The news has been anything but cheerful lately, but hang in there... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• U-S-A! U-S-A-! U-S-A-! But before we get started... this video is two minutes long. I encourage you to take a hard look at every second of it. This is what happens when you call the coronavirus a "Democrat hoax" and don't take things seriously early on. And, for us here in the USA, we're not even at peak coronavirus yet because there are still states which are refusing to do anything because "We don't have many cases here." Well, yes, you dumb-fucks, the whole point is to KEEP IT THAT WAY...
Stay healthy everybody. You could end up breaking a hip or having a heart attack or chopping off a finger only to find that you can't be seen at a hospital because it's been overrun with coronavirus patients. You may consider yourself able to survive COVID-19... and that's great. But your actions could infect others who end up taking up hospital space you might need for other emergencies. It's in everybody's self interest to keep hospitals from piling up. Let's all pray it's not too late already.
• Trump Is Risen! Thank heavens that President Trump actually listened to people who know shit and reevaluated his plan to cancel quarantine by Easter. But before that happened, there was this, and if you close your eyes...
God only brought one guy back from the dead on Easter. Trump is here to bring back the whole economy on Easter 2020. Enjoy this clip (possibly, like, the best ever), share and be sure to subscribe to Making Podcasts Great Again (@TrumpPod) - new every week! pic.twitter.com/aUifVWRzfh— J-L Cauvin (@JLCauvin) March 24, 2020
And if you think this parody is an exaggeration, Cheeto Jesus has been Tweeting about how big the ratings are for his Coronavirus Press Briefings, despite the fact that more and more people are dying due to the snowball effect of his initial inaction. Holy shit what a narcissistic asshole. And he just keeps getting so much worse every damn day.
• Warz! If you don't know who Max Brooks is, you really should. His book World War Z is sublime apocalyptic zombie-fiction which reads so realistically because his research into pandemics was brutally extensive. He's so well-studied and important to the field of disaster preparedness that he has lectured at the U.S. Navy War College, for heaven's sake. Which is why his viewpoint on current events is worth noting: 'All Of This Panic Could Have Been Prevented': Author Max Brooks On COVID-19. This is some scary shit, and goes to show just how buffoonish the Trump Administration's handling of a crisis of this magnitude has really screwed us.
• ACCESS! Just in case you aren't watching Star Trek: Picard... and you absolutely should be... here's your chance to do so for free. I did not like Star Trek: Next Generation that much, but am loving Picard. I loved Star Trek: Discovery even more (especially the first season), and this freebie unlocks all of CBS All Access, so you can take a look at that one as well!
• Live! There was a meme running through Facebook where you are asked if you can name a band you've seen live for every letter of the alphabet and one that starts with a number. I did pretty good...
Many of these letters could have had multiple answers. I'm fairly certain I saw at least one band with a name starting with "X"... especially some of those indy bands that were playing during the whole "grunge" movement in Seattle when I was hitting the clubs... I just can't think of any.
• Museum Project! People are getting way creative in finding ways to spend their quarantine time. One of my absolute favorites are those who are recreating famous paintings. Some of them are absolute gold, and there's a terrific Instagram feed where they showcase some of the best ones...
A lot of creative use of toilet paper in that Insty-feed!
And there have also been some professional reimaginings that are absolutely sublime. My favorites by a wide margin are those that popped up by Dutch photographer Jenny Boot. Here is Pearl inspired by Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring (housed at Museum Mauritshuis in The Hague)...
©2019 Jenny Boot Photography
The original Vermeer...
Here is de Kus, inspired by Vermeer's The Kiss (housed at Museum Belvedere in Vienna, which I was lucky enough to see in person)...
©2019 Jenny Boot Photography
The original Klimt...
And here is Davinci's Cat inspired by Lady with an Ermine (housed at Muzeum Czartoryski in Krakow)...
©2019 Jenny Boot Photography
The original Da Vinci...
For more of her insanely gorgeous Jenny Boot photography, you can visit their Instagram and website.
• Disneyland-ish? It's not just fine art which is being recreated while people are in quarantine... people are recreating Disneyland and Walt Disney World rides at home! Some of them are just beyond cool...
Yo ho yo ho a quarantine’s life for me! My family’s Disneyland Staycation!
— Brooke (@Brookie_disney) March 20, 2020
I guess if you can't visit in person, this is the next best thing? Kudos to those who are using their alone-time to be so creative!
And now we resume our self-imposed exile.
As much as I wasn't a fan of Valentine's Day before, I am especially not a fan now.
I've been trying really, really hard to change my attitude about stuff that just doesn't matter (like Valentine's Day) but it's proving incredibly difficult. In a day and age where everything is shit that's impossible to escape, even the little things can be completely overwhelming.
In the State of The Union address a week ago, Cheeto Jesus said "I am thrilled to report to you tonight that our economy is the best it has ever been."... then a couple days ago he cut Federal employee raises that were scheduled because of "serious economic conditions." So which the fuck is it? Do we have the best economy that the entire universe has ever known... or is it in the toilet? Like most things in life, both statements are probably true. For billionaires and mega-millionaires, the economy is the best it's been in decades. For everybody else, it's not so great. Partly because of rising costs. Partly because we keep losing things that our taxes have traditionally paid for. Take, for example, libraries.
The presidents current crusade includes cutting funding for libraries. The only way some people can afford to read books is to borrow them from the library. The only way some people can afford to watch movies is to borrow them from the library. The only way some people can afford to get the news from newspapers and magazines is to borrow them from the library. The only way some people can have access to the internet or a computer is to use them at the library. BUT POOR PEOPLE DON'T MATTER, SO CUTTING THEIR ACCESS TO EDUCATION, ENTERTAINMENT, AND A WAY TO COMMUNICATE, FIND A JOB, OR JUST FUCKING EXIST IS NO BIG DEAL WHEN BILLIONAIRES NEED TAX CUTS TO PAY FOR THEIR GOLD-PLATED TOILETS, RIGHT?!?
And then there's the little things. Like the desire to live free from deadly diseases. As you may have heard, the Coronavirus is a big deal. Currently in China, but it could end up wrecking havoc here very easily. Then there's the looming threat of old diseases coming back, which scientists warn could be unleashed from thawing permafrost. And yet President Trump is wanting to slash funding to the Center for Disease Control. It's madness.
But we've got billions to transfer to the ineffective and idiotic "Wall" President Trump is hellbent on constructing. Hope it can stop diseases from getting through.
But anyway... Happy Valentine's Day...
For past year's Blogography Valentine cards, click here!
Yet another mass-shooting by a white supremacist in the news. This time in New Zealand where 49 people were murdered while at worship. It's a horrific event in a series of horrific events where innocent people are targeted by some deranged asshole who has been systematically conditioned to hate people of different races and religions.
Meanwhile back home, our president is inciting his followers to violence. Yet again...
"The left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. Okay?
I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump... I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough. Until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.
But the left plays it cuter and tougher. Like with all the nonsense that they do in Congress … with all this invest[igations]—that’s all they want to do is –you know, they do things that are nasty. Republicans never played this." — President Donald J. Trump, 3/13/19
And, of course, the president's Twitter feed is nothing but a running commentary telling his followers that we are at that "certain point" right now. Which is why it's not surprising that President Trump is praised as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose" in the shooter's 74 page manifesto.
Because of course he is.
Trump is regularly singled out as an inspiration to white nationalists here in the USA and around the globe. And, despite what we are constantly being told by his supporters, it's not some kinds of accident over which The White House has no control. The Trump Administration has been working overtime to embrace their cause. Anybody thinking otherwise is seriously deluded.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a president who inspires us to all just get along?
I've traveled to a lot of places in this world and my biggest take-away has always been this... people are inherently good and just want to live their lives in peace. Whether it's in Tunisia or Istanbul or Bali or even the USA... anywhere that Christian churches, Islamic mosques, Jewish temples, and other houses of worship are built side-by-side and people of different faiths have built a community together... people want to just get along.
Until somebody comes along and tells them why they shouldn't.
And there are a lot of evil people in the world doing just that.
Our leaders shouldn't be those people.
And yet here we are...
I am trying my best to not dump politics in my blog day-in and day-out, but this fucking wall business is driving me insane. The government has been shut down because of it, AND IT WON'T EVEN WORK! But that's not the reason I'm losing my shit. The government spends tons of our money on stuff that doesn't work all the time. What's another $5 billion on top of the $2 trillion that Cheeto Jesus has already added to our $20 trillion national debt?
No, the reason I am beside myself with angst over the wall scenario is because of the ecological disaster it would pose. Which, in turn, would have a horrific effect on animals in the region that need to migrate to survive. Out-of-control government spending is upsetting. But destroying the habitat animals need to survive is rage-inducing.
So fortify the border where needed, yes. Increase manpower there to keep us safe, yes. Be smart about border security, yes. Invest in technology to fortify our country, yes. But get over this damn wall already. It's not going to work anyway. Even if it ever could be built (which, legally, it probably can't be).
But don't take my word for it.
Ladies and gentlemen, Amy Patrick...
To recap: I’m a licensed structural and civil engineer with a MS in structural engineering from the top program in the nation and over a decade of experience on high-performance projects, and particularly of cleaning up design disasters where the factors weren’t properly accounted for, and I’m an adjunct professor of structural analysis and design at UH-Downtown. I have previously been deposed as an expert witness in matters regarding proper construction of walls and the various factors associated therein, and my testimony has passed Daubert.
Am I a wall expert? I am. I am literally a court-accepted expert on walls.
Structurally and civil engineering-wise, the border wall is not a feasible project. Trump did not hire engineers to design the thing. He solicited bids from contractors, not engineers. This means it’s not been designed by professionals. It’s a disaster of numerous types waiting to happen.
Off the top of my head...
1) It will mess with our ability to drain land in flash flooding. Anything impeding the ability of water to get where it needs to go (doesn’t matter if there are holes in the wall or whatever) is going to dramatically increase the risk of flooding.
2) Messes with all kind of stuff ecologically. For all other projects, we have to do an Environmental Site Assessment, which is arduous. They’re either planning to circumvent all this, or they haven’t accounted for it yet, because that’s part of the design process, and this thing hasn’t been designed.
3) The prototypes they came up with are nearly impossible to build or don’t actually do the job. This article explains more. And so on.
The estimates provided for the cost are arrived at unreasonably. You can look for yourself at the two-year-old estimate that you see everyone citing. It does not account for rework, complexities beyond the prototype design, factors to prevent flood and environmental hazard creation, engineering redesign... It’s going to be higher than $50bn. The contractors will hit the government with near CONSTANT change orders. “Cost overrun” will be the name of the game. It will not be completed in Trump’s lifetime.
I’m a structural forensicist, which means I’m called in when things go wrong. This is a project that WILL go wrong. When projects go wrong, the original estimates are just *obliterated*. And when that happens, good luck getting it fixed, because there aren’t that many forensicists out there to right the ship, particularly not that are willing to work on a border wall project— a large quotient of us are immigrants, and besides, we can’t afford to bid on jobs that are this political. We’re small firms, and we’re already busy, and we don’t gamble our reputations on political footballs. So you’d end up with a revolving door of contractors making a giant, uncoordinated muddle of things, and it’d generally be a mess. Good money after bad. The GAO agrees with me.
And it won’t be effective. I could, right now, purchase a 32 foot extension ladder and weld a cheap custom saddle for the top of the proposed wall so that I can get over it. I don’t know who they talked to about the wall design and its efficacy, but it sure as heck wasn’t anybody with any engineering imagination.
Another thing: we are not far from the day where inexpensive drones will be able to pick up and carry someone. This will happen in the next ten years, and it’s folly to think that the coyotes who ferry people over the border won’t purchase or create them. They’re low enough, quiet enough, and small enough to quickly zip people over any wall we could build undetected with our current monitoring setup.
Let’s have border security, by all means, but let’s be smart about it. This is not smart. It’s not effective. It’s NOT cheap. The returns will be diminishing as technology advances, too. This is a ridiculous idea that will never be successfully executed and, as such, would be a monumental waste of money.
Remember when everybody in our district was thrilled when Dr. Kim Schrier, Democrat won over Dino Rossi, Republican in a miraculous upset victory in the last election? Remember when I said that Dino Rossi was a piece of shit and I was happy to have somebody in office who was probably still going to be a piece of shit, but not as big a piece of shit as Dino Rossi?
Yeah. Never mind.
I have voted for many Republicans over the years. Here in Redneckistan, you kind of have to for some positions because Seattle-side politicians don't give a crap about us after they get our votes. But President Trump is so abhorrent that not only did I NOT vote for a single Trump-enabling Republican like Dino Rossi... I take great joy in their defeat. Rossi was hardly an honorable politician, but that wasn't the deciding factor for me (are any of them?). It was Trump, only Trump, and it will always be Trump. Any party that would unleash this monster on the country will not be getting a single vote from me. And may never get a vote from me again.
Rossi would have most certainly voted in support of Mitch McConnell wanting to steal from our Social Security and obliterate Medicare, both of which we pay for. He would have definitely voted to increase our debt in favor of more misguided tax breaks for the über-wealthy that will never benefit working-class Americans (no matter what Republicans say). He probably would have voted for Trump's stupid wall which will ultimately do little-to-nothing to halt immigration or drugs, but would certainly destroy animal migration and the environments which animals live. And I'm fairly certain that he would have supported stopping Mueller's investigation of the horrendous accusations against our president (seriously, shouldn't we be 100% sure about this?). I'm not sure about supporting Dear Leader's insane tariff war, which is decimating American farmers and our exports. But it's a foregone conclusion he would sit idly by as Trump continues his shitty attacks on reporters, the environment, science, poor people, immigrants, Persons of Color, the LGBTQ community, non-Christians, logical thinking, and actual human decency. I'd like to think he would have drawn the line at condemning our allies and praising the enemies of The United States of America like Cheeto Jesus does, but you never know. President Trump is very quick to make enemies of Republicans who do not offer whole-hearted support and non-stop praise of every fucked-up thing he does.
Short-term power gains that Republicans get by enabling the heinous crap Trump says and does on a daily basis will ultimately continue pushing people like me further and further Left. There's just nowhere else for politically unaffiliated people like me to go and feel sane. Or be able to live with ourselves.
It's because of this that I hope the Republican party continues to erode from within because they 100% deserve it. And after they're gone we can work on getting rid of the Democratic party too. Perhaps then we can finally find a political system that works for the people instead of corporate lobbyists. Finally get a political system run by citizens instead of billionaire puppet masters. Finally smash this two-party system that is destroying all of us with corruption, divisiveness, and fear. We've let politicians make ourselves our own worst enemy for far too long. At some point we need to put differences aside and start confronting the REAL enemy. But will we?
Fortunately, it's not up to us, because what we have now is unsustainable. Change will ultimately be coming whether people want it to or not. The question is whether we'll be annihilated in the process. The way things are headed now, it certainly feels that way. We are just too lazy, uninformed, and easily manipulated... and content to remain that way.
In the meanwhile... chocolate cake for breakfast though, so I guess it's not all bad.
I remember the AIDS crisis very well.
The first time I was exposed to it was when a guy a few years behind me in school was rumored to have the disease. Eventually he just... disappeared. No news. No nothing. I have no idea what ever became of him. I do know that his younger brother deflected it by telling unfunny gay and AIDS jokes.* I guess he was intent on making sure nobody thought he was gay too. At the time, I didn't know much about AIDS (there wasn't much to know) but it still seemed incredibly sad. If the guy did have AIDS, then even his family was ridiculing him as he was struggling.
I grew up in rural America where homosexuality was so deep in the closet that it was virtually unheard of outside of gay jokes and people like Boy George becoming famous. I'm sure gay people existed here in the 80's when the AIDS epidemic was beginning, but they were invisible in our community so far as I knew. Probably out of necessity. I heard more than one story of people being run out of town (or, more likely, being threatened with being run out of town) for whatever reason (like having the wrong color skin, for example). So if you were gay and still wanted to live here knowing how some of the natives are, you probably didn't talk about your sexuality openly.
Heck, I had a hard enough time growing up here when people just thought I was gay.** I'm not the most masculine of guys, and apparently that's enough. Never mind that I've only ever dated women and am not sexually attracted to men,*** it's what people think that matters.
Anyway... where was I? Oh yeah.
And then I graduated high school in 1984 and found my way to the real world.
At this time people didn't know much about HIV and AIDS. It was still very much thought of as a "gay disease" even though it had spread far beyond that. I remember seeing protests on the news because people didn't want to send their kids to school if another student had AIDS. Ignorance and fear were rampant and there was a huge amount of misinformation about how you get the disease. Everybody was in a panic, and our government seemed uninterested in helping matters. Despite this horrific failure by President Reagan and our elected officials, people had become better-educated by the time I was finishing up community college in 1986-87. But the stigma was still there. As were the deaths.
My occupation in graphic design is a highly creative field. For whatever reason, creative jobs attract a higher-than-average number of gay persons to their ranks. Which meant I had to set aside my sheltered upbringing and go from barely knowing homosexuality exists... to working with gay people on a regular basis. Luckily my parents provided an atmosphere of tolerance growing up which made this an easy adjustment. What was not easy was living from day to day wondering if any of my friends and colleagues were going to end up missing due to an AIDS-related illness. I'd call to speak with somebody I had been working with just the week before... only to be told that they were no longer there. They were too sick to work. You knew it was coming. They would tell you it was coming. But it was never an easy thing to hear. Sometimes I was able to make it to Seattle or Portland or San Francisco to visit them. Sometimes I wasn't. Sometimes I made it to their funeral.
After a while it became difficult to get through the week without AIDS being a part of the picture. If it wasn't news about somebody you knew, it was somebody known by somebody you knew. As we reached the 90's you'd find yourself becoming numb to it. You had to. It was the only way to stay sane. Usually hearing that somebody died is like a bomb being dropped. Even if you didn't know them very well. But now it was worked into passive conversation. You'd find out someone was gone while eating dinner. It would be "Can you pass the guacamole? Oh... did I mention Bryan died last week?"
It's almost impossible to describe what it was like if you weren't there.
And I'm straight.
I'm filled with despair trying to wrap my head around what it was like for the gay community. I had friends who told me that they spent years in hospitals. Years. Not because they were sick, but because everybody they knew was sick or dying. I am aghast if I have to attend a funeral once a year. If you were an integral part of a large gay community, you might end up at a funeral every month.
Due to the AIDS epidemic, the 80's and early 90's were a tragic time of sadness and loss for a great many people.
As I said, I remember it very well. Too well.
Which is why reading this morning that President Trump's administration has removed $260 million from cancer research, HIV/AID prevention, and other programs is hard to take. AIDS hasn't gone away. AIDS is still here. I know people living with AIDS right now. There still is no cure for AIDS. And the minute we lose vigilance, it could explode all over again. Sure, AIDS is survivable now... it's not a guaranteed death sentence as it once was... but it's still a horrible disease which can have dire consequences. And we want to take money away from making sure it doesn't become a massive health crisis all over again? I don't get it. And if people aren't completely outraged, they don't get it either.
Towleroad published an article yesterday called Wasn't That Long Ago which collects tweets by Tucker Shaw about what it was like to lose somebody back in the day. And here it is in case you didn't know or have forgotten...
I overheard a young man on the train on the way home today, talking to another young man. Holding hands. In college, I guessed. About that age anyway. Much younger than I am. He was talking about AIDS, in a scholarly way. About how it had galvanized the gay community. How it had spurred change. Paved the way to make things better, in the long run.
The long run.
Maybe he’s right. I don’t know. It’s not the first time I’ve heard the theory. He spoke with clarity and with confidence. Youthful, full of conviction. But. Remember how terrible it was, not that long ago, during the worst times. How many beautiful friends died. One after the other. Brutally. Restlessly. Brittle and damp. In cold rooms with hot lights. Remember? Some nights, you’d sneak in to that hospital downtown after visiting hours, just to see who was around. It wasn’t hard. You’d bring a boom box. Fresh gossip. Trashy magazines and cheap paperbacks. Hash brownies. Anything. Nothing. You’d get kicked out, but you’d sneak back in. Kicked out again. Back in again. Sometimes you’d recognize a friend. Sometimes you wouldn’t.
Other nights, you’d go out to dance and drink. A different distraction. You’d see a face in the dark, in the back of the bar. Is it you? Old friend! No. Not him. Just a ghost. At work, you’d find an umbrella, one you’d borrowed a few rainstorms ago from a coworker. I should return it, you’d think. No. No need. He’s gone. It’s yours now. Season after season. Year after year.
One day you’d get lucky and meet someone lovely. You’d feel happy, optimistic. You’d make plans. Together, you’d keep a list of names in a notebook you bought for thirty cents in Chinatown so you could remember who was still here and who wasn’t, because it was so easy to forget. But there were so many names to write down. Too many names. Names you didn’t want to write down. When he finally had to go too, you got rid of the notebook. No more names.
Your friends would come over with takeout and wine and you’d see how hard they tried not to ask when he was coming home because they knew he wasn’t coming home. No one came home. You’d turn 24. When he’d been gone long enough and it was time to get rid of his stuff, they’d say so. It’s time. And you’d do it, you’d give away the shirts, sweaters, jackets. Everything. Except those shoes. You remember the ones. He loved those shoes, you’d say. We loved those shoes. I’ll keep those shoes under the bed.
You’d move to a new neighborhood. You’d unpack the first night, take a shower, make the bed because it’d be bedtime. You’d think of the shoes. For the first time, you’d put them on. Look at those shoes. What great shoes. Air. You’d need air. You’d walk outside in the shoes, just to the stoop. You’d sit. A breeze. A neighbor steps past. “Great shoes,” she’d say. But the shoes are too big for you. You’d sit for a while, maybe an hour, maybe more. Then you’d unlace the shoes, set them by the trash on the curb. You’d go back upstairs in your socks. The phone is ringing. More news.
The long run. Wasn’t that long ago.
No. No it wasn't that long ago.
To me it seems like it was only yesterday.
How long must it seem to the people running this country?
*The only joke I remember hearing him tell had something to do with a ferry rear-ending a sailboat in Puget Sound and now they both have AIDS. Yeah, hilarious.
**Many people still do, I'm sure.
***Though, if I'm being honest, I think I have better relationships with men. I'm not sexually attracted to men. I've never had sex with a man. But building a healthy relationship with women is apparently not something I'm built for because they never last. Even when the sex is great. Which is why I'm guessing I'm still single. Meanwhile, I've had non-sexual relationships with men whom I love on a near-spiritual level that have lasted decades. So... never say never, I guess. I've had sex with women whom I wasn't sexually attracted to, so maybe one day I'll meet the right guy and everything will change! If it happens, dear reader, you'll be the first to know.
We're on fire again and smoke fills the air... but don't despair, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• M-S-G Can You Dig It? Absolutely fascinating...
I don't eat Chinese food hardly at all (it's not very good here, and choices for vegetarians are severely limited)... and yet I've heard the MSG myth forever.
• Monkey Business! In case everybody doesn't know... I put the first volume of Bad Monkey Comix up to read online for free. You can take a look by clicking on this image...
Or you can just click this link!
• New MacBooks! Apple's new "Pro" MacBooks once again lacking the ports that "pros" need to actually FUNCTION in their fucking JOBS. Such a crock of shit. DONGLES! DONGLES EVERYWHERE!!!
I thought that Apple was supposed to be working with pros to find out what they want in "pro" products? I don't think that's true. Otherwise they wouldn't be sticking with a shallow, shitty keyboard and no standard USB ports. At least you get more than one port now. Still no MagSafe, which sucks.
• Science Fact! Tom Bailey's new album, Science Fiction, is here! If you pre-ordered, it has probably arrived (my autographed copy of the deluxe set did!) but you can also listen to it on the usual streaming services. I'm saving my review for another entry, but here's a sneak preview: love it.
• Be You! Oh noes. Roll up on a woman, call her a slut because of what she is wearing, then think that you can then proceed to slut-shame her into submission? Not. This. Woman. Not today. My guess is not any day...
What absolutely kills me about this is how we rave about "American freedom"... but never seem to back that up. Whether it's telling a Muslim woman she's wearing too much... or telling this woman she's wearing too little... everybody is just DYING to tell OTHER PEOPLE HOW TO LIVE THEIR LIVES. Well fuck that. Live your truth. Be who you are. Defy those who would oppress YOUR FREEDOM by defining what it means for you to be free. So long as you're not endangering others, be free to be you.
• Incompetence. I have been trying very hard to keep politics off of Blogography because I don't want it degrading into a comedy of horrors that makes me want to slit my wrists every time I visit my own blog. But things are so bad right now. So bad. And people don't even seem to realize what's happening. The Trump Administration trade fiasco is probably going to damage this country more than anything so far. Companies are already laying off scores of workers because the reciprocal tariffs are making it impossible for them to operate. It's horrendous, and it's just the beginning. From Professor David Honig...
I’m going to get a little wonky and write about Donald Trump and negotiations. For those who don't know, I'm an adjunct professor at Indiana University - Robert H. McKinney School of Law and I teach negotiations. Okay, here goes.
Trump, as most of us know, is the credited author of The Art of the Deal, a book that was actually ghost written by a man named Tony Schwartz, who was given access to Trump and wrote based upon his observations. If you've read The Art of the Deal, or if you've followed Trump lately, you'll know, even if you didn't know the label, that he sees all dealmaking as what we call "distributive bargaining."
Distributive bargaining always has a winner and a loser. It happens when there is a fixed quantity of something and two sides are fighting over how it gets distributed. Think of it as a pie and you're fighting over who gets how many pieces. In Trump's world, the bargaining was for a building, or for construction work, or subcontractors. He perceives a successful bargain as one in which there is a winner and a loser, so if he pays less than the seller wants, he wins. The more he saves the more he wins.
The other type of bargaining is called integrative bargaining. In integrative bargaining the two sides don't have a complete conflict of interest, and it is possible to reach mutually beneficial agreements. Think of it, not a single pie to be divided by two hungry people, but as a baker and a caterer negotiating over how many pies will be baked at what prices, and the nature of their ongoing relationship after this one gig is over.
The problem with Trump is that he sees only distributive bargaining in an international world that requires integrative bargaining. He can raise tariffs, but so can other countries. He can't demand they not respond. There is no defined end to the negotiation and there is no simple winner and loser. There are always more pies to be baked. Further, negotiations aren't binary. China's choices aren't (a) buy soybeans from US farmers, or (b) don't buy soybeans. They can also (c) buy soybeans from Russia, or Argentina, or Brazil, or Canada, etc. That completely strips the distributive bargainer of his power to win or lose, to control the negotiation.
One of the risks of distributive bargaining is bad will. In a one-time distributive bargain, e.g. negotiating with the cabinet maker in your casino about whether you're going to pay his whole bill or demand a discount, you don't have to worry about your ongoing credibility or the next deal. If you do that to the cabinet maker, you can bet he won't agree to do the cabinets in your next casino, and you're going to have to find another cabinet maker.
There isn't another Canada.
So when you approach international negotiation, in a world as complex as ours, with integrated economies and multiple buyers and sellers, you simply must approach them through integrative bargaining. If you attempt distributive bargaining, success is impossible. And we see that already.
Trump has raised tariffs on China. China responded, in addition to raising tariffs on US goods, by dropping all its soybean orders from the US and buying them from Russia. The effect is not only to cause tremendous harm to US farmers, but also to increase Russian revenue, making Russia less susceptible to sanctions and boycotts, increasing its economic and political power in the world, and reducing ours. Trump saw steel and aluminum and thought it would be an easy win, BECAUSE HE SAW ONLY STEEL AND ALUMINUM - HE SEES EVERY NEGOTIATION AS DISTRIBUTIVE. China saw it as integrative, and integrated Russia and its soybean purchase orders into a far more complex negotiation ecosystem.
Trump has the same weakness politically. For every winner there must be a loser. And that's just not how politics works, not over the long run.
For people who study negotiations, this is incredibly basic stuff, negotiations 101, definitions you learn before you even start talking about styles and tactics. And here's another huge problem for us.
Trump is utterly convinced that his experience in a closely held real estate company has prepared him to run a nation, and therefore he rejects the advice of people who spent entire careers studying the nuances of international negotiations and diplomacy. But the leaders on the other side of the table have not eschewed expertise, they have embraced it. And that means they look at Trump and, given his very limited tool chest and his blindly distributive understanding of negotiation, they know exactly what he is going to do and exactly how to respond to it.
From a professional negotiation point of view, Trump isn't even bringing checkers to a chess match. He's bringing a quarter that he insists of flipping for heads or tails, while everybody else is studying the chess board to decide whether its better to open with Najdorf or Grünfeld.
— David Honig
This level of incompetence when it comes to trade is going to completely and totally fuck us. And make no mistake that we, as a country, are fucked. And this is just trade. We are equally fucked in many other areas. Which leads me to believe that President Trump thinks that the era where America was "great" is The Great Depression.
And don't think that just getting a new president in two years is going to fix the problem. The things that have been screwed up may very well take decades to correct. If they are correctable at all.
• Czech! Came home to see Stripes was on this past week. It was at the part where their unit has accidentally crossed the border into Czechoslovakia and so, naturally, they're all going to die. Amazing how international relations have changed within my lifetime. I've been to Czechoslovakia... and China... and Romania... and other countries it was assumed I would never be able to step foot in back in the day...
Of course... thanks to the ineptness of the Trump Administration, we may very well be going back to those times, so I guess I'm happy to have enjoyed it while it lasted. Pretty soon the only place that Americans may be able to travel is Russia and North Korea.
• Which Brings Us To... So... under President Obama we were the laughing stock of the world you say? What about now, you feckless ridiculous ignorant fuck?
The absurdity of where we are as a country keeps hitting new lows.
And, I think that's enough bullets for a smoke-filled Sunday. See you next week!
Everybody is laughing at the idea of spending billions of dollars we don't have on a "space force." But you won't be laughing when the alien invasion comes and we are DOMINATINNNNNNG SPAAAAACE!!!
Oh... you say aliens that are capable of interstellar travel will have technology that makes any "space force" we come up with about as threatening as a BB gun? Well... well... WE CAN STILL KEEP THE MEXICANS FROM INVADING THE MOON! HA!! CHECKMATE, HATERS!!!
Space exploration has always resulted in amazing technologies that eventually filter downward and make everybody's life better. I 100% support my tax dollars going towards organizations like NASA, who do a lot more than just push the boundaries of human knowledge... they also invest in technologies which keep us safe and help us to have a better understanding of the world we inhabit and (at least until the current administration) the dangers we face from the destruction we're causing to it.
Likewise, I also 100% support my tax dollars being spent on defense. Sure, I think it's insane that we have such a massive military complex when so many of the current threats we face can't be remedied that way... and it seems crazy that we have weapons enough to destroy the world a hundred times over and are told we still need more... but I want our military to always have access to cutting-edge technology which keeps them (and us) safe. So yeah, budget for that. Not military parades and golf trips on Air Force One, but that.
And now we're getting a space force?
We've got homeless vets, a stupid-ass 100% completely ineffectual wall to build, and legions of other problems that could use our tax dollars... but pew! pew! pew! pew!
Everybody: "Did you watch the State of the Union address?"
Me: "Fuck, no."
In an effort to remain more positive in 2018 than I was in 2017, I have made a huge effort to avoid things that will send me into fits of absolute rage.
Which is also why I am no longer accepting babysitting jobs. So please don't ask me.
As a wise man once said before the election...
"Donald Trump is a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, foreigner-bashing, non-Christian-hating, ignorant, unstable, narcissistic, intolerant, bigoted piece of shit. And electing Trump is the equivalent of hanging a giant banner outside the country advertising the fact that we're a nation of racist, homophobic, misogynistic, foreigner-bashing, non-Christian-hating, ignorant, unstable, narcissistic, intolerant, bigoted pieces of shit. And that doesn't even address the embarrassment factor of having this ridiculous buffoon representing Americans on the global stage. You think we were the laughing stock of the planet during the Bush years? Try 1400+ days of Toxic Cheeto Jesus."
— David Simmer II, Blogography: No… God, No… Please Save Us…
The old me might have said something like that (or never said anything like that... these days apparently you can deny what you said even if others have heard you say it or the statement is recorded). But my New Year's resolution was to start being less ranty and more constructive so let's work from there, shall we?
This is exactly who Donald Trump is and has always been. Even FOX "News" initially confirmed that President Trump uttered these heinous words (even though the network is backtracking on their confirmation now, of course). Senator Dick Durbin was there and has said that he heard the president say it. Senator Lindsey Graham is reported to have confirmed this was what the president said (and hasn't contradicted any reports stating so).
And so... if I'm not going to rant over what a racist piece of shit* we elected to run this country or how diplomatically stupid you have to be to lob such insults at other countries when you're representing this country... what else is there to say?
Something positive and constructive? On this?
Well... Zimbabwe may not have a Trump Tower, but it's actually a beautiful country and has some amazing people...
There's many a day lately I'd like to escape the "shithole" of Trump's America and return to Africa, that's for sure.
*Racist as in... three guesses as to what the predominant color of the people are in Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries... vs. the predominant color of the people in Norway.