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.



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”.


October 17, 2016

A poll in Ohio last week indicated that over 70% of Republicans believe that if Trump loses it will only be due to massive election fraud. Of course, many of these people are ordinarily half-way decent people but something has caused them to march lock-step with the ones who learn of these kind of conspiracies from the aluminum foil hats they wear. There has been no evidence of voter fraud in past elections in Ohio, or anywhere else. There has been no evidence of any attempt to organize voter fraud, apart from a few report of Russian intelligence trying to hack some voter registration rolls except we all know who the Russians are trying to help. In fact, there is an argument that the only evidence of potential fraud comes from Trump – whenever Trump has accused someone of some dastardly deed it has always proven to be a projection.

The danger of Trump fostering a voter fraud argument is obvious, and may be the best argument that Trump is far too dangerous to the country than anyone realized. From the calculated speculation about massive fraud to the delusional claim that illegals are pouring over the border to vote 10 times each for Hillary, he has proven to be a disturbed and malignant force. What is truly disturbing is that so many people believe him regarding the plot to steal the election. Considering that 70% of Republicans believe this conspiracy, maybe Hillary seriously underestimated the number of “deplorables” in the basket.

Russian Hacks, Political Hacks

October 5, 2016

Once again the Russians are getting active and helping the Trump campaign. The news this morning about the release of comments made by Ms. Clinton about Sander’s supporters is causing some political waves, but much more concern among the national security community because it comes as the result of an illegal cyber break in. The FBI has clearly zeroed in on Russian intelligence agencies as the source of the computer hacks. Although careful in their public comments (so to avoid escalating the issue into a major confrontation), FBI and NSA investigators have no doubts as to the involvement of Russian intelligence in trying to influence the election. “Information warfare” is the term used by Putin to describe his use of media to influence elections in countries formerly part of the Soviet empire. Now he seems to have sensed a real opportunity with Trump.

Some people speculate that Trump is overleveraged in Russian businesses as the reason why Trump refuses to criticize any Russian actions. That may be true (we would know if we had his tax returns), but just as likely is the idea that Trump is an ideal target to flip. His personality is ideal for trained intelligence agents to exploit. Two of Trump’s campaign advisers have had to resign after their connections with Russian intelligence were being investigated by the FBI (his former campaign chairman and a leading economic adviser).

Trump’s response to Russian espionage (illegal breaking into computer files with the intent to influence political outcomes is espionage) is to encourage the Russians to continue to conduct illegal operations. Trump was even briefed on the Russian intelligence hacks of government and political organizations just a few days before the debate when he denied any Russian involvement, suggesting that his ignorance is intentional. The irony is that many Trump supporters were formerly anti-Soviet cold warriors, now see no problem with their former enemy attempting to control an election of the President. Like most Trump supporters, they are untroubled by anything he says or does.


Trump Rally in Novi

October 4, 2016

I have a friend who attended the Trump rally in Novi, Mich. recently. This friend’s politics are not easily defined by labels. He supported Bernie and is as anti-Clinton as much as anyone I know. Now, I could never attend a rally such as his for purely practical as well as political reasons, so I was a little curious about what he learned. He told me the atmosphere was “electric” with people very much excited and enthusiastic. There were a lot of people who were clearly well educated and “typical suburban professionals” as well as blue collar workers and a lot of older people. Not the stereotype of a Trump crowd.

He didn’t see a single minority in the crowd, and when he asked Trump supporters why, the responses were interesting. Most people who responded were simply apathetic. “Who cares?” was the essential attitude. Not one person he asked about the absence of any minority was concerned in the least. But some did have explanations. “It’s because there are no handouts here” was the response of one man dressed in a business suit who claimed to be an attorney. An older woman speculated that “those people” wouldn’t mix well with “hard working, religious people like us.”

Then he recounted something a bit disturbing. The crowd went into what he described a religious or rock concert frenzy when Trump appeared on stage. They wildly cheered and answered his rhetorical questions as though they were in a personal conversation with him. At times he described a kind of mob mentality, with people yelling out things they probably would never say at their workplace or church. Some of it was the over-the-top demands to “lock her up” or “string her up.” Some of the spontaneous shouts were darker and more malignant. “F the Nigg…” was heard more than a few times when Obama was invoked.

My friend left shaken and convinced that he had just experienced more of a hate rally than a political rally. “It was as though the rally was an opportunity for people to shout out all of the anti-social, hateful impulses they keep hidden until part of a mob.” Trump supporters simply respond to criticism of their rhetoric that they are tired of being “politically correct.” But not being PC doesn’t mean sanctioning hate speech. He told me “I thought Hillary’s comment about half of Trump supporters being deplorable” he said “but after attending that rally I think it is more like 80% including people I would have never thought of as so hateful.”

I doubt that all, or even most, Trump supporters are racist, violent or otherwise  “deplorable.” However, history is replete with societies of otherwise decent people becoming swept up in the hatred of a demagogue.