Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Protect Net Neutrality

As early as tomorrow, the FCC will hold a vote that could end the principle of Net Neutrality as we know it.  Currently, ISP's have to treat all websites the same but if Net Neutrailty is abolished what's to keep them from favoring one site over another? From smaller news and political sites being pushed aside in favor of large multimedia sites to the possibility of websites being slowed down for various reasons, there is a real danger.

This is expecially true when it comes to music and musicians as smaller labels and band websites could get blocked from a local by an ISP in favor of sites they themselves may have a stake in. 

A number of organizations froincluding (but definitely not limited to) the ACLU to the Electronic Freedom Foundation to Futureof Music Fondation are spekaing up to defend the principle that Internet Service Providers have to treat all websites fairly in terms of access.  For those wanting to speak out in favor of net neutrailty check out the following and make your voice heard.

Remeber this affects all of us.  Even in the midst of the chaos regarding election chicanery, the Russians, and voter suppression plans.  This still matter so speak up.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Comey's Firing and the Blowback..

Since I briefly mentioned the French election from the start of the week (some might even say the end of the weekend since it fell on a Sunday) in the previous post, let's talk about the news event that's currently inescapable not just for those involved but for the rest of us....

Yes, I'm talking about electoral vote winner Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey on Tuesday afternoon with no notice and seemingly out of nowhere.  Given that nobody saw it coming, including Comey himself, this event seemed to drop and make waves that may change the country - just not in the way Donnie and his minions intended.

Almost immediately after it happened, there was a sense that this didn't pass the sniff test and that something was up.  Maybe it was the initial reason that was given: that the Trump administration was unhappy with how Comey handled the Hillary Clinton investigation and his treatment of her just before the election.  Given that the election was back in November and we were almost a third of the way into May at the time Comey lost his job, it seems like a spurious reason at best. Add to this, the electoral vote winner and his minions' praise of Comey around the time of the investigation and after the election (including from Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, just a week earlier) and it seems unbelievable.

Whats more pressing is the administration's claims that Comey being let go has nothing to do with his probe of Russia possibly colluding with the Trump administration in the race leading to the past election.  Given that the firing happened two days before Comey was to speak to Congress as well as the slow but steady revelation of ties between individuals in the Trump campaign (and/or his administration) and Russia, it becomes evident that his firing wasn't because of anything that happened six months ago but due to his continuing probe of possible Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

So what now?  The simple answer is there needs to be an independent special prosecutor to look into the probe and see if anything is being covered up.  While Democrats appear willing to offer this up, the Repubs aren't so willing.  Whether it's because of sheer partisan power plays and wanting to keep their jobs or just a naivete on a level unimaginable for someone on that level, the fact that many on the right still seem to think this is no big deal is disturbing.  Add to this the fact the firing came within less than a day of subponaes being handed out in a Grand Jury over the issue and it becomes clear that electoral vote winner Trump, co electoral vote winner Pence and their minions are trying to hide something and are drawing even more attention to the exact issue they hope would go away when Comey was fired. 

Admittedly, things are not over yet.  Even though Trump and company wanted the issue of Russia to go away, this action guarantees that a yuuuuuggggge spotlight will remain on the issue and his tweetstorms on the topic.  Time wil tell what will happen, but given that this appears somewhere between Watergate era Nixon and a third world dictator action, there needs to be a special prosecutor ASAP.

Delayed Note of How the Week Started - France Dodged a Bullet

Hey!  Sorry for being scarce on the blog front.  I was in the process of relocating for the time being to help out a seriously ill relative and have been busy doing all the usual moving related stuff.  While I still have a lot to do I thought it prudent to come on here briefly for a couple of post. 

We all know the big topic filling the room and we'll get to that in the next post.  But, for now, let's take a step back and remind ourselves how the week started. 

Yes, it's hard to believe only a few days ago the big news was the French election last Sunday where far right candidate for the National Front Marine Le Pen was steadily trounced by centrist Emmanuel Macron for the Presidency of the country.  While the centrism of Macron is far from great in a lot of ways, the fact that he beat the candidate some were comparing to electoral vote winner Trump by over 30 points is a massive sigh of relief in a world still dealing with Britain's Brexit vote and the current state of the U.S.

To be fair, a case can be made that this election had the lowest voter turnout in France since 1969.  However, their low voter turnout rate was 74%, a percentage that would probably scare the crap out of both the Repubs and establishment Democrats.  Thus, it's safe to say that the victory of Macron was legit. 

That doesn't mean it's over, Macron's party is still struggling to process candidates for elections to Parliament.  In addition there are three more European countries with elections coming up that could foretell the direction of the European Union, if not the continent's political leanings altogether.  Still, the fact that centrism beat a party that in the past had some openly neofacist tendencies (and may still have them under the surface) got the week off to a start that many thought would relieve some of the hype about the Repubs victory optics over the House repeal of the ACA. 

Little did anyone know what turns the next couple of days would take.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA (to be said in a tone similar to Jan Brady feeling trapped in her sister Marcia's shadow)

Let's get the obvious underway.  If you asked me back at the end of January if the administration of electoral vote winner Donald Trump and co electoral vote winner Mike Pence would be haunted by an overarching spector of Russia and whether the two were in collusion to fix the outcome of the 2016 election, I actually would've been a little doubtful. 

Yet, over 75 days into Trump's regime (his words - why the hell does he say that rather than his term?, but I digress) any talk of what Trump and company almost seems to be secondary to the spectrer of the rumors of possible collusion between Trump surrogates and Russia.  What started out with revelations of surrogates speaking with Russia (most notably Gen. Michael Flynn, who was Trump's national Security advisor for three weeks until news of his meetings cost him the job) seems to have taken on a life of its own with tentacles that go where few expect, almost to the point where once we almost understand one thing another pops up.

Let's look at the most recent example.  first, Devin Nunes, Republican congressman and head of the House Intelligence Committee.   Within the past few weeks, Nunes has seemed to do all he can to shut down any hearings on the matter.  Between a couple week period where he briefed the Trump administration on information before the Committee first to learning he was on the White House grounds the night before he went to give Donnie the scoop on info the Committee didn't even have, there was enough to wonder why he refused to recuse himself, if not wonder how the hell he could keep his job on said committee.  Then it became news that his information came came several officials in the White House (including one who's firing was personally stopped by the electoral vote winner himself) were the ones who gave Nunes the information he then briefed Trump on.  While the information itself may be preliminary, this sort of circular pattern definitely doesn't give the impression of any transparency.  While the Democrats in Congress are (in this case, rightly) alarmed, Nunes' fellow Repubs are almost blase here with several even claiming that he works for Trump, not the American people.  While we don't know what the information was, it is obvious that every day that Devin Nunes doesn't either recuse himself or resign from the House Intelligence Committee is a day that keeps us from finding out what the hell is going on.

Then, there's this week's big shocker - and it involves family of one of his cabinet picks.  News broke on Monday that the founder of paramilitary contractor Blackwater (now Xe) Erik Prince had set up a secret meeting in the Seychelles for  a back channel between the Trump administration and Russia.  While there's a lot of conjecture over what this entailed, the fact that Prince not only advised Trump but was close to several key people in the administration, including Steve Bannon, and that Prince's sister is Betsy DeVos, Trump's education secretary, and what we have so far can be problematic at least.  Between meetings of Trump officials past and present (including his son in law Jared Kushner) with the Russian Ambassador and the fact this meeting itself happened, it does little to quash any conjecture regarding election collusion or other things that may be considered untowards in political circles.  Was it to discuss Iran (as the Washington Post suggests)?  Does it have to do with financial issues either between Alpha Bank or the U.S. medical chain Spectrum (as was mentioned by Cenk Uygyr of the Young Turks)?  Could it be both?  Determining what exactly happened back in January there is still up in the air.  However, it's emergence manages to slightly push the news about Devin Nunes back yet does nothing in regards to taking people's minds off of Russia. As for the family connection, given that our new education secretary Betsy DeVos is Prince's sister, does anyone think that might have been part of the deal?  Time will tell.

So what now?  Given that what leaks seems to burst out the pipe fast and furious what we hear next can be anyone's guess.  However, given that many people thought Russia wouldn't be news by news, the fact that it still lingers in the newssphere means that there's something the administration isn't telling us.  It may be fairly innocuous, but since they refuse to come clea with it the possible cover ups keep this in our minds and the fallout may be far worse than if they just fessed up, apologized, and tried to move on. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Electoral Vote Winner Turmp's Had the Week That Was.....

This past week marked the two month anniversary of electoral vote winner Donald Trump taking the oath of office and the time of his term in the Oval Office.  While on the campaign trail, he swore o supporters there would be instant change that would automatically make everything better.  There'd be less regulation, and painted an impression that our military is weak and underfunded (even though the U.S. has the largest defense budget in the world and has had the largest budget on this front for years).  He promised that things would be different than they were under the Obama administration.  This past week proved that right - just not in a way he or his co electoral vote winner Mike Pence would imagine.

In the midst of unfounded claims that former President Obama had spied on his campaign before the election, the week got off to a shocking start when FBI director James Comey said they were investigating the Trump campaign and administration for any signs of collusion with Russia - and may prosecute if necessary.  All of this during a televised hearing at the House Intelligence Committee.  Comey also shot down claims of Obama spying on the new electoral vote winner, countering several weeks of tweets that seemed far etched even if Trump is given the benefit of a doubt.

That this was just on Monday, it came as somewhat of a revelation in the midst of claims that Russia may have played some role in the election and at least (at last count) seven Trump campaign officials (including his son in law Jared Kushner and new Attorney General Jefferson Sessions) having met with Russian officials.  While the mainstream media still did some more stuff regarding the spying tweets, they were moved to the back burner largely by this revelation.

Now, while the investigation is news, it should be taken with a grain of salt.  First, if the reports of true that they were investigating the Trump campaign since July then why did he reamin mum on this while making a big deal of reopening the investigation on HIllary Clinton's e-mails roughly a week before the election.  Given that some media reports call parts of the FBI Trumplandia, it seems a little strange that Comey would rise now.  Since investigations don't automatically mean convictions or impeachment (in this case), it's hard to predict how this will play out.  However, at a time when electoral vote winner Trump wanted glowing media and hype towards the planned vote on the American Health Care Act (sometiems known as Trumpcare of Ryancare [for Paul Ryan].  I prefer Tryancare, giving both of them the blame myself) it was a pothole that he didn't want - or need - to hir along the way.

Then the House subcommittee investigation gets weirder on Wednesday when chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R, CA) went to the White House to give a briefing to the Trump administration.  While for someone unaware of how these committees work that may not be a big deal, the fact he went to DOnnie and Mike before revealing any information to his own committee raised eyebrows and has many wondering whether Nunes is interested in where the truth lis or in GOP party politics and not pissing off the electoral vote winner.

Which leads to the question - should Nunes be investigated for this?  Given that he went to Trump with some possibel information regardin gthe probe on Russia before clearing it with his subcommittee, or even revealing said information to them, I think the answer should be yes on this.  Or at the very least, one should wonder why Nunes still has that seat to begin with. 

Still, all this pales in comparison to the administration pulling Tryancare just an hour or so before coming up for a vote because they were 10 votes short of the bill passing. With a bill that was would've caused either 24 million (CBO estiamte) or 26 million (a White House study) to lose their insurance as just the tip of the iceberg, the bill seemed hell-bent on removing any good thing that was in teh Affordable Care Act from removing maternity care to defunding Planned Parenthood to, according to some reports, possibly removing hopsital stays from things covered by insurance. 

While this bill would obviously be opposed by Democrats, te Hous e Freedom Caucus (a caucus that grew out of the tea party takeover of the gOP a few years back) were against it on the grounds that it still left a remote trace of Obamacare.  After an attempt by White House counsel Steve Bannon to crack the whip and make the GOP Senate support the bill, ten people went from supporting the bill to opposing it.

So who does Trump blame after having to pull a horrible bill that would've likely spent more time in court than in law at this point?  He acted indignant in wondeirng why he didn't have any support from Democrats.  Did Trump and company really believe that the Democratic Party would jump sides to vote to strip the legacy of previous Democratic president Barack Obama?  If he actually thought this he's more naive than even I thought.

More likely he's aware that enough of his followers will believe anything bad is the Democrats fault if he tells them it is.  Thus, rather than take responsibility for this fiasco he can just wind up his base by aiming their rage at the other side rather than figure out how government works. 

So, that leaves us to now.  After a golfing trip at a club in Virginia this weekend (though I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if he flew to Miralago for at least one night of the weekend) it's back to the usual chaos.

By many accounts it's the first 100 days that a President's legacy is judged by in the long run.  The fact that any policy Trump can get through is via executive order (though the damage he can cause from it may destroy the whole damn planet way sooner than a lot of people previously thought) rather than through Congress may not be a permanent smear on electoral vote winner Trump's legacy but it does give him a couple of serious black eyes at the time he doesn't need them.  Maybe he;'ll do his damndest to make what he calls "the explosion of Obamacare" a self-fulfilling prophecy but the fact he couldn't make his media play and destroy it on the anniversary of its passing is a telling sign.

If the Democrats in the Senate follow through on filibustering Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, then things will be a lot rockier on Trump's road for a long time to come.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Scandals in Trumplandia - Flynn's BAAAAACCCCCCK!!!!!!!!!

Okay, I know I've been off the blog for a while for several reasons.  One, I've been writing for the print zine and have been focusing content there.  Also, between the holiday season and just trying to adjust to the times means that I've been focusing on other things.  However, with everything going on, some things have to fit here that can't fit in the constraints of the print issue so I'm back.

Our return to the blog focuses at retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who managed to make history with the shortest ever run as a Cabinet member when he was forced to resign as electoral vote winner Trump's national security advisor after only a few weeks when news emerged that he had lied to co electoral vote winner Mike Pence over whether he met with the Russian Ambassador on the campaign trail.  Flynn's revelation managed to keep the focus on possible ties between the Trump administration and Russia as news emerged with several other members of the administration (including Trump's son in law Jared Kushner and now Atty. General Jefferson Sessions) had met with Russia.  While this has managed to dog the Trump administration and shows few signs of going away (their attempts at covering up definitely don't help - as Sessions' near admission during his confirmation hearings would come to bite him in the ass), one thought that Flynn would fade away and become a footnote in the sphere of things.  That would be business as usual and be quite understandable.

However, since we don't live in times that are business as usual it should have been inevitable that Flynn would somehow re-emerge in the scandal sphere surrounding those working with our new electoral vote winner.  Sure enough he has when he retroactively registered as a foreign agent

It turns out that Flynn had earned over $530,000.00 lobbying on behalf of a company that had ties with the Turkish government.   While that alone may raise a few eyebrows, it gets worse when one learns he did this lobbying from August to October 2016, while he was acting as a surrogate for the Trump campaign.  While this alone could be a political flashpoint (especially if Flynn didn't leave his position), when added to the controversy over who met with Russia and whether the electoral vote winner knew about said meetings there leaves an area of murkiness that should shock people.

Which leaves us to a couple of major questions:  Did the Trump administration know Flynn was lobbying in this manner?  If so, did they care?  While White House press secretary Spicer says he doesn't think it was known, it might not be that simple.  As news dips out in regards to this, it appears the Flynn may have met government officials in his lobbying efforts.  In addition, a White House official says Flynn's personal lawyer contacted them before the inauguration about possibly having to file as a foreign agent

While Flynn is out of the administration this revelation leaves a bigger issue in the air.  Did electoral vote winner Trump and co electoral vote winner Pence know they had a possible foreign agent as a national security advisor?  Also, did Flynn's work with Turkey play a role in keeping said nation off of the travel ban (besides Trump's own holdings in Turkey)?  The fact that these questions are being asked at all leaves some obvious ethical questions lingering around us.

For now, the questions will remain unanswered as the Trump administration probably hopes that a new scandal will sweep this under the rug.  However, they also hoped new scandals and tweets would distract from any possible allegations of ties with Russia so that should be taken with a pillar of salt.  What is apparent is that the electoral vote winner somehow hired a national security advisor who lobbied a foreign government while as a surrogate for his campaign.  At that point, whether the administration knew or not is a major issue.

Until these issues are addressed and answered, these ethical minefields will be stomped on by the current administration.  While Flynn's latest revelation does take things by surprise, the fact he was lobbying for a company with ties to the Turkish government while acting as a campaign surrogate does leave some potential explosions that may backfire on the government if it is ignored, and reveals why an independent investigation may not just be a good idea but a necessity to get to the bottom of this whole damn mess. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

NIne Dyas to Go - Note to the Bernie Diehards Out There Who Still Are Hesitant

Hey!  I know this is kind of cutting things close but it seems tat now is the time to do this. 

I've been meaning to address the Bernie Sanders diehards for a while now but this election cycle has been exhausting in a lot of ways.  Now, many of those who have supported Sanders have decided to back Hillary Clinton  (or at least grudgingly vote for her to keep Trump out of office), this isn't for you.  Instead I want to address those few who aren't feeling Stronger Together with the Democratic Presidential candidate.

Okay, some of you are angry over how the DNC have treated Bernie Sanders throughout the primary.  You can cite the recently leaked e-mails showing that then DNC head Debbie Wasserman Schultz appeared to do her damnedest to make sure Clinton won the nomination.  I agree with you with that one. Reports from the primary elections did should some evidence of shenanigans and scheduling two of the three Democratic Primary debates at 9pm on a Saturday night (the latter of the two on the Saturday before Christmas) didn't help - either Sanders or Clinton.  However, as the race reached the final states the votes increasingly went towards Clinton making her victory, rightly or wrongly, inevitable.  As for the revived outrage over the leaked Wikileaks e-mails of the Clinton campaign, if we were honest the worst they did was confirm our suspicions (i mean., c'mon - who came across the coverage of those and didn't think to themselves "This is new and revelatory how?").  I understand the anger but it won't change that the ballot will list Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine as the Democrats nominees for the Presidential/Vice Presidential ticket.

So this is where some of you are fuming and thinking to yourselves, "Here's where Boone's going to tell us to suck it up and just vote for Clinton, putting our concerns aside."  Actually it's not that simple.  I know some of you want to protest vote and as someone who's done so in the past (and may do so again in the future) I don't feel I have the right to tell you to blindly get in line and suck up your beliefs.  However, I do feel some nuance is in order.

On the issue of third party votes, things are complicated.  While most people aren't fond of the electoral college in this country, it's still the final arbiter of votes for this office.  Because of this if someone's living in California, a state so midnight blue it's only two shades lighter than the cover of AC/DC's seminal album Back in Black (Metallica's 1991 self-titled album (a/k/a "The black album) and the soundtrack to This Is Spinal Tap can also fit here) one's vote for a third party candidate is more nuanced since it would be  next to impossible for that state to go Red (it hasn't gone for a rpeublican for President since 1988) thus a protest vote can be both pure and relatively safe.  As for New York, this is slightly trickier since Clinton now lives there and Trump is a native.  However, given how most New Yorkers reportedly feel about Trump it'll likely be blue (and while NYC and its surroundings are a small part of the state it is the most highly populated area) so odds are Clinton will likely get the vote (giving Trump something he can actually have in common with Al Gore - who didn't win his home state of Tennessee in 2000).  In deep to somewhat deep blue states a more nuanced argument can be made for third parties than the Democrats or the Republicans want to admit.

However, not every state is deep blue or even light blue.  Can a case be made for third party voting in deep red states on the grounds that if your vote won't really matter anyway one might as well vote their conscience?  In a way that's true.  However, some care might need to be taken on those states - especially since more states may be in play this year.Then there's the swing states.

The swing states are the ones that, for better or worse, matter most in this race.  You know the ones (among them are Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania in the north, with Florida and North Carolina in the south).  These are the states where things are expected to be tighter than normal this year as those down on their luck resonate with Trump's message either because of the racism and xenophobia or put that intolerance and bigoted rhetoric aside thinking that attitude won't turn on them.  It is here where the protest vote may not be the best move.  Several of the states are must wins for Clinton (and with a week before the election, all are must wins for Trump).  Here is where conscience can get murky and a case can actually be made that one vote for a third party means the other main guy would win. It is here that I'm torn between whether one should vote their conscience or not.  Add to this Noam Chomsky, who supported Sanders in the primary even advocated voting for the lesser evil in such a circumstance (in this case, for Clinton against Trump) and there's where the gray area become almost storm cloud at early evening murky.

At this point I want to make it clear that I don't endorse candidates on principle (a stance that began in my time in college activism) so I'm not officially saying one thing or another.  However, I do want to address some questions those who supported Bernie but are still extremely hesitant about Clinton and may fit those still "undecided."

First is the question of why Bernie didn't run as an independent or take the Green Party's offer to be their nominee after losing to Clinton.  While a lot of Sander's campaign issues meshed with the Greens it has also been reported that Bernie Sanders is pragmatic, which was why he chose to be a Democrat for this race.  Also, many states have what are referred to as "sore loser" laws which prohibit a candidate from running as an independent is they lost their party's primary race.  Because of this Sanders legally couldn't be on the ballot in numerous states.  He could've also made things worse for the Greens if he took Jill Stein up on her offer to take over.  It is here where what's pragmatic actually benefits a third party rather than just benefit the status quo.  

Then there's the issue of whether to write in Bernie.  While some states would accept that choose a number of states either don't allow write in candidates or only allow those who've been approved (usually via application) to be a write in candidate.  Sanders didn't file to be a write in candidate choosing to endorse Hillary Clinton.  Add in the "sore loser" laws in some states and it becomes clear that Bernie couldn't go down this route. 

In either choice it's understandable why someone would want to choose Bernie over Clinton or Trump.  While he managed to get a good chunk of his issues into the Democratic Party platform, concern over Clinton's tendency to shift moderate still unnerves some people.  Sanders is more solidly progressive and it can be said if the Democrats chose him he'd be a better choice against Trump.

This leads us to the big question - Since Sanders didn't win should one vote against Hillary and choose Donald Trump?  This is rooted in reports that there are people in the primary race that said If Sanders doesn't get the nomination they'll go for Trump.  This can be best summed up by Stephen Colbert who stated on his TV show over Trump's attempts to court Bernie supporters, "You didn't get what you wanted.  Why not try the exact opposite?" 

When it comes to this tactic the best reference comes from the end of the primary race (June 2016) when Shaun King of the NY Daily News answered the question a lot more diplomatically than my response on whether a Sanders supporter should vote for Trump (which is usually centered around, Hell Fuck No!").

I know some people who may vote third party would claim that Trump won't be as bad as Clinton because "at least he's not a war criminal."  However, Donald Trump is only not a war criminal because of lack of opportunity.  Given that he's claimed at rallies that he'd bring back "waterboarding...and a hell of a lot worse" it seems apparent that if he wins a Trump presidency would likely bring back what many consider war crimes in the most obvious sense.

So what should a Bernie supporter who's hesitant about Hillary do?  That's up to you.  However, while one may wish to do a protest vote they should take into account location and whether it may cause more harm than good.  For those in deep blue states it may not be a real issue while for those in swing states one cannot be blamed if they choose the lesser evil, even if they plan on protesting her if she wins.

As for me I'm not totally certain.  A large part of me is considering the possibility of going the lesser of two evils route but since I live in a state where the electoral vote will most likely go to Trump (as well as the popular vote given that too many white Missourians love their racism) a part of me is considering that option as well.  Regardless, I do know that either Clinton or Trump will win the election on November 8th so my thoughts after that will lead to how to deal with those two. 

That about wraps up my post here. I've tried to be nuanced in the ups or downs of protest votes versus the lesser evil vote without going too in depth.  While i hope you see my point I know some will likely view me as some sort of sellout given my hesitation about whether one should protest vote in the swing states.  Regardless,whether you vote for Hillary or Jill Stein or write someone in is your business and between you and what happens in that booth.  What's important is that Donald Drumpf, I mean Trump gets thwarted in his quest to become a bully in chief.  It's up to you to decide how you want to play that out.