Priorities

February 17, 2017 | Posted in Immigration, National Security, Politics, Russia | By

Click Here to Leave Comments→

Trump’s Campaign (already??) Rally…

February 17, 2017 | Posted in Fact Checking, Just to Clarify, Politics, Trump | By

Craigslist ad purporting to offer payment for people going to Trump rallySome common sense thoughts on the Craigslist ad floating around purporting to pay people for showing up at Trump’s Florida “campaign event.”

In particular:

First off, there have been a tremendous amount of unverified claims from both the left and the right that supporters/protesters are being paid to show up to political events. These claims have been made since the beginning of the last election, since Donald Trump descended down his escalator, and not one instance has been proven.

[…]

However, in this case, overtly saying they’re going to pay supporters with gift cards and cash vouchers, at a very public event, is so incredibly dumb it can’t possibly be real.

Most importantly, it’s impossible to know if this ad is real or fake without attending this Saturday’s rally, which we will be doing. And if we see people getting paid to go this rally, we’ll let you know. To be honest, that would be an amazing story.

There are also rumors being circulated that this rally is actually a plot to make Trump protesters look like violent thugs with agitators prepared to attend the rally and stir up trouble. Unless someone has actually seen evidence of such plotting, though, it’s hard to know if it’s true or not. I think skepticism is warranted here as well.

The suggested way of dealing with this is for peaceful protesters to hold their counter-event some distance from the rally itself. While that certainly sounds reasonable, it won’t do anything to stop agent provocateurs from causing trouble in the name of the Resistance movement, and it could render any protest more-or-less invisible, since it will be out of sight of both the Trump supporters and the media. If one were given to conspiracy-style thinking, one might be concerned that this could be propaganda from Trump supporters to help minimize the appearance of dissent, but I wouldn’t know about that…

Click Here to Leave Comments→

Don’t Panic

February 16, 2017 | Posted in Congress, Fact Checking, Guns, Just to Clarify, Politics | By

Mental illness and gunsI’ve been seeing this article getting passed around on social media, but the situation isn’t as alarming as some think. The bottom line is that the rule they want to repeal went into effect in December of last year – only 10 weeks ago. Even if the regulation is repealed, anyone who would would have been blocked from buying a gun 3 months ago will still be blocked from buying one.

As for the rule itself, what it did was require Social Security to notify the FBI of anyone receiving disability checks who had been determined to be too mentally ill to manage their own affairs, so that they could be flagged during background checks. While this would make it easier to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks, we will still have all of the other ways we’ve used to screen out the mentally ill from gun ownership. That won’t be changing.

So, yes, it’s a good regulation, but it’s repeal won’t mean that we’ll suddenly be flooded with mentally ill people buying guns unchecked or anything like that. It’ll just be going back to how we handled it as of November.

Click Here to Leave Comments→

Bowling Green “Massacre” was no slip of the tongue

February 7, 2017 | Posted in Politics, Trump Surrogates and Spokespeople | By

Kellyanne Conway has been trying to blame her claim of a massacre in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on a slip of a tongue, but today we learn that it wasn’t the first time shed made mention of it. So, either the comment was a pre-planned lie, or Conway needs to see a doctor about all the excess oil in her mouth that keeps making her tongue fall off-track.

I’m betting it’s the former option, personally.

As I mentioned previously, neither of the excuses Conway has made for her verbal banana peel make any sense. First she said that she meant to say they were the “masterminds behind the BG Massacre” but how does one “mastermind” a terrorist? You don’t. You mastermind the plot. Her second excuse – that they were the masterminds of the BG Massacre plot” – doesn’t work either as there was no plot by these guys to kill anyone in Bowling Green.

Getting caught in a lie won’t do anything goes to deter her, though. Lying is her natural language, and it helps her client boss by tossing convenient – if false – excuses to his base so they can better ignore the actual facts.

While some journalists have been saying they have to keep interviewing Conway – that they have to take what the White House gives them. I strongly disagree.

If journalists refuse to interview Conway, Trump will eventually have to start sending out someone else because he needs the mainstream media, whether he likes them or not. If he truly believed he didn’t, he’d stop sending anyone out to speak with them. So legitimate journalists have some leverage here. “Give us some one else, or you’re side of the story goes untold.” Granted, whoever came next might be no better, but s/he could hardly be worse.

Kellyanne Conway said she misspoke “one word” on MSNBC’s “Hardball” last week. But it turns out that she had mentioned the made-up “Bowling Green massacre” at least once before.

Cosmopolitan’s Kristen Mascia reported Monday that Conway brought up the “masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre” in a January 29 telephone interview. Cosmo didn’t print the quote at the time.

 […]

“I was trying to mow through a list of fact checking and follow-up questions that day and had little time to follow her down her usual rabbit holes,” Mascia wrote on Facebook Monday.

Later, working with her editors, “we made an editorial choice not to churn out misinformation into the atmosphere without doing proper digging,” she wrote.

Click Here to Leave Comments→

Subtle, eh?

February 5, 2017 | Posted in Politics, Trump | By

Click Here to Leave Comments→

Humpty-Donnie Sat on a Wall…

February 5, 2017 | Posted in Politics, Trump | By

Wall photo is for illustrative purposes only. This is not the actual wall.

It seems that there are a number of Republicans who aren’t all that eager to spend money on Trump’s wall, and not just because it’ll be expensive and it’s highly unlikely Mexico would ever “repay” us for it.

One big problem is that not many in Texas actually want the wall. For one thing, it’s not clear how useful it would be, and for another, the “squiggliness” of the border presents its own challenges. As Vox notes:

Trying to literally conform a border wall to this fractal terrain would be ridiculous. Any feasible construction project is going to need to be straighter than the actual border, which is going to mean using the federal government’s eminent domain powers to take privately owned land and basically redraw the border. This has been a flashpoint between Trump and elements of the ideological right in the past, since he’s an enthusiastic proponent of using eminent domain to benefit private economic development projects, which many conservatives regard as unconstitutional.

A border wall — unlike a parking garage for an Atlantic City casino — is pretty clearly meant to serve a public function, so the constitutional issue wouldn’t necessarily arise. Nonetheless, it’s generally the case that people don’t like it when the government comes in and takes their land. And it’s easy to imagine they particularly wouldn’t like it if the government came in to take their land so that the president of the United States could avoid admitting that one of his campaign promises was kind of dumb. Moreover, it’s questionable it even would serve its stated purpose . Unauthorized immigration from Mexico has already slowed to a trickle (indeed, by most estimates more people are leaving than arriving), and the un-walled area in particular has almost no border crossings since it’s in the middle of nowhere.

It’s worth noting that the sections of Texas where fences have been built in the past report that it’s inflicted hardship on the area, and when the Texas Tribune surveyed the state’s 38-member congressional delegation it found that none of them wholeheartedly supported the border wall scheme. (Emphasis their’s)

It’s good to see some members of Congress actually listen to their constituents, and that there are some who recognize what an utter folly Trump’s wall plan is.

The article also discusses some of the financial challenges the wall project will face. Since Trump promised that Mexico is going to pay for it, Representatives and Senators from both parties may be able to use that in varying ways to justify not voting to fund the wall or to balk at using deficit spending to do so.

Click Here to Leave Comments→

The Problem with Kellyanne Conway

February 5, 2017 | Posted in Politics, Trump Surrogates and Spokespeople | By

Kellyanne Conway

 

In a recent Reliable Sources e-mail from CNN Money, Brian Statler asked for feedback on whether journalists should continue interviewing Kellyanne Conway or not. Here is the response I sent him:

Networks should *absolutely* quit interviewing Conway. While it is common for most politicians and their surrogates to try and spin anything negative or controversial to minimize any repercussions, Conway – and to a great extent Sean Spicer – take it to new levels of malignancy, creating false scenarios and impressions that will far outlive any effect a correction might have.

The problem with giving Conway more airtime is that she never contributes anything to understanding a situation, policy or action. Her comments serve only to mislead the American people. Given that the goal of journalism is to expose and clarify the truth, journalists have an obligation to avoid spreading information that seeks to confuse or mislead the public. Since this is essentially the only think Conway does, interviewing her actively thwarts the purpose of journalism and violates the duty of the journalist.

I have little doubt, for example, that within a couple of months – if not sooner – well be hearing from conservative extremists (a better description of what they are than ” alt-right” which really doesn’t mean anyrhing) about the Bowling Green Massacre and how it was so thoroughly covered up to avoid making “Muzzies” look bad that you can hardly find any coverage of it at all.

The proffered excuses for her “mistake” make no sense. The first one I heard was that she meant “Bowling Green terrorists,” but she had called the two men the “masterminds” of the massacre – saying they were the “masterminds of the Bowling Green terrorists” makes no sense, since they were the only two involved. Calling someone a mastermind implies that the person came up with the idea for a larger group. You just don’t call *every* member of a group the “masterminds.” And aying, as she said later, that they were the masterminds behind a Bowling Green massacre plot is even more ridiculous since no such plot existed.

Continuing to give Conway a platform only rewards her for her lies and gives Trump’s followers an excuse to dismiss concerns about his actions, policies and beliefs. Given the administration’s complete disregard for the truth, journalists should be doing all they can to counter the spin, not help spread it.

Click Here to Leave Comments→

Book Review: “The Chosen of Anthros” by Travis Simmons

September 29, 2015 | Posted in Book Reviews, Epic Fantasy, Fiction, mythology-based | By

The Chosen of AnthrosThe Chosen of Anthros by Travis Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review.

“The Chosen of Anthros” is the 4th book in Travis Simmons’ “Harbingers of Light” series and picks up where “A Lament of Moonlight” leaves off – with our heroes having finally found their way through the forest and ready to head into the Harbinger settlement.

This entry in the series is full of surprises as we learn more about both the Harbingers and the plague in general and the characters specifically. Once they reach the settlement, each of the characters is given training and tasks that keep them separate much of the time, and Simmons does a nice job of spreading the story between them, giving each the chance to grow individually. There are also the beginnings of what might turn out to be a sweet love story, which is a nice touch amongst the seriousness of the rest of the events.

As a lover of Norse mythology, I like how Simmons uses various aspects of the stories to tell an original tale – not just a retelling of established lore. While he uses different names for some of the gods, it’s still pretty clear who they are (especially if you’re at all familiar with the myths) but it allows him to endow them with different characteristics, making them fresh.

This installment ends with a shocking cliffhanger – which sometimes can be rather off-putting. In this case, however, it just makes me that much more eager to see what happens next.

View all my reviews

Click Here to Leave Comments→

Book Review: “The Rings of Power” by Lor Hasse

September 19, 2015 | Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction, Urban Fantasy | By

The Rings of Power (Solomon's Circle Book 2)The Rings of Power by Lor Haase
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“The Rings of Power” is the follow-up to Lor Hasse’s novel, “Circleborn.” In that first book, we met a group of young adults who are part of a circle of magic wielders, whose powers are passed down from one generation to the next, and each of whom wields a different kind of magic – for example, there’s blood magic, earth, ancestral, and so forth. For the circle to function properly, each type of magic must be represented, and to maintain that balance needed for the magic to work properly, there are bonds of varying strength between different kinds of magic.

The first book introduced us to the characters, the magical system, and the basic conflict, which involves a member from an older generations circle who wants to obtain more power for himself by eliminating the next circle generation. While trying to protect themselves from the rogue mage, the group also finds itself facing stresses from within due to the complex nature of the bonds, leading some members to consider taking actions that might prove to be detrimental to the group and its goal. The play between the internal and external struggles is nicely balanced and gives each character different issues to contend with and different opportunities for growth.

One of my biggest complaints about the earlier book was that Hasse the tended to keep a lot of balls in the air at one time, dropping hints and foreshadowing, but tending to drag out the explanation that allowed the story to progress forward. Fortunately, in this second installment, he rarely does this at all, providing us instead with good, solid suspenseful scenes that lead up to a reveal, taking enough time to let our curiosity peak, but doesn’t draw it out too long, giving this book a much faster pace. Also, a problem with typographic errors I had noticed in the first book has apparently been cleared up as I didn’t notice as many this time around.

While I did enjoy the book a great deal, and do recommend it, there are a few places where it feels like I might have missed some details – either from the first book or from earlier in this one. There are times various concepts are discussed or references are made to structural issues within the circle where I feel like I’m perhaps missing some of the information needed to put it into a fuller context, but I found that for the most part when I kept reading the context would usually become clear enough that I was able to follow along without any problem and enjoy the story unfolding.

View all my reviews

Click Here to Leave Comments→

Book Review: “Bitter of Tongue” by Cassandra Clare

September 19, 2015 | Posted in Book Reviews, Epic Fantasy, Fiction, Urban Fantasy | By

Bitter of Tongue (Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy)Bitter of Tongue by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of my favorite entries in the “Tales From Shadowhunter Academy” series. This book helps set up the next book in the Shadowhunter series by giving us a closer look at the Blackwood family. In the “Mortal Instruments” series, young Mark Blackwood is kidnapped by the Fairies and forced to join the Wild Hunt. Because the political situation with the Fairies is so tenuous, however, the Clave decides not to try to rescue him.

In this story, Simon has an encounter with Mark, one which is both deeply moving and deeply troubling, and helps show what it is about Simon that sets him apart from so many of the other Shadowhunters. His response to the situation is surprisingly mature and shows us more of the strength that gave Simon the ability to survive his transformation into a vampire (and back) and the loss of so many of his memories.

Most of the books in the series have really been quite good, but I think of the ones released so far this one is easily my favorite. It presents a very difficult situation that has no easy answers and serves as an excellent reminder as to why Simon has been such a fan favorite in the series.

View all my reviews

Click Here to Leave Comments→