We Have Entered the Zone of Maximum Mayhem

Listen: There is going to be a major attack on U.S. soil between now and, I dunno, probably the end of January 2018.  (I personally think it’ll be earlier—possibly by mid-October—but depending on who is attacking, I think they might wait as late as Xmas/New Year’s in order to maximize mayhem).

I’ve been saying this for months, but I think most folks thought I was kidding.  I’m not.

My Reasoning

A disorganized defender cannot defend.  When your opponent is disoriented, you strike.  It’s elementary, and holds in many fields: In business negotiations, in chess, in Go,in court, in bar fights and boxing matches, in battlefields and hardened bunkers.

Readers of a certain age will recall that the success of the 9/11 attacks was widely attributed to a “failure to connect the dots” within the Executive Branch (especially within intelligence and foreign affairs agencies).  Why did we fail to connect the dots?  Because there were empty seats throughout the administration, and the folks in many of the filled seats were still coming up to speed.

Rewind 11 months from 9/11, and you’ll recall we had an insanely close presidential election that ultimately needed to be decided by the Supreme Court.  As a result, when G.W.Bush took office, his team had significantly less time to pull together their nominations than was the modern norm.  100 days in, he was still behind, with only about 35 confirmed nominees (there are several thousand positions that need to be filled by any incoming president, of which about 577 are considered vital by experts).  200 days in GWB had 294 nominations confirmed, roughly half of the most vital positions.  In other words, on day 200 in office, G.W.Bush still had 283 empty seats in vital parts of the Executive Branch, and many of the seats that were filled had folks sitting in them who’d only had a couple months—maybe just weeks—to digest, consider, and route huge amounts of intel.  About a month after that we notably “failed to connect the dots” and 19 dudes crashed four airplanes with the net result of 3,000 humans being cooked and crushed in the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania farm field.

I was teaching school that day, back in my old life.  I stood in a room with a bunch of troubled teens and watched folks jump out of the World Trade Center towers rather than burn inside. I walked outside with a coworker.  Our school was under several flight paths, but the sky was perfectly clear above us, no clouds, no contrails, no planes, because every plane in the nation was grounded.

But, man, that sky, so blue.  So clear.

Within a year I was on a “selectee list.” For the next eight years every time I flew I was pulled out of line, searched, patted down, swabbed for explosives, questioned, stripped down to socks, pants, and undershirt. But, you know, whatevs, right?  Terror.  Safety.  Patriotism.  #America.

But my mind wanders.  All apologies.  More to the point:

How’s Trump Doing?

How’s Trump doing, in terms of getting the right folks in the right seats, and thus preventing another major attack and loss of life on U.S. soil?

art by DonkeyHotey https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/
(art by DonkeyHotey)

Not great.  In fact, he’s doing cataclysmically poorly.  He was behind Bush on Day 100, and he’s now even further behind:

As of August 4, when the Senate left town for its August recess, Trump has nominated 277 people for key posts, has had 124 confirmed, and has withdrawn eight of the nominations, according to CNN’s tracker.

The Partnership for Public Service has identified 577 executive branch positions as being particularly essential — and Trump has only successfully filled about a fifth of them.

We got smashed in the mouth in 2001 because we only had 294 folks in 577 vital seats.  Today we have about 124 folks on deck.  Among those seats that remain empty: Most of the undersecretaries of state, assistant secretaries of state, assistant secretaries of defense, an undersecretaries of defense, and most of our ambassadors.

FUBAR.

Nuclear_Blast_Animation_Blinding_Light

So Who is Coming to Hurt Us?

It’s a three-way coin toss, in my humble:

  1. North Korea
  2. Actual International Terrorists (like 9/11)
  3. Domestic Terrorists (I group someone like the Tsarnaev brothers or the Pulse Nightclub Shooter alongside Timothy McVeigh and Buford O. Furrow, Jr. as “domestic terrorists” for the reasons outlined in this very enlightening interview over on Slate: “Profiling White Supremacists Won’t Stop White Supremacist Terrorism)

If I were a gambling man (and we all are now, here in the Zone of Maximum Mayhem) I’d put my money on #3. 

Yeah, North Korea seems like an obvious choice: They can hit the U.S. mainland with any number of missiles, and they have a nuke small enough to mount on such an ICBM.  They probably don’t have the reentry ballistics quite right just yet, which means the nuclear device won’t detonate properly, but a goddamn intercontinental ballistic dirty bomb plowing into D.C. or NYC is 1) well within N.K.’s capabilities and 2) not something you walk off.

But launching such an attack is actual suicide for that country—especially with our current PotUS—and regardless of what we say about the Kim regime, he’s not an actual lunatic; he has a country to run and a dynasty to maintain.  Given how he’s behaving now, and in the absence of us launching a pre-emptive strike, I don’t see N.K. nuking us before Xmas.  (See also North Korea’s latest launch designed to cause maximum mayhem, minimal blowback

(All of that, of course, assumes the tests they’ve been firing have indeed been tests, and not a killdeer-like misdirection.  If N.K. can cripple us in a first strike—say, by nuking LA, NYC, and DC in a single salvo—well, then I imagine they will, and probably sometime this fall.)

As for actual International Terror, believe it or not that’s on the wane in the Western world.  When you stop calling everything involving a Muslim “international” and actually look at the facts of the recent attacks in the U.S. and Europe, you see that the last several “Islamist” terror events in the U.S. have a lot more in common with White Power hate crimes than 9/11.  (Pulse Nightclub is a solid example of this.)

-7ab6fc43f523b282So that leaves us with Domestic Terror.  I’m thinking it’ll be White Supremacists.  The PotUS has done a lot lately to make them feel empowered, and those among them with basic arithmetic and reading comprehension skills absolutely understand that there will never again be a White Majority in this country.  But that doesn’t mean it won’t be “Islamists” born in Newark or Peoria, or Antifa/Black Blocers looking to head off the impending pogroms, or good ole Militia/Sovereign Citizen folks (who despise the PotUS just as much as the Antifa folks do).  They’re all in the same gang, at heart. FullSizeRender (1)

But who fucking cares, right?  People are going to die—your friends and neighbors—at the hands of your other friends and neighbors, and a lot more are going to suffer, and we are locked in on those rails now, inextricable.  These are how these dots connect, and it is far too late to do anything about it before it happens.

(Alternately, listen to and consider this: Episode 790: Rough Translation in Ukraine  ’cause maybe I’m wrong, and we’ll go with a whimper, not a bang.  And maybe we’re already gone—or, hell, maybe I’m the misinformation that stumbles out of Bethlehem to be born. Your call.)

Jesus!  Dave, What Should I Do!?

I have no clue.  Stay safe.  Don’t hurt any one.

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The PotUS, Confidence, the Markets, and the Future

I hung out with Amal Graafstra at a Penguicon a few years back (we were both there on the DIY Track: He was installing RFID and NFS chips in people’s, I was teaching folks to build little synthesizers), and so this snippet caught my eye while I was reading this article about the shelf-life of homebrew technological body modifications (e.g.,  installing a magnet in your fingertip or a chip in your hand):

For me, though, the metaphorical value is the point. The magnet was a little piece of the future, and its slow loss coincides with a period of pessimism that’s much bigger than me. To get a sense of how popular biohacking hardware still was, I emailed Dangerous Things, which produced my NFC implant and sells a variety of other chips and magnets. Founder Amal Graafstra told me that sales had been going up, until the 2016 presidential election — when no one bought anything for a full week.

Shaken, Graafstra sat down and thought about who was buying his products. “Really it just comes down to people that are excited about the future in a very basic sense,” he says now. “I think one way or another, people lost faith in humanity, and in a sense lost faith in the future. And had much more pressing current concerns than, ‘What am I going to do with this cool implant?’”

This got me thinking about the President, and his extremely high level of confidence that recent strong performance in the markets is because we are so confident in him.

Consumer confidence is purportedly at a 17-year high (other figures put it at a 15-year high, but close enough), and business confidence may be at an 8-year high, but look at a chart and you’ll see it was at a 5-year low twice, first plummeting after Trump entered the race and then again after he won and then making a huge recovery in Q1 of 2017.  To me, this looks a lot like folks being really relieved that, even though the Worst Thing had happened, the world didn’t end—and that certainly matched my experience, as a small businessperson, and the timbre of conversations I had with clients (even those who theoretically “won”).

The long, gradual climb of the S&P 500 from the Great Recession to the 2016 election (blue line).
The long, gradual climb of the S&P 500 from the Great Recession to the 2016 election (blue line).

Meanwhile, although he likes to kvell about how good he’s been for the markets, I’ll note that he’s taking credit for a trend that started in the first quarter of Pres. Barack Obama’s first term, and has continued ever since.

Face It: If You Were an Immigrant, You’d Be Turned Away from Trump’s America

Hell, I’d be turned away, and I’m a highly educated, highly articulate, decently well-off white(ish) person with some little shred of public notability.

Trump’s “merit-based immigration” is a bullshit system that

favors big-money investors who want to buy citizenship while simultaneously draining all the best technical minds from the developing world and consigning them to being well-paid slaves at the pleasure of major tech companies.

art by DonkeyHotey https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/
(art by DonkeyHotey)

It’s callous, crass, penny-pinching robber-baron capitalism that will to jack-shit to stem illegal immigration, create a class of disaffected young men with weak ties to their American communities and strong ties to their home countries, and leave the average American worker to fight for jobs picking cotton, making Starbucks, and driving Uber.

How Many Americans Would Pass an Immigration Test Endorsed by Trump?

I’ve talked to a few Trump voters in the last several months (I need to get a new roof on my house), and it is precisely bait-and-switch shit like this that has them pissed and cynical as hell.

And those folks have guns, Mr. President.

What Can I Do About Hate?  Just Take a Baby Step, White People!

The "fine people" protesting in support of Confederate statuary—AND NOT AT ALL  RACIST!—in Charlottesville, VA, August 11, 2017
The “fine people” protesting in support of Confederate statuary—AND NOT AT ALL
RACIST!—in Charlottesville, VA, August 11, 2017

In the weeks since Charlottesville there’s been a fair bit of “What can we[*] do about hate?” talk—on social media, in NYT and WaPo and Slate op-eds and think pieces, out on the street and around supper tables.  As someone in a class of folks disproportionately on the receiving end of the most resent paroxysm of hate, I have a suggestion:

Take “Awesome Baby Steps”

EXAMPLE: Last week the skatepark in my town—the one my son and I go to, the one lots of kids in this area (and, notably, lots of brown kids) use—got hit with motor oil (intended to ruin the concrete for skating) and dozens of swastikas and slurs.

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Photo Aug 18, 3 22 26 PM Photo Aug 18, 3 22 34 PM

The city, of course, responded in no time, and had it all clean in hours—God bless ’em. 

I went to skate there the next and found two things:  1) that the park was uncharacteristically busy for an early Saturday morning, all happy families showing resolve; and 2) it was covered in this new chalk graffiti

Photo Aug 19, 9 18 13 AM

Photo Aug 19, 9 17 10 AM

Photo Aug 19, 9 16 52 AM

Photo Aug 19, 9 16 35 AM

It’ll sound dumb, but this made me feel better.  This, in fact, moved me to tears. Folks punching Nazis in Charlottesville did not move me to tears or make me feel safer.  Neither did folks tearing down statues (although I nonetheless applaud that, and more so applaud the many cities who have covered and removed statues in the meantime—because tearing down the participation trophies handed out to white supremacists, nominally honoring traitors, is what you should do after winning a war). 

But kids coming out with chalk to make sure I knew that they continued to welcome me in civil society did make me feel better.  In fact, it made me feel better in excess of the amount the defacement had made me feel awful—and that slap in the face had left me livid and enraged and absolutely nauseated with a dread so atavistic that I sorta imagine it’s more akin to what a mouse exposed in vacant stubble feels than to any un-fun emotion an employable White man might know.  (This isn’t to say that White men don’t know bad times; it’s to say that there is a very specific flavor to being history’s perpetual prey).

Those kids with their chalk, that was an Awesome Baby Step. It didn’t take much—not much money, not much time, not much risk—but it made me feel a great deal better.  The pay-off was totally disproportionate.

You're not helping, autocorrect!
You’re not helping, autocorrect!

Again, I know this likely sounds silly. “Dave,” you’re thinking, “You know us! We see you every day when you’re walking your dog; we nod at each other and wave.  You know we’re cool with you!”

Listen: You can never, ever presume that the folks targeted by hate can continue to feel confident that you are OK with them being Americans. Don’t argue with me about it being stupid or paranoid or insulting—it’s just a fact of life.  In fact, the ability to look at rank-and-file White people with confidence and feel that this person has your back is the first thing to slip.  After all, someone voted for Trump, despite all the things he said.  Someone buys those Confederate flag stickers, someone goes to those rallies, someone breaks out the spray-paint, someone dials in the bomb threats.  It’s just not a possible state of affairs that every White person I see is one of the “Good Guys” and all the bigots are magically somewhere else—but also close enough to trash my skatepark, flyer my streets, drive through my neighborhoods, vote in our elections, etc., etc., etc.

So, here’s one example of an Awesome Baby Step you can almost certainly do almost immediately:

Start being super friendly to people of color every day

Nothing crazy, just always make a point to smile and acknowledge and greet—like, constantly: When you pass on the sidewalk, walk into a building, at the checkout line, whatever. 

The best case scenario is that these folks—who may have taken some hateful shit recently—feel less on the outs with the country. The worst case scenario is people think you are just a super friendly person.  Either way, none of us think “This person is coming to hurt us.”  It’s either a win-win, or just a win.  The odds are with you.

(If this seems disjoint—what with me mostly talking about anti-Semitism to this point, and now I’m talking about people of color, and the Venn Diagram of “brown” and “Jewish” in America is frightfully close to just being a pair of tangent circles—just know this: My lived experience, and that of most Jews I know, is that White people who are shitty to people of color are fairly likely to be shitty to Jews, too.)

Another Baby Step in Being Awesome:

When folks get targeted with words of hate, take a moment to counteract that with words of support

EXAMPLE: Our local Jewish Family Services got a bomb threat last Monday.  (In case you don’t know JFS, they aren’t an agency specifically offering services to Jewish families, but rather a non-profit founded by Jewish families to offer services in general, sorta returning the favor for the support many of our families received as refugees in the 20th Century). Our local JFS is the primary agency handling refugee resettlement for Syrians here in Ann Arbor.  That particular building is also a food pantry for struggling families in general.  So, threatening to bomb them isn’t just an attack on Jews: It’s an attack on the poor in general, and immigrants of all sort.  It’s a mean, small-hearted, fucked-up thing to do.  (Not for nothing, but if you are a White person pissed off that White families are struggling, I can tell you for a fact that JFS is handing out food support to just those exact White families that you, as a White Supremacist, want to see helped.  So, really, what the fuck?! Let us feed your people, OK?)

You probably feel bad learning that some jackass felt the need to totally derail a day of JFS trying to help immigrants and poor people (people who, more so than most, can hardly afford to “come back tomorrow; we’re closed because of a bomb threat.”)  Maybe you want to bend the arc of the moral universe back toward justice—but don’t know what to do.  Try this:

Call JFS, tell them you support what they do, and make a donationeven a tiny one.  Multiples of $18 are a traditional sum among Jews (it’s symbolic of Life), but anything is fine—or just voicing your support: 734-769-0209

I see a lot of White people and gentiles crying because we don’t know the “content of their hearts,” or whatever.  But I’ve got to level with you:

As a Jew—as one of the JEWS that was told last week that his skatepark and his wife (a “white woman”) were not for him, that he should DIE—I don’t particularly care what is in any of your hearts, because your heart isn’t going to kill me.

It’s your hands that will kill me.  And so I’m watching your hands.  I am wary, because wariness is what got my grandfather (Z”L) out of Ukraine before he joined his father in a ditch.  Wariness is what got my Aunt Lola (Z”L) through Auschwitz and to these shining shores.

Right now, your fingers dialing the phone, your voice, your words, your eye contact and smile are THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.  Use them to take awesome baby steps.

It is 2017:  You can take baby steps toward white supremacy, or baby steps away.  There’s no standing still anymore—because there never really was.

Thank you.


[*] “We” in this case has disproprtionately—sometimes explicitely, more often implicitely—been White people (and nominally White people, like myself). So I’m addressing that crowd—but let’s be real: These baby steps work for all of us. See also MLK’s 8 Commandments.

Call on yr house rep to cosponsor these bills and help wrangle our cantankerous President🇺🇸📞

The good news is that there are plenty of signs that there is finally some  bipartisan appetite to roll back the unhealthy post-9/11 ballooning of Executive power in the federal government (a less noted, but more significant, example is explained here and here). 

Bravo!

But our specific current PotUS needs some specific, itemized reigning in.  Here are two legislative items (the first a House Resolution, the second an actual bill) that aim to do just that.  Both could use more cosponsors—and could likely get them from either side of the aisle right now.

  • H.Res.456Objecting to the conduct of the President of the United States (the name kinda says it all on this one)
  • H.R.3228Free Press Act of 2017: “To require the President to provide frequent press briefings covering the official business of the President to the White House press corps.”

In light of the President allegedly drafting his son’s fake excuses for meeting privately with foreign agents to coordinate with smearing a political opponent and, prior to that, his alleged involvement in coordinating with Fox News to produce a Fake News story smearing that same opponent, compounded by the President’s ongoing public (not at all alleged—’cause we all saw him doing the public parts, and confessing to the private parts in newspaper interviews) attempts to channel, limit, and outright detail the FBI investigation into his coordination with Russian agents to smear and defeat his opponent, these two legislative items are just about the least congress can do right now.

So call your reps and ask them to do them—or, at the very least, call them and tell them what you think about what’s going on.  Today, during your lunch break or on your commute or whatever.  It literally takes under five minutes; you can just call, say you’re a constituent, and ask:

“Is Rep. So-and-So cosponsoring  H.Res.456 and H.R.3228, which seek to hold the President accountable for questionable actions and force him to regularly communicate productively with the press?”  

If so, then thank them for their work.  If not, then thank them for their work and reiterate that you really, really think your rep should be cosponsoring these items.

Now go! Hit the phones! 

Thanks!

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o_O #politics #pathetic

If the man who said this had never amounted to anything more than the local pay-toilet impresario, I’d still be appalled that someone with so little appreciation for the rudemnts of American politics had risen to such a station.

“I’m not going to own it”? Pathetic.

Meritocracy? Fuck meritocracy.

Trump on repeal-replace failure

Trump suggests Republicans will let ACA market collapse, then rewrite health law

Call Your Reps! (White House Conflicts-of-Interest, Independence Day 2017 Edition)🇺🇸📞

Today is a great day to call your reps and leave a message!  Wish them a Happy Independence Day and tell them what you’d like them to focus on when they get back to the office tomorrow.  If I may, I’d suggest they focus on White House conflicts-of-interest—perhaps by taking action on the following bills: 

In the House of Representatives:

  1. H.R. 371: Require the President and Vice President be included under current law that prohibits federal office holders from engaging in government business when they stand to profit (guess who the only two Executive Branch members currently exempt are?).  Also requires the PotUS and VP put their assets in a certified blind trust and disclose to the Office of Government Ethics when the make decisions that impact their personal finances.
  2. H.R. 305: Amend the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 to require the disclosure of some tax returns by presidential candidates.  Requires sitting presidents to disclose three prior years of federal tax returns.
  3. H.Res. 186: Direct the Secretary of the Treasury to provide President Trump’s tax returns and other financial info to Congress post haste.

In the senate:

  1. S.65: Requires the President, Vice President, their spouses, and any minor children to divest of any potential financial conflicts of interest by transferring assets to a qualified blind trust.
  2. S.Con.Res. 8: Calls on the PotUS to “follow the precedent established by prior Presidents and convert his assets to conflict-free holdings, adopt blind trusts,” etc. and not take actions that favor the Trump Organization. Also declares that, lacking an “express affirmative authorization by Congress,” the PotUS’s financial dealings with foreign governments or their agents are indeed violations of the Emoluments Clause.

My personal view is that, regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, you should support these bills—they’re just common sense in the modern age, where anyone with even the simplest 401k, tiniest nest-egg socked away in an IRA, or humblest mortgage has a vested interest in myriad domestic and foreign policy issues.

But even if you think all of these bills are total BS, call your usa-american-flag-waving-animated-gif-26reps.  Please call your reps and tell them that.  We should all be invested not in a system that has this or that policy outcome, but in a system where the vast majority of citizens actively participate to guide us toward whatever outcome may be.  I totally accept that I’ll often be on the losing end, policy-wise, because my beliefs and experience just don’t match up with the majority—but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna gently and quietly acquiesce to a country molded around the manic delusions of a vocal, belligerent, ideologically extreme minority of the electorate.

This Morning’s SCotUS rulings offer mixed messages about progress, but a clear message about Gorsuch

This morning the Supreme Court released a pair of decisions, one of which was a solid win for same-sex couples (birth certificates mush now list both parents) and a pretty bad blow to the most vulnerable Muslim refugees (the White House can ban entry to anyone without a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”).

The former seems like a big leap forward toward a just society, while the latter at least a solid stop backward (if I’m seeming overly optimistic in calling this only a step backward, just consider how vaguely broad “a credible claim” to a “bona fide relationship” to any person or entity in the U.S. is—Wanna help refugees? Start a pen-pal program!).

Viewed objectively, these average out to a minor win for the Arc of History in its quest to bend toward justice.  Keep your heart, progressives! (and don’t forget to call your reps!)

But all that doesn’t interest me as much as the buried lede: In

(This "America golem" is Nazi propaganda from WWII, but remarkably apt these days.)
(This “America golem” is Nazi propaganda from WWII, but remarkably apt these days.)

both cases, a unified block composed of Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch backed an narrow, regressive alternative reading of the law that is, at the very least, remarkable in how uncharitable it is, in addition to hinting a kind of disconcerting credulity when it comes to the claims of ruling powers (be they the PotUS or the State of Arkansas) that seem set on playing abusive word-games in order to give the force of law to their personal bigotries.🇺🇸🔥

Don’t know what to call your reps about today? May I suggest “White House conflicts of interest”?

Here are a few examples moral hazards unique to the Executive Branch ALL DRAWN FROM JUST THE PAST 24 HOURS OF NEWS:

Giving your reps a call (click the link and scroll to “Power User Mode”) is quick, fun, and easy! Don’t miss this opportunity to prevent a violent uprising by Winter 2017!🇺🇸📞💻☝️