…And He is Us

You know how in the thriller movies, you’ll have a disaster situation brewing because of some evil figure secretly plotting the destruction of the Western world?  Like in James Bond you have SPECTER, or with Superman you got your Lex Luthor?

In these movies the “established order” always comes around to save the day, even if it looked shaky or damaged or a little bit corrupt at the start. Because in the movies, even if they focus on a super-hero (or super spy), it’s “human values” that win in the end, even against the most powerful of evil forces. Because in our American mythology, good may suffer setbacks, but eventually – with the faith of its believers – good triumphs over evil.

But those are movies. How does that work when the ones plotting the destruction of America are also in charge of America? Who will be the “forces of good” that come to the rescue when the American people themselves have, by their votes, elected would-be  destroyers of all things good to lead the country?

In this non-movie I call “reality”, every tenet of democracy that Americans hold dear is under attack – the Constitution, the rule of law, equality under the law, civilian control of the military, national security, an independent judiciary and a free press. But those who we would call to action to defend us? Our representatives in Congress? Yeah they are also the ones attacking our freedoms, as you have guessed by now.

But it’s worse than that. The Trump administration “officials” [sic] and their toadies in Congress who are currently going ahead with their vow to “deconstruct the administrative state” also have the support of nearly half the electorate. So even though it’s plain for all to see that this administration (when not lining its pockets with taxpayer cash) is mainly about the destruction of bedrock Western ideals as espoused in the Constitution, the problem for those who see it is that about half the country refuses to look. They are too elated about “winning” – i.e., the fact that the democratic process was undermined and perverted enough in 2016 to allow a DNA sequencing error like Donald Trump and his amoral billionaire “friends” [sic] to be put “in charge” [sic] of the country.  They are too busy enjoying the tears of their vanquished “enemies” (i.e., their fellow Americans) to be concerned about what it is, actually, that their president is up to.

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Resist

Let me be crystal sparkling clear:

I have little use for partisan bickering and the “team sports” of American politics. My observations on the impending destruction of this democratic republic are not “whining” by the losing team (I’m not a Democrat). I have no personal issue with modern Republicans, only my profound disagreement with their Ayn Rand-inspired policies (that particular Russian hypocrite once praised a serial killer’s “strength of will,” you know, but ended up living on Social Security). I also find the lack of civility many in the GOP demonstrate in the political arena to be tawdry, immature, and a barrier to progress (and this goes for some Democrats too).

What I am now radicalized to fight against—yes, fight—is not “Republicans” but the white nationalist insurgency that hijacked that damaged and fractious political party in order to install a neophyte authoritarian narcissist bigot in the White House. What I am against is this same group’s acceptance—even encouragement—of a hostile foreign power inserting itself into what is supposed to be a free and fair democratic election. No matter Putin’s exact level of involvement or success, the mere fact of this blatant incursion by a global adversary, a former totalitarian state (and now a plutocracy/kleptocracy) run by an ex-KGB dictator who despises Western democracy—my God, this should be a blaring siren to highly placed officials who are entrusted to protect this society from those who seek to damage or co-opt it. But what do these incoming “leaders” and their admirers in Congress do instead? They dismiss the facts, they obfuscate, they lie, they deny, and they wait.

They are waiting for the last honorable person to leave Washington in disgust—to leave the keys of the capital city’s vault of treasures unguarded and all of us peasants unprotected by the rule of law.

What I also deplore is the normalization of bigotry, patriarchal misogyny, hate-based polices, and plutocracy run amok.

My position has nothing to do with “politics” and everything to do with fairness, freedom, truth, and honor. All of these principles are on the table now, because just enough Americans (nowhere near a majority or even a plurality, but enough) voted against them in November.

I just want to be honest about this. Clear lines are now drawn, and they have nothing to do with politics, personalities or political parties. I don’t want rebuttals or explanations or anything else from those who support lies, dishonor and infamy. I don’t want to hear from tiresome relativist cynics and closet anarchists about how politicians are “all the same” or “there’s nothing anyone can do” or any such self-deluding “I know the secret truth about the world” nonsense. I read widely and a lot, so I’ve heard it. Whatever a Sophist might say, the facts have emerged and are clearly plain to see. They are staring us in the face, with a sick and twisted grimace that openly mocks the good that’s left in this world. We see it because for now, large portions of our free press are still free, and still working. It will be a free press that helps us find our way—or at least those of us who value that freedom. And all the others.

Hate is for Haters

I don’t hate anyone. I’ll leave that to Trump supporters screaming “BUILD THAT WALL!” and “LOCK HER UP!” Notice I didn’t say Trump, but Trump supporters. As they are now learning (perhaps – it’s not a habit for them), none of that is going to happen. They were conned, in one of the most elaborate yet also one of the most simplistic cons in history. According to Trump himself and his closest aides:

  • There will be no wall.
  • Trump: “The Clintons are good people.” So no, she won’t be locked up. I mean, on what charge?
  • “Criminal” (felonious) aliens MAY be deported. But that’s already standing policy. We’ll see if they dedicate the resources.
  • Trump: “Marriage equality is the law of the land, we can’t change that.”
  • Trump’s transition team is chock full of Washington insiders, GOP establishment figures, lobbyists, and other assorted “elites”. Call it revenge of the swamp creatures.

And so on. Sometimes, though, it takes a simpleton to know a simpleton. Trump may be ignorant (he has said himself that he has never read history), but he’s smart in a way that your standard con man is smart – he “knows people”, he says, and he really does. He knows what motivates the least thoughtful of people – hatred and a desire for revenge against those who have “kept them down.” It’s the populist answer to the problems of the poor since the advent of populism: Someone is grabbing all the money you deserve. There can be no other (complex) answer.

As Trump himself famously said, channeling P.T. Barnum: “I love the poorly educated.”

I saw it early on, but the press seems to have missed it. Trump’s campaign was a WWE match writ large, a massive long-term pre-bout trash talk. Say anything! Say you’re going to kill your opponent, mash them into dust! Because The Undertaker is evil, folks, he’s evil! He wants to eat your puppies, I tell you, I know this! And so on. So used to getting riled up about Steve Austin or Dandy Dan or whoever, these same crowds were ripe to explode in a mushroom cloud of hate for….for who? Who do we hate, Donald? Who’s doing this to us?

Donald had two answers, both deftly crafted to lay his path to victory: 1 – Hate the elites. They’re keeping you down. They’re stealing all the money, they rig all the elections – they are making fools of you. To this end, he made a tool of the press corps by “caging” them at his events, then directing the crowd to spew their hatred at these fancy-pants elitists with their nice clothes and expensive haircuts. And 2 – who is the most elite of the elites? Hillary Clinton, of course. She can commit crimes at will – she murdered Vince Foster after all! – and she walks away Scott free. Just like Bill and his serial sexual assaults (note: none proven). She sold out the brave Americans at Benghazi – it’s in the emails! – but you won’t see her prosecuted, because the whole system is rigged.

Donald could not have been more surprised – and elated – when FBI director James Comey swept in during the last week of the election and raised the specter of “treasonous emails” once again, mere days before the election, in violation of Justice Department policy not to tilt the election with hearsay or conjecture (and possibly in violation of the Hatch Act – but law is relative now, as the Senate showed us by ignoring its duty under the Constitution to hold hearings on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee).  But the real clincher came on election eve, when Comey again violated the protocols of his office and said that – whoops – those emails are OK, they don’t implicate Clinton after all. Never mind.

Could Trump have asked for a more spot-on indictment of the “rigged” system and the untouchable elites? Trump was quick to exploit this news, asking his now-rabid crowds (who were anticipating “the steal”) “how could they have possibly gone through 650,000 emails in a few days? Rigged, folks, all rigged.”

Of course, modern computing resources can search 650,000 emails for numerous sets of keywords (such as “Hillary Clinton”) in minutes, even seconds. But of course Trump supporters in Appalachia (and Western Nebraska) don’t know that, don’t understand that. But Trump knew all too well what these people don’t understand.

I’ll leave a smaller but significant portion of the hatred to anarchists and extremist faux liberals, who also got caught up in the baseless anti-Hillary, anti “rigged establishment” hysteria, people like Susan Sarandon and assorted Bernie Sanders fanatics dripping with white privilege – some of these being former Facebook “friends” of mine. They at least should have the critical thinking skills necessary to put 2 and 2 together to get 4. To wit: if the system was rigged by the “crooked” Bernie-hating DNC, why didn’t Hillary win?

I did not unfriend the haters  because I hate them, or even dislike them. As I said, I’m unfamiliar with hate as an emotion. I’m like Spock on that one. I understand myself, and therefore I know that to hate them is to hate something in me, not in them – motivations of baseless hate are due to some deficiency of empathy, a kind of personality disorder – an inability to see the world through the eyes of those fellow humans considered “others” – not “one of us” (and probably born in Kenya – that birth certificate is phony).

I unfriended them  for the simple reason that I am no friend to haters, and it’s better to be honest about that. I have nothing in common with these people. I don’t base judgments on hate, and I’m not a fanatic blind to facts that don’t fit my preconceived, hate-based agenda. I have to believe they would not want me as a friend either, because I won’t – I will never – just “accept” the fact that the voters of this country put a self-avowed sexual predator in the White House.  A man who cheated on each wife with the next one, who has said it’s time to “trade up” when a wife hits age 35. A man who defrauded the ignorant at “Trump University”,  who cheats his business partners, who stiffs his contractors, and who brags about all of it. A man who mocks the disabled, who got angry at a baby, who is obsessed with demeaning women while simultaneously horrified at their bodily fluids (or their “whatever”).

They elected to lead them a man with no honor, no compassion, no empathy – a man who is no man at all.

I’ve been thinking of my father. He was not from privilege, he was a child of immigrants’ children, one of nine.  His parents had accents. Like all of us, my dad had his faults. But he also had honor, and grit, and perseverance. There was no money for college, so he worked hard and got an appointment to West Point. He graduated (most drop out) and was soon serving two tours of duty in Vietnam, where he watched his classmates die in a war he had no stake in. But it wasn’t about him. It was about something higher, a higher honor he had dedicated his life to preserving. It was about the motto of West Point – “Duty. Honor. Country.”

My father did not teach me that much – I’m sure he figured I’d be tougher after sorting  life out on my own, making my mistakes. And I’ve made plenty. But I remember one thing he taught me: that honor is worth preserving. That a man with no honor is not a man at all. That the only ones less deserving of consideration than a dishonorable man are those who would blindly follow him.

So I know I’m a Facebook nobody (now even more so) and I like it fine that way. I have no brand to build, and ironically, perhaps, some of my best friends want nothing to do with Facebook for reasons I’m understanding more each day. I don’t “count” friends, I count “on” them. Would I ever count on someone who based their most precious instrument in this democracy – their vote – on hatred or a desire for witless anarchy? No. Do I want anything to do with them? No. I do not wish them ill – I do not want to think of them at all.

Don Draper for President

Probably, a last-gasp vote for the storied patriarchy, for white hegemony, for quiet women and minorities doing tasks in the background of a tidy Don Draper Westchester County picket fence world – that probably sounds like the right thing to do to confused people pining for the myths of the ultra-white 1950s (or afraid of the colorful 2000s and beyond).

This, and 25+ years of anti-Clinton propaganda,  allow some to simply “not see” the one they will be voting for – he does not really exist – because in their minds, they are only voting “against”: against “corrupt” Clintons, against science that instructs us to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, against minorities gaining status and equal standing under the law, against tolerance for differing belief systems (or lack thereof) and different cultures, against women empowering themselves to make their own decisions about their bodies and their futures.

I’ve tried to ask anti-Clinton zealots why they want an authoritarian megalomaniac Putin-stooge misogynist pussy-grabbing fool to be president, and I’ve finally come to realize they don’t. They don’t want him, they won’t even talk about the deeply pathetic man they will vote for, or worse, they claim with great lameness and audacious ignorance that “it doesn’t matter” because “they’re both the same.” They simply are so irrationally fearful of the Clintons, minorities, gay people, and empowered women they would vote for a bag of dicks rather than permit the inevitably diverse future to  unfold.

And that is what they will do.

Time Out for a Rant on Hypocrisy

Can I complain for just a sec? I am sooo tired of hypocrisy being practiced right out in the open. It’s everywhere, but my best case in point has to be the Senate members who have said for several months that they must abrogate their constitutional duty to “advise and consent” on the president’s Supreme Court nominee. Why? Well, because they are looking out for “the people,” that’s why. They say “the people” should have an opportunity to weigh in on the next member of the Supreme Court via the November election. So since Obama only had about a YEAR left in office, his Supreme Court pick would be ignored.

OH, but wait. Now they are saying that maaaaaaaaaybe we should consider Obama’s SCOTUS pick if and when Clinton wins the election.

Because “the people”…wait. If “the people” pick Clinton, by the Senators’ stated logic, shouldn’t SHE make the choice? Yeah….no. Why? “She will not pick the way we want.”

It would have been so much simpler, and honest, if they had said this back when Scalia died and Obama made his choice: “We are going to ignore the Constitution because it’s annoying and it does not serve our needs at present to honor its dictates. However, if our candidate loses the election, we will then hold a vote on  Obama’s choice in November because that serves our interest. And in case this gets you wondering, we can clarify right here that we don’t give a rat’s ass what ‘the people’ want.”

The Fallacy of False Equivalency

A while back I posted a Facebook picture of my wife and me at an inauguration event from 2008, saying this was the only “political” post you’d see from me until November. I think I’ve stuck by that. My posts regarding the bizarre proposals and threats offered by the GOP nominee are not political, they are warnings about the consequences of allowing fascism to take hold of a fearful and uncertain populace (whose fears and uncertainties are ironically exacerbated by the “law and order” candidate’s disdain for actual law and order).

But I have been frankly amazed at the contortions of logic being offered by those who see the election as more or less equivalent choices between two “nearly equally evil” candidates and, if one is to follow this logic, nearly equally “evil” outcomes should one or the other be elected.

I know this position to be baseless, and yet seemingly sincere individuals offer up this false equivalency as if I should accept such a glaring fallacy at face value. “Well,” so many people say, “Trump is terrible but Clinton is not much better.” Wrong. And I can prove it.

We’ve all seen the vast catalog of differences we are either voting for, or against, the differences that sophists and sour grapes types (and just plain ignorant people) would have you ignore because “choosing the lesser of two evils means we have already lost.” Wrong again, especially when there has been no proof of any “evil” actions or intent from candidate Clinton. For all the bluster and fake (i.e. political or apolitical/anarchist) umbrage spewing from the haters of all things organized and connected and global, they cannot offer a single piece of evidence linking Hillary Clinton to an actual crime.

False Equivalency – The Commercial Angle

Pundits with various political motivations for getting us to believe in a particular reality are relatively easy to spot. I think it’s important to point out the role of the press, and especially the new “social media” press, in helping generate this regrettably common notion, this false equivalency. It helps to employ critical thinking, healthy skepticism, and logical deduction when attempting to ascertain the source of what we consider to be “knowledge.” If we “know” something, from whom did we learn it? How reliable is that source of information? What is THEIR motivation in publishing the information? What do they gain if we buy their version of the truth, if we “believe” it?

If we don’t ask these questions, we risk becoming “vessels” for propoganda that has only a glancing relation (if any) to the truth. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that every single media source out there (including, and especially, slapped-up social media “news” sites) is a business, competing with other media for your attention and for the ability to influence the societal debate. Well, there’s no more compelling topic to Americans these days than a presidential election, unless it’s an “historic” presidential election. (Probably used to be boxing title fights, but times change). And there’s no bigger turn-off to potential consumers of media than a “non-story”, a done deal, a cake walk, yesterday’s news. In other words, the presidential election MUST be a horse race, and it MUST be neck-and-neck, or people will tune out the news media and go back to their first loves: American Idol, Netflix, and Facebook LOL cats.

So what is the media to do when one candidate is a traditional, qualified, highly educated, highly experienced former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, while the other is a crass, bigoted, ignorant reality TV star with exactly zero experience in government and zero commitment to public service?

You crank up the false equivalency machine, of course. You magnify the problems and potential disasters facing the “good” candidate, to the point that she starts to look as “bad” as the unequivocally “bad” candidate. You make what are essentially overprotective office management blunders (based on legitimate fear of domestic enemies) look like treason, while the other candidate engages in treason – actually requests a foreign power to commit criminal espionage against the U.S. State Department.

Her Convictions are Criminal?

Her “real” crime? Being in politics for her entire life and “playing the capitalist game” because – brace yourself – she’s been a government official in a country with a capitalist economy. So..lock her up for conducting foreign policy according to the President’s direction? Lock her up for changing her views on public issues from time to time, or for engaging in common political hyperbole, over a decades-long career? Lock her up for being the Senator from New York? Lock her up for Bill Clinton’s approval of a Senate crime bill in the 1990s? Lock her up for foreign policy missteps and failures that every administration and every Secretary of State experiences in an unpredictable and violent world? Lock her up for being a hawkish neoliberal? Lock her up for accepting speaking fees as a private citizen? Lock her up for her choice of friends? Lock her up for favoring her own candidacy over that of her primary opponent?

We’d have to lock up the majority of politicians for such “crimes.” Yet her opponent is breaking the law at this very moment – right now, soliciting campaign contributions from foreign nationals, which is illegal. It is happening right now. Is that just cute or something?

Compare and Contrast – For Real

Here’s just a few of the glaring, incredibly consequential differences others refuse to acknowledge or would have you dismiss as irrelevant:

Trump: “If I don’t win in November, it will be because they rigged the election.” This is perhaps the most dangerous thing any U.S. presidential candidate has said, ever. It is on the heels of his primary promise that there will be “riots” at the convention if delegates tried to challenge his nomination. It worked for the convention. But if Clinton wins the election (which Trump seems to be acknowledging here as the most likely scenario), he is basically calling for civil disobedience, for an uprising against an imagined criminal conspiracy. In the very, very likely event that he loses, he is signaling his white supremacist supporters to bring on a national calamity as retribution for his loss. At the very least this type of rhetoric (coming off the “Lock her up” theme of the convention) seeks to delegitimize a Clinton presidency before voters can even go to the polls. This, like so many of Trump’s insane statements, is unprecedented and indefensibly dangerous rhetoric.

Hillary has never tried to foment widespread unrest and violence in the event she loses. I’m guessing she’ll skip the “it’s all rigged” tactic as well – you know, since she’s running to be president of a democracy.

Trump: “They will follow my orders.” This is his response to a question from a reporter, referencing Trump’s promise to have the military “take out” the families of terrorists. To order summary executions would be an unlawful order, the reporter says, so how would Trump achieve this? His answer is a clear indication that he has no intention of obeying the law once elected.

Hillary has never proposed a policy that includes illegally targeting the families of terror suspects for summary execution.

Trump: “Ban all Muslims from entry into the U.S….monitor the mosques.”

Hillary is not proposing immigration bans and widespread surveillance of citizens based solely on religion, acts that would violate the Constitution.

Trump – to the Russians: “Please find the missing State Department e-mails.”

Hillary has not requested a foreign power to commit crimes of espionage against the United States in order to help her win an election.

Trump: “If Ivanka were not my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Hillary has never, to my knowledge, publicly mused about having a romantic relationship with daughter Chelsea.

Trump: No government experience whatsoever; no military service (draft deferments) or public service whatsoever; never elected to any office, ever. No evidence of any organizational or strategic aptitude whatsoever (trust fund/multiple bankruptcies). Extremely limited and self-deluded knowledge of world events (“I saw the Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on 7-11”), world leaders (will learn the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas “when it’s appropriate”), foreign nations’ priorities (praising the Brexit vote in Scotland, where it lost by a huge margin), and of course the U.S. Constitution.

As a recent Secretary of State, Clinton is fully aware of both world affairs and the priorities of world leaders. As an attorney and former U.S. Senator, she is likely familiar with the Constitution.

I could keep going on and on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. The notion that there’s “no difference” between these candidates is beyond laughable. It’s patently absurd.

Fear and Loathing (and Incompetence) in Cleveland

2011_09_07_Emmanuel GoldsteinThe plagiarism charge is really not a big deal, nobody expects that someone like Melania (or even Michelle) would actually write their convention speech. The larger observation is that the campaign should not look slipshod and half-assed, but it does—and is. The campaign and the convention are supposed to be evidence that the candidate has the chops to organize a team, to head up a large group of people with various functions, and to keep them all on task and on message (and that includes the candidate himself). It’s an application for the job of president. It is the candidate’s and the party’s one shot to seriously address issues that people outside their angry white working class base care about (i.e. issues other than Hillary’s ties to Lucifer Prince of Darkness).

They have blown that chance to broaden their appeal in favor of a series of ad hominem attacks and open fear/hate-mongering, with WWE theatrics thrown in for effect. Whatever you want to call them, the GOP campaign and convention are not serious or grounded in reality. No organizational rigor or collective messaging, no coordinated message at all except “Lock her up”. (Yes, the frenzied delegates eat up the hate and fear and Clinton revenge fantasies – but there won’t be millions of hand-picked convention delegates available to vote in the general.) No serious discussion of real domestic and international issues, just “terrorists want to kill you and Democrats want to let them” nonsense. No serious foreign policy positions on trade, Syria, Russia, Israel, China, Iraq, Iran, Europe, NATO or anything else. No serious domestic policy positions on race relations, policing, women’s rights, immigration (except the fantasy “wall”), fiscal policies/taxes, corporate malfeasance, federal regulations, states’ rights, climate change, or anything else.

The speech by Ted Cruz was one of the most telling moments. The candidate’s team knew Cruz would not endorse, knew he would generate the kind of frenzied hate-filled chaos that in fact did characterize his self-serving “see you in 2020” speech. Campaign operatives were seen to be whipping up the ‘boos’ from the back of the hall, trying to fan the flames. Ted Cruz is, obviously, the campaign stand in for “The Undertaker” (or take your pick of WWE villains), his role to be the evil contrast to the candidate’s “Macho Man Randy Savage” goodness. You know, in the ring.

The Cleveland event is shaping up to be what we should have expected – a transparently amateurish reality show based on crass Hulk Hogan-style fake pageantry and cartoonish good vs. evil fantasy. A megalomaniacal, narcissistic, willfully ignorant display of white tribal hegemony, combined with a nearly fact-free hate-in against the evil “other”. A denial of this country’s growing diversity and pluralism, and a denial of the complex realities that shape the rest of the world in favor of the tired populist mantra of “Don’t worry, I’ll fix it all because I’m so strong”. A WWE-scripted make-believe machismo devoid of seriousness, evidence-based truth, analysis, insight, logic or even basic human decency.