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Trump and the 2nd American civil war

May 3, 2020

My unhealthy interest in US politics leads me back to the keyboard, to tell you why I think another civil war is coming to America, how it will start, and the really strange confluence of events that are leading the US towards its own destruction.

***

I saw this coming a few days ago, and a Guardian report lends my notion more weight: the strangest proxy war ever seen, where America is the host nation, and the combatants are China and Russia. But instead of arming the various factions, this is a virtual war fought between the disinformation factories of the two countries – China supports Biden by spreading the truth about Trump, while Russia supports Trump by spreading lies about Biden. Once more, it’s a ‘you couldn’t make this shit up’ moment:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/30/trump-claims-china-will-do-anything-to-stop-his-re-election-as-coronavirus-row-escalates

It’s clear that Trump has now chosen a strategy he believes will deflect much of the criticism he will face between now and November over his handling of the virus, and the unfortunate fact that the world’s most technologically advanced and richest nation has exhibited the worst response to the pandemic of any nation on Earth, with the most infections and the most deaths. He will relentlessly blame China, knowing his supporters will subscribe to this xenophobia almost reflexively (and that they are likely a bit bored with pack-hunting socialists, xenophobic attacks on Muslims and spraying swastikas on synagogues, although none of this will ever go entirely out of fashion). I do however predict that Trump is going to get a lot more concerned about foreign interference in a US election when he’s on the end of the kind of disinformation Hilary Clinton endured instead of the pandering Russian support he got last time round, whilst utterly failing to understand why Putin was investing so heavily in splitting America apart and reducing its global influence to that of a nuclear-armed banana republic.

And in one of the most ironic statements I’ve seen in a long time, Trump says this about polls showing Biden leading him in the latest polls: “I believe the people of this country are smart. And I don’t think that they will put a man in who’s incompetent.” To which one can only reply “they elected you, didn’t they?”

***

I send these thoughts out to a few friends who put up with my musings. One of them came back to me predicting another Trump win:

Try this video if you haven’t seen it before – the first 30 secs gives the idea – the rest just confirms that Trump will probably win again. These people are extreme examples, but there is a sizeable majority who are sufficiently like minded… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzDhm808oU4

I disagree with this prediction on several key issues. Forgive me if I go to tedious lengths in order to explain why.

The central premise is that Trump will win again, and my friend cites a ‘sizeable majority’ of moderate right-wingers as the basis for this prediction (as opposed to the far-right extremes). Oddly enough, he asks a question later that alludes to my rebuttal – “how did Obama get elected?” To complete the question, I would add – ‘and by whom?’

From the standpoint of electoral demographics, it has become clear there is no Republican majority in the US. Recently, house Democrats proposed as part of a Coronavirus stimulus package funding for, among other things, vote-by-mail, same-day registration and early voting in order to safely run elections amid the Covid-19 pandemic. In one of the most inadvertently telling statements Trump has ever blurted out, he said this: ““The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Levels of voting! In other words, if all eligible US citizens were allowed to make it to the polls and cast their votes, Republicans would be doomed.

This is also how The Guardian interpreted the statement: “Democrats often accuse Republicans of deliberately making it hard to vote in order to keep minorities, immigrants, young people and other groups from the polls. And Republicans often say they oppose voting reforms because of concerns of voter fraud – which is extremely rare – or concerns over having the federal government run elections. But Trump’s remarks reveal how at least some Republicans have long understood voting barriers to be a necessary part of their political self-preservation.”

I have read other analyses since then, which agree that in fact, the Republicans are a minority party who hold on to power only through corrupt means – principally gerrymandering and voter suppression. Here’s another quote from the same Guardian article: In December, a Trump campaign aide was recorded saying: “Traditionally it’s always been Republicans suppressing votes in places.” The aide later told the Associated Press he was saying that Republicans have traditionally been accused of voter suppression.

So,  from an electoral view, if there was a full turnout of eligible voters, Trump would lose on the basis of demographics alone. And consider how Obama got elected: it would not be credible to argue that some meaningful proportion of Republican supporters voted for Obama, giving him the win. He was elected by a very strong turnout of energised Democratic voters – twice – who recognised both the quality of the candidate, and the historic import of electing a black man to the highest office in the land in a country still tarnished, and partly defined, by all too recent memories of the KKK, segregation and the murder of MLK. Slavery is historic; the civil rights act and the opposition to it came about in our lifetimes.

So let’s now consider how Trump got elected. Trump did not win the election: Clinton lost it. There are quite a few factors in this, but here’s a summary. First, Clinton was disliked by a proportion of the left who felt she had sold them out as she grew more moderate and centrist with age. No longer a rebel hot-head (her combative nature is one important reason her own healthcare initiative failed when she was first lady), she also became rather hawkish as Secretary of State, which dismayed many supporters. Her antipathy to Bernie Saunders and his agenda alienated young progressives. Her handling of the Benghazi attacks wasn’t very adept; 10 investigations found no wrongdoing (six of them by Republican controlled committees), but enough mud was thrown that some would inevitably stick. And out of that investigation came the revelation that she was using a private email server (like several Secretaries of State, as it turns out, including Colin Powell): again, the FBI found no classified information was compromised, but it was more mud.

Then there was the perception of nepotism, of elitism and ‘ivy league’ arrogance. One of the most stupid things she did during her campaign was referring to Trump supporters as ‘deplorables’ – a remark that confirmed every democrat’s worst fears about her attitude and hardened opinions of any moderate, unaligned centrists who might otherwise have considered voting for her. Add to that the concerted disinformation campaign by the Russians, and you have a very touch-and-go election on the horizon, with a remarkable number of Democrats now hating her with a visceral intensity I found really shocking.

But most damning of all – and I agree with the analysis that suggests this was the event that lost her the election – was the statement made by then FBI director James Comey on October 28th – only 10 days before the election – that the FBI was re-opening the email investigation on the basis of having new evidence. Her election campaign died at that moment – and she still got 3 million more votes that Trump even then! (Comey also made a statement on November 6 – two days before the election – that the FBI had not changed its original conclusion: “…that Clinton had been “extremely careless” but recommended that no charges be filed”.

So that’s how Trump won – not by commanding a sizeable majority, but by a confluence of corruption, misinformation and voter apathy; by more Democrat voters staying at home than Republican supporters (although the turnout was at a 20-year low across the board) . Here’s a graph showing the demographics of the last three elections:

Voting graph

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/11/politics/popular-vote-turnout-2016/index.html

***

Conclusion: Trump’s re-election is by no means certain. In this febrile atmosphere of venal corruption, entrenched partisanship and paradigm-cracking madness, nothing can be taken for granted. I do think that if Biden (who I believe is waiting for his moment nearer the election) chooses the right running mate, someone like Elizabeth Warren, a woman who can bring in the young and the progressives and who is smart, focused, good on detail and tough enough to make mincemeat of Pence, he could certainly win. I also think that focusing exclusively on the presidential race is a serious mistake, because unless the Democrats can keep their Congressional majority and take back the Senate, it is irrelevant who sits in the Oval Office.

But above all, Biden has a not-so-secret weapon the likes of which Trump can only dream of: The Obamas, both of whom have now endorsed him. With such a widely-respected ex-President campaigning for you, along with his equally formidable wife, the influence brought to bear on Biden’s behalf cannot be overstated. Trump’s most ardent supporters will, of course, stick by him, but if they are in fact a minority – and there will be those who have had enough of the the lies, the self-importance, the nepotism, the incompetence and egregious disregard for decency and will stay at home on election day, just as the Dems did for Clinton – then we can look forward to the next American civil war, because if Trump loses the election, what’s left of his mind will go with it.

What happens when a defeated president refuses to vacate the White House, insists that he was not beaten at all; that the results are down to the ‘deep state’ conspiring against not only him, but his supporters? He will claim falsified returns, China’s interference and an invisible alien spacecraft bending people’s minds and more, playing to the base fears of the right-wing convinced they are victims of yet another conspiracy, a very consistent belief among Trump supporters. And Trump will do what he’s rehearsing now: demand his supporters protect their second-amendment rights by taking to the streets, and if necessary by shooting every liberal they can find.

Should make for some good TV though.

How to miss several boats: Amitav Ghosh on climate change in literature

October 30, 2016

It’s hard to summarise the gish-gallop that is Amitav Ghosh’s rather self-serving and thoroughly specious article in the Guardian, but this quote seems to provide sufficient material to work with (with my emphasis added):

It is a simple fact that climate change has a much smaller presence in contemporary literary fiction than it does even in public discussion…Indeed, it could even be said that fiction that deals with climate change is almost by definition not of the kind that is taken seriously: the mere mention of the subject is often enough to relegate a novel or a short story to the genre of science fiction.

Amitav Ghosh: where is the fiction about climate change?

So, to sum up; if it’s sci-fi, it’s not serious? Not taken seriously by whom? My first reaction to this elitist nonsense is anglo-saxon in origin. Best move on…

 *****

The comments under the article are well-informed (considerably better informed, actually) and many focus on the self-inflicted nature of Ghosh’s dilemma: an obsession with the validity of genres, and a casual disrespect for the work of so many authors whose work he dismisses because he thinks their work isn’t ‘literary fiction’, while berating authors he admires but who he claims have not contributed to cli-fi, or not contributed enough.

Read more…

Why Democrats Who HATE Clinton Should Vote For Her Anyway

September 1, 2016

Americans can review their choice of President every four years. They can never review the Justices a president will appoint to the Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS), the body whose political complexion will shape the future of American democracy for decades to come.

A lifetime appointment, Supreme Court Justices make and break the laws, for better or worse. They are largely unaccountable: the only way an appointee can be removed is by impeachment – which has never happened in since the court was founded in 1789.

The court’s power is hard to overstate. It not only charts the course of US democracy, but frequently holds the pen that writes the country’s history: slavery, free speech, civil rights, abortion, the death penalty – and of course the right to bear arms – are just some of the key decisions that have shaped American society.

In the near future – and depending on who wins the race to the White House – the court will likely be called to rule on socialised medicine, immigration, racial discrimination, privacy and surveillance, affirmative action, voting rights and district boundaries, climate change, energy and environment, to revisit ‘Citizens United’ and campaign finance, the death penalty, second amendment rights, and Roe v. Wade, the cornerstone abortion ruling that enshrines a woman’s right to choose.  These are pressing issues of grave import, and the decisions made will define America for many decades.

Read more…

Climate change consensus: the percentage game

June 2, 2014

A notorious lobby group just launched another scurrilous attack on the 97% consensus on climate change. Why do they waste their time, when proving the lack of consensus should be so easy to do?

Once more, environmental scientist and risk assessor Dana Nuccitelli has been obliged to defend the paper he co-authored with John Cook, assisted by a shed-load of Skeptical Science readers: “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature”. The paper proved – once more – that the vast majority of scientific papers (and the scientists who wrote them) endorse the principle theory of anthropogenic climate change; that the climate is changing so rapidly there has to be a very un-natural cause, and humans are it.

On the off-chance that you’re unfamiliar with this issue, Cook and Nuccitelli’s peer-reviewed paper, published by respected journal Environmental Research Letters, confirmed what a number of previous studies had already found: Oreskes 2004, Doran & Zimmerman 2009, Anderegg et.al., 2010 all discovered that around 97% of climate scientists and/or the papers they published support the basic tenets of global warming caused by human agency. In the common parlance, this 97% are said to form a consensus, which on the face of it hardly seems to merit contention. Needless to say, this consensus is in fact one of the most contentious issues in the entire climate change debate. Read more…

The clarion call to action on climate change will be made by the next generation

May 22, 2014

Closing the extreme weather generation gap brings climate change reality to the public in a way that no amount of demagoguery can defeat

When it comes to doing something about it, the most intractable climate change problem is grass-roots political support. Without a clear mandate, there can be no substantive legislative progress. It’s a brave politician indeed who supports a course of action pretty much guaranteed to terminate his career. A clear, unequivocal mandate is a must: it’s absence to date is the biggest barrier to meaningful and enduring political action.

The reasons are diverse. Foremost in the democratic nations is the divisive nature of the debate, a crucial issue when those divisions are ideological. Scientists, pundits and activists alike may desire more public support based on scientific evidence, but it seems clear that such evidence doesn’t impinge much on the broader public discourse, one way or another.

After all, as I pointed out recently, we’ve had a literal mountain of reports delivered to our doors – well, screens – all free, all staggeringly comprehensive in both scope and weight, and all from authoritative sources as diverse as the Royal Society, the IPCC, the AAAS and the Pentagon. Such diversity precludes the kind of foolish dismissal the denial community indulges in – their projection that climate change science is coloured by ideological intentions, when denial is founded on nothing else but. (They sure as hell don’t have any science, but as we shall see, they don’t appear to need any).

The mountainous reports may have some influence at institutional levels, but in the public domain I fear that they gain little lasting traction.  As the Huffington Post reported recently, “According to the National Science Foundation’s recently released Science and Engineering Indicators 2014, 80% of Americans do not understand what it means to study something scientifically”. Without an understanding of how science works, the public are unlikely to be swayed by its discoveries, beyond a mild frisson over the morning’s first cup of coffee. (Gosh! Ice in that cold place up north is melting, it says here…pass the toast…can’t believe how crap Manchester United are this season…). Read more…

GWPF and Bengtsson: Burning Ivory Towers provide convenient smoke screen for the melting ice

May 20, 2014

While the story of academic Lennart Bengtsson setting his pants on fire dominates the media, are we being distracted from the disaster of the melting ice, and the escalating war on science and fact?

For Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, Christmas came early this week. The GWPF is – notionally – an “educational charity” but in reality it’s a lobbying outfit whose purpose appears to be to dismiss or minimise the significance of climate science at the behest of its funders. Frequently accused of disinformation and gross inaccuracy, it is no surprise to find there are numerous documented links between the GWPF, right-wing political organisations, and fossil fuel interests (See Sourcewatch, DeSmogBlog and others) .

In the context of the GWPF and its machinations, it is appropriate to consider a quote from one of the ‘founding fathers’ of modern Public Relations:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda, 1928.

Read more…

Is There a Climate Crystal Ball?

May 15, 2014

When it comes to what society should do about global warming, there is quite a lot to consider. While reducing emissions is the clear end-goal, the speed at which it’s done and how much of today’s time and money is spent on mitigation or adaptation depends on how much immediate danger climate change presents during our lifetimes, or those of the next generation. It’s the near future most people are concerned with — perhaps too concerned when “near future” is a synonym for “my electoral term in office” or “my spell as CEO.”

The overall effect of manmade greenhouse gases on the climate is modeled in different ways, but only one measure is considered “policy relevant.” It’s called Transient Climate Response (TCR), defined as the global mean-temperature change on the day that carbon dioxide (CO2)has doubled over pre-industrial levels, given a rate of increase of 1 percent per year. Climate scientists believe that Earth will reach a doubling of CO2 within the lifetime of a child born this year. If TCR is high, society must act very quickly, and the amount spent must be proportional to the immediacy of the danger. If TCR is low, then temperatures won’t go up much, in which case there is more time, and people can spend less money now. Read more…

IPCC, AAS, NAS, Royal Society, Pentagon & USGCRP reports: Is it possible to have too much information about climate change?

May 9, 2014

It’s a brave and foolhardy businessman who ignores instability when it infiltrates all our planning, borrowing, growth and analysis. Equally, those who ignore the risks and costs of global warming are surely in for a shock – and sooner rather than later. It seems increasingly improbable that anyone could still be denying the gravity of our situation, given the wealth of information we now have about it.

In a raft of reports released over the last few months, there is so little room for doubt it makes climate change denial seem not just irresponsible, but plainly irrational. In February the UK’s Royal Society (RS) and the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) jointly issued a report (Climate change: Evidence & Causes) bearing messages that would be repeated weeks later in an initiative from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), aiming to ‘expand the dialogue on the risks of climate change’. The core message, covering climate change science, the effects and the risks, is summarised in the report, called “What We Know”. Read more…

Global Warming: never mind the models, just look out of the bloody window

March 28, 2014

Provincial myopia prevents us from seeing the bigger picture – and that’s what the contrarians depend on

It’s one of the staples (or perhaps clichés) of the contrarian canon; “it’s happened before”. You don’t need to look very hard to find this premise propping up arguments in the US, the UK, in Australia – pretty much anywhere there are contrarians. Bloggers use it with abandon in comments below any article about extreme weather, as if stating the bleedin’ obvious is going to change the laws of physics.

We’re on the eve of the release of Working Group 2 (WG2) – “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” – the next part of the IPCC’s AR5 report. While last year’s WG1 was about the science, this new report is the one that tells us what’s happened so far, and what’s likely to happen in the future. While WG1 alludes to risk, WG2 spells it out.

It’s not the only recent report to do so. Unusually, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has also released a report that, for them, is pretty blunt. Called ‘What we know’ (PDF), it spells out very clearly the range of risks we can now be very confident we’re going to face if we don’t do something about our greenhouse gases very soon.

Of course, the AAAS report, and that part of WG2 that address risks – threats yet to materialize – are based on models that predict what will happen. There is no other way to make such predictions, except if you think that chicken entrails or Tarot cards can do the trick. It’s very odd how certain the contrarians are we’re not going to face these problems, or that the net result of climate change will, in fact, be positive, when they have no science whatever to back up their egregiously vapid claims. Read more…

Nuclear power is dead: long live nuclear power

March 20, 2014

Interesting story in the Guardian this morning; China working on uranium-free nuclear plants in attempt to combat smog. The gist of it is that China has given a research group 10 years to design and build a working nuclear plant based on new (and as yet unproven)  technology that uses thorium molten salt as a fuel instead of uranium. An advanced research centre was set up in January by the Chinese Academy of Sciences with the aim of developing an industrial reactor in 25 years, but the smog problem is getting so bad the government has now reduced the timescale (although the article doesn’t say if they also increased the funding appropriately – let’s hope so, rather than making the demand with unfortunate implications for those poor souls should they fail). Read more…

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