A few thoughts on Charlottesville

[This is not related to my writing, but I have to say something about it, if only to set it in my mind for later… Shadow Wolf Sagas will resume on Sunday, hopefully.]

A couple of days ago, I watched with horror and disgust as the most powerful man in the world lied to defend racists and traitors.

That President Donald J Trump lies is nothing new or surprising. At this point in his career only a fool would stand up for his honesty. But in a presidency defined by its lows, lying in the defence of the KKK and American Nazis marks a new low and a dangerous one at that.

During his remarks yesterday President Trump doubled down on his original comments that both the left and the right were equally responsible for the grim actions in Charlottesville that left Heather Heyer dead, and dozens wounded as a white supremacist rammed a car into a line of merchers.

His most brazen lie, that the Left-wing protesters did not have a permit to protest, went unchallenged, mostly unnoticed in a stream of ugly half truths. The Anti-Nazis actually had two permits to protest, making their presence just as legal. And yet the President’s lie was picked up and spread by his surrogates and supporters and used to give the KKK and the Nazis greater legitimacy by creating the narrative that they were there legally, while the Anti-Nazi protesters were not. He lied to defend ideologies that Americans have gone to war to defeat. He lied to defend groups who spread hate and murdered a woman this weekend. He lied to defend his allies and in doing so condoned their actions and fanned the flames of further violence.

Perhaps even uglier than the lies he told in defence of the KKK and the Nazis, was his equivocation on their behalf. The stated term for their gathering was to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the most celebrated general of the Confederacy. President Trump said that taking down Lee’s statue would open the way for the left to take down statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson since all three men were guilty of owning slaves. This argument enrages me. Comparing the first two Presidents of the United States to the leader of the Confederate army that sought to tear it apart during the Civil War is simply beyond the pale. Yes, all three men owned slaves and should be condemned for that, but two of them are proud figures in early American history, flaws and all, while Lee is a General of a hostile secessionist force, a traitor to the republic who sought to bring it down to preserve slavery.

One need only to glance at the founding documents of the Confederacy to know that slavery was the reason they broke away from the Republic, in spite of the popular fiction of state’s rights. President Trump does not care though; he needs allies and the Nazis and KKK are his most willing and ardent supporters at this point.

The further we get away from the weekend, the uglier the forces behind Charlottesville look. One need only read the words and look at the posters that were created to advertise the event to see that these were white supremacists. Richard Spencer, a Nazi by his own words and admission, was a headline guest. The protesters chanted “Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and soil”, lines which resonate with racist and fascist movements of the past. And yet, President Trump has dug in his heels and refuses to back off his equivocations and lies. While this has earned him a heap of criticism from most people, the Nazis and the KKK have praised him for his support; thus far he has not tweeted that he does not want their kudos. He has been far swifter and less equivocal in his criticism of everything under the sun (Except Russia), one need only look at his twitter feed to see the truth of that. He does not condemn them fully because he does not want to. It is sad and ugly, and it leaves me angry and deeply troubled.

Heather Hayer was killed at Charlottesville when a white supremacist rammed a car into a crowd of protestors. Nineteen more were injured. I have watched that terrible video and it will remain with me, as will the words and images of the vicious white supremacists who descended upon Charlottesville. As far as I am concerned the BLM/Antifa/Church Groups and others who showed up to confront them are heroes. I do not condone violence, but history has shown us what happens when you don’t stand up to Nazis.

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.47

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

<>

Carmen emerged from the shadow of a drainpipe beside a window ledge two stories above the cobbles. She grinned down at me and then dropped to the ground, making barely a sound as she hit the ground.

“Did you really hear me, or were you just guessing Old Wolf?” she asked.

“You are never as quiet as you think Carmen. Did The Twins send you to watch my back?”

“They suggested that they would be grateful if I did,” she answered, looking around the street. “But even without them, The Nightblades have a vested interest in seeing you survive until the Whores’s War is over and you have returned to the north.”

“Am I allowed to know that?”

“Yes,” said Carmen, turning to face me. “I took a risk giving you the sword. Had you died, The Guild probably would have discarded me.”

“Discarded is a nice way of saying executed…”

“It sounds worse to me, actually. Execution at least has a level of formality. But you killed Ulfgorr and disgraced Wolki and The Guild is very pleased with us both.”

“Did I earn you a promotion?”

“Yes, actually,” said Carmen, stepping in close. Her scent washed over me.  “Feel free to claim your reward… Vethra and Eiskra don’t mind, I asked them.”

I laughed. I was certain that Carmen was serious, but her motives were not nearly as transparent as her body language.

“I think I will, but that will have to wait until I return from the North.”

“You’re coming back?”

“I am. If I am able.”

“I’m intrigued,” said Carmen, stepping back. “Care to share what you know?”

“With you or The Nightblades?”

“Ouch. Point taken.”

<>

The days after my meeting with Lily were a frenzy of meetings with The Doormen and Bouncers of the Doxies’s Union. After my name was cleared, my former influence returned. Many of the old hands who provided security at the Union’s various brothels had trained with me in Madame Glorianna’s day. They were as loyal as you would expect, and it was not hard to convince most of them that Diamond Silvermane was not good for the Doxies’s. This was no surprise to me, in truth.

What was gratifying is how much my name meant to the newer Doxies. I was no longer old Ragnar the Nordan, I was Ragnar, the guy who killed a werewolf to avenge Rake. News of my deeds had spread throughout the Union and members greeted me wherever I went. My very presence helped our cause. That was gratifying.

<>

 

Teaser Tuesday

This week’s teaser is from my upcoming work, Bloodlust: The Sum of Hate (Domains of the Chosen #7).

The book centers around a duel between Chosen Sadira, one of the series most popular characters, and Chosen Silvius, an enjoyably scummy villain who takes on a new light in the Trump era.

This teaser focuses on an event that stretches all the way back to book #3, Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden, involving accusations against former Senior Centurion Hephus, who took field command of the Eighth Cohort of the Ninth Legion at the battle of Fort Nerus. Hephus is a Gifted (a magic-user) and the Gifted are not allowed to command in the Legions, by ancient tradition. The good guys argue that an exception had to be made for conditions in the field, while others argue that the Law is the Law.

Hephus’s focus snapped back to the inquiry as Assemblyman Skavetz called a witness.
“Legionnaire Septimus Bron, please take to the podium of truth.”

Maximus Skavetz cut an impressive figure in his formal toga. He was tall, square-jawed and straight-backed, with dark curly hair and piercing eyes. His voice, however, was what set him apart; a rich, a commanding bass that could thunder in judgement or offer deepest sympathy.

Hephus recognized Septimus Bron. The Legionnaire looked nervous and uncomfortable before the assembly as he moved forward and took his seat behind a heavy marble table facing the assembly. He had a noticeable limp and one side of his face was viciously scarred.

“Legionnaire Bron, do you know this man?” Skavetz pointed toward Hephus without looking at him.

“I do, sir, that is Senior Centurion Hephus of the Eighth Cohort,” said Bron, looking at Hephus. “He’s a good–”

“Please refrain from offering your opinion unasked, Legionnaire,” interrupted Skavetz.

There was some muttering among the assembly at his title. In the Legion, the Gifted were not supposed to command the Legionnaires. It was a fear founded in The Reckoning, the disaster cause by those who commanded the forces of magic, nearly destroying the world. The Legions were now see as a counter-balance to the power of The Chosen and The Gifted, answering to their own command structure and the people of Krass.

“Legionnaire Bron, firstly I would like to acknowledge your bravery and your service to The Empire. You have suffered greatly to bring us victory. We have brought you here to clarify some questions about the battle of Fort Nerus and the role played by one Hephus Krassius. I will be asking you questions which you should answer to the best of your ability. Please refrain from conjecture or colour commentary; this inquiry is purely factual. Do you understand, Legionnaire?”

“Yes sir,” said Septimus Bron.

“Very well, my first question concerns the promotion of Hephus Krassius to Senior Centurion. Septimus Bron, were you aware of any other surviving Centurions in the Eighth Cohort?”

“Yes, but…”

“Please keep to the questions Legionnaire Bron,” said Maximus Skavetz in a patronizing tone. “Were any of these other Centurions Gifted?”

“No, sir.”

“Interesting. What position did Hephus occupy before his ascension?”

“He was in charge of munitions and forging, sir.”

“Is that a command position, Legionnaire?”

“No sir.”

<>

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.39

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

<>

She was clad in gems and adorned in gold, more than a Queen’s ransom, and yet her garment was unmistakably that of a woman advertising her body. I could not help but admire her delicious curves, her poise, and her beauty. Diamond Silvermane stood out in a room full of artful, sexy, pulcherous people, commanding attention as she waited for Eiskra and Vethri to take the stage.

She did not look beaten, and I knew that she had some drama planned, some trick to wrest control from The Twins. Dissolving The Union had failed, but challenging them for control was the next best thing.

The Union Hall was as packed and unruly as ever. I felt eyes on me as I eased into a seat behind The Twins on stage. My name was clear now, with Ulfgrim taking the blame as Rake’s killer. The connection between Ulfgrim and Diamond Silvermane, Wolki and Lily Gemarkand, and the lost sword of High King Siggurd were the last pieces in the puzzle that would end my exile. As The Twins addressed the assembly, representatives of all the whores, joyboys, bouncers, and allied workers, I watched Diamond. She noticed my attention, but did not seem bothered by it.

As The Twins went through the simple minutae of the meeting; quorum, minutes, old business and so on, the tension in the room grew. Everyone present knew that Diamond Silvermane was going to challenge them and unless she was a fool, Diamond would have enough backing to call a vote. The deep pockets of her patron would be enough to sway the more mercenary members of the Union, I was certain. Others had come to the same conclusion and I could see them looking around, gauging strength for the coming conflict. The room was thick with intrigue.

“And now,” intoned Vethri. “We come to new business. Anyone who wishes to bring a point of order may do so.”

A ripple went through the room as Diamond Silvermane stood. She stepped in front of the audience, regal and commanding, waiting for a hush to fall before she began to speak, her voice as clear, crisp, and cultured as one would would expect from such a queenly specimen.

“I wish to Challenge for leadership,” she said.

It was what everyone expected her to say, and yet it still drew a collective gasp. The Twins had enough support to claim leadership, but not enough to prevent others from contesting it. The volume in the room increased considerably, as everyone began to murmur, and some shouted for or against.

“Quorum of support is waved, you may address the floor, Diamond Silvermane,” said Vethri. “Both sides will plead their case and then the members will vote.”

To her credit, Diamond Silvermane did not even blink. By not contesting her support, The Twins had denied her the chance to show it before the vote, and appeared divinely confident as well.

“Don’t worry, we got this,” whispered Eiskra as Diamond moved forward once more. “If not, we’ll come live in the North with you…”

I smiled at her and then turned my attention back to Diamond Silvermane as she began to speak.

<>

 

 

The War On Truth

This is political and anti-Trump.

Sometimes I worry about posting stuff like this. I don’t want to alienate any of my readers who are pro-Trump, whom I love regardless of their political affiliation, but we are living in a historical moment and I cannot pretend to be neutral.

Reagan and Nixon had the War on Drugs, George Bush had the War on Terror and this weekend President Donald J Trump started The War on Truth. It began over this photo:

trumpcrowd

The thing is in 2009 President Obama drew a crowd of historic size (1.8 million), partly because of his popularity and partly because it was a historic occasion (first Black President). The next closest crowd size in recent memory was Obama in 2013 (1 Mil) and Clinton in 1993 (800K). Others rarely broke five hundred thousand.

Donald Trump is a divisive President, so he should have been happy with the relatively small, but still decent crowd size estimates, or just said “wait and see” until the facts were published. Instead he had his Press Secretary call a special press briefing to dispute the crowd size estimates and harangue the media, but offer little factual evidence in retort. The whole thing was the basically the press conference version of road rage.

The conference is worth watching, by the way, if only to see how it sets the tone for The War on Truth. I will link to a republican site for it, so you can read how Trump fans see it, but it is easy to find you own version on youtube if you don’t want to give them views.

Here is a nice summary of some of the ‘alternative facts’ aka lies that were said, with evidence.

The size of the crowds was still a theme later in the day when Trump himself spoke out, especially since it appears that the women’s protest against Trump the next day dwarfed the inauguration day crowds, but first a little background.

On January 11, 2017 President Donald J Trump tweeted this, after a round of new revelations about his connections to Russia and a possible blackmail tape:

He then went on to attack the outgoing director of the CIA and the agency’s record in general, and then ended his rant with a veiled accusation of them being the group that leaked the Russian revelations to the media.

Just ten days later President Trump gave a speech to high ranking CIA officers in front of the wall of honor, where stars are displayed for CIA officers killed in the line of duty whose names remain secret where he said this:

“But no, I just wanted to really say that I love you. I respect you. There’s nobody I respect more. You’re going to do a fantastic job. And we’re going to start winning again – and you’re going to be leading the charge.”

So there’s no one Donald Trump respects more than the agency he was attacking ten days ago. Reminds me of another Donald Trump quote about how no one respects women more than him, just after his famous pussy grabbing comments came out into the open. It is a pretty easy to follow pattern for him.

Finally, Kellyanne Conway, the woman who ran Trump’s winning campaign (or was that Comey?) defended these two rants in a media appearance. She said that Sean Spicer was just working with ‘alternative facts’, a rather impressive piece of doublespeak, and then threatened veiled retribution for hard questioning, saying she might have to rethink their relationship with the program.

The first weekend up the Trump presidency was a fight over crowd size. Just wow.

Even if the president thought he was being misrepresented, surely he has better things to do that correct a minor issue like this. The truth will come out over time regardless of initial estimates. Can you imagine if Obama had freaked out like this over his birtherism?

Trump has declared war on the media, the facts, and ultimately the truth because he wants to control the narrative of his presidency. Unfortunately, his own words are what trip him up the most, such as with his comments about the CIA.

I started off Friday sincerely hoping that I am wrong about Trump, because people’s lives are at stake. Now I am virtually certain that I am right, and it is not a pleasant feeling.

Still, the sheer size of the crowds at the women’s protest left me feeling buoyed, at least until I hear the ‘alternative facts’ about those…

Fake News, Professional Conspiracy Theorists, and Magical Thinking.

This is political. It also relates to systems and magic, which are topics I often delve into in my blog.

Some people, possibly a large number of them, find conspiracy theories more compelling that evidence based conclusions. In my opinion this goes well beyond the usual accusations of confirmation bias and the Dunning Kruger effect that we see whenever opposing views clash on the internet.

It has to do with what people see as a trusted source and what they want from their news, but first let me tell you a little story.

A few weeks ago a woman threatened to kill one of the parents of the Sandy Hook shooting. You can read about it here, from a source I trust.

My introduction to the Sandy Hook conspiracy was through Alex Jones, a professional conspiracy theorist. Jones is the force behind Infowars, and also calls himself the founding father of 9/11 truthers, the people who claim that 9/11 was an inside job. Jones is to news as snake-oil salesmen are to medicine; he makes money selling bullshit to the credulous and then pats them on the head and calls them smart.

But Jones is neither only nor the worst of the the Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists. These people believe that the massacre was faked (by the gov’t) in order to provide justification for increased gun control. The woman who made the threats was a consumer of this news and likely felt that she was doing a good deed by protecting second amendment rights.

And therein lies the secret to understanding the conspiracy minded. For them it is all about a compelling narrative and the source that provides it. These people trust Alex Jones over the New York Times because they feel the NYT represents the interests of coastal elites. Conspiracy theorists tap into that and provide them with a narrative hook that they find compelling.

A few nuggets of truth that mesh with a person’s confirmation bias are served up as bait for potential consumers and then once they are reading/watching it the story that is told is what keeps them coming back. Usually the story involves a few rebels who have been awakened to the truth, defying an all powerful force that has some overarching agenda that is far more offensive and sexy than the slow erosion that usually leads to societal problems. Thus instead of a tragic event leading to sensible gun control they believe there is a conspiracy to take away all guns as the first step to fascism.

None of the conspiracy consumers ever questions why an all-powerful fascist leaning government does not simply kill or jail people like Alex Jones (like say, Putin does to dissenters in Russia or Hitler did) or why they would need a pretext to put in a law that will help them to do something even worse, that Americans would violently resist regardless of the justification.

Magical thinking is at work here. I mean seriously, we live in a society where more people seem to be worried about Fluoride in the water secretly mind controlling people than lead in the water actually poisoning people. It seems that some people are more willing to believe tenuous links from sources that offer the narrative that they want than well sourced and researched journalism.

Fake News depends on magical thinking as much as it depends on confirmation bias. While we all want to believe the worst about our enemies, it takes a leap of faith to believe that the slim evidence provided by Birthers is somehow realistic. The GOP spent eight years undermining Obama; it is beyond illogical to believe that they would let him continue serving as president and never bring it up or even have a hearing about it if he was not born a citizen of the US. If they had any evidence at all they would have tried to impeach him. And yet, Birtherism survive, not only because it tickles the confirmation bias of certain people but also because it provides a narrative that is more exiting/entertaining than the reality of the situation.

Ultimately Fake News is paving the way for a new form of propaganda. The Nazis, who pioneered modern propaganda techniques, felt that narrative was far more important than truth in influencing people and with little regulation on internet news I don’t see much that stands in the way of the worst of this. I fear that sooner or later, people who believe the narrative that these conspiracy theorists are selling will start killing. Of course, I’m sure Alex Jones has a theory to deflect from that event as well…

Trump the Iconoclast, Trump the Orthodox, Trump the ‘Hero’

I find it increasingly hard to turn away from the ugly spectacle of American politics. Part of this is envy; I honestly wish that I could have cast my vote (Bernie, then Hillary) in this seminal election, a transition (I hope) from the industrial age to the information age. I live in the shadow of American news and politics, and while I love Canada, it is hard to ignore the tug of that great country south of us.

I often talk about systems on this blog. I feel that systems and institutions are the villains of modern stories more than singular figures.

Enter Donald Trump.

Trump is a man who has shown absolute willingness to cast aside institutions and ideas. Depending on how you view his motivations this is either a good thing or a bad thing, obviously. I see his motivations as guided by contempt for expertise, the power of persuasion, revenge, desire for personal gain, and an ideology that places wealth and business above all else. Some of his followers see a heroic iconoclast that will break the chains that have held back their country for decades and allow them to cast down their enemies at last.They see him as akin to Alexander confronting the Gordian Knot, as Jesus sweeping the money-lenders from the Temple.

We both might be right.

[What is an iconoclast?  a person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions, literally a destroyer of idols.]

Trump shut down the TPP, instantly dealing a blow the flow of decades of globalization. I actually am in favour of this, but mostly because the TPP is full of harmful laws that limit freedoms and make life easier for climate change deniers. If I could bring myself to trust Trump (spoiler: he lies quite frequently), this alone would be enough to gain my support.

I also don’t trust foreign intervention or intelligence agencies; Trump is currently at odds with both.

I can see why some of Trump’s followers view him as a heroic figure, come to break down regulations and set things right.

The problem is that what guides Donald Trump is not a desire for justice or to make America a better place for everyone. Donald Trump’s destruction of institutions and ideas is purely motivated by personal gain and to enhance to power of the wealthy. In this way he often acts like an orthodox republican: spouting tax cuts, attacking climate science, and seeking to enhance the power of the nation with military might over diplomacy.

In this, he is willing to be iconoclastic as well. He does not care about the truth, spewing whatever he reads on his twitter feed without fact-checking. He does not seem to realize the responsibility that seems to come with his office in this regard. His racism and sexism is well noted, but seen by many as a reaction to stifling political correctness, a bullshit claim in my opinion.

Trump is even willing to violate the constitution (article 1, section 9) in order to keep ownership of his business interests, arguing that his voters knew that he is a businessman, wiping out hundreds of years of tradition in a single stroke. What is fascinating is that his followers and party are, so far, willing to go along with this, even though it is a glaring example of the corruption they despise. In fact, the more his corruption irritates liberals, the more some of them seem to like it.

Trump has already changed so much of american politics and he is not even in power yet. And yet, rather than bringing the country into the future, Trump seems to want to return to a mythical era in the past when coal and manufacturing propelled the economy, businessmen were objects of unqualified adoration, and people did not have to give a fuck about political correctness. In this fashion we can see the orthodoxy that shapes his attacks, a hatred of the directions that the country has taken since his youth.

And yet that bygone era has one defining feature that Trump rejects with great vehemence: The Cold War with Russia. Trump loves everything from that time but rejects butting heads with the dictator, Putin. In many ways this is laudable, but in Trump I think we can see how it is motivated by self-interest. The CIA and the NSA have both sounded warnings about Russian hacking in the election and Trump refuses even to talk about it.

I wonder what is in those tax returns, another tradition that he has broken with.