Saturday, December 24, 2016

FULL OF HOPE YET DESPISING CHRISTMAS MESSAGES

I despise end of year Christmas stories of hope. 

Often they appear in the guise of newspaper pieces about regular people doing decent things for one another – imagine! -- and the comforting stories about the dog that saved its master, or the old man who works three jobs and still has time to serve soup at the homeless shelter. As if these people exist only at the end of the year, or that the value of what they do can only be measured when the gigantic white tinsel snowflakes are bolted into place on the light poles of the mall parking lot -- which is, really, how most of us know the holiday season is upon us. 

This year in particular, I note that there are many editorial or special feature pieces, both in newsprint and on TV, which basically promise, “It’s been a horrible year, but if you ignore everything else, here’s a story that proves the incredible valor of some people.”

Well, it has been a horrible year.  It's especially been a horrible year for those of us who follow the news and get ourselves het up about all those things that are going to destroy our socio-political structures, boil up the earth, and verify the vapidity of our intellectual pursuits.  A Big Orange Baby got elected President, the Arctic oceans are hotter than ever, and we are all plugged in to our phones. Sadly, no story about an old man serving soup to hungry homeless while doing down three jobs is going to erase that for me.  Those stories, like so many others, are just another version of catastrophising.

But hope, the thing with feathers, is necessary to keep our equilibrium.  Where do we find it if not in the stories of regular people doing amazing things?

Probably in stories of regular people doing regular things.

According to every news outlet and every social commentator, we are at each other's throats.  Lunatic religious elements are trying to murder each and every one of us, our political leaders to a man and woman are utterly useless, the economy that has turned around for 1% hasn't turned around for 99% at all, most of us are going to be without healthcare (again) very soon, and everyone knows their neighbor voted for the wrong guy.  

Yet, most times in a parking lot, if I let someone in and take the space I was eyeing, they give me a nod or a wave of thanks.

When you chat with the cashier at the coffee shop they usually say 'good morning', and they thank you if you put your change in the TIPS jar.  

You ask people directions they'll try and answer.

You start up a conversation with anyone in a line anywhere -- anywhere -- it invariably works.  If it's about the weather or idiots in Washington, it always works.

We nod to each other and smile at each other and for the most part we're reasonably decent to one another.

These are regular people doing the regular things we always do; there's no "end of year" miracle story here,  Except I think it is.  It's largely a miracle in the face of the idiocy of the world around us, manufactured, for the most part, by assholes we don't know, will never know, who will never talk to us.

The very fact that people get together and work in a church choir amazes me.  The miracle of community theater, where everyone has "real" jobs, aren't getting paid, are struggling at a skillset they may not have been given by God, and work till midnight rehearsing "Good Morning Baltimore" is mind-blowing.  People who crowd fund for a high school student who has just lost both parents in a car accident, or the fact that people look for their neighbor's lost dog; amazing.  

Your political leaders know nothing of this. Nothing.  Believe me on that.  Most of people writing wise pieces for the New York Times haven't the foggiest idea about it.  Certainly anyone with a corner office anywhere in a Manhattan glass tower is clueless.  My guess is the editor who said, "Yeah, it's Christmas, let's run a tear-jerker about the old man with three jobs who helps out at the homeless shelter" has never glimpsed this. 

Forget them.

It's been a miserable year and our world is a hot mess.  We have screwed things up beyond all repair.  We are being led by Morlocks.  Many of our own lives are constant struggles and we have no one to blame but ourselves, and we know it. 

Yet we nod to one another in the supermarket, we thank the people who pour us a coffee, we chat pointlessly with strangers, we give up our seat on the bus.  

We continue on, feebly, yet inexorably, with all the power of a polite glacier of decency that can't be stopped.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

FOUR DAYS OF TRUMP TELLS US ALL WE NEED TO KNOW

All this rot about running off to Canada or Europe. Why would anyone possibly leave the United States now, when we who are here have a ringside seat to a spectacle few ever thought we’d see in our lifetimes – namely, 1920’s and 1930’s style totalitarianism brought home to the United States of America. And it’s happening so quickly!

That’s the surprising thing: Trump is giving it to us at hyper-speed. Probably this is because he is so enormously stupid. No subtle waiting around for Hindenburg to die or messing around with that pesky Reichstag fire, this guy is go-go-go. Like a sea cucumber designed only to breathe, eat, and shit sand, Trump simply does what he does, which in his sea cucumber way is wave power, threaten, bully, and get even with anyone who has ever ridiculed him or anyone who looks like they might ridicule him -- which, when you think of it, is all of us.

In short, Trump is already off his nut. It will be interesting to see how our much-vaunted system of checks and balances deals with this.

There are certainly plenty of indicators to work from. And I don’t need to talk about things as dry and dull as the appointment of Mike Flynn or Steve Bannon.

Today, for instance, Trump called together a collection of the top TV journalists in the country, as well as their producers and network executives. Big time stuff. The media thought it was going to be a mending of fences, but apparently, Trump was combative right off the top. He had called them to Trump Tower, he explained, to tell them how unfair they had been to him, and how they had “failed to provide their viewers with fair and accurate coverage…. [he] told them they failed to understand him or his appeal to millions of Americans.” (Washington Post).

When one brave soul asked Trump what “fair” was, or truth, Trump replied that his definition was “truth.”

Read that again if you want.

This was Monday. We only have to go back a few days to see the pattern being set. Thursday, say.

On that day, Trump tweeted to the world that “I worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the Lincoln plant in Kentucky. I owed it to the great State of Kentucky for their confidence in me!” In fact, Ford never had any plans to cut jobs at their Kentucky plant and none of this had anything to do with Trump. But Trump must be the champion and the center of attention, so in his scenario he not only convinced Ford to save Kentucky jobs, but Kentuckians knew he could do it and invested him with all their confidence! This, of course, is simple delusion.

A few hours after this weirdly invented self-aggrandization, there was the announcement that Trump was settling the Trump University lawsuits for 25 million, an arrangement Trump said he sought, not because he had done anything in the way of swindling anyone, but because a frivolous lawsuit would get in the way of his making America great again. I would give him that, but then he clearly had a second, darker, more worrisome thought: what if people think he’s weak? You can almost feel the sweat of such an idea dripping onto the next tweet, which came shortly after: “The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!”

Like any other manic depressive, Trump would mood swing only hours later, after he heard about Vice President-Elect Pence being lectured from a Broadway stage by an actor in the musical “Hamilton.” Pence took it well enough, apparently, but Trump went on such a tweet rampage you can practically see his face bulging outward in Red Hulk fury. First, “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!” Then, shortly after: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!” Then – and I picture him now pacing up and down the living room of the Trump Tower penthouse, infuriated thumbs jabbing recklessly at the keypad -- he offered up a third epistle: “The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior.” (Isn’t the “which I hear is highly overrated” the great tell here? Always having to get the extraneous, unnecessary, and unverifiable jab in).

Unfortunately for mental equilibrium, the next day Trump made the mistake of watching Saturday Night Live and Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of him. Why he would bother to do such a thing, as clearly this portrayal has upset him in the past, is baffling. Psychiatrists around the world speculate. But Alec’s turn engendered this furied missive: “I watched parts of @nbcsnl Saturday Night Live last night. It is a totally one-sided, biased show - nothing funny at all. Equal time for us?” This indicates that Trump not only doesn’t have a sense of humor, but he doesn’t understand the difference between a comedy show produced by a private entertainment production company, and network news, where equal time is offered to candidates during an election, which we’re not having, for which he is no longer a candidate, because he won. He also has missed the news that Presidents, from the beginning of time, are the butt of every manner of joke. Trump doesn’t know about jokes.

Monday, as I said, brought with it not just the meeting with the news folk (remember, the truth is what Trumps says is the truth) but also stories about Trump’s unwillingness to divest himself of businesses that could stand in direct conflict with his role as President of the United States, despite Article I, the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which forbids public officials from receiving special treatment in commercial dealings with foreign interests. Trump waved this off in a tweet around 6pm Monday. “Prior to the election, it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!”

Okay, people.  

We need to have a grown-up conversation.

This isn’t about Making America Great Again. Nor is this about the error of believing Trump when he said he would return jobs to the rust belt or anywhere else in the country where jobs were found missing (jobs that don’t exist anymore, and never will again, and we all know it), or “draining the swamp” of Washington or building walls or stopping immigration or whatever pack of lies many bought before pulling the lever or putting an X beside Trump’s name.

This is about the country. Land of Lincoln. The office in which FDR sat. The role Ronald Reagan knew to play to the hilt, comporting himself with complete dignity and decency.

Whether we like it or not, America must wake up to the fact that we have elected a mentally unbalanced child; an angry, petulant, uninformed thug to whom the country – because “the rules are the rules” – is going to give the awesome power of the United States military.

Forget nonsense like the wall – that’s peanuts.  With the U.S. military Trump can do anything he wants -- at least until Congress can stop him, at which point it’s probably too late. This isn't election year ennui or economic anger playing itself out.  This is deadly serious.

Because we’ve seen this before. When the bully tells you his truth is the truth, that anyone who speaks against him or his gang must apologize, or that the rules don’t apply to him, you have just been introduced to the madman.  And madmen don't just stop with military adventurism.

As I said, what’s amazing is that he’s going at it so early. He doesn’t even have the actual power yet, but he’s waving around that gun like he’s already got everyone in the bank held hostage. This may work in our favor. I think he truly doesn’t understand what power he does and doesn’t have, what he’s allowed to do and not allowed to do, and where the limits are. In fact, I don’t think he knows there are any limits to his new role, which has taken on Sultanic, even Tsarist values in his mind.  He just knows he’s won, has power, and people are gonna pay for being mean to him. 

This is where we are.

The good thing – if there is one – is that we still have exactly two months before he takes office. I itemized the fun of four days. Imagine four years.

So why go to Canada or Europe, when we can stay right at home and watch the destruction of the United States and maybe more from the safety of our living rooms, and all because people were too lazy to read a newspaper or open a book? Or maybe not the destruction of the country. How about a national intervention of some kind, as the American people recognize they’ve made a mistake, and they’re going to snatch sanity from the jaws of sheer idiocy and preserve the Land of Lincoln, the office wherein FDR sat, and the role that Reagan played?

Everyone says it’s too late, but it’s never too early to stop something like this. Imagine if we had real leaders able to take the bull by the horns and do what’s right and remove this man -- traditions and rules be damned.  He is bold enough not to follow them.  Why should we?


Thursday, November 10, 2016

WE MUST NEVER NORMALIZE TRUMP

Obama has no choice but to normalize Trump.  He has to go through the rituals, in one of his last, but not the last, acts of decency in his presidency.  The rest of us are being asked to do the same, usually in the name of giving Trump room to succeed.  We are all supposed to wipe the slate clean, something which made sense in pretty much every election that has gone before, no matter how hard fought.  Soon the media, in order to keep their own wheels greased, will join Obama in asking us to normalize Trump.

But as citizens we can't, nor should we, wipe the slate clean or normalize Trump.

Trump is not Mitt Romney.  Nor is he John McCain.  Nor is he Obama, nor is he George W. Bush or John Kerry. 

Trump is exactly what he wishes to be: unique, an outlier, something that the country has never seen before. 

This has nothing to do with politics.  Only a fool believes this is a right-left thing or a Democratic/Republican thing, or anything akin to the Republicans assault on Obama when he took office, or when the Democrats thought they were ripped off by George W. Bush.  

Trump is unique and an outlier because he is the first fully blown fascist the United States has ever elected to the Presidency.  He is a monster of cruelty and indecency, and his arrival at the Presidency is one of the foulest deeds every perpetrated upon the American people and now, in this post World War II epoch, the rest of the planet.   

Nor is this about Trump's policies, such as they are.  There is many a Republican who espouses getting rid of Obamacare, rejigging the tax code in favor of the rich, suppressing minorities and rolling back Roe v. Wade.  That I could live with.   Half the country despised Richard Nixon but we went on, just as half the country was disgusted by Bill Clinton and went on. 

Again, Trump is different.  

It's not just that he's wholly unqualified for the job, or that he knows nothing of the history of the country, its traditions, beliefs, or its people, or even what he doesn't know; it's that Trump believes in suppression;  police brutality against those who disagree with him, and using the power of the Presidency to jail his enemies if not incite their murder.  

We have never seen the likes of this before.

So if it's not a Republican-Democrat or a right-left situation, where are we?  Well, simply put, I believe we have reached a point where one half of the country is pitted against the other. One half wants a basic liberal democracy officiated over by anyone who can deliver anything approximating same (Hillary Clinton if we have to have her, but John Kasich just as well, or Jeb Bush, or Joe Biden) and the other half wants a Strongman. 

My guess is that the people who voted for Trump don't know what a Strongman is.  This is what a Strongman is:

Mussolini was a Strongman, Adolph Hitler was a Strongman, Josef Stalin was a Strongman.  So were Pinochet and Papa Doc and Idi Amin.  History is littered with these lowlifes.  The United States, by virtue of its basic liberal culture and diversity in faiths, was usually deemed immune to Strongmen, but in the age of Twitter and Snapchat and a mainstream press that utterly fell down on the job (first Iraq, now Trump), it's clear that we aren't immune at all.  

The miserable part of all this is that, despite what everyone is going to tell you to do, we can't really afford the luxury of making peace with our neighbor and healing the wounds. The reason is that our neighbor probably voted for Trump, and if he voted for Trump, history tells us that he won't be paying attention when truly crazy Trump stuff starts to happen.   In fact, what history tells us is that if we all reach out to one another and "get back to normal", that's when the Strongman can really get away with serious stuff, because not only is no one watching, but no one wants to tear the fabric of their community and society apart again.

So once we normalize Trump and make peace with the folks who voted for Trump, who is going to take note and object when he finds a crisis that requires a State of Emergency, when he penalizes the press that rebukes him (Washington Post) and rewards those who support him (Fox); when he collects on the goodwill he's built up with the law enforcement officials he has so carefully cultivated (they who are so pissed off with the rest of us); when he really utilizes the awesome ability he has to communicate and connect with the TV-dumb masses, and when he settles finally on an Other who is responsible for our woes (thus far he has tried many: Hispanic, women, gay, Muslim, African-American, and, always reliably, Jew).

Once normalization takes place, we are going to be blinkered when any of these things come to pass, and I guarantee you they will come to pass in some way or other.  History tells us so.

I hate writing like this.  I wish I had the icy cold, level-headed optimism of an Obama as he greets Trump in the Oval Office with courtesy and deference.  I wish I could be that calm and sure that "America will never go that way" and that people like me are fringe voices in the internet wilderness.  But the problem is, Obama told us there was no way Trump was going to win the Republican nomination, and later, with great certainty, he said there was no way that he was going to win the Presidency.  Well, Obama was President of the United States, with access to all the intelligence that entails, and he got it wrong. The proof is the maniac standing in his office. 

So let Obama be the one to do the normalizing.   Let television news turn Trump into a charming, if odd, uncle. The rest of us have to keep our eye out, if only to preserve the standards that we used to believe the country stood for. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

HOW MAINSTREAM MEDIA ALMOST ELECTED A FASCIST DICTATOR


When Trump loses the Presidential race, what is the media going to say?

Not what is Trump going to say. That’s easy to figure; he’s going to say whatever he needs to say to keep feeding the ego-circus. He’ll probably have more rallies and say it was all rigged. Yes, more rallies.

Yet, already you can feel he’s a hop-skip-and-jump from becoming as marginal a character as Sarah Palin, who dropped out of her governorship in favor of cheap cable shows wherein she shot wild animals from a chopper. Trump might be a little higher class and actually have a movement, but most of us will say, in wonder, “That guy once had the nomination?”

But what about the mainstream media? Aye, there’s the real story. Because the mainstream media botched this one. Therefore, the safest thing for them to say when Clinton wins is, “See? The system worked! The good guy/woman won!”

Well, just because your teenage son and his idiot buddies went drunk driving and came back alive doesn’t mean the system worked; it means everyone got very very lucky.

The truth, in the case of the 2016 election, is this: the establishment media almost gave the United States of America its first fascist dictator, and an idiot to boot. 

How did they do it?   And why?

Well, firstly, the guy meant ratings, so they made him an equivalent not to Hillary Clinton, but to Jeb Bush and John Kasich and those other creepy phonies who are, nonetheless, acceptable to me because they at least nominally adhere to the Constitution and probably read books in their spare time. For its part, the Republican Party almost gave the country Trump because they are craven worms who simply don’t care about their country.

(That sounds over the top, but let’s stop being kind. Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus is an appliance salesman who, I guess, views his job status as more important than the welfare of the other 330 million Americans he shares the continent with. God knows what he tells himself at 3 a.m. Same goes for Kellyanne Conway, who is the modern-day Goebbels, or Leni Riefenstahl at best, but without the camera skills. And, of course, the Profiles in Gutlessness gang, headed by Paul Ryan, John McCain, and the rest of the GOP creepy squad, not only gassed up the car, they gave the teenagers the alcohol and told them to enjoy themselves spinning around town, and don’t mind the speed limits or cross-walks.)

The second thing the media did was close their eyes to what’s really going on around the country. They did this years ago, and that’s why right off the bat they missed the truth about Trump – that he was so appealing – and they missed the threat until it was too late. 

This is eerily reminiscent of how the media marched in weird patriotic lock-step with Dick Cheney when it came to the Iraq war.

The problem is that TV journalists in particular make too much money, live too close, and pal around with politicians in a proximity and equality that’s antithetical to decent journalism. They are now as much a part of the problem as Priebus and even Trump himself. And they won’t risk being out of favor.

Case in point: 

I watched Kellyanne Conway doing her glib performing-dog act of deflecting every criticism of Trump and stressing that he’s just, let’s face it folks, Mr. America while Hillary is Lady MacBeth. In this, Kellyanne was defending and doing everything she could to elect America’s first fascist dictator. Once this interview was over, Chuck Todd of NBC told the rest of us, “That was Kellyanne Conway, folks, who has one of the toughest jobs in politics right now, but let me tell you something – and this is important -- she’s a good person.”

No, Chuck! No! This isn’t a game. This isn’t high school. This is serious.

Chuck, I like you. I want you to be our tribune. Our defender. In short, I want you to be a journalist of some sort. But you should have beaten that woman to the wall. You should have nailed her on every inanity she uttered. But after your usual two or three crocodile tries, you gave in. “She’s really a swell person, folks.”

Chuck, when you tell us you know Kellyanne Conway or that you’re friends with her, that she’s a good person, you reveal that everything you’re doing is a show, a sham. You don’t have to be insulting to Kellyanne, but to sell her to us is to give the whole thing a wink. Imagine Edward R. Murrow telling us, “And it’s important to remember that Senator McCarthy is still a decent man who loves his mother.” Unthinkable. Because we didn’t need Murrow for that. We needed him for something loftier.

This is it in a nutshell. Politics is media and media is politics. They pal around, they dine with one another, they make sure they’re all in favor with one another, and they all make too much money. To them it’s a game. The rest of us have our faces pressed against the window. For this reason, they will never report the real story of the 2016.

The real story is not that we didn’t elect America’s first fascist dictator, it’s that we almost did.

Friday, October 28, 2016

AMERICA IS INSANE LIKE MY NANA, AND MIKE PENCE PROVES IT

Thank God Mike Pence is okay! His campaign plane almost ran off the runway at LaGuardia yesterday, a result of mud and rain, and now everyone in the media is showing bipartisan decency by rejoicing that Mike is okay. It’s a good thing too, because if something happened to ol’ Mike, well, hell, if something happened to Mike…

What?

Well, we couldn’t rely on that tower of decency and legitimacy. Because Mike is, above all else, when standing next to Trump, a truly reasonable leader.

And my Nana believed Liberace was interested in girls. Let me just leap to that. I’ll tie this back to Mike Pence in a second. But my Nana, now long gone, believed not only that Liberace dated girls, but that the nicer younger Beatles had been “replaced” by the older, scruffier, and stranger Beatles -- and that Rock Hudson and Doris Day were actually an item.

There is only one conclusion to draw: America and my Nana are one and the same.

Mike Pence as the reasonable half of the Trump ticket is an insult to my intelligence. This guy is Jim Bakker without the moral leveling influence of Tammy. His Christian moral code is a gross and ham-handed fiction: he isn’t Donald Trump’s running mate so much as his chief excuser, and in Mike’s world, he’ll excuse anything and everything eventually. Yet people continue to insist that Mike Pence is the good guy, and a devout Christian to boot.

Why can’t people see this for what it is?

If this guy was in a movie as a character, we’d all know instantly that the bullshit Christian phony had entered the plot; the guy who says we have to keep Amity open despite the shark, or denies his company is flooding petro-chemicals into the water supply. Dabney Coleman as Merle Jeeter, for instance. The act is so transparently insincere and he’s so obviously a hypocrite and yet…. and yet, people buy it.

Imagine Trump as a character in a movie: in that case, the filmmakers would get fired the minute the studio saw the rushes. “Jesus Christ, Quentin,” yells the studio exec, snapping on the light. “It’s so obvious the guy’s a total asshole, there’s no suspense and no one to root for!”

The Clintons wouldn’t fare any better. The plastic boss woman with the pantsuit and VO-5 ‘do’, screeching at the crowds (will someone teach that woman the basic concept of the microphone?) and almost assuredly screeching at her aides, security detail and everyone else behind the scenes -- while her bad-boy Jethro husband alleycats around with every siliconed beauty he can lay his hands on, hoping Mommy won’t find out? In the movie, this is the greasy power couple who own the mill where chemicals created the monster that’s eating the town, all of which Mike Pence is denying.

While I’m at it, how about Mitch McConnell? What genius casting agent dreamt that oily fish up? Or the strangely constipated and perpetually angry John McCain, ready to bomb any country at any moment for any reason?

If this were a movie we’d know them instantly for what they are. In real life, however, we apparently check our brains at the door. The only conclusion I can come to is that everyone takes the movies more seriously than real life. When it comes to hardcore realities – the stuff that determines how we live and eat and whether we go to war -- we’re as gullible as my Nana. More Americans give more thought and offer more critical discernment to the intricacies of “Walking Dead” than to the dishonesty of its actual flesh and blood leaders. And so, Mike Pence is a good guy. I, for one, wouldn’t have shed a tear if the plane had just kept on going and tipped into the East River.



"Trust me, the water's fine." 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

GOOD RIDDANCE TO THE GOP

No less an authority on the prejudices that fester within the bosom of the Republican Party than Richard Nixon said, “There really needs to be two Republican parties.”  Or that was the gist of the idea in the early 70’s, when Dick was daydreaming aloud to the amazingly resourceful Haldeman and Ehrlichman. 

The Party should have taken Nixon’s advice.  Except they knew better.  They knew that the GOP is always in a numbers struggle because they are, and always have been, a minority party.

Therefore, the cultured Buckley's and George Wills' tried tirelessly to pretend that they weren’t sharing the trolley bus with some pretty unsavory characters.  Yes, there are zealous lefties in the Democratic Party, rabid anti-fracking pro-pot stereotypes, and there have even been a few out-and-out Communists, but nothing compared to the grotesquerie of the intemperate, uneducated Pitchfork Republicans who finally took over the party in the form of, believe it or not, a Wharton graduate named Donald Trump, Manhattan maybe-billionaire and class A racist and demagogue -- interested not in the presidency but role of Czar.  They ran an actual fascist.

Bill Kristol can pretend it was a fluke but it wasn’t.  It was inevitable.  In order to win, Republicans who knew better formed an unholy alliance with the Pitchforks, and therefore such presumably decent men as George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan got elected thanks to the good wishes and elbow grease of the Moral Majority and outright racists.   But because they didn’t want to work hard and actually create a thinking coalition of interests -- or folks who could actually understand their Ayn Randian Utopia -- they closed their eyes and courted the “Jesus people” (Karl Rove’s cynical view) and maybe even sold themselves on the “greater good” argument when it came to the race-baiting that Reagan indulged in.  Remember the Welfare Queen?

Well, that kind of whoredom and self-delusion has its cost.  As Malcom X would say, the chickens have come home to roost.  Trump has ruined them.  Ironically, it isn’t going to go the way the Chardonnay Republicans think it’s going to go, with the sophisticates stepping away from the Pitchforks in high dudgeon, moral superiority in tact.  No, the Pitchforks are going to leave them, which is sort of like Ringo breaking up the Beatles.   Yet regardless of who leaves who, the GOP has become so reliant on their most unsavory wing that this divorce means assured destruction. 

The Pitchforks are going to defect to Party Trump, or whatever those deplorable supporters conjure up, and that means…?

Well, it means a Pitchfork Party and a Chardonnay Party.  Neatly fractured as above, both wings will become as consequential as the Liberal-Democrats in the UK or the Bloc Quebecois in Canada, existing friendless yet assuring us a worrisome eternity of Democratic win after Democratic win after Democratic win after Democratic win.

Much as I have mouthed the standard line about the importance of the two-party system, I can’t say, when I’m truly honest, that I’m sorry to see the Republicans go.  In the end, we have to let history tell the tale.

Forget high flown rhetoric about the party of freedom and personal responsibility; since 1912, when the parties took on their current right-left corners, the Republican party has always been on the wrong side of history.   Never has the theory and rhetoric translated into effective action for actual real, living people.

They  oversaw the corporate idolatry and laissez faire complacency that gave birth to the Great Depression, fought FDR on every aspect of relief and recovery,  supported a Jim Crow south,  railed against civil rights,  Social Security, the minimum wage, affirmative action, incentives to education, women’s rights, Roe v. Wade, gave us Joseph McCarthy, Watergate, a military build up that permanently hobbled our economy, supported the NRA to the point of the slaughter of kindergarteners,  and lied to the entire world in order to facilitate a senseless war in Iraq and a hopelessly ill-planned incursion into Afghanistan. 

I’ll give the Democrats Vietnam, but Nixon extended that one to a point of madness (Cambodia, the Christmas bombing), and Bill Clinton getting a blowjob in the Oval Office doesn’t compare to the pernicious lie of trickle-down economics that turned the middle class of this country into perpetual debtors and Wal-Mart shoppers.   Hell, Republicans weren’t even particularly gung-ho on fighting the Nazis.   So on balance, it’s good riddance to them, and while the Democrats are barely better, at least they make a pretense of not wanting people to starve.


Reagan is dead.   The Republican Party is now such stellar lights as Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani, Mitch McConnell and the exceptionally craven Paul Ryan.  So it’s dead.  It will be interesting to see what takes its place.  

Friday, October 14, 2016

THIS TWILIGHT ZONE EPISODE IS WRITTEN IN CANADA

I stepped into a 1960’S Twilight Zone episode when I moved my family from Ontario Canada to southern California in 2010.

Suddenly, I found myself caught in the hackneyed Rod Serling plot wherein the place I had been didn’t exist anymore, and my annoying pleas to my new neighbors fell on deaf ears.  In my fantasy I was played by Earl Holliman (a perfectly fine actor) or Bill Shatner (pre-Star Trek and also a perfectly fine actor); my plea was “But there is somewhere else out there!  I’m telling you!  There is!”  (The acting was always at fever pitch in TZ, even in the first act, and really, who doesn’t love that?)

That ‘somewhere else out there’ I was shouting about (the more I think about it, maybe I’m a young Dennis Weaver) is anywhere other than the United States.  

That’s right: it’s not just poor, befuddled yet agreeable Gary Johnson who can’t name a foreign leader -- most Americans I know can’t hold a two-minute conversation about a foreign leader or country, present-day.  I add the qualifier ‘present day’ because being forced through AP-EURO in high school doesn’t count, nor does studying the economics of the Ottoman Empire for your master’s degree in “econ” before you went to join the Gringotts at Goldman-Sachs; nor the layman’s knowledge of World War II gleaned from watching old Band of Brothers episodes on Netflix.  I’m talking today. 

This song is old, but the oldest songs are sung because they’re true.

The very smartest people I know in the United States might be able to talk about the Middle East as per the last 48 hours, but it’s always in the form of a game of Risk, or one of those interminable Star Wars sequels where Liam Neeson and the other guy whisper in frantic tones about “swearing allegiance to the federation” and “shoring up the rebel forces!”  But on the level of knowing -- who is the Prime Minister of Canada, President of Mexico, leader of the UK, what it’s like to buy bread in France, going to the doctor in Australia -- the cliché wins: Americans don’t know there’s anything else out there. 

Worse: if they do, they can’t imagine what it matters.

Aye, there’s the rub.  In the American world view, America is still the star of the movie (Dwayne Johnson), and every other country is an overacting, rubber-necking extra in the background, trying to get noticed. 

In light of the current meltdown in American politics, this is tragic.  Maybe even a Greek tragedy.  (Greece, by the way, is that country which fell apart because they didn’t adopt American free-market principles).

Because if Republicans as a gang took a gander at very recent Canadian history, they would feel so relieved they – well, they wouldn’t believe it, folks!   In fact, they could stop running around like gasoline-covered rats in the halls of the Capitol, return home to Niggerhead (Republican candidate Rick Perry’s vacation home), crack a cold one, and wait this one out.

Because here’s the story:  

A center-right conservative party of enormous power is brought down by a demagogic leader of oily charisma as well as a group of Far Right Crazies who appear out of the hinterland equipped with quasi-religious fury at all government. The party is virtually destroyed (the italics are important), but rises again from the ashes to rule the land, wearing almost the same colors it had worn before.  Can’t you just see a young black and white Bill Shatner shaking you by the lapels shouting, “I’m telling you, this has all happened before!!!”

It did.  The party was the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, the leader was Brian Mulroney, and in 1993 they were felled by Mulroney’s own Big Boss ham-fistedness and a group of quasi-religioso conservatives from the far right called the Reform Party.  Even more amazing, the person who felled the PC party was Jean Chretien, dubbed “yesterday’s man,” a political hack of the first order who had been around for decades and whom no one in particular had any enthusiasm for.  Similarities abound!  We even had a “first woman in the highest office in the land,” although this was the newly inducted PC Prime Minister, Kim Campbell.  The national distaste for Mulroney (it really had nothing to do with Kim) slashed the Conservative party’s sway over parliament from 169 seats to… 2. 

Everyone said that this was the end of the Progressive Conservative party.  And, in fact, it was!  Kind of.  The Reform Party (read Tea Partiers) won more seats than the PC’s, yet by the 2000 election the Reform and PC’s had patched up their differences and called themselves the Alliance, and by 2006, the ruling party of Canada was – the Conservative Party of Canada!  This was headed by Stephen Harper, whose greatest political legacy is the adroit rebuilding, rebranding, and re-powering of the same old stuff in a different can. 

Republicans, rejoice!

I’m convinced with American know-how, a little elbow grease and a lot of moxie, this time-line can be cut in half.  And why not?  Whereas Liberals in Canada have a history of taking a bad thing and making it better, Democrats in the US have the ability of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  This thing is in the bag.

But now we come back to the caveat.  The caveat is knowing.  Knowing that Canada exists.  Knowing that there’s, in fact, any country past Maple Street. But that probably isn’t going to happen.  So that leads to the last shot of this particular Twilight Zone episode:
 
Two Canadians/aka aliens, done up in wonderfully cheesy 1960’s alien outfits (I’m picturing Mulroney and Harper, with styrofoam antennae), shaking their heads as they observe the Americans down below racing around tearing each other’s throats out: “If only they knew others existed.”  The Mulroney alien nods and says, “But they don’t.  So they’ll never learn.”

 

 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

ONLY FICTION WILL BRING US TOGETHER


My maternal grandmother – Nana – became partially deaf around the age of twenty-six.  It was caused, we were told, by the act of giving birth.  The fact that no doctor, then or ever on the face of this earth, could find any linkage between the inner ear and the successful exercise of reproductive organs meant nothing.  She was deaf. 

Her whole life, Nana was shouted at by her husband and her two children (one natural; responsible for the deafness – and one adopted) and everyone else.

Then along came her grandchildren.

Amazingly, she heard us just fine.  The slightest mew in the night and she was up like a shot!  And she never once lost the thread in our simple little stories. 

This double standard drove my mother absolutely bats, because she had to continue to bellow at the woman just to get a cup of tea.  Clearly, Nana had shrewdly checked out of the Reality Hotel and found a means by which she could hear what she wanted to hear and not hear what displeased her.

In a similar vein, one of my kids refuses to watch “Behind the Scenes” or “Making Of” videos.  Even from the earliest age he disliked these DVD add-ons.  His favorite movie as a child was, inexplicably (yet showing terrific taste), “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” starring Errol Flynn. When I suggested there existed rare footage of the making of “Robin Hood,” he was aghast.  “But I don’t want to know it’s not real!”  Later, even the idea that David Suchet is an actor playing a part, as opposed to Hercules Poirot waddling around 1930’s England solving Agatha Christie mysteries, struck him as extremely unpleasant information.  As Nana herself might have said, “What’s the good in knowing that?”

Why indeed.

In Yuval Noah Harari’s excellent tome “Sapiens,” an anthropological history of our species, he makes the point that we began to truly evolve as a social species when we got into the fiction business. Crudely put (by me, not Harari), the moment we sold each other on the notion that there’s a man in the sky (or men and women, because in the good old days we were equal opportunity pantheists; only later did we exclude women from the God business) we were on our way.  That was the means by which we figured out how to work together and farm, or rather, put up with the drudgery of farming for a greater good.  
 
Certainly the day we convinced ourselves that these truths are self-evident and all men are created equal, we were on to something.  The fact that it wasn’t true is beside the point; it fired our ambitions and imaginations and unleashed the better angels of our natures.  Today women vote. Today blacks are nominally free. We’re getting there. Hey, it took us tens of thousands of years just to get corn right.

Just how important it is to fire up our collective imaginations came home to me last night whilst watching the seedy and greasy story of Trump and the women unfold, as well as Hillary and her turncoat speech to the Goldman Sachs crowd. I made the decision to just stop watching and go upstairs.

There are books piled everywhere in my world.  It’s a problem.  Last night I picked up, for absolutely no reason, Volume I of Carl Sandburg’s chronicles of Lincoln, which I have read in pieces throughout my life but had not looked at in years -- this despite buying a beautiful hardcover set of them (published circa 1939) from a neighbor here in California who told me his dad “liked these old books” but that he had no use for them.  He asked for a dollar.

Let’s be clear.  Gore Vidal tells us not to read Sandburg.  His argument is that it offers up a Central Casting Lincoln, a cardboard cut-out as later truncated and given out (or used to be given out) in volumes such as Lincoln for Young Readers, which I loved.  Vidal is right, of course.  I know that I should not accept this folky, rail-splitting Lincoln any more than I should accept John Drinkwater’s invention, or Robert Sherwood’s “Abe Lincoln in Illinois.”  (Sherwood, by the way, is one of American’s great and forgotten playwrights and, amazingly, an FDR speechwriter).

Despite these warnings, I read Sandburg and felt no guilt at all.  How wonderful it was!  This is comfy-slipper Lincoln, macaroni-and-cheese Lincoln, complete with the lovely smell of musty pages in well-made and cared for books.

I know the real man suspended habeus corpus and was a master political manipulator (“if I could free none of the slaves and preserve the union”...), but not that night.  I confess there are times when I read about Jackson as well, ignoring Andrew Jackson the genocidal Indian killer, and opt for Jackson the adventuring frontiersman.

It is crucial to know the truth, but more and more I believe it is just as important that we agree on our fictions, because when we agree upon our fictions we have a tendency to achieve, because it is, literally, a form of communication and communion.

How are we doing otherwise?  In the age of extreme public cynicism (everything post Watergate, let’s say) America has become more polarized than ever.  The wiser and more cynical we get, the more polarized we become.  We are pretty dysfunctional now.  So to avoid finally just punching each other out in the parking lot over who we're going to vote for, maybe we need to turn to fundamental untruths and remind ourselves of that which binds us.  Honest Abe and the rail splitter, perhaps, is more important in the long run than Abe the political prevaricator.

There are things that wed us to one another immediately, whether they're rational or not: how about the Statue of Liberty or the boy with the straw hat on the raft going down the Mississippi?  How about Boo and Scout and Jem?  How about the decency of the guitar-playing boy from Tupelo?  Certainly we all harken to the tall man in the saddle or the marines storming up the beaches of France, MLK at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the family of Okies in the overloaded truck about to tip over, and certainly, always, Fern, who saves the runt pig and names him Wilbur.

We flew to the moon on such fictions, built a railroad, and created a Civil Rights Act.

We need to communicate, bridge divides and fix wounds -- and as a binding agent truth and cynicism don’t cut it. 

Only fiction, it turns out, will do.

 

 

     

Friday, October 7, 2016

IT DOESN'T MATTER IF TRUMP GROPES WOMEN



America is running downhill screaming, hands to its face, out of its mind with horror. The Thing That Cannot Be Mentioned has been seen, the Horror That Has No Equal has reared its head, The violin strings are being played by a hacksaw, the kettle drums are pounding. The horror has been unleashed.

Donald Trump talked about groping women.

Worse, he talked about wanting to have sex with married women and preying on them, even to the point of taking them out and shopping for furniture. How far will the monster go?

The man has talked about using nuclear weapons in Europe, people.

The man has insulted entire races of people, bragged about his intentions to use the power of the federal government to exact revenge on his rivals, induced foreign governments to spy on his political opposition, and suggested the murder -- murder, folks -- of the Democratic nominee.


Sex is gonna do it for us?


Are we really that simple minded?

This man was wholly unfit to hold political office the day he rode the escalator down into all of our nightmares; Trump the business fraud with his faux Christian faith and his concern for hard-working blue-collar Americans, when in fact everything he "built" he got from his father;

Trump with his cheap Charles Atlas toughness espousing law and order when there's a trail of lawsuits against him and his business practises as long as the Atlantic City boardwalk -- including stiffing the actual hard-working blue collar Americans who hammered his hotels together and grouted the bathrooms;

Trump the business genius who fronted the bogus Trump University, which was, simply, out and out fraud.


How about the Trump modeling agency? Did anyone have any illusions what that was for?

Trump engaging in his gross and seamy "locker room talk" is the least of his sins; deciding he was going to strike any pose, put on any mask, lie and cheat in any way necessary in order to see if he could get as far as the presidency is the real sin.

Where shame enters the story is that so many of us have bought this snake-oil salesman's act.

This is what the Republican party has given us. This is what they're willing to endorse and stand behind in order to get the White House. God knows why, because if Trump actually won the thing, they'd have an uncontrollable maniac on their hands.


Shame on everyone supporting The Beast from the Escalator, and shame on those who continue to push flak for him. Almost every one of them knows better, but the hunger for their own advancement is clearly greater than the best interests of their country.

But shame on all of us if we make his sleazy talk of grabbing women by their private parts the thing that finally causes us to finally kick this creep out the door.


We have far better reasons to do that.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

PENCE LIED AND IT'S TIME FOR A NEW REPUBLICAN PARTY

Mike Pence won the Vice Presidential debate!  Chris Matthews, on MSNBC, even went so far as to say we were probably looking at the 2020 Republican Presidential nominee.

Boy.  That must have been some debate performance.

I clearly missed it.  I was sitting in a parking lot waiting for my 17-year-old son to finish soccer practice, and while I heard some Vice-Presidential debate on the radio, I clearly heard the wrong one. 

In the debate I heard, Pence lied. I said this to my son.  “But he lied.”

“Yeah, dad, he lied.”

“I mean, he just openly lied about all the things Trump has said.  He denied it all. That doesn’t matter?”

“Of course it doesn’t.  Let’s go.”

So we drove off, and I wondered if I now belonged to a generation of idiot values; telling the truth being right up there with the Prospective Boyfriend asking dad’s permission to date the daughter, or a neighbor offering two cows in payment for sleeping with your wife. 

Because Pence did lie.  He lied over and over and over again.  Yet the press put the gold medal over his head anyway.  Style over substance. No one cares.  We’re supposed to ignore that Pence denied everything Donald Trump has said, just like we’re supposed to deny the fact that just about everything Pence himself stands for is insane.

Pence has battled against civil rights for LGBT’s, pushed for forced funerals for fetuses so women who have had an abortion can be tortured and traumatized, demanded that public schools teach creationism, supports “conversion” therapy for gays, and thinks we ought to deny citizenship for babies born in the United States. 

In short, Mike Pence is an intolerant, right-wing bigot controlled not by a belief or interest in the constitution but by his religious agenda.  That is the prism through which he sees the world and it’s entirely un-American.

I think.

I could be wrong.

Because it’s always possible Mike is lying.  Why not?  Maybe that stuff is just like Pence and Trump spouting that Putin is a better leader than Obama and then denying it, or denying that Trump calls women fat, or that Trump is open to using nuclear weapons on a hell of a lot of people. 

Let’s assume for a second that Hillary Clinton is as crooked as Richard Nixon, as incompetent as Warren Harding, and as beholden to special interests as the Tammany Hall hacks.  Or, to put it so the religious zealots can understand it -- Satan.  Okay.  She’s Satan.

Pence is the antidote?  Trump is the antidote?

This is where the rubber hits the road and I rail against the mainstream media and the comment Matthews made, much as I enjoy the Matthews show and his writing.

The mainstream media has no business accepting such odious and smarmy creeps as Pence on any level.  In so doing – and always in the name of fairness – they welcome The Creepy Corps into the real world, and so here we are, with Trump and Pence one heartbeat away from controlling an ungodly chunk of this planet.

Because it's that serious.  The mainstream press needs to call it for what it is, just as they need to stop avoiding the core of the Republican party problem, which Matthews’ comment about the 2020 race suggests isn’t there.

The Republican party problem is this: when it comes to 2020, the Republican party has no business fielding any candidates at all, Mike Pence or any of the other dwarves.  It has sacrificed its own legitimacy as a party, and should have no role in national politics period.  Why?  Because it incubated and coughed up the demagogue Donald Trump, a man universally accepted as unfit for the Presidency or any political office. 

Trump is a monster.  He isn’t Huey P. Long, the dodgy populist who understood how to govern and how legislation is made, and he isn’t George Wallace, who showed he could evolve in his beliefs, and he isn’t even Strom Thurmond, who had actually fought for his country.

He is something new. 

He is a repellant creature supported by a Republican party so blinded by their hatred of the opposition that they didn’t care what they were turning into. This isn’t the party of Reagan, or Eisenhower, or Theodore Roosevelt, or Lincoln.  It certainly isn’t the party of George H. W. Bush or Gerald Ford.  Those were and are honorable people, guided, I suspect, by a true interest in their country and the people who inhabit it.

In raising Donald Trump up from the ooze, the GOP has shown us they don’t care about their country; they don’t care about the consequences, and they don’t care about us. 

Thus, they have forfeited their right to national party leadership.  

This is a Lovecraft story.  The Republican Party is the strapping young lad who has morphed into something utterly unrecognizable and cruel.  It has disgraced and embarrassed this country.  The best thing for all of us would be to call it for what it is and start again with a strong and reasonable body that stands in opposition to the Democrats.      





Monday, October 3, 2016

DEMOCRATS, BEWARE BREXIT AND CANADA

The Democratic Party has a long history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, over-estimating their own appeal, and under-estimating the sheer villainy of the other side. They’re always getting Swift-boated, or conked over the head in a bar fight, or just plain ripped off. Think of John Kerry and his war record, Michael Dukakis and the Willie Horton brouhaha, and most amazingly, the 2000 non-election of Al Gore. By virtue of this, the Democrats gave us the Iraq war and the meltdown.
 
The trend continues: in the current election, they’re running against a complete fool and yet they’re still dog paddling along. I hope they have a plan to pick up the pace, and something more than a “better than Trump” debate performance from Hillary. Anybody can do better than Trump.

What I really hope they’re not doing is relying on the fact that almost every establishment figure in the country is now lining up to either say “you must vote for Hillary” or “you can’t vote for Trump.”

If they are, consider these two dark harbingers: Brexit, and Canada’s Charlottetown Accord of 1992.

The Brexit story is simple enough. Every establishment figure in the UK stood up and said that leaving the European Union was madness and financial folly. All sorts of odd partnerships were forged, and yet in the end an orange-haired carnival barker named Boris Johnson and a smarter-than-he-looks snake oil salesman named Nigel Farage led the campaign for a “Brexit”, and ... it worked! Everyone was shocked, especially Boris and Nigel. Foolishly, the excessively privileged British Prime Minister, who called up this unnecessary referendum in the first place, resigned that very day -- and now the new Prime Minister is surging forward with Article 50, which is basically the getting out of the EU paperwork.

Scary.

Even scarier – and more germane for Democrats – is Canada’s Charlottetown Accord of 1992. Pay attention to this:

In 1992, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney negotiated substantial changes to the Canadian constitution that would bring Quebec more securely into the national fold, guaranteeing them a special status. This was put to a national referendum, just as Brexit was. For the first time, Canadians saw the leaders of the three major political parties standing together on one issue, each of the major newspapers screeching for a national consensus, and the intellectual elite and entertainment figures all endorsing “Say YES to Canada.” Everybody was for this piece of legislation and...!

The people voted it down. Resoundingly. Shock throughout the nation. “But everybody who was anybody was for it! What happened???”

What happened is that democracies and republics are made up, unfortunately, of people, and people – real people – are prickly and ornery. Despite the attention and respect we offer our leaders -- to say nothing of the fancy jets and all that security -- most of us think they’re assholes. So if pushed, citizens will behave like a teenaged boy told to take the garbage out: “I was gonna do it, but now that you asked me, the last thing I’m gonna do is take the garbage out.”

People in Washington and on “Meet the Press” appear not to get this. They think we care about Governor Chip Buckhorn from Loose Tooth, Wyoming endorsing someone; or Congresswoman Maxine Gabforever telling us that “every citizen needs to look at the facts” and that this will move us to action.

The truth is, the only thing this does is move us toward the opposite doorway, especially if every single Establishment Figure and Elite shows up to force the point.

And it’s only getting worse, as more and more people are waking up to the fact that they may have been sold a bill of goods for more two generations, and they’re starting to wonder, why not put everything on 28 black and roll the dice -- despite the fact that Trump is such an obvious cretin?

Here’s how it works: “I lost my savings, I lost my house, I can’t afford college education for my kids who didn’t get much of an education in public high school anyway, I’m up to my eyeballs in credit card debt, and they’re raising the price of my TV package, which delivers the only solace I have in this world; I’ve been fed food that I’m now told will kill me, been paying through the nose for cars that burn huge amounts of fuel so I can enrich Middle Eastern bastards who only want to kill me and my family, and I bailed out bankers so that my retirement age could move from 65 to 80. Everybody I ever voted for lied and delivered on nothing. So why not do a little mad-bomber stuff and, when given the chance, stamp all over their expectations? At least I get the satisfaction of one small victory over people who keep pulling the football away at the last second.”

Fear this, Democrats, fear this – and harken to Brexit and Charlottetown.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

TRUMP IN THE PARKING LOT WITH COPS

Two news stories this morning: the first is the San Diego cops shooting the Requisite Unarmed Black Guy in the Requisite Parking Lot with the Usual Woman screaming (while filming) that he’s unarmed and not to shoot. 

The cops were loaded down with a handgun each, Taser, pepper spray, baton, handcuffs, and knife,yet apparently were in fear for their life. So they shot the guy.

The second story is about Donald Trump scrambling like a cat on a hot tin roof as he both denies that he gave a lousy performance in the first debate with Hillary Clinton, and blames everyone but himself for the lousy performance he apparently didn’t give. Amongst the blam-ees are an ex-beauty pageant queen of twenty years ago and a couple of sound technicians.

I dislike both these stories so much that I realized I was conflating them in my mind, perhaps so that I could more easily digest the facts. And in so doing, I came to an amazing realization. There are similarities between these two nightmares that persist in recurring.

Donald Trump and the cops, the cops and Donald Trump. Consider the following shared attributes:

BOTH ARE RACIST: Both institutions (I now consider Donald an institution, as who does not?) operate under a core racist tenet, while protesting that they do anything but.

BOTH ARE UTTERLY ILL-TRAINED FOR THE JOB THEY HAVE CHOSEN: Trump not only doesn’t know who or what the nuclear triad is but he shows no interest in learning what the actual job of President entails, or what a President can do versus Congress.

It should be pretty obvious to anyone who watches the news that the modern American beat cop is also untrained for their job in some pretty fundamental ways. Their job, in fact, is to keep the peace in the community they serve. That’s it. Unfortunately, anyone who watches the news knows that when our local law enforcement is asked to do anything more threatening than getting a cat out of a tree (or is that firemen?) their response is, simply, to kill. 

See a guy with a knife? Someone off their meds? Looking at you the wrong way? Holding what could be a gun, could be a shopping bag? Kill him. It avoids all that hassle of learning conflict resolution, or how to disarm a person who is flipping out, which I thought was part of police training.

A PROPENSITY TO BLAME OTHERS: Trump loves blaming everyone else, never once pointing the finger at himself. His other thing is to whine about people who “were really not nice to me” (in a Presidential campaign, yet) and therefore are going to “get it.”  

In many ways, the cops have mastered the same trick. Just as Trump calls up Fox and Friends after he’s made an ass of himself the day before, we always get the Police Chief at the Podium two hours after The Requisite Shooting of the Guy in the Street/Parking Lot. The chief almost always tells us they need the public to work with them and we must comply with how the police want us to behave or this kind of thing is bound to happen again. In other words, it’s our fault.

THEY’RE BOTH WOEFULLY ISOLATED FROM THE REAL WORLD: Just as Trump seems protected from reality by his family, his advisers, and the flunkies that work for him (“Every poll shows I won!”), the cops are equally isolated from reality, baffled as to why certain members of society aren’t grateful for the job they’re doing, seemingly unaware that today’s unjustified killing is coming after yesterday’s unjustified killing, and is only prelude to tomorrow’s and we're seeing it all (often in real time).

BOTH EXHIBIT AN INABILITY TO CHANGE: Trump shows amazing consistency on this score. His thing is to abuse vulnerable people over whom he has power, from the poor “Miss Piggy” beauty queen, to the African-American families that were denied housing in the Trump family rental units, to all the contractors who have been stiffed, to the unlucky suckers who maxed out their credit cards to “attend” Trump University, to the slave girls represented by the Trump modeling agency.

American law enforcement has, I’m sorry to say, a similar history. Images of Baton Rouge cops dragging peaceful protesters out into the street this summer reminded me of Sheriff Jim Clark sending his cops to brutalize civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama, or the Chicago Police Department – long before Laquan McDonald – clubbing unarmed citizens at the 1968 Democratic convention.

Neither of these institutions deserve the whole-hearted respect or consideration they seek – in the case of the cops, from the citizenry they serve, in the case of Trump, from the citizenry he wishes to serve – until they clean up their act. 

For the cops, the first step toward that goal would be admitting there’s a nationwide problem in definition of their job, the training of their entire force, and implementation. For Trump? Perhaps just applying for a different job. Not, however, Commissioner of Police.







A TRIBUTE TO BERNARD SLADE

The last time I posted to this blog, I was writing a memorial to my father, Rod Coneybeare, who passed away on Sept 5, 2019.    The in...