Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Destroying Democracy From The Inside Out

We do live in historically relevant times. You and I are unfortunate enough to have front row seats to the dismantling of the American experiment from the inside out. Angry, brainwashed, short-sighted white American voters managed to do what no military power could accomplish, and write the last chapter to the story of a country founded on democratic ideals that were eventually subverted by greed, racism and hubris. Everything the founding fathers had hoped for, everything countless Americans died for during the Civil War, everything civil rights protestors marched for, every great social advancement Americans ever struggled for, will be under attack over the next four years by Donald Trump. And with a Republican Congress, there is little hope of stemming the fascist onslaught.

Every new day brings the announcement of another unholy appointment by Trump. His administration will be a who’s who of democracy’s enemies, a cadre of conservative ideologues who live in a reality of their own making ripe with Aryan fantasies, internment camps and public executions. Trump and his cohorts are convinced they can do the impossible and turn back the clock of human progress to an imagined pre-Civil War era of bucolic mansions and happy slaves.

Trump is the great white hope. His life of privilege and excess mean nothing to his followers because it’s his mission that counts, making America white again. In the process that is now underway, we clearly see his list of priorities for America: Destroy public education, eliminate environmental protections, give Wall Street the keys to the White House, revive the drug war, stack the Supreme Court with conservatives, crush dissent, undo the welfare safety net, privatize Social Security and Medicare, substitute news with propaganda and, perhaps of utmost importance, fill his personal coffers to overflowing.

There were a few people who saw this coming, but their message reached a small minority of citizens who bother to look beyond the corporate media for information. The prophets were never taken seriously and had now power. No one in Trump’s America wants to hear from any smarty pants know-it-all.

We are stepping into a new world thanks to our president-elect, where the messiness of democracy will simply be dismissed in favor of one man’s blind faith in his own decision-making capabilities. Who needs a constitution when you have Donald Trump?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Forget Alt-Right, it’s Alt-Reality We Need To Worry About

There’s a lot of discussion on various political sites about the term “alt-right.” Many see it as a clever euphemism for “white nationalists,” and as an attempt to obscure the odious nature of those who claim the title. I would agree with that on the surface, but the fact is there is a much larger “alt” universe at work within the conservative world movement, and is it has been there since the very beginning. I call it “alt-reality.”

At its very core, conservatism (nationalism, fascism) is built on alt-reality, a myth, or many myths, that run counter to the historical, scientific and moral progress most of us understand to be true. The alt-reality of fascism is the myth of Aryan superiority among races, that the white race is God’s chosen people and all others must kneel in obedience and servitude. The white nationalists who now populate the Trump administration hold very similar views, but do a better job of hiding their true beliefs behind euphemisms, code words and the complacent media.

The alt-reality of today’s far-right conservatives is an ideological construct, an imagined world that never actually existed in the past and has crashed and burned in failure during every historical incarnation. Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is a perfect example of using an Orwellian phrase to construct a history that never existed. What is the definition of “great?” Was it the 1950s when the tax rate on America’s wealthiest individuals was near 90 percent, and millions of African Americans lived under Jim Crow laws completely at odds with the American Constitution? Was it the 1940s when, at the same time the U.S. military was fighting the Nazi war machine, American industrialists were doing business with Hitler? Or the 1930s when a cabal of multi-millionaires (including George W. Bush’s grandfather) was plotting the overthrow of the American government to install a fascist regime?

“Make America Great Again” is nothing more than a product slogan designed to inspire blind nationalism and knee-jerk hostility toward all of the imaginary enemies who have conspired to bring this country down. Trump is the product that has been sold to white Americans who have been convinced they are victims of immigrants, African Americans, liberals and the elites who look down on them. The fact that Trump is a card-carrying member of this list doesn’t seem to register. Alt-reality lives outside the boundaries of what the rest of us consider known facts and rational thought and because of this, there can be no constructive debate, let alone agreement, on the issues.

Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and many others were, like Trump, initially successful in selling the nationalist fairy tale to a desperate, vulnerable populace who were more than receptive to the idea that they were the master race destined to regain their lost power and prestige. The problem is like every fairy tale, there has to be an ending, Alt-reality cannot sustain itself indefinitely against real human progress. At every point in history, our forward momentum has been attacked, challenged and ridiculed, and every time it ultimately triumphs, although the price paid is often high.

History assures us that the reality of human progress will ultimately prevail over Trump and his minions, but we will have to endure some very difficult times ahead thanks to those who succumbed to the allure of a distorted, perverted fairy tale. There will be a price to pay, and unfortunately, all of us, regardless of what you believe, will end up paying it.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Playing the Blame Game

The political blame game is in full swing across the country. What happened to Hillary? How was this sure win squandered? Was the FBI director to blame? From Michael Moore to John Stewart to Barack Obama, everyone is weighing in on the biggest question of the year: How did Democrats lose the 2016 presidential election? Of course, I have my own thoughts on who is to blame for this devastating loss, so why not toss those into the mix?

I don’t believe there is any “one thing” that can be blamed for Hillary’s loss on election day. Clinton and even some Republicans are claiming FBI Director Comey’s announcement of a reopened investigation into Hillary’s emails turned the tide, but I really don’t believe that. It didn’t help her, that’s for sure, but the vote count would have been too close for comfort either way. I think the mainstream corporate media played a roll in this debacle, giving Trump thousands of hours of free air time simply because he was an entertaining buffoon throughout what could have been a Cruz/Clinton snore fest. However, this is only a part of the story.

My feeling is that the true story goes back more than thirty years to the 1980s. It was during the Reagan era when the weather vane of political momentum was swinging strongly to the right and conservatives were enjoying their “Morning in America” with the Gipper at the helm. Democrats of the era began to panic. Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale came off as weak, wishy washy candidates compared to the simple-minded yet resolute Reagan, and Dems started rethinking the party’s overall message. Unfortunately for the party in the long run, they decided that if they couldn’t beat conservatives, they would join them, and the Democratic bus veered right, giving us the neoliberals of the last three decades.

Yes, we’ve had two Democratic presidents elected during that time, but from my perspective, Clinton and Obama are neoliberals who conned the left into believing they were far more liberal than they actually were, and that they governed much closer to the center. And Clinton was one of the founding members of the Democratic Leadership Council, a group of centrist Democrats whose goal was to make the party more palatable to corporate America and fiscally conservative voters.

In its misguided attempt to try and beat Republicans at their own game, Democrats ran from the legacy of the New Deal, retreated from its traditionally strong support for farmers and rural America, pulled back support for unions, cracked down on welfare recipients, amped up the war on drugs, and adopted a distinctly more militarily aggressive approach to foreign affairs. In other words, they distanced themselves from the very ideals that truly distinguished them from Republicans.

The big problem with the Democrats strategy was that they forgot to consider why poor, rural and lower-middle class whites keep voting against their best interests and electing Republicans. Values. Republicans have two things going for them as a national party. One is the money they receive as unabashed government proxies for corporate America. They are the bought and sold minions of the military/industrial/media complex, shamelessly selling votes to the highest bidder. On the other side of the economic tracks, Republicans attract voters with their veil of values. Successful conservative politicians are those who are able to exploit the values of poor, less educated constituents and convince them that they are victims of the big, bad government who wants to take away their churches, guns and money.

The victimization of poor and poorly educated whites has proven tremendously successful, and it is what propelled Trump to the presidency (along with appeals to racism, sexism, etc.) Democrats had nothing to counter Trumps claims. Had they been championing the needs of the poor and unemployed over the past thirty years? Not really. Had they done anything to help revitalize small-town America with decent jobs? Uh, no. Democrats were too busy trying to be Republicans to care about people on the fringes of America’s cities or on welfare or in prison or living on the streets. We Democrats don’t do that New Deal stuff anymore. Then along came Bernie Sanders.

An old-school New Dealer with the unfortunate label Democratic Socialist, Sanders espoused many traditional Democratic positions and low and behold he began gaining support in his bid for the presidency. His views seemed fresh and hopeful to more idealistic younger voters, although they were historically what Democrats had stood for since FDR was in office. The Democratic Party, however, still under the control of neoliberals, saw Sanders as a threat, and even though poll after poll showed he had the best chance of beating Trump, they threw him under the bus and anointed Hillary their candidate.

The lesson is simple. If Democrats want to win in the future, they need to re-embrace the views espoused by Sanders and Warren and other truly progressive members that clearly distinguish them from Republicans. If the Party chooses candidates who can energize voters with hope and an optimistic vision for a better America, only then will Democrats find themselves on the winning side.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Threat is Real

Many good folks are doing their best to deal with the horrendous results of Tuesday’s election, and there is a lot of rationalization going on. “We survived two Bush Presidencies, we’ll survive this one,” “What Trump said during the campaign isn’t necessarily what he’ll do in office.” “Trump won and we need to get over it and move on. It won’t be as bad as you think.” We all need to deal with this tragedy in a way that works for us, but in my heart of hearts I do believe this election is different. It’s for that reason I’ve pulled back from commenting on social media and responding to the rationalizers. Based on his campaign speeches, his past, and the people he associates with, I believe Trump is a true threat to this country’s future.

As a senior less than two years from retirement, Trump’s attacks on Social Security and Medicare have me very worried. Millions of America’s elderly will be adversely affected by toying with two programs that have truly been success stories, but Trumpites see them as socialist experiments which means it doesn’t matter if they work or not, they have to either go or be privatized. And these are only two of numerous government programs that could be on the chopping block during the next administration.

Yes, we will survive Trump, but that line of thought isn’t very comforting. Europe “survived” World War II. Japan “survived” two nuclear bombs. A Trump administration will not be “business as usual,” and to pretend that is so is to bury one’s head in the sand. Trump has no respect for the Constitution of the United States or democracy, for that matter. As his campaign clearly demonstrated, he is an authoritarian at heart who will not allow tradition or the rule of law stand in his way.

The rationalizers will call me Chicken Little, running around blubbering about the sky falling. That isn’t so. My purpose here is to make two simple observations: The Trump Administration will be a real and present threat to American democracy, and because of that, we the people must be prepared to step out of our comfort zones, to make sacrifices, to push back against those who will attempt to deny our guaranteed constitutional rights and turn this once great nation into a third-world Banana Republic.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What We Have To Look Forward To Over The Next Four Years

To those Democrats who are trying to get through the week by believing Trump will tone back the craziness once he is actually in office, you need to pay closer attention to who the Donald is picking for various cabinet posts. Besides loyal lapdogs like Giuliani, Christie and Gingrich, initial indications are he’s going to pack his administration with right-wing, anti-science, Christian ideologues. Based on his campaign rhetoric and his cabinet appointees, here is what we can look forward to during the next four years under Trump. His administration, along with a Republican controlled House and Senate, will:
  • fight any climate change initiatives,
  • attack women’s reproductive rights,
  • try to close down Planned Parenthood,
  • undo environmental protection laws,
  • roll back existing financial regulations,
  • end the Affordable Care Act,
  • attack Social Security and Medicare and attempt to privatize them,
  • inject Christianity into governmental affairs,
  • give corporate America more say than ever over government policy,
  • use military actions instead of diplomacy,
  • allow police to continue militarizing their departments,
  • reduce public school funding,
  • promote racially divisive policies,
  • antagonize and alienate our allies around the world,
  • suppress and defund federally supported research that contradicts conservative beliefs,
  • and cut existing safety nets for the poor. 
And folks, that’s just the beginning. We do need to organize and fight Tump's agenda tooth and nail.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Trump’s Victory Is Only One Battle In A Much Bigger War

Donald Trump has just been elected the next President of the United States. No one took his candidacy seriously, not the press, not the pollsters, not the pundits. Yet the reality is that a wealthy white guy with the temperament of a toddler, the intelligence of a nine-year old, and the maturity of Biff Tannen, is now America’s Commander-in-Chief. What the hell happened?

On the micro-level, there is plenty of blame to go around, from an inept corporate media to the cowardly Democratic Party leadership to a general failure to accurately read the mood of the nation by just about everyone, yet I am looking at this from a macro-level here, and at that level it becomes easier to understand Trump and his followers.

I think humanity is in the midst of global change, a tectonic shift in thinking that will dramatically altar our future as a species. It is the birth of a new paradigm (or, some might argue, the rebirth of a very old one) and, like all births, it is and will be painful.  My sense is that we are experiencing the dying stages of patriarchal society, and the very early moments of egalitarianism on planet earth.

We look around us today, watch the news, and see a planet boiling over with war, violence, hate, fear and intolerance. Rebellion, terrorism and ideological battles are being fought everywhere you turn, from the Middle East to Western Europe to North and South America. Yes, every fight has a particular story behind it, but on the macro scale, we are witnessing a battle for survival between the old and new worlds, the system of patriarchy dating back many thousands of years, and egalitarianism, a new model where, as Dr. Martin Luther King envisioned, a person will not be judged by the color of their skin (or sex or sexual orientation) but by the content of their character.

As an American, I don’t have to look far to find evidence of humanity’s war with itself in this year’s presidential election. Donald Trump (and other conservative leaders around the world) represents a last gasp of the dying patriarchy, a final attempt to hold back progress, to stick one’s finger in the failing dam’s crack, before progress sweeps us all into the future. White men, who have held the reins of power for centuries, know their time is coming to an end, and they are doing everything in their power to prolong their station at the top of the ladder.

As dismal as this day is, I do believe we humans are moving forward and that our consciousness is maturing and moving in a positive direction, but we will continue to meet resistance. From the American Revolution to the French Revolution to Russia and beyond, the world struggled mightily to end monarchy and rule by birthright and replace it with rule by the people. It’s been messy and filled with failed efforts, but the trajectory has always been the same. We will experience those  same fits and starts on a global scale as we move to a more egalitarian society. It is always a process. There will be no single victory to signal success, but the momentum cannot be stopped.

It’s little comfort on this day to think of Trump’s win as merely one more obstacle on the road to a better world, but I think that is exactly what it is. We will experience more pain and lost battles in the future, but war is still humanity’s to win.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016


Don't let your crazy uncle choose our next president.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

President Donald Trump’s First Seven Days in Office

Day 1

Throw really yuuuuge party for major donors. Putin guest of honor. Issue arrest warrants for Clintons, Sanders, Stewart, Moore, Ryan, Cruz, entire RNC, Obama, etc. Schedule fight with Biden (order sedatives to ensure victory). Have someone locate Pense.

Day 2

Start choosing cabinet (delegate). Assemble closest advisors (delegate). Prioritize policy agenda (delegate). Free by nine a.m. to golf with Christie and Comey. Send Melania to Paris to shop. Welcome Miss America contestants for personal tour of the White House. Party that night with Roman theme.

Day 3

Sign some paperwork, listen to a few boring briefings. Find out where the CIA is keeping the aliens, nuke button. Oversee beginning of construction of outdoor hot tub, party pavilion and driving range. Initiate martial law.

Day 4

Annex Dubai, will be 51st state. Meet with NSA and CIA to discuss progress on my enemies list. Start privatizing everything (delegate). Attend kick-off party for Melinia’s new “First Lady” line of lingerie. Discuss feasibility of turning South Lawn into game preserve with Eric and Don Jr.

Day 5

Sign order to construct 500 reeducation camps across the country. Quarantine Hollywood, San Francisco, Portland, and other blue cities to prevent the spread of dangerous, un-American ideas. Appoint Ivanka “Roving American Ambassador of Hotness.” Discuss with sculpture the pose for my first statue.

Day 6

Meetings with African diplomats (keep the hand sanitizer close by). Attend ceremony to officially rename Pennsylvania Avenue Donald Trump Drive. Golf and mud bath. Sign Executive Order #34472, “The President of the United States has Immunity from Everything.” Find out who has the keys to Fort Knox.

Day 7

Update enemies list. Give first Presidential Press Conference on FOX News. Appoint Giuliani Ambassador to Kazakhstan as reward for his loyalty. Fly to Arizona to kick-off ceremony for new wall across our southern border (tell contractors to keep all receipts for Mexican bill). Give myself a raise because I absolutely deserve it.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Campaign 2016: The Awful Truths We’ve Learned So Far

Although election day is still ahead of us, this nightmare of a presidential campaign has already revealed some very serious flaws in the American experiment that will require our attention in the future if we are to survive as a country. If Trump wins, of course, all bets are off and every ounce of energy we the people have will need to be focused on keeping him from blowing up the world. If Clinton prevails, and all indications are that she will, perhaps, just perhaps, there may be some shred of hope for us, although I won’t hold my breath waiting for her to tackle the deep systemic problems we face as a nation.

Public education
Once the hallmark of our democracy, public education has been under attack from conservatives for the past 40 years, and the resulting wounds are deep and potentially life threatening. The grand culmination of their efforts is presidential candidate Donald Trump, a racist, sexist, anti-intellectual billionaire who lies, bullies and promotes violence with every breath he takes, a fascist strongman who, if elected, would use the Constitution as toilet paper. The most frightening aspect of all of this is his popularity in red state America. In the Mountain States, Midwest and South, conservative school board members have worked tirelessly to eliminate science, the arts and critical thinking from school curricula and replace it with thinly disguised religious propaganda and pseudo-science, pushing for “traditional values” over intellectual inquiry and independent thinking skills. What we’ve all reaped for their efforts is a large swath of citizens who lack basic analytical abilities and are thus easily manipulated by appeals to their darkest fears and cries of victimization. Con-men (and women) in their churches, schools, and the corporate media have stoked a burning anger within these people and then directed that anger at all the wrong targets, immigrants, minorities, scientists, college professors, none of whom have any direct influence on the policies that influence the everyday lives of Americans. That would be the politicians who actually make policy in Washington and state houses around the country. We need a national effort to revitalize America’s public education system to provide children with an authentic education that focuses not merely on tests and rote knowledge, but critical thinking and analytical skills that encourage lifelong learning.

Campaign finance reform
I know I tend to harp on this subject, but with the ascension of Donald Trump, we have the poster child for everything that is wrong with our election process. Trump has zero qualifications for being President of the United States. There are two reasons why Trump has reached the position he is now in: He’s wealthy and he is highly skillful at tapping into the darkest regions of people’s psyche to manipulate them. That’s it. Supporters claim he is a successful businessman, but that is simply not true. He’s filed for bankruptcy four times, he’s lost billions of dollars over the years on failed deals, he’s being sued by just about everyone except me, and no one really knows how much he’s worth. The way we elect people to the highest offices in America needs to change drastically. The influence of money in our elections is criminal and must be undone if we are to survive as a democracy. Americans need to demand that this issue be addressed by candidates running for office and that it be part of our national debate.

The Republican Party
As part of the 2016 election cycle, we have the truly bizarre situation of lifelong Republicans who are so horrified by their candidate for president that they are publicly announcing they will not vote for him. Trump is, of course, the monster they helped create. From the days of Jim Crow to the Vietnam War “America, love it or leave it” era to the drug war to the Southern Strategy to welfare queens to attacks on abortion rights to welfare reform to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News to voter intimidation tactics to the Tea Party, Republicans have veered farther and farther to the right over the years, providing comfort and support to the looniest candidates and conspiracy theories, resulting in a party offering up a presidential candidate that their own leaders can’t stomach. The question is, what will the party do about this situation after Trump? Will they continue their descent into a religious/fascist party of violent “revolutionaries,” or will some group or individual within the party have the strength to pull it back from the mouth of madness? Some of this may depend on how Trump supporters respond after The Donald loses his presidential bid. It’s hard to imagine people like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan condoning violence, but these are very strange times and we’ll have to wait and see. We can be sure, however, that they will continue not doing their jobs and fight Clinton’s agenda every step of the way.