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Tag Archives: American Politics

A Party Alternative

If you live in California and are interested in an alternative to the dominant Democratic Party and the dormant Republican Party, take a look at the Common Sense Party.  What I like about this effort is that it is designed to start from the ground up. Unlike the gazillionaires who think the way to counter the two party system is by running for Governor or President, the Common Sense Party recognizes that political change starts at the local level. Their focus will be on local elections, school boards, and state legislative races where they can make a difference.

The two party system is failing America these days. It’s why I came up with #PaxsonDawn2020. The only real change will come about if we challenge Republicans and Democrats and demonstrate that they are not the only game in town.

Take a look. Be a part of the needed change instead of accepting the status quo.

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Respect

At the end of this post, I’ve quoted words that purport to be from Charles Pierce, recently published in Esquire magazine. I say “purport” because I saw it on Facebook and we all know about the problems with the accuracy of things you see there.

I was reminded of it with the passing of George H.W. Bush. The thing about American Presidents is that they are imperfect human beings just like the rest of us. The thing about American Presidents is that the have different political beliefs, different ideologies, different ideas of how to lead.

I rarely agreed with Ronald Reagan. I rarely agreed with George Bush — either one of them. Clinton had his personal failings. Obama made mistakes as well, although not that many from my perspective.

This is the thing about having human leaders. There will be differences.

But even though there are differences, there is one thing that unites them and commands some level of respect. I feel it when one of these leaders passes away. I may have disagreed with George H.W. Bush on most things, but I respected him because he respected his office, he respected the institutions of America, and he respected the American people.

This is the great tragedy of our current President. He has no respect for his office. He has no respect for the democratic institutions of America — instead, he is intent on tearing down every such institution he can. And he has no respect for the American people.

I recently finished reading Harry’s Last Stand, a book written by Harry Leslie Smith, who was born in Great Britain in the mid-20’s. He survived in the Great Depression, living a horrible existence where he went to work at the age of 7 to help his family. He fought in WW II and eventually found love and a family and success of his own.

The book is his case for what must be done in the Western World today. In the post-WW II era, countries and their peoples came together for a common good, intent on creating a society and system that brought everybody up. Smith describes the horrors of his childhood and that after the war, their was a concerted effort to ensure that never happened again.

That effort lasted until Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were elected in their respective countries. Since then, corporate interests have taken over in the West and there are all sorts of efforts to roll back the progress that was made after WW II. I can’t say it better than Harry Leslie Smith did in his book, so go read the book. It’s a very clear statement of the problems we face.

The problem is that everything Smith described in Harry’s Last Stand, which was published in 2014 when he was 90 years old, has been accelerated in the last two years. Donald Trump, our American President, has turned up the flame that is fueling the destruction of the post-World War II common ground — a search for progress for all because the common good is greater than the individual good.

He is intent on doing as much as he can to destroy stability and consensus. His goal is chaos. And those who still support him are sheep — they are lambs waiting to be slaughtered.

It’s a shame. Say what you will about each President we have had over the years, but they have respected their office and the democratic institutions of America. Respect. They had it. Donald Trump does not. He respects only two things. His ego and his desire for a revolution that will only serve him and the few at the top.

By the way, Harry Leslie Smith died last week at the age of 94. Spend a couple of dollars on Harry’s Last Stand. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s a message people need to consider. If you Twitter, you could also go check out @harryslaststand over there. Over the last few week’s Harry’s son has kept his supporters and followers up-to-date as Harry went through his final days. It is a poignant story that unfolds via Twitter. And you can read plenty more about the man through other people’s tweets about him.

 

Poignant and sad words from Charles Pierce in Esquire:
“In my life, I have watched John Kennedy talk on television about missiles in Cuba. I saw Lyndon Johnson look Richard Russell squarely in the eye and and say, “And we shall overcome.” I saw Richard Nixon resign and Gerald Ford tell the Congress that our long national nightmare was over. I saw Jimmy Carter talk about malaise and Ronald Reagan talk about a shining city on a hill. I saw George H.W. Bush deliver the eulogy for the Soviet bloc, and Bill Clinton comfort the survivors of Timothy McVeigh’s madness in Oklahoma City. I saw George W. Bush struggle to make sense of it all on September 11, 2001, and I saw Barack Obama sing “Amazing Grace” in the wounded sanctuary of Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
These were the presidents of my lifetime. These were not perfect men. They were not perfect presidents, god knows. Not one of them was that. But they approached the job, and they took to the podium, with all the gravitas they could muster as appropriate to the job. They tried, at least, to reach for something in the presidency that was beyond their grasp as ordinary human beings. They were not all ennobled by the attempt, but they tried nonetheless.
And comes now this hopeless, vicious buffoon, and the audience of equally hopeless and vicious buffoons who laughed and cheered when he made sport of a woman whose lasting memory of the trauma she suffered is the laughter of the perpetrators. Now he comes, a man swathed in scandal, with no interest beyond what he can put in his pocket and what he can put over on a universe of suckers, and he does something like this while occupying an office that we gave him, and while endowed with a public trust that he dishonors every day he wakes up in the White House.
The scion of a multigenerational criminal enterprise, the parameters of which we are only now beginning to comprehend. A vessel for all the worst elements of the American condition. And a cheap, soulless bully besides.
Watch him make fun of the woman again. Watch how a republic dies in the empty eyes of an empty man who feels nothing but his own imaginary greatness, and who cannot find in himself the decency simply to shut the fuck up even when it is in his best interest to do so. Presidents don’t have to be heroes to be good presidents. They just have to realize that their humanity is our common humanity, and that their political commonwealth is our political commonwealth, too.
Watch him again, behind the seal of the President of the United States. Isn’t he a funny man? Isn’t what happened to that lady hilarious? Watch the assembled morons cheer. This is the only story now.”

I’m Actually Kind of Serious

Back when the GWB Administration began pounding the drums of war to invade Iraq I predicted that such a war would be the beginning of the end of the American Century, the American Empire, the end of American dominance in the world. Considering that we are still there and still in Afghanistan and have literally wasted trillions of dollars in those efforts, I may end up right.

What? You ask how I could suggest this was a waste? Well, yeah, show me a single benefit to America, the world, or the people of those two countries or their geographic regions have received as a result of our entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan and we can talk.

Imagine instead that those trillions of dollars were spent here at home or on programs that truly benefited people living in other countries. Let’s start at home — our infrastructure is crumbling, our education system continues to decline, our health care system … well, yeah. The list could go on, but I’d suggest that the internal decay of this country has accelerated significantly in the years since we invaded Iraq. What if those funds were spent to advance the cause of health and well-bring in the Third World? None of that happened — instead it was all sucked, and continues to be sucked, into endless, fruitless wars that serve no purpose and for which our “leaders” have abandoned any discussion of how to end them.

Meanwhile government debt has exploded. We will soon be spending more on financing the federal debt than we spend on the military and defense. Think about it, there will come a day very soon where the combined amount this nation spends each year on debt and the military will be in the neighborhood of $1.3 or 1.4 TRILLION dollars. And every year that number will just keep rising. The result is that what is left in terms of what the federal government has left to address the nation’s other needs is mere crumbs.

And that is what our political parties are fighting over. Crumbs. All this noise and hate and bullying and name-calling and intolerance is over crumbs.

A few weeks ago, I met a friend after work for a beer and to discuss a book we had both read. When I got to the brewery, her husband and another friend were there. The four of us discussed the book and then started discussing the political state of the United States. Three of us are varying degrees of Democrats. The fourth is a Republican. We all agreed that something needs to be done. That there needs to a new movement in this country because the two party system is failing us.

We were at the BikeDog Brewery and joked that we would name this new movement the BikeDog Populist Movement.

In my lifetime, I have seen this idea come and go. The problem is that it is either a high profile independent that draws the attention for a single high profile office — like John Anderson in 1980 or Ross Perot in the 1990s running for President — or it’s just talk — like think tanks and consortiums formed to talk about how to improve things.

As near as I can tell, over the last few decades there has not been a serious effort made to take a third way approach to American politics. To actually identify candidates who are interested in bipartisan approaches to our nation’s, state’s, and community’s problems and who are not willing to participate in the politics as usual catastrophe that has taken over. To find candidates who are willing to diverge from the standard policies and tactics of the two major parties. To fund those candidates and begin the process of fundamentally changing the dynamic. High profile offices alone won’t make it work. Just talking will do nothing. A combination of those two won’t do anything either.

What needs to happen is for the Michael Bloombergs, the Arnold Schwarzeneggers, the Bob Shrums, the Mike Murphys, and all of the others who are talking about this to stop talking and start doing. Join forces and start somewhere. A city. A state. A place that seems amenable to a middle-of-the-road, non-partisan approach and run candidates who will do what needs to be done. Take over a city council with these candidates, become a true third party in a State Legislature and begin to change the way things are done in this country today. Challenge the orthodoxy that says it is only the Democrats and Republicans who can acquire the power to govern (or not). Prove it can be done and the movement could grow.

There is no other way to make this change happen. The two major parties have become mirror images of each other. Too blinded by the passion of their extremes to see the wisdom of their moderates. Too obsessed with the glitter of money and the aphrodisiac allure of power to see they are leading us into the abyss. Too afraid to challenge the unreasonable in their midst to truly and effectively lead.

We are in the midst of the end of our American experiment, only most people don’t realize it and those who have the power to do something about it are too afraid and too blind to do the right thing.

It’s time for those who aren’t to do something about it. Something real. Something meaningful. Something that is more than just talk. This country needs real action and it needs to start now.

 

On Kavanaugh, Finis

I hope I never write about Brett Kavanaugh again. This has been an American tragedy from any perspective and it has been foisted on us by both political parties. I’ve already written that my biggest issue with Kavanaugh is with his dishonesty and his willingness to lie to Congress.

But what I wanted to write about tonight as we wrap up this sad saga is this. Memories.

Brett Kavanaugh and I are almost exactly the same age. He was born about three months after me, but due to a quirk in the school calendar, I was a year ahead of him, graduating in 1982 instead of 1983 when Kavanaugh did.

The summer of 1982 was when I started to get out there into the social world of teens and college kids. I started hanging out with a group of people who became my core group of friends for many years and in recent years, this group has re-connected.

Back then, in the summer of 1982 we spent a lot of time getting together on Friday evenings, playing pickup softball games, getting something to eat, and then hanging out at the house of one of our group. We’d drink, watch movies, play games. And frequently do a lot of it again on Saturday nights.

There was a core group within a larger group. About 8-10 of us who showed up every week. And there were satellite individuals who came and went and came and went. I could tell you who most of the core group was, but my memory of those satellite people is a lot fuzzier.

I can also tell you about a whole lot of things that happened at that friend’s house. But we didn’t always end up at her house. Occasionally we would go somewhere else. But I have virtually no memory of events elsewhere. Jennifer’s home, where her parents would go to bed when we got there and let us do what we would, was the party place. It’s where my memories are also. Even though I know we went elsewhere at times, the mind is blank regarding those times.

Within our group there were those who drank more and those who drank less. I’d say I was somewhere in the middle. I do know that I never drank to black out or to a state where I did something I wasn’t aware of, except for maybe one time.

It was the end of the semester and we went out to celebrate.  Mexican food with mixed drinks, going back to Jennifer’s house. Shots of vodka, followed by a game of quarters. The story is that while playing quarters, the one gay man in our group put his hand on my knee and I said to him when he did so, “Patrick, get your hand off my knee.”

My friends told me about this the next day, but I had no recollection of it.  Other than that there is nothing about that time in my life where I couldn’t remember what I had done the night before. And I know this, I never attempted to sexually assault anybody. I never wagged my penis in somebody’s face. I never. I never.

But here’s the other thing.

It’s 35 years later. I simply do not remember the details about the vast majority of those get-togethers with this important group of friends. I don’t remember the satellite friends who came and went. But I have memories. They are like still photos with spotlights on them.

Of Rick hitting the ball so far it bounced down the street by the park and we had to run after it. Of the magic couch in Jennifer’s family room. Of watching Eddie Murphy’s Delirious. Of so many things. And in my memory, I see these things that are, as I said, in a spotlight where I see a few things lit up by that light and all other details are shrouded in darkness that I can no longer see through. Who was there around the edges, what was happening at the fringes. Where were we? what exactly happened.

I think of it like I think about my wedding. I have these memories of that day, great, incredible memories, but they are also spotlight memories as well. I remember when we arrived at the reception, one of the first things we did was go to the bar at a friend’s suggestion and have a shot of tequila. But I couldn’t tell you who was in the group that joined me for that. And I couldn’t tell you what the bar looked like. I just remember enjoying that introduction to the celebration.

After dinner, we danced to Hava Nagila. It is a traditional Jewish dance in which my wife and I danced in the center of two or three rings of people who held hands and circled around us. I remember this — it was a highlight of the day and of my life. But I couldn’t tell you who was in those circles. I couldn’t tell you hardly any of the details at all except the memory I have of how incredible it was. In that memory, the spotlight is on my wife and I and that is what I see. The two of us dancing and laughing and having such an incredible time with our friends and family around us. But who was actually in those dancing circles. Shrouded in shadows and I can’t see them.

What’s my point?

I totally get why Dr. Ford doesn’t remember all of the details of that night. The memory spotlight for her is on that traumatic event and nothing else. She can see the faces of the two young men in the room and their laughter, but the other details? Like where it was, when it was, how she got there or how she got home? Those are in the darkness that leaves behind memories of the more minor details. There is no reason she could or should remember those things and suggestions that failure to remember the minor details don’t recognize how human memory actually works. I also get why some of the witnesses she identified couldn’t corroborate her claims.

I really don’t know anymore what might have happened between Dr. Ford and Mr. Kavanaugh. I tend to believe her and not him. It is possible that he legitimately believes it didn’t happen, but it is also possible, given the wealth of stories that have come out that he has lost the details of that particular event in all of the other “events” that happened in his teen years.

Here’s what I believe is more certain and I’ll go back to the points I’ve already made in my earlier posts on this. And it is for those reasons that I fundamentally do not believe him today about what happened 35 years ago.

In 2004 and 2006 when he was nominated to serve as a district court judge and then as an appellate court judge, he lied to Congress. Senator Leahy’s emails were hacked and emails involving the Democratic strategy for dealing with GWB court nominees were stolen. Kavanaugh, who worked in the GWB administration at the time and his duties included getting GWB judicial nominees through the Senate, claimed not to have known anything about it. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Under oath. Emails subsequently discovered reveal that he was involved. He also testified that he had nothing to do with GWB’s torture policies. Emails subsequently discovered reveal that he was involved. There are one or two other instances of this type of dishonesty in Congressional testimony under oath.

It is for these reasons I believe he simply has no credibility and no integrity. Certainly not at the level one would expect from a Supreme Court Justice.

Much of Kavanaugh’s career before he became a judge was spent in highly partisan pursuits. Working with Ken Starr and performing a critical role in the Clinton investigations, and there is evidence that he was one of the most partisan involved in the investigation. He then worked on the GWB legal team dealing with the Florida recount, and ultimately ended up in the GWB White House working on a range of partisan issues. He is one of the most nakedly partisan individuals nominated to the Supreme Court.

And he has been willing to lie to Congress to pursue those partisan objectives. If he was willing to do so in 2004 and 2006 for lesser judicial appointments, there is every reason to believe he would do so today to secure a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court to further the partisan objectives of him and his allies.

I’m not so naive to believe politicians and judicial nominees don’t shade the truth here and there. But what Kavanaugh has done crosses the line in its nakedness. He does not belong on the Supreme Court.

A couple more points:

  • I agree with Republicans who attach Democrats for how they handled this. I appreciate that Dr. Ford sought to remain confidential, but given the stakes, Feinstein had an obligation to do something more with her allegations than wait until the last minute.
  • I agree with those who question whether these events that occurred 35 years ago are really disqualifying. People do a lot of stupid, offensive things when they are young. And then they grow up. In the absence of continued stupidity, their youthful stupidity should not necessarily be disqualifying. And, yes, there is some youthful stupidity that is so horrible it is. But there is a whole lot that isn’t. Where is that line?
  • Republican allegations that all of these allegations are a coordinated attack on Kavanaugh are akin to the man on the grassy knoll, the idea that 9/11 was an inside job, or that Elvis is really still alive and living on an island with Marilyn Monroe. The level of coordination it would take to bring all of these people out who would be willing to lie and none of them would eventually spill the beans about that coordination … well, it would be stupendous and impossible.
  • I don’t believe all of the allegations. I think some of them strain credibility. that doesn’t mean the other allegations are false.
  • I believe the FBI did a sham investigation over the last week that was designed solely to address the credibility of Dr. Ford’s allegations.

What the investigation did not do, however, was address whether there was evidence that supported the idea that Kavanaugh committed perjury in this testimony last week.  And that’s a shame. It is his willingness to lie, to commit perjury, to demonstrate such an utter lack of integrity that matters more than anything else.

It’s a shame. All Americans have been damaged by this shit show. Neither party should be viewed as looking good coming out of this. But the partisans on the left will believe they did the right thing and the partisans on the right will believe the same. The divide continues to metastasize. There is a cancer in America and there doesn’t seem to be a cure.

Thank You Andrew Sullivan

Last week, after I wrote Stand Up! I retweeted it at Andrew Sullivan and suggested people with a platform and audience like him need to start spreading the message. I have no idea if he read my post, but yesterday he published America, Land of Brutal Binaries in his regular column in New York Magazine.

In his Andrew Sullivan way, much more intellectually presented, he makes the same points I did. His final paragraph is a perfect example of his talents. Drawing in a quote from the past, tying it to the present, and connecting it all to a well-stated conclusion that gets right at the core of the problem.

“When my brothers try to draw a circle to exclude me, I shall draw a larger circle to include them,” Martin Luther King said, which is why today’s cultural revolutionaries have so little time for him. But he made a huge practical difference in moving everyone forward a little. He made things better by including more. That was also how we won marriage equality, the biggest civil rights victory of my generation. We did it by drawing larger and larger circles, by treating the other side as arguing in good faith, and appealing to a shared humanity, to what we have in common as citizens, rather than what divides us as members of a tribe. Today’s well-intentioned activists — the ones driving much of the conversation around Kavanaugh and, on a much smaller scale, Buruma — in contrast, are drawing an ever smaller, purer, more tightly policed circle, in order to wage a scorched earth war against another, ever-purer, tightly policed circle. And God help anyone who gets in their way.

There is a reason I consider Andrew Sullivan to be one of the best thinkers and writers on our modern society, culture, and politics. This column is another example.

It’s a shame that the progress described in that paragraph is being torn down in record time by a return to virulent tribalism in our country. So much progress being wiped out in the blink of an eye.

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