On Russia, On America

You know what really sucks? Suppose that it turns out that Russia didn’t intervene in the 2016 election. Suppose that Paul Manafort’s old business interests had nothing to do with his work for Trump. Suppose that Roger Stone knew about the Wikileaks emails before they released because he’s psychic. Suppose that Ambassador Kislyak is just a great guy to hang out with, but also horribly forgettable. Suppose that Trump changed the Republican platform to back down on Ukraine, not for some quid pro quo, but because he is a secret pacifist. Suppose that any hacks, had they happened, would not have affected the election outcome in the slightest. Suppose that Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi are right. Suppose that you know all this because you are Vladimir Putin.

So you are Putin, sitting innocently in the Kremlin, stunned by these aspersions against your character, so hurt that you can’t even enjoy pistachio ice cream anymore. I feel bad for you, Hypothetical Vlad. But ask yourself this: WHY SHOULDN’T YOU INTERFERE IN U.S. ELECTIONS? What is to stop you from actually carrying out all these crazy actions that sore loser beta cucks have accused you of, in 2018, 2020 and beyond? Think for a second:

  1. The U.S. president isn’t bothered by it. In fact, he asked you to do it.
  2. The Speaker of the House isn’t bothered by it. In fact, he refused to sign a joint letter condemning it.
  3. The Senate Majority Leader isn’t bothered by it. In fact, he quashed the White House’s planned bipartisan announcement of your alleged hacking efforts.
  4. The House Intelligence committee chair isn’t bothered by it. In fact, he shares incoming intelligence with the president rather than his own committee.
  5. The House Oversight committee chair isn’t bothered by it. In fact, he doesn’t think rich people can be corrupt.
  6. The Republican National Committee chair (now White House Chief of Staff) isn’t bothered by it. In fact, if you hack him, he’ll deny that you did it!
  7. The Director of the FBI is bothered by it, but he would never, under any circumstances, insert himself into an ongoing investigation. No sirree.
  8. The national media is thoroughly objective and is insulted by the very thought that they’d be bothered by anything. However, this story seems to have some legs and they will investi-EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS. (UPDATE: SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE SUSAN RICE)
  9. Segments of the left aren’t bothered by it, not when Russia is a DISTRACTION from the more important task of tarring-and-feathering the Clintons. In fact, some of them have even been your dinner guests.
  10. The Democratic Party is extremely bothered by it, but they are completely out of power in the federal government and only control the legislatures AND governor’s mansions of six states.

The Democratic Party is the only American institution willing to do something. Nobody else would stand in your way. You could do it. You could easily do it. Again, and again, and again.

That is why the Russia investigation is so important, even if nobody in America changed their vote because of the DNC emails. America’s institutions have failed to the extent that they will accept foreign intervention in America’s democratic process itself. The very lifeblood of our country. If Putin were abducted by aliens tomorrow we’d still be stuck with the assholes who allowed this to happen and will continue to allow this to happen. The rot goes deep. The only way to protect our democracy from foreign intervention is to fully investigate everything, and to punish whatever wrongdoing is revealed, through the justice system and through the ballot box. Otherwise, truly, we will have asked for it.

This is NOT Fine
By KC Green
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Favorite Trump Nicknames?

il-duce-and-il-douche
Source: Some forum user

I’ve seen some that are real gold. Notable examples:

  • Agent Orange
  • Benedict Donald (watch this one!)
  • Cheeto Benito
  • Cheeto Caligula
  • Cockwork Orange
  • Dolt 45 (wunderbar)
  • Drumpf (not my favorite, but must be included)
  • Idiot Amin
  • Il Douche
  • Mango Mugabe
  • Mango Mussolini
  • Shitgibbon
  • Twitler
Anything to add?

Resistance, Russia & Why the Atlanta Falcons Lost the Super Bowl

As one friend recalled, we used to go days, sometimes weeks, without even thinking about Obama. Perhaps that was never the case for feverish Tea Party types and conspiracy-minded birthers—which might help explain why we are where we are today—but that is how a democracy is supposed to work. Even under the worst years of George W. Bush, he wasn’t chronically foremost in my thoughts. As another friend put it, there is something deeply totalitarian about continuously being forced to ponder the executive branch of your government: such preoccupations are neither normal nor healthy.

Thomas Chatterton Williams, “All Trump All the Time,” February 8, 2017

Now lovely Venus doth her son persuade
To seek the walls, and townward turn his train,
And deal swift havoc on the foe dismayed.
While here and there Æneas scans the plain,
Still tracking Turnus through the ranks in vain,
Far off the peaceful city he espies,
Unscathed, unstirred, and in his restless brain
The vision of a greater war doth rise;
Larger the War-God looms, and to his chiefs he cries.

Virgil, The Aeneid, Book XII, a long time ago

Last Sunday, the idiot Atlanta Falcons, who had held the evil New England Patriots to three points for the first 43 minutes of the Super Bowl, gave up 31 points in the remaining 17 minutes of regulation and four minutes of overtime to complete the greatest choke in NFL history. Despite this collapse, most people have correctly blamed the Falcons offense rather than the defensive unit for the loss. The Falcons defense was on the field for 99 snaps! The average number of snaps a unit saw in the regular season was 64. So the Falcons defense was forced to play a game-and-a-half of football on the sport’s biggest stage. Moreover, they were playing aggressive man coverage, rather than a zone defense which waits for the offense to come to it. They were utterly exhausted by the end. As people who’ve played football will tell you, offense is always less draining than defense. The offense has a gameplan that it must execute; it knows exactly what it has to do every time it lines up. On the other hand, the defense’s goal is to stop the offense. It has to read and react to an unknown situation each time. The wide receiver has to run his assigned route, and that’s it. The cornerback has to anticipate every route the wide receiver might run, then work extra hard to correct any mistakes he makes. Chasing is harder than leading. Unless you play for a team in the habit of spying on other teams’ practices and learning their gameplans, on defense you will become tired faster.

Knowing that defense is harder than offense is important as we consider our response so far to Trump. I’ve been extremely impressed by the scale and intensity of protest. But I’m also mentally exhausted, and it hasn’t even been a month. We have almost 50 to go. Reacting to all the horrible stuff is draining. This is the point where I’m supposed to say that everybody’s doing it wrong and we should be primarying Joe Manchin figuring out what to call ourselves ignoring distractions and focusing on one thing, but that’s stupid. Surely the world is wide enough for multiple simultaneous actions. But just like the Falcons got gassed, resistance is taxing. It feels like we’re running back and forth between multiple fires. And in a sense, we are playing into Trump’s tiny hands, in that the issues we protest are things that he loves to talk lie about. In contrast, think of issues that Trump hates talking about: Tax returns. Sexual assault. Russia (hoo boy, Russia). When we go after these issues, then it’s team Trump that must react to our actions. Then they can be the exhausted ones, terrified, unsure of what will happen next. Other than Sally Yates, nobody in the administration has lost their job because of Trump’s executive orders. The Russian issue has already bagged us Flynn. The Congressmen fleeing their own town halls have been cowed into submission. But we still need to get them out of Congress. This war will be fought on multiple fronts, defending the things that make us strong and attacking the things that make them weak. It feels good when we can go on the offensive.

(Image source: ESPN)

They’re gonna get worse.

“Mademoiselle, I beseech you, do not do what you are doing.” “Leave dear Linnet alone, you mean!” “It is deeper than that. Do not open your heart to evil.” Her lips fell apart; a look of bewilderment came into her eyes. Poirot went on gravely: “Because — if you do — evil will come … Yes, very surely evil will come … It will enter in and make its home within you, and after a little while it will no longer be possible to drive it out.”

—Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile

There’s a good article up on Slate (with some good illustrations) comparing Donald Trump to the snake oil salesmen of yore and present. It focuses on why we shouldn’t expect his supporters to turn on him any time soon.

There are many who hope Trump’s supporters will hold him accountable. That they will insist he fulfill his promises about jobs or universal health coverage—and when those promises are broken, that their fervent support will turn into rage at having been duped, causing Trump anguish and eventually costing him re-election.

This is wishful thinking. Trump’s rise to power has followed a similar trajectory to that of quacks who peddle panaceas to the desperate—a bizarre and heartbreaking world I’ve long studied. Just like them, Trump will fail to deliver. But his supporters will find a way to exonerate him. Consider the ability of one “Archbishop” Jim Humble—a former gold prospector who claims extraterrestrial lineage—to persuade parents to pump their autistic children full of Master Mineral Solution, even though MMS, when activated by citric acid, becomes a dangerous form of industrial bleach. Or “Gerson” therapy evangelists, who talk cancer patients into paying thousands to detoxify with organic juice at a Tijuana, Mexico, clinic, despite studies showing the therapy is ineffective (unsurprising given that it was developed not by oncologists, but an early 20th-century Viennese doctor named Max Gerson as an unsuccessful tuberculosis treatment).

When people make big bets on miracle cures that fail to work, they rarely turn against the treatments or their merchants. Instead, they rationalize their misplaced faith, in order to save face, remain hopeful, and preserve an identity that’s defined by their courageous ability to reject the status quo.

[…]

The process of embracing a charlatan’s empowering vision is not rational, which means that rational arguments are unlikely, in isolation, to dispell it. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that people cling tenaciously to their worldviews, and conflicting data may actually strengthen their beliefs. (Just look at this family who thinks Trump is “a man of faith who will bring Godliness back.”) To renounce Trump would mean admitting that one’s worldview—of a country wracked by carnage, as the president put it in his inaugural address, and a truth-telling hero who can heal it—is fundamentally mistaken. And that can also mean confronting existential panic without a panacea. It is much easier to forgive Trump for not locking her up than to wrestle with such truths.

Surprisingly, though the article discusses concepts like “epistemic uncertainty” and “sunk cost,” it never calls this fallacy by its name: cognitive dissonance. I think that people generally act first then justify later. When your actions conflict with your beliefs, changing your beliefs is always easier than changing your future actions, which is inconvenient, or changing your past actions, which is impossible. If Trump voters are asked to reconcile the action of voting for a racist with the belief that racism is bad, chances are they’ll decide that racism is good. But that depends on how his presidency goes.

To paraphrase, participants in the foundational experiment on cognitive dissonance were more likely to say a boring task was fun if they were paid $1 for it than if they were paid $20. Many people would have expected the opposite. But you don’t need to tell yourself that you enjoyed something boring if you were richly rewarded for it. That’s what the money is for. On the other hand, if you just got one measly buck, the pressure on you to justify your participation is strong. Nobody wants to feel like a fool.

If Trump actually makes the country better, his voters will be less likely to internalize his racism/sexism/ableism/basic lack of decency and may think of it as an unpleasant cost of doing business. But if he crashes it into a ditch like all signs suggest he will, his supporters will want to hang on to something that shows they were justified in voting for him. And I fear that the “I’m not racist” crowd will come to openly embrace the bigotry that Trump espouses.

Of course, cognitive dissonance goes both ways. Suppose you have a moderately liberal man who votes Democratic but doesn’t know why those protesters have to be so darn rude? Suppose that he did not expect Trump to win and did not participate in the 2016 election beyond voting. Suppose this man, shaken by the results, attended one of the Women’s Marches on Saturday. Suppose he found himself marching next to women, black women, LGBTQ women, disabled women, women of all stripes and backgrounds. Suppose he got caught up in the moment and joined in the chants of, “Black lives matter!” or “Her body, her choice!”

When this man replays the events of the day in his head, will he disavow what he said earlier? Or will he internalize his actions and emerge stronger for it? History suggests it will be the latter. The anti-Trump protests, beyond rebuking the idiot in the White House, could make better human beings out of their participants. That’s what I’m hoping for, at least.