The Case for Paul Manafort, The Mole

(This is baseless speculation.)

Seriously – Paul Manafort being the FBI’s confidential informant in the Trump campaign makes so much sense.

  1. The way Manafort basically teleported to the top of the Trump campaign, with Manafort’s interest driving Trump bringing him on.
    One might wonder what prompted Manafort’s interest, like threats by the FBI.
  2. That silly bit about Manafort sleeping through the illegal “we have information on Hillary Clinton” meeting with Donald, Jr. that’s at the heart of the public collusion narrative.
    The simplest way to not give anything away is to act like you don’t give a shit and not have questions asked of you.
  3. That Manafort, and his underling Rick Gates, were the first (after George Papadopoulos) to face charges in the Trump/Russia investigation.
    Manafort is dirty as all hell, but arresting him is also a nice way for the FBI to get him out of Trump’s orbit and under federal protection. It wouldn’t be the first time the feds turned someone dirty – he’s far from the worst compared to the ones we know about.
  4. The way that Trump more or less stopped talking about Manafort after the charges came through.
    It’s sketchy evidence, and maybe he’s said more than I’m remembering right now, but I think that Trump would have gone after Manafort harder if he didn’t subconsciously sense that Manafort has him in a vice-grip, and was intimidated that bullying and bluster wasn’t going to help him.
  5. I’m channeling Josh Marshall a bit on this one –“Early on I realized that when it came to Trump if I figured out the stupidest possible scenario that could be reconciled with the available facts and went with it, that almost always turned out to be right. The stupider, the righter.”The most Donald Trump scenario would be for Trump to have selected a snitch as his highest-level campaign adviser for the most crucial part of his presidential campaign. It’s so ridiculously foolish, it must be true.

Book it, Danno.

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A statement of anger on behalf of feminism

With computer science and tech, everything* gets more accessible and easier to do. It just takes time.

My computers education and past professional work involved a lot of flailing in frustration with formatting and cleaning datasets, learning and getting confused between different programming ‘dialects’ (they’re called languages, but they’re, like, all pretty similar), and trying to do things that were theoretically possible, but which couldn’t be done except by building everything “from the ground up” myself.

Now, basically everything is accessible and available enough that a 6-year-old could help find a cure for cancer.

And computers, science, and math are still ‘not for girls’.

Meanwhile, I’m a math/statistical genius, and I love it.

Which is why, as a girl, I’ve done things like get a #1 ranking in North America in a male-dominated ‘video game’ (Hearthstone) on a whim and a prayer – as proof positive that modern culture is full of shit.

* – everything that maintains the interest and support of the developers of the world, who actually do a pretty good job of things, honestly

On education

11th Grade

(via XKCD)

I mentioned something in the previous blog post about how academics is becoming less and less relevant in the United States of America.

And now I’m depressed and exasperated at seeing two proposals, from different places, suggesting that the way to

is through fixing our nation’s public schools.

Instead of


 

The USA’s kindergarten-through-12th-grade public school systems are one of the most decentralized aspects of our public services. And the intersection of race, class, and decentralized funding is, more or less definitively, the central reason why public schools have become more and more racially segregated in the last several decades.

Decentralized tax funding of public school has created two main paths for parents seeking the best schooling for their children they can get:

  • move to as affluent a neighborhood as possible that keeps your access to well-paying work, pay the property taxes, and send the kid/s to the best-quality public school affordable, or
  • pay for 4 to 12 years of private school, as well as local property taxes – assuming your kid is accepted to a private school you can afford.

These options both consist of pay-for-education.

And then there’s still the systemic racism, and more, throughout the processes of employment, housing, and public and private schools. The kind that lead to school voucher programs and other programs that are ultimately founded on racism and/or cash for a better education.


 

(My public school education was a part of this. I went to a well-funded public school system, on the basis of large property taxes – taxes that were paid with hope and gratitude by my parents and other local parents of school-age children. I had access to resources to the point that I was taking well-taught college-level courses as a sophomore.

I wouldn’t be writing this without that schooling. I also probably wouldn’t have an Ivy League college degree, and the financial security and education that have come from that experience.

Postscript: my parents have moved away from that high-quality school system since the kids graduated.)


 

People tend to treat this system as normal.

It’s really not.

And that aspect is suggestive of how entrenched this system of local control is – which isn’t surprising in a country that has historically celebrated the idea of local governance as much as ours does.

Especially with how almost all political rhetoric supporting local governance is, both historically and in the present, a call for white people to be anti-Black and otherwise racist.


 

I’m writing this post from a place of anger and despair at there being relatively prominent calls for school reform.

Reforming the country’s K-thru-12 schools was a hot topic in politics at various points in my childhood and young adulthood – more or less until Obama was elected president, come to think of it.

From what I gather, basically every famous new trend (like charter schools), or famous new leader of reform (like Michelle Rhee), recreated the same problems with the system that the trend or leader was claiming to solve.

Because first off, they couldn’t undo the national system of local funding of public schools; and second of all, they were the product of, or were themselves, bullshit artists who acted like they could bail out the Titanic with a reinforced bucket.


 

Luckily, schooling mostly doesn’t matter anymore, at least in terms of educational content.

There’s not much to teach in the vast majority of public schools that can’t be learned through online and online-descended resources. There’s a limited amount of stuff you can only learn by being in school.

Like waking up before sunrise 5 days a week at the expense of your health, socializing with your peers in a highly regimented and poorly supervised group setting – and, if you’re lucky, classes like wood shop and music.

Also, it’s not like young folks are actually getting hired very much nowadays anyway, making the effort and expense of school education for the sake of a child’s economic future less and less relevant to much of anything.

Which leaves things in a bit of a mess.


 

But, more than that, it leaves calls for education reform that will never happen, as a solution to problems that are demonstrably able to be solved through socialist reforms that the nation can afford, while the job market for young people has cratered as a whole, as something worse than useless.

They’re distracting.

While everything is getting worse for nearly everyone.

Those sorts of red herrings set me on edge.

 

 

On “The End Of History”

There’s something on my mind pretty often when I see how other folks from the United States of America, particularly more privileged folks, engage with the country’s history and politics. I’ve discussed it in other blog posts, but I’m getting a sense that it’s time to address it more directly.

So here goes.


 

There’s always been an evangelical, navel-gazing element to the USA; a way of seeing that the entire world can, or really, must, flow through us.

There was this one Puritan settler in 1630 who said that the USA needed to be a “city upon a hill“, in reference to Jesus exhorting his followers that they were the saviors of the world.  The settler’s preaching became very well-known, and was most famously brought up again by Ronald Reagan, over 300 years later.

(John F. Kennedy brought it back to the mainstream, though.)

And that’s when I start feeling like there’s some very reasonable conversations that need to be had about American exceptionalism – the idea that the USA is different and special and divinely inspired in ways that no other country is.

Like:

-So we are all clear that white settlers genocided the folk who’d lived in the lands that the USA before they got here, right? And that this multi-century process was justified by American exceptionalism? (see: Manifest Destiny)

-And that this country did that whole ‘slavery’ thing worse than nearly any other country-like thing in history ever has, before or since?

-And that the establishment of freedom of religion has roots in Christian settlers agreeing to disagree about the dehumanization and enslavement of people of African ethnicity (warning for academic sourcing)? And very little to do with acceptance of and respect for anything other than Christianity, at least in practice?

-And that now we have a president acting like this nation’s land is a divine deliverance to white Christians in comparison to anyone from ‘shithole countries’, and that around 40 percent of the white adults of this country agree with him?

These are not controversial statements in terms of factualness. If they were, Donald Trump’s poll numbers, and those of the Republican Party in general, would not have the ‘high floor’ that they have had for the last 50 years.

They are why we are heading towards a kind of civil conflict unlike anything there’s ever been before.


 

Which brings us to the title of this post.

There was this political identity called neoconservatism in the USA. It was pretty popular, especially in the 1990s and 2000s, among the magazine-writing type.

The central policy of neoconservatism is basically that the USA has the right to kill whoever the USA decides it’s good for it to kill, in the name of democracy and free markets.

There was a lot of high-school-level nonsense about who was and wasn’t a neo-conservative – especially after they provided the political cover for the USA-led invasion of Iraq.

But one guy who was an innovative leader of neoconservative-ness was Francis Fukuyama.

He is most famous for writing a book named The End Of History And The Last Man.

My sense of it, drawing from partial reading, is that it is a very long-winded ‘fuck you’ to communism, and a declaration that the USA had just won not only the Cold War, but the game of life. And that there would be no trouble from the country’s continuing with establishing free markets anywhere The People needed them – including with bombs and other forms of military intervention.

It was hideously vile. It was also very popular among the sort of people who help define the USA’s domestic and international policies.

And it is my little reminder of how fucking insane this country generally is about its own importance and centrality, and how much we are never to talk about the people that were slaughtered, enslaved, and otherwise deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the name of wealth and the middle class.


 

I tend to relate to my attendance of an Ivy League college as a re-emphasizing of everything American.

From this perspective, the Ivy Leagues are to the USA are largely what the USA is to much of the rest of the world: impossibly wealthy, aggressively self-obsessed, somewhat idealistic, and frighteningly influential.

And what I most reflect on is how both the Ivy Leagues (slash academics in general) and the USA are mattering less and less now.

The problem is that, after the level of power, influence, and weapons that the USA has gained in living memory, there is no motivation for anyone with money and power to ask most USA folk to stop being suckers.

There’s no motivation for them to suggest that there’s a tab to pay for all the shit that the country has done, from the 1600s to the last 70 years of military and economic dominance over all the other countries.

(The kind that’s part of why I can write this in the English language and expect it to be readable to a worldwide audience.)

Instead, we have #MakeAmericaGreatAgain. With the Leave It To Beaver-ness that that implies.

And we’re going to have the ideology of #MAGA and its descendants around for a damned long while.

And maybe after that, we’ll be able to talk honestly about the USA being a settler state without looking out for a flagpole in the back.

So, Walmart

I’m not up to, or qualified, to take apart today’s Trump controversy. Don Lemon did a solid-or-better job of that on live TV last night.

To keep another controversy from going more under the radar, I’ll take apart the Walmart one instead.


 

Walmart’s predatory business practices are a matter of open record.

Their business model is famously old-school monopoly – move into town, undercut the prices of every non-multinational competitor, wait until competitors go out of business, become the only game in town. Then use an unspeakable amount of leverage against political opponents, competitors, suppliers,  and employees.

Relatedly, they view the notion of unions as so toxic that they have closed a store in response to employees unionizing. That story is from the early 2000s, but presumably, they are still willing to do this.

I did literally 30 seconds of research for those links; you’re free to do more if you’re seeking to learn more.

I don’t know the history of such things, but this blog is very possibly going to be on a list of agitators on a Walmart ‘public relations’ spreadsheet as a result of this post. Because it would be easy enough to set up a program to do something like that, and why wouldn’t they go that far?

I mean. This happened:

In March 2005, Walmart executive Tom Coughlin was forced to resign from its Board of Directors, facing charges of embezzlement.[124] Coughlin said that the money was used for an anti-union project involving cash bribes paid to employees of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in exchange for a list of names of Walmart employees that had signed union cards.[124] He also said that the money was unofficially paid to him, by Walmart, as compensation for his anti-union efforts.[124]In August 2006, Coughlin pleaded guilty to stealing money, merchandise, and gift cards from Walmart, but avoided prison time due to his poor health. He was sentenced to five years probation and required to pay a $50,000 fine and $411,000 in restitution to Walmart and the Internal Revenue Service. A United States attorney has stated that no evidence was found to back up Coughlin’s initial claims, and Walmart continues to deny the existence of the anti-union program, though Coughlin himself apparently restated those claims to reporters after his conviction.[125]

I can’t say if the guy’s allegation is true. But, IMO, it smells true.

More importantly: it should not be something that is remotely plausible, and that it is plausible implies that Walmart does pretty much everything it can to fight against ‘opposition forces’.

 

Today we are hearing that the Walmart corporation decided to balance the bad PR of closing stores with the good PR of announcing tax-cut bonuses and a higher minimum wage. And it is doing so by closing a branch of its stores, and leaving thousands of people unemployed, without notice.

I’m writing this because it’s important to highlight the game that is fairly obvious to most news-focused people, and less obvious to most other people.

In short, Walmart is marketing itself to Republicans and their sympathizers as “the good brand”.

Walmart is associating themselves with the tax cuts that are basically only popular with Trump supporters. Because the ‘tax cuts increase revenue’ hustle that dates back to a 40-year-old fantasy from a cocktail napkin has finally grown stale to the rest of us.

Republicans, as a collective, will visit their news sources, hear little to nothing negative about Walmart, and pay less attention to future criticisms of the tax cuts, because ‘what about Walmart’.

There is also a ‘moderate’ and/or ‘independent’ faction of people – more broadly, those who want to not hate the Republican Party – who will lose track of how to feel about Walmart because of the widespread headlines about a minimum wage increase. This also serves to cloud their feelings about the tax cuts, and reinforce the supply-side economics myth that is, to keep it brief, demonic worship.

And, though this might have been an overreach by Walmart, there will be a lot less aggressive coverage of their store closings in the most popular national news sources for at least a little while. Better coverage than there would have been if they had closed the stores humanely, i.e., with notice.

(Oh – and this explains why there have been happily multicultural (as in, choose English-language or Chinese-language) Walmart delivery ads on Hulu for weeks or months now, as they angle to compete against Amazon.)


 

In conclusion: Walmart is actively the Evil Empire.

Stay safe.