Archive for August, 2018

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Party Alignment In Today’s Swamp

August 24, 2018

 

Screen Shot 2018-08-24 at 8.52.23 AMMany years ago, I had the good fortune to spend some significant time in the Atchafalaya Swamp in Louisiana.  As anyone who has ever visited the swamp can tell you, it is a thing of immense beauty, and therein lies its danger. The swamp is a delicate ecosystem and is home to many varieties of interdependent species.  Beneath the surface reflections of the deep-rooted cypress trees on the glistening swamp waters lurk venomous snakes and hungry alligators, while gliding effortlessly above are elegant heron and a variety of migratory birds.

Now as I look around at our political swamp, I am beginning to see something unusual just beneath the surface reflections that distract and obstruct a clear view of the depths below.  It’s an early sign as campaign season begins, but it’s a telling one, and while there are not enough samples to determine if this is a national trend, I am sure it means something significant.

Two candidates in Ohio are running campaign ads devoid of party affiliation.  Aftab Pureval, the 35-year-old Democratic Party candidate for Congress, and Mike Dewine, the seasoned Republican candidate for Governor, are each running ads that address their performance in past official positions rather than align themselves with the strategy of their parties. Furthermore, nowhere in these spots is there any identification with their respective parties, not one spoken word, not a single graphic, text or reference. They are each running a campaign based on their own merits hoping to break free from the current political climate and avoid the Trump factor, the most uncertain and divisive element in polling today’s voters.

Republican reaction to Trump is as unpredictable as the path of a hurricane.  Even in “Red States” candidates are uncertain as to whether to align with Trump or not.  His endorsement could mean a solid victory or spell a certain death, such is his influence. On the Democratic side, party leadership fears a potential voter backlash for attacking Trump and are walking on the eggshells of his broken administration, avoiding the obvious corruption and misdeeds lest they be forced to defend their position that the quacking duck is indeed a duck.

It would be too easy to view these departures from party line as cowardly, but in truth, even their respective parties have no clear party line. No, rather I see their strategy as an act of pragmatic independence and political courage, each standing on their own merits. You don’t have to reach deep into the shallow swamp to find mud to throw.  That candidates should choose to stay close to the surface is a commendable lesson, even if it is the only one that even by default makes any sense.

 

 

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Above The Law

August 22, 2018

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You might remember a time when “Above The Law” was simply the title of a B-rated Steven Segal film. Unfortunately, today the phrase has returned to prominence in a broad sense to define the basis for a national crisis.  What is being discussed today in the media is whether in principle the President of the United States, or specifically in practice Donald Trump, is above the law and by association so are his underlings and compadres in crime, through his power of the pardon.

In principle, the law is the law.  As written it applies to everyone, but in practice it is subject to selective enforcement. When the people being investigated for crimes are the very same people who are conducting the investigation, then the system is failing us. When investigators have a personal interest in the outcome of the investigation and are aligned with the suspect in motive, then the system is failing us. When was the last time that you can remember a police officer being convicted and sentenced for excessive violence or for the killing of an unarmed suspect or a prisoner during arrest or transport? Probably never. Police are investigated by police and represented by police and put through a system that needs the support of the police to function.  As any fraternal order of police or police union will assert, there will be consequences, so the system succumbs to politics and circles the wagons in the interest of self-preservation.

In politics, anyone but the most naive schoolchild knows that legal consequences in the form of jail time never follow the criminal misdeeds of a United States President. As in the case of the police, a resignation is about all that will happen.  The former President will go on to a quiet life of retirement writing a book while waiting for the day when his misdeeds are all but forgotten and he can assume a revered position among those who supported his actions in their mutual cause.

Checks and balances have become a mere philosophic ideal, a fiction as practical as laws and law enforcement if the system is policing itself.  If the chief executive, the President, sits at the top of the investigative chain of justice, and has the power to hire and fire the very persons who are investigating him, and if discovered to be criminally liable can end an investigation or pardon convicted associates, then the system needs to undergo a major overhaul to reflect that no one is above the law. If the interests of congress are aligned with a criminal President for self-preservation, we need to change how the system must work to provide equal justice. Politics cannot be allowed to determine justice.

Now the GOP find themselves in a quagmire, a Sophie’s Choice, with no predictable outcome. Facing the midterm elections, they must decide whether they will sacrifice principle or practicality, all the while quite unsure which is which.  On the one hand, they can support Trump in the hopes of getting Trump’s voters while on the other hand they can deplore Trump’s undeniable criminal complicity and distance themselves from the corruption surrounding him and his team, and by osmosis his congressional supporters whether through past actions or inaction. Political expediency is their only guide as these congressional leaders cower in Trump’s shadow, looking for guidance from the constituency they supposedly lead.

Let’s agree that Trump is motivated exclusively by personal profit and congress is similarly motivated by economic prosperity or national profits. The historical record is very clear. The profit motive is their bond and their applied salve for the nation, and so the dilemma.  Is congress going to seek votes with the promise of economic prosperity by maintaining a Trump alignment or will they seek votes by distancing from Trump’s corruption and demonstrating some late semblance of civic integrity and moral certainty in the face of the inevitable descent of a failed President into the swamp of his own creation? When it is finally determined that Trump has been conspiring all along with the Russians against our democratic process, and to be certain the GOP knows in their heart of hearts that he has, who among the GOP can say that they were on the right side of history? Can they execute a reversal now and still remain in office or should they wait until after the midterm elections and if they still hold office after the smoke clears, try to put on a dignified face and demand his resignation?

 

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The Thirty Percent Handicap

August 18, 2018

 

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When I was a young man in college, I remember sitting down to a holiday dinner with my family at my grandparent’s home.  As was the custom in our family, like many Italian families of the day, there was no topic that was off limits for discussion at such mealtime events, including politics and religion. This was during the presidency of JFK and my father was commenting on the role of the President in our democracy and my father’s words have stuck with me for all these years. He believed that the chief role of the President was to inspire and unite all Americans to move in the direction best for the country. This is true leadership. The President doesn’t make legislation, enforce laws or judge and resolve constitutional issues. He inspires and works through others, that we may “do the right thing.” Therefore, he must be someone we feel good about and will gladly follow.

Perhaps that is why we seem to elect recognizable heroes, both fictional and real. Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy are examples of very real heroes.  Ronald Reagan was, on the other hand, a movie star cowboy hero, a fictional hero.  We elected these men because we were willing to follow them, believing them to be the heroes we saw in the news and on the big screen. Larger than life figures, capable of leadership…  and they were, each in their different way. But with each passing decade, as we moved from movies to TV, we moved from fictional narratives to “reality” television and a new kind of “hero” was born, a truly fake hero. As anyone who has ever worked in reality TV will tell you, there is nothing real about this genre.  It is entirely fake, contrived for consumption.  It is the great irony of our times that the architect of a fake TV reality show could have us believe a fabricated political “reality”, one created for our consumption, while denouncing real events covered truthfully in the media as being fake news.

So much is being said today about the rights of our current President, that is, whether or not the actions that the President takes are within the rights granted him by the constitution, that we must ask ourselves “does this make him right?” Is it not more important that he be right than to justify his rights?   As Donald Trump consistently and repeatedly breaks with all tradition regarding the actions of past Presidents in using his presidential powers, he pulls our nation farther and farther from the traditions that made America great in the first place, far away from ever becoming “great again.”  How can we be as great as our past if we deny its rightful greatness, disrespecting the honorable traditions that have worked for centuries? Having rights and being right are two distinctly different things.  Not so for Amy Kremer, co-chair of Women for Trump, who appeared yesterday on CNN to deflect criticism of Trump’s decision to remove the security clearance for John Brennan. She was opposed in her views by a Democratic pundit and the CNN moderator and of course the 60 other principal intelligence dissenters, and military officers, Republican politicians being conspicuously absent.  In response, Kremer claimed that all three were entitled to their opinion and that nobody was right or wrong, as if all opinions have equal value, facts be damned.  This is the kind of gobbledygook that the “30%” thrives on. It’s meaningless drivel that greases the dark hole in their soul that allows them to rant racial nonsense at day and sleep like a baby at night under the blanket of religious-right morality, the same morality that decries sexual freedoms and supports a self-proclaimed pussy-grabbing, porn-star philandering bully. I suspect that if we were to poll reality TV audiences and Republican voters, we would find that they are one and the same.  Our nation is not so divided left and right as cable and non-cable, symptomatic of an economic division, explaining the popularity of Fox News (the non-cable Goliath) among the “30%,”believers in both Fox News and Reality TV, the mainstay of non-cable programming. Can this be the dumbing down of America that logic and reason carries a 30% handicap?

 

 

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What A Fool Believes.

August 4, 2018

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By now it should be completely apparent that there is no connection between Trump’s utterances and Trump’s beliefs.  Trump will say anything, contradict himself, knowingly lie, and cross any line of ethical standards and propriety just to achieve his goals.  He has no core beliefs but is willing to float on the sea of opinion he creates to further his ends.  There is no ally too evil or misguided to support his plans, no constituent too stupid, too racist, or too crazy that he would not court their vote.  After all, a vote is a vote.  What does it matter where it came from if it furthers his goal?  What do beliefs matter if any one position can further his goals?  So, I have to say I’m sick and tired of hearing sentences that begin with “Trump believes…” There is only what Trump says and nothing of that can be believed because he shifts back and forth, on and off again, desperately trying to court the whack-job, fringe votes by instigating hate at rallies while at the same time denying his own words, all while clinging to conservative GOP support by devastating social, economic and environmental safeguards, all moves that keep him in office.

 

Recent revelations at rallies have signaled a deep dive into the dark abyss of Trump support.

First, there was the relentless verbal attack on Jim Acosta at a Trump rally.  Mobs of rabid Trumpites stormed his media post screaming “Fuck you” with distorted faces of anger, while flipping the bird, middle finger extended high for the camera to see.  Many even wore “Fuck You” T-shirts. Is this what political expression in this country has come to, that a reporter should be rebuked in this way for simply asking the wrong questions of a President who does not wish to be confronted and who cannot answer them?  These idiots believe that the media is the enemy of the people because Trump has told them so.  Ideas like this are being reinforced in talk radio, by people like Rush Limbaugh, and by Fox News’s Laura Ingram and Sean Hannity.  It’s a disgrace that these captains of media, these “intellectual giants” should take advantage of such emotional simpletons to support their immoral objectives. Since their beliefs are not founded on fact, there can be no fact employed to dissuade these emotional cripples.  Trump has discovered the 25% pure vein of unending support that will never be denied him because it has no basis in fact but in their beliefs long secretly held and now released like dandelion fluff in the wind of a Trump rally.  It must be exhilarating.

 

And now, as if there was not enough craziness to consider, there is Qanon. WTF?  Mobs of people wearing Q t-shirts and carrying 3-dimensional Q’s, or signs identifying themselves as Qanon, all Trump supporters, have congealed at his rallies, a bad storm off the coast of democracy heading for havoc at the midterm elections, now a category 1 but soon to be a category 5 storm.  These are hardcore Trumpites, undying loyalists, who believe there is a deep state ruled by child pornographers and pedophiles that include the Bush’s and the Clintons. According to their leader “Q” who posts to message boards on the internet, Trump is about to expose these evildoers with the help of Robert Mueller. Go figure? Qanon believes that the military wants the deep state overthrown and has recruited Trump for president but the media has attacked him with “fake news” and lied about his Russian collusion. They believe in the coming “Storm” when the deep state’s leaders are arrested and sent to Guantanamo Bay. They refer to this event as “the great awakening.”  Pizzagate, ISIS, even the Kennedy assassination are all a part of their deeply intricate belief system.

 

As to reinforce the depth of this idiocy our nation has sunk to, enter the timely Sasha Baron Cohen with his new Showtime series, “Who is America.”  What appears to be parody is so preposterous as to be unbelievable, yet in fact turns out to be very real and true. In one scene, posing as a former Mossad agent, Cohen convinces a Georgia legislator to fight terrorism by pulling down his pants and attacking a terrorist with his bare ass, threatening them with the fear that to be touched so would make them gay, and this fool willingly complies on camera.  Each week he dives into the ocean of gullibility to reveal the core essence of these morons who determine so much of our values as influential entertainers, politicians and policy makers, shaping “America” to their fanciful distortions. Is this really who we are?