Believe Me

I was going to do my next post about President Bush’s new book, Portraits of Courage, or the wonderful new PBS miniseries I watch this week, Africa’s Great Civilizations, hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. And I wasn’t even thinking I’d write anything today but then I woke up to the latest craziness from our so-called President and I was like, “Wow! Just, Wow!” watching the reaction of Trump Supporters on Twitter to his reckless and disgusting behavior.

The madness began with a series of tweets from @realdonaldtrump accusing former President Obama of tapping his phone, Trump Towers, and who knows what else.

trump-tweets-wiretap

After making these very serious charges, with no evidence or source cited whatsoever, he then went after Arnold Schwarzenegger; because a petty feud over the future of The Apprentice TV show is apparently every bit as  important as allegations that Obama abused his power.

trump-tweet-arnold-schwarzenegger

Some people, myself included, pointed out the fact that Trump’s baseless accusations are the very definition of McCarthyism, but unfair and unbalanced Sean Hannity was quick to accept the “truth” as the Dear Leader told it, asking the infamous Watergate question:

sean-hannity-wiretap-trump

A wide host of similarly fanatical and uncritical Trump Supporters followed suit. @bradcrain seemed to be convinced that Obama has already been convicted and the “DEMS” just couldn’t handle it.

brad-crain-wiretap

In this up is down version of reality, Trump’s people are the ones showing their true colors. Rude, willfully blind, and childish colors. Honestly, what kind of people read unsubstantiated allegations and say to themselves, “How can I best use a meme to spread this disinformation?” I don’t know but Riya sharma and @chrisk2000 are two more of them:

busted-meme

warrantless-wiretapping-meme

This is the same pool of people who label everyone who disagrees with Trump as a, “liberal” or “communist,” including conservatives like myself, and then laughs at us for being unable to think properly. Truly crazy.

Worst of all are individuals like @BigStick2013, who embellish fake news with their own lies.

bigstick2013-fake-news

I told Mr. Drain The Swamp that there was “NO news” in the article he linked to, and certainly nothing about anything found at Trump Tower or the White House. All the article did was recaps Trump’s tweets and concluded that, “It is not clear what information Trump based his Tweets on.” For daring to point out the truth to BigStick Swamp Drainer, he blocked me.

What is happening here is a very sick manipulation of our already polarized public, designed only to further divide us and do harm to America, and every patriot should condemn it! Instead, disingenuous fools like Buck Sexton (who’s apparently a radio talk show host) are trying to spin this in ever more creative ways.

buck-sexton-silly-wiretap-tweet

  1. Trump did not claim that Obama used FISA (The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) against him. Trump claimed wiretapping of an unspecified nature, carried out by unspecified agents, and told to him by unknown sources.
  2. If the FISA Court was used to tap Trump or any of his people, that would have come from a Justice Department investigation, which would need to make their case to the FISA Judges and show evidence that Trump and/or his team had done something wrong.
  3. There is no universal agreement in the press that Trump conspired with the Kremlin but it has been clearly established by the intelligence community and outside security experts that Russian hackers did try to interfere in our election. Even many of Trump’s key people have admitted this.
  4. There was zero evidence offered from Trump in his very unclear charges.

In short, the items Buck is pretending to equate are not equal. Not even close. Sadly, this is the kind of intellectual sloppiness that passes for logic in far too many public debates and a Yuge reason why we have a President Trump in the first place. I can only hope that we will learn from this and do better in the future.

Let’s get on with the inevitable and appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate the allegations against the President and the allegations made by the President. I am confident that his uniquely horrible character will be exposed in the end, Believe Me!

Autopsy of a Farewell

As we quickly approach the period that future generations will refer to as, “The Dark Time,” and we imagine the phrase, “Disgraced Former President Trump,” will enter the lexicon quickly, we could all do for a little hope and positivity.

President Obama’s Farewell Address the other night was a great speech. Thoughtful, inspiring, emotional, heartfelt. My one big criticism is that it may have been too long, with too many points, neatly wrapped up in a, “Yes We Can,” ribbon that left me wonder what it is we can actually do?

I’ve had this same conflicted feeling since I first saw Barack Obama on the national stage (specifically the 2004 DNC Stage, where he gave the Keynote Address). I could tell right away this guy would run for the Presidency but I didn’t think it would be so quick and certainly didn’t think he could win that handily against the Clinton Machine. I could not support him because of fundamental disagreements about the role of government and my belief that he lacked the executive experience, or significant DC experience, to do the job effectively. Nevertheless, I liked the man and I have liked him more as time has passed. In part because of who he is and in part because I am sickened by the often racist and stupid attacks upon. His ability to hold his head high and continue to set a good example in the face of such adversity is truly remarkable.

“Optics” matter and I am glad that my first son was born under the first African American President. I remember having a few black heroes when I was a kid in the 70s and 80s but they were athletes, like Muhammad Ali and Rod Carew, or pop stars and comedians, like Michael Jackson and Eddie Murphy. They were never men revered for their intellect or gravitas, and I never saw black people as leaders or holders of real power. What a different and better starting point this has given my boy. Without a doubt it has helped him to see all people as truly equal. Sadly, my second son, and countless other children, will likely become aware of what a President is through the funhouse mirror version of the Trump Administration; a key leader of the racist and stupid “birther” movement and a glaring example of everything I do not want my children to be.

Practical results also matter. In some ways President Obama surprised me, taking out a great many foreign jihadis, including the bin Laden raid, deep into the sovereign territory of our sometimes ally, Pakistan. More often than not, however, Obama’s results were lackluster at best. The Iran Deal was one of two key moves on which he bet his legacy and I fear it will not play out well. Arguably there were no good options on what to do with Iran but that won’t matter in the final assessment for most people when the deal goes bad. The President’s other major legacy move, of course, was Obamacare. On this one I was befuddled from the start. The President seemed to let his Congressional Colleagues stuff everything they wanted into the bill without any leadership or objections from the White House, creating a mountain of legislation that 99.9978% of us still don’t understand. And he did all this with zero support from Republicans, which was truly unprecedented for a legal initiative of that size and scope. Did more people get coverage? Yes. Did everyone I know see their healthcare expenses rise while their coverage got worse? Also, Yes. And now what? Will the “repeal and replace” keep those 20 million new people covered? Will Obama be able to argue that he at least got us that far? I don’t know. It’s such a mess.

You can argue that the Republicans were obstructionists, which is true, but then you get into this chicken and the egg game that goes back to the Bush Administration, and the Clinton Administration, and on and on, with back and forth, often petty, “They started it,” crap. Maybe, just maybe, after we live through the worst possible example of public behavior from our new Twitter Troll and Chief, we may swing back to a more civil discourse in the future but that doesn’t change the fact that Obama took the job, as W. Bush before him, to be a “uniter,” and neither proved to be up to the task. Maybe the real problem is that we expect too much from our leaders and do not demand enough from ourselves. That was certainly one of the points that I think President Obama was trying to make in his Farewell Address and certainly something I hope we all take to heart.

Never Remember

missing-fliers-911

For the past 15 years I have been saying, “Never Forget,” though admittedly less and less often with each passing 9-11. This year, despite it being a milestone anniversary, it felt like the day went by with little notice in the media. Here’s someone reading one of the almost 3,000 names, there’s the bell ringing for one of the six moments of silence, now on to other news. How far we have come from those early days when the nation was nearly one and flags were flying everywhere you turned. I remember even months after that horrible day I went to a Minnesota Wild’s hockey game and everyone stood for the National Anthem with a heavy heart; you knew what was on their minds; you could feel the pain and pride in the room.

The changing face of 9-11 was inevitable, I know. There was a dramatic shift for me seven years ago when my son was born on the eighth anniversary – a sure sign that life goes on – but that doesn’t mean that I have forgotten. I will remember those moments in the core of my being until the day I die. The clock radio waking me up with news that, “A second plane had just hit the building.” What building? What plane? Then watching live on TV as these great monuments to human ingenuity came crashing down in a testament to human depravity. It took me a minute (it felt like an hour) to comprehend what I was seeing. The most surreal moment of my life, where my mind could genuinely not understand what my eyes had just witnessed.

The phrase, “Never Forget,” has come to mean different things to different people. For some it is all about the victims; never forget the lives lost. For others it is an object lesson is arrogance; never forget that we must be vigilant, or something to that effect. Never forget that the world is filled with bad people; with evil. Never forget that we stand for something – a shining city on a hill – and that makes us a target. Then there are the more despicable interpretations; that America is the true evil in the world and we deserved it; that the U.S. Government, President Bush, or some sinister cabal in the Intelligence Community did it; and, of course, the ever-popular, “Jews did it.” Then there are the recriminations about what should have been done to stop this and what should not have been done in response to it; every armchair general and talking head can tell you all about it.

What struck me most about 9-11 this year, however, is the fact that an ever-growing number of people will never remember it, because they didn’t live it. We can command them to, “Never Forget,” as people have long admonished us to do with the Holocaust but learning is not remembering. When you study traumatic historical events like this, the outcome is known at the outset; the fear and confusion isn’t felt, it’s intellectualized; and the players involved are reduced to characters in a book or on a movie screen. I’m not saying that it’s pointless to learn history – anyone who knows me at all knows that I love the subject – but we need to accept its limitations.

That’s the America I know

Did you hear President Obama’s remarks at the Dallas Police Memorial yesterday? If not, you should.

Also check out former President Bush’s remarks.

Both men have done on good job, on many occasions, trying to appeal to the best in us, and trying to be hopeful about America; because there is plenty to be hopeful about! And both have been maligned beyond any reasonable measure. Almost instantly President Bush was attacked for, “dancing during the memorial service,” with keyboard pundits questioning his intelligence and drug use. How dare he be moved by the music – the Battle Hymn of the Republic – as people often are, particularly in southern church traditions. And check out this small sampling of YouTube comments below President Obama’s speech:

comments on Pres Obama's speach 7-12-2016

Fear, hatred, attack, attack! Nonsense, unfounded accusations, fight, fight, fight! The mindset of some people is just pathetic. But I’m not going to let the terminal fools among us get me down. Anymore than I will let a hateful mass murder get me down. It is obvious that we, as a whole, are much better than this. I see it everyday in the people I interact with; those I love and those I hardly even know. There are hundreds of millions of people in this country doing for more good than harm every single day. Hundreds of millions of people living lives that don’t make, “the news.” I believe, as Anne Frank once put it, during far more desperate times than ours: “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”

How about this for a thought: Stop complaining and be grateful for what you have. Stop passing judgement on others and start listening to them. Don’t give into your worst self, even on social media, and do onto others as you would have them do onto you. If we try to do that, even a little, America’s best days will continue to be head of us.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now and get back to work.

Emotional Politics

Everyone likes to believe they know the relevant facts and their conclusions are truly reasonable. This is true in politics and so many areas of life, but it is particularly dangerous in the political world, where false assumptions, outright lies, and emotional conclusions can lead to grave consequences. The more fridge your politics are, the easier it is to fall into this emotional trap. I speak from my own experience – having begun in my youth as a self-professed Marxist, Socialist, and Anarchist, then I jumped from the radical left to the radical right, voting Libertarian in the 90s – and my study of history. What all these seemingly different political camps have in common is their uncompromising faith in a simplistic, utopian worldview, and a knack for seeing reality through the colored glasses of a predetermined conclusion.

For the last decade and a half I have called myself a conservative, because I see this as a sober, thoughtful, and mature way of assessing the world. I have tried to ignore and marginalize the reactionary extremists who profess to be, “real conservatives,” because I did not want to be associated with their tendency toward racism, sexism, and homophobia; nor did I approve of their conspiracist view of “elites” and their mythologized version of America’s lost greatness. I have criticized Tea Party Patriots for their ideological connection to previously misguided groups, particularly the John Birch Society, and I have come to understand their emotional form of politics as structurally the same as all the other fringe groups on both the right and the left. Unfortunately, I can no longer ignore the fact that these phony conservatives are fast becoming the only thing the general public thinks of as, “conservatism,” and the battle for hearts and minds is quickly being lost.

I recently had an exchange with Trump Supporter Sonny Girard (@SonnyGirard) on Twitter that speaks volumes about how my idea of conservatism differs from the reactionary camp that is driving the news cycle, and driving away young people, women, blacks, hispanics, and others from even considering the political right as an option. Sonny was full of contempt for the “elites” and equally full of faith in Trump, who will, “put America first.” He didn’t want to accept that Trump University was a scam and he is now being scammed by the same con artist; he would rather attack the “Mexican” judge and his alleged radicalism. He did admit that Trump’s, “POW snipe at McCain was dumb,” but he didn’t really see a problem with it. I can only imagine if a Democratic politician had dodged the draft and spent the Vietnam War partying, then insulted POWs as not real heros, how do you think Sonny would react? Wouldn’t this be proof of that the Democrats disrespect America? But when his favorite Reality TV Star does it…

When I pointed out that Trump believes in nutty conspiracy theories, like the idea that vaccines cause Autism, Sonny said, “I have an autistic grandson & we wonder about vaccine’s effect.” Yes, why bother to get the facts when you can “wonder” about baseless accusations? When I directed him to a piece I wrote comparing Trump to McCarthy, Sonny retorted, “Was McCarthy all wrong, or the beginning of the end of U.S. inner strength?” So America has been in decline since the 1950s? Really? Passing Civil Rights, putting a man on the Moon, defeating the Soviets, dramatically growing the economy, living longer than ever before, etc. None of that counts? Sonny needs to believe that America is in decline, like he needs to believe that McCarthy was some kind of hero, because it justifies his elevated emotional state. The fact that Republican President Eisenhower opposed McCarthy and the Senate censured McCarthy matter not. Such details don’t feed Sonny’s emotions so they aren’t relevant.

Finally, we got to his opinion of, “Liberals like Killary & Obama [who] are America’s enemy. The enemy of America’s enemy is my candidate.” I tried to tell Sonny that liberals are our fellow Americans but there is no reasoning with such, “logic.” The only thing I can do is give him more reasons to hate me and see me as another one of America’s enemies. By contrast, I recently saw President Obama on The Tonight Show and found him to be very measured and thoughtful. The gulf between Mr. Obama and self-professed super patriots, like Sonny or The Donald, could not be greater.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not loving Obamacare. I’m not thinking that the Democrats suddenly have the right answers to all of our problems. I’m still glad I voted for President Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. And I know for a fact that there are plenty of nutty people on the left wing (the kind of people who think Bush was behind 9-11 and communism is a great idea, if only it were implemented properly). But the fanatics have not taken over the Democratic Party (no matter what Sonny and company wish to believe) and the clear and present danger of a Trumpified U.S. is too great to ignore. I want to work for less emotional politics and the rejection of hyperbolic nonsense. That to me is conservatism. That to me is patriotism.