Days 99-100: The Reckoning

It’s been a long 100 days. Those first couple weeks made it seem like we might not even make it this long, what with mass protests and daily revelations about cabinet officials and their ties to Russian puppet masters. But it’s amazing what you can get used to. Now it’s another day, another ridiculous tweet, another set of cynical Spicerian fabrications, another wave of outrage–while the few actual executive appointees dutifully grind away at the last protections for the marginalized against predation by the privileged.

We have learned a few things I think. First, the incompetence has been a kind of blessing. Think of where we’d be if the White House were not full of backbiting half-wits thrown together merely  through their pledge of fealty to an illiterate narcissist. The ideological incoherence has also helped. Imagine if the right-wing nationalism had not been self-sabotaged by Bannon’s anarcho-nihilism. It could have been a lot worse (and it may still be). Yes, having a distractible toddler in our highest office is often frightening, but that lack of focus also means we are still part of NATO, there’s no trade war with China and Seoul is not a nuclear ash heap (for now).

We’ve also definitely learned some things about the current state of our democracy. We’ve seen that when a president is forced by a partisan congress to legislate through executive action, much of that legacy can be quickly unraveled by the next administration. We’ve learned that basic standards of political discourse and practice can be flauted, and yet the central checks and balances continue to function.

I hope we’ve also learned to avoid reductionist dismissals of those who voted for this flimflam man. Was it racism, or economic insecurity, or sexism, or Fox News, or social marginalization or rebellion against the condescending finger wagging of coastal elites? Yes. It was all of these things. And while many liberals bristle at the idea of having any sympathy for the people who got us into this mess, we now know that a lot of damage can be done while we write off fly-over country and reassure ourselves that we are ultimately on the right side of history.

Days 96-98: Hiding in Plain Sight

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You’ll remember a recent post in which I talked about how you might or might not defend yourself against ISPs selling your browsing history. As I mentioned, VPNs can protect you against ISP snooping, but you are still required to trust your VPN provider instead. Rather than blocking or encrypting your secret browsing habits, another approach is to bury it in a flood of nonspecific activity. This privacy by obfuscation approach was recently profiled in a good episode of Reply All. There’s a browser plugin that runs random searches in the background, and another that clicks all the ads on any page you are viewing (apparently banned from Chrome). Finally, another app can ping random URLs for you (though that one is not particularly user-friendly).

Day 95: Once Upon a Time There Was a Great Country, a Beautiful Country, a Huge Country

And then a horrid man with little interest in the well-being of his fellow citizens snatched the reins of power.  He surrounded himself with odious and misshapen creatures and half-listened to their mewing advice.  The task in front of him was huge, it would take monumental focus and energy.  But then whoever said that bringing a great and proud nation to its knees would be easy?  First things first, truth in all of its one shade would have to be challenged daily, hourly, insistently.  Alternative facts would have to be created, Diogenes’ lamp would have to be shattered, and attempts must be made to cow those who purport to report events in a accurate manner.  Next distrust and, if possible, hate for ones neighbors must be instilled in the population.  The quaint notion that all residents of a nation share a certain je ne sai quoi and therefore a fraternity must be quashed.  The populace must understand that some people (and animals) are more equal than others.  The next step is economic mayhem and following that is the invasion of anther country to further deplete a nation’s treasury.

“Did this really happen?” one might ask.  The author apologizes if he has misled the reader by starting this off with “once upon a time …”, but, alas, yes this did happen.  Robert Mugabe came to power in 1980 in what was known as “the breadbasket of Africa”, the Republic of Zimbabwe.  1980 to 2017 is thirty-seven years.  For thirty-seven years Mugabe has managed to stay in power by bringing the breadbasket of Africa down to the beggars basket of Africa.  He had great success in his attempts to muzzle the press. He sowed seeds of hate between the Shona and Ndebele resulting in “gukurahundi” or acts of ethnic cleansing.  He created economic mayhem by a ham handed handing over of flourishing farm land to those with little experience farming.  By all means, those who had been forced to the least arable land while the country was known as Rhodesia surely had claim to some of the better land but a period of transition might have prevented decades of food shortages.  Last but not least Mugabe sought to really set back his country but getting involved in the Second Congo War.

A real textbook example of how to create a failed state.  It has happened elsewhere in various forms and could certainly happen again.  This is why we resist and must continue to resist for all 1461 days that any Mugabe Doppelganger might be in power.

Days 91-94: In for the Long Haul?

With the 100-day milestone approaching, the incompetence and malevolence of this regime are both manifest on a daily basis. Still, many of the civil/constitutional institutions that are meant to check the power of a rogue presidency seem to be working reasonably well, even as the vile villains continue to bumble their way into doing serious damage.

For me personally, the concern/outrage continues, but the bastards have worn me down. It’s hard to find the energy to write these posts and also do some actual concrete resistance every day. Not coincidentally, readership has also fallen off, possibly indicating a similar enervation in the movement as a whole, or simply exhaustion with my writing in particular.

What should we do to get the momentum back? Are there readers out there who would like to contribute posts here?

Day 90: Rogan’s List

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Self-proclaimed fact-checking geek, and retired university librarian (who doesn’t love a librarian?), Susan Rogan has what has to be the most detailed #Resistance blog I’ve ever seen. The site identifies a long list of action items to go with each day’s new cycles, with detailed links and pointers. It’s a thorough one-stop shop for your activism needs. Check it out.

Day 89: Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln…

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Aside from the fact that Sessions is still dismantling civil rights enforcement and giving local law enforcement the green light to go full Ferguson, that Scott Pruitt is handing the EPA over to industry, that Trump continues issuing sweeping executive orders, that Tillerson is still rattling sabers at North Korea and Iran (despite misplacing an aircraft carrier fleet and actually certifying Iran’s compliance with the Obama Administration’s pact), that Betsy DeVos is trying to privatize education

Aside from all that: noted White House lawn super spy Jason Chaffetz will not run for reelection in 2018, Bill O’Reilly has been fired from Fox News, and Jon Ossoff got pretty darn close to winning the GA special election without a runoff.

Keep an eye out for these other special elections (including Jeff Session’s Senate seat).

Day 88: From the Great State of Iowa

You, sir, are an ass. (office #)

Vox weighs in on the perennial incompetence/malevolence debate firmly, taking a strong stand for idiocracy theory. Matt Yglesias points out that not only has DJ been criminally  ignorant, he’s so dim he doesn’t even know enough to hide his ignorance. He’s in a constant state of shock at how complicated things like health care, foreign policy and macro economics have proven to be. Who knew, right?

Worse yet, even as he seems to be moderating some campaign positions under influence from the slightly less irrational wing of his advisory team, he still displays what we might call a metacognitive deficit–not knowing what he doesn’t know or how to learn it.

Day 87: Show and Tell

Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff (D-CA) made an appearance at the Institute of Politics at U of C today. He’s come into the the limelight lately as Committee Chair Nunes has taken a much needed step back from investigating Trump/Russian collusion/meddling in the 2016 election. While your humble narrator was too late to make the show, my esteemed collaborator (and proof-reader) was able to attend and report back. The Congressman reassured the audience that the investigation has been ‘reset’ after the Nunes affair, and that the Committee has a unique history of bipartisanship.  He was very concerned about the continued capabilities of Russian hackers, and warned they may next time extend their tactics to even more disruptive approaches like forging elements of emails. If you are interested in supporting a thorough investigation be sure and let these Republicans or these Democrats know they are on your mind.

Day 84: Ethical Hinterlands

I guess we now know the location of Sean Spicer’s bridge too far when it comes to completely making shit up. After nearly three months of non-stop prevarication, he’s now making the mea culpa rounds on national TV, after trying to argue that Bashar al-Assad is worse than Hitler because Hitler never gassed his own people. Apparently being a lying ignoramus is fine for most topics, but not this one. If you are keeping track of the far reaches of Spicer’s ethical borderlands (and the offended constituencies that live there), he has also apologized for accusing a British intelligence agency of spying for President Obama.