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Showing posts from 2017

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

The Battleground
In all of the controversy surrounding first Colin Kaepernick and then other athletes' taking a knee during the singing of the national anthem, I want to step back a bit to take a critical look at the anthem, the flag, and other symbols of our nation for how they are used as markers in a certain kind of cultural warfare. The GOP has seized upon these symbols to cast itself as the party of patriotism, while Democrats have had to defend themselves against charges of being the party of godless globalists, who are either ambivalent toward their country, or actively hate it. Dissent and protest have hence been cast as unpatriotic acts in this false dichotomy, and loving one's country means blind loyalty to its leader--as long as he is not a black Muslim from Kenya. Ironically, Trump made his entree into national politics in a big way when he fomented the birther movement, casting literal doubt as to whether president Obama had any claim to being American, let alone …

#BoycottBannon

"Bannon declares war on GOP," the headlines blared after the Bloated One's performance before Charlie Rose on 60 Minutes Sunday night. I do not disparage Rose the interview; after all, until recently, Bannon was a top aide in the White House. Committing his insights to record is useful and important. Bannon's assessment that the firing of Comey was the worst mistake in modern political history is revelatory on a number of levels. However, once the fallout from this interview settles, it is time for a total boycott of everything Bannon.

While it is true that Bannon received degrees from both Georgetown and Harvard, that qualifies him as a smart guy, not a genius. It is a well known phenomenon that advisers to winning candidates are often hailed as political seers, when in fact it takes a strong candidate, many talented advisers, and sheer luck to win an election. We love the idea that there must be some sort of semi-mad genius in the wings, pulling invisible levers w…

Anti-fascist Protesters in the Age of the Resistance

By Peter Wilbur
Edited by Natalie Herr

In the wake of the Charlottesville violence and subsequent actions and debate surrounding Confederate monuments, millions of Americans are learning of experienced activist groups whom most have rarely heard of or encountered before. At the same time, these groups are now interacting with a cadre of brand-new activists drawn to the internet--and the streets--in response to Trump's ascendence. Inevitably, mischaracterization and misunderstanding have ensued, so I think it worthwhile at this critical juncture to unpack some mythology about anti-fascists and to offer a few suggestions as we move forward through this dark era in our nation's history.

Let's be clear: the president is not the only person drawing false equivalencies between neo-Nazis and far-left activists. Even the New York Times engaged in a bit of it in a recent piece about leftists that relied heavily on anecdote, and opened with a discussion of violence, a very real concern…

Trump Unpacked, Episode 2: the Guam Edition (Call to Guam's Governor)

Good morning, good morning, (Trump has no concept of time zones) it's great to speak to you, (He has no idea this island even existed, let alone that it has a governor) and I just wanted to pay my respect. (Did somebody die? Not yet...) And we are with you 1000%. (Nice hyperbole. And who are "we"? Guam is a territory of the U.S. It is a part of the country.) You are safe. (Keep saying it Donald. Is that what your legal team tells you when they tuck you in at night?) We are with you 1000%. (With friends like these, who needs enemies?) And I wanted to call you and say hello. How are you? ("Hey, I'm great, Donald, an unpredictable despot just threatened my island with nuclear armageddon, but the sun is shining in Guam!")

Well, we're going to do a great job, (Good to know, Donald. I'm sure that clinches it.) don't worry about a thing. (What me, worry? Don't worry; be happy now!) They should have had me eight years ago. (Let me pivot to my favor…

Trump Unpacked, Episode 1, in Which the Donald Remarks Upon the Pre-dawn Raid of Paul Manafort

I know Mr. Manafort, (You know, the same way you might "know" your neighbor. Not too close, but I "know" him. Classic downplaying of their relationship.) haven’t spoken to him in a long time, (Probably technically true, but you can bet that Trump's legal team has been all over Manafort's. In fact, many observers think that Manofort's dumping his old legal team for a new one immediately after the raid is a sign that Trump threw him under the bus.) but I know him. (Just like I know my secret service guy, what's his name.) He was with the campaign, (he was the campaign manager, about as close as you can get to the center of power.) as you know, (yes, we know) for a very short period of time, (five grueling months, in fact) a relatively short period of time, (he was manager during the Cleveland convention, pretty significant!) but I’ve always known him to be a good man. (This is a non sequitur. "Good man" is nearly an insult in the Trumpian l…

On Nixon and Trump

Today, I finished John Farrell's new biography of Richard Nixon, a fascinating read on its own, but never more so than in the age of Donald Trump. This new book is a compact tale that benefits from the author's having full access to the unabridged and infamous Oval Office tapes that ultimately led to Nixon's downfall. The odor of scandal has followed Trump throughout his campaign and presidency, and he and James Comey have exchanged barbs about "tapes" to the shock of a nation. On the left, the assumption that Trump is crooked is a given, and comparisons are quickly drawn to Nixon, another paranoid, power-obsessed, win-at-all-costs president. However, though both of these men's reputations will likely be defined by their misdeeds and will to power, the comparisons end there. Would that Donald Trump were one percent of the intellectual, statesman, and above all, diplomat that Richard Nixon was.

This is not to excuse the abuses of the Nixon presidency. He orde…

WELCOME TO FASCIST AMERICA

As much as I have done to resist the current administration, I have refrained from making wild comparisons to Hitler, or calling Trump Cheeto and so on. No more. Today's despicable, dog whistling, race-baiting legislative announcement makes me sick to my stomach, furious beyond belief, and mortified to be an American. Let's review the sad litany of civil rights assaults attempted or proposed by this FASCIST administration: 1) The baldly stated Muslim ban. Flat our racist and Islamophobic.
2) The terror campaign unleashed by Homeland Security and ICE against the most vulnerable undocumented people. Again, racist and mean.
3) Rolling back of protections for trans people by DOJ and Dept. of Education. Transphobic, bigoted, stupid, unnecessary scapegoating.
4) Trump's military trans ban, announced as a series of tweets, unbeknownst to his generals. Callous, unresearched, behind the times, transphobic pandering to the ignorant.
5) DOJ return to maximum force by police departme…

In Regards to the Beauregard, It's a Split Session(s)

I. Whatever Trump Loathes, We Love
There are many odious things to despise about Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, but they didn't catch the attention of the general public outside Alabama much until the diminutive Senator starting appearing at Trump rallies during the campaign, a stiff MAGA hat contrasting with his elfin visage. Who was this ranter? Is this 1958, and is there a bus boycott happening somewhere? His brand of barely veiled race-baiting and extreme positions on immigration made him an instant hit on the pro-Trump, alt-right circuit, but a pariah in his own chamber, the august Senate. Many assumed he was committing political hari kari as one by one, never-Trumpers in his own institution, including Jeff Flake and Ben Sasse, were the vanguard of a general distaste for Trump's chaos and spectacle. It didn't take long, after the infamous Access Hollywood GrabberGate for Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan to distance themselves from the Donald at all costs, without dir…

The Donald Will Never Stop Tweeting, and His Supporters Will Always Love Him

On Sunday morning, many of us woke up, fired up the internet, and confronted the spectacle of Donald Trump body slamming and pummeling a man in a suit whose head was the CNN logo. Wait. What? This has to be a hack, right? A parody account?
Alas, no, this was the Twitter feed of the “real” Donald Trump, and even though it was taken down less than an hour later, the storm of indignation it provoked confirmed its authenticity. After the hue and cry that emerged after the Mika Brzezinski disaster, even from some Republicans, many assumed that Trump would cool it for a bit. Why do we keep assuming there is some threshold after which this man is going to stop? Do we really expect him to come on TV, surrounded by flags, and apologize to the nation for his abhorrent behavior?
What we on the left fail to see is how tweets and speeches play in Trumpland. Breitbart, Fox, Info Wars, and most certainly Facebook groups that are the mirror image of RISE and Indivisible see Trump’s behavior as the cl…

Say No! to Torture: in Yemen and Everywhere

Take a close look at the illustration above. Imagine being stuffed in a tiny wooden box, and then poked at with needles through the holes in the side. You are defenseless. You probably don't speak English. Note the contraption on the right. That is a water board. You are strapped down to this board, head on the lower side, a cloth over your mouth and nose, while water is slowly poured over your face. For thirty to forty-five agonizing seconds, you cannot breathe, and you feel as if you are drowning. Look at a clock now for forty-five seconds, and try to imagine it.

These are just a few of the techniques designed and implemented by our government in the years after the 9/11 attacks. In a remarkable series of interviews now made public by The New York Times, the chief psychologists responsible for these brutal methods of interrogation speak about the process and their mindset through those terrible years. "Enhanced interrogation" is the euphemism; most people would just cal…

A Call to Eliminate Corporate Campaign Finance

The disastrous Supreme Court Case Citizens United has ballooned campaign spending in our country past already ludicrous levels. Corporations have been freed from restrictions in many areas of campaign finance; therefore, Super PACs and record amounts of cash have become the norm. Campaigns are often reduced to competing wars of attrition fought through expensive TV and internet ads that trade in hyperbole, distortion, and even lies. Often, groups from outside a contested area spend heavily to influence elections from Congress all the way down to school board. The Koch brothers and other notoriously shadowy groups have enacted long-term strategies carefully designed to take over, for example, state legislatures. North Carolina is a prime example, as the Kochs and their home-grown analogue Art Pope, along with powerful interests in agriculture, firearms, and other sectors, pump millions into the war chests of politicians, or affiliated PACs. The Republicans are now infamously reaping th…

A CALL TO ACTION: STOP CLIMATE CHANGE

The problem is nearly intractable, and at this point mitigating its devastation may be a matter of degree, even if every person and government on the planet made a total commitment to drastically reducing greenhouse emissions.
Yet, our government, in almost total defiance of the consensus of the international community, stands ready to pull out of the critically important Paris climate accords, signed by 195 countries, and ratified by 147. As one of the world's leading polluters, the United States must participate, and even take the lead in transitioning to low-impact, sustainable sources of energy. Our very survival may depend on it. Human-created mass extinction and deforestation are already threatening the entire biosphere. Political destabilization, war, and famine, exacerbated by drought, superstorms, and heat waves, have created millions of climate refugees. And this is only the beginning.
Many of our leaders deny that climate change is real. The absurdity of this statement is…

Day 100: Donald Trump is the President We Deserve

For years, Donald Trump has romped through the imagination of American politics, fulfilling various socio-psychological roles: so-called “businessman,” provocateur, entertainer and brand. The attitude behind his infamous swagger and scowl is epitomized by his legendary tag line delivered near the end of his popular reality show: “You’re fired.” Those two words spoke endless volumes of power, control, and above all, decisiveness. Here was a man who was unafraid to make tough decisions, and is that not the definition of a true leader?

The smoggy sunset of white American male hegemony is hard to take for those on the losing end of bi-coastal digital disruption and college-educated technocracy. In ways big and small, everything about our culture screams with a megaphone that unvarnished consumerism, wrapped in a hip but safe multiculturalism is the way forward, and if you can’t keep up, there is not a place for you. No wonder simmering resentment burst forth into violent rage as Trump cha…