Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

What is Antifa ?

Sorry to bring garbage from twitter over here, but this will take more than 280 characters.

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion including the neologism “Antifa”. In particular, Trump has threatened to declare Antifa an “organization of terror” following senators Cruz and Cassidy direction in a nonbinding resolution.

This is crazy. Trump, in particular, is not capable of telling plausible lies. His assertion is obviously false: because whatever Antifa is, it sure isn’t an organization. It would not be possible to list the members of Antifa as there are no conditions for membership and there is no trace of a chain of command. In contrast it is clear that the “Proud Boys”, “Patriot Prayer” are organizations.

On the other hand, there are people on Twitter claiming that I belong to Antifa, because I am opposed to fascism. That is silly too. I don’t consider myself a member of Antifa and I am more expert on myself than they are.

I would define Antifa as the set of counter demonstrators who assemble when one of the far right organizations holds a rally. So it’s a bunch of people who come to a general area with the general intention of contesting the far right organization.

This included the black block of Antifa, who are people who dress all in black often with masks and helmets, and who are clearly looking for a fight (as are the Proud Boys. They are all consenting adults, so I say let them fight provided; they don’t bother normal people, don’t bring deadly weapons, and there are police to referee making sure no one gets hurt (police services provided free because I’m generous with other people’s overtime).

But Antifa is also people who just want to stand and be counted and make sure the number of counter demonstrators dwarfs the mobilization of the far right organization. It also includes people who mock the proud boys and treat them as a joke including the dancing unicorn.

Not terrorists and not an organization. I don’t think the Proud Boys are a terrorist organization either. They are an organization and they are violent, but they are like the Jets and the Sharks not like al Qaeda or the Crips.

I think this is a tiny bit interesting, because it is clear that the talkingpoints memo has gone out directing Republican hacks and conservatives (but I repeat myself) to denounce Antifa. This shows three things. First and like the talking points about white supremacist terror; Republcans need to “what-about” when asked to discuss the violent far right (they doth protest too much). Second it shows how the MSM always fall for it; no matter how many times the GOP demonstrates bad faith, their latest BS is treated as if it were worthy of consideration. Finally, it shows how progressives always fall for it.

For example, I just wrote a long post attempting to refute obvious nonsense.

Comments (4) | |

Read Seth Cotlar

@sethcotlar has a very excellent thread asking never Trump conservatives what really changed with Trump. He says he is willing to be convinced that Trump isn’t just letting the mask drop and saying the quiet parts out loud, but that they haven’t made a case that Conservativism was ever worth anything.

Zack Beauchamp fair used it over at Vox.com

It is devastating and brief (Twitter is evil but it does prevent prolixity — might be the only medium for concise historians not named Tacitus).

I fair use squared the following which I consider to be a very important insight

@SethCotlar

30. This points to another thread in the history of conservatism that dates all the way back to Bill Buckley…conservatism has often defined itself largely AGAINST a phantom “left” that doesn’t really exist as they think it does.

@SethCotlar

31. Not only do conservatives tend to see that “left” as monolithic, they also see it as posing an existential threat to “western civilization” or “our way of life.”

@SethCotlar
32. Without the slippery slope argument, conservatism loses much of its rhetorical punch. Want Medicare? You’re secretly a commie. Support gay right? You hate the nuclear family! Support the rights of transgender people? There’s no biological truth anymore!

@SethCotlar

33. This is not just a rhetorical device conservative politicians deployed to gin up votes. It’s also been an essential piece of conservative intellectual thought as well. “Standing athwart history yelling stop,” and such.

Yes yes yes. Partly, this is an example of an error of thought which is more common than any other error of thought or any valid method of thought, the false dichotomy. Setting up and knocking down straw men is irresistably tempting. But I think it is important that the seem to actually believe this.

American Conservatism largely defined itself as anti-Communism. I don’t think they evern managed to get over the end of the USSR. One of the central tenets was that of the “Clear and Present Danger” of Communist world conquest. The collapse of the USSR demonstrated that they were totally utterly wrong. But Reagan and Bush were Presidents at the time, so they declared that everything which showed they were wrong, showed they were right.

To an extraordinary extent, Conservatives reject compromise by arguing that compromise is impossible, that any concessions are steps out onto the slippery slope to serfism.

A bit more fairusing below.

Comments (1) | |

Traffic Jam in Shenzhen, China

” The long line of trucks is a traffic jam of military trucks. Shenzhen (China), to state the obvious, is across the border and located just north of Hong Kong (see map). This show of force could still be a well poised threat to Hong Kong warning them to discontinue their protests or else. Shenzhen is an approximate 20 miles from Hong Kong and can be traveled by rail, bus, or limo.

Click on the images to enlarge.

In an update, it appears the Chinese military have started military exercises in Shenzhen as well as hundreds of the People’s Armed Police (PAP) in preparation of an invasion. Another saber rattling action intent on intimidating Hong Kong protesters. This is an scalation from previous efforts when Traffic Police were the ones used to make a similar point. It remains to be seen if China is willing to break the “one – country, two governing systems model” allowed Hong Kong and at the heart of China’s delay in deploying. Hong Kong is a global economic hub. Any intrusion would be noticed, lead to a destabilization, and potential sanctions on China.

On a forced (German VP boss) business trip, I was scheduled to visit a PCB manufacturer in Shenzhen. The travel agency routed me through Shanghai instead of Hong Kong which added hours to my trip (1 hour sitting in Shanghai) as compared to an ~ hour coming out of Hong Kong. A train would have stopped near the Westin where I was staying.

It was obvious the company travel agency did not know the route or bother to look at a map. I arrived after midnight. I informed my Chinese associate, we would be meeting later in the morning so I could be rested enough to negotiate the return of the excess air freight costs charged and my own agenda of negotiating the freezing of gold prices for two years. I was successful in both cases. My boss saved face, I became a star, and my American Planning associates did mot suffer a boot in the pants for their deliberate laziness.

As you can see on the map going back and forth between Shenzhen and Hong Kong is easy to do for travelers and the military too.

Tags: , Comments (0) | |

Goats and Dogs, Eco-Fascism and Liberal Taboos

When remembered at all, Edward Abbey is mostly thought of as an environmentalist and anarchist but there is no gainsaying the racism and xenophobia on display in his 1983 essay, “Immigration and Liberal Taboos.” The opinion piece was originally solicited by the New York Times, which ultimately declined to publish it — or to pay him the customary kill fee. It was subsequently rejected by Harper’s, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Mother Jones and Playboy before finally being published in the Phoenix New Times as “The Closing Door Policy.”

Various white nationalist blogs applaud what they view as Abbey’s foresightedness and forthrightness regarding immigration, presumably oblivious to how those views relate to his ideas about wealth inequality, industrial development and authoritarianism. Conversely, Abbey fans on the left who seek to insulate his nature writing from the taint of his anti-immigrant bigotry ignore the way in which, as Michael Potts put it, “a xenophobic and racist image of the immigrant as pollution… map[s] cultural and ethnic prejudices on to an idealised landscape.” (Dumping Grounds: Donald Trump, Edward Abbey and the Immigrant as Pollution) Abbey’s admirers on both the right and the left thus resort either to blinkers or lame apologetic to redeem him for their political preferences.

My interpretation is that Abbey was a curmudgeon and contrarian whose intended target was liberal hypocrisy. Immigrants were merely “collateral damage” of his colorful diatribes. In the pursuit of being provocative, though, he revealed more than he bargained for about his prejudices. It is precisely this flawed complexity, though, that makes Abbey’s writing a kind of Rosetta Stone for deciphering the dire social hieroglyphics of our time. Presumably, Abbey did not think of himself as racist. He was indignant when accused of racism. But the institutions of the society he grew up in transmit racism in their DNA.

Comments (13) | |

Grinding Old Axes II : This Time It’s Personal

So there wasn’t the groundswell of interest in my old axes in comments, so all continued grinding after the jump. Just to recall I stopped after 3 on a list which continued

4) John Kerry is much too stubborn. He won’t admit it when he is wrong. He should be more willing flip flop
5) Al Gore is a bearer of inconvenient truths who deserves much of the credit (or blame) for the existence of the internet
6) Bill Clinton is an ultra wonk who is relatively honest.
7) Walter Mondale was sharp as a knife and had charisma
8) Jimmy Carter is a visionary.
9) George McGovern was the only US politician willing to try to prevent horrible Communist crimes.

Comments (13) | |

Grinding Old Axes

This post is self therapy and probably not worth your time. Outline before the Jump
1) Hillary Clinton is very honest. Too honest
2) Mitt Romney is extremely dishonest. He lies often and without shame. Also he made his money conning ex friends.
3) John McCain was a major flip-flopper
4) John Kerry is much too stubborn. He won’t admit it when he is wrong. He should be more willing flip flop
5) Al Gore is a bearer of inconvenient truths who deserves much of the credit (or blame) for the existence of the internet
6) Bill Clinton is an ultra wonk who is relatively honest.
7) Walter Mondale was sharp as a knife and had charisma
8) Jimmy Carter is a visionary.
9) George McGovern was the only US politician willing to try to prevent horrible Communist crimes.

OK so I skipped Obama who was treated fairly by the mainstream media. Oh yeah, Dukakis, uh I got nothing.

Comments (6) | |

Recycling is Broken

Lloyd Alter at treehuggers: The only thing that really works for recycling is full producer responsibility. If a producer sells a product, the container is theirs and the contents belong to the customer. This is how it used to work with beer, pop, milk, water for the water cooler. It is what consumers and producers have to get back to achieve zero waste and a circular economy.

California has a long history of calling for deposits on both PET plastic, aluminum, and bottles under the California Redemption Value (CRV). At one time the recycler ePlanet had 600 facilities collecting drop off recyclables throughout California where people could get their deposits back.

On August 5, ePlanet closed down the remaining 284 recycling plants laying off 700 workers. In a statement:

With the continued reduction in state fees, decreased pricing of recycled aluminum and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, and the rise in operating costs from minimum wage requirements, required health and workers compensation insurance; ePlanet has concluded the operation of these recycling centers and supporting operations is no longer sustainable.”

A three-month investigation by Consumer Watchdog found the reason for the failing California recycling system which left consumers fewer options each year on where to redeem their empties. It also found special interests such as grocery chains, beverage distributors, and trash haulers could get rich at the consumer’s expense.

Besides the closures limiting where to take recyclables, grocery and big box stores are not taking back empties either in spite of a law requiring them to do so. Accounting scams by retailers such as Walmart and also beverage distributors are prevalent. They undercount the paid deposits for each item they sell and by under reporting they keep the difference.

Over the last five years CalRecycle (state agency) which oversees California’s beverage container recycling program has not publicly imposed a fine on distributors scamming the system or retailers not taking recyclables back. CalRecycle has purposely accumulated an ~$300 million reserve as of 2018 rather than disburse the funds to recycle centers to help them survive.

The commercial fraud and state agency issues need to be resolved.

Also troubling the industry today is the availability of less costly virgin material. Virgin PET is cheaper than cost of cleaning and processing of recycled material which is due to the abundance of natural gas. There is also an abundance of recyclable aluminum in the market today which has driven prices down. Prices have dropped from “75 cents per pound last year to 55 cents, the lowest it has been since 2009.” Since the golden-haired child in the White House has imposed tariffs on China, the Chinese have imposed tariffs on US scrap imports which is part of the reason for the low prices created by a growing US glut. Lower price results in increased recycling costs for consumers today and especially in rural areas. Then too with the price drop I would think US manufacturers could use recyclable material more readily than virgin material. It is just a matter of making them do so.

The results of a failed recycling system scream for a solution and one which product and package manufacturers will not like. If product manufacturers want to use aluminum and plastic for packaging their products such as soda, water, etc. than they have to take it back and work with the packaging manufacturers to recycle it into more packaging or other uses. Today, the packaging does not go back to the user of the packaging, the product manufacturers, and is recycled outside of their responsibility. This enables them to side step the responsibility.

We have to go beyond a circular economy and get rid of single-use plastics entirely. It is clearer every day that passes the US never had a real recycling system. It was just a very long linear onegoing from the producer through our homes to China.

treehugger’s Lloyd Alter “Today’s recycling is BS.”

Tags: Comments (4) | |

“4 out of 5 mass Shooters Were Not Diagnosed with Mental Iillness,

half showed no signs of a prior, undiagnosed illness.” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), and plainly speaking, they were not mentally ill.

Yesterday on Monday morning;

President Trump: “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun. We must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment and if necessary, involuntary confinement.” This is coming from a narcistic man who behaves irradicably and irrationally.

In response to President Trump’s remarks, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT).

“Nineteen of 20 murderers had no diagnosis of a mental illness. Four out of 5 mass shooters had no mental illness diagnosis, and half showed no signs of a prior, undiagnosed illness. Framing mass shootings as just a mental illness problem is a gun industry trope. Period. Stop.”

In any case, the courts make little allowance for mental illness or for those who plead insanity. Those who are mentally ill and convicted of felony are locked away at level 4 prisons with the general population and the treatment is minimal. Trump’s “lock them up” comment of involuntary confinement just takes it one step further than the courts and without their interference.

Back to Senator Murphy and social media comments: some commenters agreed with Senator Murphy’s point about the validity of linking such events to mental illness as these comments only serve to stigmatize anyone with a mental illness. Other commenters questioned whether it is possible for a person to kill multiple strangers, at random, and not be mentally ill. One Twitter commenter; “So a healthy person does this?”

Yes, it can be a healthy normal person more often than not.

A much-cited 2016 review by forensic psychiatrists James L. Knoll IV MD and George D. Annas MD, SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse New York may have been what Senator Murphy was referencing to in his comments.

Both doctors Knoll and Annas acknowledged the public and the media find the question of “mental illness” hard to resist.

“After all, who but a madman would execute innocent people in broad daylight, while planning to commit suicide or waiting to be killed by police?”

Adding to Knoll and Annas’s findings as well as other research; only a “minority” of mass shootings (however defined) have been perpetrated by individuals having recognized mental disorders.

“Few perpetrators of mass shootings have had verified histories of being in psychiatric treatment for serious mental illness.”

Again Knoll and Annas: Such individuals can function (perhaps marginally) in society and do not typically seek out mental health treatment. In most cases, it cannot fairly be said that a perpetrator ‘fell through the cracks’ of the mental health system. Rather, these individuals typically plan their actions well outside the awareness of mental health professionals.”

Mass shooters may not meet the criteria of a disorder as stated in DSM-5 – “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” They may have an ill-defined trouble of the mind, harboring anger or revenge and for which the field of mental health field has no immediate, quick-acting ‘treatment. “Psychiatrists and in particular forensic psychiatrists understand that dark and depraved acts are frequently committed for other reasons besides mental illness and more often committed for those other reasons.”

Can the matter of a hidden anger or other undefined trouble be resolved by labeling it ‘mental illness’ and calling for greater scrutiny of ‘troubled’ individuals? Knoll believes we would solve nothing by doing so and even risk making matters worse. This mindset makes us vulnerable to creating new and misguided laws. Such attempts further the medieval notion of equating mental illness with ‘evil’ or criminal behavior.

Mental health treatment has its limits is not designed to detect and uncover potential violent extremists. Formal psychiatric screening is not likely to identify those who may commit massacres.

Noting the wave of mass shootings beginning in the late 1990s; there was another propellant besides guns and mental illness both of which existed for a long time, and to which Knoll added the media as another. “It seems difficult to deny that the media coverage since the late 90s” has made it certain that those who commit heinous crimes become celebrities through the development of an online “Columbiner culture” glorifying the Columbine High School shooters and the others following in their footsteps.

We must eliminate the media attention gained from mass shooting.

Conundrum: Why Isn’t Killing 22 People ‘Mental Illness’?” — Psychiatrists say the question is beside the point, MedPage Today, John Gever, Managing Editor, August 5, 2019

Mass Shootings and Mental Illness,” Gun Violence and Mental Illness. James L. Knoll M.D. and George D. Annas M.D.

The Health 202: Trump blamed mental illness for mass shootings. The reality is more complicated” The Washington Post, Paige Winfield Cunningham

Comments (15) | |

The optics are as bad as they look

(Dan here…lifted from Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts)

by Robert Waldmann

The optics are as bad as they look

 Dean “The Optics aren’t as bad as they look” Baquet just confirmed that he actually doesn’t do his job any more. He doesn’t decide what is on the front page of the New York Times. He doesn’t explain what he does (except force reporters to tone down their story on the Trump campaigns connections to Russia until it falsely asserted that the FBI had found no clear links *after* the FBI had obtained 2 FISA warrants based on probable cause to believe two Trump campaign employees (one of them campaign chairman) were foreign agents).Look, if he isn’t willing to edit, maybe his job should be eliminated as he eliminated the public editor, breaking a solemn promise to readers and destroying the paper’s credibility which can only be restored if he is fired.

Also he presents a false dichotomy (an error of thought more common than any other error of thought or any valid method of thought). He asserts (without any evidence or logic) that the only choice of for the Times to continue to do what it has been doing or to act as the opposition to Trump.

He doesn’t even consider the possiblity that it could act like a serious newspaper and not quote unreliable sources without fact checking (even if the demonstrably unreliable source happens to be President). He assumes that the most recent claims must be reported without noting the proof that they are lies. Basically his position is that the facts don’t matter, or maybe that they must not be reported, because they have a liberal bias.

I think it is very important that Baquet be fired immediately.

Comments (3) | |