Grab a bucket, Rome is burning!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Such is the duplicity of our times.


 On the one hand, some say we have a president who seems hell bent on the destruction of the American Constitution and everything it stands for, whilst on the other, what we definitely have, is an inability to recognize the reasons as to how and why he even had a chance at becoming President of one of the most powerful and influential countries in the world.

It has been said that Trump’s views resonated amongst the “common people”. That it was the blue collar workers and uneducated who voted him in, whereas in fact, it was the biggest anti-establishment vote of all time. Combined with the inability of anyone on the left to foster any serious discussions or debates concerning the difficult issues that we as a country face.

What was it that made people, when all alone in the little voting booth, without fear of reproach, decided to tick the box that allowed him to gain power?

Look back to the second Iraq war, whose legitimacy is still hotly contested today. What is clear now, is that we were all lied to.

 

We were guaranteed that reliable intelligence sources had concluded that Saddam Hussain was attempting to build nuclear weapons, purchasing the tools from his Sub-Saharan neighbors and that it was only a matter of time before he used them. However in 2006, a New York Times report stated that "A high-level intelligence assessment by the Bush administration concluded in early 2002 that the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq was 'unlikely.' ” Prior to the invasion, we were also told to also expect huge stockpiles of chemical weapons, but absolutely nothing was found.

 

From the Iraq Family Health sources, approximately 110,000 people died as a result of the conflict.  

But we didn’t amass on the streets in our thousands and nobody was held accountable. 

Further investigations in the aftermath of the war also proved that there were people actually within the administration who made huge financial gains from the invasion. A multitude of US firms received at least $138 billion for government contracts for services that included providing private security and rebuilding infrastructure.

 

The main recipient of the allocation of funds was Halliburton, a firm with a history of tax dodging and bribery. Cheney, then vice president, prior to his appointment was CEO of Halliburton. After receiving a $34 million “bonus” just prior to taking his position in office, he still held a significant amount of stock options, effectively creating a loophole that avoided the “conflict of interest” yet still allowing him to own a significant amount of the firm that would be realized once the options were exercised. But while Cheney and Halliburton made millions, instead of building infrastructure and a safer place for Iraqis, we created a place so unstable that it fostered the growth of something as horrifying as ISIS. Since 2004 there have been over 200,000 casualties.

  

But we didn’t amass on the streets in our thousands and nobody was held accountable. 

For the Libya war, our reasoning once again turned to the fear of what Gadhafi was capable of and the horrors he was inflicting upon his own people and that we had a duty to intervene purely for humanitarian reasons.  

 As it transpired, with the release of confidential emails from Hillary Clinton, it became clear that the primary reason was not humanitarian, but financial.

 “According to sensitive information available to this source, Qaddafi’s government holds 143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver…This gold was accumulated prior to the current rebellion and was intended to be used to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan golden Dinar.  This plan was designed to provide the Francophone African Countries with an alternative to the French (CFA).”  — declassified email from Sidney Blumenthal to Hillary Clinton, 2 April 2011

https://wikileaks.org/clinton-emails/emailid/12659 

We were informed that Gadhafi was giving Viagra to his troops so they could conduct mass rapes, propaganda that turned out to be completely fabricated by our own government. One of the driving forces behind the invasion was concern over Gaddafi’s gold and silver reserves threatening European currency and the other being the strategic oil fields that were to be divvied up between the major oil companies even before we even made public the desire to act.   

There were atrocities both alleged and proven that were from the actions of rebel fighters we were backing. Then there was Benghazi, where warning by security forces were left unheeded, which resulted in military support arriving too late. The instability we created in the Middle East can be attributed to our own foreign policies that historians may look back on and believe that it was mostly motivated by greed and financial gain as opposed to peace and security.

If that war was really about saving the Libyan people then it was a catastrophic failure. Without taking into account the deaths from the preceding civil war it is estimated that there were 80,000 casualties as a direct result of the conflict.

But we didn’t amass on the streets in our thousands and nobody was held accountable. 

How is it still possible that members of Congress are immune to insider trading?   

Congress recently voted that any investigations by the SEC, “should be blocked on principle, because lawmakers and their staff are constitutionally protected from such inquiries given the nature of their work.” Back in 2011, an investigative report by 60 Minutes, they revealed that the majority of the members of Congress were profiting by selling stocks and bonds using inside information. A crime when done by anyone else would have guaranteed imprisonment. If you look at the amount of money that member of Congress make annually from trading their percentage returns would make them all the best traders in the world, amassing millions in trading revenues.  

But we didn’t amass on the streets in our thousands and nobody was held accountable. 

In a final adjudication at the beginning of this year, it was ruled that Jon Corzine, the former New Jersey governor who led the collapsed brokerage firm, MF Global, should pay a $5 million penalty for his role in the firm's blatant illegal use of almost $1 billion in customer funds to pay for trading losses.     

This is something that in our industry is about the worse thing imaginable. To put it into perspective, Jon Corzine has an estimated net worth of $300 million and as brazen as it was, a $5 million penalty is laughable.

But we didn’t amass on the streets in our thousands and nobody was held accountable. 

Then we have the invasion of privacy and various nefarious spy programs run by our own government agencies that were discovered when Edward Snowden leaked all the information onto the internet via Wikileaks.  

 

With Snowden’s leaks we now know the existence of “XKeyscore”, an NSA tool which collects nearly everything a user does on the internet. “Prism” which collects internet communications from at least nine major US internet companies.  “Boundless Informant” is a system deployed by the National Security Agency to analyze global electronic information. In March 2013, Boundless Informant gathered 14 billion data reports from Iran, 6.3 billion from India, and 2.8 billion from the United States. “Special Collection Service (SCS)” is a black budget program that is responsible for close surveillance, burglary, wiretapping, breaking and entering. It employs covert listening device technologies to bug foreign embassies, communications centers, computer facilities, fiber-optic networks, and government installations.

http://www.dianaswednesday.com/2014/05/e-is-for-espionage-and-edward-sn…

 

 An investigation by Der Spiegel, reported that Chancellor Merkel's mobile was targeted by the NSA and it was only after lengthy chats between Merkel and Obama that German authorities decided to take no further action. 

Bullrun, Carnivore, CNCI, DCSnet, Fairview, FCEN,ICREACH, Magic Lantern, Main Core, Mainway, Muscular, Mystic, NSARI, NSA Ant, Room641A, Sentry Eagle, Stellar Wind, Turbulance, the list of, now publicly accessible, spy programs is endless and as much as we accuse Russia or China of hacking we are far more advanced than they are in  “covert operations”. 

We used this newfound technology to spy on our allies and unconstitutionally spied on people in our own country.

But we didn’t amass on the streets in our thousands and nobody was held accountable. 

We have constantly used the invasion of Ukraine as a reason for not trusting Putin and Russia that Putin is crazy and has an expansionist policy. But when looking further into the details it is not that difficult to find evidence that in 2011 the Ukrainian president was replaced by a US-selected administration, in an entirely unconstitutional takeover.    

The imposition of a pro-Western government was followed by an attempt to enlist Ukraine into NATO a placing a missile defense system directly on Russia's border, specifically against a previous EU-Moscow association agreement.

 

Russia’s reaction was as a direct result of our own prior interference. Yet this was one of the main reasons cited as an excuse to start a new cold war with Russia, which could have easily escalated into something far more serious. Something that the prior administration seemed to be inexorably heading towards.

But we didn’t amass on the streets in our thousands and nobody was held accountable. 

Now onto the healthcare system of this country. Although Obamacare has expanded coverage (the US uninsured rate has fallen to 9.1%, the lowest ever) the cost of health insurance across the country has skyrocketed. In 2016, we saw increases of up to 60% in premiums with the same happening again for 2017. 

During the election campaign, when confronted with the question of why a family’s insurance bill had gone up from $500 per month to $1100 per month, Hillary Clinton’s response was, “Keep shopping on the exchange. You might find a better deal!” but when there is no competition on these platforms, there is no other deal, just big pharmaceutical companies making more and more money.

Collectively $2.4 billion was spent on this election by both parties. Yet we cannot find a way to fund health insurance for the 20 million people that still cannot afford it in this country.  

But we didn’t amass on the streets in our thousands and nobody was held accountable.

With the email leaks which started coming out in July of 2016 not just a few days beforehand, it is ironic that we accused Russia, without ANY substantial evidence, of influencing the election when it was shown that the Democratic National Committee DID in fact, very undemocratically, influence the outcome of the primaries by having a distinct bias against Bernie Sanders.  

But we didn’t amass on the streets in our thousands and nobody was held accountable. 

In Flint, children were poisoned and still their water supply is still tainted 3 years later,   

But we didn’t amass on the streets in our thousands and nobody was held accountable. 

The fact that the average salary for the middle class is lower than it was 40 years ago   

But we didn’t amass on the streets in our thousands and nobody was held accountable. 

For better or worse, the voracity of views do seem to have finally motivated people to become more interested in the politics of this country. 

The middle class has been destroyed and left dejected from the actions of our government over the last 10 years. The United States has the most unequal distribution of the wealth of any OECD member country, we have a political system that relies too much on the political lobbyists in Washington, who work to change the rules and then, in turn, the politicians who change positions in return for favours. It is wrong that presidential candidates have historically received more and more financial donations which effectively “buys” their support.  How different is this to the type of corruption in FIFA, where officials were given gifts to garner their influence in deciding where to next host the World Cup? These people now face jail time. 

We have also lost the ability to debate

The pure hated and vilification of anyone who considered voting (NOT necessarily even supporting) for Trump has been as shocking as some of the feared Trump policies themselves. Anyone who may have a view that is not “extreme left” is immediately labeled a racist or misogynist, often with violent repercussions. It is that type of extreme political correctness that has reached the point where people have become the exact thing they set out to fight against.   

You do not convince someone to change his mind by hurling insults at him. Claiming to be “offended” is NOT a tactic that should be used when someone on the left disagrees with positions of anyone on the right positions. It is this type of attitude tied to the inability to foster any type of sensible discussion that put Trump here to begin with.  And we do only have ourselves to blame.   

Although the new administration has already shown that it has no problem blatantly lying or using “alternative facts”, it doesn’t help when some of the media coverage is so clearly spun to be negative and is content with over dramatization and its very own version of alternative facts. That “headline grabbing” alarmist coverage does not help the argument but just inflames an already volatile situation.  

We can go back to the much publicized  poll numbers leading up to the election that were covered by many media outlets that were used, with a largely Democratic sample set.  

The recent headlines that Trump was defunding Planned Parenthood were also misleading as the executive order he did sign was for the defunding of International Planned Parenthood otherwise known as the “Mexico City Policy”, a policy that was first put in place during the Reagan administration, then rescinded during the Clinton administration, put back in during Bush, one then once again ended during the Obama administration, so not exactly unexpected. To imply that this is a new turn of events is very misleading.  

To run a headline stating that the “designated survivor” is a person placed in position by Obama, so to imply that should someone bomb the inauguration ceremony, a representative of the previous administration would take power, is totally irresponsible.

  

 The coverage about the Trump administration putting a gag order on several government agencies could be considered a horrific turn of events, until you find out that it is in fact a perfectly normal thing for a new administration to do, in order to ensure that all government agencies are aligned after the handover. The original email, sent January 23 to the Department of Agriculture said, "Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents. This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content." The same notification provision was also sent out in 2009 by the then Agricultural Secretary; Tom Vilsack under president Obama and at the time of writing had already lapsed. 

Another example of misleading headlines is that of CNN running a headline of Steve Bannon saying, ”The media should keep its mouth shut,” which implies that the entire media should be gagged. However, once again when seeing the entire quote as, “The media should keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while, they don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.” The context of the quote becomes completely different.

 Misleading headlines and “fake” news do not help any of the arguments and are just playing into Trump’s hands when the validity of the news they report can be brought into question. 

Last week NBC tweeted, “US Treasury Department easing Obama admin sanctions to allow companies to transact business with Russia’s FSB, successor org to KGB.”  Implying, as did Vanity Fair, that “Comrade Trump Eases Relations With Vlad.”, however later the same international correspondent for NBC  wrote, “Source familiar with sanctions says it’s a technical fix, planned under Obama, to avoid unintended consequences of cyber-sanctions.”, but did not remove the original article.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/treasury-dept-allow-u-s-companies-d…

http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/02/russian-stocks-surge-as-comrade-…

The New York Times upon the release of Trumps immigration ban reported the following,” Gen. John F. Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, had dialed in from a Coast Guard plane as he headed back to Washington from Miami. Along with other top officials, he needed guidance from the White House, which had not asked his department for a legal review of the order. Halfway into the briefing, someone on the call looked up at a television in his office. ‘The president is signing the executive order that we’re discussing,’ the official said, stunned.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/29/us/politics/donald-trump-rush-immigr…

Secretary Kelly, later strongly denied this report during a press conference Tuesday. “We knew it was coming. It wasn’t a surprise, I don’t know where they got this idea from” and then few days later, CNN reported that an internal memo showed that the DOJ had in fact approved Trump’s executive order.

The Washington Post reported that White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon wanted to stop Kelly in his tracks.” Only to later retract the statement.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/josh-rogin/wp/2017/02/04/the-white-…

The Atlantic’s Washington editor Steve Clemons tweeted that Secret Service management level personnel were forced to resign Thursday night and escorted out of the Eisenhower executive office building when in fact it was a completely false statement but still received thousands of tweets.

The associated press reported that Trump had threatened to send troops into Mexico actually quoting “You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Peña Nieto in the excerpt, “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.” 

http://time.com/4657474/donald-trump-enrique-pena-nieto-mexico-bad-homb…

It turned out to be a completely false quote and with the release of the actual transcript, Trump had actually said, “You have some pretty tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help with. We are willing to help with that big-league, but they have been knocked out and you have not done a good job knocking them out.” 

Then we had the most controversial of Trump’s policies, the “Muslim ban”.

(another misleading headline)

Now although the administration has already flipped and flopped over what the executive order actually meant, they have repeatedly stated that it is not a Muslim ban and that the countries were chosen on the basis of their unwillingness to share information in the vetting process. Personally, I think we should be a beacon of light in this tumultuous planet of ours.  I’m reminded of the position this country took in 1939 with the transatlantic liner St. Louis, when we denied Jewish refugees entry into the US.  Something historically shameful, that resulted in the death of 620 of the 908 passengers that were redistributed to mainland Europe as opposed to England.

However, I can also see other people’s point of view, which justifiably fears the small majority who may wish to do us harm. It is also a fair point to ask why aren’t we protesting the likes of Algeria,Malaysia,Bangladesh,Oman,Brunei,Pakistan,Iran,Iraq,Sudan,Kuwait,Syria, Lebanon, U.A.E., Libya and Yemen, who for many years have upheld a ban against people holding an Israeli passport for purely religious reasons. That Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, U.A.E. all refusing to accept a single Syrian refugee for fear of creating an imbalance of religious sects within their borders. That while we castigate Trump for cutting short his conversation with the Australian Prime Minister and send over apologist tweets to the Australian people, we seem to ignore the fact that the United Nations AND Amnesty International have branded Australia’s own immigration laws as a breach of human rights. 

 

I’m a man of science. I believe in facts and what I can see.   


So we must be reminded that 20 years ago, one of the people I admire the most, Carl Sagan said the following,

Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. Science is more than a body of knowledge. It’s a way of thinking. A way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along.”

Whether or not the Trump gamble will be worthwhile remains to be seen. There is a realization that the economy needs faster economic growth. That confidence is key. That given the reactions of the stock markets, it is possible, for better or worse, the election of Trump may have ignited company stocks. 

Trump would like nothing more than validation, made painfully obvious by his reaction to the amount of attention that was put on the attendance of his inauguration. 

I believe that everything he does in this administration will be geared toward reelection. To this end, his ego may serve us well, for he may actually listen to the people. 

We must acknowledge that it is our own fault we allowed a multitude of injustices to pass for too many years. It is astonishing that we actually felt good about ourselves when we posted transparent French flags on Facebook for the terrorist attacks that killed over 230 people and that it is inconceivable to me that it took an 11 year old comment about vaginas to finally motivate everyone into action.

Admit to ourselves that it is our own inactivity in protesting the Iraq and Libya wars and foreign policies that has led to the instability that exists today. We did nothing when elected officials blatantly broke laws and accepted the fact that money allows you the freedom to do as you wish. We did nothing when we found out our own country runs more spy programs than any other in the world, not just on foreign enemies we may fear, but on leaders of our allies and even our own people.

Protest for all the unfairness in the world,  

Don’t just wear stupid "pussy" hats and roast Trump as your sole motivation to do anything.  

I would like to believe that the rights and freedoms of ALL individuals will be upheld in this country I call home, be gay, lesbian, transgender, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or even Jedi. I hope that scientific thought will be encouraged and thoughtful debate will be the way forward instead of 10-word opinions screamed across Twitter. That we should be protesting against bigotry and religious freedom across the globe.

Trump is now our President, whether we like it or not. But instead of constantly looking for ways to impeach him and moaning about the injustices of a fairly elected official, we should collectively stop acting like entitled children and try to have a more positive outlook, all the while staying vigilant and constantly reminding the current administration and ourselves that this country was based on the separation of church and state, freedom of speech, and the protection of rights of all our people.. And we need to keep it this way.