Humint Events Online: August 2019

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Demoralizing Reality of Life Under Trump for Any Decent Sane Person

It’s boring, at this point, to talk about the cost of living with Donald Trump as president—it’s the water we all swim in now, so it’s neither unique nor new nor surprising. 
And yet it’s still true, which is why it’s refreshing to read Matt Ford’s excellent piece in the New Republic, “Trump’s Tax on the National Psyche.” 
Ford’s formulation is a useful way to think about the massive toll, in terms of time and energy stolen from Americans forced to pay attention to inane tweets and half-baked policy, this presidency has had on all of us. 
As Ford observes, Trump, himself an inveterate squanderer of time, is wasting all of ours: “Trump’s haphazard style of governance,” he writes, “forces journalists, lawyers, and government officials to expend innumerable hours on doomed initiatives and errant tweets. 
His corrosive effect on American politics forces Americans to devote far more hours of their life to thinking about him than they should.” 
The problem is that we have no choice but to follow the inane tweets and oppose the half-baked policy. 
There are serious consequences that follow to transgender soldiers, DACA kids, green card holders, and, of course, families at the border when we don’t. 
As Ford further notes, the psychic costs of following and resisting all of this stupidity are not borne equally by all Americans: “A Gallup poll from April found that younger and less affluent Americans felt more daily stress in general. Women reported higher rates than men in the APS survey; black and Hispanic Americans also registered higher levels of anxiety about the future than their white counterparts.” 
And this stress, in turn, has marked health impacts, again borne unequally by communities with less power. Still, it’s not just that families are ripped apart in immigration raids and that Latina mothers suffer higher rates of miscarriages—everyone following along with the cruelty at home is suffering too. 
In the spring, Pew polled Americans asking them to describe how Trump’s comments and statements made them feel. 
The top seven responses, in descending order? They felt concerned (76 percent), confused (70 percent), embarrassed (69 percent), exhausted (67 percent), angry (65 percent), insulted (62 percent), and frightened (56 percent). 
In the Washington Post, William Wan and Lindsey Bever write that “Researchers have begun to identify correlations between Trump’s election and worsening cardiovascular health, sleep problems, anxiety and stress, especially among Latinos in the United States.” 
In other words, it’s not just that Trump is wasting our time and mental space; he’s also making us physically ill. 
Buried in there is part of the answer to the age-old question of whether Donald Trump’s words—packed with lies and hubris and threats—really have any force. 
Given that those words are likely not to be truthful, we may not need to take them literally or seriously, as the formulation goes. But meaningless or gibberish or lies or all three, his words still make us anxious, worried, and stressed. 
As Ford notes, it’s not just the opportunity cost of what we could be doing with our time, though I could have learned to be a master baker in the time I’ve spent chronicling the outrages of this administration. 
The actual physical and mental toll being taken is even worse than what my family has missed out in chocolate amaretto soufflés. 
The actual psychic toll on our mental health is crippling. The lost sleep, the grinding anxiety, the escalating fears don’t just represent squandered time. They start to chip away at your health and at your soul. 
The healthy response would be to tune it out altogether, but since actual people are actually suffering the brutal consequences, we cannot. 
And so here we are back in the narcissist’s loop, fueling his need to be at the center because, well, there he is at the center.I have been writing about Trump burnout for a while now, but I confess that this summer has been harder, both because the cruelty we once dreaded and feared is manifestly occurring all around us every day and because vast numbers of our friends and neighbors are either exulting in it or sidelining themselves as a result of what Vox, waaaay back in 2017 once dubbed “Trump fatigue syndrome,” a kind of fugue state involving numbness, burnout, and a corresponding loss of reality. 
This is then doubly concerning, because in addition to being jealous of these people’s newfound freedom, as Nesrine Malik writes, for the Guardian, the real jeopardy of authoritarianism starts with fatigue. 
Moral seriousness seems to require being aware enough of the chaos everywhere that you accept being punched in the mouth with it every day. 
The email I have received most often this summer goes something like this: “I am doing too much. I am not doing enough.” The same can be said for all of us. Self-care in the form of manicures and time with the kids isn’t making a dent in it. 
And if one stops to think about the cumulative effect of gerrymandering, election interference, vote suppression, and a president signaling that he will not concede even if he loses in 2020, pinning all hopes in the next election feels one notch more sanguine than we can afford to be. 
So, Donald Trump, who just in the past two days refused to visit Denmark because it wouldn’t sell Greenland, tossed an anti-Semitic canard out to see how it landed on American Jews, retweeted a conspiracy theorist who claims Trump is the king of the Jews, reversed himself on gun policy and payroll taxes, and mulled ending birthright citizenship by way of executive order, just keeps on trucking. No check in sight. 
Don McGahn is not going to do anything to stop him, Congress is not going to do anything to stop him, Senate Republicans are not going to do anything to stop him, and Sean Spicer is on Dancing With the Stars. Cold comfort perhaps, but if you don’t feel that you are losing your damn mind, something would be profoundly wrong with you. We are all doing too much. And we are all also not doing enough. And there is nothing wrong with you, beyond being a human being in categorically insane times.
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Trump Is A Blatant Anti-Semite

So when Trump claims that Jews have not just dual loyalties, but that, in fact, their primary loyalty lies elsewhere, it’s hard to ignore. IfNotNow, a progressive Jewish group that has been protesting Trump’s immigration policies, told Newsweek that “this is an explicit dual loyalty charge wielded by the President of the United States against 80% of American Jews who voted against him. It is not [merely] an antisemitic dog whistle—it’s a bullhorn to his white nationalist base.” Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, again attempting to decipher what exactly Trump was talking about, while knowing it was nothing good, told the Hill: “At a time when anti-Semitic incidents have increased—due to the president’s emboldening of white nationalism—Trump is repeating an anti-Semitic trope. If this is about Israel, then Trump is repeating a dual loyalty claim, which is a form of anti-Semitism. If this is about Jews being ‘loyal’ to him, then Trump needs a reality check.”
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Trump's Lunacy Is Blazingly Clear -- He Needs To Be Removed

Rick Wilson:
The subtle meter in Americans’ brains that tracks the degree to which the universe seems off its axis has been in a state of constant flux since Donald Trump’s election in 2016, but this week the needle slammed hard into the peg on the right side of the gauge. 
Red warning lights are flashing across Washington as even the now-typical levels of uncertainty and political chaos reach epic proportions. It’s almost as if we need a recalibration of the insanity of the Trump era, a new set of definitions about what comprises normal presidential behavior. 
 This week wasn’t just the usual Trump performance art; it was a new, strange and somewhat frightening level of antic. Even his allies whispered to reporters that perhaps the stress brought on by the prospect of an economic downturn was getting to him. With no adult supervision in the White House left — and no, Ivanka doesn’t count — this is a man on the edge, and there is absolutely nothing and no one to stop him. 
...the answer is absolutely terrifying, no elected Republican wants to admit the truth. What we’re seeing is the real Trump, the unfiltered maniac, not the man who is occasionally chained to a teleprompter and forced to read Kellyanne Conway’s work product aloud. His sweaty, heavy-breathing press sprays on the White House lawn left reporters in a state of stunned silence, the spittle-flecked rantings of a man determined to machine-gun out a hundred ideas in the time a rational person would discuss two. 
We started off with Jewish disloyalty — which, of course, functional agnostic Donald Trump knows only because he “wants them counting his money” — and jumped to the grand plan to conquer Greenland and seize America North from the hands of the perfidious Danes. 
The Greenland story would be an SNL skit if it wasn’t so utterly real. Denmark, a close ally for decades, was having none of Trump’s crazy on this one, which of course, set off another round of presidential rage. Calling millions of Jews disloyal to their county because of their political preference sounds...familiar, and not in a good way. 
His manic anger at Jews, Denmark, the media (naturally) and the Federal Reserve was a bizarre prelude to the G7 conference this weekend, but remarkably, those didn’t even represent the top of the spectrum of nuttiness.
Here’s a pointer I can tell you from 30 years now in politics: When an elected official declares himself to be “The Chosen One” or agrees that he’s the “King of Israel” and “the second coming of God," it’s not time for a re-election campaign; it’s time for an extended, quiet stay with the nice men in white coats. 
If you wanted an example of pure, uncut fiscal insanity, take a quick look at the U.S. budget deficit and our skyrocketing national debt. Trump, the self-proclaimed “King of Debt,” is eager for Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell to unleash another tidal wave of “free” money into the economy by loosening the reins of the money supply. 
Trump desires this not because he gives a damn about the economy or the American people, but because he certainly gives a damn about his re-election chances. 
The weird week ended on the most bizarre note of all. In a moment when Trump’s absurd and failed trade war with China collided with his absurd and failed war with Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell, Trump issued two tweets that left Washington and the world scratching their collective heads. 
Trump asked in a tweet whether the bigger enemy of America was Chinese Communist Party Chairman Xi or Powell. Of the Fed. He really did. 
Spoiler alert, Mr. President: If the person in question is ordering the savage beatings and arrests of peaceful demonstrators in Hong Kong and holding a million Uighurs in concentration camps, the bigger enemy is always that guy. 
Not satisfied in clowning himself with that one, Trump then lowered the bar again and proceeded to jump under it when he said “Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China...” 
Really, comrade? Is that part of the Five-Year Plan? How's the beet harvest looking this year? Will the Stakhanovite efforts of the peoples’ vanguard at Comrade Newton Leroy Gingrich Heavy Machinery Plant 14 in the Wisconsin Oblast meet the tractor quota? 
There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I was told reliably that picking winners and losers in the economy and the president trying to decide what companies should and shouldn’t produce was very, very wrong. A Republican or two may — just may — have said that about Barack Obama. 
Now? Trump’s tweet was greeted with a silent grimace from the dying band of free-market conservatives but a loud shout from the Trumpentariat. 
What used to be the party of free markets and free trade now gives raucous cheers for Chairman Trump’s trade wars and for state control of capitalist enterprises. Sure, Richard Nixon flirted with wage and price controls. 
He never blurted out orders on where American companies could build their factories. Although he’s eager to frame the coming recession as either fake news or the fault of the hated liberal media, the growing risk of an economic slowdown seems to be bothering Trump enormously. 
He can’t face that his own behavior is a meaningful contributor to the next slump. 
At no point have we had a president who combines both the blazing ignorance of fundamental economic principles — not just conservative economic principles but any economic principles — with an inclination toward authoritarianism and statism and a dash of madness. 
Nothing about the week we just lived through is comforting. Nothing about it can be excused or ignored. Donald Trump is not a well man. 
Here in the dog days of August, Washington should be its usual sleepy self, the political class having wisely fled the humidity and misery of D.C. Instead, Trump’s performance left people both inside and out of the political class wondering about the president’s sanity and fitness for office. 
Most states have some form of involuntary commitment law for people who are a danger to themselves and others. In my home state of Florida, it’s called the Baker Act, and I’ve seen it applied to run of the mill folks up to state legislators. It only takes a competent family member and one other adult to get the ball rolling on Baker Acting someone. So I’m thinking about Trump’s next visit to Mar-A-Lago. Melania, call me.

Also, just fuck the GOP for letting this madness continue as long as it has.
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Right-Wing billionaire David Koch Dead-- He Was Supremely Evil

Right-wing billionaire David Koch died on Friday and like so many other people who have died and wielded influence over our society, there is the desire to immediately whitewash their record and play up the good they supposedly did. 
Meanwhile we’re just supposed to sweep their malevolence under the table and definitely don’t mention it in polite company. That’s nonsense. 
David Koch, along with his brother Charles, control Koch Industries. Koch is a multinational industrial mega-corporation. Among its many brands the most well-known is Georgia-Pacific. Koch Industries is one of the worst polluters in American history. 
Over its 79 years of existence, Koch Industries have polluted the land all across America, pursuing financial gain for the Kochs and their families over the long-term health of the planet. 
In 2000, Koch settled with the government and paid a $30 million fine for their practice of pollution, which set a record for the largest such fine in American history. The company was sued for over 300 oil spills across facilities in 6 states.
The company has a list of environmental violations affecting the lives of millions of people that goes on for years and years and years. Chlorine dioxide chemical leak (2014), 17,000 gallons of crude spilled (2013), sending toxic dust into homes, soil and groundwater contamination, releasing hazardous chemicals including benzene, hydrogen cyanide, releasing millions of gallons of toxic paper mill waste (as much as 45 million gallons per day). 
The company also illegally removed oil from federal and Indian lands. 
It just goes on and on and on. Violation of the public trust, the Earth, and human health and safety, all so David Koch could line his pockets with billions of dollars. 
In the process, he also donated money to ballets and museums. He even supported criminal justice reform. So what? 
The man and his brother were and are a malign influence on our society. The actions they engaged in are the worst sort of evil. 
They give those who purportedly support capitalism a bad name, because capitalism simply does not have to be this evil. 
The Kochs chose this evil path to pad their bank accounts. Why make 40 cents when you can make a dollar? So what if the ground is poisoned and children and families get sick and hurt? Who cares, right? 
And yes, on top of all their gross defilement of the environment and our communities, the Kochs poured billions into American politics. 
They backed policies like limiting how many people have access to health care, cutting taxes for the super-rich (like them), limiting government oversight of polluters (like them), and backing a whole host of policies designed to keep people like the Kochs wealthy while stomping on the faces of everyone else.  
David Koch should be remembered for being evil and to hopefully remind others – because most like him are beyond conscience – that society will and should judge you for the life you lived, so it’s best to live a good and moral life instead of one like David Koch’s.

Oddly, this article doesn't even mention the horrible anti-climate change, anti-climate action agenda that the Koch's took, that have put the entire planet on the brink of crisis in the service of enriching themselves and a few other fossil fuel billionaires.
If ratcheting up inequality were all the Kochs did, they would still be arch-villains. But the Koch brothers’ businesses from fossil fuel extraction and refining to petrochemical and fertilizer production all rely on being able to emit carbon pollution with abandon. In the 1990s, as the world moved toward an awakening on climate change and the need to address it, the Koch machine moved to block any regulations or price on carbon that would cut into their profits by funding doubt and denial. 
Greenpeace estimates the brothers spent $127 million from 1997 to 2017 funding 92 organizations that muddied the waters on climate change, a move that helped make international efforts to combat climate change, like the Kyoto Protocol, worthless. They funded a network of overlapping climate denial organizations to kill a 2009 bill that would have created a cap and trade system, a very business-friendly climate solution they rejected on principle. 
Now David Koch is dead. And he will never have to live with the consequences of his actions... 
Ditto for the other largely anonymous small cadre of conservative billionaires and fossil fuel executives who have peddled climate denial over the years all while making the problem worse by extracting more poison from the ground and putting it in the atmosphere. 
They’ll likely die long before things get really bleak, and the profits they made as one of the biggest market failures in human history will almost certainly ensure their descendants are insulated from the worst impacts. 
If David Koch and his brother hadn’t funded denial—as Charles is likely to continue to do—it’s possible that the world would have taken steps to drawdown carbon pollution decades ago. 
If the world began cutting emissions in 2000, it would have had to do so at a rate of 4 percent per year to keep warming under the 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) threshold. 
Starting today means “monumental” cuts. If we don’t do anything for 10 years, we’re in deep trouble. All the funding Koch kicked in for arts and cancer research won’t matter if the world burns down, a thing that’s actively happening to the Amazon rainforest on the same week he passed away. 
Thanks, Koch brothers! Thanks, Koch brothers! 
David Koch will never have to watch the world struggle to climb the steepening curve he helped propel into existence. And he’ll never have to live with the consequences if we don’t. If the world misses the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal, the impacts will be severe. Coral will likely disappear. Large swaths of island nations could become uninhabitable by midcentury. Millions of more people who rely on rainfed agriculture will face hunger as the weather becomes more erratic. Livelihoods will disappear. Societies will vanish. People, in short, will die.
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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Downfall of the American Republic

This is a long but quite good piece from Andrew Sullivan (who I normally despise), reviewing the rise and fall of the Roman empire and then US politics over the past 100 years or so.

Key bit here:

It does seem clear we no longer liven a truly free society, and certainly we're living in a major dystopia...
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Jeffrey Epstein Suicided

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Friday, August 09, 2019

Both Sides To Blame for Mass Shootings?

Human pimple Marc Thiessen tries to make a case for how the El Paso shooting had nothing to do with Trump, but if it did, then by god, the Dayton shooting that followed soon after, was the fault of leftists.

The El Paso shooter WAS clearly inspired by Trump, in that he referenced Trump's same anti-immigrant language in his white supremacist manifesto. He shot Hispanics in Texas, clearly in a place where Mexican immigrants were often found.

There is no doubt Trump has ramped up the hate against immigrants and emboldened murderous white supremacists.

The Dayton shooter on the other hand, had no clear political motive for his act of murder. He killed random people in Dayton. He seemed to have clear lefty leanings, but he was a bit of crazy mess overall.

Importantly, the Dayton shooting happened very soon after the El Paso shooting-- the same night, and immediately gave Trump supporters a nice distraction and "whataboutism". Hard to blame Trump for El Paso when the Dayton was a dirty lefty! So there!

But to me, the Dayton shooting was a bit too convenient coming so soon with that different political bent to it. Sort of like it was set-up as a distraction for El Paso.

3 possibilities come to mind for how they could do this.

1) a more simple and benign way is the political ideology of the Dayton shooter was constructed after the shooter did his dirty deed, and pasted onto him to make him look like a lefty when he really wasn't. The shooting was done organically, just happened to come so soon after El Paso. A lot of the info on the shooter's leaning seems to come from the site, which is of unclear reliability. Apparently his twitter feed gives most of the info, and it was taken down by twitter after the shooting, so we are relying on that the sites are honestly presenting the tweets-- we can't verify these independently (like with so much news).

2) more scary is the guy was a lefty but also known to be unstable and into guns. He was monitored and mind-controlled some way to go off as a planned distraction by the "deep state" if another shooting made Trump look bad.

3) also scary is Conor Betts, the shooter, was some sort of agent (his user name on twitter was "iamthespookster", where spook implies a spy or agent.*) posing as a lefty, and did the shootings on some sort of weird suicide mission, perhaps under orders. Maybe he thought he would be allowed to live.

Of course it's also possible that this 2nd shooting was just a great coincidence that happened to help the president, who is in constant political trouble.

Finally, we can't rule out that both the El Paso and Dayton shootings were programmed to occur by the deep state, and the political polar opposites were part of the op, and meant to further divide the US into factions.

But personally I tend to think the El Paso shooting was real as there are clearly many actual white supremacist terrorists and they are definitely feeling more excited with Trump's openly racist rhetoric from he most powerful office in the land.

*note as I write as "spooked" here, I am not a spook but am playing on the idea of being afraid of "spooks".
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Trump is a Soulless Monster, Part 568

Check out this pair of fucking ghouls, acting like they just stole a baby to drink its sweet, young blood so they can live on for a few precious days before they suck another child dry. What you're looking at is Donald Trump, a worn-out sack of lies painted orange and shoved into a terrible suit, and Melania Trump, a lamprey in human form, who happen to be the President and First Lady of the United States, smiling as they hold an orphan named Paul. 
Paul became an orphan because an immigrant-hating fuckworm decided to gun down people in an El Paso, Texas, Walmart. Paul's parents, Andre and Jordan Anchondo, died protecting Paul when the fuckworm opened fire. More specifically, his mother, Jordan, was protecting Paul, and Andre leapt in front of Jordan to protect her. When Jordan was shot dead, she fell on Paul, breaking some of his tiny fingers. He had been sent home after treatment. Well, not home, per se, because that doesn't really exist anymore, but sent with family. 
But when our First Couple of ghouls needed a prop for their visit to a hospital in El Paso and almost none of the victims there could or would act as that prop, Trump's goons called and asked if Paul could be brought back. There is something so fucked up about those smiles, something so empty and soulless, something chilling and depraved, that it should hurt us to our bones to see it. 
The failure to act humble in the face of pain, pain that was caused in part by Trump's own words and actions, echoed in the fuckworm's 8chan post, is galling. And Trump's pathetic thumbs-up may as well just be a middle finger. They don't care, at least not in the sense that we generally think of empathy. They care about how they are perceived, yes, but they don't care about Paul or any of the dead or dying or wounded. 
They are our American void, the abyss we have earned, the black hole that we have come to deserve. Halfway across the country, just before Trump bragged about how his El Paso crowd size was bigger than Beto's to hospital staff who had been putting people back together, 600 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had surrounded chicken processing plants in several small Mississippi towns and then arrested 680 workers for "not having proper documentation to be in the United States." 
You ever spoken to anyone who works in a chicken processing plant? Or worked there yourself? It's a fucking nightmare of slaughter and blood and guts. It is horrible, hard work. Jesus, just imagine the noise you must deal with. 
After traumatizing the children of the workers, who had just started their school year, ICE ended up releasing 300 of the people they had taken into custody who had kids waiting for them. The parents promised that they would return for their immigration hearings. You got that? You understand that? It was literally catch and release. And while ICE claims they were always cognizant of ensuring that the mostly American children of undocumented workers were taken care of, you can fucking well bet that it wasn't until video of sobbing, pleading kids got onto the news that anything was done. 
And what did our emotionally and morally vacant president say about this today? "I want people to know that if they come into the United States illegally, they’re getting out; they’re going to be brought out. And this serves as a very good deterrent...when people see what they saw yesterday, and like they will see for a long time, they know that they’re not staying here." 
What a baldly inhuman statement, essentially saying that it's good to see children sobbing because...fuck it. I just don't want to tease that out. Fuck him. The saddest part is how many of taint-licking supporters think he's right. "Hey, if those parents didn't want their kids to suffer, they shouldn't have been here illegally," they say, as if the decision to come here was made on a whim, as if they hadn't faced extraordinary suffering and deprivation in order to take a goddamn chance and work in one of the worst fucking jobs in the nation. Trump is a leader of monsters. 
But the only funny part of this is that the raid, where no Americans who hired the undocumented workers were touched and no executives who want this cheap labor force were rounded up and driven away, is going to hurt the bottom line of the companies to the tune of millions because, well, fuck, ICE just took away a shitload of their employees. One of the plants was partially shut down today because of a lack of workers. That's what your donations to Trump got you, motherfuckers. 
It's not just that cruelty is the point, as we say all the time since Adam Serwer coined that phrase. It's also that, given the chance to even pretend not to be cruel, Trump will shove that aside, as if anything but cruelty is weakness. The orange ghoul in the White House will not soften for your dead; he will not bend for your children's pain.

It's worth noting that the El Paso shooting was the biggest attack and massacre of Hispanic Americans in our history. The shooter in that attack was motivated by anti-immigrant feelings and what does Trump do then in the aftermath but try to push for tighter immigration laws and he also had a massive sweep of illegal immigrants last night, both of which definitely are not going to calm down anti-immigrant sentiment. In fact, these acts will make things worse.
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