Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

A breeding ground for fascists?

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Overthrows engineered by the military in Third World countries are ubiquitous, but is the U.S. now in danger of following this fascist paradigm? Military men Flynn, Kelly, Mattis, and McMaster are or were all members of Mr. Trump’s cabinet, and it’s clear that the Joint Chiefs have a lot of influence in this White House too. When one considers that the higher echelons in the military organizations are natural breeding grounds for fascists, the question arises whether civilian control of the military is in danger.

There are two sides of this tarnished coin, though. While one can question whether high-ranking ex-officers have directly experienced the horrors of war, they are closer to them than civilians. They might be more cautious than civilian leaders about a involving their country in wars. There’s a high probability that that’s the case in the Trump administration: the commander-in-chief doesn’t have a clue, but his military men do (Kelly even lost a son). Sometimes Mr. Trump follows the military’s advice; other times he cuts them off at the knees just like he does with the State Department.

I suspect Mr. Trump is more dangerous to the country and has more fascist tendencies than America’s military. He has all the characteristics of a fascist personality: he attacks anyone who disagrees with him, thinks most people love him, and believes he can do no wrong. His imperial scowl is known far and wide and has earned him the nickname Il Duce.

But I do worry about America’s military in the following sense: Will they have the guts to buck a paranoid and narcissistic despot like Trump? After all, for the commander-in-chief, making America great again implies making America’s military great again—as if it weren’t already. We spent too much on defense in the past; now it’s worse. Will these good times for America’s military leaders motivate them to blindly obey the immoral commands of their commander-in-chief? Will they aid and abet the wannabe fascist in the White House in order to maintain their privileged role and share some of his power and glory? Will they turn to fascism along with Il Duce and his cohorts instead of protecting our democracy?

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Doug Jones has won!

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

A heartfelt thank you to 50+% Alabamians for this surprising victory. You might not be very progressive, but you’ve shown middle-of-the-road is OK too when compared to alt-right bigots hiding behind religion. Special thanks to women voters (overwhelmingly for Mr. Jones, for obvious reasons), blacks (Jones reached out to you and you responded), and those GOP members who deserted a sick pervert (write-ins, probably not for Jones, but not for Roy Moore either). This is a huge slap in the face for Mr. Trump and his fascist sideman Bannon, and it’s a good omen for 2018 and 2020. I withdraw my call for a boycott of sweet home, Alabama.  Welcome back to a saner U.S.A., Alabamians! Organize and resist for 2018….

Sweet home, Alabama…

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

It’s the state that’s well on its way to elect an exploiter of underage girls as Senator with complete support of the GOP establishment.  It’s the state that thinks George Wallace is a hero and martyr.  It’s the state that’s still living the Civil War.  It’s the state where evangelists are racists, bigots, and not Christians.  And it’s the state whose football team is overrated and doesn’t belong in any post-season game, let alone the college playoffs.  It’s the most infamous state in the union right now, folks, and full of contradictions.

Only a special kind of chaotic and evil mental wiring in Alabamians’ heads can explain these contradictions.  How is it that a population claiming to be Christian can be racist and so tolerant of sexual perversion?  OK, I get it.  There is that “correct” alt-right white, racist, and perverse Christianity, what Alabamians believe, and then there’s that “incorrect” form that considers blacks and other minorities sisters and brothers and tolerates abominations like those practiced by the LGBT community. Alabamians see the pervert-in-chief in the White House as their political savior, yet forget all the teachings of their true Savior.  The only nice word I can think of to describe the situation is HYPOCRISY.

As far as white Alabamians are concerned, everyone else should leave the U.S. in order to purify the country.  Roy Moore has as much stated this, and he has plenty of fruitcakes who agree with him.  That’s fascist thinking.  Their alt-right mental makeup allows no place for reason, logic, or true Christian love and understanding.  Every person interviewed as a Roy Moore supporter I’ve seen came across as ignorant but also all too comfortable in their bigotry and hypocrisy.  They’d rather be red and wrong than tolerant and correct.  Maybe not all, but too many are Roy Moore supporters.

Roy Moore (no relation, but I’m ready to change my last name!) is just another George Wallace; both are part of a long line of racists, haters, and bigots from the Deep South, the land where the KKK is considered God’s army.  Alabama is the heart of old Dixie, always has been, and that summarizes its modern position and everything that’s wrong with the state.  Roy Moore hides his racism and bigotry under the cloak of religion; at least Wallace was open about his mental aberrations, although I suppose he also used God to justify them often.

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Reading v. understanding…

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Those who are accustomed to my blog posts—minimally, an op-ed comment on current events on Tuesdays and something on reading, writing, or the publishing business on Thursdays—might find it strange that I’m placing this post here on a Tuesday. There’s a simple explanation: reading and understanding what we read are building blocks in the democratic foundation of our country.

A dear friend and I were talking over the holiday about reading “popular science” articles. These are supposedly designed so that an “intelligent layperson” can develop some understanding about an esoteric bit of science or technology. I complained about Scientific American’s overly detailed articles in fields I’d like to learn more about for my sci-fi writing. “Don’t worry about it,” said my friend. “They’ve dumbed down the articles now.”

Some translations are in order. First, there’s no such thing as “popular science” anymore. Science isn’t popular, from outright attacks on it by religious fanatics and politicians who are sycophants for Corporate America, unwilling or otherwise, to teachers telling students that they should study something else because science is too hard (especially egregious when a male teacher adds “…for girls”). In all age groups, many consider science and technology to be the root of all the problems society faces, and there are many others who encourage such an opinion.

Second, “intelligent layperson” is all too often another oxymoron nowadays. I’m not speaking to the obvious cases where someone believes dinosaurs and human beings coexisted and the world with all its wonderful diversity of flora and fauna was all created six thousand years ago. I’m talking about the average Joan or Joe who reads something but can’t understand what they’ve just read. Call it what you will, it’s an indictment against popular culture. At the critical lower levels in our educational systems, teachers over-emphasize getting through the words—understanding is secondary. Certain content is emphasized; there’s not much practice analyzing and digesting new content. Too many people read something that’s devoid of facts but don’t have the background or even common sense to know better.

Third, “dumbed down” is a nice way of saying that essay and book writers know all about the problems mentioned above and bend over backwards to compensate in order to get their message across. The latter is a struggle that’s becoming increasingly difficult, even for fiction writers, where “dumbed down” has destroyed serious literature.

Even if we get people to read with all the other distractions they have—streaming video, social media, video games, and so forth—getting them to understand what they are reading is a high hurdle to jump over. I’ve often read a review of a “popular science” book and asked myself, “Did the reviewer read the same book I did?” That would probably happen with fiction too, but I don’t bother to read those reviews unless I’m making excerpts for the PR and marketing of my own books.

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Special post: With this tax bill, the fascist oligarchy prevails…

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

The Senate just before 2 a.m. today passed the most egregious tax bill in America’s history! These scurrilous sycophants of the oligarchy of rich elites, Corporate America, and the coalition of haters and bigots has struck yet another blow against the poor and middle class, worsening the plight of the former and adding another nail in the coffin of the latter.  Happy Holidays from the Grinches at the U.S. Senate, folks!

You’d think that such an important “reform” (the polite term for their “f**k-you” tax bill) would require a Senate majority to pass. But no, the GOP pulled another sneaky work-around yet again and squeaked through with a 51-49 simple majority. Let’s analyze how egregious this fascist coup is.

First, they would have added less crippling debt to future generations if they’d just voted for a national program to construct euthanasia centers—at least Mr. Trump could claim he’d started on his promised infrastructure program besides building more resorts and golf courses! The sick and the elderly will have shorter lives because you can bet that McConnell, Hatch, and their cronies convinced deficit-hawks that they’ll be able to offset the deficit increase by substantially cutting Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, as well as gut the ACA. Sen. Marco Rubio has admitted as much. Maybe it’s already in the bill. With characteristic sloppiness, the bill that was approved had last-minute changes added, many penciled in, so no one has even seen a final version—what are they hiding? Sen. Bob Corker, no sterling representative of human compassion but the only true conservative among the GOP senators who are traitors to the American public (that includes Sens. Flake and McCain, by the way), saw through this ploy. Apparently adding to the deficit is no longer a worry—the good old boys will get theirs and be long dead before our children and grandchildren slide into poverty and America becomes a Third World country.

It was both sad and amusing (black humor) to watch Wall Street’s reaction through this process. Corporate America showed its true colors and continues to follow the business model of 1930s Germany in supporting the wannabe dictator in the White House.  They’re trying to squeeze more blood from the poor and middle class masses who long ago lost all hope of narrowing the income gap between the rich elites and them. The DOW went up and down—up, as it seemed the tax bill would pass and send more money to the investors; down, when Lt. Gen. Flynn fingered Il Duce’s son-in-law and continued to collaborate with the special prosecutor. It’s almost as if Wall Street encouraged the sleazy collusion with the Russians that allowed Narcissus le Grand to win the 2016 election.

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The Yemeni genocide…

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

The Saudi Arabian prince isn’t just another Arab strongman consolidating his dictatorial power; he’s also creating his own Hitler-like genocide against the Houthis in Yemen. His secretive and despotic government supports Sunnis in Yemen.  Because Iran supports the Houthi Shi’ites there, Saudi Arabia is using starvation and cholera as weapons to murder the Houthis. These include women and children, innocent victims of an evil regime.

The NY Times in a rather misleading article called the prince’s actions another manifestation of the Arab Spring. Far from it. I guess the Times’s writers went into a trance with things like allowing women to drive, as if cosmetic changes in this dark and closed society could turn Saudi devils into angels! This is all just spin conjured up to distract the West, and the NY Times swallowed it and extolled the virtues of the “new regime” in a piece of irresponsible journalism at best and unpaid Saudi propaganda at worst.

The rotting core below the tip of this reformist iceberg is dangerous and depressing.  The images of starving and sick children on the November 19th segment of CBS’s Sixty Minutes should make anyone who isn’t a neo-Nazi cringe and grimace. Conservatives in the U.S. generally don’t watch Sixty Minutes, but they should have watched this episode, especially considering the NY Times blatant bias. Starvation and cholera aren’t pretty wherever they occur, but weaponizing them is a new invention. Leave it to the duplicitous Saudis to turn them into weapons in their campaign for political and religious domination in the region.

The Saudis didn’t just settle with creating modern terrorism. Most of the 9/11 murderers were Saudis. Bin Laden was a Saudi. And the Saudi government funds religious schools that brainwash young men so they become violent terrorists—Saudi terrorists. ISIS never became a 16th-century-style caliphate; Saudi Arabia already was long before ISIS! If Iran is a rogue nation, so is Saudi Arabia. They both destabilize the region via their radical brands of Islam. Their only commonality is their hatred for Israel. Neither nation is any friend of the U.S. or the West, yet the very military equipment we’ve sold to the Saudis is now used to murder Houthis in Yemen.

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Irish Stew # 64…

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

[As most readers of this blog know, I use the “Irish Stew” format when I want to comment on many news items. It’s been a while, but this last week seemed like a news tsunami!]

International…

Saudi Arabia. Their new leader is consolidating his power. His excuse: he wants to make the reclusive and longtime reincarnation of a caliphate before ISIS even thought of it more “open.” Give me a break! “Consolidating” is a code word for “becoming more fascist.” And Trump isn’t the only one holding hands with the fascist Saudis. Corporate America in general, and tech industries and the military-industrial complex in particular, are just tickled pink with this consolidation. Nothing like a dictator to ensure a stable marketplace.

I wonder if any of the dictator’s reforms will end those religious schools who teach hatred for the West in general and anything not radical Sunni in particular….

Backing down? How’s it feel, Mr. President, to back down? I think some Trump aides are trying to convince him that starting World War Three isn’t a good idea. War should always be a last resort when nukes could be involved. Not only that, Japan and South Korea would have millions of casualties even in a more conventional battle against the evil North Korea and their psychopathic leader, Kim Jong-Un. Trump is talking diplomacy on this trip to Asia. For how long? Maybe only to the next tweet.

There are military solutions. None of them are good. There are interceptors that might protect the U.S. against nuclear-tipped NK missiles. None of them are reliable. If an arrow is arcing down towards you, would you be confident that another archer can target it and knock it away?

The only thing that can possibly work with the paranoid and psychotic NK leader is economic strangulation. That requires China’s cooperation, and that can only be achieved by diplomacy. If you believe Mr. Trump has a diplomatic bone in his body, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you!

National…

Gun Control. The Air Force dropped the ball on informing the FBI about the Texas assassin’s proclivity for violence: he should have been put on that FBI list maintained for background checks on gun purchases. That’s a major glitch in the system—you can bet the armed forces are checking all their records right now! But that snafu detracts from the issue. Texas allowed that sporting goods store to sell those kinds of guns. All military-style weapons should be banned in this country—semi-automatics as well as automatics.

In its article on 11/8/2017, the NY Times had an interesting graphic on what sets us apart from the rest of the world with respect to mass killings. Answer: too many guns! Overall the U.S. is the worst in the world for recent mass killings: there are 270 million guns in the U.S., almost one for every man, woman, and child, and 90 mass shooters. No other country has more than 46 million guns or more than 18 mass shooters, and the U.S. is far worse than Yemen. Even adjusted for population, the U.S. is the worst case, and again only Yemen comes close. We’re worse than Yemen! (OK, maybe Yemen would be worse if one counted all the people Saudi Arabia has killed in their ethnic cleansing of non-Sunni heretics.) Along with the Times, I’d say the only explanation for mass shootings in America IS guns!

So sorry, Mr. Trump, guns are the problem!  These two indictments and stats fly in the face of your denials after the Las Vegas and Texas massacres, and make your pathetic plug of your immigration program after the NYC truck attack seem like a delusional political response. The Texas massacre is a gun control issue!  So are Las Vegas and Orlando. So is Colorado and Connecticut. Etc. Etc. Stop playing politics and do something right for a change!

Dark web and all that. Saipov, the New York City truck assassin was radicalized by ISIS websites and their propaganda on the web. Dark web or not, can’t we do something about this?

Immigration reform won’t help much. The terrorist immigrated here legally and became radicalized IN THIS COUNTRY. That has to stop. With all the smart hackers in this country, can’t we block evil propaganda that radicalizes psychotics? I can already hear the ACLU and other wackos screaming about First Amendment rights and free speech.

Sorry, folks, with freedoms come responsibilities and the courage to protect those freedoms. The only responsible solution is to shut down radical terrorist propaganda. Why should we give ISIS and other terrorist groups licenses to spout their hate-filled ideology? Why should we even allow them on the web?

By the way, Mr. Trump’s comments about the death penalty for Saipov will actually help the terrorist because the court will wonder if he can get a fair trial in this country.  Maybe Gitmo is the better place for him?

Hollywood perversion exposed. No longer can Hollywood moguls give a wink and a nod to the pervasive sexual harassment and rape that goes on in tinsel town. There’s been a tsunami of exposes. I don’t buy the label “nonconsensual sex” for “rape” any more than I buy our pervert-in-chief’s excuse of “locker room talk.” Although we have yet to see cases come to trial, they will. Rape is a crime, but so is sexual harassment and exploitation. Let’s hope the tsunami washes away this awful aspect of Hollywood and Washington D.C. culture.

The Ten Commandants don’t ban sexual perversion. I should be fair: it’s not just Hollywood! The Alabama GOP Senate candidate, in a special election to replace disgraced HHS Price, has been accused in an expose backed up by thirty people. When asked if he “dated” young girls, Roy Moore (no relation, thank God!) answered, “Only with their mothers consent.” Some defender of that Ten Commandants judge (kicked off the Alabama Supreme Court twice) said that Mary was a teenager and Joseph was a thirty-year-old carpenter and their son was Jesus. Maybe the most original excuse for sexual perversion I’ve heard, but just as sicko as Roy Moore himself.

Local…

Campaign ads. Now that the election is past and the dust (or should I say mud?) has settled, was it just my impression? Are campaign ads now worse than ever before? Has Mr. Trump and his minions set a new and insidious level of sleaze in American politics?

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…and then there’s Trump…

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Conservatives, progressives, GOP, Dems…and then there’s Mr. Trump. At the best, the president’s politics have no classification beyond creating a narcissistic cult of personality for a wannabe dictator. At the worst, he’s the nominal leader of an alt-right conspiracy that threatens the very future of America and the world. That doesn’t leave much wiggle room—no good here, just the bad and the ugly. Morricone’s fascinating score has become a funeral dirge for free society.

The president wants adoration, and he’s willing to destroy anyone who doesn’t provide it. Even his Chief of Staff has caved and gone to the dark side. Trump’s narcissism is already legend even in this first year of his presidency, and his mental stability is also being questioned. Leaders around the world, ally or foe, don’t trust him. How could they? He wants to be Putin, but he’s probably doing it backward because of those pesky constitutional restrictions. Putin grabbed power in Russian and then created his cult of personality; Trump’s creating his own cult and hoping for power. Those hopes are often dashed, though. Version 3.0 of his travel ban ran afoul of the legal system. Someone did him a favor and reminded him he couldn’t cancel the licenses of entire TV networks—in fact, he can’t even do it for one station! On and on. He has no idea of history or law and is continually displaying that ignorance for all to see.

The admiration for Putin is strange. The Russian despot is a friend of Venezuela’s Mr. Ripe Plantain (AKA Maduro), and the Trump administration has become very unfriendly toward that rat-infested country (the rats are human, of course, with Maduro the rat-in-chief).

Maybe Trump’s beholding to Putin for the help during the campaign, but generally wannabe despots try to eliminate the competition, as portrayed in the dinner scene in Gabo’s Autumn of the Patriarch. But who knows? Trump might even secretly admire Kim. At least Putin and Kim don’t have to tolerate a pesky free press and millions of voters who hate their guts, right? Maybe the tiff with Maduro means that Trump considers him small potatoes…or plantains.

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Conspiracy theories and all that…

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

[Note from Steve: Have a safe and happy Halloween. Parents, please take care of your children, and please don’t drink and drive—someone else’s children might be your victims.]

They’ll get a boost with the partial release of the JFK assassination papers (the CIA is holding some back, which will only add to the conspiracy, of course). Here’s the short list: Was someone else involved besides Oswald? I always thought it was suspicious that Jack Ruby silenced Lee Harvey…to keep him from spilling the beans about his Russian backers? They might have wanted some revenge for the Cuban Missile Crisis, after all. The visits to the Cuban consulate and Russian embassy in Mexico are suggestive.

A mob killing? That conspiracy would work better for brother Bobby K. A Castro plot? Add Bay of Pigs to the Cuban Missile Crisis and you can create a conspiracy involving both Russians and Cubans! A CIA plot? Why not? They’re the ones holding back documents. And their hands were already dirty from overthrowing governments (for example, in Iran, with subsequent installation of the Shaw, an American puppet) and possible assassinations in their anti-communist witch hunt (the Dirty War in Argentina and overthrow of Allende came later, but were a continuation of the Dulles brothers’ legacy—and now it seems Neruda’s death in Chile was actually murder, coming only a bit after Allende’s murder).

I have no trouble with conspiracy theories. In general, they’re harmless and created by groups searching for “the truth.” And sometimes, if and when the truth comes out, we’re surprised that the conspiracy theory was correct. There’s so much secrecy now—the executive branch, Congress, the Pentagon, and many government agencies, all under GOP control,  live in a dark world of Washington and international secrets—that one has to wonder all the time about what they’re hiding. Two mantras from X-Files come to mind: “Trust no one” (everyone’s lying!) and “the truth is out there” (but we’ll never find it!).

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Mr. Trump’s feud with NFL players…

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

The president has managed to spin this in a way that implies that the players’ practicing their First Amendment rights are seen as unpatriotic. It was never about disrespect for the flag or national anthem, Mr. President! Another of your lies (has it been counted in that list of 1000+ lies—talk about “fake news”!). The players’ protests, initiated by Mr. Colin Kaepernick, were about racism and inequality in America, and they started as a protest against police brutality that’s a consequence of that racism. The message is so strong and universal that a German soccer team recently took a knee—the U.S. national anthem certainly wasn’t being played there.

But Mr. Trump has created his own personal spin, no matter how false it is, and the media blindly follows. The NFL owners are only eying the effect on their bottom line as some fans also swallow the president’s spin that panders to their own racism. The consequence: we have lost yet another opportunity to chip away at racism in our society and realize MLK’s dream of a colorblind America. So sad.

We shouldn’t be surprised at that loss of focus. That was Trump’s intent with his spin, and once rich owners and players got over those SOB remarks and mounting their anemic support for the protesting players, they made the treasonous decision to throw the protesting players to the wolves. The owners and their lackey Goodell have characteristics ranging from being out-of-touch with society’s ills (they’re 0.1 percenters, not 1 percenters) to making society’s ills even worse. Among the Trump-supporting deplorables (I embrace that word), the rich owners and players are among the worst. Those cheering Bannon’s hate speech have some reasons, however misguided they might be. The owners and most players are only worried about the money—they’ve got it made but they want more.

Colin Kaepernick now has a lawsuit against the NFL and its owners. More power to him. The players’ union should have had a class-action lawsuit and should launch one now. They protested in front of NFL HQ in NYC for the reasons spelled out in Mr. Kaepernick’s individual lawsuit: collusion between NFL owners to blacklist the quarterback. Thirty-nine less skilled quarterbacks have been hired since Mr. Kaepernick left the 49ers. I have personal experience with blacklisting that I won’t go into here. It’s the ugly face of government and capitalism.

“Why do players protest?” some people might ask. “They should be happy making all that money.” Well, no. The conscientious among them recognize the ills in society and want to do something about them. They often grew up suffering from that racism and inequality. They’re like ancient Roman gladiators battling in arenas because their lives depend on it—in this case, their economic lives. And with the threat of injury and CTE, who says they don’t live in danger and all that money is just hazard pay? Or, if they’re lucky enough to have been born into a middle class family, their relatives and friends are often trapped in jobs without a future while suffering the inequities of a racist society, including police brutality and an unfair justice system. At the very least, minorities in America don’t receive respect and lack the opportunities, from education to jobs.

We haven’t come much closer to realizing MLK’s dream of a colorblind society that respects individual rights and offers equal opportunity for all. That’s why players are taking a knee, Mr. President. But you’re incapable of understanding that, aren’t you? You inherited your first million—you received more that way than most people will receive in a lifetime of hard work. You’ve lived a life of privilege; you’re just a TV reality star who doesn’t understand America’s reality.

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Rembrandt’s Angel (Penmore Press). How far would you go to recover a missing masterpiece? Have great fun this fall reading about the adventures of Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone and her paramour/sidekick, Interpol agent Bastiann van Coevorden. Esther becomes obsessed with recovering Rembrandt’s “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a painting stolen by the Nazis for Hitler’s museum. The crime-fighting duo goes after the painting and those currently possessing the painting, but the whole caper becomes much more dangerous as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens the security of Europe. With all the danger, their budding romance becomes full-blown. This book is available as an ebook on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, and Apple, and also as a print book from Amazon and your local bookstore (if they don’t have it, ask for them to order it). Check out the review and interview at Feathered Quill.

And so it goes….