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.

 

 

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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.


The Orange Barrel Summertime Blues

August 29, 2016

For many of you who follow the blog and live outside of Southeast Michigan, around here warm weather is known more popularly as the “Orange Barrel Season.” It seems like as soon as the temperature has three continuous days above freezing, work begins on repairing the roads and highways of Michigan. These roads (and bridges) rival those of a Third World country in terms of disrepair. Actually, our roads may be worse. One important reason why Michigan’s roads and infrastructure are so bad is the Michigan government.

Unlike other states that have insisted on enforcing minimum materials and construction standards, along with a guarantee of viability, Michigan governments since the Engler Administration have allowed contractors to use inferior materials and construction methods to create a virtual perpetual employment machine, moving constantly from one short-term, emergency fix to another. It has also been a government that has resisted any effective public transportation system, or enforced regulation of heavy traffic vehicles.

Since all of the highway work had been unguaranteed, it guaranteed huge tax expenditures to create emergency, and short-term fixes. It’s quite remarkable to see if you are not from Michigan. Slow-moving trucks roll along at 5 mph on a 70 mph highway for miles, causing huge traffic jams while men shovel out a gravel and tar mixture to fill in monster pot holes. Then they rely on subsequent traffic to roll over the mound to compact it down, while the rest of the tar and gravel are sent bouncing off of cars in other lanes.

Well, there’s good news and bad news in this regard with the announcement of a major road reconstruction project at one of the busiest conduits in SE Michigan, at I-75 in Oakland County. The good news is that the huge congestion of traffic creating a 10-mile-long, bumper-to-bumper commute into Wayne County and the City of Detroit will be somewhat relieved. The bad news is that the project will take 12-14 years to complete! For Oakland County residents working in Detroit, it means more than a decade of finding alternate routes or commutes extended hours longer. Imagine spending 2-3 hours or longer to drive 10 miles to work.

I’m guessing that the good conservative types in one of America’s riches counties will be wishing they had approved extending the Woodward light rail pretty soon. For the thousands of people who use I-75 as their route to Northern Michigan … just think of it as an opportunity to tour the back roads instead of a costly extension of hours in travel time. There even might be some economic benefit from the fact that hotels and restaurants will have increased business once driving to Mackinac will take an over-night trip rather than the usual 5 hours.

Or maybe we can contemplate how much of a difference government can make with regard to infra-structure – for good or bad.

 


The Sacrifices Trump Has Made

August 9, 2016

Alright all of you Khans of the world, here is a list of the sacrifices Donald trump has made for his Country.

  1. From 1959 to 1964: He served honorably in the New York Military Academy High School. Says Trump, he “got more training than many men get while serving in the military.”
  2. From 1964 to 1968: Multiple deferments from the draft. Not the conscientious type, but it was still very difficult for him to stay in college instead of serving during a war.
  3. From 1980 to 1997: Avoided contracting any sexually transmitted disease. “It was my personal Viet Nam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.” (By the way, didn’t we lose that war?)
  4. He created thousands of jobs.

 

And if you have any doubts about whether or not Trump has read and understands the Constitution, consider the fact that on July 7th, Trump clearly and unequivocally announced his support for “Article XII” of the Constitution. Maybe he should get one of those pocket Constitutions. Then again, it wouldn’t make a difference. This is a man with a pathological narcissism that runs through everything he does. Creating jobs for people to perform the labor that makes him money is, to him, a sacrifice. In the mind of a narcissist, the money he paid to people who ultimately made him money were taking something from him. They should work for him for free…

The attempts to smear the Khan family were the inevitable result of a complete lack of response about his lack of sacrifices and understanding of the meaning of the Constitution. They simply can’t defend Trump, so they attack these two fine people. I hope that this is the real turning point of the election.


The “T” Word

August 8, 2016

What are the top 5 responses of Trump supporters to his encouraging Russian espionage against the US?

  1. The media is lying about what he said.
  2. Ya, but Hillary…
  3. He really meant to say…
  4. Ya but Hillary…
  5. Ya, but Hillary…

 

When does the love of Country “trump” the hatred of Hillary Clinton? I am not a big Hillary supporter. In fact, I am pretty angry at the Dems for anointing her as the candidate even before the primary process began. Is there any doubt that Bernie, or nearly anyone else as the nominee would mean a huge advantage in the polls right now? However, the comments of Trump encouraging a foreign power to commit espionage may not be treason per se, but is certainly a felonious act. It is a felony to encourage a crime, and hacking any private citizen’s e-mails, let alone those of the State Department’s. So what does the Party of “Law and Order” have to say in response? Nothing.

I sat marveling at the hypocrisy exploding from the Republican National Convention when they all chanted “Blue Lives Matter” – the same Party that blocked bills to help support 9/11 first repsonders for years. The Party that has tried to lay sole claim to patriotism now stands in silence as their candidate encourages our adversaries to spy.

Was this an act of treason? Probably not his motive, but Trump is so ignorant of National Security issues and self-centered that he still sees no problems with compromising national security if it serves his purposes. Come to think of it… isn’t that why they wanted to throw Hillary in jail?