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.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A RUMINATION ON TRUMP, THE MIDTERMS, AND VOTING FOR OUTRAGEOUS MEDIOCRITY

Every few days now, President Donald Trump gets up at some rally somewhere, bathes in the glory of his disciples, steps to the microphone, and opens his mouth.  A switch inside his head clicks to "GO!", a cog turns, the gears catch, and out of that tiny mouth spout torrents of insanity: unscripted, unplanned, grade-A nuttiness that, often as not, relates to no earthly time-line the rest of us are following.  He lashes out against his opponent Hillary Clinton, whom he fought in an election campaign two years ago  and who has retired since, berates the New York Times of the 1970's, lapses into reveries about the wonders of the coal industry (gone now lo these many decades), and nails home a salient point about Justice Kavanaugh, who was confirmed to the Supreme Court last week.  For ninety minutes, he says anything and everything that comes into his mind, clearly unscripted and clearly invented on the fly.  Even in mid-sentence, thoughts get rewritten and revised with a kind of contortional glee that you have to admire.  "I am -- I think -- it's possible -- some say --you know, the more I think about it -- what the hell -- I'm not!"

In response, the Democrats snap into action and do absolutely nothing.

Nobody from the Democratic Party elects to speak as the voice of reason.  There are little carpy self-servings kitten mews from the halls of Congress or a few town halls, but for the most part, the great Democratic Party is letting Trump hold a love-in on live broadcast three times a week, emitted at  Springsteenian decibel levels, which goes out to the nation to say, "Don't worry, I've got this."

And more people believe than you think.  And more people across this country are going to vote for the GOP than you think.  So be prepared for a big surprise on November 6.

It might be different if there were a Democratic Titan up there to shout back, someone CNN could cover.  But without a Congressional leadership or a Presidential Inevitable (a la Teddy Kennedy in the 1970's) or a Senior Emeritus (which Bill Clinton should be but for his general creepiness), there's nothing.  So Trump gets the stage to himself, and folks watch.

Let's be clear: not everyone who is going to vote GOP watch.  A lot turn way, because they don't want to be reminded that the source of their economic joy and judicial satisfaction is a babbling asshole.  They like a booming economy and they like hitting back at all those standards of tolerance and statesmanship that the USA has accepted as Holy Writ since 1945, but they don't want to be reminded that the Deliverer with whom they associate themselves  is this blowhard, racist, embarrassment.  But they're going to vote for him anyway.

(I'm assuming we all accept the fact that mid-term elections are all about Trump.  So when I say "vote for him" I mean "vote for the GOP" candidate, a truth that Trump embraces.)

They are going to vote for him either brazenly or in secret, but a lot more of them in secret than you think.  The Secret Trump Voter is uncountable.  They might not even tell their spouse.  But they are going to vote for him for a whole bunch of reasons, all of which, when you put it together and when you don't look at the broader picture, make sense:

They're going to vote for him because Obamacare was never explained properly and forced Americans to buy a product for the first time in the history of the country and because in general it "felt wrong", and the Democrats didn't recognize that.

They're going to vote for him because the Democrats just force too many regulations on regular people, farmers in particular, and anyone who has tried to build a house, start a business, or pave a road.

The're going to vote for him because he doesn't care about looking foolish asking questions about foreign affairs and economics anyone might ask.

They're going to vote for him because they suspect they will make more money next year than they did this year, and certainly more than the year before.

They're going to vote for him because they don't want to hear about gender equality, safe spaces, and trigger warnings.  It isn't just that they find it absurd, it's that they think all that talk makes their kids and their communities and their towns weaker.

Mostly, they're voting for him because he doesn't make them feel stupid, or ignorant, or less than.  Because he says out loud what they've been thinking for years (why do we send money to these other countries when our communities are falling apart?; why can't we just bully for what we want from the international brotherhood, and what is this brotherhood shit anyway?  And so on...)

These Trump supporters are not the crazies at the rally yelling "Lock her up!"  Those folks are Trump's necessary fringe, or his brownshirts, if you will.  The Trump supporters I'm talking about are rural people or suburbanites.   Rational people who help their neighbors and are all working.  People who feel belittled by the champagne liberalism of the Democratic elite and the ultra-sensitivity of their social agenda, those Democratic smooth talkers who knows what's best for everyone.  Far too many smooth talkers.

This all makes sense to me, and I put the blame one hundred percent at the feet of the Democratic Party, which was overtaken by zealots and social justice warriors and the righteous gang who have no more relation to FDR and the New Deal's social pragmatism than the GOP has anything to do with Lincoln's liberalism.

The crying shame is that this same Democratic Party is the only thing standing between us and the other side of Trumpism, the one we ignore at our peril, which is out-and-out fascism.  Trump is a fascist, and a fascinating one at that; he's a fascist by absolute instinct and not design.  Worse, he has molded the Republican party into a reflection of himself, so it too is now a  fascist entity.  As they talk in lock-step about Democrats being a "mob" and secret conspiracy theories and work to degrade our social safeguards against authoritarianism, Goebbels would smile.

So while there is a lot of reason for a lot of people to embrace Trumpism, in the end the country is going to have to do something that is hard for it to do, which is see beyond griping and "what feeds me" and vote for a party that doesn't deserve anyone's vote.

This greater good philosophy isn't a new thing for America to do.   The country's best moment have almost always been when it rises above "what feeds me."  When American boys went overseas to fight the greatest humanitarian and political threat in modern history, they weren't thinking about "what feeds me", they just did it.   When General George Marshall decided we were going to rebuild the shattered lives of the people of Europe, it wasn't "what feeds me".  Some would argue, but I believe there was 100% core American decency behind it.  The exploration of space, the wonder of its industrial invention, and the incredible amount of humanitarian aid sent by regular folks, community groups, and churches -- this is not America acting only on "what feeds me."

The country is going to have to do this again.  See beyond its instinctive wishes and needs and remember that there are greater issues at hand.  Issues involving justice, reason, and the history of the nation: not necessarily succeeding but at least trying for greatness every time.  Trump and the GOP represent none of this.  They are now a "deal" party rather than "ideal", and they will deal with anyone and anything.

The country seems to have loosened its grip on virtue, or the idea of virtue itself, and it needs to tighten up its grip or it is in mortal peril.  However... However...

The miserable truth is that the only car that will get us out of this moral ditch is so weak and so blinkered and so dismissive of what most of us live that it's hard to hitch your wagon to them.  On November 6, most people won't.  Certainly not happily.   But we're going to have to do it, and then kick their asses to wake up to reality.  I hope the country grasps this idea, but I fear not.

The blowhard TV show that goes on three times a week simply gets too much airtime, and there's nothing to counter-balance it.  How we got to this is kind of amazing.  It's an evolution the history books might marvel at.  I wonder, however, if they will be American or European history books.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

JEFFERSON WOULD SAY, "BURN BABY BURN"

Whether anyone likes to consider the possibility, Thomas Jefferson and more than a handful of the  Founders would say that now is a good time to take up the pitchforks and shovels and burn the place down.

Jefferson, after all, famously suggested that the best way to preserve the republic was to have a revolution, or a mini-revolution, or perhaps even just a dust-up, every twenty years or so.  America, in its slavish devotion to keeping the original document dead,  has not kept to that timetable at all, which may explain why things are where they are.

Let's be clear about the math.  It's not that one half of the country despises the other half.  It's that one quarter of the country despises the other quarter and the other two quarters don't even know what time it is, who Brett Kavanaugh is, and likely can't name fifty states, and certainly they don't vote.  Which also may explain why things are where they are, but it's perhaps wise to keep such people away from the voting booth.

But of the half that can name who is on the nickel, it's absolutely true that one half hates and despises the other half and, clearly, there doesn't seem to be any force, entity, or body that can bring the two together.  Certainly the President of the United States has no intention of doing so, as he thrives on hatred, sort of like the Emperor in Star Wars; he digs conflict and people punching the shit out of each other or cutting each other apart with light sabers.  Makes him feel powerful.  He is not a patriot for Norman Rockwell America, he is simply a degenerate monster.

How about his Vice President?  This religious nut seems to be literally missing half of his frontal lobe; he seems to cruise by on some weird auto-pilot, and for a man in the second position of power in the United States (one bullet away, anyway) he seems strangely unmoved or uninterested in the real pain or upset of real people in the country her purports to love or at least serve.  He seems to view Americans who aren't white and who don't go to his church or sit down to mom serving a Thanksgiving dinner as 'hosts' in "Westworld."

Forget the Congress.  They are, simply, stupid.  They're, at best, either the dupes for each other's chicanery,  or the chicanerous.  Mitch McConnell seems to be the brightest of the lot, which is like saying that Barney Fyfe is now the head of the FBI; in the country of the blind, the one eyed man is king.  The hapless press still fights tooth and nail to convince us that many of these people have some sort of moral underpinning, but  that's simply to keep their own circus going.  I don't see it.   Not only can they not govern effectively -- they are literally not worth the money spent on them -- they seem unable to understand what their constitutents wish and desire, even if they were able to govern effectively, which they aren't.

And the Supreme Court is a bought-and-paid for whorehouse, a partisan joke.  This isn't just because of Kavanaugh.  It headed toward carnival territory with Clarence Thomas, and I'm not talking about Anita Hill. I'm talking about his wife traveling around the country giving speeches on behalf of Tea Party and right wing extremist groups and Clarence standing right beside her.  When we decided we were okay with Supreme Court justices -- any of them -- behaving in such a partisan manner, we lost the game.  For his part, John Roberts' flagrantly partisan behavior, both in favor of conservative legislature and against, makes clear he seems to believe that following the prevailing public winds is the basis of sound law.  Citizens United earned a yes to Obamacare, in other words, which is the equivalent of "one for them, one for me" thinking.  Fair in dividing M and M's, but not judicial thought.

That's it, folks.  Those are the basic foundations of the American structure and they are all compromised.  Every single one.

And they are not just morally compromised.  They simply don't work.   The State Department isn't even staffed and the reason we don't whip in militarily in hot-spots where we might have oncewhipped in  is because the forces aren't equipped to do so.  Mothers send their children serving in combat zones bullet-proof vests, because the country doesn't provide.

Let's admit the country doesn't work.  It's broken.  It's only a matter of time before people get over their politeness and just pick up a knife, or a broken bottle, or a gun, or a flamethrower, and go utterly insane.  And our leaders would have no one to blame but themselves.

We are seeing the beginning of the end of the great American Experiment, and the fault lies with everyone.  As Obama kept telling us that we will always prevail, he helped sow the seeds of Donald Trump; as Trump crowed about getting back at his enemies, the corrupt and dumb Congress set about making it happen so they carry out the wishes of voters who believe that God wants us to torture women and bring unto this earth unwanted children who will never receive or be eligible for adequate healthcare.  The same people believe the earth is 7,000 years old and that Jonah sat in a rowboat inside a big fish.

The press, I'm afraid, has stoked and played this the entire time.  Witness Chuck Todd's pointless tweet the other day, noting that we are a divided body politic. No Chuck, it is a divided nation, and nothing will sew it back together.

The country is missing at sea now, and there isn't a Captain, or a rescue vessel in sight.  Only hatred, and crowing when you win, screaming when you lose, and no one giving a damn about the right thing to do.

The greatest of all ironies may have afflicted America.  It is not longer that small town in Vietnam that must be burned in order to save it, but the United States itself.

"My Captain does not answer,
His lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm,
He has no pulse or will
...
But I with mournful tread
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead."

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

THIS ISN'T GOING TO END WELL


Hillary Clinton almost never gets anything right, not off the cuff.  It’s almost awe-inspiring -- like watching Wayne Gretzy weave his way up the ice through enemy defencemen and not get the goal, or Prince Fielder shattering fastballs  340 feet at every crack, and yet hit the foul pole in Miller Stadium every time.

In an interview yesterday, when asked about the anger the Kavanaugh hearings in particular and the #MeToo movement in general was engendering amongst women and men, Hillary said something along the lines of, “Well, what women are saying is that enough is enough and that the old social models are finished and…”  The poor interviewer persisted.  “And what about men?”  Hillary clearly didn’t have a cartridge for that, but she tried: “Well, the old days of male privilege are over, and a lot of men are having to realize that the patriarchy and the days of older white men…”   In short, the same message.  Men are shit and women are adjusting the social order.

In the New York Times today, Bonnie Mann blithely missed it as well, but she at least gave us the ten cent tour.  "As a philosopher, I am inclined to see this as a war between two epistemic worlds," Bonnie tells us, after explaining to us what ‘epistemic’ means (she gets it wrong), followed by an overuse of the word that kind of marred her cri de coeur against privileged elitism.

Bonnie basically says the battle we are in is white male privilege fighting tooth and nail against its perks being taken away. (The perks she's referring to, which all white men of privilege see as their due, include raping -- or near-raping -- women, getting away with it, and being rewarded with a seat on the Supreme Court).   

Weirdly, on the same day Donald Trump actually came close to nailing what I suspect is going to be the real problem in our future.  In his comic-book boys thinking, he opined that he is worried for the men of his country, who presumably can now be accused of anything and have their lives destroyed.   Well, that’s  idiotic on so many fronts it’s downright juicy, and we are left not knowing which end of the buffet to attack first, but as sometimes happens with Trump, there’s a glimpse of a shadow of a kernel of a truth there.

Leaving aside Hillary’s strange relationship to the entire phenomenon of #MeToo and #TimesUp (her wildly zealous supporter and fund-raiser Harvey Weinstein was a mere road company version of Bill Clinton when it came to getting away with treating women like mail-order blow-up toys, but then poor Harvey didn’t have a wife who trucked in quashing claims and pillorying the claimants) I suspect she represents a pretty popular if narrow focus of thought.

Same with Bonnie Mann and her two track argument: men are white and pigs and women are right and asserting themselves. 

The problem is, fighting serious issues in this way has opened us up to something much darker and even more debilitating in the long run than white male privilege, if you can imagine such a thing.  But because we are a population which prefers simplistic and linear plots (Flintstones, not King Lear),  our social analysts are only able to address what’s happening and not what it’s doing to us.  Besides, one makes headlines and good cable news, and the other doesn’t.

It’s beyond easy to recognize that Judge Kavanaugh is a strange man who probably needs more time curing in the smokehouse before he’s ready for consumption.  Say, a lifetime.  Perhaps he can never be cured.   The real question is, does anyone really want to hang around and find out?   Why don’t we just give up on him and move on?  My own view is that we all  recognize that the man is clearly unfit to be a Supreme Court Justice, whether we admit it or not, and most of us have good reasons, sexual assault being primo uno.  But personally, I am hung up on the guy’s  basic intelligence.  Simply put, I think he’s too stupid to be a Supreme Court Justice, and that’s saying something.

To wit, how dumb do you have to be to adopt the Andy of Mayberry stance Kavanaugh chose for his Fox interview?  How about opting for Fox interview at all?  (Everyone in America knows that if you’re really in trouble, you do your lying to Lester Holt, Scott Pelley, or Anderson Cooper, not the Disney robotomata of Fox).  And how dumb do you have to be to accept public speaking advice from Donald Trump, of all people, and storm into your Judiciary Committee session like a WWF fighter who has just done a serious amount of coke?  He didn’t even do it well.  Forget the attempted rape of which he’s almost surely guilty, I think the guy should be disqualified for poor choices in acting.  Simply put, he’s not equipped for this gig.

The fall-out we’re not addressing is the chasm being created between men and women who aren’t vying for a seat on the Supreme Court or thinking about running for President again.  This chasm is massive, and I suspect it’s growing bigger every day, and worse, I suspect a lot of women don’t even know it’s there.

In short, I suspect that while all decent folks are militantly applauding #MeToo and #TimesUp and shouting that women have had enough, there’s a reaction taking place in the background, not among white privileged racists like Kavanaugh or Trump, but by men – white, brown, black, pick a color, privileged or not -- who in fact have never attempted to rape anyone and who have never been particularly interested in stepping on anyone’s social achievements or progress.    Decent men, in other words, who weren’t raised by wolves, or at least are missing the enzyme which finds appeal in locking women in rooms or administering date rape drugs or excessive alcohol.

I believe these men are starting to live secret emotional lives.  These are lives where they nod and agree with everything their mate Sally says, march in the Women's March and administer mailers for Elizabeth Warren, but also quietly sit alone in traffic and wonder who and what they are now.  Has Bob himself done something wrong?  And if he hasn’t, how has he become an appendage to Sally’s rage and righteous?  (Sally, for her part, might not notice that boyfriend/husband Bob hasn’t talked to her about anything for… weeks?  Years?  She’s busy fighting the fight and getting, quite rightly, what has been denied her all these millennia).

Is this good?  Is this bad?  Or is it just the next evolutionary stage in male-female relationships?  Who knows.  One thing’s for sure, though, it’s Bob and Sally are no longer a couple as we’ve come to define the term over our lifetimes; Sally and Bob are now just two entities who inhabit the same house and are perpetuating something called a relationship.

In other words, the state of our gender politics is already cleaving us in two, but Bonnie Mann couldn’t, or wouldn’t, look at that possibility, and Hillary Clinton missed it entirely.   (Trump, of course, is out in the woods wandering around in circles).  My guess is that most of us, in our personal relationships, are in the same boat: we don’t want to talk about it, not in the great new era, but we suspect it’s there.

Bob and Sally’s relationship is never again going to be about sharing with one another that which you can share with no one else.  Bob is going to second-guess everything he says to Sally, and rewrite before he speaks, if not question himself entirely and his own guilt and complicity in the evil old ways.  Sally is emboldened, particularly when she sees panels of women on cable news say things like, “We’re now in the age of women, where women are taking charge of our most powerful institutions, we’re throwing off the patriarchy, asserting ourselves, and not letting men exploit us or demean us.”  Almost everyone with traditional liberal tendencies has to applaud this statement.  However, Sally might wonder, what do we see if we flip the statement back? 

What if it were a group of men on a panel saying, “We’re now in the age of men, where men are taking charge of our most powerful institutions, we’re throwing off the power of women, asserting ourselves, and not letting women exploit or demean us?”  It would be taken as the most outrageous extremism, and utterly misogynistic.  Certainly women might feel mighty funny about who they’re sharing their quarters with.

As usually happens in the race to social justice and the business of righting wrongs, the release of grievance brings collateral damage.  The civil rights movement, to name one such example, led to some of the worst inner city violence in American history (“burn baby burn”) , and in general we still haven’t cured the setbacks in that community which voter registration didn’t even begin to address  (70% of African-American households are still headed by a single parent with one income, versus 25% for whites).

In the great #MeToo and #TimesUp movement my guess is that the real damage is going to be to the interpersonal relationships between utterly decent people who will never quite connect the fall-out in their own lives with the social hypocrisy of people like Hillary Clinton, Brett Kavanagh and yes, the neo-liberal leaders marching us into this great new future.  Militancy is a cheaper fuel than compassion and understanding, and right now there seems to be a lust for cheap fuel.  The price we’re going to pay in the long run, however, will be epic, and that price is going to be paid in the living rooms and bedrooms of the nation, as we all wonder how to even begin to talk to one another with honesty again. 


Friday, April 13, 2018

THERE IS NO LONGER SUCH A THING AS A GOOD REPUBLICAN

This is where we are now:

The only reason to vote for the Democrat is because you can't vote for the Republican.   This has often been the case in American politics, but at the moment it's worth chiseling into the side of Mount Rushmore or Grant's Tomb.

The Democrats are making it tough, however.  In the age of the Great Humiliation, with a uniquely unqualified and odious entity occupying the Oval Office, the Democrats have offered no standard bearer, or bearers, to hold up the flag of reason or even solidarity with the American people.  No one really knows what the party stands for.  Instead we are left to trust that everything will be pulled together by a bunch of geriatric pols who, even in the face of Trumpism, can't quite commit to their principles or even the party; Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders (not even a Democrat).  How about Dianne Feinstein arm-chucking and yucking it up with Trump in the cabinet room, mere days after seventeen kids lost their lives at the hands of the NRA?  Sorry, school shooter. 

There's no Bobby Kennedy here and no Gene McCarthy.  It may be a mark of how low we have sunk that I sit and grieve, long winter evenings, over the absence of  Adlai Stevenson.  

The Democratic scheme appears to be this: win the mid-terms --"just because, really, how can't we?" -- and then and only then will the new leader or leaders reveal themselves and swan into victory in 2020, unseating Trump. 

This, on the face of it, is a good idea.  Certainly taking back both houses of Congress seems necessary, although politically it may be lethal.  Consider that when you control both houses of Congress in 2018, you may very well wind up having to defend your control of both houses of Congress in the 2020 presidential race and thereby, lose.  Voters can really stick it to you.  On the other hand, if you only win one house of Congress (to wit, the House), you can always blame the Senate, just as the other guys will blame the House.  This seems a good old-fashioned American stalemate deal, and I'm all for it.  It won't get Trump impeached, but impeachment would only give us  President Pence, who would be unbeatable in  2020.  Mark my words. 

That leaves us with the problem of the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate, who appears to be a player to be named later.  The only thing we know is that the candidate probably can't be black, can't be a woman, and probably really shouldn't stand for much other than just being a decent person who doesn't blow the place up.  Gerald Ford!  I would certainly vote for Gerald Ford at this moment.  Who would not?   

So that saddles us with Trump until 2020.  The unimaginable moron.  But, in fact, it's only his behavior and not his core that is unfamiliar to the Oval office.  A semi-literate who gets his insights watching cable news is not that far, really, from St. Ronald Reagan, who only cottoned to the dangers of nuclear war (something he'd been promoting on the stump for years and years) after watching the TV movie "The Day After", who pulled the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) out of a 1950's pulp magazine, and realized that AIDS was a problem when he saw on Entertainment Tonight that fellow movie star Rock Hudson had it.  His briefings on geo-political structures were done as little film-ettes, if you want to further the comparison.

Trump, in fact, isn't the problem.  He may have thrown a little fuel on the fire of the Great Humiliation, and at the moment he's its standard bearer, but the match was lit and the fire fanned by the Republican Party.

I wrote in October 2016 that the Republican Party was destroyed.  The fact that it won the White House and both houses of Congress hasn't changed my mind one bit.  In fact, each day proves that I am Cassandra.

There is no question what the Republican Party is, and we must stop pretending that there are Good Republicans and Bad Republicans.  In terms of people in power, there are only Bad Republicans now.  Let's call it for what it is: 

The Republican Party is the party of white nationalists.  It is against brown skinned immigrants.  It supports cops killing young black men.  It is the party of the NRA and therefore, supports school murder.  It is against women having any say in their bodies or receiving equal pay.  It wants to get rid of welfare and Social Security.  It is in favor of ballooning the federal debt and deficit, trade wars, and pointless nuclear saber rattling with equally unstable regimes (the United States now must count as an unstable regime).  

But most of all, the Republican Party is against the very people it requires in order to stay in power.  It is against people who work for a living, folks who focus their entire life around Friday.  Cashiers and mechanics and medical technicians and farmers and fast food workers.  Elected Republicans are in the business of screwing these people while holding them up as the very essence of American exceptionalism.  These suckers, these rabble.  The genius of the chicanery works this way: 

In order to stay in power, Republican con artists like Paul Ryan have convinced working Americans that they don't need any form of social assistance, improved medical care, decent education, or even clean drinking water.  Wanting such things means you're not self-reliant or a rugged individual or, obviously, American..  And in exchange for not getting these things you don't need anyway, the Republicans promise the only two things that really matter: curbing immigration of brown people and stopping a woman from having an abortion.  This is one of the greatest cons of all time, and I have yet to answer the question that plagues me: do the Republican legislators know that they're con artists or do they believe that the patent medicine they're selling has magical properties?

So the real culprits in the Great Humiliation are the non-presidential members of the Republican party.  Every single one of them.  Slam the door in their face if they deign to visit you.  Tear up their leaflets.  Send a message: no more of this crap.

That way, we might get an alternative that even though it swindles, at least tosses a bone to working people every now and then.  Bring back the Federalist Party or the Whigs perhaps.  Bull Moose might work. Anything other than this band of socially incorrigible swindlers selling cheap suits from the trunk of their car.  That alternative much include the Democrats. 

In 1964 Martin Luther King Jr., a socialist, said that he didn't see how any grown man of color, in good conscience, could vote for Barry Goldwater.  We are not all men, we are not all of color, but I can't imagine how anyone of any conscience could vote for the folks who are worse than Goldwater.  And yet here we are.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

THEY CUT DOWN TREES, TOO

We rent a house in Torrance California in a 1950's subdivision neighborhood that actually has trees.  They took years to grow, but there they are.  The mail carrier, Tracey, tells me she loves the neighborhood because when it rains she can deliver the mail without getting wet.  For the same reason, kids ride their bikes on the sidewalk, not the street. 

Two days ago two huge trucks appeared and cut down one of the oldest trees right in front of my house and fed it to a wood chipper.

When we got in touch with the City of Torrance, they explained that they were going to cut down four or five more trees on the street because they were 'tripping hazards.'  The federal government had given them money to redo the sidewalks in order to make them more accessible for wheelchairs.  The roots were threatening, or starting to, buckle some of the concrete, and after much consideration they decided the only possible solution would be cutting down and feeding the trees to wood chippers.  They didn't really let the neighbors know.  I saw an older woman staring at a stump three inches high and just crying inconsolably.  The city assured me they would stop at just four trees on my street.  

The man I spoke to about this, the city worker, laughed when I told him he was destroying something beautiful.  "Why are you laughing?" I asked.  "Because you're being silly," he said. 

As it turns out, the woman staring at the tree stump is not the only one doing some crying around here.  Many of the kids at the high school were crying when they heard about the 17 kids killed in Florida on Valentine's Day.  Those Florida kids were killed because the NRA and the politicians they bribe have made a calculation that X equals Y equals Q and that equals a certain acceptable number of dead children.  The alternative is that they would lose their jobs and prestige and would have to go back to being, probably, rich lawyers.

We all know what happened after that Valentine's Day tragedy.  Certainly my kids know.  What happened is that an amazing number of bright, brave, and idealistic kids took to the airwaves and social media and demanded change.  They want rational gun legislation and they know that the elected members of Congress are not going to give it to them.  That's because X equals Y equals Q equals a number of dead children that is acceptable, etc. etc. etc....

A number of days after that, my daughter texted me from her high school.  "There are cops everywhere," the text said.

We are all well trained.  "Explain," I texted.

"There's been a threat against the school.  What should I do?"

I know that the authorities who run schools have trained all the kids to do something called "run, hide, and fight."  This is the modern equivalent of "duck and cover", but of course duck and cover was about a nuclear missile launch, and there never was a nuclear missile launch against the United States ever in the history of the republic.  There have been umpteen school shootings in the USA.  Actually, not "umpteen."  By the time Parkland happened, there had already been 11.  There have been 186 school shootings in the United States since Sandy Hook.  

I texted my daughter, "Get out."

She and my son got out, but they were both worried about being penalized by the school for their absence.  If you have too many absences it affects your records.  The school uses this threat to tell the kids they won't get into colleges with such black marks, and every high school knows -- because the school tells them -- that if you don't spend every waking moment of your teenage years working to get top grades and get into college, you're cooked.

This is the world they live in.  The President of the United States is such a tool that he held a meeting with survivors of school shootings but inadvertently revealed that he was holding cue cards that told him to say things like "I hear you" and to show interest in what was being said.   After that the conversation switched to tariffs and a porn star named Stormy Daniels.  

The kid who faced Senator Marco Rubio, a complete and utter political hack, and demanded to know if he was going to stop taking money from the NRA, is one of the coolest customers I've ever seen, and I say that especially because it's clear that his hand was shaking while he was standing his ground, but he was indeed standing his ground.

My son walked home from school the day before last and said, "When I turned onto our street I saw they cut down a bunch of trees.  I just thought, what's the point?"  I told him they were not going to cut down any more.

We helicopter parented them.  We worried about everything they ate and we didn't let them just play, we organized play dates.  We figured out what colleges they would go to even when they were in kindergarten.  We didn't get in their space and we gave them freedom.   We did all this because we wanted them to inhabit the greatest world possible and to enjoy life to its fullest.

Then we put them in schools where they have to learn how to "run, hide, and fight", where they have to demand action from their Senator because the adults won't do it for them, and where they have to lie down in front of the White House because we won't stand up for them.  We voted for a Big Orange Clown who makes them ashamed of the country, baffled by what it's supposed to stand for, and wondering what all this bullshit is about the American Dream.

Then, yesterday, my kids went to school and found out that one of their classmates, a 15 year old  freshman, fell or jumped off a balcony in a medium rise building near the beach.  He died at the scene.  

The high school fell apart. Some say it was eerily quiet.  Others say there was hysterical sobbing in the hallways, kids lying on the floor weeping, unable to console one another. 

My daughter looked out her school classroom and saw ambulance after ambulance and paramedic truck after paramedic truck pulling up to the school.  The first thing she thought was, we're being shot up.  The second thing she thought was, they're coming here because we're falling apart over their classmate's death.  But, she reasoned, it's unlikely even half of them knew him .  So clearly something else was at play here.

When my son walked home at the end of that long day, he turned on to our street and saw they had actually cut down even more of the trees, and the street was now denuded of its beauty. In fact, they are going to cut down 180 trees.

They had, once again, lied. 




Tuesday, February 13, 2018

THE GREAT HUMILIATION

Like a binge drinker, America has a tendency to humiliate itself periodically and throw up all over the host's perfectly lovely table design and fine china.  It's doing it again, but if things go a certain way, we might very well wind up remembering this time as The Great Humiliation.

It's not Trump.  Trump is what Trump is, and in a way he's a breath of fresh air: here is a guy who turned out to be exactly what most of us thought he was when he ran for President. How unique is that?   Incredibly!  No shock and disappointment, no sigh of recognition that Obama wasn't Lincoln and George Bush wasn't George Bush, or Monroe wasn't Madison.  No, Trump has turned out to be the dummy flim-flam man I thought he was; can't read, can't write, can't think, can't even hold a consistent thought in his head for more than half a day.  

He is awe-inspiringly simple in this way.  He's like a sea cucumber, which as a biological organism is without guile or complexity.  A sea cucumber takes in plankton and algae and whatever else is on the sea floor, then shits out sand.  Got it?  Donald Trump is equally direct and simple: he can only think about Donald Trump and he shits out Donald Trump.  Viewing it this way, certainly no one should be surprised he can't read or understand things as complex as basic American history, little less his daily intelligence briefing.  I'll grant you he's managed to grasp the idea of 'great deals' and 'business' (America's holy gospel), but he's a long way from managing either.

No, the key to the Great Humiliation is Cory Gardner, the junior Senator from Colorado.  This Ken doll, who comes equipped with lifelike premature greying hair, is a mealy-mouthed dummy who just congratulated the (much smoother) budget director Mick Mulvaney on really handing in one heck of a great budget, which slashes medicare, medicaid, and most social programs (as well as Amtrak!) in favor of high defense spending and tax breaks for the rich.  Gardner is just so gall dern gratified, as is Senator Chuck Grassley, that "the President's" tax reform bill is having such a great effect on the economy already!  Well that is amazing, isn't it?  Talk about legislation taking fast effect.  I doubt even the declaration of war on Japan kicked into high gear with such speed.

Obviously, the idea that the President could even read the tax bill, let alone understand it, let alone write any part of it, is absurd.  Secondly, the idea that it is going to change the face of America with such speed is sophistry.  But thirdly, and most importantly, the idea that any of this is good for the average American is an insult to... everyone.

I wonder if Cory Gardner, who attended Colorado State and then the University of Colorado, both fine schools as far as I can see, believes anything he's aw-shucks and gee-ing about.  I'd really like to know.  Does he go home to Mrs. Gardner or whomever and say, "Gee, honey, that President is sure helping this country along?"  Is there any Cory Gardner inside Cory Gardner or is he just an empty vessel who hangs himself up in his own closet at night?  I certainly hope he's real, if not just for the sake of Mrs. Gardner, but for the sake of the rest of us.  Because from what I can see, Cory Gardner is just another lying dummy (and again,  I use that word in it's proper Mortimer Snerd definition) with a crummy act to keep the hicks voting for him.  But he is only one part of our humiliation.

To be fair, Chuck Grassley is as much a part of our humiliation as poor Cory Gardner -- and he's a phoney old bugger.  Ron Johnson is just as much a part of the humiliation.  So is Lindsey Graham.  So is Orrin Hatch.  So is Deb Fischer and Devin Nunes and that very weird Trey Gowdy (the missing cast member of "Deliverance" and the most Faulknerian politican we've had since Restoration).  So is Paul Ryan.  And so, certainly, is Mitch McConnell. 

They are all part of our humiliation. That these are the elected representatives of the United States.  That these are the people that working, presumably thinking, voters have sent to represent and protect them.  The fact that these charlatans are there, defending the Ultimate Dummy (Trump) and the pernicious and greasy plans of the equally dim-witted Koch brothers, is all we need to know: the American voter is too stupid to vote.  

This is the Great Humiliation. 

And worse?

These people will be re-elected.  Trump will almost certainly be re-elected.  And why?

Because the Democratic Party so misunderstands this country, and is so dysfunctional, and so self-destructive in its understanding of itself, that it's going to allow it to happen.  You think the Republicans are arrogant?   The Democrats are so arrogant they aren't even setting themselves up to fight.   They believe power is going to be handed back to them in a cakewalk for the simple reason that Trump is so awful, so odious, how could it go any other way? 

Or maybe they think Mueller's investigation matters.  Maybe they think there's something Trump can do to destroy his base.  Maybe they are able to ignore secret shame voters, the folks who slip behind the curtain and vote for the circus because ... well, what's the difference anyway?

If Republicans and the simple-minded business establishment of America may one day, we hope, have to answer for what they did during the Time of Trump (read: McCarthy, Japanese internment camps, slavery, genocide of Native Americans  -- "what did you do, daddy, when all that was going on?") then surely the Democratic Party will have to answer if it does anything less than win both houses of Congress in 2018 and the Presidency in 2020.  Because right now it's going to do neither, and that's an amazing feat in the face of this Great Humiliation.

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...