Trumpism is the new McCarthyism

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“Around the country he flew, reckless and audacious, stopping long enough to make a new charge, to exhibit a new list, a good newsworthy press conference at the airport, hail-fellow well met with the reporters, and then on to the next stop, the emptiness of the charge never catching up with him, the American press exploited in its false sense of objectivity (if a high official said something, then it was news, if not fact, and the role of the reporter was to print it straight without commenting, without assaulting the credibility of the incredulous; that was objectivity). It was like a circus; he was always on the move, his figures varied, his work was erratic and sloppy, he seemed to have no genuine interest in any true nature of security. It sometimes seemed as if he too were surprised by the whole thing, how easy it was, how little resistance he met, and so he hurtled forward to newer larger charges. But if they did not actually stick, and they did not, his charges had an equally damaging effect: they poisoned. Where there was smoke, there must be fire. He wouldn’t be saying those things unless there was something to it. And so the contamination remained after the facts, or lack of them, evaporated….

All of which did not displease the Republican party. The real strength of [him] was not his own force of brilliance, it was the acquiescence of those who should have known better.”

The above quote is from David Halberstam’s book, The Best and the Brightest. He is talking about Senator Joseph McCarthy. He goes on to talk about how McCarthyism only lasted a few years but the impact of his relentless and meritless hunt lingered for decades and heavily influenced our view of communism leading into the Vietnam War. I kept all of this in mind as I read and reread the above passage because the description above, though written decades ago sounds for all the world like Trump since 2016. If Donald Trump is this era’s McCarthy, what can we learn from the past about where we are headed?

Both men have a habit of making things up. Both men have a habit of playing the victim. Both men like to act as though they are the only hope for America. While there are certainly plenty of differences between the two, as the quote above attests, the two had some striking similarities.

McCarthy’s impact on the 20th Century in America cannot be overstated. It was the echo of McCarthy that kept Americans believing in the myth of monolithic communism. That helped the United States misinterpret the war in Vietnam as a war against communism rather than a war for an independent Vietnam. This would prove catastrophic for both countries and kill over 58,000 Americans and countless Vietnamese.

Keeping this in mind, when it comes to Trump’s behavior towards immigrants and refugees, how much of his attitude towards these people is going to be reflected in his supporters decades after Trump is out of office? What poison is Trump putting into our American culture? And if we are aware that he’s poisoning the culture, is there a way for us to counteract that? Will these vilifications lead us into some future conflict that could be avoided if only some people were not taken in by his lies? I do not know the answers to these questions, but I feel like they are questions that should be in our heads as the Trump regime goes on.

Part of me wonders if the similarities between the two men are actually coincidence. Perhaps Trump purposefully modeled Joseph McCarthy’s tactics. Is that giving Trump too much credit? Then again, maybe this is just some sort of American archetype that appears from time to time to take advantage of people’s fears and exploit paranoia and bigotry. Just how much is history repeating itself?

Unlike McCarthy, Trump is being investigated by the FBI. There is the chance that maybe now that all other checks and balances have failed to stop him, that Mueller’s investigation will end this sham of a Presidency. But how much destruction will happen before that happens and how will Trump echo through the coming decades? In many ways I fear the damage has already been done.

I try to take a bit of comfort in the McCarthy/Trump comparison. Just a few years after the height of McCarthyism, Joseph McCarthy was dead. History correctly views McCarthy not as a hero trying to save America but for the proper villain that he is. One can only hope that a similar fate awaits Trump in the future.

– Jack Cameron

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Anatomy of a Scam

577578-phone-scamsThis morning I received a call from a restricted number. I do not answer calls from people I do not know. I let it go to voicemail. A few minutes later I checked it.

“This is an urgent message for Mr. Cameron. My name is Valerie. I’m calling you in reference to a complaint that has been forwarded to my office. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the pending actions that may be filed against you, you’ll need to contact the firm immediately at 855-899-0269 and the file number you’ll need in reference is *****. This does require immediate attention and it’s important we speak with you or we will be forced to make a decision without your consent. “

I called the number back. A guy calling himself Logan Baker answered. I gave him the reference number. He said the last four of my social security number and asked if that was correct. It was and I told him so. He said that I had an outstanding balance of $1197.92 from an Emergency Room visit at Tacoma General Hospital in November of 2012. I’ve had some health problems over the years and I had no idea if I was in the ER in November of 2012 or not. It seemed likely though.

He said that since they were suing me the account was not on my credit report. He said that they were willing to drop the lawsuit for a settlement of $521 and that said settlement offer had been sent to me via mail 45 days ago. I told him I did not receive any such documentation. He confirmed my home address. I told him I did not get any documentation whatsoever for him.

He also told me that there I would soon be served paperwork by a process server and that once that happens they would be unable to offer me the settlement of $521. He suggested if I want to pay that amount I should duck the process server until I pay them. He claimed that he could not stop said process server from serving papers, but then a few minutes later said he could ‘hold the account’ for five hours if I needed time to get the money together. I told him to go ahead and do that and told him I’d get back to him.

I thought about the information they had given me. They accurately knew that I had been to Tacoma General Hospital. They accurately knew the last four of my social security number, my phone number, and my home address. But that’s literally all the information they had. It wasn’t enough to convince me that they were who they said they were, but they might be.

I then talked with a friend who knows about this stuff. He gave me some advice. I looked in all of my paperwork and eventually figured out that I was likely not in the Emergency Room in November of 2012 as that was before most of my health issues. I called Multicare and asked them if they knew anything about this lawsuit. They said that they send all delinquent accounts to the same collection agency and that they had no information on any lawsuit. I contacted the collection agency. They said they had exactly one thing in my name and that thing was from 2014 and was being disputed.

At this point it was fairly clear to me that I was not being sued. I was being scammed. So I called Logan back. I asked him for his firm’s name and address. He gave it to me:

Stallings & Associates
1430 Truxton Ave. 5th Floor
Bakersfield, CA 93301

I thanked him for the information and told him I would get back to him.

I did a little digging. I found their website. https://www.stallingsandassociatesllc.com It is the most bare bones, anonymous law firm website I have ever seen. I have seen websites for fictional lawyers that had more presence. This is a website called Stallings and Associates in which they do not mention who the hell ‘Stallings’ is. In fact not one human being is mentioned. Instead it has the improbably sentence: “Our Knowledgeable Staff is a leader in its field, with significant experience and expertise in resolving complex financial or commercial disputes.”

I then did a little more digging. It turns out that the fifth floor of 1430 Truxton Ave. is run by a company called Pacific Workplaces. These guys provide office space and work space for companies and individuals who need it. I figured Pacific Workplaces is on the up and up. So I contacted them and let them know that ‘Stallings & Associates’ are scam artists and that maybe they should rethink allowing them to use space.

So instead of getting $500 from me, Logan and his friends may be getting an eviction notice.

– Jack Cameron

UPDATE: I just received the following email from Pacific Workplaces:

Mr. Cameron:

Thanks for taking the time to sharing your information with us.

As happens we have instructed the 3rd party that provided us this client that we would like to part ways.

UPDATE 2: Since posting this article, I’ve received emails, Facebook messages, and comments about how these guys are still at it. If they contact you, see if you can get their mailing address from them and any other identifying information and leave it in the comments section. Thanks.

Bad Neighborhood

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Manila, The Philippines

In the mid-1990s I had an African American coworker with two sons. She had recently moved here from California. Not knowing Tacoma, she moved to Tacoma’s East Side because it was affordable. She had been living there about six months when she started working with me. Her sons were ten and eleven. She explained that she was moving to another neighborhood that was going to cost her significantly more money, but that she recognized the gang activity on Tacoma’s East Side was increasing. She said raising two black teenagers in that neighborhood at that time would result in one or both of them joining gangs. It was inevitable.

I mention this because when looking at the past 120 years of events in the Philippines it seems like the Philippines is like a kid growing up in a bad neighborhood. They never had a chance.

Looking at the present day Philippines run by a dictator who proudly murders his enemies and compares himself positively to Hitler, it’s easy to wonder how such a leader could possibly exist in the 21st century. But like discovering that the abusive father was himself abused, a look at what’s gone before is illuminating.

Taken from the Spanish by the Americans at the turn of the 20th century during the Spanish American War, the Americans then went out of their way to hobble any attempts at true independence for most of the next hundred years. Elections were made sham elections only electing who we want despite America’s proud reputation as a bastion of Democracy. When we occupied the Philippines and were basically treating it like a colony we would fake elections and lie to get our guy in office whenever necessary. So is it any surprise that left to their own devices strong man dictator sorts would behave exactly the same way? When has the Philippines ever experienced true democracy?

It did not matter what sort of parenting my coworker did for her children because she knew the neighborhood. She knew there were hours that she would be at work and times they would be at friends’ houses. It did not matter how inherently good her children were. There were forces surrounding them she could not control. Similarly, the people of the Philippines have literally never known anything else beyond a power uninterested in their wellbeing taking advantage and exploiting their country for their own benefit. Whether it was the Spanish, the Americans, the Japanese during WWII, the Americans again, or the series of despots that have taken charge since then, none of them have had the will, desires, or wellbeing of the people of the Philippines as their primary concern. In this way, the Philippines is like my coworker’s sons in that neighborhood without their mother, without anyone who genuinely cares what happens to them. And they have never known it any other way.

Given such circumstances, what is the path forward? Is the Philippines doomed to be ruled by strong arm dictator after strong arm dictator? I really wish I could end this with some great idea that might fix things, but it’s like trying to get a hardcore gangster to get a day job. Like so many problems in this world, there is no simple answer. If a true democratic rebellion swelled up, would Americans support it? If we did, could we support it in such a way that doesn’t include us occupying the country? Given that Donald Trump is a great admirer of Duterte, would Trump send troops to help him fight off the rebellion?

Unfortunately, the Philippines cannot move out of the bad neighborhood like my coworker. They are stuck. And no one seems interested in helping them. Like always.

– Jack Cameron

The Cult of Trump

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Treason. A dictionary definition says, “The crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government.” It is a fairly simple definition. One can note how it does not say that one has engaged in treason by not clapping for the President’s speech. And yet President Donald Trump referred to the Democrats who did not applaud during his State of the Union speech as ‘treasonous’. What’s going on here?

It would be fairly easy to dismiss this as yet another lie from a man who has a tenuous relationship with the truth. I have seen some who say that his calling the Democrats treasonous is just Donald Trump projecting his own sins. Either of those is an obvious possibility. But I think it is something else. Rather than assuming that he is lying, I am assuming he is telling the truth as he sees it in this case.

How could failing to applaud at Trump’s speech in any way be considered betraying one’s country? If we substitute the word ‘country’ with the word ‘leader’, then suddenly refusing to applaud could be seen as a betrayal. Why would we do such a thing? Because for Donald Trump the only country he represents, the only power he portrays, the only thing he really cares about is himself. There is no doubt in my mind that he would let every single American man, woman, and child be killed if it benefitted him in any way. Donald Trump is a cult of personality.

There are benefits to thinking this way. It is easier to protect a person than it is to protect a country. It is said that the Presidency ages you, but Trump does not seem to be a victim of this. The burdens and problems of a nation do not bother him as President of the United States because in order to experience that burden one must not only be President of the United States, but one must also care about the United States and there is no evidence whatsoever that Donald Trump has any affection for the country he is supposed to be leading.

Of course Donald Trump sees people not clapping for him as treasonous. He even applauded himself multiple times throughout his own speech. To Trump the only part of the United States that means anything at all is himself. He demonstrates this on a daily basis. Who he is and what he says is more important in his head than reality itself. He will say he had a larger audience for his State of the Union than any other President despite this being an obvious lie that can be easily checked for the simple reason that to him, the only thing that matters is what he says. He considers the office he holds not to be President of the United States, but God/Emperor. He is incapable of wrongdoing. He is incapable of lying. He is incapable of being fallible, for he is perfect. This is the Cult of Trump.

This would all be disturbing enough, but worse than this is the fact that there are literally millions of Trump supporters across the nation the buy into this cult. He tells them he had the best ratings ever and that the Democrats are traitors and they believe him. A couple weeks ago Fox News anchor and Trump fanatic, Sean Hannity insisted that the New York Times was lying that Trump tried to fire Mueller back in June. He said that he checked with his sources and they all say it is not true. Then minutes later, when Fox News had confirmed that it was true, Sean Hannity explained how it turned out that it was true, but that Trump had every right to do that and that it’s not a big deal that he tried to fire the FBI guy investigating him. In order to be part of the Cult of Trump, one must never admit that Donald Trump has ever done anything wrong at all. Every lie is true. Every scandal is not a scandal. Every pussy grabbed wanted to be grabbed.

Despite being elected to the office of President of the United States, occupying the White House, and being treated like he is President, Donald Trump is not the President. He is a dictator in waiting. He is a man who sees the law as something that should not impact him as he is beyond it. He sees lack of loyalty to him as lack of loyalty to the country because to him they are one and the same. The only positive note is that dictators tend to have violent endings

– Jack Cameron

Enthusiastic Consent

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Guys, we’re in a situation here. The #MeToo movement has not only exposed countless men in positions of powers who have been harassing, assaulting, and raping women, it has also exposed men, who, for many of us seem way too much like ourselves. We read the account of Aziz Ansari’s date, ‘Grace’ and thought about every date that didn’t go right and wondered if we were ever pushier than we should have been. Most women I’ve talked to about it can recount more than one occasion where Grace’s story mirrored their own.

Despite the story only being a few days old, much has been written about this. The New York Times says the only thing Aziz Ansari is guilty of is not being a mind reader. Others say that his actions are symptomatic of a problem with our culture. But all of these are missing the point. The point here is that Aziz Ansari says he believed everything was consensual. His partner makes it clear that it wasn’t. Given that he doesn’t dispute her version of events, it’s worth noting that whatever consent was given was reluctant at best.

When I was a far younger man my go-to move was that once we started making out, I would say, “Stop me if I go too far.” and then respect when and if she told me there was a line she didn’t want to cross. Of course I was young and inexperienced and not bright enough to realize that for a variety of reasons, a woman who doesn’t want to do something might do something anyway just to avoid an awkward, hurtful, or potentially dangerous situation. This isn’t something that immediately makes sense to a guy like me who isn’t used to partners that are larger and stronger than me, who is never going to be called ‘easy’ or ‘slut’, who is never going to be told I’m playing ‘hard to get’, or that I’m frigid. It took time and experience for me to realize my mistake.

The problem we face is that consent can be a very tricky thing. As coercion, even unintentional coercion, can make apparent consent not real consent. You can’t control the factors that might make someone reluctantly agree to sexual activities. But you can refuse to engage in sexual activities with someone who is reluctant to agree.

Part of the problem is the idea that has been ingrained in men practically since birth that the absolute best thing in life is getting some. We learned this around the same time we were learning about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and like both of those, it’s complete bullshit. Having successfully had sex with a woman who was at best marginally interested in what you’re doing is not any sort of accomplishment. Listen to the countless women who read Grace’s story and completely related to it. It’s common. All too common. Worse, it’s scarring for women and alienating for men.

This is why I think we, and by ‘we’ I mean men, should not require consent. We should require enthusiastic consent. You shouldn’t be spending your post-coital moments wondering if she really wanted to have sex with you. You should be spending those moments well aware that she wanted you as much or more than you wanted her. There should be no gray areas here. It’s simple. If a woman hasn’t made it absolutely clear that she wants to have sex with you, don’t have sex with her. That’s it.

We need to accept that there will be times where we could have had sex and don’t because it’s not the right thing to do. And guess what? If a woman really wants to have sex with you, she will let you know the next time there’s an opportunity. Enthusiastically even.

Enthusiastic consent* gets rid of any ambiguity because while it’s easy to fake acceptance, it’s difficult to fake enthusiasm. Someone who is willing is not enough. They need to really want it. Not to mention, having sex when everyone involved really wants to have sex with each other is the best kind of sex there is.

– Jack Cameron

*As with any talk about consent, it’s worth mentioning that consent is not like buying a car. It’s not one decision. It’s countless decisions. Enthusiastic consent can be withdrawn at any time. Keep this in mind.

Regarding Us Flawed White Guy Allies

I’ll start by saying what this isn’t. This isn’t #NotAllMen. This isn’t whataboutism. This isn’t me going out of my way to prove how right I am or how wrong anyone else is. What I want to do is point out a danger in the ongoing social justice war.

I am a Caucasian, heterosexual, male. I share this commonality with most mass shooters, most rapists, most child molesters, most murderers, and most of the worst people in the history of humanity. The #MeToo movement is largely due to the terrible behavior of people who share my gender, my race, and my sexual orientation. This is not an opinion, but sad fact and I recognize it as such.

When I see that it is Caucasian men in positions of power who are victimizing women, when I see that it is Caucasian men in police uniforms murdering unarmed black men with impunity, when I see that it is a Caucasian man in the White House threatening the world with nuclear war while lamenting about how much he wants to have sex with his daughter, I am ashamed and want to do whatever I can to help victims of these terrible things. So mostly I listen. I listen to women tell their stories. I listen to people of color when they tell me something is racist. I listen to transgender and non-heterosexual individuals and their experiences. I know that I can never truly feel what they feel, but I’d like to understand and so I listen.

I also speak up. When I encounter bad behavior or encounter someone accepting or encouraging bad behavior I speak up. When I hear someone make a weak argument based on hate or fear I try to come up with an argument based on fact and reason. When someone I agree with comes up with a weak argument I tell them how they could make the argument stronger. When there’s a chance to inform or debate a smart person I usually take that chance.

I also fail. I fail to make my point. I fail to keep emotion out of it. I fail to keep my temper. I fail to have all the relevant facts. I fail to see things from another perspective. Sometimes I fail to allow that I might be wrong about something.

And the problem with that is that the moment I fail, all too often people who I agree with 95% of the time suddenly pounce. Suddenly I’m told I’m encouraging rape culture or I’m racist or I’m sexist or I’ve failed some sort of purity test that has now made me ‘the enemy’. And as luck would have it, I’m a Caucasian, heterosexual male like all the other bad guys.

Now this is not me saying, ‘Please feel sorry for us straight white guys.’ or any sort of ‘poor me’ bit. As behaviors go, if that’s the worst us straight white guys get, then we’re lucky. My concern has little to do with me or how I’m treated. I can take it and I don’t care too much. My concern is that doing this alienates people who would otherwise be allies. But when you call people assholes and tell them they’re part of the problem, they aren’t likely to back you when you want a solution.

I can recognize that the behavior of a few is not the same as the behavior of many. I can separate cause from people who support the cause. But ultimately if every time a straight Caucasian guy like myself says something we are told to shut up and go away, we’ll do just that and you will lose. You cannot win in the fight for equality if you refuse to accept flawed allies. You simply can’t.

I’m not going to make the right choice every time. Neither are you. Accept that and allow your allies to mess up. Allow them to say things you don’t agree with without deciding they must be the enemy. We all make mistakes. Those mistakes rarely define who we are or what we represent or care about. We don’t need to be in perfect harmony to be on the same side of a fight.

– Jack Cameron

My First Book Is Going Out of Print And That’s A Good Thing

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It was 2006. I wrote a book about all the mistakes of my 20s. It was fun to research, write, and release. I had dozens of conversations with people I might never have met otherwise. At one point, I even had a meeting with a producer from Hollywood about making a Ruin Your Life movie.

Ruin Your Life is meant to be a humorous manual of bad but not hurtful behavior. For the most part I think it still succeeds in that.  But there are portions of the book that I find myself unable to defend. Initially I thought this would mean cutting the objectionable parts and reissuing it, but I think cutting parts out of Ruin Your Life runs contrary to the spirit of the book. So I think the responsible thing for me to do at this point is stop publishing it. I have contacted my publisher to have the book be taken out of circulation. It will be out of print and I doubt I will be putting it back in print.

Ruin Your Life had a good run. It sold hundreds of physical copies and thousands of digital copies. I’m happy for the experiences that happened as a result of that book and apologize to anyone who was hurt by anything I said in the book. As always, the reason I portrayed things one way or another was I thought it would be funny. No harm was meant.

For anyone still wanting to get a copy, it is still available on Amazon as I write this. By this time next week it definitely will not be and it could be gone any time between now and then.

Thank you, everyone for your support. Rest assured that my next book, a novel will be out by this time next year at the absolute latest.
– Jack Cameron