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.

 

Advertisements

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.

 


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.

 


Happy Anniversary

January 18, 2018

Friday is the anniversary of the inauguration of Donald J. (“J for genius”) Trump. The plan is for Trump to host a $100,000 per plate gala dinner at his Florida Golf Resort. The optics of a party for the rich at a golf resort while the government is shut down are apparently not daunting for the President. After all, he truly believes he could murder someone in public and not lose support.

However, there is another even more socially and politically significant anniversary that is really is worth celebrating – the Women’s March. The massive, historic march of women across the country and in other countries has been followed by something a bit unusual. The March was not a one-time event and has led to a significant empowerment of women. The movement gave birth (excuse the pun) to significant efforts on behalf of women in our society such as the effort to identify and end sexual harassment, and the record number of women running for political office. It’s a real social and political movement and long overdue.

In the mid seventies the “Women’s Lib” movement emerged. While it did produce some important social changes, it really didn’t translate to economic and political power for women. Wages for women still lag behind men. Women rarely achieved political power. The ultimate confrontation of the women’s liberation movement’s failure to achieve and sustain success was the election of a man who openly bragged about sexually assaulting women. The brutal fact of the electoral college victory sparked the March and one year later, it appears that the massive march is more than a flash in the pan protest.

We can only become a better society as the result.

 

 


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.


Sexual Harassment is Not Politics

November 27, 2017

Roy Moore may be the drop that burst the dam, but the long sad history of men using power to sexualize and objectify women reaches back millennia. Recently the news about Al Franken broke, signaled by the same man (Roger Stone) using the same language (“time in the barrel”) used to announce the Wikileaks release of hacked e-mails from the Clinton Campaign. There is a political side to this issue, but this is a far more import issue than the election of a Senator (or President for that matter). The fact is that women have been abused subtly and not so subtly in our society and it’s long past the time to end it. The boy’s club should be closed.  It is not enough to reject physical sexual assault of women and tolerate verbal assault, or economic and social assault. But how to change?

Men are getting pretty nervous about now. Welcome to the experience of women. What is harassment and what is not? Is inviting a women coworker out for drinks after work harassment or a good will gesture? When is a joke a joke and when is it an assault? What is OK or not OK? Here are some suggestions guys…

If you want to share a joke, an invitation, or conversation with a woman in the workplace (or anywhere else), how about asking yourself if you would be good with someone doing that to your own daughter? How about treating women respectfully with clear boundaries until the woman knows you well enough to understand your motive? How about questioning your own motives first? How about asking women for permission and respecting their answer?

Of course, it will be hard on men for a while, and why not? It wasn’t men who precipitated this social change – it took the courage of women speaking out. Even now, victims of abuse from men are attacked and risk attempts to smear, shame and bully them into silence. Guess what? It doesn’t work anymore. We men have to change, and if we don’t know how to change then let the women around you define what that change looks like. Wow! You mean let women have some control? Yes, that’s right.

Even now, we can only begin to see the outlines of the path to change. Liberal men do it. Conservative men do it. It is a problem that transcends politics, but political ideology seems to be a defining aspect of responses. Al Franken immediately admitted the truth and apologized for behavior over a decade earlier and before he became a Senator. Trump and Moore attack their victims. Kind of ironic, if not sad, that the Party of Family Values is now becoming the Party of pedophiles. Whether it’s fair or not to be paying the price for behavior done decades ago, there is a moral difference between admitting your behavior was wrong and denying it and attacking the woman involved.

Some well-intentioned men, confused and fearful of their own past behavior being exposed, resent being put in the position where they may be “inconvenienced” by having to question their behavior toward women. Change is never easy, and for men in this society change is long overdue. We can start by rejecting the attempts to victimize women who speak out.


Hypocrisy

September 1, 2017

There are so many instances of hypocrisy from politicians of every persuasion it almost goes without notice most of the time. However, the current level of hutzpah from Texas Republicans is worthy of notice for its sheer audacity. Virtually all the Texas Republicans voted against relief for Hurricane Sandy and insisted on budget reductions to offset the costs. While some of the Texans, such as Cruz, now insist they voted against the bill because it contained pork barrel spending not related to hurricane relief, they all insisted at the time that ANY relief bill would be blocked unless the money was found by reducing funding from social safety net programs. They wanted to homeless to suffer so that the other homeless could go back home. This is what conservatives do: complain about the evil of “big government” until they need the help.

Of course, I wouldn’t want the badly needed relief not to get to Texas, but it would be nice to rub their noses in their own stuff. Maybe they should call the bill the “Hurricane Sandy Payback Bill” or something similar. As much as conservatives complain about the self-righteous hypocrisy of liberals, there is more than enough among conservatives to match up, especially among evangelicals. Remember, evangelicals wondered if Sandy was a judgment from God against New York. Maybe God is punishing states that voted for Trump, or for denying climate change … it’s a slippery slope, my conservative friends.

Enough political fun. I do hope that people in Texas, especially the poor and homeless, will get the help they need and stay safe.