Friday, July 22, 2016

Barack Obama: inverse psychic

Famously Barack Obama said ISIS was contained shortly before they committed the Bataclan terror attacks in Paris. Today, Obama said that Trump's "gloom-and-doom" doom doesn't match reality, that the world has never been safer, one hour before the mass shooting in Munich.

Barack Obama has a sixth sense for these, just in inverse. If you ever hear Barack Obama say everything is okay, duck for cover!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Your depression is not okay

Depression is a big topic these days. You hear about it a lot, people talk about it. It used to be something people tried to keep hidden. They tried to put on their best face for others. Now days we are more open about it. People take a "more healthy" approach to their depression. They embrace it, accept it for what it is, and try to share with others and even to educate them on the issue. They show concern for others like them, and want them to know that it's okay to live with depression.

The problem is that it is not okay to live with depression.

Depression, a psychological ailment, is today viewed more like a medical diagnosis. People talk about "their depression", the way they would talk about their arthritis, or their Crohn's disease. The insinuation is that depression is an inherent condition, a combination of genetics and life, and that coping with depression is more a matter of treating symptoms than curing the disease.

But depression is not a disease. It is an emotional state. It is perfectly normal to be disappointed, or angry, or anxious, or aroused. As we mature, we learn to control those emotions, rather than to be controlled by them. Living in one emotional state for too long is never healthy. Life is about balance. We would never tell someone that it is okay always be angry, or to have an insatiable sex drive. Likewise, we should not believe it is okay to live with long-term depression.

What is depression? To many, it is some hormonal imbalance that prevents a person from regulating his mood, in the way that Type I diabetes is an insulin imbalance that prevents a person from regulating his blood sugar. But this does not hold up to scrutiny. Some societies are more depressed than others. Which suggests that the societal influences are stronger than the biological ones. I'm not here to talk about societal causes of depression. Clearly there is much in our society to be depressed about. (For reference, see the entire rest of my blog.) But I'm more interested right now in an individual's depression.

Depression is simply frustration coupled with exhaustion. Frustration is closely related to anger. It is an energetic emotion, sourced from irritation and disappointment at being unable to achieve something or to evoke an intended response. It's normal to get frustrated. We get frustrated when the baby won't stop crying, or the customer is unreasonably demanding, or the damn computer won't connect to the effing printer. It's similar to anger in that it compels us to action. To do anything, even something rash, to make the problem go away. Some are more prone to frustration than others. Usually frustration goes away. In most people it does. The baby falls asleep and we pour some wine and throw on some Jock Jams and life is good again. Sometimes frustration is chronically recurring. And sometimes it never really goes away.

Like any emotion, frustration can be habit-forming. Think of the angry person. The person who long ago had good reason, or reasons, to be angry, and the emotion never died. Instead, the person became accustomed to anger, because quick to anger, but can't really remember why he was angry in the first place. Depression is like frustration that never died. But frustration is exhausting. (Anger is energizing). When exhaustion sets in, frustration becomes less of an impulse to do anything, even something rash, to get the desired outcome, but more of a resignation that all efforts are futile. The frantic rage of frustration becomes more of a debilitating lethargy. Depression is exhausted frustration.

So what is frustration? I heard somewhere that all frustration comes from the word should. "He should appreciate me more." "The company should give me a raise for all my hard work." "The computer should work since I spent all that money on it." Sure those all may be valid complaints, but that is beside the point. Frustration can be self imposed as well. When I was a kid I golfed some, and I was the most frustrated golfer ever. If I missed the putt, or hit a terrible drive, I would become frustrated. Why? Did I expect I should do better? Clearly I had not put forth the practice required to do well, nor did I have my mind calm enough for performance.

Much of our frustration though is of the first type, that seems to be imposed on us from others or the world in general. And the word should is always the culprit. We expect others to act in a certain way, but they don't. We expect the world to appreciate us, but often it doesn't. Frustration happens when the world doesn't respond the way we expect it to. The source of this inconsistency is projection. We project our values and mores onto others, and expect them to act as we would act. He expects the boss to reward his hard work because he values hard work. She expects him to notice her new shirt because she would notice his. Even if values are similar, there is often a gulf in perception. In a recent speech George W. Bush delivered a great line, and maybe it's not his, but it went something like this:

 We tend to judge others by their worst actions, and ourselves by out best intentions.

This is something we should all internalize and think about every day, for our own sanity. Perhaps he intended to work hard, but actually found many distractions that hindered productivity. Maybe he did notice her shirt, but got caught up in conversation and forget to make the compliment.

The point to be made is this. Behind depression there is frustration. And behind that frustration there is probably projection. Projection, a consequence of self-centeredness, gives us a false vision of the world. A person becomes jaded when the expectations of their imagined world don't match with the reality of the actual world. Depression is a cue that we need to adjust our perception of the world, and thus our expectations, and then our actions. There is not enough time in our lives to mope. Disappointment will happen, but depression will diminish your quality of life, and those of your loved ones. Don't accept that life, not for one second!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Comparing the environmental platforms of the two major parties

Here I'll briefly compare the environmental policies of the two parties, based on their current drafts. Note these are not the finalized versions. My preference goes to the Republican platform, and I discuss the shortcomings of both parties at the end.

Republic draft [pdf]

Democrat draft [pdf]


The R (Republican) draft, as expected, opposes the D (Democrat) ideal of "keeping it in the ground." I agree on principle. I think limiting domestic supply to prevent carbon-driven climate change is a poor strategy. If America was an isolated market that might be effective, but in a global market, restricting supply will simply drive up prices and cause an offset in production in other places, namely the middle east. Ultimately the end result will be a large transfer of wealth from the United States and other developed countries to repressive regimes that are propped up by the flow of western money and support. That is a tremendous cost to pay, and for what benefit? That American-based fossil fuels will stay in the ground. But for how long? It's possible that the world passes on to a clean economy in a couple decades and that oil is never tapped. But more likely, when things start getting desperate, there will be plenty of political willpower to tap that sweet American crude.

The Rs take an approach of being good stewards to the environment, but still using all resources available to power the economy. Their take is that poverty is a bigger threat to the environment than responsible use of it. They advocate for the removal of restrictions forbidding the export of energy resources to foreign markets.

 The R platform proposes moving much of the environmental regulation of federal lands in to state control. As a states' rights enthusiast, I am inclined to support the notion. While it might be true that some states will give overly lax oversight, it is also true that the federal ownership of land is extreme, especially in western states, and they seem to acquire more as fast as they can. In some states the federal government owns over 50% of all land, and it's 85% in Nevada! So clearly anything that helps the states wrench some control of their land from the federal government should be considered.

The R proposal would eliminate government subsidies to all energy sectors. This is common sense, of course. The exception I would make would be to newer technologies. The policy towards electric cars is fairly reasonable. As we know a cottage industry of of cashing in on government money has grown up around solar power. As technologies mature than any government subsidy is a waste of money. If the government must subsidize nuclear power for it to survive, then perhaps it is simply not efficient enough to be used.

The Republicans oppose a carbon tax. I don't support such a tax either, but then it might be the simplest way to steer the economy in a cleaner direction. The problem, as always, is if say America reduces fossil fuel use, it will just get cheaper (supply and demand) for another country to burn. There are other possible taxes, such as vehicle taxes, but surely the Republicans would oppose those too as a hindrance on the economy.


Right off the bat, it is clear the D agenda is much different than the R. They state, in the very first sentence that combating climate change is of upmost importance. Now I'm personally a bit of a skeptic regarding the carbon-driven global warming theory, however I will concede that it is possible to some extent, and that if you had good reason to believe its validity, it would be reasonable to make preventing it a primary environmental concern.

The Ds propose some lofty goals, but are somewhat vague as how to get there. They wish to transition to 50% renewable energy within the decade. I suspect they underestimate the enormity of such an endeavor, and the practicality of the solutions. For instance, hydroelectric power comes from dams, and yet environmentalists are getting dams brought down in the US. And hydroelectric is the only reliable renewable. Others, such as wind and solar (the only approach specifically mentioned) are highly volatile, in addition to being capital intensive and having some environmental impacts of their own. This volatility means that renewable energy production must be accompanied by a large amount of peaking power plants, generally gas fired, that are ramped up when solar and wind are lacking, and sit uselessly idled otherwise. The only way to remove this necessity will be some breakthrough in efficient energy storage, which isn't even mentioned. For a party that claims to be on the side of the "best science", the Ds seem to ignore the engineering hurdles of their aggressive agenda. Nor do they make any mention of the increased energy costs of their plan. In Denmark electricity is almost 4 times the US cost, and that is after avoiding many of the engineering problems previously mentioned, because they are a small country plugged into the much larger and more stable European grid.

The Ds mention investing in improved efficiency of the vehicular fleet, which is probably something best handled by the free market, unless they mean investing in research in emerging technologies. They do dedicate a full sentence to improving public transport, which is a sentence more than the Rs gave. Investment in public transport should be a priority at all levels of government in situations where economies of scale can justify the expenditure. I do not buy the notion that the free market can provide efficient mass transport; that is entirely the realm of organized government planning. If the Rs are all about pragmatism then they should at least consider funding public transport as a plank in their platform. The Ds also propose extending subsidies for "clean" technologies, which, as we've talked about, should only apply to emerging or immature technologies. They must eventually bear the scrutiny of market forces.

The D's propose to power the government with 100% clean electricity. This is a stupid proposal for more reasons than I care to mention, and I would hope it is stricken from the draft.

Finally, and most importantly, is the section labeled Environmental and Climate Justice. The R platform labeled the D approach as radical environmentalism. I found the phrasing to be strong, until I read the this section in the D platform. In it they equated climate change to environmental racism, which only provides evidence that 21st century liberals can make absolutely anything a racial issue. Further the wording would suggest that corporations should be held legally liable for misleading the public about "scientific reality of climate change." This is an alarming proposition, and it echoes the recent decision by the Portland school board to ban any materials that question anthropogenic global warming (AGW). A majority opinion, or even the consensus they claim to have, does not make scientific theory a law. And as long as it's a theory, there is room for dissent. AGW isn't even provable as best as I can tell. It's one thing to base policy on the likelihood of AGW, it's another to give the theory weight of legal law, and prosecute non-compliance. Frankly it's tyrannical.

And further, is the onus really on the energy company to provide the relevant climate change studies? I mean, if government is basing policy on the promises of the private energy sector, maybe they're the ones failing at their jobs here.

The Democratic environment platform is not very convincing. It comes off as platitudinous, or at least more driven by activism than pragmatism. I hope it is a very rough draft and that the final will show much more refinement. (no pun!)

Shortcomings of both


Neither party mentioned agriculture in their discussion of environmental policy, a glaring omission. Clearly our form of industrial agriculture has many negative effects on the environment, and makes heavy use of energy and water resources. Both parties should be encouraging sustainable farming and a focus on local sourcing of food. The supply lines for produce reaching all the way to South America, not to mention the recent decision to allow American meat to be processed in China and then sold back in the US, are environmentally absurd. And yet not a word from either party. I guess no one wants to piss off the wrong industry.

Nuclear Waste

The R platform mentions this, so good for them, but it's not very heavily prioritized. And amazingly the Ds make no mention. Centralized processing and storage of nuclear waste should be a top national priority. Wherever it goes, Yucca Mountain or somewhere else, both parties must make this a priority, and must unite to make it happen. This waste being haphazardly scattered about the country is a disgrace, it is reckless, and it is a calamity waiting to happen. How did Fukushima not kick this into high gear? This needs to happen yesterday, not after a couple of accidents, or, god forbid, some national-scale calamity. This shit is a ticking time bomb. If our country can't handle the waste, we can't handle nuclear power.

 Urban Planning

I see no mention of suburban sprawl or our commuter culture. No advocacy for work policies that reduce commutes, such as working from home, or Panama shifts or other strategies to reduce the number of work days. There are many positions the parties could take; anything is better than our suburban sprawl. Not only is it energy intensive, but it is very sensitive to future supply shocks in the oil market.

Fusion Power

No mention was made of funding for fusion power, which is our most likely clean energy breakthrough. If our parties were serious about clean energy, they'd be pushing for a Manhattan Project type of push for fusion power. Renewable energy will not fully replace fossil fuels. We need to realize that, even outside of environmental concerns, we'll be really screwed economically when the oil starts drying up if we have nothing to turn to.


The pollution caused by global trade is enormous. The stat, as I remember off my head, is that the 12 largest cargo ships create as much pollution as all the cars in the world combined (when measured in sulfur dioxide). Shortening supply chains and protectionist trade policies actually will have a huge environmental perk. Liberals have always supported this, and now the Republican nominee also supports protectionist trade. There's no reason we can't make progress on reducing the environmental footprint of globalism.

It's not crazy to call Obama a Muslim

Earlier in Obama's tenure as president I was annoyed at the people who called Obama a Muslim, for the following reasons:
  1. It's not for us to decide what religion he is. If he says he is not a Muslim, then he must not be one.
  2. It should not matter what his religion is. All that should matter is that he perform his duties competently, ethically, and in accordance with the Constitution, the intentions of the Founding Fathers, and in compliance with federal law.
However, after nearly 8 years of his "leadership", I think it is safe to say those concerns are entirely justified. I'll provide two lists, mostly off the top of my head. The first list is things that he's said or done that indicate his strong empathy for Islam.
  • As a child was raised in Indonesia and attended Madrassa for six years. That is a lot of time in his formative years. High school is four years. College four. A military enlistment is four. He attended Muslim prayer school for six. 
  • He said, "The sweetest sound I know is the Muslim call to prayer.” Not the national anthem, or a child's laughter, or anything we might expect the leader of Americans to say. No, the Islamic call to prayer.
  • Obama bowed before the Saudi king.
  • Any time a Muslim has committed terrible acts against random civilians, in the US and also abroad, Obama has declared that the perpetrator does not represent Islam. How is he so sure?
  • When "Clock Boy" brought a "clock" to school that looked eerily like an IED, Obama did not hesitate to take the side of the boy and invite him to the White House, and immediately insinuated that the school officials were insensitive and bigoted. If there is ever an issue between traditional America and Islam, he always always always sides with Islam.
  • He has refused to utter the phrase "radical Islamic terror."
  • He says ISIS does not represent Islam, even though they have taken great pains to make their Caliphate as similar to the medieval caliphate as possible.
  • He won't call radical groups, like the New Black Panther Party, a Muslim-based hate group, or even BLM (founded by a radical Muslim) as hate groups. In America you can be as radical as you want as long as your group has some affiliation with Islam.
The first list, partial as it is, should serve to erode the first argument I listed. Even if Obama is not a practicing Muslim, he is certainly highly sympathetic to their cause, to the point of routinely taking the side of Islamic radicals versus normal Americans. It is a valid concern that the president chooses to consistently align himself with not just a small minority of America, but a minority that hates the majority of Americans.

The second list will serve as more evidence against my first argument, as well as the second. In this list we'll see that his beliefs actually are damaging his ability to perform his job.
  • Obama supported "moderate" Islamists against the secular regime in Libya, turning it into a failed state, a hotbed for Islamic radicalism, and igniting a massive immigration wave from Africa to Europe.
  • Obama supported "moderate" Islamists against the secular regime in Syria. This led to an embarrassing intervention by Russia, caused a refugee crisis for the surrounding countries and Europe, and provided the vacuum for the radical Islamic State to arise. (Although surely Obama would say the the Islamic State does not represent Islamic states.)
  • Obama provided funding and arms to groups and individuals that became the Islamic State.
  • Under Obama relations with Israel have become the most strained in the entire history of Israel as a modern state.
  • Obama supported the overthrow of our long-time secular ally in Egypt, which was replaced by a government formed by the Muslim Brotherhood. (Which was later thrown out by the military.)
  • The attempted overthrow of the increasingly Islamic Erdogad regime by a secular cadre of the Turkish military was quickly condemned by Obama.
The first list shows that, in domestic affairs, Obama will always side with Muslims if there is a conflict. The second list shows that in global affairs, Obama will always side with Muslims if there is a conflict. Even to the point of supporting radical Islamists. Clearly his sympathies are impacting his job as US president, and almost always disastrously.

So when people call Obama a Muslim, well they just aren't too far off the mark. It may be technically incorrect, but for all practical purposes the effects are the same whether or not he is. And so, it is not crazy at all to call Obama, leader of the American people and implicit world emperor, a Muslim.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Why BLM controversies don't make sense to white conservatives

It is astounding to many of us whenever the media make a huge uproar about some case of alleged police racism against blacks, and it turns out the cop was acting reasonably. What's even more astounding is that the more thuggish the "victim", the more enraged they become! For us, rationally, we would think that the more upstanding the citizen, the more the outcry should be, but it's almost the opposite. And that doesn't make sense to us. If a white person is killed by the police (which happens at a higher rate than for blacks, given the crime rates of each group) we aren't likely to be terribly upset if that white person is a shithead with felonies, hate-filled social media, and all that. We probably look at it as a public service.
But blacks react different. And here's why. Black culture, the part that is radicalized by the kinds of arguments BLM makes, is at war with white America. They see white people as oppressors and enemies. The more non-white a black person is, the more they represent their particular cause. I don't mean to generalize all black people, we're talking about the those partial to BLM, or black gangster culture and all that. Here when I say "blacks" or "black people" this is the group I'm talking about, and I'm speaking culturally more than racially. So a real gang banger with warrants and felonies and who maybe beat up some white chicks is not a low life, but a battle-hardened soldier in the war against whites. If some suit-wearing conservative black company man was killed, they might try to play it up for political points, but they don't feel as much empathy for the uncle tom as they do the gangster.
They don't care that the black was resisting, reaching for his gun, and the cop was acting in self defense. They don't care that the driver had 52 prior police interations, was gang-affiliated, and the cop was a bit on edge and assumed he was reaching for the gun he was carrying. They don't care whether the shooting was justified, or maybe an understandable mistake, all they see is a matyr in the holy war against white oppression. And the more anti-white the character, the more he is revered as a true disciple of the cause. If you start to see through this lens, reactions to blacks killed by cops should become less perplexing.
The other confusing part for conservatives is the white liberals. Why do liberals give validation to BLM when logic and statistics mostly don't support that narrative? There are two reasons. First, liberals are scared. They're like rabbits. Rabbits are afraid of predators. Notice how the more violent the group, they more the left panders to them? Radical Muslims, urban black gangsters, you won't hardly find a liberal criticize an actual culture of violence. Rabbits are also afraid of being separated from the group. And because their group identity includes not being racist, they will do anything to avoid being called racist themselves. Take, for instance, the cases in Europe of white girls raped by migrants, but reported the rapes as by white men because they didn't want to be seen as inciting racism against migrants! Truly absurd to us. But when you realize that they are afraid of ever offending potentially violent people (It's racist itself to assume certain races are more violent, right? No, not if it's true, but true having that talk with a liberal), and that they are deathly afraid of being out-grouped from the liberal pack, it starts to be, not logical, but predictable. And the best test for the validity of a model is how well it predicts.
The other thing about liberals is that they are wholly convinced they are more sophisticated than the rubes. It's infuriating to us that they don't grasp what seems like straight-forward logic, but it's not so much that they don't grasp the logic, it's that they refuse it. They disdain the kind of logic that is so simple that an uneducated hick can understand, and assume that if a conservative is saying it, then it must be over simplistic. Anyone can understand that 1+1=2. That's simple. Too simple. But 1+1=3? Now that's some profound shit. Liberals like 1+1=3. Why are conservatives baffled by 1+1=3? Clearly they lack the necessary sophistication. And the more a rabbit professes 1+1=3, or something truly creative like 1+1=chicken soup, the more they signal their liberal identities to each other.
Again, not all individuals, this is the tendency. But it is the tendency that is perplexing. And it just got a little more clear, didn't it?

Appeal to Bernie supporters

Bernie Sanders says he is not throwing in the towel, and he's taking his campaign all the way to the Democratic National Convention. On the other hand, he has made some conciliatory remarks that he will vote for Hillary Clinton if she is nominated; not quite an endorsement, but the promise of one. Also, there is a planned campaign event on Tuesday, which should give any of his following cause for concern.

I'm going to plead my case to Bernie supporters as to how you should handle a Clinton nomination. Even though I am now a Trump supporter, you'll have to trust my intentions are virtuous. That is, my goal is not to convince Democrats to weaken their ticket so my preferred candidate can waltz into office. I would prefer a strong and respectable Democratic ticket with high chance of winning, to a terrible one that makes Trump's run more viable. The virtuous part of me wants the best people running. The non-virtuous part of me does not seek to derail the Democratic run. No, the more cynical part of me despises our federal government and actually wants to see the election become a national trainwreck. That part of me wants Clinton in office, because really I see it all starting to fall apart if that happens. I am ready for a return to states' rights, or even balkanization in America if need be. So the good part of me, and the bad, have no intent to "trick" Democrats to get Trump elected. I've never claimed Trump is a perfect candidate. I mostly find myself defending him frequently because the narrative is so far off. I've done the same when I thought Republicans were unfair to Barrack Obama, even though I've never supported him.

This post will detail my personal support of Sanders, why I think he has failed us, and what I think Bernie supporters should be doing.

My support for Sanders

I have been a Bernie supporter from early on, even before he announced his campaign bid. After he announced, I frequently posted in his favor on facebook, trying to spread the word about his run. Not only did I support much of his platform (I've since backed off on a lot of that) but I was really, I'm mean really appalled at the notion that Hillary Clinton, with nothing but a long record of corruption and incompetence behind her, not to mention a lot of testimony from former secret service, police, and others assigned to her detail of her caustic and even cruel personality, could pick up the Democratic nomination with no opposition. So when Bernie, who rails against cronyism more than anything else, offered to run against the most brazen crony we've seen, well there was reason for excitement. It was really a ying and yang kind of match-up.

At some point I started to lose my excitement for his candidacy. The actions in Syria, which I was closely following through sources outside our mainstream media, convinced me that, while our presidents campaign mostly on domestic matters, their true influence is over our foreign policy. Obama had to work Congress to get his signature healthcare legislation passed, but our actions in Syria, Libya, and elsewhere were entirely under his authority. When we elect a president, he (or she) may be president from our perspective, but from a global perspective he is more akin to a world emperor. But Sanders is concerned with just one or a few domestic issues; primarily social equality and corrupt governmental, corporate, and financial institutions. He doesn't offer much in the way of foreign policy insights. I decided that Bernie wasn't interested the most important decision made by the elected leader of the world's only superpower.

As my support was beginning to wane, I attended a Bernie event in my town. Listening to him speak, I was not at all excited, but all those around me were. I couldn't shake the feeling that most of his promises were just to use public tax money to buy votes. So in effect, I was repelled by his lack of a foreign policy, and became cynical of his domestic policy. And yet his anti-corruption core remained, and although I was becoming a Trump supporter, I still voted for him in the Missouri primary. I felt that exercising my vote in the Democratic side would have a bigger impact in improving the integrity of the general. I still support Bernie as the Democratic candidate, just not to win the general.

Bernie failed to do his job, and will betray his supporters

While many people support Sanders because of his leftist politics, a big part of his success has been his stance against corruption, when the front runner has clearly demonstrated she lacks even a shred of dignity. Despite that mandate Bernie refused to attack her character. Instead he decided to make the run "about the issues facing the American people." This was a fool's errand. Hillary's greatest skill, outside her ability to enrich herself through cronyism, is to craft a political narrative through extensive use of polling and focus groups. That is, by having no moral compass, she can easily navigate her position to most closely match the opinions of the public on those issues. If the election is "just about the issues", then she wins.  But this also exposes her Achille's heel: her lack of integrity, and all its manifestations, opens a huge flank for attack. And Bernie expressly refuses to press the charge. He will only battle on the grounds that favor his opponent. It's like he read Sun Tsu's The Art of War and opted to do the complete opposite. Even if his goals are stellar, and his ethics impeccable, Bernie is a loser, seemingly by his own choice.

Bernie is now hinting that he will endorse Hillary, and at that point I lose all remaining respect for him. He states his reason is that anything must be done to stop Trump. And the thing is, even if Trump was as bad as liberals says he is, he still wouldn't be as bad as Hillary. So Bernie will sell himself out to stop the boogeyman, when he wouldn't even dirty his hands to stop an even worse candidate, who is proven to be a liar, to be corrupt, and to be incompetent. Trump is a wildcard, but Hillary is known to be rotten. Bernie fights against the corruption and unfairness of the 1%, yet he's willing to endorse a candidate who has enriched herself to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars during public "service". If he endorses her, it will be a betrayal to his anti-corruption principles, and to all who support him for those principles. If he does so, even after the convention, he is nothing but a fraud.

So what options do Bernie supporters have?

 Contested convention

The Democrats best bet is a contested convention. Trump could beat Clinton in the general election. Which is fine by me, but I truly can't believe the Democrats are so willing to support her. Do they really think this is a good idea? I bet any liberals or Democrats reading this post disagree with me here. I hardly know anyone who is an open Hillary supporter, or a radical feminist making it all about gender. But, I was truly astonished when I saw the behavior of the House Democrats in the Oversight Committee's recent panel with FBI Director James Comey. They just don't seem to care who is about to become their nominee. They should, and Democrat voters need to be pushing back on these people relentlessly. My conclusion: the Democrats are better off staging a coup at the convention to get a better candidate than to unite around Hillary.

Third party options

I have voted third party in every general election, or abstained. I always respect anyone's decision to vote third party, even if it takes votes from my preferred candidate. I think a third party vote carries a lot of power, because those parties really need your vote. Jill Stein is much closer to Bernie, both politically and ethically, than he is to Clinton, and she hasn't been afraid to call for her indictment! Now I don't agree with her liberal politics a ton, but I do respect her ability to call a spade a spade. I would be perfectly fine if the Democrats abandoned ship en masse and made her president. And certainly the Hillary gender card becomes useless against a woman with some actual integrity.

The case for Trump

Now I'm not going to try to convince you Trump is the greatest candidate ever or flawless. In fact, let me open up by describing some of his flaws.
  • Bumbling. He doesn't speak eloquently. His campaign speeches are maddingly rambling. Realize also this is part of his charm. People are tired of slick politics. Trump is not slick, and that is no longer a political liability. Also, he's new to the game of politics, and he insists on not taking short cuts. Sure Obama sounds real eloquent reading off his teleprompter, and Hillary can at least get through it, but Trump has opted not to use one. My guess is he wants to improve his skills at speaking naturally to the American public. This may pay off in the debates later this year, and you certainly have to have some respect for his decision to wing it.
  • Thin-skinned. His glaring, maybe fatal flaw is his ability to maintain self-discipline when insulted, and he has even admitted as much. Granted, he has endured a great deal of unfair, often blatantly false insults, but that is no excuse. He must be held to a high standard. He had better do some yoga or find his chi or whatever it takes before the general. Because Hillary, the shrewd sociopath, won't be thrown off by personal insults like he is. A strong ego is probably a prerequisite to run for president, but he needs to get this in check. If he wants his finger on the nuclear button, he needs to demonstrate to the public he can remain cool while under attack.
  • Bombastic. Trump speaks his mind and courts controversy. When criticized he is as likely to double down as anything. We tend to like bombastic people when they are on our side, and despise them when they are not. They might irritate us at times, but someone needs to be the mouthpiece. My preference would not be for a boastful person. But at the same time, our president is basically elected by the mob. What do we expect? Look at Romney. He was...whatever the opposite of bombastic is. And he generated little excitement. Trump has criticized his inability to hold media attention throughout the election. So if you want a president who represents you, you're going to have to accept that he or she has to court attention in our particular system of government. It's not ideal, but nothing is.
  • Politically inexperienced. Trump is not a politician. He's made some blunders. He'll make more. And when in the presidency, which will be a much different environment that the campaign trail, he'll make more. That is simply the other side of the coin when you bring in an outsider. You take the bad with good. I don't suspect he'll be the same kind embarrassing "amateur hour at the White House" we've seen from the similarly inexperienced Barrack Obama, but I don't doubt at all that mistake will happen. But in today's political environment, where almost everyone hates establishment politics, it's not a huge liability.
 If people can't get past these issues, or some other sound reasons, I understand. But the point I really want to make is this: Bernie supporters, please consider that the mainstream narrative you hear about Trump is not accurate. Where not outright false, it is twisted, taken out of context, slanted, or spoken with a sneer. This should not be hard to imagine. Every Bernie supporter knows that Bernie has had a similar, although less harsh, treatment by the media. We all know he was completely ignored early on, for as long as they could ignore him. And even when they finally acknowledged, they were quick to remind us that this election was really all about Hillary. Ron Paul supporters saw similar treatment in 2012. When he could no longer be ignored, he was always portrayed as a kook. And all Democrats should know that the widely held belief that Jimmy Carter was the worst president ever is total nonsense. Yes his presidency was mostly ineffectual, but this narrative about him being so terrible is the remnant of the media smear campaign done against him in the 1980 election. Yet Democrats have no trouble believing the smear campaign being done against Trump.

 Just think for a minute about who gets smeared unfairly by the media. They are always political outsiders. Now when I say outsider, I don't mean people who haven't participated in politics. Trump fits that description, but Bernie Sanders, Ron Paul, and Jimmy Carter do not; they were politicians already. But I think political insiders fit into one or more of the following associations.
  1. The graft system. Certainly political insiders play the graft game. Whether it's the government-to-industry revolving door (where politicians or bureaucrats are rewarded for favors done), selling access or influence for campaign donations, or other bribery schemes. Sanders lives off his government salary (and wife's income) and gets donations from small donors; he's a world apart from the vast fortune the Clintons have amassed from their government self-service. The Clinton Foundation would be the exemplar of a graft system.
  2. Neocon foreign policy. The neocons promote their "project for a new American century." They seek to preserve America's status as the world's sole superpower as long as possible. I think they have good intentions, you could certainly argue either way about the morality of it, but the point is that neocon foreign policy is establishment foreign policy. If you're unfamiliar, this is a good place to start. The gist is that neocons want to prevent any regional or global powers from threatening the world order imposed by the United States. They aim to do this be enforcing nuclear non-proliferation, by preventing political or economic blocs that might threaten the imposed order, and by punishing or destroying any world actors who refuse to accept US hegemony. I could get real deep into this, but I think I'll save it for another post.
  3. Globalist/progressive ideology. Now holding an ideology doesn't necessarily make someone an insider to the political elite, but not having that ideology sure makes someone an outsider in respect to the media, the academic industry, and to the globalists, like the Davos crowd or the Bilderbergers.
 Bernie Sanders is marginalized because he does not satisfy insider credentials 1 and 2, but he is not attacked the way he'd be if he contravened the third. Similar with Jimmy Carter, although he was still viciously attacked because the stakes were much higher. I bet that if Sanders had become a true threat to Clinton's nomination we would have seen the attack ads and media smearing starting to roll. Ron Paul contravened all three insider credentials, but never quite had the numbers to have a real chance at taking the nomination (even if his energetic supporters did create quite a stir).

In this view, Trump is the ultimate outsider. He has not been beholden to the graft machine, or even to pandering to donors, as a self-funded candidate. This has been huge for his ability to say things a Republican candidate should never get away with. If you told me a year ago that the Republican nominee would blame Bush for 9/11, would make trade protectionism his foremost policy, and would sometimes take the liberal side in the "culture war", such as during the tranny bathroom uproar, it would have been beyond ridiculous. And yet here we are.

Second, he is not a neocon. He wants to make America great in a grassroots way, not a geopolitical chess kind of way. I think he would compromise on this some, but I don't think he'd box in Russia, or overthrow MidEast governments the way Bush and Obama have. He might not be the neocons' worst nightmare, because he is pragmatic, but those who have worked for decades on the neocon project are probably still terrified at the prospect of Trump coming in and smashing the whole thing.

 And he certainly violates the 3rd metric of political outsideness, by being a nationalist, and an enemy of globalism and socialism. This more than anything has driven the shrill response towards him. For instance, his insistence on securing the border. You can't argue against that on logic; of course a nation should secure its borders, and enforce the laws it has. So they can only respond by claims of racism. It doesn't really make sense, but it's the best they can do.

Finally making Trump unique is that not only does he violate all political insider requirements, but he is an actual threat. He broke Republican records in the primary. He brought over all sorts of Democrats. And he has a good shot at taking out Hillary. Usually the media is used as a weapon to destroy outsiders, but he has played them to his own advantage.

So Bernie supporters, if your candidate betrays you by endorsing Hillary, and you're not sure where to throw your support, just keep this in mind: the common narrative against Trump is a weapon of attack, not an attempt at objective truth. And the more you see the media or political establishment working to marginalize or ridicule someone, the more you should consider that the person is on the right side of things. If you think Trump is a poor candidate you may have good reasons for coming to that conclusions. If you think Trump is literally Hitler, you are surely seeing through a lens that has been put before your eyes.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The House Oversight Committee's panel with James Comey

I was able to listen to a good portion of the House Oversight's interview of James Comey today. Now I was at work listening on my headphones, so I zoned in and out as I could, but I did get quite a bit of it. Here are my notes, analysis, and whatevers. I may be forgetting some things so there might be some edits.
  • Comey's competence. Comey comes off as intelligent, factual, rational, and pleasant. I find nothing wrong with him personally, actually I gained a lot of respect for him. He seems genuine, although you never want to trust a Washington bureaucrat too far, I suppose.
  • Not a Republican witchhunt. Despite many claims out there, Comey confirmed that the investigation was referred by an IG in the intelligence community. That is, by another bureaucrat, not a politician. He believed the referral was absolutely credible and valid. When asked, he stated he did not feel the Congressional inquiry was a Republican witchhunt.
  • No cover from Democratic administration. Comey has repeatedly and emphatically claimed that he operated with zero influence from his Democratic political superiors. My human intuition believes him. (Logically there is a cause for concern, which I will get to). Now, while we know he was getting signals from above (Obama's fucking endorsement, for one!!), he asserts they held no sway, and seems genuinely concerned that many people, understandably, feel otherwise. My take is that the investigation was unbiased. I think the conservatives clamoring that he is unfair or corrupted need to cool it asap. It's not helping anything right now. So seriously, even if you think so, drop it.
  •  Many potential crimes were not investigated. I would have assumed, and apparently so did the Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, that the FBI would investigate all aspects of former Secretary Clinton's and her staff's behaviors as they may have violated federal laws. Not the case. The referral was only for Clinton specifically, and only in regards to her use of a private email server in regards to national security. The following were not considered:
    • Perjury before both houses of the Congress (such as testifying that no classified information was ever sent in her emails).
    • Her use of the email server to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act
    • The actions of her staff
    • The Clinton Foundation
       As to the first two, I would expect to see Congressional inquiries, and possibly their own referrals to the FBI. I'm a little surprised here. Does the FBI not have the ability to self referral? If they learn about Federal Crime B while investigating Federal Crime A, is it standard practice to ignore it? Or was that special to this investigation?  As to the Clinton Foundation, well we'll come back to that.
  • The "gross negligence" clause may be unconstitutional. The whole issue boils down to the gross negligence clause. Apparently there was a lot of debate about its legality in 1917 when the law was written, and ever since prosecutor's have avoided it, because they think any conviction will end up thrown out. In the 99-year history, only once was it used, and that was part of a plea bargain. There are two questions to examine. Is this clause even necessary? To me gross negligence is you accidentally leave a briefcase somewhere public. Or you get drunk and start saying too much. But Clinton's decision to use a private server was far from unintentional. Second question is, if a law that punishes negligence is unconstitutional, then there are huge numbers of law and rulings to be overturned. Everyone who ever accidentally ran a stop sign, drove too fast, or killed someone should not be punished. Am I missing some legal argument here?
    One Republican asked, "how could we state the law any more clearly to make sure negligent actions are illegal?" It's a good question. Do we truly have a law on the books that is never enforced. Is there no punishment for prosecutors that decide never to enforce certain laws? If Comey is correct and his decision is valid, then the questions it brings up about our ability to legally protect state secrets are larger and more troubling than anything.
  • The Democrats were beyond worthless. I hate to sound like a partisan hack here. I'm not one (I swear). But good grief. The typical 5 minutes session was a long flowery introduction where they mostly talked about themselves or how noble Comey is and how just and fair the process and decision were. (I'd like to know how many were calling it a farce before the exoneration). Then maybe a softball question or two and out. Three at least did not even talk about the email investigation, but instead grandstanded about racism! All were black, and seem to feel justified in making any sort of public discussion a racial issue. It was tacky and unprofessional; their constituencies should be embarrassed.
        Even if it was a valid forum to bring up the issue, what do they expect Comey to do? Start some investigation? On what? Clearly you have to come at him with a narrowly defined objective, as we've already discussed. Of course they didn't actually expect any real response or result from Director Comey. They just wanted to highjack their few minutes in the spotlight to campaign. If the Democrats aren't disavowing this kind of behavior, they should be! It shouldn't be tolerated from any party. Business is business.
        Beyond that, the Democrats gave no impression that they were concerned with the gravity of the situation, or the chance that national security was put at risk and possibly compromised. In fact several made note of how pointless the whole venture was, and time should be spent on more important matter. Well Comey didn't agree with that. He believed the investigation to be justified and his summoning before the Committee to be appropriate. Apparently they have no concern that their candidate for office violated federal law, and is really only getting off the hook for lack of prosecution history for gross negligence. They should be very worried! First, her nomination is the most likely scenario to get their boogeyman Trump elected. And second, her tenure as president would be very risky. It might be a disaster, and what would that do to the Democratic Party? I doubt the House Democrats are thinking that far ahead. Believe me, I won't be heart-broken if Clinton is elected. I'll be getting my popcorn ready. But for the interest of the party, it is truly astounding that they show no concern whatsoever for the shortcomings of their nominee, nor for the federal laws that they write.
  • Clinton not sophisticated enough to understand classification markings. Most of the classified information was not marked, and what was did not have standard headers, but inline markup. Mr. Comey asserts that Clinton may not have been sophisticated enough to understand those markings, thus backing up his "no intent" argument. The argument, to be blunt, is that Clinton and her staff were too stupid to do there jobs. Not only does this apply to the marked documents, which he specifically mentioned, but it must to the unmarked documents as well. Much of it is born classified. That is, some information is inherently classified, and it is the owner's duty to know that. So Clinton was apparently too incapable to do her job in a way that protected national security. Is that really a legal defense? If it is, then the charges need to be applied to the person who appointed a grossly negligent person to the lofty position of US foreign minister. Is there no recourse when politicians give important positions to other politicians who are too incompetent to perform the job safely?
  • Clinton violated the law, with intent. The question posed by one of the Republicans was this: "did Hillary Clinton knowingly allow unauthorized personnel (her lawyers and server administrators) to access classified material?" Comey's response: "Yes." So there you have it! Allowing unauthorized personnel to access classified information is exactly what sunk Patraeus. Moving classified information to private media is exactly what they got Bryan Nushimura for. How is this not precedent? I don't know why Comey acts as if there was no criminal intent. She intended to setup the server. She intended to have her lawyers and technicians deal with it. She knew her job would routinely involve highly classified material, so those actions are implicitly criminal. Exactly what criminal intent is missing? I don't mind Comey's assertion that the DOJ won't prosecute. We know they won't, or will do everything possible not to. But to keep going to this lack of criminal intent argument, especially when the law specifically forbids gross negligence, is baffling.


 I said at the beginning that I intuitively felt that Comey was genuine in asserting the investigation was nonpartisan, professional, etc. And yet, his reasons for his decision not to recommend charges are puzzling. It certainly is the kind of conclusion we might expect if he was providing political cover. And as time goes on, if this whole thing goes to rest and is never heard from again, I think more and more people will adopt the opinion that he was investigating under the influence. Because if isn't the case, then where does that leave us? That a government employee can be grossly negligent with national security, can intentionally give access to unauthorized personnel, and once out of office there is zero legal action the government can take.

What if tomorrow the Russians release their Clinton email stash (hypothetical, but possible according to Comey)? He said that would not change anything. So someone can waltz into office, disregard all protocol, inadvertently hand over 60,000 of her emails, some with black-world level sensitivity, and there is no legal recourse? Is this not absurd, that the our trillion dollar (or whatever) federal intelligence and law enforcement apparatuses are powerless to enforce negligence, and must rely on the relevant policies of the offender's department for compliance? Apparently if Clinton had put those secrets online accidentally, and then a big foreign donation hit the Clinton Foundation by coincidence, the government is legally neutered from responding. This is disturbing. The alternative, that Comey was in fact politically influenced, is equally disturbing. Both scenarios are disturbing.

 The Hail Mary

Speaking of the Clinton Foundation, there is just one more thing. When Chaffetz was questioning Comey about the things that were not investigated, he asked if they had looked at the Clinton Foundation. Comey replied that, pay attention here, he replied in an uncharacteristically brusk tone that he did not want to comment on other potential ongoing investigations. When pressed further, he said he would answer no more question on the matter.

Now this is the strongest indication yet to validate rumors that the FBI opened a second investigation to see if RICO charges are appropriate regarding the foreign bribe machine that is the Clinton Foundation. I don't want to get anyone's hopes up, but it would make some sense. Maybe Comey doesn't want the country to get bogged down in the email issue if something much juicier is in the pipline.

It's a long-shot, but it's why I'm adamant that people lay off the cries of foul play. If there was influence, it's already done. We lost. If it is truly a proper investigation with a crummy conclusion, then we should adopt the attitude of the House Republicans, who respect Comey and his process but do question the outcome. And if there really is a RICO investigation in the works, we need to be in a position where the FBI and its decisions are already held in high regard. The Democrats have already outdone themselves on this. Let's not counter that. The whole thing is not over by a long shot, so everyone needs to calm the fuck down, get some popcorn, and watch as C-SPAN wins national ratings in the drama genre.

Comey testifies before Congress that Clinton is not sophisticated enough to understand classified markings

FBI Director Comey just testified to the House Oversight Committee that he believes Hillary Clinton was not sophisticated enough to understand the classified markings in the documents on her email server. That, apparently, is the justification for lack of intent. Presumably she also was not sophisticated enough to understand which non-marked documents were classified, despite that being a job requirement for her position. She pled ignorance and won.

Innocent because not sophisticated enough to understand classified markings, yet President Obama says she is the most qualified person to ever run for office. Clearly one of those is false. Either she is innocent of the crime, or she is qualified for the office of the president, but not both.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

My thoughts on Clinton's FBI pardon

The logic of the FBI's decision to not push for charges against Clinton was that all previous similar convictions have exhibited an element of intent. For instance, Petraeus, who got off easy himself, willfully divulged secret information to the reporter he was having an affair with. Whereas with Clinton, the unsecure handling of state secrets was more of a side effect of her activities. At the very least, he uses sound logic, which I appreciate. Although appointed by Obama, Comey is actually a lifelong Republican. Now, not all conservatives use logic well, but a liberal who uses logic well is a rare bird indeed these days. Nevertheless,  I take a few issues with his decision, and with where that leaves us, as listed here.

Clinton was not absolved of guilt

Comey never explicitly states whether Clinton broke the law, but his description of her actions clearly detail that she did. His argument is not that no crime was committed, but that they were of a nature that has no history of successful prosecution. His conclusion was not that federal laws were not broken, but that no prosecutor would take on the case.

The FBI has in fact prosecuted for similar crimes

Bryan H. Nishimura was investigated by the FBI for removing classified materials to personal devices and storage media. While he had no intent for that information to be vulnerable to foreign access, he was still prosecuted and pled guilty. Comey seems to ignore this case in asserting there is no precedent. I wonder how many others there are.

It sets precedent of some laws being unenforceable

The law states that for these kinds of security breeches, lack of intent does not matter. Clearly it does, because the FBI Director has just said that violations without intent are not legally enforceable. Clearly there is a disconnect between the laws being created by Congress and the enforcement by the executive branch. Even in other areas, like HIPPA, negligence of private information is forbidden by an act of Congress. While the FBI decision does not carry legal precedent like a court ruling, it sure will set a precedent in the minds of all Americans. That message is either (a) negligence to protect sensitive material as dictated by federal law is not actually enforceable, or (b) there is a massive double standard between what is punished for those in the highest tiers of government and the regular people.

It is still a damning conclusion

"Extremely careless" with government secrets is no endorsement for a candidate seeking the highest office in the land. It should be a career killer. Also, she should have her security clearance permanently revoked, as would happen to anyone who was declared to be reckless with secret information by both the FBI and the State Department Inspector General. So do we elect a president with no security clearance, or, again, do we say that due process for these things does not apply to certain people?

It proves that Clinton lied about her emails

Initially she said she sent no classified information. Then she said it wasn't classified at the time she sent it. Both confirmed to be false by the Director of the FBI. Of course, Hillary is already known to be capable of deliberately lying in her public statements, so there is no news here. In other words, if her supporters don't care about her previous lying, they won't care about more proven examples of her lying either.

It ignores her intent to violate other federal laws

While her loose handling of state secrets might have been incidental, the whole point of the email server seems to have been to avoid FOIA requests. This also falls under federal jurisdiction, but was not mentioned by Comey.

Plus, the lack of intent notion is a can of worms. No one says she intended to distribute the information. The question was if she moved the information to a non-secure area. Obviously she intended to do so when she conducted business on a private server.

It assumes the emails weren't compromised by foreign governments

Comey says there is no evidence that the servers were hacked, but admits there is no proof they weren't. Further he admits that the FBI doesn't know the contents off all the emails that were on her server. So we don't know what might have been leaked. This is scary for 2 reasons. First, there was classified information up to the level of SAP/SAR, a fact not mentioned by Comey, but widely reported a few weeks ago. Any leaks of this level have the potential to compromise the entire special access program. So at this point it is possible that black-world programs have been compromised, and the US government doesn't know.

Second, it opens a real threat for blackmail against the potential president. He does seem to indicate that, of the deleted emails that were recovered, not much classified information was found. And yet, do we want to elect a woman who probably didn't expose the most sensitive of government information, and who probably isn't being blackmailed?

I have to wonder what will happen if the Russians, who are rumored to have hacked the server, end up releasing her missing emails. If that is even possible, Comey has made a very risky move. So either (a) he took the risk of having the entire year-long investigation, and his decision to not push charges, invalidated immediately by foreign action. (b) He is supremely confident her server was never hacked. (c) They've come to some agreement with Russia directly. Only (b) sounds real likely. I can't imagine him taking the risk of (a), and (c) sounds a bit shadowy, although not impossible.


Ostensibly Clinton's status has been moved from "possibly criminally negligent" to "confirmed extremely careless." But, as I've argued, even that's false, because she was criminally negligent. Comey doesn't think she'll be successfully prosecuted, and that's that. Yes, Bryan H. Nishimura was prosecuted for a similar deal, but he's a little person. Director Comey doesn't think the courts can convict a Clinton.