Monday, December 12, 2016

"Get Over It"

In a discussion thread about the potential consequences of a Trump presidency, one commenter offered me this hoary advice:
Get over it. Let a businessman take a crack at it.
I am certain many others have encountered similar admonishments. But what is this really telling us to do? In the interest of saving everyone's time, I have compiled a list of things that we are being asked to "get over":
  • that members of the FBI up to and including its director materially tampered with the election by selectively releasing information about one candidate.
  • that Russian agents hacked one political party with the intent of damaging that party's candidate and influencing the outcome of the election. The beneficiary of this responded to this not by condemning the cyberattack, but by attacking American intelligence services.
  • that the "businessman" in question...
    • has global financial interests and has refused to divest himself from his businesses, release his taxes, or offer any other assurance that he will put the country's interests before his own.
    • has been embroiled in more than 3500 lawsuits, declared bankruptcy on multiple occasions, and in at least one instance, committed outright fraud.
    • bragged proudly and publicly about adultery, sexual assault, and lechery.
    • did no preparation for the job of POTUS.
  • that the "winning" candidate lost by almost 3 million votes, but will be installed as the victor thanks to an antiquated system designed to empower rural white slave-holders.
  • More repugnant than anything else, we are being asked to "get over" the fact that seemingly normal people made common cause with literal Nazis and Klansmen -- i.e., actual villains -- in order to elect a racist, plutocratic, authoritarian degenerate. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Confidence Man

fast-talk (verb): to persuade with facile argument, usually with the intention to deceive or to overwhelm rational objections.
Gish Gallop (noun): the fallacious debating tactic of simply drowning your opponent in a torrent of small, interlocking arguments intended to prevent your opponent from being able to rebut your conclusions in real time.

This is the the way Trump will have the media and his critics chasing their tails for the next four years while he goes about looting the treasury and implementing policy that enriches himself and his cronies: create a fountain of distracting and self-perpetuating bullshit. I'll give him this: when it comes to television, he is a puppetmaster. He's running a clinic on distracting fast-talk while tending to his business interests and assembling an administration which will be run by Goldman Sachs.

Trump will finally become the billionaire he's always claimed to be.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Orange Is The New Darkness

Here's what I can't understand: in this election, people who appear on the surface to be good and decent made common cause with literal Nazis and Klansmen in order to elect a racist, plutocratic, authoritarian degenerate. In this task they were abetted by a Russian dictator and his spies.


A fucking tax cut? Because abortion is icky? Hillary had an email server? Because brown people are so scary? I just do not get it. I do not think I will ever be capable of getting it. Might be time to revisit Viktor Frankl.

The inimitable Driftglass, in July:
The Democratic Party held a brilliantly coordinated, four-day political convention. The Republican Party held a four-day, wingnut Ghost Dance intended to resurrect the Confederacy.
Here's the punchline: it worked.

Long will it be before I can forgive those who collaborated with Trump and his deplorables.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Truth and Consequences

Yesterday morning I felt confident that the country would be waking up today to the election of the first woman president.

I could not have been more wrong. 

So what happened?

This article from last week describes the weakness of Clinton's coalition that I (and many others) missed: from the standpoint of the electoral map, her strengths were over-represented in democratic strongholds and under-represented in swing states. In retrospect, it tells the story: Clinton was defeated by these demographic realities and by the anachronism that is the Electoral College, by lower Democratic turnout, and by an unusually high white rural voter turnout. It's also possible that voter suppression laws had an effect on the outcome, but that is more difficult to measure. 

What seems more pressing are the potential consequences of a Trump presidency. With this upset victory, the Republicans suddenly find themselves with more power than ever before. Despite a policy gulf between Clinton and Trump larger than in any election in memory, these differences went shamefully unreported.

Here's a preview of what we might expect from President Trump, Majority Leader McConnell, and Speaker Ryan:

- an end to environmental regulation enforcement
- a supreme court justice who is against choice, gay marriage, labor rights and voting rights
- a repeal of Obamacare, which will strip 22 million people of insurance
- a repeal of Dodd-Frank, and an end to the Consumer Financial Protection Board
- our National Parks could be sold and/or leased for development and/or mining/resource exploitation
- capital gains and other tax cuts for upper incomes
- increases in fees and other regressive taxes for lower incomes
- Medicare replaced by voucher system
- privatization of Social Security
- block grants to states for everything from education to food stamps

All in all, a pretty grim picture.

Welcome to Kansas, America.

Update: SteveM has more

Friday, October 28, 2016

Let That Sink In

Republicans have been saying for the last eight years that Barry HUSSEIN Soetoro is a terrible president, an illegitimate president, one of the worst presidents ever. The obvious implication of all of the piling-on is that Republicans believe that they can do better, much better with the executive branch of government.

Donald J. Trump is the product of this belief. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Thanks, KG

Kevin Garnett

A belated post, but KG was an amazing, exciting player and an intriguing person, and a very big reason why I followed the NBA in the 1990s and 2000s.

I don't have much more to say than that.

Britt Robson's fitting tribute...

And some analysis of how he changed the definition of greatness...

Monday, September 19, 2016

My Only Problem is "Basket" could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic -- you name it.
"Half"? Probably in the ballpark, yes. "Deplorable"? Absolutely. But, "basket"? This is the only problem I have with what she said. It's a clumsy attempt to be poetic when what is called for is stark prose - it's the rhetorical equivalent of up-talk when no there should be no equivocation.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Mystery That May Never Be Solved...

Looking at this chart, it's almost as if something happened in the mid-1960s that re-aligned Americans' party self-identification.

I wish there was some way to know what happened.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Republicans for Clinton

Update V: Former President George H. W. Bush (41) says he'll vote for Clinton. When the one-time national leader of your party plans to vote for the opposition (and also the wife of the candidate who unseated him), it might be time to give up the idea that Donald Trump is an ordinary candidate.

I don't recall anything like this in my lifetime.

Update: not exactly coming out for Clinton, but this is a aggressive kneecap -

And I believe Collins is only the second sitting US legislator to come out against Trump -

Update II: this is getting ridiculous.

Update III:
[conservative talk radio host Michael] Medved attended Yale Law School with Hillary and her future husband; while he didn't much care for Bill, he remembered her as "intensely likable." Indeed, he said, "to this day I don't know anyone, literally not anyone, who didn't like her, find her warm, sympathetic, a manifestly good person, a well-meaning person, not full of herself, not puffed up at all, down-to-earth, and a good friend . . . much nicer than what (her) critics think."
Emphasis mine. From

Update IV: consolidated list from

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hillary Clinton Is Trustworthy

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it,
people will eventually come to believe it. -Joseph Goebbels
I read the other day that something like sixty-seven percent of Americans don't think that Hillary is trustworthy. It's the big lie that people have come to believe.
In the course of a single conversation, I have been assured that Hillary is cunning and manipulative but also crass, clueless, and stunningly impolitic; that she is a hopelessly woolly-headed do-gooder and, at heart, a hardball litigator; that she is a base opportunist and a zealot convinced that God is on her side. What emerges is a cultural inventory of villainy rather than a plausible depiction of an actual person. -Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Is Clinton perfect? No. Is she one-hundred percent honest? Absolutely not! She's a politician, after all. But the idea that she is uniquely untrustworthy is complete and utter nonsense. Stop believing it.

On the contrary, by the standards of politicians, she is quite trustworthy.

So where does all this misleading information about Clinton come from?

And who is she really?

Some essential reading:

If you have doubts about how to vote in November, you really should give her another look.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The More You Know...

If you are repulsed by Donald Trump, but you also think that there is something so wrong with Hillary Clinton that you don't feel you can vote for her, I have something for you to think about. Please consider that the same people and the same forces that ushered Trump into a place of prominence in national politics have been relentlessly trying to malign Clinton for twenty-five years.

It could be that many of the negative impressions you have about Clinton are the product of a long-term smear campaign, and just plain wrong.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Police Thyself

The last couple of days have given Americans stark and horrifying reminders of the nexus of problems surrounding race, police brutality, and gun culture. Others have written with more force and eloquence about the issue of racism in law enforcement. I defer to them.

Instead, I'd like to focus on what might be done to transform police departments around the country. Cops have struggled with racism for a long time, and on top of that increasingly have become militarized over the last 30 years.

Today, as President Obama discussed the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, he pointed out that two years ago (in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown) his administration created a task force charged with drafting and implementing recommendations to improve the quality of policing. Honestly, I didn't remember this chapter of the story. So I looked them up. After reviewing the recommendations, I thought, well, implementing these would solve some problems, and would be a great way to improve public relations. But I also thought: what would it take to not simply fix some issues at the margins, but really transform policing into an ideal?

First, some disclaimers: I'm not a law enforcement expert. I know that there are good cops -- I've interacted with many. I'll add also that the problems so appallingly on display this week are systemic and structural in nature, and not necessarily caused by specific individuals. I know that a lot of communities are working on this topic already. I am just trying to make sense of what happened this week, and brainstorm on what else might be done.

Here is a list of principles that I'd add in order to shape the debate about what can and should be done to radically re-think and re-structure the way the hard work of policing gets done.

Profiling Candidates. Data suggests that the psych exam typically screens out only about 5 percent of those tested. That's a good start, but given the current state of policing, there is plenty of room for improvement. Identifying candidates with anger management issues, control fantasies, and white-supremacist views must be made a priority. And typically, contracts to perform psychological evaluations are awarded on a low-bid basis. That is unacceptable. There should be higher standards and a stronger commitment to weeding out those unfit for the job.

Training Recruits. Twelve to fourteen weeks. That's all that is required before a candidate is put on to the street for on-the-job training. This is an astonishingly low bar to clear for what is in reality a very high-skill, high-stress career. I couldn't find anything more current than 2006, but as of then, here is a chart of median hours spent in training. All of the hours listed are shockingly low and should be substantially increased, but I highlighted the areas in need of special attention. For example, eight hours of mediation skills/conflict management? I mean, I consider that to be one of the essential job functions of a police officer. They should spend weeks, or even months on that topic alone. Only 14 hours of domestic violence instruction? Only 4 hours of coursework on hate and bias crimes? Nothing on rape, harassment, and stalking?

Officer Residency. Less than six percent of the officers in the Minneapolis Police Department actually live in Minneapolis. SIX PERCENT. That is not a force with a personal investment in the safety and stability of our community. The national average for large cities is 40%, which is still a little low. I think a residency requirement of 1/2 or even 2/3 of the force is reasonable.

Continuing Education.
 See above.

Accountability. Body cams. Dash cams. Three-hundred sixty degree review of officer-involved shootings. Police should meet a higher standard of conduct for the use of violence, and especially deadly violence, than an average civilian. Stronger sanctions and stiffer sentencing. Independent Prosecution.

This is obviously just a rough cocktail napkin list, but the idea is to start discussion. Police violence is not only a police problem, it is a societal problem. The police are us and we are the police. And it is up to all of us to fix it. It is a long-term problem and requires difficult, expensive, multi-faceted solutions. But apart from health care and education, I can't think of anything I'd rather spend my tax dollars on than the safety and security of all citizens.

Did You Get The Email

Tuesday's announcement that there would be no indictment regarding Clinton's email servers didn't surprise me. As I wrote a few months back: "I don't have a crystal ball, and in these strange times it seems like literally anything can happen. But that said, Hillary will not be charged, much less indicted for this email 'scandal.' She simply did not do anything outside of the boundaries of what entitled, powerful people do. She did not jeopardize national security; she did not break the law. There is no conspiracy to protect her and her interests. In spite of four years of investigating Benghazi, and dozens of hours of testimony from countless people regarding this 'scandal,' no evidence of wrongdoing has been found. And I doubt there will be." I'm pleased to be vindicated, even though I was very far from the only person to make such a prediction.

I work for a large financial institution. It might be hard for younger folks to believe, but when I started here in 2001, which really isn't so long ago, executives didn't even use email -- they had secretaries to print out their messages. So it doesn't take much for me to believe that, just as smart phones were starting to become a thing, a not-very-tech-savvy, boomer-aged executive took the advice of the first person who came along and said she could keep her BlackBerry. Basically, she wanted a productivity tool for her job, and her employer could not or would not provide it, so she got it set up for herself. That is the beginning and end of this story.

It should be noted: Clinton didn't hide this! She used it openly and with the apparent knowledge (and expressed concern) of all relevant parties. So is it even bending the rules if she's doing it with the knowledge and without the sanction of the parties who oversee electronic security for the State Department? Hell, I don't know. IANAL, YMMV. But I didn't think so, and since the FBI has now confirmed that no laws were broken, at this point I really do not care.

Moreover, yesterday the State Department seemed to contradict Comey's and the FBI's contention that any classified material was sent:
MR KIRBY: Generally speaking, there's a standard process for developing call sheets for the secretary of state. Call sheets are often marked -- it's not untypical at all for them to be marked at the confidential level -- prior to a decision by the secretary that he or she will make that call. Oftentimes, once it is clear that the secretary intends to make a call, the department will then consider the call sheet SBU, sensitive but unclassified, or unclassified altogether, and then mark it appropriately and prepare it for the secretary's use in actually making the call. The classification of a call sheet therefore is not necessarily fixed in time, and staffers in the secretary's office who are involved in preparing and finalizing these call sheets, they understand that. Given this context, it appears the markings in the documents raised in the media report were no longer necessary or appropriate at the time that they were sent as an actual email. So it appears that those --
QUESTION: That the calls were already made?
MR KIRBY: -- no -- that those markings were a human error. They didn't need to be there. Because once the secretary had decided to make the call, the process is then to move the call sheet, to change its markings to unclassified and deliver it to the secretary in a form that he or she can use. And best we can tell on these occasions, the markings – the confidential markings – was simply human error. Because the decision had already been made, they didn't need to be made on the email.
(Emphasis mine.)

So what we have is yet another ginned up controversy. And that's what troubles me: this is another red herring nurtured by her political enemies. Sure: make a case that she's entitled. Make the case that she is loose with standards and regulations and with national security. But whispered notions of conspiracies and a 'rigged system' undermine your argument.

ETA: here is a good piece that further explains why this case is mostly nonsense.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Random Thought of the Day

I'm puzzled how "social justice warrior" and "SJW" ever became pejoratives. Who except a sociopath would think that fighting for social justice is a bad thing?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Awakened, As If By The Force

Note: this was written way back on 12/19/2015. Not sure why I never published it. Probably because it was incomplete and not very interesting. 

Thursday evening, I noticed that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was playing everywhere already. Huh? Didn't it have a release date of Friday the 18th? And don't these kinds of premieres happen at midnight?

Since my days of seeing midnight shows are long behind me, I had paid little attention -- I planned to see it early the following week. But the idea of seeing a 9 or 10 PM show on opening night sounded do-able, tickets were available, and I was suddenly seized with the urge to see it right away. I sent a text message to a friend to see if he wanted to catch it, but I didn't hear back. Discouraged, I went to bed early. But I hadn't killed the impulse -- I thought to myself, "well, it's playing all night long, pretty much every hour. Maybe if I wake up in the middle of the night, I'll catch an early show before work."

Friday, I woke up at about 3:15 AM and went to the bathroom. It was decided - the desire to see this movie was gnawing at me, and I wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep. So I pulled on my pants and drove to the mall to clock in at the 4:00 AM show. Good call! There were like, 5 other people in the theater. I even answered a Star Wars trivia question and won a surprisingly nice Darth Vader bathrobe. Score!

So, much of what I said in my "pre-review" below was right: the film had a great set of diverse and interesting new characters played by charismatic young actors, the production design and action was strong, and the film had a brisk pace and style. The biggest letdown was that it is essentially a remake of the first two Star Wars movies. But the film was infused with some emotional resonance that came from an unexpected source in the main villain. In the end, it mirrored the best of its predecessors: it was an entertaining popcorn movie.

Monday, March 21, 2016


Sometimes, something in the background is just something in the background...

But other times, the background is significant.