October 26, 2018

Miscellaneous Thoughts on Trump

Lyin’ Trump

I listened to 1A on NPR yesterday. The New York Times reporters who investigated the source of Donald Trump’s wealth were interviewed (see “Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father”).

Trump’s origin story has always been that he received a $1 million dollar loan from his father, which had to be repaid with interest, and which he parlayed that into a multibillion-dollar fortune through his real estate dealings. What the Times learned is that Trump’s story is nowhere close to the truth. Over his lifetime, Donald Trump received hundreds of times that $1 million from his father, little of which was ever repaid.

A listener of the program asked what difference it makes how the president made his fortune. This is a good question.

The importance of the findings of the Times reporters is that Trump’s lies are hardly a new phenomenon. Lying for Trump is a way of life and has been so throughout his career. Trump doesn’t simply shade the truth; he makes up his own “facts” out of whole cloth. His supporters may not care, but they should.

Secure Communications

The New York Times reported that President Trump frequently uses an unsecured iPhone to make personal calls to friends. Moreover, those calls are being monitored by the Chinese and Russians (and God only knows who else). This is driving intelligence folks crazy. Their one consolation is that Trump isn’t very curious about government secrets, so his ignorance is a check against his divulging them.

The Times story is distressing and goes into significant and disturbing details not worth repeating here. You should read the article.

What I find most interesting in Trump’s refusal to give up his unsecured phone is the contrast between his communications that we now know are being monitored by our country's adversaries and his insistence that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server, which appears never to have been compromised, was criminal.

All I can say to the latest revelations is, “Lock him up!”

Presidential Rhetoric

In light of the apparent bombs sent to prominent Democrats recently, Donald Trump has called for unity and civility. Of course, what he really expects of his opponents is surrender to the Trumpian cause. It didn’t take long for Trump to renew his venom directed at the news media, as if journalists created the atmosphere of hate in which bombs being sent to his opponents seems almost predictable.

Trump has often complained that news stories about him are predominately negative. This is a rare instance in which he is entirely correct. He goes on to complain that this situation is unfair, however. There, he is wrong. Most news stories about Trump and the Trump administration are negative in tone because most actions of Trump and the Trump administration are hateful, meanspirited, self-destructive and stupid. Well, at least Trump got something right!

The Refugee “Caravan”

President Trump has used the parade of thousands of Central American refugees walking north to alarm his base supporters. (We should use the phrase “base supporters,” which, of course. is a double entendre.) He has talked about closing our borders—by which I assume he means only our Southern border—to avoid admitting any more people to the U.S., whether or not they have legitimate asylum claims. Apparently, he is even carrying out his threat to send regular Army troops to patrol the border, a potentially illegal move.

Rather more stupidly, Trump has threatened to reduce aid to the Central American countries from which members of the “caravan” are fleeing. On the one hand, reducing aid is likely to make life in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala even nastier than it is already. That, of course, would induce more people to leave in search of a more secure life. On the other hand, were Trump, by whatever means, to induce these countries to prevent people from leaving, would he not be creating a virtual prison for their populations? Is this really a proper role for the “freedom-loving” United States?

Oh, sorry, we are only concerned with making our own country great; the rest of the world can go to hell!

Here’s an idea: Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our efforts there are clearly a lost cause. We can use the money we save thereby to strengthen democracy in Central America. This would help make America (and the Americas) great.

October 21, 2018

October 7, 2018

An Indiana Demonstration

Coming home from the supermarket this afternoon, I drove down Philadelphia Street, the main drag of Indiana, Pennsylvania. On the sidewalk for several blocks were people holding signs, most of which said: “PRAY TO END ABORTION.” I didn’t actually count, but there must have been at least 12 or 15 people holding signs facing the street. I saw a single sign promoting adoption. The people were spaced out, so the effect was of a blocks-long demonstration.

It was not clear who was responsible for this event, but my guess is that (1) the demonstrators were Roman Catholic, and (2) they were emboldened by yesterday’s swearing in of Roman Catholic Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Until now, I had never seen anything like today’s display in Indiana.

I found the demonstration exceedingly annoying. Praying will do little good, though it may make some people feel more righteous. If the demonstrators really want to end abortion, they should advocate for serious sex education for public and private schools, as well as for home-schooled children. They should also advocate for easy access to contraception and sterilization. Typically, however, the “pro-life” crowd (who are really just anti-abortion) have little use for effective sex education and are often down on contraception as well.

Pray for sane and effective public policy on matters related to human reproduction.

September 28, 2018

Historic Hearing

Yesterday, Brett Kavanaugh proved beyond doubt that he is unqualified to be a judge, much less a Supreme Court justice. After showing himself to be a mean and vindictive witness, it is easy to imagine him as a mean drunk, as he has been characterized by a number of women.

After being coached by Trump’s minions at the White House, Kavanaugh changed his demeanor from innocent choir boy to cornered and enraged tiger. He exhibited a huge chip on his shoulder and wove a conspiracy theory about Democrats out to get him to even the score for Trump’s electoral victory, oppose his political views, and repay him for his role in the Ken Starr investigation. He complained about the millions spent to oppose his candidacy, ignoring the millions spent in its favor. He inveighed against damage to his reputation and family but showed no sympathy for the trauma and indignity endured by Dr. Blasey.

Kavanaugh evaded questions and talked incessantly in order to use up the little time each senator was allotted for questioning. He had the nerve to ask one senator a question, as if she were on trial. Most importantly, when repeatedly asked if he would request an FBI investigation of the charges against him, he consistently evaded the question, saying that such an investigation was up to the committee and, in any case, would not draw conclusions. (This last assertion is beside the point, of course. The FBI could solicit sworn testimony that would likely cast doubt on Kavanaugh’s indignant show of innocence.)

Kavanaugh’s questioning followed that of  Christine Blasey Ford. Dr. Blasey’s performance was nothing short of totally believable. Even an outside prosecutor could find no contradictions or suspicious details in her story. Though admittedly nervous, she maintained her composure and was forthright about what she could and could not remember. She declared herself 100% certain of the identity of her attacker and was even helpful in pointing out how some missing details of her story could be filled in. She, too, asked for additional FBI investigation.

It was expected that the hearing would be a he-said-she-said affair requiring a difficult choice of whom to believe. It was not! Any reasonable, objective person—apparently no GOP senator on the committee is in this class—would conclude that Blasey told the truth and that Kavanaugh lied and evaded. If Christine Blasey Ford was not telling the truth, she should be scooped up by Hollywood, as her performance was of Oscar caliber. If she was not telling the truth, she is the greatest actress of this age, perhaps of any age.

Kavanaugh, on the other hand, has shown himself to have a mean streak in his personality and a disregard for truth and the search for it. He is a privileged white male angry that anyone should attempt to limit his privilege. He lacks a judicial temperament. Not only should he not be a Supreme Court justice, but he also should be removed from his current position as a federal appellate judge.

NOTE: I am writing this about an hour before the Senate Judiciary Committee is almost certainly going to forward Kavanaugh’s nomination with a positive recommendation to the full Senate. I hope his nomination will be stopped in that body.

September 26, 2018

Stanislav Petrov Day

On this day in 1983, Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov (1939–2017), who was the duty officer at the Soviet Union’s command center for the Oko nuclear early-warning system, likely saved the world from nuclear war. The system he was monitoring indicated that six missiles had been launched from the United States targeted at the Soviet Union. In September 1983, relations between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were tense, and a nuclear attack, though unlikely, was not inconceivable.

For a variety of reasons, Petrov guessed that the alarm was false. He was, of course, correct, and he did not report an attack to his superiors. It is feared that, given the political tensions of the time, Soviet leaders might well have launched a counterattack, which would have elicited a similar response from the U.S.

As it happened, the warning that Petrov received was the result of a confluence of unusual circumstances misinterpreted by a relatively new monitoring system. He did not know this, however, and his failure to report an American attack may well have saved the world from nuclear holocaust. The incident ultimately resulted in changes to the Soviet early warning system.

Petrov received little recognition in his native Russia but has received a number of awards from the West. More information about him and his heroic inaction can be found on Wikipedia.

On this day, it is appropriate that we offer a moment of silence or prayer in thanksgiving for Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov.

Stanislav Petrov
Stanislav Petrov in 2016 (photo by Queery-54)

September 24, 2018

In What Year Did Brett Kavanaugh Stop Assaulting Women?

A second woman (and possibly others) have accused Supreme Court justice candidate Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. First, it was an incident in high school. Now we have a charge of an incident in college. We are told that Kavanaugh has led an exemplary life. We must ask, however, in what year did he stop abusing women? When did he become the paragon of virtue described by the president and GOP senators?

Kavanaugh’s truthfulness and his expansive view of the presidency have already come into question. But the president and his minions in Congress have attempted to hurry through the Kavanaugh nomination before he is thoroughly vetted and before any more damaging information comes to light.

Under the circumstances, it is time for Brett Kavanaugh to withdraw from consideration to become a Supreme Court justice. This country is in danger of having a Supreme Court 22% of whose members are likely guilty of sexual improprieties. Of course, this is no concern of those radicals who see the reversing of Roe v. Wade as the highest priority of the United States of America.

Let’s get this increasingly ugly mess out of the way. Let the president find another, more appropriate, candidate to elevate to the Supreme Court. How about Merrick Garland?

Kavanaugh: Withdraw!
Click on image for a larger view.

My earlier posts on Judge Kavanaugh can be found here, here, and here.

September 22, 2018

Clean Your PC

My PC, which was once very quiet, has been quite noisy of late. Initially, this was worrisome, as I feared the noises, which were clearly coming from some rotating device, indicated that my hard drive was about to fail. On careful listening, however, it didn’t seem like the hard drive was making the noise.

Like many computer users, I keep my “desktop” machine on the floor under my desk. I knew that the fans in the computer tend to suck in dust, a particular problem because I have two cats who cannot seem to keep all their fur attached. Once before, I wiped off the accumulation of dust from the perforations on the side of the computer and decreased the noise made by the PC by doing so. That trick didn’t work this time. Almost certainly, the fans designed to keep everything cool were working very hard to move air through an accumulation of dust and making unusually noises in the process.

I opened the case and began a more thorough cleaning. My computer contains three fans, each of which can suck in dust. There is a small fan at the back of the power supply, a larger one below it ventilating the case generally, and a fan mounted atop the CPU heat sink. In each case, I used the suction function of my vacuum cleaner to remove dust. I also dusted other components with a soft bush, a shaving bush, actually, which comes in handy for such tasks.

When finished, I replaced the side panel of the case and turned on the machine. I now hear only the slightest hum, but I have become acutely aware of the noises made by my refrigerator.

If you are hearing loud whirring sounds from your PC, you might want to try cleaning it as I did mine. It’s a good idea to remove power from the computer first. Keep metal implements away from internal components. Oh, and be careful with that vacuum cleaner. Don’t let it get near anything other than a fan intake.  I inadvertently sucked up a USB drive that was lying nearby and had to retrieve it from the dust bag.