Archive | May 2017

Forty Years Later

The movie Star Wars opened in theatres about forty years ago. It was later called A New Hope, but then it was just another summer movie. I have run across several articles proclaiming how great it was, and asking people to comment on how it changed their lives. It always reminds me of a girl.

That summer, I got a letter from my college roommate who had seen it already, and he said despite all the hype, it was actually pretty good scifi. Technology showed signs of wear and tear, and even had dust and dirt streaks. He recommended it.

I was working in Southern Virginia, moving from town to town managing a crew of other summer interns. We were all architecture or engineering majors who had gotten work with the Corps of Engineers. There were two groups, one was guys from Maryland (me) through Massachusetts. Another was guys from Virginia through Texas. I put in a few weeks with the Southern group, then took over the Northern group.

At the end of the summer, we all came together for a few weeks. Before that, the guy from Notre Dame, Larry, wanted to visit his friend in Augusta, Georgia over a long weekend. He couldn’t rack up that sort of mileage on his government car, but I was using my own car. Coincidentally, my college girlfriend was visiting my previous college roommate who was interning in that same city. She had only given me his phone number but not his address, and I thought I might be able to call them up when I got there.

So I agreed to drive us down there. Along the way I was surprised to discover he didn’t believe in evolution. It wasn’t a bad drive. His friend’s name was Leonard, and they knew each other from track team, both doing long distance running. He was an in-your-face extravert. “Two Words!” he shouted at Larry when we got there, “Two words and you’ve got it made here: All Hail!”

“All Hail?” I thought, but he was really saying, “Aw Hell!” in an exaggerated local accent. I told him I was there to try to find my girlfriend, and he asked, “Is this bad news?” Anyway I never connected with her, but we men had a good time, played some tennis, and drank some beer. Now, Leonard had a girlfriend, a buxom local gal, I forget her name, but she had a roommate, Anne, who was a visiting student from Belgium, who was the thin, pretty sort that I always notice. She spoke English but was generally quiet.

So the five of us went to see Star Wars. Somehow I ended up sitting next to Anne at the theatre, and was very conscious of being near a pretty girl who wasn’t my girlfriend. Star Wars, as you probably know, is a very American movie. Parts of the film echo both Western gunfight serials, and old WWII dogfight flicks. I laughed at the more obvious references, but Anne would just look at me with a puzzled expression. I don’t think she understood why a guy would laugh during a battle scene.

Afterwards we all went to a big old bar with loud music. Larry and Leonard were reliving old times. I tried to talk to Anne, but it was tough sledding with the noise and language barrier. By that time I had completely forgotten about the movie.

Now I can’t remember how we got to the next situation, but somehow, Larry and Anne were in my car and we were following Leonard’s car. He had accused his girlfriend of steppin’ out with someone else, so they were having a fight, and she was going to take off in her car, and he was going to follow her. Poor Anne suddenly realized she was in a car with two American guys she hardly knew and panicked. I was trying to think of some way to assure her that she was perfectly safe – even though I didn’t really know the route back to their apartment – but I realized it probably looked pretty bad to her. She got out and yelled the other girl’s name. I don’t actually remember what happened next, or how we made it back to Leonard’s place, but that was the last I saw of Anne.

Today she probably tells her grandchildren scary stories about American architects. I look back and wish I had had a chance to just talk to her. Yeah, the movie was good, but the only life-changing drama was in the real people I was meeting.

Dueling Conspiracy Theories

Something happened during the last election. Depending on what news outlets you follow, you probably believe either that candidate Donald Trump colluded with the Russian government, sabotaging the campaign of Hillary Clinton, or that the DNC ordered the assassination of Seth Rich. You may not believe either accusation, and frankly there is no solid proof that either is true. You probably don’t believe both to be true, which is unlikely but still possible, because your media outlets have been presenting these as either-or conspiracy theories.

Seth Rich worked for the Democratic National Committee as a Voter Expansion Data Director. Some people claim he secretly favored Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton.

On 10 July 2016, at about 4 AM, Rich was walking home from a bar in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, DC NW. (I lived in and around DC until 1990, and never heard of that neighborhood, but in general NorthWest DC had become a place where affluent young people wanted to live.) Police were alerted to gunfire at 4:20 AM, and found Rich bruised and shot twice in the back. His girlfriend told reporters:

“There had been a struggle. His hands were bruised, his knees are bruised, his face is bruised, and yet he had two shots to his back, and yet they never took anything… They didn’t finish robbing him, they just took his life.”

Rich still had his wallet, watch, phone and was wearing a $2,000 necklace. There had been twenty robberies in the area, and police later labeled the killing a “botched robbery,” but it may actually have been a botched amateur assassination, since nothing was taken and he was still conscious when found. He died at hospital.

Two or three days later, WikiLeaks published nearly 20,000 Democratic National Committee emails. John Podesta and the DNC claimed those emails were obtained by Russian hackers, which given the numbers of hackers from Russia, is plausible. The DNC expanded that claim to involve the Trump campaign, and there is currently a House Intelligence Committee investigation into whether there was any collusion between Trump or his campaign, and the Russian government.

Julian Assange refused to confirm or deny that Rich had leaked the emails, but on August 11th, Wikileaks offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to Rich’s killer.

Former DC policeman Rod Wheeler, working indirectly for Rich’s family claims that he was told by a reliable FBI agent that Rich’s laptop proved that he had sent the emails to Gavin McFayden, a mentor of Assange and an official of Wikileaks, who has since died of lung cancer. Wheeler has recently walked back that claim.

Today, legions of podcasters are waiting for Kim Dotcom to fulfill his promise to prove that Seth Rich leaked those emails to Wikileaks. Dotcom claims he was involved, too.

But no matter what Dotcom does or doesn’t reveal, the full force of the Deep State will still be behind the Russian hacking theory, which seems to be the best means of attacking a President that recklessly announced his hostility to the establishment during his inaugural address.

Made to be Ruled

Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.

The big news in the United States has been the firing of FBI Director James Comey by President Donald Trump. At first Trump attributed his dismissal to Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton, but no one (except maybe FiveThirtyEight.com) was buying that explanation. After a day or two of differing stories from various members of the White House staff, it became clear that Trump had consulted very few of them before the announcement. Even Steve Bannon found out via a news broadcast.

Soon it was asserted that Director Comey had recently requested more funding and resources for the FBI’s investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. And just before the weekend, NBC’s Lester Holt interviewed Trump, who said that he had actually fired Comey because:

“And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

To the propaganda arm of the Deep State, meaning most of the mainstream media, Comey’s firing and Trump’s admission meant that there was definitely something to the allegations that have persisted since the election. In this youtube video, a power panel of the supposedly independent The Young Turks (Ben Mankiewicz, Cenk Uygur, Alonzo Bodden, John Iadarola) was predicting Trump’s imminent perpwalk: Trump Administration ADMITS Comey Was Fired To Kill Russia Investigation

But we’ve heard news of Trump’s imminent demise over and over. In, Has The Trump/Russia Conspiracy Been Proven True? Michael Tracy (also of The Young Turks) makes the case that Trump’s interference does not prove collusion, but may well constitute obstruction of justice. (It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.)

While Cenk Uygur dismisses Trump as a bumbling man-child, and joked that Michael Tracy was wearing blinders on this issue, I think Tracy, and reporters at The Intercept are correct to wait for solid evidence. It seems clear to me that the resistance has been looking for an easy way to rid themselves of this populist president, and is more than willing to make up the facts as they go along.

Does that mean I support Trump. No. But I was watching some youtubes from a podcast called Trending locally and from a presentation called, Globalization and the Backlash of Populism. In the podcast, Mark Blyth discussed the French Election and Comey ; in the Q&A after the Backlash presentation, he discussed the situation before the election.

Blyth pointed out that Populism is by definition, “popular” and probably isn’t going away. Marine Le Pen, he observed, did get one-third of votes cast, and she or someone in her family will run again next time. The resistance, he noted, has to offer more than just rickety coalitions against populist candidates. They have to offer workable alternative solutions.

I’m not sure that Progressives and Liberals even qualify as a rickety coalition nowadays. There are at least three broad camps, but not much solid ground in any of them. The first is the establishment, neoliberal Democrats, who are hoping that Trump’s failures will propel their party to being relevant again without changing a thing. Seriously, not a thing. A few days ago the Washington Post published an opinion letter claiming that Hillary Clinton would obviously be the strongest candidate in 2020. As they did during the campaign, they are trying to leverage the popularity of Bernie Sanders without really adopting any of his campaign platform. Sanders is touring the country carefully shepherded by new DNC chairman Tom Perez. Sanders has gotten so much applause and Perez so little that Perez has taken to introducing Sanders at the beginning of his vague speeches.

There are two challenger groups, Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, that appear to be working together to primary and replace establishment Dems with more progressive alternatives that eschew PAC money and large donors. Cenk Uygur and much of the Young Turks team are promoting Justice Democrats. California Congressman Ro Khanna has officially joined them, and Paula Swearengin, an environmental activist and a real coal miner’s daughter, has joined JD to take on Joe Manchin in the WV primary.

But there groups for whom some progressives Democrats just aren’t progressive enough. One is of course, the Green Party. Another is the People’s Party, which hopes to lure Senator Sanders into being their candidate. And in an online battle of podcasts, a number of uber-progressive journos have attacked both Bernie Sanders and Ro Khanna. Some consider Sanders too much of a hawk; others are put off by his failure to address the vote-rigging reported by Greg Palast. Khanna is unsuitable because his campaign manager once wrote a memo to John Podesta offering a deal for Hillary Clinton’s endorsement, and more recently has received a lot of $2,700 dollar donations from Silicon Valley types instead of smaller donations from regular people.

It is difficult to know where the search for purity leads, though, because in my recollection, every revolutionary that survives either becomes establishment themselves, or a murderous despot.