THE TRUMP COMEUPPANCE

“We need to make this an aberration, not our reality,“ said historian Jon Meacham when asked what he took from former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s insider account of the Trump presidency, The Room Where It Happened. Yes, call 2017-2021 the Trump interregnum, a one-term crie de coeur from a long-suffering segment of the American population that Trump pandered to and then exploited for his own gain. 

But while the world-at-large is being tested by a deadly novel pathogen, with some nations passing that test better than others, I have a sneaking suspicion that America’s 2020 triple whammy of Coronavirus, Donald Trump, and the Black Lives Matter movement is just old-fashioned karma finally come a-calling on the US of A. And that one day we may come to know that combination as the Trump Comeuppance.

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Lawmakers and the judiciary often point to Original Intent as the Northstar that guides our path forward as a nation. But you have to wonder how sincere our Founders’ declaration “all men are created equal“ really was if after 244 years we still can’t make it apply universally. And so, after a long and, to date, blemished record in color-coordinated democratic self-rule, America has finally seen the Fates step up.

New Mount Rushmore

In a fit of 21st-century pique, the Fates presented America with a Brioni suit-wearing Apprentice President, one over-ripened with vacuous self-confidence and a truly imbecilic understanding of government and history – “everything will be simple and done quickly”, right? Then taxed him with a raging pandemic, a nuanced foreign field of play, and a long-simmering domestic social injustice brought to a boil, and let nature take its course.

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You never know what might be the catalyst for historic change. In a different time, at a different place, today’s catalyst would be just another average tragedy added to the long list of previous tragedies, like the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, for instance. Horrible to see, yes, but just chalk it up as another brown man killed for being brown, wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Seen it before, will see it again.

But the quickly following slow-motion kneel-lynching of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, and the jaw-dropping case of Breonna Taylor, killed in her own home by Louisville police who busted into the wrong house they were tasked to serve and protect, was enough to break the lockdown dam. The newly witnessed killing of Rayshard Brooks by Atlanta police just added volume to the already rushing current.

And that’s all after the Fates had given us a mulligan or two when we first got started. Continue reading “THE TRUMP COMEUPPANCE”

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”

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”

MAD NOW DISEASE

Famously, at the 1963 March on Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr spoke of “the fierce urgency of now” regarding the need for immediate, “vigorous and positive action” on civil rights. That it took from 1619 to 1963 for that message to be heard tells its own story.

Immediacy is an important driver in any endeavor, as racers we know that. But immediacy must first be buttressed by thoughtful preparation, as well as constancy over time, as Nietzsche reminded us when he said, “for anything great to happen, there must be a long obedience in the same direction.”

National Football League TV ratings were down 12% in 2016, and early evidence indicates that trend continuing in 2017. While many factors may have contributed to that decline, results from a poll taken last year by Seton Hall University suggests the national anthem protest led by then-San Francisco 49’er quarterback Colin Kaepernick was a leading cause.  56% of responders said Kaepernick’s take-a-knee protest against police shootings of black men was the key element in the NFL ratings drop.

That protest, and the backlash against it, both picked up converts this past weekend after President Donald Trump referred to the protesting players as sons-of-bitches in a campaign speech in last Friday in Alabama (22 September), and called on team owners to fire any player who protested during the anthem.

As one might expect, the president’s intemperate vitriol only served as an accelerant to an already dangerous fire of opposing viewpoints. Continue reading “MAD NOW DISEASE”

RING BEARER IN CHIEF

Forget such weighty matters as the Mueller investigation into Russian election tampering, the Afghanistan War reboot, or Hurricane Irma raking the Florida peninsula, the NFL season kicked off this week with rings and dings.

And what a start it was. The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots presented a Cat 5 pre-game back slap for their fans as they celebrated a fifth Lombardi Trophy, then took a drubbing from the K.C. Chiefs 42-27. Oops.

NFL Commish Roger Goodell was on hand, but not President Trump, despite the fact that New England Patriots prez Robert Kraft gifted the President with a Super Bowl LI ring a few weeks back.

Well, at least now Messers Trump and Putin can flash Super Bowl bling at one another at their next summit (Putin, you might recall, lifted one of Bob Kraft’s previous Super Bowl rings after asking to just look at it.)

And now to the point of this blog. If you’ve had a hard time wrapping your head around the Trump-Putin bromance, how about explaining the one between Trump, Kraft, Coach Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady, the triumvirate of the Patriot dynasty.

Maybe Robert Kraft. Yes, that I can understand. It’s not just the billionaires club they belong to. Evidently, when Mr. Kraft’s wife died several years ago, Mr. Trump called him weekly to check up on how he was doing. Not much these days speaks well of our president, but that does.

But from Coach Belichick or QB Brady’s standpoint, think of it this way: if the character Trump portrays in public were a player in the draft or available in a trade, would the Patriots go for that kind of player? No chance! Continue reading “RING BEARER IN CHIEF”