TROLLIN' TROLLIN' TROLLIN'

Posted in Rants on September 21st, 2017 by Ed

Since Simon Kuznets developed the useful concept of Gross National Product in the 1930s, many critics have pointed out one of this major flaws: by aggregating the dollar value of all goods and services exchanged in an economy, it can "reward" some horribly inefficient behaviors in the form of higher GNP. With the assumption that a higher GNP/GDP is a sign of a stronger and better economy, the most valuable citizen is not an entrepreneur, a laborer, or an inventor. It's a terminal cancer patient who just wrecked his Lamborghini and is going through an expensive divorce. Think of the billable hours he generates for the legal profession. Think of what his hospital bill will be when all is said and done. Look at all the Economy he's generating.

The point of the morbid example is simply that not every form of economic activity is inherently "good." The American economy could hugely benefit, for example, from bombing several major cities (what a boon for the building trades!) or infecting half the population with some long-lasting and expensively treated disease. Most of us would prefer that economic growth result from something less dismal.

Similarly, single-payer is beginning to attract support from more than just the far left lately. Don't misunderstand – I don't believe SP is coming soon or that huge majorities of Americans suddenly support it. But it is transitioning into the mainstream of the health care debate, which eventually will have a positive effect on policy. You can tell it's being taken more seriously because the campaign of concern trolling against it has intensified noticeably during this session of Congress.

The LA Times has a decent piece on three prominent types of SP concern trolls – "We need more details," "It's too expensive," and "It'll never happen" – but I believe another important kind is absent: the "Think of all the middlemen of the health care industry who will lose their jobs!" troll. The Chamber of Commerce, reliable organ of Business writ large, is most aggressively pushing this narrative. You know they must be worried if they're willing to pretend they care about The Working Man's job.

Conceptually, it isn't difficult to imagine a switch to single payer eliminating some jobs. The administrative bloat in our healthcare system is beyond most people's comprehension – I've had the misfortune of seeing it from the inside earlier in my career. People whose days consist of filing and refiling and appealing and refiling various insurance claim forms and managing the labyrinthine network of medical records are two tasks that involve more person-hours than you can imagine. A single payer system would de-complicate those issues at least somewhat if not entirely, and the paper pushing jobs our current system creates so readily would decline.

Other generally pro-SP estimates argue that a changeover would create jobs in the long run. It's a very difficult thing to forecast and there's no way to resolve the different predictions at this point. What is undeniable, though, is that "It employs a lot of people" is a very bad reason to keep a healthcare system as it is. The ability to access basic medical care without risking long term financial ruin should be a fundamental compoonent of any society that considers itself civilized. And for an issue on which costs and inefficiencies are brought up constantly, sticking with the current system because it creates a ton of jobs for middlemen, rentiers, and layers of superfluous bureaucracy is a very bad argument. The system's inefficiencies bloat costs and need to be eliminated, but they also create jobs so should be kept? C'mon guys. Pick one.

SHOTGUN STRATEGY

Posted in Rants on September 19th, 2017 by Ed

Another week, another urgent exhortation to CALL YOUR SENATORS RIGHT NOW TO SAVE HEALTH CARE. SERIOUSLY IF YOU DON'T DO IT RIGHT NOW ALL IS LOST. I know we said the same thing last week when we asked you to drop everything and call your Senators, and we weren't lying then. We're not lying now either. This just keeps happening, like, every week. And it will until someone puts an end to this farce.

I don't think anyone is in charge of the GOP right now; it's a rudderless ship so enormous that momentum alone will carry it onward for another couple of years after its crew pulls a Mary Celeste. But Ryan and McConnell are conniving little weasels of the old school of weaseling, and they are not above using the din of the Trump Circus as cover for their otherwise moribund legislative agenda. The fact is that the more they propose an ACA repeal – and this latest bill is distinguishable from the "skinny repeal" option from two months ago in name only – the higher the odds they will succeed. Short attention spans and, much more importantly, fatigue work against anyone trying to organize opposition to it. You can only see that URGENT MESSAGE to CALL YOUR REPS IMMEDIATELY so many times before you stop calling, before you eventually stop noticing it altogether, and before and it becomes another repetitive background image in the cheap cartoon we're living in right now.

Perhaps you're full of vim and vigor and I'm projecting here. The social media effort to flog opposition to Graham-Cassidy felt more than a little tired and desperate, though. It felt like the tenth cup of coffee you consume in the vain hope of inspiring one last burst of activity from your adrenal glands. At some point it becomes a lost cause. All the coffee in the world isn't going to keep you awake and alert.

Here's a great analysis of the irregularity of voting on this bill before it has a CBO score and honestly I just can't, again. We've been through this so many times already. Each iteration will have fewer activists showing up at protests, fewer people dutifully calling their reps in Congress, fewer people summoning up the outrage that we all seem to be exhausting on a daily basis for the past seven months. And that, of course, is how they will win (If they do. It's not a given. For now.)

Mobilizing activists is like asking your friends to help you move; the more often you do it, the closer the odds of a positive response get to zero. That's a Big Ask, and you have to hoard it and use it strategically. The Democratic base came into 2017 low on enthusiasm and energy to begin with, united and motivated seemingly by hatred of Trump alone. Bringing back a Single Payer proposal was a reasonably smart move if for no reason other than the potential to generate a little enthusiasm. They're going to need it.

TOO SOON, MAN. TOO SOON.

Posted in Quick Hits on September 18th, 2017 by Ed

In 2008 the Oliver Stone-directed W was released starring Josh Brolin as the (at that moment still incumbent) ex-president. It pulled in a weak $29 million at the box office on a budget of $25 million, meaning that when other costs like marketing are factored in the movie likely lost money or broke just even with DVD and pay per view sales.

The movie was cast well (Brolin, Ellen Burstyn, Jeffery Wright, James Cromwell) and avoided the paranoiac plotlines that characterized early Oliver Stone. It isn't, I suppose, a bad film. But as I wrote at the time, it simply was too soon to release a movie about the GW Bush years. It was still ongoing when the film opened and the truly worst parts of it – the Iraq War, Katrina, etc – were recent enough memories that the movie was assured of alienating any potential audience. Bush fans would assume the movie was just going to mock him, and people who didn't like Bush were nowhere near ready to laugh about what at the time seemed like the American presidency at its rock bottom worst.

The W film has been almost completely forgotten, but it came back to me in a flash when I received the first of a thousand "Sean Spicer was just on the Emmys trying to make jokes" messages Sunday evening into Monday.

To say that it is "too soon" to laugh about any aspect of the Trump presidency is a wild understatement, and for the individuals involved there may never be a time where they can be viewed sympathetically. Every time I have felt the urge to feel slightly bad for the White House staff under this administration I have found it useful to remind myself that they are doing this of their own will. They are not career civil servants duty-bound to serve whoever happens to have power. These are opportunists, losers who no half-respectable campaign would hire and who latched onto Trump like barnacles because nobody else would elevate such total losers to such highly visible positions.

Sean Spicer could have walked away at any moment; in fact he could have avoided the situation altogether quite easily. But he didn't. He wanted the money, he wanted the attention, and he wanted a chance to leap from Single-A (where he belongs, doing PR for some tenth-rate 501c in northern Virginia) to the Major Leagues despite being devoid of any skills except for dog-like loyalty to a very bad person.

Americans have a great capacity for people with bad jobs, because most of us feel like we understand what it is like to show up every day to work for a bad boss and/or at a bad job. But Sean Spicer was not living in a cardboard box until Trump came along. He took a job in the White House in order to be a big shot and to get paid. Fine. That's the choice he made. Now live with it. If ever there is going to be a time at which seeing these Trump hangers-on do image rehabilitation, it certainly isn't now. It will be a very long time from now, and quite possibly never.

PIVOT TO THE OLD PIVOT

Posted in Rants on September 13th, 2017 by Ed

Something has been bothering me lately.

First, remember when Insane Clown Posse's popularity started to wane – I mean, how many times can you write the same song and put on the same Faygo-soaked show? – and they made the Big Reveal that for their entire decade-plus long career their secret message was actually…Christianity? It was one of the strangest deus ex machina moves in the history of showbusiness. People around the world could honestly say in unison, "I did not see that coming," and anyone who said they did was obviously lying. Nobody saw it coming, especially given that it wasn't true and made no sense and was just a play for attention as the rest of the world was losing interest.

That was amusing.

I can't offer an equally compelling or nonsensical Reveal, but sometimes I wonder if the handful of people who read this or follow Gin and Tacos in other formats get what it is about. I've been doing this for a long, long time now and I find it extremely rewarding and if someone else gets something out of it, that's terrific. Whatever level you might enjoy it on is fine by me. If you don't enjoy it, I don't take it personally. Nothing is going to appeal to everyone, with the possible exception of cheese fries.

Regardless of whether you are new or have been around forever, or read every day or once per year, or hate it but still read it for some reason, lately I have had this nagging feeling that a lot of people (who comment, otherwise I have no clue what you're thinking in response) are missing the point. So, here is the Big Reveal: this isn't and never has been about Politics. It's a blog about bad logic. Bad arguments. Conservatives are not The Enemy. Centrists aren't either. The whole point, and what gives me some small amount of pleasure, is to make fun of bad arguments and the motives of people who make them. Usually the motive is either 1) they are lying to you, and think you're stupid enough not to notice that their argument makes no sense or, 2) they're really bad at logic and don't understand that the argument doesn't make sense (or, more often, is totally inapplicable to the point).

My parents could tell you stories about me at age four throwing tantrums because something didn't make sense, or school detentions piling up because I had the really unfortunate habit of pressing adults with questions about Why when rules were clearly arbitrary or when the motives were misrepresented (I mean, if we're clearly doing something to kill time, let's just admit it, ok?). So I don't know, maybe I'm just difficult. Scratch that. I am a very difficult person. OK. I get it.

Here's the thing, before I digress too far – a lot of people (apparently) read the things I barf into the ethers with the understanding that it's About Politics. And that causes a lot of problems, because the point here isn't to support one political viewpoint or another. It's to make fun of really bad logic that makes no sense. The consequence is that if you're following this as the average Sports-type politics blog (Our team is great! Go team! Boo, other team!) you're probably going to get super cranky when the criticism turns toward Your Team. The 2016 election, for example, was a ludicrous experience (for many reasons, of course). Team Hillary couldn't stop screaming that I'm a Bernie Bro, Team Bernie couldn't believe what a sellout centrist fake-liberal asshole I am.

As a result, over time I've been trying harder and harder to make everyone happy on the politics front. At the same time, as many of you know, I've been trying to break into Professional Writing for Serious Media Outlets, which (as I've rambled about) requires changing one's writing style to appeal more broadly. The combined result is that it has been getting less fun. I don't enjoy it any less, but it's less fun. Does that make sense? I hope it does.

The more you try to massage something to make it appealing to Everyone, the less interesting it's going to be. And lately I feel like everything I say is trying to anticipate and preclude various inevitable criticisms. And not only is it less Fun, and not only does it feel defensive, but it's also pointless. It's pointless because when 10,000 people see something, some of them are going to respond critically without even reading it. Some of them will be critical because they misread it intentionally or otherwise (It's always much easier to respond to what you heard than to what a writer said). Some of them are just assholes.

And there's one other complicating factor that is unpleasant but undeniably a part of this: the world of writing creates strong incentives to Build the Audience. Want to write a book? Better show off how many followers you have on Social Media. Want to write for a big website or magazine? Well how many people follow you on Facebook, sonny? Which, as much as we all hate admitting that the Free Market influences us, is a powerful incentive. Don't piss off the audience that took so very long to build! Keep everyone happy! Offend no one! Apologize readily! The audience's eyeballs and various clicks are a valuable currency, not to mention that it's hard to see something you worked so hard and for so long to build (an audience, because who wants to write stuff nobody will ever read?) recede.

So, there's a lot going on here. And it has made this no less rewarding, no less enjoyable, but a little less Fun. When it's not Fun, the final product isn't nearly as good or nearly as interesting. And after the last highly stressful (politically) two years, I'm tired. I'm exhausted, even. I'm not tired of expressing opinions that you are free to take or leave; I'm tired of trying please everyone. And I'm going to stop doing that, and go back to what I did for a very long time when nobody aside from a handful, maybe a hundred, people read this. Audience Building is tiring.

If you can't handle someone criticizing Your Team, go read Wonkette or Jacobin where you can be guaranteed 100% consistent Go Team coverage. They're both good. I read both regularly. If you can't respond with criticism that actually has something to do with what I said, go ahead and mash that "unfollow" or whatever. If you are an asshole, I'm probably going to be an asshole right back. If you want to yell at someone about what you heard without understanding the possibility that you're hearing what you want to hear based on your own biases, this might not be for you. If the best response you can come up with when someone criticizes a media figure or politician who is female is "omg why do you hate women," go read Jezebel or something. I have no interest in changing your mind, nor in being a target to absorb your late night drunken anger every time you are personally insulted by something that is not about you at all because you're kind of a narcissist. It's fine. We all have narcissistic tendencies. It makes neither of us a bad person. My only point is that nobody is forcing you to read this, the world is literally drowning in content you could be reading, and I have to start making peace with the fact that maybe this just isn't something you like, and that's OK.

This is all self-inflicted. I've been doing this to myself, and for a long time now. I'm not a victim of anything at all other than choices I've made that I want to stop making now because they're making probably my greatest joy in life less Fun. Nothing is going to change except my approach to this mentally. You're OK. I'm OK. We're all OK; we just aren't all going to like the same things. I love you all, but lately I've been caring way too much what you think and how you will respond. So, I'm just going to say what I want to say and you are going to respond how you want to respond. And hopefully everyone will be happier in that scenario. If we continue to share the same space, great. If we end up parting company, no hard feelings.

Thanks.

LIVING THE DREAM

Posted in Quick Hits on September 12th, 2017 by Ed

Today I got something published in which I call Steve Bannon a trash bag full of old taco meat right before I describe Alex Jones as an anthropomorphic sweat gland.

Boy I had fun writing this. I like it when it's fun. And the end result is probably better for it.

FORGOTTEN

Posted in Rants on September 10th, 2017 by Ed

Here is a photo you have seen before. In all likelihood it is the most iconic image of the Nuclear Age: "Baker" test of Operation Crossroads, Bikini Atoll of the Marshall Islands, 1946.

I want to draw your attention to something I bet you have never noticed in this photo before, as many times as you've seen it. See this black smudge on the nearly 1/2 mile high column of water thrown up by the underwater detonation?

That's the USS Arkansas. That's a 562 foot long, 26,000 ton battleship.

Look at the full sized photo and use that as a point of reference for scale. The giant destroyer was found later upside down in the lagoon with the side facing the blast crumpled like a soda can. The site also became unfathomably radioactive. Pieces of crushed coral and metallic sodium from the seawater were irradiated and flung about the Atoll. 15,000 Navy men were rushed in to scrub down the ships of the ghost fleet that had been set up as target practice and to bury some of the more energetic debris. No statistics on the amount of radiation those people absorbed (or what it did to them in the long run) are available.

I point this out to emphasize something that has been forgotten since the end of the Cold War during which nuclear weapons were something people thought about regularly. They used to be very real, not abstract, and now the opposite is true. Nuclear weapons are powerful. Staggeringly powerful. They are, in the parlance of The Kids, not fucking around. Crossroads "Baker," the subject of this infamous photo, was a replica of the nuclear device detonated over Nagasaki, which in turn was a replica of the "Trinity" bomb exploded in New Mexico as the first even nuclear device. In other words, the bomb that caused what you see in this photo was a small one. Primitive. Simple. By modern standards what you see here is puny. But it rendered the area uninhabitable for seven decades and tossed around some of the largest objects humans know how to make.

We live in a world in which people stopped grappling with the reality of nuclear war so long ago that we have whole generations that don't fully understand its implications, and older generations who used to understand it but have let the memories fade. It seems inevitable these days that someone – India, Pakistan, North Korea, or very possibly the US – will blow one up if for no reason other than that the world hasn't seen a mushroom cloud for decades and, well, let's just see if it's really as big a deal as people used to think it was. World leaders ("leaders") like Putin, Kim, and Trump refer to nuclear weapons in terms that show no understanding of or respect for their power. To threaten to use nuclear weapons at the drop of a hat is to admit that you have only the vaguest idea of the effects and consequences of doing so.

Why so many nations simultaneously find themselves led by someone who doesn't quite get it is above my pay grade to figure out. Maybe we've all lost our collective minds. Maybe nukes simply aren't the big political issue they used to be, so absenting them from our consciousness leaves a lot of people unaware of the gravity of the problem. Or maybe we are all fated to relive our worst decisions every time a tragedy recedes far enough into the past for people to start thinking "I mean, it can't really be THAT bad…let's just try one and see."

The first lesson we will learn if we go down that road is that a nuclear weapon that can pick up a battleship and fling it like a toy is only a fraction as powerful as the arsenal available today. Thermonuclear weapons – which were only an idea at the time this photo was taken – are almost limitless in their power and radioactive fallout potential. Politicians the world over used to recognize that nuclear weapons are not a thing to be trifled with; now, the more we talk about them casually or in a way that trivializes them brings us closer and closer to the point at which the useful fear of them is overcome by the impulsiveness and anger of the people who control them.

I have a bad feeling about it. All of it.

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO PREDICTABILITY

Posted in Rants on September 6th, 2017 by Ed

When teaching an introductory American Government course to freshmen who enter college with a wide range of skills and prior courses in the subject I have found it safest to start things with the basics. Real basic. We spend a week at the beginning covering "What is government and why does it exist" stuff before we even begin the Constitution and specifics.

One of the first tasks is to explain conceptually (again, without specifics) what government does. Almost any example you can conjure up fits into one of a small number of boxes: maintaining order, providing a forum for decision-making, providing public goods, organizing for collective defense, and so on. One of the most underappreciated of these basic tasks is enforcing predictability. No economic transactions, for example, are possible without predictability – X and Y must know that if they make a contract, either party violating the agreement can be taken to a court that will enforce it. Society functions very poorly without this; if you can't plan for the future in some very basic ways and rely on a few unexceptional assumptions (i.e., you don't need to spend 24 hours per day defending your home. You can leave it and feel reasonably confident that no one will break into it because they know the likely consequences) then your society breaks down. Government, then, is a bit like the weather forecast – it's more useful when telling you about the future than the present.

Trump supporters cite the president's rashness, lack of forethought, and unpredictability as an asset; he will "shake things up" or whatever. Who knows what he'll do from minute to minute. Wild card!

In reality, we will be lucky if that approach doesn't get us all killed. International actors are wringing their hands with the sudden inability to rely upon American intentions as a known quantity. The domestic policy process has ground to a halt in a way I never thought possible with the House, Senate, and Executive branch unified under one party. And increasingly citizens don't know if they can trust interacting with their own government. We have a reasonable idea of what the law is now, but what presidential mood swing will reshape it in six months?

Three recent examples stick out. First, he threw transgendered people under the bus after making explicit promises during the campaign to be "hands off" on those issues. Second, he told Congressional Republican leaders that he would make a deal with them on the debt ceiling and then, unprompted, cut a different deal four hours later without telling them. Never mind that legislating and inter-branch relationships depend almost entirely on trust, norms, and informal institutions. Third, he retroactively turned DACA into a trap to lure immigrants to their own deportation.

The DACA example is particularly insane. Think about what just happened. The federal government told people "Look, it's better to know that you're here than to have you here lurking around in the shadows. And it's not your fault mom and dad brought you here when you were four. So, come forward and we'll suspend deportation." Something like 800,000 people, with every intention of doing the Right Thing and following the rules, took advantage of it. Now, a few years later the same federal government (albeit under different leadership) says "lol jk, we're going to use the information you gave us to find and deport you."

This incentivizes the worst possible behavior, of course. It encourages immigrants to live in hiding and to go to extremes to avoid interactions with the state. Because in all honesty, those people have zero reason to trust the government at this point. None. Frankly, immigrants and transgendered soldiers aren't the only people with cause for skepticism. We all do. With no meaningful sense whatsoever of what is constitutional or legal, who the hell knows what this guy is going to change next? Hell, they're already talking about taxing 401(k) type contributions retroactively. Hey remember that money we said for 30 years that you could put away tax free? Ha ha jk give us a third of it! That'll really encourage people to save and plan for the financial future, right?

There's no value in going slippery slope here and pointing out what it looks like when this thinking is taken to its conclusion. Suffice it to say that "unpredictable" is just about the last adjective we want to be using in reference to the government and the law. No matter how much mouthbreathers with no understanding of – well, anything really – think it will be So Awesome to shake things up and show them politicians what's what, predictability is actually one of the fundamental objectives of any government. Without it life won't necessarily revert to nasty, brutish, and short but it will be a lot less pleasant than it needs to be.

PRISONERS OF GEOGRAPHY

Posted in Quick Hits on September 6th, 2017 by Ed

I'm late to the party on this 2016 best seller, but Tim Marshall's Prisoners of Geography needs to go on your reading list immediately. The Aughts fad for treating Non-State Actors as the Next Big Thing caused a lot of people to forget that geopolitics is still a thing. Subject matter experts will find some of these takes a bit thin (it's pretty hard to do India-Pakistan justice in 50 pages) but nearly everyone short of expertise on a given region will learn a lot here. And the best part is that even if you fancy yourself an expert on one country or region, there are nine other chapters to tell you things you probably do not already know. 100/100 read immediately.

GAME OVER, MAN

Posted in Rants on September 4th, 2017 by Ed

No matter how much we lower our expectations, no matter how cynical we are about our fellow Americans, the appallingly low quality of some of the Fake News people fall for on the internet is hard to accept. No matter how stupid or improbable the "story" or how utterly amateurish the quality of the source, as long as it happens to tell reactionary idiots what they already believe is true about the world they will pass it around the internet tens of thousands of times. And that's without making any effort to make it look real. With the slightest effort at plausibility and the endorsement of fringe media figures, the story can circle the globe. Seth Rich, anyone?

Last month Radiolab did an episode about a new technology that allows people to create videos of real people saying things (in their own voice) that they never said. In other words, I can take a video of Trump speaking and change what he is saying in a way that looks quite realistic – the new words are made using his own speech, and his mouth movements will match the new script. The working name is "facial manipulation." There are examples all over YouTube, and the researchers quoted in the Radiolab piece have an example or two on their own site appropriately called "The Future of Fake News."

The podcast does slightly exaggerate how far along the technology is. Most of the examples online look realistic enough but, under scrutiny, are still obviously Fake. But in five years? Ten? We can be confident that this will be close to flawless in the not too distant future.

When that happens – and when huge disinformation operations with unlimited resources like those of a certain country that rhymes with Plushia – will be able to pump the last few bullets into the already wheezing and limping democracies of the world. Just imagine the field day people on the right are going to have with this. They already go wild for things that don't even look realistic enough to fool a ten year-old. Think about what will happen when they have video – realistic video – of their political enemies saying whatever someone with editing skills decided they should say.

To people who fact-check and care whether something is fake or not before passing it along to an unsuspecting audience, these videos will be fairly easy to debunk. That is, what, five percent of the population? Everyone else will either embrace whichever version of Reality they prefer or – and I think this is the real goal – throw up their hands and declare that nobody can really say what is real anymore so everything is equally valid.

This is going to be bad. Really bad. We have already entered an era in which it is disturbingly easy and common for people simply to invent their own reality or conflate whatever they prefer to believe with the truth. Malevolent forces are already encouraging this behavior and providing the raw materials that will exacerbate the problem. We have a Vice-President whose preferred strategy for responding to things said by the President is to insist that he did not say the things he said. It doesn't take a great deal of imagination or cynicism to see where this is going.

Pointing out that fake news is fake does very little to dissuade people from believing it if they choose to do so; the dynamic of chasing down and responding to every piece of misinformation that flies around the internet is exhausting, resource intensive, and mostly pointless. Once these manipulated videos look good enough to pass the eye test, I can't see what is going to convince people to differentiate them from reality. Seeing a picture or video of something happening with our own eyes *is* reality to most people, and that doesn't even take the popularity of motivated reasoning into account.

Dark times.

ACCEPTABLE CASUALTIES

Posted in Rants on September 3rd, 2017 by Ed

If there's anything better at cranking up anxiety than watching two lunatics with no capacity for empathy and no concern for human life playing a game of chicken with nuclear weapons, I don't know what it is.

Look, it doesn't take a specialist in international relations, military strategy, geography, or the Korean peninsula to figure out that North Korea has this situation by the proverbial balls despite being a despotic, backward, half-starved shitbox of a country. The problem is simple and everyone with 2% of a brain can see it: 25 million people live in Seoul and Seoul is so close to the DMZ that there is literally no scenario in which North Korea can't level it in the first hour of any conflict.

Say North Korea launches a missile, the US responds with an overwhelming "Reduce NK to rubble" all-out attack. So much for North Korea! Except that it will take Seoul with it. Even in the short time that it would take a determined US to turn the country into a smoking crater, they would do the same to Seoul.

Estimates that within 1 hour NK could hit Seoul with nearly half a million artillery shells may be too liberal. But even half or a quarter of that leaves a death toll likely in the millions. It's a densely populated, vertically oriented city. And it's so close to its fraternal enemy that no advanced technology would be necessary to destroy it. No fancy missiles, air strikes, long invasion columns, or sci-fi space weapons are needed. Just cheap Russian and Chinese knock-off artillery pieces of WWII vintage. And that's why from the South Korean or American perspective, there simply is no winning move that involves military action against NK. The second real fighting starts, Seoul is gone.

Trump is a dumb person who does not understand any of this. Kim is a lunatic who doesn't especially care about sending people to their deaths by the millions. Trump probably doesn't either, provided those sent to their deaths are not American. When the White House responds to North Korean saber-rattling in kind I get the really sinking feeling that Trump's only takeaway from starting a war that gets a quarter of South Koreans killed would be "Look how tough I was with North Korea." The liberal cucks just didn't have the stones to start a war that would kill that many people.

Whoever starts that war had better have a good, thorough understanding of the consequences it is going to entail. Given that the president lacks the attention span to understand the consequences of anything except inasmuch as it affects his popularity, the confrontation makes me a lot more nervous today than the feeble attempts of North Korea to flex its muscles in the past.