The Democratic Party Should Learn from FDR

Democrats should learn and read FDR rather than just ape his program names. FDR’s acceptance speech at the 1936 convention is amazing – and you can see why he was elected to four terms. In this speech, he lays out the case that while we won political freedom in 1776, the then-current fight in 1936 is for economic freedom – and that you can’t have true political freedom without economic freedom.

It’s a long read of course. The speech was half an hour long, short by today’s standards, but way too long for modern political discussion, but if you look at the economic problems we face now brought on by globalization, automation, concentration of economic power, and the resulting transfers of wealth and power from the middle- and lower-classes to the privileged, this speech is spot-on, and should be the playbook for whichever Democratic candidate goes up against the corrupt GOP machine.

Some excerpts:

“Throughout the Nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.

“An old English judge once said: “Necessitous men are not free men.” Liberty requires opportunity to make a living-a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.”


“Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.

“These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the Flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the Flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.”

“We are poor indeed if this Nation cannot afford to lift from every recess of American life the dread fear of the unemployed that they are not needed in the world. We cannot afford to accumulate a deficit in the books of human fortitude.

“In the place of the palace of privilege we seek to build a temple out of faith and hope and charity.”

This is FDR laying our his case for his fight against the tyranny of economic privilege. Much of what he tried to do crossed some lines – but he said in response (in this speech):

“Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales.”

This is greatness.

Double or Nothing?

Today marks two years since Donald Trump became President of the United States of America – and the demarcation date of my over/under on whether he would last two years. Well, despite a remarkable effort to take his own presidency down, a shut-down government, an approval rating that’s in the toilet, etc., etc., etc., he remains in office. Max Boot wrote an excellent summary today of Trump’s two years. As he said in the article, “If Trump has a saving grace, it is that he is so incompetent: A more cunning populist would be far more dangerous.” Thank God for that, at least. It was his incompetence that I thought would bring him down early. My miscalculation was that I didn’t think the GOP, in its wicked thirst for power at all costs, would rally around this jabroni. Having been raised in the Conservative/Libertarian/Constitutionalist tradition, I put way too much faith in the GOP and its purported ideals.

There’s a scene in the movie “Animal House” where Pinto, the character played by Tom Hulce, is contemplating whether or not to have sex with the mayor’s thirteen-year-old daughter. Up pops the “Devil” and “Angel” on his shoulders. The devil, of course, is saying “go for it!” while the angel is counseling to leave her be. Cut to next scene, where he wheels the girl back to her house in a shopping basket. Literally, she’s a basket case. In the end, Pinto makes the right choice.

Not so the GOP. Instead of wheeling basket-case Donnie Trump back to Mar-a-Lago, they jumped fully into bed with him, performing acts that would even make Larry Flint blush. I sincerely thought that the members of the Republican party would remember their ideals, their code, their principles, and their country, and sideline this incompetent loser. But no. As of this writing, we are two days away from a month-long shut-down of the Federal government. We are already experiencing the longest shutdown on record. This is squarely the result of the incompetence of Donald J. Trump. It lands completely on his shoulders.

To show Trump’s incompetence, I only need compare him to a “generic GOP” president – say, either Bush, or a Romney, or even a Ted Cruz. Look back at the two years we just experienced. When Trump was elected, he had both branches of Congress in GOP hands, and he had at least the benefit of the doubt that maybe he may calm down now that he’s in office. In these last two years, he had the votes and the GOP will to lower taxes, cut spending, fix healthcare, fix immigration, fix supposed trade imbalances, to name only a few. His biggest deal at the start was “Repeal and replace Obamacare!” With all the cards in his hand, he blows that one sky high. His only accomplishment was to screw up Obamacare without supplying anything that works at all. Any generic GOP president would have approached this very differently. First of all, they would have had something to replace Obamacare with. The GOP had nothing, and neither did Trump. Once they had the replacement program, the generic GOP president would have sold it. Trump did not sell anything, because he had nothing to sell – and because his heart wasn’t into it in the first place. Rather, he acted as if “Repeal and Replace” was something only the GOP congressmen wanted, so he left it all to them. And of course, he therefore blamed congress for its failure – McCain in particular. But the blame is with Trump, of course. McCain knew there was nothing there, and he ended up being the only GOP member with some shred of principle left.

Trump also unilaterally imposted tariffs on both friend and foe, completely defenestrating the conservative/libertarian hard-won principle of Free Trade. Generic GOP president would never do that. He ponied up to Vladimir Cussing Putin, for God’s sake, while insulting the leaders of our allies! Madone – imagine any Republican president choosing Russia over the CIA and our allies!

Etc., etc., etc. As I write this, it’s easy to move into trying to make the case against Trump, yet again. But really, the case was solid and there before he even was elected. He was never presidential material. Everything since has been the long parade of confirmation of his inadequacy.

Most of my Trump-supporting friends voted for him mainly because they really hated Hilary Clinton. And so just as they were blind to the reality of who Clinton is and was (not as bad as the Nutty Right lied about – pizza parlors indeed!), they were also blind to the reality of who Trump is and was (the lie about the “small” little one million dollar loan from his father, his blatant racism, ad nauseum). The case is made and more people are dropping their blinders every day.

Nonetheless, I was wrong. He is still here. My mistake was that I assumed his incompetence would catch up to him quickly, and that he would fall from grace as a result. I did not count on the GOP propping him up like Bernie Lomax from “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

I knew my “Under” was a pretty high risk, even as I took even-odds for the bet. I will, of course, honor my bet. But I offer double or nothing that Trump will not be president on January 21st, 2021. Any takers?

“Americanese”

From the Washington Post this morning (March 21, 2017):

Trump didn’t lie, Jeffrey Lord says on CNN. He just speaks a different language — ‘Americanese.’

What an outright admission of Trump sending “dog whistles” to his base of supporters. When I read this this morning, I thought of other “Americanese” expressions that Trump has been spouting:

“Make America Great Again” = Remove the brown people, give more money and power to the white people.

“Obama Wiretap” = You can’t trust those people.

“No Russian Influence” = Have more borscht, comrade.

“Largest inaugural crowd in history!” = In the history of ME, that is!

“Drain the swamp!” = Keep the poor white trash in the swamp, and hire my Goldman Sachs buddies into the White House!

“Build that wall!” = You don’ wanna know what’s happening behind these doors.

“Fake News!” = Bastards who keep figuring me out and exposing me.

“Dishonest Press” = (See “Fake News”)

“People are saying…” = Alex Jones and Infowars, Breitbart and Steve Bannon, Fox and Friends, a random plug-ugly toad, Richard Spencer, and a host of pimply adolescent boys, all tell me that…

“Alternate Facts” = Stuff “people are saying” to Trump.

The day after the inauguration, I wrote the post “Cautiously Optimistic,” in which I posited that I do not expect Trump to change, I consider him inadequate for the job, therefore, if I am right, he will fail at the job, and so if he is inevitably going to fail, he needs to fail fast so we can recover from this quickly. The “optimistic” part was that we have the US Constitution and the balance of power, we have true patriots on both sides of the aisle, we have the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and particularly the First Amendment. These are so ingrained in the American psyche that Americans across the political spectrum treat the constitution almost as Holy Scripture. Our whole society was founded on the idea of rejecting tyranny, so America just naturally spits tyranny out like baseball players spit out sunflower seed shells.

It’s been two months, and, so far, I have been right. Trump tries to doctor up his Muslim Ban in an executive order, and Federal Judges see through it and issue stays. Trump tries to control which media organizations get access, and it doesn’t matter, because his executive branch is a fountain of leaks. On top of this, Trump has remained Trump. He falsely accused Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower, and then did not back off when it was clear from his own agencies that this was completely false. He called U. S. District Judge James Robart a “so-called judge” in a tweet, when Judge Robart issued a stay on his travel ban. Federal Judges have been using Trump’s own comments as reasons to nullify his travel ban. In other words, Trump’s inability to filter himself combined with his  xenophobic tendencies toward Muslims provided enough ammo for the judges to shoot him down.

His incompetency at the job is showing. And throughout the campaign, and now into his presidency, he has demonstrated that he will not admit mistakes, and will not learn from his mistakes. This latter issue is a real problem. Everyone who walks into the Oval Office does so with zero experience at being president, and there is no job like it anywhere else in the world. Therefore, a new president will not know things, and will make mistakes. Kennedy had the Bay of Pigs. Clinton had the White House travel office. Bush Senior had “read my lips,” and Junior had his security missteps that possibly could have allowed 9/11. Presidents usually learn, and eventually avoid rookie mistakes. Except Trump. He is just not teachable.

Combine this inability to be taught with his continual lying, and you get a disaster, and that’s what we have now. The FBI is investigating his campaign for illegal ties to Russia and Russian influence in general; Trump greets this Russian aggression not as an attack on the US, but as a Democratic Party attack on him. His insane insistence that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower had his mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway idiot-splaining to us that hey, microwave ovens can watch us, and TVs can listen in on us! And, Trump actually joked with Angela Merkel that “As far as wiretapping I guess by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps.” Merkel (and America) was not amused.

Now one of his enablers is saying his lying is really just speaking “Americanese.” He is speaking a language that his true American followers can understand, but which the un-American “elites” cannot. Trump is creating newspeak. He is lying to his followers, and they swallow the lies like Large Mouths swallow the bass plugs they fish with out there in the swamps. He has the audacity to call lies “Americanese.”

Two months in and this is happening. This is unsustainable. I’ve been telling my friends that I have the “under” on Trump lasting two years as President. What this means is that I believe he will be out of office before (or “under”) January 20, 2019. The way things are going, my prediction is looking pretty good. As I said before, since it is inevitable, the sooner the better.

Sit Down at a Typewriter and Bleed

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” –Ernest Hemingway

Or was it Ernest Hemingway?

When I realized that Donald J. Trump was going to be the GOP candidate for president, I realized that anything I say would probably not change people’s views on the guy. The press and Trump’s supporters were deriding or hailing Trump (as the case may be) as being a new phenomenon. However, as a lay student of history and politics, I knew that Trump and the reasons he was selected were not new. Rather, Trumpism and populism and fear and loathing are as old as politics itself. People tend to think that the world they are in now is an unprecedented world. That the problems facing people in the twenty-first century have never been seen before. That the ’80s, or the ’70s, or the ’60s, were a more innocent time. The ’10s are so much more complicated.

The election of 2016, to me anyway, had parallels in the election of 1964, when Barry Goldwater was running against Lyndon Johnson. I was way too young to remember anything about that election, but we were a Republican family, and the underlying thought for years after was that Goldwater was a good man and should have won. I do a lot of chores around the ranch, and so I have time to listen to recordings and podcasts while I work, and I listened to Goldwater’s speech at the ’64 convention – you know the one where he said “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Ah – what a bad word choice. It was a contentious convention, which I did not know, and I was struck by the number of cigar-chomping delegates who were frowning and fidgeting as Goldwater spoke. I was surprised by the clarity of what Goldwater was saying – it was Conservatism 101, and actually not “extreme” at all, especially when looked at from a vantage of fifty years later, and after the Reagan Revolution and the downfall of the Soviet Union. Goldwater will always be tainted in the eyes of Democrats, especially, but he was a remarkable Republican, and one thing is for sure: we would never have had Nixon if Goldwater had won.

I was struck by the Conservative surge in ’64. Goldwater had quite a movement going, and Johnson was vulnerable due to corruption in his administration and to the old, FDR ideas the Left was known for and still pushing for. Johnson was no Kennedy. I was also struck by the tensions in the Conservative movement itself. Conservatives at the time had two factions: the Libertarians, and the Traditionalists. Libertarians were basically for a reduced government, and more individual freedom, which meant fewer rules, fewer laws, and fewer restrictions on what people do. Traditionalists were all about doing the tried and true: we’d seen it all before, we have answers that apply, there is no such thing as a new man, and the current upcoming generation is like every other generation that came up before, and should be treated that way. Religion played a huge part as the holder of the Moral Compass. Goldwater seemed to me to bridge the gap between the two factions.

I also listened to a 1962 debate between Goldwater and Norman Thomas, a prominent socialist who makes Bernie Sanders look like a reactionary. In it, Goldwater did a masterful job of defining what “conservatism” means. Goldwater defines conservatism in this debate as, essentially, learning from the past to find solutions to current challenges and to avoid making mistakes in order to progress society into the future. Conservatism in his view was not about stopping progress or returning to some mythical “good old days,” but to boldly, yet prudently, progress.

Just as Trump was disruptive to the GOP of 2016, Goldwater was disruptive to the GOP of 1964. Trump is a businessman, and Goldwater was a businessman. And that’s about as far as it goes. Goldwater was a senator, and had experience with government. Goldwater also had a serious demeanor: you knew he had a lot going on in his head, that he thought seriously about the issues, and that he methodically drew his conclusions based on reasoned reflection. His attitude in the debate with Norman Thomas was respectful and gracious – even when Norman Thomas was being rude. Goldwater was a fascinating, intelligent man. Trump, on the other hand, is not. And I thought the GOP could use a refresher in what it really means to be Conservative – because Trump is not conservative in any manner.

It is rubbish that the ’10s are somehow more complicated or different than the, say, innocent ’60s. I’m sorry, coming within an inch of a massive nuclear annihilation as we did during the Cuban Missile Crisis is not innocent by any definition. I decided therefore to provide some context to the election in my own way. Rather than pontificate, I thought that the best way to provide historical context and “space” was to choose appropriate quotes by intelligent people related to the issues of the day. So, I decided to publish one or two quotes a day as public posts on my Facebook feed. The first two were by William F. Buckley and Goldwater:

“Truth is a demure lady, much too ladylike to knock you on your head and drag you to her cave. She is there, but people must want her, and seek her out.” – William F. Buckley, Jr.

“Can any of us refute the wisdom of Madison and the other framers? Can anyone look at the carnage in Iran, the bloodshed in Northern Ireland or the bombs bursting in Lebanon and yet question the dangers of injecting religious issues into the affairs of state?”- Barry Goldwater

Don’t they seem a little timely? Post-truth is not a new thing. Neither is religious extremism.

So I started my quote campaign, and I ran into a problem: I could find a nice juicy quote attributed to someone, and then find out that the quote was not from that person at all! And yet, all the best quote sites had the quote: “Brainy Quote,” “Goodreads,” and a boatload of other quote sites popped up the same fake quote as if is was whelped by the Gibraltar of Truth. These quote sites crowd out the actual source of a quote (if there is one). Results from these crowd-sourced and frequently incorrect quote sites show ahead of the source document or news story on searches. As a result, a quote looks legit, but is not. Just as this quote at the top of this post by Hemingway is not by Hemingway. But it sure sounds good, no?

Therefore, I decided to avoid using the internet to find quotes, and instead, I bought a used The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. I like it much better. Even though many of the quotes are the same, the editors added history, sources, and cross-references to the quotes, so that a quote by Dorothy Parker (“Sorrow is tranquility remembered in emotion”) has a reference to Wordsworth (“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”) I just love this! This alone is worth the price of admission. And it provides a reason to use known sources rather than just assume some random site on the internet has any real information at all.

There is a relevance to the “Hemingway” quote, by the way: it is still a great quote, even if misattributed. My intention was to have it lead into an explanation of this writing project. I intend to write this year, and I intend to write from the soul, and instead of bleeding onto a typewriter, I’ll bleed onto my keyboard. Stay tuned.

 

“They Live” Does Not Belong to Racists

 

“On Wednesday, Hollywood legend John Carpenter hit back at neo-Nazis and white supremacists online who had been idolizing his 1988 cult classic, They Live, as an allegory for fighting against Jewish supremacy.”Gizmodo, January 3, 2017

One of my favorite movies of all time is “They Live,” the fantastic 1988 movie starring Roddy Piper which posits that the world is not what it seems to be. In “They Live,” aliens have taken over Earth and brainwashed us Earthlings into becoming docile food, using subliminal commands like “OBEY,” “CONSUME,” “NO INDEPENDENT THOUGHT,” etc. Roddy comes across a pair of magic sunglasses that show what the world is really like when you put them on: Some of the people milling about are really hideous aliens, and all the wonderful advertisements and traffic signs are all really commands to subdue you.

Somehow, the Alt-right Neo-Nazi faction have latched on to this movie as a way to show how frustrating it is to know the real truth only to have the “sheeple” just drone along without a care in the world. Naturally, if someone is antisemitic and not quite bright, of course “They Live” is about Jew Aliens taking over the world. What else could it possibly be?

It is so tempting to think  that people who don’t believe what we believe, or see what we see, are somehow brainwashed by some evil force. “Of course it’s the Rothchilds! How can they not see that?” or “Just look at the mastheads of all the ‘Lame Stream’ media outlets – they’re as jewish as chopped liver! It’s so obvious.

I waffle between being certain in what I know to be true, and being open-minded about possibly being wrong. I have changed my mind on some fundamental points of view in my life. I used to be for the death penalty; now I am opposed to it. I used to be a full-blown Libertarian, now I am more pragmatic about the benefits of government and law. I used to be a Republican, and now in the last election I voted for the first Democrat of my life. Things change. So what the heck do I know?

But some things are fundamental and unchanging. To broad brush individuals with group-wide stereotypes (i.e. racism, antisemitism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, hell – any phobia) is wrong and has always been wrong. So I am certain about this: racists who believe they have the inside dirt on what is really going on are full of crap. In fact, I say that racists and paranoid conspiracists who latch on to movies like “They Live” and “The Matrix” to explain their superior insights are not the guys wearing the glasses or taking the red pills. Nor are they the ones wandering around blissfully unaware of the evils that lurk in the world. No, they have it worse than that: they are the ones who are inventing imaginary evils of the world, creating fantastically bizarre worlds all their own, with made-up “truths” and made-up explanations, and who see the real world filtered through hallucinogenic smoked glass visors of their own invention. No one is forcing them to wear these things; no, they and their buddies don these glasses willingly, with their distortion fields all set to the same setting: eleven.

I wish I knew how to fix it. It is not a matter of fighting for six minutes to get them to put the magic glasses on. No, I think it is a matter of figuring out how to get their damn glasses off.

In the meantime, they need to leave “They Live” alone.

 

 

Trump: Use Couriers

“It’s very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old fashioned way because I’ll tell you what, no computer is safe.”

Donald J. Trump

“Dimitri… look, Dimitri… Dimitri, the carrier pigeon is… look, it’s on its way, alright? Just hold off on the bombers… I mean for now, ok?… Well, I can’t tell you over the phone! Someone might be listening!”

Riff on Dr. Strangelove. Imaginary call between the President and the Russian Premier Dimitri.

I don’t know what to say about this. Using couriers to send communications because “no computer is safe” is asinine. Shall I spell out why?

Any computer leaks that happen in the current age are due to sloppiness rather than an inherent risk of computing. The DNC emails were hackable because of weak processes, for example, not because any old schmo with a computer can open emails like a can of peaches. Messages can be encrypted with technology that renders them virtually impossible to crack.

Regardless of crack-ability, consider the process. Let us compare the methods of sending an important message from the President to the Senate Leader, for example.

Method A: An encrypted message exchange using an internal computer network disconnected from the Internet, in which the message is encrypted in transit with the highest level of encryption. I don’t know if this is really how an electronic message would travel from President to Senate Leader, but it certainly is doable. The president or his aide types up a message, sends it, it is encrypted in transit, decrypted on receipt, and the senate leader reads it.

In method A, a bad actor will have to have physical access to the computers. Unless he is looking over the shoulder of the sender or recipient, all he is going to get is an encrypted message – which is virtually unbreakable.

If we modify method A a bit and allow the message to be sent across the internet via something like a super-encrypted Instant Message server, then the bad actor may get the encrypted message, and again, it is virtually unbreakable. To avoid Podesta-style breaks, we apply a two-factor authentication that requires a password and the code of a physical code key. That one thing would have stopped the Podesta-leaked emails.

Method B: The president or his aide types up a message and hands it to a courier. The courier is mugged on the way to the recipient, and the message is now in the hands of the bad actor. Of course, the message could have been encrypted and then printed, but that would require… a computer. Unless you use easily-cracked platens “the old fashioned way.”

We have been using encoded electronic messages at least since World War II. There is no other way to look at this than that Trump is clueless. There is no defense of this.

Welcome 2017!

I’ve been joking that we entered into an alternate universe the day Lemmy Kilmister died at the end of 2015. How else can we explain 2016? It seems like every week – hell, sometimes every day – some core part of our collective soul was ripped out with the announcement of yet another brilliant person departing this orb too soon, or our hearts were broken by the deaths of innocents in Nice and Orlando and Chicago and Aleppo and Istanbul, and the too many other places around the globe. I am happy to see 2016 slide into the past.

And yet, this new year is a strange one. I am fretful of 2017 simply because Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States on January 20th, and all signs lead to a bumpy ride. Trump is a volatile man, and I know many of his supporters believe his take on the world and disbelieve the “main stream” media and “career politicians.” I find it astounding that Trump and the Trumpists believe Russia and Vladamir Putin over all our own loyal United States intelligence agencies, for example.

On the other hand, I know America is great, that our imperfect system nonetheless is a robust system, and that this Republic of ours is greater than any one man, and can withstand any attempts to derail it. We are not Germany in the 1930s. We are not Italy in the 1920s. We are not Russia in the 1910s. America was founded on the concepts of Liberty, and Liberty is such a part of our DNA that freedom is a given. No one anywhere on the political spectrum is even considering repealing the Bill of Rights or changing our constitution.

The election of Trump was a monumental event. A lot will happen this coming year on the political front. Some of those things can be monumentally bad, but the optimist in me thinks we’ll avoid full-on disasters. There is a limit to what a GOP congress will do, and while Trump is volatile, he is not suicidal. Odd that I have to say this, but Trump’s desire to bask in a wonderful legacy is probably enough to keep him from pressing the button.

The Left and the Right are both invigorated. The Left (and certain “Never Trump” folks like me) never really took Trump seriously and were resigned to a Clinton presidency. However, Trump made chumps of all the experts and was elected, and as a result the Left has been shocked into action. On the Right, Trumpists are ecstatic that their guy won. They are crying “Mandate!” and are getting their plans in place. Right now, I can envision the groundskeepers laying down new chalk lines, trimming the field, and brushing off the mound in the 2017 political arena, with the teams in their locker rooms getting ready for the contest. This new vigor can only mean good things, ultimately. And so I am optimistic for 2017. I believe we will not only survive the Trump presidency, I believe that we will be stronger for it… eventually.

Happy New Year!