Friday, December 23, 2016

In the Battle for America, the Internet is our War Room



It's been a while, I know, but I'm back in the saddle, ready to do my thing, hoping I can do it without an overabundance of whining or spitting at people. (Not that that's what I've been doing.) But first I need to say this up front and out loud:

I despise everything Donald Trump says and does and what he stands for (whatever that might be at any given moment), and I'll never accept that he is anything close to what a half-way decent president of the United States ought to be.

This is my personal status-quo: Donald Trump is my enemy and I am his. But after weeks of hand-wringing and consternation I've finally figured out that I can't funnel my entire existence into taking him down. I'm just me and I'm too little. I'll leave the heavy artillery to bigger voices having the know-how and the wherewithal to wage the battle ahead.

While I was away from my desk, dozens of writers--journalists, essayists, bloggers, novelists, comedians--said everything I might have said if I had been here, all of them doing it way, way better.  So here's the plan: I'll be their biggest cheerleader. I'll be right there retweeting, and sharing on Facebook, and spreading their brilliance to the farthest reaches. (I'll be blogging, too, in my tiny corner, but they'll have the podiums, the platforms, the soapboxes, and they'll take the most risks. I want them to know I've got their backs.)

All I ask is, no more postmortems. I don't want to rehash how or why Trump won. I don't want to hear that it was all Hillary's and the DNC's fault, or that anti-government voters wanted massive change, or that the racists won the day, or that Vladimir Putin and the Koch Brothers caused enough of a sneaky upheaval to cause half of America to go crazy and vote for an unqualified, ruthless carnival barker who lies with every breath he takes. I've read and heard it all.

I do want promises that we will never consider Trump normal, no matter how much good it appears he might be doing. (Because he will do good now and then, either inadvertently or as part of a larger, more malicious plan.)

I want those of us who would rather have had all four limbs severed than vote for that man to show the world that not everyone in America saw the election as an edge-of-your-seat reality show with fake winners and fake losers.

I want apologies and mea culpas from the press and the power brokers who encouraged and promoted that slimy circus, and then I want to see them all scurry to get on top of, then get to the bottom of, right down to the bones, every hint of the inevitable scandals that will be emanating from Trump headquarters.

I want to see resistance and, if necessary, revolt. I want it to be high-minded but ruthless, smart but calculating--consistent, insistent, persistent. I want to see us fight fire with pyrotechnics of volcanic proportions.

We need leaders. This movement won't survive without savvy, charismatic leaders who are brave beyond belief. Who are they? Haven't a clue. But they're out there. Somewhere.

Until they appear, it'll have to be up to us to keep this thing going. Yes, us. Who are we? It doesn't matter. We have voices, we have digital devices, we have the ability to blog and tweet and share on multiple networks. The internet is our headquarters, our virtual War Room.

We unify, we build up our numbers, we have one goal: To stop Trump and the GOP from doing our country harm. So, no fighting allowed among the ranks; no dissing or dismissing or one-upping. Trolls will be summarily banished. Preaching to the choir is the only way to fly.

We did a good job of blabbering all over the place during those months when we thought we were going to win, so it shouldn't be hard to keep it up now. (Yes, I know we lost. Your point?)

If someone you know is about to give up, shame them!  Shame them good!

Hysterical? A virtual slap upside the head. 

And if anybody has a plan, good lord, share it! We're brainstorming here!

Until the reinforcements arrive, it's up to us. I'm repeating myself, I know, but seriously--it's up to you and me and all the other bigmouths on our side. We're not afraid. We won't back down. We've got nothing to lose and maybe some little thing to gain.

Fingers at the ready. . .

Give it all you've. . .

. . . Hey, you!  Over here!  NOW!

(Oh, and Happy Holidays. Sincerely.)


(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks & Liars)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Trump is Trump, But Who Are We?


Nearly three weeks in and Donald Trump is still the president-elect. Never mind how we feel; it's how he feels that counts. Just ask him. He has remained the man he always was, and why not? Good God, the man loves who he is!  His adoration for himself is dazzling. The scope of his self-love is breathtaking. In his eyes he is a commanding figure, a smooth operator, just what the world has been waiting for--a man with a colossal brain, a dick to die for, and no double chin AT ALL!

But about the rest of us: For at least the next four years, if all goes as awry as we fear it will, Donald Trump and his partners in crime will be free to make foolish and dangerous decisions affecting every single one of us.  In order to stop them, or even to slow them down, we have to figure out who we are.  We're not the same people we were before all this.  We've been rocked to our core. 

Are we bitter?  Damn right.  Are we weak?  Weakened, maybe. Are we strong? As strong as we were a few weeks ago, when we thought our strength, our mission, our remarkably good sense, would put an end to this Trump guy and all he stands for.

We were wrong. It hurts. It's awful. But we're at a place now where we can't afford to make foolish mistakes. We're divided. We've splintered into factions.  We're still muttering over how this happened and who was to blame, and we're inclined to blame each other.  We're going to have to get over that.

Still, there is no question the Democrats made some terrible blunders.  We're still hashing out what all they were, but the biggest blunder was in not addressing the real, everyday needs of the lower and middle classes.  The very people who were waiting for signs that help is on the way. It was easy to go after Trump. Every day brought something new and even more outrageous. But the needs of the people took a back seat to every shocking disclosure, until every speech, every TV ad, began to sound the same. Trump is bad. He's soooo bad. Let us count the ways. . .

It's done now, and we can either go on blaming or we can recognize that the presidency of Donald J. Trump will be anything but normal. He is and always will be a spiteful, foul-mouthed, reckless egotist--a verifiable loose cannon--only now he'll have the backing of an equally reckless GOP leadership and the aid of a cadre of dangerous characters with shady pasts and presents.

Instead of advancing our causes, we'll be fighting to keep them from disappearing entirely.  We know going in it won't be a fair fight, so the first thing we need to do is to abandon all wishful thinking. It's exactly what it appears to be.

Donald Trump will never anything but an embarrassing, privileged low-life who will spend the next four years disrespecting the office of the president and irritating the hell out of us in the process.

He'll be up at all hours tweeting silly, snotty stuff in order to draw a snarl or a laugh.  He'll be the first president in history to be accused of blatant overuse of exclamation points.

 And that's just be in his off-hours.  God knows what he'll do when he gets down to business.

So the second thing we need to do is to shake hands and make a pact:  As crazy as it's going to get, we have to be the sane ones. We're the good guys.  No matter how hard they work to beat us down, we're the good guys. And, even knowing the honor the presidency should bring, Trump will always be Trump.

As Charles Blow wrote in his column gone viral, "No, Trump, We Can't Get Along":
You are a fraud and a charlatan. Yes, you will be president, but you will not get any breaks just because one branch of your forked tongue is silver.

I am not easily duped by dopes.

I have not only an ethical and professional duty to call out how obscene your very existence is at the top of American government; I have a moral obligation to do so.
I, too, see it as my duty. And then there's that moral obligation.  I'm ready.  We're ready. 

All together now.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

America, What Have You Done?


Last night, against all odds, against everything that's holy, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.  A vile, cruel man who flaunts his fame and fortune, who exacts revenge in the form of name-calling and slander, a man who has a history of lying, cheating, and ruthlessly attempting to destroy anyone who goes against him, will be, as of January 20, 2017, the most powerful man in the world.

He beat out Hillary Clinton, a woman who carries her own baggage--none of it nearly as heavy or as dirty as Trump's--yet who is inordinately qualified to be president, a woman who couldn't match him in bombast and showmanship but rose above him in matters of the heart, of commitment, and of intellect. 

It wasn't a glass ceiling that was shattered last night, it was our country.  The Republicans--those very same menaces who, through their obstruction and disdain for anyone other than the rich and powerful, caused most of the economic problems plaguing the voters--still came out smelling like roses. They won over the Democrats and held their majority in Congress. Those voters who felt so threatened by the government of their choosing have now willingly bought into an outrageously ludicrous line of demagogic fear-mongering and turned to someone outside of politics for solace and succor. Or revenge.

The postmortems will be coming fast and furious in the days ahead, but the die is cast, our bed is made, our new president is a nasty narcissistic loose cannon who will be in a position to fill his cabinet with his equally slimy agenda-driven cronies, to fill the Supreme Court with Scalia clones, to shut down needed social services, to rape our public lands, to deny climate change, to end the Affordable Care Act, to send packing anyone whose skin color, religion, or ethnic background, doesn't match his idea of a pure America.

He has threatened to send his opponent, Hillary Clinton, to jail.  He has threatened to take away the freedom of the press. He has threatened to "bomb the shit" out of Isis. He has aligned himself with the ugliest elements in our society, including the gun toting militias, the KKK, the NRA, and the religious right.

Vladimir Putin has already sent his congratulations.

And I'm stunned, angry, depressed, mortified, and embarrassed for my country.  I didn't create Trump, I didn't promote him, I didn't vote for him, but I'll have to live with what comes next and so will everyone I hold dear.  Some of them voted for this man, along with the millions of others who saw this inconceivable win as payback of some sort, a punch in the gut to wake us the hell up.

I'll leave it to them to figure out how they'll live in the America they've now created.  And I won't feel an ounce of pity for them when all of their wishes don't come true.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks & Liars)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Hillary, You Need To Stop Attacking Trump

Dear Hillary,

In only a few days we'll finally know which of our nation's two candidates has won the presidency.  No secret that I'm rooting for you, and that I have no earthly use for Donald Trump, but I'm begging you to stop talking about him. Right now.

We know what he is. We know how you feel about him. He's vile, he's an opportunist, he's so far from being a logical choice for a viable candidate we can't stop thinking, you and I and everyone in our camp, about how impossible, how improbable his rise to being this close to the presidency really is. We're shocked.  Okay, we're shocked.  But there it is, and the next million words about it and a million words after that won't change a thing.

Stop obsessing over him.  Forget about him altogether. You need to spend the rest of  your valuable time convincing voters you feel their pain and, what's more, you've got pretty good ideas about how to heal.

Hillary at Dartmouth - Dartmouth News

We want to know exactly what you plan to do about trade, joblessness, poverty, health care, education, infrastructure, the military, the environment and everything else that impacts our daily lives. We need to feel comfortable with handing you the keys to the highest office in the land, and it's obvious a whole lot of us are not there yet. 

We are a country so afraid, so on edge, so wary of our future, we've allowed a hate-filled, utterly ill-equipped demagogue to take over and build a ridiculously flawed case for his leadership.  The crowds his hateful taunting has been drawing for many long months should have sent shock-waves all over every single campaign throughout the land, both Democrat and Republican. He's pushing buttons you all can't seem to dismantle and it's working for him.

I don't mean to pile on you. Lord knows you get that enough of that, but if you want to get those young people, those undecideds to vote for you, you'll have to give them reason to believe in you.  Right now, less than a week before the election, they still don't. They're beginning to think your repetitive attacks on Trump are a way of sidestepping the real issues. That can't be good.

Do I need to bring up Bernie Sanders?  Do I need to remind you that he built a huge following by addressing real-world issues wholly abandoned by the Republicans and seemingly abandoned by our party, the Democrats? While I've always been your loyal supporter, I can't help but love Bernie's message.  Who wouldn't? It was, in a nutshell, "I care more about the have-nots than about the haves."  The undecideds need to believe that's your message, too. Bernie is now working to get you elected, but you'll remember that he was able to climb half way up the mountain by making his followers believe you weren't with them. It's your job to make them believe otherwise.

Let's remember, too, that Donald Trump rose to astonishing prominence by demagoguing his followers into believing he was the only one who could ease them out of their misery--an existence forced on them by a corrupt, uncaring government of, by, and for the establishment.  (Not unlike Bernie's populist message, it should be noted.)

So let's pretend Donald Trump is out of the picture.  Let's pretend your opponent is someone who knows something about politics  He or she is a Republican, a member of the same party that set out to ruin Barack Obama's--and the nation's--chances at any kind of social or economic success, simply because they couldn't stand the thought of watching our first black president get credit for a win.  These are the people working to take us down, and they'll go on working at it until we pull the rug out from under them.

Your-opponent-who-is-not-Trump understands government and policy as well as you do, and can go head-to-head over what our future will look like under either regime. They know a little something about demagoguing themselves. You need to get your game on.  You need to push the Democratic platform, which, as you know, is stronger on equity, equality and opportunity for all.  You need to ask favors of every blue collar leader you know and get them to push our agenda--the one where we win and the other side loses and the country is the better for it.  You need to energize our young voters by giving them a reason to dream.

We are a country of hard workers.  We need good paying jobs, we need good benefits, we need good retirement packages.  We need good, low-cost health care, we need education packages that build learning and literacy. We need to get back to building a solid middle class. We need more of what we used to have.

We can only get those things if you and the Dems win. If you want those things, too, then tell us.  For God's sake, tell us!  The script is there; we've written it before.  Now go out there and deliver it.  You only have a few more days.  You're wasting your time on Trump.  Leave him in the gutter. The country and its citizens are far more important.
_______________________

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks & Liars)

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)

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Reflecting on the Fourth of July

 "The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men." ~ Samuel Adams


Somewhere along the way we stopped calling our most popular summer holiday "Independence Day" and went simply with "The Fourth of July".  We love our Red, White and Blue, but this is the day we pull out all the stops.  Flags fly everywhere, the stars and stripes adorning everything from porches to paper plates to Uncle Sam hats to the holiday advertising pages of every newspaper.  Flags dress floats and bicycles and baby carriages in every parade in every little town in America.  

We love this day--the day to remember our liberty, our exceptionalism, our prosperity.  Those were the days, weren't they?

So what happened?

Not to be a downer on our favorite summer day, but I can't shake the feeling that "independence" is one of those words we're starting to look back on with nostalgia.   Does anyone even care that we're not that independent anymore?

Our dependence on foreign oil and on anti-American big business and on the production and importation of goods from dubious nations across the globe is not what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they declared us an independent country and gave us our working papers.

It started on July 4, 1776 when 56 men signed a paper declaring the independence of the thirteen united states of America from Great Britain, the mother country. ("We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.")

Eleven years later, in 1787, a constitution, the wording hard-fought and brainstormed to death, became the law of the land.   The Preamble read like this: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

They didn't start off with, "We, the wealthy landowners, in order to keep our fiefdoms going. . .", or "We, the 39 undersigned, in order to preserve our station and ensure a healthy profit margin. . . ".  

No, they began it like this:
WE, the people. . .of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America  
It came out of a yearning for independence so strong an entire nation was created, and in the course of a couple of centuries we became a model for democracy throughout the world--a force to be reckoned with.  You couldn't find a prouder nation anywhere.  We were going places.

That was then. 

Today, we're in turmoil. It's as if the promises made, the lessons learned, the reasons to form a more perfect union are long gone and long forgotten.  We are as divided as we've ever been since the days of our Civil War, 150 years ago.  We cannot, it seems, find common ground.  We see our America through different eyes, with different fears and different goals.  We don't like what we see, but from entirely different angles and for entirely different reasons.  We try to interpret what our Founding Fathers had in mind for us, but we come at it with our own biases, our own prejudices, trying to mold our purposely vague constitution to fit our own wants and needs.

But on this one day we come together, and it's our love of this beautiful, challenging, imperfect country that brings us to detente.  It's a day when, no matter what's going on outside, the sun is warm, the breeze is balmy, and the shade of the old oak tree brings a delicious coolness.  A lemonade day.  A day for feeling good. The parades are about to start and there is no more beautiful flag in the world than the American flag.



Come Tuesday we'll begin again. Toward a more perfect union. Toward domestic tranquility.  Toward the society we, the people, have promised to promote and preserve.

Until then, be well and be kind on this day that is ours and ours alone.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

When the Democrats Seized the Day

In the three and one-half years I've been here, we have not been allowed ONE VOTE, NOT ONE VOTE on matters of gun safety. This was why we had to protest."-
- Rep. John Larson, Sit-in ringleader whose Connecticut district is near Sandy Hook.


On June 23, around 11:25 AM, Democrats in the House of Representatives, fed up over the lack of action on simple, common-sense gun control measures after years of failed attempts, and led by Civil Rights icon John Lewis, announced a sit-in on the floor of the House chamber, and then, one by one, sat themselves down on the hard floor in front of the speaker's podium.  (Watch it here.)

As Vera Bergengruen wrote for McClatchy DC:
“Where is our soul? Where is our moral leadership? Where is our courage?” Lewis shouted Wednesday when he began the sit-in, his preacher’s voice loudly echoing in the House chamber. Brow furrowed, he angrily pounded the podium.
“This is the time,” he cried. “Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more.”
He paused for a moment, the chamber silent.
“The time for silence is over.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article85641732.html#storylink=cpy
 For some of them, getting down on the floor wasn't easy.  Some were older and arthritic, some were women in short skirts and high heels, and one of them, Tammy Duckworth, a former Blackhawk helicopter pilot whose legs had been shot off over Baghdad, had to work her way out of her wheelchair and remove her prostheses in order to sit on the floor with her compadres.

Speaker Paul Ryan quickly shut the place down, calling for a short recess until the Democrats came to their senses, and, as is the rule when the sessions are in recess, the microphones went dead; the chamber cameras went dark.

Then, as if the revolt by the Democrats in the form of an actual sit-in wasn't extraordinary enough, something even more amazing happened.  Several House members, using their smart phones, began live-streaming the event via Twitter's Periscope. Before long C-Span, against House rules and entirely on their own, picked it up and began broadcasting the live-stream.

It had its glitches. As phone batteries went dead, C-Span hosts ad-libbed, filling in the minutes until borrowed battery packs could be installed or someone else picked it up and fed it to them live.  People kept bumping into or standing in front of the cell phones, but they were quickly righted and put back into action.

Within seconds after John Lewis announced the sit-in, Twitter and Facebook exploded.  News spread that something big was happening on the House floor (literally), and for one brief shining moment even Donald Trump couldn't draw media attention away from the disobedient but mostly civil Democrats who had finally had enough.

It was a sit-in that felt like a loose version of a filibuster. A long line of representatives took turns standing before the dead microphones,  passionately begging for the chance to vote on sensible, common sense gun control, hoping the cell phones would pick up their voices and send their message afar.

Within a few hours, several senators came in to offer their support.  Elizabeth Warren sat on the floor  for a time, left, and then came back again, this time with donuts.  Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, Gary Peters, and a number of other senators made appearances.

Some time during the day Paul Ryan acknowledged the sit-in at a news conference.  He called it nothing more than a publicity stunt. (Newsflash: All demonstrations are publicity stunts, Paul.) He took pains to remind everyone that the sitters were breaking rules.  (Again, Mr. Speaker: civil disobedience)

It went on for more than 26 hours, with a few bathroom breaks and cloakroom naps. Elizabeth Warren bought donuts. Cases of bottled water arrived. Someone else ordered pizzas.  For more than a full day those of us who have been waiting a long time for something like this sat riveted.  It was awesome.

Did it change even one single mind on the Republican side?  No. Will the NRA stand down and stay out of government business?  Of course not.  But we saw democracy in action.  We saw the Democrats acting like Democrats.

It did my heart glad.

(Edit to add:  Speaker Paul Ryan says he won't allow any more sit-ins.  No word on how he plans to stop them, short of police action.  Should be interesting.) 

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks & Liars)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Worst Mass Shooting in U.S History Happened Today. Hello, NRA. Are you There?

Today we woke up to news of another mass shooting, this time in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  The facts about it are sketchy but it looks like a hate crime, an obvious act of terrorism.  The horrific news, coming in bits and spurts, is that 50 people are dead and 54 have been injured.  It's being classified as the worst mass shooting in U.S history.

The shooter's name is Omar Saddiqui Mateen, an American on the FBI watch list thought to be inspired by Isis.  The motive, it appears, is a murderous hatred of gays, but the ease of owning military-style assault weapons gave him an opportunity to act on it. It was about as carte blanche as it gets.

Details are sketchy; it's early yet, but it's a fact that a single shooter murdered 50 people and injured as many more. I'm not shocked--mass shootings have become regular occurrences--I'm outraged.  I'm sick of living in a country known for our violence, our casual acceptance of assault weapons--big guns manufactured for military use but romanticized and propagandized by the NRA and their spawn, American-style militias, as proof of our God-given, constitutional liberties.

I'll wait to see how the NRA reacts to this.  If they don't condemn the wide-spread ownership and unregulated use of guns that are nothing more than killing machines, I want to know how they're any different from any other terrorist organization.  No excuses.  No outcries about the right to own guns, about liberties, about how the fault lies in the killer's motives and not in the guns he used.  He found a way to get those guns, to get that ammunition and nobody stopped him.  Nobody.

Days after the school shooting at Sandy Hook, in December, 2012, I wrote a piece about our love affair with guns and what it's doing to us.  It sickens me that everything I wrote back then still stands:

Yes, it's about Guns, because Treating Guns like Favorite Toys is Killing Us

December 17, 2012 - After every major gun-inflicted tragedy we're told by the pro-everything-that-shoots bunch that it's too soon to be talking about gun control.  We hear again that guns don't kill people, it's the people misusing the guns who kill people.  We hear that they could just as well be using knives or garrotes or box cutters or poison or 3,000 pound vehicles.

On Friday we awoke to another unspeakable mass murder, this time involving our precious children, and I have to believe it is, at last, sadly, the turning point we've been waiting for.  We'll be having the conversation we should have kept going before, and this time something will get done.  We will not stop until we get control over our fascination with owning military-type weapons.

On Friday, December 14, 2012 a 20-year-old man killed his mother, took guns from her collection, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School and deliberately shot it up, killing six adults and 20 children, most of them First Graders.

He took three guns into that school and methodically shot and killed 20 (yes, twenty) small children. He used weapons more suited to combat than to hunting or self-defense and he was able to do that because in the United States of America private citizens are allowed--even encouraged--to own combat weapons.

These are the types of guns he used:

Photo:  New York DailyNews

It's a solid fact that the United States--either through outright permission or through cowardice in the face of bullying opposition--has declared guns to be free agents, not subject to any but the most basic, toothless laws regarding safety or security or limitations.

How could that be?  It could be because so many people, including politicians who are supposed to be up on those things, want to believe that one single clause in our constitution--the grievously misunderstood Second Amendment--says so.
This one:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

There is nothing in the Second Amendment about an individual's right to keep guns.  Not unless that individual becomes a well-regulated state Militia of One.

There is nothing in the constitution that gives copyright rights to the National Rifle Association (NRA), allowing them to drop important words that tend to get in the way of their mad, skewed interpretation.  ("A well-regulated Militia" sticks in their craw,  undermining their entire premise, so it's out).

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

We want to believe our constitution is not for sale, but, in fact, the NRA has found a way to own an entire amendment.  It's now impossible to think of the Second Amendment without making a connection to the National Rifle Association.  They use it to convince the gullible that the government is coming to take their guns and the only way to stop them is to invoke their "constitutionally guaranteed citizens' right to bear arms."

They've co-opted and corrupted a constitutional amendment and turned it against the very government that instituted it and implements it. (The original meaning, that is--having to do with giving the states the right to organize a militia--or, as we've come to know it, the National Guard).

The fact is, even if the Second Amendment were abolished, guns would not be banned in this country.  Gun ownership is a long-established right, almost universally accepted and woven so tightly into our fabric there's no danger of a Great Unraveling.  It won't happen.

Where we differ--often mightily--is in what kinds of guns should be legal for private citizens to own and how they should be regulated.  Whenever a fresh gun-induced tragedy strikes, the argument starts all over again.  Those on my side pick up the fight for smaller calibers and stricter gun control and the "assault weapons are guns, too" crowd digs in and buys more firepower, just to prove they can.  It's now a multi-billion dollar industry, and the NRA, thanks to the politicians they own (along with--let's not forget--the Second Amendment), will go on daring us to try and do something about it.  They have no fear, and why should they?  They've never lost a battle yet.

I say let's take that dare.  Right now.  Today.  While the memory of 20 little first graders and the six adults who died trying to protect them is still so raw it's making our hearts bleed.

In voices as loud as those gunshot booms resonating throughout the halls of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, we can demand the end to the sales of military weapons and the ammunition that goes with them.  We can force the licensing of firearms, demand oversight at gun shows, and find a way to follow the paper trail for every gun owned in this country.

We don't need to ban all guns in order to get the assault weapons craze under control.  The collectors want those big guns because they want them and they think that's reason enough to make it a right to own them.  It's not.

The NRA has been pretty silent the last few days.  In fact, they're downright invisible. They took down their Facebook page and they're not answering their Twitter-phone.   If they're regrouping, trying to come up with some good reason why assault weapons shouldn't be banned, I can save them some trouble:  There is no good reason.

Wanting to own one because its big and bad and exciting is not a good reason.  Wanting to own one because you think the government is going rogue and you might need it to protect yourself and those around you is insanity.

Tom Toles, the Washington Post

In case you missed the latest craziness coming out of my state, Michigan, I'm ashamed to report that on the day before the mass shooting in Newtown, our legislature passed a bill allowing guns in classrooms.
The legislation is the largest rewrite of Michigan’s concealed weapon law since lawmakers made hard-to-obtain permits much easier for adults to receive beginning July 2001. Applications exploded. There were 351,599 permit holders as of Dec. 1, one for every 20 adults.
Most of the attention on the new bill has focused on provisions allowing hidden handguns in places where they are now forbidden, such as schools, university dorms and classrooms, and sporting stadiums.
The time for talking is over.  Now we act.  We get it done.