Tag Archives: Politics

The Threat of Idiocracy

Exactly ten years ago—in 2006—filmmaker Mike Judge released a movie called Idiocracy. The movie, a satirical comedy, tells the tale of an America of the future, a nation of anti-intellectuals—idiots—governed by former professional wrestler President Camacho. The outlandish plot and dystopian vision of America was heralded by some as a nascent vision of our future … our distant future. However, the presidential aspirations of Donald Trump and the response to it,  may have fast-forwarded this notion: “Trump’s blatantly anti-intellectual, boorish persona is so over the top, it has drawn multiple comparisons to that of pro-wrestler-turned-president Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in Mike Judge’s eerily prescient satire, 2006’s Idiocracy” (Perry). In fact, no less than the author of the screenplay weighed in last February with this tweet: “I never expected #idiocracy to become a documentary” (Cohen).

When businessman and reality television personality Donald Trump announced he was entering the 2016 presidential contest, a majority of political pundits gave Mr. Trump very little chance of winning the nomination of the Republican Party—much less winning the presidency. Today, as the nation stands at the precipice of Mr. Trump as the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, it is instructive to look back into history and compare the tactics of other destructive demagogues who shared the same vitriol being spewed by Mr. Trump during his march on Pennsylvania Avenue. Has our republic devolved to the point where we as a nation are ready to elect a man who can, arguably, be described as non-presidential? And ultimately, what has been (and will be) the effect of a Trump presidency on our republic? The answers are clear: A Donald Trump presidency would be a dangerous step back in our nation’s history and must not be allowed to come to fruition.

The ascendancy of the Trump phenomenon has surprised some politicos and pundits. The brash nature of the man and his lack of political experience, on the surface, make him a weak candidate for responsible political office, much less as leader of the free world. The rhetoric of Mr. Trump and been vitriolic and at times dangerous. Examples include his call for a ban on Muslims entering the country and his promise to pay the legal fees of any supporter who attacks protestors at his campaign rallies.  However, this type of invective speech doesn’t occur in a vacuum—there is a receptive audience for it, as his growing base of support shows: “There is a lot of anger in the electorate, which Trump’s victory reflects” (Davidson).

It is precisely this anger and perceived disenfranchisement that Mr. Trump skillfully exploits. There is a large segment of the population that is, generally, uneducated—and frankly afraid—afraid that the government will come for their guns, their churches, and their livelihoods. These are fears that have no foundation in rational discourse, fears that are flamed by demagogues like Mr. Trump who are motivated less by conviction and more by sheer ego. In his book The Art of the Deal, Mr. Trump unabashedly rants about his deal-making prowess, often at the expense of the means necessary to attain the ends: “I wasn’t satisfied just to earn a good living. I was looking to make a statement. I was out to build something monumental—something worth a big effort” (Blair).  This brash, devil-may-care attitude has struck a chord. President Obama’s former campaign manager David Axelrod said “Donald Trump has a phenomenal sense of his audience” (Chotiner).

In the 1950s there was a similar audience, an audience that feared the encroachment of communism and the rise of the Soviet Union. And there was a man then too—a Senator from Wisconsin named Joseph McCarthy—who also had a clear sense of his audience. Sen. McCarthy skillfully exploited the fears of the era to fuel his rise to prominence within the US Senate, and his place on the national stage. His tactics led to the creation of the word McCarthyism; “Today, McCarthyism is used to describe any public accusation of disloyalty without real proof” (Fitzgerald 84). Ironically (or predictably to some), Mr. Trump has called for a wall to be constructed to keep out what he describes as Mexican drug runners and rapists’. Furthermore, he has advocated denying Muslims entry into the US based on their religious faith alone. At no time has Mr. Trump provided any real evidence to back up his claims; and the media has been generally unwilling to effectively challenge him on this inflammatory rhetoric—just as the media was unwilling to do so in the incipient stages of McCarthyism.

The similarities between Mr. Trump and Sen. McCarthy are obvious and frightening. In my lifetime, I never imagined I would see the rise of a personality so deeply entwined with the hatred and vitriol of McCarthy. As the son of parents who witnessed this destruction first-hand, I feel an obligation to sound the klaxon and remind my fellow citizens of the parallels being played out in our current political arena. I was merely a child during the successive presidential campaigns of Governor George Wallace of Alabama, but I have distinct memories of my parents expressing their feelings of anger and disappointment that such a racist individual—an unapologetic segregationist—could advance as far as he did each time. I am clearly not alone in my concern:

Trump is increasingly more George Wallace than Ronald Reagan; his outbursts against establishment politics and undocumented immigrants have few limits. Trump’s raw message particularly resonates with those Americans who have stomached a decade of economic loss and social displacement. It is an American paradox that billionaire Trump so effectively channels George Wallace’s blue-collar, everyman appeal and message. (Williams)

In fact, the line between Mr. Trump and Governor Wallace is short indeed:

“I love that he’s talking in everybody else’s language. He’s not trying to be politically correct”…THAT response is simply an update from one of Mr. Wallace’s 1968 followers…”He tells it like it is and if it offends some government bureaucrats and loudmouth civil rights agitators, so what? He’s standing up and fighting for real Americans.” (Carter)

 These soundbites are irresistible to the ratings-hungry news media and further advance the ill-informed and racist’s views of the speaker. But to the blue-collar workers, struggling to make ends meet and seeing their jobs in danger of being shipped overseas, this rhetoric feeds into their paranoia and gives them an icon to rally around… just as Gov. George Wallace did in the 60s and early 70s. This is their president. This is the individual telling them what they want to hear—rationality and facts be damned. That Trump has no political experience is a bonus to them—he’s an outsider. That he is not presidential at all is even better—he’s one of us.

It’s hard to imagine Donald Trump occupying the Oval Office and subsequently being Commander in Chief of the world’s largest military force. This is the man who has participated in Wrestlemania events (an activity hardly considered to be statesman-like behavior). This is the man that has encouraged physical violence at his campaign rallies. This is the man who consistently spews racist views. Yes, this could be our next president. While character is not specifically mentioned as a qualification for being president in our Constitution, common sense, a sense of decorum, and downright decency should be qualities the voter considers when electing a president. Consider the following statements from candidate Trump: “Listen, you motherfuckers, we’re going to tax you 25 percent! … This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop…Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it!” (Bailey). Presidential language and sentiment indeed—FDR, Eisenhower, and even Republican stalwart Ronald Reagan would surely blanch at the possibility of this man sharing their throne in the Oval Office.

In addition to the national disgrace that would be a Trump presidency as the result of his actions and rhetoric, it’s wise to consider the psychology of the man hoping to have his finger on the nuclear button. Is the man so recklessly and childishly calling on his followers to assault those peaceful demonstrators who disagree with him, able to maturely control our armed forces—indeed have to power to annihilate our planet? “When he lost, he would say he won; when he won, he would say he won more. A psychologist might call such behavior narcissistic, egotistical, and, no doubt, a sign of hidden insecurity” (Blair). However, a proper clinical diagnosis can certainly not be made based purely upon the rhetoric of a political candidate. As many Trump supporters will eagerly claim, Mr. Trump is not, in fact, a racist, a misogynist, or any of the other titles that seem to fit him so well. They claim that Mr. Trump is a brilliant political strategist with his finger on the pulse of the population. And they may be right: “For all his theatrics, Trump has caused a stampede in the Republican Party and he’s done this using a classic, class-based divide-and-rule strategy” (Trubowitz).

In the context of today’s media free-for-all climate, it is certain that many voters are influenced by broadcast media outlets such as Fox and MSNBC. Neither of these networks can be, arguably, described as unbiased sources of information. In 1987, when the FCC Fairness Doctrine (a requirement that broadcast news be honest and balanced) was gutted, the landscape of the so-called news media took on an entirely different meaning. News producers were now free to openly cultivate what they had surreptitiously sought for years—ratings—and the resultant advertising revenue that followed. “If it bleeds it leads” was the cry of the media now, and sensationalism was the order of the day. Candidate Trump is the logical extension of this denigration of the fourth estate. A man with reality-show credentials and a personality larger than life, Trump exploits the media in an unaffected manner like no other candidate. The louder, more boorish his behavior, the bigger the rating and the more electoral support he gains. Trump is well known for his sophomoric Twitter rants; and now, scholarly research has shown it to be quite effective: “We…evaluated the effects of Trump’s tweeting activity on the growth of his followers…the more he tweeted the faster his follower camp grew. Lastly, we measured the effects of two Trump-initiated controversies. Based on our data, neither one is hurting his campaign” (Wang et al. 4).

Similarly: “Trump’s supporters have continuously ranked among the most intolerant and least educated of voters—a point punctuated by Trump’s triumphant assertion, after winning this week’s Nevada caucus, that he loves ‘the poorly educated” (Perry). So the question arises: is it the man or is the man simply tapping into a nascent and dangerous ideology? Is America ready for a leader who expounds the virtues of intolerance? Regardless of the source, this homogenization of hatred must not be allowed to continue. In The Open Society and Its Enemies, renowned 20th century psychologist Karl Popper agrees: “We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal…” (qtd. in Hedges 1). Analyzed from this perspective, the blatant hate-speech and racist vitriol transcend the musings of a petulant man-child and indeed contributes to a damaging dialogue that slowly, but consistently, tears away at the fabric of rational public discourse.

This kind of negative discourse, the factions described by Hamilton et al in The Federalist Papers, are immune from the remedies described by our founding fathers. The safety net, the opposition mounted from rational members of society, is gradually being thwarted by the fear-mongering likes of Mr. Trump and some evangelical Christians:

…the myth peddled by the Christian Right about the American heartland: that here alone are family values and piety cherished, nurtured and protected. The so-called red states, which vote Republican and have large evangelical populations, have higher rates of murder, illegitimacy and teenage births than the so-called blue states… (Hedges 46)

These are the folks that our forefathers envisioned rising up against factions. Instead, they are being led down a path of fear and redemption by a presidential candidate that is far from presidential.

While the conventional political wisdom holds that Mr. Trump is unlikely to win the presidential election, the broader concern should be the effect his rise and his candidacy is having on our electorate. Movements like this don’t happen in a vacuum and there may well be long term effects from its success. While touted by conservatives as a great president, Ronald Reagan’s social and economic polices arguably set into motion destructive patterns within our society that remain today. It is also likely that the success of the Trump campaign and the resultant nearly complete lack of critical coverage by the major broadcast news organizations will be setting the plate for the next Trump … or McCarthy … or Wallace:

But there are striking similarities between Mr. Trump and George C. Wallace…The connections between the two — their rhetoric and their ability to fire up crowds — give us a better sense of what Trumpism will mean once he is gone from the campaign stage. After all, political losers as well as winners can shape the future. (Carter)

The damage done to the Republican Party will be the most immediate concern. Their lack of cohesiveness, not only in Congress, but in fielding effective countermeasures against one of their own is astonishing. This is a party in crisis; Mr. Trump has hijacked the party and the so-called Trump Train is racing full speed ahead into a chasm that will be very difficult for them escape: “The consequences for America and the world—if he wins, of course, but maybe even if he loses—are unknowable and perhaps unimaginable. The degree to which…he will also permanently deform American politics can only be speculated upon, but his primary victory will, decades from now, likely be seen as one of the defining events of 21st-century America” (Chotiner).

Perhaps another troubling sidebar to Mr. Trump’s candidacy has been the nearly widespread lack of critical coverage among the major broadcast new organizations. With the exception of partisan stalwarts Fox and MSNBC, the big three (ABC, NBC, CBS) as well as CNN have been generally easy on the candidate. It’s nearly impossible to imagine Mr. Trump’s rise in the era of Murrow and Cronkite. It simply wouldn’t happen. So that begs the question of whether we have entered, in the days after the repeal of the FCC Fairness Doctrine, an era of free-for-all politics. Will our political process be reduced to shouting matches and ad hominem attacks? Will our fourth estate complete their death knell and encourage this behavior to boost their stock prices? We may already be there: “And yet when people look back…a generation from now, our larger cultural response—at least as seen through our television media—will seem incomprehensible…there was hardly a whimper…the media have spent so long domesticating Trump that his victory no longer appeared momentous. He is the new normal” (Chotiner).

But is this paradigm shift unhealthy? Some would argue that this form of rhetorical democracy is vital: “Civility is often the camouflage for hiding challenges to the big-government faction… the First Amendment does not protect merely decorous or genteel speech, but as the political rhetoric of American history shows, all manner of speech no matter how rude or uncivil” (Thornton). There is no question that the principles of rhetorical democracy must be protected and unlike Popper, I’m not advocating imprisonment of those merely expressing intolerance through speech. However, it is clear that the American political landscape has been changed by the Trump candidacy—our discourse has become not only uncivil, but it has pandered to our collective base instincts—our lowest common denominator is now enjoying an ascendancy heretofore rationally unimagined. It remains to be seen what the lasting effects of Mr. Trump’s candidacy will be; but it is incumbent upon all those who share a stake in the political system to think critically about what is happening and exercise lasting vigilance.

History has shown that our nation has survived the destructive likes of Joseph McCarthy and George Wallace. The parallels between those divisive figures and Mr. Trump have been well documented. Likewise, the crude and boorish behavior of candidate Trump has been on display throughout the current election cycle, and yet his appeal has grown exponentially. This begs the question of the effect the “Trump Factor” will have on our country and the electorate in general. A resounding, crushing defeat of Mr. Trump in the general presidential election will go a long way towards reclaiming not only the gravitas of the presidency, but will help send a message that appealing to the lowest common denominator is not the road to the White House. Maybe we can suspend the advent of Idiocracy for at least another generation.

Works Cited

Bailey, Jason. “Who Said It: Presidential Hopeful Donald Trump or ‘Idiocracy’ President       Camacho?” Flavorwire. Flavorpill Media, 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 06 May 2016.

Blair, Gwenda. Donald Trump: The Candidate. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005. Google Books. Alphabet, Inc. Web. 06 May 2016.

Carter, Dan T. “What Donald Trump Owes George Wallace.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 09 Jan. 2016. Web. 06 May 2016.

Chotiner, Isaac. “Donald Trump Is TV’s New Normal. That’s Insane.” Slate Magazine. The Slate Group, 03 May 2016. Web. 06 May 2016.

Cohen, Etan (etanjc). “I never expected #idiocracy to become a documentary.” 24 Feb. 2016, 9:27 a.m. Tweet.

Davidson, Amy. “Why Cruz, and the G.O.P., Lost to Trump.” The New Yorker. Conde Nast,  04 May 2016. Web. 06 May 2016.

Fitzgerald, Brian. McCarthyism: The Red Scare. Minneapolis: White-Thomson Publishing Ltd., 2007. Print.

Hedges, Chris. American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006. Print.

Idiocracy.  Dir. Mike Judge. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 2006. Film.

Perry, Tod. “Idiocracy Writer Admits He May Have Predicted the Future.” GOOD Magazine. GOOD Worldwide Inc., 26 Feb. 2016. Web. 06 May 2016.

Thornton, Bruce S. “Here’s Mud in Your Eye: Politics in Democracies Have Always Been Rough and Tumble, and We’re Better off Because of It.” Hoover Digest 1 (2016): 29+. Academic OneFile. Web. 7 May 2016.

Trubowitz, Peter. “How the “Trump Factor” Came to Dominate the 2016 Election.” LSE Research Online. LSE Research Online, 1 Mar. 2016. Web. 06 May 2016

Trump, Donald and Schwartz, Tony. The Art of the Deal. New York: Ballantine Books, 1987. Print.

Wang, Yu, Jiebo Luo, Richard Niemi, and Yuncheng Lee. “To Follow or Not to Follow: Analyzing the Growth Patterns of the Trumpists on Twitter. “To Follow or Not to Follow: Analyzing the Growth Patterns of the Trumpists on Twitter  (2016): 1-4. Google Scholar. Web. 6 May 2016.

Williams, Victor. “Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and a Disrupted Electoral College: High Unfavorable Ratings, Multi-Candidate General Election Ballots, and Pursuing the ‘Art of the Deal’ with Free-Agent Electors in December 2016”. Social Science Research Network. Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc., 4 Dec. 2015. Web. 6 May 2016.

 

 


It’s Time for Moderate Republicans to Act…

Just as it has been extraordinary helpful in the court of public opinion for Islamic leaders to condemn the actions of Daesh as neither aligned with the tenets of their religion, nor in fact, Islamic in any real way, shape, or form, it is also important for moderate Republicans to distance themselves from the present state of their party.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced today that the Senate Republicans would take the unprecedented step of failing to even consider any Supreme Court Nominee proffered by President Obama. In other words, strictly in the name of partisan politics, the Republicans are picking up their ball and going home. They are acting childishly on an issue of great, indeed constitutional, importance. Last time I checked, the sitting president is president until he is not.

This “leadership caucus” is refusing to do their job. Out of spite. Plain and simple.

And yet…it’s seems that this egregious behavior is simply a symptom of a party in crisis. Witness the lack of cohesion in their ability to field a “real” candidate. What predictably filled the void is a carnival showman with no real allegiance to their party or core values, whatever those may be these days.

So they are left with impetuous men, so frightened by their ever loosening grip on power and influence, that all that is left is to make headlines; governance be damned.

In my estimation, the cracks first appeared in the Reagan administration, when, drunk with political power they began to dismantle some of the conventions of decorum that had existed for generations. When President Clinton was elected, they dropped any hint of propriety and Newt Gingrich became their rhetorical henchman. Finally, the Bush (not the good one) era brought us to fruition with the simply evil likes of Karl Rove.

And throughout this descent into madness, they were urged along by the burdening communications wing of this new Republican Party–Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and its mouthpiece, Fox News.

Think I’m exaggerating? Listen to this hot mic conversation of the Donald instructing the Fox “journalists” on how to best present his brand. I’m not so naive to believe that Democrats and other more liberal news organizations don’t also abdicate their fourth estate responsibilities, but in toto, I believe that even a man I truly despise, the Great Communicator, would take issue with the path they find themselves on.

They have forced a paradigm shift in the way our country is governed, and this Supreme Court power play has forced me to rethink who I will support in 2016. Do I stick to my ideals and vote my conscience, or am I forced to support the candidate that I know will go in the trenches, fight dirty, and hopefully humiliate these idiots. Not a choice I want to make, but one I may need to consider in this age of playground politics.

So I plead with you…the voices of moderation in the Republican Party: SPEAK UP…BE HEARD; don’t be afraid. There may just be some folks in the center and left that are willing to support your efforts at maturity and reconciliation.


In Search of Compromise…

“For man seems to be unable to live without myth, without the belief that the routine and drudgery, the pain and fear of this life have some meaning and goal in the future. At once new myths come into being–political and economic myths with extravagant promises of the best of futures in the present world. These myths give the individual a certain sense of meaning by making him part of a vast social effort, in which he loses something of his own emptiness and loneliness. Yet the very violence of these political religions betrays the anxiety beneath them–for they are but men huddling together and shouting to give themselves courage in the dark.”

Alan M. Watts, The Age of Anxiety, 1951

“…for they are but men huddling together and shouting to give themselves courage in the dark.”

This line broke the wall. The wall that has divided me from expressing anything other than contempt for those that would support a presidential candidate like Donald Trump.

When I envision these folks, frightened…alone…huddled in the dark shouting for courage…I am able to set aside my incredulity, derision, and anger. I am able to feel empathy for my fellow man.

For I too am that man huddling together in the dark with my tribe…holding onto my ethos with a sense of triumphant superiority. And it is at this intersection that I have lost all ability to compromise. To seek consent. To reach out and experience life as another does.

I cannot call on others to share or even respect my point of view until I am willing to understand and embrace the motivation behind theirs. And until we are both willing to take this leap of faith, not only is consent impossible, progress is virtually shut down. The democratic political system becomes mired in gridlock.

Sound familiar? It should. We are experiencing exactly this discord at the present political moment. I challenge you to seek to understand your rival/enemies motivation before you dismiss him out of hand. Seek the motivations behind the rhetoric. Understand that the 300 pound armed gorilla you are arguing with is, fundamentally, a scared little boy screaming in the dark for his mommy. This doesn’t diminish the man. It humanizes him and it empowers YOU to do the right thing. Explore your empathy and seek compromise rather than dissent.

I watched the democratic presidential debate tonight. Up until now, I have been undecided about which candidate I would support. I was enthralled at the political mastery that Sec. Hilary Clinton displayed. There is no doubt in my mind that she is, as she claims, the most experienced candidate/politician to occupy the White House come January. And it is also precisely why I cannot support her. As I’ve previously documented my disappointment with our current President, I’m willing to let faith and hope have another go at it. I’m willing to take a shot on Bernie Sanders. If for no other reason than to support a candidate outside the norm. And yes this is the same ideology leading several of those on the right to support Trump. But let’s be honest. A reality TV star is not the man I want running my country…especially one who plays fast and loose with the truth and appeals to the fears of those huddled in the dark…


The Obama Conundrum…

071103_obama_vmed_8p.widec

But at the end of the day we couldn’t.

I voted for President Obama in both elections. I like the man. I believe he is genuine and his heart is in the right place.

But at the end of the day, his presidency is a failure on many levels. Not the least of which are the broken promises. The promises of change. The inspired campaign speeches that rallied a post-Bush nation.

Very little of it came to pass.

Mr. Obama’s tears discussing Sandy Hook during his Executive Action announcement on gun control were moving and no doubt heartfelt. But they represent everything that was wrong with his administration. Too little. Too late.

True gun reform is within reach, if the deal maker’s in Washington are willing to make the political sacrifices necessary. A reasonable compromise can be struck between the second amendment and those demanding a ban on all weapons. I won’t bore you with the details, but it can be done.

My point is that, yet again, President Obama’s actions in this area are weak and ineffective. Certainly not the actions of Candidate Obama. Not the president I voted for.

The president I voted for would not allow the egregious violation of civil right this administration has displayed. The unprecedented intimidation of journalists and whistle-blower’s by this Justice Department is truly stunning. Certainly not what I expected from this president nor what was promised.

The lack of foresight and action on the Ukraine and Syria demonstrate just two of the administrations catastrophic foreign policy blunders. Don’t even get me started on their complete lack of leadership in dealing with the despot Netanyahu and how our relationship with that failed government has threatened our national security.

At the end of the day, there were some wins. The economy, jobs, and most notably the Affordable Care Act. But if these wins came at the price of the aforementioned disasters, they were certainly not worth it in my estimation.

Here’s what really scares me: I believe in Obama the man. I believe he is decent and truly wanted to do the right thing. But he was clearly outmatched politically. And this doesn’t bode well for any idealistic outsider running for our highest office.

It appears that the entrenched/corrupt insiders (read Hilary) will be the only liberals able to affect change, albeit within the framework of the current plutocracy.

I would love to sit down with Mr. Obama someday and ask him what happened. How did his grand vision come apart. Alas, I don’t think we will ever know…

 

 

 


The Seduction of Denial…

 

 

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admits he “once” smoked crack today.

Hmmm.

Rob, I think we need a sit-down:

I “once” smoked crack. On multiple occasions.

I mention this by way of establishing some sort of credentials on the matter. As a former crack smoker, let me brief you on a few things:

  • You don’t smoke crack “once”. If you did, you were immediately killed by the dealer, prostitute, or other ne’er-do-well that hooked you up.
  • Yes, lots of drinking can lead to experimentation with crack cocaine.
  • Generally, if lots of drinking has lead you down this road…you might just have a problem with that drinking thing.
  • If you can’t recall when it was you smoked crack “once”…it wasn’t.
  • Denial is the most dangerous and seductive drug…not crack…not alcohol.

Here’s the deal Rob…may I call you Rob? I just feel such a kinship to you that it seems appropriate.

I too drank a lot…as you said, got “hammered” on many occasions. At some point, drinking just wasn’t doing the job for me, so I turned to my buddy…oh let’s call him “Freddy” in my local dive bar, who always had $20 packets of coke that would allow me to continue drinking without getting tired or sick.

And look Rob, once you hit that point, as I know you have, the step up to crack for you wasn’t that hard was it? I mean after all, it’s just the same as a little blow…just smoked, but OMG what a rush…am I right?

But here’s the deal buddy, if you find yourself in a position of responsibility, as you apparently are in this “Mayor of a major metropolitan city” gig, it’s probably not a good idea to continue to lie to your constituents about your drinking and drug use. Yeah, I get that it doesn’t poll well to admit you’ve sucked the glass pipe, but at the end of the day when your dealer turns you out to the media, and has video evidence to back it…you might want to consider a heart-to-heart with yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if running the city is more important than saving your own life.

Yep…that’s what I said…Rob; if you are in this state of catastrophic denial, you are either still smoking rock or will certainly continue to do so.

I can’t diagnose you as an alcoholic or drug addict, but I would strongly urge you to consider it a possibility. You see, I had to lose it all before I sought the help and recovery I so desperately needed.

Rob, you will continue to be the butt of jokes and a political laughing-stock until you take care of this little “issue”. But I promise you that there is life, and a pretty good one, on the other side if you seek help.

If you don’t, I can promise you all the misery you can handle…denial is a seductive and cunning bitch, and she will take you places you can only imagine in your worst nightmares.

 

 


Reaping What We Sow…

Syria is in our face.

We can’t run and we can’t hide. President Obama recklessly painted us into this corner when he declared there was a “red line” with regard to Syrian use of chemical weapons.  But his ill-advised rhetoric is not to blame.

Truman began this descent into Constitutional madness, and our lack of Congressional accountability has fomented it.

Without rehashing an endlessly fascinating (I’m being a serious wonk here) debate on the merits and legality of nation states taking violent, war-like action against other states, I submit that our constitution would be served best by at least trying to maintain an appearance of balance with regard to the Executive and Legislative branches when it comes to “declaring war”.  Or in this case, utilizing American military resources to strike another country.

Here’s where it’s gone all wrong. Truman  unilaterally launched our now famous “police action” in Korea, and ever since, the Executive branch has used that as a green light to launch all manner of military excursions.

There is a real honest and important policy consideration to be undertaken (as yet hopelessly mired in politics) regarding the use of American military forces in the interests of protecting the citizens of rogue states and merciless strongmen.  Think Rwanda where our inaction facilitated the genocide there. Or the “Killing Fields” of Cambodia.

When is it appropriate for us to become the worlds policemen?  Is it in the interest of our national security or simply a moral imperative?

Sadly, we are unlikely to have this debate. As surely as we are unlikely to systematically parse the actual legality of the action the Executive branch appears to be headed towards.

Why?  Because our system of government is broken.  The powers of the Executive branch have exceeded their intended boundaries as critically as our failed attempts at election reform have filled our Congress with short-sighted, career politicians with no understanding or the word compromise.

A poll released today states that a majority of Americans want Congressional approval before any military action is taken. In a perfect, “Constitutional” world, I support that sentiment.

But let me repeat: our system is broken and the only result of attempting to get Congressional approval would be another vote along party lines. No actual compromise or representative government would be seen within miles of the beltway. It would be another facade.

Do I think military action in Syria is the right move? Yes…but I simply despise the way we got here.

We are paying the price for decades of political instant gratification that began with Truman and masterfully exploited during the era of the “Great Communicator” himself.

We have only ourselves to blame…


The Next Time You Judge

cory-monteith-raising-the-roof-01

Take a good long look at this young man’s face. It’s the face of addiction. It’s the face of a young man who had a disease.

Had…until the disease won, and he was taken from us.

We all do it…we judge. I’m guilty of it too at times and I have the disease. It’s a sad and misinformed prejudice in our society that consistently treats people with this disease as social lepers, outcasts, prisoners. We have created an entire prison-industrial complex to profit from the pain of their disease.

Now this. Cory Monteith was a bright young actor with a genetically altered brain that made it harder for him than others to say no to the substances that both brought him relief, and cut him down. An allergy of the mind and body that creates cravings that only the alcoholic/addict can understand. Bill Wilson understood it and addressed it masterfully in 1935.

1935. And we have done little since then to, as a society, call this what it is. A disease. It’s recognized as such in both the legal and medical communities but it’s given short shrift in the political arena.  It’s easier to accept money from the prison builder than it is to spend money for social services and critical health care to address this disease.

I’m sick of it. Not my own disease but the malaise of my fellow countrymen that turn the other cheek when it comes to getting real. Seeing it for what it is and treating it as such. Sick people who need help.

Look into this face and tell me he didn’t at least deserve that…


If You’re Looking for Justice…

 

courtesy AP

courtesy AP

…please don’t look to the courts.  The so-called “Judicial System” is not.

I haven’t followed the Trayvon Martin case very closely because A) I had a feeling this was where we were headed and B) It became the kind of media even that I loathe.

So frankly,I’m writing from a position of limited information. I’m writing from emotion, without all the facts.

Trayvon Martin’s killer was acquitted tonight of murder. He claimed self-defense and the jury bought it.

Except for one thing…the killer created the scenario requiring him to claim self-defense. Zimmerman doesn’t intervene…Martin lives.

There are a million nuances that can be parsed in this case and in this verdict, but I know this:  “Justice” wasn’t served tonight. What I also know is this: if I’m on that jury, from everything I’ve read to date, I vote not-guilty too.

Is it right? No. Is it justice? No. Am I following the proper jury instructions and considering only the evidence presented and objectively evaluating that evidence as it relates to my jury instructions? Yes, probably.

Folks, this isn’t about the jury anymore than it was the LAPD/Rodney King jury. I watched that trial every day until a verdict was delivered and I too would have found the cops not-guilty. Again…justice? No. Following proper jury instructions? Yes.

Until our legislators craft laws that allow a jury to consider real-world, common sense, yet objective evidence and legal procedure, we will continue to witness these grave injustices.

If you want justice, take that passion and contact your senator, your representative…get involved. Don’t sit on the sidelines and chirp away at how “unfair” it is.  You’re damn right it’s unfair but until you are willing to affect REAL change…it’s all just white noise perpetuated by the lazy to make themselves feel better.

Justice was most certainly not served tonight. What are YOU going to do?


When the Law and Homophobia Marry…

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So here’s the deal.  Back in the days of the caveman, I’m going to take a wild guess that there were not a whole lot of social values and mores in place that prevented same sex physical union.  Those poor neanderthals (excuse the pun) didn’t have the advantage of Fox News or the Westboro Baptist Church to tell them that fooling around with a person of the same gender was “perverted”.

Enter today’s neanderthals…well spoken men and women, some carrying legal briefs in their thick leather cases, telling us poor folks that this SCOTUS argument today really isn’t about discrimination, it’s about the rights of individual states to decide if they want to allow same-sex marriages.  They argue that if the judicial branch rules for same-sex marriage, it would be a blanket imposition of a social agenda on all 50 states…rather than letting the individual states decide for themselves.  A very attractive argument in my opinion. Except it’s flawed.

Flawed in this sense:  marriage, despite all their attempts to moralize it, is at its core, a legal contract.   Currently, we do not allow members of the same sex to enter into this legal contract.  By any definition, this is discrimination based on sexual preference.  End of story.

Spare me the emotional religious arguments that marriage is a sacrosanct union between a man and a woman.  It is not.  If it was, you would not need to obtain a government “license” to enter into it.  It is, again, simply a legal contract.  To continue to deny a segment of our population access to this contract and all the benefits and responsibilities it engenders, is no different than telling them they need to sit at the back of the bus…or to drink from another drinking fountain.

Enough.


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