Our Current Situation: Florida Man Still President

FLORIDA MAN: I realized that with Mar-a-Lago and his frequent appearances in Florida that Trump is peak Florida Man.

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MEANWHILE…: While the news cycles are full of The Donald’s latest buffoonery he’s hiring people like Heather Wilson to be Secretary of the Air Force. Politico has the most in-depth review of Wilson’s career. Allgov has a summary version. And here’s a Project on Government Oversight report from 2013 about her illegal profiteering.

“Heather Wilson, a former Air Force officer who was once named one of the most corrupt members of Congress, was announced on January 23, 2017, to be President Donald Trump’s choice as Secretary of the Air Force.”

I’m sure this will be a great boon to the Air Force, given that it’s already full of disgruntled workers. (It may also be a good time to invest in Lockheed Martin.)

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SERIOUSLY, READ THIS: I cannot recommend this piece highly enough: 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump

“Trump’s bizarre, inconstant, incompetent, embarrassing, ridiculous behavior — what the left (naturally) perceives as his weaknesses — are to his supporters his strengths.”

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SAME AS THE OLD BOSS: Obama loved Trump’s new Deportation Czar, Thomas Homan, the current acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Homan won the 2015 Presidential Rank Award, the government’s highest civil service award, last year for setting records for numbers of immigrants expelled.

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JUST IN CASE: Florida Representative Alcee Hastings introduced an bill for Authorization to Use Force in Iran on Jan. 3 of this year. Just in case. Hastings is a Democratic representative and boycotted Trump’s inauguration. Digital Journal has more.

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IDLE THOUGHTS: Trump and Rubio had dinner on the 15th. On the 22nd Rubio is meeting with delegates from Germany and France. Germany and France are part of the P5+1. We’ll need their support for an expanded war in the Middle East.

“Senator Rubio is traveling overseas this week to attend multiple bilateral meetings with heads of state and senior government officials in Germany and France, two countries with upcoming elections who are facing concerns about Russian interference. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Appropriations Committee, and Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Rubio is conducting this official oversight trip to discuss the U.S./E.U. relationship, NATO operations, counter-ISIS activities, foreign assistance programs, and Russian aggression in Europe.”

I hope I don’t fall into some rabbit hole where everything looks like a conspiracy to start a war with Iran, but, you know, it has me worried. Did I mention another Florida politician has already filled a bill for a Authorized Use of Military Force in Iran, just in case?

Also, Trump is on board with the Defense Department’s desire to expand the military.

“Trump’s proposals for the military during his presidential campaign were drawn heavily from the conservative Heritage Foundation, and could cost between $55 billion and $90 billion per year, according to outside experts. The plan included adding tens of thousands of soldiers until the service reaches 540,000, expanding the Navy’s fleet to have at least 350 ships, adding about 100 Air Force fighter or attack jets until the service reaches 1,200, and increasing the number of Marine Corps infantry battalions from 24 to 36, which would include thousands of Marines.”

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LISTENING: Sam Altman asks 100 Trump supporters some questions to learn why they voted for him, and what could turn them against him. Interesting narratives. It’s clear from reading this how much of their worldview (and mine as well) is shaped by media diet.

“The left is more intolerant than the right.” Note: This concept came up a lot, with real animosity in otherwise pleasant conversations.

“Stop calling us racists. Stop calling us idiots. We aren’t. Listen to us when we try to tell you why we aren’t. Oh, and stop making fun of us.”

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EDITORIAL: If you read the conservative press then it’s easy to see where the canard of the left’s intolerance comes from. It’s easy enough to cherry-pick individual comments from ‘the left’ to make them seem full of hate and bias, and that’s exactly what the right-wing press does. Of course, the holier-than-thou attitude of those on the left doesn’t help any. One thing I wish my allies could have learned from the last couple of decades is a little fucking humility.

I’ve mentioned before that Fallacy of Composition is a non-trivial problem when it comes to our political division. Those on the right don’t like being associated with the worst offenses of the right (while they may be racist according to an IAT, they probably don’t harbor overt racist thoughts at the forefront of their brain).

Inferring that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole.

Logical Form:

A is part of B
A has property X
Therefore, B has property X.

Similarly, most of the left doesn’t like to be clumped together with black-bloc anarchists, or closed-minded haters.

BUT, we all engage in the Fallacy of Composition when bitching about ‘those others’.

We need to stop doing this. Yes, there is a lot of racism, sexism, transphobia, and religious intolerance among many on the right, but it serves no one by using broad labels.

So, today’s tip — be specific.

Our Current Situation: Relentless

RELENTLESS: it’s hard to believe it hasn’t even been a month yet. The firehose of gross incompetence and the tidal wave of resistance can be a little overwhelming.

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END THE WAR: Many of the policy objectives outlined in the 2016 DNC platform more or less align with my own advocacy, except for the support of our endless war.

We need to declare victory and end the war. It’s unconstitutional, it has no victory condition, terrorism is increasing rather than decreasing, and it breaks international law (i.e. the US has committed and continues to commit war crimes). There are a variety of paths to take to peace.

As we Fight for 15, Protect Planned Parenthood, work to root out systemic racism, champion feminism, and #resist the other onslaughts against our humanity, I hope we find ways to create a more substantial resistance to The War That Goes On Forever and Has No End In Sight.

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FOCUS: Josh Marshall reminds us there are some House races in the near future. Rep. Ryan Zinke, and Rep. Tom Price both need to be replaced in the House. They run in red districts, but they can, and should, be challenged. Focus, People.

“As I said, winning this race is an uphill battle. But special elections are low turnout affairs which play heavily to organizing and motivation. The district has already given substantial evidence of hostility toward President Trump and he’s only gotten less popular since he was sworn in only three weeks ago.

“But here’s the key. You can’t win elections without contesting. On one level, that’s just a truism. But it’s a more complex truth than many people realize. If Democrats were to win the 6th District that would of course put them one seat closer to winning back control of the House in 2018. But even if they don’t, they will win other big advantages.”

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CONSERVATIVE CRITIQUE #1: “The left didn’t complain when Obama did it.” It’s not uncommon to see this sort of critique when perusing conservative outlets. And, it’s absolutely right. It doesn’t mean those critiques didn’t exist, only that they were buried underneath the mainstream narrative. Plenty of people on the left opposed Obama’s policies on drones, immigration, Wall Street, etc. In fact, The Mendacity of Obama critiques Obama from the left. But, if you’re focused on your right-wing echo chamber, and only picking up headlines from cable news and national newspapers, the critiques of the left probably never enter your consciousness.

My silver lining after the election was that it is easier to criticize Trump for doing the stuff I don’t like than it would have been to criticize Hillary (or it was to criticize Obama). Those on the left who spent any amount of time criticizing Hillary were ‘useful idiots’ or worse, as the free-floating anger looked for a place to land.

Since the left, broadly defined, doesn’t have to worry about undermining a precarious candidate I hope it can embrace some truly progressive ideas. We need to end our eternal war. We need substantial prison reform. We need to triple (at least) the amount of money we spend on education at all levels. We need to take climate change seriously. We need to legislate net neutrality. We need to expand Medicaid and Medicare to include everyone in the US. We need to uproot systemic racism. We need to tax the wealthy. We need to raise the minimum wage. We need to help refugees. We need to not torture. (And so much more!)

In short, we need to re-imagine the liberal platform. Which means re-imagining the platform of the Democratic National Convention. Like it or not (and I must say there is much about the current Democratic party that makes me unhappy) that’s the only organization that can counter the RNC.

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SISTER DISTRICTS: I love this idea.

“The Sister District Project aims to allow people to transcend the lines drawn by partisan politicians and bring communities together based on the issues and values they share. It is designed to target significant local, state, and national elections that could swing blue (or need help staying blue) and provide them with volunteers in close geographic proximity that can channel their energy toward the goal of winning specific important elections.”

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IMPROVE THE NEWS: Have an idea that will improve journalism? The Knight Foundation wants to hear from you.

“To quickly respond to the growing concern over so-called fake news, Knight Foundation is launching an open call for ideas to counter misinformation and help quality journalism become a more trusted and visible resource at a time when trust in the news media has hit a low.”

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DO-NOTHING PRESIDENT: Keep in mind also that there has been no actual legislation passed by this administration. (Doesn’t mean there aren’t horrors to come, just that there’s been more smoke and hyperventilation than anything tangible.) President Trump Has Done Almost Nothing

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TRUMP LAND: Jeff VanderMeer offers a grim dystopian SF short about life under Trump.

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PROTEST SCIENCE: This was published last year, but it has a lot of good advice worth embracing. It’s better to fight for or against issues rather than fight for or against people. If you are anti-Trump and Pence is elevated your movement is deflated. Be welcoming, open to newbies, and humble. Nonviolence wins the sympathy vote. Why Some Protests Succeed While Others Fail

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FREEDOM OF SPEECH vs. DON’T FEED THE TROLLS: I’ll admit to being a free speech purist (which doesn’t mean freedom of distribution, or freedom of platform), so I’m always looking for arguments about shutting down public speech to see if I find it persuading. Reaching the Moral High Ground and Finding It Barren by David Banks makes a case for shutting down Milo.

“Finally, there is the matter of free speech. Rather than accept the conservative frame that all speech is equal, we need to adopt a more justice-oriented understanding of speech that acknowledges the fact that the free expression of white supremacist views hampers the free speech of many others and, if left unchecked, leads to the silencing of everyone else.”

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TRUMP ALLIES/TRUMP OPPONENTS: 538 has developed a Congress Tracker that will tell you who supports Trump the most, and who the least. Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump

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END DUMBNESS AND POORNESS: Regardless of the horror of the current administration, the US is still predominantly conservative. The best counter is better jobs and more education.

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TO-DO: Breathe, don’t panic, walk, spend time with family, pet the dog, exercise, eat right, drink moderately, take a break. Take care of yourself first. Then get back to the resistance. This a marathon, not a sprint.

Our Current Situation: Don’t Panic

Wednesdays are for all the political stuff that’s been on my radar the last week. So much! There’s not a single clear spot on my radar screen. It’s all one eerie pulsing green glow. For the non-political weekly updates see the Sunday Spectacle.

EDITORIAL: My state of permanent freakout has been supplanted by an ongoing grim determination. Adjusting the national (global?) balance to something more sane may take awhile. There are lots of calls to take action, or to do something practical, but fewer examples of exactly what that means. Here are a few possibilities to get us started.

Progressive values can only be upheld if there are progressive legislators to advocate for those values. Run for Something is an organization devoted to recruiting and supporting “diverse progressives under the age of 35 to run for down-ballot races in order to build a bench for the future.” Check out their strategic plan. They started this year. Their focus is Virginia, and (tentatively) North Carolina, but they provide a good model for other communities to use. Not sure what to run for? Run for Office will tell you which offices you’re eligible for based on your address. Not sure what to do when you get there? State Innovation Exchange provides model progressive legislation you can use in your campaign, or, once elected, to push through into law.

If you can’t (or don’t want) to run, support those who do. Follow your local office-holders through Twitter or Google News Alerts and reward them when they do something good. Ideally with money, but even a phone call or letter can make a difference for your city, county, and state leaders.

The Nation posted a list of progressive movements worth checking out.

AZTLAN RISING: Even before The Donald jokingly joked he’d send the US military across our southern border I had a paranoid fantasy that one of his many legacies would be losing a war with Mexico.

In this feverish delusion the US is at war with Iran and military engagement is metastasizing across the Mid-East. Something, probably something trivial, sparks a border skirmish along the US-Mexico border. Maybe The Donald gives orders to pursue a bad hombre across the border and the Mexican military objects. Maybe he sends some CBP agents out to get a few late-night burritos. In a hilarious-but-deadly screw-up the US agents are captured. Tensions escalate. Before you know it the US is fighting on two fronts. In a fit of nationalist pride the narco gangs of Mexico form their own militias and launch a series of attacks inside the US border. Mexico claims it is time to re-take the portion of its nation the US took during the last US/Mexico war. War is declared.

The nations of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean all side with Mexico. Too many resources are are being used in the conflagration of the Middle East and Mexico takes Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California. Trump tries to declare martial law, but is removed from office by Pence. Pence concedes to Mexico so he can keep his eyes on the prize – immanentizing the eschaton. The west coast states secede, followed by the Confederacy states. By the time Pence leaves office, and Trump starts his prison sentence, the US has been balkanized and remains that way for the rest of the 21st century.

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TWITTER TIP: I read the conservative press. I want to know if there are broad concerns about Our Current Situation, or if the freak-out is purely liberal and Democrat. I want to know how the Trump supporters and those Trump-adjacent are interpreting events. One technique I’ve found useful is creating list in Twitter and then adding people to the list without following them. So, they don’t appear in my timeline, but I can dip into the list and get a sense of the conservative mindset. C-SPAN has a list for the House of Representatives which is also interesting.

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LOCAL ACTION: A few events locally. My FL representative, Janet Cruz, led a walk-out when her Republican counterparts brought in bona fide racist to speak about immigration.

Also local, the Indivisible movement is taking root in Tampa.

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SO CHILDISH: Here are some people making fun of Steve Bannon’s looks. If you want more you can Google Steve Bannon Looks Like, or search it on Twitter.

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PUSSYHAT: An interview with Jayna Zweiman, co-creator of the pussyhat.

“…what we noticed is that a lot of these knitting stores across the country work as these really beautiful little community hubs, and so in thinking about these hubs and these really wonderful spaces where it’s predominantly women, these are already active participants.”

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DON’T PANIC: It’s a firehose and an avalanche and torrential and a tsunami and an overwhelming spectacle of lies bullshit halftruth misdirection obfuscation belligerence and reality distortion, but don’t panic. The reserves of love and patience and science and fact and evidence and cogent arguments and good people and deep compassion and human resilience are mightier and deeper than the venal sociopathy currently washing over us.

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OR…, PANIC: We are living in a cyberpunk dystopia.

Read the whole thing here.

Our Current Situation: An Introduction to My Weekly Freak-Out

INTRODUCTION: As I put together the Sunday Spectacle I found myself torn between pointing to fun, cool, weird things that bring me joy, and posting things about the horror freakshow of our current political situation. It didn’t seem right to mix the two.

Today I decided to split my weekly round-up into TWO posts. Sunday is Sunday Spectacle, a weekly catalog of things I find interesting, fun, and weird. Wednesdays are now for Our Current Situation, a collection of the news and politics and assorted thoughts surrounding our…our… well, our current situation. Otherwise known as my ongoing freak-out.

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I SEE WAR: ((Note that this is all sheer paranoid fantasy. I write it to expel it from my brain. The price you pay for reading the following is it will be in YOUR brain instead.)) Today was a pretty good day, low on the freak-out scale, but toward the end of my workday I had an unwanted thought enter my head I haven’t been able to shake. We’ll be at war with Iran by April 29.

April 29 because that’s the 100th day of the administration, and it’s something I think is at the top of their to-do list. National Security Flynn has already put Iran “on notice.”

‘But, Russia and Iran are allied’ you say. ‘The US isn’t going to take on both.’

Nope. The US is going to offer Russia a sweetheart deal to dump Iran and join us in invading Iran. What kind of sweetheart deal? A share of the spoils and the US withdrawal from NATO.

In his book Field of Fight (published last summer), Flynn writes “Although I believe America and Russia could find mutual ground fighting Radical Islamists, there is no reason to believe Putin would welcome cooperation with us; quite the contrary in fact.” (p. 174) Unless… the president was a Russophile willing to work closely with Putin. Bloomberg sums up Flynn’s book as arguing “the next president should go big and try to win it [the war against radical Islam].”

Bannon believes we are in the middle of a “war of immense proportions” and only smart people like him realize it.

Shortly after Putin and Trump spoke on the phone Russia began escalating its war in the Ukraine.

Trump thinks he “really good at war,” and for a little bit this afternoon I envisioned a time in the not-so-distant future when he will try to pursue his and his advisers’ vision of a total war against ‘radical Islam.’ And, recall that as soon as the US launched its war in Afghanistan in 2001 the media and politicians fell in line and refused to be critical of the administration. We are a nation that loves war. A quick glimpse at our history shows we’ve been fighting much more often than we have not. A year from now Trump will have an 88% approval rating and the nightly news will be seriously pondering if using nuclear weapons was a premature decision, or our only choice.

Here’s what I imagine the White House will look like on April 28.

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George W. Bush’s speechwriter, David Frum, speculates on How Donald Trump could build an Autocracy.

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Chelsea Manning makes a point that shouldn’t have to be made. We are an oddly amnesiac culture. Compromise does not work with our political opponents. When will we learn?

“Now, after eight years of attempted compromise and relentless disrespect in return, we are moving into darker times. Healthcare will change for the worse, especially for those of us in need. Criminalization will expand, with bigger prisons filled with penalized bodies – poor, black, brown, queer and trans people. People will probably be targeted because of their religion. Queer and trans people expect to have their rights infringed upon.

“The one simple lesson to draw from President Obama’s legacy: do not start off with a compromise. They won’t meet you in the middle. Instead, what we need is an unapologetic progressive leader.”

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Is it just me? Or is it weird that in his Holocaust Remembrance Day statement The Donald (almost certainly reading The Bannon’s words) would say:

“I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good.”

Did I forget who won WWII? Didn’t WE, and our allies, win the Second World War? Didn’t we defeat the Nazi’s? So… let me see if I understand this correctly… our current president is suggesting that the forces of evil defeated the powers of good in WWII?

OK, he’s a confused speaker. He’s barely one step up from word salad, nonetheless… it’s creepy.

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Some excellent advice from Octavia Butler and Tananarive Due on surviving what comes next.

“First, breathe. Meditate. Journal. Dance. Hydrate. Get enough rest. If you’re an artist, CREATE. As I tweeted earlier this week, ask yourself what Octavia E. Butler would have written to confront this crisis…and create your version of that.

“For information, turn off the circus of television cable news and subscribe to newspapers. Favor investigative reporters over talking heads. For escape, find comedy, horror, thrillers—whatever helps you decompress. I write horror, I think, because my mother loved horror movies as her means of escape from her anger and fear. You need an escape too.”

Walk. Be mindful. This is a marathon not a race.