Archives for posts with tag: Trump

Somebody shared this tweet on Facebook:

technicality

Nothing but American ingenuity efficiently solving the problems at hand.

The technicality used to put Capone away was ‘invented’ because Capone had pissed off so many people, so hard, that enough of them had eventually decided to do something about him.

Let’s see what Trump chooses to do from now on.

Growing in a communist country, Romania, I was ‘exposed’, naturally, to all sorts of communist propaganda. ‘Embedded’ in almost everything.
One ‘sugar coating’ that was very popular among the apparatchiks of the day was ‘crime novels’. ‘James Bond’-like  ‘literature’ which was supposed to educate us, ordinary citizens  who could almost never get an exit visa to go to a ‘capitalist’ country,  about the perils ‘our’ trading agents/diplomatic personnel had to ‘negotiate’ when sent abroad to ‘serve the country’.
The most publicized ‘peril’ being the ‘prostitute trap’. Supposedly the ‘pure’ communist was trapped by a skillful prostitute into believing she was heavily enamoured  of him and then lured to an apartment were the couple would be filmed while ‘consummating’  their new found passion. Later, of course, the recording would have been used to exert pressure in order to influence the hapless fool into betraying his country.

The recent articles regarding ‘the art of kompromat’ tend to suggest that those ‘novels’ were nothing but yet another example of a wolf crying wolf… but who knows…

Fast forward to our times.

Is there anything clear in all this?

And no, I’m not wondering whether there is an actual tape of Trump ‘frolicking in bed’ with anybody. Even if it exists, it is well guarded. After all, such a tape is way more valuable as long as it is hidden away than when out in the open. The threat to reveal it works only as long as nobody else but the black-mailer and the victim know about its existence.

Then why all this brouhaha?

A preemptive strike meant to dull the effect of Putin actually publishing such a tape?
Putin trying to ‘soften up’ his intended target?
But what is Putin’s goal? He cannot dream of ‘controlling’ the President of the United States. Even when that position is fulfilled by someone like Trump… The actions of any POTUS are so public that any influence would very soon become apparent, on one side, and Trump, himself, is a very ‘unreliable’ person to start with.

But what if Putin has another, and way more insidious, goal?

What if he wants to compromise the very concept of democratic elections?
To ‘demonstrate’ to us that ‘the public’ is (has become?) incapable of electing a good man to lead it to the future?

Well… the problem with ‘kompromat’ is that it has to be tailored to its intended victim.
Just imagine what effect would have had a tape depicting Obama in bed with someone else but Michelle. Who would have believed such a thing?
But Obama was, to a degree at least – as Trump had very astutely estimated, vulnerable to a campaign focused on his birth certificate. We all know what kind of ‘passion’ the birthers have managed to instill into some of the die-hard conservatives.
And we should not forget that Trump had started his political life as a friend of the Clintons. His words, “that Hillary Clinton ‘had no choice’ but come to his third wedding“, are now world famous…

Now, bearing all these in mind, shouldn’t we ask ourselves how farfetched is Putin’s project of destroying our faith in democracy? Using ourselves as minions?

After all, Trump was elected democratically!

And do you remember those discussions about the US being intended as a Republic by the forefathers, and not as a Democracy? Or Orban’s – Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister, one of Putin’s close political friends, concept of ‘illiberal democracy‘?

“I voted for Trump because I think his illiberal tendencies are actually a feature rather than a bug. When he undermines rule of law, I see not a danger, but someone who is undermining a system that has become a game for elites with access to armies of lawyers. When he browbeats Congress, I don’t worry about “checks and balances” which have become a recipe for dysfunction, but rather see him as a man taking on useless political prostitutes servicing everyone who can write a sufficiently large campaign check. When he strong-arms multinational companies like Carrier, I see someone standing up to the worst aspects of globalization.”

Who built the world as it is right now? The one where the young adult who wrote the words quoted above, had grown up into and was modeled by?

We did it? With both its good-s and its bad-s?

It is us who kompromised it?
Then it is us who’ll have to fix it!
Or we’ll have to endure the yoke the likes of Putin and/or Trump will undoubtedly try to put on our shoulders.

 

 

teenager-government

Why am I am trying to make any sense of something said by a comedian?

orourke-trump

Because he’s right?

With a twist, of course!

While ‘government’, all of them, tend indeed to behave like ‘teenage boys’ their actual behavior depends very much on their up-bringing and on the amount of supervising their stakeholders/parents invest in them.

Which brings us to

the-government-you-deserve

Now all that is left for us to do – for ‘all’ of us, that is, including ‘the Government’ – is to remember that the individuals who make up the government also belong to the people. They cannot be essentially different from the people itself and they will, eventually, share the same fate as the rest of us.

Or even worse.

the-higher-you-are

The House Jack Built, Metallica

 

OK, then please someone explain to me what the heck is going on here.

“Other researchers have pointed out the correlation between education rates and declining female health outcomes. The most shocking study, published in August 2012 by the journal Health Affairs, found that life expectancy for white female high-school dropouts has fallen dramatically over the past 18 years. These women are now expected to die five years earlier than the generation before them—a radical decline that is virtually unheard of in the world of modern medicine.”

femalemortalityratesmaplg

(Health Affairs/The Population Institute, University of Wisconsin)

“…women in parts of the country have been left behind, and in some cases, they are dying younger than they were a generation before.”

swing-states-20161

 

This map shows the probable number of votes each parties candidate would win in the Electoral College if the meeting of the College were held today.  If you live in a red state on the map above you probably do not have to vote for anyone for the office of POTUS but you should vote for a candidate for all  the other offices on the ballot.  – Abyssum

donald-trump-andy-borowitz

Besides the fact that calling someone an “ignorant” is a very ‘Trump’ thing to do in the first place, what if the real problem is that we allowed ‘it’ to become a ‘system’ in the first place?

This way, after the process of learning and teaching – gathering new information and understanding about the world and passing it further to your contemporaries and to the next generations – has become a ‘system’, the ‘open market’ for ideas has become a very well – actually very badly – controlled oligopoly.

Trump, as a social phenomenon, is nothing but yet another symptom of this ‘malaise’ – the incapacity of the contemporary society to make room for everybody. Among other reasons, simply because information no longer flows freely around but is, tighter and tighter, by the ‘system’.
The simple fact that Trump, if elected, would only make things worse… almost doesn’t matter anymore…

Coming back to the ‘system’, the only way to fix it is to open it up, widely. If we continue to allow ‘it’ to divide us into ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ (read ‘ignorants’) we will actually perpetuate ‘the problem’.

chded7au4aadm5

Recep Tayyip Erdogan saved his political ass last week-end by urging his “supporters to take to streets in protest of coup

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Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan react to a Turkish military tank in front of the Turkish Parliament July 15, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Which they did and the coup eventually failed.

Leading some observers to salute the maturity of the Turkish democracy:
“The most valuable outcome of last night’s events is that many people who are not AKP supporters stood up for democratic values despite the recent crackdowns on the opposition, and despite the tension and the polarization of the country.” (Erol Önderoglu, Turkey’s Reporters Without Borders representative who is currently on trial on terrorist propaganda charges after participating in a solidarity campaign with a pro-Kurdish newspaper.)

“These people do not support Erdoğan, but they oppose the idea of a military coup. Turkey has a history of very painful, traumatic military interventions, so I was not surprised to see such united opposition to this attempt.” (an academic who wished to remain anonymous)

But ‘not everybody is happy in paradise’.
“Everyone spoke out against the coup last night and that gave me hope” … watching events unfold today this hope has shrunk quickly. Last night there was the possibility that the government would use this to return to a more unifying language, to return to the peace talks, to unite the country. But today it looks like they will use [the coup attempt] simply to consolidate power.” (the same anonymous academic)

What’s going on there? Is Turkey a real democracy?
Or, if we dare to look from the other side, ‘what’s wrong with contemporary democracy’?

Is it enough for elections to be held regularly and the votes duly counted for a country to be called ‘democratic’?

I’m afraid not.
Communist Romania did have regular elections, where a huge proportion of the people rubber-stamped the party line.
Putin is currently serving a third mandate as Russian president, after paying lip service to the Russian constitution and letting Dmitry Medvedev fill in between 2008 and 2012.
No major irregularities were noted at the time of the voting in Russia when Putin was reelected but somehow I cannot consider the process fully democratic.

Even in the United States things are no longer what they used to be. Both major parties have put forth candidates that are seen unfavorably by a majority of the people. So unfavorably in fact that 13 % of the registered voters would rather see the Earth being hit by a giant meteor than any of the two as President.

unfavorable trump clinton

Clinton trump unfavorable

clinton meteor

Public Policy  Polling, June, 13, 2016, Raleigh


So, again, what’s going on here?

I’m afraid that what has been known as ‘democracy’ is being slowly eroded to ‘mob-rule’.

You see, in a really democratic situation you get the ‘real deal’ with ‘all the trimmings’ while when having to deal with ‘mob rule’ all you get is some ‘window dressing’.
Or, as the Romanian saying goes, on the outside you are greeted by a white picket fence but once inside you’ll have to deal with a white fanged tiger.

Let me explain myself.
Theoretically democracy is a situation where everybody has some, even if minute, influence over the fate of the community to which he is a part.Practically it means “government by the people; especially :  rule of the majority”.

I’m almost sure that by now most of you have already figured out what I’m driving at.

‘Rule of majority’ can be more dangerous than a regular dictatorship if that majority has been improperly led into voting the way they did.
A ‘dictator’ might be wise enough to know that if he drives the situation way beyond the plausible something will eventually snap but someone callous enough to lie to an entire society doesn’t have such qualms. In fact this is the explanation for why not all authoritarian regimes end up in complete failures.

On the other hand most of them do exactly that while no democracy has failed yet, as long as it maintained its democratic character.

Why? Simple.

Running a complex system – and a country is a very complex system, is a matter of setting goals and avoiding making mistakes.

And while setting goals is important, avoiding mistakes – specially catastrophic ones, is paramount.

If goals are chosen improperly – not bold enough, for instance, or even misguided, that society will experience a ‘hiccup’ but if that society is led into a dead-end then it might never recover. The ‘funny’ thing here being that in many instances the authoritarian leaders were quite good at setting goals but almost always sooner or later ended up in a ditch because they were very poor at avoiding potholes.

But how come democracies are better at avoiding grave mistakes than centralized administrations?
‘Four eyes see more than two’, specially if they look in different directions.
Every authoritarian regime follows the cue of the authoritarian leader and tends to down-play, or even ignore, the rest of the problems. This tendency is accentuated by the fact that those positioned higher on the roster tend to be better insulated from the immediate effects of their decisions. So relatively small mistakes keep piling one atop the other until the heap cannot be balanced any longer.
On the contrary, in a functional democracy – where everybody has a real chance to bring his concerns to the attention of others, mistakes are not only easier to spot but also easier to avoid.
Only this cannot happen as advertised unless the members of a society have a healthy dose of mutual respect. Nobody is going to pay any attention to what is being said by a ‘pariah’. No matter how interesting, or important, that might be.

And this is exactly what happens in a ‘mob-rule’ environment. Nobody listens anymore to what ‘the other’ has to say. People allow themselves to be driven into separate herds and, once there, pay no attention to anybody else but their ‘own’ cattle-driver. Who not only that doesn’t have any respect for ‘his’ herd but usually doesn’t care for anything else but their votes. Reason would ask that he should pay close attention to the well being of his herd but since he is convinced that he can always attract new followers he will usually go for the ‘cheapest’ alternative – taking good care of a flock being more ‘expensive’ than luring some new ‘green horns’.

That’s how people become estranged from one another and end up with their eyes glued to the whip of the cattle driver. That’s how democracy becomes an empty concept.

That’s why an honest count of the ballots doesn’t mean much if the public discussion which preceded the voting wasn’t both free and meaningful.
That’s why reducing democracy to ‘rule of the majority’ is akin to putting the cart before the horse.

The real scope of the whole process being to openly examine as much information as humanly possible before starting to make decisions (vote), not to (artificially) build majorities around (charismatic?!?) political figures. Or should I rather call them by their rightful name? Con men?

 

under trump's skin

‘I just love how she gets under Donald Trump’s skin.’

Supposedly the democratic process was about presenting your program – as reasonably as you possibly can, so that people would start to trust you – and then letting the electorate decide.

Unfortunately things have become anything but.

People belonging to both sides of the political divides, on both sides of the Atlantic, are acting more like spoiled brats than like the responsible politicians they are supposed to be. Instead of presenting their ideas using a rational discourse they ‘energize’ their followers using all kinds of tricks developed by ‘political marketeers’ until reason is completely numbed.

And the worst thing is that by repeated mutual validation individuals generate social norms. That’s why so many of us don’t find anything odd in the way politicians are currently pandering to their ‘special needs’.

Because of our lassitude and at our own expense.

“The fourth lesson is that voters don’t seem to care about the hypocrisy and inconsistency of the anti-elite politicians. Never mind that Oxbridge-educated politicians were railing against the elites and the EU. Never mind that Trump loves outsourcing and immigrant labor in his struggling businesses, while campaigning against, um, outsourcing businesses and immigrant labor.

The sense of betrayal by and distrust of the elites is so rampant, it doesn’t matter who says it. “I think people in this country have had enough of experts,” said Michael Gove, the Oxford-educated justice secretary, who also compared pro-EU economists to Nazi scientists.”

It was by meeting their ideologically blind ‘hypocrisy and inconsistency’ with despondency that we, ‘the people’, have allowed this to happen.
Pretending that our side is nevertheless better than the other one will only prolong the agony.
We must imperatively ask that both sides mend their ways. Comprehensively.

And for that to happen we must stop pretending that any of the naked emperors have any clothes left on their backs.

Clinton, trump, unpopular

Not so long ago I was asking myself “What’s going on there?“.

Now, that my nightmare is very close to becoming reality – both major American parties are about to nominate unpopular candidates for the 2016 presidential elections, I’m wondering about the current meaning attached to the very concept of ‘politics’.

For an impersonal and very theoretically minded observer ‘politics’ would seem to describe the job of those who make it possible for the rest of us to lead our lives in an orderly fashion.

I believe you are familiar with what a ‘super’ does. ‘Super’ as in ‘superintendent’ for a residential building.
“The super must be conversant with every mechanical and technical system in the building, work diplomatically to solve problems in the building, be responsive to residents and be able to work as a team member with the board and the managing agent.”
Not exactly ‘rocket science’ but a very important role. So important that when poorly played the whole thing might very quickly deteriorate beyond repair.

After all, ‘the government’ should do nothing more, and nothing else, but act as a nationwide ‘superintended’ while ‘politics’ should be nothing more, and nothing less, than what we, all the inhabitants of a country, do in order to make sure that the government, our government, does its job. Properly.
Especially when living in one of the so called ‘democratic countries’.

Then how come I’ve got a growing feeling that ‘politics’ have become just another set of means towards specific goals? Goals that are more often than not detrimental to the society, as a whole?

PS.
This is for those of you who are not familiar with how this site works.
By clicking on the pictures, or the highlighted text, you are automatically linked to the sources of the quoted material. Sometimes they might be interesting, to some of you.

trump torture

As a young adult I understood that there was no real difference between Hitler and Stalin. It didn’t matter that one of them was considered to come from the left while the other was depicted (by the communists but not exclusively) as a paragon of the right, both of them had in common an absolute disrespect for everybody else. Each of them was convinced that only his opinions mattered and that all else were absolute morons – as long as they were audacious enough to think for themselves.
That was when I started to have an inkling about what ‘the elders’ wanted to convey to us, green-horns bucking under the communist rule that was crippling Romania at that time, when whispering ‘there isn’t much difference between Russia and America. Their leaders want to rule as much of the world as they can grab while the ordinary people, in both countries, don’t have a clue about what’s going on’.

As I’ve become older I’ve started to figure out that the real difference between various activism-s has nothing to do with the ‘hue’ displayed on their banners but with the intensity of the sentiment that fuels them and with the manner in which their activists relate to the other participants in the game.

At first glance the very notion of ‘conservative activist’ would be an oxymoron, given the fact that (some of the) conservatives define themselves as defenders of the existing order who only react, within the boundaries of the law and using the tenets of the Constitution, to whatever follies the ‘liberal activists’ are trying to bring upon our heads:

“Like the American people I have watched this process for a number of years, and I fear this empathy standards is another step down the road to a liberal activist, results-oriented and relativistic world where — laws lose their fixed meaning, unelected judges set policy; Americans are seen as members of separate groups rather than simply Americans, and where the constitutional limits on government power are ignored when politicians want to buy out private companies… Call it empathy, call it prejudice, but whatever it is, it is not law. In truth, it is more akin to politics. And politics has no place in the courtroom.” (Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), speaking at Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings)

As usual, practice trumps theory. Regardless of whatever the theory says – and some of the pundits pretend, everybody has an agenda and everybody who has an agenda is actually an activist.

Now that we’ve successfully climbed down to the practical level let’s see what’s the real meaning of Trump backing down from his trumped up stance on torture:

trump defending torture

Hey, wait a minute! So he actually said that ‘we should go tougher than waterboarding’ and he still has such a strong following among the ‘law abiding defenders of the Constitution’?

Well, I’m afraid things are more complicated than that.
Here’s what he says about those who trust him:

trump shooting people

“The people, my people, are so smart…
And you know what else? they say about my people? the polls?
They say I have the most loyal people! Did you ever see that?
Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

Well, if this isn’t ‘activism’ then I don’t know what else is.

But what kind of activism is it?
I’m not asking about where it should be placed in the political spectrum! I’m just wondering how are his proponents, Trump’s people, going to relate with their fellow citizens?
Or with the rest of the world…

And what’s the true meaning of the conservative activists coming out of the closet and assuming such an active stance? So active, in fact, that – as I said before – it is now way outside the realms of typical conservative behavior.

The explanation – as I see it – has little to do with Trump itself and everything with the present situation of the American society as a whole.

First things first.
Trump is nothing but an opportunistic bug, the real problem being how come the American Conservatives have not seen him for what he is and have not thrown him out yet.
I’ll concentrate on this from now on.

The American Conservatives, and not only those ‘loyal’ to Trump, behave as if they have been under a two thronged siege.
‘ The liberals are destroying America from within, the enemies from the outside are growing stronger and stronger yet the American Political Establishment does nothing meaningful about any of these, not even the ‘entrenched’ conservative ‘figureheads’.’

This didn’t start yesterday.

“Whenever you get a group of people together who share certain basic assumptions, there’s a natural tendency for the group to gravitate toward the most uncompromising, extreme, strident, fundamentalist, hard-core positions. Social psychologists call this tendency group polarization. It happens on juries with some regularity. It explains why the Tea Party became so insane, so deeply out of touch with the needs and views of the average American voter. And it explains why the Bush Administration invaded Iraq without an exit strategy (they stopped inviting people who disagreed with their assumptions—people like Colin Powell—to the planning meetings).” (John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016))

But because of the internet things have gotten even worse:

“These days, any simpleminded partisan with a political ax to grind can find an online community of like-minded whack-jobs who’ll be happy to provide him with plenty of ideological ammunition (e.g., bogus stats, pre-fab arguments, etc.).” John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)

“Worse” not because of the ease with which these communities can grow but because too many of the members of these communities tend to give in to the apparent comfort and safety of single-mindedness.

Arguments are no longer able to penetrate the boundaries of this kind of communities.
Walls are erected to keep the odd man out. Then defended fiercely.

And this is why any attempt to cross those walls, be it aggressively or even in good faith, is too often perceived as a mortal threat by those within.

This is the mechanism through which the likes of Hitler and Stalin have managed to dominate for so long their hapless followers, by convincing them that all outsiders, all aliens, are conspiring to destroy ‘Das Vaterland’.

Fortunately the Internet works both ways. It’s true that the members of those communities can chose not to read anything else but the ideas promoted by their insiders but, just as easily, any of them can find out everything that ‘the others’ have to say about the matter.

But what if things are not (yet) as bleak as some of the media venues present them to be?
Not that all the media wants to scare the shit out of us or that all of them are politically biased. No. This happens simply because all of them want to make better ratings and because very few of them understand that ‘he who saws the wind will reap the whirlwind’. (Well, some of them might actually do it on purpose and that’s exactly what activism means but my post is more about those who let themselves be sucked into the whirlwind than about the tempest sowers).

A very short search of the Internet produced two extremely interesting ‘snapshots’.
The first, that the CPAC straw poll placed Trump no higher than the third place, should not surprise us very much. After all most of the participants are either GOP officials or young wannabees and for them Trump is akin to a ragging bull.
The second, though, is rather mind boggling.

gallup, candidates popularity, february 2016

Gallup, daily tracking

Four out of the six still running candidates nomination are perceived more or less unfavorably by the American public?

So what is this? A contest for ‘the least un-liked presidential candidate’ title? (The answer to this question might also explain why Trump has backed down on torture. He figured out that that was too much, even for him. And for ‘his people’.)

We couldn’t blame this on ‘activism’, as such – the remaining two candidates are also ‘active’, but shouldn’t we be asking ourselves about what kind of activism deserves our encouragement?

When our votes are brought to bear?

Well, before answering this we must consider another issue first.
What brought us to the present situation, where both sides of the Political Establishment – and not only in America – are acting as if they want to tear everything apart instead of doing their best to make it all work together?

 

Lincoln activism

“Abraham Lincoln represented the entire nation, and his most serious actions were aimed at improving the lives of the oppressed and the poor. Lincoln’s values and actions still rank as the greatest period of social activism in the United States. Lincoln’s goal was to create a more perfect union by extending dignity to all — to once and for all end a diabolical, brutal, and oppressive system in which humans were property, mere production instruments.

In other words, Lincoln’s policies were designed for all of the people, not the just the wealthy, the privileged, or vested-interested lobbies.”

unless fully prepared to deal with all the consequences of getting that something.

putin-on-bear-obama-in-tutu

dkyyy1lzegpux28x_o_eminem-be-careful-what-you-wish-for-cover-by-cruthe

Click here and read all the lyrics. Carefully. Twice!

 

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