Wednesday, January 17, 2018

President Donald Trump releases his Fake News Awards.

President Trump.

President Donald Trump released his Fake News Awards today and crashed the GOP website. The link seems to be working now but there was so much interest in the awards, the GOP site was down for quite some time. The post lists eleven stories that the media got wrong this year. Since the website is having connectivity issues, I will list them here:

1. Paul Krugman being completely wrong about the economy crashing after Trump got elected.

2. ABC's Brian Ross's false report on Michael Flynn contacting Russia during the presidential campaign. 

3. CNN's false report that both Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr., had access to a Wikileaks release before the public. 

4. Time magazine claiming that a bust of Martin Luther King was removed (with a picture of Trump standing right next to it).

5. Washington Post reporter Dave Weigal posting a picture claiming that a rally was mostly empty without mentioning the picture was taken before the rally began. 

6. CNN editing a video of Trump and Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe feeding carp to make it look like, well, I am not sure WHAT they were trying to accomplish with that one. 

7. Three CNN reporters resigning over a false report about Anthony Scaramucci meeting with Russians. 

8. Newsweek saying Trump never shook hands with Polish First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda (with photographic evidence of him doing so).

9. CNN saying that James Comey would dispute Trump's claim that he told him that he wasn't under investigation. 

10. The New York Times claiming that Trump had hidden a climate report. 

11. The Russia collusion story. 

What's my take on this? It's fairly damning. I am not sure what people were expecting but we got 10 solid examples of times where the news media either got a story wrong or lied on purpose. Those stories certainly qualified as fake news. The Russia collusion story does as well but since that is such a huge and complex topic it't not quite as impressive. 

A lot of people over-hyped these awards. There were rumors flying on social media and 4chan that this was going to be the big happening that would announce the final end of the Democratic Party. Why anyone would believe that is beyond me when it seemed obvious from the start that it was going to be exactly what it was advertised: a list of worst stories this year from the news media. 

My guess is that certain people were deliberately misleading people about what the Fake News Awards were going to be about. I think this was deliberate and enemy action. People wanted to raise expectations so much that no matter what Trump did, it would be a disappointment. 

That being said, I did think that we would be getting a bit more than a blog post. The content was great but I think a presentation would have been better. Having the President or one of his high ranking aides read out this list live on TV or via the internet would have been a lot more fun. More people might have watched as well. 

Still, it is important to get this message out there. When it comes to Donald Trump the media has lost any semblance of credibility. The list released by Trump and the GOP is not anywhere near a full accounting of the medias mistakes and lies. And that list isn't just limited to Trump alone. I still remember how they tried to sell the "hands up don't shoot" narrative during the last days of the Obama presidency. People still rely on the media for them to tell the truth. It's very clear that we can no longer trust them to do so. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The left is eating each other with the #MeToo movement.

Aziz Ansari. David Shankbone. 

As you are certainly aware, the #MeToo movement which was spawned from the Harvey Weinstein accusations and concerns sexual abuse and harassment continues. So far it has claimed many scalps, including Hollywood celebrities like Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., politicians like John Conyers and Al Franken and probably cost Roy Moore the Alabama senate race. The main idea was that celebrities, politicians and men in general were treating women horribly. This was undoubtedly true in many cases but some felt that the movement was going too far. Anyone that questioned the narrative was denounced as a rape apologist or misogynist. 

The cracks in the #MeToo movement started with Al Franken and Louis CK. In both cases the accusations were minor and both of the accused were popular with the left. There was some half hearted attempts to defend both but most agreed on the left that despite the minor nature of the incidents in question, they still deserved to lose their jobs and did so. 

Something has changed with the latest accusations though. Comedian Aziz Ansari is the latest person to be called out by #MeToo movement. To recap for those who might not have kept up with the incident, Ansari went on a date with a woman and brought her back to his apartment. She was reluctant but she and Ansari had oral sex with each other and the accuser never said no until after several sex acts were completed and once she did Ansari sent her home. She then posted her story on a feminist website and then the backlash began. I won't link to the website here as I don't want to give them any traffic but if you google Aziz Ansari and, you will find it. 

An honest reading of the woman's account shows nothing non-consensual happened. It was, fairly obviously, a case of bad, awkward sex. There wasn't anything close to legal or civil charges that could be filed because of this case. He didn't commit any crime and he had no real power over the accuser since she was just a random person, not his employee. The only thing Ansari did that was wrong was that he was kinda creepy and that he didn't live up the very standards he judges others with. 

That's right, Ansari is a very vocal feminist and a supporter of the #MeToo movement. He's a huge liberal and by his own purported beliefs he's an abuser of women. Never mind that he didn't do anything legal or even immoral. It's still evil by their standards. Ansari's only sin here is not living up to the very unrealistic standards he would impose on others. 

But other then those of us amused by this on the right and a few hardcore feminists, Ansari is largely not being held to those standards by the media. In liberal outlets like The Atlantic and the New York Times Ansari's accuser have been bashed publicly. CNN's Ashliegh Banfield bashed the accuser and essentially threatened her. 

I don't disagree with a thing that Ashleigh Banfield said there. But it rings so hollow. Because the very people attacking Aziz Ansari's accuser are the very same people that say we should always "listen and believe" people that accuse others of sexual misconduct. And they are the same people that never question people that have accused GOP politicians like Donald Trump and Roy Moore, despite there being evidence of malfeasance and dishonesty from all of them. To see people that have, until now, said that the worst thing you could do is attack a woman who accuses someone of rape attack a woman who accused someone of rape, is, to say the least, shocking.

And I can't help but to think that the race, religion and politics of Aziz Ansari plays a role in this as well. Ansari was born in America but he is of Indian Muslim descent. He's also a huge liberal and a favorite of the left. Had Ansari been a white guy, or even a black guy, he would have been screwed. Had he not been Muslim, he would also have been fine. But since he's an Indian Muslim he gets the benefit of the doubt. And, of course, he is a liberal darling and if he was a conservative comedian (as if those exist) he would be crucified. 

Awhile ago I gave the left some advice. I said that they didn't know what they were calling up with the #MeToo movement and it was going to be inevitable that they were going to lose some talented and important people to it. To be fair, many of those people deserved to go down for their deplorable behavior. But Aziz Ansari is not one of him. He might be an awkward beta male that has no idea what he is doing, but that isn't a crime. But his career is likely over because he had one bad date. How many people can say that they have never had one bad date? Maybe a few ultra religious people like Mike Pence? How many of us want to follow his rules where he doesn't even enter a room with a woman who isn't his wife? 

I was expecting a backlash eventually. Sooner or later people were going to realize that holding men to the standard that they literally have to be mind readers wasn't going to work. And believing accusers without due process was eventually going to lead bad outcomes for normal people. Aziz Ansari isn't normal but his behavior was common enough. Indeed, other than being rather crude, I can't see anything that he did wrong other than not being able to read someone's mind. Since nobody on earth is a mindreader, these kinds of interactions are going to happen. It's annoying and awkward but it is going to happen.  

To be fair, as disturbing as the extension of the #MeToo movement has been, I still have to be amused by this. Though to be fair I do support actual abusers getting called out, I do have to say it is hilarious to see someone like Ansari go down. He doesn't deserve what he is getting here, but it couldn't happen to someone who deserves it more. He got hoisted by his own petard. And the outright hypocrisy of the left, who are defending an Indian Muslim but at the same time throwing a white woman under the bus only because of that fact, is hilarious.

Still, I hope this means that the left will dial it back a bit. I don't mind when actual abusers are called out but a bad date is just a bad date. We don't need to move towards a society where any incident involving bad sex or even awkwardness is put in the same league as sexual assault. 

I do have to say that if anything else is to be learned from this incident it is this. Communication is key, and not just in sexual matters. Everyone should always make sure that their communication is as clear and concise as possible. If Ansari's accuser had simply spoken up sooner, none of this would have happened... 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Turkish President Erdogan says he will "strangle" US backed force in Syria.

A US special forces fighter near Raqqa, Syria. Reuters. 

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan says he will "strangle" a US backed Kurdish force in Syria. Reuters. The US has planned a 30,000 strong border force to protect Kurdish areas in Syria. Both Syria and Russia have denounced the move, but the strongest condemnation came from Turkey, a US ally. Erdogan called the force a terrorist army who's only purpose is to target Turkey. The Kurds say they need the new force to protect threats from the Turkish and Syrian governments. The US supports the Kurds because they helped them fight ISIS and want to make sure they don't return. 

My Comment:
For a supposed ally, Turkey spends a lot of time threatening us and our interests. They have never been good allies. Indeed, they focus in Syria was never ISIS. It was always the Kurds that they wanted to fight and only went after ISIS after they started to attack inside the borders of Turkey. 

Indeed, before ISIS started targeting them, Turkey was essentially a de facto ally to ISIS. They allowed thousands of ISIS recruits to cross the border into Syria and bought oil from ISIS. As long as ISIS targeted their enemies, the Kurds and Syrians, they didn't care. Once ISIS turned against Turkey, they started fighting them and were able to clean out the border area of both Kurds and ISIS, but it's always important to note that before that, they were on the other side of the war. 

It's not surprising that the Syrians and Russians are upset as well. The Syrians, of course, want their country back. Outside of the Idlib area, the Syrian government has taken back most of their country. There remain some other small areas under rebel control and a few ISIS holdouts remain in the deserts, but the largest remaining territory they haven't recovered is the Kurdish northwest. They are understandably upset about the creation of a force that will likely threaten the recovery of their country. 

The Russians are also upset because they want Syria to be a vassal state and military base. The advantage they gained from propping up the Assad regime, at a high cost in lives and treasure, is nullified if the United States gains another ally and base in the region. Plus their Syrian allies are angry as well. 

So what is our reason for this move? I think part of it is loyalty to the Kurds. They were our best allies throughout the war against ISIS, with only the Iraqi Army coming close. The Kurds earned our support, and if we betray them now it will make it much more difficult to gather allies in future conflicts. There is something to be said for rewarding our proxy armies when the war ends. 

We also need a new ally in the region. Though Iraq is likely to remain in our sphere of influence, the Iranians are increasing their influence there. And our Turkish allies are unreliable at best. We need to counter Russian moves in the region and keeping the Kurds are our friends will accomplish that. 

The Kurds aren't the best allies though. Turkey has a point about the PKK being terrorists. Though the Kurds we support aren't the same they are fellow travelers. Given the far left politics of the PKK and the fact that they are undeniably a terror group, we should keep a close eye on our new Kurdish allies. 

I don't know what the long term solution to the Kurds in the region is. An independent Kurdish state would probably the best outcome, but nobody in the region would like that. The most realistic one is a federal solution where the Kurds have a semi-autonomous state while still under the de-facto control of the Syrians. That is what has happened in Iraq, despite a few hiccups and would likely be the best solution in this case.

 Once again though, the Turks would object. The view the Kurds as a threat to the Turkish identity and don't want to tolerate any free Kurds. They also don't want a potential base for Kurdish radicals to stage attacks out of. As long as that is the case I don't see a decent solution for the Kurds in Syria...

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Chelsea Manning running for senate in Maryland...

Chelsea Manning, from her announcement video. ABC/AP.

Chelsea Manning, formally Bradly Manning, the former Army intelligence soldier that leaked information to Wikileaks, is running for Senate in Maryland. ABC News.  Manning was convicted of a felony for the leak and was granted clemency by Barack Obama after coming out as transgender. Manning will run in the primary against incumbent senator Ben Cardin. Neither Manning or Cardin has officially filed the paperwork to run yet. Maryland is considered a safe state for Democrats and Cardin is one of the most liberal members of the Senate. 

My Comment:
Well, just when I thought nobody could find a Senate candidate worse than Joe Arpaio, the Democrats may have topped it. Chelsea Manning is quite possibly the worst choice and if she's the candidate it's very possible that a rock solid blue senate seat could flip to the Republicans. 

Manning represents everything wrong with the Democratic Party, at least in the eyes of the right and many of the more rational people on the left. She was convicted of sending secrets to Wikileaks, and though Wikileaks has been reformed in the eyes of many on the right, her leaks didn't really do much to improve the country. People will support leakers but only if they leak stuff that actually improves things. The diplomatic cables and war logs she released only embarrassed the United States.

Quite a few people consider her a traitor and were disgusted that she is free right now. And those people are across the political spectrum. There are many Republicans, Democrats and Independents that agree that what she did was wrong and that she never should have been granted clemency.

There is also the obvious problem of electing a convicted felon who has already proven that she can't be trusted with secrets. If she were to be elected, how could anyone trust her to keep secrets? How do we know that the first thing she does once elected is just leak everything she gets here hands on? Plus, even though our standards of  what is acceptable, do we really want a convicted felon as a Senator? At least Joe Arpaio was pardoned, Manning's conviction is still on the record.

The obvious elephant in the room is the fact that Manning used to be a man. Depending on your views of the matter, she's still a he. Indeed, I'm mostly referring to Manning as a female due to the fact that it's politically dangerous to do otherwise.

I am guessing the fact that Manning is transgender is going to be a mark against her. Even though the Democratic Party is supposedly the party of LGBT rights, there are large numbers of people in the party that aren't exactly happy with that fact, especially among the minority racial members of the party. Though most people are reasonably tolerant of the LGB groups, they aren't really sold on the T portion. Democrats have ran transgender people before, and won, but not in a race as important as this. Alone it might not be an issue, but with Manning's other flaws it should be enough to lose in the primaries.

It also goes to show that the Democratic Party is being pushed way further to the left. It's not like Ben Cardin is a blue dog Democrat or anything. He's a loyal and reliable senator who always toes the party line. But since he's a old white male (well Jewish, but same difference) he has to be purged from the party to make way for a MTF transgender. That's going to do little to help the impression that the Democrats are a party that has no place for white males.

I doubt it will get to that point though. It's very hard to unseat an incumbent and I doubt Manning will get much in the way of mainstream support. Cardin's fairly popular and I doubt the Democrats will want to risk a safe senate seat over a transgender felon.

If they do though, I think that Manning will almost certainly lose. Maryland is a safe blue state, but not that safe. Cardin won with 55% of the vote in 2012, and I am guessing there will be defections if Manning is the candidate. Manning's felony conviction alone will probably cost at least 5% of the vote and I am guessing the fact that she is transgender will lose here another 5 or 10%. Just like the Republicans with Roy Moore and Joe Arpiao, the Democrats too are finding new and creative ways to lose. 

Weekend movie night: Stalingrad.

Stalingrad movie poster. Art Pictures. 

Once again, it's time for yet another movie review. This week, I'm going with an relatively obscure Russian film called Stalingrad, which is of course based on the real life battle in World War II. Not to be confused with the 1993 German film or the 2001 Hollywood film, Enemy at the gates, this is a Russian production released in 2013. I wasn't a huge fan of the film, but I figured I would write it up anyways. There will be spoilers throughout this review. 

Stalingrad isn't the worst movie I have ever seen. It isn't even the worst one based on the Battle of Stalingrad, with Enemy at the Gates being a bit worse. But it's not a good movie. It's not horrible by any means but it has one major problem. 

Everyone remembers Pearl Harbor right? The dramatic war movie that was utterly ruined by a love triangle? Well imagine that up to eleven. Instead of a love triangle this film features a love HEXAGON. That's right, there are five men all pining over the same woman. 

The basic story of Stalingrad is that a group of survivors of an ill fated assault across the Volga all end up in a building together. The five core members of the group, a dashing officer, a naive and virginal artilleryman, a mute former professional singer, a cold sniper and an older officer. They are joined by a 19 year old woman that still lives in the bombed out and destroyed building somewhat inexplicably.  

Strangely enough all of those men fall in love with the 19 year old girl. With the old man it's more of a father daughter relationship and the cold sniper just wants a woman, any woman. But the other three? They fall in love with her right away and you spend the rest of the movie trying to figure out who she is going to hook up with. She's attractive enough but it seems fairly out there that everyone falls in love with this woman over the course of a couple of days. 

This is a war movie and the fact that the last paragraph could fit in a romance drama shows the major flaw of the movie. It's about one of the most bloody and important battles in human history but instead we are focusing on a love Hexagon. 

And it's even worse than that. There is yet ANOTHER love story in Stalingrad! I'm not kidding. There is a major side story where the German officer antagonist falls in love with a Russian woman. Though the relationship does a lot to humanize the Germans in the movie but with so much focus on romance already it just drags on. 

The actual combat is good enough and the special effects are decent. And it really looks like they are fighting in a large city. But the good scenes are so disrupted by the romance that it really isn't worth it. 

The romance isn't the only problem though. I really didn't like the framing device of the movie. The opening and closing scenes are about a Russian rescue worker trying to save some children trapped in the aftermath of, presumably, the 2011 Toho Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan. Now it seems unlikely to me that a Russian rescue team would be saving a bunch of German girls trapped in the ruins of a Japanese city, but that's not the real problem.

The real problem is that the children are trapped and the rescuer comforts them by telling them a story. That story? His mother, the 19 year old, and her living through the battle of Stalingrad! I don't know about you but if I was a scared little kid trapped in a collapsed building, I wouldn't want to hear a war story where hundreds of people die! It's fairly ridiculous if you ask me. 

Funny enough, Stalingrad has been dismissed as Russian propaganda. I don't know if I would go that far though. It's fairly pro-Russia yes, but it's not like they didn't show some of the warts. One man is executed for cowardice and the cold sniper shoots a woman. It's pro-Russian but that's probably going to happen with any war movie. 

Would I recommend Stalingrad? Probably not. There are war movies that are much better. Indeed, though dark and depressing, I would say that the 1993 German film with the same name was a better movie than this one. I'd skip it unless you are a completionist or someone who really wants to see a Russian war movie...