Friday, August 30, 2019

The Price Of Delusion

My next column in The Everett Herald:
“The United States must be prepared for a future in which its traditional technological predominance faces new, perhaps unprecedented challenges.” That’s from a report produced by the Center for a New American Security, about China’s efforts in quantum computing. 
Which, far as one can tell, has something to do with harnessing subatomic particles (“quantum bits,” or “qubits”) for highly complex computations conventional computers can’t handle, including becoming un-hackable. Jonathan Dowling, a physics professor at LSU who also professes in Shanghai, predicts that in two years China will “go dark,” as their systems become impenetrable. Security implications are obvious.  
It’s said quantum computers will be to current computers as current computers are to the abacus. There’s potential to revolutionize development of new drugs against diseases, for one thing; and to create, well, a quantum leap in artificial intelligence. Full realization is several years away; but China is pulling ahead of the US. Last year, it filed for twice as many related patents. Their government is pouring billions into research, as well as offering juicy incentives to Chinese-born scientists who leave the US to return home. In addition, they’re paying US scientists handsomely to spend time there. 
Assuming we survive his homicidal climate-change denial, the future implications of the US attitude toward science under Trump are clear. Cutting funding for research to pay for tax cuts; deleting mention of climate change from USGS press releases; preventing government scientists from publishing their findings regarding it, or of harmful effects of chemicals Trump has unregulated. Several examples of which have been learned recently, as scientists resigned their government positions in protest.  
Joel Clement, a former Interior Department scientist, spoke to Congress of a “culture of fear, censorship, and suppression” coming from the Trump administration that’s keeping government scientists from doing “their best work.” Michael Halpern, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, testified that whereas there’d been efforts in the Bush II and Obama administrations to water down certain findings, meddling has risen to unprecedented levels under Trump. Studies into health threats to offshore oil workers and of surface coal mining have been quashed, for example. Same with research into certain chemicals in drinking water, for fear of “a public relations nightmare.” 
Build the wall.  
Last year a third of EPA scientists reported being required to alter or omit climate change language; even worse, some chose to do so on their own, fearing repercussions. Unwilling to tolerate such interference, some scientists are leaving the US, ensuring we’ll fall further behind. This danger, too, is obvious. 
Lock her up.  
At the just-ended G7 summit, at which he turned the volume of his increasingly untethered lies up to eleven, Trump skipped meetings on climate change and the Amazon fires. The picture of his empty chair, Trump’s America epitomized, is being seen around the world.   
There’s more, of course: despite signing an agreement to reduce plastics in our oceans, he’s doing nothing, preferring to blame Asia. And whereas it’s true that most comes from there, it’s because they’ve been accepting US plastic trash and dumping it. He’s happy, however, to act to sabotage sustainable energy, already costing many thousand jobs in the solar industry, with more losses predicted. 
Democrats want to destroy you.  
China is out-innovating us in alternative energy, too. So is much of the free world. Denmark, which inexplicably prefers to keep Greenland, produces over forty-percent of its power from wind. Germany is even higher. In some months, it gets sixty-five-percent of its energy from renewables. Meanwhile, Trump is deregulating methane, the worst greenhouse gas.  
Send her back.  
From the dark caverns of Trump’s troubled mind, his unwillingness or incapability to understand science, or to admit being wrong, is endangering the entire planet. Enabled by spineless Republicans and timid Democrats, the inadequacies of an increasingly unwell individual are endangering the entire world. Our Constitution was designed to prevent such travesty. Sadly, its creators didn’t foresee this level of Congressional fecklessness.  
Enemy of the people.  
Bent on worsening the planet’s most critical problems, Trump is making us a not-great, rogue nation and second-tier innovator. Excusing this dereliction by pointing to employment or the stock market doesn’t wash. Nothing justifies indulging this irrational “president,” whose delusional ignorance and pathological rejection of the obvious are hurtling us toward catastrophe. Republicans screamed about unchecked presidential power with President Obama. Why the acquiescence now, when the danger is greater? And real.  
They’re coming for your guns. 
[Image source]

Friday, August 23, 2019

Cruelty And Destruction

Next newspaper column:
Forever incapable of doing what’s right in the face of complexity, Trump is resorting to cruelty and destruction for their own sake. 
Oh, stop harping on him, demand critics. Be nicer. Happily, gratefully, when the cascade of outrages ends; if his threats to governance and, more importantly, to our planet, weren’t accelerating. Need the latest examples?  
First, recall that, under Democratic leadership, California, the state about which Trump loves to lie and Trumpists love to believe him, has reversed the massive budget deficits it suffered by Republican misguidance. Despite raising taxes, it’s enjoying a record number of consecutive months of job growth, and a balanced budget. Surpluses, even. Trump hates California for doing that for which he hasn't the ability. It’s exposing his con-job, and he knows it.  
More outrageous for Trump and his bedazzled believers, though, is that it’s also leading the way in addressing climate change. How dare they? And how dare automobile manufacturers agree to emission and mileage standards required by California? Standards consistent with those mandated by Trump’s psychic inhabitant, President Barack Obama. Unlike Trump, they seem to care about the future of their businesses and, tellingly, of their customers. Honda, Ford, Volkswagen, and BMW have signed on, with Mercedes Benz in the tailpipeline. 
Insiders say this has enraged Trump, who’s just called Toyota, Chrysler, and GM to the throne room, to demand they commit to increasing pollution. So he won’t look bad. So Governor Newsom won’t show him up as a leader. And, say the same sources, he’s pressuring his vassals to hurry implementation of his fuel-efficiency rollbacks. Think about it.  
The “leader” of the party of free markets and states’ rights, big business’s BFF, wishes to keep America’s most populous state, because millions more of whose citizens voted against him than for, from choosing a meaningful approach to climate change. And huge corporations from doing the same. From his farm bailouts, we’ve learned he’s a socialist. Now we see an embittered wannabe dictator, whose claim to Republicanism is fakery piled upon fraud.  
Excepting the fossil fuel industry, these tantrums benefit no one. There is, in fact, obvious harm to everyone else. Three-hundred-millions of us. Why? It can’t just be about pressure from the Koch brothers. Trump is, after all, fabulously wealthy and the world’s greatest businessman, looking to make the greatest real estate deal since T-Jeff, by investing in melting ice. It must be something else.  
Vengeance. Payback. Poking the eye of liberals for exposing and rejecting his destructive “policies.” It’s the opposite of responsible presidential stewardship, a concept having no meaning to Trump. It’s intentional, senseless dereliction, done solely to allay his fragile neediness. He damages us all, including his backers. As in “send-her-back-ers.” To them, there’s no red line. No amount of malicious, vindictive wounding is too much; not even this.  
Oh, but there’s more. Climate change isn’t wiping out species fast enough, so Trump is also going after the Endangered Species Act, one of the most successful of all government initiatives. Why? Because he can. Because his failings are becoming increasingly obvious; so he strikes out against the weak and vulnerable. It’s a lifelong pattern.  
Again: who benefits, other than drillers and diggers? In Trump’s self-centered worldview, it’s only liberals who value maintaining the interdependent, life-sustaining ecosystems created by whomever or whatever you prefer to believe. So, because he’s a typical, insecure bully, acting tough, he does what he believes will hurt them, no matter the consequences.  
Which is ironic, since the Act was signed by Richard Nixon after nearly unanimous passage by both houses of Congress. Back when it wasn’t only one party that recognized its duty to the greater good. Before one party claimed singular godliness while acting in singularly ungodly ways; stopped caring about the earthly gifts given them by the God they’re convinced anointed a damaged, unholy man eager to destroy it all. For revenge.  
There’s no way to see what Trump is doing here as anything but willingness to do irreversible harm in return for narcissistic validation. By now, nothing will enlighten Trump’s remnant hardcore. But, seriously: these pathological, malefic attacks on our planet aren’t enough to awaken the conscience of conservatives? It’s what their name means, for heaven’s sake.  
And now, craving even more cruelty, he’s allowing unlimited detention of refugee children with no requirement for oversight. Nothing, Christian Republicans? Still? 
Not even calling himself "The chosen one, King of Israel, the second coming of God?" 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Division Works For Him

Tomorrow's newspaper column:
Last week, Trump’s toxicity flared like that exploded Russian missile. And here’s the thing: any Republican president would have given them what Trump did. Tax cuts, deregulation (perhaps not all would have re-allowed carcinogens, made global warming worse, or set about killing Bristol Bay); maybe even reneged on the Iran and Paris agreements. For sure, lying that Democrats want socialism. 
Some reasonable people might support Trump because of those actions, even as it requires disowning former outrage at budget deficits, abandoning arguments for free markets, and acquiescing to poisonous levels of xeno-, homo-, and Islamophobia. 
But there’s a mammoth difference between Trump and any theoretical Republican president, not to mention most human beings: his adamantine indecency and inhumanity. Some called it “presidential” when he stood against murder in his “unity” speech. Anyone paying attention, though, knew he’d revert to type in less than a day. He did.  
Even if he weren’t a racist (he is); even if his divisive, hate-promoting language weren’t intentionally divisive and hate-promoting (it is), the peril of Trump is obvious. Doesn’t matter how great the economy is, even if it’s because he hasn’t ended what President Obama began (it is, and he’s about to, and it’ll be on him); doesn’t matter that unemployment is low, even if it’s because he hasn’t ended what President Obama began (it is, and he will). Trump’s pathological need for adulation, for which he’ll do and say anything and which we witnessed in high relief last week, threatens all Americans; even those thanking Jesus for purging voter rolls and hiring Vladimir Putin to put him in office. 
After those murders, Trump’s psychopathy was writ large, showcasing his doleful inability to act as normal people behave toward one another. Because he can’t help it, he made his trips to El Paso and Dayton entirely about himself. Inappropriate crowd-size brags. Preferring to attack opponents instead of consoling a grieving nation. Calling a discharged patient back to pose with him because other victims refused. Demanding aides say he was received like a “rock star.” 
Which is the key to understanding Trump: his overarching need to be treated like a rock star. In a “president,” for its exploitability, it’s ominous. Kim, Putin, MBS, and Xi are using it to their advantage. 
Then, that grotesque photo-op: Melania, smiling like a bridesmaid, holding a baby orphaned by a mass murderer who’d manifestoed all the hateful words Trump disgorges at every rally. Trump giving a bizarre thumbs-up, s-e grin plastered on his face like a fresco in the Ninth Circle. 
Hours after his perfunctory visitations came the ICE raid in Mississippi. Nearly seven-hundred people, herded into buses, many of whom were there legally. Children and parents traumatized, some still separated days later. To whose benefit? Contrary to Trump’s anti-immigrant demagoguery, these people, legal or not, were working, paying taxes. Illegal is illegal, but is this the best use of ICE’s resources? 
And what of the owners (who just happened to owe those workers millions); like Trumpco, off the hook if they didn’t “knowingly,” wink, wink, hire the undocumented. Let’s see how the factory does without them. Let’s see how many “real” Americans apply for those jobs. 
Accomplishing little else for America, such raids are intended to please the most rabid Trumpists. Another key to understanding Trump: appeal to the worst in the most misguided, for it’s they who give him the fawning blandishment he craves. No policy homework required.  
Topping it off, the “president” of the United States, role model, retweeted a claim that the Clintons were behind Trump party-pal Jeffery Epstein’s death. If Trump can do that, which some might consider legerdemain, let the rest of us consider whose DOJ took him off suicide watch and mysteriously removed his cellmate. And whose AG will investigate. 
Trump’s divisiveness is what renders unto him the veneration he requires, no matter the damage it causes. A third of the country loves it. Like Trump, they see the dysfunction and fracturing it has engendered as affirmatory. But for Republicans who care – surely they exist -- demanding better of themselves and their party is overdue. Including selecting a more worthy standard-bearer.  
World problems are gathering faster than glaciers are melting: Hong Kong, Kashmir, Syria, Iran, tariff-ruined farmers, looming recession, the accelerating climate crisis. Trump’s toolbox contains only false promises, ignorant narcissism, lying, tweeting, and caving to dictators. In a role once considered leadership of the free world, that’s not enough. 
Conservatives used to be better than this. We all did.

[Image source]

Friday, August 9, 2019

Catching Up

Here's my next newspaper column:

So much winning. Hard to keep up.

·      Reading his teleprompter like a forced hostage video, Trump condemned white supremacists and division. Which is like Jeffrey Dahmer condemning meat-eaters and freezers. His moral high ground cratered within hours.

·      Previously, at a rally, Trump: “How do you stop these people?” “Shoot them,” someone shouts. Attendees cheer. Trump laughs. But, we’re told, an inflammatory “president” bears no responsibility for inflaming the inflammable. A solitary Republican with guts and a conscience calls it what it is.

·      Democrats want reasonable gun regulations, Republicans blame video games. (Video games are in every country. Mass murders aren’t.) Trump added “fake news,” of which he’s the prime vendor, and poison on the internet, for which he’s patient zero.

·      Trump wants to designate Antifa, some of whose members have stood up to and had fisticuffs with Nazis, a terrorist organization. White supremacist groups and Q-Anon qrazies, though, are welcome at his rallies.

·      FBI director Wray testified to Congress that “a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we've investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.” No mention of Antifa.

·      Anticipating this flaying of the body politic must be among the reasons Russia chose Trump. Accordingly, their social media trolling pushes conspiracy theories and custom-curated lies, weaponizing Trump’s.

·      Kim Jong Un, Trump’s objet d’amour, launched another fusillade of nuclear-capable missies. Trump says not to worry, because they’re friends and Kim “will do the right thing.” Murderous dictators always have.

·      Iran fired missiles, too, and will resume enriching uranium. Under the agreement out of which Trump pulled, because, you know, President Obama, they were doing neither. Trump asked nations to join him in sanctions. Including the US, he’s amassed a coalition of one. Thus we see the respect he’s engendered around the world.

·      Fresh off maligning US Representative Elijah Cummings and other non-white citizens, Trump, who’s definitely not racist, gloat-tweeted about a burglary at Cummings’ home, virtually suborning more. Decent people would have abandoned him long ago. For hold-outs, therefore, his indecency must be the point.

·      That, and his cruelty to people unlike them. Trump’s latest budget throws three-million Americans off food assistance, adding to poverty and hunger. But, hey, small price for enriching wealthy donors. Mega-fraud – sorry -- megachurch leaders defend it, so it must be WJWD.

·      Exceptional among the holy, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C. criticized Trump for “diminishing our national life.”

·      Yet again, Trump is muzzling government climate-change researchers. In Greenland, unprecedented glacial melt is occurring, twelve-billion tons per day. July was the hottest month in recorded global history. Seventeen countries plus thirty-three highly-populated cities are running out of water. Those who deify Trump don’t care. At long last, have they no grandchildren?

·      “Conservatives” castigated President Obama for costing taxpayers $106 million in eight years of vacations. Trump’s golf excursions alone surpassed $110 million in two-and-a-half.

·      Trump’s ignorant, self-referential, national-embarrassment response to the anniversary of the anti-Nazi Polish Uprising: “The people of Poland like me, and I like them… And I know they’re building an installation that — and they’re putting in all of the money... So they’re building something very nice for the United States to have.”

·      But all’s well: “We will be ending the AIDS epidemic shortly in America, and curing childhood cancer very shortly.” (And Mexico will pay for it.)

·      In North Carolina, more Republicans were indicted for election fraud. But dead people voted for JFK sixty years ago, so we need discriminatory voter ID laws.

·      The founder of “Students for Trump” pled guilty to wire fraud, stealing thousands as a fake online lawyer. A student of the master.

·      ISIS is regrouping in Syria, says the Pentagon.

·      Moscow Mitch broke his shoulder. False flag? Then he retweeted his opponent’s name on a tombstone. AFTER the weekend murders.

·      Asked about his vetting process when defenestrating abysmally unqualified John Ratcliffe as DNI, Trump said he relies on the press (DBA “enemies of the people”) to do it. Nine cabinet secretaries have left, many in disgrace. Not counting nominees withdrawn. At this point, President Barack Obama had had zero.

·      This week saw the perils of using tariffs as instruments of “presidential” pathology, especially when the target is smarter and has a plan. Despite those tariffs, trade deficits with China are setting records. We’ve now learned taxpayer-funded reparations to harmed farmers (socialism!) are going mostly to the wealthiest. And China just stopped purchasing US farm products altogether.

·      “Trade wars are easy to win.”

[Image source

Friday, August 2, 2019

Moscow Mitch And Other Miscreants

My latest newspaper column:
Embracing the disappearing art of bipartisanship, Congress passed a bill blocking Trump’s proposed arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Because, in part, the sale would give Saudi Arabia access to secret military technology. Not to mention their murderous governmental terribleness. And it’s not as if MBS and Putin aren’t bedfellows. From Trump to MBS to Putin? Gonna need a bigger bed.  
Trump, who’s done business with and has been bailed out by Saudis, and undoubtedly has post-“presidency” plans for more, assuming he avoids prison, vetoed the bill and will proceed with the sales. Seem fishy? Any reason to suspect future quid for past quo? Ho hum, say Trumpists.  
Displaying more bipartisanship, a day after Robert Mueller’s testimony, in which it appeared what he learned has blown his mind, but during which Trump’s malefactions were made clear, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on Russian election interference; those virtual acts of war Trump has called fake news.  
Consistent with the new normal, the report was heavily redacted, but the essential message wasn’t. Contrary to White House claims, Russians hacked into voting-related systems of all fifty states, including some voting machines. Voter rolls, too, in ways that could have enabled altering or eliminating names. Makers of the machines were also hacked. 
Are viewers of Fox “news,” which reports so they may decide, aware that a Russian oligarch just purchased the company that manages Maryland’s voting apparatus? Far as we know, it’s only one state; but, given recent history, isn’t it a little worrisome? 
Another Russian billionaire is pouring money into Kentucky, home of Moscow Mitch McConnell, the one man in Washington, D.C. more destructive to Constitutional governance than Trump. The inflow began after he wrangled the removal of sanctions on that Russian’s company. Moscow Mitch also takes a whiskey-barrel of money from voting machine manufacturers. (Moscow Mitch resents that moniker. Respectfully, we’ll stop.)  
Shall we believe it’s coincidence that Moscow Mitch subsequently quashed three Democratic bills aimed at preventing future Russian election interference, including regulating voting machines? By calling the legislation “hyper-partisan,” Moscow Mitch confirmed, in effect, that fair elections help Democrats; that he believes Trump wouldn’t be “president” without Russian help; and, one assumes, that his own reelection would be at risk. It was Moscow Mitch, as all Americans know, who threatened President Barack Obama with a disinformation campaign were he to reveal the Russian attacks before the 2016 election. 
In a functioning democracy, protecting voting integrity wouldn’t be associated with only one party, nor considered “hyper-partisan” by the other. But here we are. Broken, by Republicans who understand they can’t win fairly.  
They’ll continue to rationalize Russian help. Trump’s campaign did, and Trump admitted, live on TV, he would again. His supporters rejoice in it. If that’s what got us Trump, some have said, we’re fine. Weird, though: couldn’t Jesus have enthroned him without employing a murderous dictator?  
Because he refused to be silent about ongoing efforts and their implications, DNI Coats is gone. Naming an unqualified sycophant to take his place (now withdrawn; will the next be better?) already stashing the execrable William Barr at DOJ, Trump is turning Justice and National Intelligence into instruments of personal power and cover-ups. His enthusiasts, chanting “Send her back,” don’t care. By what standard is this conservatism?  
The Senate investigation couldn’t prove votes were changed, although some relevant computers remain unexamined. Polls have shown minds were changed, though. Unanswered is whether hackers managed to hide vote-changing (at a hacker convention, American children successfully changed votes on voting machines, in minutes), or just intended to undermine confidence in results, should Trump lose. No matter: Moscow Mitch’s efforts make him a de facto Russian asset. 
We’re at a once-unthinkable point in our history. Manipulated into fearing imaginary bogeymen, Trump supporters fantasize immigrants voting illegally while raping their women; Democrats ready to turn the country into a socialist dictatorship while murdering newborns; rampant voter fraud; phony climate-change warnings meant to punish patriotic polluters. Efforts to preserve capitalism by improving buying power and promoting the general welfare of consumers are seen as the opposite. Accurate information and those who provide it are considered enemies.  
In plain sight, abetted by enemies foreign and domestic, and by the complacency of the contentedly misinformed, our republic is being systematically dismantled by an autocratic “president” and his Congressional enablers. Angered and distracted by fake news, Trumpists maintain it’s they who support America’s greatness, even as they facilitate its destruction, chanting enthusiastically, looking away.

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