Archive for the ‘Irreverence’ Category.

Traveling with Stephen (pronounce Stefan)

The View from our table at Scotts Seafood in Jack London Square.

Not really, but sounds more sophisticated and better than travels with Steve (isn’t there already one? Last name anyway). Anyway, the news is just a repeating cycle of lies out of the Republicans and the White House, interspersed with bad news from overseas so I thought you might enjoy a diversion. This weekend was Van Morrison weekend. I have always loved Van the Man. His amazing voice and his ability to change tempo and do various rhythms in the same song has truly amazed me. His music makes me move and moves me. Well, my beautiful and amazing daughter got with my beautiful and amazing, not to be ever mentioned here, and they planned a surprise for me. Serena (my daughter) procured tickets for the Van Morrison Concert on Saturday night, row 8. I knew something was up because we were going to spend the weekend in Oakland, but it was a surprise, and I kind of figured it was a family thing, but why Oakland?

Anyway a few days before we left for the trip they told me and I was thrilled. VAN MORRISON! UP FRONT! HOLLY SHIT! So the plan was to drive in after she who must not be mentioned here got off substituting (teaching), drive in to Jack London Square, eat at Scotts Seafood overlooking the water, and get a good nights sleep. Driving into Oakland and getting off I-880 is kind of a shock because it dumps you off in one of the worst industrial areas, full of tents and homeless, and all the stories of Oakland and violence stream through your head. But then you drive into Jack London Square and all of a sudden you are uptown. Note to the City Council in Oakland: Clean that up because it scares the bejesus out of us white people.

Jack London Square, Rosenblums cellar is out of the picture to the left and that is the Waterfront Hotel in the Distance. We are on the pier boarding the ferry to SF.

We checked into the Z Hotel which was about two blocks from the waterfront. The people there were super nice, but the hotel was very dated, and had the air of old tobacco about it. Knowing what I know now I would have stayed at the Waterfront Hotel, more expensive, but you only live once. Of course she who must not be mentioned here was ecstatic because there was a soul Vegan place across the street (Souley Vegan). The whole area was very safe and becoming a place to hang out. Okay Scotts Seafood. We went over there early to have a glass of wine and sat in the bar. The hostess noted that while we had a reservation, they did not reserve specific tables. After I had a glass of wine, my brain kicked in and what she was telling me was get seated early and get a table looking over the bay, which we did.

Blackened Catfish. Sorry I took a couple of bites before I snapped the picture. I lost control.

Food was outstanding, except for my oysters. I should know better. Once you have had the fresh crisp oysters from Tomales Bay (Hog Island), almost anything else will be a disappointment and they were. I could tell they were not as fresh as they should be. I had Caesar Salad which was good (but not Christian’s), and blackened catfish that was to die for. She who must not be mentioned here had some Vegan stuff. Wine is Vegan you know. Then on a trip to the bathroom, I noticed the bar had a wonderful blues singer and we relocated there to listen. Now here is the thing that just slays me. The people were so friendly there. We even got to know the singer and some of her family who had come to listen to her. She was black, the electric piano was played by an Asian gentleman, and the drummer look like a white college kid. We were back in the land of diversity and it was wonderful. Walking home I tried to put she who must not be mentioned here’s mind to rest pointing out that any mugger who took on a guy with terminal cancer was asking for trouble. It was perfectly safe.

Bay Bridge from the Ferry

Okay, Saturday we planned to take the ferry (there is a ferry service from Jack London to the City) in to San Francisco. So about 10 am we ambled over to the ferry and caught the 10:15. I love Clipper Cards. They work on Muni, Bart, and the Ferries. It makes life so simple. Taking the ferry in is like getting a water tour of the Bay and it only takes about 25 minutes. There is one returning every hour in the afternoon to get home, so we could chill. After some shopping, we met my nephew at the WayFare Tavern for a late lunch. I will let you peruse the menu and guess what I ordered. Here is a tip. If you want to really have a relaxed meal in the City, do late lunch. It is never crowded and you are comfortable turning it into a couple of hour affair. It is always good to see my nephew and get caught up and we won’t be having a traditional Christmas feast at Hog Island (Hawaii at Christmas) so we tried to change it up. I won’t give you a detailed menu, but it was all good. Then it was ferry back to Jack London and get some Zs before the concert. Note: When you get off the Ferry, Rosenblum Cellars is right there for wine and snacks sitting outside in the sun.

The Concert. When the time came, we got Lyft to the theater. Again I love technology. Driver arrived in a minute or two and the Theater was only about 15 blocks up Broadway to Telegraph. This whole area of Oakland is alive and beautiful. Lots of bars, restaurants and the streets were alive. The Fox Theater is a beautiful theater and people were streaming in. I think it seats on about 2800 people (Van gets terrible stage fright and likes small menus (if you are a groupie)). Bar/lounge part of the theater, and once again, everyone was super nice. We got in our seats around 7:30, yep right up front and on the end of an aisle which is good for those of us who need a restroom break from time to time (old men). Good thing too, because Van’s daughter Shana opened with her group and it was just fun. At 8:00 sharp, the lights dimmed and out came Van the Man. I think my heart went thump.

VAN THE MAN

For the next hour and a half, Van sang and played (Sax, Guitar, Harmonica) non-stop, and I mean non-stop. He would transition from one song directly into the next. Needless to say his band and backup singers were amazing, playing trumpet, electronic keyboard, drums, guitar, bass, slide guitar, sax, you name it. He had old and new songs and in the old ones, he had new arrangements that were great. It was the fastest 1 1/2 hour of my life. He even did a duet with his daughter. It was sold out of course, and yes, I got the t-shirt. I was like drained when it was over. My fondest memory is when he did Gloria, and the crowd did the backup. It was amazing.

When it was over, we walked down about 3 blocks away from the theater and immediately got a Lyft back to the hotel. At big events if you will walk to put some distance from it, it is much easier to get a ride. We were psyched. She who must not be mentioned here pointed out the Vegan Place was still open so we went in to just get a little something. Now I am not going to describe the food, but as hard as it is for me to admit, everything I had was delicious. I say everything I had, because we struck up a conversation with two black women at the next table and then we started sharing dishes. Like I said, everywhere we went, we found super friendly people. Then we went to bed, got up early to get home before Apple Mania (we live in Apple Hill and traffic backs up for miles as people drive at parade speed looking for their next sugar high with pie/cobbler/donut/scone/cookie hit (all made of apples)) took over and got safely home by 10 am.

What a wonderful trip and another experience I shall deeply cherish. Spent the day shooting arrows and lifting weights with Van playing in the background. Oh and least I forget, paying attention to my cat, MK, who was pissed about us being gone. Sophie goes to dog heaven when we travel so she was fine. Could life be any better? When is the next adventure?

Las Vegas

24/7 News of nothing. I am not saying the shootings were nothing, but I mean there is no point to the coverage except maybe practice for the next one. Who was he? Why did he do it? Who cares? The next one will be totally different and we learn nothing. Let’s lower the flags to half mast, express our profound grief, label the shooter evil, oh and let’s not forget to pray. You are in our thoughts. That about covers it, then let’s move on to the next shooting. Where we can repeat and rinse.

There is a common denominator here that sets us apart from other places where this is rare and that is guns, guns everywhere. I listened to an interview with a cop whose daughter was at the scene and he himself was a gun collector so controlling guns can’t possibly be the problem. People kill people, not guns, right? Except it is the problem. Wait, the shooter used an illegally modified weapon (alleged). And I can buy a gun like he had and modify it with little effort. Thank you NRA, I feel so safe now with my basement full of guns, until I go postal and kill everyone around me. Tick, tick, tick.

No, we are going to thank God for what the fuck? Tell those parents, wives, husbands, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters to thank God for killing their loved one? It’s horseshit. It was as Lenin who said that religion was the opium for the people and that is exactly how religion is being used. Trust in God and do nothing. Thank him that you were not shot.

See a trend here? God does not exist or if he does he either doesn’t give a shit or his grand plan is BS, and we have to solve this ourselves. But after Virginia Tech in 2007 where 32 were killed, Sandy Hook in 2012 where 26 little kids where shot to pieces, Pulse nightclub where 49 more were killed last year,well, we declare it evil, lower the flag, look for answers not to be found, express profound sadness, have you in our thoughts, and of course pray. Maybe we could just tape the usual bullshit and replay it at every shooting. Save all those never-ending interviews of what happened, the same thing. Nothing changes.

Note there is one common denominator here, rapid fire high-capacity guns. Can’t talk about that. Oh, that is political (Sarah Huckabee Sanders yesterday) in these emotional times, maybe later, much, much later. Maybe even never. Why is it political to say guns are the cause of this mayhem and if we got rid of them or closely regulated them, then maybe we could really limit the damage? Show me a guy throwing knives from the 23rd floor who could kill 59 people. That does not seem political at all, just common sense. Ask yourself why are we the only country with this kind of repeating mayhem? The answer is simple, easy access to guns.

Second Amendment rights my ass. Read the damn thing. WE DON’T HAVE MILITIAS ANYMORE! We have standing armies. If you want to find evil, look no further than the NRA and the politicians who will do nothing. There is where the real evil is. Conservatives are a major part of the problem, but watch most Democrats kneel to the god of unregulated gun ownership. There is the real evil. But ignore all that. Let us pray.

Deplorable is the Nice Word for It

The DIC (Dotard in Chief) in Alabama:

“During an address inside the Wernher Von Braun Center that lasted an hour and 20 minutes, the president called North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un “Little Rocket Man”, said NFL owners should cut players who kneel for the national anthem and returned to familiar targets like John McCain and Hillary Clinton.

…Hours after John McCain torpedoed Republican hopes to repeal and replace Obamacare, Trump expressed his disappointment. He said McCain’s opposition was “totally unexpected and terrible”. He also chided the Arizona Republican for what he saw as hypocrisy. “Repeal and replace, John McCain if you look at his last campaign it’s all about repeal and replace and that’s fine, we still have a good chance [of repealing and replacing Obamacare.” He described his attempts to court senators on health care, saying “I’m on the phone screaming at people all day long for weeks”.

…Trump also returned to some of his favourite topics. He talked at length about the wall he hopes to build on the Mexican border, insisting it needed to be see-through. Trump said this was because drug dealers are currently using catapults to send 100 pound bags of drugs over the existing concrete wall and they are landing on people’s heads in the United States. He also responded the familiar cheers of “lock her up” directed at Hillary Clinton by telling the crowd “you gotta speak to Jeff Sessions about that”.

The president also dwelled on NFL players who take a knee during the National Anthem in peaceful protest. He asked the crowd, “Wouldn’t you love one of the NFL owners when someone disrespects our flag, ‘get that son of a bitch off the field right now.’” He told attendees, “If you see it, leave the stadium, I guarantee things will stop.”

Let’s see, belittling and egging on someone who feeds on threats and has nuclear weapons, attacking John McCain on a principled objection to the current process for repeal and replace (and has no idea what is in repeal and replace), screaming as leadership, see-through walls, lock her up, again promoting lawlessness, and finally attacking the free speech of football players in what was little more than veiled racism. Wasn’t that in Spain where they burned people at the stake for heresy. What’s the difference? Everyone must conform to der leader. Free speech in his mind is only free if you agree with the DIC.

Then there were the tweets: Earlier Saturday, Trump said Curry’s invitation to the White House was “withdrawn” because the NBA point guard was “hesitating…Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team,” Trump tweeted. “Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

Lebron James responded with this great line:

When Hillary called his followers deplorable, she was only half right. I think it is Despicable leads the Deplorables kind of captures it. I can’t wait to see how pro football players react tomorrow. I hope they all take a knee. I would. He is not my President. Resist America.

Irreverent – Texas and Harvey or Lessons for the GOP

First of all before I say all kinds of irreverent things, let me said that I contributed to the Mayor of Houston’s fund for helping the victims. This is a tragedy of immense proportions and we have not seen the real suffering and struggles yet. They are our fellow Americans and all of us could have something similar happen to us, whether it is a fire, earthquake, tornado, or flood, and we all need to help each other. Okay, now for some hard and maybe unfair observations:

  • People were devastated by the flooding. Why was that when the forecast for this storm was just that, devastating? Did they just not believe it?
  • Many people were not in flood zones so flood insurance was not required so if they did not have it, and they are at risk for the whole cost of repairs, rebuilding. Should they rebuild with tax payer money if a storm similar is likely to come along again next year and do the same thing?
  • The Village Idiot in Charge visited again today for another photo op and reported, “They’re really happy with what’s going on,” he told the reporters. “It’s something that’s been very well received. Even by you guys, it’s been very well received.” Isn’t it way to early to high five, with the fact that the real recovery hasn’t even started yet, nor has the reality of the real loss set in?
  • There is an interesting story today in the NYT about the frustrations of one home owner with trying to figure out what to do next. In this case the house was flooded about halfway up the first story walls and now mildew and other fungus were setting in. Wouldn’t you think there would be a checklist for this? After Katrina wouldn’t the lessons learned tell them what documentation or inspection/pictures were necessary for help, and then what needed to be done with the drywall walls to stop the mildew, remove the damaged materials (floor, floor coverings, walls), and get on with the recover? Wouldn’t there be instructions that tell you when the water height dictates total rebuilding? I would think that.
  • Then there is the issue of recover money. Congress will have to appropriate it. When the Texas delegation demands fast money, Congress as a whole should comply, but not without reminding them how stingy they were with Sandy and made all kinds of excuses including mostly made up claims of pork. Their hypocrisy and sad cruelty should be pointed out every step of the way.
  • There will be a major rebuilding effort and there is already a shortage of workers in those trades, and many of them are filled by undocumented workers. Again, Texas and the Trump Administration’s policy on immigrant should be challenge as we have a real in your face example of how stupid and counterproductive their policies are.
  • The same might be asked about their disregard for global warming and rational planning and land use based upon global warming projections. The United States military is trying to plan for Global Warming, but “Republicans in the House of Representatives added language to Defense Department spending bills prohibiting funds from being spent to plan or prepare for climate change.” Houston with its lack of land use controls and planning for proper drainage certainly contributed to the misery there. Note that the link was written before Harvey.
  • We haven’t yet seen how the stingiest people on the planet are going to fund and pay for real recovery (Republicans in Congress). Remember that the Village Idiot in Charge went out pushing for a tax cut a day after he did a pseudo visit of the flood. We have not seen how mad people get at the slow progress that will be the reality. We have not seen the real environmental damage yet and the possible impact on living down there. And we have not seen the recriminations when people figure out they trusted their government to protect them and Republicans have ignored their responsibility to use science, not greed or ideology, to plan and develop living space.
  • Trump pledged $1M for Harvey, but he has a history of not coming through and we do not not where that is coming from. Oh, and his net worth has been estimated at $10B. So if your net worth is $1m and you give $100, you are equal to the Village Idiot in Chief. I gave $100 so am I a great person?
  • On this one I will take some heat.  People who are wading through flood waters or out there in their boats to help others are not heroes.  They are what we all are, citizens willing to pitch in.  Hero is such an over used word and demeans its real meaning.

So the bottom line here is that people should have known this was coming, Global warming and its predictions are mainstream science. Texas has had 3-500 year storms in the last year, firmly signaling the impact of a warming planet. The storm itself was well forecast so when the monumental rains came, well they were forecast. The result was just waiting to happen and people ought to be made as hell that their government allowed that they put at that kind of risk. And I think they will be. As the real recovery, not the fake photo ops, drags on, funding becomes a political football, there are going to be angry people and finger pointing through lawyers.

Then there is the GOP reckoning. Let’s just check out what they have wrong:

  • Global Warming and its impacts
  • Immigration hysteria and lack of policy to get a flow of immigrants to feed our economy
  • Debt Ceiling, Federal budget (don’t forget they wanted to slash $1B from agencies that respond to this kind of stuff), and deficit spending
  • Tax cuts
  • Government regulations to control responsible planning and growth

So here we are and the disaster in Houston and East Texas was not only predictable, but could have been so much better prepared for. But from the masterminds of Donald Trump we have ignorance and stupidity as public policy. How is that working out for you. Texas was a wakeup call. Did anyone wake up? Oh, and one last thing. Remember Republicans are in charge and the Democrats already said we should pay for recovery. This is totally on the Republicans. Can they govern.  Not so far.

Cancer, Michael, and Heroes

Once in a while at an odd moment, thoughts of my cancer come flooding in. This time it was probably brought on by the fact that I go in for another PSA test and my PSA has been showing a slight rise.  Is this a new chapter? Now as far as cancer patients go, I have no complaints. While I have an incurable prostate cancer with a really high (9) Gleason score (highly aggressive), right now the treatment has put it in slow motion. So other than the side effects of androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) and antiantrogen therapy to wipe out testosterone in the body (fatigue, loss of libido, some weight gain, hot flashes that never end, sore breasts), I am mostly fine. No pain, no chemo, no radiation or their horrible side effects. So it is easy to ignore it, forget your now on a fast-moving time clock, and just cruise like most of us did through our younger days. Sure, weight lifting is more of a challenge, and golf wipes me out for two days, losing weight is a bitch, but I can still do all of them. My tolerance of heat is non-existent, but I am not suffering the ravages from the treatment that most cancer patients suffer so bravely and fight so valiantly (My sister-in-law comes to mind as a close example).

But still, I know that when things start to go down hill, things are going to get tough, unless some new treatment comes along to prolong my life until I die of something else. When those thoughts come flooding in as they do sometimes, I think of the movie Michael, the archangel played by John Travolta, who was on his last trip to earth to pull off one more miracle. But he knows this is it, this is his last hurrah, he is not coming back. Michael lived life large and enjoyed the sensory pleasures of this world taking in everything life had to offer. But in a great scene, Michael has that same sense that I am sure most terminal patients all have at one time or another, about how much they love life.*

The scene is with Michael who sees a bull in the field and decides to take it on. The noble fight. Imagine the battle scene between the two when they charge at each other, full of the passion of the moment and the fight, and then Michael and the bull are both knocked out by a high-speed head butt (there might be something here being said about fighting itself and its utility). When Michael gets back to his feet with help from William Hurt, he reveals to Hurt that this is his last big blast on Earth, his last hoorah. Michael looks to the skies, eyes closed, arms up, wind in his hair, and says, “I’m gonna miss everything so much.”

That is exactly how I feel. It just could not almost be over. There is so much around me that is to rejoice in. Yeah, young love is gone no matter what, I am an old man after all, but I have a wonderful enduring love that few will ever experience. And then there is that sunset, the amazing beauty of the sun, the feeling of a breeze blowing by you, just the pure joy of living, of being, all of that is still there and the thing that comes flooding in, that soon this is going to be over. Take it in, drink it up. Stay in the moment. And then… I’m gonna miss everything so much.

But the moment I am trying to stay in will pass and I will be in another moment, one that could be brutally hard, not just on me, but for everyone around me. And that is when I think of heroes. People who just carry on when things get really tough. That is the real definition of a hero. I think of the Medal of Honor winner who was honored the other day at the White House, who was a medic who just carried on with his job risking everything for his comrades. Who does not have a hero fantasy about themselves? You know, some fantasy about you saving the world. We have a whole genre of movies these days about heroes.

I think they all miss the point. Heroes don’t have to be super. Heroes are all around us. People, who in the face of adversity, carry on. And many of them do it with such grace. Whether it is the last throes of cancer, a disability that puts them at a disadvantage in this life, a tragic loss, or simply being poor and disadvantaged. If you want to find heroes, stand in a crowd and look around. The fact that you don’t know their stories makes what they are going through and how they manage it so much more heroic. And whether they win or lose the battle is not the point, but how they nobly fought the fight.

And that is my next great challenge. Who knows, I may luck out, but then again I may not. And the challenge is to do this thing with grace and dignity, to leave those you love so very much ready to carry on without you, remembering you for your grace and dignity. This last chapter is really more about them than me. Am I up to it? I really don’t have a choice. I have to be up to it. And if I need a role model to inspire me to get me through, it is not the combat soldier, the Navy Seal, the fireman, the police officer, the usual suspects, it is a little old lady who spent her last days in pain, but carried on. It is the bravery of those around you who will have to shoulder the pain of your loss when you are gone. It is all around us and yet most of us are oblivious to it. Well, I see it, maybe because I now am forced to profoundly understand it. I just hope I am up to it.

*This is not to say that at the end, some could and should choose death when the reality of life and their disease overcomes them. I cannot help thinking of the bravery of Brittany Maynard, her husband, and her family on her journey with cancer, and giving the rest of us some modicum of control over our lives in the end. That is one amazing role model.

Not MY President

“He is our president and we should rally around him.” “Good Americans and Democrats should attend the inauguration to show our solidarity in the peaceful transfer of power.”  Bullshit.  More like, “All hail Caesar and we are taking names of those who don’t.”  Let’s start with the basics.  He lost by an almost record margin of popular votes but because of the gerrymandering of slave states back in the Founding, we have an electorial college weighted to rural states.  Second, let’s really look at the Comey email fiasco which according to many analyses did swing the election.  Third, let’s add in the Russian hacking, and Wikileaks being their tool while no similar leaks on the Republican side and clearly the election was stolen.  This leaves out the fickle role of the press that chased after every morsel of email news to try to create a false equivalency between Donald and Hillary.  So yes the election was fraudulent based on lies and innuendo.

But even if you don’t buy that or say politicians lie all the time (and our press is supposed to pick them off), my president would not be a small mean bully.  He would not go after the unprotected in our society to blame all its ills upon.  He would not deny science and try to dismantle the very agencies that try to protect our environment for our children.  He would not be cozying up to a dictator who has murdered thousands as a good business opportunity.  He would not suggest that maybe other countries should get their own nukes. He would not be dismantling healthcare for millions and throwing the health insurance industry into chaos.  He would not denigrate women and pretend he respects them.  He would not throw millions of immigrants out of the country when all our ancestors were immigrants.  He would not put a person in charge of education who has done more to damage public schools than just about anyone else.

And we are not talking partisan politics here, we are talking about destroying American values.  He has demonstrated that he has very little understanding of the Constitution or the great debates our Founders had.  He has no appreciation for due process or free speech and has started a very authoritarian approach to the press refusing to answer hard questions.  He has shown amazing ignorance on a multitude of issues both foreign and domestic.  His understanding of economics borders on non-existent.  And his ethics and morals are in the gutter.

So no, he is not my president.  He may be the president, but we cannot trust a thing he or his teams says.  America has sunk to a new low of crass I got mine, screw you.  People who voted for him ignored fact, data, and science, or the march of time.  They demonstrated how dumbed down America has become.  But they were the minority and they still won.  So again, no he is not my president and I will do whatever it takes to obstruct his destruction of America.  That starts with ignoring the inauguration except for the sadness of seeing the Obamas leave public life.  Even that may be too painful to watch.  So don’t enable this monstrosity America.  Fight him every step of the way.  No, he is not my president.  Like John Lewis, I will be staying home and turning off the TV.

Oh FMITH!

I am listening to the news and the narrative is did John Lewis go too far.  How could he delegitimize the president, that he says he would find it hard to work with him?  How could a politician be so divisive?

WAIT A MINUTE!

Does any remember the leader of the Senate Republicans telling us he was going to make Obama a one term President?  Does anybody remember the drum beat by Trump and the whole Republican Party that said Obama was a Kenyan and was not born in America?  Do you remember you lie?  WTF? Are you people brain-dead?

FMITH-Famous expression from my Vietnam and SAC days (Fuck me in the heart).

My New Fiction Novel:  Constitutional Crisis

Let’s just fantasize for a moment.  Say President Obama is presented with unequivocal evidence that Trump and his team are colluding with the Russians and colluded with them on the hacks and release of emails.  Say that it tells a story that the election was illegitimate.  What should the President do.  For my novel, he would declare Martial Law, declare the election illegitimate, and hold elections in March (June?) after the full investigation is completed and the American Public is fully informed.  The Republicans would probably be forced to run Pence unless he was involved and I don’t think he has the wattage.  Welcome Paul Ryan and it would be Hillary and Paul in June.

You could throw in some sex, murder, and conniving (well we probably already have two of three in real life), where political power and greed have overcome our conservative leaders whose ideology trumps the common good.  Oh, wait!  We already have that.  There could be riots in the streets, threats from Russia, Republicans claiming everything is a lie.  Finally have the nation come to its senses and be a novel of real hope and rebirth in our founding principles.

Sadly, other than the martial law, most of this is actually going on or may go on.  Would there be enough Republicans who when presented with clear evidence, be willing to stand up to conservatives that don’t care and just want the control the three branches of government?  So far there haven’t been when it is obvious the man they elected is unstable and not qualified to be president.

Let’s take another not so far fetch scenario.  That Trump has to be removed.  What do we do with Pence if we arrive at the conclusion that the election was illegitimate?  Does he get the reins of power, do we have a do-over, or does he resign and Paul Ryan become the President. Meanwhile. Hillary won the popular vote.  Does this lead to riots in the street?  Now note in all of this there is a basic assumption that the Republicans lost the election.  And one of the problems in all of this is that it does not force Democrats to face the fact that their party has its own problems when it comes to economic inequality and losing even the electoral college was a wake up call.

The problem with all this from a narrative point of view is that the Republicans are bad guys (true), but the Democrats are innocent victims (not so true).  So how do you write this novel with both an external threat (the Russians), a corrupt and ideological Republican Party, but also a flawed Democratic Party that has lost its way.  I am still working on that.  Maybe I just need to wait until June and see how it writes itself.  Just fantasizing here or am I?

The To Do List

My intent this morning was to make a list of the things President Obama could do in his last 9 days.  And I will get to that in a moment, but this morning for no particular reason I had some old military acronyms floating around in my head, and if you will excuse the language, I thought I would share.

First was the Obama goodbye speech from President Obama last night which I will comment on in a couple of days when I can see it without the fog of emotion.  And what came to mind was something that is common across the military, FIGMO.  Fuck it, I got my orders.  It just came to mind and in a few days I will decide if it really applies if he fails on my To Do List.

Then there is the state of the Union as President Obama leaves office and the Neanderthals (my apologies to Neanderthals) that are taking over the reigns of power.  I see mass chaos as the Republicans are ill equipped to govern and find their ideas not even remotely practical and their fantasies, well, fantasies. SNAFU comes to mind with Republicans in charge. Situation normal, all fucked up.

And then there is that time down the road when the chaos subsides and we realize we have made one giant mistake turning to the right, and imagining the orange headed narcissistic pathological liar could lead us anywhere.  The term that comes to mind is FUBAR.  Fucked up beyond all recognition.  And you thought my time in the military was wasted.  We learned valuable lessons for dealing with life as we survive both combat and military mindlessness. We may want to keep these terms handy for future use.

Okay, what could President Obama do before he leaves office that could help many people.  Well I am not the first one to be thinking about this so I will give you a composite:

Pardon the Dream Kids – Who cares if you make a mistake and some kid you pardon gets used as a antidote for their policies of building a wall.  You will save 750,000 Dreamers.  Where is your courage?

Release the Senate Torture Report – Just declassify it and put it out there.  We need to counter Trump and his fantasies about its effectiveness. We need to know what Trump, Cheney, and the CIA did in our names and how it failed.

Pardon Snowden  and Manning– Okay, the Intell community hates him (Snowden), but both he and Chelsea did expose illegal activities and as of today no one has been able to prove they harmed anyone except those doing illegal things.  Meanwhile the Valerie Plame’s outer got a pardon (Lewis Libby) and his boss ordered war crimes and nobody got charged.  Oh, and pardon whistle blowers going forward so Trump can’t do a witch hunt (NBC).

Appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court – Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution gives the president power to fill any vacancy during the recess of the Senate.  Let Trump the village idiot deal with that after the Republicans stole Obama’s nomination.

Close Gitmo – Okay, Congress made sure he could not do that, but he could do an end run and just transfer all of them.  Of course then we have that little problem of charging them since most of the evidence is tainted by torture and everything else the Bush Administration legitimized.  That should be the legacy of Gitmo, that murders were allowed to go free because we forgot what we stood for.

Drone Strikes – Make the criteria for targeted drone strikes public.  You about to turn the government over to a nut job who needs to be held accountable about how he uses force.  List the names of those innocent that were killed accidentally.

Formally Recognize the Palestine statehood – Enough of the charade.  If we believe in human rights we need to understand the path Israel is on is one of continued civil war.

Commute John Walker Lindh Sentence – Yes he did a terrible thing.  He was young and stupid. Weren’t we all and where is the spirit of Christian forgiveness.  He has suffered enough.

There are probably more and you are welcome to suggest, but these are things he could do to help America through the nightmare ahead.  Will he?  I doubt it, but we will see.  He still thinks we are having a normal transfer of power and it should be peaceful.

Did Obama Get Us Here?

This is a hard blog to write because in so many ways I find Barrack Obama a man to respect and I admire him. No drama Obama.  In many of the very difficult challenges he faced as President he represented us with grace and calmness.  He and Michelle were wonderful role models.  But to understand how we got to the reign of the Orange narcissist, we have to face his failures and the Democrat’s failures.  Here is what Cornell West gave us this morning:

Bernie Sanders gallantly tried to generate a leftwing populism but he was crushed by Clinton and Obama in the unfair Democratic party primaries. So now we find ourselves entering a neofascist era: a neoliberal economy on steroids, a reactionary repressive attitude toward domestic “aliens”, a militaristic cabinet eager for war and in denial of global warming. All the while, we are seeing a wholesale eclipse of truth and integrity in the name of the Trump brand, facilitated by the profit-hungry corporate media.

Now you may not agree that Bernie was crushed by Clinton and Obama unfairly, but you cannot argue with the rest.  Something is fundamentally wrong with Democrats.  Ask yourself what happened to rural America and safe Democratic fire walls?  Granted there is no excuse voting for a narcissistic pathological liar or believing anything he promised, but they were turning away from Democrats and the party that Hillary Clinton represented.  That is very hard for many Democrats to accept because we could see so many good things that might get done.  But there was a loss of faith that anything of real substance will change.  So they went with the snake oil salesman who may actually wreck the country.

It is time for Democrats to take a real look at who they are and look at some of things we all know were wrong, but we just assumed the President knew better.  I am taking my argument from both Cornell above, and Thomas Frank’s highly insightful book, Listen, Liberal:  Or What Ever Happened to the Party of the People.  Frank develops the back story and I wrote about this in my blog, Best of Times, Worst of Times. Now as you read this, I know you are going to argue he did the best he could given the circumstances and obstructionism of the Republicans. “The true problem, liberal thinkers concluded, were the whining, unrealistic idealists who expected so much from Obama—and of course those diabolical Republicans in Congress, constantly outmaneuvering the poor, powerless man in the Oval Office.”

But West, Frank, and I argue that is not true.  He certainly did what he thought was best and he always believed in consensus.  But had he a better grip on the real structural problems of our economic system, there was so much that could have been done.  But I get ahead of myself.

Frank lays out a back story that Democrats have become the party of professionals.  From my blog, Twilight Zone and Democrats, I wrote how Democrats became the party of the top 10%.  Our Washington extension of this is the best and brightest from all the best East Coast schools.  We believed that experts could solve everything if we just put our mind to it and the mistaken belief that education will cure unemployment, when the system itself is the problem.  This led to incestual thinking and the belief in complicated solutions to simple problems while trying to satisfy too many ideologies.

Make no mistake, inequality is the underlying problem of our economy and nothing we have done addresses it.  We have assumed that if Wall Street succeeds we all do.  We have assumed that we just need to tweak the system when we need to rethink the whole thing.  Okay, that is the back story, although Mr. Frank gives us a whole chapter on the Clinton Administration and how they turned their back on working people as they sought to align the party with professionals including Wall Street, their view of the future.  After reading that, you have a real sense why Hillary was the wrong candidate for the wrong time and I have written copiously about that here.

So we come to the Obama Administration, the administration of hope and change,  and I will quote Mr. Frank here:

If what we are concerned with is inequality, however, it would behoove us to admit the obvious forthrightly: that Obama could have done many things differently, that the Republicans aren’t superhuman, and that the presidency is in fact a powerful office…

Early on for the new administration, as for the old, an obliging consideration toward banker confidence took precedence over everything else. For fear of frightening the men of lower Manhattan, the Obama team dared undertake none of the serious measures the times obviously called for. No big Wall Street institutions were put into receivership or cut down to size. No important Wall Street bankers were terminated in the manner of the unfortunate chairman of General Motors.

So let me just list some of the things that could have been done differently that got us to where we are today (combination of Frank and West):

  • It was fully within Obama’s power to react to the financial crisis in a more aggressive and appropriate way: laws were in place, there was ample precedent, he wasn’t forced to pick the men whom Democrat Senator Byron Dorgan plaintively called “the wrong people” for his economic team. It wasn’t the Republicans who made Obama choose Tim Geithner to run the bailouts or Attorney General Eric Holder to (not) prosecute dishonest bankers or Ben Bernanke to serve another term at the Fed.
  • In March 2009, Obama met with Wall Street leaders. He proclaimed: I stand between you and the pitchforks. I am on your side and I will protect you, he promised them. And not one Wall Street criminal executive went to jail.
  • Obama could have questioned or even unwound Bush’s bailouts; he could have fired the bad regulators who let it all happen; he could have stopped the AIG bonuses instead of having his team go on television to defend them; he could have pushed to allow bankruptcy judges to modify mortgages; he could have put the “zombie banks” into receivership; he could have shifted FBI agents back to white-collar crime; and so on. He could have pushed for mortgage relief.  He did none of these, and the program was to save the banks and resurrect the old system.  Thus did the Party of the People turn the government over to Wall Street in the years after Wall Street had done such lasting damage to … well, the People.
  • Then there was the stimulus. Unfortunately, the biggest single part of it was wasted on tax cuts designed to lure Republican votes. Another chunk was wasted on coaxing state governments to embrace charter schools and to open their education systems to consultants and entrepreneurs.  What the sprawling stimulus measure did not include was the obvious thing, the most effective thing, the thing Americans of all ages remember that Franklin Roosevelt did— direct federal job-creation in the WPA manner. Obama was careful to avoid such things, because they would have expanded the federal workforce.  As a result, it missed out on another achievement of the Roosevelt era: the creation of spectacular and unmistakable monuments to activist government.
  • Then there was NAFTA which is he was against and then reversed.  It was another example of coming down on the side of corporations with nothing for economic equality or the working man/woman.  Now we have the TPP again negotiated by corporations to protect their large profits.
  • Take a hard look at Obamacare where deals were made with both big Pharma and the insurance industry to get their support. It allowed him to achieve the double mandate of making health care more affordable while preserving existing players at the same time. Obamacare essentially made our patronage of these industries mandatory. It was so over complicated to achieve these goals that we are living with these complications today.  And he never supported (except when he campaigned) for a single payer system.
  • Try to remember his pivot to gays and Joe Biden said the obvious.
  • Let’s not forget his turn from jobs to debt reduction. “Families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions,” he said in his State of the Union Address in 2010. “The federal government should do the same.”  Actually Economics 101 and Paul Krugman told us this is exactly what we shouldn’t do.  To me this whole thing was his longing for a grand consensus of the professional class that never seems to come.  Barack Obama displayed a passion for reaching an understanding with his foes that was at times embarrassing to behold and counter productive at best.
  • If we look at the stimulus, the Dodd-Frank banking measure, and the landmark Affordable Care Act, in certain remarkable ways, each of these legislative achievements followed the same characteristic pattern— one that diminishes their effectiveness but allows Democrats to pursue the professional consensus they crave.  Instead of arguing for a new way, we compromised away our future with policies that were minimally effective and highly complicated making them ineffective and easy to find loopholes.
  • When it became clear that the US tortured  innocent Muslims and that drone strikes were killing innocent civilians, the Obama’s administration told us no civilians had been killed.  Now they admit some collateral damage, and they continue with unknown number of “collateral damage.”
  • Obama’s education policy unleashed more market forces that closed hundreds of public schools for charter ones.
  • The top 1% got nearly two-thirds of the income growth in eight years even as child poverty, especially black child poverty, remained astronomical.
  • Labor insurgencies in Wisconsin, Seattle and Chicago (vigorously opposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a close confidant of Obama) were passed over in silence.
  • Let’s not forget that his administration has been one of the most aggressive in prosecuting whistle blowers and trying keep the press from printing the truth.
  • Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling and other truth-tellers were demonized just as the crimes they exposed were hardly mentioned.
  • The look ahead not back when we decided not to fully investigate and exposure our torture program under the Bush Administration.  This failure is allowing Trump to call for bringing it back.
  • And as deporter-in-chief – nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch – Obama policies prefigure Trump’s barbaric plan.

And this does not touch the spying on American citizens under his watch which Edward Snowden exposed.  It also does not address, at least directly, his failure to proactively and aggressively act on foreign affairs whether it was the red line in Syria or the Russian Hacking.  But I think the most important failure of both Barack Obama and the Democratic Party was the failure to understand the economic system is fundamentally flawed.

Oh, you can blame it on globalization or changing markets, but the reality is we chose to do nothing.  The Democrats became the party of the status quo and allowed the Republicans to be the party of conservative economics on steroids.  Now we are going to have to live with our complacency and the loss of our way.  President Obama did some amazing things.  But when it was time to take a stand, to make decisions within his power that could have changed things, he went with consensus.  And that is what enabled the mess we are in today.  Tomorrow, I will try to list the things he could do in his last days to set some things straight.

The real lesson here is not that Obama failed us, but we lost our way.  That the neo-liberal ideas we have all adopted, education solves all problems and economic inequality is just a reality we must all live with (and education allows us to be part of the winning team), are wrong and does address our fundamental problems.  Bernie rub noses in it, but got run over by the establishment.  Let’s hope we learned something.  Keep in mind that the Donald is in charge because Democrats failed.