Sunday, March 19, 2017

Out of the Mouths of... Cracked?

Yet another week I'm going to put off the next lesson in photo-fakery, because this is just too damn important not to re-post -- especially since it explains the GOP's budget plan so well!

--Leslie <;)))>< 

5 Reasons Why The Middle Class Doesn't Understand Poverty


Poverty is a well-worn subject here at Cracked. John Cheese has talked about it a lot, C. Coville discussed legal loopholes that can screw the poor, and we've also covered myths the media perpetrates. And now it's my turn to moderately wealthsplain the subject.
Unlike John and others, I grew up one year's worth of acoustic guitar lessons away from being the most stereotypical middle-class white kid ever. I didn't take yearly vacations to private islands to hunt men for sport, but I also never wanted for clothes and video games. And while us suburban kids were taught that it's good to help the poor, we were also accidentally taught to treat them with disdain. Here's how.

5
We're Constantly Told That "Money Can't Buy Happiness"

If you're friends with the right kind of insufferable people on social media, you've probably seen pictures like this:
Pinterest

Or, God help us, this:
Quote Addicts
It's all variations on the same theme: Money can't buy happiness, true wealth comes from friendship and experiences, you don't need the solid gold butt plug when the polymer one feels identical inside of you, etc. Movies teach it, music teaches it, our parents teach it -- money is useless if you aren't living. It's not an inherently bad message, but try telling people at the homeless shelter to count the blessings that money can't buy, and see how long it takes before you'll feel blessed that you can afford health insurance.
Outside of images that the Care Bears would find insipid, "Money can't buy happiness" is what middle-class people tell each other when someone is trying to decide between two different jobs. "I make 70k right now and the new gig only plays 60k, so I wouldn't be able to travel as much. But I'd have more free time to play Ultimate, the benefits are better, and there's no way my new manager could be any worse than my current one." That's an important decision to the person making it, but they're debating between two different kinds of comfort. It's safely assumed that the money they will need to exist will always be there. It would be nice to have more -- to be able to go to more restaurants or to justify buying a second Roomba because deep down you know that the first one is lonely -- but there's always enough to keep the lights on and the kitchen stocked.
Pinterest, God's Punishment For Our SinsIf the Minions are on your side, you might want to reconsider things.
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You may have seen the study that claimed $70,000 a year is the ideal salary -- after that, more money generally doesn't make you happier. Well, that's great news for people hovering around that benchmark, but if you're poor, more money will abso-fucking-lutely make you happier. More money means healthier food, or a chance to get out of the house and have some fun. It can mean knowing the rent is paid for next month, or being able to afford medication.
The middle class isn't immune to money problems, especially if there are kids in the mix. Getting laid off at the wrong time sucks, no matter what your income is. But the middle-class people with money problems I've known were generally suffering from self-inflicted wounds. They had no savings because they wanted the new car or the luxury vacation. They wanted one of those experiences they were constantly told was more important than money, because the money for day-to-day necessities was always there, right up until it wasn't.
My Destination UnknownA sentiment that will read differently when employers start asking about the gaps in your resume.
That's part of the reason, I think, so many middle-class people laugh at campaigns to raise the minimum wage. "You want 15 bucks an hour to flip burgers? How about you just hold off on the new TV until you get a real job?" The middle class generally fluctuates between being able to afford a nice vacation one year and having to settle for a few trips to the movies the next. The poor can fluctuate between paying bills and being out on the street. But the idea that such essentials could just go unpaid is unfathomable, right up until you experience it.

4
We're Taught To Associate Low-Paying Jobs With Failure

When I was growing up, there was never a question of whether or not I was going to college. That's partially because the idea of my spindly idiot ass learning a technical trade or doing manual labor is the first step in creating an "Epic Fail!!!" YouTube video, but mostly because my parents had a fund set up for me. (It helped that I live in a country where a post-secondary education doesn't cost roughly eight quadrillion dollars a semester.)
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So jobs that didn't require a degree were presented to us as warning signs. "You better study hard, or else you're going to end up just like that bull masturbator for the rest of your life! And I didn't intend that pun, so don't giggle!" Becoming a janitor or a gas station attendant or an internet comedy writer would have been considered a disappointment, an inability to take advantage of the gifts that were offered to us. Poverty was considered a moral failing.
SeanShot/iStockI'm sure he regrets not studying harder for that ninth-grade algebra test.
No one ever just came out and said that, but the implication was always there. We tend to assume that other people are basically like us until they prove otherwise, which is why I'm constantly shocked to discover that most people don't like my favorite homoerotic golf academy anime, Wood Strokes. So we were never taught that working as a dishwasher or a grocery store clerk or a sperm bank fluffer could be an important stepping stone for someone with a different background than us. We were also never taught that, you know, it's still a goddamn job where someone shows up and puts work in and gets paid for their time. They were always just associated with squandered potential.
And man, when you hear that message constantly, it's hard to shake. It's easy to glance at a middle-aged dude working the checkout counter and automatically think "Well, I bet he's not the brightest guy around" or "Oh shit, is that what happened to Matthew Lawrence?" It's not malicious -- not initially. Being told to take advantage of your opportunities is not a bad message. But when that message is driven into you for decades, it creates a stigma around certain jobs. And from some people, it produces plenty of snide remarks about how the people working those jobs should get better ones, as if the person who's been a server for seven years has never considered just popping


 down to the job store and picking up a career in architecture.  Janitors and baristas keep society running as much as anyone else. If all of America's coffee shops shut down for a day, the country would experience a nationwide narcolepsy epidemic crossed with The Purge. But when you grow up in the middle class, the only thing you're taught about such jobs is that you should get one as a teenager to build character, and then thank God that you'll never have to work one again as long as you don't fuck up in life. And as long as we consider that a sign of our superior work ethic instead of birth luck, we're going to keep dismissing as pathetic the jobs we'd all get angry about if they vanished tomorrow.

There Are Always Certain Things We Take For Granted

An education isn't the only thing that most middle-class kids can assume they'll get. A car to borrow, a phone, 20 bucks for when you really want to take a girl to what you assumed was a bad movie so you could make out in the back row but then it turns out that she's actually super into the plot of Gigli and wants to focus on it even though you were all set to reach second base and so you end up getting a confused erection to Al Pacino and it inadvertently shapes your formative years ... you know, all the little things that are part of growing up in Middle America.

That's the end result of assuming that a good job awaits you, and that money is for throwing at problems and buying pizza instead of something to stress out about. Water heater broke? No worries, we'll just have to eat in the rest of the month to make up for it. Shoes all worn out? Well, you can't go to school like that, so go get some new ones. Gone on a losing streak at the Pokemon Card League and the groupies have started drifting off to the other players? Better pick up a few booster packs to get back in the game. You know you can't get greedy and start buying Armani, but as long as your needs are modest, the money will always be there.
So the idea of 20 bucks making or breaking someone is impossible to appreciate. It's just not a concept that clicks in our heads. It makes sense on a logical level, sure -- you need money, and you don't have it, and that sucks. But when you're raised in comfort, you can't put yourself in that head space emotionally. You can't understand the stress, or the fear that you might not be able to feed your kids. The closest we can get is watching Gwyneth Paltrow try and hilariously fail to live on a tiny food budget before going back to her $4,000 kale cleanses. That's kind of like empathy, right?

And because it's tough to relate to, it's tough to talk about. If someone tells me that they never got Christmas presents growing up, all I can respond with is "Uh, yeah, that sounds like it sucked. Well ... one time my grandma accidentally got me Super Murpio 67, so ... I hear you." Starting a conversation with a bunch of middle-class people about poverty is like bringing up Trayvon Martin at a country club. Everyone trips over everyone else's words to talk about how tragic it is, but then they distance themselves from the problem and the "buts" start coming out. And to further compound the issue ...

2
We Don't Witness Poverty, So We Don't Understand It

When I was growing up, my exposure to poverty was largely limited to sitcom families who would talk about how poor they were, but were still able to go on a wacky adventure every week. The Simpsons kept running into money troubles in their early years, but their house looked the same as mine. Even the family from Roseanne, the classic working-class sitcom, owned a house that's a palace compared to what a lot of people live in. The problem with portraying poverty in sitcoms is that it's hard to get laughs out of eviction and early deaths caused by crippling medical debt, so the lesson always ends up being "Poor people struggle with money sometimes, but in the end they alays get by, and they have lots of laughs while doing it!" Sitcoms make being poor look fun.

Beyond that, once or twice a year, I'd go to some kid's birthday party and notice that his house was a lot smaller and more run down than mine. One of the kids who always got talked about in a slightly different tone of voice by the adults. I never gave it much thought because we went to the same school and both liked Nintendo -- how different could our lives possibly be? Maybe I'd see a story on the news that would put a positive spin on the issue. ("Look at how many volunteers with beautiful families showed up to the soup kitchen to help feed these filthy hobos!") Beyond that, the middle class just doesn't think about poverty.


We're always looking up, always wanting to go to the Christmas party at the rich friend's house so we can get a taste of what we're aspiring to. There's rarely a reason to go to the poor part of town. Tell jokes about it, sure, but go? We never have to leave the bubble, so we never learn what real poverty looks like. Poor people become invisible, this mysterious Other, a group that serves you food, and in return, you throw a couple of non-perishables and toys into donation bins for them over the holidays.

Oh yeah, the middle class loves to donate food and toys and clothes and gently used ball gags and all sorts of other crap that we weren't using anyway. Food banks actually need money far more than they need your creamed corn that's going to expire in two weeks, because money just goes further. But people who will gladly part with 12 boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese and some Funyuns they found under the sofa get leery when it comes to handing over money, even though we're supposedly under the impression that we don't need it ourselves to be happy.
That's partially just because it's more satisfying to give stuff instead of money -- you can imagine some happy kid playing with your old Lego, and you get to clean out your closet. But remember, we're taught that the poor are stupid and lazy. We sit around telling each other stories about how our friend's cousin's boyfriend knows a guy who spent his welfare check on beer and weed. These are campfire horror stories for the most tedious suburbanites, and they're told in the hot tubs that they probably shouldn't have bought until the next mortgage payment cleared. We can't trust those people with money, because if they were smart enough to manage it properly, they'd be smart enough to have a better job. Also, they probably all have hooks for hands and murder teenagers while they're making out in their cars. Hey, we learn so little about poor people that it's just as believable.

1
We're Taught To See Ourselves As The Victims

I've known people with movie theaters in their homes and four cars in their garage who are convinced that society is against them, that life is a gloomy parade of suffering because their property taxes went up a bit. That's stereotypical rich people behavior, but it's there in the middle class too, in subtler ways. I live in a city where the economy revolves around a boom and bust industry, so people tend to make good money while complaining about taxes for a few years, then get laid off and go on government benefits for a while, and then get a new job and go back to complaining about the government. And if you watch the cycle, you see the same "us against the world" mentality, just with fewer BMWs in the mix.

When middle-class people get laid off and go on welfare, they blame the economy, or their former employer, or the government. They never blame themselves. And they shouldn't! Much like a whale's erection, economies are big, confusing things that can't be controlled by the average person. It's not like they left photocopies of their asshole on the boss' desk. They paid into the welfare system with their taxes when times were good, and now they're using the system for exactly what it's intended: helping you out when you're unlucky. It's bridging the gap until you, a hard-working person who just caught a tough break, gets another job.
Except when poor people use the system, it's none of those things. Suddenly they're not getting help; they're just dumb, lazy leeches. Plenty of middle-class people are more empathetic and generous than I'll ever be, but the worst instinct of the middle class is to blame the system when the system fails us, then lecture poor people when the system fails them. I've heard the condescending explanations about how the world really works (which usually come out after a few beers when no actual poor people are around because the speaker would never be brave enough to say it to their faces) more times than I can count.

The middle class has a weird relationship with the rich -- we alternate between complaining about them and wishing we were them. Money can't buy happiness, but a yacht certainly wouldn't hurt matters. Even if we don't like the rich, there's always the pipe dream that we could be them. But no one dreams about being poor, unless you're into an incredibly specific kind of role-playing.
Being poor is a problem (practically, not morally), and a problem is either the fault of the person or the fault of circumstances beyond their control. The latter means we in the middle class might have to do something about it -- or, God forbid, reflect upon our lifestyles, which is just the worst. It's much, much easier to assume that we're fine, that ultra-rich politicians and celebrities and investment bankers are the ones being condescending and awful to the poor, but also that poor people could probably stand to work a little harder. So, uh ... sorry about all of that. I'll donate some food at Christmas, though!
Mark is on Twitter and has a book that's made him rich in experience.
For more, check out 5 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Poor and 4 Common Morals Designed to Keep You Poor.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out Disney Thinks You Hate Poor People, and watch other videos you won't see on the site!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Just Who's Being Irrational?

(Again, I'm going to put off the third article on photo-fakery to deal with the amazing hysteria of the Liberal/Democrat media on the subject of Trump.  I don't usually post whole articles by other writers, but this is just too perfect to quote in anything but its entirety.)

Leftist Trump Critics Play Anti-Semitism Card

Bruce Abramson (NewsMax) – The hatchet job against the Trump Administration continues. The most recent victim is Sebastian Gorka, a member of Trump’s inner circle. The charge is — surprise! — anti-Semitism.

The behavior of Jewish progressives leading the attack is shameful.

Since President Trump announced his candidacy, his detractors have slandered him — and his supporters — as every kind of hatemonger known to progressivism. The most recent manufactured charges involve anti-Semitism.

As we detailed for the Institute for The Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy (ISGAP) the so-called evidence is farcical.

Orthodox Jews highly sensitive to real anti-Semitism remain among Trump’s strongest supporters. Their response to the anti-Trump attacks has been a simultaneously snappy and gloomy addition to the pantheon of Jewish humor — What’s the difference between Donald Trump and Jewish leftists? Trump’s grandchildren are Jewish.

The Orthodox response is hardly idiosyncratic. Donald Trump has been so familiar, and so friendly, for so long that the predictable leftist scaremongering has been far less effective than usual.

Because the president’s aides are less familiar, however, they are more vulnerable. The first target, Steve Bannon, was so off base that the ADL, which had led the attack, was forced to issue a humiliating retraction; its relentless search for evidence of Bannon’s alleged anti-Semitism came up completely empty.

Enter Sebastian Gorka. Gorka, whose family suffered through fascism and communism in Hungary, is proud of his ancestral roots; the paparazzi have spotted him wearing historical Hungarian medals. Furthermore, when the Iron Curtain fell in the early 1990s, Gorka left the comfort of London to help Hungary transition from the Warsaw Pact to NATO.

Because his politics have always been conservative, many of his closest Hungarian allies and affiliations were right of center. And, as those closely familiar with his work in Hungary have stated in no uncertain terms “Gorka has a decades-long record as an opponent of anti-Semitism, xenophobia and anti-American sentiment in Hungary and fought to undermine elements on the political right — even going as far as helping launch a political party to push conservative voters away from anti-Semitic parties.”

Nonetheless, the flagship progressive American Jewish publication, The Forward, exploited America’s unfamiliarity with Gorka’s work as an opening for character assassination. First, it seems that some of Gorka’s connections in Hungary — though not Gorka himself — were also connected to other people or organizations that had taken anti-Semitic positions or actions.

Though Gorka’s personal track record is strongly pro-Jewish and pro-Israel, The Forward focused on the records of selected associates of his associates rather than to his own work.

By that standard, nobody who has ever associated with any American political party could escape charges of anti-Semitism.

The Forward’s scramble to make its case latched on to Gorka’s medals, and assigned them its own biased interpretation of their meaning.

But as Breitbart’s Joel Pollak, an Orthodox Jew and Gorka’s former colleague explained, that bias is badly misplaced. Different Hungarian regimes used those medals in different ways, and Gorka’s family history is consistent only with positive associations.

To put the matter into an American context, making a case against Gorka’s medals is like insisting that anyone who visits the Jefferson Memorial is celebrating slavery, or the FDR Memorial is celebrating the internment of Japanese citizens and the refusal to admit Jewish refugees from Hitler. Such conclusions are beyond absurd; they’re offensive.

When Jewish progressives ambivalent about the Palestinian flags at this summer’s Democratic National Convention feign outrage at obscure Hungarian symbols, there is more to the story than meets the eye.

The alleged evidence of anti-Semitism in Trump’s circle is such thin gruel that it has become necessary to ask what is driving it. The Forward provided the answer—courtesy of former KKK leader David Duke. According to Duke, “[Jewish groups] define an anti-Semite as someone, anyone, who opposes the organized Jewish agenda.” Duke claimed that Trump qualifies, and The Forward approvingly embraced Duke’s analysis to confirm its own biases.

Tragically, Duke’s description is not groundless—and it is a far greater condemnation of American Jewish leadership on today’s left than of the president, Steve Bannon, or Seb Gorka. Too many Jewish progressive activists equate Jewishness with what they term “social justice,” chauvinistically label this political agenda “Jewish values,” and see all opposition to progressive politics and policies as an attack on their Jewish values.

Because Trump, Bannon, and Gorka oppose the progressive agenda, Jewish progressives portray – and may truly see – them as inherently anti-Semitic. Perversely, the progressive Jewish equation of progressive values with Jewish values turns leftists with long histories of animosity towards the Jews into pro-Jewish advocates.

This bizarre bit of logic explains how progressive Jews could attack the Trump team for anti-Semitism while endorsing Louis Farrakhan’s former spokesman, Keith Ellison, to lead the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

In a new twist on the ways that Jews can become our own worst enemies, progressive members of our tribe have discovered abnegation — they reject as anti-Jewish those most concerned with Jewish survival, while embracing as pro-Jewish those who subscribe to the vilest anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.

Progressive Jewish Americans abusing Jewish history to score cheap political points are poisoning political discourse, dismissing the pain that Jews have suffered throughout history, masking the frightening rise in global anti-Semitism, embarrassing the Jewish community, harming the Jews of Israel, and defaming fine Americans.

In an era during which Democrats embrace openly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel leaders and movements, the Jewish left has launched this witch hunt against individuals — like Trump, Bannon, and Gorka — who are actively working to protect not only all Americans, but particularly the Jews, including the often-targeted Jews of Israel.

We are pained to have to write such an article, but the left’s slander of decent people who have committed their lives to helping Jews is now out of control.

It is an embarrassment, a distraction, and an affront to those chafing beneath, or fighting, the very real anti-Semitism that genuinely threatens our people.

Bruce Abramson is the President of Informationism, Inc., Vice President and Director of Policy at the Iron Dome Alliance, and a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.
http://www.newsmax.com/BruceAbramsonandJeffBallabon/anti-semitism-bannon-gorka/2017/03/01/id/776326/

(This is particularly interesting in view of the sudden nation-wide rash of visible "hate-crime" attacks on Jewish cemeteries, schools and synagogues over the past week.  Various Muslim groups, and of course the Southern Poverty Law Center, have claimed an increase in anti-Muslim "hate-crimes" and "hate-groups" too, but the FBI  -- which carefully investigates hate-crimes -- reports something different: the numbers of those supposed hate-groups have been wildly inflated, fully half the supposed hate-crimes against Muslims turned out to be hoaxes, the other half were in fact committed by other Muslims, and the one religious group most often victimized by hate-crimes is the Jews.  The identifiable group which most often commits hate-crimes against Jews is the Muslims.  I leave the readers to draw their own conclusions.)

--Leslie <;)))><   

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Truth and the Media


It seems fitting to cover this point before going back to the subject of photo-fakery and the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Earlier this week, in his usual foggy/bombastic fashion, Trump denounced the media as an "enemy of the people" because of their fakery and biases, so of course the media denounced Trump as a "fascist", a "dictator", a "political sociopath" and "mentally unfit to hold public office".  Seeing how little evidence the media gave for their claims, I'd say that -- amazingly -- Trump comes out as the more honest of the two.

Look, I've been an editor for three magazines, two newspapers, and a radio station, and I can tell you for a fact that all our media are biased -- every last one of them.

Part of this is inevitable.  First, there's the admitted theme of the publication or program;  you wouldn't expect to find stories on football coaches in The Western Horseman, and while The Wall Street Journal and The Industrial Worker might have articles discussing the same event, you can be sure that their attitudes, focus, and facts considered relevant will be quite different.

Second, there's only so much space in a publication and only so much time in a broadcast, and no matter what stories the reporters want to display, the editor must decide which ones make the cut.  The editor's decision is seriously influenced -- and ultimately limited -- by what the publisher wants the public to know.  If the particular medium is big enough, the publisher is also limited by what the CEO of the corporation that owns it wants the public to know.  Since most of our general news outlets are owned by just five corporations, that means that the attitudes of just five CEOs shape the majority of our information about the world around us.

How much do the media moguls abuse this influence?  Well, just over a century ago, William Randolph Hearst used his media empire to start a totally-unnecessary war.  A few decades later, he likewise persuaded the US congress to outlaw the hemp plant -- "Reefer Madness!" -- to protect his timber and paper-mill interests.  There's no way the contemporary media can't regard those feats with awe and envy.  The way they speak of the "power of the media", it's clear that they've mistaken their influence -- the ability to make people listen seriously to what you have to say -- for actual power -- the ability to force others to do your will.  We all know that power corrupts, and addicts;  it seems that even the illusion of power can do it.

This might explain the near-hysterical frenzy with which the media have attacked Trump since the election.  They were so certain that they had the election sewed up, that they'd persuaded the voters to consider Trump just a buffoon, that his win not only surprised them but proved they were wrong -- that they didn't have the power they thought they did.  It was a threat to their power, and there's nothing a power-junkie fears more.  That's why they've been piling on the lies, half-truths, baseless accusations and all, with a reckless disregard for the ability of the citizens to check the stories out.

The antidote for biased news is the same as it always was: to get information from as many different sources as possible, compare them, and check their sources.  Suspend belief until you verify.  Make the effort to verify before you trust.  There are enough people who do this anyway to justify Lincoln's famous quote: "You can't fool all of the people all of the time."  This is an unbearable thought -- not just to the media but to other socio-political elites, who desperately want to believe that the "peasants" they manipulate are stupid enough to deserve being manipulated -- so they do their best to deny it.  Yes, there is definitely an element of class conflict involved here.   

This is a major reason why Trump got elected in the first place.

--Leslie <;)))><   


   

    

 


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Flak-Catchers and Comparative Protests


--Leslie <;)))>< 
(I was going to continue with my mini-seminar on photo-fakery and a famous scandal, but the sheer volume of irrational news this week obliged me to write this instead.)

Do you know what a “flak-catcher” is?  It’s a person, action, object or even image intended to outrage and absorb the attention of social/economic/political enemies – particularly enemies of the emotional, biased sort.  It’s intended as a sacrifice, something to let your opponents shoot down and feel righteous about defeating, so that they’ll leave the rest of your people, actions, etc. alone – and, hopefully, reveal something about themselves to the public during the shooting.  Other terms for this are “red herring”, “bait”, “goat”, and “target-man” – which I’ve written a song about. 

A classic example of an artistic flak-catcher was the tactic used by a Hollywood scriptwriter, who worked for a big studio with a script-editor who was notorious for always meddling with any script that came across his desk.  The scriptwriter made a habit of always adding a totally-unnecessary grossly hot sex scene to every script, so that the editor could happily blue-pencil the scene – compared to which the rest of the script looked perfectly tame – feel that he’d done his duty and earned his paycheck, and would leave the rest of the script alone. 

A fine example of a political flak-catcher is the team of cabinet members that Trump has proposed to Congress.  A large number of them are right-wing fundies, obviously incompetent for their proposed jobs, guaranteed to outrage the Liberal Democrat crowd and middle-of-the-road Republicans – while making Trump look good to the foaming-fundie wing of his supporters.  Congress is already busy shooting them down, with much righteous fanfare: Mnuchin, for example, and DeVos, and I’m surprised that Sessions has made it this far.  When they’ve been cleared off, Trump can go to his supporters and speechify about having done his best but being blocked by “enemies” (he’ll doubtless choose a fancier label), which his extremist supporters will understand, if not like.  Then he’ll choose a second team of actually competent and sensible people whom Congress will have less reason (and passion) to object to.  Already the more reasonable of Trump’s picks have been accepted with little fanfare.  Note that Ben Carson was deemed acceptable as chief of Housing and Urban Development, although he has no experience with either and has proven woefully ignorant on some subjects (the pyramids were not built to store grain!);  probably this is because Carson is demonstrably not a bigot, a stupid man could not have become a successful brain surgeon, and ignorance is easily curable while stupidity is not.

The same holds true for a lot of Trump’s executive orders, but with an added twist.  His assorted “gag orders” to various federal departments are practically guaranteed to be shot down on Constitutional grounds, and couldn’t sensibly have been written except to please the Consevative crowd, test the political waters, draw the howling outrage and absorption of the anti-Trump crowd – and incidentally give Trump an excuse to save federal money.  Note how many Democrat/Liberal mayors, from Seattle to Baltimore, insisted that their cities would remain “sanctuary” cities and would not obey Trump’s orders to actively hunt for and deport illegal aliens.  Because they’re quite literally defying a presidential order, he’s legally justified in not giving them any federal money – for anything.  Then he can honestly tell the citizens that he’s already saved them several hundred millions in federal spending – at least until his executive orders are shot down by Congress or the Supreme Court.

His order about immigration is the interesting one, and not just because this was a big part of his campaign.  If you read the actual order, you’ll note that it’s very clear and carefully worded;  this is surprising coming from Trump, who’s usually a sloppy and thoughtless speaker, much given to exaggeration.  Despite the outraged squawks of CAIR and its un-indicted co-conspirators, the order is actually reasonable – as various Reform Muslim groups agree – and legal, under Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act.  The FBI and DoJ can tell you of at least 5 terrorist attacks done in America in 2016 alone, by “refugees” from those named countries – if the bureaucrats actually take the effort to look them up.  Police and citizens all over Europe can tell you of crimes and damage done by “refugees” from all seven of those mentioned countries – and that list was originally drawn up by Obama.  As for the three not mentioned, which are the sources of terrorists who have done attacks in America – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia – they can always be added later;  remember that this order only bans immigration from those seven for a limited number of months, after which the list can be changed.  This order too is intended to provoke reactions: please the Conservatives, outrage the Islamophile Liberals, see who actually considers it thoughtfully, and consider just what their resulting tactics are.  This is a testing of the waters for a more comprehensive immigration bill to follow. 

A somewhat different case is Trump’s Supreme Court choice, actually a reasonable man and a very intelligent speaker.  If the Senate accepts him, the court will go back to what it was doing during Obama’s reign, with the same political balance and Gorsuch merely taking Scalia’s place.  Already, the Democrat bell-wethers are denouncing Gorsuch on CNN, accusing him – with no citations – of being pro-corporations, anti-woman, anti-Gay, anti-environment, Islamophobic, etc., etc., down the standard list of Democrat policy sins.  It’s beginning to sound a little repetitive, a little stereotyped, a bit of a bore.

In that sense, Trump’s strategy of tossing out a horde of flak-catchers – enough to provoke the Democrats into repeating the same tactics, the same reactions, even the same phrases – can’t help but pay off.  The public has learned to notice boilerplate, and be suspicious of it.

More to the point, the Liberal/Democrats’ reactions to Trump, ever since the election, have been not just repetitive but hysterical – almost exactly mirroring the hysterical tactics the foaming-fundie Right used against Obama for the past eight years: the blizzard of lawsuits and demands for investigations, the barely-half-true-at-best accusations, the demands for legislative roadblocks and logjams, the knee-jerk opposition to anything he proposed, the out-in-the-weeds speculations based on next to nothing.  Haven’t we seen this before?  “Trump is a Nazi” = “Obama is a Muslim”, “Trump is too friendly to Putin” = “Obama is too friendly to the King of Saudi Arabia”, “Trump will sell us out to the corporations” = “Obama sold us out to the government bureaucrats”, and on and on.  The parallels are a little too noticeable, and what was laughable paranoia when the enemy said it doesn’t look that much better when your own officers say it.

The one tactic which is almost exclusively the province of the political left is the public demonstration, usually in the form of a protest march, ending in a rally, with speeches.  Its origins lie in medieval Britain, where seriously distressed subjects would march to the capital to appeal to the king for relief.  Over the centuries it evolved into something more forceful than an appeal, was often met with armed force, and from there could escalate into anything from a riot to a revolution.  In America, where the ultimate executive traditionally changed every four to eight years, it didn’t get beyond the riot stage and rarely even that far. 

Nonetheless, demonstrations are to be noticed.  The word “demonstration” comes from Latin, and means a “showing” or “pointing out”;  if nothing else, a public political demonstration is a showing of your numbers, in that sense a symbolic invasion – just as an election is a symbolic civil war.  The problems start when people lose sight of this, and start mistaking the symbol for the reality.  Unfortunately, this is where the Left has settled right now: assuming that public displays of numbers and passions have some actual political power in themselves, that enough showings and speeches and loud enough shouts will make the political machinery move the way the protesters want it to. 

If anyone remembers the Ferguson, Missouri protests of a year ago, that’s an example of the tactic gone wrong;  when various protest marches didn’t bring the desired change immediately, the demonstrations deteriorated into riots – plain threats of Give Us What We Want Or We’ll Trash Your Town.  Historically, this has been answered with force and damned little sympathy.  This does your cause no good unless you’re trying to play the Victim card, and even then it’s unlikely to work unless you have a really vast and efficient propaganda system.  The contemporary left – and the Arab world – does have a vast and efficient propaganda system, but even that has its limits.  As Lincoln – another Republican president whose election drove Democrats into frenzies – said, you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

This belief in the power of public protest grew out of the work of a forgotten but tremendously effective organization from the ‘60s: the Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam, commonly called the Mobe.  The Mobe was a collection of old labor organizers and working-class pacifists who pooled their money and experience, and concentrated on just one goal – “stop the war now” – and just one tactic: organizing big marches ending in rallies in Washington DC.  Their rules were simple;  march, speak, be always non-violent (although you can defend yourself passively, as with Aikido).  Their techniques were simple too;  in those pre-Internet days they simply wrote to every college and church and known pacifist group in the country, setting a date and promising to arrange transportation if the local group would tell them how many numbers to expect.  Then the Mobe would arrange permits, announcements, parking – and later medical clinics, porta-potties, crash space, legal services, food and drink, and training for anyone who wanted to be medics or “Mobe Marshals”: people who knew the route and schedule and service locations,  carried bullhorns and identifying helmets, marched on the perimeter of the crowd where they could see the environment clearly, advised the crowd on changes in the area, and – important point – isolated provocateurs.  The helmets were necessary, since the cops made a point of targeting Mobe Marshals and even medics, thinking they were march organizers, when in fact their chief purpose was communications.

It was at these big marches in Washington that I learned that the difference between a “mob” and an army is communications.  A crowd is not stupid;  it is primarily blind and deaf.  People who are not on the perimeter of the crowd can’t see or hear much beyond their neighbors and don’t know what’s happening out there.  The people on the perimeter – like the Mobe Marshals – must be the eyes and ears for the crowd;  they have to respond to changes by translating the information into one- or two-word chants, and shout that information into the crowd, who then pass it on.  When this is done well, you can see, as well as hear, the “information wave” passing through the crowd.  I saw this done with messages of: “Cops!  Cops!  Cops!” (along with a gesture pointing in the direction of the attack) or “Keep close!  Keep close!” when the police tried to spread us out, or “Sit down!  Sit down!” when they tried to drive us off our route.  As for slogan-chants (“Stop the war now!”) sections of the crowd would generate those for themselves;  the Mobe Marshals never had to do it.  The famous marches in Washington were effective because they could show numbers in the hundreds of thousands, all well organized and nonviolent and on point.  The Mobe was able to pull this off because those old union organizers had the sense to keep it simple: stick fiercely to their one task and their one goal. 

In time other groups with different complaints – civil rights, women’s lib, ecology, counter-culture, etc. – joined the big marches, and thereby gained reliable communications with each other, but the reliable unifying goal was simple and universal: Stop The War Now.  That’s why various little would-be Caesars – Bill Ayers comes to mind – were never able, despite their best efforts, to take over the movement and run it to their own agenda.  That’s why, when the war finally ended and the marches stopped, the whole Countercultural movement fragmented and scattered – but the fragments always retained some contact, and were able to coalesce quickly when the next war started. 

Some of those fragments – Bill Ayers comes to mind -- went off and joined the Democrat party, became the Obama backers, and decided to revive the old tactics when Trump was elected.  But there were significant differences this time around.

For one thing, the Internet today makes it quick and easy to check and verify anybody’s story – and associations, and past history – if you want to;  this means that emotional speeches with lots of logical fallacies can’t spread their effect as far as they used to.  For another, the Internet also makes it quick and easy to organize protest demonstrations – and everybody knows it;  this makes people a little more cynical about the political motivations of supposedly-spontaneous protests.  Third, the Internet (again!) has revealed the political backers behind the current wave of protests, and their connections to certain big-money manipulators – Ayers and Soros both come to mind.  Fourth, although the first wave of protests were hastily labeled Feminist, it was obvious that their real point was We Don’t Like Trump – and you can’t build a real grassroots political mass movement around a goal as narrow as that.  The march organizers themselves admitted that “we’ve got to maintain momentum” and “build a sustainable movement”, because they knew that just dislike of a politician, or even party, won’t long excite a politically experienced and cynical populace.  Even at the height of the anti-war movement, when half the country devotedly hated Lyndon Baines Johnson, they didn’t hate the rest of the Democrat party.  Soros’ money, Ayers’ ambitions, and Democrat hysteria simply aren’t enough to create a real political mass-movement – especially when the speeches begin to sound not just hysterical but repetitive.  No, this is not your daddy’s protest movement, and people can see the difference.    

What I see happening here is a wide and artful game of Red Herring.  The Bourgeois-Liberal crowd are wearing out their hysteria on flak-catcher after flak-catcher, thereby whittling away the sacrificial goats of the Fundie-Conservative crowd, and eventually coming around to accept the more reasonable of the Republican contenders and policies until Trump winds up with a team that’s competent to run the country if he does nothing else whatever but make speeches and cut ribbons.  Trump winds up the winner, despite all the flak the Left can throw.  I’ve seen bosses who ran their (successful) businesses like that!    

Now given the bumbling and sloppy speech and manners of Trump, and a good number of his team and supporters, the question is whether he’s really doing this deliberately or just blundering his way from lucky break to lucky break.  All I can say is that the proof is in the outcome, and that Trump is really not a stupid man.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Faked Photos and photo-analysis, continued

--Leslie <;)))><

Going on with "Abu Ghraib Abuse Photos" at www.antiwar.com/news/?articleid=8560 --

The second picture from the top appears much more graphic.  On a gray concrete floor with a tan wall to the left and a large wooden box to the rear right, a naked man with his face clearly visible lies stretched on the floor, grimacing, apparently in pain.  He has thick dark hair on his head and chest, and a close-shaven beard.  His crotch is coyly blurred so as to completely conceal his genitals;  this is such a common media convention that the average reader wouldn't stop to think that this shows that the picture is at least partially photo-shopped.  

The man's arms are behind his back, and the one we can see is held -- with a splayed-finger grip -- by a man standing bent over him.  This man wearing tan military-style boots, uniform pants, a black jacket and a helmet covered with a white cloth cover.  We can't see the right arms of either man, but the position of the visible arms -- and that splayed-finger grip -- suggests that the naked man's wrists are cuffed behind him.  The naked man's left leg is held at the foot, just below the ankle, by a third man -- of whom we can see only his left hand, with a wedding ring, and arm, clad in a white sleeve.

The naked man's left leg is smeared with red fluid which appears to be blood, and wrapped with a strip of white cloth tied in place with a strip of black plastic, just above the knee.  His right leg, not wrapped with anything, is banded with a symmetrical strip of matching-colored red fluid that expands into a shapeless smear on the side near the floor -- as if the blood had spilled evenly over his right leg and pooled under it while the man was lying on his right side.

In the foreground are some scraps of paper and black plastic, and smears of what looks like more blood -- but in different amounts, shapes and colors.  The largest, darkest, and closest smear, with a piece of paper lying in it, has an interesting shape: the leading edge is somewhat rounded and amorphous, but the rear edges are straight lines, meeting at a distinct angle -- which any fan of CSI would recognize as a "void".  If the blood came from the naked man, then it could only have spilled out of his left leg while he was lying on his right side, with his right leg bent.  This is also how that symmetrical stripe of blood came to spill over his right leg and pool under it.  Also, he lay in that position long enough for that amount of blood to run out of him.

So how did he come to be lying a couple feet behind that spot, and where did that small, thin, slightly paler smear between them come from?  The only possibility is that his legs at least were picked up and carried backward for a few inches, but then the side of his right leg was dragged along the floor the rest of the way to his current position.

Further details: there is a thin, faint smear of red on the side of the wooden box behind the naked man.  To the left, behind the uniformed man, extending several feet back, the floor is stained with a pool of mottled watery pink and green patches, the same green as the paint along the baseboard of the wall. This could be water reflecting the paint and thinning out more of the red fluid;  if the red fluid is blood, then it was spilled at a different time from the blood in the foreground.  Standing in the pool, a few feet behind the uniformed man, are what appear to be three mismatched bottles against the wall.

Now, given the example of the modestly blurred crotch, we must first ask "Is it real, or is it PhotoShop?"

Evidence for fakery includes the color of that red fluid.  Anyone who has studied Biology, or worked in the medical business, can tell you that the color is subtly wrong.  Oxygen-loaded arterial blood is a bright scarlet, blood returning in the veins is the purple-brown of prune juice, and spilled blood drying in the air turns steadily brown.  At no point is it the cranberry-juice purplish red of the fluid in that picture.

On the other hand, given the state of digital cameras -- particularly phone-cams -- ten years ago, it's reasonable that the coloring could be off.  Looking at the rest of the picture we see that, yes, the color contrasts are a little too garish, and with a slightly blue tone.  Yes, the color of those blood-smears is realistic.  The clutter on the floor is too random to have been posed.  Also the lighting is naturalistic, coming from the direction of the camera, and the resolution is very tight and clear.  We can assume that this picture is real.  So what does it really show?

The caption reads (emphasis mine): "An Iraqi detainee appears to be restrained after having suffered injuries to both legs at Abu Ghraib.  It is unclear whether his injuries are from dog bites."

There's an obvious fallacy in these statements from the start;  only one of his legs is bandaged.  The blood on his right leg clearly spilled on it, and wasn't shed by it, as can be deduced from the pattern of the bloodstains. There is only one injury: to his left leg.  The amount of blood spilled -- not counting the amount in the earlier, watery stain further up the hall -- indicates that the injury severed a good-sized (therefore deep) artery, even though it's small enough to be covered by that single narrow bandage.  A single deep, small, narrow wound is not characteristic of a dog bite but of a gunshot, and there is no dog in evidence.  Whoever wrote that caption was, at best, a poor observer.

From the evidence we see it's more likely that someone else produced the earlier, hosed-down bloodstain further down the hall.  The prisoner we see was shot in the leg and left to bleed for a few minutes -- why? -- then picked up for a moment while his leg was quickly pressure-bandaged to stop the bleeding.  Before the wound could be washed or treated any further, the prisoner was quickly set down again and dragged backward across the floor.  At some point his arms were pulled behind him and cuffed, and his uninjured leg was seized.

At this point it helps to review the army's and the Red Cross' investigative reports, which tell an interesting tale.  It seems that well before the scandalous Abu Ghraib pictures were "leaked", there was an attempted prison-break.  Local imams, allowed in to provide "spiritual comfort" to the prisoners, had sneaked in a few loaded handguns.  The prisoners, with or without clothes, had shot at the guards and made a break for the doors.  The guards quickly put down the attempt, usually by shooting the prisoners in the legs rather than kill them, but a few of the prisoners died anyway -- usually of bleeding out before medical help could reach them.  Once the fighting was over, the army medics and assisting guards did their best to treat the prisoners' wounds -- although some of the prisoners resisted, preferring to die as holy martyrs, which obliged the guards to restrain them for treatment.  Even the Red Cross couldn't fault the guards' behavior.

The lack of clothes was part of the prison intake procedure.  When first brought to Abu Ghraib the prisoners were stripped naked and put in cells that were bare of anything but toilets, with the lights turned off.  They were left in that state for the first 24 hours, and if they behaved themselves -- no screaming curses for hours, no throwing food or feces or urine, etc. -- then the next day the lights would be turned on.  Another day of good behavior and they'd get bedding.  It took at least three days to earn clothes, and those clothes were chosen by the staff.  This means that any prisoner who appears naked in any Abu Ghraib picture had consistently misbehaved.

From all this we can conclude that the prisoner shown in this picture was a bad actor who had participated in the jail-break and been shot in the leg.  From the evidence we can also conclude that he resisted medical treatment and had to be restrained -- and dragged away from the blood-smear -- to be treated.  More evidence for this conclusion appears in the next picture, the third down from the top.

In this picture we see a medium close-up of the lower body of an otherwise-naked man, who looks very much like the prisoner in the previous picture, lying on his back with an orange cloth spread over his crotch,  his arms behind his back underneath him, and a small but blood-smeared wound on his left leg a little above the knee.  At the top of the picture we see booted feet and a lower left leg, clad in the same pale-tan military boots and camouflage pants that we saw in the previous picture.  One of those booted feet is planted on the nearly-naked man's chest, firmly holding him still on the floor.  It's reasonable to assume that these are the prisoner and guard we saw in the previous picture.

In the foreground crouch a man, to the left, and a woman, to the right.  Both of them are wearing knitted black watch-caps that cover their hair, and rubber surgical gloves: the man's blue, the woman's white.  The man is also wearing a camouflage-patterned shirt with epaulet straps, and the woman is wearing a brown civilian shirt and a tan military flak-vest.  The man is holding a thin thread in his left hand and pulling it taut, while his right hand is pressed to the wound on the nearly-naked man's left leg.  The woman, who has a black symmetrical tattoo partly visible on her right wrist, is holding a pair of fine medical pliers of the sort called a hemostat in her right hand, at an angle which indicates she is pulling something taut, something too slender to be seen by the camera.  The woman is smiling at the camera and holding her left hand in a "thumbs up" sign of success.  The wound on the prisoner's leg is a straight-sided gash with a round hole in the center, still oozing blood but much cleaner than in the previous picture.  It looks exactly like a gunshot wound, from which the bullet has been extracted, being sutured closed.  If the patient is the same man as in the previous picture, then the woman's "thumbs up" indicates that she and the other medic have successfully closed up the torn artery that caused the large blood-smears in that picture.  The resolution of the picture is sharp and clear, and the shadows show that the light is coming from above and right.

The caption for this picture reads (emphasis mine): "A US soldier gives the 'thumbs up' sign as she appears to be stitching up a prisoner's leg wound.  It is unclear whether the injury was from a dog bite."

This is an obviously biased notation, since there is far more evidence that the man and woman are stitching up a deep wound than there is for any dog bite.  The author(s) of these captions appear to be obsessed by dog bites for which there is no evidence.

The Red Cross investigators reported that prisoners "vigorously" complained to them about being bitten by guard dogs, and showed the investigators what they claimed were dog bites.  On observation, the investigators found that the bites had been made by human teeth, in fact the prisoners' own teeth.  Other wounds which the prisoners likewise displayed proved to be made by human tools.  Why, then, did the media editors who supplied the captions on these pictures obsess on dog bites?  No one else -- except the prisoners, their sympathizers and their fellow Jihadists -- did.

So why were these two photos taken in the first place?  Clearly to document that the military guards did indeed make great efforts to save the lives and treat the wounds of the prisoners, even the bad actors who had participated in the prison-break, regardless of how hard the wounded tried to refuse treatment.  Note particularly the lighting and resolution of these pictures, which were intended to be seen clearly -- perhaps used as evidence in a legal investigation.  Compare these technical details with those of pictures which will be shown later in this series.  Also note the faces that we've managed to see clearly so far;  we'll be seeing them again as the illustrated story unfolds.  And bear in mind that the prison-break occurred several weeks before the pictures of the "prisoner abuse" were leaked to the media.

There's more of the story to come.  Stay tuned!    

      

    

   

Monday, January 2, 2017

Fake News, Faked Photos, and how to identify them


--Leslie <;)))><  

Professional news reporters, to say nothing of editors, are supposed to check out their stories: examine their sources, verify their facts, before publishing -- let alone editorializing.  Editors, at least, are supposed to do the same with photographs.  Journalism professionals are supposed to have the skills and the training to do just those things.  Seeing how many of these professionals have gotten sloppy on the job lately, I think it's a good idea if more people learn more critical thinking and verification skills for themselves.

As a training exercise, let's look at a famous scandal.  Google search "Abu Ghraib Photos", carefully set aside the initial prejudices created by the media, and view with a critical eye.  ...Hmm, it would also help to do one's homework;  read the investigative reports on Abu Ghraib done by the US Army and the Red Cross.  A little knowledge of 2006-level digital photographic technology would also be useful.  Okay.  Ready?  Hit the search button and let's go.

The first site, "Images for Abu Ghraib", features a chaotic mix of photos ostensibly taken at Abu Ghraib prison, political cartoons, photos clearly PhotoShopped, photos purported to be from the brig at Guantanamo Bay, pictures of political protests, and portraits from news reports -- a blizzard of them in no particular order.  The only unifying narrative is outrage over US military abuse of prisoners, and the only verification is the citations of where the pictures were published.  Since many of these are re-posed and/or PhotoShopped versions of each other, they clearly can't be trusted for much accurate information.  Let's move on.

The next entry is "Abu Ghraib Abuse Photos - by news - Antiwar.com", which labels its editorial position clearly, cites the Washington Post as at least one of its sources, and shows that it would necessarily exercise some editorial caution.  Going to the site, we find the photos dated to February 17, 2006 and updated to June 11, which gives us a reference point.  The headline reads: "The Washington Post has released new photos along with new information about the use of dogs on prisoners."  This phrase neatly shapes our expectations while giving precious little information.  Think: just where did the WP get those "new photos" and "new information"?  How are they verified?  We know what that phrase makes us expect, but just how are the dogs used on prisoners?  Let's take a clear-headed look at the first photo.

The picture shows a wide, plain, concrete corridor lined with multiple plain metal doors, one partly open and the rest shut.  There appear to be bundles of cloth part way down the corridor and squarish light-sources above three of the doors and the end wall, but the picture is so grainy and the resolution so coarse that we can't see any detail to be sure.  There are three men positioned in the middle of the corridor, the two nearer wearing army-style boots, desert-cammo pants and dark jackets, one sleeveless, and what seem to be knit caps -- but again, the picture is so grainy that we can't be sure about the right-hand man.  The man on the right has his hands in his pockets, and the man on the left is holding a dog by a short leash.  The dog is black and looks somewhat like a Alsatian;  its nose is pointed toward the third man, its ears are up, and it looks curious or eager.  The third man, positioned between the other two and just under ten feet further down the corridor, is crouched over with his hands raised defensively, looking toward the dog.  He appears to be either naked or wrapped in clear plastic;  again, the picture is so grainy that the viewer can't tell.  There are no injuries visible on the third man.  Although there are no windows, the corridor is surprisingly well lighted -- yet the shadows are very soft, vague, and non-directional.  That's what we see.

The caption under the photo reads, cautiously (emphasis mine): "An unmuzzled dog appears to be used to frighten a detainee at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.  Two military dog handlers told investigators that intelligence personnel ordered them to use dogs to intimidate  prisoners."  Obviously the viewer is supposed to conclude that the dog is threatening to bite the prisoner -- but what are we really seeing?

The devil is in the details -- such as, why is the picture so very grainy, or so well lit, and exactly what direction is the light coming from that casts those muzzy shadows?

According to an old friend who used to do professional photography, that graininess is consistent with digital cameras -- including phone-cameras -- of ten years ago, especially if used with an integral flash-device.  The flash had to come from the camera, but in that case the shadows would have been more clearly directional and sharply defined -- unless washed out by those over-the-door ceiling lights.  If those lights were bright enough to wash out the camera-flash, there would have been no need for the flash in the first place -- unless the whole point was to create that extreme graininess, the bad resolution that ruins the details in the picture, and incidentally makes the face of the prisoner unidentifiable.  The faces of the other two men are concealed.

By the way, Mohammed hated dogs, especially black dogs, so good Muslims are supposed to regard them as "unclean", only a little less than pigs.  A pious fundamentalist Muslim would fear any contact with the animal, not necessarily bites.  Of course, the reason Mohammed hated dogs, especially black ones, is that he made a lot of his early fortune leading a robber-band to attack caravans, particularly at night.  If the caravan included dogs, the animals would smell Mohammed and friends sneaking up and sound the alarm.  Even if Mohammed and cronies could shoot the dogs with arrows to keep them quiet, black dogs would be hard to spot in the dark.  This paints a less-than-virtuous picture of Mohammed, but the pious can always come up with an excuse for their hero.

More details later;  there are plenty of other pictures to examine.               

 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hypocrisy, Hysteria, and Trump


Sorry to check in so late, but the holiday frenzy as been keeping me busy.  Anyway--

I thought I'd seen the Democrat/Bourgeois-Liberal media dive as low as it could go in the hysterical propaganda department for the month after Trump's election -- but this month they managed to outdo themselves, heeling over into the downright absurd.  Apparently dismayed because they couldn't convince most of the public that Trump is a Nazi (because a handful of southern bigots liked him better than Hillary, Bernie, the Libertarians or the Greens -- a favor which he did not return), the Democrats got the help of the FBI (not surprising;  historically the FBI has served and protected Democrat administrations, just as the CIA has served and protected Republican ones) to claim that the Russians "manipulated" the election and Trump is a Commie dupe.  Obama is calling for an investigation, and the Dems are hoping that will somehow invalidate the election.  Wow.  Democrats, Red-baiting?!  Joe McCarthy's spirit must be laughing in Hell.

When you track the story down (an easy Google-search), what it shows is that during the past summer a pair of hackers, whose location was tracked to Russia, dug up lots of private emails doubtless discussing election strategies and tactics from the computers of the Democratic National Committee.  It's assumed (no proof) that either Putin ordered the hack or the two nerds informed him afterwards.  In any case, what the hackers did with their juicy booty was send all or most of it to Wikileaks -- which, of course, published it where anyone in the world could see it.  The information is supposed to have "influenced" the voters, and thereby "manipulated" the vote, in favor of Trump.  Trump has, in the past, mentioned that he respects Putin's political smarts.  That's supposed to prove that Trump is a Commie dupe, which might explain why the old KGB man wanted to elect the penultimate capitalist.  Uh, right.

Beg pardon, but doesn't this story sound just a little farfetched to you?  For one thing, couldn't a wily old KGB man think of a better use for those strat-and-tac information emails than to dump them onto Wikileaks, of all things?  Second, how many American voters even saw, let alone bothered to read, or believed the Wikileaks?  (I didn't.  Did you?)  Third, how many of those readers actually changed their minds, or their votes, because of what they read there?  Really after the blizzard of crap about both Trump and Hillary that's been flying around the Internet for the past year, how much evidence is there that the Wikileaks leaks didn't get lost in the shuffle?  You really should remember Lincoln's comment about the impossibility of fooling all the people all the time.  Also bear in mind that modern communications may make it quicker and easier to spread false news, but they also make it quicker and easier to verify or disprove a story;  nothing but mental flabbiness, laziness, or just plain willingness to believe keeps anyone -- including entirely too many reporters these days -- from checking a story out. 

As for respecting Putin's smarts, anyone who's studied his career -- especially against the background of Russia's history over the last 20+ years -- would, however grudgingly, do the same.  Putin is no fool, or he wouldn't have survived this long.  Neither is Trump, or he wouldn't have been successful this long.  More to the point, both of them know quite a bit about the nitty-gritty of dirty economics and economic warfare.  This is a topic on which very few Democrats have much expertise.  It's understandable that a couple of experts, like a pair of professional boxers, would size each other up and respect each other's skills -- even though they're very likely to wind up on opposite sides of the ring soon enough -- more than they'd respect some loud and inept sports-commentator.  That's also a possible reason, the only one I can think of, why Putin would rather deal with Trump than Hillary.

The Dems/liberals/media either don't understand this or just plain don't care -- and blithely assume that the American public doesn't either.  This explains why they can't seem to make up their minds whether Trump is a Nazi, a Commie, or some inexplicable mix of the two -- based on some clearly flimsy evidence and attenuated Tinkers-to-Evens-to-Chance guilt-by-association.

I honestly don't know whether to laugh at the Democrats' increasingly hysterical illogic in their assorted attacks on Trump, or to be furious that they think the majority of voters will blindly believe such crap.  Seriously, there are plenty of real complaints we could make against Trump -- his shady business practices, his tendency to thoughtlessly shoot off his mouth, his incompetence at politics (other than campaigning), his ignorance of federal law and international politics, among others -- that the Democrats don't need to invent hysterical fancies like this.  Their insistence on doing it reveals a disturbing contempt for the intelligence of the voters -- which is part of what cost them the election in the first place.  

--Leslie <;)))><