Sunday, January 22, 2017

That Lies Are Now the Currency of the Realm: Day Two of the Trump Era

This is just wrong:

What Kellyanne Conway said to defend Spicer is worse:

CONWAY: Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What... You're saying it's a falsehood. And they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains...
TODD: Wait a minute. Alternative facts?
CONWAY: ...That there’s...
TODD: Alternative facts? Four of the five facts he uttered, the one thing he got right...
CONWAY: Hey, Chuck, why... Hey Chuck...
TODD: ...Was Zeke Miller. Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true. Look, alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods.

There are no alternate facts: A Fact is a piece of information as part of an objective reality. If you wanna be Randian about it, that means A is A. You can't go claiming A is B all because B fits your Narrative better.

There's a better word for "alternative facts" or "falsehoods". What my Deep South Grandma Kinzer used to call Good Ole Fashioned "LYING".

Trump and his Republican handlers have no respect for the media they seek to bully into submission. It's not a surprise that they're lying: What's shocking is how brazen they are about it.

Every aspect of journalistic standards and ethics are now facing their greatest challenges. Reporters and editors now have the responsibility to fact-check every WORD uttered by these liars and point them out as falsehoods every step of the way.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Obama Forever

I'm gonna try to focus on the positive here.

I do have to admit I may have jumped the gun back in May 2016 when I wrote this bit about the two legacies of Barack Obama:

What the 2016 Election is turning into is a Legacy election. Given the overall stability and economic recovery during the Obama years, and given the great strides in women's and gay rights under Obama's executive orders, and given the passage of health care reforms that are beginning to show positive results - everyone should be seriously following Richard Mayhew's health care updates on Balloon Juice - voters are going to have to look at what's at stake this November.

I admit now that I was projecting: I was HOPING the election would be one where the voters would work to uphold Obama's record and deny the Republicans any chance to dismantle his tenure. To be fair, a majority of Americans DID vote for Hillary Clinton to continue Obama's work, but the archaic and broken Electoral College (and a helping of voter suppression in key states) made that moot.

Thing is, even in the wake of a disastrous election where the Republicans did win out and are now poised to destroy every last bit of Obama's Presidential acts... I still think Obama will still leave powerful legacies to posterity.

I pointed out in that Legacy article that the other thing Obama leaves behind is a broken Republican Party. Sure, they won the 2016 elections: but they lost every last shred of integrity, honesty, maturity, intelligence, wisdom, and long-term survival in the process. They ran on a platform of destruction: massive tax cuts for the rich a majority of Americans don't support, nuking health care that a majority of Americans are beginning to realize is gonna hurt them if it's taken away, rolling back civil rights gains, and discrediting every foreign policy success of the last 70 years (!) just to appease their new best friend Putin.

And having made this fantasy world of lies - where OBAMA was a FAILURE - the Republicans are going to try to reshape the real world to that fantasy. And they're going to find the real world doesn't work that way (and that Obama was more successful than they feared).

We're going to witness over at least the next two years attempts by the Republicans to turn Obama into a damned memory (damnatio memoriae), trying to take his name off every ledger, removing every policy Obama had a hand in crafting. They'll do what they can to darken every story involving him, that somehow Obama was wrong in his logic, that he failed to achieve even a modicum of success. It'll probably get to a point where they won't utter his name at all and will drop hints to the media to keep his name out of everything, as though erasing him from existence.

It won't work. Even if they remove Obamacare, even if they wipe out every civil rights gain like gay marriage, the Republicans can never remove Obama from the office of the President. People are going to remember what he did in office, and what he spoke to. The void that the Republicans are going to carve out will be a reminder to us of the shape of what the world ought to be, and what we can get back to when the Republicans - unavoidable in their fate, as we've seen this movie before - implode on their own failures.

We're already watching the Republicans stumble on their attempt to purge Obamacare/ACA, but while they're setting up the first stage of launch they're finding out that "Repealing" is harder than they thought: Obamacare isn't just a layer added onto our existing Health Care laws, it BECAME our Health Care laws meaning any removal is going to leave a gaping hole in our economy that Congress HAS to Replace. Oh they'll still repeal Obamacare because they've made their Narrative and dare not deviate from script, but they're finding out NOW there's a huge price to pay and the Democratic Party is NOT going to be there to cover their asses...

I doubt the Republicans and their Far Right Noise Machine will ever purge Obama from the history books. They may write 100,000 screeds accusing Obama as "Worst Ever" and they may fly off the shelves for their intended audience of haters, but the real Obama biographies and retrospectives will be read in the classrooms 40 years from now while the anti-Obama books get shipped back to recycling.

There's 60 percent of Americans who are watching Barack Obama leave office with a favorable view of him. The Republicans will continue to label Obama a failed President - "A Disaster! We're cleaning up his mess! Everything bad that happens from 2017 onward is STILL HIS FAULT!" - but more and more Americans won't buy that shit. We'll know better.

We'll remember Obama as a level-headed, optimistic, groundbreaking leader. We'll remember the jobs that did come back during his eight years of office. We'll remember he opened the doors for gays and women, that he tried to speak to our better angels on race relations. We'll remember the good - he was the one who gave the order to take out Bin Laden, he set a nuclear armament deal with Iran that the Republicans can't readily block, and he helped open up Cuba that can signal the end of 40-plus years of bad behavior between neighboring countries - and the bad - he didn't do enough for the Middle East in places like Libya and Syria, he continued a War on Terror using questionable tactics - on his foreign policies.

We're going to remember Obama's place in our culture and history, not JUST as the first African-American President, but also as a major geek, a comic-book fan and wannabe Jedi, who was cool enough to be the Adult In The Room and yet still cool enough to be a guy who can chill at a backyard grill and talk about how bad the Chicago Bulls have gotten.

And we're never giving up the Joe Biden memes, the ones where he's like a clueless yet lovable prankster uncle figure.

The Onion's not going to know what to do with itself.

For myself...

I've lived now through eight Presidents (starting with Nixon) of whom only six - Carter, Reagan, Bush the Elder, Clinton, Bush the Lesser, Obama - I have any memory regarding their eras. I became fully aware of politics my college years (Bush I) so since then I have to say that Obama has left on me the most sincere, effective impression. I've had my issues - positive and negative - with each President, and I've come to terms with both Bushes for the most part while viewing Clinton as intelligent and effective but flawed. Obama is the one with the fewest disappointments for me.

I revel in the fact that for ALL the slime and falsehoods aimed at Obama over the last eight years, he is leaving the White House with the cleanest reputation. For all of the "scandals" and investigations into his office, no one from his West Wing has been charged, indicted, convicted of crimes. There have been at most resignations for failures in policy - a Secretary for Veterans Affairs had to resign over problems with service and medical aid to our hospitalized vets - but I view those as steps towards accountability.

Obama never had anything on the scale of an Iran-Contra, or the S&L Bailout, or a Lewinsky sex scandal, or a number of officials getting charged and convicted over corruption or other criminal wrong-doings. The Far Right thrilled to such things as Solyandra, Fast and Furious, and BENGHAZI ZOMG, but even their partisan witch-hunts turned into nothingburgers (problems that had more to do with a corrupt or broken Congress, or far down the chain of command among corrupt or inept grunts that the White House had no control over).

Obama, who crawled through a river of Republican shit and came out clean on the other side.

Today, he's leaving office for good. Eight years gone. Where did the time fly?

I can't rank Obama at the moment compared to all the historical Presidents - I dread knocking Truman out of the Top Ten - but he's got to well up there in the Top Twenty (out of 44), and likely well above Clinton, his closest contemporary.

To hell with the incoming administration. I'm doing my best today to not even mention the name.

I'm now living by one simple mantra.

Obama is STILL my President.

Update: Obama is starting up the Presidential Library project on his Obama Foundation page.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I Hope To GOD

We're days away.

I hope to GOD our Joint Chiefs have come up with a plan to keep Trump from unilaterally opening the nuclear football briefcase and launching missiles at anybody else on a whim.

I hope to GOD that the Republicans in Congress are finally waking up to the fact that any effort to kill Obamacare would hurt too many Americans and that their crazed rhetoric and obsession to mark Obama as a failed President doesn't work anymore.

I hope to GOD Trump goes through with his planned vacation RIGHT AFTER HE SWEARS IN TO THE OFFICE, and gets so lost getting to some obscure place where he thinks he has a golf course that he never comes back.

I hope to GOD that every candidate for Cabinet posts are so incapable of impressing even Republican Senators during their hearings that every single one of them - sorry Mattis, including you - actually lose the floor votes.

I hope to GOD Betsy DeVos is forced to teach at a school that has a bear for a mascot.

I hope to GOD the number of people who show up for Trump Inaugural is less than the number of people who show up for a Tampa Bay Rays game (sorry guys, but honestly turnout at the Trop really sucks if it's not a BoSox or Yankees visit).

I hope to GOD the ongoing investigations into Trump's deals with Russia - including the recent bombshell that our intel agencies are investigating covert cash funding! - leads to serious arrests. This is insane: we've got evidence already that a foreign nation meddled in our elections, and if there's been any actual money changing hands... that is WORKING WITH that foreign power, that has got to fall under the definition of TREASON...

I hope to GOD we survive this.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

And a King Ain't Satisfied

Poor man wanna be rich/
Rich man wanna be king/
And a king ain't satisfied/
Till he rules everything... - "Badlands," Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

One of the ongoing stories as we're heading towards the brick wall of January 20th 2017 - and the inauguration of the least qualified and least popular President-Elect of All Time in Donald Trump - is how Trump and his people have been having the hardest time rounding up celebrities and musical performers for his grand Inaugural.

In modern times - as television has made such events a global must-see - an incoming new President presides over a gala night of celebration among the artists and the wealthy celebs who either helped promote the candidate to victory or else shares a common ground on issues to where the artists feel comfortable playing to the President's fanbase.

But Trump is a different case than any of the others before him.

For starters, a shitload of musicians hate Trump right off the bat.

It's partly because Trump kept playing their songs at his rallies when they kept telling him to stop. No respect from him, ergo no respect from them.

It's partly because Trump's built up a reputation for failing to pay his performers what he promised. I hope to God that 3 Doors Down asked for their money up front. (note: I had four songs from 3 Doors Down on my iTunes. Had...)

It's partly because Trump's sexist behavior around supermodels has kinda made him a dangerous man to be with if you're anywhere prettier than a Five.

And it's mostly because a lot of musicians, actors, and the simply famous do not share his world-view of pissing on (yeah, I went there) the less fortunate.

And yet, Trump and his transition team has been trying hard to find anybody with an A-List name willing to show up and perform in his honor.

It's not that he loves any of these performers. (I wonder what kind of music Trump listens to in the first place) It's that A-List celebrities are what he wants to surround himself with so he can feed off their fame and claim himself as one of them.

For all his disdain and insults he tweets towards them - the actors and musicians who publicly embarrass him or call him out for his shameless vulgarity - if say Meryl Streep suddenly turned around and invited Trump to a Hollywood house party I guarantee you Trump would be on the first private plane out to the West Coast.

Trump's ego - the desire to be seen as successful, or handsome, or powerful - requires him to prove his worth by seeking out the truly successful and pretty and powerful and insert himself into their scene.

Remember this, Trump killed an entire sports league - the USFL - because he wanted to force himself into one of the hardest cliques to get into: the small circle of big-time sports owners. It's something that's bugged him almost his entire life. And the sports owners to the four (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) major leagues - who have a pretty good idea that Trump is corrupt and bankrupt - have blocked him across the board (ever notice how when a New York based team is up for sale that a supposed billionaire like Trump isn't even allowed to make a pitch?).

And it's not enough that he has to be seen with the celebrities and the successful and the glamorous. He has to be placed front and center among them, and have them speak of him in glowing wonderful terms. Getting bands to sing in his presence, to sing to his glory, will boost his Ego like no other.

And it'd be a bonus to that Ego if he can get those who dismiss or deride him to back down, to crumble under his pressure. Like the political opponents he bullied into submission during the campaign, his victory over them is when they're working for him as the hired help, begging for table scraps and favors he dishes out to his whims.

So while he'll crow that he'll be perfectly fine with Ted Nugent and Kid Rock - known celebrities but also artists shuffled to the fringes of celebrity due to their vocal extremism - and he'll be happy getting Toby Keith as Country music tends to lean conservative already, missing out on the more glamorous performers that showed up with eager grins for Obama in 2009 is a kick to his ever-hungry Ego. As long as those artists and celebrities keep telling him NO, he can't enjoy a damn thing.

Making it worse is when the performers who turn him down do so publicly, with a level of snark and horror that make it clear how hated Trump is to them (and to those performers' fanbases).

How bad has it gotten for Trump?

It's not that Trump is getting denied by Bruce Springsteen - one of the top live American performers of the last 40 years - it's that Trump is getting dumped by a Springsteen cover band:

The B-Street Band, a popular Bruce Springsteen cover group that's performed nearly 200 gigs a year since 1980, convened in the dressing room Sunday night before a typical late-afternoon gig at Bensalem, PA's Parx Casino.
Will Forte, the group's 63-year-old keyboardist, manager, agent and publicist, among other roles, was telling the band about the "thousands of emails from both sides" he had received after news broke that the group would be playing the Garden State Presidential Inaugural Gala on January 19th as part of Donald Trump's inauguration. "We're standing out in the storm right here," he told the band. "We gotta get out of the storm..."

Okay, as a side note, don't cover bands come into existence after most of the people involved in the original band are all dead or something? You know, like the Doors cover band or the Milli Vanilli cover band? I digress, let's move on...

If the B-Street Band pledge allegiance to anyone, it's Springsteen, who has repeatedly voiced his anger and disgust at the president-elect. (Forte half-jokingly said of the B-Street Band last week, "I don't even know if they have any politics.") Out of respect for their musical inspiration, they've decided to pull out of this week's event.

When I first heard about the cover band playing for Trump, I couldn't believe the story was real. A cover band has to love the artist(s) they're covering: to love Bruce is to understand where he comes from - Joisey - and what drives Bruce's music and lyrical directions - which leans progressive, pro-Union, pro-Democrat.

Trump is everything - greedy, racist, an upper class thief that has wrecked Atlantic City and ruined thousands of workers' livelihoods - that Bruce Springsteen despises. He's done entire albums - Nebraska, Ghost of Tom Joad - that would rail against the kind of world Trump would build (and then destroy).

That the B-Street Band finally decided to bow out under pressure - that Springsteen's fanbase would never forgive them if they played, that Bruce himself would be horrified if they did - is a sign of how tenuous Trump's hold on America's celebrity world is.

That Trump's people were desperate enough to hire a cover band in the first place is an obvious sign of how low into the lists of available acts they were diving to get anything of value.

In an age where celebrity is across every medium, broadcast into every home via radio or TV or Internet, having a low-level, B-List type of inauguration is going to haunt Trump and blast his Ego into a thousand sharp angry pieces. No matter how hard he tries to convince the world - convince himself - that his gala night is the greatest (no, no it won't be) of all time.

And it won't help his Ego if the crowd turnout is going to be about a third (maybe half) of what Obama got in 2009 or 2013.

Denying Trump any level of satisfaction is good for the soul.

But the fight continues against everything else Trump represents.

Wishing for some angels to blow this Trump into the sea...

Monday, January 16, 2017

As Though America Has Forgotten The Evils of a Chaotic and Friendless Foreign Policy

What part of "we're f-cked" do you not get yet?

Ask Zack Beauchamp at

Donald Trump just lobbed a grenade into the normally staid world of European-American diplomacy, using a joint interview with two of Europe’s biggest newspapers to call NATO “obsolete,” predict that the European Union would fall apart and announce that the US wouldn’t really care if it did, and threaten to potentially start a trade war with Germany over BMW’s plans to build a manufacturing plant in Mexico.
For good measure, Trump also criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of Washington’s closest allies, while hinting that he’d be willing to lift the sanctions imposed on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has rattled many in Europe by annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and threatening to use force against other of his neighbors...

This is the damage caused by bringing in someone with no foreign policy awareness to run a nation, especially one as large and important as ours:

The remarks forced Secretary of State John Kerry to spend one of his last days as America’s top diplomat repairing the damage that Trump has done before even taking the oath of office. In an interview with CNN, Kerry said it was "inappropriate" for Trump to "be stepping in to the politics of other countries in a quite direct manner."
Kerry is right to be worried. Bashing NATO and the European Union, and alienating Germany, is a plan for tearing apart US relations with the EU — for weakening the agreements that underpin America’s status as the sole superpower and that maintain peace on the European continent.

Skewing things into "OH MY GOD THIS WILL GET WORSE" category is how Trump is Best-Friends-Forever with Putin, who would thrill to a devastated NATO because it would give Russia room to finish its beatdown of Ukraine (they're still fighting a border war) and re-establish itself as the Bully of Eastern Europe (rattling the Baltic states, Poland, and other former Soviet satellites countries).

Trump - by attacking NATO - is going after what had been a strong and maturing foreign peacekeeping organization that had reduced the threat of another world war in the wake of World War II. As Beauchamp puts it:

That’s because NATO works through commitment: Members pledge that an attack on one will be treated as an attack on all. As Trump calls the value of the alliance into question, other states might question whether he would actually defend a NATO ally if attacked — especially since, during the campaign, he said he might not. If countries don’t believe in that promise, then it stops serving as a deterrent — potentially encouraging Russia to menace a NATO member-state.
“The United States president-elect is actively working to increase the risk of military escalation and war in Europe,” Thomas Rid, a professor at King’s College London’s Department of War Studies, tweeted in response to the interview.
Beauchamp notes there would be only one winner in a fractured and divided Europe:

There is only (one) country that benefits from all of these moves: Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Putin’s fundamental foreign policy goal is to restore Russia’s place as one of the world’s most powerful and influential nations. To do so, he wants to restore global politics to the way it was in the 19th century — when European countries saw each other as rivals rather than partners. This kind of “balance of power” world order would allow Russia to divide European powers by forming selective partnerships with some against the others — thus restoring Russian greatness.
Putin’s Russia is too weak, in political and military terms, to accomplish this on its own. The logical end point of Trump’s stated policies, regardless of whether that’s what he intends, is a fractured Europe that would be far less capable of standing up to Putin.

Just as my own note, Putin's attempt to shift things back to a "balance of power" rivalry across the European nations is a bad idea, because history taught us that rivalries DID NOT KEEP THE PEACE. The Balance of Power system that came into being in the wake of the Napoleonic Era provoked a variety of arms races and empire-building that culminated in World War I... which then led into World War II and its horrors.

Putin may have forgotten something about those wars: neither of them did Russia any favors, with military failures, political revolutions, famine and death the main results. If Putin thinks a divided Europe is going to make him and his nation stronger, he needs to remember what happened to the Tsar who was in power at the start of the First Big War.

But it's not Putin's relative amnesia that worries me: it's the memory lapses of my own damn nation that's driving me crazy right now.

I'm not that all surprised that more Republicans aren't rising up to denounce Trump: after all, this is the tiger they're riding and they dare not get off. The GOP has their domestic policy agenda of destroying Obamacare destroying Medicare destroying the New Deal destroying everything our nation's done since 1865, and they'll do it while Trump is in office to carry all the blame for the inevitable disasters for them. But even going after NATO and the EU - with all the serious after-effects that can derail our economy - has to be a bridge too far even for these neocons in the Senate and the House. And yet, not a peep from them. Our political leaders are now willing to let a stable, profitable, and effective foreign policy die on the vine just for one man's ego (and man-crush for the Russian dictator).

It's as though the relative stability of the last 50 years dealing with Western Europe never mattered to Trump's ill-informed nationalistic (almost isolationist) world-view, that the last 20 years of relative peace with an entire continent made up of economic and political powerhouses carries no weight with the modern Republican Party that once prided itself on foreign policy expertise.

The United States - and everything we've known in our lifetimes (for everybody born after 1945) - is so very very fucked now.

Just to note one more time, 62 million of my fellow Americans - some of them who should have known better - voted for this oncoming train wreck. And there is nobody else coming to save us.

All so that it would be a stronger world/
A strong though loving world to die in - "Sanities," John Cale

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Observations from the 2017 SwampCon at the University of Florida

So you know me, geek that I am, whenever there's a comic-con in driving distance I am prone to showing up and clogging the narrow vendor aisles.

You might remember I went to this SwampCon at UF last year. They've actually been doing this for awhile, but 2016 was the first I'd heard of it and hey, it's a chance for me to head back and check out my alma mater (also, I'm doing a shit-ton of research on Pragmatism, so to the shelvers at Library West I'm the guy who left three piles of philosophy books on that reading table on the First Floor).

I kinda dreaded going back this year, though, because last year when I went it was the same day Scalia died and the universe exploded. If I went this year and something incredibly insane happened on the political stage, then I'd be convinced that SwampCon is jinxed and I wouldn't go anymore.

Good news is, the worst thing was Trump getting into a Twitter war with civil rights hero John Lewis. Everybody else on Twitter was punching back and making Trump bleed, so it's all nice sweet schadenfreude.

As for the convention itself, here are my takes (and some photos and video):

The registration / wristband tables are set up at the entrance walkway to the Reitz Union.

I didn't dress up this trip. I'm saving the Jedi outfit for the SyFy street convention this February. I basically dressed as I usually did when I was a student here from 1988 to 1992: with a blue button shirt over a Batman tee.

Deadpool! My old nemesis! This time working on his foam sword skills.

Last year was before Pokemon Go came out. This year, I looked at the map and damn near fainted. The University campus has Pokestops all over the place within easy walking distance of each other. As soon as you step out of one Stop's range you're already in range of two others, meaning the spawnage rate with well-placed Lures would make this an ideal hunting ground for Pokemon. IT'S PIKACHU HEAVEN!!!

Also I finally caught a Tauros - my birth sign! - and an Onix, both of which don't naturally spawn where I live.

I need to come back to campus someday, with my bicycle and about 9 Incubation jars with 10km eggs to hatch...

Funny thing about living on a campus for Florida Gators. We get real gators floating in the Reitz Union pond. It's cool, he's cool, we're cool, right Bitey?

Except for this guy. He was pissed he couldn't go wading in that pond.

In terms of vendor space, this one room doesn't compete with the massive floorspaces that MegaCon and Tampa ComicCon work with. This is still a pretty small, regional con. There were a lot of anime/manga vendors though.


Told you I had some homework to do, so I walked from Reitz Union to Library West that afternoon, and en route there's Turlington Hall and THIS statue. Everyone seems to call it "The Potato". Even the Pokestop description labels it "The Potato".

IT'S NOT A FREAKING POTATO, PEOPLE! IT'S A FREAKING GLOVE! Look, to the right of that rocky shape. THAT'S THE THUMB! Sheesh!

Also, that's Century Tower in the background.

After I did some homework on Pragmatism, I walked off-campus across 13th Street to go to Leonardo's Pizza. While there, I got a photo of this... GAUDY MONSTROSITY being built at the corner of University Ave. and 13th.

It's that long-planned condo project the city's been dying to build since I had been back in Gainesville working at Library West from 2003 to 2006. It wouldn't look out of place in New York City or downtown Tampa, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in the middle of a mid-sized city where it will dwarf the college buildings right across the street from it. It blocks out the sky, it's getting built right on top of the roads, claustrophobic... Gods. Look, I know there's a problem with residential properties in Gainesville, as more and more UF students stay in-town when they graduate, and that Gainesville is growing in population. But you need to be more responsible with what you're actually building and where. This thing is gonna clash with the old-style architecture of the UF campus, no lie. Something of this size and complexity could have easily been built maybe a mile away, closer to downtown Gainesville where you want more of a nightlife community to sprout (or maybe closer to Oaks Mall or Archer Road strip malls). You all should have been something half that height and with an eye towards matching the campus architecture to where it would COMPLEMENT the scenery, not consume it.

Speaking of consumption, here's the pizza slice from Leonardo's I ate.

This was a mainstay eatery within walking distance of campus back when I was a student, and it'd been around for years before then. Last year, the place has been bought out by the university (they're looking to build more campus offices I believe) and I've been told that June 2017 is when it will close. So that pizza slice might be the last one I'll ever eat from there.

You can't go home again to the same pizzeria, can you? :(

On the way back, I took a slight detour to go visit one of the iconic locales on-campus.



On the lawn, they were prepping another group of foam swordfights, so I got some video clippage of that. Ooh, wait, I can't, Blogger can't handle the file size. Gimme five minutes to YouTube it instead.

I made it back to SwampCon for the afternoon, and I wanted to go into the "So Bad It's Good" Anime revue. Sadly, by the time I got there the room was packed. Note to the con organizers: next year, bigger room for these guys (or any other anime-themed shows, that culture is HUGE on-campus).

Other observations of note:

There was a shit-ton of Steven Universe cosplayers (I should have gotten more pictures of them, but was busy catching Onixes). Only two Deadpools. Where's my plethora of Deadpools?!?!?!

I'm used to an Artists Alley at other cons where local and published artists set up tables for autographs and print sales. The SwampCon folks should look into that, especially since there's an art college on-campus where up-and-coming sketchers and inkers are learning their trade (and there should be a number of Florida-based artists who'd love to show)...

The UF Bookstore needed to do a better job advertising and promoting the works of the authors who showed up for discussions on writing and publishing. These are authors who either live in Gainesville, are graduates of your school, or authors of some renown who put in the time to help with activities and events for the day. Putting a small pile of books on top of a table with little signage shoved into the corner of the Vendors room does not cut it.

Things have really changed in the year I've been away. Wal-Mart is no longer where it was on Archer Rd. and nearly 90 percent of that mall had been bull-dozed. Half the restaurants I knew are long gone, it took me an hour to find a Mexican eatery (for some reason I was in the mood for Mexican to balance out having pizza for lunch. I don't normally do that...) before I got back on the road to drive home and feed mah kittehs.

I did find time for one thing, to pay my respects:

Always remember.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Whoa Babe Just a Little Bit R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and Why Trump Ain't Getting Any

If there is any joy to find this dismal winter of discontent, it's the malicious joy of watching Trump fumble his way to the podium. Not the growing and alarming revelations of just how nasty his ties to Russia are turning out to be - that's actually making me turn away in horror - but the fact that Trump is still historically, epically (yes, Stephen King will kill me for the adverb use) unpopular with the universe. Via Matthew Yglesias with

On January 10, Quinnipiac released the first big Donald Trump poll of 2017, and it showed that he retains some strengths as a politician. Most voters think he’s intelligent (gaakkkk) and that he’s a “strong person.” (headdesk) A plurality believe he has “good leadership skills.” (o.o)
But his job approval rating is a dismal 37 percent, with 51 percent saying they disapprove of the job he’s doing. Rather than being an effective political tactic, Trump’s habit of frequently saying untrue things has led Americans to conclude by a 53-39 margin that he is not honest. Fifty-two percent say that Trump “does not care about average Americans,” and 62 percent say that he is “not level-headed.”

Just remember kids: this asshole didn't win the Popular vote, he won a broken-down Electoral College.

Sure, Trump got 62 million voters, but as I pointed out a few posts ago our elections are now so partisan that a dead dog could have gotten 62 million votes for the Republicans. I can guarantee you millions of his own voters hated him (they just hated or mistrusted Hillary more).

How historic a disaster is this?

Gallup created a comparative chart of Trump's beginning numbers compared to his predecessors Obama and Bush II and Bill Clinton:

Each of these Presidents were divisive in some respects: Clinton's win in 1992 came from a contested three-candidate race that the Republicans could not abide; Bush the Lesser lost the Popular vote and only won the Electoral College over a contested vote count in Florida (and a 5-4 SCOTUS vote); Obama won the Popular and Electoral but was hated by a Republican party that viewed him as illegitimate and a threat.

Yet all three still had high approval ratings - at least over 60 percent - going into the White House.

There are two very good reasons for this.

First reason is that a majority of Americans - regardless of party or even if they voted - want to think that the incoming President will do well and they wish him well. After all, if he succeeds the nation succeeds. It's called the Honeymoon period. It can last a few months or almost a year during which voters will give him the benefit of the doubt.

The second reason is that all three President-Elects played the public image of a Uniter, giving speeches and presentations alongside both parties to demonstrate no ill-will and to invoke signs of humility and empathy to the electorate. A perfect example is Dubya: having won a bitter contest on questionable grounds, he made a public victory speech where he spoke in humble tones about working with Democrats, and made pointed efforts towards bipartisanship:

Tonight I chose to speak from the chamber of the Texas House of Representatives because it has been a home to bipartisan cooperation. Here in a place where Democrats have the majority, Republicans and Democrats have worked together to do what is right for the people we represent.
We've had spirited disagreements. And in the end, we found constructive consensus. It is an experience I will always carry with me, an example I will always follow...

Granted, once in office Bush and Cheney pursued their hard-core conservative tax cuts and policy initiatives. But he played the part of Uniter well and got his Honeymoon polling numbers in the mid-60s where his political capital had value.

So why is Trump failing at Reasons One AND Two? He's well below the 50 percent mark, and with the Quin poll at 37 percent he's slinking downward with the general public before he's done anything in office to make him even more unliked (which happens to every President, Reagan included).

Big point: Trump is no Uniter figure. His own personal nature as a bully makes that impossible. His history of vulgar and disruptive behavior is a major reason why he's been so unpopular this entire election process. And the stories about him have only gotten worse.

The final most damning part: Trump shows no respect to those he views his lessers. And that includes everyone among his own Republican ranks and his own damn voters (he's publicly admitted as much).

Machiavelli, I know I keep referring back to him, but his passage in The Prince about whether it's better to be Loved or Feared still makes a ton of sense in an electoral system like ours that runs on emotional and irrational decision-making.

Machiavelli noted it was difficult to be loved and feared at the same time, so it was preferred to be feared. He warned, however, that Fear could lead to Hate if you try to employ fear too often. And being Hated was the worst thing a Prince (leader) could become, because in that state the leader's opposition will have nothing to lose and everything to gain by driving you from power.

And Trump is coming into this role of President so very very HATED. Behaving like he's the greatest winner of all time when he really got Second Place, dismissing entire swaths of our population with insults and disdain... People hate him - myself included - with the fire of a thousand suns.

I honestly never saw - or felt - this level of animosity among my co-workers and friends towards an elected President before. Clinton never had this much hate (even after all the mud slung at him in 1992), Bush the Lesser didn't create massive protests against himself before his own tenure started, and Obama's haters were mostly contained to Rush Limbaugh's radio show and the Fox Not-News squad.

Once they hate you, it is hard to turn that emotion into something else.

The real prize for a Prince was to be Respected, a reputation that can co-exist with both Love and Fear. With Respect, a leader can be Feared as long as his subjects were convinced he knew what he was doing and capable at it. With Respect, a leader can be Loved as long as his subjects understood his Love for them was genuine, and borne of responsibility and care for their mutual well-being.

The thing about Respect, it's not given it is earned. As the saying goes, Respect Goes Both Ways. You have to show it towards others to have them respect you.

And Trump, mentioned above, does not respect you. Unless you happen to be Putin.

It shouldn't be any surprise that Trump doesn't get any respect back from the rest of us.

And without that respect, Trump is hated. And getting hundreds of thousands of protesters marching in the streets against him before Day One of his administration even starts.

It's a damn shame it took all these events and revelations after the election for more Americans to figure this out.

Things would be less dreadful and horrifying if 37 percent was his voting base on Election Night.

And we wouldn't have 62 million Americans to blame for the oncoming train wreck.