Newly Discovered Favorite Things

I ran into two things today that I had never heard of before, both of which I am happy I know about now. The first is a song by John Stewart called “Mother Country,” which was a song forwarded to me by a friend in response to an earlier post. I had never heard of John Stewart, and here was this beautiful and masterful performance that just carried me along for over six minutes. I looked up John Stewart and found out he was a member of the Kingston Trio, and had been performing since I was a baby. How could this be? And then I found out he recorded a song called “Gold” in the ’70s, which I remembered, and which I did not like. And ten years ago, he performed “Mother Country,” and thankfully it was recorded, and now it’s one of my favorite things.

The second thing I ran into was a movie. I had opened up Quora and on a list of questions was this one: “What movie can you watch all the time and never get tired of watching?” I opened it up, expecting the usual answers like “Die Hard,” “Forest Gump,” “True Romance,” “When Harry Met Sally,” etc. Well, one movie came up a couple of times that I had never heard of, an Indian Bollywood movie from 1971 called “Anand.” Here’s a movie that’s been out for forty-five years, and is such a favorite in India that there are people who would love to see it over and over, and yet, it was completely unknown to me. It is the story of a doctor who was dejected in his work, who was tired of death, and tired of poverty leading to death. Then one day, a friend of a friend comes to town who is terminally ill, named Anand. Anand has cancer, and has only three to four months to live. And yet, he is cheerful. He tells the doctor “yes, I am going to die, and you are going to die. Right now, your body is breaking down, getting older and weaker, and you have only forty years to live. What does it matter as long as we are alive now?” It is a remarkable movie. I can see why people want to see it over and over.

Two favorite things in one day.

I am an optimist by nature. I look at the world, and I have to believe that we are getting better and better. I know we’re getting better and better. I believe that you can find whatever you look for. But if you look at existence you have to look at the full spectrum of existence, not just slices. Oh, there are atrocities on this planet. Oh, you can’t think of a way to kill someone that hasn’t been perfected by someone somewhere and been done over and over. And you can’t conceive of the worst things that can happen and have happened. There is always something awful that we can be shocked by, disgusted by, and fearful of. And we can do what we can to eradicate these things. But if we are to wallow in the awfulness of Man and the evils of disease and disasters, we must also contemplate the opposite: Beethoven. Shakespeare. Charlie Parker. The Beatles. And we must celebrate the good in humanity, as well. Doctors without Borders. Electrical linemen who brave blizzards to turn the power back on. The billions of small and not-so-small miracles that happen every day. I believe there is more good than evil in this world. As Fred Rogers said to do when disaster strikes: “Look for the helpers.” There are always more helpers than there are evil doers. Always.

And when I contemplate the good that is in the world, I am constantly reminded that there are incredible things I have never seen, and wonderful people I have never met. There are songs that have been written that I have not heard that will be a favorite of mine some day. There are places I have never been to that will be magical places when I finally find them. There are amazing books that I have never read. And especially, good friends I have never met.

And that is true for all of us. Keep an eye out for great things, and great people, because they are out there, and they will be your favorite things some day. It makes me happy to know that.

 

 

Samuel Whittemore, from 1775

Authors’s note: I wrote this on September 15, 2008. My encounter with the monument was early in 1997. I republish this on January 6th, 2017.

I was cleaning out my office and papers over the weekend, and came across a card that I wrote about eleven years ago. I was working in the Boston area, and in the evenings I liked to explore around.

I always had a passion for the American revolution. Growing up near Philadelphia only made it easier to indulge in a subject that already suited my anti-tyranical and libertarian leanings.

One night I was walking in Arlington, Massachusetts. Arlington is one of the small towns just outside Boston, near Lexington, Concord, and other towns that collectively were the birthplace of the American Revolution.

I walked by a park, and noticed a stone monument. It read:

“Samuel Whittemore, then eighty years old, killed three British soldiers, April 19, 1775. He was shot, bayoneted, beaten, and left for dead, but recovered, and lived to be ninety-eight years of age.”

After reading, I couldn’t help but blurt out aloud: “Now that’s a Man!” I took out a 3×5 card and wrote down the inscription.

It’s these things that capture my imagination. Think about it: Here is a man, eighty years old in 1775. Eighty. 1775. What does that mean in those days? No walkers. No Meals on Wheels. Wooden teeth, if any at all. No Lipitor or Geritol. If you were sick, they bled you or gave you some other Ungodly “treatment.” No antibiotics. No ice! No knowledge of clean hands before surgery, nor of using any kind of antiseptics — “antiseptic” was not even a word. He was shot. Beaten. Bayoneted! And lived. My God. He died at ninety-eight! I want his genes!

On top of that, I had this picture in my head of an old fart with a trusty flint-lock taking aim those red-coated soldiers, muttering as he was firing “take that, you British bastards! Get the hell off of my land!” I could hear him say after the last bayonet jabbed him “it’s only a flesh wound! Come back here you cowards!”

If you put this guy in a movie, no one would believe it. What a man!

As I started this post, I decided to Google him — and what a story. Turns out he was the oldest combatant in the Revolutionary War. April 19, 1775 was the first day of the Revolution — the shot heard round the world was shot that morning in Concord.

You know, it is important to remember that this country is not here by accident, that it took a lot of guts and blood to establish the USA and keep it here. The US has had many faults and sins, but they are faults and sins against a standard no other country even advocates, let alone adheres to. When we had slavery, we also had the Declaration of Independence, which states that all men are created equal. The lofty idealism of the Declaration beat out the base cruelty of slavery. There are people and interests from across the political spectrum that take shots at the Constitution, from universities enacting speech codes to cities enacting gun control to presidents suspending habeas corpus. Despite the onslaught, the rights remain, because they are so ingrained in our collective psyche as Americans and because we are diligent about pointing out and eradicating transgressions against them. So here’s Sam Whittemore, at the dawn of our country, showing what it took to get it done and get this standard established. We need to keep that in mind.

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.

 

 

Loss and Life

I lost my wife, Jenny, four months ago, on August 31st, 2016. Her heart failed. It was the worst thing to ever happen to me in my life, and these last four months have been the hardest I’ve ever had to endure.

Jenny was a “dializor” – a term she preferred to “dialysis patient.” She initially went on dialysis at 17 years old. She had a transplant when she was 32 which lasted ten years before the very drugs that prevented rejection destroyed her kidney, finally. She received the kidney on October 1st, 1994, and thereafter October 1 was her “rebirth-day.” It was a joyous day until 2005, when her kidney failed, and then it became a sad day as another year went by on dialysis. She was on the transplant list, but she was virtually impossible to match. So, she stayed on dialysis and persevered through setbacks, health issues, low blood pressure, mysterious infections and fevers, and pain. Her last year was difficult, and she finally gave up hope. And then she died.

This is an extremely abridged version of Jenny’s life, her struggle, and her fantastic resilient spirit, but for the purpose of this post, that’s what happened. Jenny and I were together for thirty years, eight months exactly. When she died, my life was over.

I knew that Jenny would pass before me. I never expected that it would be as devastating as it was and is. When you marry someone, you become in many ways one person. Jenny and I had a common life. We grew up together. We shared everything. We had passions that we shared, which no one else understood. We named our dog “C. K. Dexter Haven” because Jenny loved how Jimmy Stewart called that out in the movie “Philadelphia Story.” “C. K. Dexter Haaaaaven!” She loved the idea of having a small regal Sheltie have a such a long name. And, I’ll be damned, but the name suits C. K. Dexter Haven to a tee. Jenny and I loved that, and we totally understood it since we loved that movie, and I can tell you I was genuinely surprised that apparently no one else got the joke. C. K. Dexter Haven (there is no short-hand here. His name is C. K. Dexter Haven) was Jenny’s last birthday present. Thank God I got her that puppy.

When you have that kind of relationship, you die when your partner dies. I used to think  that it was over dramatization when the husband went crazy when his wife died, like in “Gone with the Wind” when Scarlett’s father goes crazy when his wife died. Now that it has happened to me, I get it. I heard of couples dying within days or weeks of each other. Will and Ariel Durant died within two weeks of each other. Just last week, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds died within a day of each other. People can die of a broken heart. I get that. Your life is over. You have to choose to live after something like this. It is not like you died. You did die, in that your life as it was is done. There is no going back. It is over. And in order to go on, you have to choose to go on, and figure out what the hell you are going to do. And whether or not you want to.

I am blessed with a son, so no matter what else happened, my job is to help him. He needs to grow up, and he needs support and love because his life as it was is over too, at twelve years old. I cannot change that, but I can help him.

There are a lot of things in life that allow “do-overs.” In the movie “City Slickers,” the frighteningly young men were in the throes of their respective mid-life crises where  they needed a “do-over.” When you lose your spouse, there is no “do-over.” It’s cussing over. Death is cussing final. Everything you should have said, you cannot say. Everything you should have done, you cannot do. There’s no reset button. You can’t “respawn.”

I’m in the middle of this. It’s been four months, so this is new. All I know is that I cannot rush the mourning. I cannot rush my son’s mourning. It is involuntary and primal this process. One of the things that has helped me is that while Jenny’s and my life was unique, what is not unique is that I lost my wife. Every successful marriage will go through this. One partner will live. One will die. It is, therefore, a fundamental part of the human experience. And I never knew it. It never even dawned on me until I lived it that this devastating thing is common. I feel that this grief is part of my DNA, that I am riding a wave of grief and mourning that shifts and morphs and moves around exposing all sides to the pain. I was with Jenny for 30 years. Given my family’s genes, I will probably live more than 30 years longer. My future life without Jenny is likely to be longer than my life with Jenny, and that that slays me. This process is like a rebirth. I have a new life. Whether I like it or not. So I think that this primal mourning prepares you for it, or it kills you.

We adopted our son at birth, and we were with the birth mother before and during labor. That, too, was a primal experience. I was getting sympathy pains. I always thought they were a myth. But no, they surprised the hell out of me. When my son was born, the flood of love that surged in me for this little baby boy was oceanic. I had no idea. There was no choice here. He was my son. He was from that moment on my guts. My sinew. My soul. I did not decide this: it was automatic.

The process of loss for my wife is similar, except it is primally enduring the pain of my past sliding behind me instead of the intense joy of creating a new future. They both seem like they are encoded in my DNA.

What do you do with this? What can you take from it? The movies treat widowhood as a transitory phase until you get your next spouse. Look at “Love Actually:” Liam Neeson gets Claudia Schiffer at the end and all is good. Or look at “Sleepless in Seattle:” Tom Hanks gets Meg Ryan and all is good. Both movies capture well the pain of widowhood, but I am not so sure of the solution. It is not so easy to move on from the love of your life.

The only thing I know at this point is that I had this beautiful life, and now it is different. It has awakened me to how ephemeral life is – not just the breathing part, but the contextual part. My life is different every day. Life changes every day. Each day is its own creation. And some people will be joining with you, and some people will be leaving. We blend our minutes and hours into days, and our days into weeks, months, and years. But each moment is discrete and unique. Some things just ooze along with minimal change, and sometimes things break suddenly, and the whole damn thing is now a new thing.

So, I decided that one thing I am going to do this year, is to be here now. Be present. Appreciate what is. Focus on the good. Embrace the bad. Alan Watts talks of life being like music. You don’t rush to the end; rather, you enjoy it as it happens. That is true. But what is more true is that life is like a playlist. One song ends, another begins. Musicians play in one, then they leave, and new musicians come in. And then, I guess, finally, you pack up your harmonica and toddle off yourself.

I know from experience that no matter what is said about death and dying, it’s not going to become real until it happens. There is no preparation. So what I can say is, if you live, surprising things will happen. Be ready to experience them, and to learn.

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

How to Combat Fake News: Support Real News

There are quite a few folks on Facebook, Twitter, and in the real world who take the bait on fake news hook, line, and sinker. There is no arguing with people who believe what they choose to believe and who reject professionals out of hand, and latch on to information which validates their fears or preconceived notions. This is happening in spades in Trumpist circles. Last weekend we had the insanity of our Vice President-Elect defending The President-Elect’s inane and unfounded assertion that he would have won the popular vote except for the “three million illegal votes.” And we have seen the great vacuum-minded assert the same BS, over and over. This is a lie. One of many, many lies, and the whole GOP is in on the con. As a long time member of the Grand Old Party (and now former member), this disgusts me.
It is easy to create BS and spread it around.
It is hard to do the work to dig and find the facts, and report them.
While this fake news epidemic is spreading, we are also in a world of change in traditional news media. Newspapers are closing, newsrooms are closing, and reporters are being laid off. Why? Because it is hard to monetize news online. And real news and journalism is hard work.
Despite the cuts, NPR, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other “main stream” media have been doing a yeoman’s effort trying to sift the BS from the facts. And, the very folks who hate the “lame stream” media elected a man who has stated he will “tighten up” the libel laws and who is famously at war with the media, and who praises insane quacks like Alex Jones – the same Alex Jones who with crocodile tears lamented the poor (and imaginary) kids supposedly caught in the so-called “Pizzagate” thing while simultaneously claiming that the real, red-blooded kids and teachers at Sandy Hook was part of a “false flag” operation and didn’t really die.
Cussing imagine that.
So – over 2.5 Million more of us voted against the Toxic Orange than voted for this Sludge in a Suit. I suggest that since the next election is four years away, with the midterm two years away, we can do something now to help minimize the damage the Tiny-Handed Moron can do:
Support the Media.
Support the folks that take the First Amendment seriously. And responsibly. They have a lot of work to do to counteract the so-called “post-fact” world that Trumpiots have created out of the strands of the orange mop that sits on the Thin-Skinned Wonder’s pate.
Subscribe to the news sources that you read. Support NPR. Support the Times. Support the Washington Post. Support your local newspaper. Support whatever publication you want, but support them. The Media has and will call out this Bumbling Blob and will continue to do so.
And they deserve support.

Alternative to Trump – Conservative Evan McMullin

In my opinion, Trump is completely and 100% unqualified to be president. Worse, he has no clue that he is completely and 100% unqualified to be president. Just the other night he reiterated his asinine idea that we should have “taken the oil” from Iraq, and that the US generals are “reduced to rubble,” that Vlad Putin is a helluva guy, and that he didn’t support the war in Iraq (he did – it’s on tape), that he knows more about ISIS than the generals (which led to the “rubble” statement), and that the military should have some kind of court system (uh, they do already).
He said all of this in the span of twenty minutes at the “Commander In Chief Forum.”
Somehow Trump supporters – I have no idea what they are thinking, except that there appears to be two reasons to be for Trump:
1. He’s not Hillary
2. He’ll shake things up.
Regarding the latter, that is true, but that is not a good thing. He got into a Twitter war with the president of Mexico last week – and he (or the Mexican president) lied about what went on in the meeting. My money is on Trump for the lie. Either way, it was cussing stupid. The problem with Trump not knowing the context around NATO, around nuclear proliferation, and with his having insanely thin skin and his policy (described in one of his books, and demonstrated in the election cycle) of hitting people back harder than they hit you, is that I can’t trust him with the military and the nuclear codes. I can’t trust him to run American foreign policy – he has no clue, and he has demonstrated that time and time again. And he has no idea he has no clue, which is incredibly dangerous. In my opinion, due to his erratic nature, we are more at risk of nuclear war, nuclear accidents, and economic collapse under Trump than otherwise.
Trump is not a Conservative. His policies are retrograde populist. “America First!” is not a conservative policy, it is an isolationist policy. Isolationist policies including tariffs lead to economic hard times. The Great Depression was exacerbated by the protectionist policies the Smoot-Hawley act, which raise tariffs and reduced global trade dramatically. Conservatives are about free trade, not the protectionist policies Trump is threatening.
He’s good at real estate, for the most part, and he’s good at promoting himself. That does not translate into public service.

In a two-party system that leaves Hillary. There are many, many people who are voting Trump just because he is not Hillary. This is a huge mistake.

Hillary is nowhere near as bad as her more extremist critics say she is. Millions of dollars have been spent over the years trying to even bring charges, let alone convict her. If she really is guilty, then the extremists trying to prosecute her are extremely incompetent – which means to be that are full of it. As they say, dox or STFU.

However, she is still a Democrat. I personally have never voted for a Democrat in my life. Hillary is no Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater. Her policies are straight-up liberal Democrat. So we know what she will do when elected. Which, actually, is a good thing. At least we know.

But just because she is the only  qualified major party candidate does not mean you have to vote for her. Just don’t vote for Trump. The GOP has fielded a candidate that pretty much guarantees the Democrats will rule the roost for the next four years, but we don’t have to fold. There are two alternatives to Trump who you can vote for to vote your conscience against Hillary, and also remain true to your Conservative or Libertarian bona fides.

The first is Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. He has a ton more real experience than Trump, and has actually been in executive office. He doesn’t seem to be a bad guy, but in my opinion the Libertarian foreign policy leaves a lot to be desired – but he is significantly better than Trump.
The second is Evan McMullin. Unlike Trump, he has loads of policy experience, and knows what being a Conservative really is.
Of the two, McMullin is my man – he seems a good mix of the Libertarian and Traditionalist factions of the Conservative movement.
True Conservative policies – true conservative policies – value freedom over concentrated power, and that includes concentrated power in the hands of the wealthy, not just the government. Conservatism means: progressing into the future by applying the lessons of the past. By championing freedom to be with as little hindrance as possible. By respecting our traditions and American history – and the constitution – while realizing that the blessings of liberty are not available to all, and should be. By respecting human knowledge and applying it to the betterment of all. American Conservatism is based on the American Constitution, one of the most liberal documents ever written.

To my mind the candidate that reflects true American Conservatism is Evan McMullin. I think that if you are a conservative, you should look into his candidacy. But whoever you vote for, please don’t vote for Trump.

 

Why Hillary?

Now that Trump is the official nominee for the GOP, and Clinton will be made official next week, for what it’s worth, here’s my take on all of this.
With Trump winning as presumptive nominee in May, I realized that the only hope was for Hillary to be president. There are reasons Trump inspires a Supreme Court Justice to break protocol and speak out, and a reason a slew of historians by profession feel obligated to put Trump in context as a dangerous anomaly. I have been incredibly vocal against Trump because he is manifestly unqualified for the job. There are so many reasons, I forgot half of them.
As a life-long Libertarian/Republican, Hillary and Slick Willie were always anathema to me – I am not a fan of the Democratic party, and I never voted for a Democrat in my life. Also, many of my Bernie-supporting friends were upset about Hillary’s nomination, and I wondered what any left-wing person would have against Hillary? Especially when compared to Trump. So, I realized, I better revisit this, because if Hillary is the only option, I better reevaluate her. So, I googled things like “what’s so bad about Hillary Clinton” and also “Why Hillary?”
Of course, up popped all the controversies. Vince Foster, Travel Gate, her unelected attempt to push Universal Health Care. All the Bill Clinton controversies – Monica Lewinski, the impeachment, the hair cut that stopped LAX for half a day (ok, I just remembered that – that was not in the Google results). Benghazi. Her waffling on Gay Marriage. Her defense of a rapist in 1978-ish (and oh, how she laughed when she said she could not trust lie detectors). And the email servers.

Two patterns arose.

First Pattern: Most of what she does that pisses people off, she does because she wants to get something done, and she doesn’t care or think about the emotional ramifications, or “optics”, of her actions.

Travelgate. She brought in her own people. She wasn’t thinking about the people that were already there. Seemed heartless. No, I say it was pragmatic, and expedient for her.
The defense of the rapist. Well, she is a lawyer. I heard her interview on the subject. She did what every defense lawyer is bound to do, which is mount the best defense she can for her client – and she went to extraordinary lengths to do that – even flying to New York to work with the one forensics expert who could possibly find the evidence to get her client guilty – and found he could not because the police and the prosecution screwed up the evidence. I thought to myself : Man! I want her for my defense lawyer. She did a great job, and the prosecutor should have been skewered for botching the case. Hillary was laughing at the inadequacy of the so-called “lie detector” not at the victim in the case. She is a wonk, and she is clinical.
The email servers. She didn’t want to fool around with government email servers, which probably didn’t have Blackberry access or even remote access to them, so she set up her own server with her team at her house. She mixed her personal email with her official email – and felt she could manage that. I believe she did it to make her job easier, not to hide what she was doing, or to evade email discovery. And the rules were fuzzy. So why not? I don’t see malicious intent here, only pragmatism. It was a mistake, but not a stupid one. It was an attempt to escape bureaucracy, and bureaucrats hate that. I read the materials, such as I could. The FBI made the right decision not to recommend prosecution in my opinion. But – again, she was not thinking about how it would look to do this, or the emotional impact it would have on those that assume she is doing yet another thing wrong.
So – upshot of the first pattern: I believe she has a touch of something like “Aspergers.” She is a wonk, is clinical, and does not necessarily suffer the emotions of people or think about how things “look.” I get that. I’m actually kind of like that. People assume ill intent when actually she just doesn’t think about or care about their emotional reactions. Such a difference from her husband!
Second Pattern: She has been relentlessly pursued by professionals for over 23 years trying to discredit her, find crimes, remove her from office, etc., etc., etc. She mentioned the “vast right-wing conspiracy” against her and her husband, and guess what? She is and was right. Look at the cussing GOP convention as the latest ridiculous attempt to discredit her. Governor “shut down the bridge!” Christie “prosecuting” Hillary from the podium, spewing discredited accusations, and getting resounding cries of “Guilty!” from the mass of GOP operatives. I thought: She has been hounded by people who know how to hound people for decades, and she is still standing. She’s never been found guilty, she’s never even been prosecuted. And yet her detractors continue to claim she is a lying criminal.
So: She is a wonk with a touch of Aspergers, AND she has lived through an onslaught of slings and arrows flung by the best in the business, basically unscathed. And, she has the skills to do the job – even if I can’t fully support her platform. So, yes, I can live with having her as president. And I think she will do as good a job as any Democratic president could – certainly better than Carter.
And – I want Trump to lose, and lose big. I want every GOP cynical hack who supports this guy to be out of politics when this is over. Look, Trump is not a bad guy in general as far as I can tell. But, just as I would not ask for Trump to operate on my heart or fly my plane, I cannot support him running the country. He has proven through his own actions, stated opinions, and his contradictory policies (stay out of the Middle East but eradicate ISIS, free trade but impose tariffs on China and Mexico, “embrace” LGTBQ but support a ban on gay marriage in his own GOP platform). I want Trump to lose so bad that the entire field of Trumpism is sown with salt, leaving that hate-filled faction of the GOP a barren wasteland, forever fruitless. Trumpism is not Conservatism. It needs to be forever banished. A landslide loss in November will do that.
So, go Hillary!