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.