Democrats’ persecution of Donald Trump partly responsible for the Ukraine situation?

In a recent video chat among friends, a Russian immigrant to the U.S., asked about the Ukraine situation, said “I am not following it closely, but I assume that Putin has a reason for doing what he’s doing. Either it will benefit the country or it will benefit him.”

I chimed in, “How could it possibly benefit Putin? Doesn’t he already have everything that he might want?”

She responded, “He may be worried about what would happen to him if he loses power. Maybe he thinks that this Ukraine action will help him stay in power and he needs to do that.”

Her perspective is at odds with much of the American and recent Western European experience. Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush were free to go home to their respective Texas ranches after starting and/or escalating disastrous wars, for example. But the quiet comfortable retirement of former leaders is unusual when compared to what happens in most countries and what has happened through most of human history. And, even in the U.S., the new rulers may try to make life unpleasant for former rulers. Consider what the Democrats are doing to Donald Trump right now. New York State Democrats have been seeking to put him in prison for alleged financial misstatements (“2 Prosecutors Leading N.Y. Trump Inquiry Resign, Clouding Case’s Future” (NYT) for the latest on this one). Democrats in the U.S. Congress are also seeking criminal prosecution (“The Jan. 6 Committee’s Consideration of a Criminal Referral, Explained” (NYT); “The Obscure Charge Jan. 6 Investigators Are Looking at for Trump” (Daily Beast)). Democrats were, in fact, already seeking to imprison Donald Trump at least as early as 2018. “The Presidency or Prison” (NYT):

Donald Trump — or, as he’s known to federal prosecutors, Individual-1 — might well be a criminal. That’s no longer just my opinion, or that of Democratic activists. It is the finding of Trump’s own Justice Department.

On Friday, federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York filed a sentencing memorandum for Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, who is definitely a criminal. The prosecutors argued that, in arranging payoffs to two women who said they’d had affairs with Trump, Cohen broke campaign finance laws, and in the process “deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.”

Representative Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat and former prosecutor, told me, “This president has potential prison exposure.”

Ordinarily, you know that a democracy is failing when electoral losers are threatened with prison. But Trump’s lawlessness is so blatant that impunity — say, a pardon, or a politically motivated decision not to prosecute — would also be deeply corrosive, unless it was offered in return for his resignation.

So the original idea was to put Trump in prison for paying people who identified as “women” to do what people who identify as “women” have been doing for a long time. Then January 6 came along and the idea shifted to putting Trump in prison for “obstructing an official congressional proceeding”.

If Putin observes that Donald Trump is continuously at risk of a prison sentence, depending on the whims of Democrats working as prosecutors and serving on juries, wouldn’t he reasonably be concerned about his own post-leadership fate? The Russian legal system doesn’t offer superior protection against politically motivated prosecution compared to the U.S. system, does it?

Separately, Apple News sets up a visual comparison between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden. One leader is using armored vehicles and soldiers holding rifles. The other leader has “sanctions”:

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Why is the conflict over Ukraine happening now?

Please forgive my ignorance of everything that happens beyond the borders of the U.S. (and/or beyond the borders of Palm Beach County), but I’m hoping that readers who follow matters international, especially those who live in Europe, can explain the Russia-Ukraine-NATO-US situation to me.

Why now? What has changed to create this conflict? Why wouldn’t it have happened in 2018, for example?

The New York Times assured us that Vladimir Putin controlled Donald Trump. From 2019, for example, “Donald Trump: The Russia File” (a consensus piece from the entire Editorial Board):

Standing on the White House lawn on Monday morning, his own government shut down around him, the president of the United States was asked by reporters if he was working for Russia.

He said that he was not. “Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it’s a disgrace that you even asked that question, because it’s a whole big fat hoax,” President Trump said.

Yet the reporters were right to ask, given Mr. Trump’s bizarre pattern of behavior toward a Russian regime that the Republican Party quite recently regarded as America’s chief rival. Indeed, it’s unnerving that more people — particularly in the leadership of the Republican Party — aren’t alarmed by Mr. Trump’s secretive communications with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and reliance on his word over the conclusions of American intelligence agencies.

Given the direct control of U.S. politics that U.S. media asserted that Russia was exercising from 2016 through 2020, if Putin wanted to do something in Ukraine without American interference, wouldn’t it have made sense to do it while a Russian puppet (Donald Trump) was in charge in D.C.?

Russia annexed Crimea during the Obama administration (Wikipedia) and took a lot of heat for that. Unless we/NATO/Europe has done something recently to antagonize Russia, wouldn’t it have made sense for Russia to do whatever it is doing now back in 2014 so that it would have had to suffer only one round of sanctions?

Finally, given that the U.S. is packed with immigrants from both Ukraine and Russia, I wonder what the consequences for this dispute will be here. Our corner of Florida in particular is home to both Ukrainians and Russians (many had been living in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, but moved when lockdowns and school closures were imposed). Can expats from Ukraine and Russia get along? I remember when Crimea was annexed, a Massachusetts immigrant from Crimea was vocal in support of Putin and the annexation (her father was a Russian military officer).

This is a big story in U.S. media recently and yet I have no idea what Americans are supposed to know about the situation.

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  • New York state public and welfare health spending compared to Russia’s military budget: How much is $88 billion? Mexico spends about $1050 per person on health care. That includes health care for the rich, middle class, and poor. Mexico’s population is roughly 130 million so this works out to about $136 billion. In other words, with only 20 million people, New York spends close to as much on public health and welfare health insurance as Mexico does to care for its entire population, including cosmetic surgery for the richest people in Polanco. (How are the results in the Mexican system? Mexican life expectancy is about one year less than American life expectancy.) Comparisons between coronavirus and war are common. What if we wanted to have a military force with supersonic fighter jets, nuclear-powered submarines, an aircraft carrier, nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, nearly 1 million active-duty troops, and 2 million reservists? Somewhere around $70 billion is what Russia spends. In other words, New York state spends more for public health and welfare health care than Russia spends to fund what might be the world’s most powerful military (let’s hope that we never find out who is actually the strongest!).
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The Science in the movie Don’t Look Up

Don’t Look Up is a cautionary tale of what could happen if Trump-supporters were a majority in the U.S. It is an update, to some extent of the 2006 film Idiocracy, whose underlying message is that Nobel-winning transistor developer William Shockley was correct, i.e., that America’s destiny is a nation of low-skill people because means-tested welfare programs enable higher fertility for no-income and low-income Americans compared to middle-income Americans (Idiocracy did not cover low-skill immigration, but presumably it can be viewed as an argument against it). Fertility versus household income:

Don’t Look Up doesn’t address how Americans became stupid enough to vote for a Trump-like president, but reminds us of the terrible costs of denying Science (capitalized like “God”) and not trusting Scientists. The entire movie is a not-very-subtle mocking of the Trumpkins for their stupidity in not believing “the Science”.

Here’s a sample tweet from the writer/director, whose brief Twitter profile includes the phrase “Climate Emergency is NOW“.

Related Facebook posts from my friends who vote for Democrats:

  • It’s the most useful movie, because now you can explain how tech works, and journalism and politics, etc.
  • The movie is sexy and true. Yes, we had everything, and we blew it — in the movie and in real life. It’s a critique of our response to climate change, and Covid, and even has a dig at Trump (the president’s chief of staff played by Jonah Hill is her son)
  • … it’s [arguably] both the greatest and the most important movie ever made.

If this were a Michael Bay movie, it would make sense to ignore anything incompatible with Physics 101 under the rubric of “artistic license”. But Don’t Look Up is a political statement, not a work of art, and it is specifically about what could happen if don’t deport and/or suppress those who refuse to follow the science.

The Science delivered by this climate change expert-turned-screenwriter starts with a female-identifying astronomer finding a new comet from the Oort cloud. The movie is somewhat, um, retrograde in that she does not explicitly identify as “of color” or 2SLGBTQQIA+. She reports her observation to a male-identifying astronomy professor, played by climate change activist Leo DeCaprio. Within a day, he has calculated that the comet will strike the Earth in 6 months. The rest of the movie explores what would happen if the morons who deny the settled climate change models (and/or assume that some improved tech for dealing with climate change will be developed within the next 100 years, e.g., a solar-powered carbon vacuum) were also to deny orbital mechanics.

How does this compare to lowercase pre-2019 “science”? A 2014 article from the European Space Agency:

In movies about the impending end of the world due to a comet impact, one thing is certain: Detecting the comet and computing its orbit are dead easy. … Computer programs are started, and people frantically hack away at keyboards. In no time at all, they will have identified the fuzzy blob as a comet that is hurtling in from the frozen recesses of space. What’s more, in no time at all, they will have determined the comet’s trajectory and they can categorically state that it will hit Earth. A few more frantic calculations and they also know the date and time of impact – Quick, call Bruce Willis!

In actual fact, one single picture of a comet is just that: a single picture of a comet. … From one picture, you can’t tell where it’s heading; you don’t know how close it will get to the Sun, nor if or when a close encounter with any other planet is due. To find out these things, you need more observations – many more of images that were taken at different dates, ideally spanning a long time frame. … So you have to make an educated guess at the parameters that describe the comet’s trajectory, also known – unsurprisingly – as its ‘orbital parameters’. This initial guess (as even the mathematicians rather candidly refer to it) in all likelihood will be quite far off.

This procedure is known as ‘orbit determination’. It is very time-consuming and involves a lot of complicated and repetitive mathematical calculations, which is why nowadays we let a computer handle most of it. The entire process is known as ‘parametric optimisation’ and each step is referred to as an ‘iteration’. As the optimisation process goes on and many iterations have been performed, you will see that for the epochs at which the images were taken, the computed locations, based on the current estimate of the orbital parameters, will move quite close to what you can see in the actual images.

The article includes a chart showing that it took 450 days to determine the orbit for a 2013 comet:

Regarding the above chart:

In the diagram above, it took almost 200 days to find out that comet Siding Spring would not hit Mars. At that time, the uncertainty in the predicted encounter distance still ran into hundreds of thousands of kilometres. Though the most probable encounter distance was established fairly early, the uncertainty was still significant after more than a year of observation. It took 44 days of observation to achieve even a semblance of an orbit determination – one that was still all over the place, with a predicted mean Mars distance at flyby 900,000 km, with a high guess of 3.6 million!

It took seven years of additional observations to identify an object found with one of the world’s best telescopes as a (huge) comet (National Geographic).

One open question: even if you had the required 500 days of observations to make a reasonably accurate calculation of a comet’s orbit, could you ever know with certainty, six months in advance, that the comet would actually hit the Earth rather than whip around it? (See “Chaos and stability of the solar system” for example and, for laypeople, “Our Solar System’s Planetary Orbits Are Ultimately Chaotic, Says French Astronomer” (Forbes)) Paging Dr. Goldbum!

(I emailed a friend who has spent a few decades working with orbital mechanics. To the European Space Agency’s “take it slow” point of view, he added the following:

One problem is that comets, unlike asteroids, have significant non-gravitational forces acting on them: They outgas directionally, producing random small thrusts. Thus their orbits are not as precisely determinable as planets or even asteroids.

)

Another aspect of Science presented by the Trump-hating writer/director is that people sitting on Earth are able to figure out that the rock part of the comet is packed with $trillions in valuable minerals. They do this with a “spectrometer“, but that instrument would work only on the tail of a comet, not on the rocky core. Although Science could predict that Peru, Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Slovakia would escape COVID-19 deaths due to mask orders and lockdowns and Science plainly has no difficulty predicting Earth’s temperature 100 years from now, I am not aware of Science being able to determine, via remote sensing, the composition of a rock in space. NASA has (easily-found-with-Google) some concepts for doing this, but they involve physical contact with the comet or other space rock. There is no instrument that you can set up in your house to determine the composition of a rock in the neighbor’s yard, right? Why would you imagine that you can set up an instrument in the Atacama Desert and determine the composition of a rock in space?

[Update: see comments for a potential correction to the above from an astronomer.]

In other words, the screenwriter who purports to educate Americans on how stupid Republicans are was apparently unable to use Google to find these written-for-laypeople articles on orbital mechanics and comets. Nor was he/she/ze/they able to read a NASA org chart. All of the scientists at NASA work at the “Kennedy Space Center” (not at Goddard or JPL). They refer to each other as “Dr. X” and “Dr. Y” rather than by first name or first and last names.

One of the elite accusations about the Trumpkins is that only the elites understand that we share our beautiful planet with a veritable rainbow of other nations (though don’t wave that rainbow flag anywhere that it might interfere with elite profits!). Yet the movie makes sense only if we accept that the U.S. is the only country that can act to deflect an incoming comet. If Americans did not exist, the remaining 96 percent of the world’s population would take no action in response to scientifically proven impending species-ending doom. The people who invented rockets and who recently landed a robot on Mars wouldn’t do anything. The people who kicked off the Space Race and who currently operate their own satellite navigation system wouldn’t do anything. The Europeans wouldn’t dispatch any Ariane rockets (this last one is more believable since the EU seems to be 100% occupied with coronapanic!).

(Pravda reports that Russia actually has been working on asteroid deflection since at least 2009. China is a comparative newcomer to this specific area (LiveScience 2021). The Europeans have been working in this area since at least 2005 (ScienceDaily).)

Although the movie cannot be recommended as a tutorial on #Science, it does have some fun parts. Ariana Grande appears (and sings) in the role of pop singer whose romantic life is more interesting to a stupefied and stupid population than an impending extinction event. One of the greatest characters, played by English actor Mark Rylance, is kind of a cross between Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. The unwashed Science-deniers are also fun, e.g., with a range of beliefs from “the comet doesn’t exist” to “the orbital mechanics calculations handed down by Science are wrong.” They gather in huge rallies in support of their Trump-style president. Some of the comedy is provided by the screenwriter trying to figure out how non-elite Americans speak. For example, he/she/ze/they has a young skateboarder say, “Dr. Mindy, Can I be vulnerable in your car?” (Our apartment in Jupiter, Florida is right near a skateboard park and “vulnerable” is not one of the words we hear from the denizens.)

Don’t Look Up is definitely worth watching if you’re already a Netflix subscriber, mostly to see just how wrong someone can get all of the science while making a movie about the dangers of letting people who don’t understand and respect science vote.

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Working January 6 into every conversation

One way to come across as more elite, like the folks who own and edit the New York Times, is to work January 6 into every conversation. Top of front page of NYT, 11/8, for example, a “breaking” story:

I’ve been practicing this. A colleague on a project asked me to do something urgently. My response:

I will try later. Dealing with an insurrection by the 6- and 8-year-olds that makes Jan 6 look like a church picnic.

How else can January 6 be used in everyday conversations? Here are some ideas…

In a store:

Wow! The prices are up 20 percent compared to when I was here during the January 6 insurrection.

(notice how this communicates to the listener that the speaker is not a Deplorable who traveled to Washington, D.C. on January 6; don’t use this if you’re in a store in Washington, D.C.!)

If someone expresses unhappiness at being ordered by Professor Dr. Joe Biden, M.D., Ph.D. to get vaccinated/boosted by January 4 with the latest concoctions of the pharma industry:

If you get your last shot on January 4, you’ll have January 6 as a paid day off for vaccine recovery and poignant reflection on the one-year anniversary of the day that the insurrectionists nearly toppled the U.S. government

If your golden retriever is pulling on the leash and refusing to abandon a tree:

She hates squirrels more than the armed January 6 insurrectionists hate democracy.

Readers: Now it is all up to you!

Hunting squirrels from inside the minivan:

Video! (sorry that it is vertical, but trees are vertical)

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Could Donald Trump get asylum in Greece, where they’ve just finished a border wall?

Democrats in New York are continuing to pursue Donald Trump (see, for example, “Trump Organization Could Face Criminal Charges in D.A. Inquiry” (NYT, June 2021)).

Where could our former leader find like-minded folks who might host him in a sovereign jurisdiction where he could be free from politically-motivated prosecution?

“Greece finishes wall on border with Turkey, amid fears of Afghan migrant crisis” (CNN, August 21, 2021):

Greece has finished building a 40-kilometer (25-mile) wall along its border with Turkey, amid concerns in parts of Europe that the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan could cause an influx of people seeking asylum.

Greek government ministers toured the fence on Friday and said the overthrow of Afghanistan’s government gave greater urgency to their effort to reduce the flow of migrants across its borders.

“The Afghan crisis is creating new facts in the geopolitical sphere and at the same time it is creating possibilities for migrant flows,” Greece’s Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis said in a government statement after touring the completed border wall on Friday. “As a country we cannot remain passive to the possible consequences.”

“It is our decision… to defend and secure our borders,” Chrisochoidis said. “Our borders will remain secure and inviolable. We will not allow uncontrolled and erratic movements and we will not allow any attempt to violate them.”

This raises the question… where in Greece would The Donald most likely live if he did request and receive asylum there? My vote is Meteora, in the old monastery at the top. To get to their prey, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and fellow Democrats would have to scale the cliff as James Bond did.

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When the stability of a nation is in danger, the only solution is, unfortunately, to imprison the leaders of the opposition.

The NYT today (Democrats in New York are prosecuting the Trump Organization):

A 2007 post on this blog, “Idi Amin’s advice to Richard Nixon”:

My friend here in California has Talk of the Devil, Encounters with Seven Dictators by Riccardo Orizio.  The first interview is with Idi Amin.  Orizio reminds us that Amin sent a letter to Richard Nixon during the Watergrate crisis:  “When the stability of a nation is in danger, the only solution is, unfortunately, to imprison the leaders of the opposition.”

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Fact-checking Donald Trump’s predictions regarding COVID vaccine availability

From September 18, 2020, an Unscientific American who was “without evidence” and who contradicted “experts”:

From the linked-to article

President Trump said Friday that every American would have access to a coronavirus vaccine by April, contradicting his own statement of two days earlier and sowing deeper confusion about the process and timing of vaccine approval and distribution.

When Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said earlier in the week that the general public was unlikely to get access to a vaccine until the second and third quarters of 2021, echoing other scientific leaders in the administration, Trump said he’d misspoken.

“I think he made a mistake with that statement,” Trump said Wednesday. “When he said it, I believe he was confused. I’m just telling you we’re ready to go.”

Trump then said a vaccine would be ready in weeks and swiftly made available, despite the fact that no one knows yet when sufficient data will be collected from clinical trials to show that one of the vaccines in late-stage trials is effective or safe.

What do we have from science-guided leadership (and we are assured that leadership is important in determining COVID-19 death rate)? “Biden announces April 19 deadline to make all adults eligible for Covid vaccine” (NBC):

President Joe Biden said Tuesday that all adults in the U.S. should be eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine by April 19 … The new deadline to expand eligibility — which is two weeks earlier than Biden had previously targeted — should not be difficult to meet since several states have already begun administering the vaccine to anyone over 16 who wants it.

“The virus is spreading because we have too many people who see the end in sight think we are at the finish line already,” Biden said. “Let me be deadly earnest with you, we aren’t finished. We still have a lot of work to do. We’re still in a life and death race against this virus. Until we get more people vaccinated we need everyone to wash their hands, socially distance and mask up.”

Asked why Biden was announcing the new timeframe when nearly every state has already moved up eligibility to the April date, Psaki said the president wanted to provide clarity and remind seniors to hurry to get their shots before the lines get long.

In case the “Experts say the president’s latest timeline is nearly impossible to confirm since none of the vaccines in development have been proved effective…” is cut off on mobile, here’s a screen shot from the desktop Twitter:

Related:

  • U.S. should approve a saline injection as a Covid-19 vaccine? (my idea from June 2020 that would have reassured a lot of folks)
  • “Italy Pushes Back as Health Care Workers Shun Covid Vaccines” (NYT, March 31): Prime Minister Mario Draghi issued a decree requiring that workers in health care facilities be vaccinated, a move that will test the legal limits of his government’s efforts to stem coronavirus outbreaks. … “Unfortunately there is huge part of doctors who are deeply ignorant,” said Mr. Burioni [a virologist with a Ph.D., but not a “Dr.” like Dr. Jill Biden, M.D.], who suggested that perhaps “the selection process for bringing people to gain a medical degree and then the medical license is not effective enough.” … Salvatore Giuffrida, the director of the hospital, Europe’s fourth largest, said he favored a vaccination requirement because it would also keep medical workers healthy and would strengthen defensive lines as a brutal third wave spreads through northern Italy.
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Trump v. Biden in the New York Times

March 1, 2021. “Trump” occurs 7 times on the nytimes.com home page.

What’s the relative importance of the person who actually occupies the White House? “Biden” occurs once:

Separately, the paper tells us how much money a U.S. senator can reasonably expect to accumulate via “public service”:

Warren plans to introduce a wealth tax for individuals with a net worth of over $50 million.

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All-Trump format for NYT continues even without Trump

If you’d been wondering what the New Yorker magazine and the New York Times were going to do with their “All Trump-Hatred All the Time” formats once the hated dictator was gone, here’s today’s NYT front page:

How much longer can they keep selling Donald Trump as the main topic that Americans need to learn more about?

(What else was going on in the world today? A coup in Myanmar. Climate change that is an existential threat to humanity. Chinese purportedly inflicting a “genocide” on a group that contains some separatists and jihadis. Insane volatility in GME stock (a friend sold a bunch of call options with a strike price of $800; when the stock was trading at $340 people were willing to pay $130 for the option, meaning that the buyers expect GME stock to hit $930). Variant coronavirus preparing to attack the masked-and-vaccinated. Lower income BIPOC school-age children across the U.S. are coming up on a full calendar year without any school (private and public schools for rich white kids are generally open, of course). Russians are in the streets to protest the arrest of Alexei Navalny. Fiji is being destroyed by cyclones. Migrant caravans are trying to reach President Biden’s promised land, but having trouble redeeming that promise.)

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Landfill all of the Trump-hatred books?

From our local public library’s new and featured books section:

And, upstairs in the children’s section:

Given the demographics of this Boston suburb, it may not be the right time to #Resist having working-class Black Americans pay higher taxes so that wealthy white families can have their student loans forgiven

Trump is gone, right? Will people still want to read books about Trump, books about resisting Trump, books about a former president’s elderly wife who was defeated by Trump, etc.? Once President Harris is in charge, is there still a market for a book about the shortcomings of “White Male America”?

What happens to Trump hatred once Trump himself escapes to Florida and/or, depending on how intensively he is hunted by Democrats and their attorney generals, beyond the borders of the U.S.?

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