Category Archives: United States

An Update on the Panic

Ceiling Monster

I really didn’t want to write about the coronavirus again, thinking that the whole panic would’ve been over by now, but here I am again.

I just bought another set of masks. They’re still in short supply at the moment, and at least in Daegu where the most infections in the country have been, people have been lining up when they hear that shops have them. The problem with this is that in one instance, one of the people lining up was infected for the virus himself. I’m guessing the people lining up for those masks won’t be sleeping well for the next couple of nights.

Classes in the country have been postponed for another two weeks. I don’t have Korean classes this week, and I doubt if it will resume anytime soon. Many gatherings have been canceled due to fear of infection. Recently, a Zumba fitness class has been identified as infecting several students. This has confirmed fears of going to gyms or health classes. The gym in my apartment complex remains closed this week. I wake up early in t he morning with nothing to do.

Similarly, Japan has decided to postpone classes for a month. They’ve detected almost 1000 cases of infections but they aren’t testing as many people as in South Korea. Because of the virus, South Koreans are now unable to visit over 80 countries and people are also advised not to visit South Korea. Japan still manages to escape a strict ban to other countries, and is still one of the countries, like the US, that mostly prohibits other nationalities from entering due to the virus. I wonder when that situation would reverse itself, when let’s say Americans would be prohibited from entering Singapore due to American coronavirus cases.

I continue to be impressed with the transparency of the Korean government regarding their fight against the virus. New infections continue to be detected, but thousands of people are getting tested for the virus everyday. Real-time updates are available on television, and there is a website which pinpoints where the infections are on Google Maps. Unlike the United States, people don’t have to worry about costs when it comes to testing, quarantine, and treatment. The government has also set-up drive-thru coronavirus testing centers.

At work, things continue to be busy with people manning phones, rescheduling and updating people regarding our company’s actions during the heightened panic. Employees are still required to record their temperature coming in the office every day. Most people are walking around with masks around the office. I can’t spend the whole day breathing through a mask, so I do without.

I’ve cut down on my walks around the neighborhood where I work. I used to be quite friendly with many business owners and even the homeless people around the neighborhood, but I guess it won’t hurt if I don’t see them for a while. When I’m out, the streets are pretty empty. I don’t even see the vagrants I encounter on a regular basis.

There are now speculation that fear over the virus is going to lead to a recession. It’s continued to affect many businesses around the country. Quite frankly, I’m now worried about my company as well. Everyday I come to work, I count my blessings that I’m working for a company that could weather this crisis, at least for now. Movie theaters and theme parks are now closed. Study rooms, saunas, karaoke rooms, and many other businesses are currently empty. I went out for dinner last night. After dinner, I passed by a bar which caters to patrons going for a second round of drinking post main meal. It was empty. I imagine similar establishments would be the same.

I walked around the gallery area near my workplace the other day. The area was empty. Thursday is opening night for most of the galleries here and I imagine they would be equally empty as well. It’s a bad time for the arts. Curiously however, I read that a local production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ opened the other day despite the widespread fear. I noted that the production, like similar productions in other countries, decided to cast a female actor in the role of Judas. I realize they’re breaking a glass ceiling, but isn’t a woman playing the role of someone who backstabs the Son of God a step backwards for women?

Production on several reality television shows has been halted. I think this is a good thing, quite frankly. I can’t stand the Korean brand of reality shows. It’s mainly just people eating, singing, playing with children, or watching foreigners react to things.

For once, the regular weekend protests near my workplace has been canceled. I believe this is mostly the result of the religious leader organizing the protests being arrested prior to the weekend.

The leader of the cult responsible for the resurgence of the virus has publicly apologized for hiding documents and impeding the government’s efforts to track down potential infected members. He now pledges to help the government in their efforts. I’m sure the mayor of Seoul asking investigators to look into charging him with negligence has nothing to do with it. Officials have also announced that despite the current rising cases of infections detected, the virus contamination in Daegu is now 90% contained and will likely subside in a week or two. People are cautiously optimistic. It would only take one dumb cult or something similar to trigger another resurgence.

Fewer people have been going to banks. Korea is quickly becoming a cashless society and fears of contracting the virus has led to people avoiding waiting in banks or handling cash. Even if people have cash in hand, vendors (mostly street vendors) who don’t have card readers have mostly been out of sight. Markets have been empty of customers as well. When ordering groceries online. What would usually arrive within the same day will now have at least a two-day waiting period.

Frankly, I’m hoping that as soon as people start recovering, more people would be at ease or simply be too tired of living in fear. Living in fear of infection is tiring. Even if you’re not afraid of the virus, just constantly hearing about it can be very stressful. Over the weekend, I tried not to go out and just stay at home, but ultimately I had to go out and eat at a restaurant. Cabin fever can be quite unbearable especially when unwillingly subjected to it.

I’m now observing how the United States is reacting to the pandemic. Unlike in Canada, an American checked and being quarantined can set him back a month’s pay. The US also has leaders peddling false information regarding the virus. It’s like a perfect storm for a disaster and I’m hoping things get better soon before this gets out of hand. Unfortunately however, it seems like things are going faster than it did here in Korea. The first coronavirus case in Korea was in January 20. This was after several weeks of fear over the virus. The virus was mostly contained until a cult managed to spike the number of infections. A month later, there’s been over 20 deaths. The US has identified its first case of infection a couple of days ago. As of the time I’m writing this, there’s been 6 deaths. This does not look good at all.

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The Log Jammed in your Democracy

Rat King

Matthew 7:3, And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

The US has always prided itself as a champion of democracy. Americans are not shy with hyperbole. “The US is the greatest country in the world.” President Ronald Reagan called the country “the shining city on a hill.” Just last week, I kept hearing that the US Senate was “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” There are several reasons for Americans to get involved in the internal affairs of other countries outside of their own global interests, with the most noble being to spread democracy and uphold the rights of the locals being abused by a tyrannical rule. Sure, the Bush administration lied about the existence of WMDs, but the invasion of Iraq was also sold as liberating its people. This is why the toppling of the Saddam’s statue was such a monumental image at the time. The Americans were being “greeted as liberators.”

This same promotion of democracy was the reason for getting involved in Iran, the Philippines, South Korea, El Salvador, Vietnam, Libya, etc. Of course there are different geopolitical self-interests in each theater, but the most prevalent way of selling intervention is the promotion of democracy and that the Americans are doing it for the good of the locals in the long run.

Spread democracy, sure. Ironically, the same senate that calls itself “the world’s greatest deliberative body” has stalled hundreds of bills passed by the House and simply gave Donald Trump a free pass after an absolute sham trial with no witnesses. It has given Donald Trump, a failed casino owner and an admitted sexual predator, freedom to commit crimes and be an unchecked dictator. When Robert Mueller decided not to definitive state whether Donald Trump committed a crime, Donald Trump immediately started to extort Ukraine to cheat on the 2020 elections. And now when the US Senate decided no to indict Trump for extorting Ukraine and trying to cheat on the 2020 elections, Trump immediately begins exacting revenge on witnesses who decided not to participate in his cover-up. He also orders the Attorney General to pressure the justice department to be lenient to his conspirators.

The US president holds full control over the Senate, a body made conservative due to a heavily gerrymandered process. He control the justice system with an Attorney General who will nakedly do his bidding for him and a stacked Supreme Court with two conservative judges brought in under very questionable circumstances. And right now, the Democrats on the House are too slow to act and to weak to boldly counter the President’s criminal actions. They’re also too busy attacking their own and propping up Pete Buttigieg, an ex-mayor with very little experience but comes with heavy corporate backing. It’s almost like they want Trump to win in 2020.

Donald Trump attacking witnesses and nakedly trying to help his lackeys a few days after not being indicted is a sign of unaccountable abuse of power. And who could blame him? He has never once shown any sign of restraint, ethics, or grace. He has never shown any sign of learning any lesson or demonstrated contrition. His behavior will only get worse until he finally makes true on his previous boast of being able to shoot someone on broad daylight in the middle on Fifth Avenue. Cowardly and corrupt Republicans as well as the weak and feckless Democrats allowed this to happen. This past week, we witnessed the full realization of a dictator ruling over the shining city on a hill. Even Jesse Watters, a conservative talking head, could plainly see it, “It’s fun living in a banana republic, isn’t it guys?”

A political commentator asked, “We saw what happened when South Korea’s Democratic Republic was threatened. We saw what happened when Hong Kong’s Democracy was threatened. What will we do?

The Americans will do nothing. Americans don’t have the patience or the attention span to do what the Koreans did or what the courageous students in Hong Kong are continuing to do. Koreans were able to oust their corrupt leader in less than a year. It took a long time to get through the Ukraine scandal and even longer for the Mueller investigation… and yet Trump is unscathed and currently enjoying a surge in popularity. The march towards November is long and sad, and if things continue the way they do, we will see four more years or more of Trump being the first American dictator. I love the law. I love the study of law. It hurts to see the rule of law being ignored completely and have a country which models itself a champion of democracy devolve into a cheap criminal enterprise.

Maybe before the US gets more involved in conflicts overseas in order to spread democracy, it should try to fix its own democracy first.

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Impeachments and Shamelessness

Circle Game

This is the second impeachment of a US president I’ve seen in my lifetime. Looking back, this is the fourth impeachment of a president I’ve witnessed or closely followed. It is interesting to see how these things result into precedents and social attitudes that will be felt for many years to come.

At the risk of aging myself, I remember the impeachment of Bill Clinton. It was an embarrassing exercise which started as a fishing expedition and concluded with hypocrites impeaching a man for essentially protecting his marriage by lying. Commentators at the time would have people believe that the Clinton saga opened a Pandora’s box in society. It brought sex… oral sex, out in the open… right into public discourse. It was blamed for young people being more promiscuous and being more open-minded regarding sexual activities outside of coitus. And of course, conservatives successfully impeaching the president and surviving their rank hypocrisy, it made hypocrisy their brand. It’s amazing that Newt Gingrich, the man who led the impeachment of President Bill Clinton for having an affair, was also having an affair at the time, and the woman he is having an affair with is currently the US ambassador to the Vatican… the fucking Vatican. No one bats an eye. Of course Newt Gingrich is a hypocrite… he’s a conservative politician. Now ask him questions on CNN.

A couple of years ago, they impeached and removed from office the President Park Gun Hye of South Korea. I was there for a couple of the protests. I remember being amazed at how fast the whole process was, from outrage to removal of the president. It taught Koreans that when a move becomes popular and people, especially young people get outraged enough, they could shift politics. This power of youthful outrage is similar to the umbrella movement which happened a few years earlier. Unfortunately, the conservatives in Korea are trying to copy this movement and are now regularly attracting older Koreans to come gather in the public squares formerly occupied by the protesters who ousted the former president. They have seen how outrage and continued public protests could change the country. However, what they are getting mostly senior citizens riled about are mostly empty rhetoric and fake news. The weekly weekend gatherings are now turning more and more into just weekend strolls for angry old people to aimlessly listen to slogans.

Back in 1986, there was the People Power Revolution in EDSA. The people of the Philippines were protesting the violent regime of President Marcos and electoral fraud. I remember there was martial law in the Philippines and during the protests there were talks of violence in the street or people being detained by the police for no reason. I also remember my father being pro Marcos at the time. After the ousting of Marcos, the Filipinos seemed to see EDSA, or large public protests, as an exercise or even a ceremony of public grievance after a period of putting up with traditional political corruption. I say that because after EDSA, corruption still continued in the country, a second “revolution” happened entitled “EDSA 2” which overthrew President Joseph Estrada, but again, the country still continued to have its usual problems. It’s almost like nothing was fixed. The status quo remains and only the players have changed. Look at what they have now, Duterte, a populist who encourages violence on the streets. The country is getting better economically for rich investors (especially foreign investors), but not so much for the people who elected the president, the downtrodden masses who fell in love with his macho crime-fighting lies.

Now in 2020 in the US, we’re seeing the trial of Donald Trump after his impeachment. It would seem that the only lesson we’re learning is that there is no bottom that conservatives would sink to in order to maintain their power. I’m afraid the precedent we seem to be taking away from this is that with shamelessness and a bold disregard to the truth, one could weather any evidence of wrongdoing. Believe in your “truth” and yell it out until people give up and say yes, you’re right. It’s the lessson learned from The Secret. It’s the Kim Kardashian guide to being a celebrity. It’s the Real Housewives of Atlanta. It’s disgusting. It truly is disgusting what is happening right now. I really hope I’m wrong, but by looking at what happened during the first day of the impeachment trial, even with Lev Parnas speaking out and new documents being released by Mick Mulvaney, I think the winners have already been decided.

And yes, I know, I know, the Republican majority senate would not vote to convict and therefore remove Donald Trump. The only thing the Democrats could do is force the Republicans to be more brazen in their defense of criminality that it hurts them in their local elections. That, and by embracing Trump and the ridiculous arguments of the White House lawyers, it makes Trump’s eventual acquittal by the Senate a sham and invalid in the eyes of the public.

But that right there is the rub. The people in power, they don’t really care much about how they look in the eyes of the public. They don’t seem t o care how history would judge them. Let me enjoy my wealth and my power now. Forget history and my legacy. I will be long dead and gone by then.

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The Cheating is Now a Feature

Larva

It’s strange but this is the second week in a row that I’m writing about sports. Even weirder is that I’m writing about a sport I’m not particularly fond of.

My wife has been following the Dodgers for years now, ever since Ryu Hyu-jin started pitching for them and Korean networks started playing MLB, particularly Dodgers games on a regular basis. These days, as long as there is a Korean player in the team, you’re sure to find their games in Korea. Anyway, due to my wife’s fandom, I’ve watched and casually observed the Dodgers play, to which I have absorbed quite a bit of baseball knowledge by osmosis.

In 2017, the Dodgers were set to win the World Series. After missing the chance to finally win a ring for several years, I thought I was time for Kershaw to get one. I remember them looking to be the favorite to win despite the odd move of suddenly bringing outfielder Curtis Granderson and pitcher Yu Darvish into the roster.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers didn’t win that year. Houston Astros beat them and won the World Series. There was a bit of drama during the game as well. Yuli Guriel was seen making a racist gesture in reference to Yu Darvish. He was penalized with a five-game suspension for 2018, but that racist gesture and the rather light punishment is still fresh in the memory of most Korean baseball fans. I remember feeling quite upset at Yuli Guriel. It didn’t help that he had that cocky Michael Madsen look and he peddled a BS excuse that he used to play in Japan, giving him the racist immunity idol. I felt bad for Yu Darvish, but I can’t help but blame him for the Dodgers losing the World Series that year. He seemed to be giving away the easiest throws. And despite him not delivering for the team, head coach Dave Roberts kept him on.

For over a year, I thought it was stupid to have brought Yu Darvish on. They could’ve let anyone pitch in his place and the Dodgers would’ve won the World Series.

Fast forward to 2019 and we learn that the Houston Astros were in fact cheating. They had cameras set to catch the signals of the other team. Then they would warn the batter if a fastball was coming by banging on trash cans. It was a set-up that they had in Minute Maid Park. Yu Darvish pitched for the Dodgers in 2017 in Minute Maid Park. They knew what Darvish was going to throw. The Astros were cheating. And in the process of cheating, Yuli Guriel had the grace to be racist as well.

So what happened next? After months of deliberation, the Astros’s manager and general manager were suspended for a year. The club was fined $5 million and will be deprived of their first and second round draft picks for two years. The Astros later announced that they fired their manager and general manager. No players were punished. They get to keep their championship.

This is shit.

MLB’s reason for not taking away their title was that sign stealing or predicting the pitcher’s throw was always a part of the game. The Astros used technology to give them an edge during the game but the tradition was the same. If the league was to take away their title, then it would start a cascade to other past scandals. Remember the 90s when players started to look like wrestlers and were batting home runs regularly? Also, there have been many instances of alleged sign stealing, but not as systematic as the one employed by the Astros.

This reason is also shit.

While it’s justice to fire the manager and general manager for orchestrating the cheating system, the players themselves carried out the sign stealing system. Whatever happened to sportsmanship? The players knew that they were playing with an unfair advantage. Winning and losing in baseball has consequences. It affects a player’s stats and their standings. For over a year, Yu Darvish had to suffer the blame of losing the championship for the Dodgers. He even had to change the way he pitched. Players were traded due to their performance and their bottom lines were probably affected due to losing to the Astros. The Dodgers might not even have the same line up now if they won that year. That was probably Kershaw’s closest opportunity to win that gold ring. He got robbed. People got robbed. The manager and general manager weren’t the only culprit. The whole team participated in the robbery.

That is not to say that the Astros are bad athletes. They’re world class athletes. But the fact that they needed to cheat in order to win the championship casts a dark shadow on their talent and their achievements. If I were an Astros fan, I’d probably feel pretty bad at this moment. It’s like being a Milli Vanilli fan. Yeah, maybe those guys can actually sing their songs, but it’s too late. They were caught using voice doubles. But unlike MLB, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences actually took away Milli Vanilli’s Grammy.

This sours the whole sport for me. Unfortunately, MLB is hoping that by force of habit, people will still continue to watch baseball and that this scandal will soon be forgotten. But for me, it shows an organization that is willing to allow athletes to cheat in order to become stars, and once they become stars, they can no longer be taken down. I can’t help but think of the phrases, “too big to fail” and “we don’t look backwards, we look forward.” I’m trying to think of any other sport outside of WWE that allows the game to continue despite cheating, that allows cheaters to keep their medals. But unlike WWE, MLB will still pretend to be a “real” sport and not sports entertainment. It’s disappointing. And for what? Because it’s too much of an inconvenience to look back? Too many injustices have to be corrected? If this is “America’s favorite pastime,” then it sends an awful message about what America is and its tolerance for unfair advantages.

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Criminality and being “right”

Old Man with Wings

It’s very difficult to follow hockey when the Trump impeachment is going on. I wasn’t able to follow the Clinton impeachment back in the 90s, but what’s happening right now is a great learning experience if not a historic event which would probably be discussed in law schools in the future. It’s quite engrossing, especially with the brazenness of the government officials (and non-government goons) protecting Donald Trump and the bravery of the long-time career officials who tried to function amid all of the chaos but have no choice now but to call out illegal behavior. What’s even more engrossing is the almost soap-opera aspect of all of the twists-and-turns. Just a couple of hours ago, it was revealed that Devin Nunes, ranking member and the Republican lead of the House Oversight Committee, was linked with Lev Parnas, the Guiliani associate who was indicted for illegally directing funds from a foreign government to US officials. This puts an ethical dilemma on Devin Nunes and his role in the hearings into question since he is now implicated on the whole thing depending on how far the Democrats would push the issue.

It is all pretty compelling stuff. And the issues at hand are more serious, not just a man hiding his affair from his wife. I’m pretty sure I would’ve been tired of the whole Clinton impeachment drama after a couple of days. I don’t know how Jay Leno at the time stretched that out into a nightly comedy staple.

Although I’m often not happy with the weakness of the Democrats, I’m very pleased with how t he hearings are going. Today with Dr. Fiona Hill, we get to hear her say that the notion that the Ukrainians were the ones who hacked the 2016 elections and not the Russians is basically the product of Russian disinformation. This makes everyone perpetuating the stupid conspiracy theory, including Donald Trump, a tool by the Russian government. Yesterday, we heard Ambassador Sondland admit to the quid pro quo and name all of the major players in the attempt to pressure Ukraine into announcing a fake investigation into Trump’s political rival. Ex-Ambassador Yovanovitch provided more details regarding the conspiracy and was even subjected to harassment by the president in the middle of her testimony. And of course there’s Lt. Col. Vindman who testified to what he witnessed and remind everyone that in the end, despite of how low the state of politics around the world is now, he still believes that in his country, “right matters.”

And I think in the end, that’s what separates the good guys and the bad guys from the very beginning of the Trump nightmare to now. It’s the notion that right matters. It’s not the matter of whether something is illegal or not. It’s whether something is right… doing the right thing despite the limits of your role. And vice-versa, doing the right thing despite the ease and freedom you are given to abuse your power.

Sure the US government could ban people from the United States based on their religion according to the Supreme Court. But is it right? The US government could endlessly detain people attempting to apply for refugee status. But is it right? Even with the smaller things. Sure the president is entitled to spend most of his time in a golf course on the tax payers’ dime. But is it right? Evil has skirted on legality and it beat people down to being too tired to vigorously call out wrongdoing when evil is no longer hiding and what is happening is plainly illegal.

I think one of the biggest culprit of this is Mueller himself. He was tasked with rooting out Russian interference in the 2016 United States election and suspicious links between Trump associates and Russian officials. He had the ability to expand his investigation into other things related to the Trump organization in order to learn more about its criminality, but instead, he strictly focused on most limited of scopes. A number of Trump associates were indicted as a result of the investigation, but he didn’t even bother interrogating Donald Trump Jr. He was also happy to let Donald Trump mail in answers to an interview as if he was earning a degree online. Mueller stuck to what his role was. He stuck to his reputation of being a strict, no-nonsense actor… leaving the final conclusion of a Trump-Russian connection to House of Representatives and a Senate that won’t act on it. Right matters. But for Mueller, he decided to play it safe and stand by while Trump, Barr, and other right wing hacks proclaim that Mueller’s lack of firm conclusion exonerated the president. Mueller was a soldier and a hero, but I don’t think he has the courage of a whistleblower, the courage to stand up and point out wrongdoing if it means stepping out of your role.

Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has fallen into this same trap. She wanted to narrow the impeachment inquiry strictly on the conversations regarding Ukraine. Now she is free to do so, and expanding beyond the business with Ukraine could be seen as overstepping or a “witch hunt.” But with a creature like Trump, someone who makes impeachable offenses on Twitter during the hearing, doing the right thing is not sticking to your role and limiting yourself to the advantage of your enemies. The right thing to do is to be just as courageous as the whistleblower, be just as courageous as the witnesses. There are limits to one’s roles, but loving your country and upholding the oath of office sometimes requires going beyond that.

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The God of the Old Testament

Buddha

Outside of my office, there are street preachers which I usually tune out. The other day however, one of the speakers came out with a particularly interesting rant:

“Don’t treat Jesus like garbage. He’s not garbage. YOU’RE GARBAGE!”

Now, I don’t really know who the speaker was referring to, but as I know, Jesus (despite not being garbage) preached humility and lowered himself to wash the feet of his disciples. I also remember Jesus saying blessed be the poor and the meek. Jesus was never proud. In fact, pride is one of the seven capital vices. So while I’m not saying that it’s right to say that we should treat Jesus like garbage, it’s probably safe to say that Jesus would be the last to accuse anyone of being garbage.

But then again, looking at the signs surrounding the preachers I see in the country. They’re very heavy on the condemnation.

“Believe or you’ll go to hell!”

These are people who are heavy on the condemnation. They spend more time preaching and condemning people on the street than actually doing good works. I sometimes wonder if anyone is ever converted by the regular blaring sermons on the street. I seriously doubt it. This is like the religious equivalent of negging… undermine someone’s self esteem in order to make them seek out your approval. That, couple with threats of eternal damnation.

But why do it then? Why do it if it’s not working? Simple. Because it’s easy.

Or rather it’s easier than actually following Jesus’ example. If you’re religious there are two common arguments to reaching heaven: believing in God or doing good works regardless of believing in God. There’s injustice in reaching heaven simply for believing in a deity. A Buddhist could be a much kinder and generous person than me, but just by virtue of me believing in God, I would go to heaven and they would rot in hell. The problem with reaching heaven simply for doing good works however, is that it makes religion irrelevant. Why study the Gospels and listen to a preacher? I don’t need to do all of that in order to do good deeds. I’d just spend my time volunteering or something.

And that right there is the key. It is easier to claim rights to the kingdom of heaven simply by believing in God and making everyone else feel like sinners. It is much harder to follow Jesus’ teachings and simply be good to others.

Another thing that’s key in ignoring Jesus’ teachings is simply devoting one’s self to the Old Testament, the old God. See there are two main Gods in the Christian bible. There is the vengeful God in the Old Testament. And then there’s Jesus, the God of the New Testament. The thing about following the Old Testament is that he is more exciting. There’s more condemnation. There’s more us against them. There are more sinners being wiped away by flood and fire. Compare that to the New Testament where all sinners are saved by Jesus’ sacrifice. Outside of the crucifixion, it doesn’t get extremely violent and judgmental until Revelations. The excitement brought by the jealous, judgmental, and sometimes incomprehensible God of the Old Testament brings a tribal sentiment much like sports. “We are going to heaven. You suck! You’re going to hell!” It must feel very good. And it’s definitely much easier than giving out soup to homeless people.

This reminds me of the newly appointed religious advisor in the Trump administration, the grifter Paula White. She was recently “praying against President Trump’s enemies.” Praying against… like she’s sending a vengeful spirit to curse people, like voodoo magic or something. I ask why aren’t people, religious scholars in particular, not speaking out against this. But then again, I realize that the God of the Old Testament seems to be more popular than Jesus these days. I mean, it’s easy to invoke Jesus by name. But in everything else, condemnation, tribalism, curses… everything is Old Testament.

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Baghdadi and Our Monsters

Trigger Happy

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was the leader of ISIL. He was surrounded by special forces yesterday and detonated himself using an explosive vest. When he was alive, he orchestrated the genocide of the Yazidis, pushed for sex slavery, and organized brutal displays of mass crucifixions and executions, often putting them on video to be used for propaganda and recruitment.

I have no sympathy for people like Baghdadi, especially after they perverted the image of Islam. The world is better without him. His death is not the same as the death of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. There are no gray areas or utilitarian purpose to his rule. He is simply, a bad guy. However, the whole circus with the Trump administration’s announcement regarding his death leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

First off, the Pentagon stating that he ran to a tunnel with three kids to be used as human shields sounds like unnecessary propaganda. It’s very similar to when they described Osama Bin Laden using his wives as shields, which was later denied as a false statement. They are painting a very dramatic scene in order to make Baghdadi sound evil when he is evil enough as it is. I’m already on the US’ side on this. They don’t have to lie in order to sell it to me. In fact, the lie is off-putting. Why would Baghdadi bring children along when he planned to detonate himself? Wouldn’t he know those kids he was bringing with him? Isn’t it more plausible that he was trying to escape with them and not use them as shields?

Now, maybe the Pentagon wasn’t lying, but Trump lying and saying that he saw the whole thing live, much like a movie is a childishly blatant lie. First off, there was no audio. Second, the photo of him and his generals perfectly posed to try and simulate a situation room is comically set up. Cables are disconnected, people are staring at different directions, the photographer was blocking where the screen would be, and Trump perfectly centered like it was Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper.’ Third, his description of Baghdadi crying and begging for his life was totally fictitious. Even Pentagon officials immediately denied it. There was no audio. No witnesses could attest to this. And the whole thing happened in a dark tunnel. Either Trump was describing what happened to Muammar Gaddafi years ago or he’s just going off of his sadistic imagination. “His body was mutilated by the blast… there wasn’t much left?” Really? Can the US president not hide his childish glee over this?

“Died like a dog”? “Die like a coward”? How does a dog die? How does a coward die? How does Trump know how a coward dies? What kind of language is this?!?!?

And then Trump goes on to brag about himself, comparing himself to ISIS in terms of Internet proficiency (what a weirdo!), claiming that he advocated the death of Bin Laden (he didn’t), and that killing Baghdadi was more significant than killing Osama Bin Laden. That last one is something adults simply don’t do. What does that even mean?

As for Trump comparing himself to ISIS in terms of Internet proficiency, let me follow his lead and go a bit further. Bill Maher lost his first show after he described the 9/11 terrorists as being brave, in contrast with US military strategy which is basically just bombing cities from a distance. I’m not a fan of Bill Maher, but there was truth to what he was saying. The 9/11 terrorists were cowards in that they targeted civilians, but they were courageous in personally committing their act of terror and facing death. The west commits terror mostly long distance. As hideous and as ill-advised his sentiment was, it cannot be dismissed as totally wrong. In any case, let me pull a Bill Maher and say that Trump, given the same circumstances, would not be any different from Baghdadi.

They both failed at serving in the military, though Baghdadi might actually be truly nearsighted. Apparently, Baghdadi has a PHD in Islamic studies. But just like with Trump’s education from Wharton, their supposed education doesn’t match reality. Baghdadi is as much a religious scholar as Trump is a business leader.

Trump is an accused sexual predator. In the same position as Baghdadi, is it really a stretch that he advocate for sexual slavery as well? With his macho fantasies and authoritarian tendencies, it is also very easy to imagine that he would be just as violent and as brutal as Baghdadi. Trump was quite callous with the imprisonment of children and the death of the Kurds. He doesn’t care much about the suffering in Puerto Rico and was quite dismissive about the US’ history with lynching. Baghdadi has his followers do most of the work for him. They are zealots who are following both extremist ideologies and twisted religious dogma. According to a recent poll, evangelicals are 90% against Trump getting impeached. These are the same people who believe he is appointed by God. The same people who wouldn’t mind conflict to break out over the Gaza Strip in order for Christ to come a second time.

The way we see leaders and monsters truly depends on the culture and circumstances surrounding them as well as which side we are on. ISIL and Baghdadi rose from the horror that is the fall of Iraq. One could argue that without the conflicts in the Middle East, perhaps the monster that is Baghdadi would’ve never evolved. Trump on the other hand lived a life of excess and was never really held accountable for his many failures and supposed crimes. And despite getting everything most people would want in life, he became this strange villain on the world stage. Now, imagine what worse cartoon monster he would’ve become if he was given the same circumstances as Baghdadi.

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A Dark Pit

Rat_King

Regarding the Mueller report and Attorney General Barr reading through it and making his own assessment and excluding Congress from reading it, is a damned win for Trump.

During the Nixon investigation, AG Jaworski and his committee looked at the report, provided a guideline for Congress, and submitted the whole report.  Jaworski didn’t take it upon himself to make his own ruling. AG Barr making his own ruling despite his history with the Republicans and Trump himself, and with Republicans pushing to never have the full report be made available to the public is quite a coup. Trump and conservatives celebrating and proclaiming his innocence of all crimes rings quite hollow especially with the proof of his innocence being furiously kept secret.

Even with the Mueller report being released, there are talks of Trump redacting several parts of it due to executive privilege.

There’s gambling in the establishment. The game is fixed.

Alex Jones, QAnon, and alt-right pseudo-intellectuals and conspiracy theorists often see small things, make mountains out of them, and terrorize people with their pursuit of a bigger, sexier story, one with hidden cabals, sex rings, etc. THERE IS ONE RIGHT HERE! They are blocking a report which has details to what may or may not be impeachable offences! And if you want to talk sex, Jeffrey Epstein, a financier who ran a pedophile ring may or may not be connected with conservatives, particularly Alan Dershowitz and Labor Secretary Alex Acosta! Heck, a lady who ran a prostitution den was just taking pictures with Trump and his ilk and peddling access to them! Hey conspiracy theorists, you’re really bad at conspiracy theorizing!

But what’s to happen now? Here’s my prediction.

The Democrats will continue pushing for the release of the Mueller report, but while they’re at it, they will slowly lose interest over it as the media gets hammered for “pushing Russia-gate” when apparently “there is none.” Those are all in quotes, because that is the talking point conservatives will uniformly use on the way to the elections. They will use weaponized the Mueller report and pretend that it vindicates Trump, even though that is not what it says. AG Barr explicitly said it doesn’t exonerate Trump.

In the meantime, the Trump administration will try to control the news cycle by being incredibly hideous. They will attempt to move on and bury the issue with reckless hideousness. Just a couple of days since the release of the report, they are already working to totally repeal Obamacare again and they are planning to take away funding for the Special Olympics. This is cartoon villainy. And at some point, the Democrats will have to take on issues like healthcare and spend less time fighting for the report and/or using it to further take on the Trump organization.

The SDNY will continue with their investigations, but the lackluster result from the Mueller report release take away some of their momentum and again, conservatives will use the Mueller report and AG Barr’s proclamation as a weapon against it. Should they find criminal evidence on Trump, I’m not sure if there is political will to use it against him, no matter how serious those crimes may be. Definitely not on the conservative side of the aisle.

Even now, some Democrats are already moving on from the issue, saying that the only way to fight Trump is during the 2020 elections. This is weak and craven, but network television loves this talk. Network news loves elections. They would love nothing more than countless debates and panels discussing elections. They would even recycle some of the villains from the Mueller investigation. Already, I see George Papadopoulous being interviewed on MSNBC as some sort of witness or expert, not as a weasel traitor.

Even if there was clear evidence of collusion, Mueller did not believe in indicting a sitting president. Even if there was clear evidence of collusion, Nancy Pelosi believed that impeachment would not be worth it. And even if she pushed for impeachment, there are too many Republicans who are protecting Trump. It would be impossible. They are just that craven. So yeah, the disappointment that Democrats and progressives feel at the moment was already coming. It just took a while to get here.

Trump will not be taken away from our lives outside of an election defeat. And even if he’s defeated, there are far too many evils that he rooted out that will take longer to get rid of. Islamophobia, the rise of white nationalists, racism, fascism… even complacency, and self-defeat, these are all evils which gave rise to cartoon villains like Trump.

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The Smell of Gas

Chest_Pain

It’s been a long day of political theater regarding the Michael Cohen public testimony. People all over are posting and publishing their comments and analysis about the testimony. I’m a bit of a political junkie myself, so please allow me my scattered observations.

Donald Trump is currently in Hanoi, negotiating badly with the leader of North Korea. I read that he already dropped full accounting of North Korea’s nuclear program from the US’s demands. This could all just be the usual bad negotiation skills of Donald Trump, or it could be he’s distracted from the drama back in the US. This is like going on vacation and wondering if you left the stove on.

I wouldn’t blame the Republican members of the committee for focusing on attacking Michael Cohen’s credibility and not asking one question about Donald Trump, the reason why Michael Cohen is there in the first place. If the shoe was on the other foot, the Democrats would be attacking the credibility of the witness as well. My only problem is, their attacks were simply bad, bad politics. I think it did them more harm than good. Rep. Matt Gaetz, prior to the hearing, exposed himself to potential criminal liabilities by brazenly attempting to intimidate a witness several times. Rep. Clay Higgins, claimed to be a moron who has never heard of Michael Cohen since that day. I’m a Canadian living in Seoul. I know who Michael Cohen is. Rep. Mark Meadows brings in a black woman as a prop in the most tone deaf display of I-have-black-friends-therefore-I’m-not-racist. Rep. Paul Gosar was ineffective and stumbled around with his papers. And Rep. Jim Jordan was not only outwitted by Michael Cohen, he managed to outwit himself in the beginning by withdrawing himself out of his attempt to delay the hearing.

Really? Is this the best representative that people can have? Who sees their behavior and thinks, “Yes! I’m glad I voted for that guy!”? Why are these people and their ilk running the US?

And as much as they attacked Michael Cohen’s character, what spoke volumes was not his character, but his confessions which is backed up by evidence. See, evidence doesn’t need character. A 2017 check made out to Michael Cohen signed by Donald Trump, arranged by Trump Jr and Allen Weisselberg, Trump’s CFO, proving a criminal conspiracy that Donald Trump did give out hush payments during the 2016 campaign doesn’t need character. It tells its truth right there. And as Rep. Ro Khanna mentioned, it exposes all four men involved to federal and state prosecution, and to which only Michael Cohen will currently be in jail for.

Allen Weisselberg has been cooperating and not cooperating with authorities, so I really don’t know what will ultimately happen to him. Donald Trump, even if it’s apparent that he did commit crimes, Republicans will have to act in order to get him impeached, and I find that highly unlikely. They are truly a craven bunch compared to the more principled breed of Republicans who were compelled to move to impeach Nixon. That, and they are likely to lean on the Justice Department memo that you cannot indict a sitting US president. He can be impeached, but not indicted. So why impeach him then if he’s not indicted of any crime? (assuming Mueller doesn’t move to indict him) Even some Democrats would probably be wary of indicting a sitting US president.

As for Trump Jr, it seems that he’s quite vulnerable after the hearing. If the criminal conspiracy is proven, he’s got his fingerprints all over it. He might be let off with a presidential pardon on a federal level, but that doesn’t save him from the Southern District of New York which is looking into him as well. And it’s all speculation and fantasy for now, but if they did threaten jail time to Trump Jr (for starters. There’s still Eric, Ivanka, and Jared for a myriad potential different reasons), will that compel Donald Trump to step down in order to save his son? I’m thinking no. Donald Trump doesn’t look like the type who would save anyone except maybe Ivanka. And I’m not sure about Trump Jr. Maybe he would probably jump at the chance of being a MAGA martyr of sorts, or maybe he would flip on his dad. Speculations, but the drama is simply too much!

And as I’m writing this, Donald Trump’s schedule for his summit today has been suddenly cut short. Hmm… I wonder if something was on his mind.

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On Khashoggi and Distractions

Aquarius

I never thought I’d ever see a live minstrel show in my lifetime. But that’s exactly what Kanye West did in the oval office in front of Donald Trump. He performed as a “black supporter,” a minority supporter whose years where he was hailed as a celebrity and an icon by the black community would be weaponized to delegitimize all complaints against the Trump administration. “Maybe Black Lives Matter and Colin Kapernick are just over-reacting! Kanye West, a prominent black celebrity, is out there hugging Donald Trump. They must not be well-versed on the issues as much as Kanye, the genius that he is.”

What’s shameful is that they let Kanye just go around and hurt himself by letting him speak nonsense. Doesn’t he have relatives or people that care about him? Doesn’t he have anyone to tell him that talking about multi-verses in the oval office in front of cameras make him look like a fool? Why are they letting him advocate prison reform specifically for one person, who is probably one the least-deserving of presidential pardons out of the millions of people locked up in the US? Is Donald Trump so desperate for black friends (and celebrity friends) that he would willingly exploit someone who clearly needs help? Kanye’s rant in SNL a couple of days ago was embarrassing. He held everyone hostage while he indulged in his narcissistic lectures. Trump just magnified that a thousand times and turned the whole country into SNL.

Kanye West is a distraction, a disgrace, and dumb moron. Call him a musical genius if you want, but don’t forget to include “musical.” Being called a genius in one field doesn’t give one carte blanche authority on every other subject.

Long live Taylor Swift.

Saudi Arabia is out of control. The presumed assassination and disposal of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is the stuff of mafia movies. The United States is now getting a taste of what Saudi Arabia did to Canada a few months ago. Fortunately, we have a leader who is willing to stand up against Saudi Arabia. As for the US, Trump said it plainly, the Saudis are buying way too many weapons for the US to be concerned about one presumably dead journalist (who is just a US permanent resident, not a citizen). It is disgusting.

I said it before. MBS is Kim Jung Un with oil money. He behaves the same way as Kim Jung Un. The only reason why he is not ostracized by other countries is because of his country’s oil wealth. He is no reformer. If anything, he appears to be more dangerous at his young age than his predecessors. And unfortunately, with Trump unwilling to go against Saudi Arabia, this reckless behavior will only continue to escalate.

In a few weeks, people will forget about Khashoggi. Even in this page, I wrote about the distraction of Kanye West before I wrote about Khashoggi which arguably has greater consequences in the future. There will be greater distractions, and people will focus again on hating Iran instead of the Saudis. The US and the rest of the world will forget and let the Saudis do whatever they want. After all, if they can get away with 9/11, what’s that compared to one missing journalist.

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