Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Actual fake news

As Eric Wemple recounts in the Washington Post, the liars on the right shat themselves a mighty shit.

Then, when the real press pointed out to them the ugly stink and the spreading brown stain on their drawers, they shat themselves again. And again. And yet again.

By tomorrow, maybe they'll have soiled their pants a fifth time. (You have to read to the end of Wemple's piece to get the full aroma of the rightwing.)

There's a joke at real newspapers about "hiding a story on page one." It has happened to me; you report a significant story and for some reason -- maybe Princess Diana died that day -- nobody sees it. But once the story is rubbed on your nose, you can no longer say you overlooked it. After that, if you say you didn't see it, you're lying.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Highland clearances, American style

Two hundred years ago, when Britain was pretending to oppose tyranny at Waterloo, at home the army was used to drive crofters off their land to be replaced with sheep.

as the Countess of Sutherland wrote in 1799, tenants who refused to enlist in ‘her’ regiment, the 93rd, ‘need no longer be considered a credit to Sutherland, or any advantage over sheep or any useful animal’.

That would be the 19th countess. Breeding tells. I suppose the immorality of the market has never been more clearly expressed.

The "Highland clearances" are still a bitter memory among Scots at home and abroad, but few Americans know about our own clearances in the Southern highlands. At about the same time that the famous Scottish evictions began (which were in their turn a late extension of the robbery of the common land from the common people that had been going on in England for 200 years), the colonists in South Carolina were systematically driving the farmers out of the uplands.

Year after year, the militia would march out of Charleston in the fall, up the valley of the French Broad and other rivers and burn the crops in the Cherokee towns. (An ancestor of mine, Capt. Robert Heriot, took part in two of these genocidal raids, in 1759 and 1760.) In the spring, white settlers would occupy the empty lands.

This campaign continued in the national period, even after the admission of Tennessee in 1792.

Highland clearances continue to this day. In 1987, the Scottish poet Angus Calder wrote:

  Eric Richards’s History of the Highland Clearances (1982), (is) the work of an Australian who is bound to see them in wide geographical perspective. ‘The changes experienced in the Scottish Highland were in no sense unique,’ Richards writes. ‘The modern world economy is full of parallels.’ He finds such parallels in the Philippines and in Mexico.
He could have found them as well in west Papua, in the Kurdish districts of Iraq and Turkey, in Guatemala and Nicaragua, in Tibet, in Burma. The United States is implicated in the clearances in Turkey, Guatemala and Nicaragua, and America and her army did the work themselves in the Zippo raids in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam.
Winning hearts and minds, 1965

Friday, May 26, 2017

Book Review 389: Fighter Pilot's Heaven

FIGHTER PILOT’S HEAVEN: Flight Testing the Early Jets, by Donald S. Lopez. 223 pages, illustrated. Smithsonian

When I was about 8 years old and just beginning to read newspapers, I knew the names of more test pilots than I did big league ballplayers. The test pilots were on page one, the ballplayers were not.

These once famous men have since dropped entirely out of the script of popular culture, except for Chuck Yeager. There was a time, though, when every informed American knew names like Iven Kincheloe.

The record-setters flew out of Edwards in California, but there were many more test pilots that I didn’t know about. These men did opertional testing for the Air Force and the Navy. The Air Force men were based at Eglin in Florida, in those days a desolate, uninhabited backwater in northwest Florida.

Don Lopez, a fighter ace who had been making war in China, was assigned to the flight test squadron even before World War II ended, and the big excitement was the arrival of the first jets, notably the Lockheed P80 Shooting Star.

The P80 seems tame today, with an engine thrust less than a tenth of an F16’s and a top speed of a poky 550 miles an hour. But in the late 1940s they were amazingly fast, and Lopez and his fellow pilots spent many weekends showing off the P80 at community events.

“Fighter Pilot’s Heaven” doesn’t make any big revelations but is rather a memoir with funny stories. Like the attempt to make the P51 Mustang more comfortable on long flights by replacing the seat with a hammock.

The hammock was slung on 4 hooks. The flight surgeon who came up with this idea forgot that fighters do aerobatics. When Lopez went upside down, some of the grommets slipped off their hooks and Lopez found himself unable to lift himself by his butt to rehook them or to shake the remaining grommets off.

As a result he couldn’t see out of the cockpit nor fully control his plane.

He managed to wrestle himself into a crouched position and get down, claiming to have been the only pilot to have landed a Mustang “standing up.”

Not all the stories are so amusing. Many of the test plots were killed, some by the inherent hazards of testing technologically novel equipment but more by the foolhardiness of the pilots.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Hawaii-Hannity connection

This one is for Hawaii journalists, who will know the background.

It turns out that Sean Hannity had help in flogging the fake story about the killing of Seth Rich: Malia Zimmerman, once Hawaii Reporter.

The Washington Post reports she is not responding to attempts to interview her about her part in the fake news, described as

The story, published on May 16 by Fox reporter Malia Zimmerman, contained specific details of what had been done and what had been covered up, citing a “federal investigator” in reporting that Rich “made contact with WikiLeaks.”
If you can dish it out, you'd better be able to take it, too.

When I was reporting, I was more than once surprised -- by David Shapiro, then the managing editor of the then Honolulu Star Bulletin, for one --  by news people who refused to be interviewed about their reports.

My policy was open door. Anybody could call me and ask how I got a story, and I'd tell him. And quite a few did.

It seemed to me then, and still does, that if you expect people to talk to you, you'd better be ready to talk to them.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hey, Rube!

Remember when George Romney visited a foreign country and his career was ruined when he said, "When I came back from Viet Nam, I'd just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get."

Younger readers may not remember, it was a long time ago and American politics was different then. Recall also that the brainwashing was done by lying, corrupt American generals; some things haven't changed.

What Romney clearly meant was, they tried to brainwash me but I saw through it. Republican Party infighting was dishonest and ruthless in those days, something else that hasn't changed. (Recall, from that same time, the savage attack by Prescott Bush on Nelson Rockefeller on the occasion of his remarriage, another career-ending attack.)

Now, Wilbur Ross isn't a politician at the level of Romney or Rockefeller. He isn't a politician at all. But he is a member of Whiny Baby Donald's Cabinet.

Presumably he sometimes offers WBD advice, and perhaps WBD sometimes acts on it.

That is a scary thought.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Medical miracle

Well, maybe not a miracle, but bizarrely interesting.

But one particular gentleman really inspired Wartinger. The man rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, and then passed a small stone. Then he did it again and passed another. And then another. “That was just too powerful to ignore,” Wartinger said. “I'd been hearing these anecdotal stories for a couple years, and then I thought, okay, there's really something here.”
If you plan to do this, Dr. Wartinger found that you get the best results from riding in the last car.

Although only a preliminary study, Wartinger suggests this method might save big bucks.

I wonder what a screen of rodeo bronc and bull riders would find. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The view from the north

Land of the Morning Calm -- until the Americans came
Korea began the unbroken string of American military defeats that shows no sign of ever ending. (If Flynn and McMaster are examples of our best military leadership, that says it all.)

In the London Review of Books, Bruce Cumings rehearses the history of the Hermit Kingdom, though not as far back as he could have done. Most Americans know the name of Perry who "opened" Japan but not one in 10 million can name the American who "opened" Korea. (R.W. Shufeldt, in 1882, although the U.S, Navy had been bombarding what was then called Corea and killing Coreans since about 1870.)

After 1945, the Americans pursued the same policy in Korea that it did in Germany, China and Indochina: leaguing with fascists in the name of anticommunism. In Korea, it could not use the Japanese fascists so it used their Korean collaborators.

A vital figure in the long Japanese counterinsurgency effort was Kishi Nobusuke, who made a name for himself running munitions factories. Labelled a Class A war criminal during the US occupation, Kishi avoided incarceration and became one of the founding fathers of postwar Japan and its longtime ruling organ, the Liberal Democratic Party; he was prime minister twice between 1957 and 1960. The current Japanese prime minister, Abe Shinzo, is Kishi’s grandson and reveres him above all other Japanese leaders. Trump was having dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Abe on 11 February when a pointed message arrived mid-meal, courtesy of Pyongyang: it had just successfully tested a new, solid-fuel missile, fired from a mobile launcher. Kim Il-sung and Kishi are meeting again through their grandsons. Eight decades have passed, and the baleful, irreconcilable hostility between North Korea and Japan still hangs in the air.
Although supporting fascism cost America a great deal in Vietnam, in the long view it could be argued that it turned out OK in Germany, the Philippines, Turkey, Indonesia and South Korea. All eventually adopted at least semi-real democratic governments.  In 2017, though, it does not look as rosy as once it did.

Iran, the Philippines, Turkey and -- perhaps -- Indonesia are not models of democracy (despite the elections this weekend in Iran).  But Korea is the example, above all, of the proposition that maybe it would have been a better idea to have supported democrats, however messy that appeared at the time.

It is not merely that by supporting fascists the United States became morally responsible for several genocides; according to Cumings, the toll in Korea was of Rwandan proportions.

There is a strange gap in Cumings' narrative. He says

 After the Americans left in 1948 the border area around the 38th parallel was under the command of Kim Sok-won, another ex-officer of the Imperial Army, and it was no surprise that after a series of South Korean incursions into the North, full-scale civil war broke out on 25 June 1950.
As too few of us know, the United States was making war against communist states in the late '40s: in Ukraine, China, Korea and elsewhere. To do so in Korea, using South Korean surrogates, was especially reckless, since the South Korean government had no military of its own (only a constabulary of about 8 divisions) nor any American backup.

The Soviets and the Chinese had no option for direct retaliation, but the North Koreans did, and they used it.
After the Chinese routed the American-South Korean invaders of the north, and were pushed back in turn, the US Army had to acknowledge it was beaten. It then turned to a campaign of pure slaughter.
17 of every 20 buildings -- most necessarily of no military significance -- in the north were bombed, and unnumbered Chinese and Koreans were shelled along the inactive front lines.

The code name for the policy --it cannot be called a strategy -- was significant and meant to be: OPERATION KILLER.     

Under these circumstances, it is unsurprising that the North Koreans consider that any and all American policies are aimed at regime change, or that they might be prepared to go to any extreme to counter them.

Liberals made fun of Trump when he said, who knew health care could be so complicated. They might want to examine their consciences (if they have any in this area)  when it comes to policy in the Land of the Morning Calm.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Even the 99% cheat

Forsooth! According to UBS -- which ought to know as it is one of the crookedest banks in the world -- people looking for auto loans are hyping their credit scores.

Golly! I wonder where they ever got the idea to do that?
The report raises questions about one of the key arguments for investors not worrying about consumer credit, and car loans in particular: borrowers’ credit scores are broadly rising, and have been higher for recent auto loans than they were before the financial crisis. Those scores have been climbing while auto lenders loosen many loan terms, including allowing longer payback periods, the strategists wrote.

“Everything but credit scores have been eased in lender underwriting,” Mish said. “Loan terms are stretched out, interest rates are aggressive, but there may be an over-reliance on credit scores, and that’s the danger.”
The story at Bloomberg says:

A growing number of borrowers have searched on the Internet for “credit score,” signaling that borrowers may be getting better at figuring out how to game their credit scores, the strategists said.

That despite the fact that every time you inquire about your score you get dinged by the rating agencies.

I expect the combination of rightwing economic idiocy and Whiny Baby Donald incompetence will generate a crash; perhaps not a big one.

Maybe auto lending is where the crack will open. 

And perhaps the bloom is fading on WBD's stock bouquet, if today's 370-point stock dive indicates anything. Bloomberg also worries that old, rich Americans are not spending their dough.

Get out the tiny violin.

Free Kurdistan

Apart from celebrating the delectability of greasy pork, RtO's consistent purpose has been to advocate a free and independent Great Kurdistan.

This would require breaking up Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. Two down, two to go.

Breaking up Turkey looks like a better and better choice, all on its own.

Are there any despots left that Trump hasn't stroked?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Book Review 388: The Tools of Empire

THE TOOLS OF EMPIRE: Technology and European Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century, by Daniel R. Headrick. 221 pages. Oxford paperback

Professor Daniel Headrick contends that historians of imperialism have ignored or even denied the impact of technology on the success of 19th century imperialisms. If so, the imperialists themselves were in no doubt.

The American imperialist novelist and journalist Richard Harding Davis often used the phrase “Civilize ‘em with a Krag” in his books, meaning the Krag-Jorgensen rifle that the U.S. Army used to slaughter Filipinos.

Although Headrick’s premise is at least dubious, his little book (after subtracting notes, it is scarcely 175 pages long) is a lively rehearsal of the major innovations that made imperialism easy. And he supplies a number of provocative conclusions.

One is that the distance between European technique and local skills was never exceeded at any time or anyplace in history, and the greatest distance was attained in the final quarter of the century during the scramble for Africa. At times, intruders encountered people who had never heard of a firearm or a white man.

Second, though, is that the distance was narrowing quickly. By 1896, the Abyssinians had firearms as good as the invading Italians (obtained from the Italians, thus confirming one of Lenin’s most famous aphorisms before he even made it). So the Italians were defeated and humiliated by the Africans.

It was a lesson that the Americans should have studied. The 19th century was only a golden interlude for imperial technology, and by the 1950s brown people throughout the world were learning to counter firepower and fast transportation with concealment and guerrilla tactics. The United States has lost every war it has participated in since, with one exception.

Even before Adowa, Headrick says, the cost advantage of technology was narrowing rapidly. Britain was able to take over India on the cheap, but just a short time later the French had to pay a high price to do the same in Algeria.

Firearms are not the only, or even the primary, example of decisive imperial technology. In fact, Headrick identifies 19th century imperialism as an early example of an information society, and claims that information (and organization) rather than machines comprised the decisive technological advantage.

His list of key advances includes iron steamships, breechloading repeating rifles and machines guns, flat-bottomed river gunboats, submarine telegraph cables, quinine, the Suez Canal and railroads. He gives just two words to canned food, although in at least one case, canning is credited with conquest. An African economic historian says Uganda was taken over by “British herring.”

Generally, colonial needs did not drive technological advances, although occasionally they did. The first boat made with a steel hull was used by David Livingstone, and the first one of aluminum was used by the French to help penetrate Sudan.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Could RtO have been wrong?

I have had a lot to say about Timothy Snyder's "On Tyranny," both directly and as a background to my numerous posts about the  neonazi style of President Trump. I am not taking any of it back, but there has been some dissent in the comments, so here's an example of someone who does not think Snyder did a persuasive job on Whiny Baby Donald.

 Yet by resorting to mention of Hitler so early and often, Snyder risks sapping the sort of resistance he wants to encourage.
This is Thomas Meany using Godwin's Law to stop discussion; but, as I wrote last week, what if the discussion is about actual nazis?

Way back in my first list of parallels between WBD and Htler (or Mussolini or other despots), I noted that there are fundamental differences between the USA in 2017 and Germany in 1933.

For one, WBD doesn't have a private army of 3,000,000 thugs. For another, America doesn't have 25% unemploymnt, although to listen to WBD you'd think maybe we do.

Meany is writing in the London Review of Books, whose local readers have a much closer relationship to actual nazis than we Americans do. (In the same issue there is a hilarious essay on the burning of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford in 1926 and its surprising [to me anyway] connection to fascism. (The essayist, Richard Wilson, fails to mention that 1926 was the year of the General Strike and a high point of fascistic hysteria in England. )

Europeans have a more intimate connection to fascism in its many guises than Americans do.  There are fascist regimes in Europe now. An actual fascist -- rather than the "ersatz fuhrer" (as Meany calls him) that we had running in November -- was running for president of a nation with a permanent seat on the Security Council just last week.

Snyder, though an American, has been immersed all his professional life in European totalitarianism. He understands, if other Americans do not, that fascism is qualitatively different from other kinds of totalitarianism, no matter how noisome those were.

I don't think Snyder was calling for Americans to rip up the cobblestones and turn over the streetcars to erect barricades. (It is a measure of the political difference between America and Europe that we don't have cobblestones or streetcars.) It seems to me that he was calling for Americans to remember what our civic virtues are supposed to consist of,  and to renew our dedication to living them.

And to recognize a neonzazi when he rides into town.

The events of the past week reinforce all that.

I have been looking over David Low's "Years of Wrath," a collection of his cartoons in the Evening Standard during the years of fascism's first ascendancy. Europeans (or some of them) were concerned about interference in American elections even before I was born.

The strong resentment is not so obvious any more, is it?


Friday, May 12, 2017

How Hitler did it

The daily probes to see how little the American public cares about the Constitution have gotten occasional comment here. Not nearly all of them have been noted by RtO, but the Internet is a big place and you can find others if you care to.

Less noted, except at RtO, are the moves by Trump that parallel the administrative and governing moves that Hitler made in the early days of his chancellorship.

The most important tool Hitler had is one that America does not provide its presidents; Article 48 of theWeimar constituton allowed for rule by decree. Bruning, the Catholic Center chancellor, used Article 48 because the extremists in the Reichstag had made legislation impossible. Trump, by the way, occasionally uses theword decree. He is the onlyAmerican resident I know of who ever used the word.

However,  administratively, the most damaging move Hitler made was to appoint Goering police president of  Prussia.  Prussia was only astat, although a big one; it held almost half the German population in 1933.

In this case, the U.S. Constitution provides greater power to the chief executive. The job of police president combined, at a state level, the functions of a minister of justice and a chief of police. TheAttorney General (minister of justice) and chief of police (FBI) are national, not only state, posts.

With the appointment of Sessions and the firing of Comey, Trump is just about in the situation of Hitler -- or worse -- as regards administration of law and police power. Sessions has already reneged on his promise to the Senate to recuse himself, Rosenstein has set a record for destroying a reputation by cozying up to Trump and we will see who is put forward as chief of police.

The laboratories of democracy

The states are the laboratories of democracy, and the Trump administration wants to devolve government there.

 What could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Bad vibes

A Huffington Post story gives some background to an argument made by the Trump administration in the hearing yesterday about the Muslim ban.

The dissents, even at the time, were furious. “May a State in order to avoid integration of the races abolish all of its public schools?” Justice William O. Douglas asked in his dissent.

“I had thought official policies forbidding or discouraging joint use of public facilities by Negroes and whites were at war with the Equal Protection Clause” of the Fourteenth Amendment, Justice Byron White wrote in another dissent. “Our cases make it unquestionably clear, as all of us agree, that a city or State may not enforce such a policy by maintaining officially separate facilities for the two races. It is also my view, but apparently not that of the majority, that a State may not have an official stance against desegregating public facilities and implement it by closing those facilities in response to a desegregation order.” 

The ruling in Palmer v. Thompson didn’t explicitly uphold segregation. But it did call for courts to avoid investigating the constitutionality of officials’ motivations.

Alexander Graham Bell used to admonish his children: Never impute motives. And when it comes to Whiny Baby Donald, there is always a question whether he understands his own motives. So it's a difficult situation. But we do not have to impute motives to Trump. He's been explicit.

To believe the orders were not Muslim bans, the courts (and public opinon) would have to take judicial cognizance that the president's statements are unreliable or meaningless.

A difficult siuation.

Palmer might never have had to be litigated if Jackson had done what Raleigh, N.C., did.

I moved to Raleigh in April 1963 when I was 16. I had come from Georgia, where the civil rights movement had not yet made itself felt in my restricted high school world.

North Carolina was different. It had 5 integrated high schools (vs. 0 in Georgia) and I enrolled in one. Almost immediately, I was invited to attend a march demanding integration of the State Theater (a private move house, not a government facility). I marched and it changed my life -- thank you Mary Lyn and Tommy Field.

But not completely and not so fast.

I spent a lot of the hot summer of 1963 at a municipal swimming pool within walking distance of my house. A lot of my new high school friends did, too, although none of the black students.

They did not live within walking distance of the pool and besides -- although this was not something I thought about -- it was segregated by law.

Over the winter, the city desegregated the pool. I don't know whether that was done by court order or a sense of right. (Note this was 8 years before the issue came up in Jackson.)

I didn't go to that pool again. The next summer,  I was working a job that didn't leave  much time for swimming, and none of my friends was at the pool anyway. I could see that as I walked past because everybody in the pool was black.

I remember thinking, I had a lot of fun at that pool, it's nice the black kids get to do it, too. I didn't occur to me that I should go integrate it. Desegregation is not the same as integration.

Whether the courts find that Trump's order is legally sustainable or not, it's morally wrong, for the same reason it was wrong to keep black kids out of the Raleigh pool.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Gangdom style

As long as there have been cities, there have been street gangs. In Shakespeare's day, London seethed and trembled at the prospect of rioting apprentices.

On the 1840s, Manhattan was regaled and repulsed by the violent attacks of gangs with  names like the Dead Rabbits.

Just 50 years ago, the fictional but lifelike Jets and Sharks rumbled with tire chains and knives.

Not much changes in the structure and habits of gangdom. But one thing has. Read this Los Angeles Times report of some gang attacks n Chicago yesterday and see if youcan guess what it is:

Two people were killed and eight others were wounded in an attack at the site of a memorial for a man who was slain earlier Sunday in the Brighton Park neighborhood, police said.


The arming of America has not made America safer.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Book Review 387: S.S. Great Eastern

S.S. GREAT EASTERN: The Greatest Iron Ship, by George S. Emmerson. 182 pages, illustrated. David & Charles

Great hardly begins to characterize the ship that was originally to have been named Leviathan.  In burthen, she was as big as a World War II aircraft carrier, though not so long. She was too big — no ship as big was built again for 50 years — but she was exactly the right size.

If ever life played a joke on technology, it was with the Great Eastern. The first captain of this huge ship proved unable to manage a dinghy while going to board her and was drowned. It cost more to launch her than the original estimate to build and launch her.

George Emmerson’s biography — claimed to be the first — reveals a more interesting story than the common image, which is of a jinx ship, built too big by self-deluded technocrats.

It turns out, the most interesting part is not the ship — though she is full of interest — but the finances.

I.K. Brunel’s design pushed to the limit of 1850s materials and understanding but was successful. It was capitalism that failed.

The projectors did not have enough capital, but worse yet, some of them had more or less secret designs to have the ship fail: think of “The Producers” set in a shipyard. Add to that financial shenanigans that today are, at least nominally, reprehended, and even without her repeated bad luck, Great Eastern was sailing for trouble.

To begin with, her size. The problem to be solved was similar to the problem of a trip to Mars and back today: how to get to Australia in good time, and back.

Steam, rather than sail, but there were scarcely any coaling stations in the Southern Hemisphere, so the ship had to carry fuel for a round trip. That accounts for her size. (Intermediate between the big steam ship and the Mars trip was the problem of airplane flights between England and Australia; the answer had to be flying boats because there were no landing fields.)

The ship had to be iron (this was before the advent of cheap steel) so Brunel designed a bridge that would float. He added features that are still not common in ships: complete compartmentation and a double bottom. The ship was almost impossible to sink, which — jinx alert — was proved when she ripped her hull on a poorly charted reef outside New York Harbor.

A similar accident sank the Titanic. One difference was that Brunel designed a genuine two-hulled-ship, with coal bunkers inboard of the inner hull. Titanic was, in theory, double-hulled, but the space between the hulls was not left void but used for coal. When it came time to close off the openings, coal dust in the rails for the sliding doors made that impossible.

Financial misadventures, including one of the unregulated market’s frequent crashes, meant that S.S. Great Eastern was not used to carry passengers and freight to Australia. Instead, she was sent between England and America, where she was too big to compete with smaller ships.

And here she did prove sinkable. A poorly thought-out heat exchanger (not Brunel’s design) blew out, setting off a series of failures that left the ship wallowing in a storm. The company’s chief engineer was aboard but incompetent.

Luckily, an American engineer sailing as a passenger stepped in with a jury repair of the broken rudder and saved the ship.

There are numerous other fascinating anecdotes in Emmerson’s short book, many reflecting poorly on Victorian manners and morals, but for this review one more will suffice.

When it came time to lay an Atlantic telegraph cable, the Great Eastern proved just right for the task, but some of her owners had interests in competing cables and apparently put saboteurs aboard to ruin the cable by spiking it with wires to cause shorts underwater. 

When one thinks of the competing private firms offering to send travelers into space, it might be worth remembering that.

Where Godwin's Law does not work

"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1" The unstated premise is: this is a bad thing.

The flaw in Godwin's Law is that there really are nazis. If you are not a nazi and tend to avoid places where nazis congregate, it can be too easy to forget that.

I had not visited lately so had missed Dok Zoom's curious post on April 11, "Oh Look, Nazi Flat Earthers. Aren’t You Surprised??"

Well, yes, I was; and yet I wasn't, due to the phenomenon of crank magnetism. Anyway, Dok linked to a site called We Hunted the, which looks to be worth bookmarking.

A little bit of this goes a long way, but it is worth reminding yourself from time to time that there are people out there like that, and that they probably look harmless.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Cow College was never like this

I went to one frat rush party, over 50 years ago, and there was underage drinking going on. And I saw classmates pass out from booze and being dragged away at football games.

But I never heard of "back-packing" until now. Possibly that was because Moo U didn't offer any 15-foot flights of stairs to fall down.

In a group text message shortly before midnight, one of the fraternity members wrote: “Also, Tim Piazza might actually be a problem. He fell 15 feet down a flight of stairs, hair-first, going to need help.”
The brothers later returned Mr. Piazza to the couch, the indictment said, where they were seen “back-packing him” -– putting a backpack, stuffed with textbooks, on his back to weigh him down, so that he would not roll over and choke on his own vomit.
Or maybe we were just naive.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Low productivity

The session of the state Legislature that concluded today was the least productive in the 30 years I have lived here, or perhaps ever. The ouster of Joe Souki as speaker of the House suggests that the Legislature's fundamental problem  -- Oahucentricity -- will get worse, not better.

Maui has always punched far above its weight in the postwar Legislatures, starting with Elmer Cravalho and Mamoru Yamasaki. I covered both men at the tail ends of their careers, and while they were as different as they could be, they did each have clear ideas of what they wanted and knew how to get much of it. Roz Baker and Joe Souki had less success leading the House and Senate but some, and at least they saw to it that Neighbor Islands' issues were not swallowed in the goo of Oahu parochial concerns.

Now the leadership is all Oahu, and since they could not even come to a vote on Honolulu rail, I doubt next year will be productive. Today's story in The Maui News about the inability of the legislators to deal with the Front Street Affordable Apartments, which ought to have been simple despite the heavy breathing of the speculators' attorney, predicts the future. Don't expect any attention to Neighbor Islands issues from here on out.

There's a problem in the American system whenever one party dominates a legislature. Party maneuvering takes precedent over governance. We see it in the Congress now, but it afflicted John Adams and, even more, James Monroe. It's been an unforeseen flaw since the very beginning and is baked in.

Religious fantasies

Whiny Baby Donald continues probing the Constitution to see how much of it Americans will surrender without a fuss. (Mort Sahl said Nixon read the Constitution looking for loopholes.)

 That explains why his order on religion in politics is so much less antiAmerican than the draft leaked three months ago. Remember, though, that whoever wrote that draft is still working for Trump.

And filling the empty spaces in his head with ideas like this:

“For too long, the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith, bullying and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs. You are now in a position where you can say what you want to say.”
You laugh, but there are millions and millions of Christians who imagine they are being persecuted. Recall the undying alarm in the churches about the imaginary government move to suppress religious broadcasting.

As a relic of my days as a newspaper book reviewer, I get constant offers of strange books. Some are very strange.  Last week, I got this pitch:

 In a daring new political thriller, lawyer and author Richard T. Dolezal imagines a world where people of faith must strive to take their country back. In The Fourth Vow, a chance discovery gives the Catholic Church irrefutable proof that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is executing a decades-long strategy to destroy Christianity in America. Pope John Paul II retains famed trial lawyer Carson Elliott to confront the ACLU. The ACLU responds by having Elliott killed. And so it begins.

“And look at society today.  It is quite easy to observe how vulgar, uncaring, coarse, rude and sexually-explicit our culture has become, and how unpatriotic and poorly informed some people are," Dolezal says. "Those of us who have lived awhile can remember a better society. In my book, I suggest that an ‘incremental evil’ has slowly insinuated itself into our daily discourse and dulled our senses to its ugliness. Where are the Christians pushing back?”

In the Rose Garden.

Need it be said that you have to be stone crazy to imagine the ACLU as a hit squad? 

Monday, May 1, 2017

How far would Trump go?

He has already gone very far.

The administration’s hard line on the standard for criminalization has gone so far as to alarm several members of the Supreme Court, as demonstrated during an argument before the Court last week (Maslenjak v. United States), in which a Justice Department lawyer argued that, as The Times reported, “the government may revoke the citizenship of Americans who made even trivial misstatements in their naturalization proceedings,” including not disclosing a criminal offense of any kind, even if there was no arrest. To test the severity of that position, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., confessed to a crime — driving 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone many years ago without being caught. He then asked if a person who had not disclosed such an incident in his citizenship application could have his citizenship revoked. The lawyer answered, yes. There was “indignation and incredulity” expressed by the members of the Court. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy told the lawyer, “Your argument is demeaning the priceless value of citizenship.” Roberts put it simply. If the administration has its way, he said, “the government will have the opportunity to denaturalize anyone they want.”
Timothy Snyder, who I have written about before, says he believes Trump is ready to go much further.

Snyder writes in his book that Trump will likely have his own conflict that brings about the “massive reckoning” Bannon seeks. Something like Hitler’s Reichstag fire that is either a war with North Korea, Iran, China, Russia or any of the other countries he’s antagonized over the last 100 days. In fact, Snyder said that it was “inevitable” that Trump and his team would try such an obvious stunt.
“Whether it works or not depends upon whether when something terrible happens to this country, we are aware that the main significance of it is whether or not we are going to be more or less free citizens in the future,” Snyder explained. “My gut feeling is that Trump and his administration will try and that it won’t work. Not so much because we are so great but because we have a little bit of time to prepare. I also think that there are enough people and enough agencies of the government who have also thought about this, and would not necessarily go along.”