Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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.

***

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….

Reasonable gun control…

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Too many of us interpret the Second Amendment incorrectly.  It states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms should not be infringed.” Let’s ignore the incorrect English—the Constitution is full of illiteracy, at least in modern terms, which often gives rise to misinterpretation. But please note the emphasis on militias—the word is even capitalized. Gun fanatics focus on the last clause and take it out of context, thinking it says everyone has a right to have a gun, “keep…arms,” as well as carry them, “bear arms.” That’s crock, of course, but maybe understandable because gun fanatics often don’t know anything about American history.

The American Revolution was started by militias. Those ragtag groups of men armed themselves and fought the British. Let’s forget the point that they were terrorists terrorizing the Brits by any modern interpretation, and they were primarily driven by greed: Why should the Brits make all the money from trade? The writers of the Constitution are recognizing militias and their importance in “winning our freedoms” (they’d be aghast at the taxes we have to pay now, of course—they’d probably have fought the Brits even sooner).

In other words, my interpretation of that badly written Second Amendment is that men in t\]militias have a right to arm themselves and carry their weapons. Duh! But considering that our militias are now institutionalized as the states’ National Guards, which the federal government can send to fight and die overseas, no one else has the right to own and carry guns. Like driving a car, it’s a privilege, not a right. We can regulate drivers’ licenses so DUI assassins and incapacitated people, physical or mentally, can’t wreak havoc on our nation’s streets and highways. Because gun ownership is a privilege, why can’t we do the same with guns?

Moreover, we regulate the condition and type of vehicles people drive, in particular, keeping them from being killing machines—none of those James Bond cars where the hubcaps become claws, for example. Why can’t we regulate the types of guns people own and how they use them?

The answer to the last questions seems to be that the NRA and all the gun addicts are binary thinkers, but so are those who want to do away with guns entirely. Gun ownership isn’t a binary issue like many people think it is. It’s not 0 = no one can own a gun, versus 1 = anyone can own a gun. There are many shades of gray between 0 and 1 here, and people have to become smart about gun control. Idiots’ solutions don’t work! Moreover, the Constitution isn’t much help here and just leads to confusion.

What are some reasonable gun control options that the NRA and gun fanatics refuse to accept? Banning of all military-style weapons is one. Assault weapons, even semi-automatic ones, and, of course, all automatic weapons must be banned. You don’t need one of those for sport or hunting, and you don’t need one to protect your home either. Gun manufacturers should be allowed to sell them only to the military and law enforcement agencies. And those gizmos (“bump stocks” are the current words in vogue) that convert semi-automatic weapons into ones of mass destruction should also be outlawed, period. When you can buy such gizmos at Walmart, you know something is terribly wrong with America.

Many people who bow their heads to honor gun victims as Trump et al did after Las Vegas, and then go on to do nothing about reasonable gun control, are hypocrites. Bowing heads is a stupid PR moment—“See America, we care!”—and of no real comfort for the dead and wounded and their families and friends. That’s why survivors and others outraged by incidents of gun violence fervently protest for more gun control. America is doing nothing.

Or, should I say, politicos are doing nothing, because a majority of American voters want reasonable gun control but can’t seem to vote out the jerks in government who feed off the campaign funds provided the NRA and similar groups. Hypocritical devils, all of them. People bowed their heads for the victims of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, the Orlando nightclub shooting, and the Las Vegas massacre; people bowed their heads for many other incidents too numerous to name here. The NRA and the gun fanatics bow their heads too, but they’re hoping concerned people forget all about Las Vegas until the next time…and the next…and the next. By doing so, they and we encourage domestic terrorism. The NRA is the largest and richest organization that supports terrorism. They are at least as bad as Sinn Fein and probably  ISIS because they’re American terrorism’s lobbyist and political wing.

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More likely an ET attack?

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

I always had my doubts when it was announced that our U.S. diplomatic corps in Cuba had suffered a sonic attack that made them sick and even brain-damaged (never mind that politicians suffer brain damage to begin with). But I didn’t have any data to back up my doubts. While high intensity sound can lead to hearing losses—baby boomers like me who’ve done a few rock concerts are beginning to experience them—it seemed to be a stretch that sound waves were the culprits. I thought it was more likely that there were nests of ETs hiding in Cuba, and the renewal of diplomatic relations with that Communist paradise had interrupted their plans for world domination.

I know a bit about acoustic and electromagnetic radiation. I had a previous life in academia as a physicist, mostly in Colombia. Although I was more theoretical than experimental—that’s common in South America where fancy research labs are a luxury—we used sound and electromagnetic waves in our classroom demos to keep the students awake. And, of course, I understood the theory (past tense because now I’m a bit rusty).

Sound waves and electromagnetic waves are different. You can more easily beam the former upon transmission. While PIs and the FBI can use those listening devices, they rely more on sensitivity in the direction they’re pointing around. To go the other way is not easy, as any stereo addict knows. And they were talking about low frequency waves. Your stereo speaker probably has directional tweeters but omnidirectional woofers—it’s hard to aim low frequency waves, and harder for humans to detect any directionality for them, so manufacturers of stereo speakers just don’t bother.

Moreover, sound waves need a medium; electromagnetic waves don’t (that plagued physicists from a century ago, more or less, but that’s another story). Air is a fickle medium for both, but especially sound waves, which depend on that medium (“In space, now one hears you scream”). No, the “official diagnosis” of Trump’s state department seemed to be a red herring (or emanations from digesting black beans because we’re talking about Cuba).

While Russia might have a secret lab making James Bond-like sonic cannons for its assassins, I thought that wasn’t likely, so I latche onto the idea that some ET group’s technology was behind this, not nasty little Cubans doing the bidding of Mr. Putin. Of course, Mr. Putin could be an ET shapeshifter who delights in seeding discourse in free elections—you just never know. I mean, after all, he seems proud of that human body, so he might just be admiring his shapeshifting skills.

Carl Zimmer’s article in the October 6 NY Times confirms my doubts about sonic death rays, though. “Experts on Acoustics are Doubtful,” to quote part of the title. Those experts don’t know what the source of the malady is, but they’re also doubtful that it’s commie-directed sound waves.

I guess my ET theory is still a possibility. Maybe the Castro brothers are the ET shapeshifters who took a liking to fascism—in other words, Communism with a capital C. Maybe Putin isn’t guilty in this case, just guilty of narcissism. That would tie everything together for a conspiracy story, wouldn’t it? Who says that I don’t hand out ideas for sci-fi thrillers? I can’t write everything, you know. Get to work!

***

Sci-fi book sale: More than Human: The Mensa Contagion and Rogue Planet are now on sale at Smashwords from October 1 through October 31. Their prices are reduced to $1.99—that’s one-third off. In the first novel, an ET virus changes the world, but in a good way, and leads to the colonization of Mars. In the second, there’s a wee bit of “Game of Thrones” fantasy mixed into the hard sci-fi as Prince Kaushal leads his Second Tribe in their fight against the First Tribe’s brutal theocracy. Both books are stand-alone, not part of a series. Use the Smashwords coupon numbers when you check out. Note that the second book is also available in paper format at Amazon. Lots of exciting fall entertainment for a reasonable price!

In libris libertas!

Real tax reform…

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

…won’t happen. It never does. Lobbyists and special interests vie for their special deals, the GOP hauls out its debunked trickle-down economics theory to make the rich richer and widen the income gap, the middle class gets the shaft yet again, and the poor just become poorer as always. We don’t need a Sheriff of Nottingham or Prince John when federal, state, and local taxes are much more egregious than Robin Hood’s foes’ and make the revolutionary mantra “No taxation without representation!” completely meaningless.

The average citizen is burdened with tiers of taxes. Local ones are usually in the form of property taxes. They are often the worst in the sense that they’re not progressive; the many fees charged locally are regressive too. You start asking yourself, “Why can’t renters and businesses also pay for schools?” and “What can I do that doesn’t have an associated fee?” (In our town, for example, you have to pay $250 to chop down a diseased tree on your property, but I suppose the pain would be much worse if it ever fell on the easement the town owns in front—they own ten yards or so, yet we’re responsible for maintaining THEIR sidewalks!)

What’s good about Trump’s plan? Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nil. Everything is bad, but some items are worse than others. The major evil is the institutionalization of trickle-down: corporate taxes go from 35% to 20%. That will make Corporate America happy, I suppose, and the rich even richer—a GOP mantra—but it won’t help the economy at all because ordinary people will have even less wherewithal to spend on industry’s products. If Trump and the GOP don’t use trickle-down as justification, they haul out something more stupid and hypocritical like “taxing Corporate America is communism!” because those rich SOBs riding in from Connecticut to Wall Street on the commuter rail or driving on Silicon Valley’s highways equate socialism and communism and yet using the government-provided transportation system. Etc. Etc.

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Two ships passing in the night…

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

…and sometimes colliding. This is a metaphor about the Dems and GOP. The passing and the colliding, though, refer to what these traditional parties promise. Neil Postman, writing in Amusing Ourselves to Death—and quoted in Brooke Gladstone’ little jewel, The Trouble with Reality–said: “In 1984…people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us, Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us….” 1984 shows us what the far-right’s end game is, where Trump and his cronies are trying to lead us. Equally damning, where everyone is happy, happy, happy is Brave New World’s message and also the message of the far-left. People swallowing either message will need to invest heavily in antacids.

Ms. Gladstone probably wouldn’t want me react to this quote in this way, but I’ve always lumped 1984 and Brave New World together; I just couldn’t pin down the subtle difference. I now can. Conservatives emphasize the differences between human beings, parroting Orwell’s other book, Animal Farm: “All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” Progressives naively stop at “…created equal….” In neither Orwell’s dystopia nor Huxley’s utopia is there room for individual differences. Both extremes lead to the loss of individualism and the creation of demagogues who turn us into lemmings surrounded by cliffs.

Ms. Gladstone’s book did make me come to a reckoning, though: a logical and reasonable person shouldn’t be political, at least not in the sense of our two major parties that would like to play the pied piper and lead us down roads reasonable and logical people should never travel. But emotions are important too because they make us human. We just can’t let our emotions drive us into culs-de-sac like those depicted in 1984 and Brave New World.

Now I understand why my new post-apocalyptic thriller novel The Last Humans is more apolitical than political. It is about one human being, Penny Castro, and her fight for survival. She is logical, reasonable, and, yes, she’s emotional, as she beats all odds and forges a new life. This is what makes us human, not some corrupt credo, debunked and discredited ideology, or inane political platitudes. After the apocalypse, there’s no dystopia nor utopia, only survival and confronting her own reality. In all of this, Penny never loses her humanity.

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The monuments men…

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

…and women—to all those misguided individuals jumping on the careening bandwagon of indiscriminately tearing down monuments, I understand the sentiments. After all, people like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were traitors to this nation while defending an ugly, racist economy based on slavery. Slavery and human trafficking are despicable crimes that aren’t justified by the nefarious concept that some humans aren’t humans at all but possessions.

That said, I’d rather place monuments to Confederate traitors in museums where the tale of their terrible deeds is completely displayed for all to see. My reason is simple: I’m not sure people know about Lee’s or Jackson’s life stories and how they came to be traitors. Lee was a graduate of West Point, after all, but the U.S. military was racist right into the 20th century. Germany turned some famous concentration camps into historical sites so that Germans and the world would never forget the Nazi atrocities. We need to do the same with slavery and those who tried to tear the Union apart in support of it.

But let’s be reasonable about this. Historical figures like Washington and Jefferson and other Founding Fathers did a lot to jumpstart this nation. Their peccadilloes aren’t excusable, of course, but they were so much more than slave owners, and they weren’t traitors to the U.S. In fact, our country wouldn’t have existed without them!

What’s more worrisome are the sneaky politicians and power-grabbers jumping on the anti-monuments bandwagon and encouraging crowds to tear the monuments down. An egregious example is Bill DeBlasio’s desire to tear down the Columbus statue at NYC’s Columbus Circle, home to Lincoln Center. Guess what? He’s the mayor of NYC and—surprise, surprise!—he’s running for reelection. Just as Trump panders to his base of alt-right, KKK, white supremacist, and neo-Nazi crazies, DeBlasio panders to his base too. And he stokes the fires of division by doing so.

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Identity politics…

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

If one thing can be singled out to be the cause of America’s problems right now, it’s “identity politics.” Consider this the antithesis of “melting pot,” or the idea expressed in the Constitution that “all men are created equal.” (Unfortunately, back in those days, the word “men” didn’t refer to blacks or women; today we’d be more politically correct and simply write “persons.”) “Identity politics” is more like adding the famous “…but some animals are more equal than others” from Orwell’s Animal Farm. “Melting pot” expresses togetherness or synthesis in the abstract; “identity politics” expresses just the opposite, and it’s often all too real, not abstract. People crying out to be heard, equating that to seeking and expressing their own identities, form tribes of similarly thinking people. These tribes can become violently fascistic because those who want to blend in and live in peace and good will with their fellow human beings far outnumber them.

The goal of pulling together has been morphed by some into the goal of tearing apart at all levels—national, state, and local—and even worldwide. Since the sixties,the U.S. mostly used to be the champion of the first goal, at least inside the country (our actions outside are often questionable). While my novel Survivors of the Chaos expressed my fear that these divisive attitudes could destroy the country, the cause of this destruction in the novel could now be called “identity politics.” The world will become Balkanized into homogeneous identity groups we might as well call tribes.

Radical fanatics are a dime-a-dozen—I saw them in a New Jersey diner on CNN, in Charlottesville, and in Barcelona—but there are clever, power-hungry, and warped people who manipulate the fanatics. One subgroup can be found in Breitbart’s current and ex-staff members, some of them still among the White House staff like Julia Hahn, Stephen Miller, and Ben Shapiro. Another subgroup of fanatics is AntiFa; their credo of meeting KKK, white supremacist, and neo-Nazi violence with more violence goes against the credos of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. And the violence can be found just in the words of fanatics too.

Fanaticism is a mental aberration. Sometimes the lines between it and simply having a political, sexual, or religious preference become blurred, especially when those preferences become so strong that those holding them want to attack anyone who doesn’t. It also feeds off superstition and ignorance. I’d prefer that people understand history by not toppling monuments, simply adding plaques explaining the pros and cons of that person’s life. Or placing them in museums like the Holocaust Museums where we can encourage people not to forget the sins of human history on this planet when human beings do violence to other human beings.

Fanaticism creates icons of history but does little to promote understanding of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Surrendering to fanaticism is often touted as free speech. BS. If everyone in the 1940s had surrendered to it, the Nazis would have won the Second World War.

Recall Rodney King’s famous words: “Can we all get along? Can we, can we get along?” Identity politics can become the fanatical way of saying, “No, we can’t.” But it’s self-destructive to say that. Let’s answer his questions in the positive. We’ll have a better world that way.

***

Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis during the Second World War. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. This book is available in ebook format at Amazon and at Smashwords and its affiliate retailers. It’s also available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it). See the review and interview at Feathered Quill.

And so it goes….