Nuremberg and Nazis

Today we toured Nuremberg, and learned more about Nazis and their signature war.

A wartime poster in the Nuremberg Art Bunker
Poster in the Nuremberg Art Bunker, a re-purposed beer cellar. [“The enemy sees your light. Darken!”]
Morning: a tour of an “Art Bunker”, where works of art were stored during WWII to prevent destruction by Allied bombs.

In the afternoon we visited the Nazi Party Rally Grounds, where up to half a million people attended Nazi rallies.  Here’s a picture from wikipedia of the rally grounds in operation:

[Scherl]
Reichsparteitag 1937.
Der grosse Appell des Reichsarbeitsdienstes auf dem Zeppelinfeld.
Übersicht während der Rede des Führeres.
11651-37
This is what Trump fantasizes his MAGA rallies to be, but they are puny pale imitations. Here’s a picture of the grandstand from the same wikipedia article:

Here’s what remains in its Ozymandias glory:

Remains of the Zeppelinfeld
Remains of the Zeppelinfeld at the Nazi Party Rally Grounds

Later we visited Room 600, where the Nuremberg trials were held.

Everywhere we go in Germany there are echoes of the war, grim reminders of what can happen when you let bad people run your country.

Cuba…

Cannons facing north

I have visited Cuba twice now — both visits were very short cruise stops in Havana Harbor,  with group excursions organized by the cruise company that carefully met the requirements of the US State Department. Not enough exposure for profound insight, but enough to show me some of the narrowness of my own world view, and to convince me that US policy towards Cuba is profoundly stupid.

At first glance, Cubans have it good. They have high-quality universal health care, guaranteed employment, security in old age, universal education, food subsidies during hardship, housing subsidies, and little violent crime. Life is lively, personal free time is abundant, and art and music are valued. It’s a nice place to visit.

There are two big downsides to living in Cuba, though, that would keep me from living there.

First, the material standard of living is low — if you live in Cuba you don’t have many nice things, and the prospects for getting them are bleak. Infrastructure is old, decaying, or needing repair. Cubans have made an art out of restoring old things — famously, cars from the 1950’s  — and are fantastically resourceful and creative. But you can only do so much with extremely limited means.

Cuba has weathered significant financial shocks that have made this situation sometimes much worse — the collapse of the sugar market, loss of subsidies when the Soviet Union dissolved, and, likely upcoming, loss of Venezuelan oil supports — but unlike many stressed authoritarian states, the well-being of the population seems to have remained a high priority. The leaders seem to adhere to the revolutionary rhetoric of the founders, and maintain at least a pretense of  material equality.

The second downside is  the political system. As a tourist I saw nothing of this, and there is always the possibility of serious misinformation from “official sources” from anywhere.  But what I saw is completely consistent with a population trained to carefully avoid confrontation with authorities.  You do what you are told, and you might as well be cheerful about it…

Why do I say that the US policy is idiocy? The revolution is over and cannot be undone.  But the political system can change, and its leaders are pragmatic. The Cuban people on the whole are friendly to the US, and we and they would benefit from more contact.

Have I mentioned how much I have come to personally dislike Bernie Sanders?

This is not a matter of his stated political positions, many of which I agree with on a general level. I just dislike him as a human being…

Originally shared by Shava Nerad

David Sirota’s war against media critical thinking

Bernie, Beto, and the Streisand Effect

If there’s anything I despise more than an attack on the electorate from foreign influence, from right wing media, from corporate mainstream media, it’s a left media figure using everything we know about propaganda and media criticism, distortion and influence, to punch left.

David Sirota was Bernie Sanders’ first office lead in the 90s, when Vermont sent Bernie to DC to mess with Speaker Newt Gingrich’s head. It was David’s first big break in DC from the looks of his VC, and I’m sure that the relationship means a lot.

Right up to New Hampshire, I was pretty gleeful about Sanders’ run. I was really troubled when he hired Tad Devine and displaced his Vermont staff. I defended Bernie with teeth bared when his staff lifted the Clinton campaign annotated voter file (yes, in the modern way of blurring social engineering and hacking, you can call that hacking) and the DNC threatened — quite justifiably — to shut their asses down.

Later I ended up regretting it as the campaign grew more and more anti-community. I imagined another Dean campaign — bottom up, participatory, integrated with the party to the point of taking over the counties, breathing a via positiva of lifeblood into the progressives — to use an abused term? Hope.

What we got was Bernie Bros that presaged politics, and a level of hostility and lack of civic and political understanding of how political insurgencies work in a two party system that was crippling, all around.

Well, oops, it’s happening again.

This time, instead of Tad, we’ve got David Sirota as our snake in the garden, the designated whisperer of insinuations to drip poison into ears and divide.

He’s fun. Let me take this apart for you. I’m going to write this up as a reference for fellow journalists. It’s going to be tl;dr, long, opinionated but well documented, and I’m going to add to it over the course of days.

===

Who the hell is Beto O’Rourke?

I’d heard the name. There’s even some lunatic with Mass plates on my street here in Cambridge who has a Beto bumper sticker. Early adopter, I guess.

But as I’ve written here I’m not favoring anyone at this point in 2020. It’s too early.

Still, the first week in December, I saw retweets of Sirota “exposing” Beto for various insinuated sins against progressive politics. The major charges have been that he has:

o – voted “with the GOP” 167 times.

o – accepted at least one maxed out donation from a CEO of an oil/gas corporation

Now, I’m going to go through and take these apart in depth with full footnotes, but this preamble is just to explain why this rang such an off note with me.

Voting “with the GOP” means you are not voting party line Democrat. There are lots of reasons for this. One of the most common in recent years is that you live in a rural state. Yo? This is part of how we got the Cheeto.

Plus, Politico has reported that Sanders votes with the Dems about 95% of the time. He has been in office a very long time. I don’t have a full tally, but David has included procedural votes in his 167 that Beto’s joined the evil pachyderms. How many hundreds or thousands more votes has our independent from Vermont registered since the 90s?

David illustrated Beto’s receiving “oil money” from the CEO of a small business in Texas. Right SIC code, $2700 donation. Instructed people to decide what they thought of it — after framing that we can’t afford more money in politics supporting global warming that is going to kill us all. Nice.

Remember, this stuff pretty much starts with Stalin, and he was a lefty. We’ve all studied him.

The example he uses is a guy who is a long time Democratic donor, the widower of a Human Rights Campaign activist. The two men were married in the Unitarian Universalist church. Now he’s raising two kids as a single dad.

I honestly doubt he was buying Beto’s vote for big oil.

Beto’s a Texas politician. Over 375,000 people in Texas fall directly under the oil/gas SIC code, and more — likely millions — in the many industries that support and profit from the extraction and refining.

What is Bernie afraid of?

I’m not the only one — probably not even the only one who didn’t know crap about Beto — for whom David Sirota is managing to bring a spotlight to the Texan and shade to the Vermonter with his tactics.

Streisand Effect

The Bug Apocalypse

Originally shared by Allen Knutson

This is the scariest article I’ve read in a really long, scary, time.

“(It’s easy to read that number as 60 percent less, but it’s sixtyfold less: Where once he caught 473 milligrams of bugs, Lister was now catching just eight milligrams.) “It was, you know, devastating,” Lister told me. But even scarier were the ways the losses were already moving through the ecosystem, with serious declines in the numbers of lizards, birds and frogs. The paper reported “a bottom-up trophic cascade and consequent collapse of the forest food web.” Lister’s inbox quickly filled with messages from other scientists, especially people who study soil invertebrates, telling him they were seeing similarly frightening declines. Even after his dire findings, Lister found the losses shocking: “I didn’t even know about the earthworm crisis!”

“…cheap nativist populism…”

Originally shared by Helen Ikua

Is Trump a commoner who rallied the peasants for the greater good, or is he as much a son of privilege and a cynical agent of the status quo as the Washington royalty that he professes to detest?

Washington’s elite as well as vast swathes of a nation were recently united in their grief, even as they took a moment to say goodbye to one of America’s most recognizable sons. But notable by his absence at such a sombre event where America bid farewell to an eminent senator, was the man whose boorishness and ornery dispostion has turned him into persona non grata at the funerals of America’s great and good.

And the fact that Trump’s presence does not seem to be particularly required or welcome at the funerals of former First Ladies and senators, has only convinced Trump’s MAGA audience that Washington’s crowd have got it in for the underdog in the White House, which is why the nation’s political elite have latterly taken to hijacking the funerals of Washington’s erstwhile denizens, so that they can coalesce around their deep seated loathing of Donald Trump.

However, pictures of a jovial Trump hobnobbing with the Clintons on his wedding day to Melania, show that far from being spurned for being a barefoot country boy who fell off the turnip truck, and far from being a quixotic outlier who doesn’t care for the machinations of power, and far from being a man who doesn’t secretly crave the approval of Washington’s parading courtiers, Trump has not always been on unfriendly terms with the infulence merchants that he purports to despise for the titillation of his MAGA base.

And while contrarians are known for their ideals for which they’d be willing to suffer and be shunned for, Trump is hardly a contrarian who espouses a disgreeable if lucid philosophy on many things. In fact, the cognitive dissonance that comes through in Trump’s daily tweet attacks, shows him to be a man who’s driven less by ideology, policy, or principle, and more by evolving grievances that can escalate quite suddenly into ferocious displays of petulance.

In a man of studied thoughtfulness and considerable intellect, Trump’s blunt refusal to adhere to Washington’s code of conduct, might even pass muster as a revolutionary’s gallant efforts to shake things up for the benefit of ordinary Americans. But there’s a fine difference between irreverence for established systems that have failed to deliver, and the kind of rhetoric that can easily be misconstrued as just plain bad manners. Going out of one’s way not to say anything laudatory about an American senator whom many Americans revered, or claiming that men who get captured in combat are not made of the stern stuff of legend, does not exactly detract from the fact that one pretended to have a bad case of the bone spurs in order to avoid military service.

For all his bombast and cheap nativist populism that sells well to a certain cadre of white person who’s convinced that he’s been left out of a pie eating contest, Trump was never going to be the new broom that swept Washington clean. Far from draining the swamp of all its slimy inhabitants, or reining Wall Street in like the runaway bronco that it is, and all the yatta yatta promises which he made on the campaign trail, the New York real estate guy who rose to power simply by posing as an America first nationalist, has only enabled the kind of chaos and administrative dysfunction in which influence peddlers, special interests, and lobbyists tend to thrive.

And by choosing to conduct the business of state at Mar-a-Lago, instead of appointing ambassadors and key government officials who are vital to the smooth running of bureaucracy, Trump is not only showing that he has little interest in representing America properly to the world, but he has not even begun to do away with red tape. Indeed, Trump’s unorthdox style of leadership far from being a breath of fresh air, has only encouraged a disorderly feeding frenzy in which factionalism has become the default setting for his administration.

“America’s vacuous masses…”

Ouch.

Originally shared by Helen Ikua

More than just political gamesmanship? July 27 2016, Trump’s public plea to Russia: Russia if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.

Those who’ve convinced themselves that Robert Mueller is conducting a witch hunt by unfairly targeting Donald Trump instead of going after Hillary for crimes that have never been proved against her, should try and remember that rain does not come out of nowhere. For, when candidate Trump very publicy and with much aplomb invited an unfriendly foreign power to hack into Hillary’s emails and likely release sensitive information contained in those emails, candidate Trump must have had an inkling that he was not speaking into the thin air, but to Russian friends who’d only be too happy to acquiesce this most public of flirtation with conspiracy to commit a crime against the United States.

Now, some might argue that Trump’s friendship with the Kremlin is for all intents and purposes an imaginary friendship, and those who’d propound such a proposition would probably be right. In fact, judging by the ease with which Russia has sown discord in America, sometimes by hacking the DNC, sometimes by responding to Trump’s direct urging and hacking into Hillary’s emails, or sometimes by planting disinformation about vaccines for the express consumption of America’s vacuous masses, it’s clear that Russian intelligence does not think much of the general IQ of Americans and does not mind toying with Americans every which way.

Still, one cannot erase the fact that Russians, though only imaginary friends of Trump who see him as a useful chump that they can troll, nonetheless came through for Trump during critical moments in his campaign. Releasing hacked emails for instance, just for purposes of detracting from scandalous material that was contained in the Access Hollywood tape which featured Trump trumpeting his sexual prowess for the benefit of novices who don’t know a thing about grabbing pussy, easily counts as one of those moments when Trump’s pals in the Kremlin dove into the milieu of America’s politics in order to make good their pseudo-friendship with Trump.

And while it’s not entirely unexpected that Trump would try and deflect attention away from the Russia probe by lashing out at Mueller, at Hillary, at Obama, at the Democrats, or even by throwing his own employees under the bus, and while it’s no longer surprising to hear that Flynn met with Russians, Carter Page met with Russians, Manafort met with Russians, Don Jr met with Russians, Jared Kushner met with Russians, what must never be lost on Americans is that Trump’s inner circle were peddling something to Russian intelligence, they were peddling influence in exchange for promises to dole out certain favours to Russia should candidate Trump win the 2016 election.

The sky was a ruddy haze this morning.

The picture is the hood of my car. The dust and white specks are ash from the fires north of here.

The “Mendocino Complex” fire is “the largest wildfire in California history”, according to a headline.

Meanwhile, the Ferguson fire in Yosemite is still burning. All park entrances except the east side Tioga entrance are closed.

Putin is leading him around by the nose and saying “heel”

It’s clear at this point that Putin is just playing with Trump — leading him around by the nose, saying “heel” when the whim strikes.

It’s also clear that Putin is perfectly willing to let Trump burn. Either Trump is blind to this possibility (hard to believe at this point, but after all, Trump is a narcissist), or Trump is terrified past the point of being able to think. In any case, whatever Putin has on Trump, it must be far more serious than peegate.

Of course, one thing that Putin does have on Trump is that Trump is a traitor. But by now this is public knowledge, so there must be something else — something that would send Trump and his family to jail for the rest of their lives.