A Blog By Clayton Callahan- Reluctant Political Activist

I have never been an activist before. All my life, I’ve been content to vote every two years and shoot off my mouth perhaps once a week. But on November 8th, 2016 this country’s arcane electoral college system enabled a fascist, demagog to claim victory, and thus Donald Trump became President-Elect of my United States of America.

Americans are famous for our quick response to aid the victims of natural disasters. Now, we ourselves are the victims of our own self-inflicted  political disaster. My countrymen, we are better than this. We are not a nation of racist, sexist, xenophobes. We are not, and never have been, perfect. But we are a great people of a great nation, and I will not stand for a tyrant’s rule above us.

Why? Because, America, we are better than this!

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Where Is The Blue Wave?

Liberals are constantly talking about “The Blue Wave” nowadays. The wave of Progressive Democrats that supposedly will take back the Senate and House this fall is right up there with hopes that the Muller probe will indite Trump and bring an end to all this craziness once and for all.

But don’t bet on it.

Face it, the one thing that Democrats are better at than standing up for the little guy is losing elections. Sure, after six horrible years when G. W. Bush and company controlled the White House and Congress, Dems rallied to take back congress in ’06 and then voted Obama to victory in ’08. And then what did they do? Well, the progressive base of the party, quite frankly, took a nap and didn’t wake up until after the defeat of ’16.

Now, we progressives are mobilized, energized and spoiling for a fight! We’re raising money, raising awareness, and making the news. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think it’s going to be a cakewalk to Washington. The GOP has spent the last eight years winning elections and rigging the game with the power they’ve won. Voter suppression laws work. Gerrymandering works. Fox News propaganda works. And incumbents have an inherent advantage in any election anyway. Oh, and they’ve seen this “Blue Wave” coming and have already built an impressive dike against it.

So, it that it? Should Progressive Liberals just go home and give up?

HELL NO!!

Folks, this is a fight and in a fight, the quitter never wins. Remember, we fight for immigrants. We fight for the poor. We fight for our children’s education. We fight for our environment. We fight for equal rights under the law. And we best not lose again, because if we do the GOP advantage will only grow and grow until democracy itself is dead in America and we become a one-party state.

So stop talking about “The Wave” and become the wave! Join the fight, if you haven’t already. And if you have, get others to join the fight! This November, we need not only to win, we need to crush them utterly. Now more than ever, we need to work towards a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate and keep the pressure on so we can roll back the past years of corruption and authoritarianism. And then, brothers and sisters, we must move forward, pushing through universal healthcare, a living minimum wage tied to the rate of inflation, and a constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United.

Does that sound like a lot of work? It is. But it is work that MUST be done. Think of all the hard hours the Tea Party put into taking our country backward. If they could do the work, we can do it better. Now it’s time we undo their damage and put America forward.

So roll up your sleeves, Liberals, and get to it. November is coming fast.

By Clayton Callahan

Nothing Is Too Good For Our Troops?

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So, hear’s the thing. Republicans are set and determined to cut federal spending in every endevor…except one. You got it, the Defence Budget. Meals on Wheels? School lunch programs? Medicaid? Allways at risk, along with a host of other “Welfare” programs, and Democrats are constantly fighting to keep them alive. And that point bears emphasis, “to keep them alive,” as the fight to preserve such programs leaves us no time to improve or expand them so that they will do more good for the American people.

But when have the American people ever meant a damn to the GOP? Why when those people are wearing a uniform of course! Ever since President Eisenhower warned us about the growing “military-industrial complex,” Republicans have blithely ignored his warning and upped military spending by leaps and bounds (see chart).

Image result for department of defence budget graph

Now, naturally, we want our men and women in uniform to have the best possible chance of surviving a war and that means spending money on training and equipment. And speaking as a man who served in the US military for twenty years, I have to agree in principle. However, what I don’t agree with is the premises that all defense spending is of benefit to the troops. Tax dollars should be considered sacred by Congress and spent in a way that promotes the most good for the nation as a whole. And to be frank, I didn’t need that snow parka they issued me as I was heading to Iraq.

That’s right, I was issued a brand new snow parka and matching snow pants when I last deployed to Iraq in 2011. What did I do with it, you may ask? The same thing I did with the three other duffel bags of gear they gave me that I did not want or need; I packed them in a shipping container that was filled to the top with other soldiers useless duffel bags of equipment that my battalion had been issued. That shipping container was then transported, at taxpayer expense, by ship to Kuaite, put on a truck and escorted by an army security force (at risk of their lives) to Baghdad, where it stayed for a year unopened. And when my unit went home that shipping container followed us back by the same expensive route. When we got back to base, we unloaded it, inventoried the gear and then stowed it in a locker. Two years later, I retired. And I returned all that junk (snow parka and all) to the supply sergeant with the manufacturer’s tags still attached.

Nothing too good for our troops? Think about it.

Now, I was only a staff sergeant in the US Army and only had a staff sergeant’s perspective. However, it doesn’t take a major general to realize that when you multiply a single soldier’s waste by the hundreds of thousands of men and women under arms, billions of taxpayer dollars that could have fed a hungry school kid or paid for your grandma’s arthritis medicine are effectively flushed down the toilet.

And I have seen this phenomenon get worse over time. When I first joined the military back in 1987, I trained in a Vietnam War Era barracks and relaxed in the same recreation hall that troops from World War Two enjoyed with the only significant update being the video game machines (Pack-Man anyone?).  By the time I retired in 2014 (yes, I had a gap in my service), I was staying in a brand new barracks with free wifi and visiting a base club that took up six acres and was filled to the brim with video games, pool tables, loud music, and a full service bar. I also had changed uniforms several times throughout the course of my career. Many of those uniforms, such as the Army’s ACU camouflage, were so bad that they had to be replaced, army wide, within a few years at additional taxpayer expense (and even I could have told the brass that the only place the ACU pattern camouflaged was in the Pentagon’s parking lot).

I do not know if the majority of Republican politicians believe they are doing the troops a service, or whether they are knowingly part of a corrupt system that enriches fat cat contractors. However, as only eighteen of our congressmen and five of our senators are veterans, I am confident most of the politicians in Washington have no appreciation for the terrific waste of tax dollars that’s taking place.

So please, when your Republican uncle is ranting about how “nothing is too good for our troops” and “cutting defense spending weakens America.” Please ask him if he needs a snow parka for his next vacation to Acapulco…with matching snow pants, of course.

By Clayton Callahan

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VOTE!!

I am fortunate to live in Oregon where folks are automatically registered to vote at the DMV (unless they opt out). And today, I mailed in my ballot for state and local elections. That’s right, everybody, I mailed it in! Because in Oregon we don’t believe in cutting voting days, or even voting hours. Getting to the polls is as easy as opening your mail and that’s as it should be.

Now the GOP has been working hard, day and night, in many other states to restrict voting. Passing, restrictive ID laws, shutting down neighborhood polling stations, and limiting voting hours is all being done for a reason…they are afraid of your VOTE!

So use that power! Vote in every little bitty election your state has. Spread the word and change this country one ballot at a time. Because, when it comes right down to it, voting is the only way to tell the powerful where to go.

By Clayton Callahan

 

How Dubgons & Dragons Turned Me Away From Evangilism

For this post, I’m straying a bit from my usual political line and delving into the murky waters of organized religion.

To be sure, there is a political message here as well. Consider that Trump overwhelmingly won the white evangelical vote in 2016. Trump is also a serial liar and when facing an opponent who feels free to just make stuff up on the spot, it’s tempting to counter a lie with a lie. That, however, is a terrible idea and this D&D vs. Evangelism thing, I think illustrates why.

Now, to the best of my recollections, the right-wing evangelical movement kicked off in the early 1980’s. I was in my teens back then and I clearly recall picket lines outside 7-11 stores protesting the sale of Playboy magazine. Speakers came to my school’s auditorium, addressing us on the subject of Satanic rock music. To be sure, the religious right was on the rise, and with cable TV came the advent of a new show with a new star, The 700 Club featuring Pat Robertson.

Where was I back then? I was the new kid in a town called Kettering, Ohio. Friendless, I washed uppon the beaches of that Midwestern suburb at the hight of the Dungeons & Dragons craze. Suddenly, I had friends and something to do on the weekends, as I rolled dice and vanquished imaginary monsters with other juvenile acne victims.

One of my friends was the son of an Evangelical minister who had gone so far as to burn the lad’s D&D character sheet. I visited that friend frequently and when his dad learned that I was into that horrible hobby he read me the riot act. The game, he claimed, was satanic! He went on to state that by playing the game I was casting spells on my fellow players, and summoning demons that would whisper suicidal thoughts into our ears. To be honest, I had to suppress my inclination to laugh at this guy as he ranted on.

Further “research” into the subject came from watching The 700 Club itself. There, I got it straight from the horse’s mouth; Pat Robertson declared that D&D was the devil’s way of leading this younger generation astray.

And I can now honestly say that watching The 700 Club changed my life…just not in the way Pat would have hoped.

You see, I was young, very young. As a child, I had trusted adults to tell the truth and look out for my best interests. But now in my early teens, I discovered that adults did, in fact, lie and were not necessarily concerned for in my best interests one whit. You see, I’d played the “devil’s game” and read all the rules for over a year by the time all the hysteria came along.

Being a reasonably intelligent guy, I could easily distinguish reality from imagination. The spells in D&D weren’t real. No demons were summoned and nobody in my gaming group was committing suicide. None of us were Satanists, and for the most part, we obeyed our parents, did our homework and made our beds. Thus, I concluded, the Evangelicals who spouted this “devil’s game” malarkey was either ignorant of the game, lying to me or both.

My friend with the minister dad often invited to come to his pop’s church any time. It seemed his father (after the rant incident) had taken a liking to me and was eager for me to join their family on Sundays. I declined and am still glad I did. Because once somebody lies to you, trust goes out the window, and without trust you have nothing.

But there is a positive lesson to be gleaned from all this as well. In my life as an adult, I have endeavored to be as truthful in my dealings as possible. If I don’t know much about a subject, I admit it and ask questions. If I am in a position where a lie would yield some temporary advantage, I decline to fabricate.

Once trust is gone, it is gone. If you lie about the small stuff, you will lie about the big and why should I waste my time in such company. Trump, of course, lies so often, it’s become a drinking game. And when dealing with the victims of his lies, I must remain truthful, even if admitting I don’t know appears weak.

Remember, one lie is enough to turn someone away from an entire movement. To defeat Trump, we must draw people in who will trust that we offer a clear contrast to him.  So in all our dealings, let’s be honest folks.

By Clayton Callahan

 

War, And More War

This week, I learned in the news that as of this month we are at the fifteenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. And tonight, Trump bombed Syria.

The photo above was taken in Kuwait back in 2005, of the S-6 Section, HHC, 505th ENG BN, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. I’m the handsome guy on his knees to the left. I would return to Kuwait again en route to Iraq in 2011 and was in one of the last bunch of troops to leave when Operation New Dawn drew to a close.

And tonight, Trump bombed Syria.

I have always been a news junikie, and I remember well the arguments for the invasion of Iraq. Saddam was a madman who used chemical weapons on his own people, they said. We had to act in order to protect international stability and the rule of law in the middle east, they told us. And, at the time, I sort of bought it. I figured there was no way our President would send us to war were it not absolutely necessary. After all, even a guy like me with just a bachelor’s degree in history knew the folly that the Tonquin Gulf Resolution brought upon our country. Surely, I thought, brainy folks like Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice would not make LBJ’s old mistake all over again.

And still, we invaded Iraq.

Tonight, Trump bombed Syria, and I can’t help but have this terrible feeling of deja vu. Not about the invasion of Iraq, however, but of an argument I had in mid-November of 2016. A conservative co-worker of mine was having trouble understanding all the anti-Trump protests in the wake of the election. “What are these liberals worried about?” he asked. “Do they think Trump is going to start a war or something?

And tonight, Trump bombed Syria.

By Clayton Callahan

 

 

So…Let’s Talk About “Witch Hunts”

 

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Trump likes to call the Mueller investigation a witch hunt. To be clear, he means to say that it is done solely for political purposes and it has no chance of discovering any wrongdoing because none was committed in the first place. He wishes to make it clear to us that Mueller is involved in a purely partisan endeavor meant to distract the American people from the real issues facing our country.

Nice.

Now, I happen to be of the sound PROFESSIONAL opinion that the Mueller investigation IS warranted. You see, I once served in the US Army as a Counterintelligence Special Agent and it was my job to investigate acts of foreign meddling meant to undermine our army. Now, based on what is available to everybody in the news and my training and experience, I think it would be a crime if there was NOT an investigation into Trump and the Russian interference with our 2016 election.

But let’s play a game, shall we?

We can call this game, American National Politics For The Last Twenty Five Years. In this game, the one who discredits their opponent through investigations wins.

Now, does anybody remember a guy named Kenneth Star? If you’re a Democrat, you probably remember him as the Special Council tasked to investigate Bill Clinton’s Whitewater real-estate scandal (if you’re a Republican you probably don’t remember him at all). Mr. Star’s investigation dragged on from 1994 to 1998 and found no wrongdoing related to real-estate but he did discover a presidential blow-job that resulted in an impeachment proceeding against a Democratic President. We will call this “round one” of the game.

In “round two” the President was a Republican named Bush, so I think it fair to say the Democrats were up at bat. But the Dems decided to punt. Despite the hazy circumstances of the 2000 presidential election, the 9/11 attack, the Iraq War (which I served in), and the financial collapse of 2008, no special counsel was appointed to investigate this Republican president. Perhaps the Democrats were under the false impression that the rules of the old game were still in effect. You may remember the old rules as those that treated the powers of Congress and the FBI to investigate as something special that should never be used for purely political reasons lest we damage our very democracy.

I know, Democrats, what a bunch of schmucks, right?

Next came “round three” and it kicked off with a furry. We once again had a Democratic president, the GOP was now at bat, and they came out swinging! Obama would be given none of the respect or deference Bush Jr had received. Obama’s religion, his patriotism, and even his birthplace were called into question almost daily. But, try as they might, the Republicans couldn’t get enough dirt on America’s first black president to warrant an investigation…so they went after Hillary instead. Benghazi, and Benghazi, Benghazi were the subject of one Congressional investigation after another. When no wrongdoing was found in that tragedy, the GOP went after Hillary’s e-mails. Oh my God, her e-mails! Although it was never found that she leaked any classified information to anybody, it was still the number one issue of the 2016 campaign. And all that election year, the FBI was hot on her case. A case, I might add that turned out to be nothing but a witch hunt resulting in no discovery of any criminal activity.

But wow, what a game, right?

Now we are in “round three.” We have a Republican President and the Dems are at bat. Once again, I shall say that I believe that the Mueller investigation has merit. But we are playing a game remember? So what has merit is sadly irrelevant…but winning is everything! And as I said, the way you win this game is by discrediting your opponent through investigations. So I have to ask, are the Republicans who now decry “witch hunts” truly mad about witch hunts in general, or are they just mad that Democrats are finally fighting hitting back with the stick they made?

As the saying goes, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” And this game was brought to us by the Republicans who appointed Kenneth Star.

By Clayton Callahan

 

Our Generation Failed, Now We Must Follow The Children’s Lead

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I am a member of what has been labeled “Generation X.”  We came of age in the late 1980s, rocked out with Kurt Cobain in the 1990’s, and started our families and careers in the early 2000s. We were called the “slacker” generation. Our elders (Ironically the LSD tripping, flower power, Baby Boomers) told us we would never amount to much because we settled for less than ideal jobs and wasted all our productive time with “extreme sports.”

Our generation knew nothing about Vietnam or the Civil Rights Movement. All that protest stuff was in our past and we assumed those battles had been won and the fight was over. Instead of picket lines, we stood in ticket lines to see Top Gun and Rambo parts I, II, and III. Whatever world conflict or local cause popped up, we ignored it in favor of trying to prove our elders wrong. We got the best jobs we could find, struggled to raise families on less income than our parents had enjoyed, and passively supported our troops by placing yellow ribbon stickers on our SUVs.

And all the while, our country was going slowly to hell.

Wages shrunk compared to the rapid rise of inflation, and we simply accepted that without complaining. The environment got gang raped by crony capitalists who gave us nothing in return, and we just shrugged. Biggots began to once again strut openly about, and we did not challenge them for fear of starting a fight. Our country even went to war in Iraq for no particular reason, and we just sat and watched it on TV. Rember all the ruckus that Generation X raised after the Columbine school massacre? No? Neither do I, because there wasn’t any. Children died and my generation just sat on our hands.

And I am as guilty as any Gen Xer you might meet because I did just as much nothing as the rest of the crowd.

And now, where are we? It’s 2017 and we have become like the elders who scorned us long ago. We post “funny” videos about those lazy, self-absorbed, texting, entitled millennials as we smugly scroll through our Facebook pages.

Meanwhile, youngsters are getting gunned down in their schools.

Today, I watched the March For Our Lives. I say I watched it because I didn’t go myself. True, I was at work, but I could have arranged for the day off with a little advanced planning. But I didn’t so I just watched it on my computer.

I watched as thousands upon thousands of young people screamed, “Enough is enough!” I heard them cry out to the leadership of my country that they would no longer accept the pathetic excuse for leadership coming out of Washington DC. They demanded action, and they committed themselves to voting out every do-nothing politician who will not stand with them. I watched a fierce and impassioned display of a generation on fire who will not accept the sub-par country that’s been handed down to them by their elders, and I cried.

I cried because my generation did so little for so long that our children are now the ones who must carry the torch. Face it,  Generation “extreme” should have seen this coming since the 1990s. The corruption of our nation by greedy special interests whose only concern was corporate profit was never subtle. Why didn’t we stand up and challenge them before Fox News ever aired its first program? Why didn’t we march when Bush Jr. “won” by virtue of the Electoraltorial College and a murky vote count in Florida? Why did we stand by while inflation ate away at the American dream and health care costs hit the stratosphere?

Unfortunately, my tears are useless and what is past is past. Lacking a time machine to correct my generation’s mistakes, I  must now work to make things right for the future. I know my generation lacks the moral high ground and I do not have the slightest intention of lecturing to these kids.  Nore do I have the arrogance to tell them to “know their place” and let the grown ups do for them. Instead, I must follow where they lead, for they are already at the front of the collum. And I must aid them in their efforts to win that brighter future.

Generation X waited too long, but it’s not too late. Now is the time for us all, young and old, to stand up and say, “Enough is enough!”

By Clayton Callahan

 

Jennifer Rubin Says It Perfectly

Those of us in the RESISTANCE have been doing all we can to inform our fellow Americans about the dire threat posed by the Trump regime. But in today’s Washington Post there is an opinion article by Ms. Rubin that summed up our objections to the man so perfectly that it must be repeated loudly and often.

She states that:

“We now see unrestrained Trump — the one who hates criticism; who must continually pummel his opponents; who never bothers to learn about subjects on which he expounds; who thinks everyone in government owes their personal loyalty to him; who means what he says for only a fleeting instance; who confounds allies with policy zigzags; who bullies and blusters; who lies continually; and who, despite his bravado, cannot take on those to whom he apparently owes his presidency (e.g., the National Rifle Association, the Kremlin).”

When asked by the not-so-politically-aware why I oppose Trump so virulently, I often have responded with, “This is going to be a long conversation I’m afraid. Where do you want me to start?” Therefore, I am thankful to this lady of letters for summing it up so succinctly for me. Her description clearly articulates the Trump I have seen all along, and the RESISTANCE has been agitating so hard against.

To be frank, I am amazed that more Americans haven’t seen Trump for what he is from the day he first came down the escalator. That is why I’m thankful to Jennifer Rubin for doing her part to reach an audience wider than I can access.

And, hopefully, before it’s too late, through such efforts the rest of the country will come to see what we see; a threat to everything we value as Americans at the pinnacle of our own government. And when that great day comes, it will truly be the beginning of the end of this national nightmare.

By Clayton Callahan

Russian Meddling is Just Fine by The GOP

Recently, The New York Times has reported that of the 120 million dollars Congress has appropriated for countering Russian interference in the 2018 election, exactly zero has been spent. Let me rephrase that; of the small pittance of money Congress has given the Trump (R) Administration to protect our democracy, nothing has been done with it! Coincidence? I think not.

See link for the Times’ story:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/04/world/europe/state-department-russia-global-engagement-center.html

Now, since the disastrous (for them) election of 2008, the GOP has recreated itself as the party of winning. No more do the let ideology or scruples stand in their way! They work hard and they organize with only one goal in mind; winning elections. Using Fox News to stir up paranoia and motivate their base, gerrymandering states, vigorous fundraising from mega-doners, and voter suppression laws, a well oiled political machine has been created the likes of which has never been seen before. And it’s been working. Obama wasn’t overstating when he said he got “shellacked” in the 2010 midterms. Republicans won big that year, not only in the US Congress but in state legislators and governor’s offices as well. And, to their credit, they have kept that momentum going all the way to 2016.

They win, they win often, and they win bigly because today’s Republicans believe that winning isn’t everything…it’s the ONLY thing. And if winning means stepping out of Putin’s way as he hamstrings our democracy…well, they figure that’s a small price to pay.

Am I being too harsh in my opinion? I honestly don’t think so. I live in the real world where actions speak louder than words. And for all their patriotic words, the GOP has shown the nation no action to defend against this foreign threat.

Now, did I call a GOP senator’s office and made this opinion clear to his staffer. The response I got was, “Sir, the Republican party would never collude with the Russians!” But that isn’t what I was accusing the GOP of doing. After all, they know there is no need to conduct dangerous back-channel dealings with Putin in order to get his aid. Putin has obviously decided to help Republicans for his own reasons, and a GOP leadership that is focused solely on winning has no intention of getting in his way.

Perhaps, Trump and his campaign did actively conspire with Russian intelligence to subvert our election in 2016 (and I think that highly likely). But no other GOP candidate or campaign need be so bold, and they know that. After all, passive treason works just as well as active treason and leaves fewer fingerprints.

But whether active or passive, treason is still treason and We The People need to hold them accountable for that right now!

By Clayton J. Callahan