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.”