IN THE CLUTCH: A ROUGH GO FOR AN AMERICAN CONSCIENCE

I started reading through this and realized despite having written in more than a year ago, it’s just as true now as it was then. Somehow, I would have hoped we’d have … oh, I don’t know. Impeached Trump? Convicted a few of his more toxic adherents? Something, anyhow. But here we are, essentially right where we were a year ago last November.

Serendipity - Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

It was pointed out to me this morning that there’s a lot we don’t know about the people who came before us.

How — why — they dressed and spoke and related to each other as people in their society. We are fuzzy about a lot of cultural material and mostly, we take our best guess as to what they were thinking as they lived from one day to the next in whatever capacity they lived it.

We have no clue about how our great-grandfather confessed his love to great-grandmother. We don’t know the words they used, or their tone of voice. We don’t know if their moment of passion happened at all. We don’t know because they left no evidence for us. They spoke differently, yet surely they held the same emotions we do — and we base all our fiction on that assumption. But of course, we…

View original post 852 more words

EXPECT THE WORST – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve figured out how to mentally and emotionally survive the next three years under Donald Trump. (If there is a God, please let it be only three years!). I’m not proud of the plan I’ve come up with. But I think it will work for me. It is not for the faint of heart. So for some of you, don’t try this at home.

Basically, I’m going to expect the worst from the Federal Government on most fronts. So, I have already mourned the loss of an environmental policy that actually fights climate change. Therefore, I will not bleed again and again as the environmental progress we’ve made is chipped away, bit by bit. At the end of Trump’s term, I’ll be thrilled if we can still safely breathe the air and drink the water, at least in most of the United States.

I have already surrendered the ideal that the U.S. Government will promote any kind of individual rights – civil rights, right to choose, LGBT rights, freedom of speech and press, freedom from deportation, hate crimes and voter suppression, etc. I will look only to the Blue states to protect individual rights, as many states have already promised to do. Selfishly, I live in a Blue state block so I hope to be shielded from the worst of the onslaught against rights that will take place elsewhere in the country.

I know that neither health care nor public schools will get the programs or the financial support I believe they should get. So I won’t freak out at every attempt to destroy both systems. I’ll hope that the inertia of a huge bureaucracy (and the incompetence of the Trump administration) will at least mitigate the radical nature of the changes the Trumpettes want to make. But basically I will assume that for public education and national health insurance plans, the next three years will be like Moses’ time wandering in the desert. (At least this time it should be three years and not forty!)

Conflicts of interest will be huge. Regulations will be nonexistent. Autocratic rhetoric will be rampant. As for foreign policy and the economy, if we don’t end up in a major recession, a nuclear war or under martial law, I’ll consider it a win.

The one area where I can’t hide my head in the sand, is the media. My only hope that we will again function as an enlightened, progressive country, lies with the press/media. We can keep our ideals alive if at least some voices in print, on TV and online remain sources of ‘facts’, ‘truth’ and ‘real news’. With their support we can fight back against the dinosaurs roaming the land trying to destroy everything about us that is decent and good. We will survive to triumph again as long as progressive voices continue to be heard and continue to share ideas and plans for political resistance.

Other than keeping some form of resistance and truth alive, I have no hopes for the Trump years. So I can’t be disappointed or surprised by pretty much anything. I won’t enjoy watching the world going to Hell in a hand basket. But I may be able to weather the experience without having a complete meltdown.

MOTIVATING DEMOCRATS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There’s an interesting strain in Jewish history. When Jews are persecuted, killed, locked in Ghettos or severely discriminated against, as in most of our history, we stick together. We stay strong and united. We cling to our traditions and our religion. We stay proud and unbowed as we fight to survive, as individuals and as a culture.

However, there have been periods in our history when the persecution was lifted and Jews are more openly accepted into the larger societies. When that happens, Jews tend to rapidly assimilate. In the process, we lose some of our Jewishness. We adopt the culture of our homeland. We intermarry. We raise our children less Jewish. This has happened in America since the 1960’s. Without an external enemy, we lose our motivation to maintain our cultural and religious identity.

We become complacent and lose some of our unique spirit as a people.

I believe that Democrats and  progressives are, in some ways, similar. When things are going well for us, we lose our identity and our will to fight. We don’t vote in off-year elections. We don’t participate in local and statewide politics nearly as much. We don’t stay organized, motivated, and active without an external crisis to propel us into action.

We were motivated by George W. Bush. We became a vocal anti-Bush, anti-Republican, anti-Iraq war force. We voted, we protested, we became a presence on late night TV. Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” became the most trusted man in America. “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” became some of the left’s major sources of news and sustenance.

Then Obama came along and we went back to our daily lives, leaving politics far behind. We stayed home for the mid-term elections and a large majority of states were totally taken over by Republicans. In the 2016 election, many Democrats were not ‘excited’ about Hillary Clinton. No one believed that Trump could win. So too many of us stayed home on election day or voted for third-party candidates. Now we have Trump to motivate us again.

And we sure are motivated. We are marching and organizing with a vengeance. We are running local candidates against Republicans, even in deep Red states. We are pulling in record vote tallies in special elections all over the country. We are winning local and national elections in deep red areas. Progressive organizations are raising money like crazy, with small donations as well as large ones.

Now there are many more late night shows to take up the Democratic/Progressive banner. Facebook, Twitter and other internet platforms have been a big factor in this Progressive explosion. The outrage is everywhere.

Hopefully we can maintain this level of activism and enthusiasm into the mid-term elections in 2018. Hopefully that will be enough to win over one, or maybe even both houses in Congress. If not, we may not be able to get the major change in Washington that we want through the ballot box before 2020.

There shouldn’t be a problem keeping Democrats active as long as Trump or Pence are in the White House. Let’s just hope we’ve finally learned our lesson and don’t crawl back into our apolitical holes once we get rid of the current Republican scourge on our country.

TRUMP OVERLOAD – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Something has changed in me. A switch has been turned off. I am no longer obsessed with Donald Trump. I don’t feel compelled to follow every statement, every interview, every tweet from the President. He no longer seems as important or relevant.

Trump’s National Security and Foreign Policy Cabinet members apparently agree with me. They have recently told the rest of the world to basically ignore Trump, particularly his tweets. They have tried to reassure everyone that our foreign policy is what it always was, not what Trump seems to think it is — or wants it to be.

Trump’s Chief of Staff, John Kelly, said that he doesn’t even read Trump’s tweets. Nothing to see here folks. Move along!

The government seems to be working over and around Trump in many ways. Not with him or for him. He can still veto things and issue signing statements, but what he says and does on a daily basis is no longer of major importance to the rest of his administration. Or to me.

I don’t want to watch Trump any more or hear him talk. It’s like chalk on a blackboard. I’m over him. I’m sick of being sickened or outraged. At least first-hand.

I still read editorials and articles analyzing the effects of things that Trump says and does. I can’t avoid him completely on Cable News, which I still watch. But it’s as if he is dead to me now. I don’t get a knot in my stomach every time I hear him say something awful. He no longer has the power to push all my buttons up to eleven, over and over, day after day.

I expect him to be vile and psychopathic, outrageously ignorant and untruthful, narcissistic, annoying and enraging. All the time. So nothing surprises me or ‘gets’ to me anymore. Everything he does is a big “Whatever! What else is new?”

I don’t know where this leaves me going forward. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to sustain this healthy distance from the toxicity of Donald Trump. I just know that this attitude is better for my blood pressure and my overall physical and mental well-being. My mood has improved and I’m more upbeat and positive. So far, so good.

I’m still passionate about what is happening in my country. I’m still following the news closely every day. It’s just not all about Donald Trump anymore for me. Maybe the key to surviving the rest of his term is for everyone to marginalize him. Make him irrelevant. Laugh at him and don’t take him seriously.

If nothing else, it will drive Trump friggin’ crazy!

“BEING THERE” REVISITED: A MODERN DAY REVIEW – BY GARRY ARMSTRONG

Last night, Marilyn and I watched “Being There.” We hadn’t seen this comedy from 1979 in a long time, probably years. What a difference time has made!

I recall seeing “Being There” when it opened. I enjoyed the farcical Hal Ashby film about a mentally challenged man who somehow influences high and mighty power brokers including our Commander-In-Chief and his aides. It seemed like a Capra-esque flight of fantasy in 1979.  Couldn’t happen in real life. Our political leaders couldn’t be so naïve or vulnerable. We were caught up with Jimmy Carter versus Ronald Reagan. Many laughed at the notion of an actor becoming President. It wouldn’t happen, we smart folks reasoned with our historical savvy. No way a B-movie actor, revered for his roles as a beloved college football player and pal to a chimp named Bonzo — no way that guy could become the most powerful political figure in the world.  So we smugly thought.

Being There, 1979 poster

Peter Sellers is “Chance.” AKA Chauncey Gardner, a middle-aged gardener. The simple-minded assistant to a wealthy man who dies at the beginning of “Being There.” We don’t know much about Chance except he apparently has the mental capacity of a child. He is a brilliant gardener and likes to watch television. Chance is a sweet-tempered fellow whose world revolves around tending the garden — and watching television. He can’t read or write. He just gardens. And likes to watch …. television.

Chauncey Garden walking through Washington DC

Through a series of farcical plot twists, Chance becomes the house guest of an elderly, dying business tycoon and political king-maker (Melvyn Douglas) and his capricious wife (Shirley MacLaine).  The new benefactors mistake Chance’s observations about gardening as metaphors for Wall Street and fixing what ails our government. The President (Jack Warden), a close friend of the tycoon, thinks Chance — now accepted as the mysterious Chauncey Gardner — is his benign Henry Kissinger. Chauncey’s garden recipes become talking points for the President’s economic directive.

Peter Sellers & Shirley MacLaine in Being There (1979)

There’s one hilarious scene in the middle of the film where the Black maid who raised Chauncey from infancy — and knows he has “rice pudding between his ears” — rails at her friends and points out that “all you need to become president is to be white.” That was a joke in 1979. Not so funny these days.

In 1979, the movie plot seemed outrageous and outlandish. In those days,  many of us didn’t believe Ronald Reagan could be taken seriously. None of us conceived of him as what we called “a president.” We would have deemed it impossible. I still do.

As “Being There” reaches its conclusion, Melvyn Douglas’ tycoon dies. At the cemetery, as he is laid to rest, the tycoon’s pals and the President’s aides quietly share anxiety about the country’s future. They don’t think the President is strong enough to lead the country out of its economic swamp. There’s a final quiet agreement that only one man can save the country, the man with the savvy garden metaphors, Chauncey Gardner.

Closing scene

The man who would be President is seen wandering through the woods and into a lake, staking his umbrella in the water, perhaps divining a miracle. The end credits roll with outtakes of Peter Sellers laughing his way through many retakes of plays on words.

Marilyn and I laughed as the credits rolled by. Then, we looked at each other. Quietly. Very quietly. Through some bizarre upside-down ill-starred event, during the heart of a perfect political storm, Chauncey Gardner became America’s president after all. Not benign — and definitely not a gardener, yet surely as stupid and illiterate.

A gardener would have been a better choice. At least he could have grown a few roses.

Robert Reich: The Meaning of America – http://robertreich.org/

HUMAN RIGHTS


Robert Reich: The Meaning of America
We are forgetting the ideals on which our nation was built.
By Robert Reich / Robert Reich’s Blog February 18, 2018, 2:33 PM GMT


When Trump and his followers refer to “America,” what do they mean?

Some see a country of white English-speaking Christians.

Others want a land inhabited by self-seeking individuals free to accumulate as much money and power as possible, who pay taxes only to protect their assets from criminals and foreign aggressors.

Photo Credit: Celso FLORES / Flickr CC

Others think mainly about flags, national anthems, pledges of allegiance, military parades, and secure borders.

Trump encourages a combination of all three – tribalism, libertarianism, and loyalty.

But the core of our national identity has not been any of this. It has been found in the ideals we share – political equality, equal opportunity, freedom of speech and of the press, a dedication to open inquiry and truth, and to democracy and the rule of law.

We are not a race. We are not a creed. We are a conviction – that all people are created equal, that people should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, and that government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Political scientist Carl Friedrich, comparing Americans to Gallic people, noted that “to be an American is an ideal, while to be a Frenchman is a fact.”

That idealism led Lincoln to proclaim that America might yet be the “last best hope” for humankind. It prompted Emma Lazarus, some two decades later, to welcome to American the world’s “tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

It inspired the poems of Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes, and the songs of Woody Guthrie. All turned their love for America into demands that we live up to our ideals. “This land is your land, this land is my land,” sang Guthrie. “Let America be America again,” pleaded Hughes: “The land that never has been yet – /And yet must be – the land where every man is free. / The land that’s mind – the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME –.”

That idealism sought to preserve and protect our democracy – not inundate it with big money, or allow one party or candidate to suppress votes from rivals, or permit a foreign power to intrude on our elections.

It spawned a patriotism that once required all of us take on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going – paying taxes in full rather than seeking loopholes or squirreling money away in foreign tax shelters, serving in the armed forces or volunteering in our communities rather than relying on others to do the work.


Robert Reich is the nation’s 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.


Source for complete post: http://robertreich.org/

CONGRESSIONAL KINDERGARTEN – BY ELLIN CURLEY

COMPROMISE AND LIVING IN THESE UNITED STATES


We are a country of babies. Spoiled babies. Over-indulged, entitled babies.

No amendment to the Constitution says that everyone can do whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. No country could survive the anarchy this would create.

All societies have laws and regulations for a reason. Parents have rules for their toddlers for a reason. We have reached the point in our violent history that the ‘parents’ in the country have to just say “No!” to the toddlers who are running rampant. Let them have a full-blown tantrum in the aisle of the supermarket.

I’m really talking about guns in America. But I don’t want to focus on the politics, which are mind bogglingly corrupt and twisted because of the NRA.

I want to talk about the issue from a sociological/psychological perspective. It’s time someone just said “NO!” to the groups of people who are disrupting our society. “NO!” to the people who want to own AR 15’s outside of the military. You just can’t have that weapon of mass destruction in your bedroom because you like it and want it. You can have some, less lethal guns. If you abide by the normal regulations that govern other things, like cars.

To drive a car, you have to pass several tests to get a license. You need insurance and you have to live by all the rules of the road. Otherwise, you get your license revoked. You also have to get your license renewed regularly and pass an eye exam.

No one screams bloody murder about their Constitutional rights because they can’t drive a Formula One race car on the highway at 140 miles per hour. Or that they have to pass a driving test (actually a written test AND a road test) to be able to drive legally.

The Congressional GOP and the White House are two other groups of people who need to hear a loud “NO!” for a change. Governments only function with compromise. Everyone can’t get exactly what they want all the time. Aren’t you supposed to learn that in Kindergarten? Did the entire GOP and the everyone in the White House all flunk Kindergarten?

Where do elected officials get the chutzpah to insist on ‘My way or the highway’ even if it means shutting down the government? Why do people think it’s okay to bull-doze others on their way to total ‘victory’ for THEIR special interest group?

I don’t have answers to these questions. I feel as if Washington DC is run by people who refuse to live by any of the rules I grew up believing were necessary for a civil society. Is it a fluke? Are the stars misaligned to give us the most childish, selfish, greedy bunch of amoral politicians ever to run our government? Is this some kind of Karmic lesson?

I know the corruption level in government has been better or worse at various times in our history. Washington has often been run entirely on favors traded and bribes offered, but even that assumes acceptance of the concept of compromise. Of give and take. Today it seems like intransigence is the standard, as well as self-righteousness and narcissism.

The impasse on guns is one symptom of our broken system. It’s sad although a majority of NRA members favor reasonable gun control laws such as universal background checks and bans on assault weapons, the NRA (read “gun manufacturers”) have paid off our Congress and our President. They don’t even reflect or represent the will of their own members much less the non-gun-owning public. They don’t care.

I’m optimistic that when Democrats take over the government, hopefully in 2020, we may see more serious gun control legislation. But there will still be plenty of pols who collect a big hunk of their campaign contributions from the NRA and all those Republicans who behave like spoiled toddlers. They will still refuse to play nicely with others.

Trump Republicans are a minority in the U.S. — yet they do an enormous amount of damage and exert a disproportionate amount of control. Hopefully by 2020, they will be relegated to an insignificant minority who we can disregard. Maybe then we can move on.

We can walk past the toddlers and ignore them while they have their tantrums in the aisles of Congress. It’s a welcome thought.