Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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Buggering Little Altar-Boys

September 28, 2018

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Well, yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh were quite the spectacle. What began with the compelling testimony of Prof. Blasey Ford devolved into the predictable Republican response which was to deconstruct the timeline leading up to the hearing to validate their manipulation of the process and place the lack of action on anyone else, most notably any Democrat involved in the hearing.  While avoiding confronting the overwhelming credibility of Prof. Ford’s testimony, they retreated to arguing about who was to blame for their current dilemma, totally irrelevant to deciding the fate of the Supreme Court nomination. Rather this opposition was created to form a firewall against the future, the potential for a proper investigation that might support an unfavorable truth, the surfacing of more allegations and critical delays in the process that might carry the decision past the midterm election and place control of the process in the hands of the Democrats.

Then the most bizarre thing occurred.  Following his coaching to punch back, Kavanaugh took wild swings at his perceived opposition, alternating between angrily yelling and crying, a strange brew concocted for the appearance of strength and sympathy.  No one has ever followed the Trump playbook to the degree and with such specificity as Kavanaugh–lie, keep on lying, don’t back down and strike out at your enemies. The metamorphosis from the naïve, innocent choirboy portrayed a few nights earlier on Fox News was stunning as the belligerent Kavanaugh portrayed in letters and comments by people who knew him from that period, took form before our very eyes.  Kavanaugh was defiant while deflecting from addressing questions directly or just refusing to answer by sitting in silence.  Twice, he was rude and disrespectful of Democrats by asking two different senators to answer the very question of them that he had been asked by them. For example, when Senator Klobuchar asked him if he ever blacked out after drinking too much, he turned it around and asked her if she had blacked out while drinking—twice, no less!

Kavanuagh’s singular defense was total denial followed by lists of numbers of people who wrote support letters and a lengthy review of all his good deeds, none of which addressed the questions at hand.  The only thing missing from his coached testimony was the phrase, “like the world has never seen.”

Imagine this scenario played out on a different battlefield.  It makes it easier to understand.  A Catholic bishop is being reviewed for a promotion to cardinal.  Trouble is he’s been buggering little boys and an accuser stands before him.  Asked about the charges he responds thus: “I’ve been a priest for over thirty years.  In that time I have given over 2 million sacraments of communion, performed 1,678 weddings, baptized 3,456 babies, heard 60,343 confessions, 4,023 visits to the sick in hospitals and I have support letters from over 1000 parishioners and well-wishers,,,” Trouble is none of this matters if he put his dick in this little altar-boy’s mouth. How this was uncovered, when it was uncovered and how long it took to bring it to a hearing, all are not relevant.  The only thing that matters is the truth of the allegation.

Unfortunately, the quest for the truth parallels the Democratic strategy to create delays.  Looking back on the failed Merrick Garland nomination, this is right out if the Republican playbook.  As Kavanaugh so aptly put it, “What goes around comes around.” But the truth of one does not negate the truth of the other.  These facts can coexist without being causative, yet there should be no fault if one supports the other. It’s what might be called a windfall.

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Blinders on a Racehorse

September 25, 2018

racehorse“Before you cross the street, look both ways.”  It’s what we tell our children.  Perhaps the Republicans running the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Brett Kavanaugh would have done well to learn this lesson and heeded this sound advice.  What we see as a street, they see as a race track and their approach to managing the hearings is to restrict the view by putting blinders on the racehorse and giving it a kick.  Ah, but it still has to cross the ever-widening street and currently it’s running loose on the track with no direction home as Bob Dylan might have said.

Kavanaugh is sounding less and less believable as evidenced by his appearance on Fox News last night. Stumbling and stuttering through his interview he kept falling back on the same weak talking points fed him by his handlers in the long hours spent at the Whitehouse the past two days. Interesting?  Sure, it betrays the true nature of the relationship between Kavanaugh and the GOP, more specifically Trump. Kavanaugh is all too willing to do as he’s told and say whatever they feed him. Do we expect this to change if confirmed? Is this the man we want in the Supreme Court, a puppet?  I think not.

After managing the hearings to suppress evidence of Kavanaugh’s record in office, some 90% of his documents, Grassley as chair of the committee has attempted to control the testimony of witnesses to the GOP’s advantage and now the anger he has aroused is rising like vomit following food poisoning and erupting uncontrollably. Lies and a gavel cannot clean up this mess.

First came the allegation of Professor Christine Blasey Ford of a sexual assault in high school.  That was followed by the accusation of Deborah Ramirez as reported by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker, that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her and thrust his genitals in her face while at Yale. Next, the New York Times turned up his high school yearbook where he boasts being part of the “Renate Alumnius,” a group of his high school football buds who all have said to have a “relationship” with one Renate Schroeder, now Dolphin, of a nearby Catholic girl’s school, the implication being that they all knew her sexually and were reveling in their shared conquest of this spoiled maiden. Further digging reveals that Kavanaugh belonged to a secret all male society at Yale known as TNC (for “Truth and Courage”) but euphemistically referred to as the “Tit and Clit” club, later shut down by Yale.  Additionally, Kavanaugh was also a member of the fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon, which later was banned from the Yale campus for five years after fraternity brothers gathered outside a women’s center chanting “no means yes, yes means anal.”  The record of Kavanaugh’s associations is a series of bad choices at best and criminality at worst.

Just when it seems that it can’t get any darker enters Michael Avenatti who announces that he represents a woman who will be making a televised interview on Wednesday revealing yet one more sexual charge to add to the growing list, one entirely more substantial and disgustingly repulsive, that Brett Kavanaugh participated in her gang rape, a rape that Avenatti claims is supported by several witnesses who he has secured to support her assertion.

Who holds the moral high ground in this farce? In placating the evangelical religious right with a right-to-life candidate, nominated by an immoral President, the GOP has abrogated any right to a moral position, backing Trump’s selection of a nominee that shares his values in ways both obvious and hidden. Kavanaugh reveals his weakness by willingly following the GOP’s direction and has confirmed that he knows he must pass his exam by getting the “cheat sheet” from fellow student, Trump, who passed his test by simply lying and never waivering from the lie. These are our leaders? This is what we teach our kids? The decline of truth and accountability produces cynicism, an infection that erodes participation in our democracy and the future of this nation. In the year of “Me Too” lesser figures have fallen from grace and office, for offenses dwarfed by Kavanaugh’s activities and associations.  Today, as “America’s dad”, Bill Cosby, faces sentencing, it’s time to realize that there can be no sacred cows.  No one is above the law and certainly not those who administer it.

 

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Gone Fishing

September 23, 2018

99_inch_Striped_Marlin-p-131Whether it’s sitting on a grassy bank at the end on a cane pole in the shade of a tall tree watching the plastic red & white bobber on a still lake, or riding the back of a 45-foot cabin cruiser deep sea fishing for marlin, fishing is an endeavor requiring, skill, knowledge, experience and no short amount of patience. First bait must be acquired and then the successful fisherman must travel to where fish are suspected to be, but it’s not just a guessing game. Experience is more than intuition and a good guess.  No, real fishermen know where the fish are and they know how to catch them and in today’s world, they are aided by all manner of technical devices to locate them.

Deep sea fishing for that really big one is a thrill, but even with a guide, is usually rewarded only after many boring hours of patience.  Once hooked, that big one will put up a fight until exhausted and dragged into the boat.  But no matter the size, all fish will wiggle, flop and squirm even when facing the inevitable.

Be patient, we have a good guide and the big one is hooked.  Sure, he’s putting up a fight but the line is strong and he will be reeled into the boat.  Expect him to struggle and flop around even when the end is inevitable, but take comfort, he’ll look great hanging on the wall a few years from now.

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The Big Rubber Stamp

September 20, 2018

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As Monday draws near, Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS nomination seems all but certain.  Unless Professor Ford’s testimony is given and is supported with the corroborating testimony of others who were present at the party where the alleged sexual assault occurred, the process will be a stalemate of “he said/she said” and Kavanaugh will sail into a lifelong seat on the United States Supreme Court.  The central issue in this controversy is whether Kavanaugh is the kind of man who does not respect women and their rights.  After being nominated by a self-professed pussy-grabbing groper of a man who cheats on his wife with porn stars and playmates, it seems that Kavanaugh and Trump may share similar values with regard to women, but equally so, none of his so-called Christian “family-value” Republican colleagues seem to care. No, they are hell-bent on a single-minded course to overturn Roe v. Wade. Cannot anyone see the underlying connection between these events and Republican ideology?  Is it not all about control over women’s bodies? Is this truly a religious issue or a political assessment, a plea for votes?  Does the truth matter or is this just a calculated exercise in the appearance of fairness in order to save as much Republican support as possible in the midterm election, straddling the fence between the esoteric religious beliefs of their supporters and the pragmatic awareness of women’s rights to control their own bodies as expressed through the “Me Too” movement.

Abortion, is it the taking of a life?  Evangelicals would have us believe it so, but in truth, it’s not so clear cut.  Certainly, a fetus is a form of life.  There are many forms of life that are not human such as plants and animals and there are other living organisms as well.  While all these forms are living things, none is a human being.  Human organs are also full of life. A liver has life within it, as does a kidney, a heart and so on, yet none of these organs constitutes a human being in and of itself. They grow and eventually decay as life passes from them. So, it would take infinite wisdom to determine at what point a fetus is no longer an organ within a woman’s body and has become a human being, a life form capable of self-sufficiency outside her body if called upon. Scientists look at this conundrum and label it “fuzzy logic.”

All religions share the common belief in an after-life of one sort or another and the belief in a system of reward and punishment for the deeds of one’s life on this earth, which depends on the existence of something called the “soul.”  Without a soul, there can be no afterlife.  Central to the argument against abortion is whether the fetus is an independent human being and therefore may possess a soul.

To maintain the separation between church and state is very tricky indeed, as almost all laws have as their basis moral precepts derived from religious law… “thou shall not steal, thou shall not murder, thou shall not commit adultery etc.” These universal precepts can be agreed upon by all, but we have to ask,” is murder a religious concept?”  “Is thievery a religious concept?” or are these pragmatic realities around which are formed social systems we know as laws, which brings us to the issue of abortion and the battle between women’s rights and religious beliefs.

Bluntly put, religious beliefs have no place in law but figure prominently in politics.  It would be wrong to adjudicate a legal issue to placate or reward a religious constituency.  There is an extreme danger in supporting religious-based legal decisions as it takes us just one small step away from a Theocracy such as the Taliban maintain.  The Taliban and other religious forms in that region of the world have had total control over women’s bodies for centuries, their education, their rights, their mode of dress and their right to speak openly.  While we are not that far gone in the United States, the confirmation of a man to the Supreme Court, a man who has attempted a rape and whose nomination is supported by the “good ole boys” who are all too willing to normalize his behavior as a youthful rite of passage while decrying his accuser as mistaken and confused, betrays their willingness to ignore the rights of women to determine what happens to their own bodies.

So, the plan seems pretty clear: Offer Prof Ford the limited opportunity to speak; have Cavanaugh deny her claims and rubber stamp his nomination. The Senate Judiciary Committee will not seek the truth through investigation, but will stage an event in an attempt to placate women voters while fulfilling Trump’s promise to overturn Roe v. Wade with his hand-picked nominee, a man who has demonstrated both in theory and in practice that he does not support women’s rights.

 

 

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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?