Sunday, September 24, 2017

How Do You Explain the Silence?





Have you noticed the silence?   Many among us don't talk about the not normal America.  Polite people convey the impression that life goes on as usual, though  these are far from usual times.  They avoid the unpleasantness of discussing the mood in America set by our political leadership,  if you're willing to call Trumpism leadership.

Every day from President Trump we observe and hear insults; blatant lies, exaggerations, support for violent, racist, misogyny,  threatening language, personal and group insults.  We see shock and disdain from other world leaders. Trumpism is  dismantling hard earned government protections for rights, safety and life giving support and security that  prior generations in some cases even gave their lives to secure for us.

Yet most around us are silent.  They do not speak of this dismantling of democracy and just plain social decency.  They appear not to either see nor hear the abuse, neglect and horrific treatment of so many around them.  They act as if life goes on; as if this is just a temporary aberration to be endured before normalcy is restored somehow, by somebody.

History had taught us that this has happened before.  Chroniclers have documented in detail how fascist regimes have slipped into power in such countries as Spain, Germany and Italy.  We have highly researched documentaries as to how the quiet people, the majority, stood idly by as rights were stripped of their neighbors and then, ultimately, them.  We know that the nice people just went about their lives without acknowledging what was happening to their societies, let alone objecting or in rare cases, resisting the authoritarian take over.  They remained silent because they were nice people.  Their silence destroyed their communities, lives and families.  Their silence was complicit with evil doing, death, destruction and immense suffering.  

I have family members who just won't speak or write about the transformation taking place right in front of them.  You do  too.  We have neighbors who continue to engage us with small talk as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening to their society.  Is it too painful for them to disclose their horror at what is happening to them, their families and neighbors?   Or is it just easier to remain oblivious, to avoid speaking of the unspeakable?

Most people I regularly engage with, both personally, in meetings and on the internet are eager to share their alarm, disdain and eagerness to confront, resist, speak against and voice their outrage at this amazing fascist transformation.   These are the people I choose to be with, to support and be supported by in this most trying of times.   But most around us behave like ignoring the evolving fascist state will somehow stem its relentless tide.

Look at what has happened in less than a year.  Trumpism promised a wall that would be paid for by our neighbor we're trying to keep out.  Trumpism promised to stop immigration from people displaced, their homes and lives ruined by others committing violence against them and their communities.
American citizens were urged by Trumpites to publicly display hatred for fellow citizens and to threaten them with violence if they got out of line.  They were lied to about the source of their economic pain and anxiety, those who looked different from them and lived in cities.  They were promised non-existent jobs and told this land was their land to prosper from, because they were of the right descent. They were told the Washington swamp was going to be drained and run like a business.  Instead, it was drained of expertise and commitment to do good and sent off to lay fallow. Trumpites are systematically sabotaging anything public......healthcare, education, environmental  protection, public spaces, consumer protections, civil rights, criminal justice. They were told great deals were going to be made with other governments to make things better for them, the Trumpites.  Instead, those government leaders were systematically insulted, dismissed as irrelevant and turned into opponents, if not enemies.  Now we face potential war, maybe nuclear war with a hostile North Korea we fought to a stalemate 65 years ago, led by a mad man no less deranged than our own  mad man.

Those of us choosing to resist in our own way know who our opponents are; the fellow fascists Trump has allied with and who are systematically dismantling not only our government but republican democracy itself.  They are operating openly and unashamedly. They are aided by a thoroughly corrupted Republican Party controlling Congress and most of our courts, who have chosen to retain power rather than retain democracy.  We can hopefully deal with them in the election booth in 2018, or at least blunt some of their abuse of power and neglect of democracy.

Those we have to worry about are the quiet ones.   We must call them out.  We must challenge their courage to speak and act.  Embarrass them if necessary.  Withdraw our friendship if necessary if they remain oblivious and gutless.  Confront them as necessary.  These are the people who speak, see and hear no evil.  They will bring down the American Experiment, not the Fascists they enable.




Monday, August 28, 2017

I Grieve For Houston






I cannot take my eyes off the weather channel and CNN coverage of the disaster besetting my beloved home for 45 years and the suffering of all my friends there with this massive catastrophe.
You may have noticed a press conference held by their respected mayor as the disaster unfolds.  Sylvester Turner, an excellent Democratic state representative and son of  Houston's Acres Homes community is calmly advising his fellow citizens of help forthcoming to save them from further harm with nearly 50 inches of rain in a period of a week, typically a years worth of rain for this tropical climate.  Sylvester is a Harvard educated black man who loves his diverse city.  His presentation is followed by information from Houston's Hispanic police and fire chiefs and Anglo Republican County Judge.  This is bipartisanship and multiculturalism at its very finest.  This is my beloved city where we raised and educated our four children.  I'm very proud of their bravery and resolve.

What was so impressive was how the Hispanic leaders smoothly switched from English to Spanish in their presentations, representative of the so very treasured multi-cultural environment that is Houston.  It will be very tough and very expensive but Houston will rebuild and once again prosper for its people because the residents there really show love to one another even under these most difficult circumstances.   It is a model for much of  a very racist and bigoted red  U.S.A.

But rebuilding will be challenging because it is at sea level or slightly above and decades of ignoring reality in its face regarding its primary industry, oil and gas as major contributors to the climate change have to be reconciled with jobs and prosperity.

This is the message I want to be heard by my Delaware friends.   Houston, for all its goodness ignored reality and science, though much of its industry is very science based.  It welcomed and actually ushered in the oil industry which has driven so much of our national economy.  Not unlike Delaware's welcoming of chemicals as the basis of its corporate economy.  Now both Houston and Wilmington face the challenge of both mitigating the local environmental damage but also the demise of these lucrative industries which provided prosperity and comfortable livelihoods for their citizens.

Further, Houston, in the interest of fulfilling the demands of an increasing population partaking of the prosperity, built residential and commercial properties with abandon.  In Houston's case, no zoning exists to protect and provide sensible design for communities both residential and commercial.  Yes, standards of construction and development exist, but were both loosely regulated by city and county government and often skirted for economic advantage for developers and builders.  Houston as also been known as a developers paradise.  Growth was its primary goal and boy howdy did it ever happen.

The result has been concrete where grass and soil should be to absorb water draining from gully washer rains this tropical climate produces.  Yes, bayous were engineered to mitigate drainage but the planners didn't or couldn't account for the massive growth this 4th largest American city experienced.  Houston began to experience flooding beyond normal expectations starting 30-40 years ago.  Planners simply couldn't/didn't account for all that explosive growth.  And planning was always skirted to foster growth.

Exxon and much of the oil and gas industry have understood the climate change impact their production of carbon for much of these 30-40 years, but covered it up.  The oil and gas industry is heavily populated with environmentalists; The Sierra Club and many other environmental groups are populated by informed oil and gas industry employees and have always been robustly active in Houston.   They  warned, but corporate America didn't listen and because of the prosperity created, much of the Houston area citizenry simply didn't want to hear the warnings.

Who can criticize this very human phenomenon ?  The conflict between commercial prosperity and more esoteric and sometimes futuristic consequences is an age old conundrum.  Crystal ball readers have and never will be as popular as those bearing gifts to enhance prosperity.  It simply is a human failing.  But one Houston and Delaware must confront.

Some of my fellow Delawareans have heard in recent days about AddicksBarker Reservoirs in Houston and the release of water cause more flooding during the current catastrophic flooding.  This is because there are now flaws in the structure of the dam threatening breakage of the walls.  Houston has been warned for several decades about this infrastructure problem in the hands of the Corps of Engineers.  The warnings have been ignored in the interest of growth and prosperity.

An environmental engineer by the name of Jim Blackburn has brought the science of this dam issue threatening hundreds of thousands of nearby residents for decades.  All of Houston's elected officials and county officials are well aware of Jim's science and systematic forewarning but have looked the other way because it will require massive investment to shore up the walls.  This means tax money and you know Americans and tax issues.  Anathema to even liberal political leaders who don't want to face the heat.  Yet another very human trait. But now Houston has to face up to the truth of  infrastructure spending or absence thereof.  

So, Delaware.  Be forewarned.  Here no one wants to talk about sea level rising, a climate change reality we face in a big way.  But we have to both talk about it, as well as toxic waste in our rivers and land from years of industrial pollution.  It is either face it now or face even more dire consequences as my beloved Houston is currently facing.   We owe it to future generations, though I realize this is a really vague, elusive concept.

Lessons to be learned from Houston's tragedy, both man made and made by nature.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

More Deplorable Than Many Imagined

60 + million of us imagined the deplorable situation America finds itself in because we had civics classes in school apparently many didn't, read history, talked to relatives who like some of us, experienced Nixon and Reagan and before them, the depression, fascism and WWII.   We are the people who think critically and understand republican democracy compared to authoritarianism.

The other 60+ million didn't and mostly still don't.  They really don't care about democracy.....they only care about their own small bubble.  That goes too for the few million Stein and Johnson voters who do not understand the give and take of democracy and also live in their own little bubbles and ultimately, gave us the Presidential choice of the first 60+ million above.  They live in their own authoritarian  mental space with a dose of greed and selfishness in the case of the libertarians.



So, here we are.  Yes, the deplorables were properly defined and are on the sidelines, if not the marching columns, cheering on the Nazi's, KKK'rs and Alt righters trying to move us to violence so they can vent their rage through these deviants. 

The Deplorable rage is about privilege and bigotry learned I guess from their parents and some peers.  Their rage is about their own failure to secure the economic future they envisioned when they mostly didn't educate themselves beyond high school thinking they didn't need to be more learned or more informed to succeed in life and career.

Life has not gone well for most of them and they are willing to bring down the grand American experiment and those of us who were engaged in trying to perfect and improve it to prove their power.  Theirs is the power to destroy, disrupt, reverse and build roadblocks to move forward.  They are the people of NO.  They are the people of me, not WE. 

We will defeat them with love, generosity and non-violence.  And when we finish, we'll lift them up and give them a chance strive for their dreams, if they have any.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Republicans:Where Have The Conservative Statesmen Gone?


Watching the shit storm in D.C. and having seen Dunkirk, the amazing film this week, I am reminded that conservatives once produced some great statesmen and women.  One thinks of Winston Churchill among them.

Churchill had the humility and pragmatism to reach out to the liberal icon Franklin Roosevelt for desperately needed help to save England  from the ravages of fascism from the Third Reich.  Roosevelt and America were more than reluctant to reengage in a European war given our horrific losses in WWI.  But Churchill was persuasive and persistent and FDR committed our nation to two nearly impossible military tasks in both the east and west.

Churchill was a classical politician with a huge ego and massive ambition.  But he swallowed some of that ego in asking for help because he was also a realist with the facts in front of him.  It was particularly galling for him as a very strident anti-socialist to have to reach out to a liberal who had some very pernicious socialist ideas.  But for his countrymen he put the personal aside and pleaded.

In doing so, Churchill became a hero of both the left and right, particularly as the tide turned from military disaster, such as Dunkirk to success in latter war years crossing from the U.K.to the shores of Europe.

Now lets look at conservatives in America, embodied by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.  Here they are doing their damnedest to defend  the first American Fascist President and explain him to us.  I don't need to explain Trump to my readers.  He and his fascist gang resorted to collaboration with Russia, hostile to the Democratic candidate who had the temerity to call Putin out on Ukraine and Syria and challenge his illegal interventions.   Ryan and McConnell are silent on this treasonous collaboration.

Ryan and McConnell were silent on the Trump gang's  overt racism, appeals to violence in political rallies, mysegeny, advocacy of sexual abuse and promises they knew he and they could not keep such as healthcare repeal.   They were silent when the Trump family brought their greedy pursuit of greater wealth into the White House with shameless self dealing, both immoral and illegal.

Ryan and McConnell's naked, shameful support for voter suppression and distortion of democratic processes to enable their power grab already showed compatibility with the Trump abuse of democracy.  Opportunistically they saw a collaboration with Trump would enhance their mutual ascent to greater power, wealth and influence at the expense of democracy and the needs of the people of America.  No thought of country or compassion for those just trying to make their way in life seeking some semblance of economic and social stability seems apparent.  They are in pursuit of their own power agenda and the rest of us be damned.  There seems nothing in either leader's character to suggest a commitment to justice or compassion.  Theirs is a commitment to some vague notion that small, minimal government services as somehow serving humanity in need of fair wages, healthcare, education and justice.  This is the current Republican Party of NO and REPEAL with a proud history of abolition of slavery and the Teddy Roosevelt era of populism and environmentalism.

Now they are discovering that reversing  what is left of our democratic protections and a fierce opposition to their dismantling of what is left of our social order is no easy task.  They have failed to produce legislation to dismantle the work of Barrack Obama and the Democratic Party in spite of insatiable hate for his and their successes in restoring a collapsed economy, reduction of a war machine drowning us in blood and debt and improvement of a tragic joke of a healthcare system.   Their resentment of America's first African American President is boundless and it is now displayed in all its ugliness.

Yet,  the opportunity to reveal whether statesmanship from them is even a remote possibility lies right in front of them if myopia doesn't prevent their recognizing it.   If they have the humility and pragmatism of one of their icons, Winston Churchill, they will reach out to Democrats to both rid our nation of the early forming cancer of fascism and begin to address the social, structural and economic problems in particular besetting their own ignorant base.

I am not hopeful they will rise to the task before them.   I can be open to the remote possibility of redemption of their past commitment to elevation of the wealthy and suppression of the non wealthy as somehow not worthy.  This seems to be based on a theological notion that the latter group do not deserve humane treatment because of defects in character as ordained by some creator somewhere.

Churchill put magical thinking and ideology aside to become one of our great Statesmen.  History and facts informed thinking seems beyond Ryan and McConnell's grasp.  Should their behavior continue, can we as a national survive this travesty?  Only in spite of them, not because of them.  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

We Must Initiate A National Reconciliation Summit


 Our nation is in crisis and jeopardy of fragmentation, or worse.  I propose that congress put a moratorium on all legislation and our national political leadership convene an extensive summit meeting to begin the process of reconciliation between left and right, Republican and Democrat, liberals and conservatives.  We simply cannot go on like this any longer.

Gridlock has evolved to near civil war.  Right now mostly a war of words, lawsuits, political contests and legislation.  It is taking us nowhere.  We have huge issues to resolve is we are to continue as a functioning democracy or at best, a facade of one.

These issues include what kind of economy we want going forward, how will that economy provide for productive, life sustaining employment for all needing to provide for themselves and families?  Do we want a federal system on some kind of loose confederation of states ?  What level of protection of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness to we want going forward?  Is there a more fair system of raising funds for government services than the current taxation system?  How much safety net of social services do we want from our federal and state governments, if any?   How will the health and education of our populace be provided?  How do we guarantee equal treatment and equality of our citizens?  What are the duties of citizenship?  How do we protect religious liberty?

I propose that the first phase of the summit operate for at least 6 months along with the legislation moratorium, meeting daily with the goal of crafting a  Bill of Reconciliation to be ratified by both houses of congress and each state legislature dealing with the major issues dividing us, along the lines of the previous paragraph.

Initially the summit would be convened consisting of the Speaker of the House and Minority Leader, Senate Majority and Minority Leaders and  the Chairs of the Democratic and Republican Parties and a liberal and conservative from the sitting Supreme Court. This first phase would be moderated by co-moderators Obama and Bush, recent ex-Presidents.  Legislators would go home for 6 months (excepting crucial votes to keep government services running) and during this period run town hall Reconciliation sessions for input.

Their first order of business would be to settle on the issues to be reconciled.  Their next order of business would be agreement on a body of bipartisan solutions.

These solutions would then be debated and reconciled by a  convention of all sitting governors with a 2/3  affirmative vote or better.  This would be the second 6 months of the Reconciliation project.   The final Bill of Reconciliation would be referred to all state legislatures for ratification, again with a 2/3 affirmative vote or better.

Once these are ratified by state legislatures, it would have the force of the law of the land.   The final product might be voted on as a series of amendments to the Constitution though frankly I think a Constitutional Convention process should be avoided given the toxic atmosphere we are in now, which would bog the entire project down much like the ERA. And frankly,  this latter process would take years which in my opinion we do not have before total fragmentation occurs.

I know, I know. This all sounds like fantasy land, but isn't something like this idea worth a try to genuinely get a non-shouting conversation going to restore democracy in America and save our country and get it on a positive track?


Monday, May 29, 2017

Boards Of Directors Are A Problem, Not A Solution

America is experiencing organizational catastrophes causing much of our public distrust of them and one another.  This crisis is not exclusively owned by congress, political parties or government.   Among those organizations are boards of directors charged with running public universities, school districts, corporations of all kinds and  pension trust funds for public employees.  Look at the make up of most of them.  Middle aged and old white men.  Clearly representative of one very narrow demographic.

Let's examine some of their problems and some solutions to restore public confidence in institutions in America.
Problems?
School boards are elected by a very narrow cohort of the population.  Candidates are often put forward by interest groups around board activity, policy and business.  These elections are often held at obscure times with candidates who are even more obscure even to a tiny share of the electorate who are motivated to vote in these elections. 25 of 46 states have cut their public education state funding from -24% to -.05 %.

Public university boards are mainly political appointments made by state executive administrations and governors.  These appointments are often rewards for campaign contributions and support.  Student loan debt in 2017 stands at around $1.4 billion with 44 million borrowers. 

Corporations boards are nominated by incumbent boards, founders and large investors and venture capitalists.  In 2016 American corporations were hoarding $1.9 trillion in cash and no one can explain why.  Corporations historically have been borrowers, but apparently the model has reversed.

Pension boards are most often appointed by elected officials such as governors and mayors in the case of public institutions. Moodys reports that state and local pension funds in 2016 are shortfalling by $7 trillion.

All of these institutions are is crisis.  School boards are rife with political factions causing divisive disagreements, education system ideological disputes, re-segregation and major funding crises.  University boards malfeasance has caused massive cost inflation, off the charts tuition and fee increases, massive student debt and obscene spending on stadiums and amenity facilities which have put research and faculty on the back burner.  Example, look at the new football stadiums.  Public corporations boards engage in self dealing, neglect of ethical oversight and massive ignoring of societal damage caused by their decisions.  Just look at the record of commercial banking during the '08-'09 collapse of the financial sector and the more recent example of abuse by Wells Fargo.    Pension funds at all levels are in crisis with terrible overestimation of investment returns and underestimation of  future funding requirements and allowance of raiding of their trust funds by associated government entities.  Just look at the state of Illinois and cities like Detroit and Dallas.

Solutions?  Certainly I am a layman when it comes to organizational finance.  But I've served on a couple of small corporate boards and several non profit boards and have at least a sense of potential solutions.  School boards need representation from teachers, students and parents they serve and a closer match to the community demographics.

Public university boards need student and faculty representation and less influence from alumni with respect to athletics and physical facilities and more with respect to academics and cost management to emphasize affordability.

Corporate boards need major regulatory reworking to increase representation of women, minorities and workers.  They also need greatly increased board responsibility and accountability regarding the impact the organization has on the community, including environmental and economic impact on their decisions and that of their management team.

Pension fund boards, particularly those serving public sector employees need much more fiscal and actuarial expertise.  They also need a balance of this expertise and employee/pensioner advocacy to assure sustainability and financial stability.

All these boards have some 'splainin to do.  Public schools are spending way less to educate way more kids; this makes little sense.  Public universities are driving many of these kids into a life time of financial struggle rather than financial improvement by being better educated.  Corporate boards are hoarding trillions of cash with record earnings while complaining about paying too many taxes and doing little to expand employment opportunities for the aforementioned kids.  Pension funds seem to offer a very unstable and potentially bleak future for those who work harder and longer than any other western nation citizen.

From the beginning to the end of life, these boards simply are failing America.  It is time to rethink them.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Democrats Need To Do Their Work On Main Street

 I am generally moved by Matt Taibbi's writing in Rolling Stone.  This time he's missed it.  He thinks messaging is the solution.  To some degree he's right, we need great improvement here to win, but its source and targets must improve massively along with the content.

By source I mean Democrats need to rely on main street messengers, right in our neighborhoods.  Messengers from the DNC, DCCC and DSCC are all well and good.  But the most impactful messengers are your Democratic neighbors and local neighborhood organizers.  There is solid research to prove this and a massive body of history of local Democratic party success.  The organizers used to be called, maybe somewhat disparagingly Ward Healers.

 Ok, don't use that term, but you get the idea.  The local people representing the party that serve the base and party build with the unengaged.  Forget the Deplorables.  Nearly half the electorate don't participate in Presidential elections, and more don't participate in local elections.   Ward Healers did it by offering a hand in solving local problems.... in tandem with local Democrat elected officials. .Mundane stuff but hugely important to the much discussed working class we're criticized for neglecting.  Help networking for a new job; getting trash collected, landlord disputes, bus line changes, a closed feed store in rural country, local tax collection issues.  These kinds of things that impact the daily lives of people.  This is where the Ward Healers got their voteser  Helping people out with the mundane but critically important to the working families the party talks so much about.  This is where we get the new blood for our party.

This is where you build loyalty and a sense of value in peoples lives, not TV and internet ads, twitter feeds and DNC press conferences.   Yes these latter things are useful, but they are tools to put in the hands of local organizers to reach people, reach into their lives and their hearts.  And it is needed not just during campaign cycles, but 24/7/365 in your neighborhood.   In the local vernacular, dialect and cultural ethos.

Communications experts have well proven that word of mouth information (and disinformation) is the ultimate goal of any external communications to people.  Stuff that gets passed along at local barber shops, bars and grocery stores.  And this is where the Democratic party has eroded its influence, excepting in some select urban neighborhoods in Chicago, New York and Atlanta.  Republicans have perfected it is rural and ex-urban America.  You might note it works really well for them out there.  They get tremendous turnout.

The so called consultant experts have no concept of this or the ultimate power of word of mouth, the ultimate driver of results, affinity, loyalty and voter turnout when the chips are down.

Messaging needs to be local, localized as well as national and nationalized.   Democrats need to think of the rank and file as their sales force.  This is where the difference is made.  This is where we lost those 70,000 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.   Not in the fancy models of the techies running Hillary and the DNC's campaigns in 2016.  And this is where Trump trumped us.  He recognized it and what did he do.....had rallies to energize the great unwashed.  Rallies that were talked about before they were held and long after the stadiums and gyms emptied.  Local stuff, organized by local people. You need to get this people.  This is how you win school board elections, property tax referendums, justice of the peace campaigns and local county commissioner races.

Peer pressure and peer support is what "Better Together" should have meant, not some vague notion of kumbaya on a theoretical level of a better society. The blame of our failure is mostly owned at the local party level, not the DNC. It was the local party leadership that let the neighborhood organizations wither and failed to build a local bench of party volunteer to keep it going.  Yes, DNC money can help.  Yes, we might need to find some money to pay neighborhood organizers.   It can help a lot, along with some DNC training expertise and skill sharing.

But yes Virginia, all politics is local and we've forgotten that.  Matt, you're too taken with the national level messaging as our major deficiency.  We need to rebuild local neighborhood messengers.  The lack of messengers in the neighborhoods is the major deficiency.  A party dealing with the mundane, daily problem solving in peoples lives will bring value and loyalty and deflect some of our really disturbing racism and racial/economic resentment that we have to work around to move people in a direction that they perceive will improve their lives.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Trump & Foreign Policy: A Clear And Present Danger

Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the security, safety and stability of our country.   Here I am referring to his conduct of foreign policy, without a policy and without consent of his Party, my Party or the American people writ large. His domestic issues leadership is a subject for future blogs.

Any thinking person can look at his chaotic twitter rants on foreign policy issues and leaders. Any thinking person can look at his meetings with foreign leaders, allies and competitors alike.  Any thinking person can read the uncoordinated statements from him, his Vice President, his utterly unqualified Secretary of State and his Defense Secretary, his UN Representative and in all of this, only conclude that he poses a threat to our very security and physical safety.

I will not regurgitate all of the above to you in the interest of brevity.  Even you Authoritarian fascists electing and supporting him can find an abundance of misstatements, threatening rhetoric, insults in his demeanor and words with foreign leaders.  Behaviors which destabilize relationships with allies and now former allies as well as competitors, which you fascists regard as standing up for America.  The public record and google can supply an immense inventory of these thoughtless events in the past 90 days.

He's alienated the U.K., Germany, NATO and the EU and our neighbor, Mexico.  He's insulted them without provocation.  He has committed boorish behavior with foreign allies such as Germany and Mexico.    He has terrified South Korea, Japan and we really don't know about China, because no transparency was offered regarding the content or results of their leadership visit last week.  He and his Secretary of State have met with foreign leaders without media transparency, causing us to read foreign press to find out what he and they are doing and saying to one another.

Most alarming of all, in the space of a week he has bombed Syria and mega bombed Afghanistan with virtual carte blanche given to his military commanders so as to not interrupt his golfing schedule.  And increased ground troop commitments in both Iraq and Syria and perhaps Afghanistan without advice and consent of Congress or media transparency.  And simultaneously Trump has threatened Iran regarding what he views as a bad deal with them and questioned their long term nuclear intentions without evidence or information.  Quite a week of international hostility.

Oh, wait, maybe the foregoing was not the most alarming.  Maybe most alarming was his sabre rattling and naval armada misstatements without being informed by his Navy of what was actually going on in the waters off North Korea.  We citizens are given to speculate as to who is more crazy, Kim Jong Un  or Donald Trump.  We do know from his words that he is equally ia verbal bully with that Dear Leader with the bad haircut.  Wait, they both have bad haircuts.  I'm talking about the North  Korean haircut.  This event, still ongoing, is terrifying if you are paying any attention.

In single days he's enunciated one tactic or another and then been contradicted by his press secretary, Secretaries of State and Defense and U.N. Representative.

Someone wrote and I agree, this is the first time since as a kid I was told to protect myself from an nuclear blast by curling up under my wooden desk at school that I have felt terror when bedding down at night, not knowing if WWIII was beginning the next morning.

I referred to clear and present danger Trump represents in the top of this article.  Ironically, these words had their origins in a Supreme Court case in the early 1900's referring to anti-war activists accused of posing a threat to our nation with their criticism of efforts to gear up for WWI.  I hope you see the irony in my accusing our utterly unhinged, chaotic and ill informed President failing in his attempt to bring his version of business style leadership to our terrified populace.  His supporters are terrified by people of color threatening their privilege.  His detractors, like me, are terrified by his lack of judgement and absence of advisers to compensate for that deficit and mental/emotional stability to understand  the world the rest of us live in.

I fear for us.  This must end.  Ending eventually is not a reasonable option.  It must end now.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Tutorial For Millennials On Fascism/The American Parallel

 
 I am addressing millennials here about Fascism because I see scant evidence that your history and world affairs studies have familiarized you with this horrific political system that is quickly being instituted in your country and mine. The Trump regime, with complicity from most of the Republican party and much of the unengaged electorate, seems not to care about its implications for the great American Experiment with democracy and your future.  People often seek political power in order to enhance both their wealth and their prestige and when they see a segment of the population who might support an authoritarian approach to governance, they create strategies to alienate that segment from the mainstream and offer them quick solutions to their frustrations and outlets for their alienation.

While Trump appears to shoot from the hip, behind him, both in the White House and in the shadows of his still very active campaign organization is a group with the intellect, cunning, tools and money to advance the fascist cause.  This is not the first time in America, my millennial friends, that we have flirted with Fascism.  It was very alive and well in the thirties with a group of mostly industrial titans who worked very hard to keep us out of WWII and were sympathetic to the Third Reich.  Compared to the admirable grassroots organization of the Bernie campaign still very much in play at this writing, the people behind Trump are dangerous, very rich and way ahead in mobilization tools to advance their despicable notion of government by the elite.

Germany had a history of unrealized domination of Europe with their defeat by neighboring countries, supported by both the U.K. and the U.S.A. in WWI.  This defeat was followed in about twenty years of rebuilding with a crushing economic depression.  The people of Germany were economically devastated and looking for help from their government.  That help, over time, evolved from a tiny minority of right wing revolutionaries who promised a renewed national pride and economic solutions.  These were the fascists ultimately led by Adolph Hitler.  The Third Reich emerged and built a war machine and national movement to support it.

What caused America to mobilize a war effort to help defeat the fascist Third Reich?  What was so threatening to us to upend our struggling nation's effort to dig out from the Great Depression and go into another world war?  First, our allies, with agreements formed after WWI, pleaded with our reluctant nation for help, particularly Britain.  We had a very strong America First movement going because of our struggling economy with still many out of work  and with depleted family savings lost in the Great Depression, economic crash.   It took a lot of convincing to get us reengaged with the world,  but the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan's hyper aggressive desire for domination of much of the eastern part of the world gave us both no choice and the motivation to mobilize world wide.  We saw huge threats from both the east and west for our very existence. Germany's domestic policies and authoritarian suppression of their own people was not our motivation, nor their treatment of Jews and other minorities.  Their invasion of neighboring countries and threats to the U.K. was the driving issue to engage them militarily.

My generation, those of us born in the Great Depression,  were forever changed when our fathers and mothers joined a national effort, not out of choice, but out of dire necessity to fight the fascist regimes of Germany and Italy in the early 1940's.  My father, well over draft age, in his thirties, signed on as a commissioned officer to go to the UK and work in the allied forces to help launch the invasion from their shores.  My mother volunteered with my grandmothers to prepare wound supplies for the red cross's support for our wounded.  As a family we experienced terrifying air raid blackouts and very inconvenient food rationing as food supplies became depleted from military use.  The whole U.S. economy converted consumer manufacturing from goods of convenience to goods for war making.  It was a crisis in this country with the the threat of potential German and Japanese invasions on either U.S. coast.  Many of my peers lost a parent in that war giving their lives to preserve the American Experiment in democracy.  It was perhaps the only fully supported war our nation has fought since the Civil War, though that support was slow to develop.

What I want you to understand, point by point, are the similarities between the Trump administration and, as a specific example, the fascist government of Germany under Adolph Hitler.  I will highlight some of those more than coincidental similarities which unmistakably mirror the rise of fascism.  Fascism was historically not limited to Germany and Italy.  Spain, Chili and other south American countries have adopted fascist policies and embraced strong men leaders in their histories.

The militarized police state
 I begin with the German police state so often depicted in film.  You know the drill.  The SS or Nazi police invading the home of an accounting clerk accused of violating some dubious law as a ruse to justify said home invasion to look for evidence of some other crime against the state.  This parallel here in America we cannot blame on Trumpism.  It started back in the 60's with the War on Drugs.  It evolved through both Republican and Democratic administrations to the full militarization of our local police departments which used to be called Peace Officers.  Now they are full blown war officers with home invasions looking for drug evidence and massive shows of military force on the streets with peaceful protests consisting of people armed with signs and maybe a bullhorn or two.  We are now the most militarized officers of the peace on the planet, rivaling the policing excesses of the Third Reich.   Trumpism has brought more retired military into civilian federal positions compared to other recent federal administrations in my opinion.  

Authoritarianism
As governed people in democratic countries become frustrated with the slow adoption of change by competing groups in the governing process, they are sometimes exploited by ambitious politicians
promising that they alone can bring solutions and change.  The Third Reich and the strong man Adolph Hitler presented themselves in that fashion with extreme nationalism and singling out groups they contended were the cause of gridlock and economic stagnation, while undermining their democracy.  Trumpism exploited elements of our society in an identical fashion by promising that a businessman could govern more effectively than the political class, claim that only he possessed the answers to gridlock and stagnation.  Gridlock is not caused by the typical slow bi-partisan sausage making for solutions to our economic inequality; our current legislative impasse is the result of one party abandoning the task of creating alternative solutions in the legislative process and simply saying no to everything the other party proposes. 

Challenge to the current political order
The Third Reich displaced over time political leadership in dominant political parties and democratically instituted policies and replaced them with  predatory business people and opportunists not attuned to democratic processes to forge consensus and began dismantling those policies by fiat.    This is precisely what Trumpism is currently doing by installing right wing ideologues in key government executive departments to undo the current political order and policies  previously forged by consensus or non-participation by Republicans.  Trump is doing it with nearly complete complicity from the Party he and his white nationalist core supporters were able to take over, exploiting their core bigotry.

Set up straw men to blame for economic stagnation
The Third Reich blamed Jews, homosexuals and other minorities for Germany's economic breakdown and hardship experienced by the mainstream, Aryan population deemed the authentic Germans.  Trumpism is blaming Mexican and Hispanic immigrants for America's lack of good paying jobs and Muslim immigrants for life endangering  physical insecurity in our homeland.  Trumpism has unleashed a latent and very real strain of bigotry, misogyny and homophobia that lies deep in some sectors of American society, utilizing very sophisticated profiling and psychographic tools to tap into it and mobilize voters.  Evidence-the rust belt states and south 2016.  This was no accident.  This soil was tilled, the bad seeds found and brought to bloom with these tools. 

Hypernationalism
The Third Reich began a propaganda campaign studied the world over for its effective impact on the mainstream population, persuading them of their geographic and ethnic racial superiority, promising a restoration of German greatness in the eyes of the world.  They used fake news and fake science to delude the receptive population of their superiority.   Trumpism is using identical fake news and alternative facts to persuade a gullible population of the rightness of their policies and promise to Make America Great Again.


Suppression of a free press
Over time the Third Reich managed first to discredit their free press (mostly then the written word) then eliminate their outlets, replacing them with a tightly managed state media, including print but also brilliantly produced propaganda films.   Performing theater was first criticized then censored and turned into propaganda outlets.  Trumpism is criticizing our media, beginning to limit its access (brazen example- limiting press accompanying him on his Asian trip), flooding it with fake news and daily lying and alternative facts.  They are threatening also to defund public media outlets.


Military buildup
The Third Reich built a war machine the likes of which Europe at not seen since Napoleon, the Moors and ancient Rome.  They sold its efficacy and value to the mainstream population as an expression of national pride and superiority, while managing to maintain a meager social services budget to pacify a very weakened populace.  They used the national pride propaganda effort as a way of explaining the temporary frugality in the social services sector, with all sacrificing to build a powerful military.  Trumpism is now selling a massive increase in our already bloated military budget and corresponding 20-40 % reductions in non-military federal spending.


Religious Alliances
Hitler and his regime forged alliances of silence and complicity, primarily with the German and Vatican Catholic hierarchy to blunt criticism of their policies and bigotry.  Trumpism has garnered support from powerful evangelical Christian communities, largely based on his embrace of the Prosperity doctrine and superiority of those so chosen as well as his support for social conservatism  regarding sexual orientation and male domination.  It is also interesting to note the conservative Catholic backgrounds of many of his Alt-right core support group and a significant portion of Republican leadership.

Powerful alliances with corporations
With the promise of major leadership roles for corporatists and lucrative military contracts for the production of goods, the Third Reich integrated major corporate managers into their regime and with the military contracts, enhanced employment in weak economic sectors.  They eliminated opposition from the corporate sector as a result.  Trumpism has recruited mostly corporate executives into its executive administration while discrediting and diminishing the power of unions.  Its promise of both huge military and infrastructure contracts with its budget proposals has largely silenced corporate resistance and criticism.

Government diminution of minorites
Hitler's regime categorized LGBTQ, disabled, Jews, Roma, International Bible Students now called Jehovah's Witnesses, non-aryans as inferior persons unsuitable for full rights as citizens of  Germany.  His regime capitalized on bigoted elements in German society and fueled their hatred and need to establish their superiority through both propaganda and policies of discrimination.  These minority populations were either eliminated or driven deeply underground in the society.  You see identical rhetoric from Trumpism leadership as well as their alt-right supporters and little or no vocal opposition from their Republican support base. Targets include non-anglo immigrants, Muslims, disabled and LGBTQ persons.  They are now being discriminated against via federal executive orders and budgets.

National security policies are highest priority
The Third Reich preceded their military incursion into neighboring counties with a military build up based on propaganda about the need for German security and emphasis on perceived threats, slights or old conflicts restored from hostile neighbors.  Their military incursions into most of Europe were based on fake concerns about hostility or the need for self-protection.  Trumpism is in the early stages of such propaganda, particularly centered on perceived threats from the middle east and parts of Asia.
Our military build up is likely to go unchallenged, even by Democrats.

There you have it, millennial friends.  I implore those readers of older demographic groups to share this widely in order to help our young citizens be spared of having to repeat our generation's need to rid our country of the threat of fascism, in this case from within. I implore you not to lose your passion for progressive change.  Please understand that if we don't rid America of fascism and its Trumpian proponents, we will not have a democracy left to reform.  We'll have to rebuild it from the ground up, a task it has taken us over 250 years to get us to this stage of our experiment.

Democrats have our work cut out for us to both stop this very sophisticated cancer and mobilize the massive resistance needed to tamp down, likely not end this fascist movement.  The Bernie Revolution people are not able to stem this tide alone.....it will take a Democratic Party Village the likes of which political mobilization has never seen.



 


 


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I Prefer Sunny Side Up To The Current Burnt Underside

Have you been feeling disoriented, insecure, unmoored since election day 2016?  I know I have in ways never experienced in my many decades of life through all kinds of trauma.  I think my cousin Jane said it best.  Exhaustion.  Just watching fascism unfold in our nations capitol is intolerable.  I was born an optimist. Sunny side up is my preference through life's lens I use each day.  But, as an infamous burner of eggs on Sunday mornings for my poor, suffering kids, this charred, dark underside is dreadful.  Yes, I awaken each day with a sense of dread that more really bad things are happening a few miles down the road in D.C. and isn't going to stop anytime soon.

The most horrific thing for me is not that President 45 was so obviously deranged during the 2016 campaign and a complete loose cannon, but that half the American electorate thought this was just fine.  And even worse, Republican leadership decided it was just fine too.

But here's the thing about Republicans for me.  They make a perfectly acceptable argument for small government and leaving much to the states to do in the governance area.  But their actual practice, their actual history and implementation is quite the reverse.  Their history is to grow federal government and starve state government.  This is particularly true in the personal intrusion and liberty area.   Like women's control over their own lives.  Like bathroom assignments for people.  Like how people choose to worship, or not.

Republicans love to talk about good government and respect for the Constitution.  But they've turned our government over to a wrecking crew, not a repair and remodeling organization.  They've chosen to ignore gross conflict of interest, gross incompetence in understanding both our Constitutional system and the difference between governing in a democracy and running a authoritarian corporate system.
They've chosen power, greed and control over patriotism and the common good.  they've deliberately chosen to ignore science, history, our defeat of fascism and the very christianity most of them espouse, logic, critical thinking and objective, proven truth.  I awaken each day to lies.....absolute fabrications
no one could reasonably embrace as truth. And they have abandoned common decency and respect for life they so adamantly claim moral superiority about.

So, I have chosen to resist to the degree my age and energy level allows.  I support the impeachment movement, sooner rather than later.  I support the ACLU and other groups taking legal action to try to protect my Constitutional rights.  I support the amazing women's movement rising up to resist and overturn oppression and craven disrespect.  I support blocking all Trump and Republican initiatives to enact or overturn legislation.  I support Democrats in resistance, especially those with a spinal column.

I will speak out through the blog, Facebook and public meetings.  I will support my spouse in her efforts in resistance.  I will work to help build the Democratic Party.  I will counter untruth and stupidity when I hear or read it.  I'll continue ordering mine sunny side up.



Monday, February 13, 2017

DNC: Pragmatic Politics Means Ellison's Your Choice

I was a Clinton supporter.  I loved Obama's administration.   I respect but kind of resent Bernie Sanders.  Not because I don't like his mostly very good ideas.  Not because he inspired youthful voters in our Party and nearly won the nomination.  My resentment flows from the fact that as a progressive of longstanding faithful to my party as a yellow dog Democratic, I didn't get done in my party what Bernie and his newbie supporters did.  They got it done.  They moved my party further to the left.  Not that they changed many minds within the party; they probably didn't.  But his persistence and issues, though an outsider Independent, he attracted lots of new young Democrats and inspired other not so new progressive Democrats to engage in the primary and the party's business.

Now with a leadership void with Obama's retirement, with Donna Brazile being compromised and with no party base spokesperson since November 9, Bernie filled the role and the media was fairly generous in giving him a platform, though he's once again an Independent. Yes, I kind of resent this role for him but at least we sort of have a voice until the DNC Chair election.

the Chair contest has been good for the party.  There are lots of good ideas coming from various candidates for this position, most with good experience at the state party and local levels.  In particular, the Mayor from Indiana with his articulation and understanding of issues/values framing should speak loudly to all the other candidates who still do not get this communications strategy.  It is so well executed by Republicans and so poorly executed by Democrats as all levels in spite of about 12  years of framing/linguistic experts trying unsuccessfully to teach the party how to communicate.

In my opinion, it is a toss up as to who can do a better job and inspire our brethren, Ellison or Perez.
Both have strengths in different needed areas and both are role models for really important groups in our coalition.   If I were voting, I lean toward Perez, though I have some unanswered questions as to how he might use Jeremy Bird's field organizing firm (of Obama '08 fame) who are running his DNC campaign; I am concerned about creating a shadow party through them, competing for volunteers and money rather than the indigenous party rebuilding of neighborhood organizations so desperately needed.  If they are hired to assist in rebuilding our grassroots party organization at local levels, I'm good with that. 

But it is time for pragmatism.  This party need the energy and youth of the Bernie team.  And their ideas about economic justice and reform.  We Clintonistas simply must put our resentments aside and territorialism and make room for this new invigorating energy.  Yes, they need guidance from those of us who have worked in the organizing trenches of the party and I hope we offer it and they welcome it.  That will be the job of the new DNC Chair. 

So, DNC voting members, give Keith a shot.   If Perez wins this job,  team Bernie , set aside your resentment and bring your organizing energy into his party administration and you will have power and voice. Our very democracy is at stake.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Liberal Elites: Partial Problem, Partial Solution ?

: Well, now Bernie has declared Liberal Elites as the problem within the Democratic Party, somehow blocking a forward path for less/fortunate, less financially successful non- elites and apparently non-liberals by definition.   I respectfully beg to differ, Bernie.  You damn well know things are more nuanced than that.  They can be smug and self righteous, but they can also be right and a necessity for a successful Democratic coalition.

If anything, Liberal Elites represent a potential model within the Democratic Party to strive and achieve for so called working class and lower income people.  Are we given to believe that by diminishing the influence and status of Liberal Elites, somehow others can be elevated?  Why not a co-equal, democratic partnership to move society forward?  I think so.

I defy you, Bernie, to cite me an example of how Liberal Elites are privileged within the Party compared to working class people?   Privileged through Democratic tax policy?  Privileged by Democratic regulatory policy?  Privileged by Democratic civil rights policy?   Privileged by safety net policy?  OK, I'll give you Privileged by virtue of status, access to party officials and maybe invitations to the White House.  But geez, they do throw a lot of money and talent  into the pot that helps both the party and us lessers.  When did you ever feel ripped off by George Clooney?

Methinks, Bernie you've got Democratic Party policy confused with Republican Party policy and governance in all four categories.  The meaningful stuff in the Party Platform you helped shape benefits my caste a lot more than Clooney's.  Do they get tax breaks I might not get due to my much more restricted income sources and stream?  Likely yes, but I don't hear our Liberal Elites screaming for tax breaks.  I hear many of them saying they'd happily pay more, but we, you and Democrats have not recently controlled tax policy, the Republican Elites have and do.

Look, it is stupid to diminish the Liberal Elite's role in the party; there is plenty of room.  Mostly they raise money for us, a tragic necessity until we fix our corrupt campaign and political financing system.  I do not hear them demanding don't fix it because they love writing checks.   Together we can figure out how to at least limit the corrupting influence of  political $$$$.  But in the meantime, they are helping pay the rent.    A bigger challenge is how to divert California money to the California Party so we can build it in neighborhoods where us lessers live and work.  Texas money to the Texas State and their County Party organizations.  That is where the Party building future is.  I want Clooney's money to go to the LA County Democratic Party is, or wherever he lives.  Into year around  store front Democratic Community Centers helping non-voters with their problems and needs.......earning their trust and confidence we can actually get stuff done for them to earn their vote and loyalty.

To rebuild this party in a way you and I both want, Bernie, we are going to need a lot of money.....year round and the fantastic small donor program you created is not nearly enough.  Properly paid community organizers (from the working class), store fronts, technology and communications tools all will  take a massive investment over maybe a 5-10 year period to reach those unengaged but  amenable to our values and goals for us all, plus maintain and nurture our base.  It is also going to take a lot of volunteer time, of which C,D and E level Liberal Elites have more access to than many working class fellow Democrats.  And a lot of developed talent of which these Liberal Elites also have demonstrated gifts.  Again, co-equal members of the team with each coalition member category contributing their part to make progress.

Here is what I've experienced with more years than you, Bernie, as a grassroots, maybe D list  local Liberal Elite.....45+ years in mostly the Texas Democratic Party.  The acknowledged best liberal organizer in Texas in the 50's through the 70's was the legendary Billie Carr.  She was working class and without financial resources, so over the years she was sustained with personal financing by Liberal Elites....several of them, to allow her to work nearly full time in Party reform and organizing.  Her work and our successes in overthrowing Tory Democrats from ruling our party and later chasing the Wallace people off was only enabled by the Liberal Elite funding and middle class grassroots organizing.  The last Presidential success in Texas, Jimmy Carter, was enabled by the generosity of a State Party Chair, a small town banker with big bucks.  He built a unified party by traveling all over that huge state in his private charter plane, kicking County Chairs in the ass to mobilize successfully.  His work enabled the election of huge contributors to social justice in Congress like Barbara Jordan, Mickey Leland and Craig Washington, our first black congresspersons.    His money and generosity made them possible.  Financial angels, all Liberal Elites maintained the Texas Democratic Party for decades, enabling successes before racism took hold with Republican rule with statewide offices.  But their money has enabled all of the urban centers in Texas to hold Blue.  Their money,  augmented by trial lawyers and labor funds made the difference. I suspect the same is true with most other states.   The Party Chair for an 8 year stretch in one of the largest counties in the USA I had the privilege to volunteer with became a Liberal Elite after years of practicing civil rights law while also volunteering for liberal Democrat campaigns in our area.  When his success and earned wealth permitted, he gave every waking hour to leading our party to success, with interspersed failures.  He worked for nothing, took heat for being Elite, gave enormous quantities of time and money to the benefit of those of us in the party without such resources, enabling us to do successful grassroots organizing.  

In the current era, historic female political pioneer Sissy Farenthold just successfully mentored Harris County's first African American Ann Bennett to become their County Tax Assessor Collector/Voter Registrar.  Sissy came from some family privilege but as a Liberal Elite, gave time, talent and funding to elevate working class folks to leadership roles.  Same was true of many others I knew of the privileged class who looked beyond themselves to help others achieve their potential.  I worked in this environment first hand and I never saw the "corrupting influence" of these Liberal Elites....and sat in meetings and while I heard their suggestions as the checks were being handed over to the Party, never once in decades of such experience did I see controlling influence from the Liberal Elites.  Your revolution, which I support, fails to recognize that it takes money we lessers cannot provide to enable a powerful grassroots party.  Yes, we need the Liberal Elites money but we also need their altruism, talent and creativity generously provided, mostly without strings attached.

That isn't to say my experience is the total picture in our national, state and county party organizations, but I'd wager it is typical.  Yes, there is likely both unwise control from the donor class as well as some corruption.  That is fixable.  It is much more fixable than chasing the Liberal Elites off when they've been working the vineyards for years to help those striving for upward mobility and some of the rewards of both good luck and hard work.  This would leave us with a Party which the hard pressed and beleaguered among us, for the most part, with rare exception, do not have the time and resources to rebuild.  This task takes machine operators as well as machine oil.

Let's not have class warfare within our party.....let's make war with Republicans and Fascist Trumpites.   I've learned through years of grassroots Party organizing that it is the currently upwardly mobile, aspiring grade C, D and E Liberal Elites who do much of the shoe leather work at the local party level.  Why?  Because they are Liberals who have at least a few hours to give to party building,  meeting organizing, block walking and phone banking.   Usually it is those folks whose kids are old enough to be left alone or to bring along and who have the disposable income and mobility to spare a few hours a week in volunteer work with the Party.  And who is it they are motivated to help and lift up?  Not themselves or their families but those with fewer personal resources.  Working class people  with talent, intelligence and goodwill to make life better for all. 

I have learned from hard earned personal experience that expecting lower income folks, often with hourly jobs and no benefits to turn out for a meeting or a blockwalk project after leaving their 2nd job workplace is unrealistic.  Sure invite them, but don't expect performance when they are needed elsewhere to help their families.  It is for them that both we more fortunate lessers and the Liberal Elite work to improve policy and secure government support where needed.

Bernie, let's have a party which includes all of us who share the same values and aspiration for economic and social justice.  Each making a contribution in our own way to benefit all of us.  Let me repeat,  I am not writing off the working class.  Some, maybe half, should be written off as racist, misogynist  and homophobic and hopelessly bigoted.  These are the people or their parents who rushed to the exits in the days of civic and party integration and escaped to the exurbs.  They couldn't beat it out of town fast enough.  Enough of them.  But the other half of this working class group, particularly in the rust belt, may be salvageable.  But the huge potential lies with the unengaged non-voters in the urban and suburban centers.   They need to be shown lots of love, tangible help on their kitchen table and shared values.