Category Archives: Politics

Communications fail

No, I’m not talking about this blog, which hasn’t been updated in a good long while, sad to say. Between travel and work and getting MJ-12: Endgame off the ground — plus preparing for the launch of MJ-12: Shadows  in September — it’s been rather busy.

Plus, there have been distractions. I know I’m not the only writer grotesquely entranced by the insanity coming out of Washington, from TrumpCare to climate change denial to God-knows-what. But the train wreck that never ceases to amaze me is the utter lack of sensible communications from the White House.

In short — the font of self-inflicted damage is amazing. And so easily avoided, too.

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This is what you get when folks vote against their own interests

Warning: Political rant incoming. Feel free to skip if you like, though I hope you won’t — especially if you think you might disagree. Different perspectives are fun. 

Nearly two months into the great Trump experiment in governmental self-destruction, I hope it’s becoming clear that the populist veneer of the Donald was just that — a veneer. A thin layer of formica made to look like marble, slapped onto plywood, rather like the furnishings in his casinos.

The GOP replacement for the Affordable Care Act will result anywhere from 6 million to 10 million people losing health insurance coverage, according to the Standard & Poor’s rating agency (hardly a bastion of liberal socialism), while providing $600 billion in tax breaks to the richest 0.1% of Americans — roughly $200,000 per rich person. Let’s put it another way — that extra $600 billion is enough money to provide $50,000 in basic income for 12 million families of four for a year.

Now, I’m not so much a socialist liberal elitist or whatever to suggest that we do that. But I’m not so blind as to think that even a fraction those immensely rich folks are going to take their $200,000 and increase investment into industries and businesses that will help employ more Americans, as per the thoroughly discredited trickle-down economics the GOP seeks to cling to. No, chances are, that $200,000 will be rolled over into the market, or maybe go toward a really nice first-class vacation somewhere — just like the rest of us do with our tax refunds.

This is not populist. This is not any sort of salve to the middle class. This is a naked giveaway to the most wealthiest people on the planet. And it is shameful.

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The importance of accepting dissent

WARNING: Political rant incoming. That said, no matter your politics, I’d urge you to give it a read.

Just this afternoon, journalists from The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, CNN, BuzzFeed and Politico were barred from attending a “gaggle” — kind of an informal briefing — with Press Secretary Sean Spicer at the White House. Anybody, of any political affiliation, should see this as the affront to American values it surely is.

Combined with the ever-increasing rarity of Republican congressmen and senators refusing to hold town hall meetings with constituents, apparently for fear of getting yelled at, and a veritable pall is settling upon American democracy. The very notion of the “loyal opposition” has been perverted into believing dissent is traitorous. And the critical function of a free press in American democracy has been mauled and spindled into “fake media” and “alternative facts.”

I cannot overestimate how horrible and threatening this is to the very fiber of America and her values.

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On leaking intelligence reports and the intel community

WARNING: Another political rant forthcoming. Duck and cover if you prefer not to go down this rabbit hole. 

Apparently, the President is quite angry at all the leaks of intelligence information that ultimately led to the resignation of his national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Flynn’s sin was that, according to many well-sourced news reports (i.e. not fake), he spoke to the Russian ambassador to the U.S. about getting American sanctions removed.

In his anger, Trump has lashed out at both the news media for reporting on the leaks, calling it fake news, and at the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) for leaking sensitive information that, presumably, was not fake. Trump has also appointed an adviser to conduct a review of the IC to get to the bottom of the leaks.

I’ve been a reporter for The Associated Press, and I’ve done academic work on the IC (as well as a lot of research on it for my novels), so I thought I’d throw in my $0.02 here. Let’s break it down this way:

  • What did Michael Flynn do and why does it matter?
  • Where did the leaks come from and why does it matter?
  • What will Trump’s adviser do to plug the leaks, and why won’t it work?

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Debunking the myth of the paid protester

Warning: I’m about to commit math! And politics! TOGETHER IN ONE POST!

It’s now the lie du jour  for the Trumpist/Bannonist elements of the Republican Party — and let’s face it, gang, they don’t speak for the mainstream GOP anymore — to state that the protesters who have taken to the streets in the past few weeks are not, in fact, Americans like you and I who are exercising their Constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of assembly and the like.

Nope, they’re paid protesters. Because Trump won the presidency and the globalist/elitist/Wall Street cabal behind Hillary Clinton and the Democrats simply cannot allow the real voice of the people to go unchallenged. See? Even the president has an opinion:

In all fairness — a quality not usually associated with the President or Mr. Bannon — this tweet was about protests near Oakland that got violent when an alt-right provocateur and demagogue went to go talk at Berkeley. Which…dude, you went to Berkeley to talk alt-right politics? OK, then.

But the myth of paid protesters goes far beyond one or two incidents, and the echo chamber is filled with all kinds of conspiracy theories. Apparently, the hardcore Trumpist/Bannonist folks think that the protests we’ve seen all around the country were funded by…someone. (George Soros is always a favorite bogeyman for such shenanigans, for some damn reason.) But whatever — deep pockets and irrational hatred of Trump equals paying to undermine him via protests.

I’m gonna tackle this utter fallacy in two parts. First, the actual costs and logistics of paying protesters, and second, the potential return on that investment. Here we go.

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They will try to silence our voices. They won’t.

churchillThe new regime in scared.

Reports coming in from Washington say the new administration and the Republican-controlled Congress are planning to shutter the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The NEA and NEH each had a budget of $146 million in 2015. That $292 million is less than the cost of three F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft, if you want to count beans about it. It’s a few hundredths of a percent of the total federal budget.

Oh, and they want to privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which offers great shows on current events, science, culture and history. And let’s throw in all of the disparaging crap the nominee for Education Secretary has said about public education.

There are plenty of government-funded programs that are spiraling out of control in terms of costs, plenty of fat to trim. But they’re going for arts, the humanities, education, information. And already the U.S. lags well behind Canada and the U.K. in funding for arts and culture.

They’re doing it because they’re scared. They think they can silence artists and scholars, keep Americans dumb and complacent, lest they lose their funding, their perks, their comfy offices.

In five states, Republicans are working to pass bills that would utterly criminalize protest and civil disobedience. Jaywalk on your way to lunch? $50 fine. Join a protest that closes a street or highway? A year in jail and thousands of dollars in fines.

They’re scared. They don’t want to see thousands of people protesting as they strip away healthcare, de-fund commuity outreach programs, shut down initiatives against domestic violence. They want to silence us.

The new president was elected on a platform of “they,” rather than “us.” “They” are coming over the border to take our jobs. “They” are sucking up good citizens’ tax dollars with entitlement programs. “They” are artists who should only entertain, rather than use their voices for anything other than pretty pictures and mindless comedies.

And these cuts are designed to turn “they” against “us.” Because this regime is scared. Cowardly. These nouveau autocrats will not support a culture of critical thinking, artistic expression and freedom of speech, because deep down, they know that culture — that very American culture — will be fundamentally opposed to them.

Our heritage is rebellion. Our nation was born of rebellion, spurred by a government in which the colonies were not represented. But our heritage is also cooperation — E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. We are all Americans, no matter who we voted for. But they would silence those who disagree. They would divide the one America into many, turning brother against brother to make it easier to maintain their power and comfort, to divert money into tax savings for the wealthy.

They’ve been successful so far. But they’ll push their luck. They’ll go too far. And when they do, we will be ready for them.

Today we must raise our voices, and there are many more days to come. Today, it is incumbent upon all of us to become the artists, the scholars, the scientists and the protesters. This government will not protect our voices and preserve our culture of cooperation and rebellion against injustice. Because it scares them.

So it’s on us. It’s on use to create, to study and learn and become informed. And most importantly, it’s on us to use our voices to speak out against injustice, to speak for the Americans who will lose their health insurance, either through repeal of the ACA or through the rising premiums to come or through pre-existing conditions no longer protected. We have to speak out against violence against women, against people of color, against LBGTQ+ communities. Speak out against their efforts to divide “us” into “they.”

We are the artists and the scholars, the workers and the students, the people of the United States of America. We are many, and we are one. And no matter how scared they get, no matter what that fear of reproach or rejection drives them to do, they will not silence us.

Instead, we will show them the door.

Let’s get to work.

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On unverified intelligence reports

ciafloorI think there are enough posts on this blog for folks to quickly ascertain that I’m not a fan of our President-Elect, but in case you’re wanting for that bit of particular context, I’ll repeat: NOT A FAN.

With that said, I wanted to talk a little bit about the recent bombshell dropped on our nation’s democracy — reports of financial and personal information about Donald Trump in the hands of the Russian government, and the possibility they may be used as leverage against him when he becomes President.

This is a Big Deal, about as big as it gets. And the details of the memos, published by BuzzFeed after CNN broke the story, are about as sordid as any spy thriller could come up with — alleged financial ties, alleged meetings between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives, and Trump’s alleged unseemly sexual escapades with prostitutes. The latter, while kinda gross, is far less important than the former two, which could very well be impeachable offenses.

So why didn’t this stuff come to light earlier? Why is it being treated as “unverified” and “unsubstantiated” — or “alleged,” which I used three times in the last paragraph — when we were willing to take WikiLeaks’ emails hook, line and sinker? Why is the U.S. Intelligence Community treading softly here, including these allegations in an appendix rather than as part of its main report on Russian interference in the election?

Here’s why.  Continue reading

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