Category Archives: Politics

It Must be Denounced

It is very hard to summon any sympathy for a NAZI punched in the face. I will confess that the task is beyond my empathic skills; I have no sympathy for him.

That said political violence must never be condoned, celebrated, or tolerated. That is a beast that cannot be controlled.

Last night I was discussing politics with a fellow writer. A smart and well educated man who admitted that he thought the USA right now has a real Weimar Republic feel to it. I disagreed.

I have spoke before on this blog that the depth of our instructions, established for hundreds of years are incomparable to a Republic that existed for less than twenty, but there is another very important distinction between where we are now and where Germany was in the interwar period; violence.

The Weimar Republic in it’s brief run was host to more than three hundred political assassinations, and that’s not tallying the street brawls and violent intimidation that was common, that is just the political murders.

Violence in the name of politics must never be unleashed and those who do it must be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Even a NAZI must be protected from the rage of the mob or we are all subject their their fickle favors.

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On Being a Good Citizen

Democracy requires good citizen, but what does it mean to be a good citizen? Certainly not that a citizen should shut up and do as they are told. That’s not citizenship that servitude.

A good citizen is one who is informed and engaged in the civic life of their democracy. Now not all citizen have equal talents, time, or resources and so therefore the criteria for informed and engaged is a highly variable one. For some it means making sure you know the issues and candidates when you vote, I would say that is the bare minimum, but with greater ability and resources come more challenging standards.

Volunteering, for work both charitable and political in another means by which someone can contribute to the civic body and be a good citizen. Public service is also a means of active participation, both in local and national matters civilian or military.

Advocacy for cause and issues is another route to participation. In the era of social media it is one that is becoming easier and easier for people to participate in. Those with platforms that amplify their voices, extend their reach have a greater obligation to advocate issues and concerns to the greater body politic.

That brings me to what is going on today.

There are a number of voices out there shouting at public persons that those persons should ‘shut up and sing.’ As though choosing a life of the arts has someone removed their rights and duties as citizens. I reject such a notion categorically. Anyone who has read my blog knows I have a passion for the arts and for politics. I am never going to shut up about either.

To be clear I am not saying that speech should be or can ever be free of consequences. I make a statement advocating the concept that Trump is likely to be a terrible president and perhaps someone decides then and there that they will never buy my stuff.

I won’t lose any sleep. That is the sort of thing that discussing politics will invoke and I would never tell that person that they are wrong, because they are not. The hypothetical person has their principals, their deeply held convictions and if that means they shun my writing, that’s their call.

I do call out those who insist that artists and celebrities should stay silent. It is not anyone’s place to silence a citizen. Criticize what they say, call on others to voice their opinions, even boycotts, are all fair game, and if they happen to you or me, that is the price for advocacy, but never call for silence. Never for someone to ‘shut up and sing.’

We are citizens, not servants.

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Rules for Working with Trump

This advice, as silly as it seems to write it; I have no connection to anyone in power and they have no inclination to listen to me, is for the movers and shakers of Washington in the era of Trump.

It is a mistake to think that Trump is motivated by the same concerns and desires as the politicians you have battled before. Fight him like a traditional political opponent and he’ll win and the GOP will have his back. You can win, you can prevent disaster but first learn the rules.

Rule One: This rule supersedes all other considerations when dealing with or planning to deal with Donald J. Trump. Trump is a narcissist. Anything or any promise that does not flatter and inflate his ego is doomed to be, at best, a short duration success. Every proposal and every action must reflect this basic reality.

Rule Two: Trump will never admit fault or error, all arguments to sway his opinion must not only obey Rule One they must never require an admission of past error. Past errors are best unspoken and consigned to their status as unhistory.

Rule Three: Aside from family, loyalty for Trump runs only in the direct of himself. He is incapable of loyalty to anything that does not carry his blood or name.

Rule Four: All unsecured cash flows towards Trump. Secure your cash at every turn and never rely upon any agreement concerning payments from Trump in any direction other than towards himself and his family..

Rule Five: In Trump’s world there are enemies to be crushed and lackeys. Once he thinks he has crushed an enemy he’ll expend no more thought and anything said in the crushing is immaterial. Play the lackey and you may be able to steer him using the rules above.

 

Notice that none of these rules have anything to do with political ideology. Political thought is irrelevant when dealing with Trump. There are few things on which he can be counted on to be consistent. Count on tax breaks, see Rule Four. He will be favorable to Russian and autocrats. Some of these issues you simply have to let slide for the next two years, the united front of Trump and the GOP will do what it does. On some fronts, such as Russia, it will be possible to sow division between Trump and the GOP, but the most gains are possible in area where the GOP are ideologically locked but Trump is not.

By using the Rules and playing the man not the politics it is possible to expand healthcare and a number of other issues. If Trump feels something will grow his popularity, it will feed his ego and make him want these things. Best case outcome is he frightens the GOP members enough that some of it can be passed, worst case is he and GOP fall into infighting and thereby they limit their damage.

The game is poker and Trump doesn’t realize that at this table he is the Chump.

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The C.O. is Always Responsible

Imagine a military ship sailing in the early hours of darkness near a shore. The Captain is asleep all is quite when the vessel suddenly grounds on a sand bar and tug is dispatched at dawn to free the ship. Who pays the price for the foul up? Whose career is threatened? The Captain. It goes with the power of the position, the captain is responsible for everything that happens on his or her command, period.

So, who is responsible for the Democratic loss at the last presidential elections?

Hillary Clinton. It was her ship, her command, and her responsibility.

Yes, the Russian sowed chaos to assist Trump.

Yes, Republicans used their position in the House of Representative to publicly hound fairly minor scandals.

Yes, the news media chased every leak with the Pavlovian response of a kitten chasing a laser spot.

All this is true and all this was known at the time. It is the C.O. jobs to deal with, and to deal with it effectively. I would further argue that these factors are relatively minor factors considering that Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the popular contest by nearly three million votes but the election is not determined by the popular will but by the state by state arcana of the Electoral College.

The Democrats relied on a ‘blue wall’ through the rust belt to hold Trump away from the White House and that wall turned out to have been eaten away. The weakness in these states was no surprise. Upset by Sanders gave clear warnings that things were not standard this election cycle. Alarm bells and calls for urgent assistance from local politicians and campaign workers went unheeded. Why? Why was such a critical front left undefended?

When I read the book Game Change that recounted the 2008 election I was truck by how much the Clintons, both of them, valued loyalty over competence. It’s my opinion that justly or unjustly the Clintons live in perpetually psychological state of siege. They seem to act as though that they must expect any and all attacks from all quarters and as such their inner circle are chosen as people that the trust and trust if the quality that value the most.

Because they distrustful of anyone not in their tight inner circle they horde power, micromanaging situations and shutting out those who are suspect, and anyone who is not part of the inner circle is automatically suspect.

When during he primary Sanders surprised them they didn’t open up their command to new voices and refused to learn that their predictive models were seriously flawed. When local pols in the rust belt screamed for help and warned that the candidate was in danger of losing votes due to people staying home, the alarms were rebuffed as they did not come from the trusted circle. It is astonishing that during the campaign Hillary Clinton never visited the union halls of Michigan, a state that if simply two more people per precinct has gone to the polls and voted for her she would have carried.

We can never know if Sanders, as is supporters insist, would have won the campaign. What we do know is that the Democratic candidate outpolled the Republican by millions of votes but bungled the tactical battlefield and lost the war

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Gravity Always Asserts Itself

As a kid I watched countless hours of Warner Brother cartoons and among my favorite were the Roadrunner and the Coyote. Invariably at some point in his futile attempts to catch the Roadrunner the Coyote would find himself suddenly without ground beneath his feet. For the first few moments, everything was fine, but once became aware of the fact, gravity took command and his fall began.

For more than six year the Republican Party has railed against the ACA and encouraged their political base to view it as an evil that must be destroyed. That destruction has been their premier promise in every election cycle and now, with control of both congress and the White House, it is within their grasp. However, like the Coyote they have discovered that the ground beneath their feet is not what they believed it to be.

Immediate repeal means throwing twenty million or more people off of their insurance. Even if you are not inclined to think of the news media as hostile to conservatives there is no universe where that plays well on the evening news and with number that large nearly every person will know someone who lost their coverage. It will be a painful, personal, and powerful storm of anger.

Not repealing means enraging the base, encouraging the dreaded ‘primary opponent’ that all officials in safe districts fear, and sparking intra-party warfare between the more pragmatic and Freedom Caucus wings.

Repeal and delay, vote for repeal but word it so that the effect occurs two, four, or more years down the road throws a hand grenade into the individual insurance market. What company will want to participate when the market will cease to exist in just a short time? Insurers flee, people loose their coverage, mandate are not enforced and a death spiral for the industry is a real possibility. That means people with deep pockets and political connections will be very angry.

Complicating this terrain is the fact that the President-elect is well known for his lack of consistency. Is he committed to repeal for ‘conservative’ reasons? This is a man who has praised single-payer nationalized healthcare, hardly a conservative policy. And just recently his spokespeople have affirmed that under the President-Elect’s plans no one will their coverage, no one.

They have dashed off the precipice, there is no ground under them save the disastrous and countless distance below, and no one will be inclined to give them any aid.

If they do manage to repeal, without dealing with the very thorny and difficult issues infusing this problem, (Which is likely because in six years they have advanced zero legislative packages to institute a ‘conservative’ solution.) they will have done more to hasten single-payer in this country than any ten liberal politicians.

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What Made the NAZIs so lethal?

Six million Jewish people, five million others, and even more war dead what made it possible for that evil empire to kill so many people? Of course I an not talking about the technical problems. Mass industrialization make many things formerly impossible, from moon landings to genocide, possible, but that doesn’t provide the will, the commitment to carry out such monstrous deeds. It is that commitment that is truly frightening.

Think for a moment on the 80’s genre movie They Live. (Spoilers ahead.) Nada played by the late Roddy Piper discovers, thanks to special sunglasses, that a secret cabal of alien living amongst us has been directing human affairs. They control the media, the economy, and the government. Some are in positions of great power and others occupy more menial posts such as police officers. When his eyes are opened to the truth, he goes on a killing spree, killing the aliens wherever he finds them. Soon he is pulled into a secret resistance group of people who know the true, who see behind the lies and the propaganda, and are dedicated to fighting this clandestine subversive threat.

Because the film is clearly set in Nada’s Point Of View and he is in no manner presented as insane or otherwise as an unreliable narrator, we the audience accept the premise of the a small group of beings secretly controlling world events as factual (within the confines of the story) and judge Nada’s killing spree not as murder but as justified. Accepting the worldview justifies the horrific murders.

For the Hitler and the NAZIs the anti-Semitism was not a tool, it was not propaganda, it was not a way to motivate followers and seize power, it was a worldview. It was a sick, insane conspiratorial view rooted in hatred that created their goals not their methods. I am reminded of a documentary The Goebbels Experiment which consisted of archival footage and Kenneth Branagh reading from the propaganda minister’s private journals. When the Enabling Act passed, making Hitler absolute dictator of Germany Goebbels didn’t note privately that they finally had the power to crush their enemies, that they had taken what was they thought of as rightfully theirs, no he wrote that at last they were ‘free.’ He believed, utterly and insanely, that they had been living in a world as controlled as Nada’s in They Live.

There is a bit if advice often floated to writers – the villain is the hero of his own story, and that is true. It is a lesson we must also apply with vigilance to the real world.

When people of position and power put forth conspiratorial explanations for how the world works, we must not let ourselves be lulled into complacency with notions of ‘just talk’, ‘playing to the room’ or that’s for ‘internal consumption.’ We need to always take such statements as dangerous examples of their worldviews and be prepared to fight them.

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Fasten You Safety Belts

So here is another political – sorry I gotta say a couple words about the recent kerfuffle concerning Trump, Taiwan, and The People’s Republic Of China.

Trump accepted a congratulatory telephone call from the recently elected pro-independence president of Taiwan Tsai Ign-wen. This is provoking a diplomatic mess with the PRC. China considers Taiwan a wayward and disobedient province, Taiwan considers themselves the Real China and the communist government on the mainland as illegal and illegitimate. The official US position since 1979 has been to publicly agree with the PRC, give Taiwan the diplomatic cold shoulder, but simultaneously provided the island with arms and an implicit assurance that we are really their allies and will come to their aid if they need it. Everyone involved knew about the fictions and how everyone really felt. When he accepted that phone call Trump upset more than 30 years of diplomatic deals.

Two narratives have emerged ‘explaining’ the incident and both are quite troubling.

Explanation 1 is fairly straight forward; the Taiwanese president called Trump, trump accepted out of ignorance, and now we have a potential crisis. This is troubling because it has the subtext that Trump is too ignorant to be aware that as Presidents your words really matter and as his ego will not allow him to refuse any form of congratulations he accepted the call. It also implies that if you accept that President Tsai Ing-wen is not as foolish as Trump, then she used his ignorance to further her own political goals. It is not good that other world leaders may already be considering how to play our president for the fool that he is.

Explanation 2 is a bit more Machiavellian. The Washington Post is reporting that elements within Trump’s team that are pro-Taiwan and hardliners against the PRC have been working for sometime to make that particular phone call happen, but that this was not something Trump was aware of and in fact that they played him for their own ends. This has the subtext that the people in Trump’s administration will be plotting and playing the President for their own ends. That implies not only chaos but political war within the administration of the United States and president too ignorant to be aware of the war and its ramifications.

Of course these two scenarios are not mutually exclusive and both may be true to various extents. Narrative 1, narrative 2, or both, it doesn’t matter, it all portends badly for the United States, her people, her economy, and the world for the next four years.

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A Brief Political Post

People who have read this blog for sometimes know that I will post about politics and may have noticed that I have been mostly quiet these last three weeks. It is not from a decision to retreat from political writing or advocating positions but I will confess to still being in a state of shellshock from the results of the election.

However I may feel we had the election and the results as distasteful as they are are looking to remain.

I do believe that we are in for a particularly bad administration. In my opinion we are likely to see worst level of corruption in the Federal government since the 19th century and it will take a great deal of action and vigilance to protect the gains and right of all Americans from the right’s reactionary forces.

That said I have seen quite a few comments comparing our current political trouble with the rise of Nazism in the Weimar Republic. These comparisons I believe are wrong.

One must remember that the Weimar Republic was quite young, born in 1919 from the cataclysm of WWI that government’s institutions were weak and had no long standing traditions to rely upon when challenged. It is also important to understand just how violent and unstable Weimar really was. Not only did they suffer attempts to be violently overly thrown there were nearly 400 assassinations in just three years. (1919-1922) That makes for a well plowed field to grown a dictatorship.

The United States is not in the same conditions. Our institutions are well established and our social scene is quite stable.

Again that does not mean do not be vigilant, That does not mean that this is business as normal. Trump is not a normal president and these are not normal times but do not like hyperbole sway you into despair.

I believe that the man is a racist and has empowered racists.

I believe that the man is corrupt and will continue to be so.

I believe that extreme forces on the right will attempt to undo tremendously important gains.

I also believe that the rights of all Americans are terribly important.

I believe that these forces can be thwarted.

I believe that we are enduring a painful period as the worst forces on the right as die off. (It may be important foe some to remember that ten years I ago I considered myself a Republican. They drove me from the party and I know I was not alone.)

By a real margin the population did not want Trump the wisdom of the American people is still strong and while fighting, while being vigilant, it is important to remain hopeful as we..

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Election Thoughts

Well. This was not the result I wanted. Mind you I have serious reservation about Hillary Clinton but I firmly believe that Donald Trump is the least qualified person to ever assume the office of President. But assume the office he will. The thing looks settled and there is naught to do but ride the dragon.

I thought he would never actually run. He Did.

I thought he would never win any primaries. He Did.

I thought he would never get the nomination. He Did.

I thought he would never win the general. He Did.

I think he’ll be a disastrous President. Perhaps I will be wrong again. The future we cannot know and we are living in interesting time.

To me the vital question is why did it go this way? Why did so many – but not a majority and not even the most – people selected him?

We don’t know the answer to that yet. We do not have the data. I caution everyone to wait and try to look around your filter. Do not go for the easy answer that confirms what you already believe. Dig down, question everything, and try to see it objectively. There is a mood in the country that neither the Republican and Democratic establishment have figured out but Trump did. It is vital we understand it

I have faith that our long established institutions are strong enough to withstand a Trump presidency. There may be rough waters and lots of trouble but I do think we will survive this and the arc of history will continue, with fits and starts, to bend towards justice.

The answer we do not know right now is what sort of president will he be? Will he be content with the pomp and pageantry, letting the GOP deal with all the boring details of running a government? In which case expect the Republican Agenda to sail through. Or will he be an active president and with strong idea, his own, about the right answers?

It is entirely possible that the GOP may truly regret letting the bull into their china shop.

 

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The Moral Dimension of The Election

The election is nearly upon us and while there are scores of policy and practical positions to influence a person’s perception of the candidates I think it is paramount to consider the moral dimension of this cycle’s choice.

 

I believe in human freedom, liberty, and equality. My application of these principles to specifics has, in the past and I am sure will continue in the future, irritated friends and strangers on both the left and the right. So be it. For my self-regard I have to apply the principles as I see them.

 

Donald Trump is not a proponent of freedom. He strikes me as a man more concerned with power than liberty, unless it is his own.

 

In 1989 students in Communist China gather in Tiananmen Square to protest for democracy and liberty. The Communists dictators sent in the military and slaughtered the peaceful protesters.

Donald Trump thinks the massacre was a sign of strength.

Donald Trump advocates for the USA to commit war crimes and torture.

 

Here is an iconic image of one brave man facing down the Communist tanks en route to Tiananmen Square. To vote for and endorse the candidacy of Donald Trump is to side with the tanks.

Photo Credit: AP Jeff Widener
Photo Credit: AP Jeff Widener

That I cannot do.

 

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