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How Donald Trump Answers A Question

Trump may not be that smart, or he may not seem that smart, but you don't need to be a genius to be a great salesman. A lot of us assume that Trump just sounds like an idiot or a nut, but this analysis says he is using some very powerful techniques to sell himself.
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Conservatism is Not the New Punk

Conservatives keep saying, “Conservatism is the ‘New Punk’”. Nonsense. Conservatives have their soundtrack. It is country music, Christian rock, and Ted Nugent. Seriously though, what is concerning is that conservatives are rebranding themselves as something they are not, and people are buying it.

Two of the most genius tactics of the extreme right since the 90’s, have been:

  • Redefining conservatives as rebels, anti-establishment, and victims; and trying to latch on to some of the coolness associated with underground movements like punk and the sixties counter-culture
  • Redefining money, big-business, and property as a moral issue – implying that protecting individuals and businesses right to make money has the same moral imperative as say, not killing people or not stealing.

Both are complete nonsense. Money isn’t morality. For the Christian-right, that is particularly true. They need to read that book that they are always quoting, and see what Jesus said about money and the rich. It’s not positive. On the other hand, he spoke positively about charity, the poor, and the meek.

But let’s talk about punk rock and rebellion.

Rebellion is resistance or defiance of a government, ruler, authority, or convention. Rebellion is not implicitly good or bad. Whether a certain rebellion is cheered or disdained by aa group is mostly determined by whether they agree more with the views of the rebels or with the views of the target of the rebellion.

The “cool” rebellions that people idealize all have this in common: they are about fighting oppression to give a group of people more rights, more freedom, and more opportunity. Take the suffragettes, the civil rights movement, sixties counterculture, punk rock, and the Ukraine standing up against Russia as some examples.

It is a manipulative lie to represent “rebelling” to support discrimination and authoritarian ideals as being the same as the civil rights movement or punk rock, just because they are all “rebellious” movements. It’s like saying eating metal shavings and eating food are the same, because both involve swallowing.

True, like punk, the alt-right had its roots in a disaffected working class angry at the establishment; but the comparison ends there. Punk is generally pro-freedom, anti-corporate, anti-war, and pro-equality. Conservatism, now usurped by the alt-right, is the antithesis of these ideals.

The problem here is a fundamental misunderstanding of “freedom”. American freedom is based upon the ideas that all people are equal, and that all deserve the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To have that freedom, we have a social contract by which we all give up some freedom to not take freedom away from others (or have our freedom taken away by others). At the most basic level, this means that you give up the “freedom” to kill people in exchange for society agreeing that others should not kill you.

In a society where everyone was completely free, most people have less freedom, well-being, and happiness, because of the impact of other people’s “expression of freedom”, in the form of crime, exploitation, and discrimination. In a “free” society, we have the freedoms that do not harm others and society.

The problem with the current right is that they want to pretend that people and corporations deserve the “freedom” to take actions that interfere with other people’s freedom. That isn’t American freedom. It is a clever argument to make imposing on other’s rights sound like a right, and to make protecting people’s freedom sound like tyranny. When someone like Bannon talks about freedom, pretend it is Opposites Day. What he is talking about is giving some people the “freedom” to take away other people’s freedom.

There are rebellious groups that share the alt-right’s desire to impose upon other rights and support for authoritarian policies. Two that come to mind are the racist skinhead movement, and the brown shirts.

There is an honest slogan: “Conservatives are the new brown shirts”.

That is unfair to many conservatives who are not racist or pro-authoritarian, but I say this to them: you let extremists – extremists you should have stood up against -- take over your party because conservative institutions pandered to them. If you aren’t actively fighting against it, you are complicit.

Video: Jello Biafra (an actual punk rocker) responding racist rednecks that pretending to be punk. Reference link: Henry Rollins (an actual punk rocker) on Trump and modern conservatives.

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Yiannopoulos: Mentally Ill Internet Troll, Not a GLBTQ Spokseman

Yiannopoulos: Mentally Ill Internet Troll, Not a GLBTQ Spokseman

I started to make a caustic post about Milo Yiannopoulos, but I stopped. This guy is mentally ill, an abuse victim, and an internet troll, who is looking for angry and irrational response. Plus, poking fun at someone who is sick feels not much better than Trump making fun of the disabled.

Yiannopoulos is a big jerk, but except for when a big jerk is in a position of power, we don’t need to worry about jerks that much. Yiannopoulos says a lot of stupid and incendiary things. Why was I so pissed?

In part, it is his combination of hypocrisy, lack of constructive ideas, and his sneakiness. In part, he just says despicable things about many groups of people. In part, it disgusts me that he is the alt-right’s pet gay man, and he uses that platform to insult homosexuals and spread falsehoods and misunderstandings about the GLBTQ community.

I remind myself that Yiannopoulos is someone who was raped as a teen and someone who has untreated mental illness. The mental illness is most likely largely or partially the result of that abuse. We shouldn’t be making fun of his issues, we should be suggesting he gets some help, and we should be shaming and protesting those that have exploited his illness for profit or political gain.

Yiannopoulos did apologize, and I give him credit for doing so. It sounded somewhat sincere, if at times evasive. I don’t think he has ever had to display the maturity to publicly take responsibility for his behavior before.

Still, he clearly made statements supporting teen relationships, as young as thirteen, with adult men; and he did not fully admit to it. For years, whenever we stood up for gay rights, conservatives referenced NAMBLA – as if letting two consenting adults engage in homosexual sex or love without being discriminated against was somehow going to lead to liberals deciding to legalize “man boy love”, or bestiality, or some other thing that has nothing to do with supporting GLBTQ rights.

Gay marriage is legal, and liberals are not advocating legalized child rape. But the darling of the alt-right advocated and justified child rape. Yiannopoulos lashed out against consent laws for children, as a misguided liberal ideal. Protecting our children against adult predators isn’t a liberal idea, it’s human decency.

He argued against trans men using women’s restrooms, painting a picture of scary, “sexually confused” men in the bathroom with women and children. Yiannopoulos is a gay man who calls being gay disgusting and “a choice”, but apparently he can neither stop himself from being gay nor come to terms it. He is much more confused about his sexuality than any transsexual I have known, and he has a problem taking responsibility for his actions. If anything, we should be worrying about who we subject to sharing a bathroom with Yiannopoulos.

But now I am getting mean again. The best thing that we can do with Yiannopoulos is to keep repeating that he has a mental illness and therefore needs help. Otherwise, we should ignore him. He wants our ire. He thrives on the attention, and he profits from it.

Besides, I suspect one day he will wake up and realize that he isn’t the star of the alt-right. He’s the court jester and rabble-rousing pawn. All of the hate he spews and damage he does to intelligent discourse won’t heal his wounds, or make him actually accepted, or take away his hatred for himself.

So, instead, we should hold accountable those that have given an unhinged man a megaphone to spread hate and lies unchecked, for their own gain. To name a few: Breitbart, Simon and Schuster, CPAC, Republicans, and unfortunately, Bill Maher.

This isn’t about curtailing free speech. Yiannopoulos should have his voice, just like all people. That does not mean we should be encouraging the spread of hatred and lies without holding him accountable and challenging him.

We also have to question ourselves, society, conservatives, and everyone that has given Yiannopoulos a large forum that it took advocacy of child rape to get someone to say, “that’s too much”. I am obviously relieved that advocating for the molestation of children is still a line that cannot be crossed, but where was the outrage as he said, advocated, and did horrible things to and about women, Muslims, Jews, gays, and liberals in general?

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Obama-Bush 2020?

President's Day

I started the day with disgust for President's Day with Trump in office. After a day of #notmypresident protests, some idiotic comments from Trump supporters, and the usual (daily) wave of awful updates about Trump's activities, I have a different perspective.

I support the protesters, but the name pf the protests is wrong. Trump is our President. We liberals need to stop sounding like Trump. Sounding like we think we have the right to deny a duly elected President his office without Constitutional process to remove him from office, that sound like Trump. We can be embarrassed by him. We can be disgusted by him. And we must resist him, but he is The President. Let’s leave denying The Constitution, law, checks and balances, freedom, the press, and due process to Trump and his band of miscreants. It will be their undoing on the end.

Besides, we are all a little to blame for Trump. Some of us bought into his snake oil salesman act. Some of us failed to take him seriously when we should have. Some of us waited far too long to start being political. Some of us were more worried with political correctness than actual issues and problems. Some of us accepted milquetoast liberal candidates when we should not. Some of us didn’t even vote. Most of us have let gerrymandering hand more and more state legislatures to the right. The list goes on and on. Intelligent and moderate conservatives have allowed their party to be taken over, first by zealots, and now by people who are working with neo-Nazis and possibly in collusion with Russia. Liberals have failed to define themselves as an alternative that is appealing to middle-of-the road voters, despite being the better option for them.

So, on the end of this President’s Day, I am thinking fondly of every President that did not subvert our most basic American systems and values. Most people will dislike either Obama or Bush. Both stretched executive power in their ways, and both abused The Constitution to some degree; but both used our laws and instructions to accomplish their goals. Both men fought with the media, but neither man lied so consistently as Trump. They didn’t call the journalists fact-checking their own lies “liars”. No President has ever said the media is the enemy of the American people before. Both men honored court decisions when they went against them.

This President’s Day, I am grateful for most Presidents, just for mostly supporting America’s interests and intuitions, and for not being an egomaniacal narcissist more interested in discussing who cheered for him than issues and policies. I will think of Trump, not on President’s Day, but on:

  • October 10: World Mental Health Day
  • January 27: Holocaust Remembrance Day
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