Category Archives: Idiocy

Israeli shapes a U.S. law enabling campus purges


How would Americans like it if, say, North Korea dictated a law barring criticism of that country on U.S. campuses.

We imagine lots of folks would get righteously upset.

But an Israeli propagandist and former Deputy Prime Minister has done just that.

From the Intercept:

After Donald Trump’s election emboldened white supremacists and inspired a wave of anti-Semitic hate incidents across the country, the Senate on Thursday took action by passing a bill aimed at limiting the free-speech rights of college students who express support for Palestinians.

By unanimous consent, the Senate quietly passed the so-called Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, only two days after it was introduced by Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Tim Scott, R-S.C.

A draft of the bill obtained by The Intercept encourages the Department of Education to use the State Department’s broad, widely criticized definition of anti-Semitism when investigating schools. That definition, from a 2010 memo, includes as examples of anti-Semitism “delegitimizing” Israel, “demonizing” Israel, “applying double standards” to Israel, and “focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations.”

Critics have pointed out that those are political — not racist — positions, shared by a significant number of Jews, and qualify as protected speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

According to the draft, the bill does not adopt the definition as a formal legal standard, it only directs the State Department to “take into consideration” the definition when investigating schools for anti-Semitic discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Now why do we say that the law is the creation of an Israeli propagandist?

That’s because those key words — demonizing, delegitimizing, demonizing — are the formula created by Israeli political propagandist, Natan Sharansky, a former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs and a good friend of Sheldon Adelson, the zealous Ziocon and Las Vegas casino magnate, and newspaper publisher who poured $25 million into a Trump-supporting PAC and sits on Trump’s inauguration committee.

Sharanksy,’s formulation is a brilliant semantic coup, employing words of such vagueness that they can be applied to virtually any critic of Israeli policies.

We know that, because they have been applied to us, repeatedly, first when reporting on the actions of a campaign launched against the Berkeley Daily Planet, a paper that came under fire from a motley crew of militant Ziocons angry because the paper published letters critical of Israeli government policies toward its Palestinian population.

Hillary Clinton lead the way

Attesting to the brilliance of Sharansky’s word-spinning is the fact that it was adopted as the adoption of that very definition of antisemitism by the State Department under Hillary Clinton.

Surely it’s legitimate to criticize the actions of a government which clearly applies double standards by seizing land and homes of non-Jewish citizens while not taking the same actions toward the property of its Jewish citizens.

Similarly, one could question’s Israel’s legitimacy, given that the state was created as the result of an accord between by the British and French governments without the consent of those who lived their, the majority of them not Jewish.

As for demonizing, what word could be more vague?

Trump’s tweet addiction linked to narcissism


While this new academic study doesn’t mention Trump by name, the behaviors described fit no one better.

From the University of Georgia [emphases added]:

A new statistical review of 62 studies with over 13,000 individuals found that narcissism has a modest but reliable positive relationship with a range of social media behaviors. The largest effects were with the number of friends/followers narcissists had and frequency of status updates, followed by selfie postings, according to University of Georgia psychology researchers.

The two strains of narcissistic behavior — grandiose narcissism and vulnerable narcissism — showed different relationships to social media use. Grandiose narcissism, the more extroverted, callous form, positively related to time spent on social media, the frequency of updates, number of friends/followers, and the frequency of posting selfies. Vulnerable narcissism, the more insecure form, did not show any relationship to social media, but there was relatively little research on this form of narcissism.

“The stories you have heard about grandiose narcissism on social media are probably true,” said the study’s senior author, Keith Campbell, a professor of psychology in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Campbell, co-author of the best-selling “The Narcissism Epidemic,” notes that “when you engage with social media, you will be engaging with more narcissism than might really exist in the world. This might distort your view of the world as being more narcissistic than it is.”

“It is important to remember that these are only correlations, however,” said the study’s lead author, Jessica McCain, a graduate student in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences Program in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of psychology. “This is not evidence that social media causes narcissism or vice versa. Theoretically, we suspect that individuals with pre-existing narcissism are drawn to social media, but the present evidence only establishes that the two are related.”

“Networks on social media aren’t designed by people in Silicon Valley,” Campbell said. “They are built one link at a time by users. And narcissists seem to be central to this build-out.”

The study, “Narcissism and Social Media Use: A Meta-Analytic Review,” was published in the early online edition of Psychology of Popular Media Culture and is available here [$11.95 to download].

The diagnostic criteria for grandiose narcissism

So what is grandiose narcissism?

Here are the diagnostic criteria from the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the standard reference for psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. We opted for it rather than the subsequent fifth edition, which uses a lot more words to say the same things:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

And something to help you with the diagnosis

From a fascinating collection of Trumpisms assembled by author Eliot Weinberger for the London Review of Books:

  • ‘My entire life, I’ve watched politicians bragging about how poor they are, how they came from nothing, how poor their parents and grandparents were. And I said to myself, if they can stay so poor for so many generations, maybe this isn’t the kind of person we want to be electing to higher office. How smart can they be? They’re morons.’
  • ‘The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.’
  • ‘I fully think apologising’s a great thing – but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologise sometime in the hopefully distant future if I am ever wrong.’
  • ‘I love women. They’ve come into my life. They’ve gone out of my life. Even those who have exited somewhat ungracefully still have a place in my heart. I only have one regret in the women department – that I never had the opportunity to court Lady Diana Spencer.’
  • [On daughter Ivanka]: ‘She does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.’ ‘Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father…’
  • ‘My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.’
  • ‘My IQ is one of the highest – and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.’
  • ‘We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.’
  • ‘With nuclear, the power, the devastation is very important to me.’
  • ‘Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is a man who is certain about what he wants and sets out to get it, no holds barred. Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money.’
  • ‘When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.’
  • [When confronted by the father of a Muslim U.S. army captain killed in Afghanistan angry over Trump;’s virulent anti-Muslim rhetoricm, who asked the Donald what sacrifices he had made for his country] ‘I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.’

Trump’s climate science war heats up; earth, too


Donald Trump is a fool.

No, we don’t mean he doesn’t have smarts. He clearly does, or else he would be headed to the White House.

But his overwhelming ego and his love of praise from folks who matter to him leave him easy prey to the really smart guys who exploit his vanity to accomplish their own ends.

That said, Trump has been mentored by some of the most duplicitous tricksters ever to appear on the American political scene, most notably Roy Cohn, the lawyer who got his start as Sen. Joseph McCarthy‘s right hand man during the years McCarthy was terrifying the American public with his made-up numbers of secret communists at the heart of American government. And, yes, there were Soviet agents in the government, which gave his spurious claims a germ of credibility.

You can see more than a little of McCarthy in Trump’s bombastic and contradictory claims made during the campaign. You can see more of McCarthy in Trump’s play to the deep and justifiable fears of many Americans that their country is being taken from them by a deep conspiracy of forces beyond their control.

And Trump, like McCarthy, pointed them away from the real conspiracy, that of the wealthy and powerful who have long controlled the American political scene and manipulate it to enlarge their wealthy and extend their power.

People, this is, just like Donald Trump.

As the New York Times reported in June:

For 13 years, the lawyer who had infamously whispered in McCarthy’s ear whispered in Mr. Trump’s. In the process, Mr. Cohn helped deliver some of Mr. Trump’s signature construction deals, sued the National Football League for conspiring against his client and countersued the federal government — for $100 million — for damaging the Trump name. One of Mr. Trump’s executives recalled that he kept an 8-by-10-inch photograph of Mr. Cohn in his office desk, pulling it out to intimidate recalcitrant contractors.

The two men spoke as often as five times a day, toasted each other at birthday parties and spent evenings together at Studio 54.

And Mr. Cohn turned repeatedly to Mr. Trump — one of a small clutch of people who knew he was gay — in his hours of need. When a former companion was dying of AIDS, he asked Mr. Trump to find him a place to stay. When he faced disbarment, he summoned Mr. Trump to testify to his character.

Mr. Trump says the two became so close that Mr. Cohn, who had no immediate family, sometimes refused to bill him, insisting he could not charge a friend.

And then there’s Roger Stone, self-described Republican Hatchet man, the dirty trickster who engineered the so-called Brooks Brothers riots during the 2000 election Florida presidential recount.

From Salon:

It was Cohn who introduced Trump to a young political operator named Roger Stone in 1979. Stone had cut his teeth in the Nixon campaign of 1972 where he posed as a student socialist who donated to an opponent and then made the contribution public. The fake scandal helped scuttle antiwar congressman Rep. Pete McCloskey’s presidential bid and ensured that Nixon was around to give America three more years of a disastrous war and Watergate.

Brilliant and perpetually aggressive—“attack, attack, attack” is his motto—Stone teamed up with Trump to create an ersatz presidential bid in 1987, and the two have been political partners ever since. Like Cohn, Stone is a risk-taker. He and Trump got caught breaking campaign rules as they fought the development of Indian casinos and state officials levied a hefty fine. Stone counsels clients to “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack.” He once told a reporter that it was his practice to always, “Get even.” “When somebody screws you,” he added, “screw ‘em back—but a lot harder.”

Trump’s version of the Stone credo, as he told me, is to “hit back 10 times harder” whenever he feels attacked. Like McCarthy and Cohn and Stone, Trump loves to gossip and trade in information. He too cultivates an air of menace to keep his opponents off-guard and he hates to apologize, or back down. And, like Cohn, he insists that the kind of talk his critics consider offensive is really just the truth expressed without the social amenities. This is an ingenious tactic for someone who wants to be free to say almost anything, even if it’s insulting, and get away with.

It was Stone who came up with the nutball theory that Ted Cruz’s dad whacked JFK. That and so much more.

Both Cohn and Stone played Trump, enhancing their own power while boosting Trump’s ego.

Trump, an ignoramus of the first order

Trump is perhaps the most profoundly ignorant man ever to win the White House.

He reveals his ignorance at every turn n statements uttered with absolute conviction.

And because he is both immensely rich and profoundly angry, he is a man few dare contradict face-to face.

His wealth, power, avarice, arrogance, and ignorance make a powerful and dangerous combination, especially when harnessed by others more cunning and eager to advance their own agendas.

And there are no forces more powerful than banksters and Big Energy.

And they have found their perfect tool in the the Vulgarian-in-Chief, who is setting out out to destroy climate change science in this country.

From the Guardian:

Last week, Donald Trump’s space policy advisor Bob Walker made headlines by suggesting that the incoming administration might slash Nasa’s climate and earth science research to focus the agency on deep space exploration. This caused great concern in the scientific community, because Nasa does some of the best climate research in the world, and its Earth science program does much more. Walker suggested the earth science research could be shifted to other agencies, but climate scientist Michael Mann explained what would result:

It’s difficult enough for us to build and maintain the platforms that are necessary for measuring how the oceans are changing, how the atmosphere is changing, with the infrastructure that we have when we total up the contributions from all of the agencies … we [could] lose forever the possibility of the continuous records that we need so that we can monitor this planet.

Walker’s comments set off alarm bells for another reason. Were it simply a matter of transferring Nasa’s climate and earth science programs to other agencies, what would be the point? Such a transfer would be logistically difficult, and if the research funding weren’t cut, it wouldn’t save any taxpayer money. And it’s not as though the branches doing Nasa’s climate research are distracting other branches of the agency from conducting deep space exploration.

The suggestion does however look a lot like a Trojan horse whose true purpose is to cut government-funded climate research, perhaps transferring some of Nasa’s programs and budget to other agencies and simply scrapping the rest.

Bob Walker’s politicized science

In an interview with The Guardian, Walker accused Nasa of “politically correct environmental monitoring” and “politicized science.” Carol Off from CBC’s program As It Happens conducted a follow-up interview with Walker and asked for examples to support his accusations. Walker cited the example of Nasa’s announcement that 2014 was the hottest year on record, claiming:

The fact that they have reported temperature that they said was the highest temperatures…in history…it turned out that they were only 39% sure of that figure. Well that’s a press release, not a scientific kind of statement. I’m interested in scientific integrity. I’m interested not in scientific analysis that goes to a politically correct outcome.

The reason Walker knew that Nasa estimates gave 2014 a 38% (not 39%) chance of being the hottest year on record (Noaa put its odds at 48%) is that Nasa and Noaa included this information in their announcement. There is uncertainty in every scientific measurement. That’s why scientific theories and conclusions aren’t proven; they’re only supported or disproved by the available evidence.

Images, flags, burning desires, and Vietnam


Following up on our previous post about Donald Trump’s to criminalize and deport folks who burn flags as a means of protesting malignant policies of the American government, we are old enough to remember the Vietnam War, the American government’s failed effort to cement a regime in then-South Vietnam that would dance to a tune orchestrated in Washington.

At the start of World War II, Vietnam was part of the French colony of Indochina, and during the war, Japan invaded and seized control of the region, and a powerful guerilla movement spring up under Ho Chi Minh — who was provided with arms and advisors by the Allies.

Nine years after the war’s end, Vietnam was ruled by Emperor Bao Dai, who had grown increasingly unpopular, Ho’s forces, meanwhile had turned against the French, inflicting a disastrous and decisive defeat of a trapped French army at the battle of Dien Bien Phu on 7 May 1954.

As a result, the nation was partitioned at, with the north governed by Ho and his allies, and Bao Dai ruling in the South, with an election to be held in 1956 to decide on reunification and the leadership of a united Vietnam.

But with U.S. back, Ngô Ðình Diêm defeated Bao Dai in a 1954 election in the south, and the U.S. began pouring in military aid while cutting off the north from sorely needed access to resources.

That same year, as the Pentagon Papers noted, “President Eisenhower is widely quoted to the effect that in 1954 as many as 80% of the Vietnamese people would have voted for Ho Chi Minh, as the popular hero of their liberation, in an election against Bao Dai.”

Since neither the U.S. nor the South Vietnamese governed had signed the treaty calling for the elections, the vote was never held [talk about yer foreign interference in an election. . .].

The stage was thus set for war, and events in Vietnam were elevated into a major Cold War confrontation, with the Soviet Union backing Ho and the U.S. backing Diem.

The U.S. spent lavishly supporting Diem’s military, while Soviewt aid to the North was less extensive, although it did include the war’s decisive weapon, tjhe virtually indestructible AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle, a weapon more durable than any then used by the U.S., and still in use among guerilla forces around the world.

The North supported guerilla forces in the south, the famous Viet Cong, and they steadily eroded the Diem military.

Under John F. Kennedy, American military “advisers” were dispatched to the South, quickly assuming combat roles before becoming the dominant force supporting the Diem regime.

But Diem, a member of the country’s small Catholic community, was immensely unpopular among the country’s majority Buddhists, and the first and most dramatic instance of protest involving fire occurred on 11 June 1963, when in protest of Diem’s repression of the country’s Buddhists, a monk named Thích Quang Duc immolated himself at an intersection just a few short blocks from the Presidential Palace in Saigon.

Images of the act prompted a wave of outrage against Diem that swept around the world:

blog-fire-monk

As the war intensified, the draft began to loom larger in the lives of young American men, many of whom could see no valid reason for killing and being killed in a nation many had never heard of before the war flared into a raging conflagration.

One young man who received his draft notice announced he would not servem declaring:

“I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. . .Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

A year later he would declare:

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father.”

And thus Muhammad Ali earned a federal prison sentence, emerging from behind bars to prove himself the greatest pugilist America has ever produced.

Organized protests began to arise [some of which we participated in], and on 15 October 1969, more than two million Americans marched against the war.

One emblematic action of protests throughout the Vietnam war was flag-burning, here illustrated by protesters demonstrating at the 20 January 1969 presidential inaugural of Richard M. Nixon:

blog-fire-flag

Needless to say, the flag-burnings outraged Republicans of the day.

But the most potent and iconic symbol of the war was the result of the American military’s use of fire bombs during the conflict, delivered sometimes by U.S. jets and, in this instance, by American-supplied South Vietnamese fighter-bombers.

It happened on 8 June 1972, when the village of Trang Bang was targeted with napalm bombs because of intelligence suggested that it harbored Viet Cong guerillas.

One of those burned by the napalm was a nine-year-old girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, and the image s of her flight from the devastation captured by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut burned their way into the American conscience, revealing the ruthless strategy employed by the United States to win at all costs:

blog-fire-vn

But a second photo, showing her grandmother carrying the seared corpse of one of her cousins is perhaps ever more devastating:

blog-fire-vn-2

Perhaps no one better captured the hypocrisy of criminalized flag-burning with the burning of human bodies by a detestable weapon of war that did esnl’s favorite alternative press cartoonist of the 1960’s, R. Cobb, in this brilliant 1967 graphic for the Los Angeles Free Press:

blog-fire-cobb

As for the legality of burning the American flag, here’s the bottom line from Texas v. Johnson, the 21 June 1989 Supreme Court ruling that is currently the law of the land:

If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.

We have not recognized an exception to this principle even where our flag has been involved.

But with Republicans in full control of the White House and national legislature and poised to gain control over the Supreme Court, we expect that Trump will get his wish, one way or another.

Finally, back to Vietnam

The Vietnam War taught the American government two important lessons.

First was an end to the draft.

While virtually unreported by the American media, the real reason Richard Nixon realized he had to end the war was the rebellion of U.S. troops along the Demilitarized Zone [DMZ] separating the two halves of Vietnam.

That’s what happens when you draft young men to fight for a cause for which they see no valid reason to sacrifice their own lives.

Ripping unwilling combatants away from their homes, families, and jobs is a sure-fire way to foster resentment and rebellion, nowhere better shown that in Daniel Zeiger’s brilliant 2005 documentary Sir! No Sir!, recorded here from a broadcast on BBC:

Sir! No Sir! A Film About The GI Movement Against The War In Vietnam

America turns to mercenaries, embedded reporters

Since Vietnam, America has fought its war with mercenaries, soldiers recruited often from the nation’s poorest regions, where youths facing bleak prospects at home are drawn to the military by promises of job training, education funds, and a position they are assured will imbue them with self-dignity and respect.

No more unwilling combatants; rather, a military filled with those who see no other alternative than lives filled with misery.

The second lesson the Vietnam war taught Americans military and political elites was that free-roving reporters could capture images and stories threatening to their interests by revealing powerful counter-narratives to the official line.

Hence the evolution of the embedded reporter, carefully contained and controlled.

And by criminalizing flag-burning, Donald Trump would deprive protest movements of one of their most powerful symbolic acts.

Trump really, really hates the First Amendment


His latest umbrage outrage, revealed in a tweet [of course]:

blog-t-tweet
The Washington Post reports:

President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened loss of citizenship or jail for those who burn the American flag, saying such protests — which the Supreme Court has declared to be free speech — should carry “consequences.”

Flag burning was ruled to be constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment in a 1990 Supreme Court case, United States v. Eichman, that struck down a law seeking to prevent its desecration. Moreover, a 1958 Supreme Court decision rejected the practice of stripping U.S. citizenship as a form of criminal punishment.

>snip<

Trump’s latest interest in curbing First Amendment protections follows several other actions related to free speech, including his blacklisting of reporters who fell out of favor with his campaign and a suggestion that he would “open up” libel laws to make it easier to sue the news media.

Even better, a Washington Post editorial cartoonist perfectly captured the character revealed by his ornamental outrage:

Ann Telnaes: Trump’s new hat reflects his commitment to the First Amendment

blog-t-telnaes

And flags? Really?

Flags are symbols, and only that. The flag flying when we were born had 48 stars, followed soon by a version with 49, then the current fifty-starred version.

Much more precious than any piece of fabric is a human life, and locking or deporting someone for expressing opinion — and that’s what flag-burning is — is antithetical to the First Amendment.

Once you criminalize the expression of opinion, the game is up and totalitarianism has gained a solid foothold.

But, hey, what is Donald except a man who thinks that only his opinions matter?

An old friend used to keep a flag atop the ceramic logs in his gas fireplace in the late 1980s, ready for ignition had the Supreme Court upheld laws criminalizing flags. The court ruled otherwise, and the flag was never burned.

Right on!

Hedline of the day II: Welcome to TrumpAmerica™


From the Guardian:

Delta bans passenger for life after pro-Trump outburst at Clinton supporters

Video on Twitter shows man yelling in the middle of an airplane aisle about ‘Hillary bitches’ as he claps and shouts Donald Trump’s name

Navy’s new $4.4 billion destroyer breaks down


And in a most embarrassing way.

From MercoPress:

The most expensive destroyer ever built for the United States Navy has suffered an engineering problem in the Panama Canal and had to be towed to port. U.S. The 3rd Fleet spokesman Commander Ryan Perry says a vice admiral has directed the USS Zumwalt to remain at ex-Naval Station Rodman in Panama to address the issues. The ship was built at Bath Iron Works in Maine.

The 180 meters long warship has an angular shape to minimize its radar signature. It cost more than US$4.4 billion and was commissioned last month in Maryland. The guided missile destroyer, whose stealth capabilities give it a strikingly angular shape, needed to be towed Monday after suffering an “engineering casualty,” the U.S. Naval Institute’s news site reported.

The Zumwalt was en route from Baltimore, where she was commissioned Oct. 15, to San Diego.

Navy spokesman Perry said in a statement that “the timeline for repairs is being determined now.”

An unnamed defense official told USNI News that repairs to the Zumwalt could take up to 10 days.

So they spend billions to make it and it breaks down on its maiden voyage.

Wonder how much its toilet seats cost. . .