Liars, dammed liars, and presidents

by Emrys Westacott

There is a famous exchange in Casablanca between Rick  (Humphrey Bogart) and Captain Renault (Claude Rains):

Capt. Renault:  What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?

Rick:  I came to Casablanca for the waters.

Capt. Renault: The waters?  What waters? We’re in the desert.

Rick:  I was misinformed.

Rick’s response is funny because it is preposterous.  It also communicates something about him and his view of Renault, a corrupt Chief of Police working for the collaborationist Vichy government. It tells us that Rick has no respect for him or his office.  This is apparent from the fact that what Rick says is an obvious falsehood, and he is utterly indifferent to the fact that Renault must realize this.

Telling a blatant lie to someone’s face, fully aware that they know you are lying, is one way of expressing open contempt for that person. If you ask me to help you with something and I, lying in a hammock soaking up the sun, reply that I’m just too busy at the moment, I’m either making a joke, or I’m making it clear that I don’t give a damn about you, your needs, or what you think of me. Read more »

Trump TV

by Leanne Ogasawara

Why would she do it?

Maybe she wanted to give the middle finger to her husband?

Maybe she wanted to send a sign to his base voters?

Why didn’t someone stop her from wearing a jacket that said, “I really don’t care.”

It was all another day of Trump TV. Another day when all eyes were on Trump. Another day when headlines ran with his name splashed across the front page all over the world. Another day when memes were shared on Facebook and twitter. And another day people expressed feeling incredibly offended over and over again.

Another day indeed–as this came on the heels of what was already a big week at Trump TV, given that the star of the show had just surprised all his viewers with news that he was stepping in to solve the problem of the detained children. Yes, he was solving a problem that he had himself created. The only possible way he could get more media attention after creating the problem was by inexplicably solving the problem, pretending that he had no idea why any of this had happened… And then the jacket.

The jacket was good for two full days at least. Read more »

If Trump Represents The Worst Of Us, Does That Mean We’re Totally F-ed?

by Evert Cilliers

KKK megaphone 2America voted for Donald Trump. In fact, 53% of America's women voted for a serial pussy-grabber.

And twice as many American working class men voted for a man who habitually stiffed his suppliers than for Hillary.

I actually met someone whose Dad supplied Donald Trump with 200 pianos for his hotels, Trump didn't pay him, and the guy's business went kerflooey.

That's how bad Trump is. You can meet people in your every day life here in Manhattan that he conned and cheated and pussy-grabbed and fucked up their innocent asses.

So the fact that he gave the KKK, the neo-Nazis, and the white supremacists at Charlottesville a bit of a pass by saying there were others there who only wanted to defend the right of Confederate general statues to publicly exist — there were not, ALL those marchers were ONLY well-organized KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists — should be no surprise. (Though he was right that there were violence perpetrators among the counter-demonstrators there — the Antifa, whom he ignorantly dubbed the "alt-left".)

We wanted him as our president.

What does that say about us?

Does that say out loud that we are a nation of bigots, sex assaulters, crooked businessmen, fraudsters, and cheaters at golf?

Yes.

Absolutely.

That's what we are.

And does that mean we're totally fucked?

Yes. Absolutely.

Let's run it down.

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Sympathy For The Donald — A Deeply Wounded Devil

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

31 trump-nude-trollHow to explain Donald Trump?

I'm going to try something I've never seen or read anywhere, until a good friend, a black female school principal spoke to me about when she was teaching the children of rich, privileged parents, and discovered that those parents never raised their kids themselves, but relied on nannies to do all the heavy lifting.

In other words, those parents never loved their children on a day-to-day basis.

My friend knew such extremes as one wealthy divorced mom who would go to Paris for a month of high living, and leave her child with the nanny back in New York.

My friend's theory is that Trump is such a child, who might have been more or less ignored by especially his Dad when he was a very young boy, and is therefore a deeply wounded man. His wounds have created an irrepressible need for adoration, to make up for an emotional orphan-like existence as a child.

Although my friend feels great animosity towards Trump and his policies — heck, she is a middle-aged black woman, so what he is, strikes at her very core — she also feels a deep compassion for him and his suffering.

1. Trump As A Deeply Wounded Man

So this then is the theory expounded in this essay: a man so thin-skinned, he gets upset with beauty queens (and a man so insecure, he never stops bragging) is a man who lived a childhood of psychic trauma.

Bear with me as I continue this line of utterly unsupported non-scientific speculation, which goes beyond the usual profile you may have read about Trump, which depicts him as suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder, and possible sociopathy if not outright psychopathy. (Though the shrink who invented the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder says Trump does not have a disorder, because he is successful, and people who suffer from a disorder live crippled lives: according to this fellow, Trump is a supreme narcissist, but does not suffer from an actual narcissistic disorder.)

At least now, with the theory of Trump As The Deeply Wounded Man, you are reading something about Trump that you have never read before. So indulge me for my originality, or rather, the originality of my educator friend.

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Trump, The Military And Humanity, Or: How Would You Describe Trump’s Humanity?

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

5. medals trumpTrump is obviously a human being, with children and grandchildren, so of course he has humanity. But that humanity might be different from yours.

Here are some extracts I've gathered from various news sources (google a paragraph if you want to see source) and, in conclusion, some thoughts about our leader's humanity.

1. A Father Talks About The Death In Yemen Of His Son, Seal Team 6 Member Ryan Owens

Ryan Owens, a member of the military's elite SEAL Team 6, was killed in late January after his unit came under intense fire during an assault on a fortified terrorist compound in Yemen. The Pentagon said the SEALs killed at least 14 militants from al-Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate, but also acknowledged that at least 25 civilians — including the 8-year-old daughter of a militant who had been killed by a US drone years earlier — were killed in the fighting.

The deaths, and the fact that the SEALs didn't kill or capture the al-Qaeda leaders they were targeting, prompted immediate questions about why Trump had green-lit the operation, and about whether the intelligence gathered at the scene was worth the high human and financial cost (a $70 million US aircraft was also destroyed during the mission).

Owens' father, Bill, told the Miami Herald in a recent interview that he did not want to meet Trump when the president attended Owens' dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Feb. 1.

"I told them I didn't want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn't let me talk to him," Bill Owens told the Florida newspaper on Friday.

Owens also called for an investigation into his son's death and additionally said he was troubled by Trump's treatment of the Khans, a Gold Star family of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq.

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Post-truth, post-shame politics

by Emrys Westacott

How does one criticize and resist politicians who have zero concern for truth? 20160910_FBC512This is one of the problems posed by the Trump presidency . Trump, throughout his campaign, and now in office, lies as easily as he breathes. To take just one example, in a meeting with the National Sherriff's Association on Feb. 7th, he said that the murder rate in the US is the highest it's been in 47 years. In fact it is currently lower than in most of those years. Lists of Trump's blatant lies can be readily found on many web sites.

Obviously, Trump is not the first politician to tell whoppers. Politicians who are in the pockets of the banks, the oil companies, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, weapons manufacturers, and so on have long suppressed, denied, or bent the truth for reasons of self-interest. But the brazenness of the lying is unusual. In normal, rational, civilized discourse, there are background conventions understood by all parties. According to philosophers like Paul Grice and Jürgen Habermas, these provide a framework that makes most ordinary communication possible. One of these conventions is that what we say is supposed to be true. Another is that we are supposed to be sincere. There are contexts where these conventions may not hold in the usual way–e.g. when we are haggling at a yard sale–but most of the time they are in place. Imagine how it would be if they weren't? If you were to ask someone for directions or for the time, you couldn't assume they'd try to tell you the truth. So in such a world you would never bother asking. Without assumptions of this sort in place, the most banal conversations would become pointless since we'd have no reason to think that anything being said was tethered to reality.

The gold standard regarding rational discourse is science, which prides itself on its disinterested search for objective truth. But the same conventions operate in many other spheres. Historians, journalists, judges, and sports commentators, all feel the same obligation to respect hard evidence and eschew contradictions.

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The Only Way To Fight Trump: Eternal Resistentialism

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

Fire his fat assWith the advent of President Trump, the absurd confronts America. His existence proves once and for all that we live in an amoral, godless universe: our current deity is a serial-lying orange-coiffed cartoon Daddy Warbucks whose business model includes fraud and stiffing his suppliers.

Trump strikes me like 9/11 did: suddenly, the veil is ripped off reality, to reveal the worm inside our apple, the ugly truth lurking behind the beautiful bliss of simply being alive.

Here is the hard face of the Real: America is now stuck in a paradigm shift that promises the chaos of anything goes and nothing matters.

Trump is the ultimate reality-distorting Braudillardian simulacra mindfuck deluxe: he spins a cosmos of "alternative facts" for us; he is the Big Lie Incarnate; he magicks the "Bizarro World" spoofed in old Superman comics, where up is down and war is peace and wrong is right, trenchantly embodied in Orwell's 1984 — now racing up the best-seller charts, as America wokes to the birthing mewls of a fascist stench turlesquing from the swamps of fake news and post-truth factoidiness and that snake-nest of sexual predators, Fox News.

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Reflections on congestion and technology

by Emrys Westacott

Last week I drove from the small college town in upstate New York where I live to New York City. Traffic_330_1a1i8i2-1a1i8i8 We covered the 306 miles from home to the George Washington Bridge, which takes one into Manhattan, in just under five hours. The next 15 miles, through Manhattan to our destination in Brooklyn, with a quick pick up and drop off on the Upper West Side, took an hour and a half. The following day we had a similarly miserable experience driving from Brooklyn to midtown.

I understand that a country mouse like myself is likely to be both not very savvy about and easily unsettled by the ways of the big bad city. Even so, the congestion, the jungle-law etiquette, the impatient honking, the anxiety induced by reckless cyclists passing on left and right, the lanes blocked by delivery vehicles, the need for so many police officers to direct traffic and pedestrians at snarled intersections, the difficulty of finding street parking–all this had me shaking my head. I know that thousands do it every day. Many do it for a living. And a few no doubt enjoy it. But regularly spending hours in congested traffic, even in a taxi on a bus, is no part of the good life in my book. At best, it's a fairly hefty sacrifice for the sake of other benefits the city has to offer.

Strolling around midtown Manhattan, I was struck by how many of the cars on the street were yellow taxis. Apparently there is no official figure for the percentage of New York traffic constituted by taxis, but my impression was that it must be more than fifty percent, especially if one includes cars that provide ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. According to New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission, about 20,000 of the city's 65,000 vehicles for hire are Ubers.

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You Call This A Democracy? The American Government Does Not Represent The American People

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

Screen-Shot-2016-05-26-at-1.21.42-PMHillary Clinton won the popular vote for president by 2.8 million votes and counting, yet serial liar Donald Trump will be our next president.

In the three states that gave him his electoral college majority — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — Trump won by 100,000 votes, which are fewer than the number of voters suppressed by various Republican measures. In Wisconsin, a federal court found that 300,000 fewer voters cast ballots because of new ID restrictions; Trump won there by only 27,000 votes. Similar suppression efforts in other states also worked well.

Nationwide, Democratic voters outnumber GOP voters, yet Republicans control the House and the Senate.

So the government of America does not represent a majority of us Americans.

If this is democracy, Superman poops kryptonite.

The policy positions most favored by most Americans — get money out of politics, reverse climate change, have free tuition in community colleges, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, reverse mass incarceration, rebuild our infrastructure, get equal pay for women, take on Wall Street, protect the most vulnerable Americans, improve Obamacare (why not Medicare for all?) — were those of a candidate who was not even on the general election ballot. Bernie Sanders, known as a radical progressive, but whose positions are totally centrist, lost to the neoliberal Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.

So: you call America a democracy?

No way.

Our president does not represent the majority.

The House does not represent the majority: the Republicans control it because of gerrymandering, i.e. cheating.

The Senate does not represent the majority: the Republicans control it because of gerrymandering, i.e. cheating.

The Supreme Court does not represent the majority: it would have, if the GOP had not refused to consider President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, in a radical move unprecedented in American politics. (This same do-nothing Congress, the least productive Congress in history, has obstructed everything President Obama wanted to do to provide us with more jobs, a fairer economy, and a better America.)

We have a minority-chosen President, Congress and Supreme Court.

We do not have a democracy.

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Liberal politics and the contingency of history

by Emrys Westacott

UnknownIt is hard at present to think about anything other than the recent election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. This is a cataclysmic and potentially catastrophic event for both America and the world. Severe narcissism and immense power are a volatile combination that usually ends badly. And with the Republicans controlling all branches of government, the hard right are in an unprecedentedly strong position to implement much of their agenda, from scrapping efforts to combat climate change to passing massive tax cuts for the wealthy

Already, much ink has been spilled on what Hilary Clinton, the Democrats, the liberal elite, the media, the intelligentsia, and anyone else who opposed Trump, got wrong. But the first lesson to be drawn from the election is that history is radically contingent.

Reading post mortems on the election reminded me of listening to soccer pundits explaining the result of a close game. In the game itself, the losing team may have hit the post twice, had a goal disallowed for an incorrect offside call, and been denied a clear penalty; the winning team perhaps scored once following an untypical defensive slip. Yet the pundits will explain the result as due to the losing team's inability to cope with their opponent's midfield diamond, along with their failure to spread the play wide. Their explanations are invariably blamings. In truth, though, the result could easily have been, and four times out of five would have been, different; in which case the talk would have been all about the ineffectiveness of the midfield diamond….etc.

Exactly the same sort of thing can be seen in political punditry. The contest between Clinton and Trump was extremely close. Clinton won the popular vote–with counting still going on she has a lead of close to 1.5 million votes–but Trump won the electoral college: which means, given the peculiar and outmoded system, that Trump won. Explanations are legion. Clinton was a hopelessly flawed candidate. The Democrats took their base for granted. The Democrats ignored the plight of the working class. The coastal elites are out of touch with the heartland….etc.

But as Nate Silver and many others have pointed out, a small shift—one vote in a hundred or less—in three of the swing states and Clinton would have won. In that case, the hot political topic today would be the crisis in the Republican party, the gulf between its established leadership and the Trumpistas, the impossibility of a Republican winning the white house so long as the party continues to alienate minorities and millennials…. etc.

Given the dire outcome of the election for the Democrats and for liberal causes generally, it is natural and sensible for liberals to ask what went wrong. But it is important in doing so, to not exaggerate problematic factors, and to keep hold of what was right.

Three areas are especially subject to scrutiny: the candidate; the platform; and the strategy.

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Hillary Is Wrong: ALL Republicans Are In A Basket Of Deplorables (Not Just Half Of Trump’s Supporters)

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

Image1Just to know where I'm coming from, I think Trump is a fat lump of pustulent crap oozing the blood of everyone he's ripped off in his career of an uber-lying, short-fingered, papaya-topped conman.

With that out of the way, here is what Hillary said (read beyond the “deplorable” stuff to where she gets to her actual point):

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.

“But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they're just desperate for change. It doesn't really even matter where it comes from. They don't buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won't wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they're in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

For that, Hillary got hammered by the media (who conveniently left out the context of the “other basket of people who feel that government has let them down,” etc.).

Well, the media were wrong to hammer her. And she herself was wrong, too. Because ALL Republicans are in a basket of deplorables (a felicitious coinage, BTW: Hillary is one nifty language slinger).

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Personality or Ideology: Which matters most in a political leader?

by Emrys Westacott

In evaluating candidates for political office there are two main things to consider:

a) their ideology–that is, their political views and general philosophy

b) their personal qualities

With respect to ideology, the most important questions one should ask are these:

· Are their beliefs true? (Do they hold correct beliefs on, say, climate change, or on whether a particular policy will increase or reduce poverty, crime, unemployment, pollution, or the likelihood of war?)

· Do I share their values and ideals? (E.g. Are they willing to sacrifice economic growth for the sake of environmental protection (or vice versa)? Where do they stand on issues like gun control, abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, foreign aid, gay rights, or economic inequality?)

· Whose interests do they represent? (Do they generally favor policies that benefit the rich, the middle class, the poor, employers or workers, corporations or consumers, cities or rural communities?)

Regarding personal qualities, the ones that matter most are:

· knowledge – Are they decently informed about the world and the issues they will be dealing with

· intelligence – Are they able to understand and think through complex problems

· wisdom – Are they reasonable? Do they exercise good judgment?

· effectiveness – Do they have the practical skills to realize their goals?

· integrity – Are they truthful? Is what they do consistent with what they say? Are they motivated by a concern for the public good rather than by self-interest?

These personal qualities obviously cannot be possessed absolutely but only to a greater or lesser degree. And they may often conflict. Most politicians who are effective sometimes have to compromise their integrity, and the first compromise is invariably made before they hold office. As the historian George Hopkins (emeritus professor at Western Illinois university) has observed, “all presidents lie for the simple reason that if they didn't, we wouldn't elect them.” A candidate who was perfectly truthful would be ineffective because they would probably never get the chance to implement any of their ideas.

Effective governance may also require leaders to lie, mislead, hide the truth, and break promises. Franklin Roosevelt was by any account a highly effective president; but in the two years prior to Pearl Harbor, he consistently told the American public that he was fully committed to keeping the US out of any foreign wars while simultaneously, and secretly, preparing the country for war against Japan and Germany. The political leaders we are most inclined to venerate are those like Lincoln or Mandela who, in addition to possessing the other qualities listed above, somehow mange to be practically effective with minimum loss of integrity.

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The Republican Party Platform is at least as objectionable as Trump

by Emrys Westacott

With the media choosing to pay so much attention to Donald Trump, relatively little attention has been paid to the 2016 Republican Party platform. This is in line with the tedious and reprehensible reduction of political discourse to horse race punditry. But it is a pity, since the prospect of this platform being enacted is every bit as worrying as the prospect of a narcissistic ignoramus like Trump becoming president. For those who don't have the stomach for reading all–or any–of its 54 pages, here are a few of the more disturbing highlights with brief commentary. Images

1. On prejudice and discrimination

The Platform boldly declares that Republicans “oppose discrimination based on race, sex, religion, creed, disability, or national origin and support statutes to end such discrimination.” Question for 5th graders: What is conspicuous by its absence from this list? That's right: no mention of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. A fair question, then, to ask the authors of the manifesto is: Do you, or do you not, oppose discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation? If you do, why don't you say so? You mention many other kinds of discrimination; so why not this one? If, on the other hand, you don't oppose it, why is this?

A hint of an answer (to the last question, at least) can be found elsewhere. Sexual orientation is mentioned just once in the document, when the authors protest against the attempt by Obama and others “to impose a social and cultural revolution on the American people by wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and other categories.” This agenda, we are told, “has nothing to do with individual rights.” It seems, then, that freedom from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is not a right that Republicans recognize. And I suppose that's why they don't oppose it.

While we're on the topic of prejudice and discrimination, here's another question for 5th graders. How does the above rejection of discrimination based on religion square with Donald Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering the country (a proposal he has not disavowed)?

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Compared To The F-up Presidents That Reagan, Clinton And George W. Bush Were, Donald Trump Will Be A Brilliant President

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

UnknownRonald Reagan cut the top marginal income tax rate from 50% to 28%, made war on labor unions, and saddled us with massive income inequality.

Bill Clinton exported our manufacturing jobs with NAFTA, and signed the two bills that repealed Glass-Steagall and removed derivatives from all oversight — to bequeath us the crash of 2008 and the Great Recession.

George W. Bush lied America into committing a war crime by invading Iraq and causing the deaths of over 4,000 of our young men, and giving countless more soldiers brain damage, loss of limbs, PTSD, and driving many to suicide, and killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi women and children.

There's no way that Donald Trump can be that bad as our president.

He's not that dumb, for a start.

In fact, he's smarter than the entire GOP (not that this says much).

What people forget is that Trump is basically bullshitting his way to the nomination. After Eric Cantor lost to Dave Brat, who played the immigration card hard and accused Cantor of being in favor of “amnesty,” Trump stuck his finger in the wind and realized he could get somewhere as a presidential candidate if he got hard-assed about immigration.

He was right.

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Donald Trump Is The GOP After Five Drinks — And Proof That The Party Is Dying

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

TrumpWhen a political party can get hijacked by an outsider billionaire vulgarian like Donald Trump, it is palpable evidence that this party is on its last legs. Listen up, rich guys, you don't have to buy a politician to take over these days: why not skip all that and run for office yourself?

And the rudderless Republican Party is ripe for such predation. After all, now that the cultural wars have been won by the liberal left — witness gay marriage — what does the Republican Party have left to run on?

Cutting taxes? Look at the mess Kansas is in. Shrinking big government? That only happens under democratic presidents like Clinton and Obama anyway (and burgeons under the likes of Reagan and Bush). Less regulations? Deregulating the banks gave us the Great Recession.

The fact is that the Republican Party is down to its core racist agenda, which is nothing more than the following: lookie here, you Republicans — our enduring base of older white men — if you vote for us, you can be sure that we will NOT give your hard-earned taxes to the undeserving blacks and poors whom the Democrats expect you whities to carry on your backs.

Not a recipe for a lasting party (whose base of old white guys may be dead in another twenty years). Not a recipe for actual life if the racist, sexist GOP core keeps hating on women, blacks and Mexican immigrants, when young women, blacks and Latinos are where the votes of the future lie, as America becomes less white and more multicultural and gender-fluid.

And into this void that is the dying Republican Party, has stepped one Donald Trump.

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