Thirty Years   (2016Sep27)


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Tuesday, September 27, 2016                                                    11:27 AM

Of all Trump’s bombastic BS, the ‘thirty years’ attack is the most exasperating. Trying to turn Hillary Clinton’s preparedness into a negative is as convoluted an argument as his claim that an unprepared ‘outsider’ is what this country needs in a leader.

Let’s take a page from Seth Myers and take ‘a closer look’ at this ‘thirty years’ nonsense. Hillary Clinton earned her law degree and was active in public service long before she became the First Lady of Arkansas, never mind First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS). Beyond that, of all the people who ‘serve at the pleasure of the President’, I think we can place FLOTUS at the head of that list.

In other words, while First Lady, Hillary Clinton tried to help her husband’s work, succeeding in creating (and passing) the Children’s Health Care bill and other notable good works. She met with elected officials from around the country, with foreign dignitaries, and with charitable efforts leaders, learned about the workings of the White House and the challenges of governing—but she did not govern.

After the White House, she won election to a Senate seat from New York—and was an able partner to the senior Senator from her state and worked diligently with both sides of the aisle—but she did not govern—she wasn’t even the minority whip.

Then she became Obama’s Secretary of State. Again, serving at the pleasure of the President—not governing.

So, all this experience is excellent preparation for becoming the President—but never gave her any opportunity to make her own decisions. I won’t deny that those were positions of influence—but influence is not power. Any decisions made by her husband, by Congress, or by Barack Obama, were theirs, not hers. And she couldn’t even publicly talk about any disagreements she might have had with the two presidents she worked beside—people don’t do that.

So the last thirty years of Hillary’s life have been an historically excellent preparation for the job of President—but they haven’t been thirty years of governing, as Trump would have us believe. He is simply trying to turn one of her greatest strengths into a negative.

Well, two can play at that game—Trump, you’ve had seventy years to engage in public service and you have never once bothered to care about other people—what’s makes you think you can convince us that you suddenly do care? Seventy years of self-serving, sometimes fraudulent, piracy have prepared you to do nothing other than lose to a qualified candidate. No amount of bombast can change that.

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Questions, anyone?

 

Desperate For Change (2016Sep26)


Monday, September 26, 2016                                          1:47 PM

Desperation is like panic—always a bad idea, in spite of our being tempted by both on a daily basis. I always try to resist them—I consider desperation a dangerous mistake, more dangerous in the end than the thing I became desperate over. Some people seem to want to go there—to give themselves permission to make a choice, whether good or bad—like an itch that needs to be scratched.

We live very inhibited lives—signs are posted, regulations must be obeyed, dress-codes must be observed. Desperation is a holiday from that reality—that is why there is something of hilarity about people in an emergency—no matter how bad it is, it is still a break from the ceaseless rule-following. This is only natural—we are, after all, animals with clothes on.

Doom-sayers, conspiracy-theorists, and provocateurs attempt to create emergency conditions in the midst of normalcy—that’s why we both despise and are fascinated by them. They offer the ‘holiday’ of a world turned upside-down. Their followers are their cheerleaders—they like their thinking, and realize that they only need to propagate the message, to popularize and legitimize it to the point where it becomes an emergency.

We want excitement—we crave it. But if we want our complex, but very comfortable lives to continue, we have to learn to compartmentalize our thrill-seeking from our judgment. An election is a popularity contest—yes—but it is also a judgment call. We are handing over our most prized possession—we want to award it to the most impressive person. We are also handing over a fragile, delicate clock-work—we want to entrust it to the most steady-handed and clear-eyed craftsperson.

Do We Just Wish They Were? (2016Sep25)


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Saturday, September 24, 2016                                          9:28 PM

I had hoped the Charlotte NC authorities would release the videos of the killing of Keith Lamont Scott—and they have, but not all of it. And, when you think about it, given what we’ve already seen—what could Keith Lamont Scott have done in so short a time as to cause a trained policeman to gun him down?

The reluctance of authorities to be transparent is just a knee-jerk reaction—this was not a ‘good’ shoot. That much seems clear. An innocent man was killed. No one wants to admit that, but maybe they should. What happened was bad enough—I don’t see any profit in playing cute with evidence.

The police claim that he was rolling a joint with a gun by his side—his family says he had TBI, didn’t own a gun, and was reading a book. The police have produced an ankle holster and a pistol, and claim it has Mr. Scott’s DNA on it—I’d be a lot more open to that if an ankle holster wasn’t so popular with the police, and if they had said his fingerprints were on it—after you shoot a man, his DNA is all over the place (with apologies to the Scott family for saying so).

I’ve heard a butt-load of talk—on and on they drone, saying everything as circumspectly as a thing can be said, casting doubts in every direction, hoping to divert focus from this being, in simple terms, a crime committed by a police officer. It makes me tired.

Can’t we just, for once, go straight to the part where North Carolina institutes improved police training and extensive community outreach—and makes this sort of thing a relic of our past? Do we have to pretend that this serious problem doesn’t exist—and go through all the bullshit back-and-forth? Really? It’s 2016, folks. Tic – toc, dammit.

There is something so sickly stubborn about the South’s veneration for the Confederacy—it imparts an element of pride to their ignorant racism and the persecution of their fellow citizens. The North Carolinians have been caught twice this year—once, specifically targeting minorities with new voter-restriction laws that, fortunately, were thrown out by the Supreme Court; and two, this public, almost farcical, obstruction of justice, to shield the police from their own misconduct.

And don’t tell me the officer who fired was black—the police are a culture unto themselves—that’s why we have these situations, where the opacity of the process is guaranteed by the police’s interdependency and necessary loyalty to each other. Retraining is needed to change the police culture—to make these hitherto winked-at shootings a thing of shame, instead of a rallying cry for police solidarity. The good police need to be given the tools that allow them to call out bad actors, without becoming traitors to their team.

Policing is difficult work—part hero, part helper, part target, part social worker, and on and on—its outlines stretch in almost every direction. And the power that comes with it can, apparently, be quite seductive—and easily twisted into something frightening. We have intensive training for doctors and lawyers—it is time to recognize that a proper police officer, man or woman, requires a host of skills and therefore involves training that goes far beyond learning how to hit what they shoot at.

There are police in many countries where the civilians fear their approach, because the police force can be used as a tool of suppression and intimidation. They are not police in the developed world’s sense of the word—and their hallmark is unwarranted, unthinking violence. The police training in many European countries puts America’s to shame—they are serious about civilization in the way that some Americans are serious about ‘law and order’ (a code-word for fascism if ever there was one). We compete in so many arenas—Americans love to compete. Why do we not feel a need to be the best in policing, or in community? Are these things so unimportant? Or do we just wish they were?

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One Fine Day (2016Sep24)


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Saturday, September 24, 2016                                          12:43 PM

It’s a fine day. I just finished hearing Obama’s dedication address at the opening of the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History and Culture on C-SPAN. Stirring, inspiring, as always—isn’t that strange? Our president’s default setting is ‘stirring, inspiring’—I don’t think he can give a speech without sending a thrill through his listeners. Very strange. The combination of ‘president’ and ‘cool’ is almost overwhelming.

And Stevie Wonder sang and Patti LaBell sang—it was an eye-tearing, joyous celebration. When President Obama finished speaking, he introduced a family of four generations—a 99-year-old woman, daughter of a slave, her son, his son, and that man’s little daughter—and they rang a bell from the first African-American church, in Virginia, which was echoed by bells all across the country—a further echo of the bells rung all across the nation to celebrate Emancipation, a century and a half ago.

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I love it when I can spend a day being proud and loving this country, for what it has done, for what it is, and for what it will become. And the sun is shining. And a gentle breeze is blowing. Life is too good.

The New York Times came out with an endorsement of Hillary Clinton today. I was pleased to read it—it said much of what I’ve tried to say in my blog posts (but better, because, let’s face it, it’s the Times). And I started to think about how the conservatives rail against the media as a bunch of lying propagandists. It’s not true. I’ve never been lied to by the New York Times—they may not always be perfect, but they do not have an agenda, per se, beyond journalism itself. Neither do many of our media staples.

The social media, guerilla journalism, and cable news—those people are new to journalism as an idea—they have it confused with show business, with capitalism, or with political gamesmanship. You can indulge in that stuff, if you don’t mind having to fact-check everything they tell you. But the Gray Lady, the Washington Post, and other traditional sources are no more biased than they were in the days before Tweeting. Anyone dismissing their reporting as ‘spin’ is trying to hide from the truth, not reveal it.

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In the same way, the authorities in Charlotte, NC have claimed that the video from body-cams and dash-cams is inconclusive, yet still feel the need to hide the video from the public, even after the family of the murdered man requested its release. This is not transparency—when you hide something, it says you have something to hide—it’s as simple as that. The Charlotte community marches night after night, demanding this evidence be made public—yet still the authoritarians hide the evidence. Release the videos.

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It’s a fine day for me—but not for everyone. There is still work to be done.

But You ARE Deplorable (2016Sep23)


Friday, September 23, 2016                                              10:10 AM

An Ohio Trump campaign chairwoman resigned yesterday after sharing her delusional world view with a reporter—a view that seemed to blame Obama for the existence of racism. (Thanks Obama.)

Trump supporters have many self-serving delusions—they see in Trump an authority figure who legitimizes their particular crazy. It makes them feel better. They see the present as a travesty, brought on by those who just don’t understand the ‘rightness’ of their racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and islamophobia. Hillary got in trouble recently for being too straightforward in describing this phenomenon (and, for some reason, using the word ‘basket’).

Secretary Clinton was just being honest. Dangerous for a politician, granted—but it seems outrageously unfair that Trump’s steady stream of disinformation gets lovingly massaged by the media, while Hillary’s momentary frankness becomes her ‘biggest mistake’. Sorry, half of Trump supporters (or whatever the precise fraction may be)—but you are deplorable.

When our country once faced a similar crisis, FDR told us they only thing we had to fear was fear itself. Donald Trump wants to undo that tradition—Trump thinks fear is good stuff—he tells us to be very afraid. And you deplorables are listening. Trump tells you that inclusion is weakness, that mercy is foolhardy, and that action is better than thought—and you believe him.

Trump tells us that we don’t need to see his tax returns—we should trust him. He tells us that his indebtedness to other countries won’t affect his decision-making. He tells us that his family business won’t create a conflict of interest with his presidency—well, he’ll be right about that one—there’s a lot of people like me in this country who will do our damnedest to ensure he never gets near the White House. Vote for Hillary.

A Good Breakfast Ruined (2016Sep22)


Thursday, September 22, 2016                                        11:35 AM

Breakfast—is there anything sweeter than a hearty breakfast—and a handful of pills? Well, the pills are something I’ve acquired over time—what I really like is the bacon and eggs and hash browns—and then the sour of orange juice washing it all down—and then the hot, steamy, rich coffee (I take mine with lact-aid milk—the half-n’-half of the lactose intolerant).

And the best thing about it is that one isn’t supposed to have a hearty breakfast—all those nitrates, and fats, and the salt—OMG. Heaven forfend! But that just makes it taste better. And no breakfast is truly enjoyed without a newspaper, or at least a crossword puzzle or something—so you feel like you’re preparing your body and your mind for the day ahead. Well, the rest of the day—I don’t usually get around to breakfast until noon-ish—I know, I know—but it takes me a couple of hours just to wake up all the way. I’m kinda punchy for a while, at first.

Now, take a look at this picture of my niece holding my granddaughter—just look at the smiles on these two gals. It’s quite a photo, no? I stared at it for a good few minutes—it’s as good as a TV show.

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But before I have my breakfast, I’ve uploaded this morning’s improv—it came out pretty good because I wasn’t entirely there. See, I tend to overthink things—so, when playing the piano, the more asleep I am, the better.

 

Thursday, September 22, 2016                                        12:43 PM

Aaah—so satisfying. Now that’s a breakfast. I made the mistake, however, of substituting the TV-news for a newspaper. When really bad stuff starts to go down, I realize I didn’t know how good I had it, when it was all presidential election claptrap—they were just filling time because they had no news—and no news truly is good news.

I see video of a pack of Tulsa police gunning down a stalled motorist in the middle of the highway in broad daylight. I ask myself, ‘what the hell is it like, living in Tulsa?’ I ask myself, ‘what would it be like if our cops just shot people down in cold blood like that?’ I find myself grateful, not to live in Tulsa—what a stain on this country. Then the stain running for president, the Donald, becomes the first Republican to hassle the cops about shooting black people. Why? Because, this one time, the shooter is a woman—Trump’s not castigating the police, he’s saying women don’t have the balls—a very different issue—but Trump’s an ass, and wouldn’t know the difference.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, the cops shoot another black man—this time they say he had a gun—his family says he had a book. The cops won’t release the video—they had one excuse yesterday—today they have a different excuse—they’re saying they’re just following the law. But the law about releasing cop videos just got rushed through their state legislature—so it doesn’t take effect until next week—and on the hypocrisy goes. But that doesn’t stop the media from drooling in anticipation of more violence during community protests there—so they can say there’s violence on both sides. Vultures.

I must confess—if the cops made a habit of shooting at me, I’d be tempted to shoot back—but I’m white, so maybe I just don’t understand the situation? Regardless, it sure ruins a good breakfast.

I’m an escapee. My disability sidelines me from the distractions of life, so I get to watch the rest of humanity go about its business. It’s a disturbing show—we’ve got a lot of chaos going on in the world. You who have jobs and other distractions are lucky; you don’t spend the day poring over the problems of the world.

I’m an escapee. I already died once, so my concern over dying is not the big deal it once was. Everyone knows we all die someday—but we don’t usually accept it—and that’s a healthy thing. I’ve accepted it—and while that tones down the fear of dying, it also detracts from the ambitions of living. Plus, I’ve gotten old, so any ambition of mine would just annoy people. My day is past, just like Dr. Evil holding the world hostage for a million-dollar ransom, in a time when a million bucks barely pays for a new house.

I’m an escapee—even from myself. I used to be very intent, very tightly wound—now I have trouble concentrating, so I’ve let go of all that OCD behavior, as much as I could. I enjoy playing the piano when I first wake up, because I’m not all there yet—I don’t get in my own way as much.

We’ll all be escapees in November, when Hillary gets elected—we will have escaped an unholy confluence—NBC Universal, The Republic Party, and the Alt-Right movement have created a monster out of a joke. In truth, Trump remains laughable. It’s the half of the country he’s bamboozled into supporting him that’s scary.

We’re also beginning to escape from our past Conspiracy of Silence shielding police misconduct in the persecution, and murder, of minorities. For generations, certain police in certain communities have indulged their bigotry in a calculated and cold-blooded fashion. For generations, minorities’ claims of unwarranted search, seizure, arrest, beatings, and killings have been waved away with a ‘he said, she said’ and a ‘who you gonna believe?’

But now we have video. The old tradition, the evil conspiracy, is being shot through its own heart—its secrecy—and I confess to a certain glee as I watch these criminals-in-cop-clothes try to explain away the truth as it plays on a screen in slow motion. The thin blue wall of silence doesn’t work against YouTube footage—bigots, your day is come.

Unrest will be part of this process. The unwillingness to absorb this age-old confederation of persecution, even while it plays on our TV sets, faces tremendous inertia among white people. We don’t want to believe that such villainy has been sniggering behind our backs while we trusted our men and women in blue. And we recognize that many police do their jobs with pride, competence, bravery, and integrity.

But our respect for the police as a group cannot be a shield for this pernicious evil that resides within it. Black communities gather in outrage, risking harm themselves, to protest this cancer within law enforcement, and within the hearts of communities. Evidence is plain to see—yet we do nothing but debate talking points.

Changes must be made. Perpetrators must face consequences, even when they wear the uniform. Improved training and community outreach must become the norm—as must criminal prosecution for these brazen killings committed under the guise of ‘keeping the peace’. Ironic, and unacceptable—and most of all shameful. Shame on them. And shame on us if we don’t root out this corruption with the same intensity with which we support our cops.

But I see all this as ultimately good, as progress—an ancient evil has been caught in the light of day and, if we do right, will be hounded into non-existence. Trump points to this unrest and other violence, and tries to say that violence and crime are increasing—statistics, as usual, make a liar of him—but that’s how he wants to frame our reality, so we’ll all get scared and vote for a bully. Crime and violence are at historic lows. The recent unrest is a part of making the police a force for good for everyone, including every shade of skin.

This is important work, not cause for hysteria. But, regarding Trump, that could be said about many of his positions, on just about every issue.

It’s Kinda Complicated (2016Sep21)


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Wednesday, September 21, 2016                                              1:14 PM

One of my friends wrote a poem. One of my friends died. One of my friends came to visit. One of my friends got divorced. I don’t know how to feel. I wake up every morning wondering.

As a young man, the life I live today would have made me crazy with restlessness—but I see chaos all around me and all I can think is, thank god the tornado missed me today. Not that I’ve ever even seen a tornado, except on TV—a big storm is the worst it ever gets around here—no earthquakes, no floods, no disasters (not since 9/11, anyway).

Some morning I’m going to wake up and everyone will be busy at work; all the kids will be studying in good schools; all the countries will be trying to get along; and things will get better. Well, maybe not—but if other people can play Lotto, I can dream too.

The world keeps going faster, getting more complicated. A lot of people aren’t embracing that—they’re running away from it. Maybe we have to start thinking of two new groupings of people—those who want to intern at Google, and those who want to live in a meadow—if you know what I mean. The world is sprinting forward—maybe some people would rather be left in an enclave of simplicity. If we don’t recognize this schism, it will become a point of friction. If we do recognize it, we have a shot at working out a compromise.

Maybe there’s a way to have our science-fiction future come true for some of us, and leave a bit of Lothlórien behind for the rest of us. We have to start thinking about this stuff—not everyone wants to live in Nerd Paradise. Just as robots are assuming manufacturing jobs—raising the question of where to find consumers when there are no jobs?—we need to address the fact that human IQ averages are not going to grow in proportion to Moore’s Law.

In olden times, when no one typed except secretaries, and making change was the big science/math challenge, lots of people had trouble dealing with even simple arithmetic. Now we expect every adult to choose a health insurance plan, apply for a bank loan, file a tax return, remember ten or twenty passwords, pin numbers, SSN#’s, and devise a retirement investment strategy. Our devices have manuals. Our phones contain more answers than questions. Our online footprints are at risk from hackers. What’s a C student supposed to do? Grow an extra brain?

Back when computers were new to the office environment, I was the computer guy. Every else asked me what to do when the screen confused them, or when the printer jammed. That seemed natural—thirty people, and only one of them had the interest or the intellect to get into the details of using a computer—now we’re all expected to learn it in grade school. And most do. But we are still asking a lot more from humanity than the last 30,000 years have asked of them. And we have to address that.

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