Sunday, December 17, 2017

No sugarcoating it: Trump is a traitor

I was just listening to Bill Cunningham advancing the conspiracy theory that the Justice Dept. and the FBI conspired to get Hillary in office, and after that failed, to nullify the 2016 Presidential election and get Trump out of the White House. Fox and other conservative outlets are all saying the same thing; it's not clear if they are wagging Trump's tail or vice-versa.
First, do people realize there hasn’t been a Democratic FBI director ever? EVER. Carter, Clinton and Obama all appointed Republicans. And what did that say about their confidence in the professionalism of our highest law enforcement body to do that? Can you imagine Trump doing that today?? Hell no. ‘Nuf said. What's more, Robert Mueller is a Vietnam vet (while Trump dodged the draft) and a registered Republican!
Second, just like other law enforcement, the FBI has a bias for Republicans. To protect himself, President Trump is throwing thousands of FBI staff under the bus, intimating they are traitors or so politically biased that they cannot be just law enforcement officers. Republicans, don’t believe for a second the FBI is going to forget this; Trump may have flipped the Republican-leaning FBI Democratic for a generation. And for what? To advance a conspiracy theory with no evidence to save his own orange skin. For shame!
Third, I heard Willy ask, what can ordinary people do when law enforcement and prosecutors won’t do what’s right? He was talking about Hillary’s emails, etc. (which have been investigated ad nauseam). Do these people not understand how Black Lives Matter and other protest movements started, for just this reason? And we’re not talking for one orange President, we’re talking hundreds of people shot or killed by police over decades! Their blinders and hypocrisy are breathtaking: the second their president is under the eye of law enforcement, they are ready to throw our institutions under the bus – the same people they once praised as heroes!
This is scary, folks. What this tells me is a large portion of Republicans are actively tearing down law enforcement and our institutions, all to protect Donald Trump, whose team we already know has lied about multiple suspicious and inappropriate (to say the least) contacts with Russia, who refuses to say anything bad about the murderous invading dictator Putin, and who refuses to act to protect our elections from further Russian meddling. Who is outraged by intelligence briefings that even mention Russian meddling. This isn’t a what-if, this is happening NOW. We are already AT RISK.
We have a traitor in the White House, my fellow Americans. Out of his own ego and self-interest and his family’s, he has sold out his country. This is the nightmare scenario for our republic. It is happening NOW. The adults and the patriots in the room must take control from this money-grubbing, egomaniacal, sociopathic traitor.
I won’t sugarcoat it: either you love America, or you love Trump. There is no middle ground anymore. Choose sides. I for one am not going to pretend this isn’t happening. Call me partisan, call me crazy, call me a “hater,” I don’t care. Trump does NOT put America first. Not as long as he owes this odd allegiance to Vladimir Putin and Russia.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

America should belong to her cities

I've certainly posted about it before, but I still doubt most people recognize how big a deal urbanization is, economically and politically, around the world but also in the U.S.

For instance, consider the complexity and difficulty of being the Governor of Nevada (pop. 3 million), Kansas (2.9 million), New Mexico (2 million), Nebraska (1.9 million), Idaho (1.7 million), North and South Dakota (1.7 million, combined), Wyoming (586,000), versus the job of being Mayor of New York City (8.6 million - 24 million in the metro area), Los Angeles (4 million - 18.7 million in the metro area), Chicago (2.7 million - 9.4 million in the metro area), Houston, (2.3 million - 6.5 million in the metro area), Philadelphia (1.6 million - 6 million metro), Phoenix (1.6 million - 4.2 million metro), San Antonio (1.5 million - 2.2 metro), or San Diego (1.4 million - 3.1 million metro).

So any one of these cities is larger than a handful of U.S. states.

The annual GDP of the New York and Los Angeles metro areas is about $1 trillion each! Compare that to VP Mike Pence's home state of Indiana, with a GDP in 2016 of $3.5 billion. There's really no comparison.

On top of that, consider that as many as 800 languages are spoken in New York City. Over 200 languages in Los Angeles.

Consider all the diverse people packed together in cities who have to find a way to get along with one another. Tolerance of multiculturalism in these cities isn't a liberal fetish -- it's a matter of survival, a fact of life.

Moreover, every major U.S. city votes Democratic in national elections. We don't have a Red/Blue state divide; we have an urban/rural divide. Even in the Red state of Texas, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio voted overwhelmingly for Hillary in 2016. It wasn't even close.

The U.S. is becoming two different countries: urban and rural. This is not what our Founding Fathers or the Federalist Papers anticipated. Even in rural/Red states, we have urban centers who vote solidly Democratic. That matters in Presidential and governors races, but not in state or federal congressional races.

Hence, the people representing the fewest and most rural have outsized, un-representative influence over our politics at the state and federal level.

I predict that liberals and Democrats will become the new Federalists, preaching the government closest to the people should have the most power, because cities are where all the people are, and the most diverse, well-educated, innovative and liberal people are. Also the wealthiest. The math and demographics are unassailable. America belongs to her cities. Or ought to.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Is Trump a 'heel' or just become himself?

So WTH, I'm going to start posting stuff again, if only to document some of the insanity of the Trump Years. I don't know if I have any special insight, as I'm not a trained psychologist, but here goes anyway.... 

Here, Matt Taibbi and backyard wrestling's liberal "heel" Daniel Richards described what I've noted for a while now: Trump is all negative, all the time.

Even when Trump is for something -- like, um, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the recent Values Voter Summit -- he can't do it without naming an enemies list.  His enemies are God's enemies.

Trump's fuel is spite and vengeance....And I guess that's where Taibbi kind of muddies the waters, speculating that Bannon trained Trump how to exploit cultural wedge issues.  Nope, not entirely.

Indeed to be a truly good heel, it can't be entirely an act, as Taibbi said.  The difference is that Old Man Trump has changed.  Young Man Trump was kind of a winking, coy political chameleon -- just watch his interviews from the 80s and 90s.  But by now, it's all a big positive-negative reinforcement loop: the crazies, old people, flyover states, Bible-thumpers, gun-lovers and neo-Nazis all love him; the liberals, young, gays, both coasts, and minorities all hate him. Meanwhile Trump has consumed Fox on TV as his main media for years now.  Trump was not always, but has become, a quintessentially isolated, rich, grumpy old white man.  

And Trump, who prizes loyalty above all else, loves who loves him, and hates who hates him. In that sense, he's still apolitical, he's still the narcissistic shell of a man he's always been, but he realizes he's made his bed with the crazies and now he has to sleep with them.  And this time there won't be a quickie divorce.

Wrestling's Newest Star, Daniel 'The Progressive Liberal' Richards, on Trump
By Matt Taibbi
October 9, 2017 | Rolling Stone


Sunday, December 11, 2016

'The Walking Dead' and Machiavelli

For a while I've been meaning to post about the political economy of one of my favorite shows, The Walking Dead.

Anybody who has been paying attention should understand the zombie apocalypse was just the catalyst for the breakdown of society. It could have been a plague, a nuclear war.... Over these 7 seasons, zombies have increasingly become background; the real drama is human. It is the drama of the survivors after civilized society has shattered.  (And I hope everybody realizes that the "walking dead" refers not only to the zombies, but also the survivors who are still walking. As Louis C.K. put it, we'll all spend way, way more time dead than alive.)

I'm a political science major.  So the last few seasons of The Walking Dead for me have been the best. I know a lot of fans miss the first few seasons, when survivors were frantically scavenging and trying to survive the hordes of zombies.  Then they figured out how to do that, and pretty well I might add. What they still haven't figured out how to do is survive other survivors.

My thesis is that The Walking Dead is a meditation on the nature of human civilization.  What the survivors are trying to do is basically run through the last few millennia of human civilization in just a few years in order to survive, an erstwhile civilization that developed on outwardly growing circles of human association, like tree rings: first family, then clan, tribe, groups of tribes, nation, nation-state, country, and global citizenship.

In the real world, our human civilization is located somewhere between country and global citizenship. I've posted before about Jeremy Rifkin's empathy thesis and what it will take for us to become a global citizenry....

In TWD, all of that development has been deleted.  We're back to the start. But even worse this time, most families have been destroyed, so the first and most basic human connection has been severed. The protagonists in TWD make do by making their closest fellow survivors a kind of surrogate family.  Rick's family has started over the first few seasons to extend into a clan or tribe... And that's about as far as civilization has progressed from the ashes.

So enter Negan.  What would Machiavelli say about Negan?  What would he advise Negan to do? Probably, "Be yourself."  There is really no viable alternative in the TWD world.

Where I predict the story arc goes -- and I haven't read the TWD comics, so I may be way off -- is that the threat of Negan is the catalyst to unite the disunited tribes in the vicinity, who will ultimately rise up against him in victory.  But without Negan, those tribes would have warred, traded suspiciously, or avoided one another for a very long time.  In a way, Negan is both an inevitability and a blessing to accelerate the rebirth of human civilization. If there were no Negan, another Negan would have arisen in his place.

But imagine Negan will be victorious in his parochial neck of the American woods.  We still have Fear the Walking Dead on the west coast. Surely we have other Negans or Ricks in the U.S. south, midwest, northeast, etc.  Eventually these groups -- call them tribes or more likely nations -- would develop, expand and encounter one another and be forced to adopt a policy of fight, trade and cooperate, or live and let live.  This takes us back to a period of human history before Christ.

Violence, conquest, slavery and exploitation were integral parts of human pre-history described vividly in the Old Testament.  TWD is about reliving all of those stages of human history in fast-forward speed.  I find it fascinating and can't wait to see how it all turns out.  In TWD, humans are the stars of civilization in rebirth, even as the survivors are surrounded by the (much less deadly) walking dead in the background.

So, for fans who miss the first few seasons, please understand that it couldn't have turned out any other way.  Negan had to happen.  And -- without moral judgment -- Negan is not necessarily a bad guy, considering all of the Negans in human history who united disunited, warring peoples and gave them some kind of security, and allowed some measure of human society to flourish -- including science, the arts, literature, and so on.

We aren't the heirs of just Socrates, Plato, Locke and the Founding Fathers, we're also the heirs of Alexander the Great, Julius Ceaser, Genghis Khan and Napoleon.  Don't knock Negan: the post-apocalyptic world needs him for now.

One may point out that the development of human civilization today isn't congruent. In some parts of the world, like the Amazon or even Afghanistan, clan or tribe is still the dominant phase of human development. Thanks to globalization and the developed world's competition for resource dominance, those societies have come into increasing contact with the globalized, neoliberal, Western world. This incongruence inevitably leads to conflict. Yet this isn't a clash of civilizations; it is a clash of different levels of development.

Let's not confuse this clash with the clash created by refugee migrations caused by civil war, conventional war, or drug wars, as in Central and South America.  Iraq and Syria were, until recently, fairly developed countries economically with stable political systems, albeit undemocratic.  There war and the collapse of civil order pushed civilization back to association by tribe (based on religious sect); but sectarian or tribal conflict was a result, not a cause, of those conflicts and refugee crises. Just look at Aleppo today, where thousands of Syrians want to stay in their homes rather than become refugees despite merciless war crimes comritted against them.  They are being forced of their homes at the point of a gun.

In no way am I endorsing or even justifying the xenophobia of the Geert Wilders or Donald Trumps of the world.  Indeed, those populist demagogues are not only attacking "the other" in places like Syria but also peaceful citizens and residents of their own respective countries, most of whom have been living peacefully and productively in those countries for decades.  They are being scapegoated.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Bayer: Trump, treason and Confederate rebels

These days I don't post much to TILIS because I've just about blown my wad; I've said everything that I can possibly say about America's political economy that is not just blow-for-blow, he said/she said bullshit, or simple repetition with further supporting facts.

But Alexei Bayer's on-point op-ed in the Kyiv Post hit on so many ugly, uncomfortable truths about America that I just had to. [Bold mine].

Apropos, I encourage readers to check out one of my most popular posts on the strange schizophrenia, the cognitive dissonance, of Americans who fly the rebel battle flag yet claim they are the most patriotic, "real Americans:" The Confederate flag: Celebrating treason.

Trump's treasonous candidacy
By Alexei Bayer
Kyiv Post | July 30, 2016

Five months ago, I wrote a column titled “Why does America want a Putin in the White House?” (Kyiv Post, Feb. 20). It was, of course, about the affinity between Donald Trump, then a leading contender for the Republican nomination, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Since then, Trump became a Republican nominee and the affinity between him and Putin has been shown to be a direct connection, not just a mere similarity. His people purged the Republican platform of its rather important and widely supported plank, calling for supplying Ukraine with weapons to combat separatists and defend itself against Russian aggression. It was, incidentally, the only point of the platform they cared about and had any interest in changing.

Trump then talked about reneging on America’s treaty obligation to come to the defense of its NATO allies - meaning Eastern European and ex-Soviet member-states - if Russia attacked or tried to destabilize them. More recently, it has been revealed that Russian hackers were almost certainly behind the theft of the Democratic National Committee’s emails, which were made public via Wikileaks on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

And now Trump has announced that as president he would consider recognizing Crimea as part of Russia and removing economic sanctions. He has publicly invited Russians to commit an illegal and hostile act: to hack US servers in order to help him win in November. Even if Trump was making a sarcastic remark as he now claims - a big if - it was, at the very least, dangerous. Henry II could also claim that inquiring “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” was nothing but a joke - but Thomas Beckett ending up dead was no laughing matter.

As a result of these events, lots of people started to dig into Trump’s business connections with Russian oligarchs and his advisors’ dealings with various unsavory post-Soviet characters. Conservative pundit George Will - a staunch opponent of Trump - has indicated in this regard that having Trump release his tax returns (which Trump says are being audited and therefore can’t be shown publicly) is now imperative: the nation needs to see how much the self-proclaimed billionaire is in hock to various Russian interests.

Indeed, I believe that Hillary Clinton should refuse to debate Trump until he shows his tax returns - on the very likely assumption that the Republican candidate may be liable to be persecuted for high treason. Also, it's the least the American public should do, considering that Trump himself spent years demanding that Barack Obama show him his birth certificate.

Plus, in view of Trump’s invitation to Russian hackers, a possibility has opened up that someone might hack into the IRS to ferret out Trump’s taxes.

The interesting question is this: will Trump’s flag-waving, America-first supporters turn away from him because he has been shown to be chummy with the Russians?

Not in the least. I have recently been travelling the back roads of rural Pennsylvania. It’s Trump territory and even though Philadelphia, parts of Pittsburgh and college towns across the state are heavily pro-Hillary, the Keystone State as a whole is very much in play. In some polls, Trump has been shown to be in the lead.

What strikes you is the abundance of Confederate flags bedecking people’s houses. I have also seen this in upstate New York, a state that Trump says he will win thanks to his support in rural areas, on Long Island and some New York City boroughs - including, amazingly enough, among Russian-speaking Jews on Brighton Beach.

New York and Pennsylvania were the core part of the Union and major routes of the Underground Railroad. The two states suffered the largest number of battle deaths in the Civil War among Northern states.

The Confederate flag is flown typically by Trump supporters side by side with the Stars and Stripes. Even though the Southern secession was a treasonous and subversive act, these people consider themselves true patriots - much truer, apparently, than the official Washington for which they harbor nothing but profound disdain.

Those Confederate flags proliferated after last year’s shooting of nine black parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina. Horrified by the racist attack, state officials decided to remove the Confederate flag from the State Capitol. Since then, flying it has become an act of defiance, a way to stick a finger in the eye of the authorities at all levels and a show of contempt for political correctness and the liberal dogma.

This is the milieu from which Trump draws his support. His core constituency is not in opposition to the existing government as much as it is hostile. Trump’s voters, while wrapping themselves in the flag, are declaring themselves to be against the United States of America, its political system, its institutions and its Constitution. They are nihilists rejecting the very principles on which the country was built.

They are, to put it bluntly, America’s enemies. This is why their flag-bearer, Trump, has no program how he’s going to govern and why almost everything he promises to do contravenes the Constitution. Some statements he makes suggest that he has never even read the document.

This is also why joining forces with Putin, whose propaganda spreads lies about the United States in different languages and whose government believes that it is already in a state of hybrid war with Washington, is so natural for Trump. As he embraces America’s enemies, Trump’s supporters remain completely unfazed. On the contrary, it would be perfectly natural for them to follow their leader and start admiring Putin for being decisive, direct and s great leader.

Anthony Burgess has written about it in his 1962 novel, Clockwork Orange. In the book, violent hoodlums from lower middle class housing estates invent and use Natsat, a teen slang consisting mostly of Russian-inspired words such as kisa (girl), krovy (blood) and jeezny (life). They are siding with the enemy with the express purpose of taking the mickey out of their elders, teachers and cops.

And so Trump’s voters might now want add the Russian tricolor - or, better still, the flag of the self-proclaimed Novorossia, which incidentally is a carbon copy of the Confederate flag - to the flags they are already flying.