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I’m Building a New Computer

The past few days have motivated me to build a new computer from scratch.  I mean I’ve been meaning to build one for the last year, this just was the straw that broke the camels back. This is an embarrassing story given how boneheaded I was in assessing the problem, but nonetheless.

It all started when I moved to Long Beach, for some reason my monitor was going to sleep immediately after booting up.  A fix I saw online had me reset the CMOS to no avail, but it wasn’t until I was able to finally boot in safe mode (with a DVI from the onboard video rather than the Nvidia video card either) that I realized its an issue is something deeper.  So I decided that a clean install of windows was in order, hey I’ll finally make the plunge to windows 10 then, I thought.  After $200 dollars on a clean license, the USB tool that Microsoft provides to create a bootable USB wouldn’t work in safe mode.  So I downloaded Rufus and then scoured the web for a clean, uncracked version of windows 10.  I have the license, I now just need the iso file.

After finding a clean iso online, then installing it on the usb, then installing that onto my computer, the monitor issue was now fixed (at least with the onboard video) and I could boot into windows.  After about an hour of installing some of the usual apps, Steam, Discord, WinRar, I noticed that my RAID 10 wasn’t being recognized anymore.  OH SHIT, and I mean it. My raid(called Library as a volume) doesn’t just have terabytes of books, music, shows, games, and movies, but it has almost 2 terabytes of photos from all my childhood, my high school football career, all my photos I took when I was a professorial photographer. Even old photos I scanned, its my entire family Polaroid collection. It’s my entire life digitized. There is no other place where it’s stored. The files in my library are priceless. When this snowball of data started growing about a decade ago, (some songs even still remain from napster in 1999) it was too big for any cloud storage solution.

It got to the point where I bought 4 3TB drives so I could set up a RAID10 and have not just size, but redundancy. I didn’t want to mess with a raid 5 either with the parity bit. So I pondered for a moment while the hairs on my neck stood on end, Wait a second, its probably just a windows 10 issue, I thought.  I’m going to take this as a sign that I should just stick with Windows 7.

So I decided to find a cracked copy of Windows 7 online (Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in). I overwritten my windows 10 usb drive and reinstalled.  I quickly remembered the wifi usb adapter wasn’t  going to work on windows 7 without the software, so it looks like I have to haul my computer into the living room and plug it into the Ethernet cable and download the software. So I haul my computer into the living room, set it up next to the TV where the Ethernet cord to the router will reach.  I suddenly discover that this windows PC has literally no drivers, not even for the onboard Ethernet. So even with the cable plugged in, I still no connection to the internet.  This computer has practically became a paperweight. I don’t have any other computer to use except for my work laptop, so it looks like I’m going to have to use that to save the drivers onto a USB and then transfer it over.


Murphy’s law is in full affect here.  My work’s endpoint protection doesn’t allow any writing to mobile drives, at all.  So I have no way to get drivers to this computer.  Looks like I’m running down to FedEx Office about 15 blocks away.

About 45 minutes, a Jimmy Johns sub, and then a lazy uber back, I finally install the drivers onto my PC, then can I finally get back to work, but wait, my raid isn’t being detected here either. Instead there are two drives (D: and E:). Clicking on either brings up a dialog box that declares that the drives need to be formatted in order to be used.

Umm yeah, that’s gonna be a firm no on that one there professor.

These drives might as well be priceless Egyptian relics with coordinates to the Stargate as far as I’m concerned. So I sat and thought for a while. This has to be a BIOS issue, i just feel it, because resetting the CMOS probably early on probably turned the raid off somewhere. So when I finally reboot, turn on SATA RAID, and go into the Intel Raid controller, what do I see?  The official status of the RAID says FAILED and suddenly my brain starts to play gymnastics with semantics.

Only a little more than halfway done with scanning after 6 hours.

By “failed” do they mean that there’s a slight issue, or that all hope is lost and everything is gone? I have 2 striped discs, mirrored. I should be able to recover the data on a single drive failure. Right? Worst case scenario, I bag these drives up and take em down to someplace with a clean room or something.  To add even more head scratching, when I try to regularly boot with raid on, windows doesn’t even start.  Despite my boot order, it says it cannot find windows, so I have to then turn it off. When I get back into windows I decide to use Data Essentials Raid Recovery.  With it, I was able to finally piece together the raid where I was able to identify folders that were in my library.  Being so spooked by the idea of having no place to put terabytes of data if I can somehow recover it, I quickly found a 8TB external hard drive on Newegg for $200. Delivered the next day, which is how long the deep scanning to rebuild the NTFS took(8 hours) to allow the files to be transferred someplace else.   After selecting the main folders in my library, it took about 4 hours to transfer all the data to the external hard drive.  However, I noticed after a moment that I was not out of the woods yet.

In my library I organize media by type, folders for images, movies, music, etc.  My images folder wasn’t there, as well as a couple of other ones.  When I went to play music I transferred, the songs were all distorted every few seconds.  Alt-J sounded like Metallica’s Kill em all every 6 or so seconds. I quickly realized that the folder structure and some files were recovered for the most part. However, all the data within the files themselves were completely corrupted.  I’m a newbie at raid recovery, so I figured I probably used the wizard wrong.  Still, I’m really starting to sweat a little here.

For the life of me I couldn’t defend my reasoning, but I decided to hop back onto windows 10 and then piece it together there.  I already bought a license, so I might as well do it.

Over the next day I tried every driver I could find, I tried googling Intel’s Smart Storage tutorials with no results. Started seeing a lot of this Intel software was super buggy and had compatibility issues with Windows 10 and the chipset support was also extremely vague.  I ran into multiple installs that ended due to platform incompatibility.  It was about right then that I stopped focusing on getting the drives recognized and shifted my focus with recovering the data. After all, I now have a new drive where it’ll all fit. After I can confirm transfer, I’ll just wipe the whole raid and remake it or set it up where the configuration is clearer and more concise before transferring data back. After 3 more different deep scans to rebuild the NTFS, all had the same results, partial files, but all internals corrupted.  Home videos of me playing with action figures looked like Kanye West’s Welcome To Heartbreak music video.  I need to either get another tool (got one and then realized it wasn’t meant for raid 10s), or do some deeper digging.

I found a thread on that is dealing with what appears to be the exact same issue on the same Z77X intel chipset.  On that page, there was a link to an Intel thread that discusses this same “issue” with a guy that has the exact same size HDs and a similar setup.  The guy at Intel said he was doomed.

It was at this moment I felt like Aragon confronting the mouth of Sauron in The Return of the King when they are faced with what appears to be the death of Frodo.  “I Do not believe it.”

God, I hope allan_intel stumbles on my blog.  If you’re reading this Allan, Fuck You.  For about 15 minutes, I felt like my entire memory of life was lost forever.  Gigabytes of family photos going back decades where I don’t know if the physicals exist anymore, Gone.  That’s like a game breaking bug in Final Fantasy, how on earth would I know that if I allow it to boot into IDE just once it destroys all the data.  That seems like a absurdly gigantic design flaw.  That would be like attempting to open a car door when it’s locked destroys the engine of a car.  After a half hour of cooling down and even pondering acceptance at losing all my data, I kept digging, I saw that this guys issue was close, but not exact as mine. A little more scrolling I saw that these guys on HardForum were ABLE to recover their data, but the steps provided were prefaced with warnings about how the steps do walk extremely comes close to physically wiping the whole drive.

I think this guy is telling me to not delete the raid, only reset the disks to be non members. 👌

Apparently, I need to just “unmake” the raid group, it does a logical wipe of the metadata, resets all the disks to be non members and then I recreate the group. From that, I can recover the data using RAID Recovery.  So here I go, I unmade the group which destroyed the metadata, but for some reason, the big bold flashing letters warning of data loss scared me away from remaking a new group.  It was at this moment I noticed the new Raid size would be about 2.7TB smaller than it originally was.   It should be just under 6TB with 12TB of total space in a Raid 10, that doesn’t make sense until I finally decided to do the child skill that was long overdue, I counted.  I realized that there was only 3 physical disks that one could choose to be a part of the new RAID. One hard drive is disconnected. Suddenly, I ponder if it’s just a power or cable issue, so I open the side of the case and I see that one of the drive’s power cable is indeed loose.  Oh God, kill me now I think to myself as I plug it in and I see it now appear on screen.

That’s it. that’s all it was.

I could boot up to Windows 10 and it should work natively since this RAID is on the chipset level, if I didn’t JUST DELETE THE GOD DAMN METADATA ONLY 10 SECONDS EARLIER.  IF ONLY I COUNTED AND CHECKED THE CABLES FIRST, THIS WOULD HAVE WORKED DAYS AGO WITHOUT ANY ISSUE. OH MY GOD.  I haven’t felt this rage in me in years. Now that I deleted the metadata, I’m forced to recover the RAID through deep scanning.

So back in Raid Recovery after 12 hours of scanning, I see the new folder list of the RAID that has Images and other folders that are indeed correct. So far so good. Another 6 hours of scanning to transfer the most precious image files later and I’m only about 30% done.  It appears the images are all there, uncorrupted.  But this is going to take at least 20 or so more hours of transferring.

I somehow turned a 5 second issue, into 6 days of misery. So yes, life is meaningless, we’re all going to be dead soon and that’s why I’m building a new PC. And fuck RAIDS, especially if the support and documentation with them is sparse. I can afford to store this all in the cloud now, so I’m done managing my own infrastructure beyond a single internal and external HD.  Give me the thinnest infrastructure I can get.  Going for a micro-ATX Ryzen Build with M2 storage for about $1200 and storing everything else in the cloud and this 8TB external as an easy second backup.

I hate computers sometimes.

Drops of Water

This is a short story I wrote in high school in 2007. I found it on one of my old backups and decided to post in on my blog, enjoy. – Logan

Thomas Harper found himself tracing the unique, tile layout on the floor with his eyes, anything to try to keep his mind off the matter at hand.  Allowing his gaze to wander freely cost him his peace of mind, because the reminders where everywhere.  Signs for cardiology, radiology, oncology, and nuclear medicine were all daunting reminders that he was in a hospital, and healthy people don’t come to hospitals.  He was standing outside the waiting room, he could see his wife and two of his sons through the glass window sitting inside.  Like a lightning bolt of distress, it hit him, he noticed the uneasiness and anxiety on their faces.  He turned to the opposite direction and began to quickly walk down the hallway, almost attempting to escape a personal tsunami of accountability raging behind him.  He began to notice during his walk that all the nurses, patrons, and doctors seemed to ignore him, which was perfectly fine for him at that moment.

He didn’t want to be bothered, he was overwhelmed with stress and his mind was racing a hundred miles an hour.  Although, he did get some awkward feeling of solace when he examined the expressions of everyone he passed.  He wondered what perils they are currently under, if perhaps their face showed a sign.  A sign of the substantial strain they were all under, from of being pulled too far apart, from being stretched too thin.

Before Thomas’ mind wrapped up the loose ends of the rope of desperate wonderment, he found himself standing in the main lobby of the hospital.  The lobby was fitted with two gigantic pane glass windows that allowed the entire area to be lit by bright, natural sunlight.  Thomas could feel the warmth of the light, he could feel the calming sensation in contrast to the cold florescent ones in the hallway behind him.

This is where people healthy people leave the hospital. He thought to himself.

The generic white walls covered in flat white pain in the lobby had a slight greenish hue from the reflection of grass outside.  Thomas felt drawn to the free flowing environment outside, away from the sterile malice of this fortress.  Thomas closed his eyes and walked through the door, he felt such a soothing feeling of relief as the sudden breeze began to tug at the hairs on his arms and face as he crossed the threshold.  Standing right outside of the doors to the hospital, Thomas noticed a small walking path covered in pebbles that lead to his right along the side of the hospital.  As his feet followed it, he noticed it led into a small little park on the far corner of the hospital with a fountain area with flowerbeds lining the walkways.  Along the path were trees, bushes, and little sculptures that made the entire aesthetic simple and beautiful.  Thomas felt inclined to follow the path, so he did.  Each step was therapeutic for him, he was beginning to notice the subtleties of nature and the abundance of life around him. The sound of birds, the rustle of trees, everything felt alive. He saw that there were a couple other scattered people keeping to themselves, a jogger and an old man sitting far off on one of the benches.

Thomas made his way to the fountain area and sat down on a molded concrete bench all by himself centered in front of the large fountain.  He enjoyed the seclusion, the hissing sounds of the wind agitating the trees was always so peaceful to him.  That combined with the passionate songs sung by the birds almost completely drained out the sound of the ambulance arriving at the other side of the hospital.  That muffled sound of the ambulance being overcome the sound of nature was almost perfectly in unison with his worries overcoming his hope.  He was brought back to reality by finally understanding the reason of this little place of solace.

This is probably where some people come to accept death. He thought to himself.

Thomas tried to imagine what one must have to do in order to face mortality. Standing on the fringe of the afterlife, surrounded by bleak, pale, unsaturated surroundings may add a little emphasis to their imagination.  Thomas began to let all concerns and worries slip away as he took in the environment, accepted it, as if his consciousness was plugged in directly to the tranquility of this little park.

“You still carry yourself the same. Your head sticks out of your shoulders as if you’re a turtle poking his head out of a shell.” A voice rung out and broke the silence.

Brought back to the present by the random voice, Thomas jerked forward as as if he was just awoken from a nap.  The anonymous old man he saw earlier seemed to have moved from a bench from down the path, to directly across from Thomas on the other side of the fountain.  Just as Thomas began to question whether or not this old man was following him or if he was a distant acquaintance just the old man raised his hand and motioned for him to come over.

Answering the call with a slow determined groan, Thomas contracted his muscles, stood up and slowly began to walk around the fountain toward the unknown man.  With every step that Thomas made, the subtle grind of the pebbles broke the awkward silence of unfamiliarity.  Little by little, Thomas’ view of the man slowly came into focus, but still the man was unidentifiable.  He wore denim overalls with a white undershirt, his hair was black with small dashes of silver peppered throughout and parted messily. He stared back at Thomas with thick horned rimmed glasses, but took them off and stood as Thomas approached.  He appeared to be in his fifties and judging by his weathered, leathery skin, this old man had a distinguished roughness about him.

“It’s been a long time, boy.” The old man said.

Thomas stared silently confused at first because he felt an awkward sense of familiarity with this old man.  As if he forgot an old conversation he was supposed to. He should know him but, there seems to be a disconnect. Slowly, Thomas’ eyes widened as he began to recognize this stranger. It occurred to Thomas in a few moments that he was standing face to face with his father, Jeff Harper.

“…Dad.” Thomas said with a sighful voice of acceptance.
“Thomas.” Jeff said back with a smile “It’s been a while hasn’t it.”
The hair on Thomas head began to stand on end as he asked with a palpable disdain. “But how?  Why are you even here?” Thomas inquired with a shocked voice of perplexion.
“I don’t know, I just found myself here In the heat of the moment I guess. Might as well check onhow you’re doing. Jesus boy, I expected a little more enthusiasm out of you. It almost feels like you almost forgot where you came from.” Jeff calmly sneered.

Just then, Thomas stepped around to break up the rigid pose he found himself in, all while maintaining eye contact as he said.  “But I do, I do remember exactly where I came from.”
With a noticeable shift in tone, Jeff could feel Thomas’ contempt. Jeff stepped forward face to face with Thomas and sternly said, “Is that right?  So where did you sleep?” And without letting Thomas respond, he continued. “Did you have food in your belly? Were you warm? Yeah? How many times did you have to sleep under highway 210? None.  So don’t try and gloss over the fact that the only reason you’re breathing right now, the only reason you’ve made it this far is because I made sure you could.”

Thomas stood there in silence, looking up at his father who stood a few inches taller than him. Perpetuating this feeling that his father was a mountain he couldn’t climb over yet, as if it would always be in his way and his whole life, even if he turned away, it would still cast a shadow over him.  Deep down inside of him, Thomas felt something give away, his worry, his anger, all stored up in a container was now emptying. Given the circumstances, Thomas stopped caring anymore, he had nothing to lose and burning a bridge with his father was trivial at this point. Thomas felt the almost limitless ocean of emotions he swam in as a child and teenager come back. Thomas indeed remembered where he came from and replied, “Yes, I remember.” Thomas continued with a sober, calm, but passionate tone in his voice. “I remember where I slept. In my bed as early as I could, because I wanted to be asleep before my father would come home from work. Is tonight the night he drinks a little too much and decides to see how tough his son is? Food? Yeah I had food in my belly, It was full of spoonfuls of peanut butter because there was nothing else in the kitchen.  Yes, I was warm, I had about 6 blankets on my bed and slept in my sweat pants because the heat was always shut off.  I peed in water bottles in my room, partially because the water was cut off sometimes, but mostly because I didn’t want to leave my room and run into you.

Remember Kevin Chauser? Who am I kidding, obviously you don’t. Well, back when I wanted to join T-ball, him and his dad picked me up for the first couple days of practice. When I arrived all the other kids’ dads were there assisting. I was mesmerized, I couldn’t even fathom what it would be like to have a dad who actually gave a shit.  I could feel their stares at me, where’s Tommy’s dad? Oh he’s at home sitting on a lazyboy strung out on something.”

The silence was deafening, it almost made the trickle of the fountain sound more like raging rapids. Thomas was now looking at a different man the he was moments earlier, a different man the he grew up with, but he wasn’t sure if it was his father who changed based on what he just said, or perhaps Thomas felt changed for saying it, but he continued, “And then you were gone, as much of a relief it was. you ran off somewhere and we had to move out because mom couldn’t afford the rent.  We had to sleep on the floor grandma and grandpa’s living room.  It took a few years, but we finally mustered the ability to find a rickety shack to live in, but there wasn’t enough room, so mom always slept on the living room couch the whole time.”

It seemed as if the years of Thomas’ life was finally concentrating to a single point in his brain awaiting to be pulled out and discarded into the trash can.

“Kids my age didn’t understand at first.  After a while they did though, probably when the went home and asked their parents why Tommy’s dad was never around.”

Jeff’s eyes began to slowly point downward, just as Thomas reminded him, ” Look at me in the eyes dad. You come back now and not have even the slightest clue of the damage you left in your wake? I want you to know. I want you know how many times I wondered, what was wrong with me? Why else would my own father refuse to be in my life?”

Jeff’s stared back into Thomas’ stern gaze, softly said, “Thomas…please.”

With emotion showing in his face, Thomas angrily continued. “No.  I was a kid! You know what its like to constantly have that itch in the back of your mind? Where’s dad at? Because after a while, I didn’t care if you came home.   And after you finally died, I noticed that there was suddenly peace.  I didn’t have that constant worry in my head that you would come back and somehow wreck my life again, I just got used to you being out of it.  When a 40 year old man dies, people always wonder, and they always ask why? No, it wasn’t a heart attack, it wasn’t some tragic car wreck, it was a mountain of pills.  Hey everyone, that’s the mantle I stood under.  That’s the name that I have, Harper… Jesus Christ…I wish you were different, I wish you were like all of my friends’ dads.”

“…So did I.” Jeff replied with glassy eyes filled with the tears of a lifetime.

With such a small statement, Thomas felt everything collapse within him, all the anger, all the pain. It wasn’t fixed, it wasn’t healed, but it was finally acknowledged by the man who caused it.

“Thomas, I’m sorry for allowing myself to become ensnared by things.  I never truly wanted any of those things to happen, but to be honest, I felt powerless against it. I felt like no matter how hard I tried there was some handcuff attached to me pulling me to a place I never wanted to go.  I never felt normal because I felt this emptiness, like pins and needles in the back of my neck. They would only go away when I was high. I only felt normal when I was high. I thought I was managing it, but it ended up destroying me and I missed out on what would have been the best part of my life. “

“I’ve had such a shadow hanging over me.” Thomas said. “I feel like my whole life has been just a challenge not to repeat my father’s mistakes.  I’ve held in such a bitterness about you. The envy of my peers ate at me.  Their 16th birthdays were filled with new cars and happiness, while mine was working in the kitchen of a Cici’s pizza. It’s been this unquenchable bitterness my whole life. I’ve never been happy with myself about that, and it wasn’t till I was an adult that I started to understand the nature of addiction.”

Thomas slowly, but forcefully breathed in the air in a way he’s never breathed in before.  As if he just emerged from the ocean moments away from drowning. As if to remove a jacket of malevolence, Thomas stared intently into the glassy, tearful eyes of his dead father from the welling eyes of his own and felt a sense of closure for the first time in his life.

“Tommy…You were the best thing that ever happened to me and I wished I could go back and right my wrongs, but I can’t… I’m getting exactly what I deserve, I just don’t want you to hate me.”

“Dad…” Thomas musters through a broken emotional voice. “I don’t hate you.”

Thomas and his father both step forward at the same time and hug each other.  Jeff says, “You’re a better father than I ever was.  You’re going to be fine once this is all over.  In the meantime, I believe it finally time for me to get out of here.”

Thomas stood quietly with tears in his eyes as he watched his father peacefully walk toward the bright horizon at the edge of the garden, the bloom of the brightness slowly engulfed him as he disappeared into the light with his right hand raised as a signal of goodbye.

Thomas sat back down on the bench that faced the fountain.  He gazed forward at the water being shot upward from the jets, following parabolic paths downward and splashing against the surface of the pond. The water doesn’t choose where it goes, it doesn’t pick where it splashes. In midair, the water doesn’t make a sharp turn or decide it wants to go back into the jet, it follows the forces around it.  Thomas felt like a droplet of water, spewed into his life as a child.  He never chose his parents, his home, or even his country of birth, but was spewed into it nonetheless.  With every drop of water shooting into the sky, there is always one before and one after.  The way a drop of water hit the pond always altered the way the next one hit, then the next one, and then the next. It seems oddly ironic, that we are so fascinated with things that we have no control over that we end up ignoring the things where we do.

Thomas felt a stoic feeling of warmth around him, as if an emotional loose end has finally been tied down, a thorn in his side was finally gone.  Thomas stood up and began to walk back to the hospital, but this time he used a different route.  Thomas cut off of the gravel path and began heading into the grass heading directly for the exterior brick walls of the hospital.  Thomas stopped short of the wall by about a foot, staring intently through the window at eye level.  Thomas turns and starts walking along the brick wall, peering through every window he passes slowly while avoiding the large bushes placed almost directly against the brick wall.  Thomas eventually gets to a window that he is satisfied with, the interior is a patient’s room.  He doesn’t know the patient, but remember’s the location.  Standing inches outside the window, he calmly steps his left foot forward toward the brick and walks forward.  The brick wall accepts his foot without resistance as if it’s a silk curtain, he takes another step further into the wall as his body begins to be slowly engulfed peacefully by it.   Taking another step, Thomas’ left foot finally lands firmly onto the linoleum of the patient’s room.  Thomas is now walking at a regular pace, taking no effort to avoid the tables, chairs, and even the patient’s bed, walking straight through them without any resistance.  Exiting the patient’s room Thomas makes a quick left and begins to head down the hallway.

Thomas is walking with a new fearlessness as he rounds the corner to cardiology. As if he was completely oblivious to his surroundings, Thomas brushes up against doctors, and nurse carts, and visitors as his body passes through as if his composition was made up of nothing but smoke.  Thomas spots the words “Cardiology” lining the top of a set of double doors, he found his destination.  Stepping through the doors, Thomas made an abrupt left and stood outside operating room #1. As he stepped forward and walked through the double doors without making any impact. Thomas stared over his own body as the surgeons busily operated on his heart.

It’s Time To Take Trump’s Ties With Russia Very Seriously

Now that the dust has settled on the election, I’ve spent the last couple days trying to predict what a Trump Presidency will look like.  I’ve noticed that a number of Trump’s key proposals have disappeared from his site, and he’s made a number of flip flops from his more worrying positions which in my opinion is a good thing. However, the closer that I look at his ties with Russia, the more I’m disturbed.  Perhaps it was the mainstream media’s failure at viewing Trump as a serious candidate, maybe everyone was just too glassy eyed about a Hillary presidency, maybe allegations about Russia’s involvement felt like just like campaign hyperbole, whatever the reason is irrelevant now that the election is over and Trump is still standing. I believe we need to start taking Donald Trump’s ties to Russia very seriously.

17 US intelligence agencies issued a joint statement and concluded that Russia was involved with hacking the emails, that news came and went without any significant ripple in the pool. A day after the election, Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin political analyst denied allegations of Russian interference in the election, however he also was quoted to the Guardian as saying “maybe we helped a bit with WikiLeaks.” Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency “there were contacts” with influential people in the President-elect Trump’s circle. For the life of me I don’t understand why this doesn’t seem to bother anyone else.  You have a foreign government, one that we’re essentially in a “proxy-war” with in Syria, openly interfering with our election and there isn’t a peep.  Trump’s ties aren’t just quotes here and there, there is significant documentation of legitimate political connections to Russia.

Trump SoHo

In just the last year, Trump has amassed a substantial amount of debt.  According to Bloomberg, Trump’s debt has ballooned up to $650 Million dollars.  The Wall Street Journal has suggested that most, if not all US banks have refused to work with him, so he has been going to German bank Deutsche Bank AG for all of his loans.  The New York Times echoes Trump’s difficulty for attaining US credit in one of their articles. At one point, Mr. Trump was responsible for about $900 million personally before his businesses were restructured. Several bankers on Wall Street say they are simply not willing to take on what they almost uniformly referred to as “Donald risk.”

Trump was hit with a lawsuit when buyers of units in Trump SoHo, a 46-story luxury condominium-hotel in Lower Manhattan, claimed that they had been defrauded by false claims made by Mr. Trump regarding the financial stability of his struggling project. The case was settled in November 2011, Trump agreeing to refund 90 percent of $3.16 million in deposits, while admitting no wrongdoing. Besides the fraud accusations, a separate lawsuit claimed that Trump SoHo was developed with the undisclosed involvement of convicted felons and financing from questionable sources in Russia and Kazakhstan. The Manhattan district attorney’s office was investigating whether the fraud alleged by the condo buyers broke any laws, according to documents and interviews with five people familiar with it. The buyers initially helped in the investigation, but as part of their lawsuit settlement, they had to notify prosecutors that they no longer wished to do so. So as a result, the criminal case was eventually closed.

Trump was paid $14 Million to move his Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow and according to Donald Trump Jr. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets, We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”  Donald Trump has had a 30 year relationship with Russia, even in his book, The Art of the Deal he wrote that he visited Moscow for the first time in 1987 to explore building a hotel in partnership with the Soviet government. Trump’s tax returns would likely show just how deep his connections to and dependence on Russian capital are, so in other words, we will never see Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Carter Page

In March, Carter Page was hired on as one of Donald Trump’s foreign-policy advisers. According to his own bio he was an “adviser on key transactions for Gazprom.” Gazprom is the gigantic oil and natural gas company owned by the Russian government. Now it would be very unusual to be involved with Gazprom at such an extremely high level that Page was at without being in alignment with Putin’s policies. Page wrote an opinion piece for the Russian state-controlled news agency Sputnik where he denounced what he saw as the United States’ “complete disregard for Russia’s interests,” as well as criticizing the U.S.-imposed sanctions. David Kramer, who was responsible for Russia and Ukraine at the State Department during the George W. Bush administration, called Page’s speech in Moscow and recent comments by Trump on the possibility of lifting sanctions against Moscow “deeply unsettling.”

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort was hired by the Trump campaign in March 2016. Manafort was also an advisor for Viktor Yanukovych and the Party of Regions, a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine in the mid 2000s.  Yes, the same Viktor Yanukovych who’s election in 2004 was marred by so much massive corruption, voter intimidation and direct electoral fraud that it led to the Orange Revolution.  Yes, the same Viktor Yanukovych who’s refusal to sign the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement in favor of the more pro-Russian Eurasian Customs Union that led to the Ukrainian Revolution of 2014. The Party of Regions also signed a collaboration agreement with United Russia, Putin’s political party in Russia in 2009. Manafort isn’t just a guy giving good campaign advice, we’re talking about a guy who’s specifically trying to sway the national politics of a country on behalf of another.

During this time frame, Manafort was allegedly paid $12.7 million dollars according to handwritten ledgers recovered in the Party of Regions headquarters by Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Only a few days after that story came out in August, Manafort resigned from The Trump campaign as the story began to gain traction.  It’s unclear how much influence Manafort had (or still has) on Trump’s campaign overall, but it’s also worth noting that the Trump campaign gutted the anti-Russian language in the GOP’s official platform that pledged support for Ukraine earlier this year at the GOP convention.

Aleksandr Dugin

A few months ago, I was flabbergasted at how many people jumped on the train and praised Putin.  Putin is essentially a dictator in every way except for the title. According to Amensty and Human Rights watch, Putin is presiding over the worst era for Russian human rights since the Soviet Union. Our own Vice President has called Putin a dictator. However, the White House quickly backpedaled afterward for obvious reasons. I’ve heard a few people over the last few days argue that it would be good if we had closer ties with Russia, the problem with that is that Russia’s long term goals aren’t closer ties with the United States, but they are more specifically the destabilization of the United States. Aleksandr Dugin is a Russian political scientist that allegedly has ties to Vladimir Putin and has openly supported Donald Trump. He’s somewhat famous for his essay, The Fourth Political Theory as well as his book The Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geopolitical Future of Russia.

Dugin’s central thesis of his Fourth Political Theory is that the three great ideologies, liberalism, fascism and communism have suffered a loss of legitimacy. Dugin declares that what is needed is a new, fourth political theory which fuses certain elements of each of the three prior ideologies to create something new. This new ideology is sometimes referred to as National Bolshevism or neo-Eurasianism. It’s far right, extremely fascist and walks hand in hand with the geopolitical unification of Eurasia and the former USSR while also rejecting Atlanticism. In his 1997 book The Foundations of Geopolitics, Dugin outlines the steps that must be taken to achieve this. Dugin does not focus primarily upon military means as a way of achieving Russian dominance over Eurasia; rather he advocates a fairly sophisticated program of subversion, destabilization, and disinformation spearheaded by the Russian special services, supported by a tough, hard-headed use of Russia’s gas, oil, and natural resource riches to pressure and bully other countries into bending to Russia’s will.

In 2014, Dugin has called on Putin to intervene militarily in Ukraine “to save Russia’s moral authority” and many are seeing him as the driving force behind Putin’s interest in the Ukraine.  In fact, he’s been calling for the annexation of Crimea as far back as 2008, during Russia’s war with Georgia. As a side note, he also called for the death of Ukrainians which subsequently lost him his job at the Moscow State University.  The big question is, is Putin buying into these ideas?  There are obvious similarities between Dugin’s and Putin’s narratives: anti-westernism, expansionism and the rejection of liberal democracy among them, but all of those have been ingrained in Russian politics for the past hundred years as well. If you ask Putin, he would deny any public alignment with any specific ideology to avoid appearing predictable. However, if you ask Dugin, he claims he is, or at least there is some sort of overlap. In an interview for Russian internet TV, Dugin was quoted,

“My discourse rules, my ideas rule. […] Sure, there are wide circles, layers of people between me and the power structures. [These people] dilute […] my condensed idea of Eurasian geopolitics, conservative traditionalism and other ideals which I defend and develop, to which I dedicate a lot of my work – they create a diluted version of these. Eventually, this version reaches the power structures and they draw upon it as something self-evident, obvious, and easily accessible. […] That’s why I think that Putin is increasingly becoming Dugin. At any rate, he pursues a plan that I elaborate, in which I invest my energy, my whole life. […] In the 1990s, my discourse seemed mad, eccentric […] today our ideas are taken for granted.”

Obviously, Dugin speaking about himself and his own influence shouldn’t be taken at face value. However, given Putin’s reputation for crushing ideological opposition, The Kremlin clearly perceives Dugin’s ideas as useful in some way by allowing them to be regularly present in the public sphere. Furthermore, Dugin obtained funding from The Kremlin to establish the Eurasian Youth Union in 2005. It was one of several pro-Kremlin, anti-Ukrainian youth movements that were created to oppose the “colour revolution” in Russia. If you read Dugin’s 1997 book, The Foundations of Geopolitics, you cannot deny that some of his ideas are surpassing possibility and feeling more inevitable.  John Dunlop provides an large overview of Russian Eurasianist geopolitical goals that I’ll quote a couple below.

Ukraineshould be annexed by Russia because “Ukraine as a state has no geopolitical meaning, no particular cultural import or universal significance, no geographic uniqueness, no ethnic exclusiveness, its certain territorial ambitions represents an enormous danger for all of Eurasia and, without resolving the Ukrainian problem, it is in general senseless to speak about continental politics. Ukraine should not be allowed to remain independent, unless it is cordon sanitaire, which would be inadmissible.”

United Kingdom: “an extraterritorial floating base of the U.S.” is to cut off and removed from Europe (p. 221). Brexit seems like a convenient coincidence here. It’s even more interesting that there are allegations that Russia is secretly funding The UK Independence Party.  Although, Nigel Farage has dismissed such claims.

Japan: In relation to Japan, he emphasizes, “the principle of a common enemy [that is, the United States]” will prove decisive (p. 234).  As in the case of Germany, Japan is to be offered an imperial Grand Bargain.  Dugin recommends that the Kuriles be restored to Japan as Kaliningrad is to be restored to Germany (p. 238) Coincidentally, a few days ago Russia Today posted a poll teasing the idea.

Baltics: Dugin proposes that Estonia be recognized as lying within Germany’s sphere.  A “special status,” on the other hand, should be accorded to both Latvia and Lithuania, which suggests that they are to be allocated to the Eurasian-Russian sphere.  Poland, too, is to be granted such a “special status” (p. 372).

United States: Within the United States itself, there is a need for the Russian special services and their allies “to provoke all forms of instability and separatism within the borders of the United States (it is possible to make use of the political forces of Afro-American racists)” (p. 248). “It is especially important,” Dugin adds, “to introduce geopolitical disorder into internal American activity, encouraging all kinds of separatism and ethnic, social and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements – extremist, racist, and sectarian groups, thus destabilizing internal political processes in the U.S. It would also make sense simultaneously to support isolationist tendencies in American politics…” (p. 367).

NATO: “The task of Moscow is to tear Europe away from the control of the U.S. (NATO), to assist European unification, and to strengthen ties with Central Europe under the aegis of the fundamental external axis Moscow-Berlin. Eurasia needs a united, friendly Europe” (p. 369). In advocating such a path, Dugin appears to be influenced by the writings of the European New Right who, from the 1970s on, argued for “the strict neutrality of Europe and its departure from NATO” (p. 139). The basic principle underlying the Moscow- Berlin axis, Dugin writes, will be “the principle of a common enemy [that is, the United States]” (p. 216).

Trump On NATO

So it’s quite clear that NATO is a gigantic dam holding back Russia’s geopolitical desires when it comes to Europe at least according to Dugin and Neo-Eurasianist thought.  Coincidentally, one of the very few specific things Trump has discussed in detail is his stance on NATO. Earlier this year, The New York Times asked Trump about Russia’s threatening activities, which have unnerved the small Baltic States(Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) that are among the more recent entrants into NATO. When asked if they were attacked, Trump said that he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing if those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.” Trump’s comments on NATO were shocking to foreign policy experts and puzzled me at first, but not for the same reasons his comments on Obamacare or cybersecurity do. Trump’s comments on NATO were oddly specific instead.  Most of the time, Trump answers a question like a college freshman who didn’t do any of the homework and was suddenly called upon in class. This time, Trump knew that there was a fly in the soup in that many members of NATO were not following the 2% commitment.  The 2% commitment is a pledge for all NATO countries to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense. As of right now, only 5 of the 28 countries are fulfilling that commitment.

NATO’s strength operates on Credible Commitment which means that it’s only as effective as the how believable everyone’s commitment is.  Essentially, if the only thing holding Putin back from making a grab for the Baltic states is his belief that NATO countries will retaliate, then they have to remain believable. If countries start to waver, especially the largest contributor, Putin can easily call their bluff. That unwavering characteristic is what made NATO so effective since 1949. Republicans and Democrats have been universal in their support for NATO since its inception. Trump toying with the idea of stepping back is dangerous and completely unheard of in American politics. As soon as you get into a transactional approach, that completely undermines the strength of collective defense.

If you proposed that Putin is influencing Donald Trump on NATO, I would tell you that this isn’t the first time Putin has cozied up to a foreign leader and then that leader has challenged US policy toward Russia. In 2009, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was openly challenging U.S. policy toward Russia and echoing Putin’s views on issues from NATO expansion to Kosovo to missile defense.  It was discovered later in a Wikileaks dump that Belusconi had financial ties deep into Russia.

In July, Mitch McConnell quickly tried to reassure the United States’ commitment to NATO. “NATO is the most important military alliance in world history. I want to reassure our NATO allies that if any of them get attacked, we’ll be there to defend them.” A few days later, Chuck Todd Asked Trump what he thought of McConnell’s opinion of his stance on NATO and Trump replied, “He’s 100 percent wrong. Okay?”

It almost seems like Donald Trump knows exactly where the crack in NATO’s dam is and has decided to pick at it, and the only person who’s going to profit is Vladimir Putin.



Donald Trump Is A Mirror

As the polls were closing on November 8th, I was in a bar in Sacramento sipping away at a rye whiskey and tobacco cocktail named after Ken Bone. I sat in the midst of the liberal crowd while the vibe was slowly starting to feel more and more panicked the more time passed.  I knew Donald Trump was going to win, so I was already working through having to calm the potential riot that could occur. Maybe it’ll be this, maybe it’ll be that, but as a friend and I worked through what will happen over the next four years, I knew something immediately.

I will be fine.

Really. I’m a young, white man with 2 college degrees halfway done with a third. I work in an extremely high demand career in InfoSec, a field that has negative unemployment. I get emails every single day of new job opportunities all over the country.  I make a good salary and I’m in the best shape of my life. So yes, in a Donald Trump presidency, I will be perfectly fine.  In fact, I might even get some of my taxes cut. So why should I complain?

But that therein lies the issue.  While I fully understand that I will be fine, many of my friends and peers who I care about deeply might not be, and that troubles me.  My best friend’s son is only able to get health insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act.  He has a pre-existing condition and as of right now, all potential paths in a Trump presidency seem to point at that clause changing if the ACA is repealed or replaced. I get health insurance through the marketplace and while my premiums are rising, I can’t ignore the 21 million Americans who now are getting access to care. I am not comfortable plugging my ears while only focusing on my bottom line.

It’s not just about healthcare either, many people brush everything Donald Trump has said under the rug because they’re “just words”. But the deeper problem here is symbolism.  People say racist and sexist things all the time, but those have always in the deeper crevices of our society and are never taken seriously.  However, after last night we now have a president-elect who has used them, gloated about sexual assault, and has said he’ll pay for the lawyers for supporters partaking in violence at his rallies. Trump has now normalized what used to be considered so ghastly abnormal, dangerously racist and sexist rhetoric. Many of us can see that rhetoric out in society and know it’s wrong, but what about all of the other eyes that watch him. Have we taken into account how this rhetoric influences children accept that the man talking is our elected leader?

The tyranny of the majority is a concept that the founding fathers tried to combat with the balance of power with differing branches of government. Protecting against that has always been a beautiful role for a government to take. To defend the small and weak, render justice to the afflicted and needy, but I think especially right now we can see that the safeguards are not entirely perfect for a number of reasons. Gerrymandering is one, it has skewed the House of Representatives to polarization and our shifting demographics is another. Now while Hillary won a majority of the popular vote in general, the demographics tell a different story.

As expected, Hillary won all minorities and Trump overwhelming won the white vote. This is even more exaggerated when non college educated whites are accounted for (67-28).  Even white women barely voted for Hillary (53-42). The 2016 exit polls at the Washington post draw a distinct line between whites and all minorities, but that shouldn’t surprise you.  It’s not surprising that after listening to Trump’s rhetoric about minorities for the last year, Hillary won the minority vote, but it’s distinctly surprising with how that rhetoric also didn’t make make any significant dent in the white vote. Incorporating college education into the mix only gives Hillary 16.5 more points, but it’s still behind at 45 points compared to Trump’s 49.5. It’s not tyranny of the majority in the democratic, mob rule sense that our founders were prepared for, but this is more in the demographic sense. This combined with gerrymandering has given Trump not just the Presidency, but a majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. A Trump Presidency is daunting enough, but giving him a full majority is like giving a child a shotgun.

It’s starting to become clear now that a large part of Donald Trump’s supporters have allowed him to slip on by while ignoring his blatant racism and sexism simply because those kinds of issues don’t affect them specifically. The excuse is always claimed it’s been more about Hillary’s corruption more than Trump’s rhetoric, but unless a candidate’s rhetoric is threatening to your very identity, then obviously it doesn’t seem like a big deal.  I’ve seen a lot of liberals freak out on Donald Trump supporters and claim they are racist, phobic, etc. and to be honest, I find that unhelpful. I am not calling all Trump supporters racist monsters.  I am however, suggesting that based on the exit polls, there is a widespread distinct lack of racial empathy present. Donald Trump is a mirror and as we all stare into him we can see the very empathy missing in us as a country that won him the election.

This election has reminded us that our political process is not a “1 day every 2 to 4 year” process.  Because that only leads to the largest, loudest, and angriest of us to have control after years of fanning the flames and digesting apocalyptic, divisive rhetoric.  The ironic thing is now, only after the final results came in, there are calls for unity.  The same man who accused the last president of being an illegal Kenyan Muslim is now hoping we can look past all our differences and come together for America. There’s a grand canyon sized gap between Americans right down demographic lines that he specifically created and now the minorities are the ones supposed to cross it? For unity? That’s the steamiest pile of political bullshit I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. That statement is completely tone deaf because Trump’s platform is a direct assault on many people’s identity and livelihood.  The government, the entity normally responsible for protecting the small and weak has just given the keys to a man pointing the finger right at those people.

One of the biggest things that caused me to reevaluate myself specifically in relation to my neighbors and my fellow citizens is hearing their personal stories. It wasn’t until I saw how things I supported made life specifically harder for some people that I started questioning my own position as authoritative and true. Instead of someone complaining about some bill being passed in general, they conveyed how that bill will specifically affect them. These were the few moments where I’ve seen someone actually alter their view after being presented with new information.  For the next 4 years, I don’t know what to do. I feel compelled to try and fill in the gaps where there are victims all around us, speak up when no one else will. Perhaps the best defense is instead of looking at top down is to look at bottom up.  Look at the relationships around us and how we can somehow increase that empathy between us that we’re all lacking so much. I know for one thing though, unadding and deleting friends over politics is only making it worse.



Artwork is by donkeyhotey

To The Wonder: Moments of Sehnsucht

The first time I watched a Terrence Malick film, it was Tree of Life a few years ago and I couldn’t last any longer than 45 minutes. My problem was I didn’t understand how to specifically watch a Terrence Malick film. This is because his movies don’t follow the linear storytelling motif.  To The Wonder doesn’t necessarily feel like a movie, with a plot, rising action, and an eventual climax.  It feels almost like a reflection of life, it feels more like a memory, or how I would perceive my own life if I was sitting at the end of it looking backwards. Impressionistic, visual poetic moments dancing around as if they were stones skipping across a lake. The story jumps around and the scenes aren’t structured in a way that moves the movie along like baby steps.  There are a few times the characters are what appears to be mindlessly wandering around fields with the camera rotating around them.  In my opinion, even though this is literally happening in the movie, this is a far more allegorical presentation of the character’s interactions with one another.  These moments become more intriguing when there’s an emotional struggle that arises between them.

In some scenes, the main characters are narrating the very story that they themselves are present in, but in a mysterious way that conveys their emotions rather than something literally spoken.  It’s almost as if the private feelings that the viewer cannot see are presented in a way for the viewer to be aware of. Some scenes feel almost mystical or as if they’re in a dream state.  However, the film doesn’t shy away from moments of romantic failure. It carries with it what some would call a feeling of cynicism, but I believe that deep down it is an honest vulnerability. Some have suggested that the film is inspired heavily from Malick’s own life and I believe it.  This movie feels more true and honest than many others, but not in the sense to where it focuses on specific events. It’s not really about the specific events that cause a relationship to fail or succeed, but the longing beyond that or the ethos that flow to those events. This is something that connects all the characters, it is best described as Sehnsucht.

Sehnsucht (pronounced Zehn-zoocht) is a unique German word that describes a profoundly deep emotional state. It originates from an ardent longing or deep yearning that feels almost like a lingering illness. However, these descriptions still don’t adequately convey the core meaning that sehnsucht has, it’s difficult to completely translate. Some psychologists have worked to capture the essence of sehnsucht by identifying its many characteristics. By starting with the initial utopian conceptions of the ideal development one has for themselves. Combined with a sense of incompleteness and imperfection that naturally occurs in life while simultaneously focusing on the past, present, and future. It also contains bittersweet emotions, a reflection and evaluation of one’s life, and also a symbolic richness when one dwells on it.

All the characters experience it in the film, even Father Quintana who seems a little out of place in the story.  Even in moments of intimacy with his various partners, Neil (played by Ben Affleck) finds himself with a void where he longs for something different, that something causes him to be indecisive that subsequently ruins his relationships. Marina (played by Olga Kurylenko) is a hopeless romantic, by herself she’s brutally lonely. She ends up chasing romance and intimacy with such fervor that it ends up affecting various aspects of her life, some tragically. Father Quintana (played by Javier Bardem) occasionally interacts with Neil and Marina, but he himself is struggling with his own faith in God.  There’s such a relatable agnostic desperation in his prayers; his faith is weakening, but he’s longing for the strength to continue.

There are so many ways to deconstruct this film, but 1 way that I enjoyed is to view the distance traveled for some of the characters. Not in a geographical sense, but more along the lines of an evolutionary one.  The difference in Marina, being so crippled by loneliness at the beginning of the film that she ends up finding joy by herself by the end of it. Neil finds the ability to settle down, even though that ends up being with someone else.  It almost feels as if this sehnsucht is the force pulling or pushing the characters along. Even in moments of deep intimacy, there’s this unbearable pull toward something beyond. As if they’re hugging, but reaching for something behind their partner. It feels as if the main characters are pursuing something that their partners are standing in the way of and that causes them to think it’s them.  They remind me of passing cars on the highway. Close for an instant, only to end up zipping away from one another to fade off into the distance to somewhere where the sehnsucht is drawing them.