AMERICA IN THE BALANCE

Both political parties have staged their virtual conventions, both have set off their fireworks displays, and both have warned against the existential threat to America posed by voting for their opponent. And that is the scratch line behind which we stand in the race for the White House in 2020. Perhaps the overriding question before us is: Irrespective of the outcome, can there be anything approaching a victory given such a divergent matchup?

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Pressured by a polarizing presidency, a viral pandemic – along the economic crisis that attends it – and street protests erupting against a backdrop of police brutalities committed against unarmed black people (like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks), America is once again searching for those elusive ties that bind at a time when there’s money and political capital to be made by the forces of denial, distrust, and opposition.

A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC  poll (June 7, 2020) found that 80% of the public believes the country is out of control, while only 15% view it as being guided by a steady hand.

If we break that WSJ/NBC poll down, it is likely that we will find a wide gap in the understanding of how the nation became so polarized and what we might do to correct it, if anything.

Gadsden Flag

But the sense here, and it’s an ironic one, is that the Gadsden Flag’s “Don’t Tread On Me” brand of staunchly American individualism and anti-government sentiment that earmarked our nation as something new and revolutionary at its founding, the same individualism that helped create the American pioneering and entrepreneurial spirits that proved to be such a strength within a more widely spread homogenous population, has now become the very quality that keeps us from being able to unite in a time of crisis in a more tightly packed, yet heterogeneous society.

Imagine that, our greatest strength now part of what is working to keep us apart. So much so, that the concept of “We, the people” no longer seems applicable some 244 years after our founding. Continue reading “AMERICA IN THE BALANCE”

BYE-BYE BERNIE

Even as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced the suspension of his campaign for the presidency today (Wednesday, 8 April 2020), he seemed to understand that he had found himself in the wrong election cycle – again.

Vt. Senator Bernie Sanders bids adieu to 2020 campaign (WireFax News)

In his 2016 campaign, a then 74-year-old Bernie was beaten not so much by eventual standard-bearer Hillary Clinton as by the Democratic Party itself, which had engineered a Super Delegates head start for Hillary that Bernie could never overcome.

This year, after a dead-heat with Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the Iowa caucuses, Bernie followed up with convincing wins in the first two primary state elections. But then, like in `16, Sanders came up against the Democrat Party machine, this time in South Carolina where, with the endorsement of Congressman James Clyburn, former VP Joe Biden began his run to the top of the Democratic ticket.

Ever since, Biden has gone on a winning streak, piling up delegates even as people reached out to Senator Sanders saying, ‘we believe in your cause’ and ‘we believe in what you’re projecting, but we think Biden is the man to beat Trump this November’.

Thus, Bernie’s call for a progressive revolution led by a government-run universal healthcare system hasn’t been repudiated per se, but instead maybe just been postponed, just like the Boston and London Marathons have been put off in the face of the coronavirus crisis, as in “now is not the time”. Continue reading “BYE-BYE BERNIE”

RUSHMORE NO MORE

Think about it for a second. Let it linger on the mind. We have all been vulnerable, all been in need at some point in our life. Yes, we all know how it feels to be unmoored.

That in mind, tell Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the neophyte president of Ukraine, a man who has the fate of his young nation hanging in the balance that he was under no pressure.

New Mount Rushmore?

Now look back to America, that beacon of freedom and equality shining its light to guide Ukraine away from the benighted ways of a Soviet past and a menacing Russian future.

“Light the way ahead, America. Show us the way forward.”

Now ask yourself how you would react if the President of the United States sent over his private lawyer saying one thing – like pony up those investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election if you want our help – while U.S. State Department representatives were presenting something else altogether – like keep your nose clean and stay out of domestic U.S. matters if you expect our help? What would you do caught in that pincer movement?  Probably react just like the Ukrainians did, by becoming increasingly confused and then just plain scared.

Defenders of our president say there was not only no quid pro quo suggested during his July 25th call to the Ukraine president, but that there was no pressure applied at all. And that President Zelenskiy agreed when asked.  But you get down on the ground and bring out the political barometer and you’ll feel plenty of pressure. Because when Ukraine is hanging on by its fingernails as a new democracy with an emasculated former empire on its border anxious to reanimate that past glory at your expense, and the USA is ostensibly your new big bro protector who suddenly seems to be looking in the other direction, man, if that isn’t pressure please tell me what is. Continue reading “RUSHMORE NO MORE”

POLARIZATION – THE REAL HEALTHCARE ISSUE

As a genuine outpouring of bipartisan sadness attends the passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Md) – laid to rest in Baltimore on 25 October – perhaps this is the proper time for America to address the number one healthcare issue confronting its citizenry in this its 243rd year. 

Partisan rancor grows more heated with each passing day, starting in the embattled White House where Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham defended the president’s tweet attacking his critics as “human scum”.  “People Who Don’t Like Trump ‘Deserve’ To Be Called Scum.”

Trump followers and haters alike have long since come to define our national interests in more apocalyptic terms even as a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls searches for supporters in the run up to the 2020 election.

As I take in these troubling symptoms, I can’t help but recall my travels to Rwanda this past June (2019) where the central East African nation was commemorating the 25th anniversary of its 1994 genocide during which one million people were slaughtered in a scant three months time.

Travel is almost always instructive, not just for the perspective one gains IN another place, but FROM that distance as well. Continue reading “POLARIZATION – THE REAL HEALTHCARE ISSUE”

ON THE HORNS OF A DILEMMA – THE WHAT IF MAN

6 Sept. 2018 – How’s this for being on the horns of a dilemma?   Either stay with a duly elected but “amoral” president who “continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic”, or go with an unelected cabal made up of “many of the senior officials in his own administration who are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations”?  

Oh, my!

The blame, dear friends, lies not with the one called Trump, though he is the locus of the dilemma.  No, he is who he is, who he has been for many, many decades. No surprises there. Nor can blame be apportioned to the wide enough swath of America that got him elected in November 2016. 

They didn’t love him (OK, some did), they just hated you, the Washington establishment. Hated you for your mindless disregard that left them without a sense of their traditional homes, jobs, infrastructure, affordable education, etc. Trump wasn’t their guy so much as he just wasn’t yours. He was  the cudgel you gave them to say NO with and they swung it enthusiastically.

No, this erratic, unfit executive belongs to the Republican Party and its cynical leaders who sought to ride the raging bull long enough to pass tax cuts, strip away regulations, and pack the judiciary before the beast would need to be put down.

“Why are we putting so many resources in South Korea?” Trump wonders aloud. 

“To avoid WW3!” says SecDef James Mattis in utter disbelief. 

Amorality aside, he just doesn’t know any better. Studying was never his thing. Making stuff up on the fly is what got him this far in the family business. Do not expect him to change now because the responsibilities are exponentially greater.

Unfortunately for us, that leaves him particularly unprepared for the task at hand, like a TV actor after the writers have left. This is a president without Mark Burnett to produce the Reality TV show.

But as Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell told Brett Baier on Fox News, “In the last 100 years, the Republican party has held the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives in only 20 of those years. And we are not going to squander that opportunity.”

That’s the key understanding. “We are not going to have this very long, so let’s make the most of it.”

There’s is purely a transactional relationship. Regardless of his qualifications, let’s ride this guy until he implodes, gambling that we can get what we want before the country gets what it deserves. 

In a binary world of Trump v Clinton, where one choice will impact the Supreme Court for a generation in your favor, the choice is a no-brainer (just like their president). So hold your nose, say your prayers,  and pull that voting lever.

Of course, in for a dime, in for a dollar. So when insiders lay open the sucking chest-wound of an administration led by a virtual child, Mitch McConnell has nothing to say about the scathing New York Times Op-Ed from a senior White House official talking about resistance within the administration to many of the dangerous inclinations of the amoral president. This is realpolitik in its purest form. Continue reading “ON THE HORNS OF A DILEMMA – THE WHAT IF MAN”

AMERICUH 2018

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We come to wonder in times like these,

Whether the founders’ vision as first conceived,

Was a light for the ages from Enlightenment’s steeple,

Or a just votive candle for the lesser-blessed people.

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For Founding Fathers like Madison and Hamilton,

Though men of good will were inarguably masculine,

Whose unalienable rights attended the fortunes of birth,

Where color and land were measures of worth.

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Yet believing in full,

’Twas the way God designed it,

The true order of man,

Who were they to unwind it?

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Still, there was more to their vision,

Than even they ever saw,

As the breadth of their wisdom,

Slowly codified into law.

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Ever-widening the definition,

Of all men being equal,

Whether by gender or race,

Eventually all became legal.

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And though the union isn’t perfect,

Nor ever likely to be,

The struggle for inclusion,

Stretches sea to shining sea.

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Continue reading “AMERICUH 2018”

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

While the big ball of Waterford crystals will be shining tonight as it drops in New York’s frigid Times Square, the crystal ball predicting what 2018 will bring remains decidedly clouded.  But as 2017 comes clanking to a close, we are again reminded how societies work, in a series of open-ended recalibrations that determine how traditions that at one time may have been considered sketchy, but acceptable – you know, like slavery – or that may have once been thought of as boyishly charming – you know, sexual harassment – suddenly change to being legally actionable.

America fought a Civil War that ended slavery, if not the malice in men’s hearts. Men chasing women, on the other hand, is at one very basic level a Darwinian predicate. But in our modern society where the roles of the sexes have blurred and more categories along the male-female continuum open every day than new Starbucks locations – Forget ‘LBGT’… Canadian teachers now asked to learn ‘LGGBDTTTIQQAAP’ – the line that separates playful courtship from sanctionable behavior never fully settles. Just consider this one Biblical proscription as an example, remembering there are many who read such admonitions as timelessly applicable.

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man; rather, she is to remain silent.” 1 Timothy 2: 11-12.

The rush of #MeToo stories that have spilled out across the media landscape like a dam-busted flood in 2017 testify to the long building pressure behind the allegations. But rather than question why it took so long for these women to come forward, understand, instead, the feelings of isolation and illogical self-recriminations (“what did I do?”) that attended those incidents when they first happened, and therefore maintained their sheltered silence over the long dark years. Not so different than how the actions of predatory Catholic priests preying on young boys came to the surface only after decades of omertà.

So from Judge Roy Moore to Charlie Rose, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, Russell Simmons to the Big P-Grabber himself in the White House, what we see is that even the hard lines of political dogma that have split this country into primary political palettes of reds and blues bleed away in this even more definitional construct of human sexual interaction.

Yes, sisterhood is once again on the rise. But I wonder, is it fifth-wave feminism, or just another in the endless reactions to the aberration that is the Donald Trump presidency? Because what doesn’t revolve around that tangerine sun these days? Continue reading “WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?”

MEASURING PRIVILEGE AT UCLA

Let’s not kid ourselves, the cost of labor in any industry is tied to scarcity.  And in the world of sports, talent is rare and accordingly, often accommodated with positions of wealth and privilege. We are about to witness how far that privilege stretches in Westwood, California.

According to ESPN, there’s a big internal debate within the UCLA community about what sanctions to levy against the three freshman basketball players caught shoplifting in China on a recent “goodwill tour”.

UCLA freshman accused of shoplifting in China address the press upon returning home. (l-r) Cody Riley, DiAngelo Ball, and Jalen Hill. (photo NY Daily News)

Some in the Bruin community believe that Cody RileyLiAngelo Ball, and Jalen Hill,  should be suspended for the entire season, if not expelled from school. Others say that a half-a-year suspension would be sufficient punishment. Interestingly, we note that half a season would coincide with the start of Pac-12 conference play.

All three players were confined to the team hotel in Hangzhou, China after being arrested for shoplifting at three high-end stores nearby.  They were not permitted to leave the country with the rest of the team until their legal process was completed.  Fortunately for them, President Trump had recently completed his 12-day Far East trip, and was able to prevail upon Chinese President Xi Jinping to intercede on behalf of the young men.

Upon their release and return to the U.S., the players were contrite at their first press conference, thanking President Trump and the State Department. They all “feel terrible” and “take full responsibility” and “have learned my lesson from this big mistake”, promising “not to make a bad decision like this one again.” LiAngelo Ball’s father, the outspoken LaVar Ball, called the incident, “no big deal” while he was in China with his son. Others believe differently. Continue reading “MEASURING PRIVILEGE AT UCLA”

GRANTING OR DENYING PERMISSION

As American cities are increasingly confronted by extremes in weather, social unrest, and general lunacy, you wonder how inviolate mass gatherings, including road races, may be in the years ahead. We take such things as road races and parades and big outdoor concerts for granted. But where lie the limits on our police, fire, and first-responders? Just this past weekend the inaugural Virgin Sport Festival of Fitness in San Francisco was cancelled due to Bay Area wildfires.

But whether it’s California wild fires, hurricanes in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, or a maniacal fellow traveler with second amendment rights scoping a big concert in Nevada, how much longer before cities begin to question granting permits for such mass public events? Or demand so much more funding that they become unfeasible? Continue reading “GRANTING OR DENYING PERMISSION”