Did Trump Scam Russia’s Putin?

Now that the FBI might be investigating Russian involvement in the U.S. 2016 election, we need to ask ourselves a serious question: Did Vladimir Putin just become another misled investor scammed in a Trump deal?

Buyer’s remorse

Given the shoddy ROI of then-mogul Trump’s real estate deals, Russian President Putin may want to reconsider what — if anything — he bought from the @RealDonaldTrump Administration. Did Moscow make as big a miscalculation dealing with President @RDP as American voters made by voting for him? Did our Ice-to-Eskimo selling Commander in Chief just sell Borscht to the Kremlin?

Seriously. Someone tell me what they think the ultimate benefits are for Russia or what Russia’s ultimate threat is to the USA here, in terms of this being worth the cost (triggering a serious anti-Russia backlash).

Is the @RealDonaldTrump Administration going to make more classified U.S. intelligence data available to Moscow, to the detriment of U.S. allies in Europe, Israel, etc.? Is Bannon going to sell Alaska back to Russia? Is the U.S. going to start importing billions of dollars of Russian oil? Is the U.S. going to provide financial/material support to the Russian military to invade/occupy Eastern Europe, or maybe re-invading Afghanistan?

That first one does seem realistic. Add to it the idea that a Russia-influenced @RDP Administration will weaken NATO: if not by reducing or delaying U.S. financial/material support, then by influencing other NATO members to do the same.

But if those are one’s concerns (they are among mine), then why would either of those matter? What is NATO for, someone like Bernie Sanders might argue, except preparing for military conflicts that NATO’s very existence might be helping create?

And putting this in the context of Russia and the world…Broadly speaking the strategic options for Russia, Putin’s Smiling Autocracy aside, is either (a) translating natural resources (oil, gas, minerals) into more innovation and economic growth outside of those extractive industries or (b) decline and vulnerability relative to neighboring EU and China. It’s hard to imagine how one gets to Option (A) without more cultural and economic engagement with the rest of the world — more trade, more liberalization, etc. Putin’s approach to that will be more like that of similarly autocratic-capitalist China and the Gulf States, but that doesn’t change the overall trend.

So really, it seems like the most substantial reason to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 election is *that there was involvement*, more than what that involvement might yield. It’s the fact that the @RealDonaldTrump crew made shady plans with agents of the Russian government, even if the ineptitude of their schemes reach Bluth-like levels.

Or am I missing something?

Pruitt’s “Prove It”

The “slow burn” crises are more likely to get you killed than the “sudden impact” disasters. Remember the January 2017 revelation that the Titanic was doomed by an undetected fire that critically weakened the hull, long before the iceberg?

https://gph.is/2nIBW56

EPA Director Scott Pruitt might want to read over that evidence in his spare hours, since he’s obviously not spending his days immersed in climate science and cause-effect logic.

So while his statement isn’t technically wrong when he says “there is disagreement about whether carbon dioxide is the main cause of global warming,” his implication damn well is.

https://giphy.com/gifs/3og0IEsSAAmkNBMK2s/html5

That implication being that this justifies the @RealDonaldTrump Administration’s move to rescind/suspend climate-targeted regulations with budget cuts, pushing “climate change skepticism” messages to the public through the EPA, and new directives.

I can think of a places where this newly launched effort could run aground on reality.

  1. Economic Momentum: A majority of customers in the USA (millennials and baby boomers alike) prefer products/services that are environmentally responsible. Major economic players in the private sector know that climate change can hurt their bottom line more than government regulations. Investment in “clean tech” is rising because sponsors are seeing both financial and ethical returns.
  2. Political Momentum: Not just another dimension to the Economic Momentum (consumers, businesses, and investors also vote). Climate change companions like drought, rising ocean levels, desertification, deforestation make warfare and conflict more likely. They certainly added to the intensity and speed of violence in the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS/Daesh. Any U.S. government interested in preventing/mitigating future conflicts will pay attention to that.
  3. Science: The math and models do show that CO2 is a very significant lever, even if they don’t show it being “the most important.” That isn’t seriously debatable. What you can — and should — debate are the best ways to use that lever, along with other “planet levers”.

Kings of Nothing: Steve King, Geert Wilders, and Western Civilization

“[Dutch Prime Minister candidate Geert] Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
Rep. Steve King, Twitter

“They’re importing a different culture, a different civilization — and that culture and civilization, the imported one, rejects the host culture…They are supplanting Western civilization with Middle Eastern civilization.”
Rep. Steve King, speaking to Breitbart

If I were “Western Civilization” on trial, I would not want Rep. Steve King as my defense attorney. That would be like Ben Affleck defending “Acting”, Guy Fieri defending “Eating Vegetables”, or Kim Jong-un defending “Not Being So Crazy You Make Charles Manson Sound Like Neil deGrasse Tyson”).

https://gph.is/2m0Dk6J

Rep. Steve King is correct, if you accept that “Western Civilization” is more of a narrative construct than a real thing — that means if you buy into post-modern thought, narrative constructs, the inherent subjectivity of all human experience (all those being things that Rep. King probably wants to cram into a rocket and blast into the sun revolving around a flat earth).

In that sense, the experience of “Western Civilization” under attack is really the experience of people who are suffering real and perceived harm from changes — “how you feel about the world and your place in it” changes, quality of living changes, “affordability of essential healthcare” changes, “competition for resources and jobs and money” changes, “the old ways don’t work for me anymore” changes, etc.

But Rep. Steve King is scientifically and historically ignorant about “Western Civilization” when measured by his own standards, the instruments & intellectual schools of thought central to (and emergent from) that very same “Western” Tradition:

  • e.g. the Socratic method, Judeo-Christian religion, Newtonian physics, Aristotelian inquiry
  • e.g. the language and numbers of demographics, anthropology, math — measured with the naked eye and augmented with technology

Rep. King is also politicizing that ignorance, something frowned upon by every “Western” icon from Moses to Mr. Winston Churchill.


Let’s set aside for now the idea of “restoring” something that never really existed. As if “Western Civilization” is some kind of older Operating System that we rashly replaced on all of our computers and smartphones, but can reinstall from a sacred backup (somewhere in “the cloud”)…because <SARCASM> an Operating System has nothing to do with the physical constraints of resources, a device’s purpose, the users, etc. </SARCASM>. Keep shoving that punch card into the HDMI slot.

You have to wonder about where Rep. King situates “Western Civilization” in earth’s geography and timeline, and its relationship to everything else. Is this a mashup of Evolution and Eschatology, where nothing precedes WC and nothing but destruction can follow it?

Is WC part of the same demographics of human migration out of Africa, where we now know humans first began working with tools for material function (industry) *and* artistic expression (intelligence)?

Is WC the same unified entity that has fought millennia of wars among itself over land, resources, power, trading rights, religious authority, and sometimes even just pride — including a war that almost ended with mutually assured nuclear annihilation (depending on whether you count the USSR/Russia as a member of “Western Civilization”, which Rep. King might because of their antagonistic engagement with Muslims)?

Is WC as incompatible with “someone else’s babies” as the mammals whose communities must continually bring new & foreign DNA into the gene pool — in order to stay healthy, productive, competitive, and resilient to environmental changes?

Is WC part of the same “host culture” as the Romans were to Judeo-Christianity, a Middle Eastern religious culture that so totally intertwined itself with the Roman Empire that it even today influences patterns of governance, trade, warfare and diplomacy?

Is WC part of the same intellectual history of Perception v.s. Reality as depicted by Greek playwright Sophocles in Antigone, where a mentally damaged tyrant hides his abuse of power and suppression of dissent with a distorted idea of “tradition”?


What would happen if people like Rep. King would really examine “Western Civilization” today on its own terms — as scientifically honest as Galileo, as intellectually critical as a Plato or a Socrates, as concerned with its soul as a Jesus, as mathematically exact as an Einstein, as precisely described as a Leonardo Da’Vinci, as unscrupulously analyzed as a Machiavelli, as economically minded as an Adam Smith, as politically passionate as a Lincoln or a Kennedy or a Reagan?

Then he would have to look at the facts, all of the facts, as they really are now. He would have to use every applicable tool and framework. He would have to factor in the known as well as unknown. He would even have to factor in new theories of the mind and of the history of the earth and the living things that inhabit it.

Then Rep. King would have to look at “Western Civilization” as a narrative in the context of a larger narrative of Life and Luck, where people do really struggle to make good decisions against a world of physical restraints, biological impulses, natural-environmental pressures, cultural influences, institutional obstacles, etc.

Then Rep. King would have to look at “Western Civilization” as a framework or story to describe the experience of a particular self-identifying group that emerges successfully out of unique conditions, conditions that are definitely not totally controlled by that group (there’s a reason the Europeans were so fond of “Divine Providence”, especially when finding North America, a continent so exquisitely abundant with natural wealth and strong ocean barriers against invading armies).

Even if he just wanted to look at the experienced narrative of “Western Civilization”, he would have to admit that underlying the superficial “clash of civilizations” are fundamental patterns of reciprocity and mutually benefit…even if these patterns happen along a long “arc of history” stretching over years of death and destruction and ignorance and cruelty.

If he did that, then he would have to see his Tweets and Breitbart comments as highly questionable (at best) and outright ridiculous (at worst).

Scaffolding on the Tower of Babel

Fake News and Media Bias are bogus concepts. It’s about Confirmation Bias and that is a great evolutionary tool — we just need to understand how it works and how to use it. Overcoming bias requires more ways for us to communicate about more things.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/why-facts-dont-change-our-minds

Conservatives and Liberals are both right. Civilizations and cultures are fundamentally incompatible — “Whites” and “Non-Whites”, Muslims and Judeo-Christians, China and the USA, Immigrants and Natives. But they are only incompatible in static form — in a fixed geography, time, and environment. And there is no static form.

Put another way: no two objects occupy the same space at the same time. But they are never the same object from one moment or place to the next. It’s not about whether they *can* — it’s that they *don’t*.

The “emergence” issue is that (A) People from different groups, experiences, backgrounds, etc. *can* establish a foundation of common interests and common principles, but (B) Their differences make it hard to communicate efficiently about these things, which means © There is continuing disruptive friction.

Hack the narrative, folks.

Time for a Narrative Hackathon

Last year I felt that something like a nationwide “Public Testimonies about the Others Who Hurt Them” was coming.


It hasn’t happened on a grassroots level, so instead it is coming from Washington DC — straight from the swamp to your drinking water, so to speak.

On the one side is President @RealDonaldTrump’s “Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement office, or VOICE.”

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/28/politics/donald-trump-voice-victim-reporting

On the other side is the “Saved by American Immigrants National Taskforce” or “SAINT”, proposed by Rep. Jared Polis.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/28/politics/donald-trump-voice-victim-reporting

I think there is a better way to do this. The D.C. approach will dramatize the pain already packaged in political agenda — basically just providing ammo to every opportunist and sociopath hunting prey in the political and personal environment.

This isn’t just about pain even though pain definitely matters — the pain people feel and the pain people feel played a *huge* role in the election choice between Sanders, Clinton and Trump.

But what is constructive about sharing pain is what *story* we fit the pain into. That’s how we fight the evils inside us and in our society: what makes you feel pain and what makes others feel pain.

One approach I really like is inspired by the Remembering the Ones We Lost movement in South Sudan. People post (anonymously or not) the names of those killed by the ongoing civil war or its consequences (hunger, disease, etc.) This website and the surrounding movement has accomplished what millions of foreign intervention has not — catalyzed a powerful non-partisan peace movement. That movement has created space for a real national identity to fight the deadly “tribe against tribe” idea that has killed so many over the past 50+ years.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/28/politics/donald-trump-voice-victim-reporting

Well if it works in South Sudan, you can be *damn* sure that something like it will work in the USA. Our “tribe against tribe” takes a different form but it kills and maims just the same, and with the same consequences: lives lost and wealth destroyed.

Another thing I want to experiment with is a “Narrative Hackathon”: a collaborative contest to rewrite the current narrative, the current paradigm (as the excellent Donella Meadows points out, this is one of the most powerful leverage points: https://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/article/leverage-points-places-to-intervene-in-a-system/).

In some ways this is what is already happening organically with Social Media, and the rest with Nature (environmental changes moving us and our wealth around the globe, a very physical feedback mechanism). That’s why we have a confluence of some very populist presidencies alongside some very dramatic increases in demographic change and communications technology — more friction, more reactions, and more ways to describe both.

But I think we can do it in a Contest/Hackathon format as well. Get the right participants from a diverse range of backgrounds and political alignments, give them the right incentive (cash? prestige?), give it the right sponsors and structure…and bam.

Or we can just let the “best worst choice” factory up in Washington D.C. keep doing what it’s doing.

Overreaching for Impeaching

We need to keep their impeachment expectations low, fun as it is read in tea leaves this GOP’s intrapersonal dialogue (Russia Hawks vs Solidarity vs What Happened to My Party).

  1. Does anyone really see a strong and cause-effect link between the leaking of Clinton’s emails (the only direct Russian interference, right?) and (a) the low overall voter turnout, (b) the deliberate DNC sabotage of the Sanders campaign (the email hack only made it public), or © the appeal of key Trump Campaign platforms like repealing “Obamacare”, the Mexico/USA wall, and ethnically targeted deportations?
  2. Putting too much hope in impeachment means even *more* of a burnout/stressor when it doesn’t come about…and that should be more of a concern in the long term, when you look at the buoying public appeal of a military-intel coup.

https://giphy.com/gifs/xT5LMuGtpLan0hTlHG/html5

And the “Treason matters more than sexual indiscretion” argument gets snagged on reality — the GOP and DNC leadership’s takeaway from Special Counsel investigations (Clinton, Reagan, Bush 1, Bush 2, Obama) was that these investigations are dangerous double-edged swords, so they turned those blades into nerf foam.

Resource:

http://www.vox.com/2017/2/20/14636954/the-weeds-trump-russia-ezra-matt-sarah

Arts and Craps

President-elect Donald Trump and his incoming administration are planning to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of a broader effort to substantially slash government spending, according to a report.
Source: Breitbart.com

“The evidence suggests that citizens were strongly expected to attend: by Aristotle’s time, a fund had been established to help poorer Athenians pay to attend the theatrical and civic festivals.”
Source: New York Review of Books

When today’s American conservatives say they want to want to cut government funding for the arts, they are cutting their ties with the very Western/Hellenic tradition they claim to defend. Public theater was subsidized by the ancient Athenians — who Conservative Thought considers the inventors of America’s democratic tradition and the inspiration to the Founding Fathers. In fact, attention to art and attendance of theater was culturally *mandatory* for all citizens.

So when you look at that history, and then look at the miniscule percentage of government treasury that actually goes to the arts, and then look at the increasingly positive growth of the U.S. entertainment industry (in which government arts subsidies play a crucial supporting role) and the growth of the global entertainment industry in general, and then look at the essential role of art in shaping the “narrative” of what it means to be American, there is no real case against public funding for the arts…

…Unless you want to appeal to raw emotion and confusion.