Monday, September 18, 2017

Clueless Hillary

I've only read small excerpts from Hillary Clinton's book, "What Happened" but something popped out from two of those excerpts: Hillary is completely clueless about popular culture. She drops some references without realizing how backwards she got the reference.

"Crowds at Trump rallies called for my imprisonment more times than I can count," she wrote. "They shouted, 'Guilty! Guilty!' like the religious zealots in Game of Thrones chanting 'Shame! Shame!' while Cersei Lannister walked back to the Red Keep."

In Game of Thrones, Cersie Lannister is one of the least sympathetic characters. Early in the first book of the series a young boy catches her having sex with her twin brother so the two of them throw the boy out a high window. She indulges her sociopath son and is generally cruel herself. There are two reason that Hillary should never want her name associated with Cersie. The first is that Cersie's only claim to power was that she married the king. Does Hillary really want us to remember that she'd never have been taken seriously as a candidate if she hadn't been First Lady?

The second problem for Hillary is that Cersie was guilty. The crowd knew it. The viewers knew it. She was atoning for crimes that she really committed. How far should we take this analogy?

"Attempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism," Mrs. Clinton writes. "This is what the Soviets did when they erased political dissidents from historical photos. This is what happens in George Orwell's classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, when a torturer holds up four fingers and delivers electric shocks until his prisoner sees five fingers as ordered.

"The goal is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust towards exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence, ourselves," she continues.

 1984 is a dystopian novel where an oppressive government controls every aspect of daily life. The populous is constantly monitored and people who do not believe what the government, the press, and the leaders tell them are arrested and tortured until they can no longer separate reality from government-directed propaganda - even when the government is constantly rewriting history. But Hillary's take-away from the novel is that we should trust in the people who, in the novel, are the fabricators.

Just how much chardonnay had Hillary been drinking when she came up with this stuff? And why didn't her ghost writers clean it up?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Trump Saved Congressional Republicans From Themselves

In the (muted) furor over President Trump making a deal with the Congressional Democrats to make a three-month extension to the debt ceiling, people forget what the alternative would have been. Reportedly the Republicans were holding out for a long-term deal on the deficit and were willing to shut down government to get it. If they had done that the top story of the week would have been "Republicans shut down the government as hurricanes wreck multiple states and leave thousands homeless."

The Republicans would be portrayed as heartless. This would have followed them into the next election cycle. Instead, Trump got a deal for quick relief money and postponed the budget showdown until after hurricane season.

Yes, the Democrats are patting themselves on the back over how they got the better of the deal but if they really believe that then they are fooling themselves. They lost a huge public relations opportunity and got nothing of consequence in return.

The real losers are the Congressional Republican leaders who haven't figured out how to pick their battle.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Disappointed with the Republicans

This should have been a banner year for Republicans. With control of the White House, both houses of Congress and a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, they should have had at least a few major victories by now. But they don't. All of the important work is being done by the executive branch. Granted, a lot of the executive overreach of the Obama years is best handled from the executive branch but we should have seen some progress by now.

"Repeal and replace Obamacare" was a battle cry for the Republicans since the day President Obama signed it. What the House passed was shoddy work and no one was willing to spend any political capitol pushing it. The Senate was even more hapless, unable to pass anything. The excuse was that they didn't expect Trump to win so their plans consisted of nothing more than another 4-8 years of symbolic votes.

They don't even seem to have had a workable plan involving subsidized high-risk pools filed away in a back room, just in case.

Corporate tax reform should have been a priority, too. We have the world's highest corporate tax rate but it's riddled with breaks that mainly benefit companies large enough to pay for lobbying. This puts smaller companies at a disadvantage and hurts the overall economy.

Immigration reform and border security should have been high on their to-do list. Those are issues that put Trump into the White House.

It appears that the Congressional Republicans prefer to keep their heads down and avoid doing anything controversial.

President Trump was correct in his actions this week. He made a deal with some Democrats to keep government funded for another three months while providing federal funding for hurricane relief. Trump signaled that he does not need the Republicans which is only fair since they have expressed a clear distaste for him.

The other action was the announcement that DACA, the program that allowed illegal immigrants who came here at a young age, will be phased out in six months. This program was the worst example of Obama's executive overreach. There was an excellent chance that it would not survive the Supreme Court. Simply eliminating it would put the onus on Trump, but by phasing it out, he gave the Republicans a chance to weigh in on it. If they pass a replacement then it will be legal. If they fail to then it is on them. 

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Why Identity Politics Are Immoral

These days the left in obsessed with Identity Politics - the idea that your identity as a person is mainly shaped by your race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. The Democrats have embraced this as their ticket to permanent majority status. But the most virulent strain of this is found in colleges. There are several problems with Identity Politics. These put them at odds with the very concept of what it means to be American.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Martin Luther King jr.

Identity politics turns this on its head. Individuals no longer matter, only groups. Whites in general do better than most minorities therefore all whites have white privilege and all people of color are oppressed. It doesn't matter if the white in question is poor and stuck in a low-paying job or long-term employment or the person of color is a university employee making more in a year than most people make in a decade. The white has power and the POC does not.

This leads to inherited guilt. All whites are guilty of slavery, Jim Crow, etc. Even if none of your ancestors owned slaves, you are guilty.

The same is true about sexism. All men are part of the patriarchy and all women are oppressed by it. Look at the most vocal victim of sexism, Hillary Clinton. An outside observer might point out that she has enjoyed more power and influence than all but a handful of people and that despite a history of bad judgement and questionable ethics, she still came within a hairsbreadth of becoming president - something that only a half-dozen people in a country of 350 million can say. Still, she lost, not because she made terrible choices as a candidate, but because she's a woman.

Part of Identity Politics is the expectation that you will behave properly. Remember the outrage from the Left when white women failed to vote for Hillary?

And there's where Identity Politics clashes with the American ideal. We (or used to) pride ourselves as a nation of individuals. Now that is being beaten out of us. We are expected to act based on our identity rather than our convictions.

Identity Politics is inherently divisive. It teaches that you have to be true to your group and that you are not to think for yourself. It also has to have an "other". It teaches that everything is a zero-sum game. In order for women and people of color to rise, white men have to be dragged down.

Everything has to have a racial angle. When an eclipse crossed the nation for the first time in 99 years, one writer pointed out that it was mainly visible in white areas. Income inequality can be traced to single-parent families, poor education and other issues but it is usually blamed on racism and nothing useful is done.

Racism and sexism are assumed to be everywhere, but only practiced by white men. That's because the definitions have been changed to include group identity. Since white men, as a group, are the only ones with power, they are the only ones who can be racist or sexist. This is a convenient double standard that allows for a shocking amount of hatred against white men. Colleges across the country are offering classes on "eliminating whiteness" and the term "toxic masculinity" has become so common that I see it in movie reviews. No one thinks twice about this but imagine the reverse.

All of this has consequences. White nationalism is on the rise. This is nothing but more Identity Politics. It is inevitable that powerless young guys will side with the people who tell them that they are inherently superior.

It is very difficult to tell just how prevalent white supremacy actually is. The mid-August protest in Charlottesville was supposed to be the largest such gathering in a generation. Hard numbers are impossible to find. None of the major news services gave any estimates. The best I could come up with was that the white supremacist side had 200-300 people. I haven't seen any numbers about the counter-protest but previous events there had over 1,000 counter-protestors so it is safe to assume around 1,000. That means that the protestors were outnumbered between 3-1 to 5-1. I suspect that these numbers were suppressed by reporters sympathetic to the counter-protestors to give the impression of equal numbers. In addition, the protestors came from multiple states. The one who killed a woman by ramming a car was from Ohio. News reports said that most of the counter-protestors were from the general area, at most coming from Richmond and DC.

A week later, there were no white supremacists in Berkley but there were still thousands of counter protestors and the reports failed to make it clear that the original event was anti-communist and pro-free speech. That's another bit of reporting where the news services buried inconvenient details.

As the events of August showed, if allowed to continue, Identity Politics threaten to pull the nation into a cold civil war. As the rescue activities for Hurricane Harvey showed, we are not a nation of bigots and sexists. We are a nation of decent people who will help each other when not separated by artificial identities.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The "He followed me lie"

In her upcoming book, Hillary Clinton talks about her second debate with Donald Trump. She claims that he followed her around the stage and that he "literally breathing down [her] neck.".

I went back and watched the debate and took screen shots. Here's an example of Trump "looming over Clinton".

Except he wasn't . Here's a capture from a different angle.

This was not a single occurrence. She did it again and again. She would walk past Trump and address the audience while standing on his side of the stage.


​This went on for around the middle third of the debate. After the second time, Trump began standing behind his chair, eeding his space to Hillary.

The whole "looming over" thing was an artifact of camera angles and zoom lenses. The cameras were above the audience and they used zoom lenses for close-ups. You can see that in the pictures above. They were all taken from the same cameras. Zoom lenses distort distances and make things look closer than they are. Here's one of Hillary looking disapprovingly over Trump's shoulder.

She's not looming, partly because Trump is nearly a foot taller and partly because she was sitting. That brings up an interesting piece of body language. Trump never sat. He moved around constantly unless he was holding on to his chair or podium. He gave the impression of someone with a lot of energy. In contrast, Hillary sat whenever Trump was talking. Considering the issues about her health a month earlier, this may or may not be significant. Here's an example.

A few weeks ago I saw someone questioning Trump's fitness to serve on the basis of his health. He sits and ride golf carts a lot. This is a reminder that the choice was between two of the oldest individuals to run for the office and Clinton's health was an issue.

So, what to make of this? I can thing of three possible reasons why Clinton kept invading Trump's side of the stage. She may have just been moving closer to the person who asked the question. It was difficult to tell where the person was in the footage and the debate organizers may have clustered the people so that all of the questions during the middle came from Trump's side and all of them during the final third came from Clinton's side. Or she may have been addressing the camera directly since she was really playing to the TV audience.

The second possibility is that she was trying to rattle Trump. It was publicized before the second debate that Clinton had worked with psychologists for ways to anger Trump. Or she may have been trying to project dominance to the audience by invading Trump's space. She certainly got him to retreat. Rather than following her, he usually backed away.

The final possibility is that she was posing for the "disapproving man looming over a successful woman" meme. According to "Shattered" she rehearsed on a circular stage that President Obama lent to her. Was she practicing placing herself between the camera and Trump? Maybe. She managed to do it, even when she stayed on her own side of the stage.

Again, Trump was standing in front of his podium and Hillary left hers to stand in front of the camera.

Regardless of why Hillary moved around the stage the way that she did, it is clear that Trump was not following her and was never breathing down her neck. That's an outright lie.

If you want to be generous, you can attribute that to being a false memory. Possibly Hillary never went back and watched the debate so the photos that her campaign distributed of Trump "looming over her" replaced the actual memories of the event.

Or maybe she's just lying to sell her book.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

What Happened to Russia?

For over a year we've had countless stories in the news about Candidate/President Trump's ties to Russia in general and Putin in particular. Keith Olberman declared that we had a bloodless coup and that Russia now controls the US. Colbert made some comments that I won't even describe. The Washington Post's Daily 202 news summary had a daily section entitled "There's a bear in the woods" that recounted the newest developments in the Russian investigation.

More important, a special council was appointed to investigate the President's ties to Russia and Congress passed new sanctions against Russia for interfering with the election.

But the daily news on Russia suddenly went silent. What happened?

Certainly a part of it was the uproar over Confederate statues. That's drowned out a lot of other news. The terrorist attack in Spain was barely mentioned in order to give more time to stories about the protests. But that can't be all of it. There have been other big events but they never silenced the Russian story so completely.

I think that three things happened to quash the story. The first is members of the Trump campaign complaining, "Collude with the Russians? We couldn't even collude with ourselves!" For anyone who remembers who chaotic the Trump campaign was, this is a strong argument against collusion.

Next was a story that got very little attention: a low-ranking member of the Trump campaign said that he repeatedly tried to arrange for a meeting between Trump and the Russians to describe what relations would be like under Trump but there was no interest on either side. It's hard to reconcile this with a bloodless coup.

Finally, there's a report that received almost no coverage at all that the Russian "hack" never happened. This says that the DNC emails were copied to a thumb drive from within the DNC network The experts saying this say that header information in the files shows a transfer rate consistent with that and impossible to achieve with an overseas connection. This would explain why the DNC refused to allow the FBI to examine their servers.

So, has the story fallen apart so completely that no one wants to report on it? It's possible that, after investing so many resources on the story that the various media is reluctant to admit that there was never any story to begin with.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Punching Nazis?

The meme of the moment is that "It's ok to punch a Nazi". This is often accompanied with the cover of Captain America #1 punching Hitler or something similar. But there's the thing.

It's not World War II and you are not a comic book hero.

When people talk about punching a Nazi, they mean that they want to assault someone for holding views that they don't agree with. Yes, I know what the Nazis did in the 1930s and 1940s and yes, it's shocking to see Americans carrying Nazi symbols and praising Hitler. But that does not justify taking the law into your own hands and taking it upon yourself to punish the Nazi.

And who counts as a Nazi? Yes, it's easy to point to the idiots carrying swastikas but they don't carry them every day. Are you planning on hunting them down? Then will you go after Nazi sympathizers? A friend of mine was recently named in a Facebook posting as a Nazi-enabler for making the same points I'm making. This post called for violence against several people. I know other people who insist that anyone who didn't vote for Hillary Clinton is an Nazi-enabler. Where does this end?

Last weekend an engineer was fired from Google after sharing a complaint about Google's diversity programs. He was not against diversity but he did suggest that, possibly, women are less likely to be attracted to engineering as a career. He even backed this up with solid figures (although the links were all removed when his document was made public). After his firing he complained that he has been labeled a Nazi and received death threats.

This also seems to expect that the Nazis won't hit back. They will. Violence leads to more violence.