Notes and Comment Blog


Guest post: His individual effort? Or his mom’s?

Dec 6th, 2016 10:47 am | By

Originally a comment by iknklast on Fox to oversee hen house.

In his autobiography he stressed that individual effort, not government programs, were the key to overcoming poverty

His individual effort? Or his mom’s?

Most of the Republican candidates spent a lot of time pointing out that their parents were poor, hard-working, etc. In other words, someone that was not them sacrificed a lot of effort to send them to school, to push them to succeed, and to get them where they are today.

Some of us had moms who committed huge effort to push us away from school, to push us toward marriage and a dozen kids, to push us to stay barefoot and pregnant. What I wouldn’t have given for one of their poor (we were poor, too) but hard-working mothers who encouraged them, gave them what they needed, and sacrificed themselves for the benefit of the men who now are grown to become men who would like to take away a lot of the ability of the poor women (and men) to help their children in the same way. If I had been given a fraction of what they were given by these mothers (or bartender fathers), I might be in the running for president, too.

I guess what I’m saying is that it isn’t hard work and talent alone that take you there, it’s having support from family, from community (which is where I got most of my support) and from society. That sometimes means financial support.



Sifting fact from speculation and rumor

Dec 6th, 2016 10:40 am | By

The New York Times yesterday pointed out Michael Flynn’s fondness for conspiracy theories and fake news.

For Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who is President-elect Donald J. Trump’s choice for national security adviser, pushing conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton is a family affair: Both he and his son, Michael G. Flynn, have used social media to spread fake news stories linking Mrs. Clinton to underage sex rings and other serious crimes, backed by no evidence.

The Twitter habits of both men are attracting renewed attention after a man fired a rifle on Sunday inside Comet Ping Pong, a Washington pizza restaurant that was the subject of false stories during the campaign tying it and the Clinton campaign to a child sex trafficking ring.

Lies and people who believe lies helped get Trump, a chronic liar, elected. Something is wrong here.

Well before he joined the Trump campaign, the elder Mr. Flynn, 57, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, pushed unsubstantiated claims about Islamic law’s spreading in the United States and about the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. But in his emergence this year as the angry former general out to help Mr. Trump clean up Washington, Mr. Flynn added wild stories about Hillary Clinton to his stock of unproven tales.

Six days before the election, for instance, Mr. Flynn posted on Twitter a fake news story that claimed the police and prosecutors in New York had found evidence linking Mrs. Clinton and much of her senior campaign staff to pedophilia, money laundering, perjury and other felonies.

That is really disgusting as well as frightening. That is the future national security adviser. How do we know he and Trump won’t start a war based on fake news?! We don’t.

Does that look like a good fit for the job?

And then there’s his son. I was hoping he’s beside the point, but he’s not, because he works for his daddy.

Michael G. Flynn, 33, is more than just a relative of an incoming senior administration official. In recent years, he has served as the chief of staff to his father, who started a private intelligence and consulting business, the Flynn Intel Group, after being forced to retire from the military in 2014.

Throughout the campaign, Michael G. Flynn served as a gatekeeper for his father, and he now appears to have a job with the Trump transition team. Email sent to an address at the Flynn Intel Group returned with an automated response that provided a new email contact for both Flynns, and each had a Trump transition email address that ended with .gov.

I’ve seen headlines today that say he’s no longer part of the transition team. His public blurts are even worse than the general’s.

But the general is the one whose job it is to filter out lies.

His role as national security adviser calls for mediating the conflicting views of cabinet secretaries and agencies, and sifting fact from speculation and rumor to help the new president decide how the United States should react to international crises.

It is a role that is likely to take on outsize importance for Mr. Trump, who has no experience in defense or foreign policy issues and has a habit of making broad assertions that are not based in fact.

Pause to think about that. It’s especially important for the next president to have a national security adviser who knows how to sift fact from speculation and rumor, because the  next president is a stupid and ignorant real estate tycoon who tells reckless lies all the time. It’s especially important for the next president to have a national security adviser who knows how to sift fact from speculation and rumor, because the  next president is a stupid and ignorant real estate tycoon who tells reckless lies all the time.

Mr. Flynn, though, has shown similar inclinations both on Twitter and in regular life. His sometimes dubious assertions became so familiar to subordinates at the Defense Intelligence Agency that they came up with a name for the phenomenon: They called them “Flynn facts.”

It’s enough to make you vomit from sheer terror.



If only feminism were on a white horse

Dec 5th, 2016 4:29 pm | By

Trump sure has brought them out of the woodwork. Great job, President Pussygrabber!

The latest wisdom from Michael Shermer:

When I think of feminists I think of Inez Milholland, led 1913 march on DC, not today’s fainting couchers

Well of course he does. She’s pretty, she’s young, she’s on a gleaming white horse, and above all she’s safely in the past. Of course men who hate feminism are down with pretty women on white horses in 1913; what’s not to like?

What a shitty, gratuitous, ignorant thing to say. It implies that all contemporary feminists are “fainting couchers” who are an insult to the memory of Inez Milholland who rode a white horse. That’s not the case.

Also, oddly enough, it’s not really Michael Shermer’s job or duty or role to decide who is the right kind of feminist, any more than it’s his role to decide who is the right kind of LGB rights activist or ant-racism activist. Nobody asked him, and his opinion isn’t needed. He’s a shallow, smug libertarian who thinks he’s much cleverer than he is – another Thomas Friedman or David Brooks except not as famous.

I invite him to return to the woodwork.



Kidding not kidding

Dec 5th, 2016 1:09 pm | By

So Trump was lying about how innocent and unexpected that phone call with the president of Taiwan was.

In today’s Washington Post, Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker and Simon Denyer cite inside sources who say the call was months in the making and intentionally provocative in regard to China.

That was apparently news to Trump, who on Friday night, as the controversy erupted, dismissively tweeted as if it were a small matter in which Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen phoned him to offer her congratulations, and he took the call as a courtesy.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/804848711599882240

And some of his team also said calm down, chill out, it was no big thing, just a couple of people dishing on the phone.

But by Sunday evening — shortly before The Post’s story went live — Trump took a decidedly new tack, talking tough on China in a way that’s more consistent with what the sources were saying about the Taiwan call.

And as The Post’s story makes clear, those close to the situation are describing it as much more than just a “courtesy call.” They aren’t saying the “One China” policy is out the window, but they do suggest it was meant to signal a substantial shift in at least the tone of U.S. policy toward China and Taiwan.

Maybe if we’re really really lucky he’ll get us into a war with China. A dream come true!



Fox to oversee henhouse

Dec 5th, 2016 12:10 pm | By

The Times on Trump’s choice of Ben Carson:

With no experience in government or running a large bureaucracy, Mr. Carson, 65, publicly waffled over whether to join the administration. He will oversee an agency with a $47 billion budget, bringing to the job a philosophical opposition to government programs that encourage what he calls “dependency” and engage in “social engineering.”

He has no expertise in housing policy, but he did spend part of his childhood in public housing, said a close friend, Armstrong Williams, and he was raised by a dauntless mother with a grammar-school education. In his autobiography he stressed that individual effort, not government programs, were the key to overcoming poverty.

Yeah that’s great. I’ve been to the doctor for checkups a few times, therefore I’m qualified to be Surgeon General, right? Why not, this is America.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development oversees programs that provide vouchers and other rental assistance for five million low-income families, fights urban blight and helps struggling homeowners stave off foreclosures.

So given his emphasis on the fatuous claim that individual effort, not government programs, is the key to overcoming poverty, no doubt he’ll be doing away with all those pesky vouchers, not to mention the struggling remainders of federal public housing.

Mr. Carson will be charged with enforcing the same civil rights law once used in a federal lawsuit against Mr. Trump. He and his father were accused in 1973 of refusing to rent to African-Americans in their buildings. A former Trump superintendent testified that he had been told to mark a “C,” for “colored,” on the applications of black apartment seekers. The Trumps denied the charges and countersued the government. They ultimately signed a consent degree in which they did not admit guilt, but agreed to desegregate their properties.

A band of brothers.



An unconventional choice

Dec 5th, 2016 10:42 am | By

Well here’s a classic of normalizing language – in the Washington Post’s story on President Pussygrabber’s nomination of reactionary retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson to HUD chief:

President-elect Donald Trump nominated retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, an unconventional choice that underscores Trump’s willingness to forgo traditional policy expertise in some Cabinet positions to surround himself with allies.

Normalizing and grossly euphemistic, would be a more thorough description. Make that: a shockingly random choice that underscores Trump’s determination to appoint completely unqualified inexperienced people to Cabinet positions.

That determination, in turn, underscores Trump’s contempt for the very concepts of knowledge, relevant experience, expertise, competence, and the like.

That contempt, in turn, underscores Trump’s frightening anti-intellectualism and amateurism, which in turn underscore the logical underpinning of such a view: that only force and power count.

In other words Trump seems to think that there is no such thing as relevant knowledge and expertise, and thus that it’s all random, and thus that winning and losing are all there are.

In other words Trumpworld is wholly arbitrary apart from force and money. There is no such thing as argument, or careful thought, or analysis, or weighing opposing views. There is only fiat.

That’s what makes Trump a fascist. That’s fascismworld, and we now have to live in it.



They’re everywhere

Dec 4th, 2016 5:34 pm | By
They’re everywhere

Atheist groups tending more Breitbart all the time.

capture



Fortunately, he’s always right

Dec 4th, 2016 5:08 pm | By

Another frightening portent – Trump’s national security advisor is a Jack D Ripper type.

Days after Islamist militants stormed the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn reached a conclusion that stunned some of his subordinates at the Defense Intelligence Agency: Iran had a role in the attack, he told them.

Now, he added, it was their job to prove it — and, by implication, to show that the White House was wrong about what had led to the attack.

Mr. Flynn, whom President-elect Donald J. Trump has chosen to be his national security adviser, soon took to pushing analysts to find Iran’s hidden hand in the disaster, according to current and former officials familiar with the episode. But like many other investigations into Benghazi, theirs found no evidence of any links, and the general’s stubborn insistence reminded some officials at the agency of how the Bush administration had once relentlessly sought to connect Saddam Hussein and Iraq to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

He just decided Iran had a role, and it was his underlings’ job to find evidence – and when they couldn’t, that was because they were being disobedient.

Not what you want in a national security advisor.

Many of those who observed the general’s time at the agency described him as someone who alienated both superiors and subordinates with his sharp temperament, his refusal to brook dissent, and what his critics considered a conspiratorial worldview.

Those qualities could prove problematic for a national security adviser, especially one who will have to mediate the conflicting views of cabinet secretaries and agencies for a president with no experience in defense or foreign policy issues.

“could prove problematic”=will be extremely dangerous.

The new job will give Mr. Flynn, 57, nearly unfettered access to the Oval Office. Whether it is renewed bloodletting in Ukraine, a North Korean nuclear test or a hurricane swamping Haiti, he will often have the last word with Mr. Trump about how the United States should react.

When he got the job as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency he told his underlings the One Big Truth.

During a tense gathering of senior officials at an off-site retreat, he gave the assembled group a taste of his leadership philosophy, according to one person who attended the meeting and insisted on anonymity to discuss classified matters. Mr. Flynn said that the first thing everyone needed to know was that he was always right. His staff would know they were right, he said, when their views melded to his. The room fell silent, as employees processed the lecture from their new boss.

Well you can see why he and Trump have rapport. They’re both egomaniacal assholes who think they’re always right and act accordingly.

It’s a profoundly stupid way to think, though, especially for someone in a leadership job. Of course the boss is not always right. Nobody is always right, and bosses who block the unfettered advice and knowledge of subordinates are baaaaad bosses.

But it’s ok, because it’s only national security and foreign affairs and trivial shit like that.

Current and former employees said Mr. Flynn had trouble adjusting his style for an organization with a 16,500-person work force that was 80 percent civilian. He was used to a strict military chain of command, and was at times uncomfortable with the often-messy give-and-take that is common among intelligence analysts.

Yet Trump is hiring lots of former generals for his cabinet.



No easement for DAPL

Dec 4th, 2016 4:04 pm | By

The Washington Post reports:

The Army said Sunday that it will not approve an easement necessary for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, marking a monumental victory for the Native American tribes and thousands of others who have flocked in recent months to protest the pipeline.

Officials in November had delayed the key decision, saying more discussion was necessary about the proposed crossing, given that it would pass very near the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose leaders have repeatedly expressed fears that a spill could threaten the water supplies of its people.

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, said in a statement Sunday. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

Republicans are displeased.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) joined North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple in criticizing Sunday’s decision, saying it “sends a very chilling signal to others who want to build infrastructure in this country.”

“I’m encouraged we will restore law and order next month when we get a President who will not thumb his nose at the rule of law,” Cramer said in a statement. “I feel badly for the Corps of Engineers because of the diligent work it did on this project, only to have their Commander-in-Chief throw them under the bus.”

Donald Trump will not thumb his nose at the rule of law? Really? When he’s broken a good many laws, and will break a cascade more of them the minute he takes the oath of office?

Army officials said the consideration of alternative routes would be best accomplished through an environmental-impact statement with full public input and analysis, a process likely to take many months.

Will Trump be able to reverse the denial once he’s installed? I don’t know. If he can I expect he will.



Prepare to be inspired

Dec 4th, 2016 12:32 pm | By

The BBC has an annual series called 100 Women.

BBC 100 Women names 100 influential and inspirational women around the world every year. We create documentaries, features and interviews about their lives, giving more space for stories that put women at the centre.

One of this year’s influential and inspirational 100 is a woman who calls herself “a surrendered wife.”

Californian Kathy Murray says she saved her marriage by giving up trying to control her husband. Despite considering herself a feminist, she follows – and now teaches others – the approach of a controversial book called The Surrendered Wife, which tells women to stop nagging their partners and start treating them with more respect.

Gee, thanks, BBC. I’m sure that out of the 2 billion or so grown women on the planet, that was definitely one of the top 100 influential and inspirational women you needed to highlight.

Murray and her husband fought a lot. Then the lord spoke to her through a reactionary self-help book.

I was about to end my marriage when I picked up a book called The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle. I mean, they don’t teach us how to be successful in marriage in school and the women in my life didn’t share the secrets either.

It was incredibly humbling to recognise that I had something to do with why my marriage was failing and perhaps even why my first marriage failed. But it was also empowering.

I didn’t know I’d been disrespectful to my husband or even that I’d been controlling and critical.

I thought I was being helpful and logical. I just didn’t know that respect for men is like oxygen, so no wonder my husband was no longer interested in me sexually.

I’ll never forget the day I first apologised to my husband for being rude for correcting him in front of the children, or the day I said “whatever you think” when I’d previously been extremely opinionated about what he should do.

So what is the inspiration here? For women in general to surrender? The BBC finds that inspirational, does it?



Please stop retweeting all these random “real” people

Dec 4th, 2016 11:45 am | By

Alec Baldwin’s Trump on SNL last night:

Trump’s furious tweet about it is all the more hilarious because the skit is about Trump’s Twitter eruptions.



Trump reviews Saturday Night Live again

Dec 4th, 2016 10:37 am | By

Ah the dignity and modesty of the future president:

He really tried watching it, people. He did. He made every effort. But speaking as a totally objective impartial dispassionate observer, he found it simply unwatchable. The fact that it features a mocking caricature of him by Alec Baldwin is entirely unconnected to his reasoned opinion; nothing to do with it at all.

The flaws of SNL are threefold, according to our thoughtful future head of state:

  1. It is totally biased
  2. It is not funny
  3. Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of Donald Trump (the author of the criticism in question but that’s wholly unconnected) is so bad it can’t get any worse

On 1 – I have occasionally noticed a tendency toward bias in the critic himself (Donald Trump), a tendency that seems to go unchecked, even when it’s publicly noticed by third parties. This makes me uncertain that he is particularly skilled in attributing bias to people not himself. It makes me suspect that he attributes bias to perceived enemies in proportion to his exoneration of himself.

On 2 – I have never observed the critic himself (Donald Trump) to make any impromptu remark that could be considered genuinely funny (as opposed to merely insulting, which some people confuse with “funny”). This makes me uncertain that he knows what’s funny and what isn’t. Humor is notoriously subjective, of course, but it’s not infinitely subjective. I don’t think Trump is an edge case – maybe witty, maybe not. I think his view of how funny SNL is is inconclusive.

On 3 – This one is easier. He’s dead wrong. Baldwin’s impersonation is startlingly good as an impersonation (whether or not you think it’s funny). They’re physically alike enough that Baldwin’s deployment of Trump’s absurd mannerisms is hilarious. It’s understandable that Trump wouldn’t see it that way, of course, but it’s imbecilic of him not to realize that we all know that and that it renders his opinion on the subject entirely worthless.

It’s really rare to see someone in public life who is that mind-blind. You’d think it would make him easy to cheat and defraud, wouldn’t you, and yet he’s the one who cheats and defrauds others. That’s a puzzle.



The minute he’s sworn in

Dec 3rd, 2016 3:24 pm | By

MoveOn on Facebook:



The war on women

Dec 3rd, 2016 3:11 pm | By

This is being shared all over Facebook:

This is my Charlotte clinic. Right now. There are 4,000 people blocking access to our clinic. Tell me again how this isn’t terrorism?



The black swan in the library with a candlestick

Dec 3rd, 2016 2:55 pm | By

Matt Taibibi on that windbag with one idea, Thomas Friedman.

“The folksiness will irk some critics … But criticizing Friedman for humanizing and boiling down big topics is like complaining that Mick Jagger used sex to sell songs: It is what he does well.” –John Micklethwait, review of Thank You for Being Late, in The New York Times

With apologies to Mr. Micklethwait, the hands that typed these lines implying Thomas Friedman is a Mick Jagger of letters should be chopped off and mailed to the singer’s doorstep in penance. Mick Jagger could excite the world in one note, while Thomas Friedman needs 461 pages to say, “Shit happens.”

It is what he does; it is not what he does well.

We will remember Friedman for interviewing 76 percent of the world’s taxi drivers, for predicting “the next six months will be critical” on 14 occasions over two and a half years (birthing the neologism, “the Friedman unit“), and for his unmatched, God-given ability to write nonsensical metaphors, like his classic “rule of holes”: “When you’re in one, stop digging. When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels.”

He tries too hard, and it’s incredibly grating. Friedman gets on my nerves so badly I can’t read him.

For nearly two decades now, Friedman has been telling us that something big is happening, technology is growing at a rate beyond the ability of humans to adapt (this is where the part about noticing everyone has a cell phone comes in), and that we have to stop doing things the old way and take a brave step into the future.

He wrote this column so many times that even four years ago – eight Friedman units – Hamilton Nolan wrote a piece in Gawker titled “Thomas Friedman writes his only column again” (Friedman’s “only column” has by now outlived hundreds of media outlets, Gawker and my own New York Press among them)…

A very conservative guess is that Friedman has written this column at least a hundred times. Maybe 200. Maybe more.

And he’s written all of them badly, I’ll wager.

Take the chapter about Mother Nature, which opens with a story about a day in July, 2015 when the heat index in southern Iran reached 163 degrees. That news item gives the author an opening to introduce the concept of a “black elephant,” an ominous (if you know Friedman) term apparently explained to him by environmentalist Adam Sweidan:

“[It is] a cross between a ‘black swan’ – a rare, low-probability, unanticipated event with enormous ramifications – and ‘the elephant in the room’: a problem that is widely visible to everyone, yet that no one wants to address, even though we absolutely know that one day it will have vast, black-swan-like consequences.”

You would think he could just say, “The climate change problem is a cross between a black swan and the elephant in the room – or, as I like to call it, a Black Elephant.”

You would if you didn’t know he’s Thomas Friedman.

Read the whole thing.



“You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally”

Dec 3rd, 2016 12:03 pm | By

Awkward. The Kennedy School of Government sponsored a chat session with people from the Clinton and Trump campaigns yesterday, and it was as collegial as you’d expect.

As Trump’s team basked in the glow of its victory and singled out for praise its campaign’s chief executive, Stephen K. Bannon, who was absent, the row of grim-faced Clinton aides who sat opposite them bristled.

Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri condemned Bannon, who previously ran Breitbart, a news site popular with the alt-right, a small movement known for espousing racist views.

“If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I am proud to have lost,” she said. “I would rather lose than win the way you guys did.”

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, fumed: “Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform?”

“You did, Kellyanne. You did,” interjected Palmieri, who choked up at various points of the session.

“Do you think you could have just had a decent message for white, working-class voters?” Conway asked. “How about, it’s Hillary Clinton, she doesn’t connect with people? How about, they have nothing in common with her? How about, she doesn’t have an economic message?”

How about, Kellyanne Conway is a lying sack of shit? What does Trump “have in common” with “white, working-class voters”? He has the white, of course, but so does Clinton. Does he have the working-class? No. His daddy was a prosperous real estate profiteer, and he himself is a worker-cheating builder of high-rises and golf courses.

The strangest criticism of the media, however, was by Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

His complaint: Journalists accurately reported what Trump said.

“This is the problem with the media. You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally,” Lewandowski said. “The American people didn’t. They understood it. They understood that sometimes — when you have a conversation with people, whether it’s around the dinner table or at a bar — you’re going to say things, and sometimes you don’t have all the facts to back it up.”

They understood that sometimes people get drunk and say what they really think about all those pesky Not Like Us people. But journalists aren’t supposed to report that!



The swaggering men administration

Dec 3rd, 2016 11:00 am | By

Trump is filling his cabinet with far too many plutocrats (any would be too many, in my view) and too many military people. That makes sense coming from him, I guess: he undervalues relevant experience and orientation and expertise (law, government, diplomacy, public service) and overvalues irrelevant and potentially damaging ditto (money, militarism).

Donald J. Trump ran for president boasting that he knew more about fighting terrorists than America’s generals.

But now that Mr. Trump is the president-elect, he is spending a great deal of his time with retired generals, and those of a particular breed: commanders who, when they served, were often at odds with President Obama.

One has been named as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, and several others are candidates for coveted positions in his cabinet or are advising him on how to confront the world’s greatest threats. They would give his foreign policy a far more aggressive cast than Mr. Obama’s.

That was November 21. As of yesterday:

Donald Trump’s move to pack his administration with military brass is getting mixed reviews, as Congress and others struggle to balance their personal regard for the individuals he’s choosing with a broader worry about an increased militarization of American policy.

No fewer than three combat-experienced retired Army and Marine leaders, with multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, are on tap for high-level government jobs normally reserved for civilians. Others are entrenched in Trump’s organization as close advisers.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn will serve as the president’s national security adviser, and Trump announced retired Marine four-star Gen. James Mattis Thursday night as his secretary of defense. In addition, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly is a likely pick to head the Department of Homeland Security.

We’re supposed to have civilian government. Really: it’s important.

Vikram Singh, a former senior adviser at the Defense Department and now vice president at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, said the law requiring a gap between military service and leading the Pentagon “exists to preserve civilian control of the military, a cornerstone of American democracy, and appointing a general so recently retired from active service to be secretary of defense is a serious matter, no matter how qualified that general may be for the position.”

Jon Soltz, who leads the liberal political action committee VoteVets, said that people with military service are needed in Washington, but “it is somewhat concerning that Donald Trump continues to eye recently retired generals for some of the most important traditionally civilian positions in government.”

I suspect that what attracts Trump to the military is that it’s a command-obey system. He’s a “do what I say” kind of guy, so he’s drawn to generals, who are at the top of the command-obey pyramid. He’ll still be at the top over them, but they’ll be his deputy “do what I say” guys, he’s thinking; that’s my guess.

The Times has a similar take:

Turning to the retired officers reflects Mr. Trump’s preference for having strong, even swaggering, men around him. But it worries national security experts and even other retired generals, who say that if Mr. Trump stacks critical jobs purely with warriors, it could lead to an undue emphasis on military force in American foreign policy.

So far so bad.



The higher skepticism

Dec 3rd, 2016 9:47 am | By

Wisdom from Michael Shermer:

Identity politics warriors-if you want people to stop judging individuals as members of a group then stop identifying people by their group!

Who knew it was that easy?! If I don’t want people to judge me as a woman, all I have to do is stop identifying women as women.

Wait, what? What does that even mean? Stop using the word “women” at all? Like Planned Parenthood and the National  Network of Abortion Funds? But if I did that, how would it make other people stop judging women as women?

And if that’s Shermer’s belief and practice, then why did he say “It’s more of a guy thing”?

If it’s his belief and practice, why did he start that tweet with “Identity politics warriors”? He’s certainly “identifying people as a group” there, so how can he claim that ceasing to identify people by their group will cause [all] people to stop judging individuals as members of a group? Suppose all women stopped identifying women as members of the group “women” – that wouldn’t stop Michael Shermer from continuing to do so, and it wouldn’t stop all the other men either. So what can he mean?

I suppose we can puzzle out what he means, if we don’t mind ignoring what he actually said for the sake of extracting some sort of reasonable claim from it. I suppose he means something like don’t obsess endlessly over your group membership, don’t constantly remind the rest of the world of your group membership, don’t ask people to stop judging you in ways you don’t want to be judged. Something like that.

Well, anything can be overdone. It’s the hot thing this week to complain about “identity politics,” and identity politics is for sure one of those things that can be overdone. But it’s simpleminded (to put it kindly) to just dismiss the whole thing, and its worse than simpleminded for people whose identities or group memberships aren’t generally considered a mistake to just dismiss the whole thing. Michael Shermer is male, and white, and prosperous, so it’s not really a great look for him to be dismissing the rabble because we don’t like being judged as rabble.



Of course both sides agreed ahead of time

Dec 3rd, 2016 8:22 am | By

The Washington Post hints that maybe possibly Trump was lying about how that phone call with Taiwan’s president happened and what was discussed when it did happen.

But a spokesman in the Taiwanese president’s office clarified to Reuters that the call was agreed to beforehand.

“Of course both sides agreed ahead of time before making contact,” spokesman Alex Huang said in response to Trump’s tweet.

Taiwan’s government also said the two sides discussed “strengthening bilateral relations” and talked about their “close economic, political and security ties” — all words likely to make China cringe and suggestive of a more in-depth conversation than just a congratulatory call.

“Cringe” is again a cautious way of putting it.

Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and potential Trump foreign policy adviser Ric Grenell said Friday night that the flap was overblown.

“It was totally planned,” Grenell said. “It was a simple courtesy call. People need to calm down. The ‘One China’ policy wasn’t changed. Washington, D.C., types need to lighten up.”

Right. People who know something about foreign affairs and diplomacy and China and Taiwan – they all need to calm down and lighten up, and let the people who know nothing whatever about any of it just get on with trying to start a war between nuclear states.

But the situation raises real questions about who is advising Trump when it comes to diplomacy with Asia, as The Post’s Emily Rauhala writes. It also came just a day after the New York Times reported on building concerns about Trump’s handling of other calls with world leaders and his preparation level. And the stakes are considerably higher with China than with Mexico and many other countries.

His preparation level is zero. We know this. He’s much too busy taking victory laps and tweeting bullshit and trying to persuade the New York Times to be nice to him to do any pesky preparation.

Even if it wasn’t meant to be a big deal, it’s clearly become a big deal to China. China has now lodged an official complaint with the United States over the matter, though it appears to be giving Trump the benefit of the doubt and blaming Taiwan. China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, called it a “petty” move by Tsai. “The One China principle is the foundation for heathy development of Sino-U. S. relations,” Wang said. “We don’t wish for anything to obstruct or ruin this foundation.”

By “benefit of the doubt” I suppose Aaron Blake means “allowances because he’s such an imbecile.”



Trump says he can too so talk to Taiwan if he wants to

Dec 2nd, 2016 6:11 pm | By

Trump fully understands what a colossal mistake it was for him to chat with the president of Taiwan, and he’s said so on Twitter.

No I’m kidding of course. Here’s what he said on Twitter:

Actually, Bozo, that doesn’t change anything. You’re not supposed to do it that way. There’s a process, and you’re too lazy and stupid to learn it. You’ve been skipping the briefings you’re supposed to get. You’re keeping the State Department out of the loop. You’re a runaway train, and you don’t care.

At this rate we may be in a nuclear exchange with China before the New Year, let alone before he’s actually president.

Christ. That pile of sulky suiting will be the president in a few short weeks, and he talks like a petulant child. THEY get to talk to Taiwan and I don’t, it’s NOT FAIR.

Seriously, when he’s run aground this fast, how can things possibly not get much much worse very fast?