Monday, August 28, 2017

It's Not A Coup, It's A Junta

Let me make this as simple as I possibly can.

The current president knows jackshit about foreign policy. He knows even less about American civics. It’s highly unlikely he’s ever read the Constitution of the United States unless someone gave him the Classics Illustrated version.

Currently, there are three generals running the west wing: Chief-of-Staff Gen. John Kelly (Ret.,) Secretary of Defense, Gen. James Mattis (Ret.,) and National Security Advisor, Lt Gen. H.R. McMasters. There are also 7 members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Since Kelly has come on, there seems to be a general house-cleaning going on. The big alt.right faction has gotten the jackboot on the way out the door: Bannon is out, Mooch is out, Gorka is out.  That didn’t stop the toddler-in-chief from giving the Charlottesville raiders the thumbs up.

But then he gave an almost cogent speech on Afghanistan…which was a180° turn from his campaign platform…you remember, the one where he castigated President Obama for remaining in Afghanistan? Clearly not written by him. Too sane sounding.

Sane didn’t last long. He was back to weird the next day.

So while there may be adults in the room, there seems to still be a lack of toddler control.

Which may, in turn, be a smoke screen. While the toddler is saying incredibly stupid things either while sitting on the can or standing at the podium, all attention is focused on him.

Example: Pardoning Sheriff Joe Arapio was not only bizarre, it was a giant distraction from the real news of the day – Hurricane Harvey. At today’s press conference with Finnish President Shauli Niinisto, the toddler blurted out why he announced the pardon when he did: 
Actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they were normally...
It’s all about him. And he doesn't know the difference between a pardon and a commutation. 

Interestingly, former sheriff Arpaio was pardoned before he was sentenced. A pardon dismisses the crime that has been committed; it is an admission of guilt. A commutation shortens the sentence. Presidents are loath to give pardons; they mostly give commutations. This is how one respects the law. The toddler dismissed the idea that Joe Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court, which means the court told him to stop doing something, in this case established racial profiling, and he ignored that court order. The pardon dismisses the rule of law.

We are watching the slow, systematic collapse of the United States government. I'm not sure We, the People, can do much except prepare for the possibility of the degradation of the rule of law. 

Which makes forming a junta even more fascinating. Is there an expectation of further degradation of the rule of law?

I want to believe Kelly attempting to protect the three branches of government and ultimately, the Constitution. I want to believe he is setting the pieces in place so if the toddler runs off the rails, the government will be able to shore itself up and pull itself back together. I want to believe they will do the right thing to keep fascism from our streets.

I want to believe this, but on the other hand, John Kelly is surreptitiously moving the pieces around the chessboard. Pay no attention to the guys behind the curtain?

Have you ever seen a good junta? I'm not sure they exist. 

Or, then there's the other scenario: the junta is in it for the power. Is Kelly positioning himself to lead a takeover of the United States, wresting the government from the tatters of democracy while putting himself in charge of the new order?

Now is the time we should be paying very close attention to the guys behind the curtain, otherwise, when we figure it all out, it might very well be too late.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Nice People didn't speak out in Nazi, Germany, because, after all, 
it was none of their business. 
Don't be a nice person. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Heel, America! Heel!

I'm not completely convinced HEEL was misspelled.

There are so many dog-whistles going off, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he really really meant HEEL in the dog-leash sense of the word. Maybe he's telling us to all get in line and to stop tugging. Or maybe he really can't spell. This is possible. Whatever the reason, the heel tweet was an interesting twist. 

And then, speaking of leashes, looks like someone is suddenly on a short one. Looks to me like the General has laid down new laws in the West Wing,  and one of them is a definite attempt to make the toddler-in-chief look less like a toddler. The speech was well scripted, sounded pretty rational, and even pretty adult like. Unless you began to break it down into its component parts. 

We, the People have elected a president who sounds the dog whistle for hate, and then talks about love:
When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together. Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for America requires love for all of its people.

In light of his previous statements following Charlottesville, We, the People, already know these are not the toddler-in-chief's words. His unscripted remarks following Charlottesville are much more revealing. 

The White House is under the impression that a sane-sounding speech can fix everything. That speech was more, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" that confidence inspiring. The cast of characters changes so fast it's hard to keep up. But then again, isn't that part of the plan?

Here's a link to the transcript. Go read it yourself.

On a lighter note, Sunday, I was at the Twins' game with the junior son, mrs. junior son, and Little Miss. We were up in the top tier, last row, just left of home plate. The view was incomparable. When we all stood for the Star Spangled Banner, I removed my Twins cap and held it over my heart, like just about every other person with a cap. And we all sang along with a choir made up of retired folk. 

But here's the thing. Sitting at the top of the field, overlooking not just the diamond, but the large swath of the city, is a mighty powerful place to sit. And then they fire red rockets at precise the moment one needs a rocket's red glare. 

I am not one to be moved to tears by the national anthem, but I was on Sunday. I could give you lots of flowery reasons why, but the truth was it just made me sad. 
..the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
Are We, the People, either of those things any more? Are we free enough to speak our minds and defy the establishment of hatred as a motivating factor in our conversations? Are we brave enough to stand firm like the people of Boston did this past weekend? 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Take nothing at face value.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Rally In The Valley With The Clue That Is True

Kander and Ebb - CABERET

The sun on the meadow is summery warm

The stag in the forest runs free

But gathered together to greet the storm 

Tomorrow belongs to me

The branch on the linden is leafy and green
The Rhine gives its gold to the sea
But somewhere a glory awaits unseen
Tomorrow belongs to me

Samuel Corum/Getty Images
The babe in his cradle is closing his eyes
The blossom embraces the bee
But soon says the whisper, arise, arise
Tomorrow belongs to me
Tomorrow belongs to me

Now Fatherland, Fatherland, show us the sign
Your children have waited to see
The morning will come 
When the world is mine

Tomorrow belongs...
Tomorrow belongs...

Tomorrow belongs to me

Not sure? Watch the whole thing:

After this past weekend, I cannot get this song out of my head. It's replaying like a theme song from a monster movie. Oh, the lyrics sound harmless, innocent enough, but so did the language of burgeoning Nazi Germany. Yes, this is from a musical written well after the war. Still, it captures the essence of the beginning. 

Here's a series worth reading, from the Museum of Family History
[Copied, quirks and all, from the website]

From Ilse Gerngrofs of Leipzig, Germany
A series of letters written in
June and December 1933, July 1934 and May1936
to Bessie Faine, Stratford, New Zealand.
From a letter dated Leipzig, Dau 28 Dazamber 33:
Now I will answer you last questions. You want to hear of the political events in Germany. 
Adolf Hitler is the Chancellor of the Reich and the leader of National-Socialism. He has been nominated to the place of Chancellor by Reichsprasident v. Hindenburg … He is supported by the confidence and love of the whole German people. He never abused his power to persecute communists, democrats or Jews. I think, finally the other countries will understand it and will not publish such lies as: The Jews are crucified in Germany …. And those who have gone abroad and say they must fly, if they wouldn't be killed in Germany; those are, as our Chancellor said, thieves and ?trundlers, who knew that they did better to fly away before justice reached them. 
We have not very much Jews in Germany, only 2%. But they ruled over all. They had the banks, they were judges, they owned and did the theatres, the newspapers, no important place in Germany, where you didn't find Jews. Dear Bessie, if you understand, what a great difference is between German and a Jew, you can understand too, that we could not bear this Jews-regime any longer. The average Jew is in his feelings and in his estimation of everything a contrast to the average German. And a mixing of Jew and German is very dangerous therefore, because the children of them are heirs of both the qualities.
No Jew is hindered to remain in Germany, to have his business etc. here; but Jews are drawn back to the part in every position; which corresponds to their number in population. I think, that is a sound defence of a people against " Ubenfreunding", that's: been overflowed by a foreign people and drawn back from places where no foreigners settle. ... not in the meaning of persecution. It's only a spiritual defence, which has visible consequences, of course. [Some numbers: in Berlin in a hospital there were 60% [procent] Jewish medicins, in Berlin there were 75 or 80% Jewish solicitors, 40% of all Berlin medicines were Jews, but only 9.3% of all German inhabitants are Jews! ] You see that's no proportion. 
I really liked how Ilse signed her last letter, the one dated May 5th, 1936:
With best wishes and a friendly Heil Hitler, I am yours Ilse.
The really funny part? Ilse did not know her "Dear Bessie" was a Jew. 

Okay, not that funny.

The all-inclusive hate fest, Unite the Right,  that was held in Charlottesville left no one out. Blacks, immigrants, members of the LGBT community, Muslims, and Jews were all called out by the protesters...and I supposed it's twisted badge-of-honor that Jews took center stage on the posters. Armed with tiki-torches poles, posters, and weapons, these marchers made sure everyone who wasn't their kinda white was in their crosshairs. Oddly, the Daily Stormer, in their list of what not to bring to Charlottesville, included guns, knives, and anything else that could be considered a weapon. (The link to The Daily Stormer's article, Charlottesville: Why You Must Attend and What to Bring and Not to Bring, has been taken down...but not before I read it this morning.) That notice had little impact with the marchers.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

You see, there were militias marching in Charlottesville. Not the National Guard or a state militia, but private armies, armed to the teeth with automatic weaponry. These guys are marching down the middle of the street and all I can think of is that it only takes one nervous guy discharging a weapon in the crowd.......

But instead of a weapon, a guy drove his car into a crowd in a crosswalk. 

The overall impact of Charlottesville has yet to be calculated. There were rallies held all over this country on Sunday to protest the events in Charlottesville. People gathered, not knowing quite what to do other than to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as a sign We, the People are stronger than hate.

I was at the rally in Apple Valley. There was a decent number gathered to light candles and talk about what happened and how we alter the trajectory. It was not a political event, but a few politicians were in attendance. Not, of course, our invisible Congressclown Jason Lewis who routinely hides from his constituents, but no one was talking politics. We were talking about fears and the new reality. Since the inhabitor of the Oval Putting Green could not be bothered to name the organizers of the event in his "condemnation" of their action, the overall sense was that We, the People, do so in his absence. His own party's condemnation of his condemnation was welcomed by all Americans as recognition that something major had happened and this president had, by his silence, been complicit in this approval, not disapproval of action at Charlottesville.

Some pundit said the great orange troll's refusal to call out the Alt.Right specifically was a dog whistle to those people that this is really okay. David Duke, that man-about-Klan, was real specific about White House. Before the UNITE THE RIGHT event, Duke stated,

This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back, we're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump, and that's what we believed in, that's why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he's going to take our country back and that's what we gotta do,"
After the lukewarm condemnation of "all sides" by the guy on the green, Duke tweeted,
 Make no mistake about Duke's message. However in or out of favor he is with Alt.Right,  the former head of the KKK makes very clear the expectations of that cadre. 

If you're still sitting around thinking this won't go anywhere and nothing will happen, fine. But that's what Germans did in 1932. 1933. 1934. Until it was too late.

Not everyone agrees with that particular position. 
At the Rally in the Valley with the clue that is true.  (photo - the WP)

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
You are not powerless if you are not silent. 
If not now, when?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Life As I Knew It

Thirty-six years-and-one-night ago, I was at my desk at the theater where I was the artistic director, signing off on contracts for the coming season. We had just had the annual meeting, and I had spent a good part of the day and night running around like a headless chicken. There were no desktop computers to speak of in those days. I operated with an electric typewriter and a Xerox machine; I had a secretary whom I shared with other department heads, and she did remarkable things like take dictation, type stuff up, and keep me on track when stuff was due. Having worked as my dad's fill-in secretary for several summers, I appreciated what she did and marveled at how she did it. 

Back to almost midnight.

I was tired and cranky and wanted to go home. I looked at the stack of contracts and knew they would be there in the morning when I came back for the staff meeting/port mortem at 9:30. I did the one thing I swore I would never do: I left a messy desk. 

An hour later, I was tiptoeing into our flat...but that was pointless; Ziggy was up reading. We talked, I shucked my smelly clothes in favor of a clean, giant t-shirt and went to wash up. At the very moment I strolled casually into the bathroom, my life changed forever and ever and ever.

My water broke.
Tough day at Brit Milah

Within hours, someone handed me the break-dancing baby we'd been calling Fred for those past 9 months. We immediately changed his name to Moshe Lev for my grandfather and Ziggy's grandfather. Life as we knew it had ended. 

Fast forward thirty-six years. 

I'm not going to talk about all the things I learned from being a mother. That's prosaic and, quite frankly, boring. Instead, let's talk about the world then and the world now.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan was president. The Iran hostage crisis was still going on. Reagan was not representative of the things we believed in, but he was president and he seemed to surround himself with competent advisors. Or not. We sorta stood by and watched with amazement as people bought into voodoo economics. My dad loved Ronny Raygun, but even he couldn't quite grasp how Reaganomics could possibly work. 

It didn't. 

On the face of it, things looked pretty good.  But underneath was a vastly different story. The national debt went from  $997 billion to $2.85 trillion, turning the US from the largest creditor nation into the largest debtor nation. The federal deficit went from 3.8% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in fiscal year 1982 to a peak of 5.9% of GDP in 1983. It would eventually fall, but it would not truly come down until Bush 41 took office. Federal spending was 21.6% of the GDP up from 20.3% while income tax revenue fell from 9.1% GDP in 1981 to 7.5% GDP in 1984. In other words, the numbers show us why the national debt ballooned. 
Job growth by U.S. President, measured as cumulative percentage change from 
month after inauguration to end of term. (chart by Farcaster)

Clinton did a better job with the economy, and then we got to watch Bush 43 bungle the economy into a huge hole. In the graph, you can see job growth by president. Clearly, some did better than others. This is not a surprise, this is not an indictment, this is math. Okay?

Now that I've set that up I want to talk about what we thought when the Senior Son was born. We thought the economy would ebb and flow. We thought that with Ziggy's work in super-computing, he would always have job security. We believed that we would do better than our parents, and we would give our kid a good foundation for being a responsible and ethical adult. 

As life goes by, so do governments. We began to see a shift toward untenable semantics under Clinton. This was a new kind of prevarication, a lie that wasn't quite a lie but really was a a blow-job the same as having sex? I'm not answering that question, but the peccadilloes of powerful men were suddenly front page news. Used to be people had affairs and it rarely made it into the news. Case in point, randy Franklin Roosevelt. Seems he had a chain of them. JFK? I'm not sure I even want to know. And here's the thing....I don't care. What I did care about was that it became a distraction and a ruse. It diverted attention from the business of government. It became personal. And it was mean. 

Personal and mean. That was a warning shot we all missed. From the moment they started running after Princess Diana, the cult of the paparazzi was taking control of the media. We stopped seeing news and started seeing personal crap that wasn't any of our business unless it was screwing up the government. Monica Lewinsky was not trying to run the government from under Bill's desk. Did anyone really give a damn if Hillary didn't bake cookies? Politics would be changed forever by the shrinking news cycle. The more connected we became, the higher the demand for instant, prurient gratification. 

By the time we lived through Bush 43, we were wondering what was happening to this country. Ziggy and I began to think about where we wanted to end up and would the kids want to come along. They were close to being adults; they would make decisions on their own. Still....Ziggy saw the beginning of the assault on the Constitution taking root under this barrage of questionable information, and worried about being the only one who saw it. He was not. He was very much alive for Barack Obama's first campaign, and he got to see this degradation in action. We were both disgusted by what we saw coming from the right wing. Hatred of the other filled the airwaves. Here we had the chance to have an educated, erudite guy lead our country after your basic confederacy of dunces, and instead of being relieved, we were terrified. The anti-Muslim rhetoric, the neo-racisim, the garbage out of the mouths of Bachmann and Palin even after the election was over. The attacks were just plain racist. There was no other way to describe it. The birth business was demoralizing; and it was evil. Somehow, we managed to elect President Obama, and for a moment we hoped the hate would stop.

Then Ziggy was dying and I stopped caring. 

For 8 years I watched our country devolve from a place that welcomed the tired, the poor, those yearning to breathe free to something closed-off and closed-minded. 

Then the electioneering for 2016 started. Instead of civil discourse about policy domestic and international trade, we were treated to name calling, tales of pussy-grabbing, smoke and mirrors on emails and tax returns, and lie after lie about stupid things like crowd size. Really? 

Sometimes, I try to imagine what Ziggy would say about this past election and the toddler-in-chief. Instead of a ticket to Tel-Aviv, I would be pricing tickets to New Zealand while he'd be checking on who he was going to work for once we got there. 

And I think about the newly-married Senior Son, the Junior son and his family, and I wonder: what world are we handing to Little Miss and any other grandkiddies that happen along? The world we once believed to be full of hope and promise seems to be folding in on itself. Will the air be breathable and the water potable? Will we have been tossed out because we are not Christian? I listen to the rhetoric and I cannot help but wonder.

Please to be understanding I'm not talking about Democrats and Republicans. I am talking about We, the People and our national character. What does it say about us when even one of us tosses a bomb through a window of a building where people are praying and the White House remains silent? What message are we sending the world when our president gloats to the Wall Street Journal in an interview how the national leader of they Boy Scouts called to tell him his was the greatest speech he ever heard:
TRUMP: ... from the time I walked out on the stage — because I know. And by the way, I’d be the first to admit mixed. I’m a guy that will tell you mixed. There was no mix there. That was a standing ovation from the time I walked out to the time I left, and for five minutes after I had already gone. There was no mix.

WSJ: Yeah, there was a lot of supporters in the arena.

TRUMP: And I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful. So there was — there was no mix. 
Only there was no call. In fact, there was an apology from the Boy Scouts' chief executive, Mike Surbaugh, for the political rhetoric injected into the Jamboree. You can read it FROM THE CHIEF: OUR PERSPECTIVE ON THE PRESIDENTIAL VISIT.

That happens to speak directly to my concerns. What are we telling our kids? To earn lots of money and do stuff on a yacht that is unsuitable conversation for Boy Scouts? Or are we telling them close the doors, lower the shades, and hide the welcome mats because a boogeyman is out there? 

That's not what I want to tell my grown-up kids.

I want to tell my boys...and their wives....and Little Miss....that character counts. That We, the People have a national character that sure ain't perfect, but it wasn't supposed to breed hatred. We are supposed to grow and move forward on those things. We're supposed to understand We, the People, were strangers in this land and we treated it horribly. We are supposed to have learned from that. We are supposed to welcome those tired and poor yearning to breathe free because that's who we once were. At the same time, we have to respect and make amends to the peoples whose lands we took and whose lives we destroyed with slavery and racial hatred. It's all hard work but it can and must be done. 

Yes, we have made progress, but we are in danger of undoing it all. Preaching hatred of the other from the halls of our government destroys who we strive to be. If we lose that theoretical foundation of who we are, what are we?  If we don't stand up for ethics now, how do we explain NOT standing up to the next generation? Will we be doing the German National Apology dance because we allowed another Holocaust to happen?

What world are we leaving our kids, our grandkids, our great-grandkids?

If you don't have an answer, you need to find one in your head and in your heart. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Hillel says: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? 
But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?" 
                                                Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14