Archive for April, 2018

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The UnCivil War

April 30, 2018

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At the time of the Civil War, there were 22 million people living in the North and 9 million living in the South.  That puts the Confederacy at right around 30% of the nation.  Not much has changed in those numbers since that time, as today polls show that Trump’s solid base, the unshakeable, unwavering voters who share his nationalistic and racially divisive ideas, is roughly a solid 30%.  The big difference is that even as the nation is divided along similar emotional fears and political positioning as before, the virus of hate and bigotry is no longer contained regionally but has diversified and mutated into every state of the union, making it harder to rid our democracy of the infection.

Trump’s campaign style and his many pronouncements in office, his bullying, his name-calling, his lying, his dirty mouth, his racial slurs, his embarrassing comments and tweeting rants, all have contributed further to validate these emotional fears in his constituents solidifying as political objectives and have given rise to an openly divided nation, creating the second Civil War, a war of words, “The UnCivil War.”

Saturday night a new attack was launched by one of the opposition, a well-meaning effort, but misguided nonetheless, as Michelle Wolf took the podium at the Annual Whitehouse Correspondents Dinner to deliver a “comedic” roast of the political landscape in general and Trump and his staffers in specific, notably Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, two deserving notables in attendance.  As these two foes sat silently bearing the insults, America cringed in response, and I found myself siding emotionally with them and not with Michelle Wolf, in spite of my deep-rooted hatred for this pair of lying Trump groupie-sycophants.

What began with Don Rickles as insult comedy, a personal style he perfected, worked for him because the object of his jokes were always people he admired and who were most often close friends. Over the years this type of comedy has been amped up through TV specials known as celebrity roasts, where a team of friends shares insults, crass remarks, nasty stories and embarrassing filthy talk, all fictional, regarding the subject of the roast.  It was never my cup of tea, and while it was very ugly it survived and mutated again.

The Daily Show, back when it was hosted by John Stewart featured several “correspondents” who made this style work for them, most of whom spun off into their own shows successfully. But later, as Trevor Noah took over for John, the show degenerated into a more didactic, “preachy” discourse at the expense of being truly funny, as was the original show.  In this environment, Michelle Wolf found her place.  Her words are more truthful than funny, in a direct way, and since they are largely not fictional, but often most real, they carry the stinging pain of understanding without the humor.  She’s a perverted variant of the Don Rickles school, but unlike Rickles, she is on a mission to politicize, thinking that the real truth cuts closer to “funny” than to “the bone.” She could not be more wrong. It’s too hard to get a laugh when you are inflicting pain on others, even the most deserving. Comedy and sadism don’t mix.

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Bennies and a Rabies Shot

April 16, 2018

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Last night as part of my Sunday routine, I tuned in to Homeland on Showtime.  Homeland makes every effort to create engaging drama sourced from current events and in the process, can both educate and entertain.  In this recent episode, I learned a lot about the 25th amendment as a means to depose a sitting president.  In it, the fictional president fires four of her cabinet in order to stop a potential vote to remove her from office, thereby eliminating the possibility that the cabinet could get the eight required votes necessary to accomplish their goal.  Hmmmm.

But what if the President fired just the cabinet who had expressed a dissenting opinion over time and replaced them with lesser qualified loyalists who had long ago drank his Koolaid?  That would do it, no?  Hmmmm.

You’re not going to hear anyone talk about that, for sure, but in the age of Trump is that so far out?

To be sure, Trump is always calculating, measuring, conspiring, misdirecting but consistently on a singular path to fulfill his own greedy ends, the satiation of his personal appetites.  After destroying all opposition with overwhelming verbal abuse, a sole survivor, Jim Comey, decides to drop his Boy Scout pocket knife and bring a gun to the gunfight, only to face criticism as the Boy Scout who has learned the middle finger salute and is using it for the first time.

The Trump response is to trot out the big gun–not many left in the Trump circle. Steven Miller has been forever banned for his last failed and embarrassing performance leaving only Kellyanne Conway as the one person who can string two words together cohesively.  Considering Trump’s Twitters and his pitiful prompter speeches, a President that can’t spell and has trouble reading is no equal to the rapid-fire, machine-gun mouth of a crazed surrogate who speaks as if she has just downed a bottle of Bennies and missed her Rabies shot update at the kennel.

Have we already submitted to this endlessly-repeated, lopsided narrative or is there room for dissent, even from a wayward boy scout incapable of lying?

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Who’s Running the Nuthouse?

April 14, 2018

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Yesterday I entered my local Chase Bank branch office to make a $20 cash deposit.  The teller asked for my ID.  He refused to take my $20 unless my driver’s license with a picture ID was removed from my wallet and given to him. He then proceeded to scan it, before taking my $20 and making the deposit.  Here it was that I am the owner of the account.  It has my name on it.  The record of the transaction should be enough to establish the validity of the deposit.  Who would put $20 cash in my account other than me?  When I asked the teller why I needed to show proof of my identity to make the deposit he said it was to prevent money laundering.  I laughingly declared, “This is crazy,” and was quickly joined by the others waiting in line behind me decrying the policy as stupid.  I looked back at the teller and said, “Who the hell launders money $20 at a time?” to which he replied, “It’s bank policy.”  To the chagrin of the stern branch manager, the entire room of customers broke out in hysterical laughter at their buffoonery.

Don’t they know how money laundering is done?  First, you have to be a drug kingpin or a realty tycoon with multiple international holdings.  Local drug kingpins spend cash.  They roll up their “Benjamins” with rubber bands and disperse it like peds candy. They don’t need to launder it.  The really big guys take the money out of the country before they bring it back in “cleaned.”

But if you’re a millionaire or billionaire with extensive holdings, a team of thug lawyers, say like Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort, connections to Russian Oligarchs, Russian banking and a questionable relationship to Deutsche Bank you have the perfect opportunity to move large sums of cash around the globe without ever presenting your ID.  But here’s Chase Bank doing their part to be vigilant crime-stoppers by demanding my picture ID before allowing me to deposit $20 into my personal checking account. Everyone and their little sister knows it’s the big banks that do the money laundering.  Who are they kidding? Next thing you know, I’ll have to present a picture ID to buy milk in this country.

Whose running this nuthouse anyway?

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Bizarro World

April 14, 2018

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Looking back over the past year, I find myself wishing for things I never thought I would wish for, like please Dear Lord, keep Jeff Sessions in office.  Don’t let anything happen to that nasty little racist, or hey, I think I could have been OK with Jeb Bush, maybe even Mitt Romney. After all, they were millionaires too. So was Hilary. In fact, they all were, every last one of them. But Mr. Counterpunch decimated them all, all 16 primary contenders, nutty Republicans for the most part, but not as nutty as Trump, and then even Hilary, tough old broad as she was.  She survived her husband, Bill Clinton but could not survive Trump.  Why is that?  What’s so special about Trump?

Trump defined a new political game, far advanced from old-school mudslinging.  No, he added insults and humiliation, lying and bullying his way through every old-school candidate with his juvenile, schoolyard tactics until he created Trump nation, a body of simple-minded supporters who bought into the notion that Trump was not the anti-Christ, but the true savior.  Marco Rubio may have been the only candidate that tried to take Trump on at his own level and the voters eviscerated him for it.  Why was Little Marco treated so badly and Trump hailed so boldly? After all, this was a big dick contest from the start. Marco knew that and called him out but he was no match for Mr. Counterpunch.

And so, after the election the many stunned GOP losers circled the wagons to lick their wounds and all too readily, happily donned their “I’m with Stupid” T-shirts and went off in search of the promised land of their new savior, the Great America they once knew, the dream of a false prophet, while the Democrats were left reeling, trying to craft a new antidote for the ever-mutating virus.  But no one thought to attack Trump on his home turf, to use Trump tactics to de-fang the beast, meet him head on and counterpunch his counterpunch ten times harder.  No, they were all playing the game by the old rules, ever respectful, trying to maintain the high ground.  Unlike Obama, who was alone in the ability to do so because he never wandered from the high ground, they had already been tainted long before stepping up to the plate to take a few practice swings. Too late, they had already relinquished the moral high ground.  They were not pure.  They were vulnerable. Even Obama did not realize how truly unique he was. Bernie or Elizabeth might have been able to don his mantle, but they were not allowed to.  It was not their time.  It was not their turn.  The battle was to be fought on a different playing field, one the Democrats thought would be an easy win with a middle of the road corporatist candidate, everything that Trump railed against but secretly embraced.

Now with the release of his new book, James Comey steps in as a pinch-hitter and swings for the fences.  He embraces Trump’s tactics and agrees to take him on with 10x counterpunches.  Finally, someone who understands Trump faces him head-on.  But already, the media swarms around Comey like flies around dead meat, emphasizing his style as untoward that of the formerly pristine reputation garnered by a career straight-shooter who had made a single mistake but had always known how to tow the line and had now crossed it. So what, if it’s revenge served cold?  So what, if it’s the absolute truth? The media attacked the messenger as if he had departed his earthly body to inhabit Bizarro world without a license.

 

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Our Zombie President

April 12, 2018

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Day after day, the nation hangs in suspense, making the morning pilgrimage to the den.  Parked on the couch in the light of the flatscreen we await the morning’s news, wishing for something, anything, a tidbit of hope, a scrap of information that will confirm the demise of the corrupt Trump administration. But each day as the casualties mount–none are spared, both the incompetent and the capable, the criminal and the innocent—the many appointees and staff flee in disgrace or are dismissed unceremoniously by our Zombie President who continues to return from the dead and refuses to die. What would kill any other president fails to kill the Zombie. No scandal is big enough. Sexual misconduct is no longer sufficient.  The totality of his fumbling errors and his egregious bullying, his many lies and confusing and contradictory tweets, his inaction and policy failures, all are not able to take him down.  The mountains of criticism by virtually every media outlet in print, television and internet, cannot seem to adequately combat the propaganda of Fox News and Breitbart and the cover given by the support of a once legitimate party cowering in Trump’s shadow, waiting in fear for the falling crumbs from his table or the next shoe to drop. And so here we are, organizing and waiting, demoralized in disbelief that this crazy scenario continues.

Now it falls to one man, a designated savior, to lead the cavalry charge into the fog of the swamp to find the poison pill, the antidote for this nightmare, Trump’s Kryptonite.  But it would seem that no single antidote is enough, no wooden stake, no silver bullet, no crucifix, no garlic nor raging fire, not even sunlight can diminish the flailing of this undead president.  Now as House Speaker Ryan commits himself to not seek re-election, it would seem that even the most entrenched villagers are leaving the scorched political landscape to make their personal lives “great again.”  Forget about saving the ship, just save yourselves.  The lifeboats are already in the water for the many House Republicans who will not be seeking re-election.  Goodwill is not enough.  Honor is a thing of the past.  Integrity must be preserved at the cost of renewed public service in a combative and stifling environment of neutralized action. Smart people move on.  What does that say about Trump?

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Hand-me-down Dollars.

April 4, 2018

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Our planet is an island oasis in an infinite universe, uniquely formed to support millions of life-forms, the many species of plants and animals, bacteria, insects, fish and human beings.  The necessary ingredients for continued life are an oxygen atmosphere, fertile soil, sun, and water.  To hold these sacred is to guarantee the continuance of life.  From these basic sources come energy and food.  All living things require both for sustenance. Whether you believe in God or not, these simple scientific facts are irrefutable. They do not run contrary to any religious belief. How our world was formed and when it was formed is of no consequence to our continued survival, completely irrelevant to resolving the problems that face the planet in order to support continued life.

The globe today is divided into countries, each governed in a different way, each with independent needs and goals.  Over millennia their borders have been defined by geographic features like land mass, oceans, rivers, and mountains as well as arbitrary lines drawn on a map, creating many separate tribes, societies, and cultures, originally defined largely by commonalities like language, religion, and race. But as all these cultures have one thing in common, the need to continue to live, they formed many complex relationships to meet their needs: management of their native resources, laws governing their society, a moral code supported by religion and trade with their neighbors.  All these were instituted to manage life. A society lacking resources and trade and further lacking an inclusive moral code and protective laws would seek to fill the deficit needed for sustained life through aggression, taking what was needed from a neighboring society through war, taking the lives of others.

The practice of preserving the life of a tribe at the expense of the reduction of the life of another tribe continues today, even though all religions regard human life as sacred. Other life forms are not regarded in the same way.  Plants and animals, the earth itself do not get the same consideration.  Why is that?  Perhaps it is because humans are widely believed to have a soul.  Just what is a soul?  Perhaps it is nothing more than consciousness.  Our bodies are shells filled with life for the duration of our consciousness.  When we die, we are no longer conscious and it is said that our soul has left our bodies.  The big conundrum is “where did it go?”  Is there a place where souls, formless beings, reside together and are segregated into separate locations according to the activities of the soul during the time it inhabited and acted through a human shell? Heaven and Hell, Purgatory and Limbo–all religions have beliefs resulting in rules that determine the proper behavior and practices to establish the outcome for a soul. Principal among these is “Thou shalt not kill.”

In every age, and especially now in the age of globalism, we must respect this one commonality.  We must respect all life.  While it may be argued that plant life does not have consciousness, clearly animals do.  They are conscious beings that live by instinct, unrestricted by religious or social laws.  Yet, they like us must act out of a need for survival.  Religions do not regard them as having souls because unlike humans, they do not exercise “free will” and therefore, their actions cannot be regarded as sinful. When an animal kills another animal for food, it is a simple matter of survival. While they can meet their own needs for food under the right circumstances, they are unable to control the other factors that continue to support the life forms they must consume to live.  They cannot alter the content of the atmosphere, the energy of the sun, the availability of water. They are as much a part of global interconnectivity as are we, but with one glaring exception—we are uniquely positioned to be able to do something about it. Like them, we consume other life forms, be it plant or animal.  The continuance of these life forms and ours is dependent on the continuance of the earth as we know it.  Instead of “Make America Great Again” our very consciousness requires that we think differently in order to survive. We must “Make Our Planet Great Again,” protect and restore its health.

It matters not whether global warming and climate change are man-made.  Whatever the cause, we know with certainty that it is possible to exert a positive effect on the increasing deterioration of the very resources required for life.  It’s common sense that we not pollute our air, our water, and our soil.  It is common sense that we do not deplete our natural energy resources like oil and gas.  They are finite.  The competition for the control of existing energy resources creates conflict and war and creates massive shifts in wealth from one society to another, further enhancing the imbalance between both nations and social classes at a time we need to unite to survive.

One obstacle to this unification is religious fanaticism.  Religions that have a central tenant of revenge and punishment will by definition perpetuate hate, maintain anger and require destructive, often the violent action of its members.  In smaller tribes, this results in terrorism. In larger tribes, it requires controlling the society by controlling the government.  It affects every aspect of every policy: economic, trade, immigration, the environment, consumer protection, education, energy, social, medical, law enforcement, military planning, equal civil rights, veteran’s rights, the climate, taxation, and monetary policy.  All must be considered holistically in regard to how each policy serves to support life. Policies that protect or promote one tribe over another must not be allowed to stand.

To eliminate regulations protecting the environment is to attack all life on the planet. Regulations that allow for the pollution of air and water, or allow for more poisonous insecticides to be used in farming may result in short-term economic gains for specifically targeted industries and their investors, the 1%, but is short-sighted and unsustainable. The so-called trickle-down effect is the bait used to secure the compliance of the other 99% in securing their own destruction.  Trickle-down should be rebranded hand-me-down, as these dollars are like tired and worn out clothes handed down by an older sibling to a younger brother or sister. “Fresh” dollars should be used for all, not the few, to secure our sustainable future, investing in energy like solar, wind and new technologies for alternative fuel. No, hand-me-down dollars have little value and like worn-out clothes are short lived.