LikeTheDew.com https://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Tue, 18 Feb 2020 15:43:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 https://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/cropped-DewLogoSquare825-32x32.png LikeTheDew.com https://likethedew.com 32 32 LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/dew3_mh4feed.png https://likethedew.com 88 31 A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics 110899633 Why Bernie Sanders Is Still Getting the Side-eye https://likethedew.com/2020/02/18/why-bernie-sanders-is-still-getting-the-side-eye/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-bernie-sanders-is-still-getting-the-side-eye https://likethedew.com/2020/02/18/why-bernie-sanders-is-still-getting-the-side-eye/#respond Tue, 18 Feb 2020 15:43:14 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73035 I’m overdue for a dope slap. It took way longer than it should have but it finally dawned on me that Bernie Sanders may have wanted Donald Trump to win in 2016. If Hillary Clinton had been elected president, she could’ve served two terms and been seventy-seventy when she left office, whereas Sanders would’ve been eighty-three, too old to succeed her. If she’d won in 2016, his campaign for the nomination would’ve been his last rodeo.

But obviously Sanders couldn’t have openly thrown his support to Trump. He would’ve been toast among Democrats if he’d done that. So he had to sort of faux support Clinton to keep from totally alienating Democratic voters that he hoped he’d need in the future. But he couldn’t go all in for her because he needed Trump to win in order for him to have one last shot at the prize before he entered the assisted living demographic.

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I’m overdue for a dope slap. It took way longer than it should have but it finally dawned on me that Bernie Sanders may have wanted Donald Trump to win in 2016. If Hillary Clinton had been elected president, she could’ve served two terms and been seventy-seventy when she left office, whereas Sanders would’ve been eighty-three, too old to succeed her. If she’d won in 2016, his campaign for the nomination would’ve been his last rodeo.

Caricature of Bernie Sanders closed mouth by DonkeyHotey

But obviously Sanders couldn’t have openly thrown his support to Trump. He would’ve been toast among Democrats if he’d done that. So he had to sort of faux support Clinton to keep from totally alienating Democratic voters that he hoped he’d need in the future. But he couldn’t go all in for her because he needed Trump to win in order for him to have one last shot at the prize before he entered the assisted living demographic.

As it happened, everything turned out just fine for him, thanks to his supporters in some key states. As New York Times columnist David Brooks recently noted, “In 2016, in Pennsylvania, 117,000 Sanders primary voters went for Trump in the general, and Trump won the state by 44,292 ballots. In Michigan, 48,000 Sanders voters went for Trump, and Trump won the state by 10,704. In Wisconsin, 51,300 Sanders voters went for Trump, and Trump won the state by 22,748. In short, Sanders voters helped elect Trump.”

I have no idea whether what’s just dawned on me dawned on those voters more than three years ago. I remember at the time a lot of chin-stroking pundits and analysts who made heavy weather of Sanders-Trump parallels to explain these voting patterns. A favorite theory was that both Sanders and Trump were “anti-establishment” candidates who could appeal to voters looking to break a lot of crockery. Maybe the chin-strokers were right. But maybe the Sanders-to-Trump voters were mainly looking to stick it to Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment they thought had cheated Sanders out of the nomination. Some enterprising poli sci grad student could score big by figuring out whether there’s anything to this “vengeance voter” theory. Either way, Sanders got just the outcome he needed to keep his “revolution” alive.

But this is all ancient history. The question now is whether Sanders and his Sandernistas would do it again if he’s not the nominee. There are reasons to so. The big one is that Sanders is a revolutionary. And to revolutionaries, the incrementalism of “moderates” like Pete Buttegieg, Joe Biden, and Amy Klobuchar is just as unfavorable to the cause as outright reactionaries are.

No, make that more unfavorable. If you’re leading a revolution, your worst enemies are candidates peddling policies that don’t represent “structural change” but are appealing enough to dampen people’s revolutionary ardor. You’d far rather face off against somebody like Trump, who keeps the masses miserable and enraged.

So, for example, the way the Sanderistas figure it, their best shot at ultimately creating a majority for Medicare-for-all is having as their opponent an incumbent whose minions are working tirelessly to rip the Affordable Care Act up root and branch, not a Joe Biden who wants to “expand” it. “Things are pretty good now, and I pledge if elected to make them marginally better” won’t stir the blood of revolutionaries. A centrist Democrat succeeding Trump just pushes the coming of the millennium farther into the future.

And there’s anecdotal evidence anyway that some Sanders supporters don’t in fact think that Trump’s re-election is their worst-case scenario. Just a couple of hours before I wrote this, I was wasting time scrolling through a Facebook thread devoted to whether or not the posters were willing to vote for the Democratic nominee, even if that person wasn’t their first choice in the primaries. Everybody supporting candidates other than Sanders said they’d vote for him, some reluctantly, if he won the nomination. It was the Sanders supporters who cleared their throats and wouldn’t commit to anybody but Sanders. Here’s one of them bouncing a shot off Michael Bloomberg, who has all the Democratic candidates worried. “Bloomberg is just a competent Trump. If the DNC allows him to purchase a nomination it’s better to have Trump in office. At least then people are encouraged toward activism. Bloomberg will pacify a lot of white middle class moderates who will simply ignore him doing the exact sort of racist, classist, misogynistic, and homophobic things as Trump.”

That squares with an observation made by a Public Broadcasting reporter commenting on his conversations with Sanders supporters in the runup to the New Hampshire primary. They fell into two camps, he said. In one group were people who believed that Sanders had the best shot at taking Trump down. In the other were Sanders supporters who didn’t care whether he could defeat Trump or not, but were supporting Sanders because they “believed in him.”

Sanders’ first choice obviously is to be nominated and elected. But even with his nemesis, Hillary Clinton, out of the picture, the suspicion is abroad in some quarters that his second choice isn’t for one of his Democratic competitors to be nominated and elected. It’s that Trump be re-elected to keep “Viva la Revolución!” at high volume.

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Applause despite Trump filling the swamp https://likethedew.com/2020/02/17/applause-despite-trump-filling-the-swamp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=applause-despite-trump-filling-the-swamp https://likethedew.com/2020/02/17/applause-despite-trump-filling-the-swamp/#respond Mon, 17 Feb 2020 12:58:24 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73017

Football season has wrapped up, but I have a couple of comments on college ball as it pertains to the President.

I was not surprised to see the applause from the crowd at last month's LSU/Clemson game. However, it reflects our region of the nation versus the USA as a whole.

Not only do Americans as a whole believe that Trump isn’t draining the swamp, more think he has abused his office than believe him innocent (53-38, per Fox survey). And, that was true even before the clearly inappropriate call to the President of the Ukraine, ended up with his impeachment. 

 

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Football season has wrapped up, but I have a couple of comments on college ball as it pertains to the President.

I was not surprised to see the applause from the crowd at last month’s LSU/Clemson game. However, it reflects our region of the nation versus the USA as a whole.

Not only do Americans as a whole believe that Trump isn’t draining the swamp, more think he has abused his office than believe him innocent (53-38, per Fox survey). And, that was true even before the clearly inappropriate call to the President of the Ukraine, ended up with his impeachment. 

Nearly two thirds (64%) are convinced he is guilty of crimes before he became President. (Quinnipiac Poll, 3-5-19) Only his GOP base (strong in places like Alabama) believes him innocent (48% to 33%). Only 30% of all voters believe he is honest.

The Mueller report, now ignored, is too complex to address here. But one thing that was clear from it: Trump unethically (and almost certainly illegally) obstructed justice. Obstruction is not the way to drain the swamp. Neither are his appointments to key positions in his administration.

Because Ryan Zinke was forced to resign due to ethics (travel, unsavory business deals) problems, a new Interior Department Secretary was needed. Guess who our “drain the swamp” President picked? David Bernhardt, who was a lobbyist who represented Eni Petroleum and Sempra Energy, among many others. What a surprise!

According to Inside Climate News, last year: “Bernhardt met with senior executives of ExxonMobil and with the head of the oil industry’s chief lobby group, the American Petroleum Institute, and visited the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Institute” in order to promote a fossil fuel based policy for the Trump administration, which denies climate change and humanities role in it (despite the indisputable scientific consensus). According to the same source, 16 of Bernhardt’s former oil, gas and mining clients have suggested or pushed for self-interested policy initiatives (19 of them) that are being fast tracked. 

This is the official supposed to defend the public interest versus special corporate interests. Judge for yourself if that’s happening.

Swamp creatures in mortal combat with the "Man of the Moonlight"

But this is clearly a pattern with this Administration, which has been flooding the swamp rather than draining it. For example, we have these Cabinet stalwarts, all of whom resigned under pressure:

  • Scott Pruitt, former EPA Administrator, placed a sound proof phone booth in his office at a cost to US taxpayers of $43,000. He also wasted $168,000 on first class, charter and military flights.
  • Tom Price, former Sec. of DHHS, has a history of investing in firms he was legislating. He also wasted money on travel, nearly a million dollars.

And, then there are the Cabinet folks still there who are happily still swimming around in the ever-growing Trump swamp:

  • Steve Mnuchin, Treasury Sec., who wasted $800,000 on 7 (that’s not a typo) trips by traveling on military jets.
  • Ben Carson, Sec of HUD, whose wife got a sweetheart half million-dollar sole source contract from DHHS. 
  • Wilbur Ross, Commerce Sec., who had undisclosed dealings with Russian oligarchs close to Putin. He is also is famous for saying he can’t understand why federal workers not getting paychecks can’t just get loans to pay their bills.
  • Betsy DeVos, Sec. of Education, who still has holdings of between $15 million and $25 million in Neuropore, a company involved with children with disorders like autism and hyperactivity which affect their learning capabilities.

Then we have the many others who have been a part of this administration, the 2016 Presidential campaign or have otherwise gotten to be Mueller targets and who therefore richly deserve the ubiquitous (these days anyway) title of “swamp dweller” (see VOX, 1-25-19). These Trump swamp dwellers and others were convicted or took a plea – Michael Cohen, General Flynn, Paul Manafort, Ric Gates, George Papadopoulos, Roger Stone, Alex van der Zwaan, and Richard Pinedo.

A former Georgia Republican County Chair, I left the GOP because of Trump. He has violated every principle that the GOP once held dear including clean government, executive transparency, leadership and a balanced budget. Eventually, even if it’s after he leaves office, Trump will be held to account for his misdeeds, including the vindictive removal of Colonel Vindman and Ambassador Sondland.

Trump no longer uses the phrase “lock’em up” at his rallies. I have no idea why, do you?

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A Words Worth https://likethedew.com/2020/02/11/a-words-worth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-words-worth https://likethedew.com/2020/02/11/a-words-worth/#respond Tue, 11 Feb 2020 20:03:46 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=73006

Language is a valuable (maybe essential) tool for exploring important ideas, ideas about justice in human relations, environmental or life system balance, and consciousness. Those two germs grew in my own intellectual development, you could say activism and metaphysics, in the form of support and exploration of what is loosely labeled “left” politics, and religious-ethical-philosophical studies. The two germs nurture each other, in a way, but language can actually block metaphysics when that is understood not as words about being but being itself.

Drawing, painting, music, dance and other arts language also engage in the metaphysical dialogue and they can, instead of referring to, talking about the subject, bring the artist/audience to the experience itself.

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Language is a valuable (maybe essential) tool for exploring important ideas, ideas about justice in human relations, environmental or life system balance, and consciousness. Those two germs grew in my own intellectual development, you could say activism and metaphysics, in the form of support and exploration of what is loosely labeled “left” politics, and religious-ethical-philosophical studies. The two germs nurture each other, in a way, but language can actually block metaphysics when that is understood not as words about being but being itself.

Drawing, painting, music, dance and other arts language also engage in the metaphysical dialogue and they can, instead of referring to, talking about the subject, bring the artist/audience to the experience itself.

Capitalism – man chasing money - editorial cartoon by © Tom Ferguson

When the 1% gets nervous about its grip on the levers of power they sometimes will trot out a demagogue to seduce citizens their way, blaming this or that scapegoat for the indignities, injustices and insecurities foisted by selfish 1% policies.

Democracy is a high achievement of civilization, providing a means as it does, to settle disputes by reaching consensus, or peaceful agreement. The “losing party” might get part of their platform or can always look to another day, another issue where their view might prevail. This is a preferred option to always deciding the outcome of disputes by who has the bigger club. When the process becomes corrupted, when one party consistently cheats, or is merely perceived to, then the frustrated loser is tempted to reach for the club. If a faction is consistently excluded, even fairly, they too might see violence as useful. In a functioning democracy discontent is minimized so that “extremists” of this type cannot gather enough support to threaten the main body.

The 1% of course is such an extremist faction. They have already though corrupted democracy, by definition, to hold such disproportionate wealth, so their problem becomes masking the fact of their rule by use of scapegoats, media ownership, disproportionate influence in political, academic, religious and other institutional life, allocating relatively small portions of their vast wealth to this end.

I like to quote Arundhati Roy, “Remember, we are many, they are few.” It is true, the interests of the majority are fairly common; food, clothing, shelter, education, health care. The wealthy class’ strength is, obviously money, and that can be (is) used to convince, persuade, muddy the waters, hire thugs, such that many will confusedly vote against their own interests. This is the dilemma Chomsky has recently cautioned about, that a candidate like Bernie will probably unite the 1%, a formidable coalition. And an establishment candidate will likely deflate progressive enthusiasm and will, even if elected, fail to address the climate/nuclear/equity crisis, thus continuing, though with less bluster, the drift toward the falls. For those who recognize that we end war or it ends us, that climate change is addressed or civilization implodes, it seems a Bernie-or-bust stance might be fully justified.

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You think you got a problem… https://likethedew.com/2020/02/09/you-think-you-got-a-problem/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=you-think-you-got-a-problem https://likethedew.com/2020/02/09/you-think-you-got-a-problem/#respond Sun, 09 Feb 2020 16:57:11 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=72992

"I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction for then we will have a generation of idiots."

Often attributed to Albert Einstein, but he never said it.

The whistle is blowing, red flags are raised, and if you listen, you'll hear "knock, knock, hello? Is anybody home?" The 2020 Census will make the Iowa debacle look like a walk in the park on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

The Department of Commerce Inspector General has been ringing the bell for the 18 months. The most damning declaration was management had no contingency plan. That is the tip of the iceberg.

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“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction for then we will have a generation of idiots.”

Often attributed to Albert Einstein, but he never said it.
Caricature of Donald Trump with a red flag on the way to the 2020 Census by DonkeyHotey

The whistle is blowing, red flags are raised, and “knock, knock, hello? Is anybody home?” can be heard. The 2020 Census will make the Iowa debacle look like a walk in the park on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

The Department of Commerce Inspector General has been ringing the bell for the 18 months. The most damning declaration was management had no contingency plan. That is the tip of the iceberg.

The census budget is $16 billion and cost over runs are expected. It will be one of the largest employers in the US weighing in with at least 500,000 employees. Each employee will receive an Apple iPad to count noses and report. Apple has a $250 million order. Not a “biggee” for a trillion dollars company.

I was hired as a Recruiting Assistant in October. I was sworn in and trained in December. On the first day of training we were told we would not receive the iPads as advertised.

We were instructed to use our personal phones and email accounts to report our activities and the results of those activities. The transmitted information contained the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email accounts of potential hirees and partners. A significant portion of training was protecting Personally Identifiable Information (PII) as required by law.

My training did not include “how to do the job.” They provided a load of “what to do” and the penalties for failing to do so. I suspect the training for the half million nose counters will be no better. The training was to be conducted by the Recruiting Manager, but she was in LA getting trained to do her job.

There was no on the job training, no advice on team building, no performance metrics to guide daily activities, no regular meetings with management, and after four months only 4 of the 12 Recruiting Assistants hired remain. High turnover is management’s responsibility in the real world.

2020 Census Management was to design, implement and manage a huge temporary workforce to produce information that will guide government for the next decade.

The management teams at all levels are not the cream of the crop. Employing competent managers and expecting exceptional results is truly whistling in the dark.

The 2020 Census results will be available on March 31, 2021, but its false starts, oversight examination, failures will be leaked, shouted out, debated about and all thus will provide ample fodder for Trump to convince his base the elections are rigged.

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The End Of Something That Had Kept Us Going https://likethedew.com/2020/02/09/the-end-of-something-that-had-kept-us-going/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-end-of-something-that-had-kept-us-going https://likethedew.com/2020/02/09/the-end-of-something-that-had-kept-us-going/#respond Sun, 09 Feb 2020 16:24:20 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=72986

I’ve always loved Otis Redding, but in the way you might love your childhood kitchen without having paid attention to the details for long-term memory. Then, recently, something about “(Sittin’ on) The Dock on the Bay” went through me like a bolt seeking a ground.

We all know the song. Its familiarity makes it seem a little weightless – the background sounds of soft waves and seagulls, the sunny whistled tune at the end. In the Redding canon, it was not one of his soul-scrubbing hits like “Try a Little Tenderness” or “I’ve Been Loving Your Too Long (To Stop Now).” It felt like a Mayberry ditty by comparison. In fact, Redding had written only a few of the first lines while sitting on a rented houseboat in the old squatters’ enclave across the ay in Sausalito. He was in the area for a concert at the Filmore in June 1967.

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I’ve always loved Otis Redding, but in the way you might love your childhood kitchen without having paid attention to the details for long-term memory. Then, recently, something about “(Sittin’ on) The Dock on the Bay” went through me like a bolt seeking a ground.

We all know the song. Its familiarity makes it seem a little weightless – the background sounds of soft waves and seagulls, the sunny whistled tune at the end. In the Redding canon, it was not one of his soul-scrubbing hits like “Try a Little Tenderness” or “I’ve Been Loving Your Too Long (To Stop Now).” It felt like a Mayberry ditty by comparison. In fact, Redding had written only a few of the first lines while sitting on a rented houseboat in the old squatters’ enclave across the ay in Sausalito. He was in the area for a concert at the Filmore in June 1967.

“Sittin’ in the morning sun,” he wrote, and so it begins. “I’ll be sittin’ when the evening comes.” His guitar player, Steve Cropper, helped him finish writing the song before they recorded it at Stax Records in Memphis that December. It seems vaguely autobiographical – Redding grew up in Macon, Ga. – but those touches apparently came from Cropper’s knowledge of Redding’s story.

The song lopes along in the morning sun, with classic Stax horns, Booker T. on piano, and Cropper doing easy guitar filigree. Nice chords, from G up to B, and those sweet chromatic descending chords down to A, and later, down to E, all major chords.

What snapped my inner attention was the way his voice catches on the word “home.” “I left my home in Georgia/ Headed for the ‘Frisco Bay.”

I left my home in Georgia too. Not much of a blues saga about it: College, jobs, marriage, all good, and always connected to Georgia by family, airlines and interstates. I returned in the 90s to help start a magazine, and to work for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, career moves on paper. But there’s an inner story, a music like Otis Redding’s songs, when you’re a Georgia boy like me. I’m not anything like a character in a Flannery O’Connor story or in the Homeric history of African Americans in the Deep South from the Great Migration down to the Civil Rights movement. Or the movement from the black church, to R&B, to the creative Beatles-era mashup that Redding was part of in 1967 at the Filmore. But I have absorbed that literature, that history, and that music. And it speaks to me in a strangely intimate way as I get older.

O’Conner’s last short story, “Judgement Day,” was a re-write of one of her earliest short stories. An old religious white man from Georgia is living with his daughter in New York City in a dreary apartment, and writes to his black friend back in Georgia, that it ain’t “no kind of place.” All he wants is to be carried back home in pine box, ready for Judgment Day back in Georgia. O’Connor died in 1964 in Milledgeville, Ga.

As a child, Redding had moved from a small town in South Georgia to Macon, and by 1967 was flying around the country on tour. This movement up and out mapped the history that had carried millions of black Southerners to Los Angeles, Detroit, New York, Boston and so on, out of the hell of terroristic lynching-land to the land of the American dream.

But what was that dream becoming, in 1967, at “the Edge of the World,” as the Georgia-raised New Journalist for Look magazine, George Leonard, called the San Francisco scene, LSD and Esalan Institute that he embraced? There’s a certain ambivalence to this end of the dream and quest, the drop into the Pacific Ocean.

“The Dock of Bay,” as I pay attention to the lyrics, seems to express the dark ambivalence, the end of something that had kept us going all this time – for centuries, really.

I’ve got nothing to live for/Nothin’s going to come my way. . .wastin’ time.
Looks like nothin’s gonna change. Everything seems to stay the same. . .
Sittin’ here resting my bones/And this loneliness won’t leave me alone.

Three days after Redding recorded this, on Dec. 10, 1967, his Beechcraft twin-engine, carrying him and his band on tour, stopped working and plunged into a cold lake in Wisconsin. Redding and four band members died in the icy waters. He was only 26 years old.

The killings and turmoil of 1968 were just around the corner.

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Rush Deserves Recognition, But What Kind? https://likethedew.com/2020/02/09/rush-deserves-recognition-but-what-kind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rush-deserves-recognition-but-what-kind https://likethedew.com/2020/02/09/rush-deserves-recognition-but-what-kind/#respond Sun, 09 Feb 2020 15:36:53 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=72981

"Rush Limbaugh- Thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country.”; “in recognition of all that you have done for our Nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and that you inspire.” - President Trump presenting Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom

This honor is reserved for true national heroes and given "for especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors".

In past years, here are a few of those heroes who have been honored: Martin Luther King Jr.; Nelson Mandela; Anwar el-Sadat; Henry Kissinger; Norman Rockwell; I. M. Pei; Walt Disney; Bob Hope; James Stewart; Kirk Douglas; T. S. Eliot; Carl Sandburg; Elie Wiesel; Maya Angelou; Irving Berlin; Isaac Stern; Milton Friedman; John Kenneth Galbraith; Arthur Laffer; Chief Justice Earl Warren; Antonin Scalia; Edward R. Murrow; William Safire; Frank Sinatra; Michael DeBakey; Chuck Yeager; Elmo Zumwalt; Omar Bradley; Bill Gates; Babe Ruth; Jacques-Yves Cousteau; and Madeleine Albright. And, thanks to our current President, we now have Rush in this illustrious group.

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“Rush Limbaugh- Thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country.”; “in recognition of all that you have done for our Nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and that you inspire.” – President Trump presenting Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom

This honor is reserved for true national heroes and given “for especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors”.

In past years, here are a few of those heroes who have been honored: Martin Luther King Jr.; Nelson Mandela; Anwar el-Sadat; Henry Kissinger; Norman Rockwell; I. M. Pei; Walt Disney; Bob Hope; James Stewart; Kirk Douglas; T. S. Eliot; Carl Sandburg; Elie Wiesel; Maya Angelou; Irving Berlin; Isaac Stern; Milton Friedman; John Kenneth Galbraith; Arthur Laffer; Chief Justice Earl Warren; Antonin Scalia; Edward R. Murrow; William Safire; Frank Sinatra; Michael DeBakey; Chuck Yeager; Elmo Zumwalt; Omar Bradley; Bill Gates; Babe Ruth; Jacques-Yves Cousteau; and Madeleine Albright. And, thanks to our current President, we now have Rush in this illustrious group.

Limbaugh is certainly an original. But someone with a “meritorious contribution”? Judge for yourself. Here are some of his quotes:

Rush Limbaugh as the ugly American story inset
  • “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?”
  • “If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it’s Caucasians.”
  • “It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.” (regarding a Georgetown law student advocating birth control insurance coverage)
  • “The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”
  • “Obama’s entire economic program is reparations.”
  • “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.” (to Black on-air caller)
  • “None of what Barack Obama is doing or wants to do to this country is anything the rest of the world hasn’t seen before and already failed at.”
  • “Nationalizing businesses, nationalizing banks, is not a solution for the democratic party, it’s the objective.”
  • “He blames this country for whatever evils he sees around the world.” (re: Obama)
  • “Obama is a statist. He’s an authoritarian. He doesn’t want to govern; he wants to rule.”
  • “Militant feminists are pro-choice because it’s their ultimate avenue of power over men.”
  • “Obamacare is making people divorce so they can afford it.”
  • “Obamacare won’t just bankrupt the country. It may bankrupt small businesses. It may bankrupt individuals.”
  • “We’re throwing money down a rat hole drain of public education!”
  • “Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society.”
  • “There are more American Indians alive today than there were when Columbus arrived or at any other time in history. Does this sound like a record of genocide?”
  • “I prefer to call the most obnoxious feminists what they really are, feminazis.”
  • “Let me tell you something. They say he lied to Congress. I can think of no better bunch of people to lie to than Congress.”
  • “It’s preposterous that Caucasians are blamed for slavery when they’ve done more to end it than any other race.”
  • “I’m not saying we should bring [slavery] back, I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”
  • “African-Americans are] 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?”
  • “When women got the right to vote is when it all went downhill.”
  • “Ladies, if you want a happy marriage, then do whatever your husband tells you without questioning his authority.”
  • “We need segregated buses.”
  • “None of what Barack Obama is doing or wants to do to this country is anything the rest of the world hasn’t seen before and already failed at.”
  • “You know why there’s a Second Amendment? In case the government fails to follow the first one.”

So, there we have it. Trump believes Rush to be a true American hero. I suppose that should surprise no one, given our President. At least Rush will have company on the list (Bill Cosby).

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In Frodo (and Sam) We Trust https://likethedew.com/2020/02/09/in-frodo-and-sam-we-trust/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=in-frodo-and-sam-we-trust https://likethedew.com/2020/02/09/in-frodo-and-sam-we-trust/#respond Sun, 09 Feb 2020 15:01:19 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=72948

“I am without words. Maurice, you always seem to be able to find a light at the end of a tunnel.  Can you see one?”

My good friend was responding to my email sharing a disturbing story from The Atlantic warning “new technologies and techniques pioneered by dictators will shape the 2020 election.”

I understood her question.  My fellow left-leaning friends and I are especially distressed these days.  But, when it comes to disinformation, distrust, and division, I find universal unease among all political persuasions.

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“I am without words. Maurice, you always seem to be able to find a light at the end of a tunnel. Can you see one?”

My good friend was responding to my email sharing a disturbing story from The Atlantic warning “new technologies and techniques pioneered by dictators will shape the 2020 election.”

I understood her question. My fellow left-leaning friends and I are especially distressed these days. But, when it comes to disinformation, distrust, and division, I find universal unease among all political persuasions.

“Always,” I wrote in reply. “Like most distant lights, it’s impossible to know how far away it is, how quickly I will get to it (or it me), or even if it will reach me in this lifetime. But there is always light.”

I shared encouraging signs I’d seen in my recent interactions. But I also had to comfort more than just my friend. I had to reassure myself.

“I don’t delude myself into thinking these are not dark times,” I continued. “Nor do I believe things won’t get worse before they get better. That’s the dilemma… Too little reality leads to complacency and failure to muster the urgency to deal with serious threats. Too much reality causes despair and resignation. The fine line between the two is one we can only strive to find occasionally. For me, Stoicism helps.”

To myself I was thinking “there has to be something more than just moral clarity and dogged self-determination.” My stoic self finds too many stark similarities between the worst of our times and the dismal world of Winston Smith’s Oceania so brutally depicted by George Orwell.

Donald Trump as Precious from Lord of the Rings“Who controls the past, controls the future; who controls the present, controls the past.” –Winston Smith

Winston’s defeated acceptance is such a perfect description for where we might easily find ourselves now.

But, while “1984” is a telling tale of how we got here, it’s useless as a prescription for where we go next. Suffering severe tuberculosis and witnessing totalitarianism all around him during World War II, Orwell’s final years were devoid of hope.

For my friend (and myself) I needed deeper reserves. And Frodo Baggins sprang to mind.

In the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, J.R.R Tolkien presents a compelling, fantastical, but ultimately relatable tale of a diminutive protagonist who saves Middle Earth from the evil dark cloud of Sauron. Frodo and fellow hobbits Sam, Merry, and Pippin are such unlikely heroes. And yet, with the fate of their world in the balance, Frodo must bear the “One Ring” which would give Sauron unstoppable power and carry it to Mount Doom in Mordor to destroy it.

None of us has wizards, elves, or dwarves at our disposal. But hobbits were likewise simple, peaceful, unassuming folk. Frodo – and even more so, Sam – possessed what men, elves, and dwarves lacked – an undying devotion to cause and to each other and the character to grasp and still reject supreme power. Along the way, even Frodo is tested to his breaking point. But faithful, innocent Sam is there to carry the burden himself.

In the crucial moment, when Frodo falters and Sam is out of reach, it’s the wretch Gollum who battles Frodo to possess the “Precious” ring, and thus causes it to plummet into the infernal depths of Mount Doom. Tolkien is reminding us evil will do its own self in eventually, but only if we persevere doing that which we are called to do.

Tasked by destiny to do the unthinkable, it’s small wonder Frodo confides his reluctance to the Wizard Gandalf.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” Frodo said.
“So do I,” replied Gandalf. “And so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to do is to decide what to do with the time that is given to us.”

It’s too easy to dismiss Tolkien’s mythical world as an exercise in escapism. But the author was well-versed in the worst horrors of mankind through his service in the British Army during World War I. Like Orwell, Tolkien also witnessed the devastation of WW II while writing his work. The battle between Good and Evil was ever-present in his life.

We easily see our current moment in Winston Smith’s world, but I find inescapable parallels between Frodo’s quest and our own darkening times. For all the storytelling wrapped around it, Frodo and Sam accomplished the ONE THING we need most desperately now… Someone obtaining absolute power and choosing deliberately not to use it. Someone with the courage and character to render such dominion forever again unusable.

We see the corrupting influence of power in the actions of President Donald Trump who tells us “I could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and not lose any support.” But, it’s even starker in the ways of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. When McConnell blocked Barrack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in an election year, and subsequently pushed through Trump’s nominee Neil Gorsuch in another election year, the message was clear: “I’m doing it because I can.” Just as he shut down a contentious impeachment trial without even the pretense of a real hearing.

But, power for power’s sake is not the exclusive realm of Republicans. The stakes and the lines we’re willing to cross have escalated, but Democrat Harry Reid was every bit as masterful as his successor at bending mechanisms of government to his party’s interests.

The Atlantic story I shared gives a chilling view of the dirty tricks and malicious misinformation candidates are willing to employ to win. “If the other side does it, we have to do it too.”

Where does it end? How do we break from this political arms race where sides take turns escalating conflict to avenge past wrongs and achieve what they believe are just ends?

It ends only when those who hold the sword choose willfully to put it down. When winning at all costs is recognized as no longer worth it. With a candidate who says no to employing targeted misinformation. A President who eschews the expediency of executive orders. A Senate Majority Leader who puts his energy into facilitating dialog, not stifling it.

But, how can faint hope grounded in such wishful thinking ever take root in the real world? Tolkien’s genius was giving us heroes in Frodo and Sam who are the antithesis of superhuman. They’re creatures of such simple aspirations. Reluctant heroes who somehow find strength to accept an impossible task and carry it out against all odds in obscurity. We may not believe in wizards, elves, or dwarves. But we can all believe in Frodo and Sam. We see that spirit in our friends. We can find it in ourselves.

I don’t know who our Frodo of destiny is in our world, where he/she lives, or on what quest he/she may already be. But I know such exists in the hearts of people I know. And, whether we are meant to be a Frodo or a Sam, we have a role play.

“But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.” – Sam Gamgee

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Going Down Fighting https://likethedew.com/2020/02/06/going-down-fighting/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=going-down-fighting https://likethedew.com/2020/02/06/going-down-fighting/#respond Thu, 06 Feb 2020 17:16:18 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=72923 I used to be a lazy citizen.  If people didn't want to vote, I figured that the democracy would be just fine with those who cared participating.  Now, of course, we have no choice but grab everyone we know and drag them to the polls.

It happened to me when Beto lost the Senate race against Ted Cruz. I couldn't believe even the most rabid Texans could vote for someone hated by his colleagues as well as everyone I knew. I called some friends to see what we could do next time. They directed me to a group in South Austin, called Blue Action Dems who are fueled with smarts and walking shoes. Their mantra is #GSD (Get Shit Done), so not so many meetings and massive voter contacts.  They have organized state-wide efforts like Flip the Texas House which we're proud to support.

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I used to be a lazy citizen.  If people didn’t want to vote, I figured that the democracy would be just fine with those who cared participating.  Now, of course, we have no choice but grab everyone we know and drag them to the polls.

It happened to me when Beto lost the Senate race against Ted Cruz. I couldn’t believe even the most rabid Texans could vote for someone hated by his colleagues as well as everyone I knew. I called some friends to see what we could do next time. They directed me to a group in South Austin, called Blue Action Dems who are fueled with smarts and walking shoes. Their mantra is #GSD (Get Shit Done), so not so many meetings and massive voter contacts.  They have organized state-wide efforts like Flip the Texas House which we’re proud to support.

Throughout the past year, a group of us in San Antonio became Bexar Blue Action Dems — we’ve had a year of meetings and recruited 21 precinct chairs to be cluster leaders, each of whom is in charge of 8-12 precincts on the north side of town (which used to be bright red).  We’ve been pounding the pavement to sign up voters in time for the March Primary.  This week we’re sending out 37,000 postcards to “Tier 1” (low propensity) voters, and now following up door to door and phone to phone with ballot info.  Oh, and we could sure use some more postcard stamp $$ if turning Texas Blue is on your wish list: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/marchbbad

 

What will be enough to #TurnTexasBlue?  We don’t know, but we can’t stop now.  When November comes, whether it brings a fierce winter or a new dawn, we will know we stood tall and fought till the bell rang.

Addendum: James Carville just said it best: “Falling into despair won’t help anyone, though. I mean, you can curse the darkness or you can light a candle. I’m getting a fucking welding torch. Okay?”

 

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Wasted Days and Wasted Nights? Not Entirely https://likethedew.com/2020/02/04/wasted-days-and-wasted-nights-not-entirely/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wasted-days-and-wasted-nights-not-entirely https://likethedew.com/2020/02/04/wasted-days-and-wasted-nights-not-entirely/#respond Tue, 04 Feb 2020 15:33:01 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=72900 We’re told Americans can no longer talk across the political divide. We’re also told interacting with people on social media is nothing like (and no substitute for) real life. But, late Friday night, I proved both of those are wrong.

Lowering the Bar

It started innocently enough at our hotel bar after a Lyle Lovett show in Macon, when my wife and I paused for what was supposed to be a quick nightcap. I was sipping my bourbon, when a woman to my right struck up a conversation with us. She and her husband went to the concert too. We chatted about the show, Lyle’s music, Macon, and where we were each from. They live on West Point Lake; we told her about Covington and our second home on Jackson Lake. That led to talking about her job as a flight attendant, which eventually got around to them having been on a river cruise to Bordeaux on the same cruise line Kim and I will be taking this summer to Provence and Burgundy.

It was all going swimmingly (the bourbon was helping), when she paused, gave us serious look, and asked in a hushed tone: "Are ya’ll Trump people?”

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We’re told Americans can no longer talk across the political divide. We’re also told interacting with people on social media is nothing like (and no substitute for) real life. But, late Friday night, I proved both of those are wrong.

Lowering the Bar

It started innocently enough at our hotel bar after a Lyle Lovett show in Macon, when my wife and I paused for what was supposed to be a quick nightcap. I was sipping my bourbon, when a woman to my right struck up a conversation with us. She and her husband went to the concert too. We chatted about the show, Lyle’s music, Macon, and where we were each from. They live on West Point Lake; we told her about Covington and our second home on Jackson Lake. That led to talking about her job as a flight attendant, which eventually got around to them having been on a river cruise to Bordeaux on the same cruise line Kim and I will be taking this summer to Provence and Burgundy.

It was all going swimmingly (the bourbon was helping), when she paused, gave us serious look, and asked in a hushed tone: “Are ya’ll Trump people?”

Not quite sure from where she might be coming – but trusting the deep, meaningful bond we had now established (and the bourbon) — we both said “No.” Politely, mind you. “But, we like you anyway,” my wife added.

We worked through that and answered a few more of her incredulous questions, when she got serious again, asking “Well, what are ya’ll gonna do?” I wasn’t quite sure what she meant – and Canadian residency flitted across my mind. But, what she really wanted to know was how we could possibly vote for Elizabeth Warren.

I tried to explain I’m a moderate independent who wouldn’t necessarily choose Warren or Bernie Sanders as my first pick. But, I told her I would vote for either one over Trump. I mentioned moderate Amy Klobuchar as my likely first choice, but I don’t think she had any idea who that was. I mentioned John Kasich as a moderate Republican I could tolerate, and I still don’t think it registered. (But, again, I wasn’t the only one drinking.)

The Heart of the Matter

She kept asking over and over: “I just don’t understand why you hate him?” And I tried, without success, to explain I don’t hate him. But, that wasn’t something she could take in. (Truth be told, it’s more complicated. I certainly despise things Trump says and does, but I don’t harbor hate for anyone. More important, though, hate was an easy way out for her. To believe I was just consumed with irrational emotion would absolve her of having to engage in real conversation. And, I wasn’t having it.)

She knew she liked us. But, she couldn’t understand us. By now, my wife had abandoned me for the sanctity of our room. But, I was all-in.

The woman’s husband wasn’t beside her when we started conversing, but he was back now. His face expressed wonder as to what kind of mess she’d gotten herself into. But, he was also leaning in to listen.

She wanted to like us, so she said more than once. “I don’t think we’re that different. It’s those politicians in Washington.” I gave her partial credit, but said we the people are ultimately to blame. I argued it’s the things we’ve been willing to tolerate and the tricks we’ll fall for that create politicians we don’t like. I brought up the 2018 Georgia Governor’s race and the TV ads Brian Kemp ran during the GOP primary, pointing shotguns at teenagers, blowing stuff up, and “picking up illegals” in his truck. She said she didn’t like those ads either, but that she likes Kemp. Trying to hold common ground, I told her I felt some of Kemp’s actions since taking office are OK. “He’s been better than those ads,” I conceded.

By now, her husband was joining in and interjecting. He and I actually took a pretty quick liking to each other.

She asked what specific problems I have with Trump. I mentioned rolling back environmental protections, and she agreed, saying she and her husband were concerned as well. I mentioned the Muslim ban, and her husband shared he is of Arab descent. They weren’t so keen on the ban either. We even established mutual agreement on a woman’s right to choose. Still, none of this helped her understand my differing view on Trump.

(Someone I told this story to later asked if I found out why she did like Trump. I would say it was 1) the economy, 2) he’s not a socialist lib, and 3) he’s not a “Washington politician.”)

Still She Persisted

She asked again: “So, why do you hate him?” And the husband quickly corrected her. “He doesn’t hate him.”

At one point, she asked “how do you feel about AOC?” I said I might not agree with her solution for every problem, but I believe she’s way smarter than many people want to admit. They both said they think she’s dumb. “DUMB!” she said to underscore the point. I argued that just getting millennials/young people engaged in politics was an important step. Significantly, both we new friends were unconvinced.

We went on like this for at least an hour. My wife had caught last call for me before she left, but that drink was gone. It was past midnight, and my friend looked like she was losing steam. So, we bid our farewells.

Reaching the elevator, I chuckled, because this entire face-to-face conversation was EXACTLY the kind of back-and-forth I patiently (and perhaps stubbornly) persist with on social media. I was at least well-rehearsed for my live performance.

I didn’t change her mind about Trump, nor she mine. But, the cool thing was we really didn’t try. She, her husband, and I spent the final hours of a Friday night trying our best to understand something we know we honestly never will. But, we tried. And, I think that still says something.

Epilogue

I shared a less-polished, off-the-cuff version of this story on social media the day after the encounter. The reaction was largely positive, because most Americans long for more civility in our lives. All but the most cynical of us still cling stubbornly to hope.

But, I did receive criticism from a progressive friend who saw my telling of this tale as a dangerous sign of “false optimism.” I respect his view and share his sense of urgency about the perils we face as a nation and a society.

In my defense, I deliberately ended with the phrase “I think that still says something,” because it’s up to each of us to figure out what that is. I didn’t feel optimistic — at least not in the most simplistic sense — after Friday night. But, I did have a sense things are not over and these efforts to preserve humanity still matter.

I believe our human connection to each other is the one thing stopping even worse things from happening. It’s also the road we must travel someday back to sane existence. I won’t let that go. Because, when I do, the only things restraining us are the flat, 2-D cartoon representations we see as avatars for the others who are missing. It’s too easy to blow up Wile E Coyote, to drop an anvil on his head, or to send him plummeting off a cliff.

For one night, I was a flesh-and-blood expression of a liberal viewpoint normally caricatured in these people’s lives by memes. I was someone they could never agree with, but whom they also could not hate. And, it was a two-way street.

Our relationships with those who think differently from us are not strained because of Trump. Trump exists because our relationships were already strained. When we weaken our human bonds, we’re ready prey for a host of malicious actors exploiting the space between us for their own gain. In the body politic as in our own bodies, it’s the Immune System that matters. And, our humanity is all that can protect us.

There’s that. There’s also the realization Sisyphus didn’t even have bourbon. So, I raise a glass to my nameless friends on West Point Lake.

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What Alan Dershowitz Doesn’t Get About Abuse of Power https://likethedew.com/2020/02/03/what-alan-dershowitz-doesnt-get-about-abuse-of-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-alan-dershowitz-doesnt-get-about-abuse-of-power https://likethedew.com/2020/02/03/what-alan-dershowitz-doesnt-get-about-abuse-of-power/#respond Mon, 03 Feb 2020 19:27:26 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=72910 I didn’t watch any of the impeachment proceedings against President Trump. The outcome was never in doubt. Evidence and argument weren’t going to matter and didn’t.

However, Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor and Fox News talking head, did us a service by unwittingly clueing us in about abuse of power, the first of the two articles of impeachment. If you think the Senate’s lockstep acquittal of the president makes that moot, remember that there’s an election in November when voters will be called on to render a judgment on Trump’s fitness for office. The Dershowitz doctrine will be glaringly relevant between now and then.

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I didn’t watch any of the impeachment proceedings against President Trump. The outcome was never in doubt. Evidence and argument weren’t going to matter and didn’t.

However, Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor and Fox News talking head, did us a service by unwittingly clueing us in about abuse of power, the first of the two articles of impeachment. If you think the Senate’s lockstep acquittal of the president makes that moot, remember that there’s an election in November when voters will be called on to render a judgment on Trump’s fitness for office. The Dershowitz doctrine will be glaringly relevant between now and then.

Dershowitz told the Senate and the country that there are only three possible motives for seeking, as President Trump did, to trade congressionally authorized U. S. military aid for an announcement by Ukraine’s president that he would launch an investigation of the involvement of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter in the affairs of a Ukrainian energy company. His motive could’ve been to advance the public interest, his personal political fortunes or to secure some personal financial gain. Only if his motive had been the third would what Dershowitz admits was a quid pro quo have been corrupt and therefore an impeachable offense. But since, says Dershowitz, Trump believes that his re-election is in the public interest, putting the arm on a foreign head of state to kneecap one of Trump’s political opponents was just an expression of Trump’s deep devotion to his country. No wonder this story set off howls of derision.

A lot of the astonished responses to the Dershowitz doctrine are on the mark. But there’s one crippling flaw in it that’s getting kind of lost in all the hilarity.

Dershowitz has a simple-minded notion of what a corrupt motive is in a case like this. But we don’t have to drill very far down to see why Trump’s was. Let’s suppose along with Dershowitz though contrary to several Mount Everests of evidence that Trump was acting out of selfless devotion to our country when he tried to strong-arm Ukrainian President Zelenskiy into helping him smear Joe Biden. Even giving Trump laughably high marks for public spiritedness, that doesn’t whitewash his motives because his attempt to prejudice voters against an opponent reflects a belief that it’s not they, but he who’s the final arbiter of whether his re-election is in the public interest. That’s not some minor, everybody-does-it peccadillo. It’s a body blow to the most fundamental principle of representative government, namely, that it’s the voters, not candidates for office, who’re the final judges of whether the election of one or another candidate is in the public interest. So even supposing the utter sincerity of Trump’s belief that civilization as we know it will go down the tubes if he’s defeated in November, trying to displace the voters as the ultimate judges of whether his election is in the public interest fatally infects his belief that he was thinking only of our country in trying to extort a “favor” from President Zelinskiy.

But wait a second. Don’t virtually all candidates for public office manipulate voters to one or another degree? It isn’t much of a stretch to imagine candidates who’re not incumbents acting from the same corrupt motives that it looks like Trump did. There’s nothing to prevent them from adopting and acting on the belief that they, not the voters, are the ultimate judges of whether their election is in the public interest. Leaving aside crass venality, that’s the belief at work whenever any candidate attempts to undermine the voters’ opportunity to cast a ballot reflecting their considered judgment of candidates’ fitness to serve.

Here’s the difference, though, between the president and candidates who’re not incumbents. Candidates who aren’t in office, having no power, can’t abuse it. Andrew Yang can’t call up the president of some small beleaguered country and dangle desperately needed military aid just out of reach until its president agrees to stage a phony investigation into Elizabeth Warren or whomever.

But when the President of the United States draws on the immense power he commands to put himself in the voters’ place as the last word on whether his election is in the public interest, with no authority from the Constitution, statute law or long-accepted practice, that’s an abuse of power if anything is. Compared to that, the routine venality that Dershowitz claimed is the only possible impeachable quid pro quo here pales into insignificance.

Nor is this just me, obscure blog poster, talking. It was Alan Dershowitz, legal heavyweight and media creature, who said that Trump’s “perfect” phone call to Zelinskiy was a quid pro quo meant to bolster his chances of re-election, which he believes the public interest demands. All I did was point to the blindingly obvious implication about Trump’s motives that Dershowitz couldn’t.

While I can understand why members of the Senate might not, in sufficient numbers, have been willing to vote, for the first time in our history, to remove a president from office, I can’t understand why, come November, anybody would vote for the re-election of a president who was fully prepared to expel the electorate from its rightful place as the final arbiter of whether his re-election would serve the public interest.

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Trump’s Disasters: Foreign Affairs and Immigration https://likethedew.com/2020/02/03/trumps-disasters-foreign-affairs-and-immigration-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-disasters-foreign-affairs-and-immigration-2 https://likethedew.com/2020/02/03/trumps-disasters-foreign-affairs-and-immigration-2/#respond Mon, 03 Feb 2020 17:22:11 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=72895

“Time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of… glory days.” – Bruce Springsteen

Politically speaking, the 2020 election is still a long time from now. But, with the Ukrainian revelations and impeachment, if young people and minorities turn out, there’s a good chance that Trump will be the “mister” in the Boss’ song. Only his base, a minority of Americans, supports him. But that base is older, white and votes heavily.

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“Time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister but boring stories of… glory days.” – Bruce Springsteen

Politically speaking, the 2020 election is still a long time from now. But, with the Ukrainian revelations and impeachment, if young people and minorities turn out, there’s a good chance that Trump will be the “mister” in the Boss’ song. Only his base, a minority of Americans, supports him. But that base is older, white and votes heavily.

It’s inconceivable that the House could have done anything except impeach him after the Ukraine President call and other testimony. However, from the start the Senate was bound to let him off the hook due solely to politics (though voting against having witnesses could bite GOP Senators in November). This latest Trump fiasco just continues a long trend of Trump blunders when it comes to diplomacy and foreign affairs, including immigration. 

Despite what Trump says, his immigration policy is unpopular with the public. Per Pew, the trend for more Americans is to want increased rather than decreased immigration – 38% versus 24%. An astounding 83% want “dreamers” to have a path to citizenship, and 57% oppose building a wall per Gallup. And per a CBS poll, 67% of Americans are very upset about the recent changes in stronger ICE enforcement.

In international affairs Trump is strangely intent on changing our traditional and vital role on the world stage. He is cutting ties with our long-standing allies and figuratively getting in bed with the world’s worst dictators including Kima and even with his North Korea policy in shambles, Duarte, and Putin who will no doubt be assisting him in November.

But only a fourth of our population agrees that we should have only a “minor role” in foreign affairs. Gallup has been asking this question for almost 20 years with little fluctuation in that percentage. Also per Gallup, 80% of Americans support the NATO alliance, 66% want us to ensure the security of our allies and 63% support the UN.

However, Trump does not care what the majority want, only what his loyal, radicalized base wants. On the foreign affairs and immigration fronts, he:

  • initially enacted a travel ban on 5 majority Muslim nations (now expanded). Oddly, he did not include Saudi Arabia (home of the 9/11 terrorists); Turkey and Egypt. All three are oppressive dictatorships. However, the Trump organization has had business dealings with them (Bloomberg, 6-26-18) which will come out if we ever see his “permanently audited” tax returns;
  • changed immigration policy so that babies and other children of illegals would be separated from their parents at the border. Despite a court order, these families have not yet all been reunited…and some children may never see their parents again;
  • stated that the European Union is our “foe”;
  • indicated that the USA was at fault for our antagonistic relationship with Russia;
  • failed to criticize the Russians for hacking our 2016 election, instead stating that it could be someone else;
  • met with Putin with no advisors present, enraging both Democrats and Republicans;
  • undercut NATO by remarks about not defending its members if they were under attack;
  • publicly asked the Russians to find Hillary’s deleted email messages;
  • issued a “deal of the century” for Middle Eastern peace that was totally useless, unrealistic and unacceptable to the Palestinians;
  • defended Putin’s policy of killing opponents, saying the USA is not “innocent”.

At the Helsinki Summit, Putin was asked if he had directed Russian officials to help elect Trump in 2016. Remarkably, he said “yes”. That very public statement by one of the USA’s greatest enemies tells us a lot about the truth of the collusion charges in the Mueller report, which strangely was written by Mueller to be confusing, but was still revealing. And, then we have him in a transcript telling the Ukrainian President to investigate Biden if he wants our weapons.

GOP leaders, especially McConnell, care more about party than country. It will be up to voters, especially the young and minorities who often don’t vote, to get out and cast a ballot in November to show them how you feel about their lack of patriotism. Then, Mr. Trump can go back to bankrupting companies rather than destroying our democracy.

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Raging Rudy https://likethedew.com/2020/01/27/raging-rudy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=raging-rudy https://likethedew.com/2020/01/27/raging-rudy/#respond Mon, 27 Jan 2020 16:16:38 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=72873

“I do not believe that the President loves America”- Rudy Giuliani, Feb. 2015

This incredible statement by Rudy Giuliani about Obama had absolutely no basis in fact. It should not have even been considered as part of our political discourse, but with the current state of affairs, it was. A former Republican office holder, it made me sick to think that most GOP national office holders did not have the backbone to condemn this unwarranted attack from an out-of-control partisan. 

But I didn’t always feel this way about Rudy. I’m a native of NYC and my extended family loved Mayor Rudy, even before 9/11. After all, he was Italian just like us (a bigger deal back then). 

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“I do not believe that the President loves America”- Rudy Giuliani, Feb. 2015

This incredible statement by Rudy Giuliani about Obama had absolutely no basis in fact. It should not have even been considered as part of our political discourse, but with the current state of affairs, it was. A former Republican office holder, it made me sick to think that most GOP national office holders did not have the backbone to condemn this unwarranted attack from an out-of-control partisan. 

Close crop of caricature of Rudy Giuliani

But I didn’t always feel this way about Rudy. I’m a native of NYC and my extended family loved Mayor Rudy, even before 9/11. After all, he was Italian just like us (a bigger deal back then). 

My first cousin Nancy, now deceased, was a kind and loving person. She also spent her entire career at the FBI. She knew Rudy in the 1980s when he was the crusading US Attorney for the Southern District of NY, nailing white collar criminals and big-time drug figures. My cousin thought he was just great… and so did I. A true man of the people, a Republican (and former Democrat) but not married to any political party’s talking points.  

My maternal grandparents immigrated from Avelino, Italy to NYC. My grandfather, an uneducated construction worker, supported the GOP. Why? Because crooked Tammany Hall (and its patronage) was controlled by the Irish Democrats (look it up for more).

My Mom had a dozen siblings, nine males. Although all of them were blue collar (cops, garbage men, postmen, enlisted soldiers, construction workers, maintenance men, bartenders and so on), most of them still remained Republican,

So, I followed Rudy throughout his career, right through his courageous stand after 9/11 when he became “America’s Mayor”. That’s why it pains me to see what he has become, a sleezy political hack of the first order trying to get richer off his connections. 

I would be willing to bet that many in the GOP base still believe in Giuliani, based purely on politics and the biased analysis they’ve have heard on right wing radio and TTN (Trump Television Network, Fox). But not me. As opposed to what many of the GOP base think, Rudy’s been off the beaten track for quite some time, as the above quote illustrates. 

In the last year Rudy’s credibility has deteriorated further, beginning with Rudy making excuses for Trump’s actions as described in the Mueller report, saying it’s “an entire frame-up”. He has repeated over and over Trump’s oft stated assertion that there was no collusion (note: I believe that there was collusion with Russia, although legal conspiracy was not proven due to Trump’s obstruction). He also excused Trump’s constant lies during that investigation.

In September, he was interviewed by CNN’s Chris Cuomo. Rudy admitted that Trump was strong-arming the President of the Ukraine to investigate the Bidens by withholding military funding. He then tweeted: “A President telling a Pres-elect of a well-known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job. Maybe if Obama did that the Biden Family wouldn’t have bilked millions from Ukraine and billions from China.” (Note: there’s absolutely no evidence of the Bidens having done anything improper, despite Trump and Rudy asserting otherwise.)

And it gets worse. Acting in his capacity as Trump’s personal lawyer, he has been conspiring to pressure the Ukraine to derail the political campaign of Joe Biden. Giuliani is currently under investigation himself regarding his role in enlisting two shady friends of his (Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, former Soviet émigrés) to help in his efforts. Both men are now under indictment for campaign finance violations. 

In short, Rudy is in trouble because: “His opponent, and the man willing to burn him and his legacy to the ground, is his client, Donald J. Trump” (per Rick Wilson, former Giuliani aid and GOP political consultant.) And,  it looks like Rudy is possibly being set up as Trump’s latest patsy if things go South in the trial. 

For my part, I’m just incredibly sad about how things have ended up for the formerly great man once known as America’s Mayor. “Where for art thou, my Rudy?”

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Dictatorship and Trump https://likethedew.com/2020/01/21/dictatorship-and-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dictatorship-and-trump https://likethedew.com/2020/01/21/dictatorship-and-trump/#respond Tue, 21 Jan 2020 14:33:34 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=72858

More and more frequently, I read social media posts showing Hitler and Trump side by side. Despite the similarities, Trump isn't Hitler. He has no intention of killing millions of innocents. 

But that doesn't mean we should just ignore their similarities:

  • Elected by a minority of voters, Trump does not believe in democracy or democratic processes.

    Trump has continually stated that he was elected in a “landslide.” The truth is that he lost the popular vote by 3 million and was installed by the Electoral College. While often criticizing democratic allies, Trump has complimented dictators on a continuing basis, including Russia’s Putin, North Korea’s Kim; Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro; the Philippine’s Duarte; the Saudi’s Crown Prince and Hungary’s Orbán. In July 2019, he tweeted about staying in office 10 or 14 years. Note: Trump’s supposed kidding and sarcasm is just his way of asking “how does my base feel about my latest suggestion?”.

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More and more frequently, I read social media posts showing Hitler and Trump side by side. Despite the similarities, Trump isn’t Hitler. He has no intention of killing millions of innocents. 

But that doesn’t mean we should just ignore their similarities:

  • Elected by a minority of voters, Trump does not believe in democracy or democratic processes.

    Trump has continually stated that he was elected in a “landslide.” The truth is that he lost the popular vote by 3 million and was installed by the Electoral College. While often criticizing democratic allies, Trump has complimented dictators on a continuing basis, including Russia’s Putin, North Korea’s Kim; Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro; the Philippine’s Duarte; the Saudi’s Crown Prince and Hungary’s Orbán. In July 2019, he tweeted about staying in office 10 or 14 years. Note: Trump’s supposed kidding and sarcasm is just his way of asking “how does my base feel about my latest suggestion?”.

  • Trump ignores the majority of citizens, instead choosing to strengthen support in the core group of supporters who put him into office.

    Trump has never been interested in uniting the nation behind a common set of lofty values. Trump obtained office via inciting fear in his “base” and promoting bigotry and tribalism, pitting older white citizens against the growing black and brown population of America. His support has never moved to over 50% since his selection by the Electoral College. His current (12-19) overall approval level is 45%; it was 45 % in January 2017 (Gallup). His approval level was 89% with GOP voters then and now, the primary factor Trump cares about.

  • Creating and repeating lies is a core Trump strategy.

    The Washington Post has documented over 10,000 lies by Trump since taking office. Politicians lie on occasion, but Trump has taken a page from successful dictators of the past. He zeroes in on a major theme, states his big lie, and then when it’s reported by his controlled media (Fox, etc.) says he heard it from others. Repeat, repeat, repeat. For example, falsely stating that the Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election and that Joe Biden somehow worked with that government.

  • Establishing straw-men and then ridiculing them is a constant refrain.

    Trump has a knack of knowing how to destroy the credibility of his enemies. One example is how he has named Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas”, destroying her reputation and negating all the positive things she has done in her career due to one mistake.

  • Attacking the “elites” is effectively utilized as a continuing divisive tactic.

    Trump is a billionaire with inherited wealth who attended Wharton, thanks to his father’s influence. But he has successfully attacked East Coast intellectuals who do not agree with him as “elitists.” He has effectively misportrayed himself as the friend of the working man, though his policies have done the opposite (for example, the Trump tax cut for the wealthy).

  • Dehumanizing minorities is used over and over again to solidify support of the base.

    Trump has stated that the immigrants coming in from Mexico are crime ridden, even though government statistics show the opposite. He’s called African nations “s***holes” and referred to a black supporter as “my African American.” Trump equated Charlottesville anti-racist protesters with violent white supremacists and neo-Nazis, calling these white power advocates “fine people.”

  • Mass rallies are employed to create a “them versus us” frenzy.

    From the day of his election, Trump has used taxpayer funds to have mass rallies all over the nation, sewing division, lies and hatred. He’s been protected by Secret Service agents in a scene that could have easily been taken from the novel “1984.”

  • Despite the built-in checks and balances (three separate branches, the Electoral College, etc.), Trump has been creating an imperial Presidency.

    Trump’s rapidly changing our nation for the worse, aided by “party before country” politicians like Mitch McConnell. McConnell’s preference to hold a trial without calling witnesses is just one example of Trump supporters ignoring the spirit of the Founding Fathers.

Trump has opened my eyes to the vulnerabilities of our republican form of government. I just hope others, especially independents who don’t follow politics closely, come to that realization before November. If not, Trump may be in office permanently.

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Who Rules the World? – Noam Chomsky https://likethedew.com/2020/01/21/who-rules-the-world-noam-chomsky/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=who-rules-the-world-noam-chomsky https://likethedew.com/2020/01/21/who-rules-the-world-noam-chomsky/#respond Tue, 21 Jan 2020 13:17:58 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=72847

Chomsky's take on his title question can be reduced to this: Nation-states rule the world but who rules nation states? The 1%. He persuasively demonstrates this, and how even in so-called democracies it holds. For example, in the U.S., when 70% of the population favor a certain policy, like diplomacy over war, or health care, the population is ignored, the minority position prevails, the majority position “not feasible”. The policy-makers, the over-seers, do not put the interests of the people as their prime concern but rather the interests of that minority who put them, and keep them, where they are, in positions of power and prestige. This is certainly at odds with the patriotic narrative woven into our lives from birth, in school, church, hell, sports events where the national anthem is played before every game as if it were the most natural thing. No, the population's function is spectator, and consumer, or, they'd like you blind yes boss your mind no thought sleepin at the tube feelin no pain*. The important actors will take care of business.

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Who rules the world? By Noam Chomsky

Chomsky’s take on his title question can be reduced to this: Nation-states rule the world but who rules nation states? The 1%. He persuasively demonstrates this, and how even in so-called democracies it holds. For example, in the U.S., when 70% of the population favor a certain policy, like diplomacy over war, or health care, the population is ignored, the minority position prevails, the majority position “not feasible”. The policy-makers, the over-seers, do not put the interests of the people as their prime concern but rather the interests of that minority who put them, and keep them, where they are, in positions of power and prestige. This is certainly at odds with the patriotic narrative woven into our lives from birth, in school, church, hell, sports events where the national anthem is played before every game as if it were the most natural thing. No, the population’s function is spectator, and consumer, or, they’d like you blind yes boss your mind no thought sleepin at the tube feelin no pain*. The important actors will take care of business.

But there must be a narrative to placate anyone paying attention. In foreign policy for example, Iran is a “destabilizing” actor in the mid-east whereas the U.S., “…illegally invading Iraq, resulting in hundreds of thousands killed, millions of refugees along with barbarous torture and destruction… igniting sectarian conflict that is tearing the region to shreds and laying the basis for the ISIS monstrosity, – that is stabilization.” In 1970s Chile, a freely elected government must be overthrown because we seek the “stabilization” of General Pinochet’s dictatorship. In 1953 Iran, we must overturn a democratically elected parliament, replacing it with a brutal dictatorship, with all the trappings – torture, secret police etc; in order to create “stability”. In Central America “stability” requires the support of more dictators, death squads etc; attacks on any signs of democracy brave enough to show themselves and, when those policies produce refugees fleeing violence, why we must create more stability with, say a nice border wall. Trade agreements, like NAFTA and GATT, which are actually investor protection agreements, also have their “stabilizing” effects, undermining local food production, sending rural people to sweat shops or the border where, once in the “belly of the beast” there is some opportunity for a bare living. One constant in this desire for “stability” is that the boss must be in charge, capitalism must not be questioned, no alternatives need apply.

One area where the boss is clearly not pursuing the interests of the general population is nuclear weapons. Proposals for a nuclear-free middle-east, supported by all area governments except Israel and its, ah, U.S. Patron, are shot down by those two governments. Hair-trigger nuclear warheads remain on alert in both Russia and the U.S., and nuclear plans for massive retaliation which would annihilate the life system and civilization remain locked in, violating treaties, international law and common sense. Plans for expansion of nuclear weapons, in the trillion-dollar range, routinely sail through the system despite the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) which, if honored, might give our species a shot at survival. There is no cry of, “How ever can we afford such projects?!” That is saved for proposals like health care and a minimum, livable wage.

Climate change, Naomi Klein asserts, is resisted so vehemently because the 1% and its minions recognize, or intuite, that capitalism, as currently practiced, is incompatible with what is needed to address that crisis. Denial at all costs! the order of the day. Apparently sea-level rise will be turned away at gated communities and elite mansions. The Republican party, Chomsky claims, is the most dangerous organization in history, committed as it is to the destruction of democracy and civilization. Via the bribery system known as campaign contributions, many democrats are also roped in as enablers.

It is clear to any serious student of history, or perhaps I should say, of Chomsky, that the narratives put forth by the ruling class have been shown to be false, on capitalism, Vietnam, the Middle-east, Central America, Latin America, U.S. History, Socialism, Cuba, Israel-Palestine… that the U.S., far from the benevolent, democracy-promoting, “exceptionalist” state, is the most murderous, plundering national entity on the planet. The current narrative, repeated constantly in the institutions and media, is difficult to shake off. The horrifying truth is immensely discouraging but, exactly where resistance must begin.

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*From ”Power’s Your Angel”, a song by the author.

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Breaking the Spell of a Death Cult https://likethedew.com/2020/01/13/breaking-the-spell-of-a-death-cult/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breaking-the-spell-of-a-death-cult https://likethedew.com/2020/01/13/breaking-the-spell-of-a-death-cult/#respond Mon, 13 Jan 2020 14:39:56 +0000 https://likethedew.com/?p=72823

“People will go to seed on anything” was my grandfather Elmer Hickman’s favorite comment on humanity. If you have never raised a garden then the old fashioned metaphor might be lost, but the adage is an observation - and a caution - that people can turn anything positive, useful, rewarding, and/or healthy into its opposite. For the most part obsession is basically harmless or at worst annoying. However the tendency can be destructive. As guns tend to be for a certain demographic. To be sure, hunting can be an entertaining and healthy hobby. And firearms definitely offer individuals working in some high risk jobs a useful measure of physical safety. Yet for some, guns are clearly fetish objects.

Foodies can be indulged because they often know where the best restaurants are. Car buffs can be forgiven their love for particular makes, models and years because their obsessions remain aesthetic. Even UFO nuts are at least momentarily amusing. Gun fetishists are different because they invest dangerous objects with irrational philosophic and political meanings. In the most extreme cases guns are their personal and political identities.

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“People will go to seed on anything” was my grandfather Elmer Hickman’s favorite comment on humanity. If you have never raised a garden then the old fashioned metaphor might be lost, but the adage is an observation – and a caution – that people can turn anything positive, useful, rewarding, and/or healthy into its opposite. For the most part obsession is basically harmless or at worst annoying. However the tendency can be destructive. As guns tend to be for a certain demographic. To be sure, hunting can be an entertaining and healthy hobby. And firearms definitely offer individuals working in some high risk jobs a useful measure of physical safety. Yet for some, guns are clearly fetish objects.

Foodies can be indulged because they often know where the best restaurants are. Car buffs can be forgiven their love for particular makes, models and years because their obsessions remain aesthetic. Even UFO nuts are at least momentarily amusing. Gun fetishists are different because they invest dangerous objects with irrational philosophic and political meanings. In the most extreme cases guns are their personal and political identities.

Chances are that you have met them. Rather than a proper focus on family and work, gun fetishists build little arsenals. Instead of civic engagement with the range of real problems fellow Americans face, like the forever war in the Middle East, climate change, foreign interference in our elections and pharmaceutical price gouging, gun fetishists spin fantasies about ‘gun grabbing’ Federal government and liberal elected officials intent on imposing dictatorship.  In their minds, the millions of non-military firearms owned by civilians are invested with the magical ability to defeat, and therefore deter, totalitarian conspirators. That a U.S. Army infantry unit would slice through a mob of armed civilians playing soldier like a hot knife through butter simply has not occurred to them.  That few of those who bellow such beliefs about gun ownership would actually muster in such a mob goes without saying.

To be a gun fetishist is generally to be ignorant of recent popular revolutions against dictatorships. Where recent revolutions have succeeded in replacing dictatorship with democracy, the revolutionaries have been unarmed. Communist regimes collapsed across Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in 1989 and 1990 because governments because activists armed themselves with words rather than weapons. Non-violent revolutions have the best chance of producing democracies. Violent revolutions tend to result in new dictatorships, civil war or anarchy.  Compare today’s peaceful and democratic Czech Republic with today’s strife torn Libya. Anyone committed to liberty and democracy ought to be committed to defending First Amendment freedom of speech, press and assembly. Yet unless it involves de-platforming conservative speakers on university campuses, gun fetishists are more likely to condemning “fake news” or joking about running over protesters who dare to block traffic. They don’t care much about freedom unless it manifests in the shape of a gun.

Gun fetishists generally don’t compare the United States with other countries if they can avoid doing so. The America they have helped to saturate with guns presents embarrassingly high firearm murder rates compared with other wealthy democracies. That culturally similar Australia and New Zealand have reduced gun crime by reducing own ownership is tabooed truth.

Among the greatest conceits of gun rights absolutists is the idea that their beliefs are motivated by rational calculation of risk and/or reasoned defense of constitutional principle. The problem is they themselves have an unmistakable demographic profile. Gun ownership in the hands of a small fraction of the population, concentrated among older white men living in the South and Midwest. Some 50% of all guns in America, some 133 million firearms, are owned by just 3% of the population (theguardian.com). A majority of American individuals and American households are gun free. The reality is that gun fetishism is largely motivated by fear and resentment of racial and ethnic minorities and by unacknowledged perceptions of reduced social status.

Notably, gun fetishism tends to be a demographically Evangelical Protestant phenomenon. Unlike many religious traditions that offer scope for adherents to invest objects and places with special meaning, Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Sufism and Theravada Buddhism are examples, Evangelical Protestantism is bereft of such focuses of attention.  So for the sort of Evangelical Protestant who attends services only at Easter and Christmas to please family members, guns may be metaphysical substitutes. Which points the way toward something helpful that families and friends worried about the individuals in their lives who have “gone to seed” about guns can do. If the unrecognized desire is for physical objects or places to invest with philosophic and political meaning, perhaps what they need is a spiritual vocation. Convincing them to spend a week mediating at an ashram in California seems out of the question for most of these troubled souls and spending a week locked into a tour of the ‘Holy Land’ would likely make the problem worse. However a week spent walking the pilgrim paths of Ireland might calm them and even restore the hope that has gone missing in their lives. Mission trips building schools in Central America are another possibility. Almost anything that shifts their attention away from the fetishes of their death cult for more than few days could help break the spell.  In absentia lucis, Tenebrae vincunt.

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