Double Standard Much?   (2017May08)

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Monday, May 08, 2017                                            6:48 PM

This afternoon, Sally Q. Yates, the former acting attorney general, and James R. Clapper Jr., former director of national intelligence, testified before a Senate subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism – Russian interference in the 2016 United States Election. I enjoy these hearings when, as a by-blow, they point up our new president’s habit of discrediting all authority: Courts, House, Senate, scientists, journalists, or recognized authorities of any kind—leaving us to wonder what his ‘special sources’ are, that so compellingly contradict all known information from every normal source?

I also enjoy watching professional, ethical people being questioned by pols—as both sides of the committee try to ‘message’ with pointed, weighted questions—questions that tell a goddam story before they end as questions. It’s fun because good folks like Ms. Yates simply answer yes, or no, or they give a specific date or number or name—and the occasional ‘I don’t know’. When she is invited to give her opinion, she demurs.

At one point I was distinctly annoyed by one GOP Senator making a point of Ms. Yates having ‘determined for herself’ that Trump’s original Muslim ban was unconstitutional—he even asked very snidely when she had been appointed to the Supreme Court. However, Senator Franken promptly re-directed, allowing Yates to point out that “any first-year law student could determine that a Muslim ban is unconstitutional”.

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That first senator’s smug assertion that the former AG had a lotta nerve, thinking for herself, is a compounding of the annoyance that the Senator himself did not see the point as glaringly obvious—which seems ignorant. Perhaps I’m being too harsh—or listening too closely—the Republicans hate it when anyone else tries to split hairs or stickle over details.

One detail from today’s spectacle stands out—the several weeks between Trump being apprised that his NSA pick was disqualified as a security risk—and Flynn’s eventual firing ‘for lying to the Veep’. If I remember the Benghazi hearings correctly, Secretary Clinton was often questioned about how many days it took her to act on intelligence—at some points she was asked about hours and minutes—at no point was she ever asked why she lolled about for weeks before doing her job. I’m just saying—double standard much? Flynn attended weeks of high-level security briefings, after he was revealed as compromised by the Russians—were they feeding him disinformation to pass on to Putin? Or we’re they just flailing around like incompetents? Hmmm.

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But my favorite scandal this week is that Stephen Colbert said Trump was “Putin’s c**k-holster” during his recent monologue and suddenly, he’s a walking hate-crime who should be drummed out of the media. First of all (and it seems this never gets through from the last big huff) it was a joke. Secondly, Colbert has done a pretty good job of scaling back the scathingly raw humor that made him such a hit on cable TV, first on John Stewart’s Daily Show, and even more popular as host of his own satiric talk-show, Colbert Report.

Trying to domesticate Colbert to the ‘family-standards’ of CBS would be hard enough—without this maddeningly stupid president providing a daily dissolving of all that made us civil in years past. To jump all over him because he got a little racy on late-night—please. Talk about McCarthyist tactics—they’re actually calling for hearings—on that one joke! I think it might have been a funnier joke, but it certainly isn’t a crime to let one’s frustration with corrupt politics creep into your nightly monologue about same. Long live Colbert—and comedy—and freedom of speech.

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Stephen Colbert greets troops and civilians at Al Faw Palace at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, June 5, as part of his “Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando” tour.

 

Friday, May 05, 2017                                               1:24 PM

Saying Goodbye to Health Insurance   (2017May05)

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I’m not interested anymore. The politicians can’t be a source of constant controversy—having proven their disability to govern properly, their unashamed bias towards the moneyed interests—these folks can’t be reported on as if they were inherently interesting.

The tragedy of their being elected to public service is old news—all we get now, daily, is a progress report on the rot that accompanies corrupt governance. Meanwhile, stories that lay low for a while simply disappear—it doesn’t matter how big the stories seem—if there’s no movement on a story, it disappears. In a way, it’s evidence that the news-media isn’t practicing real journalism.

It’s all very exciting and entertaining—sure—in its own small-minded way—the hustle-bustle of tweets and rants and bombs and back-walking and self-contradiction—whoopee! But no one talks about the new paradigm: voters can be misled to the point of voting against their own best interests—so, how badly can the GOP overtax them, and screw them over, before the con stops working? And will it ever stop working? Is it an iron-clad mind-fuck—or can people awaken from it? These are the real issues of today—and inquiring minds want to know.

A blow-by-blow of what these public servants (that lied their way into office) are destroying, daily, isn’t so much news, as a death knell.

Think about it—this new healthcare legislation is supposed to scrape 24,000,000 people off the health insurance rosters—and put the onus of paying for serious illness only on those who are seriously ill. And the question isn’t whether people want that—the only question is whether people can be convinced by this, that Obamacare was worse.

Now, the people have been told to hate Obamacare—but they have also gotten used to having health insurance. When it disappears, will they blame the Republicans? Will people have the presence of mind to see they’ve been betrayed? And, with supposedly the free-est press on earth, how did they get conned in the first place?

The truth is that hate and fear have won this round—simple as that—the forces of good got their asses kicked and we have to wait ‘til next time. I can’t help wondering how the bad guys got so much better at getting elected—that’s just not right, is it?

Now, don’t listen to me—I’m an old man, and sick to boot. I can’t get out there and run for office or help someone campaign or protest or any of that good stuff. Maybe you can. Odds are you’re younger and healthier (my sympathies, if you’re not). Maybe you can make a difference—people can, you know. They do it all the time. I used to, in my small way—it felt good. All that is necessary for evil to thrive is for good people to do nothing. Be good.

The Shifting Sands of Time   (2016Oct19)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016                                         1:23 PM

Do you remember the ACA website roll-out? Gosh, what a mess—it took them weeks to make it work properly, right? And the furor, while it was still kludgey, was amazing, deafening—as if a buggy program could never be fixed. But now it works fine (better than the legislation, if we’re being honest about it) and nobody says ‘boo’ about it.

Opponents of Obamacare saw the bobbled roll-out as an opportunity to press their case—against the bill and the president, both. But the moment passed and now we are back to judging ACA on its merits, rather than the mechanics. Issues are always more vulnerable to criticism while they are still in flux—but success always changes the playing field.

The same could be said for the economy, wages, and the fight against ISIL. The meat of Donald Trump’s campaign is that ‘America is losing’. He talks of inner-city hell-scapes (even though crime rates are plummeting). He talks of job loss and high unemployment (even though employment has risen steadily for eight years). Stats on wage-increases show the biggest jump since the sixties. And with the siege of Mosul under weigh, and ahead of schedule, the idea that ISIL represents an existential threat to the USA becomes more and more of a fading boogeyman.

I’ll be interested to see in tonight’s debate whether Trump will get a pass, running on stats that were borderline when he declared two years ago—and are laughably out-of-date in October of 2016. While he’s been vaguely promising to somehow ‘make America great again’, Obama’s administration has been repairing the damage left by Bush, and exceeding the level of success our nation enjoyed before Dubya got his hands on the reins. Yes, Bush-43 did take a lot of the wind out of the sails of our ‘greatness’, but our incredible President Obama has undone all that, and moved beyond, to historically surpass our previous greatness.

People make a lot of noise about wanting the candidates to focus on issues—but they are. There is only one issue—Trump is unfit to be president. Hillary Clinton is as fit as a human being could possibly be. There’s your issue. You can dress it up, if you want—but we do not need a savior to repair all the ‘disasters’ of the Obama years—because they are small potatoes compared to all his enormous successes.

In fact, a case could be made that the whole idea of a ‘disruption’ candidate is an expression of pure frustration—and that slow, thoughtful change is the only reasonable way forward for the world’s greatest government. That is why the Educated demographic is fully backing Clinton, and the Uneducated are fully backing Trump—the uneducated, less mobile, more financially-insecure people are far more open to an emotional message, promising them the moon without any details about the journey.

So, in the end, not only is Trump wildly unfit for public office, but his mission to ‘bigly enGreaten’ America is an entirely unnecessary one. Competent public servants are already taking care of that, Drumpf—you can scurry back to your TV shows. Hillary will handle it.

What Have We Learned?   (2016Oct18)

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016                                               8:32 PM

Tomorrow night is the third and final debate. For most people, it will be a spectacle, rather than an education. This campaign is on its second year—if you haven’t heard it all, already, you’re just not paying attention—and you haven’t seen a TV since 2014.

I have learned a lot about this country and the people who live in it. I learned more than I wanted to know about Trump. I have learned a lot about the media, especially media journalism. And, of course, I’ve learned about our next president, Hillary Clinton.

I find Hillary Clinton so impressive that, to my ear, all those who can’t abide her sound like a lot of sour grapes. She’s tough—in a very tough game—world power. You know those people who always win at Risk? Well, she does that—in real life. Do you know how rare it is for capable people to throw their lives away on this inexcusably wretched, yet crucially important, circus called national politics?

Only a martyr to public service like Hillary would put the intelligence and drive that most successful people put into forging empires of their own—into a lifetime of helping our ungrateful, apathetic asses. Look at the crap she has to take from us, before we will deign to allow her to work herself gray-haired, in the toughest job on earth, for four years. Oh, no, no—wait! We might prefer the racist pig idiot clown with the stupid face. Hmmm—let us think. Hmm—think, think, think. Well….

Are you joking? Are you seriously joking right now?

Watch the last debate—watch him tell every lie three times—he thinks that makes people believe it. Even children see through him. What is wrong with the grown-ups?

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Twenty-Five Days   (2016Oct14)

Friday, October 14, 2016                                         8:11 PM

What the hell? We’ve been treated to a disturbing-revelation-a-day for like two years now—and the last twenty-five days is going to outdo all the guff that went before? What is going on? Oprah says, “You get an October surprise! And you get an October surprise! And you get an October surprise!…”

I’m tired. Let me tell you, I’m tired. I’m gonna vote for Hillary on Election Day and I’m gonna hope for the best. That’s all I can handle at this point. I don’t know about you, but I have enough stress just doing me—I don’t need Donald Trump trampling over every tradition, every decency, every law—making a mockery out of this great country. Fuck that ass-hole.

He may be the first candidate in history who actually needs a secret service escort. He makes my skin crawl. And let me state clearly—he does not represent the male gender. He rather represents the sub-group of rude, crude troglodytes that feel entitled to harken back to the days when any man had virtual control over any woman’s fate. Most men see that dark past as an example of how not to behave towards women. Real men find a way to respect women without condescending to women, as if it’s some big favor they’re doing. But troglodytes do exist—and, sadly, they are not rare.

The only real surprise about Trump’s behavior is that he thought he could revel in it so long, and then run for President, as if no one would pop up and say, ‘hey, wait a minute.’ Even his denials of his past behavior reveal his objectification of women—‘just look at her…I wouldn’t pick her [to assault]’. He is so clueless that he denies his groping allegations by suggesting that he gropes prettier women!

Whatever mental imbalance this guy suffers from, it is, as I said, not rare. The hard 30% of voters forming the Trump Cult share his ‘hate is natural—don’t fight the feeling’ neurosis to some degree. No amount of testimony, evidence, or reasoning will reach them. I would feel sorry for these folks if they weren’t so terrifying—they are the human equivalent of Skynet in the Terminator movies—smart enough to destroy humanity, but crazy enough to think it’s a good idea.

Now, Finally   (2016Oct14)

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Thursday, October 13, 2016                                             7:45 PM

With all the problems in this world, we nevertheless have one clown ready and eager to burn it all down to satisfy his ego—Donald Trump, and three people who won’t let their inevitable failure keep them from their ‘right to run for president’: Evan McMullin, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein. If Trump wins (God forbid) he will have done it with their help. And people say Hillary is ambitious.

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Friday, October 14, 2016                                                  12:04 PM

It is a season of extremes. If Trump wins, I will feel a greater despair than when Bush-43 was re-elected. If Hillary wins, I will feel an even greater elation than when Barack was elected. And that’s not hyperbole—those moments of deep disappointment and sky-high celebration are both burned in my memory.

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Though I resented Bush and felt happy for Obama, my deep disappointment was in my fellow American voters—my celebration was, too. Democracy means self-government—we rarely contemplate that such a system depends entirely on the knife-edge of people’s judgement. It’s terrifying. An uninformed, or misinformed, electorate will have the judgement of a drunkard—which is to say, no judgement at all. And as we become more and more a culture with various ‘genres’ of truth, judgement becomes something of a commodity.

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The complexity of modern life requires not only that we reveal the truth, but that we also beat back the misinformation. Children are educated in schools, where there is some quality-control on the information being taught—but the rest of us get our information from the media. Some media-combines have a political agenda. They promote this agenda by cherry-picking their info—but they also have to cast doubt on the rest of the media, which contradicts many of their premises—and even their ‘facts’.

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It is a very fancy, very cyber-age form of lying. It’s lying. The whole point of Journalism (with a capital ‘J’) is to be impartial, to report the facts, without any filter. But we live in a complex world—reporting all the facts is virtually impossible—no one can read that fast. So today’s reporting is, by necessity, an abstract of the research—rather than printing 2,000 pages of a report, reporters try to convey the sense of the report. Objectivity is an ideal—and such reporting almost begs to be interpreted subjectively—so a journalist has no easy task trying to give us nothing-but-the-facts. If media outlets go into that process with an agenda, their results can’t be truly labeled ‘journalism’.

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The differences in our politics used to be philosophical differences—this ‘genre-fication’ of our news-media twists our politics into a battle of air-time, spin, and financial backing. This is, no doubt, what convinced the SCOTUS to find that ‘money is speech’ in the Citizens United ruling. Personally, I think they can only truly find so if, and only if, speech is also money—which it ain’t.

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The beautiful thing about the truth is that it has a ring to it. When propagandists go too far, we can tell. When the entertainment value of Trump’s rallies wears off and we revisit what he has said, we find nothing but the vacuous nonsense and bitter resentment of a spoiled child. When Fox News fails to air Obama’s speech this morning, we can still watch it on all the other news channels. There may be millions of bitter, frustrated Americans who eagerly latch on to Trump’s ‘hate train’, but the rest of us can easily see through his machinations.

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I put it to you that Hillary Clinton has been investigated in courts, Congressional hearings, and by the friggin FBI—if she belonged in jail, don’t you think she’d be there? The Republicans have been stalking her for thirty years—if there was even a hint of real criminality, wouldn’t they have convicted her by now? And, since that hasn’t happened, can we now, finally, begin to question the motives of those who stalk her? Can a lady who has done so much good, also manage to do so much bad—and do it so secretly that no one can find any hard evidence of wrongdoing? Please.

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If the Wiki-leaks hack of Podesta’s emails shows anything, it shows an engaged career politician hacking her way through the undergrowth of others’ mendacity. Granted, politics is nothing if not manipulative—but it is manipulation for a cause—private and public policies are a reality. Only a history-illiterate newbie like Trump would deny that Lincoln was a politician as much as a leader. Trump is not a candidate so much as an insult to our intelligence—to even begin to compare him to a real leader like Hillary, we would have to first find, in his seventy years of existence, one instance where he thought of someone else’s welfare, ever. ‘Nuf said.

Vote for Hillary!

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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.

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.

Music Hath Charms (2015Aug28)

It’s one of those days—I play the piano and sing along with myself—I sing along with the playlist on my PC (somewhere in there I marvel at the inordinate amount of lyrics I’ve somehow memorized over the years—yet still have some point in every song where I have to go ‘uh-la-la-yeah-oh-uh’). So—am I happy as a lark, or am I full of frustration and this is my passive-aggressive way of venting? It’s hard to say.

One thing I’ve noticed about music—if you do it properly, it’s pretty hard work—not that I see it that way—it’s a joy, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy—it takes focus, effort and seven kinds of coordination. They say playing the piano is the equivalent of rowing a boat; playing the violin is the equivalent of lifting weights; and conducting an orchestra is like being in a boxing match—in terms of calories burned, at least. For all I know, music has kept me from wasting away during my sick period—it was the only thing that got me out of bed.

Then again, I don’t exactly look like I frequent the gym. I’ve got a permanent paunch from having a liver transplant—there are certain abs of mine that will never flex again—but that just gives me a good excuse to look like most guys my age, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

A few nights ago, I wrote:

O, Joy and Rapture! I noticed that some drawings I was sure I had were no longer showing up on my PC—then I remembered I had some back-up files.

Trouble was backup files don’t restore themselves—and I had used Norton 360 software to make them. I figured I was in for a long, hard slog before I ever managed to restore these files but I went on live-chat with Norton Tech Support (didn’t hurt that it was one in the morning) and they set me up with a quick Restore-app download and I’m sitting here typing now because I’m waiting for my 50,000 files to finish restoring—how easy is that?! Sometimes a person gets lucky.

One thing I’ve finally learned from computers—if something is important enough to get on there in the first place, I’ll probably want it again sometime in the future—no files are truly deletable.

That may seem like file-hoarding, but with the proper directory-tree organization–and considering how big today’s hard drives are–you never get into the kinds of problems that plague real hoarders of actual stuff.

Of course, now that I have that stuff restored, I have to go through my backups and de-dupe the files, and move them to the correct sub-directories—there’s a lot of confusion in my mind after a few minutes of that sort of thing, so I’m still not done. But it’s all there—that’s the important thing.

I could listen to the Beach Boys sing “I Can Hear Music” all day long, I swear…. Hey—tomorrow’s Claire and I’s 35th wedding anniversary—cool, right? No wonder I can’t think straight.

I watched Hillary Clinton at the DNC meeting on CSPAN this morning—she gave a great speech. She defined the Democratic Party as the party that is concerned with the people—and she castigated the Republicans as out-of-touch. The former Secretary of State said the Republican presidential candidates were “all Trump, but without the pizzaz”—which I found especially apt.

How do the right-wingers rationalize their religiosity in a nation whose watchword has always been ‘separation of church and state’? How do they demonize immigration in a nation that is built upon an alloyed strength forged in a revered melting-pot? How do they maintain their dog-whistles of division in a nation where our progress is measured in the advancement of freedom and equality? It is only by preying on the weakness of will, the ignorance, and the self-love of their followers that the GOP inveigles us away from the true path of America’s future. End of speech.

So, I’ve been experiencing creative doldrums recently—I seem to have nothing musical to say in my recent improvs—it’s all just a bunch of seeking and not a lot of finding. This post, as well—I began it this morning but now it’s quarter to five in the afternoon—and it’s just a patchwork of disconnected ramblings. Anyhow, here’s my latest foray into the depths of the dog days: