Saturday, May 6, 2017

9.0 100 Days, 100 Nights

Just over one hundred days into Don Presidente’s regime and thankfully, we’re still here for the most part. The republic stills stands. Democracy survives, for now. The threat is far from over, though, considering a hundred days only accounts for less than 7% of his scheduled time in office, assuming he only serves a single term, and the ongoing investigations into his campaign’s connections to the Russian government don’t bring him down early.

These past hundred days have felt like a lifetime, what with all the twists and turns, all the drama, all the missteps and distractions. I could easily turn this piece into a review of Ill Douche’s inauspicious start in his first government position. He’s signed twenty-eight bills into law, none of them substantial, and has issued thirty executive orders (more than any previous president during the same period of time, since WWII — something he criticized Obama for doing too much of, along with golfing), nearly as insubstantial, save for the ones that were blocked by courts; and a couple of military actions, both dubious in their effectiveness.

With a couple of exceptions, he’s filled with cabinet with people as inexperienced as he is, and as rich as he claims to be, a number of them have openly stated their intentions to tear down the very agencies they have been selected to head. His approval rating hovers at about 42%, nationally — a record low of for someone in office this long — yet among his voters, he still enjoys a approval rating in the 90s. Despite his failings, his obvious ineptitude, and his admitted miscalculation about how hard it is to be POTUS, Don Presidente remains an enigma. What does all of this mean for our country, for democracy as a whole, but most importantly, for our chances of surviving his reign in office?

In the first piece for this blog, I questioned Ill Douche’s intentions as president. These first hundred days have made things only somewhat clearer. One narrative, that he’s simply doing it to enhance his brand, remains a viable one. His businesses, now being run by his sons, are in excellent shape with the help of our tax dollars. Once he leaves, or is forced out, he should be set up for a glorious return, reaping the benefits of his unchecked conflicts of interest, unless we can find a way to counter that. I also speculated that he simply wanted power simply for the sake of having it.

I’m no longer sure that’s the case, although if he can find a comfort zone, he may be less willing to give it up. I am sure that his relationship with Putin was about power. Putin wants nothing more than to consolidate his realm of influence by weakening democracy throughout the rest of the world and fracturing the forces — NATO, The European Union, etc — that keep that goal in check. His hope in backing Ill Douche, along with seeing an easing of sanctions, was that his nationalist America First agenda would narrow the U.S.’s interest to primarily domestic issues, leaving him free to continue his own expansion and meddling.

Speaking of domestic policy, that is where a darker theme has emerged. While his campaign was constantly dogged with accusations of racism, there remained an open question about whether he was simply using it to take advantage of the years of fear and loathing bred into the social conservatives that make up his base, or whether that racism would carry on into his administration. With the rise in hate crimes in the country, we’ve all seen how his pandering has stirred up white supremacists. But his immigration policies, to date, and his choice of Jeff Sessions to head up the Department of Justice all point to something far more nefarious: Ill Douche has every intention of stopping, or at least slowing down, the end of the white male power structure.

Don’t let Steve Bannon’s recent demotion fool you. Bannon’s still firmly entrenched in the administration. If Don Presidente, Sessions and Bannon can continue to work together by continuing to deport undocumented immigrants in record numbers, discouraging others from coming at all, refusing refugees, stopping the movements for prison reform and a less racist justice system, and moving back towards the privatization of prisons, thereby creating a profit source that discourages anti-recidivism programs, they can, at the very least, make sure white males maintain their power at the polls. So, while the complexion of the country may still change, its power structure will remain mostly unfazed.

This is my greatest fear a hundred days in. If the election has taught us anything, it’s that there are a lot of angry white people, not only because they feel like they’ve been left behind, but also because they’ve seen this country change at, for them, an alarming rate. Women prove they can be as good, if not better than, men every day at everything. Marijuana is becoming legal. Gays can get married and raise children. Men can become women, and women can become men. Not being a Christian is no longer an insurmountable stigma. A black man can become president.

For those who genuinely believe that this country rightfully belongs to Christian white men, and that to be anything else is to practically not be Christian, and thereby not worthy enough to live your lifestyle, much less have a say in where this country goes, these have been scary times. There fears have only been fanned for ratings, or worse, to achieve and maintain power. While unfounded, these fears are very real in the hearts of those who suffer from them. I see no end to the manipulation of these fears, no call to move past them.

The saddest part of this is that these fears aren’t being exploited because the powers that be actually ascribe to them. How does the cliche go? The only color capitalists see is green. What those trying to hold onto power are trying to achieve, with their handpicked fool at the helm, is to make as much money as they possibly can, for as long as hey can keep him there. If they have to keep the rest of us divided to accomplish that, it’s just the price of doing business. Don Presidente’s base should be afraid. They’re just afraid of the wrong things.

The past one hundred days have given us plenty to dread about, some sleepless nights, fits of righteous anger, even some rays of hope. Assuming he escapes impeachment or doesn’t just quit, outright, that gives us a little over 550 days before our best chance to end this national nightmare. Given that his base looks ready to support him to their graves, there’s plenty of work to do to prepare for the midterm elections in 2018. We better get past our own petty differences and unite by then. If we can’t make a difference then, I doubt our chances of limiting Ill Douche to one term. If one hundred days feels like a lifetime, just imagine what eight years will feel like.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

8.0 Paint it Black

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There've been a lot of stories lately on the boost in popularity of dystopian fiction, in particular, 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, and It Can’t Happen Here, that’s coincided with the transfer to the new administration. I love dystopian stories. I’m writing one myself! They can be wickedly fun and frightening. What makes them fun is a faith that humanity is just a little too humane to allow society to ever devolve that far. What makes them frightening is our understanding that humanity always feels like it’s teetering on the brink of allowing it to happen. The fact that, historically, we have occasionally allowed it to happen, however, makes the idea of dystopia genuinely terrifying. If Europe under Nazi control wasn’t a dystopia, perhaps I have a poor understanding of the term.

If you heard Don Presidente’s inauguration speech—I did, albeit not live; I waited until I was off work and appropriately self-medicated—you’d think we already live in a dystopia.

...for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

This is actually optimistic when compared to his Convention speech.

Our Convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life…

...Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally, some have even been its victims.

Now, I’m not saying there’s absolutely no truth to behind his words, but all great lies require some truth to be believed. There’s no denying his vision of where America stands in this point in history is a dark, violent place. The irony of this is that it’s only what he’s done and said that makes it feel as if the country is slipping into dystopia.

While his dystopic speeches are little more than an over dramatization of what’s happening on the ground in tiny pockets of the country, it’s the administration’s attempts to delegitimize the media, to promote alternative facts as real facts, its pockets of admiration for, even coziness with, totalitarians and oligarchs that actually threaten to derail this country and set us on a path down that dark, dystopic spiral.

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Even the decision to add Alt-Right (aka White Supremacist) kingpin Steve Bannon to his National Security Council (NSC) while the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will only be invited to attend “when issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are being discussed” smells like burnt coffee. Considering this is the government body responsible for coordinating policy on national security issues and advising chief executives on matters related to protecting us all, how is including Bannon, while limiting the attendance of the other two players, supposed to make us feel secure?

It’s not. It’s a purely political move, one that George W. Bush avoided with Karl Rove,  Barack Obama avoided with David Axelrod, and every president in modern memory was able to avoid. This is akin to the elevation of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s infamous Minister of Propaganda. Why? Because it points to how important the administration imagines having a professional propagandist in the NSC. This means Don Presidente intends on setting policy based on and framed by Bannon’s White Supremacist ideas. That’s frightening.

The roll out of the executive order temporarily halting travel from seven predominantly muslim countries, and indefinitely from Syria, is a perfect example. Several reliable sources claim that, rather than vetting the order through Homeland Security, the State Department, etc., Bannon was the primary go to guy in developing this foolhardy policy. Sure, Rudy Giuliani was instrumental in having an order drafted that could avoid being labeled as a muslim ban, but the concept? That was all Bannon, all part of his America First strategy.

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Lest we forget, this is not the first time there was an America First movement in the U.S. The original America First Committee was formed in 1940, presumably as an attempt to avoid having the country dragged into World War II. Like the ban, it used homeland security as an excuse to prevent refugees from entering the country, particularly Jews. It’s no surprise that, years later, when reconstituting the idea of America First, Pat Buchanan praised the actions of the original organization.  It’s also no surprise that the man who finds a way to insert the name of that movement into his inauguration speech signs an order that mirrors, in many ways, what the original movement did in the 1940s.

And his supporters are thrilled! They fell for this black, dystopic view of America that’s been fed to them for years, so of course, they are just as ready to believe in the administration’s solutions. Until reality wakes them up, assuming it ever does, they will be perfectly happy to allow Ill Douche to rule by fiat, issuing executive orders at an alarming rate, despite the fact that Obama’s judicious use of them made him a tyrant. It begs the question: Are his supporters perfectly happy to trade democracy for national and economic security?

That’s precisely what Russia did. The rise of Putin had plenty to do with a desire within the country to rein in the power of the oligarchs who had been perfectly positioned to take advantage of Russia’s, then, new free market economy. Putin stepped in, in his now patented strongman style, and took care of it. The oligarchs could either support him or be bankrupted, jailed or both. Those who fell in line became part of the regime. Those who didn’t are either poor, incarcerated, or dead. So is free speech. Just recently, we’ve seen one Putin appointment hospitalized, in critical condition, poisoned for the second time in a year. Another, Alexei Navalny— an anti-corruption blogger considered to be Putin’s primary opponent in their upcoming election, was convicted of embezzlement. While Navalny was lucky enough to only receive a suspended sentence, he will likely be barred from running against Putin.

Fortunately, Don Presidente can’t use Putin’s playbook, easily. The Constitution offers us some protection for the media, so we won’t see the same government takeover of media outlets that Russia was able to institute, and the chances that we will see his allies buying up enough media outlets to make a difference are slim. I also doubt we will see the illegitimate jailing of his opponents. None of that is to say that there aren’t things Agent Orange can do. We may very well see legislation introduced to suppress the media, and we all already know how effectively Twitter can be used for character assassination. As leaks are another obvious problem for the administration, I wouldn’t be surprised to see journalists dragged into court and threatened with jail if they don’t reveal their sources. And of course, by directing his most ardent followers to use only “trusted” news sources, he’s trying to close off the information loop, so those still in his thrall will automatically dismiss everything outside of that loops as false, or propaganda. All of this points to some very dark days to come.

There have been rays of light. The travel ban has been stayed by the courts, for now. Every day seems to reveal more of Chump’s connection to Russia, whether the fact that the ongoing investigation has substantiated some of what was uncovered in the infamous Russian Dossier, or the resignation of National Security Advisor, Mike Flynn, famous for being anti-muslim and espousing even some of the more obscure conspiracy theories out there, due to his lying about the content of his calls with Russian diplomats. While some Republicans seem open, few are eager to see this investigation through. Who can say what the Justice Department will do about any of this, especially now, with Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions, III at the helm.

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While the country may be spared the dystopia that makes many of us lose sleep at night, one thing is undeniable. The administration itself is, irrefutably, its own dystopia. The chaos. The leaks. The lies. The everyone for themselves attitude. The casualties. The atmosphere in the White House is being compared to Game of Thrones. How sad would it be if the story of our country turned from American Dream to pure nightmare, not because we were being led by a mad tyrant, but simply because those running it are just too fucking inept. That’s terrifying!

The midterm elections in 2018 will prove incredibly important. It’s our last, best chance to check Ill Douche’s power by electing more voices of dissension. Unfortunately, voters on the left, the very voters who most oppose the administration and its misguided policies, have tended to avoid the polls during midterms. The best example of the effect of this lack of drive took place in Colorado, where after the Sandy Hook and Aurora shootings, despite a majority of voters approving of new, common sense, gun laws, voters were able to recall two of the state senators that voted for the measures. Why? Because the people that actually made it to the polls on election day were the ones that were pissed off, because of NRA propaganda turning any gun safety law into an attack on the 2nd Amendment. The theory holds that pissed off voters are more likely to vote than contented ones.

Well, there’s little doubt that we have plenty of pissed off centrists, left leaning, and progressive voters, now. The question remains, however, can we be effective? Gerrymandering has made genuinely free and fair elections difficult, and the courts have yet to make a final determination on voter ID laws. I’m afraid, unless Don Presidente repels enough of his voters that were already on the fence about him, and unless we can coax voters that felt too disgusted, by either the candidates or the process, to even make it to the polls this past November, we won’t see many, if any, gains next year.

We can’t afford more losses, or a stalemate. It’s clear that elected Republicans are more than willing to put power before country. They will continue to appease him, as long as they believe he will sign off on their agenda and make their bills laws. Rumor has it that they are happy to get along with little complaint, but that they expect that he will eventually fuck up so badly that he will be forced to resign or face impeachment. Chump is seen as little more than a seat warmer for Mike Pence, until he’s no longer politically viable. Perhaps they forget Chump’s been counted out, before.

As it stands, we don’t have enough influence in office, and while you get the occasional Republican speaking out on Chump’s foibles, there are never enough of them, at any given time, to mean anything substantial will happen.

I would love to tell you that we’re not slowly slipping into dystopia. I’d love for my piece of fiction to be the closest the world will ever get. But the odds do seem to be against us as we see Putin’s strategy of inserting himself into the elections of other countries being adopted throughout Europe. We have seen the rise of right wing movements throughout the world, and where his influence has failed, we have seen war. We will know, soon enough, how the Putin Strategy works in France and Germany.

Like Putin, Chump is more eager to be a ruler than a leader. We will know soon enough if he can manage to be either. Regardless, he will continue to push forth his dark vision of the country, while his policies will create the real nightmares, and the sheer ineptitude of his administration will continue creating epic chaos. While Chump keeps painting everything black, it’s up to us to protect a brighter future. One way we can do that is to not succumb to the darkness, perceived or real. If we can accomplish that, we can then begin to be the light we want to see in world.

Monday, January 16, 2017

7.0 Master of Puppets

PutinMasterOfPuppets.jpgThose of you who are not new to this blog know I’m not a fan of fake news. At best, it offers an unfounded twist on recent events. At worst, these stories are completely fabricated and readily believed by people already primed to believe the worst about the targets of the attacks. These distortions make genuine debate impossible. Most of a conversation is spent trying to disprove the bullshit instead of any attempt to find common ground or build some foundation conducive to any real conversation. Ideas get rejected with insults and bile. Critical thinking is replaced with vile accusations of bias.

Recently, CNN broke a story bringing to light the fact that Obama & Chump both received a two-page addendum to the intelligence report detailing Russian interference in U.S. elections. It reported that there was a dossier circulating throughout the intelligence and political communities that claimed Russia had compromising information on Chump. Later that evening, Buzzfeed released the actual dossier which provided the lurid details: Allegedly, Russia was blackmailing Chump, threatening to release the details of unsanctioned business deals, as well as video evidence of Trump carousing with Russian prostitutes. The Daily Beast went even further, actually reporting some of the more lurid details, including allegations that Chump watched as some of the prostitutes urinated on each other, hence #GoldenShowerGate.

GoldenShower (265x320).jpgNow Chump, along with his propaganda machine, after defending their own stories that were debunked, are trying to file this story as just another in the wave of fake news that was part of the attempt to derail HRC’s presidential campaign. This story has some major differences, however. First of all, the story CNN reported is true. There is no doubt that both Obama and Chump were briefed on the dossier. In printing the dossier, Buzzfeed pointed out that the allegations in the file were unsubstantiated. And even though they printed the gory details, even The Daily Beast admitted there was no evidence that the stories themselves were true, only that they existed.

The stories were already out there. The only question is, how valid are they? The source for the story, a former MI6 agent who now runs his own company conducting opposition research for political candidates, is considered reliable, having had a long relationship with other intelligence agencies. Some media reports have called him the Real James Bond. Of course, just because he uncovered the information does not make it true. According to a recent BBC report, the Real James Bond isn’t the only source with compromising information. Regardless, without any actual evidence, the story amounts to mere rumors. But, based on what we know about the man already, regarding his sexual proclivities, can anyone really claim with any authority that the allegations are patently false?

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Understanding that it’s not so far fetched, let’s imagine for a moment that there is some substance behind the story. Wouldn’t that completely change the narrative of Chump and why he ran, in the first place? If the allegations could be verified, it might also mean the Chump didn’t run by choice. Instead, he only ran at the behest of Vladimir Putin! His highly divisive campaign would make more sense when compared to the techniques that were used to elect pro-Russia candidates in the Ukraine.

It would explain why Putin’s propaganda apparatus, like RT (formerly Russia Times) & Sputnik, were so willing to publish lies and misinformation, why they rebranded Russia & Putin as allies to, not only Chump supporters, but any HRC opponents, in general, as well as Americans already disenchanted with our political system. It wasn’t just important that everyone they targeted voted for Chump. If enough potential voters were disgusted enough to stay home, that in itself could guarantee a Chump victory. I use if, but isn’t that pretty much what happened?

TrumpPupeteer (320x210).jpgI’ve given Chump a lot of credit for his apparent mastery of mass manipulation, his ability to enchant the disenchanted into believing he had all the answers. He was able to substitute raw frankness for truth, feelings for facts. He played large swaths of the public perfectly, his foibles attracting new followers, for the most part. There is little doubt Chump is a bit of a puppet master. What would that make Putin?

We already have evidence of sketchy communications between Chump’s camp and Putin’s. Even if the details of #GoldenShowerGate are dubious, evidence still points to some collusion. Chump may be pulling plenty of strings, but Putin’s involvement would make him the Master of Puppets.

MedvedevPuppet (320x242).jpgThere’s no doubt Putin has, or has had, his hands up the backs of world leaders, including deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, to Dmitry Medvedev, who served as president of Russia for a time so Putin could avoid a constitutional crisis for serving too many consecutive terms. Speaking of Yanukovych, his 2010 campaign was spearheaded by no other than Paul Manafort. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he also served as Chairman of Chump's 2016 campaign, until it came out that, in his work with Yanukovych, Manafort may have received $12.7 million in illegal funds.

Of course, we can all try to chalk this all up as nothing more than mere rumors and coincidence. As I have already said, there is no hard evidence linking Chump to Putin. Yet.

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What there is, however, is enough to warrant awareness. Better yet, we can’t afford to ignore it. Despite a bipartisan effort to investigate all of these claims, who knows what will happen to these investigations once Chump takes office. There’s nothing stopping enough politicians from making a deal: you pass whatever legislation we want, and we’ll ignore chumminess with Putin. In that case, it will be up to us to protect ourselves from Putinism. We need to start by pushing back on the inane idea that a manipulative, homophobic killer like Putin is harmless, and that we want good relations with Russia. Putin doesn’t want good relations. Putin wants control.

If we can snap enough of those who have fallen under Chump’s sway out of it, when we can feel those strings tugging us all, we can grab onto them tightly and pull back. If we can just tug on them hard enough, I have no doubt we can pull the masters down. We need an America with no strings attached.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

6.0 Sympathy for the Devil

When I was working for the Obama campaign in Manassas, Virginia back in the fall of 2008, there were two common themes I heard from staunch opponents. The most common was the fact that Obama was a socialist, that he would turn private businesses over to government control. The other, much less common but perhaps more disturbing, was that Obama was the Antichrist!

I recall sending out a pair of volunteers to do some canvassing. They had arrived late, so I was shocked to see they were the among the first to return. I suspected something had gone terribly wrong. That became obvious when they were close enough for me to see their faces. Both appeared disturbed, and one had obviously been crying and was still on the verge of tears. When I asked them what went wrong, they explained that they hadn’t been canvassing long before they met a lady who answered the door and immediately started attacking them when they told her they were with the Obama campaign.

ObamaAntichrist.jpg“How dare you support the Antichrist?!” she had screamed at them, “How dare you come to my door trying to get me to vote for that demon?” This confrontation had shaken them so badly, they could no longer continue. Apparently, the lady's pastor had been preaching this vile bit of dogma from the pulpit for a while and had most of his congregation convinced. It wasn’t all that surprising to me to see the same label applied to Hillary Clinton eight years later. I suppose it’s simply just a title passed on from one Democratic presidential candidate to the next.

What does strike me as ironic about all of this is that this title of Antichrist was never, to my knowledge, applied to the Republican candidate, despite the fact that, according to my understanding of scripture, he seems to fit the bill much more than either Obama or Clinton ever did. Now, before I go on to discuss scripture, I need to establish a couple of things. First, I’m no longer a Christian. I was for much of my early life, worshiping with Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Baptists.

At fourteen, I joined the Mormon church, was baptized, I even planned on going on a mission. All of that, along with my connections to Christianity, as a whole, was derailed by some personal and philosophical issues, most relevant of those being my discovery of the fact that church attendees of African descent were not offered full membership until 1978. For a denomination that claimed to be a perfect extension of the Christian church as established by Peter after the execution of Jesus, that choice was obviously less than perfect.

The second thing you need to know is that I was very devout. The thirst for knowledge I have today was compounded by that devoutness. I studied plenty of scripture and had numerous in-depth conversations with church elders, particularly on the always fascinating topic of the End of Times. Now that I have established some credentials, let’s discuss Armageddon!

It’s important to understand that that the term antichrist, like pseudochrist, is used throughout the new testament, and generally refers to false prophets of any kind. It’s not until we get to Revelations where we see references about one individual Antichrist. However, that term is never used. Antichrist is often conflated with the notorious Beast of Revelations, where he is considered a false prophet (pseudochristos). Technically, Revelations reveals two beasts, one from the sea and one from the earth. It’s the second one, the Beast from the Earth, that’s most consistently connected with the Antichrist as it’s the one that is labeled as a false prophet. Its purpose is to get the rest of humanity to worship the Beast from the Sea.

I’m not going to dive into a bunch of scripture, here. Scripture is open to much interpretation, and that’s not what this post is about. However, one thing I have heard consistently is that this false prophet will easily gain the trust of many who consider themselves faithful. Now, I think we can agree that neither Obama or Clinton ever got the endorsement of those claiming to be the most devout Christians, the ones so invested in their Christianity that they believe it should be the state religion, the so-called evangelicals. But you know who did? Don Presidente, himself!

I can’t be the only one who finds it bizarre that a man of such poor moral character—a bigot, a materialist, a philanderer, a misogynist, a self-professed serial sexual abuser—was able to get the endorsement of the very same people that continuously faulted liberals and progressives as godless and immoral. I mean, we’re talking about a man who is guilty of almost all seven of the Deadly Sins—lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, envy and pride! Sloth is the only one not on the list, but come on. You can’t possibly be guilty of sloth when you’re too busy committing all the rest of the sins!

I'm left to wonder how the irony escapes these people who claim to be so moral and devout, so certain about what it means to be Christian and worship Abrahams’ god.

I have some ideas. The main one has to do the greed, a sin most share with The Hate Pumpkin. Many of the alleged Men of God that endorsed this foulest of beasts for president are promoters of prosperity gospel, the idea that God wants us to become rich. All we need is enough faith. We show that faith by helping to keep the 
preachers' coffers full! Eventually, what we give will come back to us, manifold. The vast majority of the time, though, the only wealth actually gained is by the people preaching at the pulpit. The rest of us dump all of our disposable income only to see it go to the preachers' cars, mansions, even planes that they “need” to continue spreading the word of God.

Sure, we see the occasional success story, exploited to keep us believing, keep us donating. But it’s little more than buying holy lottery tickets. At least the money we can win from playing the lottery is guaranteed!

The other reason has to do with the fact that the religious right has basically become a one cause cult—abortion. The other battles have either been lost (LGBTQ rights), or minimized due to a lack of plausibility (Evolution). Sure, they’re still interested in recreating the U.S. as a theocracy, but most of their energy, of late, has been focused on ending reproductive rights. They took it on faith that Don Presidente will be on their side. They certainly can’t take him at his word, since his words on the matter have been all over the place.

And let’s not forget Mike Pence. While Don Presidente had problems establishing his Jesus loving credentials—we’re talking about a man who didn’t even know how to pronounce Second Corinthians—Pence’s Christian Right creds were never in doubt. As a matter of fact, it would make more sense, if you insist on conflating politics with apocalyptic religious beliefs, that Pence himself is one of the Beasts. His endorsement and promotion of his boss fits him snugly into the role of The Beast of the Earth. Granted, if the Orange Beast gets (gods forbid!) two terms, he will most likely will be campaigning for Pence’s elevation to POTUS. Would that make Don Presidente The Beast of the Earth?

Again, I’m no longer a Christian. I now see Revelations as the words of some mad prophet, no different than what we got from the likes of Nostradamus or Aleister Crowley. They all spoke, to some degree, in metaphors. Metaphors can be hard to decipher, especially if you only see things in their most literal sense. I’m not trying to ascribe Antichrist status on anyone. My point is that it’s unfair to label anyone as The Antichrist, especially with no actual evidence to support such a blatantly flawed accusation.

Part of the reason we find ourselves where we are in American history is because all of this labeling has gone too far. Too many of us find it easier to stifle debate by slapping those we disagree with labels rather than have to consider we could be wrong. “I don’t have to listen to what that person is saying. They’re just another libtard/rethuglican/insert insulting label of choice.” Or we attack those they support with those labels, or worse. 

If we can't put a stop to this, we will keep being pitted against one another by those who really pull the strings. We will continue to be too distracted fighting each other to notice when there are real abuses of power being perpetrated. We will be too disunited to fight the real threats to democracy.

In the end, it’s not the mythical Devil of The Bible we have to fear. In the end, what will truly destroy us is a devil of our own design. As Oscar Wilde once wrote, “We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

5.2 From Russia with Love

When I was in middle school, Russia was still the Red Menace. One of my Social Studies teachers basically described the Soviet Union as a third-world country, it’s citizens all starving and grungy. Glasnost, Russia’s transition to a more democratic system, began while I was still in high school, so it wasn’t long before the truth became more apparent, to me. However, many folks who had lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation, for longer than I had, continued to harbor at least suspicions of Russia’s intentions toward us and the rest of the world.

When Vladimir Putin became president in 1999, an office he inherited following the resignation of Boris Yeltsin, those worries were suddenly valid again. After all, we were talking about a former KGB spy who was good enough to rise fairly quickly up the ranks. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin continued to rise, until he ended up running the FSB, what the KGB eventually turned into. It wasn’t long before Yeltsin tapped him to be his successor, and he essentially got to run as the incumbent when Yeltsin quit. Putin has managed to hold onto power ever since, in influence, if not directly in name.

So, what has Russia become over the past seventeen years?

They’ve pretty much become the world’s bully. They’ve clamped down on their press. They’ve invaded and annexed land from former soviet countries that don’t agree with their policies. They jailed, killed or disappeared those who oppose Putin or his policies. They’ve used their veto power in the UN Security Council to block efforts at stability or peace, or to stop consensus on actions against Human Rights violations against countries they are allied with, or have plans to do so. Their own Human Rights record is tainted, particularly in their overt disdain for LGBTQ rights. And if the FBI and all of our intelligence agencies are to be believed, they interfered in our election by having DNC servers hacked and distributing stolen emails, many with their own propagandist’s spin, in an attempt to sway the election.

Yes, I’m saying it was an attempt to sway the results of our most recent Presidential Election. Why else do it? For shits & giggles? I don’t think so. Whether Putin and his cronies achieved the desired effect may be debatable, until we learn more, but this was definitely more than an attempt to sow chaos. Several of Don Presidente’s own words and choices, as well as recent history, make that very obvious.

While the connections between the incoming administration

are numerous, let me focus on just a few. We are all aware of Il Douche’s admiration of Putin. That’s well documented, even in his own words. It’s no coincidence that Putin’s rise to power was orchestrated around increased law and order, ending corruption, draining the swamp of the oligarchs that threatened to destroy the country, fighting the Muslim Terrorist Threat from Chechnyaa region of Russia that was fighting for independence, and regaining the power on the world stage they had lost when the Soviet Union fell apart. Basically, Putin grabbed the reins by promising to Make Russia Great Again. How could Chump not have anything but affection for the man who wrote the playbook he would use to become the most powerful person in the world, himself?

What is not as well documented are the financial connections between his Organization and Russia. There are rumors that, when his repeated bankruptcies made it hard for him to borrow money in the U.S., he turned to Russian banks for financing. Of course, these will remain only rumors while he refuses to release his tax returns.
One thing that is widely known is the connection between his choice for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and Russia. Most of us know about the buddy-buddy relationship between Tillerson and Putin. They’ve been working together since the Yeltsin days. Tillerson was even awarded the Order of Friendship by Putin! But it goes deeper than that. Their story actually tells us a lot about why this alliance is forming.

Tillerson was practically Exxon’s ambassador to Russia. Through him, they engineered hundreds of billions of dollars worth of projects, many extending out into the Arctic Circle, an area we have, so far, managed to keep ourselves from exploiting. After Russia’s intervention in areas of the Ukraineretribution for the 2014 Revolution, where the people rose up against pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, forcing his removalwe imposed sanctions that ground that deal to a halt. Russia’s deal. Exxon’s deal. A big, fucking deal!

We all know Don Presidente’s feelings about climate change. It’s a hoax, perpetrated by China. It’s also a boon to anyone who wants to drill in the Arctic.

With a picture this clear, it strikes me as dumbfounding to see

the abrupt shift among many towards Russia and its intentions. We’re now supposed to trust a man whose intentions are obvious, if you know where to look? His aggressions against his neighbors show he intends to rebuild Russia’s empire, by whatever means necessary. His political manipulations show he intends to stay in power for as long as he can manage it. His willingness to continue tapping oil despite a lack of demand shows he intends to enrich himself and his friends, not his people. His intervention in our politics show he intends to manipulate the American people for his own gains.

What does all that say about Don Presidente and his intentions?

Feel free to draw your own conclusions, but the evidence is pretty damning. If we’re going to survive the Trumpocalypse, we need to be clear about what that man is doing while he’s in office. We need to be clear about why he’s doing it? Knowing what you’re fighting against is essential if you plan on winning.


As of the initial publication of this post, Obama has announced sanctions against the Russians for their interference, namely an expulsion of 35 Russian intelligence operatives, as well as the shutdown of two Russian compound in the U.S.

House Speaker Paul Ryan showed his support for the new sanctions, stating that “Russia does not share America’s interests. In fact, it has consistently sought to undermine them, sowing dangerous instability around the world.”

Former Republican maverick, Senator John McCain issued a joint statement with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham saying, "The retaliatory measures announced by the Obama administration today are long overdue. But ultimately, they are a small price for Russia to pay for its brazen attack on American democracy. We intend to lead the effort in the new Congress to impose stronger sanctions on Russia."

And how did our soon to be feckless leader respond? Basically with a basic nothing to see here; move along. So, as long as the results are what he wanted, he just doesn't give a fuck. Spy as thou will! Apparently, he does care about Putin's response to the sanctions, though.

When Putin decided not to retaliate, he praised him, yet again:

Image result for obama sanctions russia trump response tweet
Of course, it makes perfect sense, especially if you consider he will likely remove all American sanctions against Russia. Putin doesn't have to retaliate. He can pretend to be rising above it all, knowing Obama's sanctions will have no lasting effect. Meanwhile, the man that's supposed to lead this country will only lead us to nothing more than some very dark days. It looks like most of his time in office will be spent leading big bucks into his own pockets, as well as those of his richest friends.


"While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election, including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines."
What I find interesting his downplaying of what Russia did by adding other countries not in the report into the conversation. Also, there was no investigation of any tampering of voting machines, nor a look at the effect the hacking and the subsequent distribution of the pilfered emails and the misinformation campaign.

What does that tell us. While trying to save face under the weight of incontrovertible evidence, by adding elements he knows nothing about, he's still trying to salvage his relationship with Putin. So basically, Don Presidente is bought and paid for.


While finally admitting Russian involvement in the DNC hack (despite downplaying it), Chump denies being blackmailed by Putin. More on the incriminating document, in the upcoming Master of Puppets.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

4.0 Rainbow in the Dark

By now, you may have realized my entries for this blog are titled after songs. You may have also noticed I also add a video of some version of the song at the bottom of each post. The choice to do this was pretty much by chance. Each song was intended to promote the ideas behind, or the inspiration for the entry. In a perfect world, the video would autoplay as you began reading it's corresponding entry to add to the experience. As we all know, of course, this is far from a perfect world.

Lately, Dio's been on my mind, a lot. Maybe it's because it's coming up on the seventh year anniversary of lead singer Ronnie James Dio's death. Maybe it's just because Dio was the first band I paid to go see in the mid 80s. But Dio had a few hits back in its day. Why is this the one earworm I haven't been able to shake?

I'm not particularly religious, but I do have what some might claim is an irrational belief in signs. Recently, it felt like the signs all starting to come together. 

  I learned of the man who went to a restaurant in D.C. and
opened fire, demanding to get answers for a story he'd read. It turns out he'd read a fake news story about the owners of that business running a child sex ring from the restaurant with the help of Hillary Clinton and her former campaign chairman, John Podesta.

The only thing linking this story to any semblance of truth was, according to some of the hacked emails posted by Wikileaks, that Podesta organized a fundraiser there for HRC's campaign, and that the general manager who exchanged emails with Podesta to plan the event was connected to the founder of Media Matters. They had exchanged emails, some of which were worded weirdly. Sprinkle in to this some supposedly secret code based on food products, from 4chan of all places, try to pass that off as evidence, & viola, a conspiracy is born!

It's a frightening reminder of how easily a benign situation can be twisted into some dark conspiracy, a sobering reminder of how quickly these stories can be spread and believed, and a sad reminder of how some people, perceiving injustices that never existed, are willing to risk the lives of innocents in foolhardy attempts at meting out justice on their own. Thankfully, no one was hurt, this time. But I hope we can all understand the danger.

Not as dangerous, but just as troubling in some ways, I came across a meme posted on Facebook with an image of some unknown man, face riddled with piercings, chomping on a cigar. It offered a simple caption: describe him with one word. One of my so-called conservative friends who had posted it chose Democrat. The following responses were demented, unemployable, overdone, and welfare. I was bothered by the lack of context provided with the picture, so I called it as I saw it: propaganda.

My caption, just as viable as any other considering the lack of context, raised some questions, and apparently irritated some. I politely pointed out that, because of that lack of context, anything anyone was saying was purely based on their own internal biases as there was nothing in the photo that provided any real connection to their captions.

There was no way to know if these were tribal adornments, or that the man was an artist or musician, or even employed by a tattoo & piercing parlor, making him a walking billboard for his business. There was no way to tell that the man was even American. Therefore, like Don Presidente himself, the man in the picture served as a cipher, someone upon which others could project their own hopes and aspirations, or their fears and hatred. To me, it appeared that the post was simply a bunch of people shouting at the shadows in their own head.

Then came the song, again:

When there's lightning,
you know it always brings me down
'cause it's free and I see that it's me
Who's lost and never found
I cry out for magic, I feel it dancing in the light
It was cold, I lost my hold
To the shadows of the night

No sign of the morning coming
You've been left on your own
Like a rainbow in the dark...

Do your demons, do they ever let you go?
When you've tried, do they hide, deep inside
Is it someone that you know
You're just a picture, you're an image caught in time
We're a lie, you and I
We're words without a rhyme

There's no sign of the morning coming
You've been left on your own
Like a rainbow in the dark

 It dawned on me. One interpretation of the song could be that it speaks about those of us addicted to darkness. It's quite apparent that there are people who live in their own darkness, rainbows that are stuck in the shadows that haunt their minds. Rainbows can't thrive in the dark. Technically, they can't even exist there.

How do we reach them? How do we pull these rainbows out into the light? They don't trust politicians, media, or anyone who's not already a member of their own deafening echo chambers. They don't even trust logic. We may not be so lucky with the next armed, misinformed, misguided fool looking to take the law into his own hands. Not to mention, we need them to be able to determine fact from fiction, news from propaganda, in order for them to join the fight. It doesn't make it easier that Don Presidente knows just how to tap that darkness to feed them the information that helps his own causes. After all, this man began his campaign by espousing one of those theories, in particular, the idea that President Obama was not born in the U.S.

I wish I had all the answers, but sometimes, knowing the right questions to ask is just as important. I am learning what not to do. Insulting them or dismissing them as crazy or stupid doesn't work. All it does is drive them further into their black caves and take us off the hook for having to keep trying to reach them. You can't fight darkness with darkness. That only feeds it.

Personally, I will continue to reach out to my friends who are stuck in this deep pit. I will keep sharing my own light, along with the truths they may refuse to see for the time being. If things get as bad as I hope they don't, they will eventually want out. They'll be ready to shine, again. They'll be ready to take on the fight with us. I'll hang around as long as I need to, just in case they need a hand.