KingMidget's Ramblings

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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.



Stand Up!

I turned 16 days before Ronald Reagan was first elected President. I don’t remember Vietnam or Watergate, although I have vague memories of Ford pardoning Nixon. My memories of American politics really begin with Jimmy Carter because what American living at that time who was older than a toddler could forget the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

In the late 1970’s ABC started running a late night news program called Nightline. It ran every weeknight at 11:30 p.m. When the Iranians stormed our embassy in Tehran and took hostages, Nightline made its name. A nightly count of the number of days the hostages were held had the nation transfixed. The show was relentless in its daily, rhythmic reminder that Americans were being held by a nation and people that viewed America as the Great Satan and chanted “Death to America” in the streets.

There were other things about Carter I remember … malaise, lust in his heart, an attack rabbit in a pond, the energy crisis. For years, I have had this memory of talking with one of my sisters, who was old enough to vote in 1980, that I would vote for Reagan if I could vote. I no longer know if that memory is accurate. I liked Carter as President … but that hostage situation was such a black mark, in my youth I may have thought he needed to be replaced.

In 1982 when I could register to vote, I registered as a Democrat, and I spent the entirety of the Reagan Presidency opposed to pretty much everything he did. I’m not sure how I could have wanted to vote for him at the tender age of 16 and so immediately switched gears to opposition.

The Reagan Presidency was marked by a lot of partisan strife, as any administration has during the course of our history, but amidst that partisanship, the parties and their leaders could come together and compromise on things that really mattered. Democrats like Edward Kennedy and Tip O’Neill could campaign against Republicans, object to their ideals, and still meet with them and compromise to work towards solutions the nation needed. Similar spirit of cooperative competition existed at the state level as well.

Something has happened since then. The ability to compete and pursue partisan objectives while also finding areas of compromise has pretty much gone the way of the dodo bird. The political parties in the United States have become entities where 100% ideological purity is required, any weakness is met with an uproar of opposition, and the “weak” are drummed out of office.

I’ve always traced the beginning of this trend back to the election of Bill Clinton. After 12 years of Reagan and Bush I in the White House, Republicans came to believe the office was their birthright. (Really, you could argue that the Carter Presidency was just a four year blip in the Republican domination of the Presidency with a Republican in that office 20 out of the previous 24 years.) Add to their birthright claim the predominant view of Clinton as being morally unfit for office and you had a combustible mix of factors.

A few Republican leaders, Newt Gingrich at the forefront, and Republican controlled media like Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and lesser lights who worked primarily behind the scenes like Lee Atwater and other strategists, began a strategy of all out ideological war. The mid-90s was the beginning of ideological purity driven by the more extreme wing of a political party — the Republicans.

It was also a time when the 24 hour news cycle really came into being. CNN started in 1980 but I think it was a relatively sleepy news channel that really did just report the news for a while. The 24 hour news wars didn’t really start until 1996 when Fox News fired up its engines. With this competition, the two heavyweights and other channels began their own war for our attention.

And then the internet and social media came.

George Bush II was elected. While there was a lot of Democratic opposition to him, there was still some ability and interest in compromise. There was plenty of partisanship and Democratic attacks on him and other Republicans, but it wasn’t 100% partisanship all the time.

And social media grew in its omnipresence.

With Barack Obama’s election in 2008, the Republican Party again lit up and nothing has really been the same since. The birth of the Tea Party drove the Republican Party into the arms of its extremists. Moderate Republicans in Congress and across the nation who showed in favor for compromise and cooperation were driven from office, replaced by more ideologically pure Republicans. It became impossible for a Republican to show moderation. As a result, Republican members of Congress refused to cooperate with the Obama administration on pretty much everything.

Social media continued to grow and became a megaphone used by the extremists on both sides of the political aisle.

Then Donald Trump was elected President, primarily through his ability to dominate the news cycle and social media. Say what you want about him, but he has a native intelligence about how to manipulate people, and his actions have furthered the outrage machine and ratcheted up the noise.

How have Democrats reacted to his election — pretty much the same way Republicans reacted to Clinton’s election and Obama’s. With all-out rage and a drive for ideological purity on the left side of the aisle. You can see it in this year’s race for the Senate in California. Diane Feinstein is not liberal enough, not progressive enough, not strong enough against Trump. She simply is not enough and every single moderating step she takes is criticized relentlessly by the megaphone of the far left.

The drivers of the modern Democrat party — identity politics, political correctness, socialism, radical progressives … I could go on — have transcended rational thought. A recent example is the turning of Serena Williams’ tantrum at the U.S. Open into an example of gender and racial discrimination in America. The issue I have with this was that it was immediate and started without any thought at all. Simply because she is an African-American woman and she was disciplined means it is about her gender and her race. Anybody who believes otherwise is shouted down and called a racist and a sexist.

Situations like that are the left-wing equivalent of what the Tea Party has done to the Republican Party over the last ten years. The extremists on both sides, and yes I am calling the identity-driven wing of the Democratic Party extremists because they have lost their way amidst their outrage, are intent on hammering a massive spike into the heart of American political debate. It is simply not enough to have different ideas anymore, you must hate your opponent.

The biggest problem is that our “leaders,” the men and women who are supposed to lead us through their roles as members of Congress, through their holding of offices in statehouses across the nation, are no longer leaders. They are followers. Instead of leading, they follow like sheep along the path set by the loudest, most extreme voices in each political party.

This is what social media has done to our politics. The megaphones used by the extreme right-wing and left-wing are drowning out any rational, bipartisan voices. There is only one noise in America these days — it is the primal scream of those who demand everything and refuse to give an inch on anything. It is the yelling of those who believe politics is a zero-sum game, a black and white world in which you are either absolutely right, or absolutely wrong and there is no gray area in which everybody wins a little and loses a little as well.

It’s a battleground without any peace talks. There is pretty much no chance at an armistice, let alone a peace treaty. On the right-wing blog I read, commenters discuss that we are engaged in a civil war — one that will become much more real if Trump is impeached or otherwise driven from office. While not quite as violently stated, you can see similar comments from the left on Twitter and on left-wing blogs. The intolerance on both sides is stunning and unbounded.

And I’m pretty much done with it. I’ve watched with growing dismay the events of the last two years and I’ve given up hope that either political party will reverse course. I no longer believe our current “leaders” are capable of anything remotely resembling real leadership.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the people I follow on Twitter (@katiedawn3) tweeted a link to t-shirts being sold at that include the phrase “United We Stand.”

I recall efforts to adopt this phrase after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and never really liked it. In the circumstances, it was far too jingoistic and “military” for me.

It is, however, a phrase that now makes sense. Reasonable, rational people from both political parties need to unite and stand up. We need to be heard and demand that our leaders start to lead again. They will only do that if they hear from us. We need to start making more noise than the irrational and the outraged.

When somebody on your side of the political debate takes an unreasonable position, or unnecessarily attacks the other side, it’s time to say as loudly as you can “that’s unacceptable.”

When somebody on the other side of the debate says something you agree with, it’s time to say “hey, I agree. what else can we agree on?” and keep that conversation going. See where it leads.

I spoke yesterday with a guy who lives in Texas. He describes himself as a true Texan — a farm, cowboy hats, truck, and all. He’s a Republican who voted for Trump but will not vote for Ted Cruz this year and is disgusted by what Trump is doing. A Texas Republican and a California Democrat had more to agree on than to disagree on. It can happen.

It’s time to make some noise.

Maybe the two major political parties are beyond saving. Maybe it’s time for a new party to rise from the ashes of the fires lit by the outraged. That’s a pretty heavy lift, but fixing the political parties may be even more difficult.

Stand up!

Make your voice heard!

Shout down the intolerant and the irrational! On both sides!


It is time for the moderate and the meek to be heard.

Or we all may just fall. I really believe the divide in this nation is that serious.

By the way, I ordered a shirt from Teespring…

2018 United We Stand

Zero Sum

In a recent article, Michael Lewis writes about a whole bunch of interactions he had with the Trump Administration in recent months. He attended a press conference, sat down with Steve Bannon (who interestingly is related as having a thought I’ve pondered for years — America is in decline and the elites don’t care), and a few other things.

But what struck me about the article, is the opening paragraph or three. He writes about how so much of our current dynamic and current political debate is based on a zero-sum approach.

Approaching any aspect of life as a zero-sum game has obvious practical costs: Deals that leave some people better off without making anyone else worse off suddenly don’t get done, because making some people better off now, by definition, makes other people worse off. It also comes with some psychological side effects. It cripples your imagination. It blinds and deafens you, as you sort of know what your adversary is going to do or say before they do or say it. Or, rather, you know how you are going to make sense of it: uncharitably.

This is we are today in America. Any victory for one side is viewed as a loss by the other. In such an imagination-free world, compromise is simply not an option. We are crippled, blind and deaf. Lewis states it perfectly.

I am reminded of a Republican leader’s comment early in Obama’s first term that their goal would be to ensure he was a one-term President. To me, this is when the zero-sum approach took root in American politics. Yes, I’m sure Republicans would claim it started before then. Maybe some time during the second Bush Presidency or back in the Reagan years Democrats did something to oppose a Republican initiative.

But here’s the deal, while some Democrats have opposed all Republican policies, there have been enough Democrats motivated by moving forward that those Republican Presidents have been able to get support from both parties for major initiatives. Think the Iraq War. Think GWB’s expanded Medicaid drug benefit. Think a whole lot of things.

Now, think about the Obama Presidency and ask where any of that collaboration was. I’m open for a discussion on this, but to me at least on the national level, the zero-sum approach began with the Republicans. And even now, Democrats are showing they aren’t entirely enraptured of zero-sum.

I don’t mean for this to be a “blame the Republicans” piece. No, one could argue that in the state where I live, the Democrats have essentially done the same thing. Over the last 25 years, what once was a red state turned to purple and then turned entirely blue — at least in terms of control of statewide elected offices and the Legislature. The truth is that there are still large swaths of red and significant numbers of conservatives, just not in numbers sufficient to achieve any power at the statewide level. And what have the Democrats in power done with that — ignored Republicans and conservatives and stripped them of any input on legislation and policy initiatives.

No, this isn’t just a Republican problem. It isn’t just a Democratic program. It is an American problem. Are we going to continue our American decline as we refuse to listen, to talk, to negotiate, and to compromise? Or will we one day put aside the harshest of our differences and recognize our citizenship is one thing we share and one thing that should unite us?

(Side note: it is exactly this zero-sum approach that has come to dominate American politics that has afforded people like Vladimir Putin the ability to meddle in our elections. Just saying.)


One Person’s Extremist is Another’s Moderate

I’d like to take a moment to talk about the political divide that exists in America today. It is a topic I have thought about a lot over the years. It is a thing that keeps getting worse. It is a thing that I see every single day because I read a couple of liberal blogs and a couple of conservative blogs every single day. What I see are two sides of the same coin of clueless, mind-numbing hypocrisy and closed-mindedness.

The latest evidence of this … An op-ed from Leonard Pitts. I don’t necessarily disagree with Pitts’ primary thesis which is that the Republican Party has achieved maximum meltdown. The thing is that it really started when Bill Clinton was elected President. The accusations that the Clintons participated in drug smuggling, killed Vince Foster and Ron Brown among others, and so many other ridiculous conspiracies. All of which still make regular appearances in the right-wing blogosphere. The meltdown continued with the Swift Boaters and other similar conspiracies that failed the basic test of reality and honesty.

Obama’s election sent the Republican Party even deeper into what appears to be a brain freeze like the kind you get when you eat something cold too fast. And Trump’s election has only accelerated the thing.

Do any of you remember this?

This was from the White House Correspondent’s Dinner a few years back. Obama took no small pleasure in poking fun at Trump and watch the video for Trump’s reaction. I’m convinced that we are seeing the most successful act of petty revenge the world has ever seen. Trump ran to destroy the Obama legacy. You see it in his petty tweets attacking anybody who attacks him. He does not let any slight go. He holds a grudge and he seeks to destroy. You see it in all of the things he has done to take whatever action he can to reverse any and every success Obama achieved as President.

And the Republicans are ignoring all of his immaturity, damaging actions and words, and evidence of his incompetence to further their extremist objective of rolling this country backwards about 70 or 80 years.

So, yes Mr. Pitts, the Republican Party has descended into a realm of unimaginable extremism, but for a portion of this country, the Democrats aren’t far behind.

In your op-ed you state the following:

We are not, after all, divided because Americans pulled back from the center and retreated into extremism.

No, we are divided because one party did. And it wasn’t the Democrats.

I say this as a lifelong Democrat, a liberal, somewhat of a progressive. I say this as somebody who hasn’t voted for a Republican since the 1980s. Your center-based policies, isolated by your liberal ivory tower views, are viewed as extremist by millions of Americans. Having the federal government force states and local governments to allow transgender or gender-confused individuals to use the bathroom of their choice is an act of extremism. No matter how much you may believe that is a necessary policy. Providing a free public college education for all may just be viewed as an act of extremism by many Americans. No matter how much you may believe it is a wise idea.

The problem in America these days is that both sides have descended into their own echo chambers and are incapable of seeing their ideas and policies through the eyes of others. They are unwilling to consider that anybody but their chambermates have legitimate ideas. The right believes every liberal lies and hates America. The left believes the right is racist and prone to violence. Each side believes that the other is the extremist.

Mr. Pitts’ op-ed is a perfect example of the problem from the left. Look at all the horrible things the Republican Party is now engaged in! They are juvenile and unhinged and horrible!! Whew, it’s a good thing us Democrats are so reasonable and level-headed.

It’s really just kind of ridiculous as far as I’m concerned. Neither side is entirely right, but they both think they are. Neither side is entirely wrong, but they both think the other is.

Barry Goldwater once famously said that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” He’s right, I think. What the right-wing and left-wing have become, however, are extremists in the battle for every little thing. The result is a frozen democracy incapable of moving forward as any common ground disappears in the endless war they fight with each other.






Trump & Syria & America

For eight years, I watched a political party come apart at its seams as its members sought to oppose and criticize everything said or done by a President.  As bad as it was from the leadership ranks of that party, it was even worse in the fever swamp of blogs inhabiting that party’s side of the political debate.

If you are a Democrat or a liberal or a progressive, imagine all of the worst things you think about President Trump and Republicans — they lie, they manipulate, they don’t care about America, they’re in the Russians’ pockets, etc. — and all of that was being said about President Obama and Democrats for the eight years of Obama’s Presidency.  Relentless and endless and no quarter given.  The Republican Party was taken over entirely by its right wing fanatics who refused to give an inch and who treated every single thing Obama did as an act of war on America.

I refuse to be that kind of Democrat or liberal.  As much as I cannot stand Trump and his policies and his way of doing things.  As much as I may think he is utterly unprepared and unqualified for the position he now holds.  As much as I fear what he will do to this country, and hell, what he already is doing.  As much as all of that.  I will support him when I think he is right.  Lockstep opposition from our side of the debate is no better than the lockstep opposition Obama faced during his eight years.

At least for one moment, I agree with Trump’s strike on the Syrian airfield following the latest use of chemical weapons by Assad against his people.  Yes, there are all sorts of reasons to question the legitimacy or rationale of the attack.  Maybe he’s doing it to distract from the whole Russia thing.  Maybe not.  Maybe the attack is a meaningless gesture.  Maybe not.  Maybe it is a signal that we are going to be drawn into a greater role and ultimately go back to war in the Middle East.  Maybe not.

All I know, is that for at least that one moment, we did something to signal to Assad that his butchery and treachery has gone too far.  Here is what I wrote on FB the other evening:

This may come as a shock to my friends here on FB, but I applaud President Trump for his statement tonight and his measured action in response to the most recent chemical attack in Syria. There is a lot to be critical of the man, but I also think we should be honest where he gets something right. Or at least as right as it can be. Syria is a mess. But there comes a point when responsible nations have to do something about the horror a government inflicts on its own people. I worry that we’ll get sucked into something that will only be worse. I worry about this particular President’s ability to stay rational and measured. But right now, I feel like he did the right thing. Limited, measured, and relevant. His short statement tonight included some elements I have problems with, but it may well have been the most Presidential thing he has done.

25 years ago I silently screamed for the world to do something about the slaughter going on in the former Yugoslavia. When we finally did, we actually ended the slaughter. That’s what needs to be done now in Syria. It’s what needed to be done a few years ago. It’s a horrible, difficult situation. I waver between my isolationist tendencies and desire that America no longer be the world’s policeman and the recognition that we have such immense power to put a stop to these types of things. I don’t want American lives to be lost. I don’t want any lives to be lost. I tire of paying the price of the world’s wars. But some things just may be worth the cost. The tragedy unfolding in Syria may be one of those times when it is time for us to bear a cost.


If we are unwilling to do something about the particular evil that Assad represents, then we are a failure as far as I’m concerned.  There are plenty of risks at play here, but when it comes to evil, sometimes you have to take a risk.

I will continue to keep an open mind and question everything Trump says and does, but when he gets something right, which I believe he did here, I refuse to do what the Republicans did to Obama.  I will not be that kind of Democrat.



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