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How on earth did one of the most beloved and trusted advocacy groups in the world turn into a tabloid?

The problem isn’t about the usual bit-for-bit gamesmenship that takes place daily between the two ruling parties in the United States, this is far more sordid and despicable. It isn’t the Russian connection (however glaringly obvious it may be) that concerns me the most, it’s when good organizations shift from serving the public good to carrying out the grocery lists of its self-interested leaders.

If you were to follow Wikileaks on Twitter, a majority of the posts you’ll read will revolve around the Clintons and Sweden. I suppose it is coincidental that these are both parties Mr.Assange has butted heads with over the last few years – Sweden wanted him extradited on a rape charge that he claims was politically motivated, and Mrs. Clinton purportedly joked about (or seriously considered, depending on who you ask) attacking Julian with a drone strike. He has a list, and he holds a nasty grudge.

His most recent release – before the Podesta emails – was a handful of documents from a doctor claiming he is being held inhumanely in the Ecuadorian embassy. His medical records outlined a particularly vexing dental issue, in addition to a persistent problem with his shoulder. The treatments for both maladies (dental surgery and an MRI) cannot be performed within the confines of the Embassy, and Mr.Assange now finds himself being painfully stuck with no resolution in sight.

Wikileaks must be nonpartisan or it shouldn’t exist at all. If an organization this powerful – able to collate sensitive data from anonymous sources at a global level – can have its direction swayed by the whims of a single man with a toothache, we should classify it as a pariah, and a dangerous one at that.

At what point does rabid self-preservation begin to corrupt all of this well-intentioned transparency and anti-secrecy activism? When does the needs of a single individual start to soil the reputation of an organization ostensibly bound to conserve the needs of the planet? The smear campaign against Mrs.Clinton (of whom, it should be perfectly made clear, I am not a fan) was doomed to fail from the start, and the depths of Julian’s bitter hatred for her has surprised even me. On October 25th, Wikileaks snidely tweeted this:


After a few moments, they promptly deleted the tweet. Nobody seemed to notice. The excerpt refers to an email in the Podesta archive involving one of Mrs. Clinton’s inner circle, Huma Abedin, discussing a routine speech. In the email, she claims that the speech is ‘not right in her (Clinton’s) head’, which Wikileaks interpreted to mean the Clintonistas were concealing a serious mental illness.

I can’t decide which I find more appalling – the image of Assange chomping at the bit as he scans through every single line of text in this massive trove of data, foaming at the mouth for anything that could possibly damage her, or the fact than an organization that lectures the world on transparency and accountability deleted a horrendous tweet that bordered on libel without acknowledgement or an apology.

There are a few bad lies from Wikileaks that I feel ought to be fully addressed. The organization is very insistent to remind the world that it does no actual network intrusions. They only collate and collect data gleaned from anonymous leakers world-wide. Mr.Assange is a talented programmer, and his hacking resume spans all the way back to the distant days of phone phreaking. If there is a distinction between Julian running an application or executing a line of code to crack into a system or one of his supporters or friends performing the same action – it is a thin and ceremonial line, if it exists at all. Wikileaks has also vehemently denied any involvement with the Russian government, and has made clear it does not cooperate with Putin’s mafia state. Stockholm-Syndromed supports were eager to remind the world that Wikileaks had once published damaging materials about Russia, so obviously there’s no collusion, and we should all move on, right?

Wrong. As it happens, Mr. Podesta’s Gmail account was targeted by a Russian spearphising campaign in July. The dots, in this matter, are fully connected, and they lead back to Putin. Russia cracked the account and, as a result, the data ended up with Wikileaks:

Evidence collected by the security firm CrowdStrike and forensic work by Fidelis point to the breach being caused by two “threat groups” associated with Russian intelligence organizations. A pair of reports published in June by SecureWorks suggests that the same threat groups conducted phishing campaigns against the e-mail addresses of the DNC. The same attackers targeted the addresses of Clinton campaign staffers, political consultants, journalists, and current and former members of the military, among others.

 

At a minimum, this suggests that the DNC breach was part of a larger intelligence collection operation. The leaked data from the DNC breach, however, may have been intended to create chaos and uncertainty around the election. But why would the Russian government open that can of worms? It’s possible that this fits into a larger Russian strategy aimed at splintering NATO and countering what Russia has seen over the past decade as encroachment by the West on Russia’s national interests.

 

 This sort of activity fits well into a larger picture of Russian state-sponsored and state-aligned information operations, including destructive cyber-attacks and intelligence collection. And the forensic evidence from the DNC breach fits right in with other recent operations by Russian hackers against US targets. [Ars Technica]

Maybe Assange never collaborated with Moscow. Maybe Assange did. Maybe the ‘how’ and ‘why’ don’t matter, because the result is completely the same in either scenario. If you have an alternate theory in regards to how Podesta’s email account ended up in the hands of Assange without Russian involvement, terrific, but I’ll follow the footprints that lead back to Fancy Bear until proven otherwise. Putin’s thugs weren’t subtle when they murdered Alexander Litvinenko, and they aren’t subtle when they crack into someone’s email account. Who would have guessed?

The problem with a self-preserving organization is that it will make dangerous bedfellows during its downfall. Sharks always smell blood, and Julian’s toothache is telegraphing to the rest of the world that there is a bargain to be had here, and you had better act fast before it’s gone. These slanderous PR campaigns are counterproductive, and will only serve to ensure Clinton has an even bigger ax of her own to grind when she strolls into the White House.

It sets his organization back. It sets his ideology back. It harms his credibility, and it embitters his most dedicated supporters. It should stop, now, and it should have never begun in the first place. What, exactly, does the Podesta leak teach us? Mrs.Clinton speaks differently to investment bankers than she does to average Americans on the campaign trail? How alarming. The Clinton Foundation was being used to generate personal wealth for the Clintons? Hasn’t this been happening since the 1990’s? Where’s the story?

There isn’t one, and as Wikileaks tosses her email data against the wall, hoping something will stick, Trump’s email is remarkably well secured, unencumbered by the relentless technical assault being levied against the Democratic party at a frantic pace and at a high level of sophistication. I suppose this is another coincidence, too.

This isn’t to say Mr.Assange and the organization under his purview are attacking Mrs.Clinton in a criminal manner. They are free to attack whomever they please, and there’s no obligation for them to like the Clinton’s, or to give them any special treatment. I certainly haven’t in my own work, and I wouldn’t expect them to play by rules I don’t follow myself. What I’m lamenting is the death of Wikileak’s idealism at the hands of Assaunge’s immediate and personal needs. What troubles me is not that the organization has pivoted swiftly to the right, but that in their blinding rage towards the Clinton’s, they have lost sight of what made them wholesome in the first place.

As Russian money lines the pockets of right wing movements across the globe (to the point where the French neoconservative party, National Front, literally lobbied for the ability to accept Rubles in its war chest), we simply cannot ignore Russia’s remarkably efficient war of attrition against rational, non-corrupted, western democracies. The threat is very real, and shouldn’t be casually dismissed as delusional liberals ‘re-igniting the Cold War’.

Brexit, Ukraine, UKIP, and the National Front funding would be damning evidence in and of itself of Putin’s sloppy fingerprints – but as Russian exile Gary Kasparov says – the link between Trump and the Kremlin is impossible to ignore. I am not prepared to listen to a man who only months ago fired Kremlin consultant Paul Manafort as his campaign manager. It would be like listening to a dripping wet man giving a lecture on how to stay dry.

The allegations of Russian influence upon Wikileaks is a different animal, but I’ll simply remind my readers that Assange, Putin, and Trump all have the same common enemy, and it may not matter much at all if they’ve shared a sleepover together. Their ambitions are tied inextricably to one another. Why pretend otherwise?

Vladimir Putin’s motivation for stoking civil unrest in the Western world is simple enough to grasp. When the United States is busy putting out fires at home, it has less bandwidth to put out fires abroad. After Putin’s repugnant invasion of Ukraine, President Obama levied heavy economic sanctions against the regime that devastated the value of the Ruble. Mr. Putin would have plenty of incentive to avoid another four years of Obama’s foreign policy, and if his puppet could take a few swipes at NATO while he’s at it, he’s killed two birds with one stone.

We should be careful to avoid our own version of partisanship when it comes to Wikileaks. Most of us on the left appreciated Wikileaks when it first rose to prominence during the Bush administration. It would be foolish for us to bristle when the sword cuts both ways. There is not a candidate or political party that I would want subjected to less scrutiny, and any vehicle that eradicates deceit and corruption in our world is a valuable one. My criticism cannot be dismissed as partisan whining – I support neither candidate in this election, and have written lengthy pieces detailing the faults of both sides.

While it is true that Wikileaks has undoubtedly gained partisan detractors on the basis of their criticism of one political party, the inverse is also undeniably true. Their organization has gained the empty support of right-wing imbeciles like David Duke and Sean Hannity, so it seems exceedingly odd that Wikileaks would complain about their shallow support from the left being replaced by their new shallow support from the right.

These sins would be infinitely more excusable and far less troubling if all Wikileaks did was simply attack Clinton. They are not content with merely opposing her, they actively support the GOP. Did you know they lovingly retweet puff pieces about Roger Stone? Did you know they’ve used their Twitter account to promote Fox News stories about their organization?  Did you know they’ve retweeted neocon cesspool Brietbart? If you believe I’m focusing too heavily on the crimes of retweeting alone, I can solidly rest my case on their self-admitted and ‘official’ opinion on the VP Debate.  After offering, without being asked, by the way, their brilliant opinion on Mr. Pence, they would later issue a press release on October 23rd that claimed their organization doesn’t make political endorsements. What sort of fools do they take us for?

Attacking Mrs. Clinton doesn’t make Wikileaks and Assange repulsive – their secretive support of Mr. Trump does. If Assange or Wikileaks had the courage of their convictions, they would openly admit their support for Mr.Trump, and stop pretending that they don’t make political endorsements.  Instead, Wikileaks has chosen to dutifully carry out the orders of a bitter man with a toothache. While they flirt with the lunatic fringe of the right wing, the rest of the rational world is left trying to figure out what went wrong.

 


It is a new buzzword in the American political spectrum – the Alt-Right. It’s a demographic that Secretary Clinton has condemned, and Mr.Trump has actively sought to court. The Alt-Right, for those uninitiated, is a terrifying political development, proof positive of willful ignorance and perpetuated, hand-me-down styled racism and sexism. It is a hateful invention of lonely white men, and we should do everything in our power to oppose it.

This is the ballast escaping from our nation as it balances back out – as our society diversifies, and as women and minorities become more powerful and influential, threatened white men were always bound to push back in defense of the clout that they once wielded without effort or meaningful opposition.

As someone who works in IT, I know these people quite well. By necessity, I spend time in the same corners of the internet as them, and after countless hours of rubbing digital shoulders with them, I’ve learned to identify their quirks.

At first, these start out as jokes with a little dirt on them. Some anti-Semitism here, a bit of jovial racism, followed with some crass sexism, on the face of it, harmless and innocuous, if a little immature.

Hovering maliciously within these places are the recruiters, and you can always tell them by the slurs in their language. They are petulant and persistent, eager to lash out at anyone sensible, and quick to isolate any media, outside of its context, that seems to superficially prove their torpid points. Videos are edited to vilify ethnic groups or outspoken activists. Memes are re-purposed to insult and defame multiculturalism or SJW’s (social justice warriors).

You can picture them, broiling alone in their fear, at home, dreading an influx of Islamic immigration, or ‘race mixing’, or of a imaginary Jewish cabal that controls the world from atop their ivory towers. It is a paralyzingly stupid ideology that is recruiting at an alarming rate.

What else could motivate a person to create a hundred Twitter accounts to harass a woman who has the gall to create a video game? Why would a sane person bother to monitor a forum or thread with religious fervour? What outcome could possibly justify the effort?

These hateful ideologies succeed much to our surprise. Brexit caught the entire world off guard, and even those responsible for the campaign were shocked to see it work. These types of bigoted provocateurs aim to demoralise – wearing sensible people down slowly, bit by bit, over time, and they are quite content to play the long game.

The gamble is a secure one – it’s infinitely easier to spew falsehood than it is to solidly refute it, and rational people aren’t as motivated to spend their time debunking garbage as irrational people are at spreading it.

What is most terrifying about this movement is how swiftly members from one noxious ideology can move laterally to the next. Sexists become racists. Anti-semites become men’s rights activists. They are all comfortable bedfellows because they have each been rightfully tossed out of the mainstream.

As a semi-pacifist, I’m conflicted about war in this respect. Violence is plainly cyclical and counterproductive, but the ancillary benefits of fighting fascism first-hand make future flirtation with it far less likely. These war-free generations don’t have the stitches and scars from these philosophies, and they have little reason to be spooked by their potential carnage.

In Bible college, I was always struck by the persecution complex of Christians. They felt irrationally oppressed, even as a majority. One fellow student revealed to me during routine conversation that he refused to get ‘christian themed’ tattoos – on the basis that he intended to fight undercover for the Christian resistance when the religion was made to be illegal by the American government. This is not a fear of persecution, it is a delusional hunger for it to begin.

The Alt-Right wants to be fought in the same manner. Opposition is a powerful method of confirmation, and as easily as antisemitism gives way to white supremacy, so the Alt-Right gives way to ‘prepping’ – the delusional hoarding of goods and weapons in preparation for the dissolution of modern society.

They yearn for a battle that will never come, and they imagine resistance where there will never be any, and the rational ones in our society are left to carry them around our necks like millstones, soothing their troubled minds, opposing their idiotic policies, forced to take the high road in order to preserve the form of government that has delivered decade upon decade of domestic peace. If you’re sensible, speak up, online or on the street, and refuse to be worn out by their doddering and fearful rhetoric.


 

 

I have written about the NHL, in one outlet or another, for the last ten years. I fell in love with hockey as a teenager, and after a twenty year playing career, it is one of my greatest passions. I love it more than most things, but I hate the brain-dead dose of nationalist fervor I have to swallow before each game.

The National Hockey League plays the anthems during the pomp of the pregame ceremony. My beloved St.Louis Blues will even take a 15 second break during every home game and salute a member of the armed services in the audience. This promotion, (it is marketing, at the end of the day, of course) is always sponsored by Boeing.

Lo and behold, it was revealed in 2015 that the Department of Defense had been aggressively sponsoring this type of in-game advertising, dishing out $14.5 million dollars to five NFL teams for the jumbotron treatment. It is an effective recruitment tool for the armed forces, safely shielded from criticism under the same ‘support the troops’ mentality that’s flaying Mr.Kaepernick in the court of public opinion. This is an incredibly stupid witch hunt, and it needs to end immediately.

I attended a Colorado Rockies game on the fourth of July with my wife and a good friend of mine who lives in Denver. As I entered Coors Field, I was offered a miniature American flag on a stick, which I politely declined. Some passerby called me a ‘communist’ for doing so, and maybe it was an outburst of pretentiousness on my part, but the experience always stuck with me. I didn’t accept the flag because it does mean a great deal to me. It was the flag my Grandfather fought underneath, and I didn’t want to toss it in a trashcan after the game was over. In any event, whether I loved or loathed the flag, it was my choice to accept or decline it, and I was made to feel as if I’d made a shameful choice in a millisecond.

It’s not as if the anthem is a universal time of solemn rememberance. People stay on their phones. People hollar expletives at their least favorite player during the relative silence. Fanbases shout edited versions of the anthem as it’s being sung. The anthem has become a bland part of the valueless pregame pageantry, and I find that much more distasteful that anything Mr.Kapernick has done.

There has never been any reason to sing the anthem of the arena’s home country before the start of a sporting event. This is especially absurd in the MLB and the NHL, where a large majority of the players involved aren’t even Americans. Baseball is big in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, as well far-east nations like Japan, and the lion’s share of professional hockey players are Canadian, Russian, Swedish, or Finnish. We make them all sit reverently through an anthem to a country to which they do not belong.

The anthem is used as corporate advertising. The anthem is re-written for individual use by fanbases throughout North American sports franchises. The anthem is such a low priority that organizations will find the most unskilled musicians to butcher the song with a half cocked performance (and they will never fail to superimpose the words to the Star Spangled Banner, lest the performer forget the sacred words). The anthem is such an ordinarly bland pregame event that most cable networks will only dedicate ten or fifteen seconds of coverage to the song itself.

In essence, those who criticize Mr.Kaepernick for expressing himself are merely trying to draw your attention to their own expressions of patriotism, and I find this behavior much more offensive and tacky.

As a white man in the Midwest, I do not live in the same world as Colin Kaepernick. I do not live in the same world as people of color. I don’t fear for my life during a traffic stop, and the justice system works incredibly well for me. If you were to take those two privileges from me, why wouldn’t I feel bitter? Why wouldn’t I want to express my displeasure?

Athletes are incredibly powerful people. They are rodel models, millionaires, spokespersons, and above all else, they possess influence that often crosses over from athletics into fashion, entertainment, acting, or even politics. Almost universally, professional athletes use their fame to generate more personal wealth for themselves, signing lucrative endorsement deals, starring in commercials for products and services, and joining cable network broadcast teams as paid analysts.

Mr.Kaepernick has chosen to use his influence to bring heightened awareness to police brutality. This has brought him no wealth. This has damaged his image immensely – even among people who were once his rabid fans. This is a noble choice, and instead of honoring it, we have decided to shame it.

If you ask American nationalists why the anthem should be sung before every sporting event, they will reply mostly in cliche. The gist of it all is fairly simple – we ought to honor our veterans, who, through their sacrifice, made possible the peace we are now enjoying.

Fair enough, but where does the loyalty end? Should I sing the anthem every time I enter the grocery store? Every time I enter the post office? When you consider that a professional baseball player will hear this anthem at least 162 times a year, it begins to seem tasteless and unnecessary. Like many other American obsessions, this is gaudy, arrogant, and presumptive.

Say this to any American sports fan, by the way, and your ears will be ringing with bumper-sticker invectives, and marvel, at that moment, to yourself, at the simplicity of your desire to just simply watch the majesty of sport performed by the most skilled on the planet and you’ll wonder how you got here.

Sports are supposed to be nationless and Darwinist. That’s what makes them fascinating. The game doesn’t care where you are from, or what your religion is, or what political party you belong to, it is simply about ability, strength, and creativity.

Sports nationalism is toxic, and it has been shoved down our throats as fans at every possible impasse. It’s not just Kaepernick, I’ve been sick and tired of the meaningless gestures that accompany any game I choose to attend. I don’t know what my contrived applause does for the service member on the jumbotron, and I don’t know why we value such empty lip service in this country. It accomplishes nothing and only serves to make ourselves feel better.

This ideological divide is no real surprise. People are attracted to sports for a wide variety of reasons. Some view sports as a casual passtime, others live and breathe with every game, never failing to miss a moment. Some believe the athletes exist solely to entertain them, and others just want a place to go and get trashed and have a good time. It’s a business like any other, and professional sports are loved by bricklayers and surgeons alike.

That said, there are many who don’t view this industry as an intellectual pursuit, and I say this with no condescension or disdain. Everyone on the planet has a hobby, and we are all free to choose how deep we would like to take any interest. Additionally, there is push back from the intelligentsia as well – they despise sports because they siphon money away from educational resources, drain taxpayer money for gaudy stadiums, and glorify grown men playing a game designed for children.

As a teenager, I was an awkward and gangly black sheep. I played music and spent hours on the computer playing video games. I spent three or four days a week playing hockey. I wasn’t a jock, and I wasn’t really a geek, and I didn’t really belong anywhere. Sports gave me an outlet to express myself, and I learned life lessons that have shaped my character for the better.

Look at the front offices of any professional sports organization, and you’ll find a boatload of statisticians and data analysts that oversee everything from player acquisitions to team strategy. Physical strength is a must, but there is a creativity and artfullness that many intelligent people overlook when they think of sports. Athletics are art, just like dancing, poetry, music, or painting. They are magnificent in their own way, and at their best, combine precision, finesse, and improvisation into something truly magical. In this light, I cannot view these attempts to restrain Kaepernick’s ability to express himself as anything but perverse.

Going against conventional wisdom in the sports world is almost always a costly sacrifice. People start talking about ‘locker room distractions’ or ‘attitude problems’ when an professional athlete shirks the status quo.

The NHL was established in the early 1900’s, and astonishingly, protective masks or helmets were not made mandatory for goaltenders. In 1959, Jacques Plante was the first goaltender to wear a mask. His coach, Toe Blake, told Plante that he was not allowed to wear the mask because it would inhibit his vision. Jacques Plante refused to take the ice without his mask. The press questioned his toughness. Plante went against the grain and blazed a trail for others to follow.

This is a perfect example of the brainless machismo logic that often rears its nasty head in the course of sports analysis. Players need to possess vague adjectives like truculence and gumption. Players need to fit the mold we give them, and we slap their wrists when they fall out of line.

As wisely pointed out by others during the initial fallout, if you loved Muhammad Ali, but now despise Kapernick, you must have overlooked everything Ali ever said. He dodged the draft – surely a greater offense to people so sensitive, no?

The same types of accusations being hurled at Kapernick were also spewed at other racial trailblazers. Jackie Robinson said in 1972 that he could not stand and salute the flag because he was a black man in a white world. In 1968, American Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos ruffled feathers by performing what they called a ‘human rights salute’ during the anthems played during their award ceremony. The IOC said it was a ‘deliberate and violent breech of the fundamental principles of the Olympic spirit.’

This type of panicked browbeating is as futile an endeavor now as it was back then, and this psychotic hiveminding accomplishes nothing. New Orleans Quarterback Drew Brees gave us a tremendous example of how inscrutable this hypernationalist rhetoric can really be:

My America and my patriotism are not threatened by someone refusing to partake in the anthems. They are not threatened by someone setting a flag on fire. My America is big enough to handle their dissent, and I wouldn’t want to live in a country that discourages any difference of opinion. Our nation, after all, was founded on the steps of a bloody political revolution. It is, in and of itself, a country of rebellion. I choose to stand during the anthem, but I would never impose this choice upon anyone else.

Mr.Kaepernick should continue to use his influence to highlight racial inequity in our society, and we would all be better served if more athletes like him strived to raise the level of discourse.


 

Now when Donald Trump saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him and he began to teach them.

Trump said:

“Blessed are the boastful, for they are winners and we frankly need more of them in this country.”

“Blessed are those who show no mercy, for they are strong negotiators and I should know because I have negotiated many amazing deals.”

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for law and order – for they will see how tough we are, I’m serious, we’re going to be so tough, you won’t believe it.”

“Blessed are you when you insult, persecute, and falsely say all kinds of evil because of me. They are criminals, rapists, and some, I assume, are good people. Rejoice and be glad.”

“Blessed are the warmakers – for I am really good at war and we will make our military even greater but don’t get captured because I don’t like people that get captured.”

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of their wealth accumulation, for theirs is the Kingdom of the off-shore tax haven.”

“Blessed are the deporters – for there are many people that will need deporting when I am in charge. Muslims will be first because we need to figure out what the hell’s going on.”

“Blessed are the poor – especially the poor in countries like Mexico and China – for they will inherit my sweatshops.”

Just as Trump was speaking, a paralyzed man came up to him and begged to be healed.

“Give me a break! Does this look like an Obamacare free clinic?” Trump replied while flailing his arms up and down, mocking the disabled man. “Get this guy outta here!”

Oaths

“Again, you have heard it was said to the people long ago ‘do not break your oath’ but let me say something – going bankrupt is just a fact of doing business in the United States and if some contractors and small businesses get stiffed on some payments and some people lose their jobs it’s not really an oath so get over it.”

Murder 

“You have heard it said to the people long ago ‘you shall not murder’ and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you the truth – we will never stop ISIS until we start killing their families too.”

Adultery

“You have heard it said that it was said ‘you shall not commit adultery’, but I tell you the truth, any man who looks at a woman lustfully is just having a good time and she shouldn’t get so angry that blood is coming out of her eyes, her whatever. Because I am so wise my indiscretions in the 1980’s during my first marriage should be fair game for the press because cheating on your spouse is no big deal.”

Divorce

“It has been said that anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce. But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery.”

“…Just kidding!”

Trump wept. From laughter.

“I’m on divorce number three, what are you gonna do? Thou shalt not let your ex wife accuse you of rape in her biography, get thine own lawyers to make her print a retraction, that’ll show her who’s the boss.”

Love for Enemies 

“You have heard it said ‘love your neighbor and love your enemy’ but I tell you unless you build a Trump wall (and believe me, Trump walls don’t get holes), AND MAKE THE PHILISTINES PAY FOR IT you will not be children of your daddy Donald. Love only those who love you, and greet only your own people.


 

In the midst of The Great Depression, President Roosevelt told an unemployed and starving nation that the only thing they had to fear was fear itself. President Obama ought to tell this nation that the only thing they have to fear is themselves. We should fear our apathy, fear our aversion to critical thinking, fear our susceptibility to the flash of celebrity, fear our lack of discipline, and we all should be standing in quivering terror over the orange monster we have created with our vices. This is not the America that I love, and it is not great, and like Mr. Trump, I wish it was great again.

The America I love was the nation that crushed German fascism in Europe. The America I love was the nation that liberated concentration camps. The America I love was the nation that fought to abolish slavery. The America I love was the nation that air-dropped supplies on a mountain huddled with Yazidis, fleeing certain death from a cult that wanted to murder and enslave them on the basis of their religious beliefs alone. This was the nation of Lincoln, Jefferson, Kennedy, Roosevelt, and Washington. Upon this storied and sacred ground, steps Donald J. Trump. Do you feel as sick as I do?

As Mr. Trump waddles daily to his podium to deliver hateful, derisive, and idiotic drivel to adoring audiences, the Stars and Bars – the flag my grandfather fought underneath and a symbol that means a great deal to me  –  is displayed proudly behind him. Donald Trump is the American that the rest of the world knows best now. He is, objectively, the most newsworthy American now. He is not some lunatic in a dimly-lit basement recording hate speech for the internet, but the rightfully nominated Presidential candidate of the Republican party. Powerful enough, now, to warrant daily National Security briefings from our intelligence services.

America, what have we done? How did we get here? What happened to the lofty ideals of American democracy? How did immigrants become rapists and criminals when once they were tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning for the freedom that we were once eager to give them?

“In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe. Now the trumpet summons us yet again – not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need – not as a call to battle, though embattled we are – but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, ‘rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation’ – a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.” (Inaugural Address, President Kennedy, 1961.)

We have abandoned these American virtues – if we ever really held them to begin with – and we can be absolutely sure that our failures have steered this nation off course. To Iranian women being hanged from cranes because your hijab fell off in court – the United States will not defend you. To the Pakistani women being honor-killed by their family members – the United States will not protect you. To the 23 million North Koreans locked in malnourished slavery – the United States will not go to war to liberate you. America is no longer the friend of any person seeking liberty, we are the bloated and greedy gluttons in control of this planet who want to keep everything for ourselves.

The problem with democracy, as Isaac Anismov put it, is that my ignorance is equal to your knowledge. This conflict is nothing new, but there is one thing, in all of human history, that is: the instantaneous publication of information.  A new expression of power in this reality is the ability to capture and retain the ‘attention economy’ – it’s easier to eat ice cream than vegetables, and it’s easier to watch YouTube than it is to read a newspaper.  In this economy, the United States is saturated with people uninterested in nuance or detail. As this audience grows, the incentive to capitalize upon their support grows too, and powerful people will compete ever more vigorously against one another for the eyeballs of the bigoted and poorly educated. It’s not just knowledge versus ignorance – it’s also the knowledgeable cynically pandering to the ignorant for personal gain.

Trump will be competing for the highest office in our country. You won’t be. How did this happen?  You didn’t have name recognition. Trump did. You weren’t known for your excess, arrogance, and belligerence. He was. You didn’t get ‘a small loan from dad for one million dollars.’  He did.  You didn’t slander millions of Latinos and Muslims, so you didn’t get the media coverage he did, and you don’t have a chance to impact the world a fraction as much as Trump will, win or lose, and this state of affairs is incontrovertible evidence that our society, nation, and planet are in genuine trouble. The Republican Party won’t die after Trump, and the people the GOP represent won’t suddenly forget how to use their wealth to influence our political infrastructure. Our nation will die long before they will, and I’m afraid the funeral has already started.

 

 


 

 

I’m outraged by Mrs.Clinton’s behavior. Yes, it is a big deal that she built a private email server, and yes, it was tremendously inappropriate and careless to violate the NSA’s guidelines for safely storing this data. Early in the scandal, I mentioned to a few close friends that the terms (emails hilariously delineated by ‘pages’) of Clinton’s negotiated email release was evidence of her political power over the judicial process. That server could have been drained within a matter of a few hours. No technical obstacle could have stood in their way. This decision stunk to high heaven of classic Clinton damage control, wisely electing to drag the inevitable out indefinitely, in the hopes the dopey American public would lose interest as time worn on.

“Clinton sent or received about 60,000 messages on a private e-mail account during her tenure as state secretary. She has maintained that she never sent any classified information using her personal e-mail, but the State Department in January said that 22 of the e-mails stored on the Democratic presumptive presidential nominee’s personal mail server contain classified, “top secret” information. Another 2,000 messages contained classified data, according to the State Department.” [Ars Technica]

Several things are indisputably true of the Clinton email server:

  •  She did not ask for permission to create the server.
  •  If she had, that request would have be rightfully denied.
  •  2022 emails were top secret and classified, despite Clinton’s earlier denials of this fact.
  •  Placing the data on a privately operated server introduced new risks not present in NSA approved systems.
  •  Mrs. Clinton created the server (at least in part) for convenience.

We can’t say (for certain) that Mrs.Clinton was motivated to create a private server in order to communicate discreetly. It seems like a rational inference, but I’ll stick to points that I know are uncontested. One such contested point is if Guccifer actually managed to crack into Mrs. Clinton’s server – his leaks of the personal servers of President Bush seem to indicate that he would have likely had the ability to breech Clinton’s, but law enforcement appears to be split.

Muh Blackberry

I joined Sprint as a entry-level repair technician nearly six years ago. Blackberry was beginning to fade out of the consumer electronics industry when I started, but nonetheless, I spent hundreds of hours repairing Blackberry handsets. They’re perfect for most enterprise and government use. The operating system was riddled with so many iron-clad security measures that I loathed working with them. Transferring data into and out of Blackberry devices often took hours. They were a pain, but they would have been miles better than this alternative:

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“Judicial Watch, the conservative political action group that has largely driven the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, has obtained documents through a Freedom of Information Act request indicating that Clinton tried and failed to get the National Security Agency to give her the same secure BlackBerry that President Obama used. Donald Reid, the State Department’s coordinator for security infrastructure, reported in a 2009 e-mail, “Each time we asked the question ‘What was the solution for POTUS,’ we were politely asked to shut up and color…”

 

The problem was that the solution supported by the NSA—its SME PED (Secure Mobile Environment Portable Electronic Device)—was hardly BlackBerry-like. SME PED devices are based on a secure version of Windows CE, and they’re only rated up to “Secret” classification. And as Clinton was taking over at State, the SME PED was only just becoming available. “The current state of the art is not too user friendly, has no infrastructure at State, and is very expensive,” Reid noted in one e-mail.

 

 The NSA refused to give Clinton a device similar to the one used by Obama: a modified BlackBerry 8830 World Edition with additional cryptography installed. And while Clinton’s predecessor Condaleeza Rice had obtained waivers for herself and her staff to use BlackBerry devices, Clinton’s staff was told that “use [of the BlackBerry] expanded to an unmanageable number of users from a security perspective, so those waivers were phased out and BlackBerry use was not allowed in her Suite,” an e-mail from the NSA’s senior liaison to the State Department noted.

The NSA offered a number of alternatives and security “mitigations” to allow the use of BlackBerry devices, but the proposals “would remove the very functionality desired… while others might take time to develop.”

 

Given the NSA’s refusal to give Clinton what she wanted, the secretary apparently decided to continue to use her personal e-mail server for State Department business, while her staff was fully aware of the security risks associated with using her BlackBerry.” [Ars Technica]

Most of us would be pissy about having to use something like Windows CE to receive email. It’s not crazy that Clinton would have wanted an alternative, but Secretary Clinton was not in a position to choose which data security directives to follow and which she could abandon. She was not serving as the department head of the NSA. She was obligated to comply with any policy that applied to her office (provided that policy isn’t overtly unethical or trivial). Mrs. Clinton gleefully trampled over the recommendations of an agency (whose technical prowess is, frankly, breathtaking) because she was looking for convenience or because she was looking to handle business without oversight. Neither conclusion is acceptable, and Mrs. Clinton’s behavior in this matter is not insignificant. She’s been reckless with sensitive data solely because the safe method of access annoyed her. 

“As the State Department Office of the Inspector General reported, she paid a State Department staffer (who had worked for her directly in the past) off the books to create a shadow e-mail service of her own, and she used a personal BlackBerry not configured to State Department security standards to carry out official business. Having had a BlackBerry and the full control offered by private e-mail service during her presidential campaign in 2008, Clinton knew what she wanted, and she was going to have it whether it was approved or not. And she provided the same shadow e-mail service to her core staff as well—taking all of their communications off the grid and out of federal oversight.

 

Clinton’s excuse for her decision, which she now calls a mistake, was:

 

  • Previous secretaries of state (specifically Colin Powell) used personal e-mail accounts.
  • Condoleezza Rice got to use a BlackBerry, so she (and her staff) should be allowed to, too.

But no other secretary of state before her used e-mail as heavily, and the regulations regarding preserving e-mail records have changed over the past two decades. Condoleezza Rice did not use a personal e-mail account, according to the OIG report; she used a BlackBerry, but it was State Department issued. Madeline Albright never even sent e-mails. And while Colin Powell did use a personal e-mail account, the State Department was just getting Internet-connected e-mail at the time (on a system called OpenNet).

 

Besides, Clinton’s excuse basically boils down to this: other people broke the rules, so she should have been allowed to as well. It’s the entitled executive syndrome writ large.”  [Ars Technica ] (Emphasis mine)

 

Law and Order

I am no lawyer, but there are legal ramifications tied up within this story that shouldn’t be overlooked. As some of you might remember, last season, the St.Louis Cardinals were fined $100,000 by the MLB for accessing a competitor’s database without permission. Breaking into a database as an unauthorized user is an incredibly serious crime. Secretary Clinton, of course, was an authenticated user to her own email account with the federal government, and her actions are not identical to unlawful intrusion, but the distinction between the two is more fluid than many believe. Let’s say I’m fired from a job as an IT employee, and I access the database after I’m terminated by the company. I am no longer a legitimate user to that data, and I fall squarely into the ambit of the law for improperly accessing that database. Let’s say I moved that data three months before I was terminated into my own private server. Was I in violation of the law? Did I have a legal right to transfer the data to begin with? For some types of highly regulated information (HIPPA, non-publically available information, etc) maybe, but for others, perhaps not, and this is where it begins to get murky.

The NSA has standards for data erasure, user authentication, and, we can be sure, has untold levels of resources dedicated to defending their information from theft and interception. When Mrs. Clinton moved her e-mail server without permission, she cut this spectacularly skilled agency out of the loop intentionally and bypassed safeguards for the sake of her own comfort. As we are often told – when whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden leak data – this information could mean the literal death of Americans in service to their country. Snowden moved data because he believed it was the ethical thing to do, and Mrs. Clinton moved data because her mobile phone preferences were not being met at work.

I am frustrated that Mrs. Clinton has forced me to agree with tremendously detestable people like Reince Priebus:

barf

 

 

He’s right. Clinton was careless and reckless. We shouldn’t want that type of Nixonian disregard for policy in the White House. It turns my stomach to say so, but he’s right, even if the GOP’s own email scandal didn’t get a fraction of the same media attention:

“And lest we forget, well before Clinton came to the State Department, members of the George W. Bush administration used a private e-mail server (at gwb43.com) run and paid for by the Republican National Committee—at least 88 accounts were set up for Bush administration officials in order to bypass the official White House e-mail system and avoid the regulations around presidential record retention, the Federal Records Act, and the Hatch Act (which bans the use of government e-mail accounts for political purposes, among other things). In the process of using that system, more than 5 million e-mail messages were “lost,” which led to the resignation of a number of White House officials, including Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. None of the e-mails for 51 of the 88 accounts was preserved by the RNC.” [Ars Technica]

I am furious with Clinton because she may have endangered what should have been an easy win for the only sane party in the general election. The Republicans have selected a candidate so unelectable that even their Speaker of the House won’t support him. This should be a cakewalk, and Clinton’s squandered it with her selfishness. I am peeved by the normally intellectual left wing, who, as if they traveled back in time to the first Clinton administration, lined up dutifully to Defend-a-Clinton no matter how wrong they were, and offered weak and brainless defenses for their misdeeds while pretending they weren’t motivated by partisanship.

The eternally witty Christopher Hitchens often remarked that it seemed odd Mrs.Clinton was drastically unpopular with white, land-owning men. She’s been inseparable from this demographic, especially when she can stand to make a few million off them from speeches and appearance fees. Often, when men like myself criticize Mrs. Clinton, accusations of sexism are nestled within many replies. The overt sexism in this election cycle, of course, is impossible to overlook. The GOP’s leading candidate literally mocked a female TV personality for menstruating. It is present in our political discourse and any attempt to deny this is delusional. That being said, I crinkle my nose in disgust when failure to support Secretary Clinton is seen as an expression of chauvinism and subconscious sexism, or when Mrs.Clinton’s gender is presented as a winning point worthy of empty applause in and of itself. Clinton’s horse-beating on this point is surpassed only by her compulsive need to attack Republicans. This behavior was at its most bizarre apex during the Democratic debates when none were around, but having no Republicans to attack was not a deterrent to Mrs.Clinton as she veered the conversation back to her trusty punching bag at nearly every opportunity. She will break her arms punching down to grade-school level rhetoric and break her neck dodging questions about what she said to hedge fund managers on Wall Street during paid appearances.

I am convinced that for a majority of Americans, the gender of their next President neither picks their pocket nor breaks their leg. I would love to have the right female for the Executive branch, (looking at you, Elizabeth Warren) and it’s painfully obvious Mrs. Clinton is not that female. The email scandal is at least partially motivated by partisanship. In many ways, it is the same kind of rabid pat-down from the same doddering Republicans who authored seven congressional investigations into Benghazi (the attacks of September 11th had twenty-one, for the sake of comparison). It is undeniably true that the GOP has incessantly accosted Mrs. Clinton, and has historically done so with little to no evidence. A blind squirrel will occasionally find a nut. If you’ve developed a strong distaste for the national obsession about her damn emails, I understand your perspective, but the Republican’s bloodlust doesn’t make her conduct any less alarming or illustrative.

Mrs. Clinton is a skilled politician, and while I’m very critical of her professional career, she has accomplished quite a bit in the face of persistent opposition. It’s easy to forget how close she came to wrestling the nomination away from Barack Obama during his first campaign. I don’t wish to dismiss her talent, but despite her political success, she’s often clumsy, unable to avoid getting snared by increasingly avoidable mishaps. Anyone in the public eye for decades will make enough mistakes to fill hours of gaffe footage, sure, but whether it was lying about being under sniper fire in Bosnia or lying about auctioning off the rooms of the White House for campaign donors, so many of her wounds are incredibly self-inflicted, and Democratic voters have made a critical mistake in selecting her for a crucial Presidential campaign when the skeletons in her closet are becoming more and more difficult to ignore.


 

I think it’s only fair – given my history of gleefully attacking politicians who I feel are dishonest, corrupt, or immoral – to submit my own political endorsements, and to defend my reasoning behind their selection. I support Senator Sanders, and I am here to convince you to support him as well.

I have one genuine claim to hipsterdom in this regard. I have been a card-carrying socialist for several years. In the interest of full disclosure, I believe I only paid dues through one year, but the Socialist party in the United States is and was so disorganized that they couldn’t accomplish anything of substance. Even today – they only send emails begging for donations, a weakly disheveled group, unable to tap into the grassroots movement that hungrily catapulted Sanders into the international headlines. It was a ceremonial membership for me, and I did so to display my disgust for both ruling parties in the United States. This is a common refrain among many Americans, usually of the right-leaning persuasion, and revulsion towards politicians of all stripes is a typical tick. We have good reason for believing the lot to be two-bit criminals, propped up by special interests, fetid mouthpieces of their corporate owners. This philosophy – oddly enough – is almost universally accepted across all partisan lines. We all agree that most of our representatives are up to no good and that someone should stop them.

Senator Bernie Sanders entered the political zeitgeist, and much like the candidacy of so many others, was initially seen as a novelty. “Socialist” is a pejorative in the United States, and conventional wisdom dictated that no serious politician could run openly for the highest office under that poisoned banner. I had only known of Sanders in passing – there’s a socialist Senator from up north somewhere – his career was compacted into the bar-trivia section of my brain. His message, laying dormant for decades, has sparked a political awakening in the United States, and this cannot be stopped. As Sanders gained momentum, this awakening was openly mocked. These kids are immature, they moaned, and they don’t understand the way the world really works. Everyone (usually over the age of 35) trotted out their best condescending tropes and shitty stand-up routines about socialism. It works until you run out of someone else’s money! I stole the sign in your yard because you had one and I didn’t! What annoys me the most, I think, is that these people actually believe they’re really clever and critical as they blubber out talking points shat onto a keyboard by Karl Rove.

I’ll deal with their snotty implications directly – is socialism immature and impractical? Of course not. If you’re an American, you rely on socialism every day of your life.

If my house catches fire, who pays for the firefighters? Should I be handing out $100 bills to compensate these professionals for their time? No, we all pay for them collectively. What happens when your house is burglarized? Do you pay law enforcement to investigate? Of course not – we decided – quite maturely, I might add – to foot this bill socially. I’m sorry to say,  but if you’ve had an ambulance ride, or a visit from the fire department, or if you have taken benefits from the government while simultaneously barking about the threat of socialism’s onslaught in the United States, I feel you are deeply deluded about what those words actually mean, and what basic functions governments ought to perform.

Does a government have a responsibility to involve itself in the well-being of its citizens? Certainly – if it has any responsibility at all – it does unarguably bear this yoke. If the government, for example leaves a festering pile of radioactive waste that inflicts cancerous illnesses upon its people, I carry the radical view that they should be bound to make things right. Private industry, no matter how efficient and somehow worthy of endless worship, cannot share the same priorities as good governance. A company returns value to its shareholders first, and a government should represent its people first. It is not difficult to see where these two goals might conflict with one another.

It is obscenely disingenuous to imply that American society is powerful and successful because of its free market capitalism. The companies that succeed in our nation do so by eliminating competition and stashing their profits into tax havens around the globe. Set up a grocery store down the street from Wal-Mart and tell me how fairly the Walton’s compete. Tell me, after a few years, how deeply you revere the principles of the free market unburdened by foolish and wasteful regulatory bodies. Tell me what it’s like to pay employees and vendors more for the same services and products, and tell me how much you love our even-handed capitalism after it obliterates you underneath its growing feet. ‘It’s called the American Dream’ comedian George Carlin sneered, ‘because you have to be asleep to believe in it.’

Part of the problem is the hopeless crush Americans maintain for wealth attainment. We’re terminally stricken, intoxicated and drooling, twinkly-eyed and tingly all over at the thought of putting six figures into a bank account, no matter how impossible, and we’ll scream like hell when anyone tries to yank that rubbery pacifier out from between our lips. We believe that currency is the result of honest work and is awarded on the basis of merit in spite of stunningly clear evidence to the contrary. We’re the pimply-faced dweeb in the back of the classroom lusting after the busty cheerleader. We could get her if the conditions were right. We could get her if we just figured out the right thing to say at the right time. We’ll get her, just you watch, we’ll work harder, then she’ll have to get with us. We’re deluded and it’s not getting better.

Hopeless 

Bernie Sanders will not become the President of the United States. I would, of course, love to be wrong on this point, but I’m quite sure I won’t be. Goliath will stomp him as he’s stomped so many others, and the status quo will continue to be upheld for another four years, perhaps another decade or two, but I am still encouraged by Bernie’s campaign for many reasons.

Regardless of outcome, Senator Sanders has elevated the level of discourse at a national level. Instead of talking about provably and demonstrably false things – like intelligent design and climate change denial – Bernie Sanders is talking about wealth inequality, corporate theft and fraud, systematic racism, the military industrial complex, and the poor and middle class being unable to access basic healthcare. For the first time in a very long time, normal Americans have someone who actually represents their interests. They finally have a candidate who understands that to millions of Americans, being able to pay for an ER visit is a bigger concern than endless wars in the Middle East. This is progress, and not just on a ceremonial level. The dialog will not go backwards from here.

I am encouraged by the rise of youthful interest in Sanders.  After the death of the baby-boomer generation, there will be no one left to shield our corporate overlords from the consequences of their greed. It is not if – but when – the policy and politics of the United States will finally be formed by the people, not the corporations, and our generation will be the ones to see it brought to fruition in our lifetimes. The internet generation will not accept corruption. The internet generation will not elect industry shills. The internet generation will steal your secrets and lay them out for all to see. What has started as a low rumble will culminate in an earthquake, and you are sorely mistaken if you believe Wall Street isn’t feeling tremors growing underneath their feet.

We are lazily and shrewdly dismissed as childish radicals. What’s radical about wanting access to healthcare as a basic human right? What’s radical about wanting access to education as a basic human right? What’s radical about applying a heavy tax to the pricks who nearly destroyed our entire economy with careless speculation in 2008? What’s radical about expecting that no one in the wealthiest country on the planet should ever go hungry? What’s radical about maybe suggesting, oh, I don’t know, not spending 60% of every tax dollar on the military? What’s radical about suggesting that maybe someone who makes over five million dollars a year shouldn’t complain about a higher rate of taxation?

The divide is largely generational. I didn’t grow up with the red scare, I didn’t see friends shipped out to Vietnam to battle ‘expansionist’ communism, and I didn’t see the Berlin Wall crumble into dust, trampled underfoot by the eager and hungry masses yearning to escape the horrors of socialist rule. I’ll tell you what I have seen – families begging for groceries in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart, families losing homes to foreclosure, elders being stripped of their dignity, working minimum-wage jobs just to afford food and medication, sometimes having to choose between one or the other. I have seen both parents working – one to pay for the mortgage, and the other to pay for daycare. I have seen bright young men and women burdened with endless student loan debt, and after spending thousands to get qualified, find there’s no jobs left for them. I have seen black men jailed in record numbers, and I have seen black men murdered with apathetic impunity by law enforcement.  I have seen bankers and hedge fund managers cashing multi-million dollar bonuses for themselves while our combat veterans struggle with homelessness and suicide. I have seen the abandoned suburbs left to rot by the recession, I have seen the dopey saber-rattlers in the Beltway puffing their chests while sending other people’s sons and daughters out to die, and I have seen my government spend trillions in the deserts of the Middle East only to scoff at the healthcare costs of hard-working Americans back home. I have seen the fruits of our heartless capitalism and I am fed the fuck up.

 

We must judge our representatives by who is paying for them, and in this respect, Sanders is the only sane choice out of the field:

 

fi1 fi3 finance

 

Gore Vidal and Christopher Hitchens are two polemic voices that are sorely missing from this election cycle, and I would give almost anything to hear their thoughts from beyond the grave. Vidal famously said of President George W. Bush that ‘We’ve had bad Presidents, but we’ve never had a goddamned fool’. I spend a lot of time wondering what he’d say about Trump today, and we’re all worse off for not knowing. Before bed, I’ll usually scour through YouTube and dig up C-SPAN interviews with Vidal, and he stuck to many of the same talking points throughout his life. ‘The writer must always tell the truth as he sees it’ Vidal was always found of saying,  ‘and the politician must never give the game away.’ Hitchens – having taken an oddly conservative turn (and some might add, rather sexist and Islamicphobic one as well) later in life – still came from Marxist ideology, and would have latched on to a inconspicuous target as he did with Mother Teresa and Henry Kissinger, and would have shaken us all out of complacency. I don’t know what either one would say, and it kills me.

In comparison, perhaps, you could contrast Sanders with the life and career of Ralph Nader.  Consumer advocate and corporate watchdog, he too launched a Presidential bid that strayed outside all party lines and met his cultural demise unfairly. Nader is best known for siphoning off Democratic support for Al Gore in Florida during the infamous ‘hanging chad’ election, and he is routinely blamed for this Republican victory. Not remembered – as he ought to be – for Unsafe at Any Speed and the countless lives he saved by pushing for more regulation of the auto industry. He’s remembered as a microscopic blip on the American radar, and, if we don’t unite around Sanders, he might be as well.

Many things can be said of Senator Sanders – he’s a big-government shill, he wants to nationalize everything, he wants to raise my taxes,  and these things, are, in some degree, true. What cannot be said of Sanders is that he does not represent the working class of the United States. Are you a millionaire? No, so you are in this class, like it or loathe it, you and I, we’re in the same struggle, together, and your vote can help our class, or it can hurt it, and you can use your vote as a vehicle to strengthen your own position, or you can use it to support the position of a racist reality television host or a corrupt, pseudo-feminist ladder-climber. I leave it to you to decide who cares about you and your problems the most out of this field. I leave it to you to decide who has spent their life fighting inequality. I urge you to throw your support behind Senator Sanders, and I hope I am proven wrong about his chances come this November.


 

When was I going to talk about Trump?

I resisted writing about Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign. For months. I ignored him for the same reasons I ignore the vapid rattlings of the North Korean state-sponsored media or the Westboro Baptist Church. There’s not much content to analyze in the first place, and lavishing hateful little shits like these with attention only serves to give them more power.

Friends and family alike asked about my views on the seemingly endless Republican Presidential debate schedule, and I always liked to reply with a dismissive joke about not being able to survive the spike in blood pressure that would accompany my viewership. Like many of you, I expected Trump’s campaign to slowly run out of steam, and I was certain that such a shallow candidate would be quickly unraveled by his next gaffe.

What was left to write, anyway? Trump – as a topic – has been hopelessly played out. His campaign has been drowning in free publicity since it began. What was the point? Why should I bother throwing my voice into the echochamber that was already condemning his campaign in a resounding fashion? One more drop in the sea of dime-store outrage didn’t seem to be worth the time or effort.

I scoffed at his campaign at the beginning. I dismissed Trump as a bloated publicity machine – a career opportunist who had no real interest in Beltway power. I was confident that Donald didn’t have the legs to run with career politicians, and I was sure the tweedy rage of the political establishment would move the goalposts and crush this outsider like so many others.  From the outset, I believed Mr. Trump was another one dimensional,  flash-in-the-pan candidate like Pat Robertson or Ralph Nader.

Donald Trump has now coasted to easy victories in South Carolina, Nevada, Louisiana, and Kentucky, soundly whipping the entire Republican field in the nearly every primary.  The joke is definitely over, and now, my fellow Americans, we are forced to stare down the barrel of a Trump Presidency. The world laughed at Reagan – surely no one would vote for an actor who co-starred in a motion picture with an actual primate. The world underestimated the apathy and stupidity of the American electorate, and we shouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

Dismantling the Message

This must be said plainly – Donald Trump is a blithering, self-interested, populist demagogue and a vote for him cannot be cast by a thinking person.

Trump – insincerely – laments the loss of American manufacturing to the delight of cheering crowds. His anti-outsourcing message propelled him to victory in ‘Rust Belt’ states like South Carolina. It doesn’t take a genius to understand the global economy. It’s really quite simple.  If Bangladesh pays pennies on the dollar for labor, there is no possibility that an enterprise in the United States could compete effectively in the same industry. Mr. Trump’s holdings – primarily in real estate – are not restricted to the United States, and what he says onstage during campaign rallies is greatly at odds with his own bank account and his own payroll. He viciously slandered American Muslims, but turns around and does business in the Middle East.

“The extensive conglomeration of businesses that bear the Trump name — either because of his active involvement or thanks to one of his lucrative branding deals — spans the world. The sun may never have set on the British Empire, but on the rare occasions it sets in the empire of Trump, guests who are watching enjoy the classiest views and most luxurious cocktails. And that holds true for Trump’s customers in the heavily Muslim countries of Indonesia, Turkey, Qatar, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and even Azerbaijan. Multiple golf courses, hotels and housing projects bear the Trump name in those countries, as do consumer products in stores dotting the Arabian peninsula.” [Washington Post]

He slammed corporations like GM and Ford for opening plants in Moscow and Mexico City while spreading $70 million of his own portfolio across a large number of multinationals (Apple, Nike, Citigroup, IBM, General Electric, among others) many of which have maintained manufacturing hubs outside of the United States for decades.

“When it comes to political hypocrisy, Donald Trump deserves a gold medal,” said Mark J. Perry, a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan-Flint and creator of the economics blog Carpe Diem. “At the same time that the billionaire businessman criticizes Ford for producing some of its cars in Mexico, and threatens to stop any expansion there and impose a 35% tax on Ford imports from Mexico, he certainly has no trouble taking advantage of the global marketplace when it comes to his own businesses.”

 

Perry notes Trump has imported clothing from China and Mexico produced for his brand. “For Trump to operate, outsource and invest globally while criticizing companies like Ford for doing the same is the ultimate hypocrisy. To be fair to Ford, Trump should either agree to impose a 35% tax on Trump Collection clothing and agree to stop investing overseas, or he should stop his threats against Ford for operating as a global carmaker.” [Forbes]

The truth is always the first casualty in politics, but Trump is perhaps its most gleeful assailant. He blabs about the miserable state of the American economy, and blames the Obama administration for signing trade agreements that sent American jobs overseas. Unemployment in the United States is now down to 5.5% – the lowest rate in nearly a decade. Don’t hassle Trump with facts – he doesn’t need them anyway. His voter base is equally disinterested in demonstrably provable things.

But, Jesus?

Early in his campaign, I expressed my skepticism about Trump’s ability to woo the Evangelical bloc, and in many ways, I still believe that particular circle may be difficult for Donald to square. His brash and boastful demeanor doesn’t seem to coincide with the Christian faithful who believe the meek will inherit the earth. This is a man who attends parties at the Playboy mansion. This is a man who is currently on his third marriage. Why would the Conservative Christians latch on to a leader who was everything but pious?

The Evangelicals are a cheap date. They will support anyone who agrees with them on three wedge issues. That’s all it takes. You can reverse your position on abortion, and no one will ask questions. You can even show up to a Bible college and mispronounce the title of one of their sacred books, and no one will bat an eye. You can mock a disabled person and they aren’t bothered in the slightest. The ends justify any means — for both Trump and the Evangelicals — and in this manner, they are a rather appropriate couple.

Underneath all of the economic posturing (and lies, half-truths, and inaccuracies too numerous to fully catalog) lies a grim reality that Mr.Trump is quite keen to hide. He has no diplomatic experience. Absolutely none. He wouldn’t know the first thing about how to control the executive branch of government. Almost every President in history was an attorney before being elected, and for good reason — the job requires a thorough knowledge of the law. Trump is a viable candidate for the Presidency because he has money and has a catch phrase. Have we sunk that low as a nation? Are we really that apathetic about very important issues?

The Trump Indictment

Yes, we have sunk that low, and yes, we are that apathetic about important issues.

The stunning health of his Presidential bid confirms – rather incontrovertibly – that racism, xenophobia, sexism and blind nationalism have always enjoyed enthusiastic support  in the United States. It is profoundly disturbing that in our modern era, a man can suggest, without pretense, that an entire religious group should be deported from a democratic society.

Trump’s campaign is a shrewd attempt to parlay celebrity recognition into actual political power. His campaign objectively proves that the Christian right wing will support anyone, no matter how repugnant or hateful. His campaign is a sobering indictment of our entire society, top to bottom, front to back.

Charlie Brooker – the producer of an excellent series on Netflix called ‘Black Mirror’ – wrote an episode about a cartoon character who successfully runs for political office in the UK. Rather chillingly, the cartoon is described as a ‘political entertainment package’ and it’s closing scene is an image of the cartoon’s insignia painted on the tail of a fighter jet. This comparison was made by many others as well, most notably by Redditors who sent clips of the episode to the front page of the internet hivemind. One contributor even digitally superimposed the words ‘Trump’ into the video, prompting discussion about whether Brooker had intentionally pointed the barrel of this episode – rather prophetically – at Trump himself.

The collective response of the internet has been a smorgasbord of hatred-tinged satire. Sketches of Donald in the nude with a micro-penis captured wide acclaim, and after John Oliver seized on an odd exchange regarding the size of Mr.Trump’s hands, the internet bile machine again roared to life, altering images and videos to lambaste the tycoon over a topic which he seemed to be needlessly sensitive.

Don’t be mistaken – I harbor no sympathy for this hateful bigot being rightfully taken to task online, and I don’t want to wag a shameful finger towards the indelibly creative and genuinely funny works of digital satire being cultivated on the web. That being said – the intelligentsia of the left wing has proven that they can stoop down to the level of any opposition – however irrational and absurd – and spin up derisive media with the same efficiency and enthusiasm of any bloated Fox News talking head. Political satire shows dug through Trump’s history and dredged up anything that could be used as a weapon. Did he deserve such treatment? Of course. Should we be concerned that the rational world lined up to take a swing? I believe so.

It’s at this point that I should go to great lengths not to be misunderstood: political satire is vital to a free society, and it should never be restrained, and I am not, and would never, advocate for any such measure. I critique this medium because I cherish it, and I want influential shows like these to get continually better. The Daily Show and Last Week with John Oliver (and the cavalcade of political humor shows like them) are focused on generating funny material. They don’t have a journalistic responsibility, and I don’t wish to impose one upon them, but each time I watch one of their segments, I can’t shake the sickly feeling that the comedy does come primarily from a mean-spirited place rather than a rational one, and it strikes me as a big exercise in missing the forest for the trees.

In this manner, the left amplifies the message it purports to loathe, and becomes, part and parcel, the rabid liberal media attack dog it claims is a figment of neocon imagination. As we rifle through Trump’s closets in search of skeletons, it’s impossible to ignore the growing stains of dirt on our own hands, and it’s tough not to wonder if the ends really justify the means. I stand convicted on this point as well – I have long criticized the left for refusing to ‘play dirty’ in the political arena. With Trump, the left has jumped head-long into the muck and mire, and suddenly the taste for bloody conflict has soured in my mouth.

Trump has employed a shrewd political strategy  – it is solely predicated on pandering to the lowest denominator. The right wing took a long look at every potential candidate – as a majority – and declared that Rubio, Carson, Cruz, Bush, Kaisch and Fiornia all cast too narrow a net. They didn’t attack with Trump’s viciousness. They didn’t advocate for torture, or for the murder of the family members of militant Islamists, and didn’t tease nearly enough women for menstruating. The Conservatives looked at the field and picked Donald as the incontrovertible winner . Trump took his rhetoric further than anyone else, and garnered the support of the right wing as a direct result. In short, Trump is giving the GOP precisely what they want, and that’s why he’s successful. He’s the McDonald’s of the Republican party.

Media Complicity

Trump has proven that American journalism values nothing more than the almighty advertising dollar, and in its desperate search for anything that will pry eyeballs away from the internet, has murdered any semblance of truth and editorial responsibility.

This economic dilemma has been thrust upon the networks by its advertisers, and as a result, most of the content that ends up being broadcast is overtly designed to elicit anger and fear. As much as we might like to blame the shit-stirring network executives – our citizenry is to blame in equal measure. This is the free market at work. We are being given a product that has the widest appeal.

Trump – quite expertly – saw this opportunity and pounced. He didn’t need to spend millions in a media campaign, he just needed to slander billions of people. This made the American media view Trump as the sort of revenue-earning topic that would keep viewers engaged and they rewarded every piece of hateful invective he managed to spew by running every word out of his mouth through every media outlet at their disposal.

No stranger to the world of reality television, Mr.Trump could see the GOP’s image problem from a mile away. Conservative voters are still hungover from the Reagan era, still pining for a strong-armed leader who quenches their thirst for a cult of personality. They want a polemic figure to swoop into the White House and drain the rest of the world of its irritating complexity. ‘Us versus Them’ is easy for anyone to understand, and the appeal of Trump’s reductionism is strengthened every single time he stokes the flames of fear among the low and middle class.

The current roster of bland Republican presidential hopefuls could not match the bombastic personality of Mr. Trump, because, unlike Donald, they are career politicians who have to look fifteen to twenty years down the road for nearly every action they take. Sure, maybe Rubio or Cruz could get a temporary bump in Conservative support if they copied his script and proclaimed that they wanted to deport all of the Muslims, but the short term gains would be far outweighed by the long term damage. Donald Trump isn’t burdened by that particular problem, and he can say out loud what his supporters are thinking without being punished – and that’s precisely the thing that gives him such a worrying amount of power.

Should Mr.Trump reach the White House, we will all bear some measure of culpability. It will represent a failure of our shared American values. We rewarded the networks with ratings when they amplified the ramblings of a hateful bigot. We stooped down to the level of a smarmy demagogue and tried to shame a man when it was obvious he had no lower level to left to sink. We dignified his inane and incoherent policy suggestions with no shortage of responses. We were so enamored with the veneer of celebrity that we allowed it to be a sufficient qualification for political leadership. Cancel your cable subscription, turn off CNN, turn off MSNBC, turn off FOX News, and rip the lungs out of the beast before it sings you to sleep.

 

 

 


 

The West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Missouri has generated national media attention and drawn the near universal ire of residents forced to endure its noxious fumes. West Lake is much more than just a nuisance — the site contains radioactive nuclear weapons waste from The Manhattan Project. To make matters worse, the landfill has been burning for years. Efforts to contain the ‘smoldering event’ have failed, and the possibility of an underground nuclear fire in St.Louis is looming ominously over the horizon.

The EPA has emphatically denied that West Lake poses a significant threat to the population. They don’t believe the fire will reach the irradiated material, even going as far as to claim that if the blaze did manage to reach it, that there may be no negative effects on the local population. Their own data suggests that the surrounding areas does not contain radiation above normal levels. Citizens of Denver, for example, will be exposed to more radiation naturally than someone living in Bridgeton, they say, but not everyone agrees with the EPA’s findings or research methodology. West Lake has become a point of sharp contention, even within the government itself.  Attorney General Eric Koster published a report that claimed cancer rates were disproportionately high around Bridgeton and radioactive materials were being found offsite in soil samples and tree cores, the EPA responded tersely, saying it welcomed all ‘valid’ and ‘sound’ scientific input.

Site Measurements

The U.S Government, through one channel or another, has been monitoring and measuring the radioactivity of the West Lake Landfill. Specifically, region 7 of the EPA ordered both infrared imaging of the smoldering event and gamma radiation measurements of areas known to contain radioactive uranium ore.

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Gamma measurement of OU2, known to contain uranium ore. [Source: ASPECT survey report, May 2013]

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Closer look at Operable Unit 1, Area 2. [Source: ASPECT survey report, May, 2013]

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Thermal Contouring Image of Westlake [Source: ASPECT survey report, May, 2013]

 

Skin in the Game

The EPA isn’t the only agency involved in West Lake. The US Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control, The Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry, and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission have all produced reports and published findings on the site. Should the situation deteriorate in Bridgeton, the resulting crisis will fall quite indisputably within the ambit of each organization.

I find the EPA’s response to be the most perplexing. In 2013, Republic requested that the EPA build a firebreak between the landfill fire and the radioactive materials. The EPA refused this request, and reiterated that the presence of the nuclear waste did not pose a threat to the community. The EPA claimed more research needed to be done, and the installation of a fire break presented a fair amount of risk, and could, under the right circumstances, spread contaminants and make the situation much worse.

Fast-forward to 2015, and the EPA changes its tune. In October, it claimed that a ‘decision is coming’ on a firebreak, then, by December, announces that the firebreak will indeed be installed. Did the EPA cave to non-scientific political pressure? If its previous findings were true — that modifications to the site are a legitimate scientific threat to the population — why did the EPA decide to expose Bridgeton to that threat after all?

The tone across multiple government reports on the site seemed to be rather uniform. The Department of Health and Human Services officially recommended that no action be taken on the site, and that risks for offsite exposure to the public were unlikely, mirroring decades of findings from the EPA.

“The five elements of an exposure pathway are 1) a source of contamination, 2) an environmental medium, 3) a point of exposure, 4) a route of human exposure, and 5) a receptor population” [USDHHS Westlake Report, p9]

According to the Health and Human Services report, the West Lake site contains four out of the five variables. I’d argue it contains all five — considering Koster’s report seems to indicate radioactive materials are indeed being found offsite — the contamination appears to be far from adequately contained.  At the risk of oversimplifying, why should this dangerous nuclear waste remain within striking distance of a receptor population at all? The simplest solution is to remove the radioactive potential before it becomes an even bigger problem. Surely few residents would object to its removal, and the calculated risk of nipping this problem in the bud is one well worth taking, even by the most conservative estimates.

Agency Infighting

The American government has innumerable organizations and agencies, and in the case of West Lake, many of those agencies failed to see eye-to-eye on who was ultimately responsible for the condition of the landfill, and how the waste was allowed to fall into the hands that illegally disposed of it in Bridgeton.

“As part of its initial report on West Lake, the EPA determined that the Department of Energy was one of the parties responsible for the contamination, since one of its predecessor organizations — the Atomic Energy Commission — had produced and sold the waste to the company that dumped it. But when pushed to incorporate the landfill into the DOE’s cleanup program — the Former Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) — officials resisted, according to documents residents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

 

In files dated to 1992, the DOE pushed back after an unnamed Missouri official suggested that the site be incorporated into the department’s cleanup program. The DOE official claimed that because the government’s radioactive waste had been sold to a private company for its commercial value before it was dumped at the landfill, the department retained no legal responsibility over the contamination of West Lake.

 

West Lake Landfill was never incorporated into the DOE’s program — now under the operations of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — and it remains under the jurisdictions of the EPA’s Superfund program, having been added to the National Priority List in 1989.

 

“It was an arbitrary judgment,” said Ed Smith of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. “Not only are we concerned about the overall Superfund program and that concern as it relates to the West Lake landfill, but we’re also dissatisfied with how the EPA’s handling of West Lake has gone over the past couple decades.”

 

The documents also suggest that the DOE knew of the severity of the site’s contamination.

 

In one 1992 file, an official from the DOE’s Office of Environmental Restoration wrote, “the West Lake Landfill is likely to have significant contamination from a wide range of sources and that it is not in the best interest of DOE to be the deep pocket for cleanup of sites at which it has no legal responsibility or authority,” then suggested that the EPA seek funding from the owners between whom the property had passed since contamination.

 

In a letter to a St. Louis environmental activist dated 1995, that same official wrote, “budgetary issues have never played any role in the designation of [FUSRAP] sites, nor have I ever heard anyone suggest that budgetary issues should be a factor in the designation of sites.” [Al-Jazeera]

 

Neither complaint should be dismissed. It seems fair and equitable that the Department of Energy (whose predecessor produced and sold the materials to the party that criminally managed them) should bear some responsibility for sanitizing the site. I can see the other side of this coin as well — the DoE completed a transaction that (ostensibly) complied with all federal regulations that governed the exchange, and their buyer acted negligently.

That being said, no one with a brain can argue that the prevention of a nuclear event in a residential area falls outside the reach of the CDC, EPA, DHS, and, in general, of the federal government that manufactured the material in the first place.

Scale and Scope

Extrapolating the potential of a crisis at West Lake is tricky. The subject matter is unbelievably technical and complex. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources released a 680 page report in 2015 on the potential groundwater impacts of the landfill alone. I was also able to dig up a 255 page report from Landfill Fire Control Incorporated — detailing at length their findings over a three-day visit of the West Lake site. The situation is not an easy one to solve, nor is it an easy one to fully understand. Fire-meeting-nuclear-waste doesn’t sound safe in the slightest, but the jury is still out on what, exactly, could happen if it does:

 

A report produced for the EPA in January 2014 by a contractor working for Republic Services and the other West Lake Landfill “responsible parties” said that even if the underground fire reached the radioactive material, nothing serious would happen. It concluded that there would be “no long-term additional risks to people or the environment.”

 

At the request of the regional EPA office in Kansas City, EPA scientists in Cincinnati reviewed that report. According to their March 2014 analysis, if the radioactive waste is left in place and capped, a subsurface fire could crack that cap, potentially releasing radon gas, radioactive dust, and other contaminants into the air. Groundwater could also be contaminated.

 

A landfill fire expert previously interviewed by St. Louis Public Radio said the greatest risk would be if the chemical reaction consumed a large amount of material quickly enough to cause a big hole underground. That could cause the landfill surface to cave in. Under those conditions, the smoldering reaction could break through to the surface as an actual flaming fire and spread much more quickly.

 

Both the EPA regional office and Republic Services maintain that it is “highly unlikely” that a subsurface fire could come into contact with the radioactive waste.

 

But some area residents, environmental groups, and local officials are convinced the threat of the fire reaching the radioactive material is real and have called for the waste’s removal. Those fears have been inadvertently heightened by the widespread publicizing of alarming-sounding excerpts from Sperling’s report and St. Louis County’s emergency response plan.

 

A nuclear policy analyst has voiced more general concerns about the safety of having radioactive material at the West Lake Landfill, since it was never designed to contain nuclear waste” [STLPublicRadio]

 

The crux of the issue at West Lake is actuarial. This is really a discussion about risk management and probability. What are the chances the fire reaches closes that 1200 foot gap? What will happen if nuclear waste gets set ablaze? What is the safest possible choice? Is the public merely overreacting? Or is the government asleep at the wheel? There are simply too many unknowns in the equation for comfort.

We are quite right to question the motives of government agencies, especially in matters where corporate interests intersect with environmental contamination. According to the USGS, fracking does not cause earthquakes — and Oklahoma registering 800 quakes in 2015 (compared to ‘a few dozen’ in 2012) is totally a coincidence, and if you believe that, I have a timeshare on a bridge to sell you.

At the same time, we should be equally skeptical of alarmist analysis from non-experts. If West Lake is truly innocuous, and the EPA is actually right, we would be succumbing rather powerfully to the loathsome ‘cell-phones-cause-cancer’ style of pseudoscientific nonsense. I feel a tinge of suspicion in this regard — images of environmental activists protesting in gas masks against the construction of nuclear power plants immediately springs to mind. Now, some of those same nuclear watchdogs have changed sides, rightfully seeing an expansion of nuclear power as a strong answer to climate change. Mistakes are made in the court of public opinion. There are serious risks to removing the problematic waste, but they are worth taking and far preferable to a radioactive event that occurs at a time we do not choose and with a degree of severity we cannot definitively predict.

As it stands, West Lake is unquestionably susceptible to a deadly nuclear event, and the authorities are gambling with the lives of everyone involved.  I fail to see any benefit in keeping the nuclear waste in a position where it could become very dangerous to thousands of people with little warning. I can not see what, if anything, is gained by leaving the site in its current state. There is a receptor population nearby. Without question, the safest possible outcome is to simply remove the containment from any receptor populations.

There are canaries singing in this mine, and we ignore them at our own peril. The reports of  radioactive materials being found off-site, water run-off incidents, and The State of Missouri’s suit against Republic for failing to maintain West Lake within the scope of its own permits are more than enough to justify and validate the concerns of the community.

After the attacks of September 11th, it was revealed that American intelligence agencies failed to share pertinent information that may have prevented the attacks with one another. It is not unfair to claim that their organizational bickering was a dereliction of their duty to protect the American people. If West Lake’s condition worsens, and the worst case scenarios become a reality for Missourians, the same will be said of the Environment Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.

If Missourians cannot rely on their elected government to adequately clean up a site in their state that was contaminated by waste that the government itself manufactured, what, exactly, is this government good for? If it cannot do the most simple act of cleaning up after itself, why are we trusting this government with any basic responsibility? Whose interests are being served by letting this radioactive material stagnate and subsist within range of thousands of people? I can see the risk, but I cannot see the reward.

West Lake has all the elements of a nightmare in the making. It wouldn’t take much at all for this crisis to spin well and truly out of control, and the problem could worsen exponentially and threaten us in ways we can’t yet predict. The lives of our children are not worth gambling with, and the only rational course of action is to remove the Chernobyl percolating under our feet.
[View source data here]


carsonposing

Ben Carson isn’t a politician, devotees will undoubtedly tell you. He’s an outsider! He takes to his Facebook to adorably babble just like your weird uncle. He speaks with a patient cadence, timorous and self-effacing in a field of yelling bombasts. He oozes a quiet confidence, calmly organizing his pencil case on his desk while the other jocks wrestle for the last hot dog in the cafeteria. It isn’t difficult to see why his soothing delivery has appeal. It is especially reassuring to racist Republicans who believe blacks are mostly thuggish criminals.

The problem with Ben is relatively simple:  How can we be sure anything said is genuinely believed? How can a neurosurgeon — who had no shortage of academia jammed through his skull — say such stunningly ignorant things?

Either Dr. Carson sincerely believes in deeply hateful ideas or he is lying — cynically — to appeal to the lowest common denominator for personal gain. This reality becomes even more stupifying when another plain and undisputed fact comes sharply into focus. It’s not as if Dr. Carson gaffed while half-asleep,  drilled with fastball questions as he drearily stumbled into a Starbucks early in the morning. He has a multi-million dollar campaign, staffed with people who have been solely tasked with making him look good.

Did he and his entire campaign swing and miss on everything from school shootings to the basic reason the pyramids were built? Or is the truth a bit more sinister and calculated? Perhaps Dr.Carson — and his cadre of slick PR goons — know what plays well with the voters they’re courting and haven’t missed on a single pitch.

Lie To Me, Baby

Don’t be fooled by his aw-shucks demeanor and his disarming, I-praise-the-Lord charisma. He lies when it suits him, just like any other hawkishly self-interested politician. In one of his sleepy Facebook posts, he claimed he had ‘no pollsters’ working in his campaign. This was an obvious lie — and the truth was available to anyone with an internet connection. Carson’s campaign manager is Barry Bennett, a grizzled Beltway veteran who made his mark in DC with a data analysis firm. The most powerful person in his campaign is a pollster. Literally.

Beyond being flatly untrue, it was, like many political lies, totally unnecessary. Of course he uses polling data. He is running a presidential campaign. He would be irresponsible not to — but these are the ‘little’ lies that these blowhards spout every day to craft their image and appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Even worse, Dr. Carson has fabricated stories to make himself look good. This is another common behavior among politicians, and those who follow American politics closely are nodding their heads in agreement as they read this sentence. His West Point fraud is the clearest example of this, and here are four individual instances where he personally passed this lie off as a truth:

“I felt so proud, my chest bursting with ribbons and braids of every kind. To make it more wonderful, we had important visitors that day. Two soldiers who had won the Congressional Medal of Honor in Viet Nam were present. More exciting to me, General William Westmoreland (very prominent in the Viet Nam war) attended with an impressive entourage. Afterward, Sgt. Hunt introduced me to General Westmoreland, and I had dinner with him and the Congressional Medal winners. Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point. I didn’t refuse the scholarship outright, but I let them know that a military career wasn’t where I saw myself going. As overjoyed as I felt to be offered such a scholarship, I wasn’t really tempted. The scholarship would have obligated me to spend four years in military service after I finished college, precluding my chances to go on to medical school.”

“That position allowed me the chance to meet four-star general William Westmoreland, who had commanded all American forces in Vietnam before being promoted to Army Chief of Staff at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.…I also represented the Junior ROTC at a dinner for Congressional Medal of Honor winners, marched at the front of Detroit’s Memorial Day parade as head of an ROTC contingent, and was offered a full scholarship to West Point.”

“The next question is from Bill. He wanted to know if it was true that I was offered a slot at West Point after high school. Bill, that is true. I was the highest student ROTC member in Detroit and was thrilled to get an offer from West Point. But I knew medicine is what I wanted to do. So I applied to only one school. (it was all the money I had). I applied to Yale and thank God they accepted me. I often wonder what might have happened had they said no.”

“I had a goal of achieving the office of city executive officer [in JROTC]. Well, no one had ever done that in that amount of time … Long story short, it worked, I did it. I was offered full scholarship to West Point, got to meet General Westmoreland, go to Congressional Medal dinners, but decided really my pathway would be medicine.”

None of this happened. Literally. He lied to make himself look good. He lied to curry favor with a Republican demographic too worried about Obama’s birth certificate to verify any of the outlandish claims Carson was making. Even worse? He’s been telling this lie since 1990 — when it first appeared in his book ‘Gifted Hands’.

Was Carson too forgetful to remember what happened? Is Carson just a bit of an exaggerator and the truth got away from him over time? Is Carson really that sinister and deliberate to drum up a fake story about West Point because he’d know it’d play well with his military-worshiping voter base? Do you want a man this forgetful, hyperbolic, or disingenuous as a President?

There might be dozens of Republicans jockeying for the nomination, but each one is the same hand jutting out of a different sleeve. They all want to slice out entitlements, deregulate business, and force Christianity down everyone’s throats with federal power. Carson is another bland foot soldier in the Republican war against secularism, and a woefully unremarkable one at that.

No Advocate for the Poor

Lost in all of his poverty-porn-origin-story boasting is how thinly veiled his disdain for the working class really is. He put himself through medical school by working hard, he says. Why does he mention how hard he worked? The question answers itself — he is crudely implying poor people are incurably lazy and the less the government gives them, the better.

I think over a drink or a two, Dr. Carson would probably tell you this outright,  and that he really believes his work ethic is the only thing that separates him from the lowly poor. Hard work is the salvation they have sinfully spurned and that he has righteously accepted. Our ears are always ringing with this haughty nonsense. Every election cycle, our heads are yanked down into this sweaty echochamber. People are getting rich off our tax dollars! They are welfare-leeches! They get money for doing nothing and they should be ashamed!

They don’t want you to know that 54% out of every tax dollar you give to the government goes to their friends in the defense industry. They want you to blame the poorest among us for nibbling at our table while they take the biggest bite and shamelessly go back for seconds. Dr. Carson believes the poor are unsaved, and haven’t earned their ticket out of the ghetto of grinding poverty with the salvation of hard work like he did. They’re the architects of their own suffering. They’re poor because they’re lazy, or stupid, or both, and we don’t owe them a single fucking dime. It’s the same disconnected indifference you’d hear in their country clubs if you could afford a membership. He’s just too crass to cover his tracks.

Americans are so entranced by the myth of self-made success that they’ll vote against their own interests and develop fierce opinions about fiscal policies that will never impact them. Remember the death tax? Remember how leather-faced-Mormon-dope Mitt Romney had a crowd in Iowa cheering when he wanted to abolish it?

He was referring to The United Gift and Estate Tax — legislation that regulates asset management after someone dies. It only applies to people who have wealth in excess of $5 million. Do you have $5 million in the bank? Statistically, no, you don’t. But Mitt Romney does, and he duped millions into voting for an economic policy that would benefit him, his rich friends, and definitely not the middle and lower classes.

Greed is endless. They wouldn’t stop at $10 million, or $20 million, because they want everything. This isn’t hidden knowledge. Dr.Carson will tell you all of this in plain and simple English.

“Corporations are not in business to be social-welfare organizations; they are there to make money,” Carson said.

Charities, he added, are better at providing for the needy than the government. “Nobody is starving on the streets. We’ve always taken care of them,” Carson said. “We take care of our own; we always have. It is not the government’s responsibility.”

The government should be small, the free market should be big, and the money I earn doesn’t belong to the government. Their entire economic policy literally says as much. We get the wealth first, we get the biggest share of it, and eventually it will trickle down to you. What makes you think — average American voter — that a party with two former CEO’s running serious campaigns could ever represent your interests? What makes you believe that you belong in their club?

Creepy Moralizing and Disguised Divisionism

Buried beneath Carson’s facade of pseduo-humility lies some of the most toxic and repugnant ideologies. Carson says we don’t have a war on women, but “a war on what’s inside of women.” (if only we could rip those pesky uteri out of women we wouldn’t have to bother with them at all!)   Carson tells the press — before the bodies of the victims of a school shooting were even cold — that he ” would have charged” an active shooter. Carson says he would not abort baby Hitler, says he dislikes digging bullets out of gunshot victims, but that he prefers this repetitious chore to more gun control. Ben Carson says the pyramids were used by Joseph to store grain, not as burial tombs for Pharaohs. Dr. Carson does not believe a Muslim should be President, believes straight people go into prison and come out gay (a statement he would later retract and apologize for), and he believes the feminist movement of the 1960’s is the root cause of racially charged police brutality, and on and on, ad infinitum, smiling as he spews hateful, creepy and divisive poison in the hopes that you’ll smile and nod right along with him.

At this point, I’d like to remind you — again —  that Dr.Carson is a neurosurgeon. How can someone bright enough for brain surgery be dull enough to say any of this drivel? Does he genuinely believe any of this garbage? If he does, he’s not qualified to run a post office, let alone a superpower. Or is it more likely that Carson espouses all this infantile babble insincerely to drum up neoconservative support for personal gain?

Pro-wealth campaigners like Carson aren’t totally wrong. It takes a whole hell of a lot of courage to open your own business, and when it works, individuals ought to be rewarded for the risk they took. Industries can be suffocated by over-regulation, and when governments bruise corporations on the bottom line, they often divest and move on, and the low and middle class are left in the lurch as a result. International companies are often at a disadvantage when they choose to operate in the United States. Compared to the lawless and regulation-free wilderness offered by nations like Bangladesh, Thailand, and Indonesia, the U.S looks like an overbearing and tax obsessed nightmare.

Those corporate playgrounds come at the expense of human rights — invariably — and the lack of wage regulation, occupational safety, and basic rights and benefits for the working class are exactly the fuel that keeps the engine running. I don’t want to live in Ben Carson’s deregulated business paradise, and I’ll bet you don’t either.


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