So… It’s Treason, Then

This is our current White House strategy for dealing with the news coverage surrounding their corruption. Flood the media with so much information and misinformation that no one without mystical abilities can discern the difference or put together a coherent story worthy of discerning to begin with. But it only takes one poof ball.

The 3 Stooges Effect - The Simpsons

First some background information:

Treason is defined in United States Constitution Article III section 3 as the following:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying way against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act or on confession in open court.”

It is in fact the only crime defined in our founding document so, you know, kind of a big deal. It’s also one of a handful of federal crimes that carry the death penalty.

The 5th amendment to our constitution states:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The underlined part is what is probably the most well-known and actually the most relevant to the topic. It was later defined in case law to pertain only to answering specific questions.

As of May 22nd, 2017, just four months in to President Trump’s First term, Michael Flynn has incorrectly invoked his constitutional 5th amendment rights and threatens to be that “slight breeze”. In doing so, he has tactfully tried to cast shade over the fact that if he turns over the subpoenaed information, the punishment for non-compliance is less than what the punishment would be for compliance. For not turning over this information he faces a possible lifetime of 1 year federal prison sentences for being held in contempt of the Senate. These can then be pardoned by the president of course but that’s completely useless as the senate can then immediately subpoena again and hold him in contempt before he even gets out. So, what could be worse than spending the rest of your life rotting away in a federal jail cell? Letting a special prosecutor shorten your stay with a conviction. General Michael Flynn has graciously allowed his life to be extended by accepting his conviction in the court of public opinion rather than face questioning and possible prosecution by Robert Mueller.

This isn’t even the first time he’s threatened to be a slight breeze. In the waning days of March, Flynn was rejected by the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the Trump campaigns involvement with Russian officials for the immunity he sought in exchange for his testimony in their probe. This came less than a year after General Flynn found himself stumping for then candidate Trump on “Meet the Press” and said “When you are given immunity, that means you probably committed a crime,”. SHAME! But, what if he asks again? Now that it’s turned into a criminal investigation, things change a bit. In a criminal investigation immunity becomes a bigger carrot for both sides. Without immunity General Flynn’s future is, at best, three hots and a cot until natural causes releases him from the burden of counting himself amongst the ranks of the living. On the other hand, who is he offering to take his place? It could be no one. A rouse to guarantee his freedom. But pay attention if Immunity is brought up again because in criminal cases immunity is commonly extended, IF the person you are offering as a sacrifice in your stead is much higher up on the ladder than you. There are very few people who would be higher than a 3 Star Lieutenant General and National Security Advisor and all of them are poof balls trying to push through the inner circle of President Trump.

Of course, this final remaining plea could all be for naught if the investigation gathers so much steam that General Flynn’s testimony is no longer a “slight breeze” and becomes just another piece of candy on the conveyor belt in that episode of “I Love Lucy”. As Senator John McCain said, “Every time we turn around, another shoe drops from this centipede.”

All we’re left with at this point (about 12% into President Trump’s first term) is speculation on what spectacles may await in the weeks and months to come but comfortingly the potential list of valid hypotheses we can conjure is continuously shrinking. Some of them include “How long can Flynn hide in a penitentiary avoiding his inevitable fate” ” Who would cocoon themselves in a blanket of traitorous, backstabbing, craven, yes-men because they lack the backbone needed to fill those positions with competent advisors and not people who are only there to indulge your dementia riddled, narcissistic, ego?” and slightly further down the line, “how long do we keep calling someone the leader of the free world? the Commander in Chief? Mr. President? when he puts his needs of reaffirmation ahead of the will of the people and pardons a traitor to the people of the country he serves of the crime of treason?”

Happy Millennial Day

Certain phrases and terms tend to make my skin crawl when I see them in a news or blog headline. Where I have seen the term ‘Millennial’ most commonly used is in the context of tapping into a group of young consumers to find the best method extract funds which they seem to have no idea how to spend effectively, or recommendations on how to ‘deal’ with millennials in the workplace. A faceless and seemingly illogical demographic with a potentially large wallet if marketing firms and human resources departments don’t act immediately to shrink it.

At the time I’m writing this, today is April 25, 2017. This date marks one year since Pew published its research indicating that Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation. Roughly a year before this research was published, Millennials overtook Generation-X as the largest generational segment of the U.S. labor market. Although the specifics of these stats can be disputed on the basis of there being no official Census Bureau generational boundaries, there is no disputing this generational change in populations and the labor force, will, or has already occurred.

This trend is genuinely great news if you are a Millennial, but these gains in population distribution have little to no bearing on representation as Millennials are appallingly underrepresented in government. Currently, Millennials are represented by only five of the 435 members of congress whereas Boomers occupy a whopping 270 seats. So, while Millennials are the largest generational segment of the country’s population, it translates into little in terms of material impact.

Source: Associated Press, data compiled by Bloomberg
Source: Associated Press, data compiled by Bloomberg

One way this ‘maturity’ of congress can be explained is the inherent nature of career experience and the incumbent’s inherent advantage. Another more concerning explanation of how we arrived at this predicament is due to a terrible divergence in voter turnout. The Baby Boomer voting-eligible population peaked in size at 72.9 million around 2004 and in that same election year, voter turnout among eligible Baby Boomers was about 72%. By comparison, voter turnout among eligible Millennials peaked in 2008 at an abysmal 50%, and dropped in 2012 to 46%.

While voter turnout has historically always been worse among younger generations, the drop in recent years is particularly concerning as it appears this is a trend which will not be corrected in a linear way. Let us not forget that, issues aside, we just elected the oldest president in history. 

There is no mercy for the college dropout, other than Kayne. Fucking. West.

I, like a lot of other mid-level adults bought in to the idea of college straight out of high school with my more than stellar GPA of 2.9. Thank you, high school guidance counselor. long story (awesome story, later story), short, I managed roughly 7 semesters of college, attaining the rank of barely sophomore. At this point in time, I happen to have MASSIVE creative differences with the university I was attending and decided I was way better off not digging an even larger, unattainable, massive, all knowing, all future decision impacting student loan debt. 

Sallie-Mae

The only reason I realized I was in this hole is because of a generic Civics 101 class that was covering a very small federal lawsuit by a man named Michael Zahara. He alleged a gouge of an outlandish possibility. The suit (filed by Zahara, a former employee of Sallie Mae, a student loan shark) claimed employees of Sallie Mae were given incentives to push student’s loans into forbearance, sometimes without the student’s knowledge, to keep reported default levels artificially low. They would dare prey on the youth? No, preposterous, false, commie, red, sinner… Truth. Students information was coerced from universities. The terms of the loans were not properly explained to the unexpected youth, yeah, yeah, yeah, we all know what happens next. He then withdrew his case, ask him his reasons, he hasn’t been clear. What actually happened next turns out to be I just turned thirty-one, am married and work almost as many hours as your grandfather did. Hey, I said almost.

What we tend to not talk about is that some of the kids, and I should say children, that are indoctrinated into the college system, fail. It’s a real thing, and these people don’t fade into the sunset. They don’t disappear and neither does their debt. They have shit healthcare, if any, and they struggle. Struggle probably doesn’t cover it. Google student loan wage garnishment. I was 17, I am 31. We rent houses. We buy 3000 dollar cars and put 2000 dollars into them over 3 years until they shit-out. Most people don’t know the difference between a 3000 dollar car and a 5000 dollar car, its 2000 dollars worth of wasted fuckery and time that you never get back. Yes, we should have studied harder.

Moving on to the year 2050. There is an army of us, without health care, without pensions, just paid our student loan debts off in time to die. The baby boomers are pissed that they saved and then got fucked. We were fucked before we were even given that chance. #fucksalliemae #vote

Star Wars Episode VIII and the Current Political Climate

The impending release of the newest installment of the Star Wars saga provides a perfect backdrop for understanding the clusterfuck that we find ourselves eye-to-eye with everyday attempting to decode current American politics. If you find yourself as one of the people thinking, “I don’t get what the big deal is with Star Wars,” I’ll wager dollars-to-donuts that you jumped in somewhere in the middle. As with all good stories the beauty, the truth, lies in the journey. Beginning, middle, and end. No matter what anyone tries to tell you, Star Wars does not take place “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…” Star Wars does not just tell a story, it tells THE story. It tells us the story of what is going on around us, inside us, every minute of every day. If you don’t get it, go back to the beginning, you will. Pay little attention to the numbering of the Episodes, this is not the order you’re looking for. The proper order of the Star Wars Films is as follows: 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, Rouge 1, 6, 7, 8, 9. This is a variation of the “Machete Order”.

DARTH-TRUMP

The Star Wars saga began in 1977. Any true comprehension must begin there as well. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope comes first. This is by far the most important part. Stop reading here, go watch it, and you will still be the better for it. The entire Star Wars empire stems from the power of the original film. If you love Star Wars, Harry Potter, or any of the epics, read Joseph Campbell particularly Hero with 1,000 Faces. It’s all there. The second film in the Star Wars story is the second film to be released Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. It is crucial not to spoil the reveal at the end of Empire by placing any films other than ANH before it. Between The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi, comes the entire Prequel Quadrilogy, sequentially. Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, plus Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Then come the rest of the films, also sequentially. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.

The order of the films is important, but only to properly portray the order of the story. Everything stems from the original film. A New Hope may be the purest telling of the archetypal hero myth that has ever been created for film. Everything else is a prologue or an epilogue to the story of the Desert Orphan who befriended the Mystic, the Rogue, and the Princess on the road to spiritual enlightenment that allowed him to tap into his inner life-force, the life-force of all living things, and save his friends from destruction at the hands of the forces of evil.

Early in the story, we learn that the Jedi are the self-proclaimed champions of peace and justice, and later on that they have declared their sworn enemies, the distressingly similar Sith, to be the forces of Evil. We also learn that the Jedi believe, again incorrectly, that only the Sith deal in absolutes. This wrong-headed belief proves to be the crux of the undoing for the Jedi who, like the truest of Hubrists, are torn down never to return as they were. As the story unfolds, we find the Jedi actually have far more and more asinine rules than their counterparts. The Sith believe that power is to be desired and comes from embracing all human emotion, especially the dark. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate will make you powerful. The Jedi believe that only by denying all emotion can they steel themselves against the darkness that resides in all of us. Alas, love, the greatest human emotion of them all, is what leads Luke Skywalker’s father Anakin down the dark path. Clinging too closely to those we love brings a tragic sense of loss when we outlive them. Loss leads to sadness, sadness leads to despair, and despair leads to rage.

Star Wars teaches us that love and hate may not be true opposites. Love is the greatest of all human emotions, it is the best thing that we can do. Love can be for a single person, or it can be for all of humanity, for all living things, for life itself, for things that are not even alive. As such, love is far too grand to have an exact opposite. To imagine a person who hates everything, every person, every animal, every food, is to immediately become sad. Hate is not a big enough emotion, not a big enough concept to fully mirror love. Hate can only mirror the focused aspect of love, the love for one person, or one thing, one group, one idea. Hate can bring a person to do terrible terrible things, but like a cancer, when it grows too large it collapses under its own weight. Hate that grows too large brings us back to loss, to sadness, to despair. It is despair that can cause a person to cross the bridge to rage. Rage is the foil for the unfocused aspect of love. The love for all things that can fill a person’s heart. Perhaps this is compassion. It is only rage that a person can feel for everything and everyone. Rage is what person feels when they have lost too much, it is what they can do when they no longer care who suffers. We rage against anyone else, everyone else, against ourselves, who cares?

Rage is the true dark monster that lives at the end of the dark path inside of us all. And rage is only ever a few short steps from love. To love someone is to share their pain. Not to naively attempt to shield them from it, but feel their pain with them and allow them to feel ours. But what happens when we are too selfless? What happens when we attempt to be strong, to allow someone we love to unburden their pain onto us, but you keep too much of our own for to ourself? And then they leave us. Something, someone, the world, takes them from us. Suddenly we are alone, with our pain and theirs and no one to share it with. What happens when that pain is too great? What if there is no one to blame? To hate?

This is the story of Anakin Skywalker, of how he becomes Darth Vader. It is the story of Washington bureaucrats and internet blog-tivists. It is what happens when we get too attached to our ideas that we can’t stand to lose them. It is what happens when we don’t acknowledge our fears that the other side may be right. That maybe we had it wrong all along. Maybe I don’t understand the budget. Maybe we can’t just lower taxes. Maybe they have a point about immigration or abortion, something I didn’t think about. Fear leads to anger. NO! They don’t have it right, I have it right! Anger leads to hate. Conservatives are Nazis and Liberals are destroying America! But only the pain of loss, the despair of getting your hopes up and then having them dashed can take you across the bridge to soul-crushing rage. WE LOST?!? They shot JFK?!? They shot Malcom?!? They shot Martin?!? Nixon won?!? He resigned?!? Carter won?!? Reagan won?!? Bush won?!? Clinton won?!? Another Bush won?!? They blew up the Towers?!? Obama Won?!? The black guy?!? Another Clinton’s gonna win?!? A woman?!? She lost?!? Trump won?!? They’re ruining my country!! The economy is in the shitter!! It’s all the immigrants fault!! Fuck muslims!! No fuck you!! Fuck racists!! Fuck rich people!! Fuck poor people!! Fuck everybody!!

Holy shit, SLOW DOWN! There are four more movies.

The Jedi believed that the only way to avoid the loss that can start the spiral towards soul crushing despair and rage is to eschew the narrow focusing love that two people share with each other. They believed that only compassion for life and for other living beings as a whole was safe enough to allow themselves to feel. This was their downfall. This is the downfall of American politics. It is the philosophy of the fundamentalist. It is the thinking of the person who believes that there is one right answer, one solution to everything, and the only way to win is never, ever, give in to anything else. America is rife with them. Religious fundamentalists. Scientific fundamentalists. Liberal fundamentalists. Conservative fundamentalists. New York Yankees fundamentalists. Boston fundamentalists. Silicon Valley fundamentalists. Whatever I think is better than what you think fundamentalists.

This is strife, this is conflict, this is drama, this is suffering. This is when Luke Skywalker reclaims the path of righteousness by hitting puberty and discovering emotional depth. He learns the ability to feel more than one thing, to think more than one thing, at the same time. He saves his father by allowing Anakin to reconcile the right that he did with the wrong; to die at peace with the fact that we are all the yin and the yang. The old school Jedi and the Sith both had it right, and they both had it wrong, but at least the lines were clearly drawn. Cold-hearted detachment vs. Hot-blooded passion. Both are necessary, but either will lead to disaster without the other. We cannot become too attached to our ideas, or our identities, but neither can we hold them too loosely. We should hold the most important things to use closely, but never so closely that we could not bear to lose them. Death is an inevitable part of life, we must be ready for it.

America could use some clarity and balance right now. What is the Right? What is the Left? What do they really stand for? Are those my only two options? Do I have to choose one or the other? Take abortion, for instance. Who is Pro-life? Who is Pro-choice? What about guns? Is the answer the same? We like to yell and scream at each other, but at the end of the day I don’t think that very many of us have the same answer for both. I think most of us take one from column-A and one from column-B. I think Episode VIII and its “Grey Jedi”, half-light, half-dark, might get here just in time to remind us all that the answer isn’t one or the other, it’s both. Liberals are out of their fucking minds. Completely insane, bat shit crazy. If you ask some of them about gender pronouns. On the other hand, their stance on student loans makes a lot of sense. Conservatives are unhinged. Corporate driven, war-machine building, hillbilly psychopaths. Just ask a few of the super, super rich ones their opinion on corporate personhood. That is, until we need soldiers.

The way to fix our problems cannot be found on the Left or the Right. It requires both. Some light, some dark. Some yin, some yang. The calm is at the center of the storm. The path to prosperity lies along the knife-edge between good and evil. What a mess we’ve made of having two right answers.