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Logan T. Miles M.S.ISA, HCISPP

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.

Donald Trump is The Joker for the Republican Party

As you know, madness is like gravity…all it takes is a little push.
-The Joker

We’re witnessing something I don’t believe we’ve ever seen in American Politics. The republican party is eating itself alive and the most surprising part is that this all started a long time ago.

Over the past 20 years, the right wing political machine has continuously fanned the flames of fanatical rhetoric beginning with conservative  talk radio. I know because I was an avid listener of it in the early 2000s. Rush Limbaugh from noon to 3, Sean Hannity from 3 to 6, and if I was ever in the car between 9-11pm, there was Michael Savage. The man who’s viciousness was second only to Alex Jones. There, liberals weren’t just people on the other side of the political aisle, they were specifically the enemy, they were everything that’s wrong with this country.  They had mental disorders,  they were traitors, and some suggested even demonic. Terms like communist and socialist are thrown around without any consideration of their true meaning. Dehumanization was the beginning, but then it was combined with the eschatology found in a majority of Evangelicalism. The President became the Antichrist, liberals are the ones destroying your country, and everything you know and love about America will be gone forever. It ended up becoming an echo chamber of madness where any opposing viewpoints were squashed like bugs. So like how 2+2=5, if you repeat something enough it will eventually be accepted as true and normal.

You wanna know how I got these scars?
-The Joker

In 2002, I started listening to Glenn Beck’s radio program from 9am-12pm. I mostly enjoyed it more for his humor at pop culture in general rather than politics, but things started to change within only a few months.  His show took a hard right turn and became almost entirely political. I followed along where 2004 was a political Rollercoaster and 2008 felt like it was practically the beginning of the tribulation.  I was a tea partier and the rapture was imminent because a socialist, communist, muslim, atheist, terrorist from Kenya who was about to become President and make Christianity illegal in United States.

Yes, and that was only 2008.

The next few years in college, my political beliefs shifted, but if you look at a majority of the right wing following, others haven’t, and some have gotten worse.

Where Obama showed up practically out of nowhere, Hillary Clinton has been in the public eye since 1992, before Fox News even existed.  This has allowed more time to build up a giant case against her.  Some scandals stick and some don’t, I’m not going to walk through every single one individually here, but the point that I’m trying to make is that “Hillary Clinton is the single greatest threat to America” has been a talking point reinforced so much more than Obama even was.  You’ll even hear some pundits occasionally bring up her “landing in Bosnia under sniper fire gaffe.” It doesn’t even matter if the scandal sticks or not, just keep discussing them as legitimate regardless of facts and they reinforce that same point. 2+2=5.

With the proliferation of online platforms, now anyone can have a blog (including myself). This has had a multiplying effect on anything that affects culture.  In comes Conservative Tribune, Young Cons, World Net Daily, Frontpage Mag, and almost an infinite number of other independent,  click bait driven wordpress and blogspot blogs that aren’t held up to any sort of journalistic standard at all. Amazingly, most of the posts are all written by the same man named admin. That’s a joke, but the problem is these small independent internet magazines are often standing on the other side of the line that separates fact based reporting from off the wall conspiracy theories.  For example, look at this World Net Daily Post that claims that President Obama has an Arabic wedding ring that praises Allah. Then compare it with a higher res photo here of the ring to show it’s simply the design of the ring. A lo-res photo doesn’t automatically prompt a giant article combined with photoshops and Arabic translations without some sort of batshit insane element present as well.

I’ve got to get you off the bench and in the game.
-The Joker (Read by Mike Engel)

This has created a perfect set of conditions.  It does not matter who it is, the republican population will elect anyone over Hillary Clinton no matter how absurd they are. It’s almost as if they actually tried to go out of their way to do just that. Where John McCain was too easy and didn’t call Obama a Muslim and Mitt Romney was too soft, both of those failures caused the GOP voters to go back to the drawing board. Perry, Cruz, Kasich, Rubio, they’re all the same, but this Donald Trump fellow, he’s an outsider, he says what he truly believes, you gotta respect that! He’s not politically correct, that’s something that all of these talk radio pundits have claimed is the problem with our society, so lets go all in.

Somewhere along the line, practical things like policies, plans, legislation, and even principles were traded for absolutes such as characteristics, entertainment, appearance of strength, and winning at all costs.  Look at the 2nd Presidential debate for proof, his followers will reference his one liners and insults as proof he won the debate rather than any serious discussion of policy whatsoever.  The bar has been set so low, that even a zinger such as “Because you’d be in Jail” causes his followers to tweet #MicDrop.

Donald Trump could have repeated Pee Wee Herman’s famous line “I know you are but what am I?” to Hillary as a response to her discussions of his temperament and conservatives everywhere would have given each other high fives in celebration.  Are we forgetting that this is about picking the person who is supposed to oversee the almost infinitely complex variables in a system that is our Government?

The constitution used to be the Holy Bible for conservatives and Donald Trump has shown himself to be not just willfully ignorant, but in some ways, in direct opposition to many of the amendments in the constitution. The very thing Donald Trump proposed in the second debate, pledging to jail his opponent was literally one of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. It does not matter anymore, because to them, “Hillary Clinton is the single greatest threat to America”. Morality doesn’t matter, because there is a holocaust of unborn babies going on. As long as Donald Trump shows himself to be somewhat pro-life, it is literally a no Brainer in the truest sense of the term.

You squeezed them, you hammered to the point of desperation. And in their desperation, they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.
-Alfred Pennyworth

Donald Trump says he could shoot someone on tenth avenue in New York City and his follows would continue to support him.  At first, it was considered absurd, but I now actually believe him, because again,”Hillary Clinton is the single greatest threat to America.”

On October 7th, when a tape of Donald was released where he humorously discussed an attempt to seduce a married woman and also how he was able to grab a woman’s genitals without consent, it was only then did the leaders in the GOP finally understand who they are dealing with. A man so reprehensible, that even Hillary Clinton has somehow become a safer choice.

The Joker’s just a mad dog. I want whoever let him off the leash.
-Two-Face 

Donald Trump is not a politician, he doesn’t have any basic understanding of policy or even the legal structure of our government.  He doesn’t have a shred of decency and somehow he’s fine with his own daughter to be referred to as a piece of ass. The one thing he does have however, is the unfailing, and unlimited support of a majority of the GOP base.  Some of the GOP leaders are no starting to panic because they have a moral compass and can actually see the conundrum here.

Paul Ryan is a beautiful example of this. It’s easy to see that he is disgusted by Trump and morally he cannot support him.  However, it’s too late, the GOP base has been radicalized to the point where if he rescinds his endorsement,  he’s risking his own support since a majority of GOP voters desired to stay behind Trump. This was even after the tape was released. Right now, any rescinded endorsement makes him look likes he’s caving to political pressure, when it’s actually his own morals.  He’s actually caving to political pressure right now by not rescinding his endorsement. It’s a fascinating paradox. To break this, Paul has decided to play gymnastics and continue to endorse Trump, but just not defend or campaign with him.

Even Glenn beck, who is part of the extremely small #NeverTrump movement argued that Donald Trump is so morally wrong that even Clinton is a better option. This practically gave me vertigo given that this would be like Bill Maher endorsing George W. Bush. However, the most fascinating thing about all of this is if you read the comments on Glenn Beck’s his own Facebook page. His own listeners and fans, the same people he incited to their current political location are tearing him to pieces. The proles! The proles are rising up!

Now, our operation is small, but there’s a lot of potential for “aggressive” expansion. So, which one of you fine gentlemen would like to join our team? Oh, there’s only one spot open right now, so we’re gonna have…Tryouts.
-Joker

Others have found themselves contributing to the madness. For example, look at Ben Carson and Rudy Giuliani. Rudy claimed on national television that groping a woman’s genitals without consent is normal locker room talk. Ben Carson,  the man who was all pious through the primaries claimed that the outrage is misplaced simply because we just haven’t heard enough men boasting of their sexual conquests. Somehow, we now have politicians claiming that non-consensual sexual conquests are normal.

This is chaos.

Donald Trump is like the Joker in the Dark Knight, he’s simply a wild dog let loose by the fanatical electorate that has been slowly radicalized over the last 20 years by the right wing to the point where the house is on fire and most of all the GOP leaders are now locked inside. The chickens are coming home to roost. If Hillary Clinton’s 11 point lead holds, it’s no stretch of the imagination that she will probably win the election which begs the bigger question. All these people aren’t going to just put down their pitchforks and go home after November, so who’s going to end up being Bane?