Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Hitting the Bullseye …

I tell you what, those Women’s Marches yesterday were exactly what about 51.1% of America needed: a rallying cry shouting out that the country will not allow itself to be steamrolled by a juggernaut of egoist, portfolio-first plutocrats. Friday’s Inauguration was less of a ceremony signifying the peaceful transition of power, and more of a funeral for a friend. Saturday’s rallies were a fusillade of fireworks signifying “We’re not dead yet!”

I hope this catharsis ripples across the whole country, and boy, it certainly looks like it. Look at Boise, Idaho, one of the deepest of the deep-red states! [photo from the Idaho Statesman]

0121-wmarch

But We’re Not Playing Darts

When you listen to those who hate the notion of a Trump presidency, chief among their list of grievances is all the insulting comments he made during his candidacy and throughout his whole life. “They’re rapists”. “He’s not a war hero.” “Shut down all Muslims.” and, of course, “Grab her by the p*ssy.” He is a vulgar, vulgar man, of that there is no denying. One of my good friend’s sons is autistic, and Trump’s mocking of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski [I’m not going to link to it because that incident is one of the most revolting things Trump has ever done — PAD] sent her into such a rage I wonder if her husband thought she was having a stroke.

So the grievances are clear. He’s a hate-filled man and deserves to be treated like a hate-filled man. Unfortunately, the country isn’t currently imperiled because the President of the Unites States is a hate-filled man. History is replete with hate-filled men sitting in the Oval Office: Andrew Jackson, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, so many others. All had tempers, all could be extremely vulgar. Even both Roosevelts had tempers and less-than-savory views on one ethnicity or another. We suffered through all of them, and some of the worst of the hate-filled shits were actually some of our greatest presidents. That’s not the actual threat to the country.

The real threat that’s out there isn’t vulgarity. The threat we face is much more dire. Donald Trump, his staff, his Cabinet, and his ideologies represent a clear and present danger to fundamental, long-standing American principles, just a few of the items on this list are:

  • the refutation of NATO and acceptance of Russian neo-imperialism
  • the disruption of trade and support of economic isolation
  • the disregard of science, not just in global warming but in vaccinations, air pollution, public health, and other things
  • doubling-down on the economic, geopolitical, and ecological insustainability of oil
  • the magnitude of danger associated with mass deportations and the foolishness of a “big wall”
  • transitioning the education of our children into profit centers for private industries
  • the abandonment of the poor and disenfranchised, whether in terms of the ACA, Medicaid, unqualified HUD management, or any of a list of other initiatives
  • a migration of the nation to plutocracy (just take a look at the Cabinet)

The weapons in their arsenal that they are already using against us?

That last one is really important here in context of Women’s March: the Left has been angered and spawned to action because of cold and calculated expertise in doing so. This is the Right’s current stock-in-trade: using anger and insult to attract and inspire followers and incite opponents into losing their reason. They’ve been doing it a looooong time and do it FAR better than the Center or the Left will ever be able to. That type of tactic simply isn’t in the playbook of the rest of us, and we shouldn’t be using it, or we’ll lose even more.

We Need to Play the Real Game — by Rewriting It

I’m convinced the defeat of the Trump administration will actually be achieved by rewriting political discourse. That’s exactly what he did: he rewrote all the laws of campaigning and won the Presidency (and leaving us standing there, with our jaws agape, wondering what the hell just happened). This is what the rest of us now have to do: we have to change the rules. I’m not entirely sure what it will take, but I’m thinking it will be a combination of these

  • the abandonment of sound-bite, sensationalist, trope-filled news media. They are powerless and ineffective and are actually aiding in the downfall of reason (i.e. they’re making you stupid).
  • the resurrection of fact-based, data-driven journalism. The truth shall set you free, and (as we’ve seen) it pisses off Donald Trump to no end.
  • moving away from protest. Protest is a reaction, and risks playing into their hands (witness the failure of Black Lives Matter because of violent protests).
  • moving towards direct legislative and legal action.

That last bullet is the real problem. The Center is sadly long dead because they did not have strong leaders. There are scant few moderates left in political office, and they are not coalesced. The Left lost because they’ve been failing to build a grassroots political organization at local and state levels and do not have a strong base. This is why the Right has been able to take power so handily.

What’s really needed is direct intervention in politics. Directly calling the offices of members of Congress. Directly challenging laws in court. Directly using FOIA and other protections to force the release of key documents. Directly participating in local politics (especially school boards) and grooming tomorrow’s elected officials.

It is time we fought back. We just need a new game plan.

 

Read Full Post »

[Edited to fix some horrible formatting choices that made it look like my opinions were President Trump’s comments — PAD]

A Punch to the Throat

When I was about 13 years old, I finally had enough. I didn’t care that I was small, scrawny, had Coke-bottle glasses, and had never been in a fight in my life. I was sick of being pushed around. So I let my anger boil up, and I stood up, fists clenched, ready to fight. That red-haired punk (whatever his name was, at this point I don’t care, I only hope he’s in one of those terrible private prisons somewhere) took one swing and punched me in the throat. I dropped like a rock, right to the ground, completely powerless.

When something like that happens, it’s not cinematic. There’s no color-graded slow motion, no violin music, no anguished looks or hammy overacting. You just go :flooomph: and hit the ground, in the most undignified fashion possible. Then you wonder just what the hell hit you.

A Punch to the Throat

So there I was, watching the inauguration silliness, when along came the time for President Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address. Now I make no bones about hating this man, and one of the things I hate most is his big mouth and the words that flow out of it. But this is special, this is different, this is an Inaugural Address, and like it or not, he is duly-elected and is President. I made a concerted effort to put down Twitter and listen to the man, as fairly and as fully as I could, even with my own biased viewpoint.

After it was over, barely twenty minutes later, I was horrified. Truly, deeply horrified, right to the core of my being. My brain was locked right up, I was speechless, and I had a pain right in the gut. It was a metaphorical punch to the throat, and I was lying in the grass in a lump. My next tweet was “That was revolting.”

Expectations

Politicians, pundits, and the “socially active” always have these grandiose expectations for the content and tone of these inauguration speeches. Some want to “bring the country together”. This was a big one this year: it was such a nasty and divisive election, a lot of people felt he needed to do this. Some want to “expand on the vision” (a favorite of the intellectual right this year); or “bring gravitas” (which is code for “learn to communicate like an adult instead of a preteen troll”).

I, like a lot of Americans, don’t have any expectations for political speeches any more. It’s yet another speech with another set of platitudes. I always have a private list of buzzwords and tropes, and giggle when one is hit, because I know the press will talk about each one, and the phantasm we call  “political discourse” will continue. After this miserable election, I’d love to get back to the same, old, tired political discourse for a while. It would be comforting.

Well, all those expectations went right out the window, 58 stories, and splatted horrifically on the sidewalk.

Instead of any of these same-old tropes, Donald Trump double-downed on the antagonism. I would love for a future historian to dub this inauguration address “The Sh*tstorm Speech”. It would be the most honest of descriptions.

Realities

Here’s what we got from Donald Trump on this historical day:

Donald Trump has no intention of uniting a divided country

This speech has the same tone & timbre as all his campaign stump speeches. Same style, same content, same delivery, everything. This means several things: 1) he’s targeting those people who found his style appealing in the first place, and has no interest in broadening his base; 2) he’s totally doubling-down on everything that angered half the country (blacks, gays, Latinos, women) in the first place; and 3) he enjoyed the combative nature of the campaign and wants to keep it going. This third one is most troubling. Most candidates hate the trail and want off it as soon as they can, because it is combative and nasty. He likes being combative and nasty.

Donald Trump wants to inflame the people

Someone go back in history and find a President using the term “American carnage” in any public, non-campaign speech. Carnage? Seriously? Half his speech was dedicated to painting a picture of America like we’re a miserable, forgotten hellscape. Yeah, we got many problems, but “American carnage”? That is a massive stretch, even with our problems. I dare anyone from his tribe prove that American carnage describes our situation . But there he is, crafting America as a place of death. “Carnage”. “Tombstones”. “Lives Robbed”. It’s Grand Theft Auto: Fifty States Edition! There’s only one reason to take things in that direction: he wants to give his base a motive for hating our country (not “our country”, as in the patriotic slogan on a t-shirt, but our ACTUAL COUNTRY as it stands today).

Donald Trump is providing targets

All throughout his speech he’s tying this faux bleakness to our ruling politicians of both parties in a grotesque, attack tone. Usually, inauguration speeches attack ideas or ideologies that are not to their liking; Trump makes it personal. He doesn’t come right out and say  “It’s all their fault!” while pointing at everyone around him on the Capital steps, but it’s close. I think if he had a big enough private army, he could easily have the entire Congress, Judiciary, and bunch of old, retired presidents executed on the spot.

Donald Trump wants to ignore the real targets

You can also read into what he left out. Grab your loudest “government cynic” hat, and think the worst of your government. Do politicians work for themselves? Well, yeah, but on who’s behest? Those who fund their campaigns. So they’re beholden to those moneyed interests. Who are these moneyed interests? Well, for shorthand, it’s the 1%. These are the ones who wanted NAFTA and the TPP and the banking loopholes and all the other stuff that, either in reality or in Trump’s universe, has created this “carnage”. But not a shred of anything in his speech about the effects of money on politics. Why? Well, because to him, Big Money is good, and the rich are better than you. Why do you think his Cabinet is populated by CEOs, wealthy elites, and people who hate public school kids, people on Medicare, and anyone who works at more than minimum wage? They are “great”, and aren’t “the problem”, in Trump’s eyes.

This is why you inflame people: you make them stupid so they miss the real target.

Donald Trump is suggesting illegal, tyrannical revolt

At first glance, his statements about “our government is controlled by the people” are awesome. Yes, it is supposed to be “our government” and “our country”. But then he blurts out “January 20th, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.” Whoa whoa whoa whoa WHOA! America does not have rulers! Even “carnage America” does not have rulers, and that INCLUDES the people. We are a nation of laws and rights. The ONLY thing that “rules us” are the laws and regulations that are put into effect by our elected representatives, under the auspices of the Constitution, and constrained by the Bill of Rights and other Amendments. This notion of “we are the rulers” is the type of dangerous talk that gives “populist” a very bad name. That’s not me being a “libtard” either: that’s historically traceable to the most infamous of tyrannies. All of them were started with this kind of talk. James Madison famously wrote “[True] democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and in general have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” He’s talking about the mob overruling the rules of law and the sanity of a representative, republican (small “R”) form of government.

Enough

I can’t analyze his little speech any more. I could on for pages about his comments and executive orders on loyalty and patriotism. Tyrants give me ulcers. This man is a menace, and he must be stopped. God almighty, I hope we find a way.

Read Full Post »

Also: Angry = Malleable

Polls tell us that people voted for Trump because they’re angry: angry at the economy for leaving them behind; angry at the government for not helping; angry at politicians for doing nothing. It’s understandable, the economy is clearly not serving middle class America. Plus there’s a drug epidemic out there, the threats of terrorism are real, and some parts of the country can’t even drink the water. Yep, lots to be angry about.

There’s a real problem with that, though. When you’re angry, you’re stupid. Science says so.

Anger is a powerful emotion. It evolved in humans as a mechanism to protect oneself, or one’s food, or one’s mate, or one’s offspring. It — like it’s counterpart, fear — is a knee-jerk reaction to a threat. Something threatens you, and your instincts gurgle up one of these two emotions, depending on your likelihood of survival. If your instincts think you can beat back the threat, then anger wells up, raising adrenaline and endorphins, giving you more strength than you normally might have. You can then bellow in rage or outright attack to fend off the threat. Fear is different: if your instincts think you have no chance of survival, they’ll use that nasty feeling in the pit of your stomach to convince you to run away or hide.

Here’s the rub: neither of those emotionally-driven reactions are controlled by the mind. They’re not, because the mind is too slow. You’ll be sitting there, pondering all the options, while that sabre-tooth tiger gnaws on your bones. Your instincts must work, and they must work now, or you’re a dead proto-human.

Let’s fast-forward the clock 10,000 years. Most of the immediate threats to our lives no longer exist (the only one left is, well, Man). So … what good are the strong emotions of Fear and Anger? Well, they’re kinda worthless today, but we’ve had them for sooooo long now, they’re hard to shake. They crop up at the worst times and, because they shut off the thinking mind, they make us stupid.

In some cases, they short-circuit our well-being. An overwrought anger mechanism is the worst sort of demon one can have. You’re a walking Rage Monster, ready to fly off the handle if someone looks at you funny or takes the last Hot Pocket. If you’re self-aware, you seek counseling or find an outlet to keep from tearing yourself or your family apart. If you’re not self-aware, well, you’re probably going to end up in prison. You’re certainly not going to walk around making sane life choices.

The other thing that’s bad about anger is it’s easily manipulatable. You can use all sorts of trickery to trigger an anger response, and media outlets (who are more marketers than journalists) are experts at it. It’s even worse in a crowd, there’s a reason demagogues are successful.

So let’s now couple these two things together: anger makes us stupid, and it’s easy to manipulate people through anger. Here’s the earth-shattering conclusion:

People who are stirring up your anger are doing so to manipulate you into making stupid decisions.

That’s the key story of The Trumpocalypse: between the various right-wing media outlets, the Republican Party, the Christian Right, and Donald Trump himself, enough of the voting public was manipulated into making the stupidest decision of our lives.

Read Full Post »

It’s been close to a week since the midterms, and the disappointment still lingers.

Now if you’re still with me, you might be saying “another liberal scumbag” or something similar. But you’d be far from the truth. I actually agree with some GOP fundamentals. The cost of doing business here, including the hiring of employees, is too high. This keeps our economy depressed. There are many things controlled by the feds that really belong with the states. And many of our social programs actually result in a culture of entrapment and dependency that’s counterproductive.

Regardless, I’m not only incredibly disappointed in the GOP takeover, I’m actually disgusted.

It’s About Ethics, Stupid

Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign famously told its staffers “it’s the economy, stupid.” This was meant to keep them on-message: that all other issues are effectively meaningless in the eyes of voters. People vote with, and because of, their pocketbooks. Totally understandable, you can’t really fault folks for wanting to provide for their families.

Unfortunately, there is actually something more important than the economy. That something is ethics.

I’m not naive enough to suggest we have to elect ethical politicians. I’m not naive enough to suggest that Congress or state legislatures need to be squeaky-clean with nothing but honest men & women doing nothing but good, honorable work. That would be like suggesting unicorns are a sustainable food source. Unethical politicians are part-and-parcel of governing since the Roman Empire. Both parties have them, always have, and always will.

But there’s something deeply disturbing about today’s Republicans. They have reached a level of unethical behavior that’s well beyond free hot tubs and kickbacks.

The Pockets of Big Business

Big money in politics is also nothing new. But we have to go waaaay back to the robber barons to see the level of corrupting influence we have today. We have reached a point where our very freedoms are challenged by Big Business. Of course, you can pick apart big-money donations and find reprehensible influence-peddling amongst Democrats and Republicans, and say “they all do it”, but the Republicans made absolutely certain that this influence peddling not only continues, but that it’s absolutely protected as free speech.

Yes, I’m talking about Citizen’s United. Citizen’s United clearly puts the principle of free and fair elections, and sane and responsible government, at direct risk. Citizen’s United basically said it is perfectly acceptable for money to control the political process and the political discourse. And who supports Citizen’s United wholeheartedly, and refuses efforts to put political power back in the hands of the people?

Republicans.

Only the GOP is working to guarantee that big money will control our political process, even when it opposes the interests of the population as a whole. They’ve basically put corruption into law.

Denying Science

The worst of today’s influence peddling surrounds energy. The Koch Brothers and other moneyed interests are basically using their millions to fight science. And the Republicans are the town criers of this inanity. There is something specifically reprehensible about science deniers. Basically, these people are combating the very laws of physics because they are on someone’s payroll. I can’t barely form words to describe how disgusting this is.

Science denial is very nearly the worst of the unethical behaviors. When you deny science you directly put people at risk. You compromise safety. You compromise health. You compromise food supplies. You compromise the education of our children. You compromise damned near everything. And that makes you a reprehensible human being.

And for what? Because some rich bigwigs donate to your campaign, control the media, and manipulate the message? And why are they doing so? To make money.

Refuting the facts in order to make more money is the very definition of unethical, scumbag behavior.

But What’s Even Worse …

So if you had to pick something that was truly unethical amongst politicians, what would it be? What would be worse than intentionally supporting & passing bad policies in order to profit your supporter? What would be worse than intentionally combating scientific data simply so your supporters could make more money?

How about intentionally manipulating the system solely so you can stay in power?

This is the worst of the worst. This behavior has been used successfully by tyrants the world over, for decades and decades, and we’ve rightly condemned them for it.

Yet, this is what the GOP is doing, and not just doing, but doing with full admission and even bravado!

These Republicans intentionally derailed Obama’s presidency simply so they would have a better chance getting elected. They intentionally manipulated election rules to benefit themselves. They intentionally gerrymandered congressional districts to ensure their own victory (fair representation be damned). They intentionally passed policies with the express intention of disenfranchising folks who might vote against them! This is Boss Tweed stuff, this is the direct manipulation of the voting process, of our very democracy! It is a thumbing of the nose at the fundamental freedoms, the very basis of our Constitution, the very foundation of any definition of “liberty”.

The Democrats aren’t particularly honest, I have no doubt of that. They also aren’t particularly bright, nor are they particularly good at running campaigns. But all of that pales in comparison to the sleazy, slimy behavior of Republicans. They simply do not deserve to be in power, regardless of their policies.

And yet, put them into power is exactly what we did.

Congratulations.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »