branding every story that it doesn’t like to be “fake news.” It isn’t so.

The Difference between Fake News on the Left and Fake News on the Right

I just want to point out something that should be obvious to people who have compared fake news on the left with fake news on the right.

  • Fake news on the left is designed to entertain.
  • Fake news on the right is designed to deceive.

Good example of fake news on the left are “The Onion” and the “Borowitz Report.” The readers of either know that the stories in them aren’t true. Those stories are satirical: they are designed to exaggerate, to amuse, to point a spotlight on something. They have headlines like “FBI to special-order a set of tiny handcuffs,” or “Betsy DeVos says Trump’s 40% approval rating means that more than half the country supports him.” Or stories like “Trump staffer grateful to work with so many people he could turn over to FBI in exchange for immunity,” or “Mar-a-Lago member complains about loud, obnoxious cabinet meeting at next table.”

On the right, it’s a completely different thing. Their fake news stories are deliberately intended to deceive. They’re intended to be believed and intended to be deceive. And to enrage. They are propagated by news sites like Breitbart and Infowars, and they are not funny in any way.

Three stories that are typical of fake news on the right include:

Stories like the three cited above have been completely debunked by non-partisan fact-checkers. They are no more credible than the obviously satirical stories form the Onion or the Borowitz Report. But people believe them as true.

The Death of American Common Sense

There has been this long popular notion that people in middle America have “common sense.” They may not be educated, the argument goes, but they can tell a conman when they see one, and they have the common sense that many educated people don’t have.

That notion, like so many others, has been blown apart by one Donald J. Trump. He has conned middle America to a remarkable degree, and all that legendary common sense that ordinary Americans supposedly possess has not come into play at all. Instead they’re falling for the Donald’s assertion that news that he doesn’t like or that contradicts his self-created narrative is “fake” news, when nothing could be further from the truth.

[1] This has sometimes been formulated as that 3 million people voted illegally, or that 3 million illegal aliens voted (which would obviously be illegal). Sometimes the number has ballooned out to 5 million. In Trump’s version, all of these people voted for Hillary Clinton. However, it’s worth noting that even if it were true that 3 million people voted illegally, and only a third of them voted for Trump, then Hillary Clinton would still have won the popular vote.

[2] This particular rumor led a demented man, one Edgar Maddison Welch, to take an AR15 into Comet Pizza with the intention of stopping the alleged pedophile ring. Once inside he fired his rifle into the floor. Miraculously, no one was hurt.

[3] This rumor is primarily propagated by the truly despicable Alex Jones, who also claims that the Oklahoma City bombing was faked as part of a plot to put down a “state’s rights” movements and to deprive people of their Second Amendment right to guns.

Posted in Media, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Anatomy of a Propaganda Lie by President Obergropenführer and his Minions

In this blog I’ve promised to expose propaganda as we come across it – although frankly, there is too much propaganda coming out of the Trump White House than one poor blogger can keep up with. For that would be a full-time job, and I’m not paid to blog. But I did think it would be worth it to at least look at the question of why the Trump administration made the unfounded allegation a couple of weeks back that the news media was not covering terrorist attacks.

For those who forget, Donald Trump alleged in a speech before American veterans during the first week of February that terror attacks are happening ‘all over Europe’ but they’re not being covered by the ‘very, very dishonest press.’ After which his spokesman Sean Spicer released a list of 78 terror attacks since 2014 that the press allegedly had not covered.

It turned out – and I know this comes as a shock – that the very, very dishonest Trump administration was totally lying about the press coverage that allegedly did not happen. First of all, the list included not just terror attacks in Europe but attacks in the Americas, Africa and other countries and continents around the world. It also included incidents in which no one was killed. But most importantly, as noted by Politifact, the ‘list includes widely covered incidents’ such as the ones in Paris and Brussels and Berlin and Orlando and San Bernadino, incidents which arguably received too much coverage rather than too little coverage.

Trump subsequently made another claim, in front of a group of Sheriffs meeting at the White House, that the murder rate was ‘the highest it’s been in 47 years,’ which is another ‘pants on fire’ lie. As once again reported by Politifact, ‘the number of murders declined by 42 percent between 1993 and 2014, even as the U.S. population rose by 25 percent over the same period.’[1]

So why would the Trump administration come out with these obvious and easily disprovable lies?

And the answer, of course, is to scare us all to death.

Ever since before the Republican National Convention, but especially since it, Trump and his minions have been pushing this dark, dark narrative that our country is on the verge of disaster[2] and that ‘only Trump’ can fix it.

It’s the same reason that the media focuses so much more on the danger from sharks than we do from cows. We have a visceral reaction to sharks. But not cows. It turns out, however, that cows kill roughly five times as many people annually as do sharks. The numbers are something like this:

  • Sharks kill roughly 5 people a year;
  • Cows kill roughly 22 people a year;
  • Hippos kill roughly 2900 people a year;
  • Mosquitos kill roughly 725,000 people a year.

But if a shark is found swimming anywhere near a public beach, our media is all over it. And we’re all agog.

It’s this appeal to visceral fear (among other things) that motivates the Trump administration to lie without compunction about things that they clearly know are false.

Now, if the Trump administration were good liars, we would really be in trouble. But they’re such inept, obvious, terrible liars. They keep lying about things that are so easily disprovable. Trump himself is still clearly still fixated on the size of his election victory, and makes claims like:

  • That 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the November Presidential election (and that they all voted for Hillary)[3].
  • More recently, that ‘busloads’ of Massachusetts were driven up to New Hampshire to vote illegally in that state.
  • And at his crazy Thursday press conference last week, that he won the biggest electoral college landslide since Ronald Reagan.[4]

The British Tabloid ‘The Star’ has identified 57 lies by the Trump administration just in the first three weeks of their existence. Even Teen Vogue got into the act by identifying all the lies told by the Trump administration just last week.

Teen Vogue?
Yes, Teen Vogue!
Oh boy.

Trump’s complete aversion to the truth was on full display last Thursday at his indescribable press conference. The one where he was supposed to announce the nomination of Alexander Acosta, the Dean of Florida International University College of Law, for the post of Secretary of Labor. This press conference devolved into more than an hour of ranting on Trump’s part[5], where among other things, he claimed that:

  • That his administration’s implementation of his anti-terrorism executive order, ‘was perfect.’
  • That the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously decided not to reinstate Trump’s travel ban, has had its rulings overturned by the Supreme Court ‘at a record number.’
  • That Hillary Clinton ‘gave’ Russia 20 percent of the uranium in the United States.
  • That ‘jobs have already started to surge’ since his election (citing investments by Ford, Fiat Chrysler and Intel).
  • That there was no press coverage of the fact that Hillary received some questions prior to one of the debates from former CNN contributor Donna Brazile.
  • That the media had ‘a lower approval rate than Congress.’

All of these things turned out to be not true. They have all been debunked by both and, as well as the ‘failing’ New York Times and Washington Post (among other legitimate news sources).

These are just the items that can be fact checked. Some of Trump’s other claims were truly ludicrous (although technically a matter of opinion). For example:

  • Trump claimed that ‘there’s never been a President elected who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done.’
  • Trump claimed that his Administration is running ‘like a fine-tuned machine,’ despite ‘the fact that I can’t get my Cabinet approved.’

Now, whether Trump’s administration is running like a ‘fine-tuned machine’ is, of course, a matter of opinion. The opinion of virtually all observers who don’t work directly for the administration, whether Democrat, Republican or something else, was that the administration is a managerial disaster zone in which almost everyone is jockeying for power.

But the most incredible exchange of all was with a Jewish reporter (Jake Turx) from the hitherto unknown ‘Ami Magazine,’ which exchange is set forth below. Trump is looking for a ‘friendly reporter’ and calls upon Mr. Turx, who says this:

‘Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I haven’t seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their zayde,’ which is Yiddish for ‘grandfather’ and often a word of great affection.

At that Mr. Trump nodded slightly, and said, ‘thank you.’

‘However,’ Mr. Turx continued, ‘what we are concerned about and what we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it. There’s been a report out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to——’

At that, Mr. Trump interrupted, saying it was ‘not a fair question.’

‘Sit down,’ the president commanded. ‘I understand the rest of your question.’

As Mr. Turx took his seat, Mr. Trump said, ‘So here’s the story, folks. No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism, the least racist person.’

Mr. Turx tried to interject, realizing how the encounter had turned. He said he had wanted to clarify that he in no way meant to accuse Mr. Trump of anti-Semitism but instead intended to ask what his administration could do to stop the anti-Semitic incidents.

But Mr. Trump would not let him speak again, saying, ‘Quiet, quiet, quiet.’ As Mr. Turx shook his head with an incredulous look on his face, Mr. Trump accused him of having lied that his question would be straight and simple.

Mr. Trump said, ‘I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me. …’

He went on to say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, during his visit to the United States on Wednesday, had vouched for Mr. Trump as a good friend of Israel and the Jewish people and no anti-Semite.

Mr. Trump concluded that Mr. Turx should have relied on Mr. Netanyahu’s endorsement, ‘instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.’

‘Just shows you about the press, but that’s the way the press is,’ Mr. Trump said.

As noted in the New York Times, it was ‘the second time in two days that Mr. Trump was asked to denounce anti-Semitism and offer American Jews a dose of reassurance. In his joint news conference with Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Trump responded to a question about anti-Semitism by breezily recounting the size of his Electoral College victory and then reminding the reporters that his daughter, Ivanka, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and their three children — Mr. Trump’s grandchildren — are all Jewish.’

So, Trump literally said that he was the ‘least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.’ And the ‘least racist’ person. This was in the same news conference in which he requested April Ryan, the White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, to ‘set up a meeting’ with the Congressional Black Caucus when she asked him a question about whether he was planning to meet with the caucus.

For those who’ve forgotten, in the Second Presidential Debate with Hillary Clinton, the Donald also proclaimed that ‘Nobody has more respect for women than I do.’[6]

Then, in his completely unnecessary rally in Melbourne Florida on Friday Trump invented another non-existent scandal, just like the ‘Bowling Green Massacre.’ This time something terrible was supposed to have taken place in Sweden, except the Swedes knew nothing about it. Cue another meme. It turns out that Trump had heard some story on Fox News that claimed that things were not going well in Sweden. There is where President Obergropenführer is getting his information: from Fox News.

People used to argue that liberals took Trump literally but not seriously and conservatives took him seriously but not literally. Now that he’s President, we’re supposed to take him both literally and seriously.

How can anyone take this guy literally? And what do our conservative friends think when they hear something like this, something which only a literal imbecile would take to be true?

By now, it’s completely obvious the Trump is not at war with the Democrats or even with the media, but more simply with the truth. This has been pointed out by commentators who are cleverer than I am, such as John Oliver and his team at HBO.

[1] To be fair, Politifact also reported that there was a bit of an upward spike between 2014 and 2015 in the national rate, and that there has been a spike in some cities, especially Chicago (which is a special case having to do with the police essentially abandoning the inner city because they felt unfairly attacked after the Laquan McDonald case.)

[2] We are on the verge of potential disaster, of course, but primarily because of the Trump administration, which is unhinged in so many ways.

[3] Sometimes the claim has been that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally, and sometimes it’s been that 3 to 5 million illegal immigrants voted, but in any case, in either scenario Trump believes that they all voted for Hillary.

[4] When challenged on this clearly erroneous statement – since Obama, Bill Clinton and Bush I all had won bigger election victories – Trump asserted that this was the ‘information [he] was given.’

[5] It was so crazy that Fox Business Network’s Charles Gasparino, the home page of the New York Post, and Fox News’s Shepard Smith respectively described the press conference as ‘insane,’ a ‘marathon rant’ and ‘a press conference for the ages.’ And these are not in any respect ‘liberal’ news sources.

[6] This proclamation on Trump’s part literally got the majority of the crowd at the second debate to laugh out loud.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

There isn’t much point to trying to block the nomination of Neil Gorsuch

There will be a lot of effort expended over the next several weeks to thwart Neil Gorsuch’s appointment as the next Justice of the United States Supreme Court. It will be wasted effort, just like most of the effort to thwart President Kumquat’s cabinet.

A number of people – myself included – are still incensed over the Republican Senate’s refusal to even consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the court back in February, after the death of Antonin Scalia. There is no delicate way to say this: Mitch McConnell f**ked us in the a**. That’s what he did. He threw a Hail Mary that was destined to fail, until the extraordinarily unlikely (and by all evidence illegitimate) election of President Kumquat. If Hillary Clinton had been elected, as she should have been, she would have appointed a younger and more liberal judge than Merrick Garland. So the Republicans were gambling big time, breaking with hundreds of years of precedent, and the gamble paid off.

Now President Kumquat is going to make his entire base happy through the appointment of Neil Gorsuch. The Democrats can huff and puff, but they can’t do much about Gorsuch being appointed to the court.[1] Oh sure, Obama could have played hardball and made Merrick Garland a recess appointment – something I have previously argued would have proved that the Democrats (at last!) were as willing to play hardball as the Republicans – but being a man of reason and of conscience Obama didn’t do that. Now that Democrats can filibuster Gorsuch’s appointment if they want, but that would likely only lead to President Kumquat nominating someone who is more radical and less qualified.

And give him credit: for once President Kumquat listened to his advisors and made an excellent strategic appointment. Gorsuch has unimpeachable credentials. He is a Scalia clone.[2] He is only 49 and in excellent health. But this isn’t the big fight. That’s the next one, when Ruth Bader Ginsburg[3] dies or Anthony Kennedy resigns. That’s the one that will shift the composition of the court dramatically and could lead to the reversal of Roe v. Wade.[4]

And so with his cabinet. I’ve said throughout the eight years of the Obama administration that a President should be allowed to pick his cabinet, no matter how incompetent I think they might be. And so with President Kumquat. He should be able to have his guys, the people he wants to take into war with him. If it turns out that they can’t manage their way out of a paper bag, that will be his problem, not ours. Except for maybe Betsy DeVos, who is so blatantly biased and incompetent that even a couple of Republican Senators – Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – have indicated that they will vote off.

But this is what happens when you elect a lunatic to be the President of the United States. He gets to pick his people, including for the Supreme Court. Oh, there will be payback at some point, but it won’t really happen until the Democrats wrest back the control of the Senate – not likely to be in two years, but maybe in four – and the Republicans want to get one of their late inning appointments through. Then the Democrats will be able to block that person with a clear conscience. Lord knows that the Republicans opened the door to that. They’ve opened the door to a lot of things, and the Democrats can finally stop apologizing for getting into the hardball game with them.

[1] Even the filibustering is likely to lead to nowhere. First of all, a number of Democrats in deeply red states are likely to vote off, and the Republicans are already preparing big ad campaigns in those states. Second, the Republicans can always use the “nuclear option” and rewrite the rules of the filibuster so that only a simply majority is needed. McConnell – in a remarkable and unusual show of restraint – has indicated that he doesn’t want to do that, and Susan Collins (Republican of Maine) has already indicated that she would not vote for the nuclear option. Besides, having already f**ked us in the a** once, McConnell surely knows the dangers of doing it again. Using the nuclear option would free up the Democrats to do the same when they return to power.

[2] As I’ve already argued in the past, far from being an “intellectual giant,” Antonin Scalia was actually just a giant hypocrite. Oh sure, he was witty and could turn a phrase, but when it suited his needs, he completely distorted the meaning of the 2nd amendment and wrote the opening clause right out of the document. So much for textural faithfulness.

[3] I will never understand why Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has been in terrible health for years, didn’t resign while Obama would still have had the chance to nominate a reasonable replacement. They’ll have to wheel her out of the Supreme Court building on a gurney, but that will likely happen in the next few years.

[4] It really is remarkable that 40 years later the question of a woman’s right to choose – which by all rights should appeared to be settled 40 years ago – is still open to debate in 2017. If Roe v. Wade does get overturned, it won’t matter in Massachusetts, California or New York, where either the state constitutions or the political realities have already enshrined choice as a fundamental right. But the women of Kansas and Oklahoma and Nebraska and Ohio will also have a choice: do they want to vote their assholes out of office or do they want to continue to have their men deny them their fundamental rights. It will be up to them.

Posted in Law, Politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment