Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

I find it increasingly easy to get spun up about different news topics or the outrage of the day. If you only spent your time on specific Twitter feeds, you'd think that Disney is frantically trying to destroy the fabric of America. In other feeds you'd think they are the arbiters of truth, justice, and representation. We see a couple posts or a quick twitter thread about someone getting hot and bothered by a decision, and we immediately attribute sentiment to the "other side". Its right vs left yet again.

Spoiler alert, both sides are out of touch.


In reality, no one with half a brain really cares. Everyone goes about their day and only really forms an opinion online for the sake of virtue signaling or clout. I know, I've done it.


If you routinely log into social media and find yourself getting furious over an idea or comment made by another person on the internet? Take a step back and realize that those ideas and comments are outliers and/or trolling to garner a reaction. Social media also routinely lacks nuance, and we often read further into a 240 character post than we should.


Yes, sometimes a spade is a spade. But sometimes we overreact based on our preconceived notions about certain groups. The ability to discern between the two is a lost art.


DISNEY DOLLARS

Much to our dismay, Disney is yet again digging up the bones of its former successful animations. While most of them have been CGI technical achievements, they lack the magic and captivation of the original. Pinocchio starring Tom Hanks, released earlier this year, sits at a low 27% on Rotten Tomatoes and streamed exclusively on Disney+. Disney's business model is clearly focused on 3 things: Making money, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars.


The MCU and Star Wars, for better or worse, are the only properties where new and original content is being pumped up. Creatives are given more freedom and whiteboarding abilities here and their curation is geared up to help the fans.


But Disney's #1 goal is to make money, and they seem to think that re-hashing their beloved animated movies with live-action makeovers is a cash cow - and maybe it is. Doesn't change the fact that it's creatively bankrupt.

THE SAGA OF THE RACIST MERMAIDS

Among the live action outputs from Disney have come disgustingly racist responses to Halle Baily being cast as live action Ariel for The Little Mermaid. In the animated film, Ariel is white with red hair. Halle Baily is black, with what appears to be somewhat red or auburn hair in the trailer.


My gut reaction is "who cares". If you have such a visceral anger with this casting choice, you have more time on your hands than you need. I find it hilarious that this is making as much news as it has. I guess it plays into a good marketing play by Disney. No press is bad press.


I have already laid out my disdain for Disney's creative issues. I don't care about who is playing Ariel, I care that Disney is clearly incapable of making a new story with new characters - a perfect conduit for diversity and representation. Nonetheless, get over it, or don't watch it. Its a fictional story about a fictional character.


But this ties into my aforementioned comments. No one with half a brain really cares about this at all. People outraged, claiming Disney is going "woke" are simply outraged for clout and exposure online. Same goes for those sounding the racist alarms on anyone who isn't a fan of this casting. Mountain out of a mole hill.

Ariel from Disney's 1989 animated classic (left) & Halle Baily, set to portray Ariel in the 2013 live action


While I think its an interesting conversation about pop culture focusing more on diversity and inclusion in general, the sentiment and intent isn't a bad thing. I saw numerous videos of young black children seeing the trailer for the new Little Mermaid and they were mesmerized by the fact that Ariel wasn't white in this new iteration. Inclusion and representation matters, but it needs to be handled properly, and not in a patronizing way.


I have often used Miles Morales' Spiderman as the perfect example of how to handle bringing more representation into popular character's worlds. Rather than make Peter Parker himself a different ethnicity, introduce a new character ripe with their own incredible backstory and culture.


GET OVER IT

My general reaction to anything Disney is doing nowadays is "meh" and my problem with the new Little Mermaid is that it's getting made at all. Disney needs to stop digging up old intellectual properties and making everything live action and spend more time and energy on good storytelling.


The Little Mermaid will likely be a continuation of the "just OK" trend for Disney live action remakes. Special effects will look fine, the story will be a beat for beat recreation of the animated film, the singers and music will be nostalgic and well done, but it will fail to capture the magic that was the original.


That failure is regardless of the ethnicity of any of the actors. For anyone to misconstrue the criticism of these films as "racist commentary" is perpetuating our communication problem and fails to see the forest for the trees.


Obviously racism is as real as the sun is hot, but the use of that word has diluted its true horrific meaning. While I am sure there are people out there having a coronary over this casting choice - does that include the internet trolls on twitter or the political pundits who want to dunk on "wokeism"?. Is anyone who isn't a fan of this casting choice automatically a racist?


Real instances of horrific prejudice should always be called out, but is every distasteful tweet worthy of response?


Nuance and context matters - but for this? Who cares. Its a movie about a mermaid and an evil octopus. Those who are spun up about this casting clearly have nothing better to do than to make snide remarks. Why give them the reaction they so clearly crave?


SELECTIVE OUTRAGE STRIKES AGAIN

Rather than be concerned with Ariel being casted with a black actress and calling each other racists in the process, perhaps we should spend more energy calling out Disney for their coziness to the human rights violation capital of the world: China.


We should be better about walking and chewing gum at the same time. Calling out those who make awful remarks to the new Ariel star doesn't mean you can't also chastise Disney for its ties to communist China.


Don't forget that China has reeducation camps (aka concentration camps) with Uyghur Muslims being forced into slave labor. And more importantly, never forget that Disney thanked the Chinese government for its help in producing the live action Mulan film - at locations near these concentration camps.


So, if your qualm is with black mermaids - get over it.

I will, however, take issue with any non-Jamaican casting of Sebastian the Lobster

 

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Monday, August 29th, 2022

August 26th marked the 1yr anniversary of the 13 service members were killed in a suicide vest bombing at Abbey Gate of HKIA in Kabul. The 20 year war began and ended with tragedy, and many mark the chaotic withdrawal as the lowest point in the Biden Administration.


The decision to withdraw from Afghanistan after 20 years began with President Obama in an agreement with former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai signed in 2010. However not much movement had been made until significant drawdowns occurred by President Trump. Trump also worked out timelines and small details with Military advisers. Had Trump won reelection, he would have overseen the evacuation but it was eventually fully executed by President Biden.


Leaving Afghanistan has been long supported by the majority of the public, and congress, across the political spectrum. The problem is that no one expected how ill-planned and abrupt the withdraw would be - eerily resembling our retreat from Vietnam years ago.

The evacuation from Afghanistan lasted from August 15th through August 30th, but is remembered for its two main highlights: videos of desperate Afghan people clinging to C-17 as they took off from the airport and the suicide bombing at Abbey Gate.


Despite Pentagon reports and preparation for mass casualty events at the airport, personnel on the ground struggled to close Abbey Gate. Abbey Gate had been the designated entry point for American citizens and certain allies to gather and join in the withdrawal.


Politico reported the following:

Commanders detailed a plan to close Abbey Gate by Thursday afternoon Kabul time. But the Americans decided to keep the gate open longer than they wanted in order to allow their British allies, who had accelerated their withdrawal timeline, to continue evacuating their personnel, based at the nearby Baron Hotel.
American troops were still processing entrants to the airport at Abbey Gate at roughly 6 p.m. in Kabul on Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest there, killing nearly 200 people, including 13 U.S. service members.

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/30/pentagon-mass-casualty-attack-kabul-507481


The attack, which was attributed to a branch of the terrorist group ISIS, killed:


Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover

Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario

Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee

Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez

Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page

Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui

Navy Petty Officer Third Class Maxton W. Soviak

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss


To this day there is no explanation as to why these 13 were where they were at the time of the bombing, and experts across all capacities consider their deaths completely preventable.


LT. COL. STUART SCHELLER SPEAKS OUT

Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller famously took to social media to express his disdain for our botched evacuation amid the deaths of 13 service members - most of which who were Marines. His words resonated with many, and he soon became a political pariah for many who were critical of Biden's handling of the situation. His wearing of uniform and addressing the topic within his official military capacity - openly criticizing his chain of command - is a no no, but he knew what he was doing. It doesn't matter how right his words may have been or how justified his contempt was. Consequences came quick.


“The reason so many people are upset on social media right now is not because the Marine on the battlefield let someone down... People are upset because their senior leaders let them down, and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying, ‘We messed this up.’”

- Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller during his 4min 45sec video posted to LinkedIn & Facebook.


There is no doubt it was a clear violation of the military’s Uniform Code of Military Conduct, and by December of 2021 he was a civilian.


However, this bleeds into a larger command climate issue within our military's ranks. Criticism of your boss shouldn't be something posted on social media for clout, but open door policies to hash out disagreement and disdain need be better followed. Far too many lower ranking service members are too fearful of ruining their careers to speak out or offer different ideas in problem solving situations.


Scheller read the room and decided to bet on the court of public opinion rather than his own chain of command. In the end, the public sided with him and anger with our top officials only grew when he was reprimanded.


Rank structure and decision making at the higher levels matters, but that doesn't mean we should abandon collaboration or punish those who see things differently. Scheller, for better or worse, made himself the face of questioning military authority. His sentiments may have been more welcome in a private setting, but his public questioning of leadership while wearing the uniform sealed his fate.


What is notable is that Lt. Col. Scheller gave a voice to the growing sentiment of many who felt a sense of loss and purposelessness. 20 years, thousands of fellow service members killed, for what? For the Taliban to retake the country as if we were never there? His insubordination couldn't go unpunished, but his willingness to speak out shows that there is a true lack of patience brewing with higher brass. Th 13 killed was clearly a breaking point for many, and it was enough for Scheller to willingly end his career.


Service members, active or not, are pissed and heartbroken. Heartbroken doesn't even begin to describe what many have felt. For the evacuation to be conducted in such an irresponsible manner is difficult to accept.


LASTING PAIN, UNADDRESSED

Anyone who knows someone who has served during our occupation of Afghanistan knows the scar this has left. Anger, distrust, and depleted morale. Afghanistan still begs the question of "why?" and salt is poured on the wounds when reports of further humanitarian crises emerge from the new Taliban controlled government.


The 13 service members and 200+ civilians who died at Abbey Gate stings. Our failure to heed warnings about ISIS-K in the region and our overall rushed approach to the evacuation cost lives, and the lingering pain from that fact exists more so each day responsibility isn't taken.


At a time when soldier suicide is through the roof, morale is low, recruiting and retention is abysmal - the idea that the war we've been in for the past two decades was worthless is a hard pill to swallow. Mental health is a stigma that needs to be broken within our forces, and its awareness is needed now more than ever.


ACCOUNTABILITY?

Not only has there been zero public accountability for this botched withdrawal, but US officials have pivoted their attention to Ukraine as a new flavor of the week. To this day, thousands of US citizens and our allies still remain in the region - left behind due to a logistical quagmire and rushed planning. They are hunted every day by the Taliban. So many questions remain as to why this withdrawal was so chaotic.


We have billions and billions to throw at Ukraine, and millions of aid to give to Taliban controlled Afghanistan for "humanitarian aid", yet we couldn't use proper resources to efficiently plan out an orderly withdrawal? Leaving billions worth of equipment doesn't seem to remotely bother the powers that be. Optics can be everything, and all this handling does is throw sand in the eyes of those who've served.


Unfortunately, this administration has done every song and dance to avoid any blame - going so far as to point the finger at previous President Donald Trump. Claiming his planned timeline boxed them into a corner. Yet intel reports suggest our officials failed to properly assess Taliban advancement and failed to secure Bagram Air Base as a more tactically fortified evacuation site than HKIA in Kabul.


It doesn't matter to me what either administration did or didn't do. Intelligence reports of the Taliban's ability to retake the country were ignored, and we underestimated how ill-prepared Afghan National Security Forces were. During the transition of power between Trump and Biden in January of 2020, politics were center stage and no known meeting between the two occurred.


This lack of passing of the baton doesn't provide the best optics or sew much public trust in how things transpire within our government. I'd like to trust top brass behind the scenes within the DOD and IC communities actively worked every angle and prepped beyond the changing Commander in Chief, insulated from politics. Yet, by all accounts, this was a military failure.


But who is to blame? Did political officials actively ignore insight from top brass? Did top brass fumble the planning of the evacuation when they were seemingly blindsided with Taliban advances? The buck should stop somewhere, and the fact that no one has accepted responsibility or resigned for the deaths of the abovementioned heroes and the countless left behind is a failure of leadership.



Senator Josh Hawley, love him or hate him, has been one of the few consistently calling for CENTCOM hearings to get to the bottom of how things went down during the withdrawal. Hawley, who has been hyper critical of Biden, called out Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley for their "lack of leadership" and demanded their resignation in the face of our failures in Afghanistan.


Now, I want to be very clear here. Josh Hawley is as partisan and divisive as they come. Is unabashed loyalty to Donald Trump and his insistence on election fraud claims long after they've been disproven does him no favors. But, to his credit, he has consistently called for answers on Afghanistan. Unfortunately he's likely using it as an easy political football to lob insults at President Biden, but perhaps he and others can make it lead towards further investigations and hearings.


Getting answers for this debacle shouldn't be political. Its been an entire year and most mainstream outlets have moved on from Afghanistan. It feels as though this issue just gets swept under the rug and the next thing we all need to change our profile picture to is a Ukrainian flag. "Support the troops, but only when its politically convenient or when we want online clout and attention!" I've become jaded and cynical, and I don't expect any answers to come, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep attention on this. 13 service members were killed due to apparent negligence.


The least we can do is look into it and hold anyone accountable whose lapse in judgement contributed to their deaths and the abandonment of our equipment and more importantly our allies and other personnel who remain in Afghanistan to this day.


 

Listen to my discussion with fellow Officer Candidate School graduates as we reminisce about our time down in Alabama.


I'm convinced this will be one of many discussions in this lane!


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Tuesday, August 23rd, 2022

The 2022 Midterm elections are fast approaching in November, and the Republicans are poised to re-take both the House and Senate. President Biden's approval rating has been abysmal among soaring gas prices, inflation, and unpopular funding of Ukrainian aid. Lurking in the background, waiting for the right time to emerge from his golf cart, is former President Donald Trump. Still able to amass large loyal crowds at rallies, and often flexing his kingmaking abilities with local Republican candidates, the path seems clear for him to make a triumphant return. Many might argue that his candidacy has been tainted by his consistent election fraud claims yet his base is more loyal than ever. Even with Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home, being raided by the FBI via search warrant - his supporters won't even concede the possibility that there was wrongdoing by the former president. So - is Trump 2024 going to happen? Or will he step aside and let a young Trump-esque prodigy rise to the occasion?


Since his loss in 2020, Trump has been vocal about the stolen election that gave Joe Biden the presidency. Despite 60 cases lost in Federal courts - presided over by judges he himself appointed - Trump and his closest confidants have remained determined to claim election fraud. My Pillow CEO and MAGA fan Mike Lindell has repeatedly claimed he has evidence of hacked voting machines, but fails to produce anything when given the opportunity to present. Dinesh D'Souza's documentary "2000 Mules" claims to showcase hard evidence of voter fraud but has been largely disputed among several experts across the partisan spectrum.


Was the election stolen? No, but I continue to welcome those who claim to have evidence to present their findings and be proven right or wrong. Either this is one of the largest conspiracies in modern history OR Trump and his allies are so desperate and child-like that losing is incomprehensible.


Unsurprisingly to me, Trump's fame and allure has barely waned. Some actively serving members of the GOP may have distanced themselves from the former president, but they've never condemned or wrote him off.


I suspect if he is the nominee to rematch Joe Biden, 90%+ of the party will fall in line and defend him at all costs.


THE LEGACY OF THE DONALD

Mean tweets, inappropriate comments, adultery, etc. Yes, Donald Trump will be long remembered for his bombastic, un-presidential nature. But his legacy as a President rests in his courageous attempt to upend Washington DC. Love him or hate him, Trump made heads spin and blew up the workflow. Congress' approval rating has been low for years, and Trump used this to his advantage.


Not only did he oversee the best American economy in years (pre-COVID), but he also:

  • Passed the Right to Try Act revolutionizing end of life treatment for those suffering, giving terminally ill patients access to lifesaving cures

  • Signed two executive orders to increase transparency in Federal agencies

  • Tackled the administrative state and signed orders to deregulate, and lessen the burden of government agencies on the American people

  • Negotiated with NATO partners to reach financial obligations

  • Brokered a groundbreaking peace agreement between Israel and Palestine - marking the first time Israel has agreed to a map and a Palestinian state.

  • Killed the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and eliminated the world’s top terrorist, Qasem Soleimani.

Sounds like I'm praising him doesn't it? Well - for these accomplishments, I am. I can both criticize his bad ideas and flawed character while at the same time applauding good outcomes of his presidency.


His actions on January 6th were irresponsible, his rhetoric surrounding the election has been abhorrent, and his bombastic nature on twitter and at rallies is beneath the office - BUT the positive things from his presidency should still be recognized and improved upon.


Pending on how the Mar-a-Lago seized documents play out, Trump's legacy will be one of chaos and conspiracy amid a battle with mainstream media and social media. The establishment's reaction to Trump and his ways may be the real historical lesson here.


FBI RAIDS MAR-A-LAGO

As of today, we still have more questions than answers as to why the Department of Justice went as far as issuing a search warrant for a former president's private home. The warrant released to the public shows the FBI seized several miscellaneous materials marked as Top Secret, Secret, Confidential, and Top Secret/SCI. The timeline of how and when the Justice Department and National Archives was working with Trump's legal team is quite unclear to me - but regardless, if Trump was housing high side documents - that is a no no.


Here's the thing. The warrant was granted, which seems pretty indicative of a “there” there. I feel like there’s no way they’d issue a search warrant on a former president without having every duck in a row. That would be a massive misstep to just grant a willy-nilly politically charged witch hunt without CONCRETE evidence. For a federal court to approve? You need a massive reason. Maybe we’ll find out, but the affidavit remains sealed and likely won't be fully showcased due to the sensitive nature of the documents.


OR could this be one of the largest conspiracies in US history to get rid of Trump?


The DOJ needs to pull in a bipartisan committee and brief them on EVERY detail, and allow them to brief a redacted version to the US, and her citizens. This cannot just sit behind closed doors and fester.


Many have been quick to call double standard, especially with Trump being the likely political opponent of the current administration in 2024. Where was the FBI's voracity for Hillary Clinton's unsecure email server and deleted emails? Where has the FBI been on investigating Hunter Biden and his now confirmed laptop contents? Where is the fervor in going after those on Ghislaine Maxwell's client list?


Certainly its possible to hold both them AND Trump accountable, because party shouldn't matter. Perhaps there are acceptable explanations for how different investigations play out, but the DOJ needs to better communicate its decision making to Congress. Congress then needs to report to its boss: We the People.


What happens if Donald Trump is charged, or arrested? Will he suspend a campaign attempt or will he use it like a martyr and cause more of a stir? OR will the DOJ refrain from issuing charges in fear of the political fallout?


Lets not forget that the Clinton email situation was investigated by Comey, and recommendations for charges were presented to the DOJ. Newly elected President Trump declined to pursue out of fear that those actions would further divide the nation.


2024 CAMPAIGN?

None of the following indicates any semblance of support or endorsement.


Will he formally announce a run before or after the midterms this November? Or will he wait for a more definitive path from the DOJ's investigation of him and documents kept at Mar-a-Lago? Either way, I personally think a Trump 2024 run is inevitable... but will the GOP fall in line or allow for a proper primary?


Lets war game this out with the assumption Biden is running as the incumbent:

  • IF TRUMP RUNS

If he announces his candidacy, I personally think this goes two ways.

  1. Trump runs uncontested with the full backing of the GOP

  2. Trump gets primaried by Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, or another unnamed Republican Candidate.

I lean more towards option A in this event. Everyone who loves DeSantis love Trump first. They won't bow to someone else if Trump himself is in the running.


OUTCOME?

I think its a massive victory for Trump. Biden and Kamala are far too unpopular to win reelection against someone as fearless and bombastic as Trump. Trump is synonymous with "better economy", and at the end of the day that's all that voters care about.

  • IF TRUMP DOESN'T RUN

Whether it be due to insurmountable legal issues or the lack of will from the GOP, Trump not running is still a possibility. There are a couple paths:

  1. DeSantis is the clear favorite and he runs virtually unopposed. Maybe Ted Cruz or other Republicans throw their hats in the ring with the absence of Trump - but its DeSantis' race to lose.

  2. DeSantis throws a curveball and doesn't run, paving the way for other GOP darlings like Ted Cruz, Nikki Haley, or even Donald Trump Jr. Its anyone's race then.

I think DeSantis has positioned himself too perfectly to not be the nominee, and is probably the GOP's best shot at beating Biden. The real contest would be him vs. Trump - but I'm confident it will be either or.


OUTCOME?

Depending on how the GOP votes, I think its still their election to lose. Biden's unpopularity plays right into their hand. They could put up anyone and it would be an uphill battle for Biden and Harris.

  • WHAT IF BIDEN DROPS HARRIS

This scenario is the most interesting one to me. VP Kamala Harris has been roasted over her ineloquent speeches and absence from the border and public settings. Her unpopularity and disgruntled staff has plagued the White House. If I were Biden? I'd replace her, and pin lots of the political blame on her for their administration being dysfunctional.


But the question is who would be a good enough running mate to save his butt in 2024? Here are my top few who I think could encourage more independents or progressives to keep Biden in power:

  1. Pete Buttigieg - young, smart, moderate, measured, and checks some new diversity boxes. Pete is a rising star and often the most eloquent man in the room. I think the Democratic Party needs to lean on his energy, and age.

  2. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - young, progressive, and a favorite among young leftists. She could bring a focus on climate change, student loans, and election reform focus to the White House. Essentially a younger and less angry Bernie Sanders.

  3. Stacey Abrams - one of the newer darlings of the Democratic party, Abrams has been super popular in her fight for equality and election integrity in Georgia. She, like AOC, is a favorite of progressives and could energize the Democratic base.


LONG STORY SHORT...

It will be entertaining to say the least. Trump's current troubles - whether they be a conspiracy to drown him or not - could plague any attempt he makes at running. And the more time that goes on, the more it seems that the GOP is trying to move on from the baggage that comes with Donald Trump. Mar-a-Lago will be a massive piece to all of this, as will the Republican performance in November's midterms.


He'll run as a "savior", which will include overpromising things and inevitably underdelivering. But most just want Biden gone, which means yet again we'll experience an election where both options make us groan.


The other big puzzle to this piece is who running mates would be for Trump or another candidate. Could Trump pick DeSantis as his VP and run a powerhouse team?


What do you think? Regardless of your thoughts on Biden, should the GOP back another Trump run or is the strategic play to go with someone more measured and eloquent like DeSantis or Cruz? I personally am quite tired of Trump this and Trump that, and perhaps the social fabric needs a tamer GOP official than one who goes on social media to make fun of people's looks.



 

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Listen to my discussion with fellow Officer Candidate School graduates as we reminisce about our time down in Alabama.


I'm convinced this will be one of many discussions in this lane!

Listen on all podcast platforms and at www.thecoganconvo.com

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