Monthly Archive: July 2017

Taking a moment out to be cynical…

What if the GOP planned all along to fail to pass a repeal bill for the ACA in both the House of Representatives and the Senate?
I can think of three very good reasons why they might want that to be the final outcome.
1. The ACA is growing steadily more popular
2. The POTUS made ACA repeal and replacement a centerpiece of his agenda, and the POTUS is unpopular
3. The POTUS promise of better insurance for less money is totally incompatible with giving rich folks a tax cut, if you try to trade the ACA off against tax policy

The GOP is, of course, hopelessly tangled up in a rhetorical cul-de-sac of its own making over the ACA. They have been promising to repeal the ACA since about the time that it was passed, and they have been bloviating and posturing to that end since 2010 (witness the number of votes scheduled in the House to repeal the ACA – up to over 60 the last time I looked).
The GOP cannot suddenly turn around and say “well, it seems that the ACA might not be all bad so let’s not repeal it”. The activist base of the party would be apoplectic with rage, and local pressure groups would immediately look for primary election targets in 2018, picking on representatives who they consider to be traitoriously disloyal. One of the reasons why so many GOP elected representatives make dingbat-crazy public pronouncements is that they are terrified of being primaried. When a representative like Renee Elmers, who was propelled into office by a Tea Party primary insurgency, can be dumped out of office by the same group of primary voters after being accused of being a RINO (a cardinal sin for any GOP political candidate), then nobody in the House from the GOP, no matter how batshit-crazy, is safe.
So, the GOP has been in rock-meet-hard-place territory. If they repeal the ACA, elected representatives fear a tidal wave of voter anger sweeping them out of office in 2018. If they abandon all attempts at a repeal, they fear primary challenges for being “insufficiently conservative” or (gasp) being named as a RINO.
So…what better option exists?
Allow the repeal bills to die due to (just failing) to get enough support.
This would be a classic tactic of virtue signalling, done all the time by politicians who want to appear tough and resolute. The world of politics is replete with examples of politicians proposing cockanamie legislation, having it shelved or voted into oblivion, and then going back to their supporters and saying “look, I tried to get it passed”.
So, the PR spin from Donald Trump that he got really close, is a classic rhetorical sleight of hand that papers over the reality that, in all probability, the majority of GOP senators and house members are glad that ACA repeal has died a death. They still have the option to slowly strangle the ACA by other means of course. That would be a cunning and slow dismantlement of the ACA without having to take ownership for publicly killing it. Think arsenic poisoning instead of shooting.



Although I am by no means a geek, I am usually regarded as one by most of my immediate family.
I think that is about to change. Now that Mary is in the middle of IT training, she is catching up fast. I may yet end up building our next home server under her tutelage.
I see a long trip to some distant wilderness area to get in touch with my inner Real Man in my future…(just as long as that does not involve hunting for my dinner with a bow and arrow…)


Jay Rosen explains the POTUS approach to the media

In his latest article at Pressthink, Jay Rosen explains how the deingration and dismissal of the media is a permanent feature of the Trump approach to governance, for a number of reasons which he explains in some detail.
Media employees and leaders who expect that he will suddenly smack his forehead one day in the near future and say “OMG I have made a terrible mistake by being mean to all those media folks – let me invite them to dinner at the White House so I can apologize” are living in cloud-cuckooland.
Trump’s entire strategy is to totally discredit the established media in order to promote only media channels that are beholden to him (step forward Breitbart), or to shift the entire focus of his communications towards direct communication with his support base, mostly using Twitter.
This is not exactly a new approach. GOP politicians have been doing this to varying degrees for a long time. Rick Perry, when running for re-election to the Governorship of Texas in 2012, persistently refused to meet with any of the Texas newspapers, most of whom endorsed his opponent, gave few interviews and almost no news conferences, and avoided debates as much as he could. Instead, he relied on his enormous fund-raising advantage to blanket the media outlets with his own adverts. Greg Abbott did much the same thing in 2016 against Wendy Davis, that time around he had an even bigger fund-raising advantage.
Distribution channel experts call this disintermediation. It has been happening in other industry sectors for decades (see the airline and travel industries, where travel agents are going out of business at a rate of knots as travelers deal direct with airlines, hotels, rental car companies etc.) If the media thought they were exempt from that trend, they clearly were not paying attention. All it needed was a political movement with the ability to either buy massive airtime on established media outlets (they don’t mind using the media channels for communication, they just don’t want any commentary or investigation), or a candidate or party with the ability to use free social media platforms as a direct communication tool. The ability to covertly flood social media channels like Twitter and Facebook with postings from fake accounts and bots has now been developed to a high degree in the last 2 years. The results can be seen easily today with analysis tools showing that 45% of Donald Trump’s Twitter followers are probably fake accounts or bots.
So, when it comes to election time, the GOP blankets the airwaves with paid adverts, and covert organizations flood social media with supportive posts and links from fake accounts and bots, while Donald Trump babbles and burbles away all the time on Twitter.
The result is likely to be the same.
The established media outlets can no longer obtain much of any airtime with the White House, and they still have not worked out what to do about it.
The media has to decide whether they want to be manipulated into playing by Trump’s rules or not. So far, all the indications are that they are unwilling to do what they should do; namely to stop attending briefings where the main content is a White House spokesperson whining about and excoriating the media for promoting “fake news”. Instead they need to be putting resources into the single most important activity that could change their image; investigative journalism. David Fahrenthold at the Washington Post has shown how to do it, with his relentless investigation of Donald Trump’s fake and bullshit charity donation trail.
A couple of dozen more people with Fahrenthold’s energy and resourcefulness might have uncovered a lot more well-researched facts by now. Instead, the media is still being played like the cheapest of cheap violins by a President whose only aim is to diminish their reputation down to something approaching zero. This is a classic rock-meet-hard-place dilemna. If the media repeats the Trump administration’s claims uncritically, a large number of people will regard them as spineless incompetents. If they critique the Trump administration claims, then Trump and his sycophants unleash a torrent of excoriation and abuse on social media. Most of the media outlets are unwilling to devote energy and time to refuting or dismantling the bullshit in a compelling way, and then telling the White House to go piss up a rope when they want props for a press conference whine-fest.
The clock is ticking. Another 2-3 years of this and the current generation of news networks will also be locked into a Dodo-like descent to extinction.


The appearance of the Scots language on Twitter

As some people will know, there are three quasi-official languages in Scotland:

1. English
There is an official dialect known as Scottish English, which mostly represents the dialect of English spoken in lowland (South Central and Borders) Scotland.

2. Scots
This is another variant of the English language, also spoken across much of southern Scotland. It represents a more archaic form of spoken and written English, and can be difficult for speakers of Standard English to understand. In practical terms, Scots and Scottish English intermingle and are often used in the same conversations.

3. Gaelic
Scottish Gaelic, a member of the Goidelic language family, is still spoken extensively in the North, East and West of Scotland. When I visited Skye in the late 1970s, a majority of residents used Gaelic in their daily lives, only using English to talk to us “bloody tourists”.

The interesting development that I am seeing on Twitter since I Followed a number of Scottish Twitter users is the use of a hybrid form of English for tweets, sort of a cross between Scottish English and Scots. Here are two recent examples:


Random thoughts – 16th July

1. The approach to gay people in Chechnya
The comments by the President of Chechnya are straight out of the eliminationist playbook. Those of us who studied European history in high school know the pathology well. In Chechnya, gay people are officially held in about the same regard as Jews were in Germany around 1941.

2. Brexit continues to be a shambles
The Brexit negotiations continue to stumble forward. All of the evidence is that the Conservative Party is now negotiating with itself over Brexit, with “hard” vs. “soft” factions arguing it out in front of a weakened Prime Minister. In the meantime, the Labour Party sits uncomfortably in nowhere-land. They seem to be working on the assumption that if they say nothing, they will profit at the next election from the Conservative party in-fighting.
The EU Referendum last year was essentially the culmination of 30 years of internecine struggle in the Conservative Party. It was a concession offered by David Cameron to (as he saw it) settle the issue of British attitudes to the EU once and for all. Except that the result did not match the script that he had written in his head, and now the UK is trying to stagger through a process that has never been tried before, with no certainty of any upside to the country.
The electorate has to shoulder most of the blame here. Although opinion polls appear to show a majority now against Brexit, that was not how people voted in the recent General Election. They punished pro-EU parties, and voted for parties whose platforms explicitly or implicitly supported Brexit. Absent a clear signal of disapproval of Brexit, this charade and shambles will continue.

3. Conspiracy Theories
One classic argument that I have read again in the last two days is that some ideas originally dismissed as conspiracy theories turned out to be true. The implication being that conspiracy theories deserve to be taken seriously.
Er, no. For every conspiracy theory that turned out to have elements of truth (and one must be careful, an element of truth does not make an entire hypothesis correct), there are dozens and dozens of conspiracy theories that turned out to be total nonsense, and continue to be total nonsense. This classic argument is somewhat analogous to the “stopped clock is right twice a day” argument, where coincidence is passed off as causation. Or, as Carl Sagan once said, “people laughed at Galileo. But they also laughed at Bozo The Clown”.


More comments about my disenchantment with Facebook

The trigger for my decision (which is probably a year overdue) to stop posting content to Facebook was the intemperate reaction of several people to my posting warning that I tend to take a hard line on people talking nonsense about the issue of abortion. I received two warnings essentially saying “be careful what you write”, and one comment essentially telling me that I needed to talk to somebody who actually had an abortion.
Now…abortion is what in the UK they term a “third rail issue”. That is a UK phrase referring to a topic that no political candidate or politician ever wants to discuss, for the obvious reason that no matter what you say, some group of people will be pissed off and angered.
Abortion, by the way, is basically a non-issue in the UK at the present time. It was accepted by the majority many moons ago that it is a private matter between a pregnant woman and her medical professionals. This is in contrast to Ireland, where until recently abortion was totally illegal. We watched in the UK for decades as well-connected or wealthy women or daughters of the well-to-do would quietly slip out of Ireland to other countries for a “long weekend” or a “minor medical procedure”.
As is usual, when you try to ban something for which a demand will always exist, whatever it is you try to ban still continues to exist, it just goes under the radar, and public hypocrisy abounds.
As per the comment that I needed to talk to somebody who has had an abortion…I have met one woman in the UK who had an abortion many years ago. Additionally, I have received one private message from a lady friend in the UK in the last 24 hours who did undergo an abortion many years ago. As one might expect, it was a matter of considerable angst for her.
One accusation commonly hurled at people who are perceived to be “pro-abortion” (that phrase, by the way, is a classic strawman fallacy, and deserves nothing but contempt as a response) is that they see abortion as like a teeth-cleaning, some trivial event that requires no thought. “Shit, I’m pregnant again! Better go to Acme Abort this weekend AGAIN”. That sort of casualness. In reality, anybody with life experience knows that is not so. I know this is not so, even though I am not a woman. So when I get comments implying that I lack the experience to comment, I’m sorry…that is a rhetorical strawman, an attempt to shut me down. No, not playing.
The attempts to ban abortion in the USA are doomed to failure, and clearly represent an impertinent intrusion on the rights of women to control their life decisions. As a libertarian, I find that sort of governmental intrusion to be flat-out wrong. I will work against it at any chance I get.
If I am told that my worldview makes me “pro-abortion”, or in favour of murder, I will dismiss those strawmen in short order. Like many statements made by people who regard abortion as a form of murder, those are not good-faith arguments. They are merely attempts to shut down debate in favor of emotional and accusatory statements.

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