Day 174: The Government is not a Business

Trump and his family are self described business folks. While their legacy in business is debatable, that they come from the corporate world not political becomes more obvious everyday. We don’t know yet if Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia last year but the Trump family isn’t making it easy for innocence to be considered. 
This week Donald Trump Jr. became the center of the Russian storm. After days of having his ever changing story disproven by leaks, he released the emails in question. They did not vindicate him. When asked if he would like information on Clinton gathered by Russia to aid his father, he says he would love it. He brought Kushner and Manafort to the meeting, the Russian lawyer ended up not having anything on Clinton. Leaving us in a situation where we know that the Trump campaign would have colluded but not if they did. 
Ignore the discussion of impeachment for a moment. What other implications are there? One is a revelation behind the curtain. Political operators have long been portrayed as ruthless anything goes types in movies but the real political world always had norms and bounds. I’m not saying they are knights of the round table. Yet even the Gore campaign called the FBI when someone leaked Bush’s campaign bible to them. This event shows the business world core of the Trump universe one where damning emails end in a fine and mea culpas but in politics things end differently just ask Abramoff.
The anti-left media keeps yelling Ukraine like its Benghazi (as a waste of time). A low level former staffer is not the same as a high campaign advisor and candidate’s child. Manafort did in fact lobby for pro Russia candidates in Ukraine and was unable to hide it. Whether the decision to remove support for Ukraine in its war against Russian invasion from the GOP platform came from Manafort is unknown. In the end, evidence from a foreign public investigation is not close to the same as a foreign nation stealing documents from a political opponent to aid a candidate. As Watergate taught us having your own countrymen steal documents is damning without foreign involvement. 
The emails aren’t a smoking gun for criminal proceedings but they without a doubt bolster Mueller’s investigation. One can only wonder what subpeonas will uncover.
-E.C. Fiori

Day 151: Found Them

Day 72: The Strongman Arises on the Left

Two pieces in the NY Times, I wish to discuss: California and Mandatory Voting.
An op-ed by an Australian illustrates the inability of the global elite to understand regional differences between peoples. His claim that mandatory voting moderates elections is really a reflection on the Australian character. Their treatment of refugees inspires Trump. Their treatment of race such as the unironic use of black face on national television fits into the views of the American alt-right.

Compulsory voting doesn’t stop voter ID laws and other attempts to stop turnout just adds punishment to those who fail to comply. If fear of fines is the motivating factor in minority turnout as he suggests then western nations have failed to assimilate outside communities.

Compulsory voting also is not inherently more democratic because more people vote in the final election. If citizens don’t participate in the primary process and the ballot question process (most sigs are bought for questions and funded by pacs) then is filling out a ballot truly a measure of civic engagement.
The act of the government enforcing voting is unconstitutional. We are the government and it represents us rather than the reverse as in order countries. Our rights do not come from elected officials as implied by compulsory voting advocates. The anger of Trump voters comes from active civic participation being perceived as ignored by long time voters and Trump inspired many to vote for the first time. His victory was not because he inspired a small GOP base but others outside the classic Republican coalition. A fact that the global elite appear incapable of understanding.
In California, the state is acting like Antebellum south believing their will and stances greater than their fellow citizens. Particularly Sheila Kuehl a member of the LA county board of supervisors who quote “I said ‘If you have to lie, cheat and steal, do it…Take federal money and just tell them you are going to do whatever they want.” That’s terrible to say as a private citizen outrageous to say as an elected American official. No one is above federal law. Think of the outrage Texas received when they played that role to Obama. A democracy is not one ideology system and to act as such as hinted at by California undermines our nation and empowers authoritarianism. Forget the fear of being cut out of Trump’s privatized infrastructure program (it will have no reward for the public). Fear the national guard coming down in ways Obama feared to act. There’ll be more death than in Ohio before 2020.
-E.C. Fiori

Day 32: A Rose by Any Other Name

Identity politics has always existed. White Supremacy is perhaps the oldest modern form. In all forms it relies on tribal dogma to create a world view. This world view does not always conform to the world. In an piece for NPR, Tasneem Raja writes “why it’s never been more important to continue talking — and arguing, and complaining, and venting — about identity in America. To continue interrogating whiteness as a construct, even as we discuss the economic woes of many white Americans. To continue asking why so many of our superheroes are white and male, even as we push to better understand the defeat and humiliation felt by many flesh-and-blood white men in our country.” Superheroes aren’t real. Movies and television aren’t real. The media wastes an incredible amount of time watching other media and reporting on what the media tells them. No wonder we built our own echo chambers, the mirror that was journalism has become a fun house. There are serious deep seated economic ills that affect all Americans that creates a fear of the other. While diverse entertainment options are important. Everyone should be able to share their voice. Art is not as important as economic stability. Few liberals argue that many of the goals of identity politics aren’t noble, but the tactics are ineffective at best. As television moves from viewership numbers to subscriber totals, the actual viewership of any given program matters less. Thus the explosion of perspectives on pay or SVOD entertainment. These shows at their peak with the rare exception have a twentieth of the viewership of the classic model flagship CBS. If content can shape the viewership than the viewership matters. Identity politics by dividing citizens based on birth features encourages white nationalism. If being matters then Whiteness matters. If what was pop culture is white culture then the Whiteness of it matters too. In a country that is still majority white for the next three decades and depending on immigration changes longer, that demographic has power.

The average American white male was the loser of globalism. The Trump supporter is similar to a study on rats as written in the New York Times, “The best verified animal model of depression consists of social defeat. A dominant rat is placed in a cage with a younger, stronger rat from another group. When the dominant rat is defeated, several features emerge. The defeated rat is reclusive, hyper-vigilant, avoidant, and shows an incapacity to experience pleasure.” The Obama coalition was a moment for a future America. A moment of change. The now reviled and then reviled as well white American male was an important piece of the coalition, the Midwestern firewall. The professional class has always been dominant; the working class had their fiefdoms maybe not to the charm of a New Yorker but a loving community home to the residents. That has been stolen and the working class re-dominated. The recession recover deepened the destruction of their middle class world of the last thirty years. Longer than many of the preachers of Identity have been living. 2016 will be remembered as the year that Americans first had the chance to elect a government focused on all citizens but both Trump and Clinton relied on identity. Trump did the math and Clinton expected shame to continue to hold the peace. The basket of deplorables comment probably ended her campaign. Trump did a barebone dog whistle to be sure but Clinton attacked the one group she needed because of identity politics. Being a first isn’t an enough, a campaign is more than a self- esteem booster. That last part is intended to the Trump voters and the chaos they chose as well.

We are a broken people divided. The New York Times has an op-ed about not going easy on the failures of men.  Especially taking aim at the concept as men as the breadwinner and that being the sole responsibility. While I agree that men and woman should do portional housework based on earnings level. The problem is not just that men do less housework or are selfish about the tasks. It is that the stay at home dad is an undesired solution. Here is an interesting Dear Sugar on the subject. Women are more likely to cheat and divorce as the breadwinner. This dissonance is tearing apart our families. We cannot just shame a better tomorrow. So much of the strife and divisions center on money and for some luxury. I think if the pay ratio dropped from the average of 204: 1 CEO to worker to 50:1 at every company, we would see an American renaissance. I think that it would aid the race and gender and sexuality pay gap and earnings gap. I think it would ease the financial burden on families and save marriages.  It would rise up all peoples and exclude no American from the better tomorrow. New divisions will not heal the old ones. Shame is not persuasion.

-E.C. Fiori

Day 26: There is no House

Everyone knows the house always wins. The American republic may have an elite, but as this election show, they don’t own the system. Trump showed that for both media output, both left and right publishers endorsed Clinton. They might pay eighteen bucks to see a celebrity, but they won’t let that celebrity decide their fate. There is no house in America, just we the people.

-E.C. Fiori

Day 25: To Play The King

Pundits have frequently claimed or alluded that Trump can be persuaded. That in his meeting with the press, there appears to be signs of respect. Trump is a bull in a china shop, and they are the porcelain. The election was the wrecking ball, crashing through their carefully worded columns. Their words failed and now they still believe they have the power. Their words cannot chain him any more than they did in the campaign. The press found a pedestal in the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. Tune in to them to keep the politicians straight. Sure they agreed not to show FDR getting out of a car or in his wheelchair. In some ways they are correct. The freedom of the press is an important right listed with religion coming in at number one on the bill of rights, but like all freedoms they are a matter of debate. If gun control and the increasingly more common gun ban discussed also attack the bill of rights. The need to mention religion exemption to allow ordinary citizens to live their life as they chose. For the press both liberal and conservative, some freedoms are more constitutional than others. This Orwellian drive both increasing and increased by polarization. The need to fill up the 24 hour news cycle opened the doors for more content and in depth detailed investigated journalism takes time and money that doesn’t match the now stretched budget. Opinions are cheap and punditry rose to fill the gaps.

While I am convinced the major media outlets do their homework, an opinion based on fact is still an opinion. Look at the current liberal cry that the blue states are overtaxed. It is indeed true that Wyoming citizens get more per tax dollar in benefits than a citizen of Jersey. The government does far more than tax benefits and overall the Federal government globalization policies benefited the urban areas far more than the rural. Not to mention the rural poor need that support to survive. The party of caring is not quite as open as they claim to be. The popular vote overriding the electoral college will not solve inequality anymore than eight years of Obama did. The problem isn’t a system that is designed to stop a despot but that a faction wants to eliminate the voice of a bulk of states. California and New York would decide most elections. Maybe some campaigning in Chicago. Outside of the state by state primaries, most regions of the country where people could live but chose not to would not exist. Even if you lived in New York and California outside of five maybe six cities, your vote would be useless. Another fact is that a popular vote lead of 2.5 million votes is not a great percent out of the pool of citizens eligible to voting that is about 231 million or about 1%. We are a much larger and franchised nation since the constitution was written. An election lost is not the framework. The blue firewall of the union workers fell because jobs were leaving and nothing was coming to replace them. The Democrats and Clinton herself did not do what they did in upstate New York in 2000, which was going to the people. Trump held rallies everywhere. He at least pretended to that he wasn’t pretending in his outreach and promises. Giving up whether through secession or altering our governing document won’t make the rural folk disappear. The news and the outlets that provide it were historically the only window into the world for most people. The internet has permanently taken that mantle and the news attempting to win the race it invented as spiraled. Truth in the major outlets is at a low. Minimalism is in perhaps, less would be more but less should be longer. I do not suggest censorship but rather would your thoughts be aided by more time and resources longer and nuanced as it is.

-E.C. Fiori

Day 21: God Save the Republic, part one

Are writers who I respect like Andrew Sullivan or Matt Taibbi being chicken little post election? Maybe, maybe not. Progress has an ability to clean itself up in hindsight. We don’t feel bad in omitting that FDR used the disenfranchisement of blacks to get the southern votes for the New Deal and WWII when we call him one of the greatest presidents. We might say never again and I do not mean to suggest that we repeat the past, but I do think it is safe to say that democracy grew and thrived after. Trump lost the popular vote but geographically won almost the entire nation. Perhaps the issue is we became too democratic or perhaps we opened ourselves to aristocracy.

Tyranny of the majority, one of the great founding fears may shed some light on our country. There are two majorities in existence: the democrat urban coalition with its popular vote win and Trumpland where the sun never sets. Both gripped in a deathmatch. The current war of American halves began in earnest in the 1990’s with the culture wars. Particularly P.C. culture which partly can be seen as a response to the race baiting tactics of the modern GOP. Politically correctness was different than the destruction of the censorship boards in the 60’s. It was an active assault into public and private life. The focus on thought as much as action. The older repealed morality legislation was equally as intrusive and we are better off without. The left sought to form a new monoculture in ways that the old monoculture of the mass never achieved. Brooklynization.  Twentyfive years of scorched earth fighting between both sides, neither willing to show magnanimity in defeat or victory. During the Great Recession and uneven recovery, the culture war was pushed by elites to mask the hard truths of class.

To be continued and finished tomorrow.

-E.C. Fiori

Day 19: S.O.S and Other Mumurs in the Swamp

Trump’s cabinet has been heavy on the second chances and new fish in the pond in big positions. The largest besides the seat on the court is the position of Secretary of State, our top diplomat. Mitt Romney is in the running and for that I am grateful. The man may have not been my choice for president, but he was a good governor. He quite knowledgeable about current and global affairs. He never has had a public scandal or been blemished. If Trump always speaks in Trumpisms then Romney will be an eloquent communication channel. The other name being bounced around is Rudy Giuliani, who is the opposite of Romney. A man who had an extramarital affair in office and is a Trump cosmopolitan. His time ended with his mayorship and his outlook on police policies while not a part of the state department give insight into his worldviews. He will not stand for a world safe for democracy if he threatens it at home.

The outsiders in Trump’s camp oppose Romney. He was a “never Trumper”, whose vote was not for Trump in all likelihood. They are running a old time mob boss hall party with good jobs for supporters regardless of qualification. They didn’t have any and they won. More dangerous ideas is their toxic desire for revenge. Our lives and their fates are not favors to be handed out for support. We the people deserve someone qualified even if we abhor some of their held positions, at least let the issue be politics. Government is not a business, many more factors matter beyond stockholder appreciation. It requires self sacrifice and that isn’t coming from Trump Tower. This is a man who treats the presidency like a participation trophy. His wife and young son can’t be bothered to reside in the White House. Who knows if Trump won’t come back to NYC on weekends?

Decorum will be in short supply come Inauguration Day. Trump as president elect continues to use his Twitter to vent. While I disagree with those who say the Hamilton cast open letter after the show was an apolitical action, I also disagree with those who say they should apologize. This is an age for public disagreement. The election comes at a time of greater change than the industrial era. The digital disruption and the approach of the end of work before whites become a majority minority in America. Uber deployed a fleet of self driving cars aided by human companions this summer. They won’t be everywhere tomorrow, but consider the smartphone. It was just under a decade ago that the iPhone was released. In that time, the notion of the smartphone being a key tool of success has taken hold. By 2015 68% of Americans had a smartphone making an app like Uber be a very successful company. Soon, delivery drivers like myself will be out of work along with taxi cab drivers, and the entire transport industry from film to food distribution. Millions of jobs will be gone. There will be no new jobs to replace them as more automation breakthroughs take place. These changes will not be done within the next twenty years, but the preparations and framework needs to be discussed now. Before zero hour. It will not be a good use of our next four years, arguing over Twitter again.

-E.C. Fiori

Day 9: Quis Custodial Ipsos Custodes

An Editor for Wikileaks wrote a letter in the NY Times Today. She defended the actions of their organization in manipulating the US election. In true doublethink they note “WikiLeaks relies on our editor’s invention of a secure anonymous online submission system to protect sources’ identities. This technology has become a standard for many media outlets around the world. We prefer not to know who our sources are; we do not want to, and usually do not need to”. While proclaiming “WikiLeaks will continue publishing, enforcing transparency where secrecy is the norm.” I am discussing Wikileaks mainly on the leaked DNC and Podesta emails. Russia, the city on a hill of modern human rights, hacked them both. The bigfoot in the room being the hand off between the two.

While Wikileaks claimed corruption within the DNC, I disagree. Bernie is not a democrat besides the paperwork needed to claim the title for running a primary. He historically has spoken against the DNC and its fundraising methods. But by running under the party, he gained a better potential to be elected. The DNC in response did not welcome him as warmly as a long time ally, who raised money for other down ballot candidates. The nominee represents the unofficial leader of the party, a tide that raises all ships. Sanders did not rush to support the down ballot. In the end, it wasn’t the superdelegates, but the physical votes that mattered.

In the general election, more Clinton leaks occurred. Her opponent Trump, a man who still bucks all transparency precedents. From no tax returns and delayed and incomplete health records. Now he is the president-elect, he also ditching the press pool. His legal, but uncustomary secrecy considering his current IRS audit and legal scandals including misuse of his charity has been awarded.  They enforced transparency on just the candidate who sought to charge Assange for his role in the release of classified military and state department documents. The release of the emails and the press reaction made Clinton to appear more secretive than Trump, which was never true. If to commit terrorism is to act in a way that creates fear and distrust then Wikileaks has engaged in digital terrorism against its perceived enemies.

It is no surprise that Assange and his organization who want to aid a man accused of sexual assault because Assange himself has been holed up in the the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 trying to dodge sexual assault and rape allegations of his own. This is the danger of the doxxing age. Information is no longer neutral, just a weapon ranging from a handgun to the bomb of bombs. Like Trump, Assange views himself as a guardian of truth hidden from us serfs by the systems  of power. They both claim the accusations against them are a smear campaign. From their self appointed positions, they frame all dissent as lies, a conspiratorial deception to hide the Truth. The audience under the weight of the destruction of the community finds their words to confirm the feeling inside unaddressed by three administrations. The disconnect between soul and mind becomes the disconnect between us and Washington.

As leaks and hacks continue and will continue to occur, our one defense is to reject it. Self police ourselves from peering into private digital lives. We need to secure our right to privacy from both the government our own and foreign in addition to the non state actors. I do not suggest willful ignorance as that would be wrong and foolish. Rather ask what smoking gun revealed itself in the emails? They were another mirage that people squabbled over, our metaphorical cake.

To say that the source of the emails is immaterial is to say that intent and motive have no impact on the morality of the publishing. Compare the actions of Assange to Daniel Ellsberg. He revealed the deception of three administrations to the public through the pentagon papers. Then he surrendered himself to the justice system and prepared to face all legal consequences. In light of the criminal actions the Nixon Administration committed against him, the charges were dismissed. Assange instead fled from any possibility of justice.

It reminds me of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Both Daniel and Darius did their duty and righteousness won out. Assange can rot in the prison of his own making. There should be better avenues for whistleblowers, those who risk so much should not have to rely on a spineless egomaniac and the zealots who worship him.

Day 8: The Eye of a Neon Hurricane, The Nation of Patty Hearst, Democratization of Fear

When reading the writings of Ted Kaczynski, the UNABomber, currently serving eight life sentences in a supermax prison in Colorado, he comes off as surprisingly sane. This is troubling, because one has to ask the question why a sane person would spend 17 years mailing bombs all around the country, claiming three lives and wounding 23.

Through my close reading of his work and original published manifesto, I’ve come to the conclusion that he is a fanatic. It is not that he is divorced from reality in a medical way, but in an ideological one. The crux of his ideology is that the industrial revolution was a disaster for mankind: technology is destroying the natural world, and robs humanity of its autonomy. To cope with the crippling personal effect of technology we increasingly turn to it as our salvation, the cycle continues, et cetera, et cetera.

Written in 1995, the manifesto does strike a certain chord in me. As someone who has lived in cities for the past decade, I have felt the effects of urbanization and a complete alienation with the natural.

What interests me, however, is the increasing sense of an urbanization of the mind. With the leaps forward in technology, we are increasingly surrounded by ever more hysterical media apparatus, that exists not to push an ideology as conspiracy theorists would have us believe, but for our attention.

We’ve become the nation of Patty Hearst, all trapped in the closet with the megaphone blaring the ragged mantra over and over: “Keep watching.” The neon hurricane is ever present, and the eye is fixed on us. It’s no wonder everyone is trapped in their own echo chambers politically, no wonder there is so much fear and loathing in a country where there is no great war or depression.

Most damaging is the painful truth that the urbanization of the mind has led to a loss of identity en masse. Some retreat to the old answers of tribalism (both the right and the left). We do not know who we are anymore: culture, our connection to the land- all of it has been painfully stripped away by our modern life, a life that only exists because of technology. Entertainment is the only “culture” left, given more importance than ever before because of the crucial release it provides. Because it is all we are left with, it alone reverberates with the anxieties we share- a democratization of fear. All of our science fiction asks the question “what does it mean to be human”. The very question we desperately seek an answer to.

-Jack Delaney