B.J. Bethel

A view of the world from Ohio

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

#NeverGonnaGiveUpTrump: Trump’s base support is holding, not slipping – why?

A meme, found on the internet, hopefully public domain. Contributing Photo Graphic

Glenn Reynolds, the writer of the blog Instapundit and a law professor, did his best to throw prose behind the assertion by President Donald Trump that the Obama administration wiretapped his phone during the 2016 election.

Citing National Review knucklehead Andrew McCarthy, a former prosecutor and now the lead embarrassment at the former hallowed publication since John Derbyshire is no longer employed, Reynolds pieced together a diatribe beyond credulity.

“Watergate brought down a presidency, but if the worst suspicious here are borne out, we’re dealing with something worse.”

Reynolds isn’t speaking of President Trump, who is already facing calls from his own party to be investigated by a special prosecutor, he’s talking about Barack Obama. I could break down why the assertion is idiotic, but that would be the point of why it was made – to waste time, brainpower, air and create a bizarre narrative straight from Alex Jones and the worst of Info Wars and the White Nationalists of the Alt-Right and Fake Newers. It’s information warfare, from the Breitbart/Alinsky/Ron Burgundy school of propaganda. Projection, redirection – step two was Wikileaks. The CIA! Framed the poor Russians by God! Trump, at Mar-A-Lago every weekend, in search of the real hackers one round of 18 at a time.

Trump was a B-celebrity so no surprise his Presidency is a B-movie thriller that isn’t thrilling, but transparent as saranwrap.

AN INFORMATION NO-ZONE

I was at a neighborhood store, listening to a conversation behind me. Two middle-age men, nice enough, smart enough, talking a variety of subjects, which turned to guns, a subject I also find interest in. I shoot, I’m not bad at it, I enjoy it. Then the conversation took a turn I’ve heard too many times to calculate.

“Did you know there are 72 ISIS training camps in the country,” one digressed to the other, “I heard there are three in Virginia, some more in West Virginia and a couple in Ohio.”

“They get support from the government.”

“Oh yeah, I believe it.”

Welcome to the information age, the progenitors of the world wide web said. For a time it was, if you were looking for information. You could find the entire Orwell catalog for free. You could play card games with three people from three other continents. There was porn, more porn, and fantasy sports.

Then came Web 2.0, and 3.0, and 4.0, and Zuckerburg and Twitter, and here we are, where those standing on the shoulders of engineers and coders before them (who probably worked for a living at one point or the other) created the perfect weapon to crack a society that’s lost it’s social connections, it’s economic security, and it’s faith.

Donald Trump’s approval rating is at 41 percent – actually up a bit from the middle of February. RealClearPolitics poll average has him at only negative 5 points.

This is after Darrell Issa called for a special prosecutor, after John Kasich went to the White House to plead for a sensible healthcare reform, after conservatives wanted a complete repeal of the law, despite the medical industry spending trillions over nearly a decade, changing the infrastructure of 20 percent of the U.S. economy – that doesn’t go away. Not to mention the connections to Russia that forced one high-profile resignation, and is leaving the White House with empty offices and no one wanting to fill them. But it’s purity the base and conservative media want, and it’s purity it gets.

Despite Trump’s constant fumbling, the constant leaks, the war against the press and the First Amendment, the immature behavior on his Twitter account, reacting like a teen actor on Nickelodeon when dissed by a co-star. The Don’s approval with Republicans and Republicans Leans stayed in the 80s

After all that’s happened, up to March 6, Quinnipiac has Trumps approval among Republicans at 91 percent.

The Jong family can’t get a 90 percent approval rating.

Trump is the realization of 30 years of conservative media and a rabid base of baby boomers, he’s not a voice for them, he’s their voice. Not as a group, but a singularity. His scream of conscience blathering makes him considerably easier to identify with, not some stuck up wad of Ivy League (ironic). He’s a vicarious incarnation of 30 years of well-hewed resentment, boiled like in a pot.

Saying no to a politician is easy, even one of your own party. It finally happened to George W. Bush, and it wasn’t the Iraq War or Katrina, though they had their part. Republicans abandoned him over his immigration plan and his selection of Harriet Myers to the Supreme Court, who was considered too moderate. Shortly after his approval dropped to the 20s.

How does one part with their own voice? They can’t. Most of Trump’s voters thought “What the hell, why not,” pulled the lever and went on their way, but for the true believers, who prefer “we’re a mess” to “Yes, we can,” it’s a surgical procedure that is too difficult to endure.

Until his base turns against him, Trump won’t be impeached. He’ll continue his present horrible media and policy strategy, dreamed up by Steve Bannon, The Architect of falling upward. His entire administration will be dedicated to culture warfare and nothing. When the gig is up, it will be swift and painful, but the question remains if Trump is another impure charlatan or a bad idea and a bad vote. That determination will show whether or not the party has been cured of its Breitbart.

 

A Month of Trump: Nothing that shouldn’t have been expected

President Donald Trump’s cloud of magnificent bullshit, the same cloud our newly elected orange-toiffed cherub rode to Leader of the Free World, finished its dissipation from roaring thunderhead during the campaign to the last remnants of late weekend sailor’s fog over the period of three weeks, or if one were to round up, until today, when Trump took active duties as our President.

Trump was inaugurated Jan. 20, making Feb. 20 the official one-month anniversary in the written histories, but our President diligently took a three-day weekend, so Feb. 23 it is.

A month into this, there are things we’ve learned:

  1. The surprise that Trump’s White House was so incompetent at every step in its first month is a shock to many. I don’t understand why. Trump so brazenly and effectively sidestepped every issue he had in his campaign, he locked his Republican opposition out of the news cycle with outrageous Twitter account, then dodged every bullet from Hillary Clinton during the election. The more brash and vulgar he became, and the more that underbelly was exposed, the less of an affect it had.
  2. That does not translate into political success, and there’s no reason it should. Trump ran a campaign for the 21st century, fit for a reality TV B-lister and tabloid cover boy. His chief advisor Steve Bannon had experience in Hollywood. This should be no surprise. Breitbart.com, Bannon’s website after the passing of Andrew Breitbart, was always a large amount of hype with little heft. Most of it’s large scoops, it had to settle in court. The website gathered a following thanks to marketing and media blasting, but as an activist and propaganda outlet, it was never a success, turning off mainstream conservatives once Bannon became it’s everyday head, and bringing the alternative right, the Birchers and white nationalists closer to respectability in the Republican party.
  3. That marketing, social media outbursts and pugnacious reprehension for the press and a majority of the country registered as an ability to govern is laughable. Trump isn’t capable of it. He can scramble and try to put together a respectable staff, but the likelihood he can fill massive agencies with functional employees after he went to war with the CIA, State and the FBI is unlikely.
  4. The Michael Flynn resignation should have been expected. He took money from the Russians for a speech, had been a consultant according to a few reports ( I doubt that would have cleared his background check, though), and was a guest of honor at the Russia Today 15th anniversary with a seat next to Vladimir Putin, where he could hear Julian Assange’s anti-American tirade live from the Ecuador embassy.
  5. Ego will be the fall of the Trump administration – and not just Trump’s. Bannon, following Andrew Breitbart’s lead, has said for years he detests policy discussion and finds it irrelevant. This is a talking point for the entire staff, from Milo Yiannopolous and others, who are interested in TV coverage. That’s not how government works. Trump’s party is in control of both the House and Senate, and made no effort to push serious legislation. Obama by this time managed a $1 trillion stimulus package and a follow up to TARP that had backing by both parties. Executive orders, which in comparison are simple, are too much for the administration to handle, particularly Bannon, who has no experience in law or political science, or as any matter of politician or public servant, and wrote a sweeping order that essentially was doomed before the ink dried.
  6. Trump’s vow the next EO will cover the same bases as his previous immigration order, is a lie. By law you can’t ban people entering the country based on nationality (no matter what comparisons they made with President Obama’s slowing of refugees from Iraq). Congress made that law, and Trump can’t override Congress. The courts almost always go the way of the administration when it comes to executing these types of policies, but Trump’s proud ignorance of the law and disgust with the court system won’t be tolerated. His immigration EO was a slap in the face to law, Congress and the court system re-writing it with the same intent won’t change the law.
  7. Democracy and the republic win. The most powerful man in the world, no matter how stupid and wreckless he may be, has been put in check by the other branches of government, federalism and the Fourth Estate. Democracy and republicanism will only continue to win if the U.S. as a country becomes better educated on civil matters, returns to the moderate tradition of the Founding Fathers, and begins to embrace those with which they differ politically. This is an issue on both sides of the aisle, but more so on the right, where more are being lied to by corrupt bought-by-donor propaganda apparatus and a false victimhood that their fathers and grandfathers would have abhorred.

 

Five years later: What would Hitchens think of Putin, Trump, SJWs, populism?

Christopher Hitchens died five years ago, the day after my birthday. A coincidence of sorts, he was my favorite writer and my greatest professional inspiration and aspiration. He left no issue or stone unturned, was an equal opportunity thinker no matter the political spectrum, and this appeal resonated with a young writer who grew tired and nauseous at what he read on a daily basis from the so-called thought leaders, spewing the same basic entrenched ideas repeatedly.

I missed Hitchens like I missed a distant relative, or a friend I haven’t seen in years. Some days I search google, hoping there is some unearthed essay, or maybe a book project he shelved that is being brought to life, but those hopes are all but gone five years later. I miss him most since the election.

News, magazines and national papers have given ample space to the Putin apparatchiks who take the Trump line on the Russian President-cum-mafioso, who blather like Fyodor Lukyanov about the illegitimate ‘global order’ that has existed since the end of the Cold War. How the Motherland has been wrongfully denied its place in the world because of a meddling American empire that seeks to destroy it within, such as when Hillary Clinton – as Secretary of State – was asked if she supported pro-democracy protesters in Russia, and she said, “Yes.”

Or the online war between the Trump populists, the third-wave professional campus protest bunch that Hitchens so disliked. I can’t imagine the barbs he’d toss, but his with his view gone from this election, many of the things we took for granted – a voice for the enlightenment, democracy, freedom – seemed a bit squelched. Too often cable news hosts let apparatchiks rant about international law when their homeland regularly makes shredded paper of it. When the Russians, with no irony, call a UN session to denounce an American bombing of a Syrian army convoy, while openly carrying out attacks on cities filled with civilians, of bombing convoys of vehicles bringing medical supplies, or the other Keystone Cop wannabe bipolar military might the once might bear attempts to flex, which appropriately fizzes into the mountains of Turkey like Russian cruise missiles.

Putin wasn’t a regular subject of Hitchens, but he wrote of him enough, and often cited the Russian President as an example of the naïveté of George W. Bush. What Hitchens would say about an American and media that for a year and a half let the Russians operate a disinformation campaign interfering with the 2016 election, could be measured in kilotons. He would have found this unacceptable and an act of war.

Trump’s own Russian ties would have brought more righteous vitriol, that one of the two major parties allowed Trump to get as far as he did in the primary with a Putin apparatchik as a campaign chair, not to say being elected president while losing the popular vote by 3 million. Of the populism that gripped a country based on Trump’s signature issue of jobs, how candidates in both parties failed to realize this from the beginning and swing in, or the failure of people to understand what they were voting for.

Or the social justice left, the campus brigade now in charge of much of Twitter, unleashing justice by badgering employers with email for any Tweet that gets out of line. The loud super-minority that was allowed to be the voice of the majority, who take an important issue like racism, use it on campus for their own political gain, then to constantly lower the standard so no one knows what the term means.

Twenty years ago on Charlie Rose, Hitchens feared the infantilization of the feminist movement, and here we are, where puppy dogs, candy and pillows are handed out before speeches.

I’m not sure Hitchens would want to be around for this. His father was a World War II British Naval hero, who was on board one of her majesty’s best when it sunk a German sub, now watching the hard-fought European order being torn apart from the far-left, far-right and an interloping Russia whose only power is the inaction of others.

I doubt my face will appear on any Sunday morning political shows, or in a visual panel next to one of these people who spout legitimacy and other rabble about Trumpism or Putinism, or even our crass PC vs Populist world, so to those of you who have the opportunity, don’t let them walk away. Don’t let a Lukyanov lie and get away from it. Don’t take the risk of being up at night, knowing you could expose these frauds for what they are and you didn’t, because in the end the debate matters, and the side of republicanism, liberalism and democracy hasn’t thrown a punch yet. Whether this is out of apathy or manners, I don’t know, but manners disappear at the moment of disrespect, and our values are being disrespected in every way possible.

 

(Fake) News that kills:#PizzaGate scare only the beginning

John Kennedy became President in 1961, as the hangover buzz from the McCarthy hearings was starting to echo through the skull of American culture.

His predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, was a military General, he led the Allies to war in Europe during World War II, and was the most knowledgable foreign policy president to hold office. He was also a Republican. And to some, a communist in sheep’s wool – yes, the Republican General who led the Americans to victory over fascism, and developed America’s nuclear deterrent.

This was the atmosphere that greeted Kennedy in office – the first Catholic elected president, a civil rights supporter, a war hero, and one loaded with personal and family baggage. The John Birch Society was at its peak, as was the crypto-right, and the conspiracy and rumor that surrounded his every step had parts of the nation gripped in paranoia, but a paranoia that looks comical next to the current state of affairs.

A month before Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, his UN Ambassador – Adlai Stevenson – was the center of a political riot that followed him from a speaking engagement in the city to the airport, with flags hung upside down as a sign of a country in distress. He was punched by a woman, and left wondering if the city suffered a psychotic episode.

Kennedy was shot a month later, after his advisors begged him not to go to Dallas. Wanted posters with his face were handed out. He wasn’t murdered by a Bircher, but by a communist – Kennedy was the ultimate U.S. Cold Warrior at the moment.

The gas went out of the extremist movement when conspiracy became realization. Oswald was no right-winger (he tried to murder former General Edwin Walker in his own home, a staunch far-right figure). But the atmosphere soon died following y the site of a young and devastated Jackie Kennedy – with her husbands blood still on her hands and clothing – standing next to Lyndon Johnson as he was sworn in, of Kennedy’s son saluting his father’s casket. The Dallas fever kill John F. Kennedy, and his death killed it, along with efforts by conservatives to banish it from their movement.

It was during this period William Buckley – owner and publisher of the conservative National Review – former Democrat Norman Podhoretz and 1964 GOP Presidential nominee Barry Goldwater met and formulated a plan to cleanse the conservative movement of the extremists within it. Buckley would do the work in the magazine, Goldwater would avoid confronting them directly, and Podhoretz would provide intellectual fire power along with Buckley. Today such a repudiation of extremists on either side of the aisle would never happen – the price paid for political bravery isn’t known, because no one has tried it in so long.

Just months after Buckley died, the Great Recession was in absolute thrall and Barack Obama was elected the first African-American president, Tea Party protests began. A grassroots middle class movement when it started, upset at bailouts for banks and a slap on the wrist given to bankers and politicians for destroying trillions in retirement funds, and millions of jobs, it was co-opted by the far right almost immediately. In Northwest Ohio, many of the Tea Party protests organized in rural areas were by local committees of the John Birch Society. The fever pitch was growing two decades before.

The Fairness Doctrine, which mandated equal time given to opposing views on radio and television, had been put to rest by Congress. Conservative radio followed, which provided a source of news for many who felt condescended to by the networks in their media capitals. But talk radio isn’t news, and quickly Rush Limbaugh began growing nationwide as Bill Clinton began his run as president. Soon followed conspiracy theories of the Clintons murdering confidante Vince Foster. The theme was carried to ridiculous ends during the 2016 campaign.

We’ve now reached the Dallas fever point – Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, when a man from North Carolina walked into a Washington DC pizza place carrying an assault rifle to investigate internet ‘claims’ of a pedophile ring. The fake story planted on Twitter, using the #PizzaGate hashtag, spread through the usual corridors of Reddit, and based on one fact – Clinton 2016 campaign chair John Podesta liked the pizza there.

During a post arrest interview, the suspect also revealed that he came to the establishment to self-investigate “Pizza Gate,” the MPD said in a statement.

As CBS affiliate WUSA reported previously, using the hashtag #PizzaGate, an imaginary story about the popular pizza shop was spread, accusing it to be the center of a child sex slave ring organized by Hillary Clinton and her former campaign manager.

As a result, the pizza place was hammered by thousands of threats, and bizarre, unsubstantiated tales about child sex trafficking.

WUSA reported that they found two women, who declined to give their names, banging on the patio at the pizza place in late November. The women were looking for the alleged tunnels used to traffic children.

Police arrested the man, no one was hurt, no one died – but it’s a near certainty someone will. Even as this story broke, the son of the would-be National Security Advisor continued to peddle the absurd and sick conspiracy theory on his own Twitter account. There are those with the moral authority like John Kasich and Mitt Romney to stand in the face of Nut Country and say, “No,” but they are out-numbered by the opportunists, and with Social Media, they wouldn’t stand a chance. When we need fact-checkers the most, our Fourth Estate is at its weakest.

When someone dies because someone else needed the ‘lulz,’ or Facebook liked its bottom line better than being a responsible company, there won’t be a Kennedy moment. The decency of the majority won’t stand a chance against the ravenous whims and sociopathy of the decadent minority, armed with “communication tools” the inventors of which don’t grasp or understand the consequences of.

Journalist and author Peter Hitchens mentioned in his book “The Rage Against God,” that Christianity, church and civic community began to disappear from England after World War I. After the war took every of-age male in some villages and towns, monuments were placed. A new religion took over in benighted worship of the military service.

This effect has reached the U.S. following the loss in Vietnam, of ill-treatment of veterans and the breakdown in faith of government institutions. To make up, the military is exalted in ways my Greatest Generation veteran relatives found extremely uncomfotable, but it hasn’t replaced religion in America, politics has. Maybe it was the Moral Majority, maybe it was the Reagan Coalition, maybe it was the abortion fight. Maybe it was the 60s left. But politics became everything, and as Goldwater once said, “Extremism, in defense of liberty, is no vice. And moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

Since that 1964 speech, extremism and vice have grown by multitudes, anarchy is in place of liberty and justice is no longer in fear of pursuit because the world is drowning in a sea of technology, ironic displacement, and the lies of the humanity’s worst.