WHEN THE SYSTEM WORKS

A couple of nights ago, Garry and I watched an episode of “The American Experience.” It was part two of two and it focused on Lyndon Baines Johnson, Selma, Alabama … and the passage of the Civil and Voting Rights acts.

This is American history, but it’s also part of our personal histories. Those were titanic times. Garry was already a working reporter. I was finished with college and out in the real world.

We remember. It was a very big deal. It was a massive shift in our culture and the reality in which we lived. It was the consummation of centuries of racism and oppression plus decades of the ongoing battle for equal rights — still a work in progress. Of wondering, doubting, if change was even possible.

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Selma, Alabama, March 1965

After John Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson, a traditional Southern politician who had never shown any special liberal or progressive leanings, came forward and decided enough was enough. Of all the presidents I would never have expected to be the one who would make it happen, LBJ did it. He decided it was time, that this unfairness had gone on long enough.

Against all odds and current political wisdom, he succeeded. Not because he was the most honest politician. Not because he was the most popular guy on Capitol Hill. Possibly the reason he could get it done was because he was a practical, pragmatic, politician who did whatever he needed to do to get an enormously important task accomplished. A freshman senator or any of those idealistic pie-in-the-sky guys couldn’t have done it. A newbie wouldn’t even know where to start.

Later, after he’d gotten mired in Vietnam — huge mistake — he knew that his running again would blow up the party, so he did the unthinkable. He stepped aside.

Who in the modern political pantheon would do that? Is there anyone concerned more with America than with his or her own career? Do I hear any names?

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We don’t just theorize the possibility that it could work. We know it can. We’ve seen change happen. We’ve been part of that change.

We know politicians don’t have to be the most honest or idealistic to do great things. In fact, often the most effective people are the ones who’ve been around a long time — and know where the bodies are buried.

The system can work. It does work. It has worked. We’ve seen it at its best. Right now, I think we are seeing it at its worst.

That things are ugly is not a reason to give up. Exactly the opposite. Now is the when we need to put shoulders to the wheel and exert some effort to make things better. To elect responsible, intelligent, sensible, practical people who know how to get stuff done and have a grasp of what the issues are. And who believe their first loyalty is to the country and its people.

It’s not “outsiders” who accomplish great things. It’s insiders who care enough to do it.

THE ART OF AVOIDING POLITICS by ELLIN CURLEY

I love reading the papers and talking about what’s going on in the world. You used to be able to do that without getting caught up in ‘partisan politics’. By that I mean that there were ‘facts’ about what was happening on a given topic that everyone could agree about. People may have disagreed about how to deal with the problem of, say, increasing crime and declining GDP. But there was at least a consensus that the former was in fact increasing and the latter was in fact declining.

Not so today. Facts have become the meat and potatoes of partisan politics. If you’re a liberal and/or a Democrat you believe that unemployment is down. If you are a conservative and/or Republican you believe that unemployment is up. How can anyone have a rational discussion about a problem if the nature or even the existence of the problem is itself the issue? When people argue whether a ‘fact’ is, in fact, a ‘fact’?

Talk shows and news interviews often devolve into shouting matches about what used to be called empirically proven facts. I don’t want this to happen in my personal life. Therefore, unless I am sure we are in the same ideological camp, I am careful not to talk about anything that could remotely have one liberal and another conservative interpretation. That rules out a wide swath of conversation topics and makes talking to strangers even more difficult for me. I’m not good at small talk under the best of circumstances.

logo-politics1It also presents the problem of how to feel out someone’s political views without bringing up a potentially controversial topic? I had a whole conversation with someone at a party about how much we love following the news. At no point did we reveal which version of the news we espoused. When she said that her husband only watched one channel all day, I surmised it was Fox News and that they were conservative/Republicans. I later had my ‘guess’ confirmed by a mutual friend. I am so relieved that we had not marred our pleasant conversation with the revelation that we were ideological adversaries. We would not have agreed on the statistical reality about almost anything.

This is why even well-meaning, open-minded people like me have become polarized. I am happy to listen to your views and may even be swayed by a good argument. But I will not be open to the idea that the earth is really flat, that evolution isn’t a scientifically proven process or that man-made climate change is not a real ‘thing’. In today’s world, I guess that makes me a closed-minded ideologue. So be it. My political bent nowadays is towards any view that is based on facts that can actually be proven to be true. And I want to see the evidence and decide for myself if your ‘evidence’ actually proves your ‘facts.’

DON’T DRINK THE KOOL AID – THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE

“He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon.” — Old English proverb, dating to the 14th century.


There has been yet another upsurge of interest in Jonestown in recent weeks. Which is not surprising given the current state of disunion in this country and elsewhere. Jim Jones and Donald Trump share many traits … and more importantly, so do their followers.

This is the most popular piece I ever wrote. It wasn’t a big hit when I first posted it, but it continues to collect views every day, year in, year out.

It is a cautionary tale, a warning for people who believe talk is harmless. To all who blindly follow, keep that long spoon handy.


If you are my age or near it, you remember the Jonestown Massacre. Even if you are younger, if in 1978 you were old enough to watch TV news, you could hardly forget it. Now that fundamentalism is enjoying a rebirth with well-known political and religious leaders (who ought to know better) urging others to murder or mayhem, it’s probably a good time to remind everyone where this kind of thing can lead.

There is nothing remotely amusing about this story. It was horrible when it happened and time hasn’t made it less so.

The Road to Jonestown

The phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” has become common parlance in American business and politics. Roughly translated, it means “to blindly follow.” It usually carries a negative connotation. The “Kool Aid” references go all the back to the 1950s when it was the typical drink for children on suburban summer afternoons. The origin of the saying is something else — darker, and different. It has become the kind of bland rhetoric about which we don’t give a thought, but its roots lie in horror.

Before we talk about Kool-Aid, let’s take a brief trip down memory lane to that particularly awful episode of American history.

Jim Jones, cult leader and mass murderer, was a complex madman. A communist and occasional Methodist minister, he founded his pseudo-church in the late 1950s. He called it the “Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church,” known in short as the “Peoples Temple.”

The lack of a possessive apostrophe was intentional. The name was supposed to be a reference to “the people of the world.” While Jones called it a church, it was closer to a warped version of a Marxist commune. Initially, it combined a hodgepodge of Christian references that Jones used in his diatribes … supposedly sermons.

It was never a real church. The Peoples Temple was a straight-up cult. It required a level of commitment and financial support from members plus a degree of obedience that’s the defining quality of a cult.

Read the whole story: DON’T DRINK THE KOOL AID – THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE

A POLITICAL CIRCUS – LAURA HALLISSEY

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If you’ve been following the world of politics lately it might seem as though we are living in some sort of alternate universe. It is starting to look like the inmates are taking over the asylum. On both sides of the pond, things have gotten a little crazy. First the UK shocked the world by deciding to leave the EU back in June. To be honest, even the politicians who were campaigning to leave seemed surprised by the outcome. The result of the Brexit referendum showed that the leave side received 52.5% of the overall vote, whereas the remain side only managed to acquire 47.5%.

Usually when a party secures the result they set out to achieve, celebrations follow. Not in this case. This time, they all began to disappear from both sides. First David Cameron resigned. Then as if reeling from the shock of a surprise victory, Boris Johnson decided not to run for Prime Minister after all. Nigel Farage stood down claiming he wanted his life back.

Now I’m sure there were a number of people who wanted their country back or just to go back in time to before the election, but thanks to Nigel and friends this was’t possible.

The Austrian actor Christoph Waltz put it best saying, “of course, the head rat would leave the sinking ship.” No one seems to know what’s next for Britain in the wake of this result. They can’t just leave the EU overnight. It’s much more complex than that.

There is also the worry that other countries will follow suit. There is a lot of uncertainty in the air as the new Prime Minister tries to wade through unchartered water. It will take a number of years for this messy divorce to be resolved, but you can bet the children — the younger generation — will be the ones to suffer the consequences of this decision. A decision that was largely made by older people who have considerably less to lose.

Please read the rest of this excellent article on WORD OF THE DAYA Political Circus

THE LAP – Judy Dykstra-Brown

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THE LAP

Mothers with children in your lap,
snuggled safely for their nap,
or joggers slowing down their laps
so their sons can fill the gaps
and catch up to take their father’s hands,
consider parents in other lands
as well as children of your own.
Consider what seeds might be sown.

Those who assign Hillary
to whipping post and pillory
bring charges that are spurious
which is especially curious
when the other candidate
who spreads these messages of hate
has led a life luxurious,
exploitative and usurious.

When he claims to be for the masses,
how can we be such senseless asses
to vote for this self-serving fool––
misogynistic, crude and cruel?
How can you listen and not see
how dangerous this man could be?
His fake statistics, groundless rap
spewed from his seat in luxury’s lap?

Please with the election nearing,
consider what you should be fearing.
I hope that every dad and mom
pictures his finger on the bomb.
Do you want this master of derision
making that supreme decision?
This man who overlooks the facts,
and simply rushes out and acts—

could act to end the world for good
and thereby end your parenthood.

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Source: The Lap |lifelessons – blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

DEAR HILLARY: HOW VERY DARE YOU!

Let me be as candid and transparent as possible: I was a very strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, and hillary-clinton-new-york-magazineuntil the past four weeks, held out great hope that he would become our next President. Over the course of the past month, I have had to do a great deal of reflecting and ask myself where does this seemingly irrational antipathy for Hillary Clinton come from? Why have I participated in it?

After doing some research and looking hard at systemic misogyny, I have had to confront myself with the truth that I bought into a narrative about Hillary Clinton that has been produced, packaged, and perpetuated by mostly the GOP with the help of many democrats and independents.

This narrative is a 30-year-old vilification of a woman who is bright, independent, wealthy, and powerful — a woman who asks for what she wants and needs. How very dare you, Ms. Clinton? How dare you have a mind of your own? How dare you be bright and powerful? How dare you ask for what you want and need? Don’t you know these rights are still exclusively for white, Christian, cisgender*, able-bodied, heterosexual men?


* cis·gen·der
   sisˈjendər/
adjective
Denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender.
Example: “This newfound attention to the plight of black trans folks by primarily cisgender allies is timely and necessary”
(I had to look up the word. I figured if I didn’t know what it meant, possibly you didn’t either, so I added a definition.)

For the rest of these extremely well-written post, see: Dear Hillary: How Very Dare You!

TRUTH WON’T BEAT TRUMP

Democrats keep thinking — erroneously — that you can counter Trump with truth. By presenting accurate information. By countering his wild, unsupported claims with facts. Surely if we show up his lies and deceptions, his followers will realize he is a blowhard demagogue with no actual accomplishments or ideas?

Problem is, people don’t follow Trump because they believe what he says. They neither know nor care whether or not he is telling the truth.


Trump supporters do not care about facts, truth, right, or wrong.

They don’t care if he’s making it up or talking out of his ass. They do not even care whether or not he has any intention of keeping his promises. Nor do they care when he changes what he says whenever it’s politically expedient. They don’t care if he has no platform or proposed plans. And quite probably is completely amoral or immoral … and possibly, a traitor.

Trump followers need someone to affirm their fears and hates. They crave validation. Trump says what they want to hear. He authenticates their fears and validates their sense of betrayed entitlement. He tells them it’s okay to hate, to be a racist. He tells them they should be afraid of becoming marginal people in this changing world.

When Trump said “I love stupid people” it may have been one of the rare times he was telling the truth.

Trump-failure

And then Donald J. Trump tells them that only he can fix things. Only he. He is the man, the only person who can make the world right.

We call such people dictators. Donald Trump does not want to be President. He wants to be king.

And because ‘his people’ do not care if he can or will fix anything, having someone powerful agree with them and tell them they are right is enough. They will vote for him because he validates and affirms them. He makes them feel good. Empowered.

This is how Hitler took over Germany. This is the demagogue’s playbook.

He could win. All he needs is for you and you and you to keep saying there’s no difference between Hillary Clinton, a woman who has spent her entire life in public service, and Donald Trump, a man who has spent his entire life ripping off other people to enrich himself.

Donald Trump won’t make America great again. America is great. What he will do is tear this country to pieces, set neighbor against neighbor, race against race. He will eliminate centuries of diplomacy and relations with other countries and make us the laughing-stock outcast nation of the world.

Oh, and we’re going to hand him the nuclear codes. That’s a swell idea.