Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Accidental President

What the hell happened anyway!
A day or two after the election, we were still in shock, driving home on Alemany, near the farmers market.  There was a guy on the median with a cardboard sign asking for money.  Now, I'm one of those people that doesn't give money to panhandlers, I'm not even sure why, and I actually kind of admire people who do, but that's not what we're here to talk about.  We're here to talk about the election.  So, then this guy started yelling at me, telling me I'd give $5 to the panhandler across the street, who was working the traffic in the other direction.  I said no, I wouldn't give him any money either.  He then said yes I would, because the other panhandler was white, and they guy I was talking to was black.  Mind you, this is all happening in just a few seconds, while waiting for the traffic light.  As I started to realize what what going on here, the shock was setting in.  I argued with the guy that it didn't make any difference to me, but he wasn't having any of it.  Now maybe I'm making too much of this; it could just be that this was this guy's shtick to get some more money.  I have no idea.  But what I felt like at that moment was that the horrible election results were tearing us apart.  Here in liberal San Francisco, we were coming apart, not together.

The Blame Game
So it seems like everyone has a theory about what happened.  I think it's way too simplistic.  There's a phrase "The straw that broke the camel's back."  The problem I have with that is it's so unscientific.  When the camel's back breaks, it's from the combined effect of ALL the straws, not any one straw.  In fact, considering the fact that Hillary Clinton won at least 2.9 million more votes than Trump, I'd say the cliché that's most appropriate would be "knocked me over with a feather" instead.  The margin was so thin. It's actually more akin to one of those chaos theory clichés about butterflies and tornadoes.  In short, a strange assortment of factors, and blind luck have put one of the most dangerous candidates into the most powerful office in the world.  Donald Trump, Accidental President!

In no particular order, here are a few of the 'feathers' that knocked us over:

This is more like an undercurrent than an actual event.  Trump gave people the permission to let their Ugly American freak flag fly.  Enough white women stayed in their abusive relationships with the GOP to provide the margin.  But wait, don't stop there.  Muslim-bashing has its benefits too, not to mention the initial scapegoats: Mexicans.  I wrote about The Bradley Effect 8 years ago, and I think the polling was just off enough due to people not admitting they were for Trump.  The polling led to a certain amount of overconfidence.  I mean, there's no way someone as ridiculous as Trump could be elected President, right?

Unbelievable.  Caving in to rogue agents inside the FBI and other GOP agents, FBI Director Comey released a non-statement 11 days before the election, in defiance of long-standing policy, as well as laws that forbid members of the government from messing with elections that close to the date, that maybe, just maybe, there might be some new emails to look at.  Many think this might be the biggest factor, but it's hard to say.

The Media
Yes, we can certainly count #FoxNews as a factor, but that's not news.  They always take the most hair-brained side, if it's against the Dems.  But the other media sites, even including #MSNBC (I watch too much) were suckered into giving Trump billion$ in free press.  Any time he happened to give one of his free-association word salad stump speeches, the networks ate it up, like it was real news.  Trump even started bragging about all the free press he was getting, even while vilifying the media at every rally.  Click on this graph of news coverage (so you can see the detail) , from digby's blog:

The media was mesmerized by the whole reality TV show that was Donald Trump.  Before anyone could spend enough time to really dig into the most recent gaffe/scandal/outrage, Trump would hit us with another gaffe/scandal/outrage.  This had the effect of constantly distracting the media from anything deep, with the latest superficial outrage.  Even now, after the election, Trump misdirects by talking about burning American flags, to keep us from focusing on the cabal at Trump Tower.

The Russians
In the time I have been working on this blog, more and more has come out about the Russians trying to hack the election.   This is potentially the most shocking story, but hard to prove the exact amount of effects.  What seems clear is that Putin wanted to help Trump, and hurt Clinton.  The Intelligence community tried to tell us this earlier.   On Oct. 7, the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement on behalf of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The USIC is made up of 16 agencies, in addition to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.  But, October 7th was the same date of the release of the infamous Hollywood Access tapes.  What do you think American TV viewers would rather focus on?  Russian cyberhacking, or Trump admitting to sexual assault, in graphic, crude language?   The short attention span wins again.  

Fake News
Something that has increasingly come to light since the election was the effect of fake news.  Most of the fake news stories (and by fake, we mean the entire story is fake!) were aimed at Trump supporters.  This was mainly because they were more gullible, not necessarily that the people creating the fakes cared about Trump.  Many of the videos came from a small town in Macedonia.  Mixed in with this random fakery were fake news stories promulgated by the Russians to sew more discord.

Voter Suppression
This is probably one of the biggest reasons, but is not getting the press most of the other reasons get.   There has been news about the states' efforts to restrict voting rights since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act a few years ago.  What is less reported is the use of the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, where a database of voting names is shared between states.  You say your name is James Brown?  Well, it looks like James Brown already voted in Virginia!  We're going to throw your name out so you can't vote at all.  This system threw massive amounts of minority voters off the rolls, even though that kind of voter fraud has been shown again and again to be almost non-existent.  We're talking large enough numbers to change the outcome of states like Wisconsin, for example.

These are just a few of the reasons, none of which have anything to do with the issues, or what's important to the American middle class.  I'd really like to have your comments on this.  Vote for your most important factor, or mention some obvious ones I missed.  In the meantime, God help us all for the next 4 years!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

To Trump or Not to Trump?

What is Reality?
I can't really figure this one out.  It looks like Trump has stumbled into some kind of fascist wet dream.  He loves playing the Mussolini strong man role, even if he has no idea on how to run the country if it is indeed handed to him.  Many people are taking it quite seriously,  He shows up to 'rallies' where he overbooks the capacity of the venue and gives the illusion of huge demand.  Protesters try and disrupt him, but does it have any effect?

So, what I want to know is:
  1. Does Trump really want the job of President?  Perhaps it's just a big joke, and after he destroys the GOP, he goes back to being Trump.
  2. Are the protesters real?  Sometimes I wonder if they're just role players, pumping up Trump's ego.
  3. Should protestors disrupt Trump events?  Are they playing into Trump's hands?  How does it really help?
  4. Is this truly the American Fascist Apocalypse?  If so, it's hard to fault anyone for trying to disrupt his march to power.  Should the German people have tried harder to stop Hitler in the beginning?
Seriously folks.  What the hell is going on? 

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Grateful Dead 7/5/15

Set 1
China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider
Estimated Prophet 
Built to Last 
Samson and Delilah
Mountains of the Moon 
Throwing Stones 

Set 2
Terrapin Station 
>Unbroken Chain 
Days Between 
>Not Fade Away
(everyone but the drummers leave. Crowd chants)
(Crowd continues chant)

Donor Rap
Touch of Grey

Encore 2
Attics of My Life (a capella, except Bob acoustic, some drums, piano, organ)

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Grateful Dead 7/4/15

Set 1 (5:35)
Shakedown Street 
Standing on the Moon
Me and My Uncle 
Tennessee Jed
Cumberland Blues 
Little Red Rooster 
Friend of the Devil 
Set 2 8:00
Bird Song
Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion 
Lost Sailor>Saint of Circumstance
West LA Fadeaway 
Foolish Heart
>Stella Blue
One More Saturday Night 
Donor Rap
U.S. Blues

Friday, July 03, 2015

Grateful Dead 7/3/15

Set 1
Box of Rain
Jack Straw
The Wheel>
Crazy Fingers 
The Music Never Stopped  

Set 2
Mason's Children
Scarlet Begonias 
>Fire on the Mountain
>New Potato Caboose 
Playing in the Band 
>Weather Report Suite Pt 2
>Help on the Way>Slipknot>Franklin's Tower

Donor Rap
Ripple (Bob on acoustic)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Grateful Dead 6.28.15

Set 1 6:23
Feel Like a Stranger 
New New Minglewood Blues
Brown Eyed Women 
Loose Lucy
Row Jimmy
Alabama Getaway
Black Peter
Hell in a Bucket (ends 7:52)

Set 2 (starts 8:53)
Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo
>jam>Wharf Rat
>jam>short beam space >Eyes of the World
>He's Gone 
Drumz (guest percussionist)
>I Need a Miracle 
>Death Don't Have No Mercy 
Sugar Magnolia>Sunshine Daydream 
(Ends 10:35)
Donor rap
Moment of silence
Brokedown Palace

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Grateful Dead 6.27.15

Set 1
7:33 start
Uncle John's Band 
Alligator>Cumberland Blues 
Born Cross-Eyed
Cream Puff War 
Viola Lee Blues>Lovelight tease>end of set 8:39
Set 2 9:40
Cryptically Envelopment>Dark Star tease/fireworks>Dark Star
>St Stephen>The Eleven (William Tell)
>Turn On Your Love Light 
>Drumz>space>What's Become of the Baby?
>The Other One 
>Morning Dew

Organ donor rap

Encore 11:54
Casey Jones

Photo by David Fung

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Canary in a Coal Mine

Police enforcing Baltimore curfew
Explanations, not Excuses

I started writing this almost two weeks ago, and things have moved swiftly since then.  What was first on my mind was trying to talk about the looting and violence that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray, the young man who died after having his spinal chord 80% severed, and enduring what was euphemistically called the "rough ride" inside a police van.

What followed was classic looting and burning.  The local CVS was looted and heavily damaged, which seemed to be the most common example we saw on TV.  For sure there were lots of young black men seen involved in the mayhem.  Immediately, both President Obama and the mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (a black woman) characterized the looters as "thugs."  I think at that moment, it was obvious they were trying to make a point, trying to separate the law breakers from all the other citizens of Baltimore.

Predictably, the situation deteriorated into a back and forth about the word "thug."  Before you could say 'Tupac,' one group was accusing anyone of using the word "thug" of racism.  Of course there were lots of examples of white college kids burning things down, white soccer 'hooligans' burning and rioting, and so on.  All true of course, but that doesn't excuse the behavior, of the kids in Baltimore, from the colleges, or the soccer games.

On one side of the discussion is a plea for 'personal responsibility.'  On the other side stands the stark reality of a hollowed out inner city full of lost promises, where nobody should be blamed for their behavior.

Nothing happens in a vacuum.  To keep it simple, what I think the looters are, since I can't call them thugs, is weak.  None of us are perfectly strong under any amount of stress; I know I'm not.  When we see rioting like that, we aren't seeing good citizens, but we are seeing signs of social/environmental stress.  No, you shouldn't trash a store.  But these things are not happening because the kids are inherently bad either.  The seeds of trouble in Baltimore have been growing and taking root for a long time.  Just like a canary in a coal mine, these troubles are a sign of something bigger, more serious.

You can't solve a problem if you won't see the cause.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Thought Experiment

A Thought Experiment is a method for testing an idea.  The common goal of a thought experiment is to explore the potential consequences of the principle in question.  One of the most famous thought experiments is Schrödinger's cat, which is briefly seen in the short video below:

Now, for those fans of the Big Bang Theory, you've probably already seen some humorous explanation. But the point I'm making is that thinking through the consequences of an idea is a an accepted mode of inquiry.  What I'm asking you to do is think about the Open Carry movement in this way.

So, look at the picture below.  What do you see?  Perhaps you see people exercising their constitutional rights.  Perhaps you see people with unhealthy fetishes with weapons. Do you see potential terrorists?

Now, look at the picture below:

What do you see?  Perhaps you see people exercising their constitutional rights.  Perhaps you see people with unhealthy fetishes with weapons. Do you see potential terrorists?

I think you can see where I'm going with this experiment.  We could go on, substitute Muslims for the Open Carry folk, Latinos, and so on.

So, this last weekend, a white married couple murdered two police officers in Las Vegas, then covered the officers' bodies with a "Don't Tread on Me" flag.  Where is the uproar about domestic terrorists?  I went to to look for the story, and it was hard to find.  Now, go back to your thought experiment machine, and imagine 2 Muslims killing 2 policemen, and an innocent bystander, while proclaiming the upcoming revolution. How do you think FoxNews would treat this story?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Obama is not the messiah

"Meaningful Action"

In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, I feel compelled to say something, but I'm not really clever enough to propose any solution.

I do however feel very frustrated at the sophomoric nature of the discourse flooding facebook and twitter, or any online forum.  The trolls are out in force, and almost everyone is yelling at each other, without listening.

First, the pro-gun side: I've read endless variations on the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" meme.  Yes, it's kind of true, and pretty darn useless too. One poster lists all the other things besides guns that kill people, one of them being cars.  It apparently didn't dawn on him that it's harder to legally get a driver's license, car, and the alcohol necessary to become a menace to society than it is to buy a gun. In a strange bit of coincidental weirdness, I just read an article on Al-Jazeera about another attack on school children in China the same day, by a knife-wielding assailant.  Just as terrible a target, but the difference is nobody was killed.  It's pretty simple algebra: The Connecticut attack, minus the China attack, equals guns.

I'm not going to engage in false equivalencies here, I don't really believe the gun-control side is as clueless as the NRA-fed folk, but I'm distressed at some of the energy directed at President Obama, as if he could just do something about it if he really cared.

First, let me cop to being a full-fledged Obamapologist.  I love the guy, and am continually impressed with him whenever I get to hear him.  I don't think he's perfect, but I do think he's done a great deal of good. But I fear we are headed down the same path taken after the glorious euphoria of the 2008 election.

People were so happy Obama was elected, it was as if history would forever be changed, and utopia was right around the corner.  People went to sleep, thinking the battle was over, and were even disappointed when Obama couldn't single-handedly deliver single payer health care.  That led to the disastrous GOP 2010 takeover of Congress and many statehouses and governorships.  Because this happened in 2010, a census year, congressional districts were heavily gerrymandered to favor the GOP.  Even though a majority of people voted Democratic in the 2012 Congressional races, the House remains under GOP control.

Obama is only the President. Check your copy of the Constitution for what that really means.  Right now, it doesn't mean as much as it could.  Yes, the most important thing a President does is nominate Supreme Court justices, but the President cannot enact legislation or raise or lower taxes.  He can sign or veto bills that deal with those topics, but he doesn't get to make them. 

Getting back to gun control, there have been protestors outside the White House this weekend, directing their energies at Obama.  Yes, he can certainly use the bully pulpit of the President to drag the country into a debate, but are we ready for that?  I think many liberals are unwilling to do the heavy lifting necessary here.  The US already has 300 million guns, and even if gun sales stopped tomorrow (I'm not suggesting that!) we could go another 100 years with enough firepower to power many more massacres. I'm confident President Obama would sign any reasonable bill like a new assault weapons ban, or controls on the huge ammo clips that help make such mass carnage attainable.  The real fight is huge.  The NRA has enough legislators in both parties on their payroll.  The gun culture is huge, and will not be reversed with a stroke of a pen. The real fight is against the John Boehner's of the world. 

Perhaps this most horrific of tragedies will actually get people talking to each other instead of at each other.

What do you think?