Friday, August 18, 2017

On the removal of Confederate monuments

A friend asked my opinion on the events in Charlottesville and Durham, I think what I wrote is important, I wanted to share more broadly:

Political opinions/views aside, at worst, the toppling of the Durham statue is vandalism and if you told me they found whoever pulled it down and fined them, I mean okay, I'm sure there are many people willing to foot that bill.

That said, I am in favor of tearing down all Confederate monuments. The Confederates were traitors (they were called Rebels, after all) and there was nothing romantic about the CSA. It has long boggled my mind how we as a Nation glorify the CSA, mostly to appease the South. It's an important part of our history, yes, but the CSA betrayed the Union and lost. Racism is in America's DNA, our two greatest sins (treatment of Natives and slavery) are deeply rooted in racism and when you break down everything (especially economics, healthcare etc) racism is a major factor.

The "Stars and Bars" for example are a symbol of white nationalism. It's not heritage, it's racism pure and simple. For example, when I go to Central NY State, or as I call it "The Deep North" and see Confederate flags... there's nothing about heritage to it.

Which of course brings me to the Nazis. There is just no place for that in America or the world. Sure, views and speech are protected under the First Amendment, but you have to be a special kind of asshole to affiliate with any type of Nazism. America's role as "leader of the free world" is a direct result of fighting back the Nazis on the Western Front. There is NOTHING patriotic about being a white nationalist, a Confederate sympathizer or a Nazi. What happened in Charlottesville changed the game. It's not about right or left anymore, and that needs to be made clear. It's about hate vs. acceptance.

For the most part, "left" protests - the Women's March, anti-Trump rallies and yes, Black Lives Matter, are peaceful protests, with real, meaningful issues at stake such as equality and basic human rights. There will always be those who take advantage of certain situations, but for the most part, protesters in these scenarios don't get violent without real provocation.

In Charlottesville, the white nationalists wanted violence, they came decked out with makeshift riot shields and armor. The Tiki Torch bullshit was akin to a Klan gathering. And it was a white nationalist, fueled by this pure hate that used an ISIS tactic and plowed a car into a crowd killing a woman. It's the NRA calling for violence in the streets against protesters and the perceived "left" which is anyone who disagrees with a certain point of view. It's far-right Republicans who want to suppress protest, and Fox News and fringe pundits who have called for people to run down protesters. So I really don't care if people - especially a mostly young and diverse group - want to tear down some statues that fuel the white nationalists.

What's the cause of all of this? This sudden rise in white nationalism? Donald Trump. Full stop. With all of his "fake news" crap, his targeting of Democrats and even Republicans, and his blatant lies, he's fueling white nationalists by not condemning them. They are even praising him on their message boards and what not. Trump encouraged violence at his rallies, he's long been a racist and believes that his "genes are superior" which is a white nationalist staple of thought. Trump has given these people a platform he refuses to outright denounce and he's pissed he was forced to today.

Trump is actively dividing the country - for whatever reason, be it marching orders from Putin, ideology from Bannon and Miller - whatever it is, that's what he's doing. (Yes, there is a Russia connection here believe it or not, that has to do with Putin as a symbol of white nationalism and the types of people the Russians targeted during the election).

We've reached a point now where so long as Trump remains in office, things will get worse. If he resigns, the blow will be lessened. If Bob Mueller comes out with the laundry list of crimes, the blow will be lessened. Short term is might be ugly, but Trump's base is a relatively small group of fringe right wingers that is shrinking daily.

I guess overall, before Saturday we were really dealing with mostly (Far) Right vs. Left on a social, political and existential scale - "the last stand of the old white men" as some have called it. But after Charlottesville and the escalation of pure domestic terrorism and the imagery of Nazis, there are no "many sides," there's right and wrong, hate vs. acceptance.

ADDENDUM: As I said, I'm in favor of removing them. I did see that Gettysburg has stated they have no intention of removing them and I actually agree with this stance. I think having monuments on the battlefields are extremely important, and I would actually be against such removals from battlefields like Gettysburg, Antietam, Bull Run, Shiloh etc., because THAT is where is history is important to acknowledge and knowing the key figures, strategies and motivations is crucial to a collective understanding of the Civil War.

But in terms of removing them from parks and state houses? Yes, 100% get rid of them. In addition to them being monuments to what amounts to traitors, these Confederate statues and monuments have become rallying points for Nazis. That's what prompted Charlottesville and as a result, Durham. There's simply no place for them in modern society, just as there is no place for Nazis and hate groups.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Trump wants a war, ANY war

If it's not painfully obvious by now that Donald J. Trump is completely unfit and already the worst US President in history, it should be now.

Let's not even get into domestic politics for the moment. Let's ignore the fact that crops in California are rotting with no immigrants to pick them. Let's not talk about banning transgender folks from the military at a cost upwards of $960 million. And let's not talk about how Trump himself is making insurance premiums go up.

Let's focus on the insanity - the madness specifically brought upon on Friday, August 11, 2017. In the midst of Trump's "tough talk" on North Korea. The AP reported that back-channel negotiations between the US and Pyongyang have been going on for months. In other words, calm down - cooler heads will prevail. That's how the world is supposed to work. The threats coming from North Korea are nothing new. Most experts seem to agree their primary purpose for a nuclear weapons program is a deterrent and to be taken seriously.

North Korea's messaging also changed subtly after their threat to "envelope" Guam. The language changed, they started saying "IF provoked," meaning they were backing off. However, Donald Trump continued to double down on his "tough" rhetoric. However, Trump made a critical error - he doesn't have a clue what's going on. At the same time as Trump's latest threat, the AP story about back-channel talks broke. All of a sudden, you had North Korea being North Korea and a US President who now looked and sounded like a senile, foolish old man. Trump looks idiotic and weak.

As many generals, pundits and experts have also pointed out, neither the US nor North Korea has made any military moves that would suggest either side is preparing for an imminent attack. You add in the news that it's that time for the US and South Korea to run their annual joint military exercise, and suddenly everything makes a lot more sense.

Amidst the talk of nuclear war and the reboot of Bert the Turtle, there were a few other things of note. The news of Paul Manafort's raid and legal team shake-up made headlines, but there was also news of Trump's longtime personal secretary being wanted for questioning in the Russia probe. That is significant. Back to this point a second.

Additionally, Trump said that Iran was not complying with the nuclear deal without providing any credible, sourced information. Unfortunately for Trump. that's not his call to make. There are many more countries involved and a governing body. A week ago, Iran said the new sanctions imposed by the US violate the deal and said they would take it to the governing body.

Finally the most mind-boggling moment of Friday, August 11, 2017 came when Trump told reporters that he had not ruled out military action in Venezuela. Both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley - standing next to Trump - looked mortified at the suggestion. Earlier this week, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster ruled out military action in Venezuela. Pure and simple, this is madness. There is much political turmoil in Venezuela, and the situation is dire, but why on Earth would the US military go into Venezuela? Trump - a multiple time draft-dodger - has no idea about what the US military can, can't and should or shouldn't do in the world.

If it's not obvious by now, let's go back to that point about the Russia investigation. It's heating up, Manafort got raided by the FBI, Trump's longtime secretary is wanted for questioning and Bob Mueller has convened grand juries. About two weeks ago, the big story was that Trump was going fire Bob Mueller. That idea was met with near-universal condemnation from both sides of the aisle, with Democrats and Republicans both saying that would mark the end of the Trump presidency. Shortly after we endured the Scaramucci era and then the firing of Reince Priebus. It's fair to assume at this point Trump knew he was screwed.

So what is a wildly unpopular President, who is sinking in the polls and under investigation for colluding with our sworn enemy to do?


Syria and Yemen are basically the world's Wild West. But Trump wants a new war - ANY war - and he'll look to start one wherever he can. Namely, Iran, North Korea or Venezuela. Trump wants a war to distract from Russia and to make himself look "strong" by certain moronic conservative standards. It's painfully obvious now. Every time he tries to say Iran is noncompliant, he's met with resistance and the fact he's wrong. The entire North Korea crisis of the past week could very well have been fabricated to keep your mind off of Mueller's investigation. This point is supported by the reveal of back-channel negotiations and China staying completely out of it.  So now it's Venezuela. He's even refusing calls from Venezuela's president.

Trump is playing a dangerous game and putting millions of lives at risk by trying to start any war he can, while in the process crippling US credibility in the world because he thinks this will stop or keep you from caring about the Russia investigation.

Congress, the cabinet and the Vice President have the power to stop this mad man within hours and they should, because he's willing to destroy the world to keep his life of crime and corruption from being exposed.

If Congress won't end this, the Cabinet should. Trump must go.

We've reached a real crisis point in American history. The President of the United States - as warned by most sane people - is completely unfit for office. While in my opinion there won't be a nuclear war or war with North Korea - the Twitter rhetoric coming from the President of the United States is the talk of a senile man with no understanding of the world - who is also under federal investigation.

Let's put all out chips on the table. If you read between the lines North Korea's later statements, they are trying to de-escalate. They went from laying out a plan to "envelope" Guam, to "if provoked" language. They're playing the games they always play because their nuclear program is a deterrent to be taken seriously in the world.

However, Donald Trump took to Twitter to say the military was "locked and loaded" and ready to strike North Korea. Beyond the insanity of that statement, the military's state of readiness has not changed, no allies are moving into any type of war phase and the more sane members of the administration - namely Secretary of Defense Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson - know this is all rhetoric.

Meanwhile, China has taken their stand. They will remain neutral. This is a massive blow to any sort of planned US military action and why the entire situation needs to be immediately de-escalated. China doesn't want a war and they will stop the provocateur. China doesn't want an armed Japan, they don't want Korean refugees and they certainly don't want the world economy to collapse because they have to go to war with the US.

Trump - surrounded by amateurs like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka - doesn't understand the geopolitics at play. He doesn't care about the millions of lives put at stake. This is why he must be removed.

In addition to the North Korean crisis, Trump thanked - THANKED - Vladimir Putin for expelling US diplomats from Russia. Making the foolish and idiotic claim that it "cuts the payroll," Trump has come out in support of a serious diplomatic sanction Russia has placed on the US. He still has not addressed Russia's hacking of the election (because that's how he won), and he continues to do Putin's bidding. For this reason, he must be removed.

Furthermore, The Republican Party is getting what it deserves. The GOP made a deal with the devil and now it's coming back to haunt them. The legislative agenda of the Republican Party has failed spectacularly, and they have control of the government. Now, Trump - who is wildly unpopular and by far the worst President in US History (only 8 months in!) - is going after the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. To be frank, McConnell has contributed to the division of America more than any other figure when he obstructed President Obama, but there is still time to reverse course.

The Congress has the power to reclaim their Constitutional authority as the chief governing body and heed John McCain's words and return to regular order. The way to do this is to remove Donald Trump. Show the world that America will not stand for an unfit leader. Mike Pence would not be a good president, but he would have the temperament to de-escalate a crisis with North Korea and be a steward of the system until the next election.

If Congress refuses or fails to act, Mike Pence, James Mattis and Rex Tillerson must. They too have the power to remove the President. We may not be able to wait for impeachment or for Robert Mueller to bring down the hammer of justice.

The 25th Amendment needs to be enacted and Donald Trump needs to be removed.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sebastian Gorka is the worst of amateur hour

Sebastian Gorka has no business being in The White House. In fact, Gorka has no business in American politics or government. The "irregular warfare" what-have-you is a joke among military circles, the White House couldn't move him to another agency because no one takes him seriously and he's generally a hate-mongering third rate Bond villain.

Full disclosure: I have been blocked by Gorka on Twitter, mostly because I let him know I think he's a fraud and he has an awful goatee.

Gorka claims to be a military analyst. He's not. I have a degree in film, write, read and study military fiction - and despite never serving - I'm probably more qualified than Gorka. Everything about the Deputy White House Advisor is suspect. While I'll freely admit I never served, Gorka's own service record is murky. His academic credentials are also suspect and his views and opinions are considered to be on the "fringe." While it's incredibly dangerous to have an amateur like Donald Trump in the White House, having Gorka by his side is just as frightening.

In addition to his questionable past, Gorka - who became a naturalized US citizen in 2012 - has ties to Nazi groups and often spouts white supremacist viewpoints. He - like so many other in this administration and on the fringe of the right - doesn't understand what Islam is and generally views all Muslims as the enemy. He makes a $155,000 salary comprised of taxpayer money and no one knows what he does.

He has no influence on military strategy - his supposed area of expertise - and in a normal world, his checkered past wouldn't allow him in the Oval Office except on a White House tour. But apparently, Trump likes him on TV - where he appears often - and he constantly undermines just about every executive agenda imaginable.

Thursday, August 10, 2017, has especially been a banner day for the White House's resident Deputy Assistant Amateur.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tries to actually be Secretary of State for a change and de-escalate the North Korea situation, Gorka publicly refuted him, claiming Tillerson is "out of his element." (Spoiler: they both are, moreso Gorka). And claiming the SecState has no relevant opinion on military matters - which is false.

In the days following an explosion at a Minnesota mosque which Gorka downplayed and claimed was fake, the "irregular warfare" whatever suggested that people should stop being so critical of white supremacists. This, of course, comes a week after the White House's most well-known white supremacist, Stephen Miller, used white supremacist talking points referring to immigration and the Statue of Liberty. Gorka's point is there is no such thing as a "lone wolf," which is entirely false, and that only Muslims are terrorists, also false.

Gorka is also running around Fox News claiming that Trump will "no longer appease" North Korea. For one thing, Trump has no idea what to do with North Korea and in reality, wants China to step in. China isn't going to step in without an incentive, which they don't have yet. Additionally, North Korea isn't going to launch a nuclear attack. They are going to provoke the hell out of Trump as they always do, but they aren't going to actually initiate a strike. So Gorka doesn't know what he's talking about.

Frankly, Gorka's rebuke of Tillerson's comments should be enough to kick him to the curb. He's a joke and a complete fraud.

Half of Republicans don't care about the Constitution

New polling data released today shows that of 1,325 Americans identifying or leaning Republicans, 52% would support postponing the 2020 Election if President Donald Trump suggested it to prevent voter fraud. Additionally, that magic 47% believe Trump won the popular vote. (He didn't).

This new information is reported at The Washington Post.

I for one am always a little skeptical of polls because 1,325 Americans is a tiny sample of more than 300 million. But I'm not going to break down and question the veracity and methods of experts. But I'm also not going to pretend I'm shocked.

There's a gross misunderstanding of the American system of government that exists on the right, especially the far right. This misunderstanding is not exclusive to the right - it exists on the left as well, but in a different sense. For example, the primary process between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton was a bit of a mess because I really don't think some voters understand the party system. But that's neither here nor there, a debate for another time.

As it has been widely reported, there is not a rampant voter fraud problem in US election. There isn't even a small problem. It's minuscule, and the most high-profile cases have been Republican voters. However, the fragile ego of one Donald J. Trump - mixed with the right's deep fear of progressive Americans, has created a false narrative of voter fraud.

Half of Republicans would support postponing the 2020 election. Unfortunately for those Republicans, the Constitution does not support this idea. Unless Trump decides he's going to march into the National Archives and burn the original copy of the Constitution, there's not going to be a postponement of the 2020 election. I think that much is obvious. You would need to first pass a bill through Congress - which Trump can't do - and then you would have to amend the Constitution, which is definitely not happening.

The troubling fact is how half of Republicans polled have no understanding of the Constitution. To me this highlights a growing education gap that needs to be solved, This problem is exacerbated by news outlets like Fox News and the macho facades that many far right groups create for themselves.

Take for example the NRA. It's a gun club, that's fine. What's not fine is how they've veered towards becoming a far right extremist group. They've been releasing ads that are comparable to terrorist propaganda videos calling for violence on "liberals" or "leftists," specifically protesters. I hate to break it to the gun club, but protest is as American as the Second Amendment.

The truth of the matter is that Republicans, specifically those who still support the already failed presidency of Donald Trump are deathly afraid of their tax dollars being used to help the less fortunate, even when those tax dollars, in turn, benefit them as well. They believe Trump's bluster and lies not because he's a strong leader and not because of his pretend success. They believe in him because he has the same misunderstanding and lack of caring for the Constitution and the American system of government as they do.