Banter M Issue 63

In this issue of Banter M:

Life is Fragile - Ben Cohen writes about the tragic death of this friend's 15 month old baby after a drunk hit and run this past weekend. What can anyone take from something so terribly sad? There are lessons are to be learned in the midst of tragedy argues Ben, and truths we must all come to terms with as human beings. 

I Can't Write Any of This in Public, So... - Bob Cesca writes about being called a Nazi, being body shamed, and having his personal website hacked all for the sins of calling out a particular Leftist writer dedicated to bringing down Hillary Clinton. 

Imagine If Donald Trump Had Been in Office on 9/11  - Chez Pazienza discusses the unthinkable, and asks us to imagine what would have happened to America if a man who "can't even handle an insult on Twitter without lashing out in every direction" was in charge after 9/11. 

Mishel, Liam and Marcus Kowal

Mishel, Liam and Marcus Kowal

Life is Fragile

by Ben Cohen 

Last weekend, the 15 month old son of an old friend of mine was hit and killed by a drunk driver in Hawthorne, California. 

Liam Kowal was in his stroller with his teenage aunt when 72-year-old Donna Marie Higgins ran through a red light and hit them before attempting to flee the scene. The aunt sustained some serious but non life threatening injuries, while baby Liam was found pulseless and not breathing. Medics performed CPR on the scene, and he was taken to UCLA hospital where he was later revived. Sadly his head was too badly damaged from the impact, and he was declared brain dead on Sunday night. Liam's parents decided to turn off life support and donate his organs. 

"He tried to fight so hard. He even died at one point but they brought him back," his dad, Marcus Kowal posted on Facebook page. "He's a little fighter. His heart is still beating but his brain is no longer working."

Marcus is a Mixed Martial Arts fighter, and the story has had a deep impact on the community in Los Angeles and around the world. The outpouring of support has been truly astonishing, with the couple raising almost $125k in under a week to help pay medical bills and funeral costs.

I have been completely stunned by the shocking tragedy, to the point where I haven't really been myself for the past few days. Although I don't have much of a relationship with Marcus any more other than the odd facebook 'like' or comment, he was a good friend and mentor to me when I first moved to Los Angeles over a decade ago as a young man. He remains one of the most talented Martial Artists I've ever seen or trained with, and had a profound impact on my own evolution as a fighter and a man. I'm not sure whether he knows this, but I am forever grateful for the time he took helping me develop as a Martial Artist when I was in a new city with few friends and even less money. We grew apart and went our different ways in life, but reconnected years later through mutual friends. I've followed him on Facebook for some time and have seen him post regularly and proudly about his little boy. Having several close friends with babies, I know just how life changing parenthood can be, and how much it must have meant to Marcus becoming a dad. Learning about little Liam's untimely and tragic death was beyond heartbreaking, and made infinitely worse knowing what kind of pain my friend must be in. It is one thing to see tragedy affect strangers, but something entirely different when it is someone you know. The anguish he and his wife are going through must be completely unbearable, and it is going to be a very, very long time before they can resume anything resembling normal life.  

When something this horrific happens, it can have a tremendously clarifying effect. While working, paying bills, worrying about the future and dealing with whatever personal issues you might be struggling with is important, tragedy can put all of it into perspective -- and quickly. I haven't been able to concentrate on much since Liam's death, partly because of my connection to Marcus and the mutual friends we have who have been affected by it, and partly because it serves as a brutal reminder of just how fragile life really is. I recently got married, and my wife and I hope to have children at some point in the not too distant future. The thought of having to cope with a tragedy like that is beyond my comprehension -- a prospect so unbelievably painful that I quite literally cannot bear to imagine it. Yet little Liam's death brought home the reality we all face as human beings and has forced me to confront the unimaginable. If this can happen to my friend's baby, then it can happen to yours and mine too. And there's not much we can do about it. 

We go about our daily lives without thinking too much about death and tragedy, yet one freak accident can change all of that in a split second. While there is love and happiness in the world, there is pain and death too, and it can visit us when we least expect it. Liam Kowal was 15 months old -- a happy little boy, surrounded by people who loved him with his entire future ahead of him. He was taken away by the reckless behavior of an adult who not only decided to risk lives by driving drunk, but fled the scene after ploughing into a baby and teenager with her SUV rather than attempt to help or call for assistance. 

The only solace Marcus and his wife can take in the midst of this unbearable sadness is the astonishing outpouring of love they have received from friends, family and complete strangers. Wrote Marcus on his Facebook page yesterday: 

Over the past few days, I've said "thank you" more than I have ever said it before. However, I have to keep saying it time and time again. We had no idea to what extent this event had grown, until the police came to our hotel to tell us about their concern for how many people they were expecting (parking, traffic, logistics).
To see hundreds and hundreds of people show up to show their support - many people we have never met - was amazing.

We have received so much support via social media but to actually see so many people come out was truly a humbling experience.

So, to my amazing family, that I love so very, very much;To my extended Systems family and all my friends that have worked day and night tirelessly;To all the people that have done so many amazing things, such as drawings, poems, letters - someone even wrote a song;To all people that I've never met that are sending their love and support and telling their stories and who I wish I could respond to individually; Thank you.

While the pain I am feeling in all of this is insignificant and unimportant, I am determined to learn what seems to be the biggest lesson in all of this: be grateful for who you have in your life right now, and don't take anyone for granted. Because they can be taken at any point, and without warning. 

Life is a precious and fragile gift, so appreciate it all you can. 

Next: I Can't Write Any of This in Public, So... - by Bob Cesca

I Can't Write Any of This in Public, So...

by Bob Cesca

I suppose I could've published this in the free section of The Daily Banter, but then I'd have spend the next two months swatting down Glenn Greenwald and his lookalikes on Twitter and, frankly, everywhere else. But the reality is that any discussions along those lines are met with a social media jihad unparalleled by anything I've witnessed from conservatives, be they mainstream Republicans, tea partiers or the Trump fanboys in the alt-right. 

This jihad also evidently includes denial of service attacks on my website, which I'm currently battling as I write this. While I don't know if it's this faction specifically, the timing is suspicious given how I spent my Labor Day weekend being attacked by this group for being, at worst, a Nazi to, at best, body-shaming me over the fact that I like to wear v-neck shirts. (Yes, really.)

The truth is that the contrarians who currently support Green Party nominee Jill Stein (or no particular candidate it all) are so highly activated -- it's a shame they have nothing of value to say or they might actually do some good. Instead, they simply lash out at anyone who recognizes objective reality and who makes his/her decisions accordingly. 

The objective reality, in this case, is that Donald Trump is an unprecedented threat to global stability and the future of the United States. He's not just another Republican candidate, as the news media is attempting to suggest at the moment. His policy proposals, including the goddamn wall and deportation plan, are only the beginning. Will he use nuclear weapons if provoked (or without provocation)? We don't know. How many of President Obama's successes will he roll-back? We don't know that either, though it's a safe bet to predict all of them. Beyond all that, there are literally countless X-factors stemming from Trump's erratic, irresponsible, undisciplined, kneejerk behavior that simply can't be predicted, but which we know will be part of his would-be regime. 

At the end of the day, we know that Trump will turn the presidency into more of a mockery than it's ever been, and we know that the Republican Party will begin to scour the nation for more Trumps to run in the future, but with the aid of actual campaigns and not the roughshod Little Rascals version of a campaign he's running now. Imagine Trump's violent populism combined with a competent campaign team and a robust ground game. Knowing what we know about too many American voters, a candidate like this might be unstoppable.

But Hillary Clinton is worse, the alt-left tell us, because she voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq and is therefore solely responsible for the body count in the war. This, combined with whatever other conspiracy theories they can muster, makes her worse than Trump. However, it's really about the fact that Hillary is an establishment candidate who, they say, can't be trusted. She's the enemy of progressivism, not an ally, even though she's being propelled in part by a Democratic platform that's arguably the most liberal in 40 years. But establishment Democrats or the alleged "shills" who support the party's goals? They're simply not cool enough -- they're simply not representative of the fantastical notions being marketed by the former #BernieOrBust hotheads who are now lining up to circuitously support Trump by voting for Jill Stein.

They earnestly believe a vote for Hillary signifies a betrayal of their core values, as well as an unnecessary genuflection before a woman they believe conspired to steal the primaries from Bernie Sanders, despite the complete absence of evidence showing anything other than politics. They don't realize that this year's vote is too important to let ideological purity stand in the way.

As for puritans like Greenwald, it's obvious from everything he's written that anyone in power is suspect, including Democrats. And that's a perfectly valid and admirable position to take. The sad fact remains, however, that the Democrats represent the only firewall against the ascendancy of Trump who'd not only threaten the world, but who'd destroy everything that leftists support -- as well as other popular structures that transcend party ideologies. The reputation of the United States abroad would be the first of the dominoes that'd topple. From there, with the world's only superpower out of the game, we can barely predict the ripple effects. Perhaps Greenwald and similarly-minded activists want this to happen. Indeed, such a goal wouldn't be surprising given that Greenwald has already confessed that upending the system wouldn't be such a bad idea. 

The only speedbump in the path of this plan to break down the establishment is, of course, Hillary Clinton. 

And this is what I can't say in public (at least for now): any actions that serve to thwart Hillary's chances in the November election are actions that could bring about the Trumpocalypse. The press, specifically, as the deliverer of news and opinion has a responsibility to do its part in stopping Trump. The stakes are too colossal. Trump simply can not become president and a moon-shot effort has to be immediately engaged to make sure the Hillary campaign is more or less unfettered in this endeavor. That's not to suggest that the press needed to explicitly help her, but, instead, the press needs to stow anything that doesn't scream out high crime or misdemeanor. This is to say that juggling a few comparably insignificant non-scandals in order to fill a quota isn't helping anyone except Trump. There's nothing journalistically admirable about turning her emails or the Clinton Foundation into a "gate," especially knowing that Trump has a series of actual gates, beginning with allegations of links to Russian government intelligence agencies that might've hacked the DNC's emails; to Trump University, then zigzagging through alleged Mafia ties, and a very real pay-for-play scandal in Florida for which Trump was sanctioned by Internal Revenue.

To repeat, there's no specific need for the press to directly ballyhoo Hillary, but it needs to rise up and tackle this Trump crisis right fucking now -- if for no other reason than to protect its own ass, knowing how Trump will surely abuse his executive power in order to audit or imprison anyone who he sees as a political enemy or dissident. (This isn't an idle prediction, it's based on recent behavior. And yet the press thinks it's fair to elevate Hillary's scant press conferences to the same level.)

Once Hillary is elected and the threat of a Trump presidency is put down, then feel free to vigorously hold her accountable. But for now, the impending Trump disaster has to be blocked by anyone and everyone with the power to help. Though we can expect to hear from the alt-left Greenwald crowd every step of the way, despite history and despite the stakes. 

Next: Imagine If Donald Trump Had Been in Office on 9/11  - by Chez Pazienza

Imagine If Donald Trump Had Been in Office on 9/11

by Chez Pazienza

It's an absolutely frightening thought. On a clear, otherwise unremarkable morning, two passenger jets descend out of the blue sky and plow into the New York City skyline. 226 miles to the south, another plane slams into D.C. and a third crashes into a remote location between the two. Landmarks are destroyed or left burning; thousands are potentially dead; and America is in a state of chaotic panic as millions wonder what might happen next. Steady leadership is needed immediately and almost certainly in the days to come, as some form of retaliation is all but guaranteed. But where will that steady leadership come from and who will decide what form of retaliation the mighty United States will dispense? As always, Americans will look to the White House for calm and hope amid the calamity -- and they will find President Donald Trump.

Imagine that for a minute. Imagine that Donald Trump was President of the United States on 9/11. Imagine where this country would be, if it would even exist, right now.

You can argue that George W. Bush botched the response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 -- that his bravado and recklessness and incuriosity and mind-boggling incompetence took us into a shameful decade-long military misadventure. But Bush at the very least went out of his way to make it clear that, despite his belief that spreading Christianity to as many as would listen was a mandate, our war in Muslim lands wasn't directed specifically at Muslims. Maybe it's a distinction without a difference, but when you compare that the Republican president of the 2000s at the very least paid lip service to the idea of our country not seeking to wipe all Muslims off the face of the earth with the stance of the Republican presidential candidate of today, Bush-43 seems like the good old days.    

Sunday will mark the 15th anniversary of 9/11. It's a hard thing to process, in some ways feeling like it happened ages ago and in others feeling like it happened just yesterday. What I remember most from covering the immediate aftermath and beyond from New York was how the city, the nation and the world reacted to the event and the shellshocked grief it caused. Put simply, for a time it was as if the country -- and maybe even a good part of the world -- was one, united in horror and overwhelming sadness. In the days and months prior to September 11th, we believed we were a nation divided like never before, having just endured a circus-like election in which one party emerged victorious and the other convinced it had been robbed in the most underhanded manner possible. The political climate seemed toxic. But all of that changed in one morning.

The shockwaves of 9/11 changed this country. We came together, putting petty partisanship aside and reassessing our culture, abandoning the trivialities that had for so long distracted us. For a brief period, we knew what mattered and held to it tightly. True, we struck back -- that was always going to happen -- but for a while at least our response felt proportional and necessary. A vicious militant sect had engulfed a country and was providing safe harbor to those who'd attacked us, so that sect and that country made for an at least understandable target. Granted, the attack on Afghanistan wasn't as effective as it should have been because we just didn't get what we were dealing with -- that the kind of guerilla entity that had hit us was specifically designed to avoid the mass response our military was geared toward. But the notion of hitting the "government" that gave Al Qaeda a home seemed at least logical.

Then, of course, everything went off the rails. Then came Iraq and potentially the most painful display of misguided American hubris any of us have seen in our lifetimes. Then came unnecessary American and Iraqi deaths and a quagmire not experienced since Vietnam and seemingly endless war. For those who were kids during this time or who somehow seem to have forgotten it in the new era of American political insanity we're currently living through, it's tough to overstate -- or to have to remind people -- just how awful a near-decade it was. 

But think about this: We are now living through an entirely new era of American political insanity. None of us has ever before dealt with a candidate like Donald Trump -- a proudly ignorant, narcissistic serial liar and bully who literally threatens the stability of the country by his very existence as the presidential candidate of one of our two major parties (and who would threaten the stability of the globe if elected). Imagine again what this nation and this world would look like right now had Trump been in office on 9/11. Imagine what his response would have been -- this impetuous, unthinking creature who can't even handle an insult on Twitter without lashing out in every direction, trying to kill a fly with a sledgehammer. Imagine that. Not to be alarmist, but if you're not seeing in your mind a mushroom cloud -- or many of them -- you haven't been paying attention.

According to Joe Scarborough, Trump famously asked the foreign policy experts advising him why we can't just use nuclear weapons to solve our overseas problems. We have them, he allegedly said, so why not put them to good use. (If the sourcing on that is bothering you, keep in mind that Trump has said publicly that he'd consider using nukes preemptively and on more than one occasion has been unaware of what our nuclear triad even is.) This is a man who speaks lightly of wantonly employing the most powerful weapons mankind has ever created, weapons that could kill millions, render parts of the globe unlivable for centuries, and begin an all-out escalation in nuclear conflict that could, potentially, destroy the planet. Again, alarmist? Listen to this guy speak. As the famous Maya Angelou quote goes, when someone tells you who they are -- believe them.

Trump has told us who he is. And who he is should be terrifying to every single one of us. This Sunday, we'll remember the day our nation changed -- initially for the better but eventually, to the surprise of pretty much no one, for the worse. As we look back on that day, we should also be looking forward, to what horrors could still be to come and to who we want at the helm of the nation and the world if they do. We should consider an alternate history, one where Donald Trump was in office on that day in September 15 years ago. Imagine what the world would be like now. Imagine what it will be like if he's in office when it happens again.