Category Archives: Politics

Whistling Past The Graveyard

In all likelihood come Nov 9 we will be greeting President-Elect Hillary Clinton, certainly adding the future students confusion as they try to untangle the two different President Bushes, both named George, and two different President Clintons. However 538 is currently predicting a nearly 17% percent chance that we’ll face President-Elect Trump, an outcome I would expect to be disastrous.

There are those who are truly in favor and fully supportive of Donald Trump’s candidacy but there are also a large number of people, Republicans and conservative who wish for his victory while refusing to personally vote for him. A number of those in the latter camp seem to hold opinions that a Trump presidency presents no particular greater dangers than any other presidency and these people I believe are whistling past the graveyard.

 

The Threat: A Trump Presidency will violate the norms and traditions of our Government.

The Tune: There’s little need to worry as the administration and cabinet will be filled with solid Republicans and they will administer the government in a sane albeit conservative fashion.

The Graveyard: Look at Trump’s campaign. Is it filled with solid well know Republicans and Conservatives? In my opinion Trump staffs his organizations by Nepotism, and with yes-men. Here is no evidence that he will suddenly pivot and staff his administration with people who would dare disagree or fail to do his exact bidding.

 

The Threat: Trump has indicated that as President he wants to use the powers of the executive to punish his enemies and order US military personnel to commit war crimes.

The Tune: The president is limited by law and regulation; Trump may want to do these things but he’ll lack and authority to do so.

The Graveyard: The wheels of justice turn slowly. It takes time to bring the courts and other checks and balances to bear on an executive. Of course there is impeachment but that would require that the GOP crossing heir base who elected Trump and they show little sign of that sort of courage. (See the Primary) Also while may of these action may be illegal remember as President Trump will have unlimited pardon powers. It is a wholly unchecked power of the office. Between that and the historical precedent of the Saturday Night Massacre I see little reason to put the safety of the at that sort of risk.

 

The Threat: As President Trump will be a loose cannon, inducing chaos and confusion both domestically and on the international scene.

The Tune: Trump wants tot attention but not the job, he’ll let the real duties be performed by Vice-President Mike Pence.

The Graveyard: Trump’s ego will not allow him to remain in any person’s shadow. Even for the short duration of a televised debate Trump is unable to let any perceived slight go unanswered. Even he that administration started under the leadership of Pence with Trump playing head of state, the moment the attention and respect began flowing to the subordinate Trump’s ego would compel him to act. Once he did so there would be nothing Pence could do to stop Trump and we’d be back in the mud.

 

Throughout the primary people in the GOP deluded themselves that once Trump won the nomination he would pivot to a more reasonable stance to win the general. There was no pivot because he’s not playing a part, the man presented in the primaries and in the general is who he really is and who he will be as president.

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The Critical Question

It looks very likely that Donald Trump will lose the election. Let’s be clear Donald Trump did not take a crazy turn after the primaries; he was saying the same sort of thing throughout the primary race and he won.

More Republicans voted for the man spouting crazy talk than anyone else. The critical question the Republican party faces post election is why did their voters respond so favorably to the man with the crazy talk?

If they dodge this, or write it off as a black swan one-time event they are leaving the door opening for someone more talented and possible more motivated to hijack the process, endangering the party and the nation.

 

 

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What Does the GOP Believe In?

For eight years the GOP has lectured us that President Obama was a narcissistic celebrity; then they nominated Donald Trump.

For twenty years the GOP has lectured us on the moral failings of President Bill Clinton; then they nominated Donald Trump.

For thirty-five years the GOP has championed fiscal prudence as their watchwords; then nominated Donald Trump.

For fifty years the GOP has claimed as their own the ethic of the silent majority; then they nominated Donald Trump.

For seventy years the GOP has proclaimed themselves the stalwart enemies of Communism; then they nominated Donald Trump. (Who has praised Communist dictators as they murdered their own people.)

 

When this is over and Donald has lost, and I hope more than anything for a massive loss, they will ignore him and try to tell us this was an aberration, an event, a nominee unworthy of notice. I will not forget. I will remember those who stood on the stage and try to sell us this man because they wanted, above all principle, to win.

My principles are not for sale.

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Politics and Prose

Over the last few years, though certainly not only those years, there’s been a marked debate about politics in the SF/Fantasy/Horror genre. It is understandable people are passionate about what they believe in and the is reflected in their genre tastes and their politics. In the midst of this you can often hear the plea to please just make good stuff and leave the politics out of the story.

While I am sympathetic to that viewpoint it is a futile. Politics is baked into the creation of any art and doubly so where you consider stories that fall into the SF/Fantasy/Horror genre. Politics is about social conflict and how it is resolved. When someone crafts a new story their engage in world-building, and that entails much more than the placement of rivers, forests, mountains, and mythological backgrounds. When as an author you create a story you draw upon your understanding of how the world works, what makes people and cultures tick, and those ideas are usually the core concepts in your political views. It is not more possible to remove political viewpoints from a piece than it is to remove the concepts of what is right and what is wrong.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not talking about soap-boxing where the author often creates straw-men to knock down and prove the validity if their cherished ideals. The blatantly political, written to score points is certainly an obviously political piece and they can be good and they can be terrible, but their existence, glaring and garish, does not eradicate the political in every other piece.

Like bias the political is always there and like bias the best course is not to pretend that it doesn’t exist in a false quest of objectivity, but to seek it out, recognize it, and manage it.

Be aware of the underlying assumptions about people, about governments, and about reality that inform your world building. This is not an easy process and like the quest for perfection in prose it is an unending quest. However once you start seeing your own assumptions you can then use them to create a wider array of stories. Unshackled from your default settings you are more free to use the assumptions that better serve the plot, the characters, and the story.

For example I have a military SF project currently being shopped by my agents. The underlying assumptions in this setting are, from an American perspective, center-right. This is the best way to create the world, cultures, and conflicts that inform these characters. My current work in progress works primarily from a left perspective. Again by using a different set of base assumptions of what works and how people react to them I create a different set of cultures and different characters. (Or at least that is my objective, in the end only readers can tell me if I succeeded.)

No one can be truly unbiased and not work of fiction can be truly apolitical. Instead it is best to really try to dig down deep, find those underlying assumptions you have about how things really work and turn them to your advantage.

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Trump is the Face of the GOP

Well, it’s all over but the crying. The opponents have dropped out and the last man standing for the GOP nomination for President of the United States of American is Donald Trump. This fall we’ll see a contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton, though my past predictions – like everyone else’s – have been disastrously wrong I think this will lead to a massive defeat for the GOP. So be it, they brought the storm down upon themselves.

Make no mistake, Trump won because he bested every faction of the GOP. He bested the establishment solids, he bested the patrician blue-bloods, he bested the up and coming hopefuls, he bested the experienced and sitting governors, he bested the RINOs and the tea party favorites and the unshakable social conservatives. he beat them in open and closed primaries. he beat them with pluralities and majority votes. The GOP voters put choose him as the nominee, He was not foisted upon them by the monies interests, He was not selected by the party big wigs. He was not given a free ride by the media. The GOP primary voters pulled those levers, punched that chad, and marked that box for this man and everything he has been spewing for ten months.

When the ruin falls in November- and I truly hope it does because the thought that he would win a majority of the general population terrifies me – a wise GOP would look at its base and seriously consider how did it cultivate such a voter pool. They created an environment where such a demagogue would thrive and they must clean the swamp to prevent a repeat. I fear that such an honest appraisal is beyond the party as it is currently constituted. I fear that like a spousal abuser they will shift they blame, most likely to the current president, and cry ‘look what you made me do.’

It is a sad time we live in. I’m going to go watch Marvel’s The Avengers.

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Chaos in the Electorate

Last year, when Trump and Sanders made their announcements I dismissed either as have a serious impact on the race. Clearly I was wrong.

This is the election cycle of the unpredictable, angry electorate. On the left and on the right there is a great clamoring for change. Now I would still bet against Sanders winning the nomination, the rules are stacked against him and he needs to really outperform, consistently, the rest of the primary to get the delegates needed. That is not to say he can’t Clearly this is the wrong cycle to make bold unwavering predictions. However, the hill is still quite steep for him.

Trump is starting to fall, but not from first. 538’s delegate tracker has him missing his targets in order to reach 50%+1 before the convention. He may get the majority, but it seems equally possible he may miss, but not by much. If that happens and they can’t settle it on the first ballot, it’s fireworks for the GOP in Cleveland. (An early clue may be the rules for the convention. If they are adopted without much fuss or fight, then expect a single ballot to nominate someone, if the rules are fought over long and hard then we may be in for a bumpy ride.)

It’s stunning to think that California’s late primary may actually be relevant.

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Double Movie Review: The Witch & Eye in the Sky

So it has been my pleasure to see two really good movies with 24 hours of each other. Here are my brief thoughts on each.

The Witch. When the trailers for this film appeared on my radar it intrigued me as a movie that I may want to see. Sadly anything you get into the horror genre 1-The Witchyou almost certainly get stuck with dreck, garbage, and only occasionally, gold. The Witch is gold. I was convinced to risk the theater prices when in an email conversation with one of my agents discussing the 1972 The Wicker Man, (It’s the first day of spring today so that means The Wicker Man is tonight’s movie.) she highly recommended The Witch.

The story and setting are simple. A mid 17th century Puritan family in new England is exiled from their colony and struggle to survive on the edge of a vast forest where an evil force possibly lurks. The periodness of this film looks perfect to me. The language, the characters, the modes of thought all strike me as dead one. The film works on what is suggested versus what is shown. It is a story steeped in atmospherics and mood. It is not for every and it is not an ‘accessible’ movie. If you go expecting lots of gore, combat, and special effects you will be very disappointed. If you liked the original The Wicker Man as  a thoughtful film about culture and religion, then this may work for you.

One final thought on The Witch. The story approaches witches and witchcraft from the perspective of Puritan Christians. There is no neo-pagan aspects to this story or its presentations and those inclined towards that path for their spirituality are likely to be offended by the film and its presentation of the subject matter.

Eye in the Sky. My wife and I went to see this film principally because it is one of the final feature films with the late Alan Rickman. Going into it a film cold is 1-Eye In The Skysomething I have not done in a very very long time. I think the last film I walked into without seeing a trailer was The Hudsucker Proxy. As with The Hudsucker Proxy, I was thoroughly happy with the result.

This film is about the modern war on terror, how it is fought, and the very difficult questions that arise from that conflict. It is not an action film. This is not about Heroic figures defying death and saving the day with a well-placed spray of bullets. This move is very realistic, dealing with a difficult situation in which there are no easy answers. The screenwriter played fair, no one is presented as a strawman, from enlisted military personnel to the high ranks of government people are drawn as fully realized characters with compelling points of view. The cast is uniformly fantastic, Helen Miren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, and many many others bring you into their characters with performances that realistic and grounded. The technology is as far as I can tell spot on. The details of how such mission work are well presented and the cost for everyone involved is laid bare.

If you like your modern film filled with serious questions, no easy answers, and real people grappling with nasty choices, then this film is for you.

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A few thoughts on the death of Scalia

This president’s day weekend I was off at the Southern California Writers Conference in San Diego, so I have been busy and light in posting. (The Conference was good, though I have gotten sick and missed the last day as I stayed home without appetite and with a light head.) I was at the conference when I saw the news appear on my phone that Scalia had died.

First I will not take in joy nor will I celebrate in any fashion his passing. His family, his friends, and those close him are in grief and to them I offer my sincere condolences.

I am relieved that he will no longer be influencing the Court, though it would have been better for all if this result had come from retirement and tragedy.

Yes, he was a brilliant man and he was a complex man. (Through back channels advocating for Kagan to be elevated to the court alone shows that he was not a simple caricature of a right wing extremist.) However, his clearly displayed intellect made his failing as a justice even more plain.

He was not a champion of human rights and liberty, he was a champion of states right when the states acted in a manner of which he approved.  If a state moved in a direction that he did not approve of, such as legalizing marijuana or legalizing assisted suicide then his used his considerable intelligence to craft logical arguments designed to arrive at his predetermined and desired outcome even if that flew in the face of his stated beliefs about states’ rights and such. To my eyes, he was not a principled justice, but one who consistently applied the power of government to compel his views on morality. I will not miss his voice denying individuals their liberty.

You are certainly welcome to feel differently.

 

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Thoughts and Opinions on Donald Trump

Last year we started the summer silly season in American politics with the announcement by Donald J. Trump that he was running for president. This coincided with John Stewart leaving the daily, a bitter timing that I am sure was keenly felt, but here it is January 2016 and we are no longer laughing.

Trump has dominated the polls, debates, news, and conversation with his Presidential bit.

A lot of opinion cycles and time has been spent explaining the media mogul’s mastery of the political process. The ideas range from the mundane (it’s all just name recognition) to the far-fetched (He’s a plant by Hillary Clinton to make the Republican Party look bad.) These explanations in my opinion are all avoidance tactics, dodging the central fact that Trump has a commanding control of the primary nomination because of what he advocates not in spite of it.

Let’s take the Name Recognition argument first.

In m opinion name recognition in politics is like an aircraft carrier’s catapult; it will get you off the deck but it will not make you fly. Typically a name recognition candidate will crash shortly after announcing when the reality if the candidate collides with the idealized image of the candidate that existed the hazy ill-defined future before the announcement. This has not happened with Trump. As people see more and more of him, his support remains firm. This also discredits the ‘free media’ explanation, because again while he is getting tons of free exposure, nothing he says or does during that exposure undercuts his support. His message is not turning people off.

Jeb! Has put forth, at least once, the hypothesis that Trump is an enemy mole out to make the Republican Party look bad. The trouble with Jeb!’s argument is that Trump isn’t polling in the * range, but rather that he’s leading the national polls. If that support looks reflects badly on the party is is because 20-30 percent of the party enthusiastically support the positions and statement from Trump.

Another argument I have heard is that the exact things Trump says are unimportant, what really matters and why he is gaining such support is that he is paying attention to the issue that really matters to the base – immigration.

The trouble with that argument is that there has been plenty of pols talking tough on immigration long before Trump stood and announced that Mexico was sending criminals and rapists – and he assumed ‘a few’ good people – across our southern border. The Border Wall is a device/promise that has been around for a few elections. Talking tough is nothing new, Trump, despite his insistence, did not bring up an issue no one was talking about.

A corollary to the immigration issue argument is that Trump benefited from the tragic murder of a woman by a illegal immigrant. Correlation does not equal causation, because Trump rose in the polls after that incident does not mean it was because of that incident. Even if he did gain support because of it, that doesn’t explain how he maintained that support. (And there is simply NO good evidence that immigrant, legal, illegal, documented or undocumented are more criminally violent than the general population. Grabbing that case to prove your point is like pointing to a mass murderer’s use of an assault rifle to prove the need for their ban when so terribly few are ever used violently.)

The truth of the matter is that Trump has spewed from day one hateful, bigoted, xenophobic, and racist statements. These statement do not cost him support and it is increasingly evident that a significant portion of the conservative base endorse these ideas.

That is NOT to say that all, or even most, conservatives are racist, xenophobic bigots. The total non-Trump number far outnumber the Trump numbers . I do think that a lot of the ‘explanations’ that main on the right search for to dismiss Trump’s support is an attempt to ignore that fact that racism is selling in their party. That is a problem that will not go away with Trump eventual collapse – if he does collapse. It is a part of the Republican civil war and only time will tell us which faction wins in the end.

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