Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Alternative Facts

“A fact is a piece of information presented as having objective [not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts] reality [the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional [existing only in theory or as a suggestion or idea] idea of them].” Merriam-Webster Dictionary

 A alternative fact is simply bullshit (either Bos taurus excrement or a statement that is untrue). -Richard Joyce’s Book of Salient Colloquialisms

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer

Chuck Todd: You did not answer the question of why the President asked the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium, for the first time, and utter a falsehood. Why did he do that? It undermines the credibility of the entire White House press office on Day One.
Kellyanne Conway: No, it doesn’t. Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and they’re giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.

“You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common... they don’t alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views.” Dr Who. Episode entitled “The Face of Evil Part 4,” which aired January 22, 1977 .

“War is Peace / Freedom is Slavery / Ignorance is Strength.” George Orwell, “1984“

 I feel like I’ve lived on a steady diet of PBS’s “Masterpiece Theater,” for the last eight years and now I’m going to be forced to watch “Romper Room" for at least the next four.” -Richard Joyce

“They were a rebuke of bigotry and a call for equality and inclusion.They demonstrated the awesome power of individual outrage joined to collective action. And it was a message to America that the majority did not support this president or his plans and will not simply tuck tail and cower in the face of the threat. This was an uprising; this was a fighting back. This was a resistance.” Columnist Charles Blow, writing on Saturday’s nationwide Woman’s March.

   Last November 14th, shortly after Donald Trump won the presidency in a “Change Election,” I attended my weekly Depression Walk In Group at the Veteran’s Administration Clinic on Temple Street and Alameda, in the Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles. I go to the 1 o’clock meeting most Monday’s in order to get my fair dose of depression, as I’ve written about a few times in the past... like here, here, and here.
   The meeting is, and has been facilitated for years by the lovely Dr Kimberly Newsom,  Ph.D., a handsome young black woman and a psychologist who I’ve known for many years. At that time she had a lovely blonde intern working with her named Laura, who would, after finishing with Dr. Newsom, be entering the Armed Services, the navy I believe, my alma mater.
   This being the first meeting held after the election, the eight other veterans there, Dr. Newsom, Laura, and I spent the hour talking about it, and it’s many consequences. Since I spend a great deal of my time keeping up with national politics, in a large part due to this blog, the meeting acted as a cathartic, it helped me to feel a little better about the election’s outcome. 
   Some of the members of the group were silent throughout. Two gentlemen were Hillary voters, and one Trump supporter.
   It was asked how this could have happened, that a man like Donald Trump could become president of the United States. I suggested that the election was billed as a “Change Election,” and a large percentage of the population was unsatisfied with their position within the economy, and fed up with the status quo. Trump represented change. That, and his bombastic personality, and tendency to tell his supporters anything and everything they wanted to hear, represented by his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again (implying that President Obama, and by association, Hillary Clinton, had somehow destroyed the country, or made it un-great somehow, even though the exact opposite was true in the real world. (Here’s a comparison look at the kind of country Obama inherited vs what Trump is getting... thanks to Obama)), and his penchant to lie in any way to further his position, made him appealing to a certain portion of the population. That portion admired  him because he “tells it like it is,” and he “speaks what’s on his mind,” which in my opinion is the third and second to last reasons to vote for anybody.
   The last reason to vote for someone... “He’s a guy I’d like to have a beer with.” 
   I also pointed out that wanting “change” is fine, however, there’s two kinds of change, there’s good change and there’s bad change, and Trump supporters didn’t seem to realize this, or care about it, or think about it much actually, or think at all.
   These people wanted Trump to win so badly, or hated Hillary so much, that they didn’t consider the consequences of Trump actually winning, and might not until he and his administration cronies began messing with their Social Security, medical care, and veteran’s benefits. Diminishing these entities would be change alright, just not the kind they were probably  hoping for. 
   Dr. Newsom agreed with me, and this point came up again several times throughout the  hour long meeting.
   The lone Trump supporter tried to alleviate our fears about a Trump presidency by maintaining that when Trump enters office, he personally will not be affected by Trump. His life will remain the same. There will be little difference in his day to day activities.
   “You can’t possibly know that,” I told him.
   For instance, Sunday Presidential Counselor Kellyanne Conway (First picture above) confirmed that Trump was planning to replace the Affordable Care Act (for no particular reason other than it was initiated by President Obama) by converting Medicaid (the premiere health insurance program for low-income Americans) into a block grant program. This would take Medicaid’s administration out of the hands of the federal government and put states in charge, with potentially disastrous consequences.
   The Trump people haven’t yet provided details on this significant change, but when the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed a 2014 block grant plan crafted by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) (then the chair of the House Budget Committee), it forecast a 26 percent cut to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program by 2024.
   From the CBPP report:
   “The Urban Institute similarly estimated that the 2012 block grant proposal would lead states to drop between 14.3 million and 20.5 million people from Medicaid by the tenth year. (That would be in addition to the 13 million people who would lose their new coverage or no longer gain coverage in the future due to repeal of the Medicaid expansion, with the number rising as high as 17 million if all states take up the expansion.)”
   That’s change for you, change that would affect my Trump supporting veteran friend if he happened to use Medicaid and lived in a red state.
   By the way, Trump promised not to cut Medicaid during the campaign. I suppose he forgot that promise. He is getting on in years.
   Before the meeting ended I also brought up the point that throughout history regimes, indeed entire civilizations, came and went. Here’s a clip from the movie “Catch 22,” featuring Art Garfunkel, which illustrates my point.  
   The Romans thrived for a little over 500 years then went away. The Greeks and Persians the same. Republicans come and go in the White House, as well as Democrats. We survived Bush in order to be saved by Obama.
   But the pressing danger at this particular time in history, two dangers really, is we now have nuclear weapons that are capable of destroying all life on the Earth (with the exception of cockroaches), and climate change, perhaps humanities greatest challenge, which Trump has vowed to ignore, and by ignoring climate change, making the problem more difficult, perhaps impossible to solve.
   Dr. Newsom eloquently voiced her concerns about living in a country which now had been given license to freely discriminate against minorities due to Trump’s victory, and commit hateful crimes against them (if caught by authorities of course, they would be arrested and prosecuted, hopefully, but she was talking about the prevailing atmosphere throughout the land, an atmosphere brought about in part by Trump’s  hate filled race baiting tactics during the campaign).
   The meeting ended at 1 o’clock, and we all went are separate ways, felling a little better I presume, for having discussed this matter at quite some length. 
   Last Friday was Donald Trump’s inauguration. His inauguration speech, which at 16 minutes long, was the shortest ever presented to the American people... and to the world, painted a picture of the country which was rather bleak, and which exists only in Trump’s fuzzy little mind.
   Here’s the speech.
   Here’s a review of said speech by television host Stephen Colbert.
   A plausible argument can be made that Donald Trump is actually a fascist, using time honored fascist techniques to advance his agenda, such as painting that picture of the country that exists only in his mind, simultaneously suggesting that only he, Trump, can repair the nation, and lead it out of the Obama darkness, to make it great again. Only Donald. All us citizens have to do is lay down and let him do whatever he wants, without any opposition.
   Apparently that is not going to happen, but more on that latter.
   One small matter marred what should have been Trump’s final and greatest triumph. A trivial matter really, but trivial matters seem to irritate our new president to no end.
   The second picture above shows a slight difference in the amount of inauguration attendees between Barrack Obama’s 2009 inauguration (on the left) and Trump’s (on the right).
   Trump said, as he looked out amongst the vast crowd, that he saw over a million attendees, and was bewildered to find out the next day that the hateful, dishonest, and crooked media, was claiming that far fewer people showed up than all of those that exist in Trump’s fuzzy mind. This of course bruised Trump’s fragile ego, wherein he just had to complain about it. 
   Which he did so the next day at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley VA, wherein he stated he was in some sort of “running war” with the media, who of course are “The most dishonest people in the world” (this is called “projection,” where one projects their own traits onto others), that the media has portrayed he was a harsh critic of the intelligence community, which of course was completely false, according to Trump (“Trump has repeatedly vilified the CIA and the entire intelligence community for what he claimed were politically charged conclusions about Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election in order to help Trump. At a Jan. 11 news conference, Trump even accused intelligence officials of being behind a ‘Nazi-like smear campaign’against him. And in his tweets he put quotation marks around the word ‘intelligence’in referring to the CIA and other intelligence agencies.” -Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton), and that the media had manipulated crowd attendee numbers to look as if hardly anyone showed up for his inauguration. Trump claims there were “a million, maybe a million and a half” there. Independent experts state that the number was closer to 250,000 (Trump has a history of inflating numbers concerning himself, such as the amount of his wealth, which he claims to be over 10 billion dollars. Others familiar with Trump, like the good folks at Forbes Magazine, suggest the true number is between 2 and 3 billion). Trump claims that the crowd he witnessed extended all the way back to the Washington Monument. “So we caught them, we caught them in a real beauty [of a lie presumably].” Here's the speech.
   Clearly this is a case of Chico Marx’s axiom “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”
   He then boasts about being on the cover of Time magazine more than anyone else.
   There’s clearly something horribly wrong with this man.
  Oh yeah... apparently Trump brought his own paid for audience to the event in order to insure a positive reception.
   Trump later directed his Press Secretary Sean Spicer (third picture above), in his very first meeting with the media, to make the remarkable statement that can be found above. Here’s a clip of that brief encounter.
   He attempted to suggest that ground coverings and something called magnometers were being used for the first time which may have influenced the size of the crowd, both statements being false. Ground coverings had been used before, and no magnometers were used (Daily Show correspondent Desi Lydic offered the possible explanation that most of Trump’s crowd were simply wearing poler bear skins, for the sparse photographic evidence).
   Spicer then called the media shameful for their attempts to minimize the enthusiasm of the event, before he left without taking any questions.
   There is no question that Spicer was directed to blatantly lie to the press on his first encounter with them, lies that were easily able to identify and verify. Lies that the Trump administration clearly wants the public and press to accept simply because they say so.
   Trump attempted to claim that the sparse photograph was taken before the inauguration, in other words before everyone he claims were there showed up. The photo editor of Reuters, Jim Bourg, who’s photographer took the picture, shot that down right smartly, explaining the photo was taken at 12:01.18 exactly, right after Trump was sworn in.
   Oh and another thing. A time lapse video of the mall, shot from the Washington Monument by PBS Newshour, shows that the area was not filled to capacity at any stage during the day.
   So Trump was defending a lie with another lie.
   Unlike Trump’s whopper that he had seen a non-existent video of “thousands and thousands” of Arab-Americans cheering in New Jersey as the World Trade Center collapsed on September 11, 2001, which in comparison was difficult to pin him down on, the inauguration evidence is out there for anybody who enjoys the gift of sight.
   Here’s another one (they just keep on coming, don’t they). Yesterday Trump told congressional leaders that he lost the popular vote to Hillary because millions of "illegals" cast ballots, according to an aide granted anonymity to discuss the private meeting. Trump told them that 3 million to 5 million "illegals" voted, the aide said.
   He provided no evidence whatsoever to back this claim up. None! Again, I guess he believes we are supposed to accept anything he says, just because he says so.
   There is no evidence that widespread voter fraud took place during the election.
   Another lie.
   It’s getting difficult to keep up with the presidential lies of Donald Trump, and he’s only been in office three days.
   So this is a clear indication of what’s to come for the next four years... or for however long the Republicans in Congress want to put up with his nonsense before impeaching him (in which case Vice President Mike Pence would take over, who isn’t any better than Trump really. When George Stephanopoulos asked Pence if he thought it was okay for his boss to consistently lie to the American public, he said “I think the American people find it refreshing to hear from someone who speaks what is on his mind.” Refreshing? To be lied to? Really Pence?
   An administration based on lies and redirection. As soon as Trump took the oath of office, the White House began erasing web pages on climate change, LGBTQ rights, labor, and civil rights, as if these issues didn’t exist.
   They don’t exist in Trump’s alternative universe. They do in the real world that clear thinking people, sane people live in.    
   Kellyanne Conway unwittingly created a new fun term in describing Trump’s, and Trump’s cronies, including herself, lies, as “Alternative Facts.”
   Here’s Todd’s and Conway’s testy exchange.
   Dan Rather on Hardball with Chris Matthews Monday, stated (and I paraphrase) “There is no such thing as an ‘alternative fact.’ That two and two equals four is a fact. That water runs downhill is a fact. That a bear shits in the woods is a fact. Facts are what our democracy runs on! Alternative facts are lies.”
   Rather wrote this on his Facebook page: “The press has never seen anything like this before. The public has never seen anything like this before. And the political leaders of both parties have never seen anything like this before.
   What can we do? We can all step up and say simply and without equivocation. ‘A lie, is a lie, is a lie!’ And if someone won't say it, those of us who know that there is such a thing as the truth must do whatever is in our power to diminish the liar's malignant reach into our society.”
   The use of these terms like alternative facts, the disappearance of information that could be vital to mankind’s survival, charging demonstrators, and other various “offenders,” with hate-crimes, which are punishable by ten years to life in prison, these are steps taking us closer and closer to George Orwell’s vision of his masterpiece, “1984.”      
   “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.” George Orwell
   Orwell it can safely be said, was a bit of a pessimist.
   We’ve discussed authoritarian attempts to alter reality before, here
   Obviously, considering the frequency and ease at which Trump and his surrogates attempt to change the real world for that which would benefit Trump, or assuage his massive ego, the media and the rest of us must be very vigilant and call him out each and every single time he lies. Everytime!
   Tump’s weekend didn’t get any better when on Saturday 2.9 to 3.2 American women took a walk.
   The “Women's March” was a worldwide protest to protect women's rights and other causes including immigration reform, health care reform, protection of the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, freedom of religion, and workers' rights.
   The rallies, directed at Trump, included 408 in the U.S., and 168 in 81 other countries. March officials later reported 673 marches worldwide, with 20 in Mexico and 29 in Canada.
     The protests were the largest political demonstrations in the United States since the Vietnam War.
   An estimated 60,000 people marched in Atlanta. 250,000 in Chicago. There are estimates of 250,000 people in Boston, and 200,000 in Denver. In New York, the estimate ranges from 200,000-500,000. City officials estimate that 500,000 people participated in the main march in Washington, DC. In Los Angeles, the estimate is anywhere from 200,000-750,000.
   My lovely sister Cheryl could look out of her apartment’s window, which is six stories up in downtown Los Angeles and see something similar to the last (8th) picture above. (The 5th picture is Washington D.C., the 6th Boston, the 7th, in front of City Hall, Los Angeles. The 4th picture is that of the lovely Desi Lydic)
   “It is possible that Trump has reactivated something President Obama couldn’t maintain, and Hillary Clinton couldn’t fully tap into: A unified, mission-driven left that puts bodies into the streets. The women’s marches sent a clear signal: Your comfort will not be built on our constriction. We are America. We are loud, ‘nasty’ and fed up. We are motivated dissidents and we are legion.” -Charles Blow
   Trump’s reaction?
   “Why didn’t these people vote?”
   And he still claims that the ladies love him.
   And finally, I’ve found someone who shares my fears about Trump. 
   Before we elected Trump, Samantha Bee interviewed Russian author and dissident Masha Gessen about a potential Trump presidency. She interviewed Gessen again for last Wednesday's “Full Frontal,” and her thoughts on a Trump America were not reassuring.
   Based on her experience with Vladimir Putin she states, "Oh, my biggest worry is a nuclear holocaust. If miraculously we avoid that, then, you know, he's certain to do irreparable damage to the environment that will make survival of the human species impossible."
   When Bee asked for her advice on what U.S. citizens can do, Gessen said calmly, "The thing, I think, to do — and this is my recipe, is to actually continue panicking.”
   Well perhaps we can do a little more than that.