Am I a Liberal?

I don’t think so, but…

Given my frequent advocacy for freedom, dignity, and basic human rights; and given my well documented disdain for our current president, I am frequently accused of being a liberal, or some variant thereof:  “socialist”, “elitist”, “democrat”, or my favorite “libtard”.  This is often accompanied by a disdain for my constant desire for and reliance on government handouts.

In the interest of full disclosure, since it comes up so often, I thought I should document my entire reliance on government handouts.  One, I once received a partial academic scholarship to a public university.  Two, I once received a single unemployment check, for $258.  (To be fair, as a business owner I have paid far more than that into the state’s unemployment insurance.)

So now that you know how heavily I’ve been sucking on the public teat, maybe it’s time I provided some background, laid out the thought processes behind my positions, and let you decide for yourself whether or not I am a liberal.  For what it’s worth, I am willing to fully accept you judgement on this, as I have no intention of changing my positions just to fit a label.

In simplest terms, I view myself as fiscally conservative, and socially liberal.

Let me address the second one first, because (gasp) I did use the “L” word there. To be more specific, I believe in freedom.  I believe in the Constitution.  It is the document that ensures that freedom.  It is my Bible.  I believe people should have the freedom to live their lives any way they like, so long as it does not harm others.  This includes who they love, and who and how they worship, and what they eat, drink, or smoke.  No one, especially not the government, should ever tell you how to love, how to believe, or what to do.

Now, based on that, I would think the proper term would be “libertarian” (small “l”), but if believing in freedom makes me a liberal, so be it.

Further, I believe discrimination is wrong.  Fundamentally wrong.  I do not believe “religious freedom” include the right to discriminate against others.  I remember the 70’s, when religious folk used their religion to justify discrimination against interracial couples, the same way they do today against same-sex couples.  It was wrong then, it is wrong now.  It is wrong.  I will fight you on this.

On the economic side of things, I believe government should limit it’s role to only those things which are best done by government.  And I believe that to be a fairly short list, but it does include a social “safety net” for those who truly need it.

I believe the best thing for consumers, producers, and the nation as a whole, is competition.  The best way to achieve competition is to start with a free market. However, the end result of an unregulated free market is monopoly, and monopolies are by nature anti-competitive.  To expand, I believe government has three basic responsibilities regarding business, there are three basic things that business cannot or will not do for itself.

One is maintain a competitive environment, the mythical “level playing field”.  This means anti-trust regulation, and enforcement.  This means banning price-fixing, dumping, and other anti-competitive practices.  There should be as little interference as possible, but like any competition, to ensure some basic fairness there have to be some basic rules.

The second thing government must do is ensure the health and safety of a companies employees, customers, and neighbors.  There is no profit incentive to do this, an unregulated free market generates horrible working conditions, occasionally dangerous products, and all manner of environmental abuse and pollution.  Again there should be as little interference as possible, but it is government’s responsibility to protect the public trust, and that includes our water, our air, and our health and well being.

The third thing government should do for business, is provide an environment in which business can thrive.  Conservatives often only read that as tax incentives or reductions, but it goes far beyond that.  It is infrastructure.  It is roads and rail and ports.  It is public transportation.  It is science and information.  It is support for research and development.  It is support for day care, and health care, and senior care, and other employee needs.  Companies are built on people.  We cannot help one at the expense of the other.  We have to help both together.

Okay, now that we’ve laid that background, here’s the fun part.  How does a fiscally conservative, socially liberal vote?

I am unashamedly a Reaganite.  I don’t agree with everything he did, but I do agree with most of it.  Yes, he created a massive budget deficit, but in doing so he won the Cold War, the single biggest and most important geopolitical event in my lifetime.  The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc was a direct result of the policies he set in place during his presidency.

Secondly, he knew how to get things done.  He was not afraid to work with the other party to achieve something, a quality severely lacking today, and has been for the last decade.

Back in those days I did not vote.  If I had, it would have been for Reagan, but he had more than enough popular support, and didn’t really need my help.  To this day, his remains the one and only campaign rally I have ever attended.

George Bush (41) was the natural successor to Reagan.  Everyone thought of him as Reagan Jr, despite the obvious fact that Bush, like all vice presidents at the time, was chosen specifically because he held views opposite those of Reagan, in the ridiculous attempt to “balance the ticket”.  Still, Dukakis wasn’t much of a choice either.  Of the two, I preferred Bush, but was perfectly content to go along with the crowd on this one.  I did not vote.

George Bush found the end of his first term in a recession (mild by today’s standards, but a big deal then), and he chose to ignore it.  His position was to do nothing and let it sort itself out, which of course it would have, but people wanted action, which meant…

Bill Clinton was elected on four words: “It’s the economy, stupid.”   I had no doubt at the time that this would get him elected.  Like Bush, I thought the economy would be fine if left alone, but if this conservative southern Democrat wanted to take a shot at fixing it, I was fine with that too.  I continued to not vote.

Bill Clinton was the beneficiary of a budget surplus, the so called “peace dividend”.  That was the direct result of the end of the Cold War, and I contend to this day that that was the direct result of the policies of the Reagan administration.

Still, he managed it well, so when he ran for re-election against the very stiff, very stodgy, and overall unappealing Bob Dole, had I been voting, I probably would have voted for Clinton.  Maybe.  It was only later that we found out Bob Dole had a sense of humor, and was most likely an actual human being.  Oh well.

Lastly on Clinton, I don’t care who he played “hide the cigar” with.  That’s a matter between him and Hillary, has no bearing on his ability to run the country, and quite frankly is none of our damn business.  His biggest mistake there, was lying about it publicly.  But honestly, of all the things a president could lie about, in today’s world this one looks downright quaint.

Bush vs. Gore.  Honestly did not care.  Two equally incompetent losers.  Take your pick.  I did not vote.  Bush became president, but in more ways than one, there was no winner.

Then 9/11 happened. That changed everything.

In 2004, for the first time, I voted.  Having politicians I like and disliked in both parties, and never being a blind supporter of any group, I registered as an independent.  No party affiliation.  I am still registered that way today, but…

I voted for George W Bush.  I felt his response in Afghanistan was correct, and mythical WMD’s aside, I understood, and largely agreed with, his motivations for invading Iraq.  I still believe both of those decisions were correct, however I was deeply disappointed by his administration’s lack of planning and attention in managing both of those countries after initial fighting was done.

There is probably nothing more symbolic of the Bush (43) presidency than the “Mission Accomplished” banner.  It was clearly not accomplished, and the last thing we needed as a nation was a long, drawn out occupation.  Sun-Tzu should be required reading for all presidential candidates.  Once a year.

In retrospect, I was disappointed with Bush (43), but I’m not sure John Kerry would have been much better.  I will reluctantly stand by my “don’t change horses in mid-stream” position.

I did not vote for Barack Obama.  I wanted to, I really really did.  But I just didn’t feel he had the necessary experience and qualifications to be President.

Let me just pause here and emphasize something.  Back in those days, that was a thing.  We wanted experience.  We wanted expertise.  We wanted substance.  We wouldn’t let just any half-bit celebrity in a bad suit become president.  My how the world has changed.

Also, I had liked McCain.  This despite my disappointment in his pandering to the far right during his campaign, and his serious lack of judgement, of lack of attention to detail, in select crazy Alaska woman as his running mate.  In the end, I thought experience mattered, and voted for McCain.  It was largely symbolic, I had little doubt Obama would win.  And given the historic significance of that, I was okay with it.

Obama didn’t do a great job, but he didn’t do a bad job either.  Given the nature of the opposition, it’s a wonder he was able to do anything at all.  There is something to be said for a president not doing a bad job.  Yes, the economy was recovering slowly under his leadership, but at least he wasn’t making it worse.  And if you don’t think a president can take a bad economy and make it much worse, you don’t remember Jimmy Carter.

Obama’s not bad job of things, combined with the fact that Mitt Romney was an out-of-touch hyper-elitist rich guy who wore magic underwear, meant I didn’t much care who won the next election.  If only Romney had known that an elitist could be elected if he just pretended to be a down-to-earth racist, things might have been different, but it looked pretty certain, especially after his “47 percent” comment, that Obama would win again.

I thought this might be the time for a third party to make a significant showing, given the general dissatisfaction with both candidates.  I voted for Gary Johnson, hoping this would be the year they made a blip on the map.  My optimism was reward by this:  Gary Johnson got 1% of the popular vote.

I will not make that mistake again.

That brings us to the 2016 election.  First, let’s talk Democrats.  There were really only two near-viable candidates.  I did not think Bernie Sanders had much of a chance.  And to be honest, I thought he was a bit too progressive.  Democratic socialism works very well in Europe (surprise, they still have their freedom, they’re not commies), but we’re just not ready for that here yet.  Baby steps.

I did not like Hillary Clinton.  I do not think she is the spawn of Satan, but, and I cannot emphasize this enough, I did not like Hillary Clinton.  After Bill’s second term, when she moved to New York so she could run for the Senate, that told me everything I needed to know about her.  She was an opportunist who cared far more about her career that she did about representing the people she was elected to represent.  I still stand by that assessment.

There were 17 candidates on the Republican side.  Seventeen.  I was fully prepared to support 16 of them.  Even the crazy ones, like Carson, or the spineless ones, like Rubio, or the downright loathsome ones, like Cruz.  Personally, I liked Kasich, but I really thought this would be Jeb Bush’s year.  I was okay with that.  Literally, and I’ve said this before, literally any other candidate but Trump.  Any.  Other.  Candidate.

I follow the comings and goings of business people.  Always have.  I watch their interviews, I read their books, I try to study what makes them successful.  I knew before he announced exactly what Trump was.  And while I still believe it might be useful one day to have a real businessman in the White House, I firmly believe Trump is not the kind of “businessman” you want anywhere near public service.

So, my absolute nightmare scenario was Clinton vs Trump.  I never imagined it would happen.

It happened.  And as much as I dislike Hillary, I reject the notion that “they’re the same”.  They are not.  They are demonstrably not the same.  Intelligence, experience, and expertise still have to count for something.  As do motivation.  I did not trust Clinton’s motivation, but I trusted Trump’s far less.  And of the two, only one had the experience to be president.  So yes, I voted, for the first time in my life, for a Democrat for president.  I stand by that decision.

We are seeing today what happens when we elect inexperience.  And I’m not talking about Obama-level inexperience, we survived that relatively unscathed.  I’m talking legit, I-have-no-freaking-clue-what-I’m-doing inexperience.  So far the worst result has been the unraveling of decades of progress, and a general embarrassment on a global scale, but if that’s the worst that happens I will consider his “presidency” a success.

I am interested to see what becomes of the Republican party.  I am deeply disappointed in it’s leadership, and their embrace of Trump, who is neither fiscally nor socially conservative.  Not even a little.  They have place party, not only above country, but above their own stated principles.  This to me seems insane.  It is my opinion that the party cannot survive in it’s current state, it must either change or split.  As it is today, if it doesn’t change, I may never vote Republican again.

I am no fan of the Democratic party either, but I am a fan of sanity.  And I will continue to value experience and expertise above change only for the sake of change.

If that makes me a liberal, I can live with that.

The Bob Dole Connection

Okay, so it’s come to light recently that Bob Dole was behind the Trump-Taiwan call. Yes, the same Bob Dole that ran for president and lost to Bill Clinton.  That same Bob Dole just guided Trump into torpedoing nearly 40 years of US-Chinese relations.  We must ask, why?

Now granted, Bob Dole is working for a law firm, which was reportedly paid $140,000 to make that call happen, and we all know the only difference between lawyers and prostitutes is, well, there are some things a prostitute will not do for money.  But…

I wonder if there’s more to it than that. Is Donald Trump actually Bob Dole’s ultimate payback to the Clinton’s and/or the American people for refusing him the presidency? Is Bob Dole an evil mastermind, slowly and quietly plotting his revenge since 1996?

Let’s look at the evidence. Fortunately we now live in a post-rational fact-free world, so manufacturing evidence is much easier than it used to be.

First, if you remember, Bob Dole had this weird tendency to always refer to him self in the third person, as in “You’re always going ‘Bob Dole does this’ and ‘Bob Dole does that.’ That’s simply not something Bob Dole does!”  (actual real quote) And we all know from movies and television that people who refer to themselves in the third person are mentally unstable, right?

And we all know that the whole Trump running for president thing started at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, where Trump was publicly humiliated by Barack Obama.  Did Bob Dole invite Trump to that dinner?  I can’t prove that he did, but more importantly, I can’t prove that he didn’t either.

We also know that, unlike many Republicans, Bob Dole supported Trump early and often, stating that he was supporting Trump because he couldn’t vote for George Washington (another actual real quote).  Has Bob Dole been working quietly behind the scenes to help Trump win the nomination, and then the election itself.  I certainly can’t prove that he hasn’t, can you?

Also, is it just a mistake that the Dole/Kemp campaign website is still live?  No really, it’s still there, check it out: http://www.dolekemp96.org/main.htm  Why would he leave that up? Clearly he’s still bitter about losing.

Lastly, we all know the connection Bob Dole has to fruit, what with his stickers on bananas and pineapples all over the country.  Wouldn’t it be his ultimate revenge to defeat Hillary by getting an actual orange elected president?

Why the “Hamilton” incident is a big deal…

In case you’ve been living under a rock the past week (understandable given the current environment), here’s what happened…

VP-elect and anti-LGBT poster boy Mike Pence attended a performance of “Hamilton” on Broadway.  Now Pence doesn’t strike me as the musical theater type, but good for him, getting out and getting him some of that big city elitist culture.

The cast and crew, being made aware of his presence, felt the urge to make a quick statement to him at the end of the show, during their curtain call.

The audience, some of them anyway, being made aware of his presence, felt the urge to boo him.

The President-elect, as he is wont to do, felt the urge to promptly lose his shit and launch into a minor Tweet-storm tirade.

The immediate reaction of most of us, on either side of the Great American Trump Chasm, is to dismiss this as nothing more than the usual nonsense.  It’s Trump being Trump, responding to elitists being elitists.  All sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Sure, the hard-core supporters got bent about a perceived lack of respect.  And the hard-core opponents either took the opportunity to remind us about Pence’s embrace of “conversion therapy”, or pointed out how this non-event was distracting from bigger issues like Trump’s $25 million fraud settlement.  But most of us, honestly, just didn’t think this was a big deal.  Certainly nothing to get worked up about.

And that is where we are dead wrong.

Allow me to explain.  But first, let’s clear up some of the details.

It has been said that the cast of Hamilton booed Pence.  They did not.  The audience did.  If you’re whole problem with this is that the audience was disrespectful to Pence, you have a valid point.  You’ve completely missed the larger point, but your point is valid.  And by all means, please, feel free to criticize an audience for booing someone they don’t like.

It has been said that the cast of Hamilton made a disrespectful statement to Pence.  They did not.  Below is the entire statement, as read by Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who played Aaron Burr.  Judge for yourself…

“We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us — our planet, our children, our parents — or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir, but we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.”

That’s it.  That’s the entire statement.  You will notice that, despite what I imagine was an overwhelming desire on their part, not once did they include the phrase “hey, asshole…”.  Instead, they opted for the far less offensive “sir…”

If you find their statement disrespectful, you may want to go to your nearest college campus, find yourself a nice quiet “safe space”, and re-calibrate your sensitivity threshold.  You may find it has been accidentally set to “liberal”, or worse yet, to “millennial”.  As quickly and calmly as possible, you will want to move that setting back to “conservative”, or if you’re feeling particularly frisky, to “suck it up, buttercup”.

Seriously though, the statement made was a respectful yet earnest call for inclusion, a reminder of shared values, and an expression of hope.  It might be viewed as presumptive, not without reason, but I fail to see anything about the statement or the way it was read that is intrinsically offensive.

It is also, and this is the important part, a perfectly valid expression of Constitutionally protected free speech.

And here is the problem, and here is why this incident is a big deal.  Donald Trump described this statement as “harassment”.  At that moment, this became a big deal, because, as hopefully you already know, harassment is not Constitutionally protected free speech.  Nor should it be.

In one tweet, less than 140 characters, our President-elect has transformed a protected statement of hope and inclusion into a potentially criminal act of harassment. Let’s just stop and think about that for a moment.

Now obviously, if something like this were to go to court, I think we all feel comfortable that the court would not agree with this Mr. Trump’s transformation. And that is some comfort, but…  It shouldn’t have to come to that.

The leader of the free world should understand the difference between free speech and harassment. The President of the United States should respect the Constitutional right of his country’s people to speak to power without condemning it as a criminal act. Criminalizing political speech is the exact kind of tyranny our Bill of Rights was designed to prevent in the first place.

If this is how our future president is going to regard the First Amendment, and if this is how he is going to regard anything said that remotely questions him or his administration, we are in for a very difficult time.

Shake up Washington if you like, throw out what you want, but that cannot include the Bill of Rights. Above all else that must be preserved. Too many brave men and women have fought and died for those rights to just toss them out on the whim of an orange man-child who has never bothered to read them.

The People Have Spoken

And while I’m not happy with their decision, it is theirs to make, and I will respect that. I know that for many, their reasons were upright and true. I honestly, truly, deeply hope they are right about their champion. I would very much like to be wrong about the damage that might be done. And I will be the first to admit it if that’s the case.

For right now, I’ve decided that I will remain calm, try very hard not to overreact, and wait and see what actually happens.  Attempting to respond to what our new President has said is simply overwhelming, and ultimately of no consequence. I will wait and see what he does, what he is allowed to do, that is what matters, and then I will respond as events unfold. And I will hope for the best.

It may be wishful thinking, but I am hoping there are still enough good people of principle in the Republican party to keep his worst ideas at bay, and that there are still enough good people of principle in the Democratic party to help push forward his best ideas forward. It will be a time for leaders, on both sides, to stand up, be counted, and do what is right for the country. I hope they are up to it. To that end, this is what I am expecting…

Republicans…

Let me speak to you for a moment. You now have the Presidency, control of the House, control of the Senate, and are soon to have a majority of Supreme Court justices.  In short, you have literally EVERYTHING YOU NEED to accomplish your goals. Everything! You have NO EXCUSES.

You say you can make America great? Do it! Make America great. Make America better than it is right now. Healthcare, jobs, unemployment, national debt, infrastructure, immigration, crime, guns, ISIS… Take your pick. Pick at least one of those, and make it better. Pick two if you can. You have full control. Keep your leader focused on the right things, and accomplish something meaningful for the American people. There is no excuse for failure. And we will be watching. And we will be keeping score. And we will hold you accountable. You have two years. If it goes well, we may even consider giving you full control for two more. Now GO!

Democrats…

Listen up Democrats. You have ONE job. Just one. Find someone who is less reprehensible than Hillary Clinton. That’s it. And that’s a really, really low bar, so it shouldn’t be all that hard. Find someone responsible, respectable, breathing, and if possible, who doesn’t use email. Someone who can step in should the Trump administration devolve into the shitstorm we all know it is capable of if left unsupervised. Seriously, have someone ready, no more screwing around. That is your ONLY job.  You have four years to make it happen. Ready? GO!

Independents, Third Partiers, and Non-Voters…

Pay attention. Seriously, just look up once in a while. Nobody is real sure what’s going to happen next, but whatever it is, we are going to need your voice. So just, you know, be aware of your surroundings a bit.

What a difference a Pomeranian makes…

I gained a new insight into the Trump phenomenon this weekend, in a most unexpected way.

(And before you’re all like “There he goes again with his anti-Trump rantings”, hold on.  This post isn’t anti-Trump.  I am actually coming out right now and saying I am pro-Trump.  Well, I am pro-Trump: the ideal.  Relax, I firmly remain anti-Trump: the man. But this post is not about the man. I’ve had plenty to say about that already, and frankly there’s not much more can be said that hasn’t been said before. No, this post is about the ideal of Trump, which I fully support. And it is about a stuffed Pomeranian, but more on that later.)

Okay, how this all started…

Every year our company has a Halloween party and costume contest.  That’s something of an understatement.  In past years this has been a week long Halloween extravaganza, with multiple costumes, themes, skits, and daily voting, all leading up to one final week long team winner, and usually not a small amount of controversy over the voting process.  In recent years this has been augmented with us then attending the “13 Ugly Men” Halloween Party – one of THE big social charity events of the season in these parts.  This year, due to popular demand, and escalating expenses, we scaled it back to one day of contests, and the big event that night, but… it’s still a big deal.

One of the things I love about where I work is, the people there are, well, the only way to put it is… they are competitive as fuck.  It didn’t matter the prize, they just wanted to win it. And they go all out. Thus the escalating expenses from a week long extravaganza.  But even in it’s one-day scaled back form, it is still a highly competitive event. You’ve gotta bring your “A” game.

When deciding on what costume I would do this year, I looked at the rules, and one of the categories for points was “scariest costume”.  I thought to myself, what is the scariest thing I have ever seen, and my answer came to me immediately.  I would go as Donald Trump.

But it’s not enough just to dress as Trump, there has to be a hook.  Just dressing like a clown is not enough, I expect there would be plenty of Trumps walking around, no, there has to be something unique.  That’s where the Pomeranian comes in.

There’s a old comedy trope about Trumps hair, going back decades, that it’s actually a small, furry, possibly rabid, animal the sleeps on his head by day, and presumably wanders off having it’s own adventures by night.  So there was my hook.  Instead of the usual Trump wig, I would wear a stuffed Pomeranian on my head.

Now, the logistics of strapping a Pomeranian to one’s head is more difficult than one might expect.  (There’s one of those sentences I never thought I’d say.)  First, said stuffed Pomeranian wasn’t quite big enough to cover my giant head, so I ended up assembling something of a Trump-hair-sandwich with safety pins, a Trump wig on the bottom, a poly-fill eviscerated Pomeranian in the middle, and the ubiquitous red hat on top.

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Just a quick word about the hat. My red hat says “Make America ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Again”. I wasn’t about to risk any of my money going to Trump’s pocket by accidentally purchasing official campaign merchandise.

This arrangement had the desired effect.  It was a Trump costume, with a hook, a slight tongue-in-cheek nod that the costume was meant to be humorous.  It was meant in good fun, and it was received as such, even amongst the handful of Trump supporters in our office.

Unfortunately all was not well.  While visually it work perfectly, it was somewhat top-heavy, and for reasons I won’t go into, we were outside on a windy day, and as you might expect a Pomeranian to do, it frequently leapt off my head and attempted to scurry away.

This was not a problem for the costume contest during the day, but for the big party that night it would be a big problem.  There would be much dancing, or in my case white people bouncing up and down, and much moving about, and the floor of the venue was not a place I wanted to retrieve something from to then put back on my head, so… Modifications were needed. Reluctantly, after all we had been through, I made the tough call, and decided the Pomeranian must go. Yes, I fired the Pomeranian.

This minor alteration had an unexpected consequence at the big event. Originally I had envisioned my costume as Trump: the Monster.  Maybe with devil horns poking out of that massive hair, or maybe Frankenstein bolts attached to an orange neck, or… well you get the idea.  So many possibilities.  But early on I decided that while it might be funny, out of respect for a small handful of people I know who liked him, but not for all the wrong reasons, demonizing him was not the best way to go.  No, I decided instead to stay closer to the truth, and portray him as Trump: the Buffoon.  Thus the Pomeranian for a hairpiece.  But now, that visual clue was gone.  I was just Trump.  There were no clues that I was Trump: the Buffoon, or Trump: the Monster, although a few who saw me made that interpretation anyway.

But not all. Something weird started happening.  I expected people to see me wearing my Trump costume as one would a Vampire or Frankenstein or Werewolf costume. People instead began seeing me wearing my Trump costume as one would Batman, or Captain America, or the Hulk.  In short, in the absence of visual clues otherwise, they were seeing me as Trump: the Superhero.

I started getting genuinely heart-felt thumbs-up, statements of adoration like “Love it!” and “You’re wonderful!”  There was lots of shaking of hands and taking of pictures, and appreciative smiles.  They genuinely adored this guy, and they instantly liked me, a perfect stranger to them, for this loving homage I had created to their hero.

That’s when it occurred to me… Well a few things, but first it occurred to me that, for the duration of this night at least, I had no political opinion. None. I would be just a guy having fun with a bunch of other humans having fun, and together we would celebrate, well I don’t know what exactly, but we would celebrate.  Tonight I would be a member of everyone’s tribe.

And it worked.  The highlight of the evening was when I ran into the unknown woman in a Hillary mask. I admit, that was a tense encounter at first, but she was a good sport about it, and I was committed to being a good sport about it, and it led to some wonderful photos. (Let it be known, far and wide, to one and all… I grabbed nothing.) Somewhere out there too are some interesting selfies of me with a very convincing Ken Bone.

But the other thing that occurred to me is, this really was hero worship.  This guy, or at least this image of a guy, is the hero they wanted, and after a few hours, I very much wanted them to have that hero. They deserved that hero, even if I knew deep down, having studied this man for literally decades, that this man was nowhere near the hero they held him to be. I wanted it for them.

I’ve talked with some of you before, for some time now, about the fact that I actually LIKE the idea of Trump. I do. An outsider, coming in to shake things up. Someone bold who tells it like it is. A businessman, not a politician. I like that. That really is what we need. That’s what I want too. That is EXACTLY who I want for president.

That ideal was H. Ross Perot in 92, before he went bat-shit crazy and dropped out of the race.  Believe me, up until that point, I was firmly on the Perot train. He was everything people want to believe Trump is today. Only, he was the real thing.

I have studied businessmen all of my adult life. There are several I would love see run for president. I know which ones are brilliant, and which ones are mediocre, and honestly, I would support even the mediocre ones (Carly Fiorina for example). But in that study, I also knew Trump, I knew his successes and failures, I knew how he ran his businesses and the philosophies that guided him. And I knew, even before he announced his run with the Reform Party in 2000, I knew that he was a fraud, albeit at times a successful one, and I knew beyond anything else that he was unequipped to lead a nation.

Others don’t see that, they don’t see Trump: the Very Flawed Angry Little Man, they see only Trump: the Hero.  And no matter what is shown to them, all they will ever see is Trump: the Hero. They just want it SO bad. They are practically willing it to be true. And I don’t blame them for wanting it, like I said, I do too. I wish it were true. I want a Trump. Just not this Trump.

On the other hand, I do blame them, at least a little, for allowing themselves to become so blinded by Trump: the Hero that they cannot see the truth of Trump: the Man. And I have no idea what it will take to shake that belief in Trump: the Hero. If nothing so far has, I don’t know that anything can. What does a hero have to do for you to lose faith in him?

When Trump said he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any support, he was right. He knew then that they were following Trump: the Hero. I think he was a surprised as anyone.

Of course, this is the great danger of dictators.  They are all seen at first as the conquering hero.  The champion of the people. The savior and liberator of the common man.

That was the appeal of Stalin and Lenin, they were the outsiders who came in to shake up the status quo. That was the appeal of Mao Tse-Tung, reclaiming China for the people, from the wealthy elite and foreign influence. That was the appeal of Hitler, to put Germans first, to make Germany great again. That was the appeal of Mussolini, to restore the greatness of old Rome. That was the appeal of Julius Caesar, to wrest power from the politically corrupt Senate, and give Rome back to the people.

ALL peacetime dictators begin this way. All of them. It is HOW they come to power. This is the path of Trump: the Dictator.

So what have I learned from all this?  Well, first let me say, there are people out there who support Trump because they believe he supports their racist, bigoted, “alt.right” ideals. And whether Trump does or not, he certainly does nothing to dissuade them, and what matters is that they believe he does. Those are the true “deplorables” Hillary was speaking of.

Not all Trump supporters are bigots, and it troubles me deeply when they take to calling themselves “deplorables” as a badge of honor. To me that signals that maybe they are okay with the racism and bigotry, or at least they are okay with an alliance with the racists and bigots. I assume they are not, but their embrace of the term introduces a troubling doubt.

For the other Trump supporters, many I know to be good people, I think I have a better understanding of them. For a few hours, I was one of them, I was celebrating Trump: the ideal, I was celebrating Trump: the hero, or maybe even Trump: the super-hero.

So, yeah, I get it.  I understand the appeal. Deep down I feel that same appeal, I desire it too. I wish I could join you, the hope and joy you feel seems absolutely blissful.

But, I cannot. It was only a moment, and I must return to the real world. I cannot abandon the rational world, the world of facts. I will stubbornly cling to it with my dying breath. Your world is more appealing, but it’s a false hope, it’s an unfounded joy. It is the bliss born of ignorance. I cannot un-know what I know. I cannot un-see what I’ve seen. And I cannot live in a dream world, no matter how pleasant the dream.

If you chose to remain there, in your dream, in your bliss. I understand. And I sympathize. I share your desire. I believe in your ideals. I yearn for the same champion as you. But I cannot worship your chosen hero. I have seen what you wish him to be, and it is beautiful, but I have also seen him for what he really is.

Now where have I seen that before…

Tarot cards offer little value in predicting the future. On the other hand, they can be used as a tool to separate fools from their money. However, setting aside the fortune-telling folklore and mythology that surrounds them, they are interesting to consider on their own merit.
 
Each card tells a story, and those stories have value. Some are stories you may recognize from the Bible, others come from different traditions. Many of these stories are beautifully illustrated on the cards. Some stories you will know instantly, just by seeing the picture. Others are a little more esoteric, the story having become lost over time, so that it is no longer recognized by the viewer. As with any story, what you get out of it will vary from person to person.
 
I say this only as a way of pointing out there is nothing particularly supernatural, spiritual, or occult, about these stories. They are simply stories, very old ones, and like many old stories, they continue to be told, precisely because they have value.
 
Many years ago I spent a little time studying these stories, not as a tool for telling the future, but for the same reason anyone reads any ancient story, to gain insight. And they are insightful. Many of the archetypes they depict are still with us today. Occasionally I see someone or something in our modern world that reminds me of one of the stories of the Tarot. If nothing else, it reminds me that this person or behavior I’m seeing is not new, they are, in fact, very, very old.
 
I say all that, so I can say the following, hopefully without sounding too much like a nut-case…
 
It occurred to me, the other night, as I was drifting off to sleep, there is a reason Trump Tower is the home of Donald Trump, and the headquarters of his campaign.  And there is a reason it is iconic…
 
Trump Tower IS the Tower of the Tarot. It is the Tower of Babel. It is the eternal symbol of man’s pride and of man’s folly. It is man’s attempt to achieve greatness, only to fail miserably, buried under the rubble of the tower’s collapse. The Tower is the ultimate symbol of man’s destruction, brought about by his own hands, and the result of his own pride. In this illustration of the Tarot card we see the destruction of the Tower, at the hand of the Divine. The two figures falling to their death, I can only assume must be Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani…
 

Then I thought, is there a Tarot symbol that might represent Trump? One card came to mind immediately. The deceiver, the enslaver of man, the purveyor of false hopes, and false promises. Trump IS The Devil of the Tarot (not THE actual Devil, mind you, it’s more symbolic, anything that can become a “devil”). And in this Tarot card we see the Orange One himself, seated on his throne, surrounded by a few of his devoted supporters. It is important to note that they have voluntarily chained themselves to him.

Anyhow, that is my great insight for today.  Treat it the same as you would any insight that comes from a pack of playing cards.

Locker Room Talk

Donald Trump’s apologists, many of them women, have launched a three-pronged defense of the latest recorded revelations of his true attitudes towards women.  The defense goes something like this…

1. All guys talk like this in private

2. It’s just locker room talk, it doesn’t mean anything

3. Boys will be boys. / Men will be men.

Okay, let’s examine, shall we?


All guys talk like this in private.

No.  They don’t.  Some do, we’ve all heard them, but no, not all.  Not all men. There are actually guys out there that respect women as people, rather than regard them as objects.  There are actually guys out there who do not talk like this.

Personally, I have never bragged about sexually assaulting a woman, and I know other guys who never have either.  And there’s plenty of us guys out there who don’t think it’s cool to talk about fucking another man’s wife.  Frankly, the idea that we’re all alike, that we all talk like some shit-for-brains hormonal middle-school troglodyte, is offensive.  Some of us who take great pride in how we treat the women in our life.

If you are a woman, and the significant men in your life all talk like this, first, I’m sorry.  Second, I would recommend you try associating yourself with a higher class of man.  Your personal experience notwithstanding, not all men are scumbags.


It’s just locker room talk, it doesn’t mean anything

This is probably the most dangerous element of the apology.  Sure, some of it was “just talk”, the usual locker room vulgarity, and right, who cares, but…  Some of it was talk about actions.  Actions.  Actual things he has done.  Part of it was Trump bragging about how he assaulted women, and how it was okay because he was a “star”.

“When you’re a star, they let you do it.  You can do anything, whatever you want.  Grab them by the pussy, you can do anything.”  I wish I were exaggerating, but that is an actual quote.

This isn’t just talk anymore.  This is admitting to sexual assault, and being proud of it.  Let me say that again, so maybe it sinks in a little.  He is proud of having assaulted women.  Proud of it!  At least Monica’s time as a makeshift humidor was consensual.  And at least Bill had just enough common decency left to not be proud of it.

And it is particularly telling, in his apology, while he apologized for what he said, he never once apologized for what he did.  Why would he, in his “good mind” he thinks it’s okay, because he’s the “star”.  He’s only sorry he got caught talking about it.  He has a team of lawyers to take care of the rest.

Again, not all men are like this.  If this is how your man treats you, and other women, get out of that relationship.  Believe it or not, there are men out there who respect women, and treat them as worthy of respect. You deserve better.


Boys will be boys. / Men will be men.

This is the excuse you use when boys get hurt climbing a tree, or men get into a bar fight.  It is not a valid defense for sexual assault.  Remember when Brock Turner, the swimming star for Stanford University, raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster?  Remember how upset everyone was when the judge basically treated that as a “boys will be boys” incident?  Why, because it simply is not a valid excuse for sexual assault, Brock Turner’s or Donald Trump’s.  End of story.

Do you really want your son growing up to think it’s okay to assault girls, because that’s just what boys do?  Stop it!  If you wouldn’t except this behavior from your son, you certainly shouldn’t condone it in a president.

 

Why did the Arizona Republic switch sides after 120 years?

photo by The Arizona Republic

The Arizona Republic, founded in 1890, is the daily newspaper of Phoenix, and the largest newspaper in Arizona.

The Arizona Republic has never endorsed a Democrat for president.  Ever. They did NOT endorse JFK, Woodrow Wilson, or FDR. (They REALLY didn’t like FDR.) For 120 years, they have exclusively endorsed only Republican candidates for president.

In short, the Arizona Republic is a conservative paper in a conservative state.

This year, for a number of reasons, they are not endorsing Donald Trump.  I would like to invite you to take a close look at the carefully considered reasons for this break from their heritage…

On Temperament…

“The challenges the United States faces domestically and internationally demand a steady hand, a cool head and the ability to think carefully before acting. Hillary Clinton understands this. Donald Trump does not.”

“[Clinton] has withstood decades of scrutiny so intense it would wither most politicians. The vehemence of some of the anti-Clinton attacks strains credulity.Trump hasn’t even let the American people scrutinize his tax returns, which could help the nation judge his claims of business acumen.”

On Clinton’s Flaws…

“She has made serious missteps. Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State was a mistake. … Donations to the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of State raise concerns that donors were hoping to buy access.”

“Yet despite her flaws, Clinton is the superior choice. She does not casually say things that embolden our adversaries and frighten our allies. … Clinton retains her composure under pressure. She’s tough. She doesn’t back down.”

“Trump responds to criticism with the petulance of verbal spit wads. That’s beneath our national dignity.  When the president of the United States speaks, the world expects substance. Not a blistering tweet.”

On Foreign Policy…

“[Clinton] is intimately familiar with the challenges we face in our relations with Russia, China, the Middle East, North Korea and elsewhere. She’ll stand by our friends and she’s not afraid to confront our enemies.”

“Contrast Clinton’s tenacity and professionalism with Trump, who began his campaign with gross generalities about Mexico and Mexicans as criminals and rapists. These were careless slaps at a valued trading partner and Arizona’s neighbor. They were thoughtless insults about people whose labor and energy enrich our country.”

On Immigration…

“Arizona went down the hardline immigration road Trump travels. It led our state to SB 1070, the 2010 “show me your papers” law that earned Arizona international condemnation and did nothing to resolve real problems with undocumented immigration. Arizona understands that we don’t need a repeat of that divisive, unproductive fiasco on the national level. … We need a president who can broker solutions.”

On Human Rights…

“As secretary of state, Clinton made gender equality a priority for U.S. foreign policy. This is an extension of Clinton’s bold ‘women’s rights are human rights’ speech in 1995. It reflects an understanding that America’s commitment to human rights is a critically needed beacon in today’s troubled world.”

“Trump’s long history of objectifying women and his demeaning comments about women during the campaign are not just good-old-boy gaffes. They are evidence of deep character flaws. They are part of a pattern.”

“Trump mocked a reporter’s physical handicap. Picked a fight with a Gold Star family. Insulted POWs. Suggested a Latino judge can’t be fair because of his heritage. Proposed banning Muslim immigration. Each of those comments show a stunning lack of human decency, empathy and respect. Taken together they reveal a candidate who doesn’t grasp our national ideals.”

On Supreme Court Nominations…

“Many Republicans … shudder at the thought of Hillary Clinton naming Supreme Court justices. So they stick with Trump. We get that. But we ask them to see Trump for what he is — and what he is not. Trump’s conversion to conservatism is recent and unconvincing. There is no guarantee he will name solid conservatives to the Supreme Court.”

“Hillary Clinton has long been a centrist. Despite her tack left to woo Bernie Sanders supporters, Clinton retains her centrist roots. Her justices might not be in the mold of Antonin Scalia, but they will be accomplished individuals with the experience, education and intelligence to handle the job. They will be competent. Just as she is competent.”

On Trump’s Lack of Control

“Trump’s inability to control himself or be controlled by others represents a real threat to our national security. His recent efforts to stay on script are not reassuring. They are phony. The president commands our nuclear arsenal. Trump can’t command his own rhetoric.”

“Were he to become president, his casual remarks — such as saying he wouldn’t defend NATO partners from invasion — could have devastating consequences.” … Trump suggested Russia engage in espionage against Hillary Clinton — an outrageous statement that he later insisted was meant in jest. Trump said President Obama and Hillary Clinton were ‘co-founders’ of ISIS, then walked that back by saying it was sarcasm. It was reckless. Being the leader of the free world requires a sense of propriety that Trump lacks.”

On Trump’s Appeal…

“We understand that Trump’s candidacy tapped a deep discontent among those who feel left behind by a changed economy and shifting demographics. Their concerns deserve to be discussed with respect. Ironically, Trump hasn’t done that. He has merely pandered. Instead of offering solutions, he hangs scapegoats like piñatas and invites people to take a swing.”

“In a nation with an increasingly diverse population, Trump offers a recipe for permanent civil discord. In a global economy, he offers protectionism and a false promise to bring back jobs that no longer exist.”

“America needs to look ahead and build a new era of prosperity for the working class. This is Hillary Clinton’s opportunity. She can reach out to those who feel left behind. She can make it clear that America sees them and will address their concerns. She can move us beyond rancor and incivility.”

Conclusion

So for the first time, The Arizona Republic is endorsing a Democrat.  For all the reasons above, they are endorsing Hillary Clinton.  Those are just the highlights, you can read the entire endorsement here:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/editorial/2016/09/27/hillary-clinton-endorsement/91198668/

Let’s Talk About Who We’re Voting For…

I know, it’s taboo, but…this year is the year that breaks all the rules.  Any other year, if you asked, I might tell you who I liked or didn’t like.  Any other year I might just as likely tell you it’s none of your goddamn business.  And any other year I could not possibly care one whit who you were voting for.  But, this year is different, so let’s talk about it.

I have always been registered as an Independent. I strongly lean Republican on economic and defense issues, but could never abide their desire to restrict personal freedom on social and religious issues. As a result I tend to vote Republican more often than not.

At the presidential level, I have only once not voted Republican, and that was to vote 3rd party (a deeply disappointing experience). This year would have been no different, I was prepared to hold my nose and vote for any of the other 17 Republican candidates, except one. Yes, even Ted Cruz, as repugnant as I find him, as any of those 17 were preferable to Hillary Clinton. Except one.

Additionally, I have never before publicly advocated for or endorsed any candidate. I would make general comments about any candidate, or more often about specific issues, but I was never one to publicly support any particular candidate.  For any office.  This year would have been no different, had the Republican party nominated any of their 17 candidates, except one.

But, that didn’t happen. This year IS different. It is fundamentally different. This year it is NOT about politics. It is about principle. It is about who we are as a people. It is about the survival of the Republic as we know it. I may be powerless to prevent it, but I will not knowingly be a part of the destruction of our society. I cannot and will not remain quiet about this. I can only apologize in advance if you’re tired of hearing it.

This year I will very likely do the unthinkable. I will very likely vote for Hillary Clinton, and I will urge others to consider doing the same. For the survival of the Republic. For the survival of our principles. For the survival of the American ideal. For the survival of who we are. And yes, I am fully prepared to accept the consequences if she wins.

If you cannot bring yourself to do the same, know that I while I understand, I beg you, I implore you, at least consider Gary Johnson. He really is the better choice, and a strong third party showing would do wonders for our political system, if anything is to remain of it after this year. Who knows, by November, I may even convince myself to join you.

Trump and Cruz — The New Win-Win…

Okay, let’s be really clear about the Ted Cruz speech at the RNC.  Trump and his campaign knew exactly what Cruz was going to say in that speech, and they put him up there anyway.  Why?  Theater.  Well, sort of…

Trump doesn’t know classical theater, but what he does know?  Professional wrestling.  He’s spent a good deal of time on stage with the WWE, and he understands exactly how it works.  Cruz gets to speak his peace at the convention for the same reason the bad-guy wrestlers get so much air time talking smack about the good-guy wrestlers, just before the good-guy wrestler makes his appearance and the bad-guy wrestler wraps it up and quickly slinks away.  Did you notice Trump’s appearance right at the end of Cruz’s speech?  That was no accident or impromptu reaction.  That was classic stagecraft, in the WWE tradition.

This was an easy “win” for Trump.  He gets to remind everyone of his overwhelming “victory” by parading his vanquished foe on stage for his fans to jeer at.  Trump gets to be the “victim”, attacked by Cruz’s refusal to endorse him. And he gets to portray Cruz as the poster-child of the conscience-voting ant-Trump Republicans, arguably their worst possible representative.  So Trump gets to be the good guy, under attack but prevailing, banishing his foes back to the political underworld from which they came.

But don’t feel bad for Cruz, it’s a “win” for him too.  He gets to “stand up for his principles”.  He gets to basically deliver a giant FU to Trump at his own convention.  And he positions himself perfectly for 2020.

Cruz is betting that the Trump campaign implodes in the general, or at least fails at electoral math.  (A real possibility, given Trump’s skill with numbers, facts, reality, etc.)  It’s not just a good bet, it’s really his only play.  A Trump win leaves Cruz out in the cold regardless of anything he does, but a Trump loss?  That’s something he can work with.  If Trump tanks and Clinton wins, Cruz is perfectly positioned for 2020 as the conservative, principled candidate.  The man who stood his ground, refused to back down to the Trump machine, and still appeals to the right and the far right.  His “strength” and “principles” become a stark contrast to Hillary, who is unlikely to win any converts, and a 2020 win for Ted becomes a very real possibility.

So yeah,  Trump knew exactly what Cruz was going to say.  And Cruz knew exactly why Trump was going to let him say it.  They probably had long meetings and conference calls about it, planning it all out.  It is the classic political win-win scenario.  Everyone wins.  Everyone benefits.  (Except as always, us.)

 

photo from the Tea Party Tribune