News and Opinion Based on Facts

Saturday, May 20, 2017

"Obama always talked about human rights. Trump does not, therefore, we prefer him to Obama."

Sources inside the kingdom say that the Saudis like trump because, "Obama always talked about human rights. Trump does not, therefore, we prefer him to Obama."

Saudi authorities continue to repress dissidents and restrict free expression.
The country does not allow for the existence of political parties, trade unions, or independent human rights groups. One cannot worship any religion other than Islam in public. And public gatherings, even if they are peaceful, are prohibited.
“They [authorities] harassed, arrested and prosecuted critics, including writers and online commentators, political and women’s rights activists, members of the Shi’a minority, and human rights defenders, imprisoning some after courts sentenced them to prison terms on vague charges,” Amnesty International said in its report on the country.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), over a dozen prominent activists convicted on charges related to peaceful activities in 2016 are serving long prison sentences.
Furthermore, HRW reports that by mid-2016, Saudi Arabia had jailed almost every founder of the banned Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association. Two of those who have been jailed were given eight- and nine-year prison sentences for their “peaceful pro-reform advocacy,” HRW said.
Another case that gained international attention was the March imprisonment of journalist Alaa Brinji, who received five years in prison for comments he posted on Twitter that criticized religious authorities and voiced support for women’s rights and human rights activists.
While Saudi Arabia legalized civil society organizations in 2015, the law allows authorities to deny permits to or dissolve them on vague grounds. HRW reported in September that they were “unaware of any registration of an independent human rights group under the new law.”

Criminal justice system

Saudi Arabia arrests, imprisons, and executes citizens it accuses of violating the law, governed by Sharia. Hundreds have been detained for suspected participation in terrorism-related activities.
“Human rights defenders and those who expressed political dissent continued to be equated to ‘terrorists,’” Amnesty said.
Those detained are held for long periods of time, often without due process and cut off from the outside world, despite laws that say detainees should be referred to a court within six months of arrest.
“Authorities do not always inform suspects of the crime with which they are charged, or allow them access to supporting evidence, sometimes even after trial sessions have begun,” HRW said. “Authorities generally do not allow lawyers to assist suspects during interrogation and sometimes impede them from examining witnesses and presenting evidence at trial.”
Punishments frequently include public floggings and executions. Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry said the country executed 144 people between January and mid-November of last year, mostly for murder and terrorism-related offenses. However, twenty-two of those convicted were for non-violent drug offenses.
HRW reports that most of the executions happened by beheading, sometimes in public.

Women’s rights

Women in Saudi Arabia live under a male guardianship system. A man, usually the woman’s husband, father, brother, or son, must give permission for her to obtain a passport, travel, marry, exit prison, access healthcare, and work. In some instances, male permission is needed to rent an apartment or file legal claims.
Women also have inferior status to men when it comes to gaining child custody, filing for divorce, and accessing higher education. They cannot drive.
HRW reported that as of July 2016, most public schools did not offer physical education classes for girls. Although, four women represented Saudi Arabia in the Rio Olympics in August, Saudi women are banned from attending national sporting events.

PHOTO: Saudi womens rights activist Souad al-Shammary puts on a head scarf in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, May 7, 2016.
Saudi women's rights activist Souad al-Shammary
There are over 3,100 women serving as members of their local council across Saudi Arabia. However, in February, the government ordered the women to be segregated from the men – only able to participate in council meetings via video link, HRW said.
Even so, last month, the United Nations member states elected Saudi Arabia to serve on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which is “dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women,” according to its website.
“Saudi Arabia’s election to the commission, which was supported by 47 states, including at least three European countries, is an affront to the mission of the commission itself and a rebuke to Saudi women,” wrote HRW’s Adam Coogle in April.
ABC News' Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Trump Betrays Allies, Divulges Classified Information to Russians

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

[Political chaos in Washington is a return on investment in Moscow]

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

The revelation comes as the president faces rising legal and political pressure on multiple Russia-related fronts. Last week, he fired FBI Director James B. Comey in the midst of a bureau investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Trump’s subsequent admission that his decision was driven by “this Russia thing” was seen by critics as attempted obstruction of justice.

One day after dismissing Comey, Trump welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — a key figure in earlier Russia controversies — into the Oval Office. It was during that meeting, officials said, that Trump went off script and began describing details of an Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.

For almost anyone in government, discussing such matters with an adversary would be illegal. As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.

White House officials involved in the meeting said Trump discussed only shared concerns about terrorism.

“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” said H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, who participated in the meeting. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”

McMaster reiterated his statement in a subsequent appearance at the White House on Monday and described the Washington Post story as “false,” but did not take any questions.

In their statements, White House officials emphasized that Trump had not discussed specific intelligence sources and methods, rather than addressing whether he had disclosed information drawn from sensitive sources.

But officials expressed concern about Trump’s handling of sensitive information as well as his grasp of the potential consequences. Exposure of an intelligence stream that has provided critical insight into the Islamic State, they said, could hinder the United States’ and its allies’ ability to detect future threats.

[On Russia, Trump and his top national security aides seem to be at odds]

“It is all kind of shocking,” said a former senior U.S. official who is close to current administration officials. “Trump seems to be very reckless and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”

In his meeting with Lavrov, Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the president said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.

Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.

The Post is withholding most plot details, including the name of the city, at the urging of officials who warned that revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.

“Everyone knows this stream is very sensitive, and the idea of sharing it at this level of granularity with the Russians is troubling,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official who also worked closely with members of the Trump national security team. He and others spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject.

The identification of the location was seen as particularly problematic, officials said, because Russia could use that detail to help identify the U.S. ally or intelligence capability involved. Officials said the capability could be useful for other purposes, possibly providing intelligence on Russia’s presence in Syria. Moscow would be keenly interested in identifying that source and perhaps disrupting it.

[Trump’s new Russia expert wrote a psychological profile of Valdimir Putin – and it should scare Trump]

Russia and the United States both regard the Islamic State as an enemy and share limited information about terrorist threats. But the two nations have competing agendas in Syria, where Moscow has deployed military assets and personnel to support President Bashar al-Assad.

“Russia could identify our sources or techniques,” the senior U.S. official said.

A former intelligence official who handled high-level intelligence on Russia said that given the clues Trump provided, “I don’t think that it would be that hard [for Russian spy services] to figure this out.”

At a more fundamental level, the information wasn’t the United States’ to provide to others. Under the rules of espionage, governments — and even individual agencies — are given significant control over whether and how the information they gather is disseminated, even after it has been shared. Violating that practice undercuts trust considered essential to sharing secrets.

The officials declined to identify the ally but said it has previously voiced frustration with Washington’s inability to safeguard sensitive information related to Iraq and Syria.

“If that partner learned we’d given this to Russia without their knowledge or asking first, that is a blow to that relationship,” the U.S. official said.

Trump also described measures the United States has taken or is contemplating to counter the threat, including military operations in Iraq and Syria, as well as other steps to tighten security, officials said.

The officials would not discuss details of those measures, but the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed that it is considering banning laptops and other large electronic devices from carry-on bags on flights between Europe and the United States. The United States and Britain imposed a similar ban in March affecting travelers passing through airports in 10 Muslim-majority countries.

Trump cast the countermeasures in wistful terms. “Can you believe the world we live in today?” he said, according to one official. “Isn’t it crazy?”

Lavrov and Kislyak were also accompanied by aides.

A Russian photographer took photos of part of the session that were released by the Russian state-owned Tass news agency. No U.S. news organization was allowed to attend any part of the meeting.

[Presence of Russian photographer in Oval Office raises alarms]

Senior White House officials appeared to recognize quickly that Trump had overstepped and moved to contain the potential fallout. Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, placed calls to the directors of the CIA and the NSA, the services most directly involved in the intelligence-sharing arrangement with the partner.

One of Bossert’s subordinates also called for the problematic portion of Trump’s discussion to be stricken from internal memos and for the full transcript to be limited to a small circle of recipients, efforts to prevent sensitive details from being disseminated further or leaked.

White House officials defended Trump. “This story is false,” said Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser for strategy. “The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”

But officials could not explain why staff members nevertheless felt it necessary to alert the CIA and the NSA.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he would rather comment on the revelations in the Post story after “I know a little bit more about it,” but added: “Obviously, they are in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening. And the shame of it is, there’s a really good national security team in place.”

Corker also said, “The chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment that I think makes — it creates a worrisome environment.”

Trump has repeatedly gone off-script in his dealings with high-ranking foreign officials, most notably in his contentious introductory conversation with the Australian prime minister earlier this year. He has also faced criticism for seemingly lax attention to security at his Florida retreat, Mar-a-Lago, where he appeared to field preliminary reports of a North Korea missile launch in full view of casual diners.

U.S. officials said that the National Security Council continues to prepare multi-page briefings for Trump to guide him through conversations with foreign leaders, but that he has insisted that the guidance be distilled to a single page of bullet points — and often ignores those.

“He seems to get in the room or on the phone and just goes with it, and that has big downsides,” the second former official said. “Does he understand what’s classified and what’s not? That’s what worries me.”

Lavrov’s reaction to the Trump disclosures was muted, officials said, calling for the United States to work more closely with Moscow on fighting terrorism.

Kislyak has figured prominently in damaging stories about the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign just 24 days into the job over his contacts with Kislyak and his misleading statements about them. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from matters related to the FBI’s Russia investigation after it was revealed that he had met and spoke with Kislyak, despite denying any contact with Russian officials during his confirmation hearing.

“I’m sure Kislyak was able to fire off a good cable back to the Kremlin with all the details” he gleaned from Trump, said the former U.S. official who handled intelligence on Russia.

The White House readout of the meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak made no mention of the discussion of a terrorist threat.

“Trump emphasized the need to work together to end the conflict in Syria,” the summary said. The president also “raised Ukraine” and “emphasized his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russia.”

Julie Tate and Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report                                                                  
By Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe May 15 at 7:45 PM

Thursday, May 11, 2017

President Dumbo Contradicts His Own Narrative and Admits Obstructing Justice

Now, trump probably doesn't even know what a "narrative" is, but he fired Comey because Comey was close to exposing him as at best, an incompetent boob, at worst, a cowardly traitor. When he pressured Comey to pledge fealty to HIM, and Comey refused, he was fired.
In reality, it's a little of both.
Then, he had the acting attorney general say that he recommended that Comey be fired and trump agreed.
Now he is saying that it was entirely his idea, and he fired Comey because Comey was a showboat, and if there is one thing this piece of human excrement hates, it's someone who gets credit for something trump he wishes he had done first.
This corpulent screwball needs to be impeached and then indicted.
mfbsr and Zamir Etzioni

Some Of The Dumbest Excuses For the Firing of Comey

Republicans who still insist on defending President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey have been making several arguments as to why this action was appropriate and legal. Here are the most commonly offered -- and easily debunked -- arguments:
1. "Trump has the power to fire the FBI director." In the abstract, this is true. What is not true is that the president has the right to concoct a scheme to stop an investigation into his administration's possible wrongdoing by firing the chief investigator, creating a fake cover story and sending officials out to lie.
ACLU National Legal Director David Cole explains that Trump has the authority to fire executive branch appointees, "But if he did so, as appears to be the case, because he is concerned that Comey's investigation of ties between his campaign and Russian officials might have implicated him in wrongdoing, it's tantamount to an obstruction of justice." If one carries the Republicans' argument to its logical conclusion, then any president could fire any investigator with the express reason of discontinuing an investigation. That cannot be right.
Republican ethics guru Richard Painter agrees. He told Rolling Stone: "We cannot tolerate this -- for the president to be firing people who are investigating him and his campaign and its collusion with the Russians. It's a lot worse than Watergate. Watergate was a third-rate burglary. It was purely domestic in nature. This situation involves Russian espionage, and we've got to find out who is collaborating." He explained, "The president has the right to do it -- legally he can do it -- but it's an abuse of power. It's what President Nixon did when he fired Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor, and Nixon had to go through three [Justice Department officials] to do it."

 2. "Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein is an honest public servant, so we have to believe the rationale he gave for firing Comey." This argument made sense for a few hours. Then the president said in the Oval Office that he fired Comey because he was doing a bad job, not because of his handling of Hillary Clinton's email server investigation. Kellyanne Conway also went on TV to assert that the firing had nothing to do with the emails.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that Rosenstein threatened to quit because the White House falsely attempted to pin the decision to fire Comey on him. ("Rosenstein threatened to resign after the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on his recommendation, said the person close to the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.") So no, Rosenstein doesn't exonerate Trump; he proves that this was a scheme to tamp down the Russia investigation and lie about it.
The Post's exhaustive reporting demonstrates that Trump, as many suspected, initiated the firing because he was "angry that Comey would not support his baseless claim that President Barack Obama had his campaign offices wiretapped." The reporting confirmed, "Trump was frustrated when Comey revealed in Senate testimony the breadth of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia's effort to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And he fumed that Comey was giving too much attention to the Russia probe and not enough to investigating leaks to journalists." Trump's own spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged that Trump had been contemplating the firing for some time.

3. "It would be too stupid to fire Comey to stop the Russia investigation." The theory goes that Trump would know it would cause a ruckus so he'd never do it for that reason. This makes little sense for three reasons. First, we know Trump is illogical and impervious to counsel that he does not like. We already know he acts impetuously and unwisely. Second, if he was too stupid to fire Comey over Russia, it was even more stupid to fire him for the reason Rosenstein provided, since it would also have -- and has -- created a firestorm. And finally, if Trump fired him for the reasons stated in Rosenstein's memo, then there would have been no need to rush; a replacement would have been lined up and staff would have been ready to defend this action. The president blindsided his own staff because, it seems, he rushed action out of anger and frustration.
Republicans wound up with Trump as their president by marinating themselves in a stew of half-truths, conspiracy theories and self-delusion. They are doing so again as they desperately grab for excuses and explanations to account for egregiously inappropriate behavior. When the Senate majority leader and the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal sound indistinguishable from Sean Hannity in their specious rationalizations, you know the right is intellectually and morally exhausted.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Will trump Avoid Prison By Pleading Insanity?

The one term you will never hear applied to trump is intelligence.
He is obviously an incredibly stupid individual.
His Presidency has been marred by one pathetic blunder after another.
From his hiring of a Russian operative for national security Advisor to yesterday's
firing of James Comey because he thought Comey was honing in on him and his co-conspirators.

The Comey Firing: Obstruction of Justice or Just Trump Being Trump?

OK, sure, this looks bad. But I'm sure there are reasonable explanations for all of it. And Sean Spicer will tell us what they are as soon as he comes out of hiding.

This whole story is just bizarre. Before yesterday, I would have guessed that Trump's Russia ties were actually fairly minimal. Maybe Flynn and Manafort were closer to the Kremlin than they should have been, and hell, maybe Trump has gotten funding in the past for his real estate projects from Russian oligarchs. But that's probably it. Nothing that would really harm Trump himself a lot.

And maybe that's still all there is. Maybe Trump just erupted because Comey's persistence was pissing him off and he wanted to show who was boss. And he figured it was no big deal because Democrats and Republicans both hate Comey and would be happy to see him go. That was, needless to say, a massive miscalculation, but not a surprising one from a functioning sociopath like Trump.

But...I don't know anymore. Maybe there really is more here. Trump's odd embrace of Russia-friendly policies during the 2016 campaign always made that plausible. This is all just weird as hell.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

President Screwball Embarrasses America Again

We all understand that trump is a rather stupid man.
Pundits call him a " baby man"  because at  70 years of age  he sounds like a small child.
He considers name calling a "debate".
He has to leave office before he can harm our country further.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Just How Stupid Can America Be? Facing the Truth About Donald Trump's Voting Bloc

There’s every reason to worry that millions of people take sheer nonsense seriously. 

Recently, Fox revived “The X Files” and in the latest show there was a lesson for people who follow politics.  The episode featured a horror-movie scene in which billions of people come down with life-threatening illnesses traceable – ready conspiracy nuts! – to an evil vaccine. This a laughable storyline. Fox would have been within its rights to refuse to broadcast the show on the grounds of implausibility.  But in modern-day America there’s a ready appetite for anti-science thinking of this sort. The lesson for political junkies is that ignorance runs rampant through our society.

Years ago I wouldn’t have been bothered by a TV series that exploits our darkest emotions anymore than I worried about the tabloids being sold at check-out counters with crazy headlines like the one featured above: “ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A WOMAN! Shocking pix found in White House basement.” It was just entertainment, right?

But after what we’ve seen in this campaign cycle who can now rest easy?  There’s every reason to worry that millions of people take sheer nonsense seriously.  Their ignorance is making them sitting ducks for politicians like Donald  Trump.  Election 2016 is turning into a civics teacher's case study from hell.

From the moment he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower at the launch of his improbable presidential campaign back in June, Trump has been offering simplistic solutions to complicated problems. To wit, to take just two examples: To stop Mexicans from crossing the border he’d build a wall.  To prevent terrorist attacks on the United States he’d stop all Muslims from coming here.

Each proposal has been eviscerated in the media based on the critiques of experts who have pointed out that his proposed solutions barely withstand cursory analysis.  His wall wouldn’t be beautiful and the Mexican government won't pay for it.  Muslims can’t be excluded without wreaking havoc with our alliances in the Middle East, making us less, not more, safe.

But his voters haven’t cared.  Nor have they worried when the media have caught him in one lie after another.  Politifact has called him out for lying more than any of the other candidates, but to little effect.  This has prompted some to think that Trump is the Teflon candidate and it appears he can get away with saying anything.  As he himself remarked, "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters.”

Eight years ago I wrote a book to draw attention to the problem of gross public ignorance.  It carried an attention-getting title:  Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter.  The book is filled with statistics like these:

● A majority of Americans don’t know which party is in control of Congress.

● A majority can’t name the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

● A majority don’t know we have three branches of government.

The reaction I often got when I presented these statistics at lectures was that people don’t need to know a lot of facts.  The comments on an interview I did on CNN when the book came out indicate that a lot of people hold facts in low regard.

My rebuttal is that the ignorance of basic facts like these reflects a level of inattentiveness that is unhealthy in a society that purports to be free and democratic.  That inattentiveness can be dangerous was shown in 2003 when a majority of Americans told pollsters they believed the United States should invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein had attacked America on 9-11. The explanation, of course, was that the Bush administration had irresponsibly dropped hints that Saddam was responsible for 9-11, leading low-information voters to draw the inference that this was the reason we were attacking Iraq.  But, seriously, they couldn't see through the smokescreen?  People, we have a problem when a majority of Americans can’t get the basic facts right about the most important event of our time.

Then, Donald Trump came along. Now suddenly mainstream media pundits have discovered how ignorant millions of voters are. (See this and this and this and this.) More importantly, the concern with low-information voters has become widespread.  Many are now wondering what country they’re living in.  They cannot believe a politician can make all the false claims Trump has – like saying that thousands of Muslims danced on the roofs of apartment buildings in Jersey City as they watched the Twin Towers collapse on 9-11 – and get away with it.

This is, however, no time to moan.  We’ve gotten a profound lesson about the limits of American democracy at a relatively cheap price.   Ordinarily countries facing a hard truth like this (think Germany) have to sustain a period of deprivation and disaster over an extended period before seeing the light.  Thus far we’ve only had to put up with Donald Trump for the past seven months. Trump may still wreck the GOP but with a little luck we won’t be calling him Mr. President. (I do shudder to think what might happen if terrorists strike.  We could be one 9-11 away from a Trump presidency.)

But what exactly is the truth we need to face? The answer science gives us (the title of my last book and this essay notwithstanding) is not that people fall for slick charlatans like Trump because they’re stupid.  The standard issue human comes with a brain filled with 86 billion neurons, which is more than enough to digest the political questions that come before the public.  Indeed, by many  measures we’re smarter today than our grandparents’ generation.  The problem is that we humans didn’t evolve to live in the world in which we find ourselves.  As the social scientists Leda Cosmides and John Tooby put it, the human mind was “designed to solve the day-to-day problems of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. These stone age priorities produced a brain far better at solving some problems than others.”

I argue in my new book, Political Animals, that there are four failings common to human beings as a result of our Stone-Age brain that hinder us in politics.

First, most people find it easy to ignore politics because it usually involves people they don’t know.  As human beings we evolved to care about people in our immediate vicinity.  Our nervous system kicks into action usually only when we meet people face-to-face.  Reading about them or seeing them on television doesn’t trigger the same focus and response:  our eyes don’t widen, our nostrils don’t flair, and our heart doesn’t speed up.  While a good TV debate can inspire us for a moment to pay attention, it’s unlikely to provide the sustained interest in politics needed for deciding urgent and complicated matters happening at a distance.

Second, we find it hard to size up politicians correctly.  The reason for this is that we rely on instant impressions.  Studies show we begin making up our mind about people in less time than it takes to blink.  This is something our Stone-Age ancestors found was useful when out on a hunt or sitting around a campfire. But our situation is different from theirs.  They lived in small communities where everybody knew everybody.  Under those circumstances an instant impression was all one often needed at a particular moment since an individual likely already knew plenty about the person with whom they were interacting.  Alas, voters often don’t know much of anything about the politicians they see on television.  But the act of seeing them tricks their brain into making an instant and confident assessment.  This stops voters from worrying that they need to bolster their impressions by consulting experts and reading news stories from a broad array of ideological viewpoints.  Why study when you can rely on your gut instinct?

Third, we aren’t inclined to reward politicians who tell us hard truths.  You don’t need to study science to know this, to be sure.  Walter Mondale taught us this in 1984.  He thought the American people would reward him for telling them that he was going to raise their taxes. Instead, they re-elected his opponent Ronald Reagan in a landslide.  But why are we this way?  Science suggests that one reason is that we evolved to win in social settings and in such situations the truth doesn't matter as much as sheer doggedness.  We don't want the truth to prevail, as Harvard's Steven Pinker informs us, we want our version of the truth to prevail, for in the end what we're really concerned with is maintaining our status or enhancing it.  What happens when our beliefs come into conflict with reality?  We experience cognitive dissonance.  Because this is very unpleasant we do everything we can to make it go away.  Sometimes, we do this by changing our opinion.  But most of the time we return to a state of well-being by simply ignoring the evidence we find discomforting.  This is known as Disconfirmation Bias and it afflicts all of us, both the ignorant and the educated. (So does its cousin, Confirmation Bias, which leads people to look for evidence that reinforces their pre-existing beliefs.)

Fourth, we frequently fail to show empathy in circumstances that clearly cry out for it.  This is easy to explain.  We evolved to show empathy for people we know.  It takes special effort to empathize with people who don’t dress like us or look like us. And heaven help people who live in a place Americans can’t find on a map.  Should they suddenly be deemed a national threat the call will go out to bomb them back to the Stone Age with no consideration given to the toll this undoubtedly would take on civilians in the vicinity.

What can be done?  We can hope and pray that Donald Trump isn’t elected president, for one thing.  But long-term we need to teach voters not to trust their instincts in politics because our instincts often don’t work.  That's the clear lesson of the Trump campaign, which has been drawing support by playing on voters' fears and anger, feelings that come naturally to them when Trump triggers ancient instincts (like fear of The Other) that swamp more thoughtful responses. Doing politics in a modern mass democracy, in other words, is an unnatural act.

Teaching this lesson doesn’t sound like a job for historians, but in one way it is.  Studying history is all about putting events into context. And as it turns out, voters need to learn the importance of context. Given the mismatch between our Stone-Age brain and the problems we face in the 21st century, we should only trust our political instincts when those instincts are serviceable in a modern context.  If they aren’t (and most of the time they aren't), then higher order cognitive thinking is required.

I don’t have much confidence that people in general will be willing on their own to undertake the effort.  As Daniel Kahneman teaches us, our brain is lazy.  We look for short cuts (like relying on our instincts) to avoid thinking. But cultural norms can be established to help.

Just why mass ignorance seems to be afflicting our politics at this moment is a complicated question.  But here again history can be helpful.  The answer seems to be that the institutions voters formerly could turn to for help have withered.  Few today, for example, can turn to their union for guidance as few Americans belong to a union.  Nor do churches for the most part offer the kind of guidance they used to.  This has left millions of voters on their own.  Lacking information, millions do what you would expect.  They go with their gut.

By Rick Shenkman

Rick Shenkman is the editor and founder of the History News Network and the author most recently of Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics (Basic Books, January 2016).


Thursday, May 4, 2017

George Will: trump has a Dangerous Disability

Opinion writer
It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about President Trump’s inability to do either. This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability. It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence.
In February, acknowledging Black History Month, Trump said that “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.” Because Trump is syntactically challenged, it was possible and tempting to see this not as a historical howler about a man who died 122 years ago, but as just another of Trump’s verbal fender benders, this one involving verb tenses.
Now, however, he has instructed us that Andrew Jackson was angry about the Civil War that began 16 years after Jackson’s death. Having, let us fancifully imagine, considered and found unconvincing William Seward’s 1858 judgment that the approaching Civil War was “an irrepressible conflict,” Trump says:People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

What is most alarming (and mortifying to the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated) is not that Trump has entered his eighth decade unscathed by even elementary knowledge about the nation’s history. As this column has said before, the problem isn’t that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.
The United States is rightly worried that a strange and callow leader controls North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. North Korea should reciprocate this worry. Yes, a 70-year-old can be callow if he speaks as sophomorically as Trump did when explaining his solution to Middle East.
“I would bomb the s--- out of them. . . . I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left.”
As a candidate, Trump did not know what the nuclear triad is. Asked about it, he said: “We have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ballgame.” Invited to elaborate, he said: “I think — I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.” Someone Trump deemed fit to be a spokesman for him appeared on television to put a tasty dressing on her employer’s word salad: “What good does it do to have a good nuclear triad if you’re afraid to use it?” To which a retired Army colonel appearing on the same program replied with amazed asperity: “The point of the nuclear triad is to be afraid to use the damn thing.”
As president-elect, Trump did not know the pedigree and importance of the one-China policy. About such things he can be, if he is willing to be, tutored. It is, however, too late to rectify this defect: He lacks what T.S. Eliot called a sense “not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence.” His fathomless lack of interest in America’s path to the present and his limitless gullibility leave him susceptible to being blown about by gusts of factoids that cling like lint to a disorderly mind.
Americans have placed vast military power at the discretion of this mind, a presidential discretion that is largely immune to restraint by the Madisonian system of institutional checks and balances. So, it is up to the public to quarantine this presidency by insistently communicating to its elected representatives a steady, rational fear of this man whose combination of impulsivity and credulity render him uniquely unfit to take the nation into a military conflict.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

7 theories on why Donald Trump has orange skin

7 theories on why Donald Trump has orange skin

donald trump doesn't like this picture
Image: Twitter
Apparently orange really is the new black. Donald Trump has become an interesting character in today’s society. First, he was a narcissistic billionaire who had a reality tv show that some people enjoyed because of his hilarious business antics, but somehow now he is President of the United States. 
Aside from that puzzling idea, we have a more important question. Why is Donald Trump’s skin always orange? This is a serious issue that we have looked into in attempts to inform the American people the truth about the person who could possibly be calling the shots in our country. Does he know how he looks? Either way, these are our best guesses as to why Trump always looks like that girl who just got a bad spray tan.
Before you read on I want to make it clear that we contemplated whether we should even write this article here at Men’s Trait. Judging people solely on their appearances is something we don’t ever like to do, and this seemed like no exception. However, after thinking about Donald Trump and every offensive thing he has ever said for 2.4 seconds, we realized that we don’t give a shit. Enjoy.

He eats a large quantity of carrots, sweet potatoes and squash

Foods rich in beta-carotene can cause a condition in which your skin turns an orange-ish color, called carotenemia. Trump could have an unhealthy (yet healthy) obsession with eating large amounts of these foods like carrots, sweet potatoes and squash which would explain his skin color. Food addiction is real and I highly suggest Trump sees a professional about the effects of over-eating.

He spray tans too often

Spray tanning can be very effective when a person wants a little color, but doesn’t want to damage their skin. However, Mr. Trump seems to have taken that advice extremely literally. Based on our careful observations, the color of his skin looks as if he receives a spray tan each morning, and even wears tanning goggles to protect his eyes from getting damaged. His “reverse raccoon eyes” show the parts of skin that were missed by the spray tan and therefore lighter. Maybe wait a few days in between sprays. Also, if he wants to get back to a more natural look, there are lots of good products for removing spray tans.

He uses an actual tanning bed

Tanning beds offer a slightly more “natural” look than spray tans, but they still alter the appearance and texture of your real skin. The reverse raccoon eyes could also be explained by the goggles in the tanning bed, but the orange color would have to result from lots of tanning bed use. People are actually addicted to using tanning beds, and we may need to add Trump to that list soon. The first step is admitting you have a problem.

He is obsessed with looking youthful

It’s a common belief that looking tan makes you look and feel younger, slimmer and more attractive. At 70 years old and married to a much younger woman, its not hard to come to the conclusion that he wants to look (and be) younger, especially as he is in the public eye. It’s only a matter of time before he gets an entire face lift and claims he is 30 again.

He thinks he is in a beauty pageant

Presidential debates and campaign events could easily be mistaken for a beauty pageant, with all the bright lights and people parading around on stage. Sadly, maybe Donald is just severely confused about the organization he is a part of. Makeup and essentially competing with others are components to both pageants and presidential debates. If spray tanning will give him a leg up on the other pageant girls (Hillary), why wouldn’t he do it?

He actually thinks it looks good

Trump was quoted saying, “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.” which implies that he expects all women to flirt with him. If a woman flirts with a man, that typically means that she is somewhat attracted to him. To bring this full circle, Trump thinks he is attractive, oompa loompa skin and all. Narcissistic personality disorder is a legitimate disorder that many people struggle with and see a therapist for. The few people in Trump’s life that truly care about him should direct him to a professional that can help him. 
One of the first signs that someone is mentally ill is odd behavior. Donald Trump contradicts himself left and right, and has been heard saying countless things that have everyone scratching their heads. Just one example: “My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings—even my own feelings—but I try.” Maybe his lack of mental stability and understanding of reality prevents him from even realizing what is going on. To him, his skin is normal in color and shouldn’t be changed. Reality check, Mr. Trump, you’re not fooling anyone and carrot face does not look normal.
    • Bri