New Detroit

December 19, 2017

The announcement of a plan to build the first modern era skyscraper in downtown Detroit to be located on the gravesite of the Hudson’s site was initially met with widespread excitement. Up to this point, the renovation of Detroit has largely been a matter of resurrecting abandoned buildings. Now we have tangible evidence that the economic resurgence is real and substantial enough to cause new growth.

Since the announcement of the skyscraper project, the one discordant note has been a coalition of Detroit activists who demand that the building devote substantial space for low income housing and small business entrepreneurs. Of course, these are absurd demands for a skyscraper in the heart of the new business center of Detroit. Skyscrapers aren’t built to accommodate flea markets. However, while the demands of the coalition are ridiculous for the new project, they are valid and necessary demands that the economic boom have some benefit for all Detroiters. There is a need for economic support for small business in Detroit, and a profound need for affordable housing and good schools. These are the things that are necessary if Detroit is to fully become a viable urban city. For example, Detroit is wonderful for young single people and married couples at the moment, but they grow up and have families at some point and anyone with children would never raise them in this Detroit.

Mayor Duggan has, though hook and crook, done a good job encouraging business growth in the downtown areas from Jefferson to Woodward to Michigan Ave. However, it is as though his plan to care for the citizens of Detroit is to wait for some sort of dribble-down effect from businesses. As the new project demonstrates, businesses take care of businesses. No one is going to devote space in multi-million dollar renovation projects to house the homeless… and no one should expect them to. Rather, it should be the expectation that the mayor will devote as much energy to making Detroit livable for families.

 

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Lies, More Lies and Damned Lies

December 18, 2017

The New York Times published a list of Trump’s lies over the past 10 months of his Presidency. Trump apologists, unable to refute the published lies (The Times only published statements that were demonstrably and totally false as distinct from misleading or partly true statements) complained that Obama lied too. There’s a surprise – the last resort of Trump supporters is to divert attention to Obama or Clinton. The Times then published a similar list for Obama using the exact same criteria and the results were not what Trump supporters hoped for. In the first 10 months of each Presidency, Obama had 18 clear lies vs. 103 from Trump.

Every president has lied to Americans from time to time, but Trump is different qualitatively as well as quantitatively. He lies about everything at a pathological pace and pattern. That’s not the worst of it though. The lies are damaging, but even more damaging to our Democracy is the response of Trump when caught with lying. He never admits the truth. Instead, Trump attacks the people who expose his lies, be they individuals or media, with one notable exception. On several occasions, the Russian government has directly contradicted Trump’s account of meetings and Trump remained silent in response. The danger to our Democracy is two-fold. First and foremost, attacking the truth and those who expose government lies is eroding any sense of objective reality. “Alt.facts” is an intentional policy and strategy of Trump to gain power and permission. A democracy cannot exist if there is no agreement on objective reality. “Fake news” begs the response of “facts matter”. Even most Trump supporters admit that he has a problem lying, but it doesn’t matter to them. There is something truly frightening about tens of millions of Americans who act in contradiction to objective reality.

Secondly, the lack of any response by Trump to any Russian actions is another piece of evidence that something very untoward is happening there.


What to Do

December 15, 2017

There were new reports this morning that Russian trollers were active once again in an American election – this time with the Alabama Special Election. The materials being posted on social media were split between favoring both candidates, but the essence of the postings were false and inflammatory stories which seemed intended to further divide Americans against each other. Apparently, the goal of the Russian government is to divide Americans socially and politically, and to undermine our trust in American Institutions such as Law Enforcement. It seems to me there is an easy and powerful solution to the increasing divisiveness in America, a solution so obvious that it suggests that there really is collusion with the Trump Administration.

The easy solution is to unite Americans against the Russian threat to our Democracy. A common threat, a common enemy is a powerful force to unite Americans as we have seen throughout our history. The fact that Russians are using cultural issues to divide Americans is an even more compelling argument to expose and resist this threat. What better to unite Americans than the idea that we may disagree with each other, but we can put aside those disagreements to fight a common foe? It’s an even better political play because the threat happens to be real.

It is such an obvious solution IF the goal were to be to unite Americans. However, that does not appear to be the M.O. of Trump and the GOP. Their concern is for domestic politics and seem to be ignoring the overarching threat. This is why there has not been a single Federal initiative (not even a single executive meeting on the issue) to protect the integrity of the 2018 elections. Maybe the role of the Russians in the Alabama election might compel some Republicans to act, but the only response from Republicans so far is to call for the firing of Special Prosecutor Mueller, and appoint another to investigate the Justice Department (further undermining trust in law the law enforcement institutions). It is as though no one in Washington is taking the Russian threat seriously and considering unifying Americans in an effort to protect against the threat to not only our Democracy, but our society as well. “Country before Party” may be a cliché, but in this case it is also a solution.


The Lessons of History

December 12, 2017

General Flynn pleaded guilty to a felony, to avoid the likelihood of being convicted of even more serious felonies. Apart from the delicious irony of the man who self-righteously led the Republican mob chanting “lock her up” even as he was committing felonies, or the legal implications to the Trump cabal, there are some interesting lessons from history that are immediately apparent. I’m not talking about John Dean or other more contemporary parallels, although the implications of Flynn cooperating with the Special Prosecutor do suggest a parallel. I’m talking about the figure of Flynn, his actions and understanding their significance. I’m talking about another famous general: Benedict Arnold.

Both Arnold and Flynn were respected generals. Both were fired from their jobs and became resentful and bitter as the result. Both men felt they were intellectually and morally superior to the men who hired and fired them, and both became secret agents of a foreign country for personal gain. Their cause became personal enrichment and vindication. Both of their treachery were uncovered as the result of intercepted communications. In the end, both men acknowledged their crime, but not their wrongdoing. Their narcissism prevented them from admitting they were wrong as much as it led them to their betrayals in the first place. Theirs was not the fate of the tragic hero who falls because of a fatal flaw. Theirs was the fate of men who served themselves above all else. Their motivation was rooted in narcissism, not altruism or any genuine concern for the common good. They strove for recognition, admiration and enrichment. When they failed to get what they believed they deserved, their rage translated into self-destruction.

There is one important difference of course. While both deserved to be fired from their jobs, their bosses were markedly different. George Washington was a man with an ego kept in check by his conscience, and President Obama had a similar character. Both Washington and Obama were alarmed by the self-serving ambition, the duplicity and destructive effect of their generals and fired them. Flynn’s most recent boss however, lacks both a conscience and any sense of judgment of their abilities other than personal loyalty before loyalty to Country. Even though Trump knew that Flynn had betrayed the country, he kept Flynn on until the public exposure necessitated letting him go. For Trump, self-enrichment involving betrayal of the country was not troublesome until the public opinion began to affect his own stature. That’s the alarming aspect of how Trump handled Flynn, and maybe a portent of what is to come. He didn’t care that Flynn had been compromised by foreign intelligence agencies and had broken the law. Trump kept him on in one of the most sensitive intelligence positions of any Administration even knowing Flynn was a foreign agent. That should worry all of us. That error of judgment would never occur to Trump and worry him. At least not nearly as much as the cooperation of Flynn with Mueller. In fact, Flynn may be nothing more than a moral reflection of Trump and consequently the reason why he was willing to tolerate Flynn’s lawlessness and betrayal of the Country.


The Real Significance and Impact of “Roy Moore for Senate”

December 7, 2017

The election campaign of Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate is far less significant politically as it is socially. The Republican position seems to have settled on that it is better to elect an “alleged” pedophile than a Democrat. That message, being sent by Republicans to the victims of child sexual abuse, is virtually the same as their perpetrator’s. Consider the following.

Most pedophiles are “alleged” only because virtually all of their victims remain silent, and even fewer pedophiles admit their crime. Those victims who break the silence suffer the very pain that all victims desperately seek to avoid for most of their lives: public exposure, shame, fear, guilt, and a profound sense of worthlessness.

Victims of childhood sexual abuse remain silent for decades (if not for their lifetime), which make prosecutions nearly impossible. This is because they remain mortally afraid children who dare not talk about it. Even as adults they stay silent. The power and control that the pedophile creates in the child is so profound that if suffocates them for life – a fear to even breathe at times. That fear is felt emotionally by that person throughout their life just as they experienced it as a child.

Some victims don’t come forward because they totally repress their memories of the event and live lives of self-destructive compulsions with little insight, unless and until triggered by some other life event. Their terror was too overwhelming for the brain to recall voluntarily. This is one reason why after the first victim comes forward, so do many others (and still more victims remain silent).

Some victims go on to live what appear to be normal lives, but not one victim remains unaffected for their life. Any public discussion of pedophilia is a “trigger” causing anxiety, panic, depression, and other aspects of the unhealable wound that is being re-opened.

Victims who survive are told by the perpetrator that they are worthless and nobody cares, they are a bad child, and they (and their family) will be harmed if they ever talk about it. The cruel message sent by Republicans who support Moore directly, or indirectly, is saying the same to the child victims as their rapist: “you are worthless (or at least you are not worth more than one vote in the Senate), if you speak up you will be publicly shamed, attacked and blamed for what happened, and it won’t matter anyway”.

The support of Republicans for Moore has already done more damage than simply re-opening the wounds of these victims, even if Moore is not elected. Their willingness to accept the “alleged” pedophile their candidate will also damage the children who will be targeted by pedophiles encouraged by a real sense of social permission – as long as Republicans can count on their vote. On cannot overstate the power of an entire Political Party accepting an “alleged” pedophile to past and future victims. We should be shamed into action by this President and Republicans who shamelessly allowed this to happen. Finally, if the response you hear to these arguments begins with the phrase “yes, but what about…” then you already understand one thing about pedophiles: how they justify their actions.

 


Someone Please Explain This to Me!

November 30, 2017

The State of Alabama. Please explain the support for Roy Moore, in particular. I see television interviews of individuals and of press conferences where Alabamans routinely invoke religious principles and concepts to justify their support for an “alleged” pedophile.

I understand those who simply deny the reality of the claims of the victims. It’s not uncommon for a man of his stature and reputation as a religious man (however contrived or manufactured a reputation) to get the benefit of the doubt. After all, people denied that for decades that many Catholic priests and bishops systematically sexually abused children. It’s hard to accept a person you have trusted for years is a monster. It’s scary to people that they failed to see the signs of a pedophile, and it’s easier to deny the claims of an individual(s), especially if they are made long after the fact. However, Moore has already admitted to dating underaged girls in the past.

I can understand people who see Moore as a champion of their “religious rights”. After all, he was twice removed from office for refusing to honor the Constitution and legal Court orders related to matters of his religious beliefs. He is a man who openly admits that his “religious” beliefs are more important than the law and the Constitution. To those people, their religion is a convenient cover for their bigotry (e.g. is there any doubt that Moore would be gone already if Moore had sexually assaulted boys?), and from the days of Reconstruction the Constitution has been ignored in Alabama until forced to comply. The fact that Moore was removed as a judge by a Federal Court makes him all the more electable in Alabama.

What I can’t understand is how people who define themselves as “Conservative” or “Christian” or “Evangelical Conservatives” can believe the evidence that Moore is a sexual predator of children and reward him with their vote because he will promote their political agenda. I thought the whole thing about Evangelicals is that spiritual principles are more important than anything else, even politics. I have heard some say that “God forgives every sinner”, but I understand enough to know that forgiveness is the end-result of confession (admitting you sinned) and repentance (changing behavior). Moore has done neither.

The religious support for Moore is especially galling to those who have actually read Scriptures and understand that Jesus was especially protective of children. What would electing Moore do to those hidden and future child victims of sexual abuse if a pedophile is allowed to attack his victims and be rewarded with public trust? Granted, some of his supporters step right up to the threshold of saying that in Alabama its OK to date children (e.g. the State Representative that justified the behavior by saying that Moore always asked for parental permission), but Moore did not ask for permission. Can a pedophile actually be banned from shopping malls in Alabama but still be elected Senator?

The reality is that Moore is likely to win, primarily because in Alabama religion and politics are fused. Moore has set himself up to represent those “good vs. evil” people and many churches appear to consider a pedophile to be more representative of their religious beliefs than any Democrat.  That kind of hatred is hard to overcome.


The Quiet Takeover

November 29, 2017

While the country is devolving into political tribalism, encouraged by the Trump Administration and his GOP allies and abetted by a profit driven media, there is another profound change being executed by Trump that may have even more devastating consequences to your liberty and welfare. The noise of Russia, Moore and Twitter has diverted attention from and enabled a quiet but devastating take-over of the last remaining Branch of Government protecting the common welfare – the Judiciary.

The Federalist Society (a group cynically named, and just as woefully devoted to the worst kind of judicial activism) has been put in charge of nominating virtually all white men as Federal Judges who are qualified only by their devotion to ideology and not the Constitution. For the first time in history, a half-dozen nominees for Federal Court positions have been assessed as “unqualified” by the National Bar Association. This is the same Bar Association that assessed Bork, Thomas and Gorsuch as “qualified”. In other words, the Bar Association gradings have been ideologically neutral. Their only criteria are the record and writings of nominees. Why such a dismal evaluation of Trump nominees? The list of nominees includes men who have never even tried a case in Court, at least one nominee who lied under oath, another who not only has never seen the inside of a courtroom, lied under oath but also failed to disclose he is married to the Trump appointee nominating the people for judgeships!

There are other aspects of commonality among the Trump nominees beside the fact that they are virtually all white males, and have poor reputations in the legal community. They are all members of the Federalist Society, a group devoted to judicial activism in favor of corporations and government interests. All men being nominated have openly advocated the reversal of voting rights, civil rights, access to the courts for individuals and ignoring legal precedent. They are being approved at a record rate with the corporate shills in Congress sometimes interviewing and approving several nominees in the same meeting. Consider the fact that the same Congress violated the Constitution and stole a Supreme Court seat and refused to approve any Obama nominees in the last year of his term, and you can see the silent takeover coming to fruit.

The Courts have always been the last resort of justice for the individual oppressed by the powerful. It is the one place that we all, as individuals, could count on a change of justice. That last refuge may be disappearing with little notice or resistance. The Citizen’s United ruling codified the takeover of the Executive and Legislative Branches by a few families and corporations. The result has been a government unwilling or unable to act in the common good, putting Party over Country and very soon – a tax code that will guarantee that a permanent class of Plutarch will remain in control.