Liberal Voices

February 15, 2018

Ted Sorensen was an unapologetic voice of Liberalism in the Kennedy White House (and quite a contrast to the wife beating Sorensen who writes for Trump). As President Kennedy’s Chief Speech Writer, he helped the President to articulate the liberal vision of civil rights and reigning in the arm’s race during a time when those ideas ran against popular sentiment. I’ve written a lot over the years on the accomplishments of American Liberalism (as well as the failures). Liberal economic policy saved the Country from the Great Depression of the 30s and the Great Recession of 2008. It built the infrastructure that made America the largest economic engine in the world. American Liberals mobilized Americans to fight and win WWII, even as Conservatives argued for isolationism. Liberal economic policies created the American middle class. The GI Bill, Student Loan Programs, and investments in hard science research created a University system that made us the incubator of most Nobel Laureates in Science and Medicine during the past 60 years. We could go on, but there is one aspect of Liberalism that I feel is missing in our contemporary politics. Courage.

It took courage to raise taxes for essential infrastructure and jobs stimulation, even when desperately needed. It took courage to fight for civil rights in the 60s. Where is that courage now with the defining rights issue of the time – Immigration? This business with DACA seems so symptomatic of the anemic Liberalism of the last two decades. They lacked the courage to shut down government over CHIPS and DACA. The relatively few Liberal voices heard during the debate were from Dreamers and not Democrats. When did Liberals lose their backbone?

Some blame the decline of Liberalism to the concessions of LBJ to the military – Viet Nam in exchange for The Great Society. Some blame the political ineptitude of Jimmy Carter (a wonderful man who was too decent a human being to be a President). Liberals have been defensive and reactive since Reagan. He may, or may not have won the Cold War, but Reagan certainly did it with massive deficits and the consequent economic problems, breaking the back of Organized Labor, and setting into motion the continuous decline of the American Middle Class since. It also spawned the libelous attack on Liberalism by hate radio as being ineffective and bleeding hearts. Clinton certainly didn’t help with his strategy of “triangulation”, and Obama’s cerebral style lacked the willingness to defend Liberalism and his own accomplishments (he did save the Country from the Conservative’s Great Recession).

Unfortunately for us all, Citizen’s United has all but buried the possibility of the Liberal impulse of altruism as a political policy. The only way to get elected now is to solicit money from big donors and Hedge Fund guys are generally not interested in the common good. Only courageous Liberal voices will win over a society that is now trained to be hostile, if not skeptical of social and economic policy that promotes the common good over special interests. And there should be no doubt that only Liberal Policy can reverse income inequality, the brain drain of American science to Europe and freedom from the emerging Quasi-State religion.



Men and Women

February 14, 2018

The conventional wisdom is that the reason why so many of the Trump associates are abusive toward women is that these types of men tend to flock together (“birds of a feather”). It is an impressive list of either men accused of abusing women or covering up for them, but there is something much more significant about the most recent scandal to hit the already most scandalous Administration in history. Lewindowski, Gorka, Ailes, Bannon, Porter, Sorensen, Kelly – all hired by the vagina grabber himself to the surprise of… anyone? Kelly attempted to save Porter’s job even after the photo of Porter’s second wife with a black eye. The only comment made was one of sympathy for Porter. Trump even went farther and bemoaned the lives of men that are being ruined by these allegations, without a word about the lives of beaten women.

This is a problem that is not restricted to Trump associates. It really is a serious problem in our country. Domestic violence is one of the most common and most dangerous calls police get. The cycle of violence and silence is well documented, yet we still hear skepticism when women call out their attackers years later – even when the evidence is obvious. What did Trump think – that the woman ran into a door and got a black eye? And don’t mistake Kelly’s cover-up and Trump’s sympathy for Porter as a virtuous example of loyalty. One can be loyal to a friend and still not enable them to beat women and pay no consequence. This was enabling and endorsing, not loyalty.

Porter and Sorensen may have lost their jobs as a political consequence of their violence, but their violence was not the issue in losing their jobs. That’s the problem. They will dismiss their own actions because the “liberal media” wanted a political pelt. Trump’s calculated comments afterwards provided permission to not only the abusive men in his administration, but to all abusive men who feel that a black eye or a broken arm are being blown out of proportion. I have even heard some men ask what the big deal is with being dragged out of a shower to be emotionally abused and why a man should lose his job for abusing a wife! If the man recognized his problem, admitted the abuse, paid a penalty and has not shown any violence since then, that may be a different story. These are men who feel there is no problem beating women. Kelly can give all kinds of lip service to “holding women as sacred”, but his history in the Marine Corps and in the West Wing speaks louder than his words.

What of the family values, religious right that Republicans have claimed to be in the past? Gone down the same drain as the Party of Fiscal Conservatives. Evangelical Christians have long been known for their tolerance of abuse toward women (after all, they must submit to an abusive husband as they would to Christ – so they say). A West Wing full of wife beaters and sexual predators is of no concern to the Republican base. This is the same base that supported a pedophile for Senate, for god’s sake! Do you really think that Republicans care about women being beaten?

The bottom line is that the latest Trump scandal is a reflection of a much larger problem of violence against women. It is also a reflection of the lack of moral leadership in government and among the “Christian Conservatives”. Hopefully, women will assert their dignity and worth at the election box. Then again, most white women supported the abuser in chief.


The Need for Real Contact

February 12, 2018

With no offense intended to those reading this blog, I have been thinking that conversations via social media are not really conversations that matter, if they are conversations at all. Sitting down in front of a computer screen and “talking” on Facebook or other vehicles is not having a conversation that matters to anyone. Some people might argue that with the web and other social media people can discuss important issues with anyone, anytime and that is a powerful tool for resolving problems. The reality doesn’t support that idea – quite the opposite.

For those of us that remember having a real conversation face to face with anther human being, the exchange of verbal and non-verbal communication can be meaningful. Having a conversation face to face with someone tends to have a moderating effect because you are not just talking to a screen. I doubt any disagreements on issues are resolved on line. Most people only talk to other people on-line who think and believe the same. The social media “bubble” corrupts the ability of people to resolve problems and disputes, and it creates an alternative reality. If you have an opportunity to witness a face to face conversation between a Trump supporter and an Anti-Trump person discussing an important problem such as climate change you can see how social media has corrupted us. Very little listening goes on. It’s less a conversation than a serial repetition of cliché, sound bites and a profound disagreement about basic science and objective facts.

Someone typing a keyboard is not having a conversation, they are watching their own words and listening to their own ideas. Press the “enter” key and in a minute they get to react to someone else talking with themselves with a personal insult, sarcasm, or some other type of rebuttal. There is no attempt to listen, to understand or to clarify. There is no attempt to find mutual agreement on any issue, or even a mutually agreeable way to end the conversation. Just change the site, delete the conversation, or sign off. There is no need to feel guilty or ashamed of the words you use or the hurt inflicted on another human being. The only thing that happens during these on-line exchanges are attempts to convince another person that you are right and they are wrong.

A blog is an attempt to share ideas and stimulate thought. It’s not intended to be a conversation. Most of the blogs I am proud about are the ones stimulated by talking with another person in person. There have been so many studies on the deleterious effects of video viewing on the human brain, including structural damage to younger children. Do we really need to have studies on the deleterious effect of social media on socialization? It’s obvious that we need to talk with our mouths, not with our fingers, and to a human being and not a video screen.



More March Memo Madness

February 9, 2018

In a growing scandal (and growing alliteration) it now appears that the White House assisted in writing the Nunes memo which Trump claims “completely exonerates” him of any collusion and obstruction of justice charges. Yes, once again Nunes gets something from the WH to exonerate the President to bring back to the WH as proof of their innocence…

Let’s review. Nunes, who is officially recused from any investigation of the Trump/Russian investigation, conducts a secret investigation of the Trump/Russia investigation. His staff focused on the use of the Steel Dossier to support the 3rd renewal of a FISA warrant approval on a man Trump people say was never a part of their campaign as proof that the FBI was targeting the campaign. Nunes not only violated Committee rules by conducting a secret investigation, he gets help from the Trump White House to write the memo. At the same time, Russian bots, using the same methods they used to influence the election for Trump, conduct a social media campaign to release the memo. If that seems like a criminal conspiracy to obstruct the criminal investigation – it’s because It’s obvious. I wonder when Mueller will interview Nunes and his staff on when, and with whom in the WH they conspired with to undermine and obstruct the investigation?

Meanwhile the memo that was released has had the opposite effect of their intent. Even with important facts that were omitted, the one certain take away from the memo was that Carter Page was working with the Kremlin and being recruited as a spy long before the Steel Dossier was written. That makes four important Trump Campaign members who were Russian agents: Flynn, Manafort, Gates and Page. You could add a 5th Trump campaign member, Senior Foreign Policy Adviser Popadoupolis, who certainly acted as a conduit between the Russians and the Campaign. This was a campaign thoroughly infiltrated with foreign agents, and they knew it at some point. That’s why every single other member of the campaign has lied under oath about contacts with Russians. Don Jr., Jared, Sessions (among others) all testified that they never had any contact with any Russians at any time, only to change their testimony  after they were caught lying about it.

It’s like a poorly written spy novel, except the threat to our Country is real.


Michigan Politics

February 7, 2018

One of the more scandalous aspects of the Governor’s race in Michigan has been the attempts by the Democrats to force Abdul El-Sayed out of the race. In a dirty tricks campaign, Dems have been fueling questions about the residency status of the life-long Michigan resident, who happened to have a brief stint in medical school and teaching at Columbia University, that it is claimed disqualifies him as a resident. It’s all been behind the scenes skull-duggery complete with anonymous quotes and birther like whispering campaigns. Believe me, I know how the Dems do these things after my own run guerilla tactics run for Governor, knocking off the Establishment candidates.

Gretchen Whitmer is the establishment candidate. She is the proto-Michigan Dem: kind of liberal, kind of experienced, kind of pro-Labor, kind of careful and kind of uninspiring. Perfect for another loss? IDK. She is a kind of proto- Granholm profile, which should concern many. As much of a disaster that Granholm was for Michigan (she says Whitmer would be a phenomenal candidate), at least she was strong and could win. Running against her are several decidedly not proto typical Dems. Shri Thanedar is from a family that immigrated from one of those countries our Republican friends call a “shit-hole country” (i.e. India). He is an unapologetic liberal, intelligent and walks the walk: a single father, scientist-entrepreneur. He is a solid liberal, solid character, well qualified… and Indian-American. I’m guessing that the Dem establishment thinks that he couldn’t win in rural Michigan where they still haven’t taken down the crosses they burned in corn fields during pro-Trump rallies.

Abdul El-Sayed is another man with an immigration story – except he has an Arab name and if there is one thing that scares the Dems more than an Indian-American it is a Muslim-American. He is another man with a solid character, extraordinarily intelligent and qualified. When I say “another man of solid character” I don’t mean to be diminutive – these are rare characters in Michigan politics. They are actually inspiring as well as honest and moral. While Dems feel that they can afford to take a distance from the progressive Shri, Mr. El-Sayed is a problem for them. The large Muslim-American community in SE Michigan and the simmering conflicts between the Arab and the African-American Community is a challenge to their traditional dominance in SE Michigan. They can’t win without a large turnout here.

Maybe the apparent Dem calculation that Thanedar and El-Sayed could not win in Michigan is what is driving their birther-like campaign, but I think they are selling the voters short. OK, there is plenty of indications that out-State voters are not prone to liberals, Indians or Arabs. But Shri and Abdul are not defined by their ethnicity or names. They are non-traditional candidates in some very important regards: they are honest, intelligent and qualified. They are more American in values and lifestyle than many Republicans (or Dems for that matter). They deserve a fair chance to present their case for election, and at the very least their honesty, integrity and values will uplift the Democratic Party in Michigan.

March Madness

February 6, 2018

Don’t you long for the days when the only madness in March was the NCAA Basketball Tournament? In a still young Presidency characterized by a lack of reality perception, March is shaping up to be a constant tournament of turmoil. The Nunez Memo is going to be released, the Democratic response may be released (President Trump will have to approve the release of the memo that exposes the lies in the Nunez Memo, so it’s release is tenuous at best), another possible government shutdown, a crisis with the debt ceiling, threats of military action in Syria… That’s just a partial list!

The Nunez memo is actually the product of a collaboration between Nunez and his staffers with the White House, is a transparent attempt to undermine the investigation into the Trump-Russia collusion. Maybe the most important aspect of the memo may be the longer term consequences to national security and the GOP. The Nunez memo and GOP attacks on the FBI is a godsend for Russian intelligence. Nothing the Russians have been able to do since the early days of the Soviet Union to undermine the counter-intelligence capabilities of the FBI has been nearly as successful as the GOP attempts to protect Trump. Republicans are literally undermining our national security for political gain. They may even force a Constitutional showdown if they attempt to block the Democratic response, let alone the responses of the FBI and the Justice Department.

Also on the table is another government shutdown looming. It’s a well known secret that Republicans allied with Trump don’t want a compromise solution over immigration. There are deals to be made among some rank and file Senators, but Mitch McConnell will not allow a vote on any of the compromises shaping up. Ultimately, they want the adoption of the white nationalist agenda of limiting immigration from Muslim, African and Latin Countries – and “the Wall”.

The Trump tax break – aka the trillion-dollar loan to give to rich people and rich corporations – has had an exponential effect on growing the national debt. The consequences of the rapidly expanding debt is that Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling soon. Of course, this is yet another opportunity for Conservatives to demonstrate their hypocrisy or lack of real principles. Remember, Conservatives have threatened their own government shutdowns in the past to prevent a raise in the debt ceiling.

I haven’t even begun to discuss the reports of imminent military actions in Syria and discussions of military options in the Korean Peninsula. It’s wearying, troubling… Let’s pray for April and Opening Day. Maybe baseball will be a welcome relief. Then again, Republicans will probably fore a controversy over throwing out the first pitch.