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 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…

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.

Trudeau, Castro, Cuba, Canada, and News Bubbles

I almost did not write this. It is an opinion that could lose me fans. But part of being a writer is having the courage of my convictions.

This week the Canadian Prime-Minister, Justin Trudeau, briefly managed the nigh-impossible feat of attracting more media attention than Donald Trump by offering a eulogy for Fidel Castro. The hashtag #TrudeauEulogies quickly trended, with fake Trudeau eulogies for Hitler and Stalin being the most popular.

Then our American allies discovered (again) photos of our PM being held by Castro when he was a child. And then they rediscovered the pictures of Castro at Pierre Trudeau’s funeral and the shit really hit the fan (for a few hours, until Trump tweeted about SNL or something).

The things is Canada has never really been at odds with Cuba. It is more of an American thing.

While the Canadian right was quick to jump on the bandwagon and enjoy a good ol commie scare, most Canadians shrugged. Almost a million Canadians vacationed in Cuba last year (2015), spending over 700 million $, and notably few them were taken prisoner, shot, or radicalized. Many of those Canadians actually left the beaten and talked to the locals, who are amazingly well educated despite the isolation forced on them by the embargo.

Some people who live in the US, particularly Cuban exiles and escapees, have real reasons to hate Castro, I cannot deny that. These people have family members who have been executed and property that has been confiscated, and many escaped under harrowing circumstances. Their view of Cuba is the one that I grew up with, as Canada is often inside the US media bubble. That view was of Castro as a brutal dictator dominating his country, always on the brink of being overthrown.

When I visited Cuba, I found that greatly at odds with the reality. There were far fewer police and military than I expected and I began to see how the elder Trudeau could have a friendship with the Cuban dictator.

I learned a great deal from the Cubans I encountered. There is a lot of history on that island, which is, after all the first point of modern European contact with the Americas.

Cubans do not hide that Castro did brutal things. They spoke openly about them. The US backed dictator that Castro overthrew, Bautista, apparently did worse things. He just wasn’t a communist. In the midst of the cold war, that made all the difference.

The US tried many times to overthrow Castro. Each time they made a crucial mistake.in hoping that the Cuban people would rise up and overthrow the cruel dictator. Each time that rebellion failed to materialize, even when backed by Cuban exiles and escapees. From the Bay of Pigs, to the embargo, to Radio Free Cuba, all of these failed.

While I was in Cuba I was reminded of the time after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the US tightened the embargo, hoping that without the support of that bastion of communism, Russia, that Cubans would finally be driven to oust the dictator. I forgot about that until I visited Cuba and on of my day tour guides mentioned what they call “the special period”, with a haunted look in his eyes.

You see that tightening of the embargo produced starvation in Cuba. People died when goods could not be sold and food could not be brought in. Dying of starvation is a kind of torture, is it not? And yet, the Cuban people did not blame Castro for the embargo, nor did they have higher than normal resentment toward the American people — they blamed the US government and US politics.

But mostly the people I talked to about that period, which includes a number of Cuban immigrants to Canada since my visit, look at it as a sad, painful event.

So while some Cubans have reason to hate Castro, the Cuban dictator and the Cuban situation is more complex than the mainstream media lets on and the US government is not exactly free of blemishes regarding the island. My hope is that President Trump helps lift the embargo and that the people of the US can travel there to learn on their own.

It certainly opened my eyes.

A Review

Often, when sales are down, or when a new book does not quite meet expectations, I wonder if I am doing the right thing by continuing to write. I suspect that this is something that almost writers struggle with from time to time. Surely the 20+ hours a week that I spend writing could be put to better use making money for my family. I have children and a wife to think of, and all the adult practicalities of life to bow to. Usually these thoughts are put down with me realizing that I have drunk too much coffee that day, or thinking of the positive reinforcement that I have received from readers, or family.

The thing is, even if practicalities demanded that I stop writing, I am not certain that I could. I have kept writing through some fairly rough (for my life) stuff in the last few years. I am nearing publication of my eighth novel in spite of it all. Its pretty fucking crazy, really. But, I do it because writing is one of the things that I do to feel alive.

It took me a long time to come to this realization.

And that is where Walter White comes into this. If you have never watched Breaking Bad, you should. I came late to the party, finishing the show well after the final season and well-deserved the glory that came along with it. I loved it despite the fact that I do not like outlaw stories, prefer not to watch TV for the most part, and really dislike grim stuff. Breaking Bad rose above all of that, implausibly in my case, and I am glad that my wife prevailed on me to watch it. It is the first TV show that has given me the same feeling, when it ends, that I have when I finish a great book or video game. That is something special.

I cannot offer you any new insight into the show. The acting is amazing from all sides. The characters and the writing are legendary. The descent of Walter White is both gratifying and horrifying, but no matter how you view his morality, it is a satisfying tale. It is cited as one of the best shows of all time for good reason. I have been replaying the last episode and some of the highlights of the show for a week now.

It is a masterwork.

What I can add is what it taught me about myself. I see a little bit of Walter White in me. In the end, he realized that being Heisenberg made him feel alive, and everything else was just an excuse. It was his art, as writing is mine.

Through art we come to know ourselves…

Disclaimer: I do not intend to use my writing for evil… 😀

The Rune 1.9

After much soul-searching, I have decided to write a few short stories, unrelated to the other works, before continuing on with the next of the Shadow Wolf Sagas, just to keep it fresh. As always, this is raw and uncut; enjoy responsibly.

The Rune 1.1

The Rune 1.2

The Rune 1.3

The Rune 1.4

The Rune 1.5

The Rune 1.6

The Rune 1.7

The Rune 1.8

<>

I awake in a cell, a concrete tomb that has never seen the sun, a barren womb that emanates stillborn despair.

My head is heavy, my eyes are leaden. Sleep in this place is hard and my dreams are unquiet. It takes me time to situate myself in this forgotten place. I am a prisoner, taken for my secret knowledge of the runes. I am cogent, but something stirs beneath the surface of my thoughts. Flashes of deeds and hidden memories threaten move in the deeps of my unconscious mind. Something has happened.

I remember a girl; Andrea, Adrianna, Amy? or was it a man? Andrew, Daffyd, Mikael? There was a gun. Corridors much like the one outside the cell. Monsters in the dark. And Runes, always Runes. Wierder things that I cannot quite grasp. I push deeper, trying to remember, willing myself to recall. But the images confuse me, overwhelm me, like a child leafing through an entire library shelf of books all at once. I feel like I am drowning. I gasp for air and let it go. Something is wrong.

After some time, I gather my wits. I decide it is best not to plumb the depths of my mind in such a place. At least not right now, not in such a dire place.

I take stock of what I know for certain. The easy stuff. How long have I been here? It seems like forever, but I cannot remember more than three days. I know that I failed a test somehow. They know I can see the runes. How did I give myself away?

And, of course, I know that on the wall across the cell from me, like an old companion, sits a rune. Massive and powerful, waiting for me, always waiting for the answer that only I can provide.

<End, For Now>

Teaser Tuesday

This week we have a preview from my upcoming book, Bloodlust: The Seeds of Ruin. It is a involves the Skin Leagues, so be warned.

I am always a little uncomfortable writing sexually tinged scenes, especially those involving the Skin Leagues, a degenerate form of the Great Games where the fighters are required to bare their all for the crowds and put up with other humiliating, exploitative rules in the name of gaining popularity and fandom.

“People of Solvanar, I bring you games!” began Silvius, lifting his arms. The crowd roared lustily. “The Skyclad Leagues offers what the corrupt Faction Leagues, the boring Free Leagues, and the dreadfully unrefined Death Leagues do not. Here handsome Gladiators and delectable Gladiatrices bare all and fight hard for your pleasure! Let the games begin!”

Octavia smiled as Silvius returned. Outside the trumpets sounded and the announcer called the Gladiator forth. She leaned over the railing, watching intently through the privacy screen.

Iron Lance was a large, muscular Shadow-Elf. He was wearing a heavy battle harness, but his impressive manhood was clearly visible underneath the plate protecting his abdomen. He was well-formed, with broad shoulders and barrel chest, a thin waist, and a magnificently muscular physique. His hair was glamoured into long spikes and his skin shone as if freshly oiled.

“Does he usually go into battle so impressively… engorged, Silvius?” asked Noxaia.

“It is a League rule, actually,” said Silvius. “After a few seasons we have found that the crowds have certain expectations regarding appearances. It is part of a complex refinement process that I am very involved in.”

“Hands-on, I am sure,” said Octavia.

Silvius laughed ostentatiously, because he had to, then turned back to Chosen Noxaia.