Sunday, November 11, 2018

Not the way to go.


I watched the video of the now infamous press conference and I really thought that CNN's Acosta was cross-examining Trump, interrupting him at several times while trying to make various points and refutations (such as over the meaning of "invasion"), etc.





I don't think that that is the role of reporters at a press conference, and I'm sure that not only hardcore Trump supporters found this rude. Some may think that Trump is such a total shit (which he surely is) that such behavior is justified, but I think that it is rude and, more importantly, simply counter-productive: it plays right into Trump's hands. You simply can't out-Trump Trump.





Let Congress attack the President hard and often. The print/broadcast journalists should use their media positions to expose Trump's lies and distortions and vileness. A press conference is not the place to do this. It seems that if this kind of behavior persists, Trump will simply cancel press conferences. (Though, arguably, Trump came out of this one with a pretty good boost nationally, though not among hard-core Trump-haters; I say this because even I was uncomfortable with Acosta's behavior).


What reporters might do at these conferences is get together beforehand (privately) and agree to follow up on each other's questions -- which questions should be, of course, cleverly constructed but short, and not obviously prosecutorial. That would avoid ego-trips such as Acosta's that look like cross-examination. Related questions from several reporters would also show that concerns about Trump's lies is more across-the-board.

(Of course the doctoring of the news conference tape by the White House was outrageous; it was great that they were caught by experts. In the future, I'm afraid, it will be harder technically to catch this sort of thing as the techniques will get better on the pixel-level...)


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

There and more Kavanaugh lies

In the last blog I quoted a description of a lie that Brett Kavanaugh told while under oath in his confirmation confrontation in the Senate. Here are some more, all of which were assembled by the Huffington Post:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/brett-kavanaugh-lies_us_5bb26190e4b027da00d61fcd

 It is unlikely that any of this will influence the Republican senators, since they are desparate to confirm Kavanaugh. Susan Collins is weighing the political consequences of her vote, but basically she prefers to vote with her party; I don't have a lot of hope that she will do the right thing simply because it is the right thing -- she doesn't want to get "primaried" by someone to her right. She foolishly believes (or claims to believe) that Kavanaugh will not vote to gut Roe v. Wade if he gets confirmed. I don't know enough about Lisa Murkowski (R. Alaska) to hazard a guess as to her eventual vote, but she is no fan of Trump's.

 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Kavanaugh is a perjuror

There is plenty of  evidence that Brett Kavanaugh is a perjurer. Here is an example in Kavanaugh's own words (he had sworn under oath that he had never "blacked out" while drinking):

In a 2014 speech at Yale, Kavanaugh recounted his fun partying days with a story about “falling out of the bus onto the front steps of Yale Law School at about 4:45 a.m.” after attending a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. He then admitted that he and a friend had to put together their memory of the drunken night the next day.
“Indeed, as a classmate of mine and I were reminiscing and piecing things together the other day, we think we had more than a few beers before the banquet,” Kavanaugh said.
Kavanaugh, in an email to friends after a fun weekend vacation, apologized for getting belligerent after losing games of dice and said he didn’t remember it happening.
“Excellent time,” reads Kavanaugh’s email dated Sept. 10, 2001. “Apologies to all for missing Friday (good excuse), arriving late Saturday (weak excuse), and growing aggressive after blowing still another game of dice (don’t recall). Reminders to everyone to be very, very vigilant w/r/t confidentiality on all issues and all fronts, including with spouses.” (Emphasis added.)

Note: "piecing together" is what drunks do to try to account for events that happened when they had, in fact, "blacked out."

Friday, September 28, 2018

Bring it on

Enough talk about bipartisanship, "civility" and other blather. The Republican party is beneath contempt, and there really is no possible rapprochement with them. They are bad on everything that is good (you name it).

The voters will decide. Eventually, if Republicans lose big, Trump, Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas should be impeached. This will almost certainly not happen, but the lines are irrevocably drawn.

Bring it on. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Heat waves and "worst-case" scenarios; Scott Pruitt resigns.

I am not a climate scientist, but as a mathematician I think I understand something about differential equations and "feedback" loops.

I have believed for several years now that actual climate scientists have been taking special care to avoid their real understanding to climate change -- deliberately softening their feelings of deep pessimism over its speed and intensity. Consider what climatologist Nick Humphrey says in his blog about the recent heat wave.

He concludes:

 In addition to the immediate impact on sea ice, there is also the impact on permafrost. Or perhaps, what was “permafrost”. More of these kind of intense heat events now hitting the Arctic at the height of summer will result in more rapid destruction of land permafrost as well as heating of the shallow waters just offshore where sub-sea permafrost is located, allowed for increasingly more carbon dioxide and methane to be released into the atmosphere, speeding up global warming and resulting climate change, including effects on storm patterns in the mid-latitudes.

In other words, we are entering the era of the "feedback loop": Heating creates melting which increases the rate of heating. This results in not just a simple increase in (global) warming, but exponential increase (and maybe worse) in warming, We are not talking about a disaster for our grandchildren anymore (bad enough, of course) but a disaster for our children and probably many of us.  A week of temperatures in the mid-nineties in the Northeast will be the norm for spring-summer-fall seasons here. It will be worse in other places: death-dealing heat waves lasting weeks; and, eventually (in years, not decades) these will be the norm just about everywhere in previously "temperate" regions.

This can not be blamed on the Trump administration.  This is on all of us, especially the major industrialized nations, especially the ones which industrialized first and most (England, Europe, US). Fossil-fuel consumption in China, India, Brazil etc will simply make things much worse. What we are seeing now will not go away: exponential heating and melting will continue for maybe a century, maybe more: surely more if we do nothing

Although it has not received anything like the attention it deserves, Bill McKibben's book Eaarth, I think, pulls few punches in giving a pretty fair account of the "new" planet we will have to face and live on as the effects of climate feedback become worse.

Politics will have 2 important roles to play:

1. Making industrial and economic changes that will diminish (radically) greenhouse gas pollution.

2. Making sure that we protect humans and food crops from the thermal (and social) devastation that will result from what has already happened and is happening.

Given the political "climate", I'm pretty certain that neither of these things will happen for decades. The wealthy will flee to their bastions of air-conditioning, private food supplies, armed force and protective walls. The Koch brothers and their friends will fight to the last to preserve coal and oil and their personal enclaves and wealth. Hundreds of thousands then millions then hundreds of millions (and more) will be "on their own" to face the new world of unrelenting heat and rising water levels (which will not be "lifting all boats" for sure).

We can all try, for the sake of our families, friends and relatives, to work to implement points 1 and 2 above, and hope for the best. I'm sorry to say that that's about all I can take away from this recent heat wave and the almost-pointless resignation of Scott Pruitt.

 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Three Cheers for Michelle Wolf

The comedian Michelle Wolf did the stand up routine at the end of the White House Correspondants Association dinner last night. Everything she said was true. A lot of it was funny. A lot of it was painful for a lot of the people listening, and rightfully so. In the context of the worst president and most corrupt administration in American history -- a group of selfish and rich individuals presided over by a dumb, sexist and racist bully -- there is little uncomplimentary that can be said that is not totally justified. That Wolf's remarks were largely not "polite" sort of goes without saying.

Anyway, the following opinion piece by comedian Adam Conover pretty much says it all:

Conover in the NYT.

And here's another:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The cornered animal

In recent weeks I've been reluctant to write about Trump, since I imagine anyone reading this blog pretty much knows too much about the President. Attacking him and his administration is, as I've said more than a few times, like "shooting fish in a barrel."

However, at this time, we should all feel a special sense of unease. Trump's world has turned upside-down on him, with the latest -- and perhaps heaviest -- blow being the "raid" on his personal "consigliere" Michael Cohen. There is a good chance that Cohen was caught flat-footed by this (entirely) legal confiscation of records, before he was able to (illegally) destroy them. If this is the case, both he and Trump may very well be playing out the last of their game.

That being the case, what can we expect Trump to do? Many fear that he will find a way -- exactly how is not at this point clear -- to fire Mueller. This may, in fact happen, though I don't think that act will, even in the short-to-medium term, save him. My fear is that he will use the tried-and-true end run of starting a war -- somehow and somewhere. There are lots of possibilities. A massive Gotterdammerung, for someone like Trump, is a very real and terrifying possibility. Those of his followers of the evangelistic persuasion are, after all, looking toward the "End of Days" with some anticipation and would almost certainly egg him on (some are already doing so). 

Arlie Hochschild in her fascinating book "Strangers in Their Own Land" relates how some of the people she studied, when asked about the destruction of their homeland by environmental polluters, explained that ecological destruction is only a brief and contemporary problem, while the afterlife that stretches before them is infinite. While Trump himself no doubt has no such lofty feelings, his followers will certain make it easy for him to move in very bad directions.

Who will tackle him before he does something that may not be undoable?