KEEPING DEMOCRATS MOTIVATED – 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.

From: Miami-Herald

During periods in our history when persecution was lifted, we are more openly accepted into the larger societies in which we lived. When that happens, Jews rapidly assimilate. In the process, we lose some of our Jewishness. We adopt the culture of our homeland. Intermarry and 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. We lose some of our unique spirit as a people.

I believe that Democrats/Progressives are, in some ways, like the Jews. When things are going well for us, we lose our identity and our will to fight. We don’t vote in off-year elections and we don’t participate in local and statewide politics 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.

These days, 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. 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. That may not be enough to win over one, let alone both houses in Congress. So we may not be able to get the major change in Washington that we want through the ballot box before 2020.

But we can also maintain pressure on Congress, the intelligence agencies and the media. That eventually might result in someone being able to link Trump to the Russian hacking of the 2016 election. Or to money laundering, or something else that’s clearly illegal, even to Republicans. That could result in a resignation or impeachment, if something else, like egregious conflicts of interest, haven’t already.

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.

SOPHISTICATED SKEWERING

One of my pieces was posted on a highly political board elsewhere. You can look it up at INTELLIGENCE FOR THE UNINTELLIGENT – AND BANNON.

I gave permission and up it went. Before its time in the sun was complete, it had gotten dozens of responses. Being me, I tried to keep up with all the comments, but by the third day it was obvious the commenters had abandoned me and were arguing with each other. I drifted home to Serendipity.

Exhausting! While overall it was a better experience than (for example) Facebook, with fewer people ranting mindlessly, there were still more than a few of them. As an American, I’m proud to say the craziness was reasonably well-distributed between left and right-wing crazies, although in my opinion, right-wingers spew more bad language than left-wingers. This may be due to a weakness in their vocabulary. I encourage them to work on their language skills so when they spew hate, they can do it with more class and fewer references to fecal matter.

What it did remind me of, in full measure, was how hard it is to have a conversation about anything that matters. It isn’t just politics. It’s everything. The entire population of these fifty United States has hit some kind of edge. We’re all ready to pop. Whether it’s the slow driver blocking the left lane, someone stealing a parking space, or putting down too many items in the “quick” lane at the supermarket, we’re ready to blow up. That is unhealthy and sometimes, dangerous.

Personally, I need to take a breath, step back, and rethink how I deal with this.

I’m terribly unhappy with the political situation at home and almost equally upset at the way the rest of the world is drifting. We seem to be collectively heading for another world war, whether we do it nuclear or just kill each other in more traditional ways. Given what’s on the table here and abroad, it will get worse. Can I live in a state of fraught, hysterical insanity long-term? I don’t think I can. I know I don’t want to.

I’ve disliked a fair number of presidents and other heads of state in multiple countries. Locally, from Nixon, and Reagan (who I mostly missed by being overseas), and then through three terms of two Bushes, that’s a fair number of American presidents I would have happily lived without. Trump is the last and hopefully, the worst. He has raised our national temperature to such a point we are going to need a collective ice bath to just calm the fuck down.

There are people with whom I will never have a civil conversation. The things they say are so far removed from anything in which I believe, there’s no way to have a conversation. People who won’t believe in facts, science, or history, or even English spoken as a language, are not people with whom I’m going to chat pleasantly. Men who think they know what women should do with their bodies? Never going to be a pal of mine. The remainder of people who hold to something resembling rationality, with them, perhaps I can talk. If they don’t directly insult me, maybe I can avoid ranting at them.

Then, there’s the more cultured approach, which I strongly favor. Before we blow up, rage, rant, and foam at the mouth, think about British comedy. That’s where everyone skewers and guts one another without murmuring a single foul word. If they can do it, surely we can too. It’s time we upped the ante on insults. Time to get out of the gutter and move into the parlor. More wit, less raving.

There are so many delicious, witty, and sometimes charming ways to insult each other. Let’s see if we can find some.

You think?

SMACK IN THE GOB

I’ve heard this from a lot of people in a lot of places, so maybe there’s something to it.

Trump is a horrible president. He not only won the office, but has been a sore winner from day one. Of all the people elected to the presidency, he has to be the most unpleasant of any man to step into the Oval Office. Instead of taking this “honeymoon period” as an opportunity to try to make a few friends, maybe win over a couple of disaffected Democrats, he broke out of the gate hating everyone. From day one, he has been spiteful, nasty, bigoted, and thoroughly ill-tempered. Some people think he’s mentally ill, but regardless, he is extremely disagreeable. Any of us who hoped he might not turn out to be as bad as we thought … well, we sure were wrong about that!

He has been as bad as we feared — and worse. Every day in every way, he has been our political nightmare come to life.

Which may be the upside of his presidency.  The awfulness of these months or years may be  what finally blows the door off our proverbial electoral wall, getting people actively involved in politics and trying to make the world a genuinely better place.

Suddenly, after many a long year, people are out in the world. Demonstrating. Getting involved. Active. For the first time in 50 years, I’m seeing younger people waking up from their stupor and paying attention.

Is Trump horrible? You betcha. But maybe he was the smack in the gob we needed to get our act together.

You think?

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Since November 8, I’ve been fantasizing about the ways in which Trump could be removed from office. Resignation, Impeachment. 25th Amendment. Russian collusion. Emoluments Clause. Money laundering. Treason. Let me count the ways!

I really want Trump brought down in a humiliating ball of Karmic fire! But that’s as far as my fantasy goes.

I haven’t thought through what that would actually mean for America. So, let’s assume for the moment, Pence does not go down with Trump. We’re left with President Pence, for two or three years. How does that scenario look? Is it better or worse than the same time period under Trump? I believe Pence might be smarter and more effective pushing through his appalling far right agenda. He could do more actual legislative damage — domestically at least. That’s the negative. Remember — much of this damage is getting done, however inefficiently, under Trump too, so that would not be much of a change.

On the upside, Pence is sane. He has some fundamental understanding of government functioning, particularly foreign policy.

As a sane person, he would not be as volatile, erratic, vengeful, mindbogglingly ignorant or pathologically self-absorbed. There would be some level of competence and stability in government. That by itself would be a good thing. It might bring back some normalcy to our foreign relationships. It could help us regain our lost stature in the world. We would not be as feared — or mocked — as we are now, which would be a big plus. We might also shore up our bonds with allies and be better able to combat common enemies. We might at least have a better chance of stopping the nuclear arms production going on in dangerous parts of the world. I would sleep better at night not having to worry about setting off World War III.

Another good thing about Pence as President, is unlikely to be elected in 2020. I can’t imagine he would generate the kind of adulation Trump did. And he would get little support outside the Republican Party. Which is huge! If we can end this nightmare in four years, we can spend the next four undoing the damage done to our country. Then, move on.

I might miss the excitement of reading about some new tweet, gaffe, or scandal each day in the news, but in the end, I think our country and the world would be better off with less craziness at the top. Predictability is healthier for everyone when it comes to national and international relations.

So I can continue to dream about Trump and his cronies disappearing into the giant sinkhole they have created. I wouldn’t be happy with Pence in the White House, but I think the entire world would heave a giant, collective sigh of relief.

ARROGANCE AND IGNORANCE: A BAD COMBINATION – ELLIN CURLEY

I am outraged at the amount of both arrogance and ignorance that are oozing out of every pore of the Trump Administration. A crew of individuals with near god-like arrogance are responsible for running the agencies of the U.S. federal government. One of the reasons they think they are qualified to handle their new jobs is they are clueless about what those jobs entail. Either they’re not smart enough to know what they don’t know, or they are so corrupt, they don’t care.

Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas, admitted that he didn’t know what the Energy Department did before he agreed to RUN IT! Ben Carson was a brain surgeon and a political candidate before he became the head of the Housing and Urban Development Department. His only connection to housing is that he probably has lived in a house.

Do rich, successful people believe their success in one field automatically translates to every other field? No actual, relevant experience required? Apparently they do.

I don’t. Nor do I believe “business experience” inherently prepares you for government work. Why would it?

Those assigned to head up major government agencies are supposed to be specialists in that agency’s area of expertise. Now, more than ever, we need intelligent, caring, efficient professionals to help us deal with the incredibly complex problems facing our country. Instead, we’ve got science haters. Climate deniers. Ideologues. Industry shills. People holding obvious financial conflicts of interest with the American people … and others who are overtly hostile to their agency’s mission.

Where we need knowledge and authority, we have instead a toxic mix of arrogance and ignorance allowing these appointees to fail. Upwards. The Peter Principle on steroids as each of them has gone way beyond their level of incompetence. We pay the price.

I have neither an antidote nor words of encouragement. I’m so pissed. The arrogance and ignorance of these people is beyond belief. To find them sitting in the highest positions in government, defies the understanding of ordinary mortals.

THE INEVITABILITY OF INEFFICIENCY AND INEFFECTIVENESS- BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve been watching the Trump administration for two months. And now I’m less panicked about the future of the country than I was before the inauguration. A great deal of harm will be done on many fronts. But I believe that less damage will get done than anticipated because of the three INs – INfightIng, INcompetence and INertia.

To be specific, the IN-fighting in the Congress, the INcompetence of the white House and the INertia of the bureaucracy. With these three factors working in our favor, INefficiency and INeffectiveness are INevitable. So we can all take a deep breath and relax. A little bit.

The Republicans in congress are their own worst enemies. They have a large bloc of extreme, right-wing ‘Freedom Caucus’ members who refuse to compromise on anything. Not that other Republicans are fans of negotiation and compromise either. But compromise was how things used to get done. Now no Republican wants to give an inch, so little will get done.

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After seven years hating Obamacare, the Republicans had no legislation. No plan. Which is all the better for the rest of the country. Most people want healthcare which at least covers common medical problems. Chalk this win up to INfighting, with a little help from INcompetence.

The White House is the second factor in this equation. It’s drowning in INcompetence and INeptitude. From the top down. The Executive Branch is led by an INfantile, delusional, demented “president.” His rogue tweets keep everyone from focusing on important matters. Instead, the White House flunkies have to run around doing damage control about the latest debunked conspiracy theory or ‘alternative facts’ their boss has spouted.

Apart from the crazy trickling down from the top, everyone in the White House is way out of their depth. No one knows how the government is supposed to work, let alone what they are supposed to do. They’re trying to learn on the job. Let’s hope it takes them four years to figure it out. In the meantime, INcompetence is our friend.

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The last element in our favor, is the INherent INertia of the federal bureaucracy. Now, Trump wants to drastically reduce the budgets and staffing requirements in all non-military agencies. He probably won’t succeed. There’s a huge, largely INdependent bureaucracy in place. It goes about its day-to-day business no matter who is in the White House. Republican or Democrat.

All Presidents have complained about how long it takes to get anything changed in the career government offices. Much like trying to turn an aircraft carrier around, it takes a lot of effort and it happens very slowly.

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With the help of three INs, it will take a long time to make the threatened policy changes. If the first two months are an indication of how effective these clowns will be, we just have to worry that they might accidentally accomplish something. If Progressives stay organized and motivated, we can stall this train wreck. Maybe even derail it completely!

REALITY SWAP! – BY TOM CURLEY

I figured it out!

The solution!

To reality!

This reality!

This reality TV reality!

The problem is not so much that we are living in a reality TV reality. The problem is that we’re living in a REALLY BAD reality TV reality. Face it, it’s just not working folks.

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Do you know what does work? Fictional TV reality! Think about it. There’s a show on TV today called “Designated Survivor.” In it, the whole U.S. government is blown up during a State of the Union Address.  The Executive Branch, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all gone. The one cabinet member that has to stay home becomes the President. He has to rebuild the entire government from the ground up. And while he’s doing that, there’s a mysterious cabal,  the ones responsible  for blowing everybody up, that’s also trying to take over the country. In spite of all that, their government and their President are doing a hell of a lot better job than ours!

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So here’s what we do.  Let’s just switch realities! It’s a win-win for everybody. How do we do this? Simple.

First: The current administration leaves the government and instead, goes on real TV 24 hours a day. On Fox News. They all go to work on sets that look just like Washington, D.C.  They do the exact same things they do now. It will be just like on  “Big Brother”. Only bigger. And on Fox News.

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They can pass laws, write executive orders, cancel health insurance for the whole nation, eliminate “Meals On Wheels” or just kick puppies. Whatever they want! Trump supporters won’t be upset because they only watch Fox News. As far as they’ll be concerned, everything is normal.

It just isn’t real.

“And it’s only on Fox.”

Second: OK, great you say. But what about real reality? Who’s going to be the real President? The real cabinet? Here’s who. Real honest to God fictional ones.

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And the cool part is, we have a lot of options. We have lots of choices for President.

We could have Jeb Bartlett. He was a great President. Don’t believe me? Watch “The West Wing.”

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We’ve got Dennis Haysbert. I’m pretty sure he was President twice.

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We’ve got Morgan Freeman. Not only was he President, but he was also God!

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And the list goes on. Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Jack Nicholson, Peter Sellers … (Oh, for God’s sake, Google the rest.) You get my point.

Now, appointing a cabinet becomes fun!

Secretary of State? How about Tia Leoni? She’s already a Secretary of State and seems to be doing a pretty decent job of it every Sunday. Let’s give her the job for the rest of the week.

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Attorney General? Julianna Margulies. She’s a lawyer, ran for State’s Attorney and by almost all accounts, is a good wife.

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Secretary of Defense? Well I admit, at first, I was leaning toward Schwarzenegger or Stallone. Then it hit me.

CHUCK NORRIS! Think about it. We could cut the military budget down to nothing. Nobody’s going to go to war with us. Nobody fucks with Chuck Norris!

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ISIS COMMANDER: We will destroy America!

ISIS GUY WATCHING THE NEWS: Sir, America just made Chuck Norris Secretary of Defense.

ISIS COMMANDER:  Shit.

(Insert favorite Chuck Norris joke here. My favorite? Chuck Norris once counted to infinity. Twice.)

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Department of Education? The cast of Sesame Street.

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Depart of Health and Human Services? Pick any of the stern but kindly Chiefs of Staff from the medical show of your choice. Any one of them will do just fine. (Except for Dr. Zorba. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.) (Extra points if you get that reference.)

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Department of Housing? Chris Rock. OK, he really doesn’t have any more qualifications for the job than Ben Carson does. But I just like the guy. He’s funny.

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(If you get that reference, you get double extra points.) I could go on, but you get the point.

How do we do this? Simple. We have an election. Not the usual kind. Between voter suppression, low turnouts, gerrymandering, and the Electoral College, our elections are not working out so well.  I mean, that’s how we got into this mess to begin with.

So what do we do? We have an election the same way reality TV shows do it. Everybody gets to vote from their smartphone, their computer, their tablet, or Android device. You can email or text your vote. You are only allowed to vote up to 20 times on any given device. You can vote up until 10 pm Eastern Standard Time.

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Granted, this will fire up the Millennials and confuse the hell out of old folks. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s still better than the Electoral College. We can set up March Madness style brackets and have an election every week for maybe a month until we get a winner. More office pools!

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And we, the people, elect everybody. The President doesn’t get to appoint his cabinet. We do.

It’s Democracy at work!

It could work!

As a cheese-faced person who somehow actually became President of the United States said to a bunch of totally incredulous Black people:

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“Give it a try. What have you got to lose?”