Saturday, September 7, 2019


ROD CONEYBEARE
 1930-2019

        Our father, Rod Coneybeare, has passed away at the age of 89, in Lindsay, Ontario.
        Rod was one of the titans of Canadian broadcasting in its golden age, specifically at the CBC.
        He is best known for supplying the voice and words of Jerome the Giraffe and Rusty the Rooster on the CBC-TV kid’s show The Friendly Giant, which ran from 1958 to 1985 (yes, those dates are right), but his career in broadcasting actually began much earlier – in 1945, when he was fifteen years-old.  Back then he played bit parts on CBC radio dramas and serials, standing alongside (behind, actually) greats such as John Drainie,  or Bud Knapp.  So he was there, in the halcyon days when CBC was on Jarvis Street and everyone said – even Orson Welles – that the Corp produced the best drama.
        Eventually he would become a respected dramatist himself, and his work would be produced by luminaries such as Esse Ljungh and Andrew Allan, for whom he had suitable awe.  But before all that there were seasons in summer stock, in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s (working for Jack Blacklock, onstage opposite the young Barbara Hamilton),  and gigs at small radio stations across Ontario, most notably CJOY Guelph, (where he met his first wife, and the mother of his children, Beth Coneybeare).
     
      But radio is where his heart lay.  Even though he would gain notice as a serious dramatist during the early days of CBC live TV drama, and even though The Friendly Giant gave him one of the longest friendships of his life, and despite the guest shots and panelist appearances (Front Page Challenge, the other longest running show in early CBC history), radio was where he was most comfortable.  Here he created, wrote, and acted out the fantasies of Out of This World (pre Rod Serling Twilight Zone), amazed a generation of Canadians with the ingenuity of The Rod and Charles Show, or made the country laugh with the eccentric and almost Pythonesque comedy of Coneybeare & Company (my personal favourite).  He would win his two ACTRA awards for radio, one in documentary and one for original dramatic writing, and that’s quite a feat.
 And he was so relaxed there.  He literally drank coffee and smoked cigars on the air and rewrote scripts in mid-delivery.   Live.   It was comfort with a medium I have seldom seen.
In person he was a true raconteur in the grand tradition of that word, and larger than life.  He seemed to have opinions on everything, but if pushed to describe his interests and loves, his kids would say these would be the popular music of his youth, classic movies, exercising, pizza, wine, smoking back when that was okay, and art; he loved the Art Gallery of Ontario because you could escape from the world there, and the Planetarium because you could get in a good nap. 

He was idiosyncratic and strange for his time: he had a beard ten years before it became fashionable, and rode a bike daily before grown-ups even considered such an activity (only little kids rode bikes and he, in fact, ordered his from England).  He drove a VW camper bus twenty years before the mini-van (we were mortified) and he played movies at home on a 16mm projector before the VHS was invented.  He taught me to go to the public library every Saturday morning of my life.
And, although he would be loathe to admit it, he was a Canadian patriot.  He had bitter things to say about a country that doesn’t respect its talent enough, but he truly believed that Drainie was one of the finest actors in the world, as was Janet Mallett, Kate Reid, Charmion King, and Gordon Pinsent.  He referred to his generation of artists as a family, and punched back when – how ironic is this? – a Canadian newspaper complained that talking about Canadian artists was boring.

Things about my father that people don’t know:
-          His oldest friend was Elwy Yost.  They met on a streetcar when dad was fifteen.  Elwy and Lila Yost were witnesses at my parents’ marriage ceremony in a registry office in 1952.  He and Elwy made amateur home movies and invented a board game about big business that probably would have made them money had they just managed to focus on – you guessed it – the business side of things for twenty seconds.
-          He had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the Great American Songbook as well as, of all things, silent movies.
-          He and Bob Homme, “The Friendly Giant”, really were terrific friends and shared many crazed enthusiasms, including collecting classic American radio shows.
-          He was very good with automobile engines and could take 1950’s British sports cars apart and put them back together.
-          He loved SCTV.
-          He could edit audio tape with a razor blade and a grease pencil, often with a cigar in his hand.   He was the best audio cutter I ever heard.
-          He was a very good cartoonist.
-          He could only cook three meals that I know of: eggs, hamburgers, and, bizarrely, chicken parmigiana.
-          He never owned a cell phone or had voicemail.  In no way did this hamper his existence.

He leaves behind his devoted wife of almost forty years, Moira, as well as four children and seven grandchildren,  two cats (one of whom is featured in a graphic novel he was working on up to the end, about a cat fighting, naturally enough, the Nazis during the Second World War), and countless memories. 

A larger-than-life man, a believer in language and good talk, of wit, an appreciator of the arts; a boy born in Belleville Ontario who grew up in the Depression, who reached up to turn a radio’s dial and instead stepped into it for the rest of his life.

Rest well and in peace, Rodney.  You made a mark.  You will stay with us forever.

Wilson Coneybeare
Writer/Filmmaker, son of Rod Coneybeare
September 7 2019



           



Sunday, March 10, 2019

CONGRESS SHOULD REMEMBER ITS PLACE


We can blame three Presidents for the pickle we’re in.  Washington, Lincoln, and FDR.

Washington’s name, in fact, probably doesn’t really belong.  That’s because I’m counting the men who expanded the Presidency and gave it its grandeur and imperial brass sheen.  So maybe just Lincoln and FDR.  But the shadow those two cast is very, very long.

There are also-rans who have had tremendous impact, of course. Reagan would be one, Teddy Roosevelt as well, Jefferson (although likely not for his presidency) and I suppose Woodrow Wilson should be let in the club, insofar as his League of Nations morphed into the United Nations and its upside-down sister, NATO.

But that’s it.

Alas, due to the power and thrust of those first two examples -- – Presidents who simply grabbed power and kept it at a time when we really needed a President to grab power and keep it – the Presidency became what it was never intended to be: an ermine robe with regal authority.

Let’s be clear.  I’m not talking modern royalty.  None of this Elizabeth II having to plead for an allowance for her offspring or being unable to comment when her nation goes to war nonsense; I’m talking good, old-fashioned, medieval royalty.  Off with their heads stuff.  Torch the armada.

Unfortunately, FDR and Lincoln and their management of our two greatest moments of peril came before the invention of the atom bomb and the ICBM.  FDR was, in fact, just before.  As a result, all Presidents since have been exalted as “the most powerful person on earth” and “leader of the free world.”

That’s a lot for a job that, far from attracting and creating legions of Lincolns and franchises of FDRs has, instead,  coughed up personages more along the lines of Chester A. Arthur or Millard Fillmore.

The problem is where this idolatry of the President, and the continued aggregation of power, particularly on the military side of things, has taken things.

The results have been abysmal.  Wanna-be Wolsinghams such as Dick Cheney have worked with religious zeal to accrue more power to the executive – usually in the name of national defense.  As a result, it might be wise to look at what has happened in the name of said national defense since FDR.

How about Truman and the disastrous foray into Korea, an undeclared war (Truman was asked by a reporter if it was a police action and he responded pretty much along the lines of, “Yeah, yeah, that’s what it is; it’s a police action!”) that killed 35,000 Americans?  Johnson (and to some degree Kennedy and Nixon) never asked Congress to declare war either, and their instincts slowly slaughtered 57,000 Americans in Vietnam, for no good cause whatsoever.  And don’t forget George Bush, who lied and misrepresented … well, everything…  to shove us into the two longest conflicts in the nation’s history, with 4,500 Americans killed, some 30,000 wounded, and God knows how many Iraqis and Afghans murdered.  Hundreds -- literally hundreds -- of thousands. 

Now, ask yourself, how many of these wars were sanctioned by Congress?  No, forget that.  When in fact, was the last time Congress was asked to declare war?

Here is the date:

June 5, 1942.  When America declared war on Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary.

So there you have it: the President working on his own, taking advantage of the powers given him so he can respond in an emergency in the atomic age. If any student of history can tell me how the stumble into Korea, or the slow suicidal crawl into Vietnam, or our arrogant march into Afghanistan and especially Iraq were adventures that required immediate action precluding Congressional approval, I will show you someone who got their degree from Liberty University.

Obviously, none of these endeavors required swift and immediate action.  That's the correct answer.  However, if each of them had gone through the wash cycle of Congress, and Congress had done its job, I am convinced that more than thirty years of war (in the last sixty eight) would have been avoided and 100,000 Americans would have been spared their lives.  

(I don’t know the real reason crazed neo-cons like Cheney lust to aggregate power to the Presidency. I assume it’s because they get jacked up by the thrill of power and pomp, and, perhaps, the ability to kill people. It might even be a sexual thrill.)

Now, however, thanks to forty million brain-dead Americans, we are in an even worse spot than ever.  We are saddled with someone far worse than the geniuses who gave us Korea, Vietnam, and our Middle Eastern exploits.  We have a complete amoral asshole in the White House, a dumb cousin who nonetheless does know one important rule about Presidential popularity:  Presidents are popular during wartime.

Which brings us to Congress.

Let’s be clear about our current problem. It’s not that people on the street don’t know what the duties of Senators and Congressmen are  – and if we’re honest we’ll admit that most of them don’t.  The problem is that Senators and Congressmen don’t know, either.

The Republicans in Congress believe their role is to rubber stamp their President in every single instance they can (their own electoral issues being the only exception), and most of all to buttress the party’s fortunes with the base.  The Democrats, on the other hand, believe their job is to wage war on the Republicans with every tool they possess, rendering the United States constitution into a sort of Potomac “Game of Thrones.”

Congress and its leaders don’t know that they are supposed to govern.  If we had a system that worked as it was intended, a wholly unfit moron like Trump would thereby be part of the orchestra, as opposed to some rabid one-man band.  Moreover, someone of his limited abilities and gross personal habits could probably be endured until the next election, after which he presumably would be sent off into history where he belongs, seated beside a grumpy Franklin Pierce and a head-scratching Warren Harding.

But Congress stopped doing its job long ago.  Many of its members weren’t even alive back when Congress did do its job.  We have to get them to restore their duties and obligations.

In order to make that happen, the country first needs to get rid of the idea of the regal Presidency, with its flags and plane and all that “most powerful man on earth” bullshit.  While we’re at it, get rid of all the saluting.  Reagan invented that; it was ridiculous then and it’s ridiculous now.

It may be hard for us to do at first, and may require a little extra thinking, but it can be done. 

Once done, I am sure, we will all sleep at night a little better knowing that if James Buchanan is in the White House – or George Bush II, or Donald Trump – at least he doesn’t have wholesale ability to pick up a shotgun and lead us all into Vietnam.  Or blast us into Armageddon, simply because his poll numbers or ratings are low.  Until then, that is exactly what we’re facing.  If anyone believes that is a rational way to run a Republic and free society, raise your hand. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

THERE WENT MY LIFE, WHILE SEARCHING FOR A BUNNY EMOJI



You: I secretly love meatloaf.
Friend:  So do I!  😊
You: My mom put ketchup on the top.  
Friend:  OMG!  Really?
You: Really!
Friend: Send me a pic of yours.
You:  Okay.
Friend:  You will?
You:  Sure.
Friend:  You put bacon on it?
You: Yeah....

This is where we die. 

Futzing around with the camera on our cellphones to take a picture of the meatloaf.  Or the cat.  Or the car.  Or the kid.  Or the squirrel outside our window holding a nut like a flugelhorn.  Calculate the amount of time it takes to take the photo, then the time to attach it and send to your friend, then press SEND. I don’t care how fast and agile you are at this, that time means only one thing:

There went your symphony.  There went the book you were going to write.  The rug you were going to hook.  The hair you were going to cut.  The sunset you were going to watch.  The car you were going to fix. The sex you were going to have.

(By the way, once the photo is taken and you sit down to actually eat the meatloaf, and just as your fork is poised over the first steaming bite, you know what’s going to happen, right?  PING!  New message.  Someone you barely know.  “I’m so sad.”  Jesus Christ!)

This is literally how we’re going to die, a phone skittering across the cold winter sidewalk as we hit the ground with what feels like a sledge hammer ripping into our chest.  The not-yet-sent cat picture on our phone will be staring up at the gawkers as they crowd around us, then up at the paramedics as they call it.  I often wonder, would a kind-hearted parademic, as they’re packing up their stuff, notice your phone, pick it up, and press “SEND” for you, so that your very last cat picture can make its way zipping and zapping across the solar system only to land in the inbox of someone who works in the cubicle directly beside yours? 

We all know this is mass madness, yet we keep doing it.  And now there are perhaps two generations on this planet who know no other way.

There was, of course, exactly that.  I had about fifteen years of adulthood with the other way, and I can tell you we had a hell of a lot more fun.  Or so it seemed to me.  We actually had parties, we drank, we fooled around, we read books, we got in arguments, we went to the movies and the theatre and most of the time we had no idea what we were about to see.  We watched our kids play and we got our photos developed at the IDA (look it up). 

Some pretty pernicious lies were sold to us shortly around that time, however.  The notion of electronic communication being as good as being physically present is one of the big ones.  This was sold by Madison Avenue, of course; I remember TV commercials of grandma and grampa just yucking it up and so cheery with delight as they talked via computer to their grandson Sparky three thousand miles away. The message was simple: you don’t have to be together to be together. 

Total lie, of course. Try comforting a kid with a dead dog that way.  Try saying goodbye to someone on their deathbed that way.

What I don’t think anyone anticipated – how could they? – was our appetite for the mindless repetitious nonsense of communication.  It's not just our wanting to say something, it's how we say it.  Who knew grown-ups would end conversations in this way?  

You:  I should go now.
Friend:  Ok.
You:  You?
Friend:  Yeah. 
You: Talk tomorrow?
Friend:  Sure.
You:  When?
Friend:  Not sure.
You:  Let me know.
Friend:  Ok.
You:  Ok.
Friend:  Later.
You:  Later.
Friend:  Night.
You: Night.
Friend:  Be good.
You: I will.
Friend:  Tomorrow.
You: You got it.
Friend: Sleep time.
You:  Me too.

It’s “Marty” on steroids.

This is time out of our lives!  We are crashing our cars in order to continue these conversations!

Clearly we need to get out of this, but it isn't going to be easy.  It’s a cinch that corporate America isn’t going to help us.  No, they will do everything they possibly can to stop us.  It’s a cinch the media is also going to want to put the brakes on, either, and we all know our friends are going to want to scotch the idea as well.  After all, they want to show us their Christmas tree, both before and after it was decorated.  

But we can do it.  Here’s how.

One: we need to break ourselves of our narcissism.  Fact: our meatloaf isn’t that important, and our cat just looks like another cat, and who cares that you’re in Target now or that you got a space right up nice and close? 

Second: we need to imagine that the person we want to communicate with just wrote an editorial in the New York Times about how goddamned stupid we are.  Imagine.  If that were the case, you would be very very very selective about your first communication with that person so soon after publication. You certainly wouldn’t lead with “Man!  Look what’s the special at Burrito King!”  No. You have to say something of  super serious value. It truly has to be along the lines of, “Hi Dale: The value of a socialist state is in direct proportion to the merits of the lives of its least enabled members.”  Like that!  But NOT “Awww, Mr. Whiskers put his paw in the toaster.”

Third: Assume a diagnosis of six months to live.  My guess is you will soon be cooking up a storm, playing with the kids, having sex with your spouse (hell, maybe other’s spouses as well), and because you’re not really sick, you have plenty of energy for all of this.

Fourth: Read.  Not a phone.  A book.  Read.  Get caught up in it.  I don’t care what.  Just read. Every day.

And decide that yes, Rabbi Paddy gave us one of the greatest truths we've ever been given when he said this:  "I'm a human being, goddammit!  My life has value!"


Thursday, January 31, 2019

WHY WON'T THE PRESS ADMIT THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP?

In today's New York Times, David Leonhardt's trenchant observation of the media's bias toward centrism -- in the cause of appearing balanced and impartial -- hits the mark.  However, I wonder if he or Margaret Sullivan (also a great article, in the Washington Post) would blame centrism for  the mainstream media's surreal ability to roll over Presidential insanity -- and I mean that; literal insanity -- as if it's just some sort of foible, akin to Uncle Ed's behavior at Thanksgiving or Dad's shouting at the TV news.   I, for one, am shocked by what they don't say.  Their meek acceptance often makes me wonder if I'm losing my mind.  You?

I say all this because less than four hours ago, the President of the United Sates held an impromptu press conference during which he rambled incoherently, jumped from one subject to the other, and contradicted himself within actual sentences.  This isn't new, but is that an excuse anymore?  He told us that the wall is being built -- right now!  As we speak! -- but he might still shut down the government if he doesn't get funding for.... his wall.  Which is being built.  As we speak.  Right now.

As he went on, shuttling from boasting how he had has made the USA number one economically (as it has been since World War Two) and "solved the military", and done more than any other President ever, I was confident.   I thought: "This is it.  As soon as this is over, the commentators are going to come on and say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, clearly we have a national emergency.  The President has revealed he is a complete and utter jabbering idiot, and the 25th Amendment will likely be invoked in the next hour.'"

But I was wrong.  Again.  They came on, but they said their usual, "Okay, a lot of things to unpack there, we're going to White House Bob, our Washington correspondent; Bob, the President talked a lot about national security, are we right to assume..."

That was it.  They just took it in stride.

I sat dumbfounded.  The Commander-in-Chief rolled out lie after lie, contradiction after contradiction, and no one was going to call him on it.  They did say, "The President said the wall was being built and that's simply false," but pointing out a lie is not the same as accepting the liar.  Whether they admit it or not, the mainstream American media seems to have accepted the liar.

Things have never worked out well when they've gone down this road (Vietnam; WMD's), but I'm convinced this is the worst case, because this is the President being clearly unfit to be President.  A crazed, off-the-chain fantasist.

To be clear, I'm not hinting malice in Trump's behavior.  In fact,  I believe he believes the wall is being built at the moment he says it, just as I believe he believes he's 'fixed' the military.  I believe he believes he's the most productive President who has ever lived as well as that he has saved the world from nuclear Armageddon.

And that's the point. He believes it.  So he is unfit.    And the press is so obsessed with trying to appear professional that they -- our surrogates -- aren't calling it as it should be called.

History has not dealt well -- and distance will make this judgment even harsher -- with how mainstream journalists handled the fallout of 9/11 and America's entry into two never-ending wars that have killed hundreds of thousand.  But I suspect history will be even harsher when it examines the lackluster and lapdog response to a demonstrably unstable and unfit chief executive.

I'm tired of hearing the smooth commentators as well as the mainstream historians who cheerily tell us the country has weathered worse and will be fine (both untrue and pure Pollyanna).

Why does the press become so easily distracted from this key issue?  They did jumping jacks and shouted with euphoria that Nancy Pelosi made Trump "cave" and she showed him there's a new sheriff in town and all that other bogus tough talk, but they're failing in their most fundamental job, which is to report to us that we are facing a mortal threat to our nationhood and maybe, God forbid, our actual existence.

This picture of sort of normality -- and by that I mean anything short of 'Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a crisis here' -- is a gutless abdication.

Leonhardt called it earlier and his piece is better, but he wrote before Trump held his cuckoo for cocoa puffs press conference.  Since even then, Trump has tweeted that his intelligence chiefs were misquoted in a live broadcast we all watched.

Mass madness, folks.

The question isn't when are we going to get fed up with Trump, the question is when are we going to become fed up with ourselves ... for tolerating Trump.  And we need the national press to help us get to that point.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

LETTER TO MY KIDS: TRUMP LESSONS # 1

Dear Coneybeare Kids,

There are only two things to do with a bully when he's down: kill him, or let him save some face.  Then, when he comes back, he might think differently about how he's going to handle things.  He's the dog who still has the scars from the porcupine quills.

What you don't do is gloat.  You don't jump up and down like those assholes who spike the football in the endzone and crow their arms like chickens, which, by the way, is what chickens do when their heads are cut off.   Be a grown-up.  Have grace.  Have style.  Have cool.

American media has none of this in the face of Donald Trump's re-opening of the government.  From CNN to the New York Times to the Washington Post, the cry is "Trump Caved!" There is talk of a crater on the White House lawn where once stood his ego.  With this capitulation to Empress Nancy (a woman!), he is apparently now revealed as a fool, a buffoon, a mountebank, a fast talking flim-flam man -- as if further proof were needed.

Don't misread me: Trump is a charlatan who needs to be hoofed off the back of the train.  He has surrounded himself with the most odious creeps one can imagine, none of whom have any idea how to run even a hot dog stand.  He is a liar and wholly unfit to be President, and he has shown us that there are roughly thirty million Americans who are desperately in need of a civics class.

But the government is now open.

To me, that means one thing: folks are soon going to have that unbelievable relief of driving home with a week's worth of groceries in the back seat of the car; groceries that were earned --  to say nothing of aircraft not crashing into their homes.

This isn't just a perk.  That's the whole picture.

I'm not saying Trump re-opened the government for anything resembling altruistic reasons, or even anything resembling a fulfillment of his Oath of Office.  Nor am I saying that he didn't invent the crisis in the first place.  What I am saying is that there was a touchdown.  Forget the dance.

Second lesson: don't be a hypocrite.

For the entirety of the Trump Presidency, the guy has been castigated for never negotiating.  In fact, we've discovered that the subject of 'The Art of the Deal' doesn't actually know what negotiating is, or that some form of capitulation is required by both parties.  Now, finally, he has capitulated.  So to crow about he's "caved" is hypocrisy.

There's also a practical side to shutting one's yap.

If you want to keep the government open, let him get a taste of the sweet side of said capitulation: he has friends he didn't have before, and average citizens are relieved.  If you persist in "He caved" and "Nancy Showed the Old Misogynist Who's Boss", you only raise the odds that this most infantile of egos is going to make sure he never capitulates again.  Why would he?  Where's the reward?   I propose giving the rewards-oriented guy a reward.  Annnnd....

Keeping the government open.

Final lesson: put yourself in your opponent's shoes.

Trump's getting it from both sides now.  Ann Coulter, who seems to have craftily based an entire career on being a creator of nothing and destroyer of everything, who has never thought about kitchen table people once in her life, is all over the President for being a wimp (her word) simply because she wants to see the government shut down again in three weeks, while the rest of the wingnuts go into overdrive to attack their own guy for putting the country back to work (with friends like these, right?)

Sadly, the centrists, progressives, and card-carrying Democrats are behaving no better; they're exhibiting all the aplomb and dignity of schoolyard goody goodies, hiding behind Mrs. Pelosi's skirts and sticking their tongues out at the dirty-faced bully boy.

Neither side apparently cares or knows about the groceries in the car.

I want you, my kids, to know that this is not the way to handle any conflict or any victory.  And remember the following:

Stephen Douglas held Lincolns hat at his inaugural so that the new President could hold his speech without it blowing away in the wind; Hubert Humphrey telephoned his old nemesis Richard Nixon in his literal last days of life, to make amends;  less than a few months after their hard fought election, FDR asked Wendell Wilkie if he would please act as his emissary as the war began; Senator Robert Dole demanded to be lifted from his wheelchair so he could salute the casket of George Herbert Walker Bush, the man who beat him for the Presidency.

Have grace.  Have style.  Be cool.

Your ever loving,
Dad

Monday, November 5, 2018

MONEY MAD AMERICA

It is almost a universally accepted concept: "of course with such a strong economy, folks aren't going to vote against the governing party."  In the case of tomorrow's American election, November 6, the governing party is the Republican Party, the President is Trump, and on paper the economy is booming.  

Ignoring the two obvious questions of whether the economy is really booming and at what cost, or who is responsible for the boominess (the dog-tired metric of "Dow Jones + Unemployment numbers = economic reality" has proven itself pretty pointless, and the idea that something as massive as the US economy can shift in a matter of months is simply not true), one is left with the the basic proposition: is it true?  Do Americans cast their votes based primarily on their economic self interests, real or perceived?  

The answer is pretty much, absolutely.   Yes they do.  

What's more amazing to me is that everyone thinks this is okay.  The mostly rational TV pundits, opinion-makers, columnists, writers, political gurus -- the entire political political and commentary orchestra -- accept this not just as a grim political reality, but as a rational basis for political loyalty.   De Tocqueville is smiling somewhere as someone as intellectual agile as Ben Shapiro says that if you aren't rich in America, there's something wrong with you.

In fact, this kind of thinking reveals an emotionally and morally bereft culture.  Here the ugly, narrow minded people be.  Not just that they measure everything by the dollar and self-interest, but because they see nothing wrong with it.

The other day I overheard three obviously retired men in their seventies in a coffee shop.  The gist of what they were saying was, "My stocks keep going up, so I don't care what he does as long as that happens."  What a pathetic arrival: you get to your seventies and the collective wisdom of your seven plus decades on the planet is to screw all other measures of value and focus entirely on money.  If you have grandchildren -- and I assume at least one of them does -- you don't care what kind of country you're leaving them, what kind of civil society you're passing on, even what kind of physical planet you're leaving; money is the only game.

Trump is a jabbering mad man.  It's not just that he is utterly bereft of anything resembling a non-Trumpian thought; he is experiencing, and I think enjoying, a full flown psychic meltdown in front of the entire world.  Almost any leader of a far right political persuasion would be preferable to this lunatic, and yet 89% of the GOP (and, one presumes, a huge chunk of non-GOP members, otherwise) where did those votes come from?) support him above all others, ostensibly for two reasons: they get the judges they want on the Supreme Court, and they like the economy.

Folks, there are things more important in this world than those two ideas.  And if the con artist in your pulpit, the one telling you to vote for Trump, won't tell you what those things are, I'll tell you.

Human decency is important. Not ripping children from the arms of their mothers is important.  Promoting peace not just between nations, but between individuals, is important.  Not destroying the planet is important.   The history and continuity of a country's highest ideals is important.  Trump represents none of these things.  He is a hater, a provocateur, a jester who craves chaos in the name of his own self importance.  He is a childish monster, and those who are able to support the child and his friends for the sake of a good economy are themselves missing an important piece of emotional software: the human decency chip.

Relatively speaking, economies are now global affairs, so a good or bad economy can't be credited to an Obama or a Trump or a Clinton.  It just doesn't work that way.  But pretending that it does work that way, where does the buck literally stop?

If you're a happy citizen of Germany in 1937 (and Aryan) do you put the economy first?  How about Italy in the late 1920's?  "I'm all right, Jack" proved, in these cases, to be mighty expensive.

A civilized society has to, at certain times, step back from its rapacious greed and individual self interest.  It has to think just a little bigger.  It has to have some pride beyond the credit card.  If America can't do that, it has a bigger problem on its hands than having elected a cretin like Donald Trump: it has an existential crisis.  What does it really stand for?  Why does it exist?  And what do the people, collectively, stand for? 

Presumably, tomorrow, we'll find out.  I fear the country will go for the ogre, and screw their neighbor and their grandchildren.  I will exult if I'm proven wrong.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

THE DEMOCRATS DON'T DESERVE TO WIN THE MIDTERMS, AND MIGHT NOT

Historically speaking, the Republican Party and Donald Trump should be trounced in the midterm elections.  If there's anything resembling a free and fair electoral system in the United States -- and with all that gerrymandering, that's not really the case -- then the party of the most noxious, venal, dishonest, and idiotic entity to ever occupy the White House should take an absolute beating.   Only a moron could lose against Trump, right?

Yet I fear the moron is sitting right there on the other side of the aisle.  Simply put, this thing is about to slip through the Democrats' hands.  Contrary to popular thought and logic, not only are they unable to annihilate the most corrupt Congress and unqualified President in the nation's history, they might not even be able to flip the House two years after a Presidential win, a relatively commonplace fate that befell Clinton, Obama, Bush, Eisenhower, Truman,  et al.

Part of the problem might be that Trump is so awful it's inconceivable that he wouldn't be punished for simply being... Trump.  There seems to be an attitude endemic amongst progressives of, "But who could possibly support that man?"

This is head-up-your-ass thinking, the same kind that anointed Hillary Clinton, ran that awful campaign, allowed the gerrymandered map to take root in the first place, and left the Democratic Party rudderless, cash-less, and leaderless.   Instead of fighting for the country, Democrats have spent precious resources fighting among themselves against the Berners, arguing about gender rights and #meToo, bathrooms and flags and soft issues that have no bearing on getting rid of Trump and his trolls in Congress or his Gringotts on Wall Street.

For far too long, Democrats have believed that they will win the House because, well, they should.  When you press for details as to how this is going to accomplished, however, you only get murmurings about what the Mueller report is going to reveal, or what effect further news of Trump's corporate shenanigans will have on good wholesome people.

This fills one with distress.  In fact, the Mueller Report is far past its Best Buy date. Most Americans don't care about the Mueller report.  I'll wager most of them think it's already been issued.  You might get a shrug of the shoulders when you let folks know the report is still to be released.  As for Trump's corporate shenanigans: he's a crook, everyone knows he's a crook, and even the New York Times' extensive and well reported piece about his entire financial life being a lie -- in fact, his life itself being a lie -- had zero effect on his popularity.

His numbers have gone up since.  Dangerously.  And there's still two long long weeks before the election.  Those numbers have plenty of room to go higher.  It is simply the wrong time for Trump to be rising.

So do the Democrats really believe that voters are going to be so horrified by things like the President calling the porn star sex partner "horse-faced" that votes are going to change?  That  replaying the "Access Hollywood" tape is going to mobilize voters?    I don't even believe that just grinding the axe about healthcare is enough to do it.

What most amazes me is that the Democrats can't even be found on the Sunday shows or nightly cable news making the case for themselves.  The Democratic pundits are there, but actual elected Democratic leaders are in short supply, whereas Trump clearly understands the core fact of life for the last one hundred years.  It's something I honestly believed everyone knew.  Here it is:

Johnny Carson was the most famous and powerful figure in American show business when I was a kid.  That's because Johnny was on TV for 90 minutes every weekday night for  thirty years.  A generation before, it was Arthur Godfrey, who had a radio show and a couple of TV shows and seemed to be everywhere all at the same time.  Before that, it was probably Bing Crosby, who was the #1 movie star, radio star, recording star, and live act.

Exposure matters.

And every night -- every single night -- I see Trump at some rally in some blood red state throwing meat at the crowd and everyone gobbling it up.  I see him hugging Ted Cruz.  I see him ranting about caravans of brown people coming to rape and pillage white America, about Democratic mobs who are out of control and storming the gates (I wish).  I see him literally making shit up on the fly and people screaming in delight to "lock her up", whoever she is.  This tribal pitchfork act, I note by checking Trump's schedule, is to continue  right up to the Monday night prior to the Midterms.

Stupefyingly, the Democrats seem to believe this is good for them.  That somehow this will reveal Trump to be a bad guy.  As if he hadn't won The Asshole of the Planet Award already.  Worse, they pick up the dog turd thinking they're holding steak.  A perfect example of this is the White House rather cagily putting it out there that they might repeal gender parity rights for transgender folks across the country.  Democrats seem to be taking the bait:  rising up in righteous indignation, pumping their fists for a segment of the population most of America is dubious about at best, and certainly dubious about compared to being able to afford your co-pay when you take your kid to the emergency room for a broken arm (it's $100).

The Democratic Party needs voices, loud voices, and it needs them now in these crucial two weeks.  It needs people who make the case nationally and talk about things that actually matter to the greatest number of Americans.

But there's a forest for the trees situation here.  When we talk about voices, let us not forget that this is the same party that got rid of Al Franken, one of the most outspoken and progressive voices in the party, on the charge of dubious behavior that took place before he was a Senator -- when he was, actually, a professional comedian -- on the basis of  standing up for women.  This is utter lunacy.  If you cared anything about women's rights you would have kept a Senator who consistently voted for access to healthcare, assisted education, and pay equity and, if you you needed to, send him to Sensitivity Counseling on the weekend.  But don't give up such a powerful force on issues that matter to real working women -- not women in the U.S. Senate -- and certainly don't be so stupid as to give up a safe seat in Minnesota when the Senate is 51-49 against you.

This is the Democratic Party in a nutshell.  No cohesion.  No strategy.  No structure.  It's a polyglot of good intentions signifying nothing.

There is a way to turn this thing around, however.  Be simple.  Be clear.  Be harsh.  Talk about healthcare.  Scare people. Show them what's going to happen to retired mom and dad when they can't afford their medication.  Show the eleven-year-old who will die in a living room.  Show the border.  Show pictures of children being ripped from their parents.  Make Trump the villain.  The thing is, he actually is a villain, an actual monster, so what are you waiting for?  Just focus on those two issues relentlessly.  They would.

But the Dems won't do it.  They still think he's a joke.  They still think all you have to do is make fun of him and point out how ridiculous he is and people will come flocking to your non-message.

The truth is, I'm not sure Democrats deserve to win.  Not just because they don't understand what Trump is,  but because they don't understand what -- and how serious -- their responsibility is.

ROD CONEYBEARE   1930-2019         Our father, Rod Coneybeare, has passed away at the age of 89, in Lindsay, Ontario.          R...