Posts Tagged ‘Commentary’


In Politics on March 29, 2020 at 11:01 am

We have relied, for the past several years, on the network and cable comedy shows to help keep us sane in these difficult times. Often, it seems as though John Oliver, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, and the other late-night hosts have been a more reliable source of the truth about what’s happening in this country and the world than the main stream media.
And yet.
And yet.
Now that all the shows have been put online without audiences, I have been unable to bring myself to watch them. I see the Daily Show videos, the Colbert monologues, and I can’t bring myself to watch them.
I can no longer allow myself the luxury of relying on comedy to get me through this. It is too great a privilege.
I am a 72-year-old white male, retired, living at home with my wife, who is also retired. I can afford to sit at home and laugh through my anger and fear. I’m not being deprived of a wage that was already less than a living wage. I don’t have to figure out what to do about my children. I have books and television and radio and my cell phone and my computer. I can be isolated and not alone. I don’t have to go to work every day and risk my life. I don’t have to strip off my clothes before entering my house, then deny myself and my family even the simplest intimacies.
I am fortunate and I am privileged.
I even have reason to believe that even if I got sick I could afford testing and treatment.
My wife and I are social-distancing, self-isolating. We go out only to pick up a few things at the grocery store, where she goes in because she is younger than I and all the advisories say that I am more at risk if one of us gets infected. She is also required by family obligations to go out more than I. Of course, we must assume that if one of us were to become infected it is most likely that we both would.
Still, we follow the protocols. We clean everything that comes into the house. We leave groceries on the porch until we can sanitize the packages as best we can. We wipe down the mail. When we go for a walk outside with a friend, we stay 6 feet apart. We wash our hands frequently. We have reviewed all the guidelines. We live in a rural community where the virus has not yet been shown to be present, but assume it is only a matter of time.
We do this not simply because the government or the CDC or WHO or anyone else has required it, but because we want to be as safe as possible and we want others to be safe as well.
We worry about our sisters and brothers, our children and grandchildren, our friends and neighbors, many of whom may be more at risk than we are.
We live in ignorance of the facts. Like everyone else, we cannot really know the extent or location of the virus because testing is not being done as broadly or efficiently as it should. Was that dry cough a reaction to my blood pressure medicine or was I sick? Is there always a fever, or could I have been carrying the virus asymptomatically? Were our grandchildren infected before the schools were closed; before their soccer practice or games were suspended?
Will the measures now, finally, being taken mean that this crisis will be behind us by summer or still with us at Christmas?
How long? How much?
And that is why I cannot look right now at the comedy.
I’m too angry.
I can no longer laugh at Donald Trump. I can no longer see his daily displays of ignorance, pettiness, self-aggrandizement, lack of empathy or compassion, attacks on anyone and everyone who dares to suggest he might be wrong, might do better, might have some genuine responsibility to something other than himself, and not feel frightened for the future of our country, our democracy, our way of life.
I am way past the time to allow myself to believe that black humor, trench humor, can help us. These are dangerous times; not just because of the coronavirus, but because we are witnessing the willingness of the people in power openly and wantonly to destroy the Constitution in order to enrich themselves with both money and political power.
While we sit in our houses or suffer through our lives in the shadow of COVID-19, Our government is conspiring to stack the federal courts with unqualified, ideologically driven judges. They are arranging to give away hundreds of billions of taxpayer money to multi-billion-dollar corporations. They are stealing land and stealing the vote from the First Nations. They are carrying out petty vendettas. And they are dragging their feet on addressing the COVID-19 crisis because of unrelated, unimportant, fringe beliefs and issues. They are spinning lies and conspiracy theories and distortions rather than dealing directly with the very real issues of life and death.
And I want to go into the streets. I want all of us, by the millions to be in the streets. And we can’t be. The coronavirus has not just made us into hermits, it has robbed us of our most important power as citizens.
I expect I will get my sense of humor back. I do see some hopeful signs, good things swirling around in the chaos with everything else. I am, however, afraid that November may be too late for far too many of us. What will be left by then? And will we be able to come back from this?
We must stay engaged. We must stay afraid. We must stay angry. We must stay safe. When the doctors and the health experts tell us it is safe enough, we must go into the streets. And when the Fall does come around, we must take our fear and our anger to the voting booth in numbers that will make it loud and clear that we are not fooling around any longer.

Why the Democrats Could win this Election and Lose the Next

In Politics on March 20, 2020 at 11:19 am

I feel fortunate to live in a state that is extremely unlikely to give its electoral votes to Donald Trump in 2020. As a result, I could probably choose to vote third party and not change the outcome of the general election. Nonetheless, I am committed to voting for the Democrat in November, even if it is Joe Biden, whom I do not believe will be a strong effective President and whose policies both current and historically are nowhere near to what I can enthusiastically support. I will do so because I think that it is important that the Donald Trump presidency needs to be overwhelmingly rejected both in the electoral college and in the popular vote.
(If you are a Trump supporter please stop reading this now and do not respond with some sort of pro-Trump MAGA nonsense. This discussion is not for you and not about you.)
But if either of the old white men currently leading in the primaries is ultimately chosen as the candidate, and the party does not select a running mate who is significantly younger, progressive, FEMALE, and – as a bonus – non-white, the Democrats may win this election, but lose their majority going forward.
Let’s be honest. The Democratic Party of 2020 is a center-right party. The left wing of the party, represented at its extreme by Bernie Sanders, would be simply center-left if our major parties actually reflected the spectrum of the American people, their values, their priorities, and their needs.
And if we continue to be honest with ourselves, we need to recognize that the rightward drift of the Democrats is neither historically all that distant a drift. The Democrats are as stuck in the past as the Republicans; and though the Democratic party still offers a greater likelihood that the kinds of progressive policies I support may eventually be realized, they cannot count on that small likelihood to sustain them after 2020.
It’s comforting for some in the party to believe that the party’s rightward shift was politically necessary, that they needed to shift right because that’s where the country was going, so the shift was needed to win elections. What they don’t say out loud, however is that the party establishment actually believed that it was the correct direction for the party to go in ideologically. In other words, they thought that the Republicans weren’t entirely wrong.
The rightward movement of the American people was always a myth created by the media after Ronald Reagan was elected. It was a way of explaining both Reagan’s success and Carter’s rejection. A time magazine article at the time of Reagan’s election analyzed it as some kind of extreme rightward change in America. To prove it, they did a survey. They asked a lot of general questions designed to elicit expected responses that could be analyzed as conservative. But when they asked, in the same survey, more specific questions about support for abortion rights, gun regulations, civil rights, women’s rights, and so on, the results were almost entirely left of center by sixty to seventy percent or more. Their conclusion: the country is in a major conservative swing . . . but there is still some disagreement about the issues.
The Democrats have long counted on the left wing of the party having nowhere to go. Minor party voting has long carried a risk of electing regressive right wing politicians and slowing even the modest progress that was being made to address gender, race, religious, and economic inequalities and inequities and injustices that have persisted throughout American history. And this has encouraged the conservatives who control the party to keep moving to the right while promising slow, delayed, “eventual” progress on the issues important to progressives; then asserting that the left has to vote democrat.
2018 showed us that there is not only enough progressive enthusiasm and power to move the party back to the left, there is also enough to seriously suggest that it would be possible to create a new, left of center, Democratic Socialist party that would be a major party rather than a third party spoiler. If the center right Democrats win the White House in 2020, but fail to deliver on progressive issues for the next four years, they may forever lose the support of the progressives.
But here’s the thing. If that meant the practical demise of the Republican party as a major party in this 2-party system of ours, it might be a good thing. Poll after poll show that the political center of the country on issues such as women’s health and abortion access, on taxation of the very wealthy, on income equity and a living wage, on Social Security and Medicare, on LGBTQ issues, on universal health care, and so on, is significantly left of where the Democratic party’s “centrists” are.
If we are to be a system that depends on two major political parties, then those parties should offer more than just two choices on the same side of the political spectrum. One should be able to represent the right of center and the other the left, so that there is a balance between left and right that allows for progress to be made, but compromises, also.
So, I am somewhat torn. I would love to see the Democratic party move back toward the left, embrace the Democratic Socialists, start in 2020 to restore what we have lost, and begin to make real substantive progress beyond that. On the other hand, I would love to see the white supremacists, racists, oligarchs, religious zealots and exclusionists of the far right, and the current Republican party that embraces them reduced to fringe political existence; and the rise of a new, powerful, progressive party to replace them.
For that reason, I will vote blue in November even if the candidate is not even my fourth or fifth or worse choice among the primary contenders who started. And I will work to help elect genuine progressives at the local and state level and into both houses of Congress.

Gallivan’s Travels: The Choices We Make in the World We Live In

In Gallivan's Travels on January 18, 2020 at 7:36 pm

Sometimes you have a destination and you want to get there as quickly as possible. Other times you just want to travel, so you can take it slow and enjoy the scenery. And sometimes you want to reach as perfect as possible a compromise between the two.
And then there are the times you think you you know what you want, but life steps in and changes your plans.
I am not a big fan of the interstates. Most of the time I prefer to travel the secondary highways and less travelled roads. So, before we left Lums Pond State park, near St. Georges Delaware, I consulted my road atlas (much more useful for this kind of planning than a GPS app) and plotted a route south on US 301. We had a destination – a state park just outside of Richmond, VA. We wanted to get there at a reasonable hour, but didn’t want to rush. Also, we knew that we were likely to encounter some messy weather along the way.
US 301 is nice road to take south if you want to avoid the interstates. From St. Georges almost to the Maryland line it’s a well-maintained 4-lane with a wide, grassy media separating the north and south lanes, and relatively little civilization along the edges. I imagine the trees and fields must be gorgeous in the spring and summer. There was one toll just before the state line (I generally like to avoid tolls).
The scenery began to change a bit in Maryland, but the road still moved along well with little traffic. As son as we began to see signs for the Bay Bridge, however, the road expanded to 6 0r 8 lanes, and it got a little crowded. All in all, though, it was till preferable to the stress and pace of I95. Things stayed that way until we got within spitting distance of D.C., when we turned south again, and the road quieted down.
And the weather turned colder and wetter.
But we had our destination, we were still making good time, and we were looking forward to a relaxing evening in the campground and perhaps a short tour of Richmond tomorrow.
Then we got a phone call from someone back home in RI.
Be careful in Richmond, she said, the governor has declared a state of emergency ahead of the big gun rights rally planned next week. The FBI just arrested four men who were planning on bringing military-style rifles to the capitol. There have been weeks of online threats of violence, including white-supremacist sites calling for a “bugaloo,” the precursor to a race war.
Now, quite apart from the political and constitutional issues involved here, we are not the sort of people who feel comfortable driving deliberately into a place where there may be people with large guns thinking about actually shooting people.
Suddenly, Richmond was out as a tourist stop this week. And our campsite just outside the city seemed too close to the action, too. Who knew whether it might be filling up already with people plotting violence.
Now, before anyone starts talking about good guys with guns and police presence and “paranoia,” think about this. How many people might choose differently about going to a rally, or a concert, or a theater, or a church or a school if they knew that there might be even one person there, never mind possibly dozens, who was threatening violence and would bee heavily armed? The original planners of the Richmond event claim to have wanted peaceful protest, said they represent responsible gun ownership; but somewhere along the line, they lost control of the situation. It is (to put it mildly) ironic that a rally to protect the rights of responsible gun owners could turn so quickly into a display of the most dangerously irresponsible use of them.
But that is the world we live in now – not just around gun rights, but around a lot of issues. We have to make what used to be simple decisions about where we go and what precautions we take based on the unpredictable behavior of people who want us to be afraid.
Now, our original plan was to hurry up to Richmond tonight, take a stroll through the city tomorrow, then make a leisurely drive to visit family in Greenville, NC. We would arrive early enough for conversation, games, and a special dinner. We’d have time to adore and exclaim over our obviously talented and brilliant grandson, and then sleep in a real bed one night before going on our way.
Then the texts started coming and going. There were scheduling conflicts. Complicated family dynamics meant juggling different sets of parents and step-parents on the same day. How many nights did we want to stay, could we arrive this time rather than that time, and, oh yeah, there’s this other thing happening if you wanted to come that night instead of this one. So the leisurely trip became a destination, and the desire to avoid the interstates ringing Richmond meant going the long way around.
And that also is the way of the world right now. It’s harder to be spontaneous, even with family. We live far apart, and we have blended families and broken families and too many permutations of our relationships. We can’t just call up and say, hey, we’re ten minutes away, just passing through, and how about we bring you dinner or dessert, or a nice bottle of wine, and we hang out for a while.
Now everything has been sorted out, of course. One of the advantages of traveling in a small motor home and not having to get back to jobs or other responsibilities is that we can be flexible. We can adjust. Richmond will, I hope, still be there on our way back north in a few weeks. Family can be visited again when we might hope for a smoother connection. There will almost always be a way to choose the roads less travelled if we want to, or take the highway when we need to.
The complicated can usually be simplified.
And that, to, is the world we live in.

Donald Trump and the Democratic Plot to Destroy the GOP

In Politics, Uncategorized on December 4, 2019 at 11:40 am


(Satire . . . or is it?)
The Premise:
We have always assumed that it is the GOP who know how to take the long view, to play the long game. The Democrats are always looking to solve some specific social “problem” or other, but don’t know how to plan for what comes next. The roots of the rise of the right that put Trump in office can be seen in Dick Cheney’s choice of himself as Vice-President, and in Karl Rove’s pledge to create a permanent GOP majority, and in Gingrich’s “revolution,” and Reagan’s trickle-down economics and Nixon’s war on drugs. The failure of the left to make lasting, systemic progress on civil rights, women’s rights, abortion access, universal health care, LGBTQ+ rights, separation of church and state, and so on can be seen in how easily those things have been to dismantle, sideline and cripple since 2017.
But what if the so-called “centrist” Democrats who have systematically moved the party further and further to the right since the 1970s have actually developed a long game of their own that is so clever and so subtle, though hiding in plain sight, that it may destroy the GOP as early as 2020 and leave the Democratic establishment, with its oligarchy and pandering to the poor, the middle class, and minorities of every stripe?
Now stay with me here. I don’t have a whiteboard behind me, so you’ll have to follow along without charts or illustrations. I promise it will make sense in the end.
The Plot:
The Democrats had assumed all along that Hillary Clinton would be President from 2009 to 2016. But when Barack Obama took the nomination, they saw, instead of disappointment and defeat, opportunity. This was a black man who had presented himself as an agent of enormous social change, while actually being only barely left of the new center that had been crafted by the Dems during the Reagan years and solidified by Bill Clinton. The idea was to promote modest tax increases as radical departures from the Republicans’ corporate and oligarch friendly economic policies; and to promote small, cautious, baby steps on social issues as radical left-of-center progressive change. This would allow them to continue to attract the backing (and money) of corporations and wealthy donors while simultaneously creating the illusion of enormous political and philosophical distance between themselves and the GOP.
Perhaps Hillary had lost to Obama this time, but there was no one else who could stop her in 2016. Obama would give them liberal street cred and Hillary would keep solidify the right-of-center centrist control for decades to come.
The Gift That Was Donald Trump:
When the 2016 election got under way, the Dems assumed that Clinton would be their nominee and Jeb Bush would be the Republican candidate. So, they began to plan for that. But when Donald Trump, who had always claimed to be a Democrat, entered the race as a Republican and began to do surprisingly well, despite being a crude, proudly ignorant, arrogant, misogynistic, racist narcissist, they saw an opportunity to not only win the election, but destroy the GOP. Let Trump be Trump, make him the face of the Republican party, and put Clinton in the White House for eight years so they could build a middle-of-the-road political legacy they could paint as both populist and highly progressive – compared to the extreme right-wing brush with which they would paint the entire GOP.
When Republican resistance to Trump began to collapse, the plan got an added boost. Fusion GPS came to the DNC and said, “The GOP had us dig up all this dirt on Trump, but now they don’t want it anymore. How about you?” Corruption, playing footsie with Putin, the pee tape . . . it seemed as if the gods were on the side of the Dems. This stuff would give them decades of dirt to throw at the GOP for the mistake of choosing Donald Trump.
The Big Gamble:
Putting Clinton in the Presidency seemed almost too easy. And that wasn’t good. If she won too easily it would seem as if it was just politics as usual. People would assume she had won it because it was simply her turn. It would allow the GOP to use Trump’s loss as a reason to repudiate him and his extremism in public while recognizing privately that they could use his ideas to solidify their hold on the very policies of oligarchy, racism, xenophobia and misogyny that had helped them turn the South and Center of America red. Clinton was certainly a flawed candidate. She and her husband both had a long political history full of potential problems. If they played them carefully enough, they could keep the race close, proclaim victory, then begin the process of showing how the nation had just barely escaped the evils that would surely have descended on us all if Trump had been elected. And the closeness of the race would be evidence that the GOP was, in fact, the party of Trump. This would have the added benefit of showing the party that if a centrist like Clinton had just barely survived, then the wisdom of not going with a socialist like Bernie Sanders would be obvious.
So, when Mitch McConnell blocked the Garland SCOTUS nomination and refused to join Obama in making the Russian election interference public, all they Dems needed was something to keep their electorate from getting too complacent about Clinton’s election. They needed something that they could allow to seem troubling, but also connected to something so obviously ridiculous that it wouldn’t actually make a difference. The answer was right in front of them. The disgraced, then rehabilitated, then re-disgraced Anthony Weiner had a laptop. If someone leaked out that it might have some files of Huma Abedeen’s that might be, somehow, related to Clinton’s e-mails, or Benghazi, or something, then they would have a “scandal” far enough removed from Clinton to be safe, and easily debunked and ridiculed if it got too close. All they needed was for the head of the FBI to make the discovery public and announce the re-opening of an investigation. Nothing in particular would be alleged, no crimes would be uncovered, no Clinton misdeeds revealed. It would look like just more GOP dirty tricks. It seemed perfect.
Loss and Turning Lemons Into Lemonade:
But the risk was misjudged, Michigan and Wisconsin were missed, and there was more discontent among the progressives in the party than had been anticipated. Clinton lost. And the Republicans still controlled Congress. Things were looking grim. And then they got worse. Trump and the GOP began dismantling decades of progress on voting rights, women’s rights, health care, LGBTQ rights, minority rights and climate action; and they began to reshape the judiciary in ways that further threatened those rights.
And the centrist Dems saw an opening. The GOP was calling Nancy Pelosi a socialist and anyone even a step to her left was suddenly a communist. The establishment Dems could finally say that, with the far right, fundamentalist swing of the GOP base in full view, they were the center after all. But how to capitalize on it?
Bernie Sanders was still running for President, and a full roster of left-of-center candidates, minority non-white candidates, gay candidates, and self-proclaimed Democratic Socialists were gearing up to run for Congress, governorships, and state legislatures all over the country. Ocasio-Cortez showed that they could win even against establishment, big-money Dems in places like New York and the Midwest and even in the South. If enough of them could win, not too many, just enough, then the Dems could bring home the left wing of the party that had abandoned them in 2016.
2018 became the year to show that the Democratic party had truly become the party of diversity, of change, of progress – and Donald Trump was giving them room on the right to also be the party of populism, patriotism, and the average American.
The End Game:
2020 was now set up to be the year the centrist Dems could lower the boom on the GOP for a generation or more. All they needed was a good, business-friendly, non-controversial, establishment candidate for President. Anyone who said the right things about minorities and gays and women and saving the ACA and doing something, anything, about guns could beat Donald Trump. And it would leave the GOP as essentially little more than a fringe group in the electorate. The Dems would own the middle.
It would have an additional benefit. The left would have only two choices. They could stay with the Dems and accept whatever they got, or they could form a new party and get less. With the Dems controlling the broad center and the GOP stuck far right, the Democratic Socialists would simply mirror them on the left. America would have a three-party system with one major party, the Dems. And all the centrists would have to do is begin a careful, step-by-step restoration of what had been the progressive status quo before Trump and they’d be seen as hugely progressive by comparison. Meanwhile, they could continue to court big money and big business, offer token tax increases, and token social progress while continuing to support the oligarchy, the military, and the churches.
The Conspiracy Theory:
Now just suppose that it was all a set-up from the beginning. What if Trump has been part of it all along? Trump wasn’t going anywhere near the White House until Barack Obama made fun of him. If you’re a Trump supporter who thinks Trump is a genius, doesn’t this make a whole lot more sense than the idea that a billionaire business man would exhibit so many crude, stupid, irrational, and dangerous tendencies, still win big, openly flout constitutionality and convention, have so many corrupt and crazy associates in his administration, send Rudy Giuliani onto the major news networks to undermine him at every turn, be allowed to make a fortune off of the Presidency, and risk impeachment? You’ve been played. Trump is a Manchurian candidate, all right; but not for Putin – for the Democrats, the party he belonged to before deciding to run as a Republican – something he said would he could do because he thought Republican voters were stupid enough to support him.
Will It Work?:
Who knows, really. But the centrist Dems are having some unexpected difficulties. Joe Biden, their preferred candidate, is unlikely to be nominated. Same with booker and Steyer. Pete Buttigieg may hang on for a while, but he’s no shoo-in. Kamala Harris is gone. They’ve thrown Bloomberg and Patrick at the wall, but it’s not clear either one will stick. Meanwhile, Bernie is still very much in the fight, and it’s the social democrats who are creating the most excitement in the electorate. They might be able to work out something with Warren, but she’s a loose cannon as a centrist and the oligarchs don’t like her. The wealthy would almost rather have Bernie if they could get a fairly centrist congress.
But for the Republican electorate the bottom line is this. Do you want your party to survive? Then you have only one course of action. Abandon Trump, send Pence home to mother, and let someone like Bill Weld run for President. He practically looks like a centrist Dem already, but a Republican Congress could keep him in line.

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