Sunday, October 16, 2016

Women and Donald Trump: Watch Us Take Him Down

Photo credit: AP/Fortune

Every woman alive knows personally or knows about those puffy-chested, foul-mouthed, egotistical bullies who hike up their big, bad britches and talk trash about having loads of fun with our private parts.  Until now, not a single one of them ended up being a major party's candidate for President of the United States.  That's a new one.

Ever since Donald Trump swept the primaries in June and stepped up his awesomely awful reign of terror, I've been doing a lot of hand-wringing, mainly on Facebook, admitting for all the world to see that this guy Trump, a nothingburger in ways too many to count, was scaring the bejeesus out of me.  I've been horrified, terrified, scarified and very nearly petrified.

Silly me.

I'm a woman who came of age in the 1950s. My looks were nothing extraordinary but I've had my share of "accidental" brushes against my breasts, unwelcome nuzzles and attempts at kisses, and, yes, of outright gropes.

Countless times I've heard the kinds of suggestive words clueless, stupid men and boys apparently believe are all it takes to turn us on.

I doubt there are many women who have been lucky enough to sidestep any of it. It happens. But I think it's safe to say this is the first time in our history a known serial groper and admitted sexual predator has come this close to becoming President of the United States.  (Okay, stop. Don't even go there. Bill Clinton may have been a low-life serial philanderer in his younger days but he didn't mic up and brag about it; he didn't make it an essential part of who he is. He was impeached. He paid a price, and for all I know it cured him.)

But back to Trump: As of this day and yesterday and the day before, he's hemorrhaging voters and donors and party leaders as fast as the slime will flow.  He has taken to sniffing and stalking and threatening to jail his opponent as soon as he dons his robes and takes the throne. He's threatening to sue the growing numbers of women who are accusing him of gross indecency.  He's threatening to sue the New York Times for using his own actions to condemn him.  He's making noises against the First Amendment, trying to scare off the press.

He blames everyone, but he mainly blames women, and for once he's right.  We are working to take him down. No mystery. Oh, he still has his female followers--those women who will stand next to a guy wearing a tee shirt that says "She's a Cunt" and smile at the camera, those women who wear the title "Trump supporter" and, no matter what, will defend him with a grin. But, thank Hera, they're in the minority.  The rest of us are working to take Donald Trump down. To take him down.

Just before Donald Trump was seen last week stalking around the stage channeling Benito Mussolini, conjuring up New World Order conspiracies, calling out his accusers, our First Lady, Michelle Obama, gave the speech of her life, talking in exquisitely painful language about sexual predation (without mentioning names), and the effect it has on women:
This is not something that we can ignore. It's not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a "lewd conversation." This wasn't just locker-room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV.

And to make matters worse, it now seems very clear that this isn't an isolated incident. It's one of countless examples of how he has treated women his whole life. And I have to tell you that I listen to all of this and I feel it so personally, and I'm sure that many of you do too, particularly the women. The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman.

It is cruel. It's frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts. It's like that sick, sinking feeling you get when you're walking down the street minding your own business and some guy yells out vulgar words about your body. Or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares a little too long, and makes you feel uncomfortable in your own skin.

It's that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them, or forced himself on them and they've said no but he didn't listen — something that we know happens on college campuses and countless other places every single day. It reminds us of stories we heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how, back in their day, the boss could say and do whatever he pleased to the women in the office, and even though they worked so hard, jumped over every hurdle to prove themselves, it was never enough.
 It happens. And it's not just Donald Trump, it's every man who sees a woman's body as a mindless, soulless playground; it's every man who goes into government believing a woman's body is his to legislate.

But I can't leave this page without acknowledging the millions of men who get it, who are outraged by Donald Trump's words and actions, and who are speaking out.  You are our greatest allies, our heroes, the loves of our lives. You are our husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, friends. You energize us. It's our fight but we couldn't do this without you.

(Click here to watch Michelle Obama's remarkable speech in its entirety.)

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Donald Trump is Not Redeemable. He Cannot Be President.

The first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is behind us now and, except for the usual tiresome trolls, the racists, the bigots, the misogynists, and a few souls who genuinely want to believe a cruel, crass billionaire will be their saving Messiah, the consensus is that Hillary whomped The Donald, slammed him to the ground, and wiped the floor with him. Like a rag mop.

There's a reason for that. She knew what she was doing up there and he didn't. She's running for president and he's not. She's concerned about America while he's concerned about Donald Trump.

He cannot be president. Even in the most alternative of universes (alt-uni), Donald Trump cannot be president. By now there isn't a person in this country who hasn't seen firsthand how little he knows or cares about the presidency, about the awesome responsibilities placed on the shoulders of the Commander-in-Chief.

He thinks he can stop the presses if journalists keep being mean to him.

He thinks he can shut down regulatory departments because he's a businessman and he doesn't like regulations.

He foments mistrust and hatred for people whose color and religion don't match his.

He thinks he'll own NATO and can force world leaders to bend to his will.

If despots praise him, he'll praise them.

He has to be told the world might end if we use nuclear weapons.

He lies.

And on the personal side:

He dodged the draft and calls John McCain a loser because he was a POW.

He brags about forcing a sitting president to produce his birth certificate.

He calls women "fat pigs" and "Miss Piggy" and defends his reasons.

He thinks women who have abortions should be punished by the law.

He mimics a disabled reporter and makes fun of anyone who doesn't get his sarcasm.

He eggs on his crowds to physically attack protestors and offers to pay their fines.

He stiffs people who work for him and blames them for their own misery.

He slimes anyone who goes against him and brags about his insults.

He warns there is nowhere he won't go, nothing he won't do if he feels threatened.

He lies.

He cannot be president.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Deplorable Thought: Trump Could Win

I was standing in line at the grocery store yesterday looking at this National Enquirer cover, trying to convince myself I'm too old to be horrified by these things anymore. It made me queasy and a little breathless but I managed to get past it and move my groceries from my cart to the belt.

When I heard a woman behind the guy behind me gasp and say, "Oh, my!" I knew without a doubt she was looking at that same tabloid cover. She was an older woman.  An "Oh, my!" sort of woman. Tiny, a little stout, a puff ball of snow white hair surrounding a sweet rosy face.  I couldn't quite hear what she was saying but I heard "Hillary".  She laughed then. She said something to the people behind her and they laughed, too.  Then she said, loudly but nicely,  "I would never vote for her, anyway!"

Well, okay. I live in Red Country.  Blood red. So red I'm not just surprised, I'm shocked whenever I meet someone who can admit out loud they'll vote for Hillary.  The Democrats up here don't flaunt their political preferences, they whisper them.  It's as if we're members of a secret cult, never letting on who we really are unless we know we're on safe ground, in the company of others like us.  Putting up yard signs for Democrats is an act of courage.

But the sweet lady in line behind me wasn't quite finished. She said something else to make the people behind her nod and laugh, and then turned back to where I could hear and threw this out: "I guess I'll just go on being deplorable."

She wasn't talking to me, of course, but it was a direct hit, a punch in the gut. The cashier handed me my change. I moved a few steps away and stood there. For many seconds. What could I say to change the mind of this woman who, I just knew, brought dishes to sick people and sent greeting cards? Okay, she may gossip a bit and look down her nose at people who get food stamps, but a Trump voter?  Inconceivable.

I left, of course, without saying anything. No magic words. What could I tell her that wasn't already out there? But I'm haunted by that woman. In another time she would be as appalled by that man as I am. Our politics might always be opposing, but on this we could agree: Never Trump.

What changed?  Do these people, nice as they may be in their private lives, really think Donald Trump would make a good or even an adequate president? Is Hillary hatred all it takes to make the thought of four years of a Trump presidency acceptable? Can't they hear him?  Don't they see he's fueled by power and hate and it consumes him?

Or is this all it takes?

For all the watching and reading I've done during this presidential campaign, trying to make sense of the rise of Trump so we could finally figure out how to fight him effectively, it took a brief encounter in a grocery line for me to finally get the message:  He could win.

Donald Trump could win.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

How Hillary Can Appease The Press

The press is rightfully annoyed. She's a presidential candidate, and she should have disclosed the pneumonia diagnosis as soon as she got it. Those aren't the rules for ordinary people, but they are the rules for presidential candidates, and once again Clinton is trying to slide by them.

So why did Clinton's people try to hide her condition? That's pretty easy: After months of baseless health speculation by Donald Trump's rumor machine, she figured the press would go full National Enquirer over this. She didn't trust them to handle it in a normal, level-headed way.

So that's that. There's a gulf of distrust between Clinton and the media that appears unbridgeable. Clinton doesn't trust the press to treat her fairly, so she adopts a hyper-guarded attitude toward everything she does. The press doesn't trust her to honestly disclose anything, so they adopt a hyper-skeptical attitude toward everything she says. Rinse and repeat.

Kevin Drum, September 12, 2016

I've been thinking for a long time about the ways Hillary Clinton might possibly appease the press and get them to look at her as a living, breathing whole person and not just Bad Hillary. I think I've finally got it.

She needs to stop being who she is and be someone else.  She could change her name to--I don't know--Mother Teresa or Mother Jones or Jo Schmo from Kokomo.  It's clear she can't go on as Hillary Clinton.

The Hillary she has lived with all her life has to go. The private Hillary can no longer compete with the public Hillary whose persona, crafted over more than 25 years by people who don't even know her, has now become a caricature. It's incredibly difficult to run for president as a caricature, even with an opponent as cartoonish as Donald Trump.

(Here I could say a few thousand words about Donald The Deplorable and never take a breath, but enough about him. I mean. Seriously. Enough.)

So here, for what it's worth, is my suggestion to members of our esteemed Fourth Estate: How about pretending the woman running for president isn't named Hillary Clinton?  How about taking a long, thorough look at that woman's record--whoever she is--to see if there is anything, any little thing, that might qualify her for the highest job in the land?

It's on you to be honest about both the pros and cons of this woman who, for this exercise, is not named Hillary Clinton. This woman has been in public service nearly all of her adult life.  She was a lawyer first and then she married a man who became the governor of Arkansas and then became the President of the United States.

She was a First Lady twice but nobody knew anything more about her than they knew about Laura Bush or Michelle Obama. She was a senator in the state of New York but nobody knew anything more about her than they knew about her colleague, Chuck Schumer. She ran for president against Barack Obama and lost, which brought her some attention but no more than any other losing candidate.  President Obama chose her for Secretary of State but nobody knew any more about her than they knew about Colin Powell or John Kerry.

This woman who isn't named Hillary Clinton has indefatigable energy but doesn't brag about her accomplishments. She's not the best at public speaking but aces it one-on-one and in small groups. She laughs a lot, sometimes even at herself.  She's pretty damned popular both here and around the planet.

There are people who hate her but the numbers are lower for her because her name doesn't carry the stigma created and maintained by a real, honest-to-goodness vast Right Wing conspiracy.  She makes mistakes, some of them true head-scratchers.  She says dumb things she often has to take back.  She has been known to consort with filthy rich people who probably want favors from her, and with celebrities who are known Liberals. But she's just one among hundreds of other politicians who don't have to answer for their every waking moment, so it'll be okay. Since she's not Hillary Clinton, she'll be able to concentrate on talking about her dreams, her wishes, her goals for the country.

(She may even be able to struggle through a bout with pneumonia without several days of full-bore "breaking news", not so much about her prognosis but about her lack of due diligence when reporting it to the hovering, stalking press.)

There is a real Hillary Clinton, almost identical to this woman, but if you, as members of our venerable press, want us to believe you've been looking for her, you're going to have to work harder at convincing us. Put away your magnifiers and look at the whole woman before you. Analyze controversies, don't create them. Report truthfully about what you observe. Include context. Let molehills be molehills.

It's not on us, it's not on Hillary, it's on you. Now let's see who you are.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen Years After: We Remember 9/11

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  Fifteen years have passed -- a decade and a half -- but for those closest to the terror, for those whose loved ones were caught in that unimaginable rage storm, for those who trained for this, who mobilized and fought so hard to try and save the lives already lost to them, we pay tribute by refusing to forget.

The pictures are all that is left.  They stay with us and resonate as terrible, beautiful works of art.

The agony of the men and women who could do nothing but stand by and watch the towers fall reflected and drove home our own agony -- even those of us in the hinterlands who watched the horrific events unfold on our TV screens, helpless to do anything but gasp and moan and rock with a kind of psychic pain most of us had never felt in our entire lifetimes.


As painful as the dredging up of the images of that terrible day is to us, there is no sense of dread as the annual anniversaries approach.  Every year, on September 11, we want to remember.  9/11 has become a watchword.  Nobody in America has to be told what those numbers represent.  

  Every year on this anniversary, in a ceremony to honor the dead, family members gather for the recitation of the names of the men and women lost to us on September 11, 2001.  The names are being read alphabetically.  For one brief moment the people live again.  We do this for their families and for us.  They're not just numbers or actors in an unimaginable event that became the catalyst for change, altering our lives forever.  We need to keep their memories alive in order to recognize their humanity, and possibly our own.

We remember.

We remember.

We'll always remember.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Without Unions There Would Be No Labor Day. And that's the Least of It.

Every Labor Day I feel more and more like I'm at a labor union wake and all I can do is pay tribute to what once was a living, breathing, cherished part of so many of our lives.

Our lives. Workers built this country and labor unions went to bat to build protections for them.  As labor unions grew, so grew labor's strength. Wages rose to sustainable and beyond, benefits were true safety nets for workers and their families, the promise of healthy retirement packages kept worker loyalty high, and self-respect grew to levels where employees could demand and get concessions from their employers.

That, some would say, was their downfall.  They had no right to expect wages beyond what their employers thought they should pay. They had no right to expect working conditions beyond what their employers thought adequate. They had no right to expect benefits or retirement packages that would sustain them outside of work.  They had no right to make demands.

No, their downfall began when they believed it.

I'll be blasted any minute now by supporters of the notion that U.S workers were their own worst enemies, fighting against outsourcing and offshoring, against lower wages and benefits, against any action their employers might take in order to make a profit. They asked for too much and forced their employers' hands. Now look were they are.

Okay, let's look: (From an article by Richard Eskow, "How Much Will the War on Unions Cost You This Labor Day?)
If union enrollment had remained as high as it was in 1979, nonunion working men in the private sector would have earned an average of $2,704 more per year in 2013. The average non-unionized male worker without a college degree would have earned an additional $3,016, and those with only a high school diploma or less would have earned $3,172 more. (The differences were less striking for women because of workforce changes since the 1970s.)

The decline in union membership is costing nonunion workers a total of $133 billion per year, according to EPI.

Canada resembles the U.S. in many ways, but union membership there hasn’t fallen like it has here. Why not? In a word, union-friendlier policies – the kind our country should be embracing, but isn’t.

We need unions. EPI’s study confirms that they play a key role in reducing economic inequality, which is a growing crisis. The pay gap between CEOs and average workers has skyrocketed in recent decades – from about 20:1 in 1965 to somewhere between 204:1 and 331:1 today.

Everyone talks about the plight of the workers but nobody wants to talk about unions--about the role collective bargaining plays in worker rights and better wages; about the role unions once played in building a vibrant middle class.

So here's a test: Picture what this country would look like if unions had never existed. Imagine the lives of workers and their families if millions of their peers hadn't organized and fought, not just for pay equity, but for the dignity that comes from laboring as an equal with a stake in the outcome.  Ask yourself, were we--are we--better off with or without unions?

Labor Day began as a day to honor trade and labor organizations.  Huge parades designed to show the might of labor took place in cities across the country. I remember, as a small child, riding on my father's shoulders, watching a Labor Day parade in downtown Detroit, where row after row of union men and women marched in the hot sun, carrying flags and banners emblazoned with the names and numbers of their union locals.  It might even have been this one:

 Detroit was a town bursting with union pride. Whole families worked for the Big Three, most of them starting there fresh out of high school.  Many of them worked their full 30 Years And Out. Wages were good and benefits were better. Company loyalty was pervasive and public.  They wore their company names and union logos on their jackets, on their caps, and put union stickers on their cars--the cars they could watch being built from start to finish on the assembly line.

This year Bill Clinton will be the headliner at Monday's parade in Detroit. I hope he stops long enough to get an earful from the union folks working hard for Hillary in hopes that she'll work hard for them. I want to hear that word "union" attached to any mention of labor from now until November.

And next year, on Labor Day, I want to be rejoicing here and not commiserating.  I want attention to be paid to the workers still grinding away, building us up instead of tearing us down.  I want them to feel their worth, to know they're needed. I want to shove aside once and for all those who do everything they can to stand in their way.

Have a happy Labor Day weekend, but come Tuesday let's get back to work.  All together now, let's give labor a chance.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Photo:  Jesse Walker
 Trump again. I know. I'm obsessed with who he is, how he got here, where he's going, and who's going down with him. Day by day, in every way, it's as if the planet has tilted and those of us still upright are experiencing an existential vertigo.  (In other words, "What the hell is happening??")

In a matter of a precious few months Donald Trump vanquished more than a dozen barely worthy but infinitely better opponents and now he's as astonished as anyone that it's looking less like a political coup and more like a damned junta!

He's the general in charge of an army of rapscallions and scalawags just itching to start the looting and pillaging. But forget all that!  He, Donald J. Trump of Donald J. Trump fame, gets to be the general!

It's the power of positive thinking gone ballistic. It worked! The man is at the top of his game--a bigger con game than even he, Donald J. Trump, could imagine, and he'll do anything to stay up there. It's not about them. It's not about us.  It's about him, him, a thousand times him.

So let's talk about how he got here. (This won't take long.) He got here because the American press and the TV pundits put the last remnant of journalistic ethics in mothballs in order to whoop it up with a goofy blowhard who could be counted on to give them stories that practically wrote themselves.

When Donald Trump won his party's presidential nomination and promised to go after Hillary Clinton with a vengeance the world has never seen, nobody-- not even the alert, ever-ready (cough cough) press corps--thought he actually meant "with a vengeance the world had never seen."

When he took to calling her "crooked Hillary" everyone on his side got a huge laugh out of it, while  our side--the Hillary side--did a kind of "ho-hum, that's all you got?"

It was the press that wouldn't let it go, the press playing the willing foil to Trump's childish attacks on them, the press settling in and going along, no matter how low the road would take them.

Now Trump's attacks have moved from the silly "crooked Hillary", from the astonishing "Hillary Clinton is a bigot", to the outright bald-faced lie, "the Clinton Foundation is a scam".

Just last week, Trump, struggling to follow along with the hated teleprompter, said, about the Clinton Foundation, that "access and favors were sold for cash." That's a lie.

In the same on-the-cuff speech he said, "Clinton used her private email to cover corruption".  That's a lie.

Everyone, including the press, knows by now that any words surrounding "I", "I'm", "she", "they", and "the people" will form as if by magic into outrageous, slanderous lies.  He lies.  Of course he lies.  But the crowds!  The polls!  The ratings! 

Not so with Hillary Clinton.  They grab onto every word, waiting for the moment when what they're hearing can be pulled out and molded into something you might expect from the murky Hillary character they've so carefully crafted over a quarter of a century.

Nobody could be happier than Donald that he gets away with it while Hillary doesn't. So it's not surprising that Trump would latch onto a recent Associated Press story about the numbers of Clinton Foundation donors who were able to have an audience with Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State and claim he knew it was crooked all along.

The article began like this:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money - either personally or through companies or groups - to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.  (My bold)
The perception, the article explains, is that Hillary Clinton has been selling access to the State Department, the price being a substantial donation to the family foundation. The AP has been on this for a long time, it said, working to bring out the truth about how the Clintons might have profited by using both the State Department and the Clinton Foundation for their own personal gain.

There is nothing in the article to suggest the two reporters working on the story found the answer.  Nothing that would raise new questions about the Clinton's ethics or bring to light the need for such a lengthy investigation. (The Clinton Foundation is a 501(C)(3) not-for-profit foundation. Their records are public.)  But Donald Trump, ever the opportunist, weighed in on it as if the evidence against the Clintons was obvious.  From that same AP article: 
Trump fiercely criticized the links between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department, saying his general election opponent had delivered "lie after lie after lie."

"Hillary Clinton is totally unfit to hold public office," Trump said at a rally Tuesday night in Austin, Texas. "It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins. It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office."
Well, no, this story does not prove Hillary Clinton is unfit to hold public office, and it's not abundantly clear that the Clinton Foundation was set up for anyone's profit. What's unclear (with abundance) is the reasoning behind the AP's decision to publish an article devoid of any actual research, based solely on what it might look like.

Nancy LaTourneau writes in the Washington Monthly:
But here is where the AP blew their story. In an attempt to provide an example of how this becomes an “optics” problem for Hillary Clinton, they focused much of the article on the fact that she met several times with Muhammad Yunus, a Clinton Foundation donor. In case you don’t recognize that name, he is an economist from Bangladesh who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance as a way to fight poverty, and founded Grameen Bank. For those efforts, Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.
The connection the AP tries to make is that SoS Clinton met with Yunus because he was a Clinton Foundation donor. What they didn’t mention is that their relationship goes back over 30 years to the time Hillary (as first lady of Arkansas) heard about his work and brought him to her state to explore the possibility of implementing microfinance programs to assist the poor.

(Note: I'm taking bets on how many times the anti-Hillary opportunists will use that original AP story against her.  Add it to the long list of dubious ammunition.  File it under "I got nothin. Hey! What's this. ..?")

But where is the mea culpa from the press? When will they admit they had a hand in building up Trump's popularity and an equal hand in creating Clinton's unpopularity?  The press reports and the people listen.  We depend on them to give us facts to help us make decisions. Politics can be entertaining but there's a reason it's not categorized as "entertainment".

(I leave you with this breaking news: Hillary Clinton's top aide, Huma Abedin has just announced she is separating from her husband, Anthony Weiner, presumably over another sexting incident. At MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell is asking Ann Coulter what she thinks Donald Trump will make of this, while. at CNN, a four-person panel is waiting for the commercial break so they can discuss what Donald Trump will have to say about this. Seriously. Or not.)

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

I'm Offended by my Country

As a denizen of the Internets given to spouting personal opinions I'm not easily offended.  I can't afford to be. It's hard enough to write without having to do it curled up in a fetal position, tears in my eyes, sucking my thumb.

But I'm offended by my country.

I'm offended by the very idea of a Donald Trump in the role of public servant, and even more offended by the narcissistic, asocial blowhard billionaire himself.

I'm offended by the Republican party for opening up the deep, dark hole Donald Trump felt encouraged to slither out from.

I'm offended by the press, whose idea of good journalism is the elevation and celebration of a madman who believes he can be president of the United States.

I'm offended by voters who hate our government system so thoroughly they're working to punish the entire nation by electing officials whose qualifications are limited to a mutual need to make us pay for our supposed sins.

I'm offended by my own Democratic Party for allowing this to happen.  We're supposed to be the party of the people and we've let the people down.  Our leaders wimped out and didn't fight hard enough for the people whose age, race, gender, religion, income, or health kept them down and sometimes out. 

The Dems didn't show enough interest in the economy, in our public lands, in our public schools, in our public roads and bridges, in the very water we drink or the air we breathe.  They didn't care enough about the health and welfare of the occupants of our beautiful nation. That's not to say they didn't show any interest. They cared far more than the Republicans ever did. But that's not saying much.

More people now have health coverage but too many are bogged down by crushing deductibles and copays.  We still have not capped the price of pharmaceuticals.  We still have not lifted the cap on Social Security.  We still have not figured out how to convince half the country that helping the least of us is what makes us wholly American.

The stock market is up, the deficit is down, but we're not feeling it.  We've cauterized the job cuts so that more people are working, but  too often they're among the working poor. We're winding down our military presence in countries that are not ours but our pantries still go empty while our war chest fills up. We've allowed our prisons to become for-profit industries.  We don't worry enough about other peoples' children.

We're in thrall to the one-percenters, we're leaning toward a church state, we're ripe for a demagogic takeover. 

I'm offended by my country when it stops being proud of what it can be and reverts to being ashamed of what we've become. We're in a mess of our own choosing, which means we can fix it if we choose to.  Now we have to choose to.  Because this sure as hell isn't us.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Coming Soon: The Trump Show Finale

"Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart."

Ghazala Khan, grieving mother of Army captain Humayun Kahn, killed in action in Iraq trying to save his soldiers and innocent civilians.

Photo: Getty Images
 I can say without reservation, without even checking Google, that this country has never had a presidential candidate like Donald Trump.  The Republicans are stuck with a man who knows nothing about our history, nothing about our government, nothing about our people, nothing about the world we live in, and nothing about common decency.

And he's okay with that.

Donald Trump is a monster of his own making, so comfortable on his solid gold pedestal, so sheltered by his own defensive barriers, there's no chance his hardened heart will ever melt.

He likes it that way.

He thrives on schoolyard bullying, answering every plea to stop his irresponsible childishness with insults meant to slice deep, to leave lasting scars. He brags about taking the gloves off, as if he ever had them on.

He draws huge crowds hungry for blood, ready to jeer at anyone, even people they don't know, when Donald Trump gives the signal. It's a form of entertainment in no danger of being confused with actual leadership.

He would rather be king, but demagogue suits him, too.

He sees his unprecedented, astonishing popularity as a sign that he has at last found his niche. Holding the highest office in the land would give him gravitas.  Nobody, including and maybe especially President Obama, could ever make fun of him, could ever diminish him again.  He would be the top dog, the big cheese, the holder of the keys to his cockamamie kingdom. The people who hate him would be forced to respect him.  He would show those bastards once and for all.

See that quote at the top of the page?  That quote is from a mother who is still grieving after six long years following the death of her hero son.  Her psychic wounds, still so raw, have been opened up again, not by the enemy in a far-off land, but by a lone man right here in the United States who still insists he wants to be president of the country her son died defending.

Mrs. Khan's husband, Khizr Khan, a Muslim, spoke eloquently, near tears, at the Democratic convention, begging Donald Trump to try to understand how painful his words are to Muslims who want simply to live in peace in the country they, too, love. He offered to lend Trump his copy of the Constitution so he would at last understand the purity of our goals, the need to include and not exclude.  Khan's words resonated in such a way they were repeated over and over in the recap of the four-day convention.

Donald Trump could not, of course, let it go.  He went on the attack, accusing the slain captain's father of saying mean things about him, justifying the vengeance he was cooking up, because nobody--but nobody--gets away with insulting Donald Trump.

And then the expected happened: instead of apologizing to the parents of Captain Khan, Trump gave a few seconds of lip service to the heroism of their son and then went on to talk about his own sacrifices.  Honest to god, in a conversation concerning a slain soldier, Trump told George Stephanopoulos he had sacrificed, too:
“I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I've had tremendous success. I think I've done a lot.” 
In that same interview, Trump bragged about his work with vets--another example he thought would serve as a "sacrifice". When Paul Rieckoff, the head of the 200,000 member Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, got wind of it, he reacted:
"For anyone to compare their 'sacrifice' to a Gold Star family member is insulting, foolish and ignorant. Especially someone who has never served himself and has no children serving," Rieckoff said. "Our county has been at war for a decade and a half and the truth is most Americans have sacrificed nothing. Most of them are smart and grounded enough to admit it."  
"Smart and grounded" are not words anyone would use to describe Donald Trump. He's a classic braggart, a manchild without boundaries.  He's a flim-flam man, a showman, an actor so hungry for an audience he'll debase himself in gross, disgusting ways in order to keep them coming.

There is one thing he is not.  He is not a candidate for president of the United States.  He pretends he is because he knows if he drops the act his fans will go away. The presidency is the furthest thing from his mind.  He drops hints that he might not take the job if he wins.  He used his son as a surrogate to warn potential vice presidential candidates it'll be a much bigger job than they might think: they'll be doing the day-to-day job of the president, taking care of policy, both foreign and domestic, while Trump will be--and I quote--"making America great again".

Trump is a showman and this season's show is called "The Presidency".  When he loses--and he will lose--a whole new career will open up for him.   He'll become the anti-president--the man who could have got it done, if only.  Every zany, unworkable idea he ever had will balloon to colossal size, now lost to us because of the shortsightedness of the entrenched establishment who, if you can believe it, were terrified of his power.

He'll become Citizen Mussolini, an anachronism with bulging chest and jutting chin and a mouth in a perpetual pout. For a while he'll think he has power just on the strength of his name. He'll be laughed at and ridiculed and then he'll be irrelevant. The cheering crowds will move on.  Except for a loyal few, he'll be alone.

That's my dream, anyway.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Burning Hillary at the Stake: A Race Like No Other

On Tuesday, July 19, the second day of the 2016 GOP convention, Donald Trump, the inexperienced, inarticulate, potty-mouthed, dubiously reputable business man turned anti-government carnival barker officially became the presidential nominee of the Republican Party. 

Surreal as that nomination appears, even in the topsy-turvy world of 21st Century Republicanism, it came about because the Party hardliners were helpless to stop it. The people--their people--had spoken. Unwittingly, unintentionally, they had managed to churn up their portion of the masses so effectively they made it easy for a fast-talking charlatan like Trump to pounce on this most golden of opportunities, winning vast numbers of hardened hearts and brainwashed minds.

Trump's early showing in the polls, hard as those rising numbers were to believe, gave the party regulars plenty of time to go through the seven stages of grief (disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance), put on their happy masks, bite the bullet, and rehearse their lines. ("It could be worse!  It could be Hillary!")  From the beginning, Trump made it clear he wouldn't be needing them to win.  He had a history of smashing people who got in his way.  These guys would not be immune.

Fast-forward to the convention:  It would be a Trump family affair, make no mistake. Trump would be the decider and it would be a show like nothing the world has ever seen outside of Hollywood or maybe Siam. Party platform, that boring old thing, would have to take a back seat to the main event--the coronation of The Man.

 What to do, what to do? Talking up Trump is hard, especially when he wasn't their first, second, third, or even seventeenth choice.  

Aha!  Hillary! Of course!

Both Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, the titular heads of the Republican Party, gave speeches that barely mentioned Donald Trump.  Celebrities like Willie Robertson, the "Duck Dynasty" star, and Chachi (Scott Baio) took up the slack, praising Trump to the highest skies, knowing for an absolute fact that Donald Trump will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!

But the award for Best Preview About How It's Going to Be had to go to Chris Christie, Donald's chief-enforcer-apparent, who took to the stage and whipped the crowd into a frenzy with a speech that had nothing to do with Donald Trump (mentioned only four times by name, once in a sentence that went like this: "But this election is not just about Donald Trump."), and even less with fixing the state of the nation, focusing instead on a bizarre, cringe-worthy mock trial of the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, one Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"As to Hillary Clinton, putting herself ahead of America guilty or not guilty? [Chorus: Guilty!]

Hillary Clinton, lying to the American people about her selfish, awful judgment guilty or not guilty? [Guilty!]

Time after time the facts, and just the facts, lead you to the same verdict both around the world and at home.

In Libya and Nigeria. guilty! [Guilty!]

In China and Syria, guilty! [Guilty!]

In Iran and Russia and Cuba, guilty! [Guilty!]

And here at home on risking America's secrets to keep her own and lying to cover it all up, guilty! [Ditto!]"
Throughout Christie's speech the crowd never let up. The cameras caught their snarling mob-faces, their raised fists, their calls for Hillary's head: "She's guilty! Get her! Lock her up!"

It shook me to my core. In my mind's eye I saw Gestapo tactics, jackboots, the rise of a police state.

I thought about Arthur Miller's play, "The Crucible", ostensibly about the Salem Witch Trials but in reality an allegory reflecting the mood of the times--the Red Scare, the McCarthy hearings, the many lives and careers ruined by one man on a mission to make a name for himself by creating fear where there was none. (Three years after his play was produced, Miller himself was brought before the committee and ordered to name names of communists he might know.  He refused and paid the price.)

So how did Christie's speech strike the press, the ever-vigilant press, the press so ready to protect our freedoms they're still reporting on the controversy over Melania Trump's plagiarized speech?  Barely a nudge. They reported it as if it were a typical speech at any old political convention.

So it wasn't just the speech that horrified me, it was the reaction--or the non-reaction--of both the public and the press. We've been here before. Once the McCarthy era fires burned out and the ashes cooled we vowed "never again".

As a country, we vowed never again.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks & Liars)