Sunday, February 19, 2017

Alternative Theories: What’s Really Going On?

Chaos Rules - But Why?
The following is the blog post to accompany our February radio show, “Schmidt Happens,” which was recorded 15 February 2017, and aired Saturday night 18 Feb 2017 on WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston, hosted by Jumana Hashim and Rosemary Schmidt.
Audio Link via SoundCloud:

Preface:  When Jumana and I started planning our February show, what struck us was just how much has transpired since our first show, and even within the first four weeks of the new administration. Realize that when we taped the December show, we were still reacting to the election results, and asking the question: How did this happen? Now, we find ourselves reacting to the new presidency, and everything that has gone down since the inauguration, and asking a new question: What’s really going on? What is behind all of this manic, frantic, chaotic activity? We speak and write purely on topics of public concern; never seditious; but of primacy, out of concern for the health and very future of our Democracy.
We are not necessarily the first to put forth some of these thoughts; there are many voices, but we have at least brought many of these sources together for the reader.
Read on!

The opening chords for this show were from the Buffalo Springfield song, “For What It’s Worth (Stop Children What’s That Sound),” or at least my ‘transformative interpretation’ of it. I was happy to welcome Jumana back from her travels, and again send out a big thank-you to Ellen for helping out on the January show. So much has happened, since then, even, the stark contrast between the somberness of the inauguration that Friday, January 20, 2017, followed by the Women’s March the next day, with all the songs, and signs, and pithy sayings, and yes, pink kitty hats. Then, on Monday’s Morning Joe show on MSNBC, they played the alternating footage from the two events, with the 1966 song by Buffalo Springfield playing in the background. At the time, this is the verse that stuck with me, as it captured the feeling perfectly:

“A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs.”
You can find the video on Joe Scarborough’s twitter feed on 23 January 2017, or view an unofficial version on YouTube:

It turns out we had both gone to the rally and march in Boston, but somehow didn’t manage to run into each other, maybe because of the other 175,000 people who were also there! What an amazing day! The sun even came out by the end of the day. And then there were all those pink hats, which in my mind linked up with one of the last things I’d said on the January pre-Inauguration show, that everything felt just so tenuous, like it could all come undone, with the pull of a thread. That Monday, the Executive Orders started rolling out and the unraveling began.

Jumana shared some of her observations, based on her personal experience, of all that had transpired so far in the first four short weeks of his presidency. Certainly, there were the Executive Orders, the Cabinet picks, the travel ban and how that was so poorly implemented, with no clear nexus between the countries on the list and national security. It makes it hard to predict what President Trump will do next; plus we may be hearing only a third of what’s really happening. In conversation with her peers, the question people keep asking is: What is his bigger goal? What is he trying to do? What’s really going on?
I said I had probably at least five different answers, possibly more.
1.  Maybe he is just doing what he said he was going to do, and is delivering on his campaign promises, fast and furious, to please his constituents.
2.  Maybe President Trump is being genuine, and is genuinely doing what he believes is best.
But, maybe there is something else going on, something behind the scenes, something more creative. It’s pretty easy to start down the road of conspiracy theories. Let’s explore some of these Alternate Theories.
3.  What if it the writers for “Saturday Night Live” are behind it all, to boost their ratings. Maybe they even rigged the election in Trump’s favor to ensure having years of material.
All kidding aside, though, what if there is something else going on?
4.  What if we are all just falling into a trap, the trap of endless marches, constant distraction, and exhaustion? Jumana noted that she has personally been questioning her own efforts. She has been going to the marches and gatherings, which all feel really good, seeing the strength in numbers, yes the unity and community, but then what next? She fears that the rallies and marches can also be falsely cathartic. We feel like we’re doing our part, but is it enough, or is it even anything at all? What are the tangible effects? Can we harness this energy and translate it into actual outcomes, such as Senate seats. Or are people going to get exhausted and overwhelmed? There have been multiple articles expressing this precise concern, that as we react to each day’s newest Executive Order, and ensuing outrage, and sign up for the rallies and protests and marches, are we being played? Is the frenetic pace and pandemonium emanating from the White House intended to distract and overwhelm us and wear us down?
We aren’t the first to put this theory on the table. Yvonne Abraham’s column in The Boston Globe on February 5, 2017, talked about a FaceBook post by Boston College history professor, Heather Cox Richardson, postulating that all the disruption has been a “deliberate attempt to throw us off balance and deepen divides between us…” which “makes the country more hospitable for a strongman” to take power.

5.  What if it’s all a massive test, to test public reaction, and the loyalties and compliance of agencies and individuals in the Government? You can do surveys and polls all day long, but if you really want to find out what they care about, do something, and see how they respond. For example:

·         Federal hiring freeze – No marches.
·         Gag order on EPA and some other federal agencies – Meh.
·         Travel ban – Ding! That got people in the streets.

The entire execution of the travel ban was so haphazard and poorly coordinated, surprisingly uncharacteristic of Mr. Trump. He’s a person known for razor-sharp business execution. So, you start to wonder whether the poor execution reflects simple incompetence; poorly done, due to poor planning.
But, what if it was poorly done on purpose? Poorly done, done well? What if this is also part of the test of the system, such as probing the strength of judiciary powers, and who will be compliant and who will rebel against his orders?
The very first article we had read when we started preparing for this show was one by Jake Fuentes, in which he asks the question: What if the entire travel ban fiasco was just a giant “headfake” intended to test the system of checks and balances within the Government? This was probably one of the most insightful articles I have read in trying to make sense of things lately.
What’s horrible, of course, is that this would mean that we really can’t take anything at face value anymore. It feels like we have to constantly question everything. There could be ulterior motives, alternate explanations, and truly something else going on.
When I first heard the Buffalo Springfield song again, after so many years, I’d focused on the lines about the crowds, and songs, and signs, but now I am drawn to the last verse:
“Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep”
It feels like we have to question everything. Nothing feels safe. These are not normal times. Such chaos. (Ironically, this show was taped the night before the Press Conference Thursday February 16, 2017, which put this chaos on full display.) Not boring, true, but what could be the purpose of all this chaos?
What if we look at the new Presidency through the lens of a businessman? Maybe what’s happening is essentially like a business takeover; perhaps a hostile takeover. Think about what happens typically. The new company imposes its culture, values, and beliefs, and replaces key positions with their people. For example, in the midst of all the confusion and turmoil surrounding the travel ban, President Trump quietly slipped Steve Bannon onto the National Security Council. I remember seeing a tweet from one of the travel ban protests at LAX airport, and a guy was holding a sign that read:
“Don’t Think We Don’t See This Shit You’re Pulling With The National Security Council”
This brings us to The Daily Beast article by Ronald Radosh, that talks about Steve Bannon’s motives. Ellen was the one who showed it to me.
This article came out all the way back in August; at a time when a Trump presidency was still completely inconceivable to most people. In this article, Steve Bannon tells the author that he is a Leninist, and his goal would be to tear down, destroy, and deconstruct the current establishment. If that was truly someone’s end goal, then a very good first step would be to test the system, perform a stress test, to identify its weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
This last Alternative Theory might well be the most plausible. We would like to be wrong, and would like to hope that higher motives will prevail, but for now, this seems to be the best explanation so far.
Stay tuned. Stay woke!
Today’s Boston Globe offered yet another angle on what’s happening behind the scenes at the White House, essentially the tactic of developing a set of rival teams. Worth a read!
Today 19 February 2017:
·         Science Rally at Copley Square, Boston
·         Today, I Am A Muslim Too Rally at Times Square, New York City
·         Special screening of the movie, Allegiance, commemorating the 75-year anniversary of the signing of the Executive Order by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that led to the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during WWII.
Coming Soon:
·         Watertown Welcomes Immigrants Rally in Watertown Square, Sunday 26 February 2017, at 3 PM.
About WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston & Schmidt Happens:
WBCA is a low-power FM radio station sponsored by the Boston Neighborhood Network, and is on the air from 6 PM to 2 AM each night.
Radio Beantown is on the air! Jumana Hashim is a current member of Beantown Women’s Rugby Club, while Rosemary, aka Rosebud, Schmidt has been retired a few years.  
Beantown practice starts soon! Check out for more details. No experience necessary; a place for everybody. All are welcome. Go Forward, Support!
Thank you again to guest host, Ellen Iorio, for helping out with the January show, bringing all her pithiness, and pointing us to the article in The Daily Beast that helped us complete the thread.

Song For The Day:
From Jason Mraz, “Details in the Fabric,” which just struck a chord w/ me, and ties into the whole theme of knit caps, threads getting pulled, everything coming undone, keeping it together while it seems things are unraveling before our very eyes. Listen to the very end, let us be an “island of reality” for each other in this “ocean of diarrhea.”

Abrahams, Yvonne. 2017. Our Chance to Write History. The Boston Globe. 5 February 2017.
Dennis, Brady. 2017. Acting EPA head: Hiring freeze challenges ‘our ability to get the agency’s work done.’ The Washington Post. 15 February 2017.

Fuentes, Jake. 2017. The Immigration Ban is a Headfake, And We’re Falling For It. A Medium Corporation. 30 January 2017.

Hess, Amanda. 2017. How a Fractious Women’s Movement Came to Lead the Left. The New York Times Magazine. 7 February 2017.

Linskey, Annie. 2017. Warring West Wing factions dismay management experts. The Boston Globe. 18 February 2017.
Radosh, Ronald. 2016. Steve Bannon, Trump’s Top Guy, Told Me He Was ‘A Leninist’ Who Wants to ‘Destroy the State.’ The Daily Beast. 22 August 2016.

Takei, George. 2017. How ‘America First’ puts many of us last. USA Today. 15 February 2017.

© 2017 Rosemary A. Schmidt
Rose Schmidt is the author of “Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life” (Gainline Press 2004). The views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not reflect the views of any other agency or organization. Use of individual quotes with proper citation and attribution, within the limits of fair use, is permitted. If you would like to request permission to use or reprint any of the content on the site, please contact me.
Radio Broadcast © 2017 Jumana Hashim, Rosemary Schmidt. For permission to re-print or re-broadcast the radio shows, please contact the radio hosts and/or WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston for permission. The views expressed in the radio broadcast are those of the hosts, and not any other agency, entity or organization. Every effort has been made to give proper credits and citations for material quoted/cited. Any errors or omissions are not intentional and every effort will be made to make corrections as soon as they are brought to our attention. 

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