B.J. Bethel

A view of the world from Ohio

What Election 2018 means for Ohio, Democrats and 2020

Democrats have an Ohio and Florida problem.

The can thank themselves for Ohio. The state party hasn’t existed since the Tea Party election in 2010, where popular governor Ted Strickland lost a nail-biter to John Kasich, one of the few close races for Republicans in a year that saw a swing in Republican politics both in office and culturally.

Four years later, Kasich ran for re-election against Ed FitzGerald. FitzGerald was an unknown commissioner from Cuyahoga County, who seemed out of depth from the beginning, and dropped out of the race before election day. Strickland would run against Portman in 2016, and lead early in polling, but his campaign was one of the worst run in the history of the state. Weird commercials, a tired Strickland and the Trump wave didn’t help, but he wasn’t beating Rob Portman, who came back home from DC and the Bush administration. These were the Democrats two biggest attempts at regaining important Ohio seats the last eight years.

DeWine beating Cordray by 180,000 votes was a surprise, since Cordray and DeWine had been nearly even in polling. Percentage wise it was around 51 percent to 47, but Trump campaigned heavily to keep the Governor’s office red and is voters turned out in rural areas. In congressional seats, while Democrats picked up a shocking 35, they won none in Ohio, as did Republicans. DeWine won Montgomery County, a shocker pickup for Trump in 2016, which hadn’t gone Republican since 1988 when George H.W. Bush was president.

The lesson thus, the Democrats in Ohio have not existed as a party since 2010. Republicans turned out in rural areas to combat large turnout in the cities, and the fact state offices have been Republican for eight years was a mountain to large to climb. Over 865,000 registered Republicans voted last night – 721,000 Democrats did.

Ohio has not been a purple state in years, it’s been red, mostly by forfeit. Democrats have not been present in the Midwest, Plains and Southern states in years, and it’s cost them. The Democrats won the House back in an election year that was supposed to be bad for them. In Ohio, they gained two state Supreme Court seats, and in Montgomery County, the three commissioners are for the first time, all women, and all Democrat. If the party wants to win 2020, it has to win Ohio and Florida. It came close in Florida by narrow margins, it put up a good fight in Ohio, but lost definitively. Trump’s entire campaign strategy has been to win in these two states and it has worked for him. Democrats need to understand why that has happened, and they’ve yet to do it.


The Trump administration is finished

Of all the possible high crimes and misdemeanors committed by the Trump administration, nothing could be worse for this president than to become a bore.

He threatens NATO, he stand on stage next to a murderous authoritarian Putin and said he’d be willing to hand over a former U.S. diplomat and Russian assassination target, both U.S. citizens who have committed no crimes. He was immediately rebuffed by the GOP-led Senate which voted over 90, re-affirming America’s backing of NATO and telling the president he can hand Bill Browder and Michael McFaul to the Russians over their dead political body.

Trump as a domestic political entity is all but done. He has no domestic policy to push, and after the two Senate resolutions slapping his wrist, the Republicans have had their fill. They’ve criticized him verbally for months, now they’ve put it in legislation.

Trump resorted to old tricks Sunday – declaring in an ALL CAPS screed against Iranian President Rouhani he would unleash hell against the country in a dangerous and twisted Twitter rant to sway press attention from the trial of his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, which was scheduled to begin Wednesday. This fooled no one, as media joked on Twitter at his effort to once again flip the news cycle.

Trump’s way of Making America Great Again, by threatening nuclear war to divert from bad news, has somehow become tired. Sarah Sanders arrogant daily press conferences belay the fact. Manafort will go on trial, witnesses have been given immunity.

Trump’s base of supporters has grown increasingly silent. Except for Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, his lead water carriers on Fox News, most avoid discussing him in public.

“There was nothing to do with Russia,” they say. If you go to he top of this page, there’s a menu button full of stories from this blog and Chris Zappone who prove that is false. Outside of that, its the usual liberal media conspiracies. While Trump is trying to bring coal back from the dead, there have been more journalism jobs lost than in the coal industry, yet this powerful industry somehow maintains control of everything. Newspapers and cable channels which have interns doing jobs once reserved for new hires, are struggling, but somehow pulling the strings of society.

This same rant, which has been the right wing media trope of all tropes for three decades, won’t wear out. But it’s become boring as well. Trump has the most powerful office in the world, is best friends of the country’s top tabloid, and enjoys support from the No. 1 cable news network, yet whines constantly about coverage, even singling out members of the press. When Bill Clinton said Rush Limbaugh had an advantage of “three hours of uncountered air time a day,” it was considered an attack on a private citizen. Trump attacks private citizens daily.

So what bores the public first? Trump’s criminality, which will just further the cynicism of the American public, or Trump himself, which makes his departure from the White House more certain to be sooner than later.


The Iran decision, and how long will Mattis stay?

What was made clear during the early days of the Trump administration – which feels decades ago, not just over a year, unless our calendars lie – was the grownup side of the White House was in short supply. There was Jim Mattis, the decorated General as Secretary of Defense, and confidence ran low across the board.

Early responses to foreign policy issues gave some confidence that Mattis could keep the administration from unraveling the international order, and maybe even maintaining it to some degree. This is an ironic statement given Trump’s desire to role the United States off the world stage, and allow China to gain more of a hold as a world leader. But the carefully staged counter attack against Assad armies in Syria and Russian convoys for a deadly attack on civilians was measured, smart and productive in some manner, though the successes of such responses are always hard to determine. After the Assad regimes horrific attack on civilians in Douma with chemical weapons, the U.S. responded with targeted strikes with help from allied countries.

All sense that the U.S. would maintain some semblance of sound foreign policy died the moment Donald Trump announced the U.S. was pulling out of the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran. The reasons couldn’t have been more specious given the circumstances in which the deal was signed and the timing of Trump pulling out of it.

Trump didn’t dare make this move during the early days of his presidency, when the Obama plan to smash the Islamic State, and push them out of Iraq and past the Euphrates was rolling, eventually beating IS out of its stronghold in Mosul. The effort combined coordination between U.S. trained Iraqi forces, Iraqi militias, Kurdish military and groups with direct ties to Iran. The countries didn’t always cooperate (Iraq’s government began forcing Kurds out of Mosul before the invasion was complete), and it certainly led to to strange alliances, but the operation worked and the immediate and most dangerous threat was pushed out of a country and stripped of its oil rich wealth.

Conveniently, after this was accomplished, Trump brings John Bolton into the White House, a man whose reputation is so sordid, he once brought Republican Senator George Voinovich to tears at the thought he would represent the U.S. at the United Nations. Just a week later, we pull out of the Iran deal in a callous manner, that is followed just an hour after the announcement with attacks by Israel on Assad and Iranian positions in Syria.

What the Iran deal did do was much more important than what it didn’t. The plan was to give incentive to Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program. Much of this was through lifting sanctions and other economic incentives. The hope was these actions would also bring Iran closer in relations with other countries involved in the Joint Agreement.

It wasn’t about limiting money Iran sent to Hezbollah or Assad. The condemnations over this are the most hypocritical of complaints considering the U.S. government has done nothing to limit Saudi money that has fueled Sunni terrorism for decades, and was propping up the Islamic State. While the Iranian government has said it intends to comply with the deal through the remaining participation with allies in Europe, much of U.S. involvement was needed to keep the deal alive. So instead of a steady stream of inspections and protections to keep Iran from going nuclear, it’s now been given all the reason to go further with its nuclear plan given the Trump administration’s open embrace of Kim Jong Un, who despite ignoring international law and running a concentration camp as a country, and developing an ICBM capable of delivering a nuclear payload to most of the United States.

The signs are simple – nuclear weapons means bargaining power. It means security, and it means a seat at the table. The Trump administration is too ignorant to recognize this, just as they were so caught up in their own ‘successes’ on the Korean penninsula, it was blindsided by North Korea’s pullout of a summit with President Trump over lifting economic sanctions and moving to denuclearize the Hermit Kingdom – all in response to regular military exercises by South Korean and the U.S., a response typical of North Korea anytime military exercises are scheduled.

News reports had the White House shocked and dismayed, a situation that’s crushing to those who follow international politics. If there was one thing to understand about North Korea, it was its history of provocative behavior and the predictable timing of it. That the White House was taken aback is the sign of a inept administration that doesn’t understand the larger issues it’s dealing with, or the largest of repercussions, let alone the smallest.

This bring us to General Mattis. The White House rumor mill, which spins alongside its constant flow of leaks, has Trump cutting out nearly the entire advisory staff on these recent decisions and talking only with Bolton. A bad move given his controversial decision making and his shoot first, ask questions later approach.

Mattis is a soldier, perhaps the first time since U.S. Grant that the General in the field was the best soldier there. The Bolton plan of relying on ethnic or separatist uprising to topple the Iranian government is so boldly stupid and reckless it defies rational thought. This canard was floated throughout the neo-con quarters prior to the Iraq War, that the Hussein family’s grip on Iraq was coming unglued. In fact all other concerns thrown out, the U.S. would be in a much better position to stop a coming separatist war or civil war if it were to simply invade and pull Hussein out of leadership.

It wasn’t true by any means that Hussein was on the brink of losing power. I discussed this matter with an officer who served with the Iraq Survey Group, the military group in charge of finding WMDs once the U.S. invaded. He considered such talk ridiculous and said there was no sign from anyone that Iraq was about to have its Arab Spring moment 10 years early.

To believe this is scenario is playing out in Iran, a much more modern society with a more entrenched government, stretches credulity to limits beyond scale. It’s difficult to believe Bolton even believes this scenario will play out, or that it will even end in a favorable manner for the West and the U.S.

So how long does General Mattis stay? The White House was simultaneously suckered by a North Korean strongman the same day its launched a proxy war between Iran and Israel. If there is no uprising in Iraq, and the U.S. has to now deal with a more hostile Iran, the options become worse.

There are no options for taking out a reinstated by air. Most of Iran’s nuclear sites are deep underground, far from the reach of our bunker busters or MOABs. That means the only way of getting regime change or putting an end to their nuke program would be to invade. A scenario that easily surpass the number of dead in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Why would Mattis be a part of this self-made conundrum? He would be responsible for the success and planning of the largest invasion since D-Day, and would certainly be seeing over the largest loss of life in war in 50 years.

There’s almost no incentive for him to stay, especially with Israel and Iran now battling via proxy and with North Korea showing itself to be an arrogant nuclear power.

For our country’s sake, let’s hope he stays as Secretary of Defense. There are few as qualified for their roles at the White House, Mattis is one of those few. He also brings experience and brains to his job, something that can’t be said for most of the cabinet. To this point he has shown he’s a voice of sanity in the asylum.


The mother of all memos: A social media stunt gone lame – so expect more

The Devin Nunes House Intelligence Committee memo criticizing the FBI and Department of Justice handling of its Russia investigation is a laugh riot.

Erik Tarloff, screenwriter, novelist and political writer called it the Edsel of all memos. It makes Crystal Pepsi look like crystal meth. “Nothing-burger” was so overused to describe its contents, the term “Nunes-burger” was invented, work more productive than anything wrought by the memo.

Much of the memo is erroneous. It presents the FISA court as accepting a high-level of legal scrutiny, when it’s the opposite – 99 percent of indictments and warrants before the court have been approved, before the court’s existence was revealed, it had never refused a warrant or indictment.

This is only one subject of many that’s false. The memo not only reveals nothing new, but bulwarks the work of the FBI. It obfuscates the intelligence gathered by Christopher Steele as being politically motivated, and then there’s Carter Page, who seems a victim of being on the Trump transition team, when in fact he had been under FBI investigation since 2013. None of this is mentioned in the memo, which seems more as fodder for the Trump base, Hannity and talk radio as a bulwark against the coming Mueller findings.

It does none of that. Some Republicans have criticized the nature of releasing classified material, even though much of this information – which was gathered by the FBI – has been dug up by media for months. It tries to draw a direct line between Christopher Steele and the DNC, who funded the later part of his intelligence through a subsidiary. But Steele didn’t know who was funding him, and his investigation was initially funded by a conservative media outlet.

After a year of daily Trump bombs on Twitter, on the front page of the New York Times, of Hannity and Tucker Carlson losing their minds on television, the GOP as a whole has rallied around its president, a mistake that’s beginning to look fatal with the 2018 elections closing and Trump’s approval dropping in the states that put him over the top in electoral votes.

I don’t expect the right to back down, or admit a mistake. They’ll claim this a victory and up the ante. Whatever distortions they can make about Steele, the DOJ, DOS and FBI they’ll make in any effort to keep public pressure off Congress to impeach the president once Mueller’s findings are revealed. That effort starts by claiming Democrats are behind the Russia allegations, or some “deep state” actors who “fear the draining of the swamp” or some “Washington political and media elitists.”

The fact Trump and Congress are so defiant to norms and vitriolic in their approach supposes there’s more to Russia’s involvement in the election, and more to Trump and his relationship with Putin and the Russians. These aren’t actions of someone who is conscious of being innocent.

The next move could be attacks on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Clinton is a punching bag Trump hasn’t left alone since last November. Obama is still hated by the Trump base, and contriving some conspiracy between them and the deep state as 2016 was coming to an end and Trump as coming into office seems a hackneyed enough lie, they’ll throw it at the wall to see if it sticks.

Have a happy 2018.


The next U.S. war could be against Iraq

In October, the Iraqi military with assistance from Iranian militias, began taking over Kirkuk and other territory that was previously held by the KRG, or the Kurdistan Regional Government. The Iraqi army moved into Kirkuk, a city the Kurds had held since it was taken from the Islamic State last year. An effort the Kurds served bravely, and fought en masse. The Kurds were there to push IS out of Kirkuk and Mosul. It was the Kurds with the U.S. military that pushed IS back across the Euphrates, an effort significant in symbolism and more as an accomplishment.

Iraq no longer has the Mosul dam disaster on its mind, thanks to the Kurds. The Iraqis no longer have IS sitting just a few hours drive from Baghdad, inhabiting enough of Iraq and Syria that it could claim an ’empire’ larger than Great Britain.

For these achievements, the Kurds held more territory than ever, and as some officials put it to Rudaw Media, “have dealt with Arabs and Turkmen” in keeping Kurdistan functional, its finances, services running and just having food for everyone.

As if to deliver a slap to the faces of everyone who stepped in Iraq to deliver it from authoritarianism, sectarianism and later jihadism the last 15 years, Iraq announced yesterday it would begin shipping oil from the Kirkuk field and to Iran. The move coincides with Iraq stripping all Kurds of any official government office or law enforcement position.

Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi said on Friday in a statement that 30,000-60,000 barrels of oil a day would be exported to Iran’s Kermanshah province.

Over the course of a year, the Iraqis will be selling 11 to 22 million barrels of oil from Kirkuk alone.

To push IS out of Iraq, the U.S. military trained a platoon of 10-15,000 soldiers to take on the jihadists. The U.S. provided air support. The Kurds fought from the North, fought bravely, and the wobbly alliance between Syrian rebels, Iraqi’s government, Iranian militias, Kurds and the U.S. held long enough to push the Islamic State back into the corners of Syria.

The end result, Iraq is now selling (maybe giving) up to $3 billion in oil to Iran. With such provocations, it’s not surprising the even stranger bedfellows of the Jordanians, the Saudis, Israel and the Al-Nusra Front (Al Qaeda in the Levant) have been drilling Iran-sponsored Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel has flown missions to Syria for years, knocking out a potential nuclear facility, and then bombing potential deadly targets during the country’s civil war.

Unsurprisingly the Trump administration has been quiet at this attack on the Kurds, who along with Israel are our two greatest allies in the region. Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the world stage when possible means the Kurds are on their own.

Why Iraq is so openly operating with Iran? Could be Donald Trump’s threats to end the P-5 plus  1 nuclear deal with Iran, which wouldn’t actually end the deal but terminate the Americans involvement. It could also be the usual taunting Trump voices when regarding with any foreign policy situation, treating it like a middle school insult contest.

So openly working with the Iraqis, making deals for oil that were freed from Saddam Hussein and later IS, could be a response to Trump’s threats about the nuclear deal, or his regular taunting on social media. It could also be a move to take advantage of the local power vacuum, or to shore up its finances and have another connection for energy if the U.S. were to to someday be sucessfull in reinstate sanctions.

Most likely it’s a response to a more active Saudi Arabia, who under the leadership of Crown Prince Salman, has fought graft and corruption within its own country – which has funded terror groups with billions for decades, including Osama Bin Laden and elements of Islamic State. A Salman who says – at least – he wants to modernize Saudi Arabia, and is now working jointly with Israel, Jordan and the Al Nusra Front to pound on Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon and perhaps make a run at Syria.

Iraq retook Rawa on November 17, the the city located in the Anbar province and the last held by the Islamic State in Iraq. The assault to retake the city received U.S. support.

Iran and Iraq’s push out of the Kurds out of Kirkuk led to the KRG refusing aid from an Iranian militia after an earthquake struck the town of Darbandikhan in the Kurdistan mountainous region. Meanwhile, according to the regional newswebsite Rudaw, Kurdish members of Iraqi parliament have called for the Iraqi Prime Minster Haider al-Abadi to stop Shiite militia groups from attacking and raiding Kurdish towns such as Tuz Khurmatu. This occurred hours after Kurdish representatives left parliament to halt a vote to punish the Kurds for an independence vote.

So where does the U.S. stand? Friday U.S. envony Brett McGurk met with Kurdish security advisors in Erbil, according to Rudaw, with McGurk pledging that Kurdistan remain a constitutional entity unto itself inside Iraq proper.

Meanwhile, with Trump’s wavering on the nuclear deal and Iran’s provocations and sock-puppeting of Iraq, the Saudis and Israelis are forming a coalition against Iran and one that makes direct reference to Trump.

In a historic interview, the chief of Israeli Defense Forces talked to Saudi Arabia’s Elaph newspaper and gave the following quote.

With President Donald Trump, there is an opportunity for a new international alliance in the region and a major strategic plan to stop the Iranian threat. We are ready to share intelligence (with Riyadh). There are common interest between us. Iran seeks to take control of the Middle East creating a Shia crescent from Lebanon to Iran, tand then from the Gulf  to the Red Sea. We must prevent this from happening.

As CNBC stated, his public interview in a government sanctioned newspaper, with a public admission of allegiance between former sworn enemies. This is a dicier proposition in Saudi Arabia, especially with Salman’s ascendance and Wahhabist sects which would surely fight any coexistence or collaboration with Israel.

The U.S. is now in a spot of Trump decrying the P5+1 treaty, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Nusra Front collaborating militarily and strategically, and Iraq acting as a proxy for Iran.

Trump could easily find himself back at war – with Iraq. The country has a parliament and elections, but has been under the thumb of Iran since the day of its liberation. Iranian influence has continued after 2003 and through the Obama administration as both Bush and Obama weren’t cognizant of the actions that were happening in the country and their importance.

Trump can’t fight Iran directly; an invasion would take an effort larger than D-Day, against a country that would then have no reason to hold back on its nuclear program. Iran is a geographically diverse and more modern country with a stronger military, and an invasion would be beyond complicated.

There would be no easy base of military incursion, except from the Afghani side, if their government were to cooperate, which would probably not happen.

Fighting a proxy war against Iraq would be more in the cards if things were to fall apart. There would be more support for the U.S. in a war with Israel on its side. And Iraq would be at a large disadvantage since so much of its military expertise comes from American guidance. This is unlikely to happen, but if Iraq makes moves to back Iran in any conflict, the U.S. must choose its battles and its sides, and the only one to choose currently would be Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah.

It’s rotten news, but it goes back to just how badly the Iraq invasion was planned in 2003, how little state department involvement led to many of these problems and how this situation could turn into one worse than was imaginable at the time.


Clapper, U.S. intelligence doubts legitimacy of Trump’s election – in case you missed it fighting about NFL players

The day after our Commander in Tweet called talk of Russian interference in the U.S. election a “hoax”, and precisely the same time he called NFL players who didn’t stand for the national anthem “sons of bitches,” James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, told CNN host Erin Burnett there’s enough evidence to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2016 presidential election.

“Our intelligence community assessment did, I think, serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of (Trump’s) victory in the election,” Clapper said to almost no audience.

Instead the weekend has continued to bare the one national hallmark of the Trump presidency, a culture war that has moved from message boards and C-list propaganda websites like Breitbart and its comments section to the national news cycle. Thanks to our mobile phones and monopolistic social media platforms, you too can fight with your friends and family about everything except what Trump didn’t want you to.

Multiple reports say Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chief, will face indictment. If it isn’t for malfeasance with the Russians in the election, will most likely be for actions he’s taken while under employment of other Putin appartchiks, or for the various reports that he and his firm laundered cash for dictators such as Mobute in Congo.

As I wrote throughout 2016, and what Sydney Morning Herald’s Chris Zappone covered consistently  the last two years of anyone, the Russians were using every bit of the Internet in an all-front cyberwar against the United States. Whether it was spreading disinformation, hacking, manipulating Twitter through the use of Russian trolls or bots, or using the platform of white supremacist Julian Assange (who decided to assail Abraham Lincoln for the deaths of white soldiers during the battle over slavery during the Civil War on Friday as well), it came across all platforms. Nearly a year afterward, Facebook is just now releasing news fake Russian accounts were manipulating its ad platform to spread disinformation and at such success they were setting new lows in charges and highs in engagement. This goes without mentioning Michael Flynn.

All of this was frustratingly known before the election. Flynn and Manafort were certainly known to have taken money from the Russians and Manafort’s background was beyond shady. Why he was never brought up on charges either in the U.S. or in the ICC will remain a mystery, but he’s facing the ill-tune currently because of Robert Mueller’s inquiry into the election.

That Clapper believes the assessment corroborates the Russians swinging our election is beyond the imagination of any American. These things simply don’t happen here, and with the current flow of fake news, right wing media and propaganda, fixing the situation will require sensitivity that will be impossible to achieve. That Trump and Republicans in office seem to have no qualms taking all this in stride (with the exception of John McCain), and brush it off as a non issue is even worse. This is a threat to the trust in our civic and governmental processes that’s existential, yet ordinary politics and the snarls of donors rule the day. We’ve also been attacked – a certain act of war – by a shaking, shrinking Russia that still has a vast nuclear arsenal.

My own assessment months before the election was the Russians were using previous tactics it had wielded in Eastern Europe and in the Ukraine to drive their favored candidate to victory. Twitter trolls were often so open to it, they would put some random spot in the United State as their home in Twitter bios and had great command of US culture and the English. They would do battle defending Trump and spreading his tweets far and wide, but when talking to other trolls, would write back and forth in Russian and discuss news and events so provincial it would bore the most eager of the Motherland’s newshounds. They were also openly anti-Semitic, even gleefully calling for the return of the pogroms of the early 1900s.

There was 4chan, whose red-pilled young millenials had had the covers lifted after battling the press and the feminist movement on Twitter, in which a number of those involved in Gamergate and the tactics used there, were quickly assumed by the Russians such as the informational power of the meme and other tactics. The similarity between the violent threats made during Gamergate to women covering the event and to people on both the left and right who would write anything negative about Trump, his campaign or family, was nearly perfect in both its tactics and ferocity.

I didn’t believe the Trump himself had known of any Russian involvement. I believed Manafort and Flynn probably did, but that wouldn’t be enough to be impeachable. I also believe whatever influence the Russians had it couldn’t have possibly swung the election.

Tonight I no longer believe that.

That brings us to another news report, that was buried over the weekend thanks to Trump’s NFL rant. Reports came out Friday afternoon the Russians attempted to hack election systems in 21 states.  States that were targeted included every key battleground state (most of which went to Trump) along with others.

Homeland Security has told state election boards the Russians tried to access voter registration rolls, but reports earlier in the summer said they tried to access voting machines. While officials say these attempts were not successful, the one common denominator during this entire scandal has been what comes out months later – oh by the way, that thing that was discussed and didn’t happen. It happened.

So if the Mueller investigation goes as far as to cast doubt on Trump’s legitimacy of president, what happens next? We have a total breakdown in faith in the system on both sides. Liberals will see a stolen election and government officials and agencies who failed to act when they knew or had reason to be concerned about the process. Republicans will see this as “fake news” and a coup de tat, the swamp tossing out Donald Trump, for shaking the ground so hard. The reaction of liberals, already many of which are becoming radicalized in the antifa movement, will certainly have some violence. Reaction from the Trump base, which has already seen a coming out of the White Supremacy and White Nationalist movements, and is still being fed with grievance and anger, will certainly be violent. The alt-right will kick into action and whip part of the country into a gun-toting frenzy. Whether this finally kicks conservatives and moderate Republicans into action, that’s unknown. So far none of this information, much of which has been well known for years, has moved them. And as what usually happens, the wrong or right actions don’t save the day, it’s the actions ones don’t take.


It’s time for Facebook to face Congress – or somebody

In the first “Jurassic Park” film, Jeff Goldbum’s chaos theoretician Ian Malcolm undressed the accomplishments of Richard Attenborough’s scientists, who armed with the latest technology, had proudly brought dinosaurs back from extinction. Goldblum’s character calls this for what it is.

“You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could,” Goldblum’s Malcom preaches. “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

We’ve reached peak shoulder standing. Our economy, lives, communications are so wired through the creations of college kids who didn’t complete college, who didn’t think about whether they should build Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, let alone what moral value they would apply to it, who didn’t think what responsibility they were taking into their own, only thinking of the money it would bring.

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerburg is Exhibit A in the irresponsibility of our new Randian economy, where the only morality and value is selfishness. After the movie “The Social Network” was released, the divided opinion between the generations who saw the film made news and explains much of our predicament. Milennials saw Zuckerburg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) as protecting his creation, while Gen Xers, Gen Yers and Boomers saw him as a pathetic individual, whose creation cost him all the friends he had, living out a lonely life within the stacks of cash. While this movie nihilism was mostly the work of Aaron Sorkin and the writers, Facebook’s ‘money or nothing’ approach to its product and society shows it doesn’t care a lick about its users, the country the platform was built or about anyone. I will give Zuckerburg credit for not installing some nausea-inducing corporate motto ala Google like “Do No Harm,” then commence doing harm by going to war with the journalism industry and publishing.

This is why Facebook will allow false news stories to dogpile on timelines for two years ahead of the 2016 election, and as it admitted today in a press release, let fake Russian Facebook accounts spend six figures on advertising to try to demoralize the American public and cede discord.

This is only what Facebook has revealed about it’s own Russia problem. Whether we know the full extent, time will tell. Why wouldn’t Facebook sell garbage false news stories, it sells your personal data while demanding companies, which are pigeonholed into coming to it with hat in hand, dance to its every whim. They want your data, your customers data, your family’s data, and that’s not enough. Any time someone makes headway with its Orwellian algorithm, Facebook changes it without telling anyone, unless they have a product to sell.

Now that product is video. Facebook thinks the future is video because it can’t place ads on the updates of your kids soccer games, or the memes you laugh at. This is Facebook’s “MySpace” moment. There’s no reason to believe video will be anymore pervasive in the future as it is now. Video’s growth has more to do with faster smartphones, more data, and faster streaming. People aren’t going to stop reading, no matter how many characters Twitter tries to shorten common discourse.

Zuckerburg recently completed his 50-state tour of normal people, but not before asking for nondisclosures and the usual celebrity slip in, slip out an anti-social type like Zuckerburg would find most comfortable. He made sure to stop in Dayton, Ohio first; prime in the news, let’s begin our normal people tour with some heroin tourism. I’m sure he saw the panhandlers that dot the interstate exits, he talked to some families and individuals who’ve been directly affected. He left, leaving no clue as to what he came for and having left nothing.

That Facebook was still taking ad money from Russians through May is no shock, that they haven’t been called for it earlier, or looked into is more surprising than today’s admission. The world’s largest social network, the most powerful communication tool since the telephone, was used as a direct propaganda and disinformation outlet by an enemy of the United States.

The Washington Post wrote Facebook told congressional investigators that advertisements were purchased depicting both Trump and Clinton, but declined to say how these ads portrayed each of the candidates – as if the answer isn’t clear, with the Sputnik Candidate in the White House, and his gang of Putin acolytes from his campaign sticking around (Paul Manafort an example, when he isn’t on the lam).

Whatever Facebook and Twitter have given up as far as information, isn’t enough. Facebook makes its money by being a marketer’s dream, selling every bit of information it can possibly divulge from your activities on its platform. Twitter seems ran by someone lost in the woods; while ordinary people deal with harassment and internet lynch mobs by the day, the only time action is taken is when a Hollywood celeb cries for help. Worse, Twitter didn’t care that the Russians were loading its platforms with 100s of thousands of bots to help sway it’s own platform and create its own trending news, to uplift Donald Trump. That Robert Mercer was able to use his knowledge of high-speed finance to analyze every single Tweet ever made didn’t make them blush.

Twitter will go out of business on its own, and it continues to bleed users because of its mob rule and negative atmosphere. Until the expert class and journalist start dropping it, the site will have some life, but that doesn’t pay the bills.

Facebook has made its billions off its users. I’d much rather pay a couple hundred bucks a year to use its platform if I could have a say in what I see on my timeline, and not helplessly beholden to its garbage algorithm.

Enough is enough. Facebook and Google are at war over who owns the internet. That these two oligopolies dominate so much of the new economy and have nearly complete say over the information we read without drawing any eyes from the SEC, FCC or national leadership is as questionable as Facebook’s lack of concern over how its platform is being used.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey should go before Congress, they should be investigated by the FBI, and they should be under some semblance of accountability. Right now neither company operates with a sense of it, let alone a conscience.


To Russia with Love: If Kushner implicated, Trump is implicated

If Jared Kushner discussed a back channel with the Russians through their embassy to Moscow, Donald Trump’s Presidency will be over.

Russia’s election interference on Trump’s behalf was apparent as early as late 2015. It was in December 2015 when former General and former DNI head Michael Flynn was a guest of honor at the 10th anniversary of Russia Today, the Kremlin’s propaganda outlet, a channel that’s a combination of Charlie Chaplin, Orwell and Yakof Smirnoff. Around this time, Russia’s growing bot and troll army, used to influence elections in Eastern Europe and then the U.S., and spread misinformation, as well as game algorithms and spread ridiculously false news on Facebook, began becoming apparent on Twitter.

That Kushner so brazenly would ask the Russians for a closed communication channel with Russia is no surprise. The campaign hired Paul Manafort, who was fresh off running out of Kiev city limits as his previous client in Ukraine – Putin apparatchik Yanukovych – exiled to Russia. The common strain among Trump’s coterie is brashness to self destructive levels.

That Kushner would be so careless would stick with the M.O. of Trump and Russia’s interference. The corrupt are often stupid, so it should come as no shock Russian Twitter trolls would pose as U.S. based accounts writing in English, and then write Russian to fellow travelers and start making anti-Semitic comments in Russian colloquialisms and discuss local Russian politics even the most hardcore U.S. experts on the Motherland would not know.

Manafort, whose business with Roger Stone and Lee Atwater in the 80s and 90s included running cash and campaigns for fourth-rate dictators like Congo’s Mobute and a who’s who of global lowlifes. That Manafort was outfront when he was leading the Trump campaign, even while the national media let his past activities have a pass (with the exception of a few, most prominently Franklin Foer), he couldn’t help but open his mouth the first day of the Republican National Convention, blasting Ohio Governor John Kasich. Kasich strategist John Weaver countered with one of the great political retorts ever made, which finally brought Russia to the discussion.

Finding a White House official without some Russian connection is difficult. Rumors, investigations, subpoenas, and soon probably arrest and charges, starting with Michael Flynn, whose role in the administration has been the token idiot in a Scorcese flick.

Kushner’s roots aren’t in international and domestic political campaigns, or in international politics. What’s his excuse? Rumors are Trump’s four bankruptcies made it impossible for him to get loans from U.S. banks so he took cash from Russia. This is often cited as the main reason he won’t release his tax returns. That Putin would use his country’s banks in this manner is no surprise – they loaned money to Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front, one of the final two in France’s recent presidential election.

Trump’s efforts to obstruct FBI investigations, if the news surrounding former FBI director James Comey is true, asking him to stop investigating Flynn, would be an abuse of power. To do it not just to cover for a friend and administration official, but to obstruct an investigation into what could be a cause for war – interference on his behalf in the election – is to a different level.

This is where Kushner brings the stakes higher. He’s possibly committed treason – and he’s the President’s son-in-law. He’s also an advisor to the president. If Kushner is asking to use the embassy to communicate directly and unofficially to a hostile country, Trump knows. If Trump knows, that’s impeachable. Add the basics of this case together, it’s criminal.

Hillbilly Obituary: Frank Rich seems fine with the Trump working class dying

Christopher Hitchens described one former New York City Mayor as follows: “petty isn’t Michael Bloomberg’s middle name, it is his name.”

Petty does no justice to New York Magazine writer Frank Rich, whose latest finds Trump voters beyond deplorable. After reading this article, I want to check Rich’s investments and see if he’s invested in the company behind Soylent Green.

On Kevin Williamson’s infamous National Review essay, calling poor rural towns and the people within them an economic black hole and drag: “… if National Review says that their towns deserve to die, who are Democrats to stand in the way of Trump voters who used their ballots to commit assisted suicide?

Rich finished with this pearl: “Maybe … they’ll keep voting against their own interests until the industrial poisons left unregulated by their favored politicians finish them off altogether. Either way, the best course for Democrats may be to respect their right to choose.

In Rich’s “Hillbilly Obituary,” his targets are plentiful, including J.D. Vance, the Middletown native who he calls the Ta-Nehesi Coates of the white working class, calling him the group’s explainer-in-chief, a description Vance would no doubt hate : “White Lives Matter.” While poking fun of Vance, I wonder if Rich took into account Vance went through more in any one or two month period during his childhood than Rich probably has in his life.

To call this an essay would do reparable harm to the form. It’s an angry, petulant rant aimed at the media for covering people Frank doesn’t like – Trump voters. If you want to know why millions tune to Fox or read Breitbart, Rich’s bad faith nonsense is a good starting point.

Why bother, seems to be the best Rich can conjure on the topic of broadening Democratic appeal. He brings up “fortuitously timed books like “White Trash and “Hillbilly Elegy” and other recent work on red states and the opioid epidemic, which gives him the equivalent of knowledge of the rural Midwest and South of someone who had a couple days off and went to the library. He hits at the books and their subjects as hypocritical and with a certain disdain.

Rich doesn’t make strategical cases for why Democrats should let the white working class make an appointment with Dr. Kevorkian, nor does he seem to understand that winning elections is about winning votes, and right now, there are more white working and middle class voters than anyone else. He laments Democrats failure on the state levels (they hold around a dozen governorships and state houses), but doesn’t see the irony his F*** ’em approach to political appeal.

Comparing Vance to Coates is an insult. Coates is a great writer, a better historian, but he’s made his own bitterness a marketable commodity. Vance simply wrote about his childhood struggle through a split family, a poor upbringing and an addicted mother with no real political overtones. Rich says Vance was rescued by his “Middle American” grandmother, while also mentioning later she was living poor and on assistance. Rich strangely doesn’t mention any of his background in comparison, I would love to hear it. Vance didn’t seek major media exposure, it happened, and he immediately turned it to good use, opening an non-profit in Ohio to battle opioids.

Williamson, Krugman and now Rich show how far social distance has drawn us apart. Two decades ago Williamson was a kid from Texas, now he’s writing diatribes on the drags of OxyCotin addicted banjo-pickers, as he seems to put it. The regular establishment in D.C. and New York have made no major effort to find out what’s happening in the Midwest, Plains and the rural South, but the national media has great strides. CNN is tightening its relationships with its affiliates, even The Guardian in London is making efforts to understand Midwest voters. The New York Times has written extensively on the subject from multiple angles.

This is a giant waste of time for Rich, who says “they’ll just listen to Rush anyway,” when he doesn’t seem to understand why they listened to Rush in the first place – no one competed with him.

Rich is also trying to understand the election through the traditional paradigm. Trump ran as a third-party insurgent, he just happened to do it in the Republican primary. He was also a radically different candidate, the first since NAFTA and Ross Perot to directly attack U.S. trade policy and job offshoring, which often filled 45 minutes of his stump speeches.

Why people “who aren’t racist” or “dumb” think Trump has their best interests at heart would vote for him? When it’s crashing down, and no one is answering the door you throw the brick through the window – Clinton wasn’t the candidate that was the brick, she was everything but.

That’s life in rural America right now. Jobs went first, then came 60 hours a week of two jobs to make it on less money, while watching your kids, bills, maybe single parenthood and the other travails of life. That means no church, no civic or community networks, that means no relationships beyond the immediate family, then the despair. You get hurt at work, they are fighting your worker’s comp, you end up on OxyCotin, then it’s gone, but the doctor doesn’t tell you what he doesn’t know – that OxyCotin is addictive, and when the prescription is out of refills, the want turns to despair, and the despair turns into personal hell.

You have no one to fall back on, you don’t go to church, you have no real system of faith or higher purpose. Good money and a good job can mask that, but without it, it shows that what lies underneath, a house built on sand not rock.

That’s why 90 percent of registered voters in Shelby County come out to vote, while districts voting Clinton find out the Obama bump was only for Obama, and while Clinton dominates the popular vote, the Electoral College falls to pieces because of a few counties where the despair epidemic hit hard.

This would require looking beyond the review dump of books as Rich probably passed coming into work, but I’m certain we won’t get anything more informative on that end. Until then, if Democrats want to win elections, they should try to appeal to as many voters as they can instead of hoping they kill themselves.


Bursting the Bubble: The reaction to JD Vance’s ‘Why I’m Moving Home’ column shows bigotry is a two-way street

My first trip to the “big city” occurred well into adulthood. I’m not talking Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland – the metropolitan areas of my home state, but one of the “big” cities. Four weeks after becoming a father I wearily traveled to Washington D.C. for two days. I was a finalist for a fellowship that would propel my writing and journalism career. I was one of 15 finalists out of 400 and some applicants, I had never been a finalist for anything, let alone won anything.

I had 20 minutes to present my case for a grant that was more money than I thought I’d ever make in a year, to convince them I was responsible and smart enough to handle a project that would possibly be published as a book.

My presentation was over before it began: The first 10 minutes of my 20 minute presentation were confused DC-ite judges asking me questions about my home state of Ohio like I flew in from the Planet Vulcan. “Where is it?” “Where’s do you live?” Where is Cincinnati?” I’m no geographic ace but I have a general idea of where most places in the United State are, and I don’t crack jokes at people at the expense of their hometowns. I would expect educated DC-ites to know Ohio is east of the Mississippi, not west, and I’m not writing this is normalcy in the American capital, but maybe I ran into some special cases.

My attitude grew rather sarcastic, and out of those 15 applicants, I was one of three to not get a grant, which served me fine, I didn’t want their money after meeting with them. When asking what we do with our time (I’m guessing they had images of hanging over overpasses picking at banjos) I stated “We grow all your food, build all your cars and appliances, and send our money here every two weeks when we get paid.” I followed with another crack that was one I regret (it was along the lines of DC was a place we picked the biggest assholes in the state, and voted which one to send away). Losing was the best thing that happened to me.

If someone were to ask where I’m from, I’d say Dayton. I don’t have a Dayton address, I live in a small town in a county on the outskirts. I’ve lived in those towns for the better part of my life since sixth grade. When New York Times columnist J.D. Vance writes he’s moving from San Francisco to Columbus, starting a non-profit to battle the heroin epidemic that has shaken the state to its core, the commenters at the Times take great joy in labeling Vance as some hypocrite, as the scion of racists and bigots who dare voted for Trump and is a poser who isn’t putting his money where his mouth is.

It’s the bubbles – there’s a bubble for those of us out here in God’s country, and the ones in the country’s power centers, the later of which I’m writing about. Vance has done something I haven’t seen a writer, or journalist do who found themselves on such a large stage so quickly, and at such a young age. He didn’t move to New York and run the cocktail circuit, he’s using the advantage of the spotlight given to his book and his life story do to help those he’s written about.

Vance states this wonderfully in a New York Times op-ed entitled “Why I’m Moving Home,” which appears in today’s paper and is available online, and he’s now being blasted as a hypocrite by the New York Times commenters. The Times has done wonderful job since the election of putting a spotlight on the issues in Ohio and states like it: economy, jobs, faith, heroin, the people and the general epidemic of despair some in the rural areas are experiencing. Their op-ed page has shared a wide variety of voices on the subject, some I agree with, some I don’t.

Vance writes: “The more difficult truth is that people naturally trust the people they know — their friend sharing a story on Facebook — more than strangers who work for faraway institutions. And when we’re surrounded by polarized, ideologically homogeneous crowds, whether online or off, it becomes easier to believe bizarre things about them. This problem runs in both directions: I’ve heard ugly words uttered about “flyover country” and some of its inhabitants from well-educated, generally well-meaning people.”

Why that trust has eroded and what changed: that’s another post, but the reaction to Vance’s column are examples of why you have Trump in the White House.

Here are the responses in the comments section to Vance’s article, which are typical any time he writes for a publication.

Little Vance pretends he’s going back to his little hometown and the farm to honestly work the land…..as he heads to Columbus, the state political capital dominated by Ohio State University, one of the largest universities in the United States.

Vance is moving to the intellectual oasis of Ohio, a place where the fake Hillary PizzaGate news gets laughed off campus the way the Flat Earth Society gets laughed off campus.


This is an interesting article but if I was from Ohio, I would not return to it. In many states there is nothing to go home to; no job prospects, no culture, and who wants to wonder if the pubic schools are sufficient. No, I am glad I was born on the East Coast and for most of my life I have lived here.


On recommendation from my conservative friends I read the book. Rather than making my sympathetic it made me angry. Angry at a group of people who feel entitled to benefits that they would deny others simply because of the color of their skin. Angry at a group of people who would rather blame Obama for their plight than the GOP politicians and greedy corporations that took away their jobs and their future in pursuit of profit and tax cuts. Angry at a group of people that think the 1950s (or maybe the 1850s) will return as a golden age restored.

J.D. Vance is just another conservative trying to make us understand the mind of and be sympathetic to the Trump voter while not inconveniencing himself too much.


There is another piece in the op-ed section today highlighting the decline of ambition and accomplishment among white men–that is what Vance’s small minded view produces.


You don’t tell us what people disparaging “fly-over” country say about those areas. Do they moan about the inhabitants support of populist presidents? Do they groan about their lack of education? Or do they just rail against the paucity of good Tai food? No idea if their complaints have any basis in reality.


Or, since you claim the Hillbilly mantle (your words, not mine), consider someplace like East Liverpool or Ironton. To someone doing community and economic development work in small rural towns of Virginia, your risky flight to a thriving metropolis rings hollow.

Vance has some support, but the responses generally get worse.

But reading this feedback, I felt the need to respond. Call this an explainer, as Vox.com would put it, from someone whose parents graduated high school in Appalachia, whose grandmother had an outhouse until I was a teenager (look it up).

In Ohio, there’s this thing called space. While I may live in some backwater hell-hole to some of you, I can hear coyotes howl at the moon from my back porch, drive 20 minutes, see a Broadway play, and be home 20 minutes afterward – I would call that ideal living circumstances. I live with cornfields surrounding the houses in my little subdivision, which looks like a small town version of suburbia to most around here, but to the bubblers on the coast, is probably a fate of the damned. I say this to those disparaging the people here, not the vast amount of people I know on the coasts, in New York, DC or LA who actually have been places, talked to different people and are some of the best people I know and judge people based on their character and not on characterizations.

He says he is moving to Columbus, in Ohio vernacular he could be moving to a suburb, a small town, maybe a township, maybe he’s getting 40 acres, a nice house or living in a house in the woods. Even in Ohio, if someone asks where you’re from you probably tell them the name of the city that’s closest to where you’re located – Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton – unless you don’t live near one, then you tell them your home town or county.

From Columbus Vance can get to his hometown of Middletown in less time than someone spends commuting to work one-way in New York – so he isn’t exactly holding himself up in some enclave of the haves. This may be a strange thing to mention or bring to this argument, but it’s obvious Vance’s disparagers have no idea how life works around here, so I thought I would educate them.

Yes Columbus is a big city, and growing – it’s the third largest in the Midwest, and by the next census or two, it might be giving Indianapolis a run for its money. But living there isn’t like living in a Maryland or Virginia suburb of DC. Chances are he’s going to be late being stuck behind a tractor from time to time. In other words, moving to Columbus is moving back home.

I read the criticism constantly, that the Trump voter was racist, bigoted – and there certainly are racist and bigoted Trump voters (the part played by white nationalists in the election is undeniable, but bubbled rural voters don’t know this, and being called a racist for them is a default at this point). But when a region is going through a societal upheaval not seen in a century, they tend to vote for the candidate that will throw a brick through the window, not the establishment candidate. Trump’s dog whistles to the alt-right, Bannon, and the other lunacy that has come from his administration (like the HHS head’s latest statement on vaccines) are real, but he was the one candidate that came to small towns, that talked about the heroin epidemic, that talked about the factories. Hillary was campaigning with LeBron, Jay-Z, and Beyonce during a stop in Cleveland while Trump was hitting every small town in between.

The idea that these people should move to the bigger coastal cities is a joke, and these cities are now being designed to keep them and others (minorities) out. A hotel room for one night in the areas with the most “opportunity (not taking into account the cost of those opportunities) is more than they would pay for their rent or mortgage in a month. They kill themselves to get educated They flood the local community colleges, take on thousands in loans while working two jobs with kids, they take shots in the dark at local for-profit colleges, if they can spring it and get to an Ohio State, a Miami, a Wright State, a UD or a Ohio University, they do, or more importantly to them, get their kids there.

Trump is the first candidate since NAFTA was passed to run on a platform critical of US trade policy, the policy that sent 15,000 auto manufacturing jobs out of Dayton, not counting jobs on the periphery, such as the machine shop that made their parts, and dotted every small towns for hundreds of miles in both directions, the bars and pizza places across the street from the plant, the companies that shipped their parts or trucked their finished Chevy S-10s.

Most places wouldn’t survive this, but Dayton is, and is on the verge of thriving. The community and the governor worked to bring Fuyao, a Chinese auto glass manufacturer into the abandoned truck plant. Every six months the factory announces additions of hundreds of new jobs, at rates higher than Delphi/GM were paying when they began tiering their wages. The Toledo Blade writes of Dayton in a whimsical tone, wondering how it’s getting done here, but it always has. The airplane was invented here, the cash register, the city at one point held more major patents alone than many major countries. Bloomberg’s recent story: Professional millennials are leaving New York – why? They can’t afford it. For the cost of a one-bedroom apartment you can have a 2,000 square foot house and raise kids, and still do your job (Dayton was the specific example mentioned).

The status of those in the white working class areas are either up or down. The heroin epidemic is reaching levels of community destruction. Some still work and get out of it, even though it is now harder than ever. Some of them stay, some manage to make it to the cities Vance’s detractors suggest, even though these same cities and people have zoned them so people like us in the country, or those in Harlem or in the rougher parts of Oakland, can’t live there.

The people who have done best to understand the challenges in the rural Midwest and South have been the often derided national media outlets like the Times, the Atlantic, CNN and others. Still, even writing these stories pisses some off, like political journalist Dave Weigel.

But bigotry is a two-way street, and it’s another word – classism. If Vance hadn’t went to Yale Law School, didn’t work in Silicon Valley, didn’t have the networking opportunities he had, he would never been given the platform he was given if he was still living in Middletown. Maybe his writing skills and his tremendous life story would get him a book deal, but he wouldn’t be on everything from Fareed Zakaria, to Morning Joe to writing op-eds in major papers. That is no shot at Vance, who served his country in the military, lived a family and home life that usually leaves kids shattered, not thriving, and managed to make it to the top levels of media in this country and become a best-selling author. It is a criticism of how class and geographical bigotry work in this country. Would Ta-Nehesi Coates be the soothsayer of racial politics many consider him to be if he grew up in West Side Dayton and not Baltimore?

Therein lies the problem.