How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in ’t!

I doubt that Shakespeare, when he penned those words in The Tempest, was anticipating that one day there’d be an Internet platform called GAB, whose basic operating principle would be this: Free speech means you can offend, criticize, and make memes about any race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Sick and tired of the double standards for “acceptable speech” and “protected classes” on both the left and the right.

The boldface lettering is mine.

There is a huge difference, and one worth noting, between criticizing the acts of others and offending people you don’t like. Offense for the sake of offense should be considered unconscionable, though it passes for criticism in the age of Trump.

And “protected classes” is so loud a dogwhistle that even the dogs are blocking their ears. Who are those protected classes, after all, except every religious, ethnic, racial, and gender minority who continue to endure persecution, not only from rabid white supremacists, but also from garden-variety bigots like the president.

Donald Trump didn’t shoot anybody last Saturday, but he provided the consent, the license, his trademarked thumbs-up—provided the oxygen for Robert Bowers to gather his weapons and take them to a Pittsburgh synagogue on October 27, 2018.

In the three days since, Trump has continued his own personal attack on the protected classes—this time the caravan of displaced and impoverished Hondurans seeking asylum. As per Trump’s misuse of the military, 5200 soldiers will stop them. With guns, I presume.

Robert Bowers will never see the light of a free day again, but it would be foolish to think that there aren’t more like him, quietly taking their marching orders, not unlike those soldiers, from the leader of the free world.

 

 

Endorsing Oz Griebel: It makes sense, but is it wise?

I was more than a little surprised that the Courant has endorsed Oz Griebel for governor, though with the current field of candidates, I probably should not have been. He’s the only one with policies that don’t sound like political ads:

—like Ned Lamont is for no Trump, which sounds a little like a bid in bridge, but doesn’t say very much about what he’s actually for—except saving the state. He won’t.

And Bob Stefanowski’s plan to cut taxes is a lot like most people’s plans to lose weight: no specifics—it’ll just happen—while he’s saving the state. It won’t.

So there is something appealing about a candidate beholden to neither political machine, especially when the machine is so rusted and in such disrepair that it needs replacement. But Griebel, though he checks all the progressive boxes including a woman’s right to choose, is still a Republican. Moderate yes, and not tethered to Trump or Graham or McConnell, but this is the wrong election cycle to convince me to vote for any Republican, even at the state level.

Since Trump doesn’t care about Connecticut, electing another Democratic governor won’t send a message to Washington. It’s unlikely the Republican leadership has even a tangential idea of whose running here. But Stefanowski has expressed an affection for Trump (though in truth he has made a clear distinction between the president’s economic principles from his moral lack of same) and has refused to talk about any issues and any strategies. With Bob, things will just fall into place and we won’t have to pay for it. Until you do.

Furthermore, NPR’s Colin McEnroe made an interesting point last week: senators and representatives slowly work their way up the ladder in Congress, gaining more and more traction with time; governors, however, are at full speed from day one. Only Lamont’s running mate, Susan Bysiewicz, actually knows people at the Capitol. Most of Lamont or Stefanowki’s terms will be used up making introductions—Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m the governor.

Of course no candidate has called me yet, breathlessly awaiting my endorsement. Suffice to say this is the wrong year to ask me if I might vote for a Republican—any Republican. Oz Griebel may be a good choice, and he may make a fine governor, but (1) he’s not going to win, and (2) Democrats have always suffered when a third party has drained votes. 

Living in a blue state is one of those few political joys we can still share: I hate to give it up. Now if Oz Griebel wants to pull a last minute JFK and declare Ich bin (ein) Democrat, I might reconsider. In fact, if neither of the other two gets serious in the next seven days, I may bite the bullet anyway and vote for the guy anyway.

“Come to think of it, who gets attacked more than me?”

Since you recently conflated a pipe bomb attack with media criticism, Mr. President, let’s have a go at answering that:

—How about thousands of immigrant children separated from their parents at the border or otherwise detained, confined, or caged…in your country;

—Or thousands, if not tens of thousands, of voters whom your party attempts every day to disenfranchise;

—Or tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, in the LGBTQ community who face further abrogation of basic human rights with the Kavanaugh Court…yes, your Kavanaugh;

—Or hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of American women—citizens, by the way—whose reproductive rights are under attack by a right-wing cadre of religious zealots…in red hats;

—Or millions, if not tens of millions, of black Americans, Latino Americans, Muslim Americans, and other minorities—citizens, by the way— who awaken each morning knowing not only that they live in a racist country, but that the leader of that country is an avowed racist himself, and has been throughout his life;

—Or tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of human beings across the globe—from Florida to the Maldives, whose very way of life will suffer and sometimes end from the impact of your fondness for coal, your attachment to oil, and your fatuous, lame-brained, and moronic insistence that the science of climate change is a hoax.

That’s who gets attacked more than you. Kind of puts your puny existence in perspective, doesn’t it?

And I didn’t even mention—until now—all the hard-line, nit-picking grammarians out here who know that ...attacked more than me should be …attacked more than I. Then again, rhetorical questions like yours don’t require answers, so we’ll call that one a draw.

But all the rest is on you.

“I know words, I have the best words.” We’re still waiting to hear them, Mr. President.

Every day I find a word-for-the-day in my email box. Sometimes I know it; often I don’t. Once in a while it elicits a blank stare.

Today was a blank stare kind of morning—my reaction to prosopopeia.

Even the definition was abstruse: a figure of speech in which an imaginary or absent person is represented as speaking or acting. It’s a little like personification if that helps.

I was just about ready to add prosopopeia to my “never use” list when I remembered that (1) Trump is still president, (2) he once said he had “the best words,” (3) he actually has the worst words, (4) words are powerful, and (5) knowing prosopopeia makes me more powerful than the man whose dictionary traverses the language from “beautiful” to “sad” with very few stops in between.

Maybe that part about being powerful is a bit of a stretch.

But prosopopeia is relevant today, especially as we embark on the second half of Trump Term One and continue to fret over where our country is headed. There has been, over the past two years, a good deal of invocation of the Founding Fathers—attempts to deduce what they would say and how they would respond to a tyrant in their midst. 

They had their own. A king. As we apparently do.

Now you can claim that an external threat differed from our internal one, but don’t forget Russia, and there’s the fact that even during the revolutionary period Americans were divided: there may have been no red baseball caps, but there were Redcoat-sympathizers, Loyalists. Tories.

And on the right side of history were Jefferson, Adams, Paine—if we invoke prosopopeia, what do these thinkers say in the face of the current crisis? 

One thing is certain: they don’t throw their hands up in despair, nor do they look the other way and hope everything resolves itself. Instead they look the rest of us squarely in the eye and paraphrase Benjamin Franklin who, at the end of the Constitutional Convention was asked if we had a Republic or a Monarchy and responded, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Two and one-half centuries later, that’s where we are. Can we keep what we have?

Foreign intervention and domestic malfeasance now threaten that republic; stupidity and ignorance threaten its democracy. These are the times…well, you know the rest.

We don’t need big words, but we need strong ones, not only from the Democrats but from the Republicans who have maintained or regained perspective. The issues are out there, and they don’t involve DNA tests or former candidates. Instead they involve our health, our safety, our liberty.

Prosopopeia is not the answer: voting is.

(Even so, prosopopeia is better than bigly.)

Pulling a Homer: Elizabeth Warren wins an important victory…for the Republicans.

Sometimes I think if we all watched the Simpsons more often and paid attention to Homer’s peccadillos, we might save ourselves from similar offenses.

Take the episode from the 90s where Homer is offered witness protection and told he will receive a new identity. Unaware of what that means, he chooses to become former Denver Broncos football player John Elway and immediately launches into a fantasy in which Simpson scores a touchdown in the Super Bowl. He then celebrates in the endzone, unconcerned that his touchdown has made the final score, Denver 7, San Francisco 56.

Fast forward to Elizabeth Warren.

Her recent meaningless endzone celebration flaunting her DNA results made the final score Warren 7, Trump 56. If not worse. She, to quote another episode, had pulled a Homer.

We cannot afford to have her do this, and by we I don’t mean her supporters—I mean anyone who wants the floundering Democrats to gain control of some—any!— part of this government.

Does anyone seriously believe that her “victory” will become the deciding factor for voters on the fence? Is her DNA result more compelling than any of these preceding Trump bombshells?

  • Khizr Khan at the convention?
  • The Access Hollywood tapes?
  • The disparagement of John McCain?
  • The non-disclosure of his taxes?
  • The coronation of Kavanaugh?
  • The abuse of the children at the border?
  • Puerto Rico?

This list could go on for pages, exposé after exposé, all for naught. And Elizabeth Warren’s proof that she truly is 1/1024th Cherokee (though maybe not pure Cherokee!) will not turn the tide. Any chance of that was dashed when the Cherokee Nation released a statement accusing Senator Warren of “undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”

Native Americans have often looked to the Democratic party to preserve their rights and improve their lot. Warren’s gotcha will not help.

Trump said he would donate a million dollars to charity if she could prove her heritage, then denied having said it. He’s a liar. Did we really need that last shred of evidence?

The liar is also a dunce, but a dunce with an uncanny knack for gauging the temperature of the American people. He even has the nice house on Pennsylvania Avenue to prove it.

Elizabeth Warren is not a dunce, but her intelligence let her down. And I don’t mean to pile on, but she must take one for the team and quietly disappear until November 6. After all, if the Democrats are perceived as the party which, instead of worrying about health care and education and the environment (and now the Saudis), cares more about scoring a meaningless touchdown as time expires, time will indeed expire.

And a dunce will continue to occupy that nice house on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Choose your favorite autocrat: the selection never used to be this good.

Whom do you like better, Recep Tayyip Erdogan or King Salman. They’re both world leaders for whom our “world leader” has shown great admiration. It’s just a question of which one you like better.

It’s a tough call.

A year and a half ago Trump called Erdogan to congratulate him personally on his election victory, this despite overwhelming proof of voting irregularities. The “victory” enhanced Erdogan’s virtually autocratic chokehold on Turkish citizenry. Autocratic chokeholds are one of Trump’s leadership goals, so there’s a feather in Recep’s fez.

In March of this year Salman’s son bragged that he had Jared Kushner in his pocket. He later denied having said it, but it was reported by numerous corroborating witnesses. This week Trump lamented the possibility of losing the Saudi leaders’ friendship, one destined to pad the U.S. coffers with billions of dollars in arms purchases. (To see these purchases in action, check out Yemen—while it’s still there. When you see what that country looks like, it’s hard to eliminate Salman from contention.)

Complicating the issue is the Trump-Kushner-Erdogan-Salman love-fest having fallen on hard times, and all because of some rogue killers—about fifteen of them—who snuck into the Saudi consulate in Turkey on October 2 and then silently, and without anyone noticing anything untoward, killed and dismembered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen who had been living in the United States. Khashoggi, a self-exiled Saudi journalist and prominent critic of the Saudi crown prince, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate that day to obtain documents he needed to get married. If rogue means invisible and fabricated, these fifteen were the roguest ever.

I’ll be the first to admit (all right, maybe not the first) we can’t blame Trump for everything that goes wrong in the world, but a president who has excoriated journalists and portrayed them as enemies of the people cannot now pretend to care about one of them having been murdered by another autocrat who feels the same way—and winked at by a third. Trump worries about the money—the exploding deficit which has come about through tax breaks for the wealthy and an obsession with military spending. If billions from the Saudis were suddenly to dry up, our deficit would reach the approaching $1 trillion even sooner.

For most of us Jamal Khashoggi is a human being endowed with certain inalienable rights, but for Trump he’s a political annoyance—a financial impediment. Nobody can say with a straight face that Donald Trump cares one iota about the well being of any American with a name like Jamal Khashoggi, especially when Mr. Khashoggi has become, by dint of his occupation, an enemy of the people. “World leaders” have little time to waste on one human life.

As for my original question, I guess there are really three choices…and Duterte won’t like being left out.

Fighting fire with fire works during wildfires; sometimes different tactics are required.

Donald Trump referred to Maxine Waters as a “low IQ person,” an accusation he hurls at just about every person he knows who isn’t white. Or isn’t Kanye West.

Good Americans have to fight back against such broad and demeaning generalities; unfortunately, at times, they have to fight back also against people like Maxine Waters.

In June of this year she urged harassment of Trump administration officials in public places to let them know they’re “not welcome anymore, anywhere.” Most Democrats with a scintilla of sense recognized this as rantings from frustration, but some did not. Her suggestion stuck, and now the Republicans are using Waters’s urgings to prove that the Democrats are wild-eyed lunatics bent on destroying the country. Of course it’s a ridiculous accusation, but Waters’s inappropriate suggestion is still out there. On record.

In recent weeks there has been a good deal of criticism concerning the ages of the Judiciary Committee, the implication being that they’ve lost touch, that they’re mired in beliefs from a half century ago. It’s hard to discount that, but it’s hard not to discount also that the combined ages of Maxine Waters, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, Patrick Leahy, and Joe Biden (to whom many Democrats are looking in desperation) is 396.

This doesn’t make them unfit for office, but it does reduce the significance of our argument that the old white Republicans constitute the problem. We Democrats can’t have it both ways. But we can have it our way if we truly trust what we believe in.

Liberal principles.

John Locke proposed that people had natural rights to “life, liberty, and property.” The role of the government, he said, was to preserve these rights.

Life, liberty, and property. They stand on their own. They don’t require an apology. And they don’t require browbeating Republican legislators who don’t agree with us.

A free and effective education, a health care system that does not pauperize a victim, a job market that provides a living wage, a safe and secure place to live for all citizens, the freedom to make our own choices with regard to religion and lifestyle, equal opportunity without regard to race or national origin—these are all concepts with which we grew up and which we accepted. Maybe at some level we knew there were people in our own country who opposed those beliefs. They were called anarchists and radicals; now they’re called Republicans.

But we let it happen. We were smug and self-satisfied, complaisantly agreeing that “both parties are the same” and “what difference does it make?” or, as I heard during the election of 2016, “maybe it’s time to shake things up.”

Consider them shook.

Now we want the instant fix—throw the Republicans out of restaurants, harass them on the streets, excoriate them on Facebook. Meanwhile the damage being done to the liberal principles of our country are almost beyond imagining.

How do we stop this? First off, let’s stop being stupid. Let’s stop using illiberal tactics to promote a liberal agenda. Trump is an amoral, vapid, and simplistic boor. Not even the Republicans can deny that. But he’s winning because what we heard about sticks and stones is, alarmingly, true.

Second let’s stop continuing to be stupid. Let’s stop shouting at Flake and Collins, Graham and McConnell—they can’t hear you. They’re in bed with Trump where it’s warm and safe and comfy. And let’s stop the unrestricted censure of Republicans—stop acting like the frenzied and hysterical mobs we castigate at the Trump rallies—and work steadily and methodically to remove these people from leadership positions before their damage becomes irreversible. It took the Republicans fifty years to nurture and perfect this perverse autocracy, but we can’t wait fifty years to subvert it: by that time, we won’t even be able to define democracy, let alone revive it.

Us: Not my president! Trump: Not my hurricane!

The “leader of the free world” had a decision to make yesterday, and as always, made the one that benefited the leader of the free world.

On the same day as an unprecedented natural disaster occurred in one of “his” states, he opted to attend one of his pep rallies rather than monitor the situation—one that more than likely will eventually involve FEMA, the National Guard, and a plethora of aid organizations. And when I said his states, I meant one of fifty, not a red one.

As I’m writing this the sun is rising on the Florida panhandle. News reports last night warned that only daylight would illustrate the full scope of the horror. There are already photos on the wire—towns that resemble those which have been devastated by tornados. Towns that may never be rebuilt. We’re not used to that here in the states: Katrina, Sandy, last year’s Harvey, and the recent Florence all displayed the relentless power of water. This was all of that, but different: this was shrieking, howling, devastating wind—it was equivalent to an F-2 tornado sitting over your town for an hour or two.

[Note: An F2 tornado produces winds of 113-157 m.p.h producing “Considerable damage. Roofs torn off frame houses; mobile homes demolished; boxcars overturned; large trees snapped or uprooted; light-object missiles generated; cars lifted off ground.”]

Of course Puerto Rico experienced this last year with Maria. Puerto Ricans know what it was like to face a disaster in the Trump presidency. It’s a roll of paper towels and a basket of thoughts and prayers.

Mexico beach
Mexico Beach on the Florida Panhandle before Hurricane Michael
Michael
Mexico Beach after the ten foot storm surge and the 155-mph winds

Of course Trump’s enablers will counter by asking “what could Trump have done at the height of the storm? Go there and get in the way?” Of course not, but how about a national broadcast, a reassurance to the victims and to us  that their government was “on this.” Even if power was out and those suffering the most would not have heard him, their relatives would have, and there would have been a sense among all the rest of us that things were going to be okay.

He could have been Reagan after the Challenger disaster; Clinton after Oklahoma City, Bush after 9/11, Obama after Newtown. It’s what presidents do. Instead he was Trump after everything from Charlottesville to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

Missing.

He chose to drown our sorrows in his pep rally, at which he deigned thoughts and prayers for the victims and assured his crowd of myrmidons that he would be heading to Florida.

We can only hope it’s not a stop in Panama City and Mexico Beach on his way to the first tee at Mar-a-Lago.

 

 

“It’s time to move on, time to get going/ What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing.”

Everyone remembers “Get busy living, or get busy dying” from Shawshank Redemption. We don’t always remember another pair of quotes that, today, are particularly apropos:

I. The concession from Red (Morgan Freeman) that “hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”

II. The written response from Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins): “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Many of us are wrestling with those two conflicting positions this morning, and while I’ll admit to being cynical and sarcastic at times —I SAID AT TIMES!—I really am generally hopeful. On days like this, of course, the challenge is greater.

But for those of us who held out hope that some elected officials would come through in the end even though they never had before (even with health care, it was only John McCain), we simply move on to the next battle. I will not diminish the significance of this last loss—trying to put a positive spin on Brett Kavanaugh is like, well to use a banality from a decade ago, like putting lipstick on a pig. In the end, you still have a pig.

But I take some solace this morning in the fact that many of the Republicans voting to confirm Kavanaugh know that he is unfit for the job. Partisan as they may be, they cannot unwatch the spectacle of September 27, 2018: a man out of control, screaming and whimpering through a job interview, in front of a national TV audience. That will stay with him, and it will be resurrected every time one of his decisions goes against the Democrats or abrogates the rights of women. And his enablers—most of whom are not without conscience or sensibility—will learn to admit that their fear of losing a re-election bid or incurring the wrath of the king outweighed their duty to the Constitution. Let them live with that. And let them live with their brazen dismissal of Christine Blasey Ford, who is the only hero of this piece, and the most damaged victim

As for us on the sidelines, as Tom Petty sang “It’s time to move on, time to get going/What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing.”

Tom Petty died just a year ago, but my reference today transcends the lyrics of one song. There’s a lesson in his music: constancy. Tom Petty songs from the 80’s sound a lot like his songs from last year because, for him, they were the right sound. In like manner our beliefs in the basic goodness of man, in the progress of civilization, in the stewardship of the environment, and in the human rights of all people—in short everything missing from the sensibilities of Trump, Kavanaugh, McConnell, and their ilk—should continue unaltered. The tactics may have to change, but the overriding philosophy cannot.