The Trickster and the Fool

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It’s disheartening to see the U.S. – North Korea kabuki theater performed again and again, always to the advantage of the Kim dynasty and the disadvantage of the West. The dictatorship has one unerring talent: the ability to fool American presidents into playing their zero-sum game. It starts with the rhetoric – bombast hurled at the new U.S. leader in hopes it will be returned (worked like a charm this time around). Then the nuclear brinkmanship (the reason for NK’s program being diplomatic leverage), and the ensuing worldwide panic, followed by the “high level” talks that pull all threatened parties into the mix (China, South Korea, Japan, etc.). The cumulative effect of these actions and their media-grabbing headlines is the only one the Kim dynasty is interested in, namely worldwide recognition of the power, legitimacy and importance of the North Korean regime.

But Kim, like the American president, is playing mostly to a domestic audience. The message? “It would be dangerous to remove me during this (never-ending) crisis.”

Americans should (but probably don’t) remember that this all played out previously, in 1994 under the Clinton administration and later between 2006 – 2007, as the Bush administration announced a “path to normalization” with Pyongyang. For both “agreements” North Korea had agreed to demolish its nuclear development facilities (!) and in the 2007 negotiations provided (doctored) footage to prove it had done so. Clinton and Bush were, of course, hoodwinked as today’s evidence shows. The 1994 Agreed Framework and 2006-2007’s so-called Six-Party Talks were nothing but stall tactics. The result is a nuclear-armed North Korea, now with ballistic missile capabilities. Soon they will have a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile, if they don’t already, capable of striking anywhere in the world.

Today, apparently, the regime released three American prisoners , two of them having been scooped up under the current U.S. administration in order to create the leverage Kim is now strategically ceding. This is of course part of the wider, long-range gambit, which also includes a seeming cool-down between the two Koreas. Now the U.S. president will become overconfident. He will strut into the summit trap Kim has set thinking he has “the advantage.” (It’s The Art of the Deal, you know.)

I predict that at the peak of bilateral negotiations, per the dog-eared script, the Kim regime will find an excuse to introduce delay after delay as they produce false promise after false promise, backed by false evidence, their mission having already been accomplished: widespread media coverage of their power and influence, and a U.S. regime that has completely lost face by walking into their predictable, time-worn diplomatic trap. My question bares repeating: How will he react?

This is why the Obama administration refused to even engage with North Korea – they knew from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush’s experience that there was nothing in it for them. Unless sponsor state China does something about the Kim regime’s recklessness, there is nothing to be done by any other parties short of starting a world war:  China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran versus an isolated United States.

I hope it comes out differently this time, I hope North Korea is serous about denuclearization. But I’ve never seen the sun rise in the West.

Update: When I’m right, I’m right. Also – that was fast.

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Saint Putin

I keep encountering people who seem to think Putin is some kind of heart-pure Diogenes, coming on American TV and telling us how screwed up our system is, and how our political system is the SOLE reason for all our problems. Never mind that he was actually here, as is his and the KGB’s tradition, to rub it in for his own amusement (and his people’s). He’s to be admired by Americans now. Because Megyn Kelly (or whatever her name is) sat there dumbstruck (emphasis on dumb) while he rattled off a string of spying/meddling/etc. accusations (which are true for both countries, of course, not just the US).

So for the record: Putin denies any and all involvement in the 2016 campaign (which is a denial of documented fact). He – in a Trumpian move – instead offers up that it is YOU who are guilty of (insert crimes here). I guess he showed us! Just not with any evidence.

We seem to have come to a place where Trumpers have had to manipulate their brains into thinking that the president was right when he (under orders)  excoriated the US for its own “evil deeds” whenever Russia’s 2016 Trump campaign (Moscow branch) was brought up. To do this, you also have to believe – Trump-like – that it’s a zero-sum game, that “both countries do it” so “both countries” are equally “evil.” Just two powerhouses duking it out for the spoils, right? To the president, who remains to this day “neutral” on Russia (!) there is no moral question. After all, he just appointed a CIA director who not only willingly tortured American prisoners, but who participated in a cover-up after mistakenly torturing an innocent person. What morality? It’s all about WINNING.

And that is somehow patriotic and in line with traditional Republican attitudes on Russia, yes? That there is a moral equivalence between the Russian kleptocracy/dictatorship and (what’s left of) American democracy? Or, if we’re not equivalent yet – we’ll get there?

Yes. That’s the new patriotism – Putin is all right, just looking after his “Russia First” interests, murdering rivals and invading neighbors. This paves the mental pathways for accepting a morally bankrupt president as legitimate. Because in the Trumpian world, everyone’s equally morally bankrupt. And everyone’s legitimate – until proven guilty.

The Crisis of Antifa

Well, here’s a conundrum. What to do about Antifa?

We knit the fabric of our societies around our symbols, those we revere and those we deplore. In America, we revere the flag (the real one), the Constitution, the Statue of Liberty, mom, apple pie, baseball, Chevrolet, etc. So far so good. On the deplorable side, we have Nazis, KKK, dictators, police states, etc. In effect, they are the negative side of our identity – that which we as America could never be. But then, somehow, a small subset of society (any society) will inevitably embrace the symbols they are supposed to deplore, and work against the ideals they were raised to respect and live by. Why do they do that? I’d answer that question with another question: Why are bullies mean when we all agree it’s better to be nice?

Ah, but nice to whom?

Like Frank Burns famously said  – “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.” But what about the not nice? What about those who embrace the symbols of hate this nation was designed to deplore – the swastika, the confederate flag, the flaming torch of the rabble rouser, the KKK’s white hoods and cryptic logos?

What about the misfits?

Because lest anyone forget, these are misfits. They are the human dregs left over after society absorbs the useful people. These are human failures, who know they are failures. But they don’t know why, because another personality trait they share is a lack of curiosity regarding how they came to occupy their place in the world – as society’s rejects. Instead, they have comforting “lore”, which in this case translates to “lies”, since the lore they celebrate is phony. You know the lore I speak of – it has to do with Northern aggression, the “Lost Cause”, state’s rights, the inherent dignity of white men (as opposed to…other men?), the truculence of the “lazy” entitled classes who have been elevated above white people by America-hating leftists (translation: minorities, immigrants, single mothers). According to the tenets of our white supremacist citizens’ “social clubs”, these interloping “others” are part of a globalist cabal (WTO/EMF/UN/Media/Universities) that seeks to destroy America’s identity by marginalizing white people while the fruits of white men’s labor (i.e. the country itself) is handed off to waves of dark-skinned immigrants and the “undeserving” poor.

Of course, one easy way to debunk that theory is to look around you. Look at the white people. See them trodden underfoot by minorities? Losing their privileged place in society? Harassed by the authorities? Demonized by politicians? Me neither.  This is America – white people still run everything, and everything is run largely for the benefit of white people. Don’t believe me? Try this exercise: think of all the white people you know of in positions of power – the president, vice president, the cabinet, the corporate billionaires, everyone save one in the Senate, all leaders in Congress, the Supreme Court (save two), vast majority of governors, mayors, chiefs of police, state legislators. Now, think of all the minority people you know of in positions of power. (Hint: Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor at SCOTUS and Cory Booker in the Senate.)

But never mind, these misfits are not into truth or objective reality – they are into themselves and their fake dogma. They feel they are society’s “castoffs”, and ironically, they’re right. Of course, they are not castoffs because they’re white. They’re castoffs because they’re willfully ignorant racists who don’t respect their fellow citizens’ rights or, for that matter, the rule of law. They proved that last point in Charlottesville.

Charlottesville – where the shit literally hit the fan. Now that shit’s all over the country, feeling emboldened, like it doesn’t stink. But these people are, once again, just the dregs, the misfits, the ones society has no real use for. They don’t have nice things, or a future to look forward to, or the imagination to devise a future they can look forward to. So they sit, and they stew, and then they march, insisting that we all owe them something and that we’re somehow trying to “replace” them.

And why do they march? Do they want to start a “dialogue” as the pamphlets say? Do they want to exercise their First Amendment rights? You know, it doesn’t matter. Because once they get there, and start the violence, it’s all revealed as a scam, an excuse to act out their adopted role as society’s ignorant rejects bent on violence against people who don’t look like them. Second mental exercise:  imagine a group of these people arriving at the town square – unarmed and torch-free – standing together peacefully while listening to a speech, then quietly dispersing afterwards. Hard to do, isn’t it? Because although that’s what they say they want, it almost never happens that way, and that’s by design.

The police – where were they in Charlotte? They were nowhere to be seen for most of the day, which I suppose is understandable since the violent racists who marched into town and started beating everyone up were protected by heavily armed militia men, at least one of whom fired a gun at protesters as police looked on and did nothing (it’s on film). But if that is to be the police formula – violent armed white supremacists are to be left alone to attack peaceful citizens and even fire upon them while peaceful non-white protesters (BLM, Standing Rock, anti-Trumpers, etc.) are to be violently assaulted – then we are going to need another way to handle these violent racists when they descend on our cities.

That’s the very important “if” – the vast majority of us are, of course, regular people who just want to get along with our lives, who have no interest in fringe politics and street drama. We have jobs and kids and mortgages. We prefer the citizen-paid police and other civil law enforcement to work on our behalf to limit the violence that lawless militias seek to inflict on their perceived domestic enemies (i.e. everyone who isn’t white and a Nazi), as well as those violent types on the opposite political spectrum who are so eager to, as the kids say these days, “punch a Nazi.”

But that “if” hangs there, insistently, the “if” of Charlottesville, where innocent bystanders and peaceful protesters were saved from beatings or murder at the hands of Nazi scum NOT by police, but by the black-clad Antifa, or Anti-fascists, who came in great numbers to, they hoped, silence the hate speech and meet the violence on offer by the alt-right.

They weren’t there to ask nicely or play defense. They were there to meet the threat head-on. And they did. And in this case – because law enforcement opted out – it’s a good thing they did.

But then this week in Berkeley a group of  five Antifa attacked a man who was offering no violence or, as far as I can tell, even hate speech. A journalist had to intervene to save him (the journalist was also beaten). So that’s a bad thing they did.

And that’s the rub – outside the governance of law, and acting in anonymity, no group can be trusted to act within the confines of law and in the interests of the greater civil society. They act in their own interest. And we don’t really know what that is. They may not either.

Antifa is not new, they are a loose-knit group of communists and anti-globalists with few visible leaders and no set philosophy apart from a zero-tolerance policy regarding white supremacists and fascists of all stripes. They do not claim to be non-violent, and many are armed.

But who Antifa “is” is less important than why they exist. They are not a proactive grievance group like our domestic Nazis. They don’t really have a message – they are the reaction to the message. They might be likened to the antibodies of the country, seemingly philosophically programmed to attack the Nazi virus before it spreads. And as long as the White House, Jeff Sessions, and law enforcement in general are determined to play footsie with white nationalists and give them some rope (as it were) in the form of  a wink-wink plea to the legitimacy of “both sides” or a stand down approach to armed Nazi/KKK rallies, it appears to me Antifa is necessary for the moment. I won’t say I welcome them – I welcome none of this nonsense. But if Antifa is a reckless endeavor – and it is – it would be much worse to nurture a pollyannaish pacifist ideal as the violence grows. To allow the current vacuum of moral authority to provide an opening for these loosely allied white nationalist groups to metastasize into a unified, out-of-control cancer causing the mutation and eventual destruction of our republic – of its ideals – that would be the real tragedy. To be standing amidst the wanton destruction of our own American Kristallnacht, pretending to wonder what went wrong, would be the unforgivable choice.

Both of these groups are fringe groups, and both represent a very small portion of society. But as we’ve seen, the smallest amount of encouragement from the White House/alt-right press sends ugly white nationalists into a state of dreamy delirium, and they act as if they are on the cusp of sparking the “race war” their hero attempted to jump-start by murdering those nine Black people in South Carolina as they prayed to a Christian god.  Each time they get a subtle nod or wink  from the president, or Stephen Miller, or Breitbart, it feels as if the nation’s leadership is secretly in league with the nation’s most vile enemies. It’s a terrible feeling. Whether or not it’s true, the important thing is that the misfits believe it to be true. They talk of the day being “closer” every time they are able to rally openly, to spread hatred and intimidation without resistance.

Antifa provides the resistance that law enforcement seems unwilling – at the moment – to provide. They, at least, seem to understand that you shut down these movements early. You don’t let them get a foothold or get normalized into the mainstream by the continued, unchallenged presence of their vile symbols of fascist nostalgia. You insist they are unacceptable. You do not back down from that.

As we’ve seen in the Charlottesville aftermath, many would-be Nazis are actually punk kids bored with their privilege. The tears flow pretty easily once they are separated from the group, brought into the light and relieved of their tiki torches. If law enforcement can break out the water cannons, rubber bullets, shock devices, mace grenades, etc., and bring all of that to the peaceful Native Americans protesting the rape of their land by big oil – and even bring in law enforcement from other states to get that job done – they should be able to handle a few misfit Nazis and their mentally unbalanced militia friends.

Until they do, we have Antifa. And until they do, we deserve Antifa.

…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.

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.