Banter M Issue 74: America Took a Bullet For the World

In this issue of Banter M: 

America Took A Bullet For The World - Voting our conscience may have saved the world from a new Dark Age, argues Justin Rosario. But not in the way you might think. 

A Guide to Surviving Trump's Alternate Reality - Ben Cohen argues that despite the awfulness of Trump's presidency, we have unique opportunity to not only make the country a better place to live, but our own lives more enjoyable too. 

We're at War Against Russia and All the President's Men are Fighting for the Other Side - There is a new Cold War emerging, and unfortunately for America, it's own government has joined the other side, argues Bob Cesca. 

America Took A Bullet For The World

by Justin Rosario

There's a Japanese animation series ("Anime" for you benighted squares) called The Excel Saga that pokes fun at every genre of anime. It's really a tour de force of satire and if you're an anime fan, you must see it at some point. One of my favorite running gags throughout the series is a group of hapless civil servants being led by a square jawed and completely insane chief who sends them on what are essentially suicide missions. The tagline for the group is "Throw your life away for justice!" 

During the election, the kamikaze rhetoric of the anti-Hillary far left forcefully reminded me of this. When Susan Sarandon said that Hillary Clinton was a greater danger than Donald Trump, I couldn't help but envision her and those like her throwing themselves, lemming-like, off a cliff screaming, "For great justice!" as they plummeted to their doom. 

But it turns out that maybe, just maybe, their sacrifice was for a greater good, after all. Just not in the way they were expecting and definitely not for America's benefit. After what seemed like an unstoppable rise of white nationalist fascism in Europe, Putin's radical right-wing puppets have had their asses handed to them two elections in a row:

THE HAGUE — The far-right politician Geert Wilders fell short of expectations in Dutch elections on Wednesday, gaining seats but failing to persuade a decisive portion of voters to back his extreme positions on barring Muslim immigrants and jettisoning the European Union, according to official results and exit polls.

A few days earlier, Australia did exactly the same thing:

One Nation on Sunday night was polling 4.7 per cent across the board in the lower house, but 8.1 per cent in the seats the party ran candidates in.

The party's vote collapsed from earlier polls, with a Newspoll last month predicting the outlier party could pick up as much as 13 per cent of the vote. Weeks later, Newspoll forecast the party's vote had slumped to 8 per cent, in the wake of Senator Hanson's controversial statements questioning vaccinations and praising Russian president Vladimir Putin.

"...controversial statements questioning vaccinations and praising Russian president Vladimir Putin." Sound familiar? Geert Wilders wasn't quite as fond of Putin but his virulent anti-Muslim bigotry places him squarely in the same group as Trump along with far right nationalists like France's Marine Le Pen and Britain's UKIP (both of whom just adore the Russian dictator). The far right was ascendant:

Amid a migrant crisis, economic inequality, growing disillusionment with the European Union and a sense of lost national identity, right-wing parties in a growing number of European countries have made electoral gains. The right-wing parties included below range across a wide policy spectrum, from populist and nationalist to far-right neofascist. 

Just a few months ago, the march of fascism across all of Europe was inevitable. Russia was corrupting the politics of every liberal democracy and the far right was poised to kick off a new dark age for humanity. France was guaranteed to fall and Russia had set its sights on Germany as the target of its next election hacking scheme. So what happened? 

Donald Trump happened.

The world watched as the United States elected a clueless reality show buffoon under the control of white nationalists. Over the following months, they saw the worst case scenario unfold as Trump flailed about, unable to manage his transition. After his inauguration, they watched in horror as he immediately assaulted environmental regulationscivil rightscommon sense and common decency.

Suddenly, staying home and not voting started to look a lot less appealing. A protest vote? No lemming march today, thank you very much. Throwing your life (or your vote) away for great justice was exposed as an selfish exercise in mental masturbation and an abrogation of social responsibility.

The Trump effect did not go unnoticed:

“The Netherlands, after Brexit, after the American elections, said ‘Whoa’ to the wrong kind of populism,” [Prime Minister] Rutte told a wildly enthusiastic crowd, excited that his party, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, had come in first among the parties and lost fewer seats than it had feared.

“Today was a celebration of democracy, we saw rows of people queuing to cast their vote, all over the Netherlands — how long has it been since we’ve seen that?” Mr. Rutte said.

The United States may still drag the world into the abyss with us. France may still vote for far-right nationalism. Germany may still fall victim to Russian-engineered fascism. But it's all going to be a lot harder now. Some things need to be done in secret and the ongoing spectacle of the Trump administration's really bad cover up of its collusion with Russia makes it impossible to pretend it didn't happen. All of a sudden, the European far-right's love fest with Vladimir Putin has taken on an entirely new and frightening dimension. Sure, getting rid of all Muslims sounds enticing to the disaffected voters, but who really wants their country to be a puppet state to one of the most corrupt kleptocratic regimes in the world? And as Trump continues to be an international embarrassment and threat to world peace, he will serve as a constant reminder to the anti-establishment left that stamping your feet, holding your breath and pissing away your vote won't actually make the world a better place; it's makes undeniably worse in every way imaginable. 

Decades from now, if we manage to survive this latest wave of fascism, our children will look back and marvel that we ever allowed our elections to become so vulnerable. They'll be amazed that so many people didn't pay attention to politics and skipped election day after election day. They'll laugh that so many people were so self-centered and petty that they wasted their vote because they didn't get 100% of what they wanted. They'll thank Donald Trump for being so cartoonishly evil and incompetent that he ignited a new golden age of civic engagement throughout the industrialized world.

And they'll go out and vote.

Next: Our Guide to Surviving Trump's Alternate Reality - by Ben Cohen

 

Our Guide to Surviving Trump's Alternate Reality

by Ben Cohen

I assume that the majority of people reading this article in 'Banter M' struggle on a daily basis with Donald Trump's presidency. The psychological toll of having a narcissistic egomaniac in control of the largest democracy on earth is genuinely debilitating, and no one should underestimate the impact his presence is having. Our sense of what is right and what is real is being continually undermined and we are being forced to live in a highly dysfunctional alternate reality of Trump's making. We are obviously in the midst of great change, and with a highly uncertain future, we all need to figure out a way to get through this. 

In an effort to ease my own profound disillusion and anxiety, I have compiled a guide of how best to think about Trump's presidency, and what I can do to survive it while maintaining my sanity and emotional well being. Hopefully you find this useful.

1. This too shall pass

In the scheme of human history, Trump will be forgotten like every other dud president and tinpot dictator. The real monsters are remembered, but Trump doesn't have the stomach for violence against his own country men and women. He's just a reality TV performer who lied his way into the White House by gaming the ratings obsessed media. While his presidency might seem like a never ending nightmare, four years is a millisecond in human history.  

2. Trump is incompetent 

While there may be a dastardly plot to dismantle the state and create a corporate, White Nationalist military junta, the truth remains that Trump and his administration are fourth rate hacks incapable of working the machinations of the federal government. From the spectacularly botched travel ban rollout to the incessant infighting and never ending leaks, the Trump administration is handicapped primarily by its own incompetence. The all around toxic environment in the White House means legislative victories are going to be increasingly hard to come by. They don't work together well, and as a result, won't succeed in getting much done.

3. America is waking up. 

All around the country, Americans are waking up. With the election of Trump a new wave of activism is kicking off, the likes of which haven't been seen in 50 years. For every action there is a reaction, and Trump has kicked off the mother of all responses to his presence in Washington. The Women's March was not only the biggest inaugural protest ever, it was almost certainly the largest protest in US history. Trump has enraged women all over the world, and have been emboldened by the astonishing show of solidarity. 

4. America is in decline, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

The United States has been the world's largest super power for almost 70 years, and it hasn't exactly been a stellar defender of human rights, economic equality and environmentalism. The US has invaded multiple countries on extremely flimsy pretenses (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan), rammed free market capitalism down the developing world's throat, and has done more to damage the environment than any other country in human history. There is no doubt America has done much good in the world, but it is also viewed by the rest of the planet as an unstable bully for good reason. Trump is doing everything in his power to undermine America's standing in the world, and combined with his ridiculous economic policies, will ensure its financial demise.  A more balanced distribution of global power could be a very good thing as Europe and China could provide some much needed checks and balances. 

5. We get to decide the future

The future isn't written. We get to decide it, so we had better get busy coming up with better ideas than the ones we've had in the past. Trump has forever changed the political landscape in America, and there is no going back to "business as usual" once he's gone. This could be bad, or it could be good, depending on what Americans decide to do going forward. George W. Bush gave us the first black president, so what could Donald Trump inspire? 

6. Life doesn't stop

As horrible as it is, life goes on and you have the right to enjoy it. Go to the park, watch Netflix, read, go out with friends and eat great food. Assholes like Donald Trump have always been around and they absolutely cannot control your life. While it is easy to stay glued to the television/facebook/twitter waiting for the latest horrendous update, it isn't good for your health and you should make a determined effort to allocate switch off time when you don't look at the news at all, and do something fun instead. 

7. Look on the bright side

Donald Trump is inspiring tremendous activism on both a national and local level. Political "salons" are springing up all over Red America, and people are talking to each other like never before. Journalism is finally being funded properly and Facebook is taking the proliferation of fake news more seriously than ever. For every action there is a reaction, and the almighty outpouring of hate, xenophobia and fear is creating a more powerful outpouring of love, community and defiance. 

8. Don't give in to hate

Hate is a powerful force that serves only to inspire more hate. It also drains energy and is incredibly toxic to your health, so don't give into it. It is easy to hate Trump supporters and want them to suffer the consequences of their actions, but it won't help anything. It'll just make you angry, and upset -- emotions you can't afford to feel if you want to make anything better. Trump thrives off of hate, and the more we feed into it, the more powerful he becomes. Don't get mad, get even -- and that means controlling your emotions and using feelings of rage effectively. I'm not always the best at this, but over time I have found that shouting at people doesn't do much to change their minds. Being kind and considerate does, so if you can muster the strength, use it as a very effective weapon against hate. 

Next: We're at War Against Russia and All the President's Men are Fighting for the Other Side - by Bob Cesca

We're at War Against Russia and All the President's Men are Fighting for the Other Side - by Bob Cesca

by Bob Cesca

Imagine if the chief of your local chapter of neighborhood watch was being investigated for collaborating with burglars. Should this chief be allowed to continue serving in neighborhood watch knowing there's a chance he or she might continue to abuse his power for the benefit of, you know, the burglars?

Of course not.

So, why is Donald Trump, who we officially learned this week is being investigated for collaborating with the Russian government to subvert the 2016 campaign season, allowed to continue serving as president knowing what we know? If there's any justifiable reason to invoke the 25th Amendment, now's the time. 

Sure, innocent until proven guilty. I get that. But the very suspicion that he's an agent for a hostile foreign power -- a foreign power that's declared a cyber war against the United States and the integrity of our election process -- should be enough to take serious precautionary measures to make sure he doesn't further entrench the Kremlin inside the Executive Branch, a full third of the U.S. federal government. In case the point isn't belabored enough, if your heart surgeon was suspected of routinely leaving surgical instruments inside his patients, would you trust him to successfully crack open your chest and dig around in there? Me neither.

At this point, it should be more than clear to anyone who's still tethered to reality that Trump, at the very least, did business with some shady characters and has installed officials inside his administration who have crooked relationships with Russian despots, including Putin. I mean, the Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, was the vice chairman of the Bank of Cyprus. This is known information. Look it up. The Bank of Cyprus is notorious for laundering countless billions in cash by Russian oligarchs loyal to Vladimir Putin, perhaps including Putin himself. Rex Tillerson and Jeff Session also have direct links to Russia. So does former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who we learned on Wednesday was paid by Russia to promote pro-Putin agitprop inside the United States. Then there's Roger Stone, Carter Page, Mike Flynn, J.D. Gordon and more. And we know that, together, Trump's men helped push the Kremlin's agenda, whether it was Ukraine or NATO or undermining American democracy. They did it.

And yet the outrage barely matches the terrifyingly existential nature of this attack.

Of course, the second layer to this story is the harsh reality that millions of voters and members of the press served as unwitting footsoldiers for Putin's first large scale attack on American soil. Countless Trump voters did Putin's bidding for him, not to mention countless Bernie Sanders supporters, both factions of which were complicit in stupidly accepting obvious Kremlin disinformation -- actual fake news -- as legitimate, voluntarily marching with Putin's black flag across the social media battlefield. Once we sort out the details of how much damage the Russian invasion has wrought, we'll have no choice but to take a hard look at the American quislings who helped Putin.

As we sort through the roster of collaborators, it's important that we don't allow the Kremlin operative in the White House to nominate or appoint more names to vacant posts, including the one vacated by Antonin Scalia. Specifically, I'm talking about Senate-confirmable nominees including Judge Neil Gorsuch, who should definitely not be confirmed.

Despite being conservative, Gorsuch seems like a solid choice for the Court. In fact, it's very possible he's sympathetic to privacy rights established by Roe v Wade and Obergefell v Hodges. And he seems like a sane, sober choice, at the very least. But he's been appointed by a president who's been compromised by Putin and should therefore be deeply scrutinized for making decisions based on that. Again, would you allow your crooked surgeon or neighborhood watch guy appoint someone who will serve... for life?

Allowing Trump to continue signing laws and executive orders while appointing more high powered government leaders, including Judge Gorsuch, is to allow Putin to further bury his manhood deeper into our, um, sovereignty. Or should we be expected to carefully vet each nominee and each law for how it'll benefit Putin? Even if decision X, Y or Z doesn't appear on the surface to be a direct nod to Putin, how do we know Russian operatives aren't being consulted for their advice on whether to veto or to sign? How do we know Russia isn't ruling every decision Trump makes, with kompromat dangling over his puffy cartoon head?

At this point, we don't know the full extent of the damage, but we need to get into a war posture. We have to at least acknowledge that we're in a cyber war against Russia -- a nation that attacked our elections and which continues to influence the operations of the White House. Until we do, we're just allowing the infiltration to continue -- allowing the cancer to metastasize inside our government and within our information sources, including and especially social media, with the aforementioned millions of American foot soldiers continuing to do Putin's work for him.