Sunday, July 31, 2016

Trump's Zero Sense of Decency

My reaction to Donald Trump's attack on the Khan family and especially Mrs. Ghazala Khan reminded me of this pivotal moment in US history.

Between Joseph McCarthy and Trump, McCarthy at least had the excuse of being a raging alcoholic. There is no excuse for the absence of any semblance of  humanity in Trump.

Only a very small man feels the constant need to diminish others. Donald Trump may be the tiniest homunculus to ever hide his puny soul behind a black cloud of bluster.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Clinton v. Trump - We versus I

Presidential campaigns work best if they have a central theme around which they are built. Both campaigns have settled on central themes that couldn't be more different.

Clinton - "We Are Stronger Together"
The noun, We, is the key. It speaks of inclusiveness, a national family, working together to better ourselves. Hillary sees herself as part of something larger than herself. Something we are all a part of. It is a theme at the core of the concept of democracy.

Trump - "I Am Your Voice"
The noun is I. Trump is the Übermensch, the superman. He speaks for you, you need not speak for yourself. "I alone can fix it." You need not lift a finger because I stand alone, the colossus who will do everything for you. It is a theme at the core of the concept of authoritarianism.

It is a stark choice. We Americans have a choice between being part of a larger community or pawns to a strongman who will dictate his will upon us. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Rudy's Yellow Badge of Cowardice

Trump's mad monk, Rudy Giuliani, has proposed forcing Muslims to be electronically tagged by the government. This builds on Trump's early proposal that all Muslims in the United States, including US citizens, be required to wear special identification of their religion.

Rudy, Trump's terrorist advisor, didn't go into details where the electronic device would be. Would he force them to all wear ankle bracelets like paroled sex offenders, place RFID chips in their religious ID badges, or forcibly insert a device in their arm?

Rudy would restrict the electronic surveillance to Muslims on the terrorist watch list, a list certain to grow exponentially once Trump is elected, which we are supposed to consider reasonable. Unanswered is whether the movement of those people tagged by the government would be restricted. Perhaps they would be required to stay within a walled ghetto, Trump builds the best walls.
This wall was build in 1940 to keep members of a "dangerous" religious minority separated from decent people.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Will 'Never Clinton' Bernbots Vote for Trump?

The petit bourgeois Social-Democrat and the trade-union boss will never make a National Socialist, but the Communist always will. ~ Ernst Rohm, the leader of Hitler's Brown Shirts (the SA), circa 1930
The sight of some of Bernie Sanders most enthusiastic supporters booing their hero at the Democratic National Convention for the crime of endorsing Hillary Clinton reminded me of the above quote. They seem more interested in punishing Clinton, even if that means getting absolutely nothing they want, than getting most of their agenda.

When I did something stupid out of childish greed my mother would tell me I was cutting off my nose to spite my face. So it is with these holdout Bernbots. At this point I can't even tell what they want. Sure, they hate Clinton. I get that, I dislike her too. But they seem to have no goal other than hate and that plays directly into Trump's tiny hands.

I remember the Democratic PUMAs of 2008 who vowed to vote McCain instead of the evil man who defeated their beloved Hillary. For the most part they returned to the fold leading to Obama's victory. Perhaps these Bernbots will do the same. Or perhaps they will turn their enthusiasm to the only man remaining who shares their hatred even though he promises to destroy everything they hold dear.

The meaning of the above quote is that the Communist will easily become a Nazi, his exact opposite. The shared hatred that Nazis and Communists have for moderates will bond them. Even though Hitler ended up sending those same Communists to the concentration camps.

I refer you to something I wrote in March, Trump's True Believers. Trump succeeds if a plurality of voters gravitate to his campaign of hate. If the hate obsessed among Sanders supporters end up throwing the election to Trump then they will be the authors of their own destruction.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Email and Foreign Election Influence

The best advice I have ever given was to a friend and newly elected city councilwoman.
Never put anything in an email you wouldn't want to see posted on a bulletin board in the city hall lobby.
That was a couple decades ago and the advice is even more relevant now. Email is convenient but so is every other fucking booby trap ever invented. It is no place for ill-considered musings or secrets. No firewall is a certain defense against hacking The DNC learned nothing from Watergate (Republicans like spying) and Battlestar Galatica (isolate your computers from the web).
Trump's Best Friend.

Which brings us to the indisputable fact that the Russian government is trying to influence the US election in favor of Donald Trump. Trump's ties to Russia are deep. His campaign manager is a known Russian agent and Trump's financial stability is tied to massive loans from Russian banks. Trump has gone so far as to openly suggest he would stand by passively and allow a Russian invasion and conquest of NATO eastern European countries as Putin rebuilds the old Soviet Empire.

This is not the first time an American presidential candidate conspired with a foreign government to help his election. In 1980, the Reagan campaign held secret negotiations with Iran's mullahs. Iran agreed to hold until after the election the embassy hostages they had taken, thereby making them a debilitation millstone around President Carter's neck, in return for billions of dollars in weapons.

Friday, July 22, 2016

RNC Impressions

I've crawled out of my hole. I admit I didn't go cold turkey like I promised, I took occasional hits of convention news from Huff Post and Talking Point Memo, but I stayed away from the hard stuff like the network coverage. What I saw.

Ingraham Salute

Sure looks like the traditional fascist salute followed by waving at the crowd. Her defenders say she was just visually misquoted so let us take a step back. Where was she facing when she snapped off that famous stiff armed hail?
Okay. She was saluting a bigger than human image of her Leader. From this angle there can be no mistaking the message. She was throwing red meat to the rabid white supremacists who worship Trump and signaling that she and he were unified with them.

'Lock Her Up'
In what sort of country does one political party promise to imprison and execute the leaders of the opposition party? Yet that exact thing was the theme of much of the convention. The Trump Republican Party is promising an authoritarian rule where opposition to Trump is treason.

The Baltic States
Trump clearly signaled to Vladimir Putin that under Trump, the United States would stand aside if Putin wants to rebuild the old Soviet empire by reconquering the independent Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. The irony is that for seventy years the Republican Party has aggressively, frequently crazily, fought against Russian expansionism. Republicans under Trump are now a meek and subservient kitten to the Russian bear.

Trump also criticized the United States for preventing Korean unity. This is bizarrely true. Were it not for American interference North Korea's invasion of South Korea in 1950 would have succeeded and the entire Korean Peninsula would be under the brutal control of Kim Jung-Un.

That Cruz Thing
Ted Cruz's non-endorsement of Trump went off just like Trump wanted. He wanted a second virulent lynch mob display like the previous "lock up" Clinton frenzy. It was a World Wrestling Federation type of frenzy that Trump considers the height of entertainment.

It was worse than I thought possible. This was a rally of enthusiasts clamoring for an authoritarian dictatorship.These four days in July are the days that laughter died.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Where Are the Clowns? Don't Bother, They're Here

The Republican Convention is starting so I'm finding a deep hole, jumping in, and burying myself. As a news junkie and I know I'll try to score a fix but this shit is a hot mess that will fuck me up bad (Really, Paris Hilton wannabe Tiffany Trump is on the speakers list).

So I'm going into hiding and hoping to survive with my sanity intact.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Turkey's Decadal Coups

Kamel Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey. Buca, Turkey.
When you strike at a king, you must kill him. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Turkish coup failed in its first moments when they didn't capture or kill President Erdogan. Since he is extremely popular in his country, a free Erdogan was able to rally the people against the coup plotters.

Americans on the 24-hour news channels were prattling for hours yesterday how unprecedented a military coup in a NATO country was. Poppycock. Turkey averages a coup every decade. Kamel Ataturk founded Turkey in 1922 (in a coup) as a secular democracy and since then the army has seen itself as defender of secularism.

1960 - The army stages a coup in reaction to lessened restrictions on Islam and a deep economic recession. The prime minister is arrested and executed. The army rewrote the constitution and held power for 16 months.

1971 - The army chief of staff announced a coup via a memo sent to the civilian government. This was a time of global unrest and violence (picture now times 100) and the army sought to restore order. For two years the army controlled the government, repeatedly installing brief periods of martial law to quell turmoil.

1980 - In the preceding years the civilian government would call for martial law because of clashed between right and left wing gangs and political assassinations at a rate of ten per day. This coup has a violent aftermath with hundreds of thousand of people arrested and tortured by the military government. Officially, the military returned governance to civilians in 1983 but they kept the government on a tight leash long afterwards.

1997 - Another memo coup. The army sent a memo to the prime minister ordering him to resign or face a coup. He resigned and the army, having reasserted its control, did not bother dissolving the rest of the government.

2010 - The first failed coup against then Prime Minister Erdogan. The coup plot, Operation Sledgehammer, was discovered before it could be implemented and the plotters arrested.

There you have it. A coup a decade for over sixty years. Mark your calendars, you can expect another Turkish coup sometime after the year 2025.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Trump and Nice

In March, while in Israel, I was asked if Donald Trump could be elected President. My reply was that all it would take would be a Reichstag Fire moment, some shocking tragedy that could be blamed on Muslims for the nation to turn its fearful eyes to a strongman who intends to do "unthinkable" things to Muslims.
Source: Baltimore Sun
Contrary to the last words of our national anthem, the United States is filled with millions of people so afraid they would joyfully embrace a dictator who promises to keep them safe at whatever the cost.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mystic Polls

The Oracle of Delphi, the first pollster.
It's that time of the election cycle that pundits obsess over each minor fluctuation of the bewildering mass of polls released daily. Clinton leads Trump by 3 points in Florida; Trump is dead. Trump leads Clinton by five point; Hillary is in trouble. One reason I like Nate Silver's is that they see polls for what they are - not pinpoint accurate but suggestive of a range. Even then, their predictive accuracy can only be determined after the election is completed. Before the election, polls are really just educated guesses.

Pollsers are the modern oracles and fulfill our childish need for mystical seers who can predict fate and calm our terror of an unknown future. And like the ancient oracles, pollsters are as much smoke as science. In November, some of today's pollsters will be declared master diviners who accurately predicted the future. Others will be proven charlatans who couldn't predict a coin flip with 50% accuracy.

Pythia was the virgin priestess of Apollo at his temple in Delphi. She would would meditate surrounded by  mysterious vapors and utter something incomprehensible which her priests would interpret as a prophesy. The only difference between this and modern pollsters is the use of hallucinogenic vapors but we don't know what the pollsters are smoking.

Monday, July 11, 2016

America's Danse Macabre

Think of it as the Devil's square dance. Many participants, none leading but all performing together to create a rhythmic whole. Prose requires a linear construct but you can look at these performers from any angle, in any order and the dance is the same.

Gun Fetishists - The NRA is no longer an association of hunters but a lobbying group for perverts. The NAMBLA of guns. Their mission is to insure that deadly weapons are pervasive through all levels of society.

Gun Dealers - If Sig Sauer were a responsible business they would have withdrawn their MCX assault weapon from the market when they discovered a design flaw that allowed it to be easily smuggled into crowded gatherings. They didn't. Instead sales of the weapon have skyrocketed because mass shootings are the greatest advertising that a gun dealer can have.

Prohibitionists - Drug cartels couldn't exist without without the prohibitionists granting criminal gangs monopoly control of the drug trade. Because of the prohibitionists drug availability is unregulated and under the control of violent thugs.

Militarized Police -
One can hardly blame the police for dressing and behaving like stormtroopers. They are tasked with enforcing the law in a nation teeming with high powered weapons. Yet, here we are with police wearing more body armor than war zone soldiers, driving armored personal carriers topped with machine guns, and gunning down citizens at a moment's provocation. It is only a matter of time before some urban police force acquires an army surplus AH-1 attack helicopter.

Politicians - Masters of the curtsy and bow, politicians are the craven whores of the dance. In the words of a current presidential candidate, "some, I assume, are good people" but many are fetishists themselves and many other join the dance hoping to hook up with money.

And so the dance continues - hopelessly, thoughtlessly, always more and more frenetic. Will it end? Can it end? Does it lead to peace or ever more violent bloodshed?

Friday, July 08, 2016

Helter Skelter

I was in college in 1972 when an assassin tried to kill noted racist presidential candidate George Wallace. The initial reaction of a professor friend of mine was to hope the shooter was not black as that could trigger race riots. I had a similar wish last night with the news of the sniper attack killing five Dallas police officers. I had hoped the shooter was not black.

Fortunately, in 1972 the shooter was the ever so lily white Arthur Bremer, a pathetic loser who just wanted to be noticed. The country was not so lucky last night.
Arthur Bremer stalked Wallace before shooting him.

It was a violent time, much more violent than today. In the ten years starting with the Dallas assassination of John Kennedy in 1963 we had the Vietnam War, killings of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King (1968), the Watts Riots (1965), the massacres of students by the National Guard at Kent State and by police at Jackson State (1970), and Charlie Manson's Helter Skelter attempt to trigger a race war by murdering innocent families in 1969.
Ohio National Guard preparing to shoot tear gas at Kent State students. They later switched to bullets.
There was the Long Hot Summer of 1967 when 159 race riots raged across the country. In each case the superheated rage festering in the country would erupt into violence due to a seemingly minor trigger. For a scientific example of how this can happen we turn to the Mythbusters.
Newark, 1967

Texas has a history of sniper murderers. There was the most recent incident and Oswald's sniper killing of JFK. In 1966 Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin and shot 49 people, killing 16.

I wish there were some conclusion or lesson to draw from all this. There isn't. The United States of America is a very violent place and has been for a very long time. It is a nation where guns are valued more highly than human life. It is a place where police are trained to believe they are at war with the American people. And it is a place where minorities know that is a very real, ever present war with daily casualties.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

The 1% Final Solution

In 1933, less than one percent of the German population was Jewish. In 2016, less than one percent of the American population is Muslim.

For the Jew was still characterized for me by nothing but his religion, and therefore, on grounds of human tolerance, I maintained my rejection of religious attacks in this case as in others. ~ Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf
Later in that same book...
The personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew. ~ Hitler, Mein Kampf
And by the way, many, many, most Muslims are wonderful people... ~ Donald Trump 2011 CBN interview
 Later that same sentence...
but is there a Muslim problem? Look what’s happening. Look what happened right here in my city with the World Trade Center and lots of other places. ~ Trump, same interview
The "Muslim Problem." The "Jewish Problem." Both political leaders needed a tiny, mostly defenseless scapegoat to blame for any difficulties their followers have. Both needed a foreign threat living among us to be removed so as to make their country great again (machen Amerika wieder groß). Both sought to tap into the xenophobia brewing in the body politic.
I think Islam hates us. ~ Donald Trump, CNN interview, Mar. 10, 2016
In Hitler's Germany, Jews got Germans into World War One and then stabbed them in the back. In Trump's America, Muslims are forcing Sharia Law on Christians and will then murder us in our sleep. It is silly to imagine that less than one percent of a population could wield such power but in both cases a substantial portion of the population believed it. And psychopaths in both audiences found champions in these two politicians.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Other Independence Days

Lots of nations celebrate the day then gained their freedom from some foreign empire - usually either Britain, Spain, Russia, or France.

Mexico - Grito de Dolores
Beer drinkers in the United States will be surprised to know that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day. That day, commemorating the defeat of an invasion force of French troops near the town of Puebla in 1862, isn't even an official national holiday in Mexico.

Mexico's real independence day is September 16, 1810. On that day a priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, in the small town of Dolores in central Mexico addressed a gathering outside his church where he urged the townsfolk to rise up in revolution and kill their Spanish rulers (the "Cry of Dolores").

He marched his people across Mexico gathering more followers as he went, growing from 600 to over 80,000 rebels. They killing Spaniards wherever they found them. In 1811 his rag-tag force of peasants was met and routed by a few thousand trained Spanish soldiers. Hidalgo was captured and executed by firing squad. The rebellion Hidalgo had started could not be quenched and Mexico was declared independent of Spain in 1821.

Israel - Yom Ha'atzmaut
This falls in April or May, the date is 5 Iyar on the lunar Hebrew calendar. This is the date of the end of the British Palestine Mandate when David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency for Palestine and 25 members of the Provisional State Council, 11 members were in Jerusalem besieged by Arab forces and could not attend, signed a declaration creating the state of Israel. It was a quite ceremony with only 250 invited guests attending because the Israelis did not want to trigger an invasion from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

Vietnam - Ngày Quốc Khánh
At the end of World War II Vietnamese rebels under Ho Chi Minh expelled the puppet emperor controlled jointly by Japan and Vichy France. On September 2, 1945, Ho declared Vietnam independent of foreign rule. Of course, that was just the start of a thirty year war against multiple colonial powers.

Later that month, Nationalist China invaded northern Vietnam to hold that part of the country until the French could re-exert their colonial power. In the south, British forces invaded and freed captured Japanese soldiers to help them subdue the Vietnamese. This began the partition of the country that would be the crux of the prolonged war.

By 1950, France had reinstalled the puppet emperor that Japan had used in Saigon while now Communist China supported Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi as the true leader of the country. Eventually, the United States replaced France as the colonial power controlling a puppet government. The final defeat of the US in 1975 is only considered the culmination of the independence struggle begun 30 years before.

Latvia - Two Independence Days
If you live in the countries surrounding Russia there is a good chance you get two independence days. Latvians, for example, celebrate Proclamation Day on November 18.

World War I and the Communist revolution shattered the Russian Empire. Latvia and the other Baltic countries had been part of Russia since the early 18th century. In March, 1918 the new Communist government of Russia was desperate to end the war with Germany, The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk gave Latvia and the other Baltic countries to Germany.  Germany's surrender several months later allow the Baltic states to declare their total independence.

Fast forward twenty years. The Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 divvied up eastern Europe between them. The Soviets got the independent Baltic states and shortly afterwards Russia sent in unwelcomed troops to "protect" Latvia. They forced Latvia to hold an election where they were given the choice of joining the Soviet Union peacefully or joining the Soviet Union violently. World War II did not change that annexation.

Fast forward a half century to 1990. Like the Russian Empire before it, the Soviet Union is collapsing. Latvia declares the Soviet annexation of their country null and void and that they are again an independent state. May 4 is now celebrated as Restoration of Independence Day in Latvia.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Why the Clinton-Lynch Meeting Is Meaningless

Some media outlets, like FOX News, and political conspiracy theorists are all atwitter about a brief meeting between Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch in Arizona. The theory is they were conspiring to cover up an FBI bill of indictment against Hillary. This is nonsense for one simple reason.
If I wanted to have a clandestine conversation with the Attorney General I'd pick up my phone and call her. There is absolutely no reason to organize a meeting on the tarmac of a Phoenix airport.

This is another Occam's Razor moment where the simplest explanation (I just popped in to say "hi.") is preferable to a finely weaved and convoluted conspiracy theory.