Monday, December 14, 2020

Response to Fed on Fantasies Forever

(See: Just Above Sunset : Fed on Fantasies Forever)

You still hear people claiming that Trump was, at one time in the vague past, a Democrat, but given the fact that he’s apparently willing to demolish the whole "self-governing" part of how our country picks its leaders, I would argue that he’s never been a Democrat, nor even been a small-d democrat.

I think these people may be confusing the word “Democrat" with a similar-sounding word, seen here in Wikipedia:

“Demagogue … a leader who gains popularity by exploiting emotions, prejudice, hatred, and ignorance to arouse the common people against elites, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation. Demagogues overturn established norms of political conduct, or promise or threaten to do so. Demagogues frequently present themselves as populists, to the point where ‘populism' itself has now acquired a negative connotation.”

I wonder whether this was written before Trump was elected, or whether it was written since. It sounds too spot-on to be the former. But it’s strange we don’t hear this word used more often these days. Maybe it’s just too obvious.

Why do people follow a demagogue? For the same reason that more people watch fictional dramas, 
sitcoms or popular movies on television than boring news. Non-fiction may have the advantage of being factual and truthful, but slogging through it is just not as much fun, especially when it tries to teach you something you don’t really want to know.

Fiction has the same appeal to our senses that demagoguery does. For one thing, it’s filled with whiz-bang in-your-face excitement, designed to get your attention and entertain you, and for another, since every average American schmo knows that “being responsible” is totally overrated, there’s no real responsibility on your part to actually believe any of it.

But when you think about it, digging for the truth beneath all these fun-filled election-fraud claims is actually tedious work, and plunges us into the hazy realm of a certain boring philosophical topic that, back in the day, could be counted on to put kids to sleep in Philosophy 101, and that would be:


And just in case we forget what that is, here’s Wikipedia again:

"Epistemology ... is the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature of knowledge, epistemic justification, the rationality of belief, and various related issues. Epistemology is considered one of the four main branches of philosophy, along with ethics, logic, and metaphysics."

(What’s that you say? You feel your eyelids getting heavy?)

It’s all well and good for you, along with every cable news anchor, to continually insist that, as every right-thinking person knows, Biden won that election fair and square, with there being no evidence of massive fraud, but don’t even try to explain how you know this to be true (mostly because most people will have dozed off by the time you get to the meat of your argument) except to say you know it’s true for the same reason you know two-plus-two equals four and not five.

But wait! How DO you even know two-plus-two equals four, and not five?

Maybe because you can demonstrate it’s true with sugar cubes, but more likely it’s just that you’ve always heard it’s true from people you trust wouldn’t lie to you.

Or maybe you could also demonstrate to the MAGAs, by nattering on in torturous detail about how states nowadays ensure that elections are virtually impossible to rig, and that had the millions of votes in all these various states been rigged, the fix would have had to be so massive and blatant that even astronauts could see it from space, and that nobody, not even the most biased Obama-appointed judges in all those courts could get away with denying it.

But the MAGAs still won’t buy it, because they don’t share your world view and don’t see evidence the same way you do, but also because, deep down, they’re more loyal to their dear leader than they are to their country, and don’t even see the worth of living in a country that won’t elect the guy they want to be president, so threatening officials who won’t join their scheme, and thusly destroying the country itself in the process, isn’t all that big a deal it might be to you and me.

And so, because it’s much more entertaining, they choose "Reality TV" over “Reality”!

And so maybe it’s not epistemology after all, since, with these people, it’s a case of — to paraphrase what people in the 1950s used to say about art — “I may not know much about truth, but I know what I like!"

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Response to As Good as Gone

(See: Just Above Sunset : As Good as Gone)

If all goes as it should, yes, Trump is as good as gone, but that’s becoming a really big “if”.

For example, if Texas scores a surprise win in SCOTUS — or worse yet, if Republicans somehow prevail in that joint session of Congress — I can’t see any way of this country surviving as a nation state. Can’t you already hear the dead-enders? “If Donald Trump is not kept on as president, then the country doesn’t deserve to survive!”

Then again, so what? Republicans have been working too hard for too long, and without noticeable success, to squeeze what they've wanted out of America as it is.

It seems hugely trivial now, but I can’t help but remember Trump and his poodles all yapping about 2016 
 falsely, that Democrats’ suspicions that Trump could not have won without Russian collusion was just Democrats not being able to accept that Hillary Clinton could have even possibly lost the election — as I now watch the Republicans sputter in dismay that there had to have been "massive” fraud involved in 2020, since how else can anyone explain Trump's loss?

In truth, Donald Trump’s whole presidency has apparently been a publicity stunt, and the fact that so many in his own party can’t distinguish between governance and this wicky-wacky clown show they’ve been putting on speaks volumes about their capacity to govern. We seem to have come to that point in our history at which — to borrow from my day as a platoon leader in the Air Force ROTC when I accidentally marched my whole platoon into a huge bush — the whole Republican party should simply all “halt, fall out, and regroup somewhere else."

But then, why even bother regrouping somewhere else? There’s nothing for them to do there that they haven’t tried already.

Back those many years ago when I was born in this country, little did I suspect it wouldn’t live forever.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Response to No More Pretending

First of all, from the
 Washington Post:

At a rally Wednesday in Alpharetta, a few miles north of Atlanta, pro-Trump lawyers Lin Wood and Sidney Powell cast doubt on the legitimacy of any election held with the equipment and rules used on Nov. 3. It was, essentially, a don’t-get-out-and-vote rally...

“As far as I’m concerned, lock him up,” Wood said of [Governor Brian] Kemp, who certified Biden’s win in Georgia two weeks ago.

This is hilarious! Trump Republicans now find themselves sloshing through their own doo-doo!

I suppose someone needs to inform this "Boycott-The-Vote" group that that whole "fraudulent illegitimacy of the vote" business was only a useful myth, just some made-up story to fall back on to explain Trump’s election loss, but not really a real thing! To get the public to help us win the senate, everyone now has to switch gears, to put aside that old narrative of a broken voting system, and quickly, switch back to reality! 

"When I count to three and snap my fingers, you will wake up! You will forget everything we told you before about voting being a Democrat scam, and will now start believing that voting is safe! One! Two! Three!"

Maybe it hasn’t occurred to the Republicans that some right-wing brains just aren’t that agile! Once some brains sink too deep into the bullshit, it’s virtually impossible to pull them out.

Lying all the time, as a strategy, has its drawbacks. For one thing, it’s hard to get some people to stop believing your lies when you need them to stop.

But secondly, while I like your claim that Trump is not a Republican, in fact, after some thought, I disagree.

Yes, the Republicans ended up tolerating him mostly because of his judges, they had other reasons as well, such as tax cuts (that made rich people richer, but did nothing for anybody else, but still); cut back on regulations, including pollution; an imaginary Middle-East peace deal (that inexplicably forgot to include the Palestinians); cut ties with allies and weakened ties with international organizations (NATO, UN); we now take in no refugees, and scare away all other immigrants; he ripped up that Iran deal, which Republicans wanted for some reason; he may have gotten rid of Obamacare, pending a SCOTUS ruling, effectively leaving America with no national health care program whatsoever, which is what Republicans have been afraid to admit they always wanted; and lots of other stuff, including I’m sure lots we don’t even know about.

Yes, he’s damaged democracy, but that’s something else Republicans are afraid to admit they don’t really care for anyway. Yes, he’s a bit over-the-top in his wanting to kick everybody’s ass, which has been an embarrassment to the party, but also something conservatives have all secretly admired about him.

So come to think of it, yes, Donald Trump's the Republican that Republicans wish they themselves could be. He’s been the devil-may-care sugar rush of ice cream and cake, to the Democrat’s healthy green vegetables. He’s been just dumb enough to get away with what the rest of us would need courage to achieve.

He will be missed, but more importantly, probably emulated in one way or another for years to come.


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Response to After Thanks

(See: Just Above Sunset : After Thanks)

Okay, I’m no lawyer, and please don’t judge me, but after having now read the Supreme Court opinion, plus Roberts’ separate opinion, I find myself more or less (gasp!) siding with the Republican majority!

Except that I don’t think the dispute really has much of anything to do with religion at all — although if it’s not about religion, it shouldn’t be in the Supreme Court, right?

I suppose maybe the justices wanted to weigh in on this, but couldn’t do that without arguing that it involved the Constitution? I think they thought they couldn’t argue that these churches and synagogues can’t be treated worse than bars and restaurants without pointing out that those other places aren’t mentioned in the Constitution.

I don’t know. As I say, I’m not a lawyer. Whatever.

This case really seems to be just a question of whether churches and synagogues should be treated pretty much like everyone else, including “essential” and “non-essential” businesses alike — and from the looks of it, they’re not. In fact, some businesses seem to have no restrictions at all.

Also, I assume some huge church building that could normally accommodate thousands should be able to have more than ten (red zone) or twenty-five (orange zone) congregants in it at a time.

Plus, the dissenters’ argument — that the question is moot now because Cuomo has since relabeled the districts these institutions are in from orange down to yellow (no more than 50% capacity) — is silly, since that same color-coded system is still in effect, which means a district might still be flipped back in the other direction at a moment’s notice, and then we’re back to square one, but since this subject has now been breached, the justices might just as well deal with it now, when they have it, rather than later, after circumstances change back.

What I think should happen is Governor Cuomo should go back to the drawing board and see if he can find a way to design a more “equitable” system that loosens the restrictions, where all businesses (and please let’s not pretend religious institutions aren’t businesses!) are roughly on a level playing field, but without increasing the risk of even one more case of COVID than these institutions have already been racking up — which apparently is absolutely none (although that could be thanks to Cuomo’s help, for all we know.)

On the other hand, by the way, the reason I put “equitable” in quotes, above, brings up one more absurdity that gets hardly any mention in all this:

Pandemic restrictions shouldn’t be viewed as unfair treatment of some venue, they should be seen as necessary steps taken to keep human beings from getting sick and, in some cases, dying, not to forget passing the disease on, which would help create a gargantuan third wave of cases and deaths to levels to levels that tend to shock the rest of the world. 

In other words, it’s not about some state governor dissing Catholics or Orthodox Jews, it has more to do with Americans everywhere hiding in their homes and keeping their kids out of school, just to keep the family healthy and safe, and to keep this virus stuff from ruining our lives and economy for another two or three years or more.

The aim here should not be whether churches are being treated as fairly as hardware stores, the aim should be to make sure nobody, no matter if they’re singing praises to their god or purchasing a phillips screwdriver, catches a disease that not only could kill them but could endanger a member of their family or a friend or a stranger on the subway, who will then pass sickness and possible death on to others, ad infinitum.

But in fact, I see the court didn’t actually rule on whether the first amendment allows governments to tell religious institutions how to conduct themselves at all. In fact, if anything, it seemed to confirm that, yes, governments can do that, but that they just need to be sure they're “fair” about it when they do.

And while I did argue this decision isn’t about religion, the court itself might disagree with that, and I suppose may come back some day to revisit the question of whether or not we should be a theocracy after all, with governments being prohibited from even speaking to religious organizations at all, much less telling them they must obey our federal and local laws, just like everyone else.

At that point, I will rue the day that Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed, which was the day that conservative Republicans — who represent a minority of Americans, I must remind you! — finally took control over our nation's highest court, which is discussed in a recent issue of New York Times Magazine:

"Republican dominance over the court is itself counter-majoritarian. Including Amy Barrett, the party has picked six of the last 10 justices although it has lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, and during this period represented a majority of Americans in the Senate only between 1997 and 1998…”

If you’re interested in ideas of what we can do to fix the court, you should check out that article.

No, I’m not sure I'm in favor of “packing" the Supreme Court with my kind of judges — which could be undone in the time it would take the next president to snap his (or her) fingers — but I do think we are now at a point where we have to look into changing its structure and operation in a way that allows no one party to overwhelm the other, at the very least.

If we can't do something like that, along I suppose with a bunch of other things, this American ship might just find itself dead in the water.

But step one for Biden getting anything done next year might be for someone to pay Mitch McConnell a bucket of money to just go back home and leave America alone.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Response to Too Crazy Even for This President

(see: Just Above Sunset : Too Crazy Even for This President)

Aha! So it turns out Trump was shocked by the election results!

And this indicates something we've known all along  that he isn't all that smart after all!

If he were smart, he would have seen it all coming and known what to do about it. And he would have seen it coming if he didn’t surround himself with yes-people. A smart person would known not to get rid of people who tell him the truth. He thinks he was being strong, but if he were, he would have had the guts to do smart things, instead of taking the easy way out.

We tend to forget that Trump is still a rookie in this country-running game, and has been making rookie mistakes, one after the other, but finally got stopped dead by a truth that he couldn't just imagine into non-existence. Dim as he is, I think he now realizes that his latest explosive lie comes with a lit fuse on it, and for once, he finds himself living in the real world, one that he didn’t manufacture inside his own brain, and he’s running out of time.

People who vote for him say they do it because he has business experience.

First of all, he doesn’t. Donald's dad gave him a bunch of money to do with what he wanted, which he then played with inside his own private sandbox, and despite his not being very good at what he was doing, he somehow never went broke. 

But because his company was pretty much just presented to him as a gift, he never gained the kind of invaluable knowledge one gets from working your way up from the bottom the way real successful business people dofalsely coming to believe he knew how to operate in the real world.

In fact, I’m pretty sure he never in his whole life even had to apply for a job. I'm guessing this White House gig was his first real job working for someone else, although I doubt that he sees it that way.

But second of all, by the way, from what I’ve seen of real business people, I don’t think we’d even really want one of those as president either.

To be a successful businessman, you often have to be pretty ruthless, maybe a bit of a scoundrel, and be ready to do whatever it takes to make a profit. After all, folks who make their living by selling don't work for you and me, nor for what's good for us; they work for the money they make.

Come to think of it, that is something Trump picked up throughout his years in ersatz business  an innate sense that money is somehow more important than human life, an assumption I’m pretty sure is not shared by the rest of us, and not something we would want to see in our chief executive.

I keep insisting Trump is ninety-eight percent ignoramus, despite his relative success as a conman and a grifter, but I keep getting pushback from people who assume that nobody that good at being that bad could be all that stupid. Still, I do think history may be finally catching up with him.

And I do believe that if we all work together in the lead-up to 2024, reminding the world of the lessons we've learned, we just might be able to prevent the next nasty autocratic Trump-like bonehead from taking America hostage again.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Response to Incompetent, Delusional and Retaliatory

(See: Just Above Sunset : Incompetent, Delusional and Retaliatory)

"Ah, but there was that rainy December day in Paris twenty years ago, when the world was a better place. That’s something to hold onto.”

No, it wasn’t really, and no, it’s not.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but your 1950s-esque film-noir memory  which I can’t help but picture in black-and-white, with some cheesy French accordion music wafting from some nearby smoke-filled cafe  was just a way-station on America's relentless slow-march to international oblivion.

Trump’s reality-bending superpowers seem to be deserting him, but if we thought that his Republican pals would be doing the same, we’d be wrong. Those poor lost souls seem to be still waking up in the recovery room, so we’ll have to wait to see how that sorts out.

They’re still in actual shock? They really did not see this coming? Go figure! All this time, I thought they were faking all that ignorance!

This could be the perfect illustration of the downside to being part of a cohort that refuses to pay attention to facts, especially of the "not-alternative" variety, which in this case means not checking 538 polls several times a day throughout this past year, like many of the rest of us did.

But yes, not doing that makes perfect sense to people who take way too seriously the ubiquitous "lesson" of 2016 — that political polls cannot be trusted and no attention whatsoever should be paid to them.

These people may agree with Trump when he claims “Science doesn’t know” this and that, but I’d put good money on my belief that science may seem sort of vague now and then, but it knows a lot more about just about anything worth knowing than these people's damn gut does!

I do like Jennifer Rubin’s “second option” as to when America's return to normalcy could possibly happen:

"Republicans’ bad behavior might bring on more losses in 2022 as voters decide divided government with a delusional, obstructionist party is worse than one-party government.”

I hope our government lives long enough to see that take place, although I do see it as probably happening after her "third option", which is this:

"Republicans will by and large insist Trump was robbed, use that to rationalize complete obstruction of the Biden administration, and limp along as they incite their base through one feigned outrage and fake scandal after another.”

But before we come to any of that, I strongly suspect that Trump, who prides himself on not being beholden to common decency and other societal norms of American life, is not quite finished leaving his mark on World history. He will, I’m sure, find some clever way to key our collective car on his final journey home.

And yes, I did mean collective. I realize it may only be liberals like me who actually take this phrase to heart, but I nevertheless mean this for all of us when I say that we truly are all in this together.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Response to Simply General Defiance

(See: Just Above Sunset : Simply General Defiance)

This new muting-the-microphones debate rule doesn’t really seem like enough to stymie Trump’s plan to keep Biden from making sense, since it only applies to the first two minutes of each 15-minute segment, the rest of which will be a free-for-all format.

I’m not looking forward to the debate, assuming it even happens, but if the Trump people want to make it all foreign policy, I’d be fine with that. In fact, neither side talks much about Trump’s trashy foreign policy, and neither does anyone else, but I think the Democrats should welcome the opportunity to remind America how Trump has weakened the country’s position in the world.

And even talking about Hunter could be fine, if Biden does it right:

“Assuming the New York Post article is NOT a plant by the Russians — although all indications seem to point to the fact that it IS — all it would prove, at worst, is that some guy who works for Burisma had my son introduce me to him, not that I helped the company in any way. So what would be the big deal in that? But I never DID meet with the guy, so that email is phony and meaningless — especially compared, for example, to the attempts of the president and his personal so-called 'lawyer', trying to fabricate all these weird stories about me and my family in Ukraine, just to cover up for the crimes of HIS friends in Russia, and probably to detract attention from the hundreds of thousands of Americans who died because he decided this pandemic was no big deal and not worth worrying about."

But there's something I've noticed in the last few days. I think Trump may be giving up.

He seems to be attempting a Hail Mary, hoping that, if he has to lose — something he seems to finally realize he's doing — he’ll do it without a pivot, and on his own terms.

He may even be giving up on his belief that he can manufacture reality, and even truth itself, by simply repeating his fake version until the fact-checkers tire of correcting him. He may secretly be discovering that his attempt to get all of America to accept his view that Covid-19 is just another insignificant fact of American life, seems no longer to be working.

Even those in his base who always knew he was a jerk but backed him anyway seem to be abandoning him, once they came to realize that more Americans are dying of this virus than die in all of our wars. That, they might finally be realizing, can't be good, no matter how many conservative judges we get.

But what the fuck (his words, not mine), rather than walk everything back (it’s too late for that anyway), he may just have decided to end his political career by pretending it was all just one big stand-up routine. That seems to have been the part of being president he enjoyed the most anyway.

Assuming he’s accepting that he’ll probably lose, I hope he’s right, but only if my side gets to keep the House and gets to pick up, at the very least, half of the Senate.

Anything less than that and we may find ourselves facing not just the end of one wide-awake nightmare, but also the beginning of another.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

Response to The Crazy Uncle

(See:  Just Above Sunset : The Crazy Uncle)

* Phillip Halpern: “This career bureaucrat seems determined to turn our democracy into an autocracy.”

No, no, he misses the point about today’s bureaucrats! Although “bureaucrat” is usually a derogatory term, it shouldn’t be under Trump.

I see “bureaucrat” as another way of describing someone in the so-called “Deep State” — that is, a government functionary who, no matter his or her political leanings, simply supports the government going about its non-partisan business, no matter which political party in power wants to bulldoze its way through all the rules in order to achieve its personal agenda.

In fact, I think this year's Nobel Peace Prize should have maybe gone to America's Deep State Bureaucrats.

* Trump: “You know they keep saying nobody wears masks, wear the masks. Although then they come out with things today, did you see CDC? That 85% of the people wearing the mask catch it. OK?”

This reminds me of a friend of mine I once worked with on a summer job who wore glasses. One day, one of the other workers (who was kind of dim) walked up to my friend and asked, “Hey, Tom, why do you wear glasses all the time? I can see you just fine!”

This little story also describes Trump wanting to slow down our testing, because the more we test, the more people seem to catch COVID-19.

* Trump: “I don’t know about QAnon,” Trump responded…

And yet, a Politico article from July 12 notes that, on July 4th, Trump retweeted 14 tweets from QAnon-supporting accounts, and that (by the time of that article) he had "retweeted at least 90 posts from 49 pro-QAnon accounts, often multiple times in the same day.”

Maybe he just did that blindly, without reading what he was retweeting?

If he really wanted to know something about QAnon, he should have asked his FBI. They do seem to know about QAnon.

* “...the [Trump] campaign, which last year ran an expensive TV ad during the World Series literally bragging that “he’s no Mr. Nice Guy…”

Which pretty much sums up America’s case against him. The opposite of “Mr. Nice Guy” is “Mr. Jerk”, euphemistically speaking, and you’d think that nobody has grounds for getting on my case for calling out some candidate who’s top reelection campaign promise was that he will continue to be a jerk.

He’s probably our first jerk president, with the possible exception of Andrew Jackson, and I would think no sane American really wants their president to be a jerk.

I must confess, I was never a huge fan of "Mr. Rogers", but I’m starting to rethink that.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Response to This Weak Man

(See: Just Above Sunset : This Weak Man)

(Hey, you think this is Schadenfreude? Naw! Try karma!)

Trump has a choice. He can either try to look like a strong guy, or look like a smart guy. I think he chooses the former because he has learned through experience that if you’re strong enough, you can overpower all those smart people, so much so that you can make truth itself irrelevant.

Why does Trump constantly lie? I think it’s largely to demonstrate his power to dominate, not just other people themselves, but also the way they think.

The way this works:

* First Trump tells a lie. Then someone (or many people) fact-check him, and prove what he said was false.

* Then he tells that same lie again. Mistakenly thinking he might have missed the first fact-check (since it probably wasn’t reported on Fox News), people correct him again.

* Then he tells that lie a third time, and so on.

* After a while, people stop correcting him, since they see no purpose in continuing to correct someone who’s obviously not paying attention, and besides, they have many other things to do.

Voila! Trump wins! And so does his lie!

This next part was in back in late 2019:

Between July 8, when we started counting Trump's false claims at CNN, and December 15, the day until which we currently have comprehensive data, Trump's most frequent false claim of any kind was that China is paying the entirety of the cost of his tariffs on imported Chinese products. 

"We're not paying for the tariffs; China is paying for the tariffs, for the 100th time," he told reporters in one typical remark on August 18. ... 

His assertion has been contradicted by numerous tariff-paying American companies and by multiple economic studies. But Trump said it on 49 separate occasions over those five months. And he said it 20 times in August alone, more than he did in any other month, as he faced scrutiny over his intensifying trade war.

Possibly he’s actually correct about this. Maybe he has some arcane explanation — that China pays for the tariffs in lost revenues on their products or something — but if so, he needs to argue that out loud.

But as you may have noticed, he rarely if ever actually defends his outrageous claims, he merely keeps repeating them, assuming that everyone will eventually give up looking for rationality in his barely-coherent run-on ramblings, and will just smile and say, “Well, hey, what can you do? This is just Trump, being Trump!”

Besides, who among us has time to spend fact-checking whether he really, as he has said over 175 times, inherited from Obama a greatly weakened military, but by increasing its budget, he rebuilt it up into a completely new and improved fighting machine, the likes of which the world has never yatta-yatta-yatta — while, in the words of Washington Post's humongous list of Trump’s exaggerations and lies:

* "Trump often falsely claims he's 'totally rebuilt' the U.S. military. The military budget had declined in recent years, as a result of decreases in funding for Overseas Contingency Operations as both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan came to a close, not because it's been so gravely depleted. … The biggest defense budget was in 2010 [under Obama], and in inflation-adjusted dollars it [was] nearly ten percent larger than Trump's 2020 budget”.

Or when he says, “We have the lowest Mortality Rate in the World. The Fake News should be reporting these most important of facts, but they don’t!”

WaPo again: 

* "This is false. Nearly 40 Americans have died of covid-19 per 100,000 people, second worst in the world behind only the United Kingdom of the 20 countries most affected by the virus…”

And that list of fact-checks goes on and on. By July 9th of this year, the list of Trump’s over-the-top prevarications surged to over 20,000.

But while all of America hears Trump repeat these false claims, very few of us bother to independently verify whether there’s any truth to them. And while some us, including me, now just assume any claim he makes has a better than 50% chance of being wrong, most people are too busy with their everyday lives to give it even one moment of consideration.

In fact, according to one study, many people really don’t even care if he lies:

Conducted prior to the 2016 presidential election, the study focuses on credibility experiments. Subjects were asked to rate their belief in eight statements (four true, four false) that Trump made during his campaign. Some were attributed to him: “Donald Trump said that vaccines cause autism.” Others had no attribution: “Vaccines cause autism.” Then came the fact checks. …

There was a large bipartisan shift in belief after the fact check, suggesting that both conservatives and liberals can change their minds if they’re presented with convincing, unbiased information. 
But there was a catch: After a one-week delay, subjects partially “rebelieved” the false statements and partially forgot that factual information was true. Or, to quote the study: “Even if individuals update their beliefs temporarily, explanations regarding both fact and fiction seemingly have an expiration date.” 

None of this bodes well for American democracy.

And here’s the author’s takeaway from a similar study, The Authentic Appeal of the Lying Demagogue: Proclaiming the Deeper Truth About Political Illegitimacy (Hahl, Kim, et al.):

“Support for a lying demagogue is not simply a desire to ascribe positive characteristics to a preferred candidate. These Trump voters could have viewed him as warm and sincere, but they did not. They also could have chosen to justify his lie by insisting that it was true. Instead, they justified it as a form of symbolic protest, viewing him as increasingly authentic the more they did so.”

So let me repeat that: lies of a demagogue can be “justified … as a form of symbolic protest”.

Once again, none of this bodes well for American democracy.

I miss the old days when you could trust that your president wasn’t trying to sell you on all the allegedly great things he’s done, knowing that Americans will give him a pass, since we have all gotten so used to being bull-shitted all our lives by advertisers trying to sell us stuff that turns out to be not quite as advertised.

(Which reminds me: Please, do your country a favor! No more electing “businessmen” to run our country! For some mysterious reason, too many Americans seem to give businessmen much too much credit for knowing how to do things they have absolutely no experience in ever having done.)

And forget about truth, since once Trump finishes talking everybody into a brain-numbing stupor, rational argument no longer matters, much less literal truth. The only thing that’s true is what Trump and, presumably, his noisy minority base claim it is.

And by the way, I often get corrected for saying Trump isn’t smart, by people who insist that, while he may indeed be a crooked jerk, "he’s not stupid!”

I disagree! I think he’s not smart, he’s crafty! Crafty isn’t smart! Being a smart president is knowing enough about the world to know to do the right thing; being crafty is merely being "clever at achieving one's aims by indirect or deceitful methods”.

So my rule-of-thumb when choosing a president is, I want my president to be someone who actually understands the real world, and not some tough-talking low-life who’s only skill is sweet-talking just enough voters into thinking he’s got everything under control.

Before you read my next point, you need to understand that I am not a bible-thumping God-fearing man. In fact, I’d describe myself as an agnostic who can’t say for certain either way whether there is or isn’t a god, at least not the one I kept hearing about while growing up.

In fact, if I were forced to take a stand that there is a god, it would be that the universe is God, with God’s laws being the way everything in the cosmos works, and that there’s such a thing as cause-and-effect, the results of which are usually pretty predictable, and so if you don’t know diddly about cause-and-effect, you risk getting whupped upside the head by God.

So just for argument's sake, let's say that last sentence is true, but still with some of the traditional mythological old-guy-with-a-beard overtones.

Now here’s my point: I wonder if enfeebling Trump with the virus near the end of his reelection race is just an attempt by God — who must be smarting from too often being blamed for sending Trump down to us — to save the human race, along with all earth's other life forms, from Trump’s apparent master plan to destroy the planet.

And to linger on that religious optic for just another moment, you could even analogize the Republicans around Trump, who have been dropping like flies, to the Passover story. These people are the non-believers who insisted on ignoring God’s laws:

God tells Moses and Aaron to instruct the Israelites to paint blood from their Passover lambs on to the frames of their doors. Painting blood onto their door frames signified their faith in God's warning and marked them out from the pagan Egyptians; when the Angel of Death passed through Egypt he would pass over the doors marked with blood (hence the name, "Passover") without killing the firstborn males who lived within those houses.

In other words, those who arrogantly challenged God’s laws weren't saved.

And not to ignore that positive-testing elephant in the room:

There are many people right now saying we should "put politics aside”, even suggesting Biden pause his campaigning while we send our “thoughts and prayers” to the president and his family and to those other Republicans who tested positive after going to that recent Rose Garden shindig, but I think we need to be a bit more realistic about this, and maybe even ruthlessly so.

The fact that Trump and all these no-maskers caught COVID is not some unhappy accident, it’s virtual proof that COVID is not some partisan “hoax”, perpetrated by Democrats as a way to get rid of a president that they, for some unfathomable reason, don’t like.

Republicans, following the example of their lemming chief, insist that the Democrats politicize everything, including wearing masks, when in fact, I doubt there has been another president in American history other than this one who saw everything, everything, everything, through a partisan political filter, to the point of putting his whole country in danger.

Note well: Democrats didn’t give the president and his people the virus, they gave it to themselves.

They made fun of people who wore masks, prompting their gullible minions to go mask-less into Walmarts to fight for their “constitutional right” to infect their fellow humans; they refused to social distance; because they value money more than life itself, they used their state governors to reopen their economies too soon, while ignoring the safeguard standards designed to save lives; likewise, they routed teachers and kids from the safety of their homes, into the outside world where they risked catching a possibly killer of a disease, to then bring back to their families; they kept gathering themselves boisterously into crowds, inside and out of churches and weddings and bars, just to show how the scientists were plying us with fake information, while they recklessly tested the limits of their beliefs that all this virus stuff is just a bunch of made-up hooey.

Well, call it karma, but if nothing else serves as evidence that their beliefs were nonsense, their mask-mocking dear leader and his wife testing positive of the “hoax” should do the job — a “hoax”, we dare not forget, that has taken the lives, at this point, of about 210,000 or more Americans, more by far than any other country in the world — a fact you never hear the big man himself ever acknowledging.

No, I don’t want Trump to die, but not because I’ve have a change of heart and actually like the guy, because I really don’t — but for these reasons:

* If he dies, it makes what happens to the country a dangerous mystery. Pence becomes the candidate? He could, God forbid, possibly even beat Biden? Who knows. If Trump lives, we pretty much know what to do to handle the Trump problem: beat him in the election, and make sure he stays beat and doesn’t try to lock himself in the bathroom of the White House, hopefully accomplishing this in a way that doesn’t screw up our constitutional rule.

In other words, no need for the military to get involved; no military coup or any such thing. Still, I feel much more comfortable with us dealing with Trump alive than dead.

* But I also want him to live long enough to give him the opportunity to finally admit he was wrong.

Not that he would ever do that, of course, but assuming he doesn’t, even people who have supported him all along, through his most outrageous insults, tweeted lies, threats and misdeeds — from separating kids from parents just to scare the doo-doo out of any future refugees, to attempting to abolish universal healthcare for millions of middle-class and poor people and replace it with nothing at all, to ripping up a carefully-crafted treaty that was successfully keeping Iran from building nuclear weapons so that they could resume their building bombs, and that's just a few his bone-headed shenanigans among a nearly uncountable multitude of them  — will have to finally concede that he was wrong about his approach to just about everything, and once nearly everybody finally admits he’s wrong, he’s lost all his power over them, and over the country, and over the world.

Just now, I’m seeing video of the president, waving to his supporters from an SUV while taking a gratuitous joy ride down the streets outside the hospital, maybe endangering the health and even life of his driver and the Secret Service agent in the front seat. (His doing this just might be due to the reported "mental side effect" of one of the crazy drug cocktails he seems to have insisted they put him on.)

So while I don’t want him to die from this, I must admit I do hope his health takes at least a temporary turn for the worse, just enough so that he and his crowd get God’s message, that not only can the Truth Make You Free, it just possibly can, if you defy its power, also make you deathly ill.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Response to The Real Loss Now

(See: Just above Sunset : The Real Loss Now)

The following little tale was written for Huffington Post by Aaron E. CarrollDirector of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research:

The fable, as it is told, involves a scorpion and a frog. 

The scorpion needs to cross a river, so he asks the frog to carry him on his back. The frog is skeptical; after all, scorpions kill.

The scorpion calms the frog, explaining that if he stung him on the swim across, they would both die. Therefore, the frog can be assured the scorpion will do no such thing.

“Trust me,” says the scorpion. “We’re in this together.”

Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. As the frog seizes up and they both begin to sink, the frog croaks, “Why?”

“I am a scorpion.  It is my nature.”

This is not a morality tale. It is a parable about the nature of things. The scorpion isn’t evil any more than the frog is good.  But the frog ignores what the scorpion is at its peril.

We, as a country, are in trouble.  If we don’t find our way out of this mess, the stability of the United States is in danger.

Although one might assume the dangerous mess Carroll was talking about was the Supreme Court mess, it wasn’t. This was published back in early 2010, and it had to do with health care, including the rising cost of prescription drugs.

But you could be forgiven if you thought it was about a sincere Lindsey Graham, at that Senate hearing in 2016, asking us to trust him:

"I want you to use my words against me. If there's a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”

That was Graham back then, this is him now:

“We have the votes.”

Short and sweet and to the point. The only thing he should have added is, “Hey, we’re Republicans! It’s in our nature! It’s the Democrat's fault for trusting us!"

If I could go back in time — but assuming if I did that, I could get Mitch McConnell’s ear — I would advise him not to use any silly "moral argument” for refusing to bring the president's nominee for a vote, that we should let the American people have a say in the next SCOTUS justice. Yes, that might make sense to some people, all Republicans, but maybe not as many as there would be voters four years later who would want to punish him for his hypocrisy, with their votes.

In other words, it might hurt him more later than help him back then.

Instead, he should simply have said, “We are doing this because we can. We’re doing this because nowhere in the rules does it say we can’t.

He might even suggest the possibility that the Democrats might themselves consider using it against a Republican president some day, if the opportunity presents itself.

You might think that would go over worse than the sanctimonious and pretentious case he actually made back then, but I don’t think so. I would think many, from all sides, might admire his no-nonsense honesty.

(Okay, let’s forget that word “admire”. It just seems out of place when referring to Mitch McConnell. But I hope you see my point.)

The truth is, the principle here is not a moral one, it’s a pragmatic one. You do what you need to do when the opportunity arises. It’s like “Jeopardy James” 
Holzhauer, who defied the tradition of choosing the first “answer” in a category, instead going for the higher value last question. If you find a smarter way to play the game than the way everybody else plays it, you go for it, even if it means breaking custom.

In truth, we Democrats might find it smart to be on the lookout for opportunities to block a Republican president’s nominee coming up for a vote, and maybe not even wait for the end of his term.

Where does it say you can't refuse to hold a vote at any point — maybe the beginning, maybe the middle, at any time in the presidential term you want to, as long as you have the votes? After all, as the other side has shown us, if’s not really cheating if there’s nothing in the rules to rule it out.

But, you may be asking, won’t this just add to the disfunction of the government, setting a precedent that the other side will find a chance to use that against us some day?

Unfortunately, yes, it would, and that would be a shame.

After all, as I often get caught saying, the founders created a system of government that would rely on an honor system, one that presumed their descendants would be honorable and intelligent enough to understand that, if they were to abandon their sense of honor, the whole project would go down the toilet (which, you have to admit, was quite prescient of them, since the toilet hadn't even been invented yet.)

Don’t believe me about the honor system? Then answer me this: 
How many years in jail do you get for violating the Constitution?

So the real problem when it comes to our constitution is, we have wandered a ways out of bounds and don’t know how to get back to where we belong.

In fact, I would argue that, whether they know it yet or not, the Republicans may not even want to go back, stuck with a leader who is growing tired of the American system, as too inefficient and possibly too forgiving of citizens who can’t — or, as he probably thinks, won’t — pull their weight, and recently seems to be toying with the idea of abandoning small-d democratic ideals altogether. I would say, without fear of contradiction, that he really would like to be the American Putin.

You know, there have always been right-wingers warning us that the commies will somehow take over America, I think probably championing movies like the 1984 flick “Red Dawn”, about a group of high school kids fighting back, described here in Wikipedia:

The United States has become strategically isolated after NATO is completely disbanded. [Sound familiar?] At the same time, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies aggressively expand their sphere of influence. ...

On a September morning, in the small town of Calumet, Colorado, a local high school teacher pauses when he sees Soviet troops parachuting from An-12 transport aircraft landing in a nearby field…

An alt-right daydream, of course! (Hey, I need to get me an AK-47 and plenty of ammo, just in case we get lucky!)

My answer to this was always, not gonna happen! For one thing, it wouldn't even get started, since virtually nobody here would welcome them, and everybody would fight back. No enemy would even bother trying. They’d know better.

That was before I found myself saying that Trump could never get anywhere as president. For one thing, the Republicans themselves hate him so much, they would probably impeach him before Christmas of his first year.

But then we all watched, and saw how it might start, right before our eyes on cable news.

So who to blame for where we are today?

Probably too many to list, but I might start with Newt Gingrich, who got the disintegration started by teaching the not-unwilling Republican politicians how to insult and denigrate, and to their glee, annihilate their rivals in congress.

Or maybe go back even before that, probably to Nixon.

If you’re old enough, you might remember that old custom of each party essentially rubber-stamping a president’s appointments, figuring he had a right to pick his own people, no matter how much his politics irked you.

Then one day, Reagan nominated Robert Bork for the Supreme Court, and partly because of his roll in Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre”, but maybe because he was such a flaming right-winger who, among other things, apparently hoped to roll back all civil rights gains, the senate simply refused to confirm him. From that time onward, you're getting “Borked” described getting done to you what the Democrats did to Bork.

And from that point on, when one congressperson referred to another as “my good friend”, it was often hissed through a scowl. The gloves came off. No more Mr. Nice Congress.

But if we’re looking for someone to blame for the latest Supreme Court kerfuffle, not to mention what seems will probably be conservative dominance in the Supreme Court for years to come?

Submitted for your consideration, the “Notorious” Justice Ruth!

She could have chosen to retire during the Obama administration, ensuring a Democrat in the seat, but instead, chose to place a bet on allowing herself, the second woman ever on the Supreme Court, be replaced by the soon-to-be first female president of the United States, which was, at that point, looking like a solid shoo-in.