Tag: politics

3/25/17 – How did this happen?

As the stories come tumbling out now about Russian interference in our election process, we’re all experiencing the simultaneous relief and horror of knowing it was not our imagination. Yes, something truly terrible happened to our country in November 2016.
It can’t be said enough: We need to understand how this came to pass, so we can learn from our mistakes and make sure it can never happen again. We have to untangle this ugly snarl and backtrack this trail of treason to its source, wherever it goes. Many factors worked together to put this dangerous man in the White House; we have to understand each and every one.

How did he get elected?

I continue to struggle with the emotional backlash of shock. For several months after the election, I suffered from a kind of mental anguish I’d never experienced before. It was a confused numbness, a kind of dazed disbelief. Overnight, I was disconnected from the reality I’ve always taken for granted. As a nation, it seemed to me, we had collectively gone mad. It seemed so unreal. I could only conclude I was completely out of step with America. Or maybe America was not what I thought it was. I suddenly felt like a stranger in my own country.

The ugliest truth of this election, for me, was the fact that so many Americans voted for this despicable man. Who are these people? Why were they so vulnerable to Trump’s brand of snake oil? I’ve tried to understand. I’ve read about how the lower middle-class Americans resented the Wall Street bailouts, how they felt left out of Obama’s efforts to pull America together after the financial meltdown of 2008. I know they object to social programs that help the poor and they’re angry about the disappearance of good jobs. I understand that they saw Clinton as more of the same. OK. But surely that wasn’t it, was it?

Even now, as we are discovering the extent to which Russia manipulated our election, these people continue to support him, gathering at his Nuremberg rallies to wave around their red hats together. How can they continue to defend him, knowing what we are learning now?

I remember the moment I read that Clinton had won by a sizable majority. I was washed with relief, tears of gratitude in my eyes. Thank dog. Not everyone in my country had gone completely nuts.

But it wasn’t just the Trump voters who did this to us. It took the participation of millions of other voters to put Trump in the White House, the ones who didn’t vote for Clinton. They were suckered into helping Trump get elected, the same as the ones who voted for him.

This is my take on it. In those last weeks before the election, I wasn’t really worried. I had faith that the majority of Americans would vote responsibly. I dismissed the possibility of a Trump win. Surely, I felt, we aren’t that stupid! As the pundits and pollsters showed Clinton with a respectable lead, everybody relaxed a little. I confess I was one of them. (Put a big asterisk next to the name of every commentator who predicted Clinton’s win at the time. We need to come back to them.)

But a good-sized chunk of ambivalent voters faced a decision. Sure, they thought Trump was a joke, but they didn’t love Clinton either. Some of these people had even voted for Obama. So they decided to make a statement with their vote — and either stayed home or voted for someone like Jill Stein. They did this not because they wanted Trump for president but because they believed Trump could not win. (Who told them that? Asterisk.)

Then we got the infamous last-minute FBI announcement of possible issues with Clinton’s email. That non-fact was enough to push another chunk of voters to stay home on election day or vote for a third-party candidate. (Put another big asterisk next to James Comey’s name. We need to come back to him too.)

That was enough to put Trump comfortably over the top, thanks to our electoral college system (which has got to go! Asterisk!).

So. It only took 26% of eligible voters to put a president in the White House. That’s all it takes. Stop and think about that for a moment. That is terrifying, and we should never forget it, ever again.

It’s a sad statement that a quarter of eligible American voters are so credulous or desperate or vulnerable to a flim-flam man. But I guess a democracy will always have a bottom of the barrel.

On the flip side of that coin, it also means 74% did NOT vote for Trump. Either they voted for Clinton, stayed home, or voted for somebody else.

So. Three-quarters of eligible voters did not vote for Trump. That sounds a lot better, doesn’t it? Three-quarters of us are not nuts. WHEW.

Yet we ended up with this sociopathic narcissist in charge of the most powerful country on earth. Paired up with the Republican wins in Congress, it seemed like the set-up for a bad dystopian sci-fi movie.

Now after he’s had several months in office, he has confirmed everybody’s worst fears. Many Trump fans now regret voting for him. Once you pare away those people, I feel sure the remaining Trump supporters comprise only a very small percentage of Americans. I’m going to say between 15-20%.

That really doesn’t bother me, the idea that 15% of Americans are either deeply racist and misogynistic or are just not very bright. It’s sad but it’s not really a surprise. A democracy is going to have a bottom of the barrel.

So now we confront something we’ve never experienced before. We’ve had to step in and save our country from ruin. Every protest march, rally, and angry town hall meeting has energized me, reinforcing my sense that most Americans know the difference between right and wrong. I’m in love with the EPA scientists busily saving climate data. My new heroes are the rogue park service guys. The journalists facing down the daily onslaught of bald-faced lies. The governors and mayors across the country who are standing up for what’s right. The judges and attorneys who are putting the brakes on the orange maniac. The Democrats in Congress who won’t back down or shut up.

For a while I lost faith in us, but no more. Now, every day I see valiant people fighting back. My faith is restored. No, I am not a stranger in my own country.

Sure, lots of other factors contributed to this disastrous election, not the least of which is Trump’s role model Putin, who has his enemies poisoned, shot, or thrown out of windows. It wasn’t just Flynn and Manafort; I’m sure we’re only now seeing the tip of the Russian iceberg. It took a village to put Trump in the White House: an army of Macedonian teenagers who littered the Internet with outrageous anti-Clinton stories, the readers gullible enough to believe them, Fox News, the Koch Brothers and their ilk, the tea party, advocates of voter suppression and gerrymandering, the NRA gun nuts, all the stubborn racists unmasked during Obama’s presidency. If we’re going to see things clearly, we need to tell it like it is: a Trump supporter is Putin’s accomplice.

But the point is this: that sense of unreality many of us experienced after the election was not baseless. Something indeed was “off” during that campaign. We were being played. Our country was attacked, the same as if bombs had exploded or missiles launched, except this time the attack was political.

So no, I am not out of step with my country. Neither are you. And we are not alone. That is becoming clear.

Big picture-wise, this is what I think we went wrong. Things have been pretty good in America for a while, by and large. So the good people, the smart people, and the reasonable and rational people have all been busy focusing on our private lives, and while we weren’t looking, a lot of bad people got into politics. They seemed to do OK most of the time, so we were content to let them do the job. But now it’s plain to see these people can’t be trusted with the authority we give them.

It stands to reason: If you are a lazy, arrogant, egotistical bullshit artist, you will be strongly attracted to a career in politics. In fact, you could probably predict this, just like you’ll find pedophiles attracted to jobs working with children.

And besides, who else would want to do that job? Administrative drudgery and ego massaging. Ugh! Yes, there are some good people working hard for the common good in Washington, but I think we all know most of the people who go into politics these days expect to benefit from it. I mean benefit with a dollar sign.

This is a problem, and in the future, if we survive this catastrophe, we need to find ways to address this and all the asterisk people named above.

In the meantime, the good people, the smart people, the rational people need to take back the running of the country from the professional hypocrites and bullshit artists there today. We need to supervise them as closely as a contractor you hire to fix your leaky basement. That might mean calling your senator weekly or it might mean running for office. Or maybe it means we have to take steps now to remove people from office who are not doing their job, and not wait for the midterm elections. Many of these people are not special. They aren’t even leaders. They can be replaced.

This is a time when everyone has to choose a side, and not just politicians and bureaucrats — everybody. History will record. If you are not against Trump, then you are for him. If you are not against Trump, you are for Putin. You will spend the rest of your life wearing that label, like a scarlet letter. Nobody gets to be a bystander when there is so much at stake.

I look forward to the day when we can map out how things must change going forward to protect our country from this happening again. Keep notes. Meanwhile, don’t let the bastards get you down.


3/6/17 – Seeing things clearly

As these nightmarish Trumpian weeks unfold around us, with their daily parade of insults, lies, and abuses piling up around America’s ankles, an ugly picture is emerging.

It’s not just Trump being Trump. The man himself has no ideology or aims. He’s merely the mirror to our own worst impulses, dutifully reflecting America’s basest instincts: greed, lust, a seething bottomless pit of ego devouring itself.

Nor is it just Trump’s Cabinet of Doom. These men are today’s robber barons, loosed now into the halls of governance to ride roughshod over our puny little laws, not to lead but to destroy.

And it’s not just the Red Congress, heaped high with ignorant, barely literate Tea Party imbeciles, freed from all restraint, no longer hobbled by any pretense of ethics, justice, or balance.

It’s all of the above, and more: something deeper, going back fifty years to the days when America began to reshape itself in the 1960s and 1970s, when we woke up from the post-war Eisenhower dream and realized we needed to change, to be better than we were. That meant saying no to some people who were used to being in charge. People don’t give up privilege willingly. They didn’t like it one bit, not then and not now.

Some of these men have been waiting for this moment ever since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, when they lost the ability to steal elections.

Every day since then, they have stewed in their anger. They have bitterly resented having to restrain their rape and pillage of America’s natural resources. They were furious that they had to find ways to stop poisoning workers or to dispose of their waste safely. They’ve fumed over every concession made to every union. When their industries have suffered, they blamed the government rather than their greedy CEOs.

They’ve felt justified in cheating every dollar they could get as payback for all the obstacles posed by government regulation and oversight. They’ve deflected blame and demonized government for decades. They turned the word “environmentalist” into a slur and to them a public servant is a tool or a freeloader.

All these years, they have resented every law passed to protect the vulnerable and to provide equal treatment under the law, whether it was funding girls’ sports in schools or equal access for the disabled. They are sick and tired of hearing about rights of rape victims or sexual harassment in the workplace. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Boys will be boys. Get over it.

They’ve tolerated minorities because they’ve had to, but once the coast is clear, they don’t even bother to hide their racism anymore. No, they don’t mind having some minorities around as long as they know their place. And don’t steal the good jobs.

Teachers are lazy and public schools are a huge waste of money. America is a Christian nation and they’re tired of having to hear about Jews and Muslims. Who cares, right?

These predators have been watching for years, waiting for the day when they could stop pretending to care about the common good. They glorify the good old days when the privileged captains of industry could brag openly, without fear of consequences or reprisals, when nobody put the brakes on their money-making schemes. They reminisce fondly about the days when they could operate openly with their dangerous work sites, doing nothing for injured workers, selling poisoned food to hungry people, hiring thugs to beat up union leaders.

These are the men now at work in Trump’s cabinet and our Congress. They’ve waited a long time for this opportunity and they’re not going to wait around for a mandate or permission or even approval.

This is our punishment for having elected Obama. Twice. In every possible case, these men will destroy anything Obama advocated, whether it works or not, whether it was good or not. On principle.

But it’s not just that. We’re being punished for having created obstacles to their greed. We are being punished for having dared to put the brakes on the angry white men with the power and the money.

This is Bannon’s agenda. When he declared he is working to deconstruct the administrative state, this is what he means. No more EPA, no more protecting the environment, no more wildlife, no more public schools, no more protections for minorities. No access to affordable health care. No more unions. A dog-eat-dog world where nobody wins except the rich and powerful.

Since Bannon’s vision falls in line very nicely with the agenda of these heartless, soulless men, they will happily partner up with the white supremacist and his finger puppet in the White House.

A lot of Trump voters thought they were voting for more jobs, but in fact, this is what they got instead. Surprise!

Now if this wasn’t what you signed up for when you voted for these horsemen of the apocalypse, you have one chance to make it right. Join with the rest of us now and see if we can stop this trainwreck before it’s too late.

2/19/17 — The Damned

I keep thinking of this movie I saw a few years ago called “The Damned.” It was made in 1969, directed by Luchino Visconti. The story takes place in Germany in 1934 and concerns a powerful industrialist family in crisis. Chancellor Hitler is aggressively expanding his powers and needs weapons. The Von Essenbecks, who reign over a huge manufacturing empire, can jump on Hitler’s bandwagon and make a fortune by retooling to manufacture arms. Or they can play it safe and keep things status quo.

They sense what is happening to their country; nobody has any illusions about Hitler. But their dilemma is more complicated than simply pro- or anti-Hitler. They each must silently confront the question: Is this going to happen regardless of what we do? And if so, what’s the point of staying on the sidelines, really? Opportunity knocks.

What’s infinitely more important to them are their private motives, their personal stake in what happens next. Each is locked into an epic battle within the family, where all the ugliest wounds that so often fester in powerful families thrive: envy, greed, old grudges, even pure hatred.

There’s a slimy Aryan snake in their midst, a highly placed Nazi who knows exactly how to exploit the family’s weaknesses to set them against one another. He skillfully manages to put the good ones out of the way while manipulating the bad ones. In the end, all the dominoes fall perfectly, Hitler gets the guns he needs for the Night of the Long Knives, and Hitler has now consolidated power neatly and tidily.

Along the way we have the full gamut of perversions, just in case we missed the part about the moral vacuum: incest, murder, suicides, pedophilia, orgies, everything from soup to nuts.

The movie is not great cinema, as such; some parts are way over-the-top and it badly needed re-editing, but taken as a whole, it’s a fascinating and chilling glimpse into the situation we face now. Although we know these people are not good role models (to put it mildly), we also see how your own personal situation can back you into a corner where you feel you don’t have the luxury of ethics. You have to take any advantage you can get. Many Trump voters no doubt felt the same.

Those in positions of power, wealth, and influence in this country have to decide now. Trump is opening the door for the rich to get catastrophically richer. I’m waiting for a company or individual to stand up and say, “We’re not going to pollute the water, even though we could.” Imagine if the stockholders for the oil pipeline companies pressured the company to re-route around Native American land? Imagine if a major pharmaceutical company slashed the price of a life-saving drug because it was the right thing to do? Imagine if the Secretary of Education stepped down voluntarily, realizing she was not the best person for the job?

Why is this so unthinkable? When did civic duty become a joke? When did we start glamorizing tax cheats? What will it take for us to quit worshiping selfishness?

BTW, this movie is based on a real family and their company, still operating today.


2/11/17 – Impeach now

There really is no point waiting around; we already have heaps of stuff to charge him with. I’ve decided rather than focusing on a specific issues, I’m going to skip straight ahead and get to most important task: getting this delusional narcissist out of the White House as soon as possible, lawfully.

The law provides for this. It’s time now for us to figure out how it works and make use of it. The longer we pussy-foot around, the more damage he will do. He’s had plenty of time to show his true colors; there is nothing else we need to know.

2/7/17 – OK, now what?

I was feeling pretty good one night a week ago, and decided this blog should focus on helpful strategies for preserving mental health in the time of Trump. It’s not my intention to exclude other topics; I still need to vent. But we all need to resist the impulse to wallow in despair. I continually find myself thinking back to past generations and the resolute courage they had to have to live through the Depression and WWII. OK, maybe my grandfather locked himself in the bathroom and bawled his head off twice a day, but he made it through and so can we.

Friday night I went to a rather intimate protest/rally downtown. We were lucky to get to sit under an awning to keep out of rain. The wet sidewalks reflected the colorful lights around us as one by one, colorful people stood in front of a microphone and spoke from their hearts. The first guy was a homeless man who talked about how humans have drifted so far away from their true nature. A software programmer from Iran. A middle-aged guy originally from India who talked about Gandhi. A young man dressed in a flamboyant red, white, and blue ensemble who relates very strongly to a fictional superhero. I was a little afraid he was a neo-Nazi by his boots, but he gave a very passionate speech using the words of Captain America and it was beautiful. A German woman rushed up and said, “I grew up in Germany and what happened there will never happen here because of YOU!” Tiny high-schoolers with colorful hair talked about LGBT rights. Towards the end, the Indian guy returned to tell a dirty joke, which nobody got. It was awesome.  I loved those people so much. I wanted to give each one of them a hug. I clapped and hooted for every single one, even the ones I didn’t agree with.

I am so proud that it was my state that stood up to this reckless, arbitrary, cruel and bigoted order within a matter of days. For me this was another turning point. It has taken us some time, but the rational people in America are pulling themselves together and getting the resistance moving forward. I think most people were not prepared for such an immediate assault from Trump. It has taken us a few weeks to see that our worst fears are indeed coming true: He is a loose cannon, he is doing everything possible to undermine our system of government, merely to help the ultra-rich get richer. Anybody still defending Trump at this point is morally corrupt, stupid, or willfully blind. I feel strongly that we should ignore those people. Arguing with them is a waste of time. They are not rational. Like other extremist groups in the US, we have to put up with them, but we certainly don’t have to pay attention to them either.

For the last week, I have been sifting through information available online trying to devise a strategy for engagement for the next four years. I think most Americans are like me in this: “What can I do??” I’ve tried to narrow it down to a handful of groups that look rational and action-oriented (rather than just complaining). I did actually call my Senators last week to urge them to do anything in their power about the immigration ban.

The two sides are taking shape: on our side are the governors and mayors, a few Democract members of Congress, the responsible press, many federal employees, and at least some of the judiciary. Given enough time, Trump and his cronies will have time to replace many of those people, so we have to move fast. It is an epic battle. As with so many things these days, if there wasn’t so much at stake, it would be entertaining. Unfortunately, it’s all a matter (literally) of life and death.



1/31/17 – Like Jim Jones

It’s like they’re all hypnotized. Like mind control. You speak to them about facts, and their eyes are glazed over, continuing to mouth the words: “But Killary… jail… emails… Bengazi… Obama… fake news…He never said that…”

Like Jim Jones. He has redefined reality for them.

I read an article the other day about how the more you identify with a particular belief, the less likely you are to believe evidence that refutes it. In fact, you won’t.

People are not rational about Trump. They love him. They love him like it’s a love affair. They are emotionally entangled with him. Their egos are attached to him. He symbolizes something desperately important to them, something they feel they’ve lacked all their lives, something that would fill an empty spot inside them, make them feel complete.

So when you attack Trump, you attack them. He’s family to them.

So it’s really a waste of time and energy trying to persuade these people to change their minds about him. We need to just write them off.

Luckily they are only a modest sliver of America’s population, and if the rest of us get off our butts and take back the reins of public discourse, their whiny voices can be drowned out. Yes, they make a lot of noise, but that is only because the real majority has allowed them to take center stage. Between Fox News and the Tea Party, this modest sliver of America moved into the empty space left when the rest of us were off focusing on our personal lives. The rational among them have already jumped ship: 11 days of Trump has been enough for them to see the light. So all that’s left are the irrational Trumpites, for whom he can do no wrong. They have willingly forfeited rationality and should just be treated as imbeciles and mental incompetents.

A few years ago, I saw a movie about the handful of people who survived the mass suicide of Jim Jones’ people in Guyana, the ones who bolted into the jungle when the suicide was 0rdered and hid until the authorities showed up. They talked about how the brainwashing worked, the many ways Jim Jones used to control people and make them dependent, to make them into slaves. They all had one thing in common: the desire to follow him blindly. That euphemism about drinking the Kool-Aid has lost its potency through overuse, but it’s 100% relevant to this situation right now.

1/30/17 – Protest is an American right

I keep hearing people bellyaching about the protesters. Some people think they’re pretty smart when they comment: “Get a job!” Here is my response.

Dear geniuses:

Let me explain. The women’s march was on a Saturday, when a lot of people have a day off. Many of the people I know planned ahead to either take a vacation day or find someone to fill in for them at their jobs. People do it all the time. The ones with kids brought their kids along or arranged child care.

The ones that traveled to Washington are people who have enough money where they can afford the airfare.

The local protests here have taken place largely in the evenings when many people are done working for the day. They take mass transit to the events. It’s cold as hell, but they put on their heavy coats and go anyway. They are exercising their right to peaceful protest, like good Americans. This is how America is supposed to work. I’m proud of every single protester.