Roqqa Don

November 4, 2016

One of the least covered news events in the world has been the battle to recapture Mosul and Western Iraq from ISIS. Hundreds of U.S. Special Operators have been coordinating Iraqi and Kurdish troops, calling in air and artillery strikes and training troops since President Obama ordered a mini-surge last April.

It is estimated by the Pentagon and international media that over 1000 ISIS fighters have died each month since then. The final compliment of Spec Op troops are arriving in Iraq this week and the battle will begin. Now that Mosul is nearly encircled the largest urban siege since WWII, Trump weighed in. He has already demeaned POWs, and the current command structure of the military (e.g. the generals are “stupid”). Now he has claimed that the battle for Mosul is a “catastrophe” and that it is making us look stupid.

It is one thing to question policy, but quite another to act as a propaganda outlet for ISIS, undermine troop morale, undermine their confidence in their command. It could be that he is simply so profoundly ignorant of the military (he was unaware that that the military has it’s own legal system) that he is unaware of what he is doing.

The CO of the War College took the extraordinary step of responding to Trump’s inane comments on “element of surprise”, but Trump answered with his usual demeaning comments instead of refraining from make strategic commentary. On the other hand, if his comments are intentional, whether it is to get himself elected or not, then he it perilously close to treason – giving aid and comfort to ISIS.

Our troops are superbly trained, motivated and lethal. Their commanders are the extraordinarily intelligent, educated, and aggressive – many of the Special Ops Commanders actually get into the field to personally view and participate in battles. They all deserve our support.

In my day, they had “Hanoi Jane”. Apparently, troops fighting and dying today have their “Roqqa Don”.


“The Vote is Rigged”

November 3, 2016

There is a consensus among the mental health professionals that I know that Donald Trump has a psychological disturbance – Malignant Narcissism. It is a permanent disorder of the personality – a way that their brain automatically perceives and relates to the world. The symptoms include antisocial features, paranoid traits, an absence of conscience, a profound need for power, and a grandiose sense of importance. These disturbed people tend to become enraged when faced with failures (or perceived failures).

They tend to blame others for failures, never accept responsibility for their antisocial actions and will blame others for what they did (or accuse them of wrong doing). They are excessively concerned with appearance and body image, adorn themselves with beautiful women like ornaments. They tend to blow up organizations they participate in when they feel challenged, causing chaos. (A word of caution, don’t get into a discussion with psychologists over Trump, they will go on for hours).

One feature of Malignant Narcissism that was interesting to me is their tendency to use projection as a psychological defense – a process where unacceptable thoughts and impulses are attributed to another. In other words, they tend to accuse other people of something they are doing.

We’ve seen Trump use projection throughout the campaign – accusing others of bigotry, self-interests, unethical or illegal actions of their Foundations, etc., but none are as disturbing as his mantra that the election is rigged. I wondered how this irresponsible claim of a rigged election might be related to the pattern of projection. It is true that the only political party currently under a consent decree for widespread attempt to intimidate voters is Trump’s own GOP.

In fact, Trump is asking his followers to do exactly what the Courts found was illegal and imposed sanctions that are still in effect. This is why the Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit claiming that the coordination of the RNC with the Trump Campaign to intimidate people at the polls in New Jersey and why next Wednesday the Court has ordered all the Parties to appear for a hearing.

In the last two days, written confirmation that the Trump Campaign has undertaken a voter suppression campaign to dent the right to vote to minorities, women and “idealistic” young people. This seems to confirm that an attempt to rig the election is underway – except it is Trump who is inspiring and his Party organizing it. We should all vote in this very consequential election.

If you see attempts by people to intimidate others at the polls (hint: look for middle aged, bearded white men with a hint of liquor on their breath and cami ball caps in predominantly minority neighborhoods), then tell the poll workers, call the police and if all else fails step up and defend the right to vote.


Supreme Court Attacked

November 2, 2016

The recent comment by Senator John McCain that no nominee of a President Clinton will ever be approved by a Republican Senate is the most alarming comment of an already alarming political situation. It’s bad enough to have to deal with the fear of political violence after the election from AK-wielding Trump supporters convinced that the election was stolen.

Now we have to face a real Constitutional crisis in the form of a publicly-stated attempt to allow the U.S. Supreme Court become extinct or at least non-functioning for possibly the next eight years. It is as profoundly an unpatriotic act as any we have seen in our lifetime – deliberately disabling an entire branch of government for partisan political purposes.

McCain later walked back his comments, which may be nothing more than an idle threat to get votes in a tightening election for him. On the other hand, Mitch McConnell stated early on the Republican goal of making the Obama Presidency fail. That, in and of itself, was a radical departure from historic precedent. In the past, presidential campaigns were bitterly fought but in the end the “loyal opposition” would work to get problems solved with the new President.

Even in the most bitterest of past campaigns  – the elections of Kennedy, Nixon, and Reagan for example – Congress compromised and continued to try to make the Country better. The GOP reaction to the first black president changed that norm. The result has been a crippling 8 years of inaction apart from Presidential orders.

It’s difficult to see a way out of this mess, short of the election of a Democratic majority in the Senate and in the House. Already, House Republicans are announcing their intention to cripple a Clinton Administration with endless “investigations”. It is certainly true that without a Democratic Senate there will be a rapid decline of the ability of the U.S. Supreme Court to get vital work done.


Give Us a Break

November 1, 2016

Like most of you all, I need a break from politics. It seems to pervade every aspect of the media universe. Even the places where we used to get some escape and relief are now infused with political controversy: sports and comedy. One can hardly watch a football game without discussing the politics of National Anthem positioning of players. Skits on Saturday Night Live are not only funny, they now become part of the political football to kick around on talk shows and Twitter.

I suppose that you could argue that the involvement of professional athletes in the political process and exercising their free speech rights is positive, but the expression of their politics within the context of a game is not. It seems like a violation of one of the few places of relief from the media-political complex. Politics is no longer an uplifting exercise of democracy, it has become a divisive, inescapable exercise in stress. The 16 month long media campaign has become exhausting and legislating the limiting of political campaigns from fund-raising onward ala European style gets my support.

One of the more obvious and destructive aspects of the 16 month long media-political campaign is that as we all getting fatigued and disinterested in coverage, they seem to ramp up the rhetoric and create more controversy. Tired of e-mails? How about Foundation controversies?  Tired of racist, misogynistic rhetoric? How about sexual predator controversy?

It’s like the devolution of horror films from the old Bella Lugosi movies which created a slow build-up of fearful reactions through suspense to the modern era horror films which use gruesome special effects rather than a storyline to induce a reaction. You start to watch video these days with an expectation that at any moment some terrifying “breaking news” controversy is going to pop out and grab you in a way that even Trump finds shocking.

Maybe soon we will all be babbling, thumb-sucking adults next to our children who are watching re-runs of Sponge Bob shows just to get relief.


The World is Watching

October 20, 2016

The world is watching this Presidential election cycle with more than the usual interest. Presidential elections are always of interest to other countries. We have the largest economy in the World, a tremendous cultural influence and of course the military capacity to destroy the world several times over. Some of these countries, such as Italy, have had centuries of political campaigns and intrigues, but none have ever seen anything like Trump vs. Clinton. They are watching in astonished horror at the self-destruction of American politics and respect in the world.

If you follow foreign media giants such as the Toronto Sun, The Daily Telegraph, Deutsche Zeitungen, Times of India or The Australian, you can see a gradual evolution from the novelty of Trump, to surprise that a xenophobic nationalist movement could become a political force in the USA, to a mockery of our system and genuine fear of a Trump victory. This election is a source of humor and derision of America in foreign media, and a source of comfort to our adversaries.

The fact that our elections have gone from being the democratic model to the world to an object of derision is bad enough, but the damage being done to our overall prestige and influence in the world is considerable. Our adversaries must be relishing the idea that the typical American acts and talks like Trump, or that bedrock principles of Americanism are so easily abandoned because of fear.

This campaign may have destroyed the GOP. It might have destroyed any opportunity for the next administration to succeed. But even if Hillary should win, the damage has been done to our image and influence around the world. Even Trump supporters rail about the lack of respect our country gets, although they probably would attribute it all to Obama. With a month to go in the campaign we will see an unshackled Trump raging like King Kong on the Empire State building (while grabbing a white woman), but the World will see the evolution of an America in Trump’s image: vulgar, buffoonish and a self-perpetuating parody of what America used to be.

 


Decency

October 19, 2016

One could hardly justify allowing children to listen to the news these days with the incessant and escalating references to sexual acts. Even more damaging to the moral development of the next generation of Americans than the introduction of terms like “pussy” or “blow jobs”, is the justification and normalization of misogynist attitudes and sexual assaults. It communicates to little boys and girls that these are normal things for adults to engage in (so long as they occurred in the past). Consider the lessons being taught when bragging about sexual assaults is dismissed as “locker room talk”, that women who claim to be victims of sexual assault could be used as political props or dismissed as “opposition research”. They may call it not being “PC”, but it is hate speech that is intended to offend and shock. The media is just as complicit in the rush to destroy what little is left to the standard of decency in public discourse. Conservative media which have self-righteously flown the flag of “family values” and “respect for life” dismiss the immorality of Trump’s actions and words, and attack the women who claim to be his victims, while simultaneously attacking Hillary on her “enabling” of her husband as a sexual predator. Liberal media relish in the details of the mud bath as though it is their responsibility to broadcast every lecherous detail.

This has been the most enduring damage of the Trump campaign – a coarsening of the body politic and the normalization of the degradation of people. Hillary is not above the fray either. Her “deplorables” comment was degrading and dismissive, even if it was a reaction to the relentless debauchery of the Trump Campaign. Now we have children not only seeing insults, bigotry and fear-mongering as a political norm, they are also being taught that sexual degradation and assaults are also a norm (not just in locker-rooms).

Ultimately, it is the monster of the cable “news” 24 hour cycle that is the catalyst that has produced this civil catastrophe. There are tens of thousands of disturbed men like Trump in our society, but the media has elevated him (enabled him) and forced political campaigns to focus on the political race instead of the political issues. The more vulgar and scintillating the story, the more it is amplified in coverage which puts pressure on the other side to respond in kind. As the Republican primary progressed and most of the candidates tried to focus on issues, the media focused on Trump’s insults and buffoonery. Ultimately even serious men like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and John Kasich had to devolve into the same tactic.

If Hillary wanted to contribute something positive to the process, she should simply turn the campaign into a referendum on decency.


What Goes Around…

October 18, 2016

I was talking with a friend the other day who argued that the “end times” are upon us and that Trump was the anti-Christ. He cited biblical verses to justify his belief, centered on the battle of Armageddon being predicted to be near Syria where a geo-political and religious war puts Israeli, various Muslim sects, American and Russian troops into potential armed conflict that could go nuclear.

The anti-Christ would have a tremendous ego and the power to deceive and control people. Trump bragged that he could murder someone and get the same support, and now we know for sure he could brag about sexually assaulting women and his support remains the same. Trump supporters often ascribe religious connotations to Trump as some sort of “messenger”, and if you have ever been to a Trump rally you might believe that you are among the true believers who always rave about how he delivers the “truth”. Whatever Trump says does not matter to his supporters (“he is not a politician”) and whatever he does doesn’t matter (“he did that years ago before he even thought of running for office”), and the media is just lying about what he really meant to say. These are true believers in a man who routinely violates their self-proclaimed Christian values. Here is some of the evidence he cited:

Daniel 2: Anti-Christ will have a head of gold.  We all know who likes gold so much from his hair to his towers, but the recent revelation that his airplane toilets are gilded with gold was a dead giveaway (we all know another name for the toilet is “the head”).

Luke 17:28 predicts rampant gluttony (Trump is obese), selling and building (e.g. Casinos, Trump Tower, etc.), and sexual immorality (grab them by the you-know-what).

Matthew 24:4 predicts that the many false profits will emerge claiming to be Christian. Trump does say he is a Christian but the “only one” who can save the country.

Matthew 24:7 predicts earthquakes all over the world and in 2016 there have been a record number of earthquakes in unusual places – roughly 3000/month (some say due to fracking but Christians know it’s from the end times) and famines (some say due to climate change, but Christians know it’s the end times)

The bible predicts that many Christians will be killed. Trump knows we are at war with Islam because they hate Christians, and thousands of Christians are being slaughtered in American urban areas every year (some say from gun violence, but Christians know it’s due to the end times – and black people). He went on and on, citing scripture and linking it to disasters all over the world from Zika to hurricanes to violence and sexual immorality – until he hit on something that shook me to the bone.

John 14:1 “You know the way to the place I am going”.

“So what?”, I asked – “we all know the place Trump is taking us”. “You don’t understand” he said “if you subtract 1 and add 4 and 1 to the address to Trump Tower you know what you get? 666 – the sign of the Anti-Christ.” He told me that he considered voting for Trump once but now that he knows the truth he wanted to Tweet it to everyone, but he wanted to wait until 4 am, because “only drunk or high people Tweet at 3 am”.